Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Christmas Quilts 3

Progress is lower than I'd expected because I've been out enjoying myself too much! So now I am up against the deadline. Rob's quilt is now put together minus the border, so adding borders tomorrow and starting to put on the binding. Why do I do this to myself?? The one bonus of doing all these bits for the children is that I'm itching to get back to real creative work again which is just as well as I have 4 JQs to complete in January!!!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Christmas Quilts 2

I am really up against the clock trying to complete these two quilts for my great nephew and niece. I have tried to be too clever with this one! A combination of photographs printed onto fabric to create blocks and appliqué panels with roads and houses mean that this is not the run of the mill effort. My great nephew is mad about Fireman Sam and anything to do with emergency services so this is where I have drawn my images. I have been delighted with the Cotton Jacquard printing fabric from Artvango and I found a very colourful panel that I have cut to give a top and tail to the quilt and used sections on the back as well.
Now I just have to keep working everyday to ensure that it gets finished, can't give one a quilt and not the other can I?

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Christmas Quilts

I have been off line trying to make progress on Christmas presents that I should have started so much earlier! I'm nearly finished making a bed quilt for my great niece Emma, she's 3. I found some lovely fresh looking fabrics at Serenity Quilts, a trader at a recent quilt show. Crisp white with pink, blue and green and some panels of cartoon creatures and lollipops.
I have used the basis of the pattern provided by Serenity Quilts, but bought additional fabric to make a larger piece, I have broken up the blocks with the panel strips.
I broke the design into 3 sections and quilted each separately and then stitch them together, this was much easier to manage on the machine. Its all machined now and the last thing I have to do is piece and quilt the borders and then add them! This is it without the borders.
With any luck this will be ready for Christmas. More problematic is Rob's - he is really fascinated by emergency services - Fireman Sam etc so I am using images printed onto fabric made into blocks and then creating roadways as borders between the blocks! Its just that I ran out of fabric to print on and am waiting with baited breath for Artvango too deliver!! So watch this space......

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Why is it so hard to make progress on some pieces?

Do you ever reach the point in a project when your ability to complete it seems to elude you? I have regularly embarked upon a project, done preparatory work, thought about the effect I want to achieve and embarked on the making phase only to feel a sense of disappointment. Recently I was introduced to a debate on line which explored just this issue. The initial starter to discussion came as link to a website: http://www.tienchiu.com/2011/11/mind-the-gap/ Tien Chiu discusses the "Gap" which affects most creative people when their ideas, aspirations for a piece are not matched by the the reality of your work so far. She argues that this is the primary reason so many people give up attempts and that we need to educate ourselves and others to recognise that if you are smitten by a craft, you'll invest in the time and disappointment getting to be proficient requires. If you are never taught that the gap exists and that ALL artists have to breach the gulf at some time you can't appreciate that the process requires one to be hooked by the craft and what it is capable of producing before one will be prepared to make the investment needed to achieve results one can be proud of. On the way one will produce work not up to expectation, and here one needs to be encouraged and tutored on ways to make it better. So important that when people begin to take an interest we foster, encourage, tutor and add a pinch of realism to the pot. I realise now that this is exactly what my Mum did, and was so brave to let me go out in garments I had made which were far from well made in the interests of ensuring that I kept motivated and improving. I really wish I had got into this debate many years ago so that I could understand the issues I was experiencing. Do read her blog in full, link on my list of blogs and websites.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Bletchley Park 3

Things have not been going entirely according to plan! Having quilted the searchlight beams through the quilt and adding some bursts of flack the piece has distorted and gone very baggy in places.
I was almost ready to consign it to the bin,a failed project is sooo disappointing, all that effort coming to nothing. However, one of my ISG fellow students suggested that I try small, very stipple quilting, as it might "tighten" the whole thing up. I was a tad sceptical, but, hey, it was destined for the bin if I did nothing! It really has made a difference!
Now I will work towards it completion! It will need blocking and very careful binding to ensure that its not a wavy edged piece, but at least its worth going on. Sometimes one gets so bogged down one can't see a way out and you need another's input. Thats one of the reasons I so love being part of the ISG.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Embroidered book covers

At this time of year there are lots of demands for money raising items. Our Embroiderers' guild hold a coffee morning each year at the beginning of December. As a little light relief from my Bletchley Park quilt, which has been causing me problems, I have been making embroidered book covers as these seem to sell well.
For these little books I used some off cuts from earlier Petra quilt samples and added some beads, made braids and a button fastening. Quite a good way of using up bits of quilted samples or even pieces that have lain fallow for some time and can be recycled in this easy way.
The larger book cover was made using a technique taught by Sue Turner at FoQ last year, they sold well last year so I'll do them again. They don't take long, look much more complex than they are!! A friend has been making felt poppies for British Legion, with beaded centres, they are more attractive than the paper ones and a donation of £5 is for a good cause. Next year I'll make my own with the twist of organza petals over the felt and even more beads - make a statement of it!!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Naseem Darbey

Just back from Yorkshire Dales, lots of walking in lovely weather but the highlight of the trip was Naseem Darbey's exhibition at The Bowes Museum. Darbey draws with a sewing machine on "Romeo" soluble film and then forms her work over a Styrofoam base to create magical 3D structures which she describes as "hollow drawings". All the work on show at Bowes is titled "Between the Lines" and is based on a years residency at Cliffe Castle Museum and the letters of Mary Louise Roosevelt. Quite stunning work. Look at her website for more of her work. www.naseemdarbey.com

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Bletchley Park Exhibition 2

In keeping with my theme, I want a faded, night time feel to this piece so I have tried some quilting ideas that use the same colours as the fabric and lettering and have tried to keep it simple. Each letter (symbol) is quilted and I want to suggest the effect of a searchlight piercing the gloom and flack shells bursting. So far my experiments have been just lettering and searchlight. I have to try out flack ideas this week.
I have busted a gut in the last 2 days to try out techniques for flack. Quite a difficult concept to convey in fabric. My sample piece is a bit heavy, so I'm going to add a firey centre and remove more of the black voile. I wish I'd made the piece a little smaller! There is so much to do!

Monday, 17 October 2011

My new room!

After 3 days of sorting through all of the "stuff" I had removed from room, I am now back in and working! I have been radical again and have a box of goodies to take to Lutterworth Piecemakers on Wednesday that may be of use to others and have culled my stash of spare bedlinen, etc. so that I am starting with a room that has space for expansion!
The room is lighter and brighter, has a sweep-able, wipeable floor and this brilliant built in unit which I am sitting at now with my laptop. Getting rid of the rather old PC with its huge box and miles of cable has given me so much more table space.
Now my work has to live up to this new work environment!!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Bletchley Park Exhibition

Some months ago I agreed to take part in the "Secret Messages" competition at the Bletchley Park exhibition Easter 2012, but I then promptly forgot about it! Now I have to provide the organisers with my sizes and colour scheme! So I have been working hard to crystallise my ideas, firm up a design and draw it out full size. In keeping with the theme I have used a code to write my message, concentrating on a code which offered shapes that would be interesting. My research came up with a "Pig-Pen" code used in the 18th century, very simple, geometric shapes that can be stitched.
My next issue was how to represent the code on the fabric. I tried simple appliqué but wasn't happy with the effect I got, I created a sponge block that I could print with, but the shapes lacked sufficient definition. Finally I decide to try using freezer paper stencils. This worked really well.
I used silver Markel stick to mark the fabric, and that persuaded me to dye a whole-cloth for the quilt using the colours of a moonless starry night that would have faced the agents dropping into France. Now I have to mark out the whole quilt and mark up each letter of my message.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Lucas' Playmat

While dispossessed of my room I have been making a small playmat for a friend's grandson. A tried and tested formula, hand stitched over papers and then machine quilted.
I have always loved the design but couldn't face the hassle of joining squares, marking out, cutting and re joining that the classic method requires, so I drew out the individual shapes that make up the design and photocopy them to use. I also love the design because it so effectively uses up really small scraps of fabric, one 6" square will make one windmill! Using a variation of Zig-zag to quilt the piece seemed to fit the jagged overall shape of the windmills.

The room before makeover!

As you know I have had to empty my workroom - what a task. You have no idea how much rubbish I have accumulated over the years or the joy of finding things I thought I'd lost. In order to appreciate the new room I decided to take some "before" shots so that I will appreciate the changes even more!
The room should be finished this week so I am now looking at all the huge amount of "stuff" piled in the spare room to develop a plan for where all of it will go. At the start I wanted to have space for completed quilts to be kept rolled, so the longest shelf in the cupboard is needed for that. The new wall unit will take my boxes of fabrics, one colour a box and the boxes of kit I use all the time - cutters, scissors, mark making things, tapemeasures etc. The books have been culled, so there should be more space on the shelves for sketchbooks and the inevitable crop of new books! My goal is to develop a more organised method of working that will stop me having so many different things on the go at the same time. Hopefully I will now have the space for each project to have a box so that it can be put away each evening! I have been practicing - my work table is in our bedroom so I have to clear up each evening, on pain of divorce!!!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

September's JQ

The gaping hole that has been September has been taken up with completely empting my work room ready for a make-over! What a job it has been! I had no idea how much "stuff" I had accumulated and how much of it really needed to be thrown away. The problem is that when one starts to empty everything, you keep stopping - musing over what you find, asking oneself why on earth one bought it or marvelling that you still had some of that wonderful fabric you thought you'd finished! The books have been culled, some old favourites kept but the "how to" ones have gone to homes that still need them!
Most importantly I need to develop a new discipline about working once I'm back in my room - no point in all this pain if I can't maintain a tidier, more organised space! Those who know me well will realise what a steep learning curve this will be and probably believe that in 6 months it will be as untidy as before! In part it is that I usually have two or three different pieces of work on the go at any one time - an "art quilt" project, a hand stitched piece that I can watch TV doing and a bog standard one for friends children/grandchildren! So unless I'm very disciplined they are all out cluttering the place!

I have finally completed the September JQ, it is certainly of a better standard than August but I think June is the best of this quartet.
While the room is being done, I will have to plan the next 4 JQs - all needing to include buttons! There are gremlins in the machine and photos will not load at all - I'll try to add them later. 12-10-11 Photo finally added!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Planning September's JQ

This will be the last of the compulsory text JQs and after my poor showing in August I need to be more on the button this month.
I'm going to experiment with freehand stitched text all over the background and then look at the different effects I can achieve over this.
My first samples have involved layering screen printed text on voile on my background in small areas and then machine stitching the text through the layers.
Once I had stitch the whole sample I then used a craft hot gun to burn away areas of the voile to give a distressed impression. This technique needs practice, 1st one was scorched, I now know because I has not cut into the voile to make melting faster.
Finally I used some acrylic paint through a freezer paper stencil and used a running stitch to outline them.

Friday, 2 September 2011

August JQ

This is the least effective of this year's JQs - I have done so many samples but never quite achieved the effects I wanted.

The weaving is more successful and including some text within it did begin to give some impression of an old wall but I them tried adding some markal to tone down some of the background, not very successfully!I'm also not happy with my cutting of text stencils, this needs a great deal more practice if I'm to use it in any larger work.
Glad its done and please to now be working a different direction to produce the last text JQ for September!
It will stretch my patience this month as I'm in the middle of emptying my workroom so that I can have a new floor(one I can sweep and wipe!), new storage and a paint job - so "camping" out in any space I can!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Reflections on Festival quilts - Art Quilts

I was interested that this year there were far fewer quilts which I'd have liked to take home and hang to live with. I also felt that there were far more quilts which failed to excite any spark in me at all - so in some ways this was a big disappointment.
The winner in this section "Octopussy" by Janneke de Vries-Bodzinga was exquisitely constructed and stitched but it wasn't one of the quilts that "spoke" to me.
Two quilts which made me stop and look in detail, "Herculaneum" by Susan Hotchkis and "Jugs 2" by Hillary Beattie had features which I felt were different and interesting. Susan Hotchkis' use of printed and waxed brown paper was very effective and really did give an aged effect. I enjoyed seeing hand stitching in Hilary Beattie's quilt it provided a effective contrast.

There was a very high concentration of quilting on the pieces chosen by judges and I was surprised to see a number of pieces that were smaller than the competition size that had still been hung. A number of pieces were stitched in such a way that they failed to hand flat - impossible to know if this was intentional or not!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Festival of Quilts - half-day class

I returned on Sunday, wanting to concentrate on the individual artist's shows, and to collect my quilt at the end of the day. I noticed that Gillian Hand, an Australian artist specialising in bookmaking and altered books was doing a half day class on Sunday afternoon, I booked, and was so pleased because by then my feet were aching and I knew I'd have to queue for my quilt in the early evening!
Gillian was lovely, there were only 6 of us and she had prepared packs of papers, threads, buttons, fabrics etc for us to work with. There is a link to Gillian's website on the right hand side of the blog.
We worked on fabric and on paper, producing 2 little gems in the 3hrs. It was very relaxing and with just 6 of us we had a good chat too!
This was the first one that I tried, rollering acrylic paint and them stamping the background before tearing paper and cutting leather and stitching the shapes in place with buttons. I had a little bit of "Katia Ondas" yarn left and I cut a small piece and stretched it out, attaching it with beads. The voile was stitched with long stitches in squares.
This one was prepared as before, but had rougher pieces of paper torn and stuck down with glue before adding squares of fabric and paper.
It was a fabulously relaxing afternoon which set me up for the waiting and queueing needed to reclaim ones quilts!
Once I've had a change to properly digest what I've seen I'll write about the work that grabbed me this year.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Festival of Quilts - Blowing my own trumpet!

Yesterday was a wonderful treat - so many really interesting quilts and individual exhibitions, I have only done a small proportion of the show. Thank goodness I'm going back again!
It's a lovely feeling to see the work one has fussed over for so many many months finally hanging. Sadly my "Rocks of Petra" quilt was hung on the bottom of a panel so without light none of the detail showed up. The lesson I've learned is that one needs to make the work big enough to command a board to oneself!!!!
Given how long "Navaho" has taken to complete, I'm really pleased with it and it looked effective and seemed to generate some interest at the show. I really like its bold pattern and colours.
I have also come away with the neucleus of fabric for the next big quilt! I'll need to lots more dyeing of fabrics, but the basis is now in place - so exiting, I want to start now!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Festival of Quilts - can't wait!

Just returned from a short break in Glasgow - celebrated our 40th Wedding anniversary and my birthday with excellent food and a visit to GoMA, where I was particularly struck by a film from "Govan to GoMA" showing the impact of art on a group of elderly residents of Govan. Their new found joy in drawing was quite moving.
The modern architecture along the Clyde was also worth seeing along with the many city centre buildings once you could look above the ubiquitous shop front and look at the glorious designs above.
What a good idea Twisted Thread had in making the show programme available in advance of the show. Mine arrived yesterday and Its really helped being able to see in advance who will be there and where things are.
I am particularly looking forward to seeing the work of Mary Lloyd Jones (G28) and her very abstract pieces which come from her love of landscape and Pia Welsch (C29) whose works experimenting with ovals looks very interesting.
Of course I'm also looking forward to the Art and Contemporary pieces, and its lovely to see so many from quilters I have had the pleasure of meeting.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

August JQ planning 2

Its been a while since my last post, too much cricket and trying to clear out my workroom so that it can have a make-over (not before time!)
So, with a couple of short breaks and Festival I realised that I needed to do some more work on the August JQ if I was not get too far behind!
I'm still looking at woven backgrounds, but altering the scale of the strips and looking for a better colour balance. I have also decided to use rather more bondaweb so that the intersections in the woven fabric behave themselves better.
I liked the effect I obtained from a freezer paper stencil and so have used the technique again. As the requirement is currently text, I have decided to just use text and that has given me the chance to make more of the "half as old as time" epithet.
I have used Pebeo Setacolor opaque in a shimmering pewter, it looks old and slightly tarnished as though it might have been there for some time! Once the text is outline quilted it will stand out more and then I may echo quilt the rest as there is plenty of detail in the piece already.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Art in Action

I so enjoyed my day at Art in Action this year. The weather was kind all day and the range and skill of the exhibitors was outstanding. I'm including a few comments about those that particularly caught my eye:
* Jane Freer-Wyld, a tapestry weaver, who used manipulated digital images as the basis for her work. The tapestries are woven on an upright hand loom. Images of raindrops on leaves were woven to produce subtle, delightful work. http://www.janefreear-wyld.com/
* Anne Selby, modern silk shibori, her densely pleated creations have fascinated me ever since I first saw them in Chelsea several years ago. Her palette is varied and her pieces range from uber subtle to vibrant. I confess to having bought a scarf this year and am proud to own such a fabulous piece- black purple and green - and feels like heaven. http://www.anneselby.com
* Margo Selby, bold, abstract textile designs woven cleverly to give stretch and shine. I can't afford her work but have now bought 2 packs of offcuts, one used in a quilt for Jan Showers and this one for me to experiment with over the winter! http://margoselby.com
* The best of the best for me was Maximo Laura from Peru, a weaver whose vibrant work shone out in the International Art tent.
His work was imaginative, vibrant and skilled. Amazing to see him working with a colour image of the piece pinned up and two curved lines pencilled onto the warp threads, no other marks. That in itself is amazing.
I have included a photo of part of one of his pieces so you can appreciate just how exiting his work is. http://www.maximolaura.com/about.htm

Friday, 22 July 2011


On Wednesday night Lutterworth Piecemakers hosted Phillipa Naylor. What a fabulous evening! She is an entertaining whirlwind, with an insightful run through her careers and a chance to hear about how she goes about creating her amazing award winning quilts.

She has so many talents and a huge appetite for getting things done, achieving so much already.
She showed us how she went about designing her"Star Sign" quilt, winning the IQA Pfaff Master Award for machine artistry. The complexity of its construction, the degree of planning were awe inspiring and then to see and touch the quilt itself, an honour.

She also brought her "Daisy Quilt" a whole-cloth piece with just about the most quilting I've ever seen on one item. Beautifully executed with lovely trapunto areas and piping which created such a strong 3D effect. The quilting itself was very beautiful, but us ordinary mortals then had to go through a show and tell session - very humbling after all those stunning quilts!

Monday, 18 July 2011

August JQ planning

The very act of deciding to do something simple seems to have released the creative juices! So... I've been doing some experiments which have taught me some useful lessons:
* Plan properly before rushing in
* Always measure accurately, doing it by eye is not good enough
* I quite like raw edges, but not sure yet how to get the effect I want ( some pieces just look badly cut out!)
* Surface decoration is more important than piecing to me (never thought I'd ever say that!)
* I have to start to think about what on earth I do with all this "stuff" I'm producing I can't just put it all in a cupboard, too much of it. Samples are ok, they can be cut down and put in the sketchbook, its the "finished" bits I'm worried about.
I quite like the idea that the background is itself pieced - 2 samples made:
This is woven from strips of fabric.
This has 2.5" squares applied to wadding that has adhesive on one side.
I think I prefer the woven version but perhaps with some bondaweb as well.
Then I tried a freezer paper stencil on both samples and sponged fabric dye onto the fabric. This works well and I'll definitely use that technique again.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Jelly Roll and more

I've enjoyed the stress free hand stitching that my jelly roll project has provided, one of these blocks shown above. However the strange thing is that in doing this my mind has been free to wander and I've had ideas for JQs and for larger pieces later! So.... I have tried some samples for the August JQ. Using Markal sticks and some appliqué with raw edges and experimenting with weaving together strips of fabric to create a background on which I can stitch, so perhaps the Jelly roll was a a needed break to kick start myself again!

More of the weaving experiment later, I'm trying to do the machine stitch work now saving the hand stitching for a couple of train journeys.