Sunday, 9 December 2012

Bookwraps - again

These little gems are very seductive. They can be made in an afternoon; use very little fabric; can be made from the offcuts of previous quilts and allow one to go to town on embellishment!
So this week I have made 2 from the pieces left over from the Full Circle quilt I made earlier this year. The piecing was done, so I only had to find sections large enough to cover two of my stock of books and get quilting and embellishing! I find this very therapeutic, as the pressure of working on a piece that has to be exhibited is absent and therefore the ideas seem to flow more quickly. Am I alone in finding that once engaged in making a piece for exhibition my confidence diminishes and ideas dry up - just too much riding on it I think. So progress on pieces that I have deadlines for are happily put to one side to indulge in some simple frippery!

Machine embroidery stitches; French knots; scrapbook brads; one of kind buttons and  bright hair bobble elastic all adorn the silk of my Full Circle off cut.

Similar techniques with spacer beads from a defunct necklace look good against the yellow silk and very heavy knots on the spotty fabric plus African Fabric Shop beads to finish the front. What post covers for a shopping list notebook!
I have one more small piece of Full Circle fabric left, I'll try and get a notebook cover out of that as well!
As the completed Bookwraps come to me, I have the privilege of seeing all the stunning creations first hand rather than just on . There are going to be some very lucky punters at the Festival of Quilts Tombola at Birmingham in August!
The winter edition of the Quilter's Guild of the British Isles carries an article showing how to make a simple Bookwrap and a flyer giving lots of details about how to take part.

Friday, 23 November 2012

More stitching

Its been a bit quiet as I have been up to my neck in things which needed to be done by this week..... Now I'm able to breathe again and can report on the next stitching day.
Great fun, difficult to explain to a non stitcher that you spent a day learning 3 new stitches and stitching variations of them!
We started where we left off - Sorbello Stitch but using yarn in the needle made up of strands from different coloured stranded threads - 3 yellow 1 blue / 2 yellow 2 blues /  3 blue 1 yellow giving a gradual transition more subtle than the multi dyed threads.

I am sure that I can use this in my work.
We then looked at stitches which involved weaving techniques. Woven spiders web stitch is simple but very effective and despite its name would give textured flowers.
In a more celestial vein the same stitch with long tentacles left un-stitched and beaded is very effective.
Bullion knots were next on the agenda, flat and wiggly!
All of these stitchy elements could be incorporated into one of my future quilts, a very exciting prospect!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Stitching the paper

I have had such fun exploring what I can do with my acrylic painted papers!
The accidental colouration from paintng fabric has turned into some very delicate stalks of a plant and makes a very acceptable card.

The acrylic wax version has become another Bookwrap! I backed the paper with felt and applied small squares of copper shim by stitching through them. I then free machine quilted the background to adhere the layers together. I had to manufacture sleeves to hold the book cover in place but this enabled me to insert twisted and stitch sari ribbon as ties and put lost wax African beads on the end.

As a first attempt I'm not too unhappy with it but am ready to try a sheet of A3 paper so that I have a larger area to play with. I'm leaning towards this as a method of doing my Christmas cards this year - watch this space!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

More stitching.....

To-day I have been "playing", at least that is what it has felt like. A whole day given over to stitch - such a luxury.
We started by playing with colour and adding colour to fabric that we would then stitch into. Koh-I-Noor paint dyes provided a fabulous way of painting directly onto fabric, with paper beneath I was able to get a fabric and a painted paper for one lot of effort.
This was what was on the paper which I added to with Inktense pencils.

When dry I scrunched the paper up repeatedly to soften it and to create a textured surface. It began to feel more like a fabric than paper and with iron-on Vilene on the back it should be robust enough to take stitch which  I'm now ready to do.
I also used up all the paint left on my palette just daubing it over a sheet of paper. Not very interesting - but scrunched the texture was interesting, but with acrylic wax applied on the surface I have a really exciting canvas to stitch on. Vilene on the back too to provide stability.
My painted fabric was then used to try out Sorbello Stitch, a simple but effective stitch capable of being used linearly and in blocks.
Now I'm going to see what I can do with my new paper fabric.
I am amazed that although I have been stitching in some form since about 8/9 I can still find so many new and exiting techniques to try.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Sue Lancaster

I was lucky to listen to Sue Lancaster talk about her work with some stunning examples of the variety of cretive things she does. Sue's website, "Stitched up and Fleeced" is a showcase of her work.
I love the heavily textured machine embroidery she employs. Above a piece from a while back, but landscapes and fabulous 3D stitched pieces are a feature of her more recent work. A teacher with her own studio in Sheffield, Sue is an excellent teacher, encouraging individual responses to the challenges she sets her students.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Planning my next big piece

While at Festival this year I treated myself to a long length of printed cotton from Ghana. The pieces created by Esther have always attracted me and I am the proud owner of 3 of her lengths of fabric already.
Her colour combinations are always exciting and the hinted at motifs just make you itch to get creating. This is a small section of the fabric which shows the colours and some of the patterning.

I started playing with the spiral motif, looking at different ways of creating a spiral and applying it to the fabric.
Together with this Ghanaian fabric I had bought a range of toning silks, these worked well as appliqued shapes but I thought I might be interesting to piece a background using these different fabrics.
This is an 18" square sample.
Its not going to waste as I'm using this to make a pair of cushions for my sister!
Close up, you can see the stitching detail that I am increasingly enjoying adding to my work.
I think this has potential. I'll try another 18" square and then see if I can create a potential entry for FoQ next year.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

"Through our Hands"

The work of ten textile artists from the UK and worldwide is exhibited at Leamington Spa Gallery and Museum now and until January 13th.
I visited on Friday for a lunchtime talk about the exhibition and to hear some of the artists talk about how they work. The initial talk was very disappointing - they had hugely underestimated the interest there would be in the event, which meant there wasn't enough space for the talk and the Gallery staff doing the talk was clearly not used to doing it and hadn't run through the speech often enough to feel at home with the content - sad - given the stunning quality of the work that Annabel Rainbow had selected and curated.
I was really struck by Bethan Ash's pieces, exciting and fluid and probably very complex to construct! I also admired Elizabeth Brimelow's piece "Drawing Day" which was such a painterly quilt full of interest and interesting construction. Dijanne Cervaal's "Travellers' Blankets" was heavily hand stitched and embroidered and I was very drawn to this given my passion for surface decoration at present. Sandra Meech's "Silent Voice ii" was a restrained and calming piece so full of imagery that spoke to me of the quiet of the forest. Linda and Laura Kelmshall's pieces were technically stunning but I found their subject matter less appealing than the others.
If yoy get a chance to visit, it will repay your efforts.

Friday, 19 October 2012


I have had the pleasure of working with Phillipa Laughton occassionally this year, watching as she has created a wonderful collection of handmade textiles with a focus on Tweed.
She currently has an exhibition on at The Attic at Lines of Pinner.

Not enough time......

If I'm to publish here more often, I need to "Do" less!!
My trip to the V & A for Nancy Crow's lecture was very thought provoking. I had bought her books and looked enviously at her programme of workshops and had heard of her forthright views. Listening to her in the flesh was even more informative.
I do enjoy learning a little of the processes that artists go through when conceiving of a piece of work and Nancy was generous in sharing some of that.
What struck me most strongly was the way in which the large fabric sheets she works on are treated just like great sheets of paper that most artists begin with. Repetition of process, refining the design, the mark making and asking what if creates a body of work, many pieces of which, will never see the light of day, but have served their purpose in pushing the boundaries.
Oh how envious were 90+% of her audience with the space at her disposal - to create in the back bedroom is a totally different order of creativity!
I hope I will now regard the pile of discarded fabric samples as just a necessary step along my rather narrow path!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Nancy Crow

Really thrilled that I have been given a chance to go and hear Nancy Crow at the V&A this week - I have loved her work so many years, bought her books and tried, badly, to follow her techniques for abstract quilts. Colour Improvisations, the exhibition Nancy has put together by inviting well known quilt artists to submit work, is showcasing at The Knitting and Stitching Show in London and Dublin. I'm going to try and get myself there if I can.


I have just returned from a Contemporary Quilt "Winter School" weekend - 2 days with Janice Gunner learning all about Shibori and dyeing with Indigo - a fabulous opportunity to really get stuck in to a new technique. The washing line is now full of the washed samples and now all I have to do is decide what I'm going to do with all the pieces!
We spent Friday evening learning about Shibori and beginning to tie our fabric ready for the morning.
Twisting the fabric over the needle gave an interesting effect.
Curved lines of Ori-Nui were easier to stitch than I imagined!
This is how my sample turned out, I like the fluidity of the shapes created.
We then looked at pole wrapping which I tried in white cotton and with natural coloured silk noil. By leaving a "frill of fabric outside the tube you get a non patterned egde to the dyed piece so I tried this.

It was really hard to push the silk noil down far enough on the pole to sit in the dye bath as the fabric has much more body than the cotton.
This is the pole dyed silk noil - it has a lovely texture and the silk takes up the dye really well.
Whilst I doubt that I will work with Indigo on my own at home, I realise that the techniques can be used with Procian dyes and the colour combinations could be really exciting!
I am sure that some of these samples will become Bookwraps!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Surface Decoration 2

So..... Having started to learn more about hand embroidery I have been looking at how I can use it in my quilts. Just experiments right now but exiting possibilities!
Here I have free machine quilted circles and then added straight stitches to suggest flowers. The texture I'm getting is really interesting and the hand stitching can be done while I watch TV, more sociable that the machine!
I have also just discovered Seeding - hypnotic or what!

Now I also discovered how to use up some sequin waste I had inherited - I think it will work very well on a piece I'm making now and I relly like the slightly other worldly quality it has!

Then I thought, what would it be like with beads in the holes!!!!
Isn't it wonderful what we can dream up when we are in the right frame of mind!

Surface Decoration

The more stitching I do, the more interested I become in the potential for decorating the surface. I'm at an intermediate stage where I'm not yet an embroiderer but definitely feel that simple quilting is not enough!
To that end I have enrolled on a Hand Embroidery course once a fortnight - a steep learning curve as my experience was at my mother's knee doing lazy daisy and stem stitch on a tray cloth!!!
This last session we looked at Fly, Feather and French Knots - it was a revelation! I'd no idea how versatile these stitches might be!
Fly Stitch
Feather Stitch
I really like that you layer stitches over each other, vary their sizes and I've spent 50+ years doing French Knots all wrong!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012


I have been cogitating recently about creativity; this sometimes elusive feature of my life and on why it seems to appear and disappear seemingly at random.
I have never been able to summon it at will, can sometimes be quite overwhelmed by its sudden appearance and yet be anxious when it seems to have deserted me.
I have had various books recommended to me, all of which either state the blindingly obvious or set about recommending a punishing schedule of personal navel contemplation to to bring creativity back!
BUT ......
It has recently struck me that the analogy I need when trying to understand this phenomenon relates to mining for precious metals! Bare with me...........
Years ago I was engaged in the prospecting phase when I was discovering that I was quite good at making things and could come up with my own ideas rather than follow a pattern. At this stage I knew that creativity existed within my compass somewhere, but not necessarily where!
You need to dig down within yourself until you strike the seam that you have been grasping for - the thrill of discovering this rich vein - leads to the creation of all sorts of work; one is engaged by it; fascinated by the possibilities but like the vein it has a habit of abruptly halting, it disappears. You understand that it must still be there but now have to dig again to find where it has shifted to. Sometimes when you find the vein again it is thin and difficult to mine but intellectually I now understand that by following this thin vein I will eventually reach the main load and will be driven to create again and to enjoy the freedom I've gained.
This is a very affirming analogy and allows me to recognise that it is being open to the possibilities that makes creativity work! Now when creativity goes quiet I no longer panic but keep some aspect of making going until it pops up again!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Great Northern Quilt Show

This is the first time I have visited this quilt show, a compact site with good facilities but generally the majority of exhibited quilts were very traditional. Beautifully made but not really my major interest.
There were however two stunning quilts from Hilary Beattie which stood out, head and shoulders above all the rest of the entrants.

Beyond these two there were two small, subtle pieces made in response to the Sutton Hoo Challenge

As usual I was seduced by some of the stunning fabrics available and some came home with me!

Celebrating Diversity

Just back from a trip up to the Quilt Museum in York. Really enjoyed this exhibition and the amazing collection of very different pieces.
All of a similar size, each country invited to exhibit two pieces of work that represented the diversity of their country. We were represented by a stunning collection of little squares designed by members of the Contemporary Quilt Group each depicting a different aspect of British life and by Sheena Norquay with a very subtle set of squares each with a variation of a spiral quilting design.
The stand-out pieces were "My own Venice" by Maria Luisa Comand with a canal view of Venice  representing Italy and "Swinging Amsterdam" by Rita Dijkstra of Netherlands. Both very detailed pieces with great depiction of water in both and very detailed pieced buildings.
No pictures as there was photography allowed.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Exciting news!

Contemporary Quilt have been asked to run the Festival of Quilts Tombola in 2013 and I am the project co-ordinator!
It will be a Bookwrap/ Book cover Tombola and we want everyone to take part and donate a Bookwrap. All the details are on Bookwrap Gems website .
I've started off with some experiments and added a few photos here:

I have even found a use for some of my 2010 Journal quilts which turn into lovely bookwraps!

Festival of Quilts 2012

Where does the time go, its been a week since festival and I'm only now catching up! Although I spent 2 days at Festival this year I really only managed to do justice to about half of what I had intended to see!
The most interesting galleries to me this year were: European Art Quilts; PB Retro; Masters 2; CQ @ 10; Anne Worringer and Kate Findley. They were especially interesting as my personal focus for this year was the surface treatments of the quilts, decorative stitching and quilting. In these galleries I saw work that was mind boggling; stunning in its simplicity and complexity in surface decoration.
This focus meant that I outside theses and the Art and Contemporary open sections I saw very little. I think that I am a great deal more selective about what I spend time in front of, preferring to educate myself rather than just gawp!
I was really interested in Angela Schenz's Dancing Leaves with her use of small rectangular tablets quilted and embroidered with a flurry of red organza leaves hovering on top.
Close up with details

 I have come away with some real food for thought the following is just a sample of the techniques that I'd like to experiment with in my work in the furure:
  • Using short randon stitches to quilt, creating new shapes on the surface.
  • Frayed edges to quilts
  • Grids stitched on soluable fabric or paper and partilly removed
  • Leaving abstract shapes unquilted, draws attention to these new shapes
  • Shibori elements as surface decoration
  • Use of regular repeated rows of simple hand stitches
  • Using linen backgrounds
  • Using markal paint stick on already quilted fabric.
I thought that the individual exhibitions at this year's Festival were of an exceptionally high standard and showcased some really exciting work. Having entered a piece for the CQ @10 challenge I was stunned by the exhibition and can so see why mine did not make it to the show! The curating worked so well to create a cohesive visual flow with such disparate creations. Well done judges and Hilary for doing such a wonderful job.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Geometric mistakes

Isn't it strange that you can only sometimes see the mistakes in a piece when you see it through someone else's eyes. It was only when I saw this piece here on the blog I realised how unhappy I was with the composition, and yet it was sitting on the design wall. How strange is that?
 Yes, it is a scrap quilt, but usual design principles still apply, although clearly not when I stitched these bits together!
I have tried some changes, short of starting again, which I think give better balance. The lesson I'm learning is that taking a photo and coming back to the photo a little later is better than the design wall. I know that in the past I've held pieces up in the mirror to get a different perspective on the design and that has helped. So perhaps a combination of filters is needed when you design on the hoof as I tend to do!

I have printing blocks to go in the blue square and some beading to add as well. I'll have a break from it while doing something else and make the next decisions in a week or so.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Geometric beginnings...

As usual, when major pieces are finished there is vast hole....... This time is no different!
To help overcome that feeling I am using us a collection of unused blocks and scraps to create a very abstract geometric quilt. This is just the beginning -

I like the use of the flashes of yellow and it will be interesting to see where this goes. If it doesn't work, I've lost nothing as they were scrap blocks anyway and it might be ok to become a Linus quilt if I can't pull something more interesting out of it!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Grayson Perry - The Vanity of Small Differences

My reward for completing all my Festival pieces with a day to spare was a trip to London to the Victoria Miro Gallery to see Grayson Perry's collection of six tapestries linked to the Channel 4 programmes. I wanted to see them before the Olympics made London totally unbearable.
I couldn't have chosen a hotter day, the walk along City Road seemed far longer than it actually was with the sun beating down!
The tapestries in real life are even more stunning than they appeared on the TV, vast, full of movement and colour such vibrant representations. Looking at them close up the referencing of religious works was more apparent yet subtle. I loved them.

One could read more into the  fabric with the benefit of seeing the TV programmes and listening to those he met, more poignant for that I think. For me the one disappointment was that there was no handling sample, it would have been so interesting to see the construction close up, but I was reminded that this was a selling exhibition not a public exhibition!
I found myself recognising the "camp" that I belonged to but I seem to have been blessed to do without the angst!
I just wish that I had the money, and the house to own one, an investment I think.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Gorgeous Gullion finally finished

With 24 hours to spare I have finally finished this piece! Last week I had expected to have to  withdraw my entry as I had no chance to complete it...... but, burning the midnight oil it is done.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, of course now I can see the design issues I should have solved before I ever put needle and thread to fabric but I'm a devil for jumping right in. I'm not sure I'd have made anything like this piece if I'd worked on pencil and paper before I started, it was only as I worked with the fabrics that ideas came.

 This is a close-up of one of the Gullions to give you an idea of the amount of beading I have included.

No doubt many would tell me that this is the very reason I should knuckle down and "do" a C&G course, but I've had it with jumping through other people's hoops! Perhaps a C&G curriculum without the folders and stipulated artefacts would do, but does such a thing exist?

Friday, 20 July 2012

Art in Action

Yesterday I went to Art in Action. The organisers were at pains to tell us that parking had been arranged on hard standing in the light of the waterlogged fields and that a Park and Ride system would be in place.
It took us nearly an hour go get from the M40 to the car park and another 50mins to queue for a bus to the show! A typically "British" queue, all good manners, grumbles and stiff upper lips! The reverse process was similarly grim as there were only 3 buses on stream during "the school run", which meant that a huge queue built up again snaking across the house and round the paths. A in A did a great job providing chairs for those who needed them and glasses of water and lemonade to keep us hydrated - it was a day without rain and some real hot sunshine.
I am still glad I went as it is such a fabulous showcase of artistic talent. I don't think that there were as many "wow" factor artefacts and artists this year, especially in Ceramics where there was a preponderance of domestic wear. Textiles was a mixed bag, again less of the "wow" - Susan Macarthur's painted and stitched figures were a feature.

Jeanette Appleton's work was interesting, she also demonstrated, and she had some stunning small pieces for sale.
The best was a display of Sue Rangeley's machine embroidery - quite stunning, exquisite delicate work.
The "Tent Makers of Cairo" were there, lots of interest but I'm not sure if there was much selling, true in other tents too I think.
In the Commonwealth Tent Stella Xemphondos had a range of naive Appliqué and hand painted silks.

I bought bits and bobs from Oliver's Twists and Artvango but otherwise came home empty handed!
Not sure if I will make any special efforts to go again next year.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Background Quilting

After a lot of sampling I have decided to quilt the background with small lozenges of stitching to break-up the background and continue the theme of little jewelled pieces. I may, if I have time, add beads to each of the shapes, but it can stand without them if time runs out!
Now I have to tackle the border and its very tiny patches - more trials to do before that it is resolved! I must try to have a clearer vision of the completed piece before I start the next piece!!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The Essence of Petra

Who would have thought that nearly two years on I would still be so drawn to the Petra images and colours?
I have now finished "The Essence of Petra", a wide and shallow piece for a change which has been heavily quilted and with some beads. I love the colours but accept that it may not be everyone's "cup of tea". It is destined for the Contemporary section at Festival of Quilts.

I have enjoyed the close quilting and the use of block printing this time.

Now its back to the machine to get on with quilting the second that I had hoped to take to Festival of Quilts!