Saturday, 5 December 2015

Cut and Stretch - a design exercise

Our local CQ group, Weedon Bec Creative Textiles, ran a design exercise on an occasion when I couldn't make it, but I had the very minimal written instructions. So, going it alone, not looking at the instructions in advance and without looking at other members' finished pieces I decided to try the challenge.
The initial instruction is to bring 4 pieces of fabric, 3 toning and a contrast and threads in the same colour ways.

Instruction 1
Decide whether to work landscape or portrait. I decided portrait.
Label the toning fabrics a,b and c and the contrast d.
Cut a to A4 size.
Cut a 5" strip from (b) place it over (a) and stitch 5 straitish lines.
Cut the excess fabric away between the lines and retain.

Instruction 2
Sew three of the strips cut away in (1) onto the background . 2 at the top and one towards the bottom.

Instruction 3
Take fabric (c) and place it over the background fabric in the gap towards the top. Sew 5 diamonds through all the layers. Cut round each diamond and cut out the centres. ( in future, consider other shapes instead)

Now I knew that my choice of (c) was too close to (a)!

Instruction 4
Cut across fabric (a) following the diamonds.

Instruction 5
Sew one half of of the split panel on top of a panel of fabric (d)
Sew the other half of the split panel over (d) considering the width of the gap, whether to offset or flip the fabric over.

Instruction 6
Apply a strip of fabric (b) over this new gap and stitch a zigzag or triangles. Cut round the shapes and remove excess fabric.

Instruction 7
Cut across the background fabric (a) elsewhere using a zigzag shape and inset a panel of fabric (c)

Instruction 8
Using fabric d, sew three large diamonds across the gap using double lines of stitching , cut out as in (3) above and retain the centres for possible addition later.

Instruction 9
Repeat any of the above again as you see fit.

Instruction 10
Quilt and embellish.

Hand stitch and using some pre set stitch patterns.

Machine quoting over remaining areas.

Trimmed and squared, it's just the right size for. Book cover!

It's amazing how hard it is to make good design choices when you don't know how the next stages will pan out!
Now I'm going to start again and with what I now know will try to make some better choices and treat my edges with more respect! I have actually enjoyed the exercise so thanks to Yvonne for organising it for us!

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Absence again.....

A long silence deserves an explanation!  In part this is due to another bout of anxiety attacks which seem to drain me of any creativity or desire to "make" anything. I hate it, loath the absence of ME and resent how pathetic it makes me feel. Over it now, but do wonder whether my railing against it is helpful, it's been suggested to me that I have to accept that my mind needs the breather and just acquiesce to the rhythm of it.
In part the absence has been dues to a fabulous trip up the coast of Norway from Bergen to Kirkenes and back. The scenery was stunning, weather was on our side, and I have come back with some ideas for some work for our exhibition in April.
I did use some time in September on a hand stitch project which was kickstarted by seeing a photo of a garment from an art school graduate show.

I bought an unpromising brown tweed jacket in a sale and set about adding my own take on jazzing it up.

I started by applying s distressed piece of dyed scrim to the cuff of one sleeve, using fine thread and herringbone stitch to secure it to the jacket. Then started off with cotton Perle threads and simple embroidery stitches adding linea elements.

I also applied more yellow scrim and some turquoise scrim to one shoulder and made chunky stitch lines out across the back of the jacket.
It was quite addictive and I had to be careful not to get too carried away!

The lapels got the treatment too, no scrim but stitch and beads.

Pocket flaps were treated like the lapels and bound pockets were given the French knot treatment.

Running stitch was taken from the head of the sleeve in to the arm and from the cuff up.

The yellows, corals and turquoise threads brighter it up and tone with my clothes. Eventually, I had to stop adding more and more.

The finished result pleases me and makes the jacket far more wearable than it would have been left as I bought it. I'm delighted I had the idea and plan to look for a linen jacket in the spring that I could treat in a similar way for the summer.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Elements - Fire and Ice

I really enjoyed all the design and development that went into the creation of my Elements entry. I have been working a lot this year on the addition of hand stitch to my work. I really love the textures that I can add and the act of holding the work in my hands as I stitch brings its own pleasures.
Photographs of the surface and edges of ice fields have always fascinated me. The colours, the layers and the textures so enticing!

In Iceland the juxtaposition of volcanic activity and ice means that flame and sparks sit alongside the layers, representing hundreds of years of laid down snow. I wanted to create a quilt to represent the ice and overlay the fire. 
I spent a lot of time sampling the ice field. Trying a range of different fabrics that I could manipulate and stitch effectively.

Silk, linen and cotton. Strips flipped and stitched and in some cases soft pleated as I stitched began to create a background to work on.

A second version, thinner layers more manipulation and different colours

Using large stitches in irregular form created a more interesting set of textures, incorporating scrim added more interest, scrim can also be distressed by pulling it into holes which was effective.

Now I I was ready to produce the ice background. I cut the quilt backing and the wadding and then stitched each section by stitch and flip, creating the folds, tucks and creases before stitching each layer as too stitching. The hand stitching wasn't added until all the layers had been machine stitched.
My biggest issues were in how to represent the "fire". I tried all sorts, initially I didn't rate any of them!

At first I tried rectangular blocks in the appropriate colours which I planned to mount on top of the "ice" but it's far too heavy and it obscures the stitching I have spent so long creating!

Then I tried a flame shaped addition, this doesn't work either!

Cutting flame shaped pieced that I could apply. I liked the shapes but again this obscured the stitched background so I needed to go back to the drawing board again.

By using sheer fabrics for the flames I could show more of the stitching beneath.

This is what I ended up with. I am very pleased with the ice background and I like the fact that I can still see this through the sheer flames.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The African Influence again.

The impetus for my creativity is so often kickstarted by a nostalgic flick through the travel journals and photographs from our many holidays in sub Saharan Africa. There is something about the heat, the quality of the light, the wide open spaces, the colours, scents and sounds of places we have visited that I find irresistible. I usually find an image, a collection of images and my notes from a place trigger the desire to "make something". These forays into memory are usually accompanied by a trawl through my boxes of fabric. Normally broadly colour related the exception are the African collection which exists across the colours. Mostly purchases from my trips and from Maggie Relph but including regular commercial pieces which speak to me of the continent come out and I consider them in relation to the memory, the photos and how I felt there.
This summer I re read my journal from a trip to Zambia and Botswana and was instantly drawn to my description of a late evening on the edge of the Zambezi river.
I was on the shores of the Zambezi just above the point where it plunges over Victoria Falls. Here the river gathers pace in channels, areas to either side remain placid while in other areas  the water roils and boils, foams and bubbles as it seeks the fastest route over the edge. The moonlight here, without light pollution, is extraordinary and its reflection in the placid and roiling water was mesmerising. I wanted to try and create an abstracted evocative of this time and place.
I had a hand dyed length from Jo Lovelock and it was perfect as a proxy for the more placid areas of the river. This I quilted as a whole cloth in swirls that reminded me of the moving waters.

The swirling waters and the moonlight were harder to conjure. I had a collection of indigo dyed samples from a CQ winter school with Janice Gunner and found some home dyed fabrics with the same tones as the lighter area of the base quilt.

This was my palette and I strip pieced up a rectangle that was smaller than the base quilt so it could lie on top of the base.

To add movement to the reflections of the moon in the water I added thin strips from old denim jeans which I distressed to get frayed edges. I then added hand stitch to add a more dimensional feel. Both quilts were then faced and we're ready to apply the two together, hand stitched, off centre.

The quilt was then finished and had taken just than a month from start to finish!


Sunday, 23 August 2015

Kaffe Fassett and embroidery

On Recent visit to York I went to the Quilt Museum and Gallery where they were showing Kaffe Fasett's first solo exhibition "Ancestral Gifts". While interesting to see the traditional quilts alongside Kaffe's take on the quilt designs in his signature prints, a case of " plus ca change et plus c'est le meme chose" while more exotic and brighter than the original inspiration pieces the technique and feel was still much the same.
What actually blew me away was a single exhibit In a small side room filled with interesting artefacts and collects of materials which had been starting points for his designs. Here there was a printed cotton jacket which had been completely embroidered the fabrics looked like Kaffe's own but the effect of the stitch work was fabulous.

On the face of it this is not an outstanding, knockout piece but when you get a closer look and see the stitching, wow!

Now I know what to do with the odd fat quaters of flowery fabric and with beads and wadding I think it could be very effective. I might start with a bolero for my great niece for Christmas!
Watch this space!!

With thanks to Kaffe Fasset, The Quilter's Guild and the Quilt Museum and Gallery for permission to use images taken on my visit to the Gallery.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Art Quilt v Quilt Art, musings......

My wandering among the quilts at Festival this year have set my mind focussing on what or where the lines are drawn between an "Art Quilt" and "Quilt Art".
Sadly I was not able to participate in the panel discussion on the Friday titled "How does a quilt become a piece of Art", it would have been fascinating to hear the various perspectives and to begin to develop criteria for judging which might reflect these perceptions when quilts are entered into the Art Category. I really hope that a CQ member who attended this sessions might put together an article for the magazine on this theme.
I suppose that to some extent my deliberations have been prompted by my experience of entering a quilt into the Art category this year. Similar work last year had been commented on by judges as more suitable to be an Art quilt, so on that basis, I made my choice this year. If a quilt sets out to be an art quilt how valid is a judges cricism on the choice of colours and on the straightness of a line of hand stitch? One can not imagine this being a criteria for a Quilt Art piece.
Yes I asked for feedback. I am not quibbling about this, this was her judgement given the criteria. I am however struggling to understand the point at which neat edges or wavy edges, loose threads and way out colour combinations become positive attributes as opposed to criteria for criticism.
Please do join the debate, I'd love to know what others think.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Game of Quilts - quilt made and handed over!

Thursday 6th started  early, lots to get organised and set up ready for our mammoth day of quilt making. We had been sponsored by Bernina for the machines and Wonderfil for our threads and the wadding was provided too.

Our team, "All Layered Up" was made up of six of us so that we could all have time out during the day, for sanity and to get around a little of the festival. 
Stuart Hillard, from The Great British Sewing Bee was there to set the teams off on the challenge.

Now we were ready to go. It took us a while to get into the swing, despite practicing, a strange machine and a small amount of space but we had a plan and we stuck to it! Our quilt was made up of four panels, one of which was plain with appliquéd flowers. We started here so that we would have maximum time to hand stitch the flowers and Echo quilt them.

Then it was all hands to cut and piece the blocks, each made up of three fabrics, the flowered and turquoise in all and alternating yellow and orange squares. Strip piecing helped and soon we had enough blocks to construct our first row. Kneeling on the floor or cut our wadding and backing fabric, and going to the outer reaches of the hall to apply 505 spray we were ready to layer up. These rows were then quilted. 

We had chosen the flowered quilt back so that our quilt as you go technique was almost invisible from the back. We had experimented with Wonderfil Invisifil thread to quilt and top stitch the strip joins, it worked really well and I'm going to invest in some for myself for the next quilt I start.
With the rows joined up we had the binding to make and while that was being done we added a drift of appliqué flowers to the blocks as well.

The binding was Sue's bright idea but it meant that she was needed on the machine at the end after her full day hanging quilts on the Wednesday.

Eventually, we did finish.

We did enjoy the day, we had some laughs along with the hard work, we realised that we had been our own worst enemy in going for a slightly larger size. It was in a very good cause, Birmingham Children's Hospital, and our left over fabric and wadding has gone into the Linus pot for the group who work at The Bramble Patch in Northants to use. Would we do it again, probably, for me it and a big birthday celebration meant that I saw less of the quilts and exhibitions than I would have liked, but it was my choice!