Wednesday, 19 October 2016


Knitting and Stitching Show at Ally Pally

It's years since I last made it to K & S at Ally Pally, I'm so glad that I managed it this year as I was treated to several excellent exhibits.
The two standout shows for me were 'Un-Fold' and Debbie Lyndon.
Un-fold's exhibition "Curious as an object" comprised the work of four artists: Christina Ellcock; Sally Skaife; Sarah Welsby and Christine Chester. It was spare, pared back, stark and beautiful work.
Christina Ellcock's 'Coastal Notes' was a framed collection of mini compositions, including found objects, evoking Dungerness. They reflected the bleakness of this scenery.

Sally Skaife's work represented a deep study of Oyster shells, dyed, stitch monotone prints that captured the essence of the rough, knobbly external feel of the oyster.

Sarah Welsby's circular forms in strip formation really caught the eye with their stark colour pallets, clean lines and minimalist feel.

Christine Chester's large hanging dominated the wall opposite the entrance and drew you to examine in details the tiny tubes that formed the centre of the work.

Debbie Lyndon's gallery was an exciting collection of pieces reflecting the North Norfolk coastal landscape. Two bodies of work showcased her talents in successfully mastering the small and the large scale. 
The Sluice Gate Cloths, in linen, dyed, painted, layered, distressed and incised allowed the viewer different perspectives as one moved in from of the Cloths. Subdued and moody these were powerful pieces

In contrast the collection of mounted mini landscapes reflecting the flat, open marsh land of the coastal area were exquisite gems. I am so cross with myself for not having bought one of these gems as we both love that part of the world and visit regularly.

Dionne Swift's gallery of spare landscape in pastel and stitch were interesting and have become more abstract and pared down since I last saw her work at Excel several years ago.

I was impressed with many of the Embroiderers' Guild 'Capability Brown' exhibits which shone despite the casual and haphazard way in which the pieces had been curated and hung. A shame as this did detract from the impact the work should have had and given the quality of the exhibition areas of the other artist's I have highlighted here.

I did come home with a lighter purse and heavier bag: a stunning length of beautiful linen in a burgundy/brown for clothing and as background for a textile piece forming in my head at the moment; a backing for a baby quilt which will also be showcased on the top as well; a piece of Nene Jallow's hand dyed cotton from Maggie Ralph and some undyed sari strips I want to try knitting! The retail area was horribly crowded and very knitting or yarn dominated with far fewer exciting fabrics on offer! 
I loved the day, made so much easier by being brought almost to the door and back by coach!

Monday, 17 October 2016

Khadi paper printing

Khadi paper printing

Chris and Sheena at CQ Weedon Bec group generously showed us a technique for printing onto paper that can then be stitched. It was an eye opener! A lovely way of stitching into an image without the sheen one gets with some of the fabric sheets sold for printing.
I had to buy CMC Gum. Harborough couldn't source it but my friend online shopping got in for me very quickly! I had Khadi paper and scrim or muslin.

Mixing the CMC Gum is the hardest part of the whole process. It must be fiercely agitated as the powder meets the water and as I made a small quantity in a jar I then shook the jar for some while before the lumps disappeared.
I cut scrim just larger than the paper. Painted the Gum on the paper and then smoothed the scrim over the paper ensuring that there were no creases and that all of it was adhering to the paper. It then needed to dry completely.

I then trimmed off the excess scrim making sure there were no loose ends to get caught in the printer.
My Khadi paper was smaller than A4 so I needed to tape it to an A4 page so that it would feed into the printer.
I then scanned the image and printed it.

I put wadding beneath the paper and then worked free machine stitch over the image.

I'm really pleased with it.

Thursday, 13 October 2016


After working on a series of quilts inspired by the behaviour of different bodies of water I found myself bereft of ideas of what to do next. Such a drought is an uncomfortable feeling. Creating keeps me sane. When I don't know what to create the absence looms large and feels claustrophobic, my sewing room door beckons and then it dawns on me that I don't know what I'll do if I go in. For me, it affects my life, I'm slightly off kilter not quite right. I have suffered this for most of the summer.
I tried to do something positive, went looking at gorgeous gardens, full of amazing colours, with sculptural leaves and plant shapes, visited ancient houses with stone work and carving, tapestry and ancient tomes, and still I remained uninspired. I even tried to go back to basics and make a traditional quilt top, this too was hopeless, it's a grim piece in fabric that's not really "me" and will probably end up as a Linus quilt. I couldn't even muster the enthusiasm to go to Festival!

The drought was ended when I spent a week in north west Scotland facing telling the lovely group I belong to that I wasn't going to be able to make any pieces for our exhibition on the theme of Journey. It was an odd saviour, reading about General Wade, sent up to garrison the wilds of the highlands, he first had to build the roads for his army to march on. These constructions passed through some of the finest scenery, through birch wood and over heather moorland passed villages later to be 'cleared' to make way for sheep. I felt a connection. My imagination fired. Three very different possible pieces took form in my mind. There followed a frenzied period of creation and joy at being back to something like normality.
I embraced the creative process, took pleasure in making samples, trying out ideas, dyeing my fabrics, finding the right threads and an intense six weeks of stitching has resulted in three pieces I'm really pleased with. I think I'm back again, but the acid test is about to happen. What do I plan to do next? I'm really hoping that I can manage to move on to new work without the long fallow period I've just been through returning.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Threaded Together's Exhibition today

This year my work has been almost wholly concerned with abstraction from images. Our exhibition title has been the hook upon which I have built a series of four pieces all of which relate to abstractions from images and recollections of  bodies of water and their behaviour. 
I hope that they catch the mood, the colours and the movement of water, it's capricious behaviour and capacity to reflect the mood of its surroundings. I include short descriptions of what influenced these abstractions.

Rufigi Sundown

'Floating down the Rufigi Riiver in Tanzania as the sun was setting, listening to the start of night sounds, and watching the ever changing reflections on the river of the decaying light.'

Moonlit Zambezi

Relaxing by the side of the Zambezi river just above the Victoria Falls I watched the water in the centre of the channel tumble and race headlong for the edge, roiling, boiling and foaming, while the water near the banks was gently moving its way to the precipice.'

Harbour Lights

'A casual stroll late at night by the harbour in Bergen, I took a photo, buildings lit across the water. Thinking nothing much of the memory shot I was staggered when later I saw the small patch of reflected lights in the water, red, blue and yellows.'

Still Waters

The waters of the Norwegian fjords were cool,silent and gentle, with lovely reforming patterns and with light reflecting on the ripples.'

Monday, 25 April 2016

Turning JQs into book covers.

Last year I started the JQ project with loads of enthusiasm, planning to create a collection of images from the Cambridgeshire fenland area. I was so enthused I made 5 by the end of March! Sadly I made one more and then the muse left me. I tried all sorts to get back on track but gave in. Weak, I know, but my mind wasn't ready to change the theme and just do anything. They went into a box and I forgot all about them. Clearing out, as one does from time to time to make way for new toys, I found them. What to do with them? They sat on the shelf looking accusingly at me and then, when our plans for our Threaded Together exhibition were coming to life, I realised that they were exactly the right size to make book covers to sell at the show.  So that's what I've done!
Here they are!

Having made these I went through the samples box and created two more from experiments for work that went to Alsace in 2013. They too have made neat little covers.

All of this of course has only put off the point when I need to start some new work. Blank sheet syndrome...... I'm hoping a day with Viv Arthur and ArtVan Go will set the creative juices going and I'll be ready to work again!

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Why do I blog?

There has been a really interesting strand on the Contemporary Quilt Yahoo about the merits of blogging and blogging v website. On the face of it, blogging is a rather arrogant imposition of ones ideas, opinions and creations on an unsuspecting world! Before I started to post I enjoyed visiting textile blogs, especially of those whose work I enjoyed, especially when the process was shared. At that point I was visiting blogs of those I looked up to. How, then did I imagine mine might stack up? I suppose because I never saw this this as a vehicle to do other than catalogue my textiles journey and as a means of holding myself to the challenge of developing my textiles in a more systematic manner.
In the same way I enjoy the face to face contact with other textile artists I like to share what I am doing. Working away in a room on ones own is a lovely privilege but it's good to let in the sun and share the work too. Textiles artists are generally very generous with technique and there are so many ways in which we learn from each other. That at the root of it is my rationale!


Friday, 8 April 2016

Experiments with dyeing fabric with Chalk Paint

I had read that Chalk Paints could be used to dye fabrics, the very matt nature of them appealed for a piece of work I'm contemplating making.
I found Annie Sloan trial pots in the colours I wanted.

Initially the thick consistency was a bit off putting until I realised that they needed to be significantly diluted with warm water. I tried a sample of each of the paints on cotton fabric.

Muted and with a slightly sueded texture.

I then tried mixing the paints.

When dry they were a lot less vivid.

While the instructions from Annie Sloan state that the paints are non toxic, I found that when dry they were very 'dusty' from loose chalk. I did dye a linen top, the colour is excellent but the loose chalk is taking a lot of getting rid of. I'm not sure whether this is always the case or if I used too greater proportion of pigment to warm water. I shall have to try again!

Friday, 1 April 2016

Room 6. "6 Shades of Grey"

I just wanted to share with you an interesting exhibition I visited while at the ICHF show at NEC recently. Room 6 are a group of textile artists who met through their course tutor Susan Chapman. The group comprises Consuelo Simpson, Lynn Onions, Helen Still, Alison Hulme and Caroline Bell.
While all the works were interesting I was particularly drawn to a pair of pieces by Alison Hulme. "Urban Streets" influenced by city streets, looking up at the tall buildings and down to the chewing gum on the pavements.

Her second piece "Conversations " influenced by heal heard and overheard conversations.

Sorry photos not as good as I have liked because the stand shape made it hard to get further away from the pieces.

Caroline's Bell's series of pieces "Fade" exploded grey through naturally dyed fabrics and printing. I loved these, the variations that were achieved and her use of hand stitch.

I still strive to achieve a series of pieces that are linked. I'm setting off to try to do this again this summer with two key themes in my brain, Jordan Desert and Family History. More later.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016


I have been sharing less recently as I have been preparing for an Exhibition on 30th April. I'm exhibiting as a member of Threaded Together and my theme has been abstractions of bodies of water. My work has been absorbing as it has forced me to extend my range of skills and experiment with how to interpret the behaviour of water without trying to produce a representational piece. I shall be show a set of four pieces. I'll post these just before the show.
Here is the poster with details of where and when.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Fashion, Embroidery and Stitch

Stewarding at the NEC show gives one a fabulous opportunity to see the Contemporary Quilt Groups Journal Quilts. Little gems of creativity!
As always, there is a plethora of techniques on show and the folder gives the visitors an insight into how each piece has been created.
Inevitably, each visitor has their particular favourites and this is my change to share mine with you.

Jill Packer

Irene McWilliam

Linda Billsborrow

Linda Seward

Cathy Hensman

The CQ Stand

The quilts always attract visitors and one has lovely conversations with people about how they are all created.

Friday, 11 March 2016

The Shipping Forecast

This year the East Midlands region of the Embroiderers Guild are running their embroidery Kick Start competition with the theme of weather. I was lucky to get a place on a one day course with the sub theme of weather maps. As a child I loved maps of all types, drew them, copied them made then up you name it I did it. As a family we also listened to The Shipping Forecast, it came immediately before the news. There was something quite exciting about the deletion of these names. Initially they did not have a geographical position in my mind, just the words, but later I realised that it was a tour of the British Isles!
We spent the day using the chart symbols as a basis for design ideas.

These symbols when repeated form patterns!
We spend time investigating the possibilities of such repeats and the isobars.

Here I started to play with a symbol and the names of the sea areas following a set of isobars. I played with writing with my sewing machine. Not very good at this yet.

Then I had the idea of colouring in the white fabric as if it had been paper. I tried Neocolour wax crayons, and Koh I Noor fabric paints inside the Neocolour crayon lines. These ran a little but the shading worked well.

I machined all the lines and then very carefully began to colour in the shapes.

The larger areas looked a little irregular but I soon realised that a little judicious rubbing with kitchen  towel soon evened it out!

Completed, I was delighted with this new technique and will consider it again. 

The piece can now be used for Weedon Bec CT exhibition in April, the Harborough Embroiderers exhibition in May and possibly Kick Start as well. Job done!