Autumn has arrived here in New Zealand, and it is beautiful. This is the tree just outside our house; I don't think I have ever seen such vibrantly coloured leaves.
Walking among the fallen leaves, I can't resist picking up handfuls and throwing them in the air then watching them tumble down like confetti.
Just for fun I decided to collect some of the most brightly coloured specimens and spend the day playing around with them. These are just a few pictures.
First I just spent time looking at them closely, arranging them in different ways.
I took photos and played around, creating layers using GIMP - the free version of Photoshop. It is so easy to experiment in ways that would be so difficult to do without such software.
Then I moved on to working in a sketchbook with acrylic paint, a fine black pen and a craft knife
And finally I stitched a few bundles of leaves together. Whilst they are soft and supple it wasn't too difficult. They are now under a heavy weight to try and keep them flat whilst they dry out. I have no idea what will happen to them!
I have no plans for any of this,but sometimes it is nice to do something for no good reason!
Thanks for reading.
I've been working on a new quilt for a while now, for the SAQA 'Made in Europe II' exhibition. I am hoping it will be selected to hang in their gallery at Festival of Quilts later this year. It isn't what you would call a 'pretty' quilt, but it is part of the ongoing work I have made this year in terms of its style and inspiration.
The quilt itself is of fairly simple construction, (much like the others) being made from irregularly sized rectangles pieced together, so nothing much to write home about there. The fun in this quilt has come from creating a particular effect on the fabric I used. I was aiming for a very specific visual texture, the look of iron metal that has been painted and then blistered by rust beneath the surface. The process of creating it was an interesting journey, so I thought I would share a little of the process I used to create it.
I decided to start with a large piece of commercially dyed black homespun fabric and then remove some of the colour from it. In the past I have used both formusol and discharge paste to remove colour from fabrics, but neither was readily available to me here, so I got out the bleach did some experimenting to find the best way to get the results I had in mind. As it turns out, it worked brilliantly - so much so, I may never bother with the smelly formusol ever again!
Interestingly enough, here in New Zealand bleach is comparatively expensive. I have no idea why! In the UK it is dirt cheap. I sought out the least expensive bleach I could find - it turned out to be the thin watery stuff - and tried various ways to thicken it so it would be more controllable.
I started with manutex - the sodium alginate seaweed based thickener I usually use with dye: Sadly it was no good. The bleach completely destroyed the viscosity.
Dharma Trading sell a thickener for bleach made by Jacquard (click here to go to their website), but I would have had to import it from the USA and I didn't want to wait for it to arrive, so my search continued.
I found out about fumed silica (click here to find out about this interesting stuff) which would apparently work very well (maybe that is what is in the Jacquard stuff??), but again I would have to order it.
So I decided to try plain old starch - cornflour in water. I mixed two big spoonfuls of cornflour into a little cold water to make a slurry then added another half a cup or so of water and and popped it into the microwave. A few seconds later I had a very thick, gooey transparent paste. I mixed in some thin bleach and gave it all a good stir. It stayed thick and allowed me to draw, dribble and stamp the bleachy paste onto the black fabric.
For a cheap and practical solution to my needs the cornflour paste was perfect!
Note: Interestingly, the left over bleachy paste did break down overnight and became thin and runny - so I recommend mixing the the bleach and paste as you need it rather than making a big batch.
There is some debate as to how much damage bleach does to fabric when used to remove colour (discharge) in this way. To be honest, I have used bleach to remove colour several times in the past, and never had any problems. The fabrics still seem to be in good condition and I see no problems on the horizon. Maybe in 20 or more years there will be - but so far so good. However, in the interest of being thorough I researched how to neutralise the bleach and stop any potential damage.
There are a number of methods various people recommend. The one NOT to do is to dip the discharged fabric into a mixture of vinegar and water. The (faulty) logic goes like this: bleach is alkaline, so neutralise it with an acid. Apparently it is not quite as straightforward as it seems (is anything???) Paula Birch has a very good explanation of the different methods on her website, which you can find here: www.pburch.net/dyeing/FAQ/neutralizingdischarge.shtml
I opted for the hydrogen peroxide as it was the cheapest and easiest to obtain, not to mention that it seems less noxious. Paula Birch recommends 3% peroxide, which translates to 10 vol if you are more used to that measurement.
(As a long term experiment I have kept 3 pieces of the discharged black fabric. One has not been neutralised at all, just rinsed in water, the second has been neutralised in the dreaded diluted vinegar and the third in peroxide. Time will tell if there is any difference!)
By this stage I was pretty happy with the effect. To me it is beginning to resemble a section of painted iron. I have since added some further fabric and begun the process of hand stitching various knots over the surface to give it even more texture.
The closing date for entries to the 'Made in Europe II' SAQA exhibition is 31st May - so I had better get on with it!
Thanks for reading.
I am a member of a fabulous group called Contemporary Quilters West - CQWest for short. It is a thriving group of very talented people all of whom love to make art with cloth and thread. Every other year the group has an exhibition of the newest work made by the members; the first was held at the West Barn in Bradford on Avon in 2014, and the second was in 2016 at Rook Lane Chapel in Frome. Both exhibitions were a tremendous success and a record of them is on the CQWest website here.
The next exhibition, Unfolding Stories 3, is in the planning stages and I am part of a group of members who have volunteered to organise it... and the first thing to arrange is a venue. This means visiting galleries and then applying to have an exhibition - something I have never done before. Fortunately, my good friend Liz Hewitt has, and she has given me lots of advice and assistance.
Many of the galleries I have approached have a formal application process which involves putting together a written proposal along with samples of work (usually photographs). Funny as it may sound, I have really enjoyed settling down and writing the applications. Fortunately, the group is large and there is no shortage of superb work to put forward, so that part of the job is easy. It is also easy to sing the praises of the group and make statements that might seem rather arrogant if I was writing about myself. It has been like pressing 'pause' and given me time to reflect on what the group does, why 'we' do it and how 'we' want the world outside of the group to see us.
Which brought me to the next part of the process - creating a visual portfolio of our work that could be easily sent to prospective venues. On the face of it this sounds easy; gather together some decent photos of our work and send them along.
Except a quick photo that someone took at an exhibition doesn't always show the work or the exhibition overall at its very best. What makes a nice memory or souvenir of the event for us on a personal level isn't the same as a photo which is trying to sell 'us' to a venue that can pick and choose who exhibits there. Dark or wonky photos with people, chairs pillars and the like obscuring the view aren't what is called for here. (Big lesson for me going forward in the photography department!) Sure, I can straighten them up, brighten them and crop them with some software, but there are limits to what that can do!
Also, even when you do have a nice, bright looking photo it needs to have been taken at a good enough resolution so the gallery can zoom in a little and see some detail. And that means large file sizes, which in turn means a big pain in the you-know-what when I want to send along a clean, simple and appealing application which is easy for the recipient to read and think 'Wow! This group is amazing - we must invite them!'
So it got me thinking - how can I combine lots of our photos (now straight and free from chairs, doors and people's bottoms) in one easy to view file or attachment that looks professional enough to convince a gallery to grant us an exhibition?
My first thought was a Powerpoint slideshow (probably showing my age here). When I was a teacher I used to use Powerpoint a lot and it is easy enough to upload heaps of photos and make a slick looking presentation. So far so good - but then the file size gets huge again and is no longer easy to attach in an email and if I start putting large files in drop boxes then people need to have an account with the drop box and it all gets complicated again. Another thing is the recipient needs to have the right software to view the slideshow, It is already too clunky.
Then I thought of YouTube. It is one of those things I probably see and use in some form or other most days - but I have never really thought about. When I search for something, up come the results then I click and play. Easy! It works on every device I have, and, as I have discovered, is free and simple to use and all you need is a link which I can put in a simple email.
So the next thing to do was learn how to make something I could upload to YouTube. And of course, I used a YouTube video to learn how to do it.... how appropriate!
Fortunately it isn't nearly as difficult as you might think - I chose to try this two step process:
Once you have some photos ready to use, open one of those pieces of software that comes on every windows PC, that you (and I) probably never paid any attention to .....Windows Live movie Maker.
Turns out all you do is drag and drop lots of photos into that big white box on the right, then fiddle about with them using the choices at the top of the screen, add some copyright free music if you wish, then save it all as a 'movie'.
Next, if you haven't already got one, open a free Google account (if you use Gmail you already have one) and then go to your YouTube account. I've used Gmail for years and never realised that it was quietly sitting there waiting for me to upload a video or two.
One way to find it is by clicking on those little squares at the top right of the screen once you are in your Gmail.
This will bring you to the YouTube Home screen.
To upload your 'movie' you click on that little upward pointing arrow at the top right of the screen and then follow the instructions.
All that is left to do then is click publish..... then sit back and enjoy your work.
Click the button below to watch the YouTube video of the last CQ West exhibition
I hope you enjoy watching, and if you have decide to add something to YouTube, please send me a link. I'd love to see what you create. I'm completely new to this!
Thanks for reading.
I have a favourite pair of shorts. They are old and not particularly special, and certainly not very pretty.... but I like them. They are 'comfortable'. They have been to lots of places and I've had lots of fun whilst wearing them. My most memorable occasion was when I was visiting my friends in Puerto Rico about 8 or so years ago (and they weren't new then). I was walking their lovely Basset hound on a lead and, very unlike me, I decided to jog for a bit. I was a few kilos lighter then, and as I ran the shorts began to slip. Downwards. Then some ducklings crossed our path and Ludovic decided to run a bit faster than me. He wasn't a dog that was typically inclined to move any faster than absolutely necessary, but the next thing I knew Ludo was trying to get away and my shorts were around my ankles. My friends nearly died laughing. It wasn't pretty.
There is no way that would happen these days (they fit well now!) but those shorts have begun to show serious signs of wear. When I hung them out to dry on the washing line this week a major problem became apparent....
Not wanting to part with them just yet I decided to do a proper repair job and chose a traditional mending technique; shasiko. I have only ever played with sashiko stitching on a decorative level before, but this was my chance to have a proper 'go' at it.
This is how they look now and I love them even more!
Next time you have something that needs mending why not see if a traditional technique could help you?
Thanks for reading!
I can hardly believe it is that time of year again.
Last year I made the small 12" x 12" quilt entitled 'innocence'. It was a simple printed and painted wholecloth of a little boy I once met whose wonderful name is Spinach.
Each year SAQA (Studio Artist Quilt Associates) put out a request for members to make and donate a small quilt which is put up for sale at a huge auction they host in September. Last year over 430 quilts were donated which raised over $80,000. The money raised is used to support SAQA's extensive exhibition and outreach programs.
Here is a random selection of quilts from the 2016 auction. Spinach is down there at the bottom somewhere. You can see more of the quilts by visiting the SAQA site. Click here to visit.
For this year's quilt I decided to revisit Spinach and make another very similar quilt - but showing how he has grown and altered. He now goes to school and I think of him often.
If you are interested in SAQA you can find out more about who they are and what they do here. I have been a member for just about 2 years and have met some great people and learned a lot about quilt making, exhibiting and lots more through my membership.
Thanks for reading.
I'll use them to dye some fabric.
To make the dye I started with about half a bucket full of dried flowers and added just enough cold water to cover them. They were very buoyant and I had to squish them down to get them to start absorbing the water. I left the bucket out in the sun all day to stew.
The next day I let the sun warm it all up again then squished the whole lot though an old sieve. The flowers had completely broken down into a silky mush, but the water had taken on an incredibly dark red wine colour.
Before I added the fabric I decided to mordant it in the hope that I would get a better result. I didn't want to use anything toxic, so I chose to use vinegar. All I did was make a mixture of water and vinegar (1 part vinegar to 4 parts water) and simmer the white fabric in it for an hour. After 1 hour I left the fabric to cool in the solution and then squeezed it out ready to dye. If I had been scientific I would have tried a mordanted piece of fabric and a non mordanted piece to see the difference - but if I'm completely honest - I forgot.
As I had a lot of dye liquid I decided to see whether simmering the fabric in the dye would give a darker colour than simply leaving the fabric to soak in the in the sun. I cut the the squeezed out fabric into two and put one into my dye saucepan and simmered it for an hour then left it to cool overnight. The second piece I just put into the dye bucket and left it out in the sun.
The next day both pieces looked exactly the same.
Finally I put them both into the washing machine and washed them in cold water with a little delicate washing liquid.
The photo above shows how the two pieces of fabric turned out. They are both almost identical (so there was no need to use any electricity to simmer the fabric at the end - and quite possibly I could have done without simmering the vinegar either - something to explore in the future) and have a very pretty pale pink with a hint of greyness. I suppose I could call it mink. I still have a piece of avocado dyed fabric from last year so I have included that in the photo too (on the right). That has a similar colour but has a little more brown in the pink. It actually goes very nicely with the hibiscus dyed fabric. (You can read the post about dyeing with avocado pits and skins by clicking here and here.
As delicate as the fabric is I think it needs a bit of a kick to create something a little more interesting - so I mixed up some procion to dye some more smaller pieces of fabric to co-ordinate. I used fuscia, golden yellow, charcoal, pewter, my current favourite, cobalt. And this is what I now have - I think it look great.
Thanks for reading.
This is a close up of part of a quilt poster I recently made concerning an issue of growing importance; that of the enormous number of waste plastic bottles which are clogging up landfill sites and floating around in the worlds rivers, lakes and oceans.
The quilt was made in response to a SAQA call for entry to create a textile poster. I have been thinking for a while about the subject of my entry and it was and whilst I was out walking on the beach that I made my decision. After a big storm out at sea a lot of debris had been washed up and I was astonished at the huge amount of plastic waste that was now beneath my feet on the normally pristine beach. Plastic bottles of all kinds littered the sand - the vast majority of which were - rather ironically - water bottles. I didn't have my camera with me, but this photo by Ben Salter shows what it looked like, and also shows this is a common problem all over the world.
One of the things I really enjoy is when I can get a glimpse into how others 'make the work they make', so I thought I would share some photos of the process I went through in making this quilt.
The background started off as a sun print - I was trying out using soy milk again and ended up with this rather pale and ordinary looking piece of cloth.
In my sketchbook I had been playing around with 'H2O' and liked the way it all lined up - so I decided to make some stencils to add on top of the sun printed background. At this stage I wasn't sure it was working.........
For the landfill section I made bottle shaped stamps from lino - I tried to choose distinctive bottle shapes.....
Then on to the tap - I drew several in my sketchbook and this is a hybrid of them all. I used a piece of grey hand dyed fabric that I made years ago for one of the ostrich quilts - I knew it would come in handy one day. That fabric is well travelled as it came all the way to New Zealand from South Africa!
For the tap water I used a variety of different threads and wool remnants, and for the bottle another old piece of hand dyed fabric. I can't remember which quilt I dyed it for, but I thought the colour was perfect to go onto the blue background.
And finally the dark blue letters - more fabric from the ostrich quilts - this was originally used for part of the sky.
And here it is all together. It was a nice quilt to make - not too complicated at all - and I hope it sends the message clear and loud.
A few days ago I had the great news that the quilt was selected to be part of the SAQA touring exhibition named 'Textile Posters'. It is You can read more about it here. Unfortunately I wont be able to see the exhibition in person, but I had a lovely email from Brenda Wroe who is going and she has kindly offered to take lots of photos for me!
I have also had an email from Martha Sielman at SAQA who tells me that at the SAQA conference in Lincoln at the end of April she will be presenting a mock-jurying program using quilts from this call for entry. I think it is a great idea, and am sorry I wont be there to see it, as not only will it be interesting to hear how the whole process works, but also any information that helps people understand the criteria used to select quilts for exhibition will give people confidence to enter. If you are attending - I hope you get to see this presentation - and let me know how it went!
Thanks for reading.
Votes for Women - A world first for New Zealand
Unless you are from, or have a connection with New Zealand or the Womens' Suffrage Movement, it is quite possible that you have not heard of this remarkable woman and her achievements. I certainly had not until I started my research. You can read all about her and her remarkable story, winning the right for women to vote in New Zealand - the first place on earth, by clicking here.
The quilt measures 24" x 30" and brings together images of several significant elements of the story that led to this historic victory. The largest and most significant part of this quilt is the picture of Kate herself which I decided to draw this directly onto a piece of fabric using Derwent Inktense pencils. Naturally I needed to use photographs of Kate Sheppard to help me draw her likeness and this is where the important issue of copyright comes into play. One of the most important parts of creating artwork such as this lies in ensuring you have the correct permissions in place when referring to or using other people's original work. Knowing whether or not you need permission is not always straightforward - so I follow a simple rule - ALWAYS check thoroughly. Just because an image is all over the internet does not necessarily mean it is free to use - others are quite possibly infringing copyright, so don't be the one that gets caught because you assumed it was 'ok'. Find out who 'owns' the material and then check. Besides - it is just polite!
Here are a few images of Kate Sheppard that are easily found by a quick Google search:
Although I was only using the photographs as inspiration to guide me with my own drawing of Kate Sheppard I was unsure as to whether I needed permission. I thought wouldn't as I was not making a direct copy, but to be on the safe side, I checked. Just as well, as it turns out! The University of Canterbury informed me that I did need their permission. Fortunately they were happy to give it once they understood what I was using the image for. A few emails and forms later I have a 'release' which I can give to the exhibition organisers and everyone is happy.
The quilt was a lot of fun to make and allowed me to play about with a wide selection of fabrics, dyes and stains. I used recycled velvet, linen broderie anglaise and kimono silk as well as quilters cotton fabrics which I modified with Rooibos tea, bleach and fibre reactive dyes. I added trapunto to several sections to add dimension and added heavy machine embroidery to give depth and texture.
Getting back to the complexities of copyright. I know it is not straightforward, and to make it more confusing still it also depends on national laws and whilst there is no International law on copyright there are many treaties and conventions which offer protection to foreign works; there are also all sorts of rules and regulations about how long copyright lasts, whether the rights are passed on once the original creator dies (and for how long), whether an image is in the public domain, or is licensed creative commons, not to mention the whole minefield of 'fair use'. In this instance I have a very old photograph which is held by a New Zealand University and I am making a piece of art derived in part from that photograph to be hung at a commercial exhibition in the USA. Complicated? Yes! But despite all that, I was able to approach the owners and get their permission to use the image.
A useful and well explained article on US copyright can be read here
and another on internet image use can be found by clicking here
Thanks for reading.
The salt quilt is now almost finished and I am very pleased with the way it has developed. I'm not really sure how best to describe the effect I was aiming for, a sort of 'crusty with a semi transparent glint', is the best I can come up with, but I would love it if someone better with words could help me with this please!
To achieve this I tried out a few new ideas in an attempt to achieve the look that salt crystals have. These are close up images of a few pieces of fabric I created.
The fabrics all started out as pale hand dyes, using a mixture of turquoise, cobalt blue, midnight blue, charcoal and fuscia Procion MXdyes. The dye solutions were very weak to ensure the colour was not too intense.
After a lot of experimentation I chose to use a very large soft graphite stick to make most of the marks on the fabric - those are the dark grey shapes in the images above. I also monoprinted using white opaque printing ink, but the effect was very subtle and does not show well in the photographs.
I also added some reproduction newspaper articles onto the surface of the fabric using a paper lamination technique with gel medium. It is a great way to add this incredible detail, but makes the fabric very stiff. Fortunately this does matter in this instance so I was happy to accept this issue.
For the bold image of Mahatma Gandhi I printed out the image I had drawn in my sketchbook and tinted it using Derwent Inktense pencils, before laminating the image to the fabric. It worked particularly well and produced a clear image. A second image was made by drawing directly onto a silk screen with thickened dye and later screen printing it onto fabric. This produced a very feint outline of Gandhi's face which was used in another part of the quilt.
To add the impression of glinting salt crystals I cut some Angelina fibres into small squares and sprinkled them over the surface of each of the pieces of fabric before they were finally covered with crystal organza. This softened the marks on the fabrics somewhat and gave the quilt a look like very much.
This is how the quilt top looked once it was pieced. The small Angelina squares really do catch the light - although the camera flash has enhanced this somewhat - thankfully they don't look quite that obvious in natural light.
Once quilted I added the alchemists salt symbol, as I have with all the quilts in this series. The material to use for this needed some consideration and after several trials I decided use coloured newspaper to tie in with the newspaper clippings already on the quilt.
The only thing left for me to compete on this quilt is to now decide if I want to add any hand stitch. I an considering whether to add another salt crystal layer to the surface with thread and organza and am in the process of making a few samples to help me decide.
I hope you have enjoyed following the progress of this quilt - it has definitely given me lots of scope to further explore some different techniques and ideas.
Thanks for reading.
see my quilts in these magazines
Festival Of Quilts
Sew On The Go