I'm in the middle of a lot of things at present, which means small projects are all I can manage at the moment. I like to be busy, and have gradually got into the habit of having lots of things on the go at the same time.
Last weekend I taught my Reversible Sun Hat workshop at one of my favourite places, Midsomer Quilting. For the past few weeks I have been preparing for this new workshop, getting the patterns right, making samples and ensuring everything would go smoothly on the day. As the hats are small this worked well in my 'small projects' category. Teaching a new workshop for the first time is a mixture of excitement and nerves but I am delighted that all the hats all turned out fabulously and everyone had a thoroughly good day. By the end of the afternoon there were 4 completely finished hats and 6 that were almost done. As you can see below, there were lots of hats in lots of different sizes - some finished, and some still floppy and under construction. They all looked fantastic!
You can see more about the hat's workshop by clicking here.
This Saturday I am going to be teaching again, but this time at another of my favourite places, Pauline's Patchwork. I'm going to be teaching how to make a small art quilt that takes its inspiration from the traditional favourite 'Grandmother's Garden'. The two quilts below are my interpretations using tesselated hexagon shapes to create the garden. This week I have been busy preparing the samples, stamps, fabric paints etc. to make sure everyone has a great day. You can see more about this workshop by clicking here.
Another small project I have started to think about is the annual 12 x 12 challenge hosted by Midsomer Quilting. Each year in November/ December they challenge anyone who has a link with the shop to create a small 12 inch square quilt on a given theme. Here is a link that will take you to the 12 x 12 challenge web page where you can link to all the previous challenges:
Over 700 - yes you read it correctly, seven hundred quilts that have been entered into the various challenges. Many of these have been donated and sold to raise funds for Dorothy House and CLIC Sargent, two very worthwhile local charities. This year the theme is 'Where in the World?' I think this is a great choice as it is easy to think of all sorts of places or things associated with places that would be a great fit.
This week my mum and I started our quilts - another 'little' project. Here is a sneaky peep at part of my mum's quilt. She has chosen to do some needle felting as well as some quilting. I really enjoyed watching how she made it.
Mine started life as a doodle, which I turned into an idea for a little quilt along the lines of one of my Doodle Birds. Here is a glimpse.....
So - although you have only had a teaser so far, can you tell where in the world our quilts are from???
I hope you have enjoyed seeing what I've been up to these last few weeks - I'll post the completes 12 x 12 quilts once they are finished.
Thanks for reading.
I recently spent another fabulous day with the members of Walton Textiles, this time making beautiful rose gardens. We had a lot of laughs and everyone was tremendously productive, in fact by the end of the day everyone had pretty much finished their curved-pieced quilt top and covered it with sprays of flowers.
The nice thing about this workshop is that the pieced quilt top builds quickly. Once you get the hang of the technique of cutting and piecing the gentle curves (not difficult, just different!) you are off. In just an hour or so everyone had their quilt top done.
By lunch time everyone had a fabulous quilt top to work on.
After lunch we began adding the flowers. There are so many different options..... We discussed size, shape, colour and layout before everyone got back to work.
Amanda began quilting her fabulous quilt top towards the end of the afternoon.
I hope you agree, they are all fantastic. I know that at least one is destined to become a cushion, one a wall hanging, one a table runner and another is going to have a twisted log cabin border added. Ladies, I am looking forward to seeing them once they are finished!
To find out more about the 'Garden of Roses' workshop and download the accompanying brochure, please clickhere.
Thanks for reading.
Wherever you live in the world, I don't think it is possible to have missed the fact that there is a new force at the top in the USA. Whether you like President Donald Trump or not, he is the elected leader of what I think is somewhat laughably called the 'Free West'. Personally, I do not like how he behaves, how he treats others or what he stands for, but that is my personal opinion and I do not push it upon anyone else.
Just after the U.S. election results were announced a huge wave of anxiety washed over a large proportion of the American population and many others in rest of the world. I am one of those people; not an American citizen, but an outsider who is seriously troubled by the things President Trump is saying and doing on behalf of the American people and the impact that will have on everyone in the world, not just those within the borders of the USA.
Back in February, just after the U.S. elections, a group of quilt artists called The Artist's Circle created a call for entry to an exhibition to protest their concerns about the words and actions of their new President. You can read more about them here.
As I learned more about the new President's proposed January order to indefinitely ban Syrian refugees and temporarily ban all other refugees and travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries I decided to enter my quilt 'We Walk Together...' into the exhibition (it is the same quilt I entered into Quilt en Beaujolais last year which won a 1st prize ribbon). I find it impossible to understand how anyone could react this way. I have listened and tried to understand the arguments put forward in support of such a ban and can only conclude that it is inhumane and diametrically opposed to the way humans ought to treat each other.
By the end of May, (when President Trump's travel ban still had not been put fully into action due to legal challenges) I was informed that my quilt had been selected to for the exhibition. It was a day of mixed emotions. I was pleased that the quilt would be part of the exhibition and yet filled with sadness and a feeling of helplessness that this quilt should even exist. A superb catalogue of all the quilts selected to travel is available for purchase via Amazon, designed by Judy Coates Perez and Indigo Perez. Click here or on the cover below if you are interested in finding out more or purchasing a copy.
Back in June an article in Hand/Eye magazine ran which gives some more background to the exhibition. You can read more about it here.
You can also view all of the selected quilts by visiting the Threads of Resistance blog below:
Each quilt is accompanied by the artist statement and a voice message which explains a little more about the quilt. It is a fabulous way to see and understand the raw emotions felt my each artist. Be aware, however, that it is possible you may disagree with messages on the quilts or be shocked by the images and language portrayed. Part of the stated aim of this exhibition is to "shock us out of our comfort zone and into action....these quilts (are also giving) voice emotions and ideas that for too long have been deemed unacceptable if spoken by women. Here, as women and men united, we speak together.....(because of our love for our country) silence is no longer an option.
If any of it offends you then you have the absolute right to pass comment in a civilized way and look away.
My reason for this perhaps unusual comment above is that an unintended consequence of this and other protest exhibitions has arisen. The issue has been widely discussed in quilting circles on social media, but if you are not aware of all this then here is a quick summary.
A group of quilters in the USA who have been described as 'Socially Conservative' chose to form a secret social media group so they could air their feelings privately, possibly in ways that would probably alienate some of their other acquaintances if their unguarded sentiments were made public. I wish to stress there is nothing wrong with people expressing their opinions, and people are entitled to their personal views and preferences. Indeed, I have learned there are many such groups in existence from all political sides. Unfortunately this group of quilters, among other things, also chose to take physical action against other quilters just because they disagreed with their viewpoint. This is where I feel they crossed the line. Members of the secret group talked themselves into a downward spiral, and did some pretty despicable things. They sent complaints to an exhibition which had put out a call for quilts protesting against the Trump presidency (this one); they contacted the sponsors of a well known 'liberal' quilter to suggest that she should be dropped because of her opposition to Trump; they sent homophobic messages to gay artists; they contacted quilting trade shows, asking organisers to cancel classes run by quilters they thought were 'too liberal'; they also suggested to each other the idea of boycotting certain quilters, and reporting them to the American tax authorities so that they would be tied up in tax investigations. I even got an email telling me to keep my nose out of things that as a foreigner don't concern me 'or else'! (I did wonder with a smile what the 'or else' might be for the nanosecond before I hit the 'bin/trash' button) All their targets were chosen because of their support for things they considered to be liberal causes and those who publicly supported the 'Threads of Resistance' call were fair game.
So, if you disagree, that is fine by me, but lets not allow things to get personal. Let's listen to both sides of the argument and maintain a civilized debate.
The exhibition received over 500 entries, which is an extraordinary number for such an art call. Obviously not all could be accepted to travel to the multiple venues (click here for details) but every entry can be seen on the Threads of Resistance website by clicking here. I've looked at them all and they form an incredible body of work.
There are also a number of other exhibits protesting President Trump's administration's actions and policies. Here are links to those I know about.
The Threads of Resistance exhibition opens next week in New England - I am really looking forward to hearing the reaction and the reviews once it opens. My thanks go to all those who were bold enough to bring this exhibition to reality.
Thanks for reading
After the heat of last week there is no doubt that summer is here. Phew! it was a warm one, and whilst it was perhaps a little too warm for comfort, I do hope it isn't the only bit of summer we get.
To celebrate summer I have created a selection of hats to help the wearer keep cool and protect their skin from damaging UV rays. I always need a hat when the sun is hot as my head easily gets overheated and I also don't want to get any more sun damage to my skin. Having lived in South Africa and New Zealand I am very aware of the consequences that!
I thought it would be fun to design a hat that looked good, was pretty simple to make, could be reversed so that if you get fed up with one colour you can always switch to another - and last of all, still looked great even when it had been squished into a bag for a while.
I also wanted to make a hat that would fit almost every head - from tiny to 'grande'. This is what I came up with.
Using traditional patchwork and quilting techniques as inspiration I have made a selection of different hats. For those above I have used the foundation paper piecing technique to create 'Cat and Mouse' and added some cute little ears to the top of the hat. I also made a version of a 'Mariners Compass' and added some twisted soft cord to add to the nautical theme. For the larger hat I divided the hat into sections and made a 4 patch variation with a slightly heavier weight upholstery fabric.
The nice thing is that every hat is made from the same basic pattern. All that changes is the fabric and a slightly different patchwork technique - it is amazing how the 'same' hat can look so different.
For the blue 'Love Hearts' hat I used foundation paper piecing again and for the 'Cute as a Button' baby hat I used strips of fabric and the very simple stitch and flip technique. The baby hat also has additional ties to help keep it on its little owner's head. This and other similar embellishments are easy to add during construction.
This is my current favourite adult sized hat; 'Tulips' is a simple white hat embellished with little raw edge applique tulips and a lace band. It has a beautiful red/pink lining hiding inside.
But I think 'Woof' is my all time favourite. More raw edge applique makes this a simple hat to construct. I had some more of that soft cord left, so added it around the sides of the hat.
'Flying Geese' is made from - you guessed it - a strip of flying geese that were left over from another project. In fact, and orphan quilt blocks could be used up in this way with a little bit of jiggling. The lining fabric in of this hat is the same as the minty green outer - just in a different colour way.
And 'Out in the Garden' is a very simple hat indeed - no patchwork piecing at all, just a busy print on a medium weight open weave canvas type fabric. Perfect for someone who enjoys spending time in the garden. Another piece of lace makes it look a little bit more special.
Buttons, buckles, beads, pom poms, ribbon, ric-rac..... anything could be added to make a hat stand out from the crowd.
(I have a few more hats cut our and ready to stitch on my workbench which will be at the workshop too.... think Dinosaurs, Pirates and Caterpillars!)
If you would like to have a go at making yourself (or someone special) a hat similar to these I will be running a workshop at Midsomer Quilting on July 22nd. There are a few spaces left, and you can book yourself on the course by contacting De at Midsomer Quilting:
By phone: 01761 239333 or 01761 232509
By e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
By post: Midsomer Quilting, Norton Green Garden Centre, Chilcompton, Bath, BA3 4RR.
To see more about the workshop I have created a brochure which you can see on my website by clicking here or by clicking on the brochure cover below.
If you are visiting the shop De has all the hats on display - why not try one on for size?
I look forward to seeing you if you decide to join the fun!
Thanks for reading.
A few weeks ago a blog post from the members of 'Through Our Hands' dropped into my mailbox. In it they invited anyone and everyone worldwide to join them in creating a small piece of art (A5 in size) to be exhibited at the Festival of Quilts (UK) this summer. Not only is it a great opportunity to have your art hanging in this really exciting exhibition, but if you join in you will be helping them to raise money for the charity 'Save The Children' too. After the exhibition all the portraits will be 'shuffled' and you will receive someone else's portraits to keep. It really is win - win!
There is still plenty of time to enter, (your entry needs to be completed and with them by 31st July) so why not find out more about the Portrait Shuffle and see if you would like to join the fun too? Click here or on the leaflet below to go to the Through Our Hands website for full details.
After paying my entry fee, which covers a minimum donation of £5 to Save the Children, I received my entry pack through the post. In it was a small A5 canvas to work on and a discount voucher for Festival of Quilts tickets. That was a nice surprise!
All I had to do was think of whose portrait I wanted to put onto the canvas and which medium to use. The portrait can be worked in any media you like - photography, drawing, paint, collage, print, textiles........ whatever floats your boat. I chose to make a small quilted piece of fabric to mount onto the canvas. Over the past year or so I have used a lot of portrait style images in my work, so I thought about taking one of these images and creating something similar.
But then I thought why not make something new? I have a nice photograph of my nephew that I took a few weeks ago and decided to use that to get me started. Here he is! (Well, half of him.)
Using GIMP software I twiddled about with the filters, levels and threshold settings and arrived at the image on the right which I was able to draw onto a piece of fabric with Derwent Inktense Pensils.
I added the rainbow as the last time I saw him we were looking at rainbows together. All that was left to do then was to quilt it. I thought I'd leave the long tail threads on instead of cutting them off, and stretched them over the edge of the little canvas along with the fabric before stapling it all down.
I'm popping it in the post tomorrow and looking forward to seeing it alongside all the others at Festival of Quilts.
Why not have a go yourself - it was lots of fun to make - and for a very good cause too; savethechildren.org.uk
Find out more info from the organisers, the Through Our Hands team by clicking here.
Thanks for reading.
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.