I can't remember the last time I made a bed quilt; it has to be at least 5 years, probably longer. So, when I decided to make this one I came to it fresh - and enjoyed every minute of it!
It is a single bed size, so not too hard and made using the 'quilt-as-you-go' method, which meant that the intense free motion quilting I used on each of the panels was easy to handle on my small domestic Singer sewing machine.
The quilt is currently hanging at Midsomer Quilting in Somerset, UK, and will be there until May 19th when I will be teaching how to make these pretty free motion quilted blocks.
I designed 10 dolls and a very special horse for the workshop. The dolls are based on traditional painted wooden dolls from Russia, Japan and Scandinavia.
The idea for the first doll came from the annual Midsomer Quilting 12 x 12 challenge in 2017, entitled 'Where in the World?' After some thought I decided to make a Russian Matryoshka Doll, and if you went to the exhibition you might recognise her.
These Russian dolls are an unmistakable symbol of Russian character, culture and country, an emotional feeling summarised as 'Russian Soul'. As I was researched the history of these elaborately decorated dolls I discovered a lot about similar dolls from other countries, and I was surprised to discover that the tradition of carving these so called 'Matryoshka' dolls (often mistakenly referred to as 'Babushka' - dolls) is not quite as old as I thought.
The first nesting Russian doll set was carved 1890 and has been atributed to a man named Vasily Zvyozdochkinn who made a set using a design by Sergey Malyutin, a folk craft painter. Traditionally the hollow outermost doll in the set is a maternal woman in traditional dress, known as a sarafan. Inside her hollow interior are a succession of smaller and smaller hollow dolls which can be male or female and the smallest, innermost doll is typically a baby turned from a single piece of wood.
Much of the artistry of these beautiful dolls is seen in their painting. Long dark winters are the perfect time for farmers and other artisans to spend time creating beautifully ornate masterpieces. Their decoration often follows a theme; fairy tale characters and regional traditional costume are popular.
The name Matryoshka, written in Cyrillic as матрёшка, translates literally as 'little matron', and is a diminutive form of the Russian first name 'Matryona' or 'Matriosha' (Матрёна). This name is very popular in rural parts and is associated with the matriarchs of a big Russian family, having its origins in the the word mother (mama). I was interested to discover that although in the west we frequently call them 'Babushka' or Grandmother dolls, this is actually incorrect - they are not grandmothers at all!
For people of Slavic origin Matryoshka is a symbol of motherhood and the fertility of nature, which why the traditional dolls take the form of a curvy, female shape, expressing the ancient symbol of motherhood. Some say that in ancient Russian tradition dolls were made without painted faces and did not represent living persons because it was believed that evil spirits could settle inside it. Others say that Matryoshka dolls were given to newborns to wish them a long and prosperous life - something that echoes with similar dolls in other cultures.
Photo credit: public domain: Doll carved by Zvezdochkin, painted by Malyutin - Sergiev Posad Museum of Toys, Russia, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5051554
Ten years after the first Russian Matryoshka was created, the doll was presented to an international audience at the Exposition Universelle (World’s Fair) in Paris, where it won a bronze medal. The doll was a hit, quickly gaining popularity, and soon began production in multiple regions in Russia. By the 1930s, the dolls were being factory produced and shipped around the world.
Another more ancient nesting doll set, very likely to have influenced the creation of these Russian dolls, came from Japan. It is believed that the forerunner of the Matryoshka was brought from the Island of Honshu, Japan’s main island. Japanese wooden dolls representing Shichi-fuku-jin, the Seven Gods of Fortune are thought to have inspired Vasily Zvyozdochkinn. This ancient Japanese set of dolls has the largest outer doll taking the form of Fukuoka, a kindly, old, pot bellied Buddhist monk who symbolised happiness and longevity . Inside were 6 further dolls. Each of the dolls took the form of one of the 7 lucky gods from Japanese mythology.
Even older still are traditional Japanese Kokeshi dolls, originaing from north easern Japan. There are 11 traditional styles and are thought to have originated in the 1600's as souveniers for those visiting the spas in this part of Japan. Next are the 'lucky' Daruma dolls modelled after Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen tradition of Buddhism. These dolls, though typically red and depicting a bearded man (Dharma), vary in color and design depending on region and artist. Though considered a toy by some, Daruma has a design that is rich in symbolism and is regarded more as a talisman of good luck to the Japanese.
A modern twist on these Japanese dolls is the 'Creative Kokeshi Dolll'. are probably more popular in the west. They developed as an art form since the 2nd World War and retain the limbless kokeshi characteristic. However, they are more contemporary in their design with more shapely bodies, added features such as hair, as well as colourful exquisitely patterned kimono. Creative kokeshi are 'created' by artists, and have features and styles unique to their own particular artist or creator. The majority of creative kokeshi are made in Gunma prefecture.
These are the dolls that started my new series of doodles that resulted in the Doodle doll quilt. But of all the dolls in thie mini series, I think the Skandinavian inspired dolls are my favourite. Here are 3 of them.
At the workshop we will be making square panels similar to those above, created by 'drawing' the design onto plain white fabric just using black thread. Once the design is stitched we then fill it with free motion quilting stitch and finally use fabric paints to colour them. Depending on how fast you work it is possible to complete 3 of these panels during the day.
The panels can be used in lots of ways - to create a bed runner or a larger quilt, as a panel on a bag, as a wall hanging - or even stitched onto clothing.
Of course, you don't need to go to a workshop to create you own doodles. On paper or just draw an outline and start to fill it with repeated shapes. Once you have your design, set your sewing machine for free motion quilting and 'draw' your design with stitched thread. I paint my finished designs with fabric paint, but they also look very striking just left in black and white.
Why not have a go?
If you are interested in coming to the workshop you can contact De at Midsomer Quilting https:midsomerq.com/. You can also see more on my website by clicking the button below
Thanks for reading.
It seems like my quilting life has been dominated by one thing only for the last few months......exhibitions.
For the past 6 months or so I have been very occupied with planning and preparing for exhibitions of one kind or another. I think most of all I love making quilts, but I also need a purpose for the quilts I make. I don't actually hang many (if any) of my own quilts at home, so having them hang in various exhibitions means they at least have an audience.
Today and tomorrow I have a quilt from my 'Stitched Alchemy' series named 'Dragon's Blood' on display at la Biennale Internationale D'Art Textile (aka Beaujolais) . It is based on the metal we know as 'mercury' and is a very vivid red quilt. It is part of the SAQA Europe and ME exhibition 'Made in Europe'. This exhibition has been touring for the past year and will be returned to me very soon. I look forward to seeing it again.
Next week I will have 2 of my quilts hanging at the Chicago International Quilt Festival (April 12th to 14th). The first celebrates the great achievement made by a woman named Kate Sheppard will be hanging in the 'HERstory' gallery. It is a particularly special quilt for me as it is the last quilt I made whilst living in New Zealand, and Kate Shepard was the leader of the Women's Suffrage group who, back in 1893, were the first in the world to win the vote for women. It was a remarkable achievement.
The quilt also features in a beautiful book, named 'HERstory Quilts, A celebration of Strong Women' which was created by Susanne Miller Jones. Susanne had curated an amazing collection of art quilts by makers all over the world.
I am also thrilled that this exhibition will be travelling to New Zealand and hope my sister will be able to go and visit the exhibition on my behalf.
I really enjoyed making this quilt as it had special meaning to me on lots of levels. It has a fascinating historical story to tell,as well as being of the 'place' I was at the time. I used lots of special fabrics from my collection and many of my favourite techniques: fabric dyeing, trapunto, free motion writing, applique and portraiture.
To find out more about the remarkable achievement of Kate Sheppard and her fellow suffragists, follow this link: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kate_Sheppard
Susanne Miller Jones, the curator of this exhibition has also produced a fabulous book, entitled 'HERstory Quilts, a History of Strong Women' which contains all of the other amazing quilts from this collection and is available from Amazon by clicking here.
The second quilt which will hang in Chicago is the quilt I made for the SAQA 'Textile Posters' exhibition. This exhibition premiered in Huston last year, but is now on tour.
For my poster I decided to create a piece which concerns something about which I (and many others) feel strongly - plastic bottles. I hope the poster speaks for itself.
A week later I have another quilt which is making its debut at a very interesting and probably highly controversial exhibition at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles in San Jose, California. I have some lovely friends who live not too far away, so I hope they might get to the exhibiton on my behalf. It runs from April 22nd to July 15th and is another SAQA exhibition entitled 'Guns: Loaded Conversations'. I have seen a preview of all the work which will be hanging in this exhibition and it is exceptional. It is both highly thought provoking and disturbing, especially given the ongoing problems of gun crime, both in the USA and seemingly a growing issue here in the UK.
I am sure some will think the quilt I made for this exhibition pushes the limits of what is acceptable, but it was important for me to show the horror and reality of what happens when children find and use guns.
Which brings me to two further exhibitions which I am involved in and are thankfully much closer to home.
The first is at Harbour House, The Promenade, Kingsbridge, TQ7 1JD, Devon - April 27th - May 3rd
and the second at the Bristol Guild Gallery, 68 Park Street Bristol BS1 5JY - April 28th - 19th May
Harbour House Centre for Arts and Yoga is a beautiful gallery situated in the quiet yet beautiful coastal market town of Kingsbridge, Devon. If you are in the area or are looking for a very enjoyable day trip or long weekend I can highly recommend it as a destination. There is lots to see and do.
My work will hang as part of an exhibition named 'Unfolding Stories 3', with the group 'Contemporary Quilters West' (CQ West for short). It is a fabulous group and the collection of work which is currently sitting in my lounge (waiting to be hung!) is superb. If you are interested in what is currently going on in the world of contemporary art quilting in the UK this is a good exhibition to visit.
I have chosen the following 3 quilts from my from my 'Stitched Alchemy' series to hang here, all based on the metal we know as 'copper'. I intend to be at the gallery every day and warmly invite you to visit if you can.
'Copper Venus' Quilts by Claire Passmore ©2018
Bristol Guild Gallery
At the same time (like busses, they never come alone!) I will also be participating in an exhibition with the group 'XIII makers' at theBristol Guild Gallery, 68 Park Street Bristol BS1 5JY. I find it a fascinating and beautiful venue. This exhibition opens on 28th April and runs through to 19th May (closed on May Day, 7th May).
More work from my 'Stitched Alchemy' series will be hanging there, this time based on the metal we know as 'iron'. The quilts tell the story of the 3 sister ships built for luxury travel, but which ended up having very different lives. The quilts are collectively called '3 Sisters' but individually are called 'Olympic' , 'Titanic' and 'Britannic'. I have had a lot of fun making some special items to go alongside the quilts hanging in this exhibition which will all be on display and for sale.
A triptych named '3 Sisters', based on the 3 sister ships, Olympic, Titanic and Britannic'
Claire Passmore ©2017
As you can see, I have an eclectic collection of work in these various exhibitions, but each has an important message or a story to tell. Looking back over the past year I often feel I haven't created much, but now I see it all together I can see where my time has been spent.
If you are able to visit any of these exhibitions I would love to hear what you think of them. Unfortunately I wont be able to attend many in person, but I am looking forward to meeting as many people as possible in Kingsbridge and Bristol. Unfolding Stories 3 will also be at Festival of Quilts this year (Gallery TG1) and at the West of England Quilt and Textile Show - so there are lots of chances to see the work hanging there too.
Thanks for reading.
Now I have settled into my new home in Plymouth I have finally found the time to start thinking about workshops again. I have been busy with so many other things for the past few months I have neglected this part of my quilting life - and I really miss it.
Thank you to the people who have been getting in touch with me about new bookings - it is always lovely to hear from you. Please do be aware that I do now live in Plymouth and therefore the distance that I travel to get to you is likely to be much more than in the past and that this might now require an overnight stay.
Doodling away in Honiton...............
I am happy to say that I ran a lovely workshop in Honiton last weekend, at Thimblestitch@Zoë's.
12 very lovely ladies came to my Doodle Birds workshop and we had a great day. More news on a new doodle workshop is below.
Spring Flowers in Avalon (well, I'm hoping spring will come soon!) ..................
Next weekend I am visiting the ladies at Avalon Embroiderer's Guild to run my colourful Flower Bowl workshop. It will be a nice change from looking out at a white snowscape! Apparently it almost never snows in Plymouth. Someone obviously forgot to tell the snow!!!! Below are some beautiful examples of the bowls made at previous workshops.
I also want to develop some new ideas for workshops that offer something a little different. I have had this idea in mind for quite a while, but not had the time to develop it. It all starts with creating this background............. does it look familiar?
Whilst on holiday recently I went to a very old 1920's Art Deco cinema and watched the film 'Loving VIncent'. If you haven't already seen it then you are really missing something very special. I had seen the trailers on the news and made a mental note to go and see it, but for whatever reason, I didn't get around to it when it was released. So, when I saw it listed whilst away on holiday I made the time to go.
You can watch the official trailer
And I am so glad I did. It finally kick started me into creating this small 16 inch quilt for a new workshop. It is currently a work in progress and I'll share how it looks so far it with you here.
You are going to have to like simple hand stitch for this one - my interpretation of Vincent van Gogh's 'Starry Night'.
So, what do you think? Will it work as a workshop? De at Midsomer Quilting has been lovely and encouraging me to get on and finish it. I plan to have it completed by May 19th when I will give it to De to put up in the shop to see what people think when they see it in the flesh.
And here is the other new workshop I will be teaching. It is called Doodle Dolls and is a new variation on my Doodle Birds workshop. I'm teaching it first at the all new Midsomer Quilting, May 19th. I am really excited to teach in their beautiful new workshop. Please contact De if you wish to book your place.
Speaking of which, now I live much further away I can't just nip up to MQ or Zoë's when I run out of wadding or that special piece of fabric. However, all is not lost - I received my first mail order fabric from De at Midsomer Quilting a few weeks ago. The new Midsomer Quilting online shop she is now running is perfect for people like me who can't easily get access to beautiful quilting fabrics and other supplies. My perfectly packed parcel arrived 2 days after I placed my order online - and inside the fabric was all wrapped up in beautiful tissue paper. Thanks to De and her online shopping team it was perfect.
I'm really looking forward to getting back to teaching and meeting lots of new people. Hope to see you soon.
Thanks for reading.
Click the button below to go directly to my Workshop pages.
I am really pleased that the quilt I have been working on for quite some time now is finally finished. Yesterday I stitched on the hanging sleeves and put on the label. It is now ready to submit to the exhibition I have made it for (more on that later).
There was a slight false finish though, which delayed me just a little longer! As I was pinning the quilt to the design wall ready to photohraph, despite my very best efforts to get the whole quilt square, it quickly became obvious that the right hand side of the quilt was 1/2 inch shorter than the left hand side. How this happened I just don't know. I must have measured it over 20 times, then blocked it before the final trim and facing. I guess it just goes to show that fabric continually moves and stretches.
So, I unpicked the facing, gave it another trim, reattached the facing, had a gin and tonic, and then resumed with the photography.
Here are a few close-up shots to show you some of the detail....
Whilst making the quilt I also worked on a number of different samples as I tried out different ideas. Two of these samples were good enough to have been made into small quilts in their own right to accompany this one. I have decided to mount these onto stretcher bars and place in white floater frames, as you can see below. I will be interested to hear what people think about this finishing treatment as it is not something I normally do with my work.
As I mentioned, I made this work to hang in the upcoming exhibition 'Unfolding Stories 3' which will showcase work by members of the Group Contemporary Quilters West. The exhibition promises to be fabulous and I hope my work will be selected to hang.
The exhibition will premiere at Harbour House Centre for Arts and Yoga in Kingsbridge, Devon. TQ7 1JD from April 27th to May 3rd. I aim be at the exhibition every day and it would be wonderful to see you there if you are down that way. Click on the image below to go to the CQ West website.
Thanks for reading.
One week on and this is the progress I have made. It took a lot of thinking about how I want the finished quilts to look. The last group of faces I made were mostly colourless, or very lightly coloured. For these quilts I decided I want to add a new dimension, and colour is going to be my focus.
Over this past week I have spent a lot of time trying different colour palettes; from realistic to complete fantasy. The image above is what I have decided to go for. It is interesting that in this photo they left eye does not work well, yet when I look at the quilt top it seems fine. I need to find out what is going on, and if necessary make some changes.
I have never really painted a large face with colour before, and I knew I would need to mix a lot of different tints and values so I could give contour and definition to the face . As you can see, the style I have chosen is not exactly 'realistic'.
This is what I did.
Like your art teacher probably used to tell you - start with primary colours.
The paints I used are Daler Rowney Graduate acrylic paints mixed with a little Berol fabric medium. Nothing fancy, but not the budget type of acrylic either. I started with Primary red, blue and yellow. I also used mixing white a bit later. (I didn't use the brown that is in the photo at all.)
I used these 3 colours to create a base colour from which I made all the other tints.
I began by mixing equal quantities of each colour, but ended up with a sludgy grey yuk. After some trial and error I ended up using 2 parts yellow, 1 part red and 2/3 part blue to yield a dark brownish yuk. I made a small jar of this to use as my base.
This is the yuk that turned out to be perfect when mixed with various amounts of white.
I made a (not terribly accurate) record of my mixing in my sketchbook, as you can see below.
Using just the dark yuk to start, by adding small amounts of white, red, yellow or blue as I worked I was able to paint each part of the face with different values and tints. I also took a photograph of my own face to use as a value reference which proved to be very helpful.
This is how my paint palette looked at the end of the day.
I had intended taking lots of photos as I worked, but unfortunately I got so engrossed with it all that this is the only photo I took before it was finished. You can see form this image I started by adding the lightest values around the eyes first.
And this is how both faces look now.
And now the project continues - next stage - how shall I quilt them?????
Thanks for reading.
Alongside my 'Stitched Alchemy' quilts I have another ongoing body of work, named 'In This Skin' (All my quilts are on my website gallery which can be viewed by clicking here.)
Until recently I didn't used to like working on different themes at the same time as I used to find it too confusing. Funny how things change... nowadays, I prefer to work this way, as I can take a break from one set of thoughts, leave the quilt to sit on the wall for a while and give myself time to mull things over whilst getting on with something different. It gives my mind time to work things through.
And that is exactly what is happening with my 'Goddess or Sex-Object quilt at the moment. It is almost finished, but at the moment is sitting on the wall whilst I contemplate one more idea before I think it will be complete. It involves some violet-red velvet....................
Which brings me to the other quilts I am working on; they are a development of the large faces I made in 2016. Those quilts focused on physical appearance and how there is a whole industry dedicated to persuading us that we are not beautiful enough. For the new quilts I want to explore how important physical appearance is in the way people view gender and the multitude of stereotypes that accompany that.
For my first two quilts I have decided to focus on people who identify with a gender that is different to that which they were assigned at birth.
This is the sketch that I began with. I am trying (not very successfully) to start each day with a drawing in my sketchbook. I want to improve my portrait drawing skills and thought it would be a good habit to get into. Unfortunately I am not very good at the discipline this requires.
This original face is of nobody in particular, but I think it is fair to say that it is what many people generally think a beautiful woman would look like.
Is it the long slender neck; the defined cheek bone; the pouting lips; the long lashes? If you look like this you are categorised as 'feminine' by society - an attribute solely based on appearance. I am thinking here about identity - not the sort that gets you a bank account, but how we feel about ourselves and how we 'fit' into society as a whole. It makes me wonder if you don't look like this are you less of a woman?
Like it or not, our 'looks' have a great impact on the way we inwardly perceive ourselves and the way others perceive us. Gorgeous, pretty, plain, ugly.....leads on to other assumptions: strong, confident, smart, sensible, ditsy, shy, dumb, geek, .......... the list is long. I know it has always been this way, but I think that since the growth in popularity of social media more and more we find ourselves tied into roles and identities that others have chosen on for us. And that is where things can start to go wrong. What if you don't like the identity that you find you have been put in? What if you believe you have been placed into the wrong one? Do you go with it and accept it? Do you put up with it and feel unhappy? Or do you rebel and make efforts to change it? That is what my first two quilts are about.
Developing the idea
Moving on from my original sketch I drew another one, but much bigger this time, about 1 metre by 1 metre in size. I wanted to explore how changing the neck, cheek shading, eyes and hair could change the perceived gender of the subject. After I made the first drawing on the left I flipped it over, made a copy with a few subtle changes in shading, a tiny change to the mouth, taking away most of the eyelashes, softening the hair lines and slightly thickening the neck. Apart from that it is virtually the same drawing. I was amazed to see how little it took for the perceived gender of the face to change.
To transfer these images onto fabric I put a large piece of white cotton fabric over the top of each drawing and used the sketch to guide my painting. The pictures below show my progress.
From here I need to begin to think about how I want to create more interest in the images. Obviously colour is one avenue I need to explore, as are some other mark making techniques on the cloth. I need to do some more thinking and sketchbook work to figure that out.
Thanks for reading.
This copper quilt is driving me mad! I don't think I have ever spent so long over the development of a quilt as this. For once I I had too many ideas and I decided to explore all the possibilities, which has all taken time:
copper used for electrical wiring, circuits & microschips;
copper fixed to the hulls of ships to reduce the amount of fouling and thus make them faster, so slave ship owners would loose less of their 'perishable' human cargo;
copper mined in Cornwall and refined in South Wales, forming the backbone of the economy for the south west until cheaper copper was found elsewhere;
the little known copper-age, ( about 4500 B.C. to 3500 B.C.) where copper metal was worked on a relatively large scale in part because it is found in "large pure ingots in a natural state" in many different locations around the world;
Copper used in medicine as an antiseptic to sterilize, cure eye ailments, help with immunity and TB treatment, give relief from arthritis and as a contraceptive .....
The list goes on, but I wanted to research each of these ideas before I narrowed down my options.
Happily, today, I made a final decision and brought together my refined ideas to form a resolved design. It is a huge relief!
I finally decided the narrative for this quilt would be the Roman goddess Venus, who, in Western classical tradition, is the most beautiful of all goddesses and is the living embodiment of fertility, love and sexuality. Her birth and subsequent life story is inextricably linked with the island of Cyprus, ancient home of the metal copper.
Venus is also known as the 'Alchemical goddess', because she alone had magical powers that could cause both gods and mortals to do as she wished. One thing I rather like about Venus is that she does not fit the image of a 'vulnerable' woman as do many other goddesses, and in classical times was never victimised or made to suffer because she was a woman. She was mother of Cupid and many, many others; she cast spells which resulted in mortals and gods falling in love and conceiving new life; she turned a statue into a living woman for Pygmalion; she inspired poetry and declarations of love. Whole goddess cults grew around her, (some still continuing to this day) focusing on fertility and love. Such was her popularity and power, even Julius Caesar himself declared her an ancestral relative.
During the Renaissance Venus's popularity as a 'sexual' goddess made her a subject of great interest and depictions of her became the classical nude figure. What is interesting to me is though, is how, over time, such depictions have gradually transformed the notion of 'Venus the revered goddess' into a simple nude female sex object. This change is what I decided to explore with my quilt.
I have decided to call this quilt 'Goddess or Sex Object?' and have used Botticelli's painting of Venus as a starting point.
I have kept the quilt top in two parts, to reflect this dual view of Venus and have cut into the quilt to create a large venus symbol. To join the two sides I have created something 'appropriate' - I hope people can figure out what they are supposed to be!
This is how the quilt currently looks.....
It still isn't finished as I have more to work on at the top of the quilt, but I am finally happy with the direction it is going.
Thanks for looking.
And so I finally got there. I have been thinking about this for so long now it seems like it is an old idea, but this week I have finally got it 'out'. The beginnings of a piece of work on copper, element 29. It is that shiny, reddish metal that was probably the first ever metal to be worked my man.
The oldest metal object found to date in the Middle East consists of a tiny copper awl dating to around 5100 B.C. The artifact was unearthed in Tel Tsaf, an archaeological site in Israel located near the Jordan River and Israel's border with Jordan.
In my research into this common place metal I have learned some very interesting things......
Anyway, with this and more buzzing around inside my head I got out my sketchbook and started to mess about. Here are a few of the pages:
Although copper does not readily corrode as much as iron, its surface does oxidise when exposed to air. The oxide layer, unlike rust on iron which flakes off, remains on the surface of the copper in a beautiful green layer known as verdigris. This is the colour I decided to dye the fabric for the copper quilt.
The best verdigris colours came from a recipe using turquoise, bright blue and golden yellow procion dyes. The rest of the greens will probably end up being overdyed again transformed into something for another quilt about lead!
Using some of the symbols from my sketchbook pages I made some print blocks from foam and lino and printed onto the green fabrics. I also used a monoprinting technique to create other thin lines and marks, all which have some connection with copper. You can see some of the results below. The fabrics have been cut into strips and pieced in a similar way as the other alchemy quilts I have made.
And these are two long strips I have stitched together, alongside the original quilt which was the first in the series which has just returned from a trip to China (I wish I could have accompanied it!).
As for what comes next, I am not sure. I obviously want to add stitch - I have some thin copper wire I would like to try - and I am also thinking about using copper leaf and copper shim, but as to how - that remains to be seen. I think some experimenting is in order!
Thanks for reading.
After a long break from actually making anything I have finally got down to work. It isn't easy getting started again though. I have at least one large quilt that I want to make based on copper metal - more work for my Stitched Alchemy series which I am hoping to exhibit next year in the Contemporary Quilters West 'Unfolding Stories 3' exhibition (more on that in another post).
The fabric I have dyed isn't saying much to me at the moment, and despite lots of trials and stitching of different pieces together nothing much has worked.........yet. I have several ideas which I need to allow to develop and if I try to rush things it just isn't going to work. My design walls have lots of different fabrics pinned in all sorts of combinations and sketches and ideas are all over the place. The studio looks, quite frankly, a mess!
So, although it feels a little like a diversionary activity today I decided to make something completely different. I think if I take time 'off' from the serious stuff it might just allow some space in my mind's eye for more ideas to develop, (well, I hope so).
I was inspired by the ladies of Hardy Quilters with whom I spent a lovely day last week teaching my workshop Surface Design Techniques 2. We had a great day designing, creating and then using print blocks and when I arrived home I was in the mood to create something in the same way. I have added a selection of images at the end of this blog post so you can see some of the beautiful fabrics the ladies created on the day.
As it is Halloween I decided to take that as my theme
I've noticed that so called 'sugar skulls', more correctly called La Calavera Catrina, have become a popular image used in Halloween costumes and decorations. I did a little research and found out some interesting things about these unusual decorative skulls.
Wikipedia tells me that La Calavera Catrina ('Dapper Skeleton' or 'Elegant Skull') is a 1910–1913 zinc etching by famous Mexican printmaker José Guadalupe Posada. The image depicts a female skeleton dressed only in a hat befitting the upper class outfit of a European of her time. Her chapeau en attende is related to European styles of the early 20th century. She is offered as a satirical portrait of those Mexican natives who, Posada felt, were aspiring to adopt European aristocratic traditions in the pre-revolution era. She, in particular, has become an icon of the Mexican Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead. (Click here to visit the Wikipedia page)
I thought I would make my own simple version of La Calavera Catrina to make some prints on fabric and then use the fabric to make something. I began by drawing a simple skull shape to use as a pattern.
Next, my favourite part - carving the lino block. I also made a second one using childrens' play foam. It is a very cheap and versatile product and makes great stamping blocks in minutes.
Once they were carved /cut I did a few test prints to make sure I liked the outcome. I used a foam roller and black acrylic paint mixed with a little fabric medium.
I printed a whole length of fabric with randomly placed skull shapes. I think I need to add a little colour to the remaining white fabric to make it more appealing.
I printed a second piece of fabric, this time in a more considered way. I alternated printing with the lino block and the foam stamp to add some variety. As I used acrylic paint it dried very quickly and I was soon able to add more colour with more acrylic paints.
This is how it looked just before I layered it up and quilted it. I layered it with a medium/heavy weight stiff interfacing and a layer of fabric on the back ready to turn into a bowl.
The quilting pattern I chose was a simple daisy flower motif - the same as the flower pattern on the lino block. I decided to only quilt the centre of the fabric and then outline quilt the skulls to hold the layers together.
And after adding a little more paint, this is how it finished up. It is more of a shallow dish/ plate than a bowl, but I think it looks very pretty!
And here is a selection from the work created in the workshop by the ladies of Hardy Quilters, one of whom was just 9 years old. Thanks ladies, I hope you create something great with your fabrics.
Thanks for reading.
This week has been busy with all sorts of non textile related things - perhaps the most interesting of which was the arrival of 4 ex battery hens. I've been preparing for their arrival for a few weeks, and here they are.............
They have been a fun distraction - but I have also been determined to get myself organised in the studio so I can resume dyeing fabric once again. Dyeing fabric with fibre reactive dyes (sometimes referred to as Procion MX Dyes) is pretty straightforward once all the right 'stuff' gathered together. If all the things that can be pre-mixed are made up at and at hand it is a quick process.
Late last week I began by gathering various containers ready to mix and keep the different solutions I generally use when dyeing. I raided the recycling bin for a nice big bucket with a lid, a large soft drink bottle, several small bottles with lids, a few jam jars and some yoghurt type pots and put them all into an old washing up bowl.
With all that ready I spent a very enjoyable day measuring and mixing the various chemicals so they are all ready when I need them. Before I carry on though, I need to say that I am not someone who dyes fabric by weighing and measuring precise amounts. I have tried to be exact, make notes, make samples, be disciplined; but after about ten minutes I have lost the plot and revert to mixing colours on the hoof with a bit of this and a few drops of that. I will never be able to exactly replicate a colour if I love it - or if I run out of fabric in that beautiful shade of crimson I dyed last week, but that's ok with me. I think I get more fun and a more exciting range of colours for my work by doing it this way. It is the way I like to do it - it isn't the only way, but I like to be a bit spontaneous and squirt colours together and try them out.
But before I get to the dyes, I also need some other chemicals and solutions to be prepared. These are the 'recipes' I generally use for most of my dyeing work:
Urea Water: (also known as chemical water)
Mix together 8 tablespoons of urea in 1.5 litres of warm water in a bottle and shake until dissolved. It seems to keep indefinitely.
Soda Ash Solution: (also known as pH+)
Mix together 1 cup of soda ash and 4.5 litres of warm water in a big bucket. I give it a good stir with a wooden spoon until it is all dissolved, then put the lid on. It keeps for ever in my experience.
Sodium Alginate thickener: (also known as Manutex or kelp / seawaeed thickener)
Sprinkle 6 to 10g of sodium alginate onto 100ml liquid. You can use plain water, urea water or liquid dye, depending on the result you want. I usually make mine up with urea water. Whisk it together and leave to stand for at least 15 minutes. I put it into a jar and store it in the fridge. It keeps for a month or too before it goes stinky.
Fibre Reactive Dyes: (also known as Procion MX)
I like to make up small batches of dye (100ml to 200ml at a time) so that I have some ready to use at a moment's notice. I keep it in small bottles with the lids firmly closed. I label each colour so I know exactly which is which - sometimes the colours can be deceptive!
I like to make up fairly concentrated dyes so I can dilute them if necessary. Some people believe the dyes 'go off' or lose their oomph once mixed, but I haven't found any issues with dyes I have made up and used even a month or so later. So long as there is no soda ash in the dye mixture they seem to last at least a few weeks - if not longer.
I use 1 heaped teaspoon of dye powder and 2 teaspoons of salt for every 50ml of warm liquid for my concentrated dyes. The liquid is either urea water or plain water. It needs a lot of stirring to get the dye powders fully mixed and sometimes not all the powder will go into solution. I find yellow to be particularly difficult. If that is the case I usually use just plain water and which is just off boiling point. I dissolve the salt in that first, then allow it to cool a little until it is hand hot. Then I add the yellow dye powder and stir and stir and stir. Eventually most of the dye powder goes into suspension, but often settles out once the dye stands. I just give it a huge shake before using and that usually does the trick. Any tips on dealing yellow are much appreciated!!!
1. Although not all the chemicals require you to wear gloves and/or a mask whilst you are handling them I find it is just easier to put them on whilst working with the various powders and not worry about forgetting to do so. That way you know you are covered!
2. Remember that any utensils or containers used with these chemicals should never be used for food use. Get yourself a collection of utensils and containers that you only use for dyeing - charity shops are great places to gather such stuff.
3. Label everything really clearly with the name of the contents and date - Manutex really stinks when it goes off!
With all that prepared I will be able to dye any fabric I want in just a few minutes - with no need to get everything out and mix it all up from scratch (although sometimes that is nice to do too, especially if a big batch of something is required!)
And finally.............starting work on a project at last!
I need some 'wood-like' fabric. In 4 pots I mixed up some of the alginate paste with dye concentrate and soda ash solution - each pot has a different colour dye. Once the soda ash goes in the clock starts ticking! Around 4 hours is the advised time you have to work with the dye, although I find the working time lasts much longer in the cool British climate!
4 big paintbrushes and some bold brush strokes later - this was the result.
I made 3 large pieces of fabric, rolled them in a huge sheet of plastic and left them to sit in a warm room overnight (called batching).
In the morning I unrolled them, rinsed them in the sink with tepid water to get rid of the excess dye and then put them into the washing machine on a hot wash. And this is how they turned out.
So, now I need to figure out what to do with them next!
But while all that was going on, look what else happened.......................................
Thanks for reading.