As you may well know, I have a bee in my bonnet about encouraging people to feel more confident about creating their own original work. I do understand why people want to come to a workshop where everyone makes a quilt that is almost the same as the model the teacher provides; you know what you are aiming for, you know which resources to bring, and you know what you will go home with. Job done. But that scenario makes me just a bit twitchy. If you are going to pay your hard earned money to attend a workshop why not go to one where learn to make something just a bit more than someone else's quilt? Why not take the first steps towards learning how to design your own? Sure, it is a bit more effort, and you do risk it not turning out the way you expect - but you also gain by creating something completely your own at the end of the day. You gain by learning more than just techniques - you learn how to create something new and how to take more control of the process so that next time you will be more confident when it comes to trying out something new.
That is what I am hoping for with these two new workshops - 'A Garden of Roses' and 'Not My Grandmother's Garden'.
A Garden of Roses workshop
In this workshop we will look at the two quilts above and analyse some of the design elements and principles I have used to arrive at the finished design. More specifically we will examine the lines, shapes, use of space & colour, and how these elements have been pulled together to ensure harmony, balance, contrast and rhythm to give an overall unity to the finished quilts. Don't worry - it wont be boring, and we wont spend hours on theory! We will just be looking at real quilts and pulling out what is relevant to us as quilters. Using this information you will then design your own quilt by selecting your own variations of the design elements and principles and get started on making it. It isn't difficult and I will guide you though the whole process, giving you lots of ideas for creating your own work.
I'll also teach you the techniques of free cutting and piecing gentle curves if you wish to incorporate that into your design and I I used make your own interpretation. Let
Of course, if you don't want to alter the design and you would simply like to make either of these quilts then I am very happy for you to do just that, so don't feel you have to get into the design process if you don't wish to go down that path.
Not My Grandmother's Garden
Once again, if you don't want to alter the design and you would simply like to make a copy of this quilt then I am very happy for you to do just that, so don't feel you have to get into the design process if you don't wish to go down that path.
For more information on these and my other workshops I have created brochures which you may like to look at. You can find information on all my workshops by clicking on the WORKSHOPS tab at the top of any of my web pages - or by clicking on the pictures below.
Thanks for reading.
A new week - a new quilt.
Now that the roses quilt is finished I have moved on to the next quilt idea which has been buzzing around inside my head for a while. This one concerns credit - and more specifically credit cards. I wont relate the story behind this quilt just yet, (I'll save that for another day once I make a bit more progress with the quilt) but instead I want to share an idea I had for recycling plastic milk bottles.
I don't know about you, but I end up with a lot of plastic milk bottles in my recycling bin each week. Not only are they quite bulky, (even when squashed down) but it just seems wrong to throw them away. They seem too 'good' to just use once and then discard into landfill (and although 72% of bottles were recycled in 2010 in the UK, 20,000 tonnes were sent to landfill) . So, I keep them. But when you have a bag full and then a box full - what do you do?
There are lots of ideas on the internet for how to use them - do a search and you will be amazed. These are a few of my favourite ideas......
....back to the quilt (but I do love that skeleton)......
My idea for the quilt requires that I put numbers onto the fabric using a font similar to that found on credit cards. Finding different fonts on the internet is easy - and once you find the one you like, download it to your computer. Using something like MS Word you can then write what you want and resize the characters to suit your needs. This is how I created the digits below.
To apply the numbers to the fabric I chose to stencil them on using Markal paintsticks. I like these as when you apply them lightly they provide a hint of colour - which is the effect I was after.
In the past, when making stencils for a one off project I usually choose freezer paper as it is easy to cut and has the benefit of being able to be ironed to the fabric. This stops the stencil from moving about as you apply the paint (or whatever you are using) and limits seepage under the edges of the stencil. One drawback, however, is that they aren't really all that robust, and easily tear after a few uses, especially when the stencil has fine detail or bridges and islands like the number 8 above.
As numbers can be quite useful in lots of contexts I may well use these stencils again in the future, so thought it might be a better idea to spend the time cutting them from something more robust. Stencil plastic is the obvious choice, and I have also used laminating sheets in the past to make very good stencils, but I don't have either of those to hand at the moment. So I started to look around to see what else I could find - and that is when I remembered the box of bottles. Bingo!
As it turns out, the slightly opaque HDPE plastic makes a fabulous material from which to cut stencils as it is possible to see through the stencil edges, making placement easy.
A word of caution
I used a craft knife and an old pair of small scissors to cut through the plastic. I also used an old cutting mat to protect the table and took great care when using the knife. TAKE GREAT CARE WHEN CUTTING THROUGH THE PLASTIC AND MAKE SURE YOU TAKE THE NECESSARY PRECAUTIONS WHEN USING SHARP BLADES. Blood on stencils never looks good.
All in all it probably took me about an hour to cut out all 10 digits, not much longer than it would have taken had I just cut the stencils from freezer paper. For this set of stencils I used 3 bottles, and since I had lots more I made a little box to keep them in. I couldn't resist it. Click on the photo on the right to go to the tutorial I used.
Below are a few pictures of the fabric embellished using the stencils with a selection of Markal oil stick colours.
I can see no reason why other recyclable materials could also be useful for stencil making, but the HDPE milk cartons certainly work well. (After a little further investigation I have discovered this type of plastic can be easily transformed into other shapes by melting and reforming it. With a little care it is safe to do as the melting point is around 180 decrees c - and no fumes are given off at this temperature. Try an internet search - you will be pleasantly surprised I am sure!)
Thanks for reading. If it turns out well I will keep you posted as to how this quilt develops.
By the way.... I have recently created a Facebook page where I will be posting information on my current workshops and other quilt related interesting things. If you would like to follow the page I have a link at the bottom of the page. Alternatively you can click here to go to the page and then click LIKE.
"Take the time to smell the roses, my dear, before they fade away"
Over the past few weeks I have been working on creating some fabrics to use for another new quilt for the 'Words of Wisdom' series. The inspiration for this quilt came from a conversation between two ladies who were waiting in the checkout queue at the supermarket. It was a long line, and they were having quite a melancholy chat about how time really does seem to fly, especially as we grow older. I was stood behind them and somehow became involved with their conversation. We chatted for quite a few minutes until it came to their turn to pay.
Although they were busy packing their shopping into the trolley one of the ladies turned to me, and with a sigh said "Take the time to smell the roses, my dear, before they fade away." How right she is.
When I came to design the quilt based on these poignient words I remembered a quilt that I made quite a few years ago, also based on Roses. It was part of my South African 'Destination' series, more of which you can see here.
This is that quilt - it is called 'City of Roses', and refers to the city of Bloemfontein. I enjoyed making it very much, as at the time I was experimenting with dyeing my own fabric and piecing free cut curves, and learned a lot about how to make both processes easy.
For the new quilt I decided to look back at this one and use it as my starting point.
Starting with the background I chose the same technique as I did for the original quilt. This time, however I wanted to add lots of interest to the fabric. I did a little work in my sketchbook to explore different ideas and did a few trials on a selection of fabrics.
Rather than just using a simple spiral to depict the roses I decided to make it a little more elaborate. I made a printing block from lino and experimented with different types of paints. The sample above are acrylic paint and Markal oilstick on a piece of organza.
I also experimented with mono printing - spreading acrylic paint directly over the surface of a glass topped table and drawing spirals into the wet paint.
This is the piece of fabric I ended up with. It is a mixture of mono prints, block prints and black lines made with thickened dye which I 'drew' using a squeezy bottle. At this stage it is looking way too busy.
For the second piece of fabric I wanted to use some of the words spoken by the lady. There are a few options for writing on fabric, and wanting bold text I decided to try out writing with thickend dye. I mixed up some manutex and some extra black dye, put it into a squeezy bottle and did my best joined-up handwriting! I later added some further text with a pale grey fabric marker to contrast with the black text.
From all the trials these are the two fabrics I have decided to go ahead with.
Laying them on top of each other like this immediately showed me that the frame of words idea was not going to work, so I took the plunge and chopped the floral fabric into 3 large panels. I then experimented with a few different layouts - horizontal, vertical and a mixture of both. I also wondered about cutting the fabric into even smaller pieces - but in the end I decided to go with option 3 below.
I also decided to knock back some of the vibrancy of the floral fabric by layering it with a large piece of organza before quilting. I always like the softening effect this can have, and in this instance I liked the way it made some of the less prominent flowers begin to fade into the background.
Returning to the original quilt for inspiration, I added yet another layer to the quilt - this time in a horizontal band across the top third of the quilt. Looking at my sketchbook pages there were lots of options for rose shapes - and again, after trialling a few , I chose to echo the shape I had already cut for the lino printing block to maintain a sense of continuity throughout the quilt.
From the photo above you can just about see thet I chose straight lines for the quilting - I felt this quilt was busy enough already, without adding any addition linear detail. And this is how it has turned out. I am going to mount it on stretcher bars when I get back to the UK - so no conventional binding or further finishing is required. I am calling it finished!
'Unfolding Stories 2'
I belong to a great group called 'Contemporary Quilter's West'. Between June 24th and July 5th we shall be holding our second group exhibition, 'Unfolding Stories 2' at Rook Lane Chapel in Frome. It is beautiful venue an I think our work will hang beautifully there. The group is incredibly talented and I am proud to be a member and I hope to have some of the quilts from this series selected to hang in the exhibition.
The exhibition will be on during the Frome Festival so if you are in the area at that time it would be lovely to welcome you to the Chapel.
Unfolding Stories 2
June 24th to July 5th 2016
Rook Lane Chapel, Frome
Thanks for reading.
Not one of my favourite jobs to do - but if you are going to do something , do it properly, and a nicely made and decently sewn on hanging sleeve makes or breaks even the most amazing quilt. If you don't put it on straight, then the quilt will hang forever wonky. If you make it too tight, then the batton will leave an ugly bump in the front of the quilt. If you put it to high it will show above the top line of the quilt, but too low and the top will droop, or even worse, flop down. So maybe, it is more important to spend time on this little loved part of art quilt making than anything else!
This is the technique I use for all my quilts that are to hang freely. I find it makes an excellent hanging sleeve and the instructions are foolproof. I have taken them from the Contemporary Quilt challenge website, and have copied and pasted the appropriate section from the website. If you would like to visit the website please clickhere. (While you are there, you may want to consider making a quilt to enter the challenge - go on, what have you got to lose??)
"D" Sleeve (instructions taken from the contemporary quilt challenge website)
These instructions are for a 4 inch wide sleeve. If it is set 1inch down from the top edge and 1in in from the sides it will not show once the quilt is hanging. It will be able to accommodate a wooden batten and not create a bulge in the fromt of the quilt.
and now on to something a little more exciting........
Mouldy agar agar plates
Back just before Christmas I was busy experimenting with a vegetarian alternative to gelatine plates. You can read the blog post I made and see the recipes for a selection of different types of gelli type plates here.
Well, it is now 1st of March (already!!) and my weekly look at the agar agar plates has revealed..... mould!. Drat.
Perhaps it should not be a surprise. I have not refridgerated them and they have been sitting on a shelf in my garage which hasn't dropped below 25 degrees.They were stored in between 2 sheets of freezer paper and in a plastic bag to keep the dust off.
Interestingly, the gelatine based plate is still fine.
So what to do? I obviously don't want to inhale any dodgy spores; not sure if they are bad or not, but I would rather not find out the hard way. So I have a choice - throw them away, or see if I can 'refresh' them in some way.
In the interest of science, I chose the latter, but if you feel the risk is too high, then do throw yours away.
Refreshing an agar agar gelli type plate
This is what I did:
With a face mask on I washed the plate under running water, rubbing off the blobs of mould and any furry bits. I then cut it up into small chunks with a pair of scissors, and placed it into a glass microwave proof bowl (not for food use). I chose this method as this is what I do with my gelatine based plates - and it works a treat.
I started by zapping the agar agar chunks in the microwave on full power for 2 minutes. This would normally see my gelatine turn to liquid and the process would be almost complete. However, the agar agar did not budge. So, I gave it another minute, but nothing was happening.
Being mindful of the process I went through when making the agar agar plate, I decided to abandon the microwave as a method of melting the lumps and tipped the whole lot into my old dyeing saucepan. And I was very glad I did!
After 10 minutes on a medium heat this is how the agar agar lumps looked. I was worried about it catching on the bottom of the pan, so I stayed with it and stirred approximately every minute.
Here we are after 15 minutes. About half melted. Stay with it and keep stirring!
It took around 20 minutes in total to melt all of the lumps and get a thin, runny liquid. To be on the safe side I decided to give it a good boil, to kill any spores and / or lurgy. Then I poured it back into my mould and waited to see if it would set.
Good news!! I think the newly reformed agar agar plate is even better than before - and no more mould either!
As ever, I will keep you posted on how it keeps. I am going to leave it in the garage again - so will see how long it lasts.
Sorry for it being a short one this week - I'm working on a large project this week and if it turns out well I will share next time.
Thanks for reading.