Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Ruby Wedding Sampler

This is (finally) the sampler I made for my in-laws' Ruby Wedding anniversary this month. Taking tips from my samper quilt I severely restricted my palatte, using three shades of green, five shades of red/pink, mostly dark ruby reds, and two shades of gold. It was amazing how different combinations of the colours changed the appearance of both colour, eg, rose pink changed from quite wishy washey pastel to strong rose depending on the colour put with it.

I originally sewed the thing on double the stitch count, ie, two over two threads on the 28 count Linda fabric rather than one over one, but thought it looked clumsy and although doing it one over one needed to be done only in good light I was much happier with the result.

The pattern is taken from a disc I had but I altered the central panel to include the names, dates and a blackwork rose for love. Blackwork is a confusing term, it would originally have been done in black but it's the name of the technique not the thread, and of course I didn't have black in my palatte. I put the word Ruby in and used Kreinik braid to sew it, a nightmare to sew with but it looks good! There are also ruby red beads in the design.

Apologies for the photograph, I realised when trying to photograph the sampler that I should have done so before I got it framed. It was framed by a local man who did a lovely job with the thin red border and gold really bringing out the shades within the sampler, was very quick and cheap.

Festival of Quilts

As usual, the Festival of Quilts did not disappoint, both in terms of exhibitions and shopping. I took less photos than last year, saving my pictures for my favourite quilts, and I think this clever quilt is my favourite. Sure it's a harbour, but can you see the cat paws and cat? I spent quite a bit of money but more importantly had a wonderful time, looking at how others do things.

Sampler quilt #2

A couple more panels, I finished off one and completed the other last week, working quite fast because I had days to myself.

7. Carolina Lily
The flowers are hand pieced and then appliqued to the red background. The stalks are made out of the bias binding and the leaves are put onto freezer paper templates, ironed around the edges onto the freezer paper and sewn down. I kept my three flowers the same and am happy with the way the centre panel has come out. I had trouble with the inner borders and am not sure I'm happy with the yellow green trianges surrounding the central flower, but was pleased with how easy I found the sashing and relieved that the seams of the corners matched well. Lynne Edwards is so kind, she tells you to blame the fabric but... So we're increasing in complexity, here combining making bias binding from Celtic Knot with hand piecing from Tangled Star and using freezer paper templates from Inner City, but I wouldn't have been confident doing all three without having completed the earlier panels.

8. Quick Bow Tie
Bow Tie is a design that is usually made using templates, but Edwards uses clever folding to mean that these bow ties were made out of simple squares of fabric with no difficult sewing around oblique angles. I did keep catching bits of fabric in the knots because I used quite small ones and had to do a bit of unstitiching but I like the effect. Edwards gives instruction for 9 and 16 and I chose to do 16. I could have made them into a pattern but quite like the simplicity of my arrangement. I went back to basics on the colours after the experimentation of Delectable Mountains and Carolina Lily and used the three Indian weaves that inspired the whole quilt for me: the lovely warm golden yellow, the soft red and the orange stripe.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Sampler quilt

I've been doing Lynne Edwards' sampler quilt from her wonderful New Sampler Quilt Book and these are my first 6 panels. As with her instructions for Cathedral Window Edwards is very well written, the instructions are clear and Edwards takes you soothingly through the bewlidering array of decisions when it comes to making a quilt: colour selection, accessories and kit that you know aren't going to be a faddy waste, hand and machine quilting. Each chapter shows how to make a block and they build on previous chapters, taking you gently from complete dependent beginner to being able to understand more complex instructions, building your confidence bit by bit.

My colour scheme is warmth and sun, to raise the spirits on cold days, and to be a set of colours I would always enjoy working with. Gold, orange, red, warm yellows, the colours of hope, autumn leaves, my favourite time of year. I was lucky enough to be looking for such colours when the Cotton Patch was doing a sale on fabulous Indian weaves, these fabrics are woven rather than printed so it doesn't matter which way up they are. I've supplemented with other fabrics that I've picked up as I've gone along, most notably Kaffe Fasset's yellow Roman Glass print.

1. Inner City
This is hand pieced over freezer paper and I have a guilty memory of getting my mum to buy me a stack of coordinating pastel fabrics to make into a version of Grandmother's Flower Garden and not getting very far. This felt very different, hand piecing over freezer paper was quick and the clever use of hexagons made this a much more contempoary design. With the three colours from my Indian fabrics: a soft red, warm orange and yellow, this really appears float on the black background Escher-like. The inner border is from a fat quarter pack of autumnal shades called Naturescapes from, again, the great range of fabrics available at Cotton Patch. The outer border (sashing) is a plain cotton named 'Parchment' from the Cotton Patch, and the four squares in the corners are again the Indian fabric.

2. Seminole
Seminole patchwork is a clever technique where you machine sew the fabrics into a strip then by cutting and restitching them together make these lovely zig zags and woven designs. This was my first time using the stripy orange Indian fabric and I love the way they look.
Each patch is indivdually made, backed and quilted then sewn toghther at the end. For my backs I've used various shades of blue. I tried to machine quilt to begin with but had real trouble, although looking at these again they don't look as bad as I remember. I understand a lot more about threads and machine quilting now so may give it another go! The squares at each corrner will in the end make four-patch squares. Not all the stripes will lie the same way and I'll see how I feel about that when I'm ready to put them together.
The inner border here is another of the Indian weaves, this time an ikat, which woven into zig zags of colour. There's a good article on the technique here.

3. Tangled Star
I still love this one every time I look at it, the design is so effective and the Kaffe Fasset Roman Glass fabric goes really well with the Indian weave red, floating like Inner City on the black background. Hand pieced, and I was so proud my corners came true! I gave it a black border which makes the points seem even cleaner. My quilting, on reflection, isn't bad on this one either, nice quarter inch shadow quilting. I've kept my quilting simple for now but may do something more complicated on them later.

4. Quick Triangles
One of the few that really did not inspire me, although it was thankfully quick and easy to do. I used another of the Naturescapes fabrics, this time utilising the areas of dark and lighter print to create different effects, the darker triangles in the middle to contrast with the yellow centre and the lighter ones outside. This one was hand quilted and in contrast to the piecing I really enjoyed highlighting the different triangles and rectangles with quilting. Bordered again with black because of the quite 'busy' prints in the main panel giving a good crisp contrast with the sashing.

5. Celtic Knot
An absolute delight. With this patch I learned how to create bias binding and love the effect of the binding which is made out of my stripy Indian weave. The effect is not one I could have got if I'd just purchased ready made binding. I loved learning how to ease the curves into place, stitch them carefully in place using slip stich, following the pattern, and learning how to transfer the pattern to the black fabric using dressmaker's carbon paper. I felt good that I was brave enough to mount the whole knot on yellow which I think works really well. I hand quilted around the outside of the knot which raises it slightly. I generally like hand quilting but ended up with some fabulous callouses on my finger tips and had to pause to stop bleeding profusely when I jagged myself badly one time.

6. Delectable Mountains
Another clever bit of machine piecing, this is one where I changed my mind and learned it was okay to do so. I originally decided to use an ikat weave with the plain purply one but the contrast with the orange background wasn't great enough and the ikat faded into the orange weave. Instead I used the Roman Glass fabric again and am pleased with how it looks. Again, another Naturescapes border, this one quite narrow. I may do more quilting in the middle later.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008


In the interests of completeness these are the first two atcs I ever did.

The first theme was Winter and as with Strawberries and Cream I cut the background from a machine embroidered piece, in this case white organza over white cotton with sparkly bits inbetween the sandwich, densely machine sewn with white cotton in snowflake and jaggy wintery patterns. The motifs were hand stitched and were an exercise in embroidery stitch practice. The centre is silver chain stitch, and the outside a kind of running stitch. In the series I also tried out Cretan stitch round a patch of silver fabric which worked very well.
Then at our first meeting when we all nervously handed over our first atcs, all feeling they were no good and gaining such confidence from talking about how we felt and seeing how good everybody else's 'no good' atcs were.
Fiona gave us paper scraps for our second series: Spring. My background is woven yellow fabrics bondawebbed down which was finickity but looked really good. For the first 6 in the series I embroidered the words S, P, R, I, N and G on each card using green space dyed thread and chain stitch, whipped with a glittery thread. Onto each I stuck one of Fiona's bird scraps. For the last three I used the butterfly scraps and this one is my favourite. I stuck the butterfly down with ordinary glue and stitched round with long and short stitch. I really like the effect on the reverse. I used a technique in a book on fabric postcards to edge this which comprises sewing round the edges three times, each time using zig zag stitch with a shorter stitch length and longer zig zag until you end up with a lovely satin stich, but it did use an entire small reel of Gutermann which is a bit expensive for me!
At this time I did my reverses all in the same font, aiming to have a consistent style, but I've changed my mind and love playing with the fonts instead!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Walking the black dog

Not so much an artistitc comment so much as one on my 'now reading' list. Yesterday I read three books in one day, a little extreme even for me, but if you ever want to know how it feels inside my head read A Voice in the Distance by Tabitha Suzuma, it had me crying last night because it says all the things I can't. Speaking of black dogs, deep deep joy that Martin wrote me the most lovely song on the subject. It's how Churchill described depression, as his black dog.

Monday, 30 June 2008

Strawberries and cream

After quite a concrete interpretation last time, for the June theme 'Strawberries and Cream' I decided to go abstract. I was in the middle of two classes on making a bag I am ridiculously proud of hosted by the very patient Fiona Brockie at the Seattle Quilt Company and was delighted with finally getting to grips with free machine quilting on a shop Pfaff, I made everyone laugh by commenting 'oh, I didn't realise you didn't have to turn'. I can be a little slow, I blame the brain cells lost in trying to care for a 4 year old.

I carefully made sure I'd cut out enough backing for 9 cards as nothing would be worse than finding I didn't have enough. I ironed bondaweb on the front and then cut out lots of strawberry shapes from scraps. The thing I love about atcs is it slots into my eco friendly ethos meaning that I now rarely throw any fabric away, cutting the pretty motifs off daughter's outgrown clothes, and in this project I was able to use even little scraps. I placed the scraps on the background and ironed them down.

I don't have a free machine foot at present, may be on my wish list for the Festival of Quilts in August, so I used the patterns I had on the machine, a green leaf pattern for the strawberry leaves and cream waves for the cream. If I'd been free machining I would have tried swirls, maybe better not!

I printed the backing cards in a chirpy pink using a funky font called 'Chick'. I cut my embroidery into atc cards and sewed the backing cards on with a machine that was determined not to do satin stitch, well, not to keep tension, it does need a service I think.

Once upon a time...

I got really excited when I got this title and had ideas about tiny cathedral windows and secret gardens as I learned how to do in my first bit of sewing from an article from Lynne Edwards and I came back, as ever, to The Snow Queen again but then I changed my mind (!) and decided to marry cross stitch, my enduring history, and atcs.

I stitched each motif on some great sparkly aida I had left over from a long ago advent calendar project, I love the way each suggests a story rather than being about one, seeding the imagination.

I had great fun choosing the font, I downloaded a wide range from 1001freefonts and was able to find one called The King and Queen Font which was just perfect. I like paying as much attention to the reverse as the front of my atcs.

I printed the front of each card pink using my printer and cut the motifs out carefully leaving three or four lines of holes on each side, and using a needle to pull the threads out to give a pretty frayed look, then I stuck them on. So the cards look very thin.

Rainbow serpent completed

This is the first ATC set completed that I am really chuffed with. My final choice of words for the set was:
Red – courage, love - two of the most important things in my life
Orange – life, warmth - despite my illness, or perhaps because of it, life calls to me even at my saddest
Yellow – sunshine, sand - sunshine is fab for feeling down, and we live by the beach
Green – spirit, nature - the importance of the green goddess in healing cannot be underestimated
Blue – sea , day - again, we live close to the sea, and each day is a new one
Indigo – denim, night - soft denim is a cuddly joy, and night is a time of opportunities as the rigidness of daily life fades away
Violet – magic, richness - magic is everywhere if you know how to look, mostly in my daughter
Grey – sleep, neutral, peace - sleep brings peace and healing
Black – dreams, shadows, mystery - all fabulous with possibilities

A quilt for Isabel

Something I wanted to put in here to record what I've done: the quilt I made for I's christening (my daughter's second cousin) and the two doll's quilts I made for Woodlands Nursery School.

It's the second time I've made the baby quilt, from Learn to Quilt by Sharon Chambers but last time I only did the centre and didn't bind properly, this time I learned and hand quilted, which is much easier than using a machine and very soothing. I bought the fabrics at last year's Festival of Quilts, the green and yellow are pretty aspirational designs with dragonflies and frogs, and the orange flowers just went, I found it torture choosing. The design is just right for 2 fat quarters for the pinwheels, however, I nearly ran out of white and was close on the orange!

The dolls quilts were made from scraps from my mum's stash, one to show off the quilted flower and the other to just be a really colourful mish mash. The yellow squares with little sheep on them are left over from the first version of the baby quilt I made

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Rainbow serpent

Finally got my acrylics out and did the rainbow serpent, really pleased with how it's turned out and it looks great reduced to ATC size. Have picked out and cut background fabrics, almost ready to go. The mixing for most of the colours wasn't hard, I really need more paints, a good green and blue were difficult to create. Add that to the expense of having a knackered T key on my laptop and I'll keep wishing!

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Monday, 14 April 2008

Lazy (lacy!) Sunday

Wasn't going to post tonight but S has just come back from meeting up with two of our friends with not one but two how to play the guitar books. Be very afraid...

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Aberdeen Art Gallery

Theme: favourite colour

Productive day in Aberdeen today, made it to both my ATC group and Aberdeen Art Gallery.

This month's theme is favourite colour. Usually it would be purple but actually I think my favourite colour is, as cj would put it, 'rainbow'. Time for a brainstorm. Things I love about:
red: love, warmth, blood relations, fire, courage, passion, freqency 480-405 THz
orange: still warmth, tangerines, tiggerine, life 510-480 THz
yellow: sunshine, daffodills, celandines, spring flowers, sand, buddhism 530-510 THz
green: growing things, hope, life, nature, spirit, youth, Islam 580-530 THz
blue blue: day, sea, sky, peace, my first blankie, sleep, blues 670-600 THz
indigo: comfy jeans, the night sky 670-700 THz
violet: violets, richness 700-790 THz

black: death (in a good way, peace), concealment
white: absence, lack, white page, snow

I love a rainbow (kaleidoscope, variegated, motely, psychdelic, vibrant, harlequin) as it is, today (well, last night) S rearranged my fruit teabags by colour and whilst I did laugh at him it did look damn good. 9 cards, 7 colours plus black and white?

Rainbows on Wikipedia - Rainbow serpent - aborginal, in control of water as most preciousresource in Australia, benevolent protector of its people, punisher of lawbreakers. Land, water, life, social, fertility. Greek and norse mythology, rainbow as a bridge. Bible - symbol of god's covenant with Noah.

At the top are two rainbows that I painted in acrylics on board, my effort at an aboriginal style rainbow serpent and a rainbow I created for cj.

Idea, 9 cards each with a rainbow serpent on, each with a background, 7 in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet with two more in black and white to make up the set. Use beads / sequins / metallic foil dots for aboriginal dots. Line space around serpent to make sure no colour blends in too much. Time to do some studies with my Rainforest book.

Friday, 11 April 2008

April theme ATCs

Dancer Pan

Finally finished off my ATCs (Artists Trading Cards) for this month's swap taking place tomorrow, I'm not usually so late. I go to a lovely group at the Seattle Quilt Company in Aberdeen once a month run for free by the very generous Fiona. Last month she showed us how to use foils so I duly bought some and have managed to use them in this set, they're actually very easy once you get used to them.

This month's theme was 'April' because I liked 'April Fool' and someone else liked 'April Showers' so 'April' was a compromise. ATCs are the size of playing cards and in fact playing cards were originally used for the backings, and I collect playing cards so using the jokers to illustrate 'April Fool' suited me perfectly. I don't have as many packs as I used to so, breaking my trend to date, there are only 2 designs in this set, one with and one without variations. These are my favourites, there were other jokers but most were a bit sinister. Dancer is from a beautiful reproduction pack of turn of the century art nouveau cards, and Pan from a Greek Mythology set I acquired on honeymoon in Rhodes.

I wanted to pad this set so scanned the two playing cards I liked into my computer, printed them off onto Crafty Computer Paper's wonderful sew on printable cotton, cut them out and layered spare fleece between the pictures and a backing of Pelmet Vilene. I couldn't quilt normally because of the stiffness of the Vilene so I stab stitched quilting round the designs and then stitched round the outside. If I'd had more time I would have liked to have hand stitched the edges, machine running stitch worked mostly fine but there were some pretty close calls on the edges.
Then I foiled the designs, I foiled all the staffs on the Pan cards and different elements of the Dancer cards, once I got the hang of the foil and leaving it to dry slightly I thought it worked really well.

Islamic architecture

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Harpy at Kelvingrove

She's a harpy, I was captivated by the fact that she's not ugly but does look both beautiful and desperate, clawing at her right breast with her eagle's claw, does this beautiful figure distress her, does she want to rip away the human part of her soul? She isn't eagle from the waist down, rather, the sculptor has pictured her emerging from a rock, why this choice rather than showing the rest of her eagle body. This is just one of the many wonderful exhibitions at Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow. The gallery is wonderful in that everything is muddled up to make it more stimulating for visitors, in particluar for children. She's from the Expression gallery. The building itself is incredible. I would love to go back and have a stab at drawing this sculpture, the picture doesn't do it justice, the bust in the background is in better focus than her. When I go to Aberdeen this weekend I'm going to take the extra time to stop and draw after discovering last month that they have a Clive Barker head of Francis Bacon which is the epitome of both artist's work and personalities.