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Saturday, December 14, 2013

With A Little Help From My Friends...

...I can get a remarkable amount done!  Don't know what I'd do without them.  Look what came in the post today... all the way from South Africa

My friend Jenny, known as Button Mad on Facebook,button maker extraordinaire,  read the post where I said I might use a button as a closure on my bag.  Go look on my site, she said, and choose a button for your bag, and I'll send it to you.  Wasn't that kind?  And the big one is the one I chose; she has sent me a couple I might have to make a jacket to go with them... Check out her blog for some great tutorials using buttons in ways you might not have thought of before.  And of course, their website, for remarkable buttons.

And this is what my chosen button looks like on the fabric;

Now, all I have to do is make the second part of the closure, and the handle.  Jenny's gift makes this bag even more special.

I thought I'd make a bag to go with the waistcoat I showed you in this post, the one for my Mother in Law.  I wanted an unusual handle, and this time, used braid that my friend Clare Hedges had made for a different bag.  Because I wanted something a bit firmer than a single braid, I have stitched two lots  together using a plum coloured thread.  That has proved to be very effective, and goes quite nicely with the unusual colours of the African fabric. I'm now contemplating getting her to make me a tassel or two for the sides of my bag...check out what she does here

Thanks, guys.  I couldn't have done it without you. 

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Quilting Continues...

...on my (now overdue) grand daughter's quilt.   I can't show you any images...but I have four different quilting patterns in each of the four main panels on the quilt, have left the sashing untouched, as yet, and am in the process of quilting the borders...three down, one to go.  So, instead of talking about it, I thought I'd show you a Haiku.  I've already written about the idea of Haiku, here, and said in the comments that I was thinking more about it.  This particular piece is an experiment, a sketch.  I had made the little quiltlet several months ago, using my own hand dyes, and it has been lying around, waiting to be quilted.  It reminds me of Highland fields and hills in autumn, and  I thought that I would quilt leaf shapes into it.  Then, I thought it might be interesting to draw them, I did.  (Remember this is very much work in progress; it will have a lot more done to it than this.).

Looking at it, I started thinking haiku...and wrote one, inspired by the colours and the leaves; here it is.

It is written in gold marker pen, and as such is quite difficult to photograph, but this gives you an idea.  It says;

Green turns brown and gold
Dances with the cold, wild wind
Lies in moulded piles.

There's a lot still to be done.  The drawing is a combination of that gold marker plus a brown Inktense pencil.  I'm trying to decide what to do...whether to work more in pencil, or in stitch.  I do think it needs More Leaves, but that will have to wait for now.  I also think that it needs some foiling at some point.  And hand stitch, not machine.  Fortunately, it's not a large piece at all (if I could reach it without dislodging the sleeping cat on my legs, I would measure it... .    If you have any thoughts, feel free to leave a comment.  I hope to get this finished before Christmas; it will be my pick up and put down when I feel like it piece of work for the moment.  A nice change from machine stitching my soon to arrive grand daughter's quilt.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Easy Does It?

Apparently not... I seem to want to make life difficult for myself.  When I saw the words 'make a bag in an hour', I thought...why not?   And here's the original post, on a Really Useful blog.  I read it through and thought...mmm... and proceeded to play with the idea.  Silly me... the project grew arms and legs, and took rather longer than an hour.  In fact, it's still not finished... but there's just the handle to add to it, and a closure.  I decided to use some more of the African fabric I have in my stash (Maggie Relph is such a bad influence...) and chose some of my hand dye for the lining.

I decided that I would make the bag a bit broader at the bottom, and altered the pattern accordingly.  I decided I wanted to quilt my bag, and decided to do so in fairly large circles, in a variegated thread that, in some places, contrasted with the fabric, but not in others, thinking that that would be an interesting effect.  I felt that without quilting, the bag would be much softer than I wanted it to be, despite the cotton batting I was using.  However, the decision to quilt it, without a loose lining, had major consequences for its construction.  I had to do something about all the raw seams.  So, I put it right sides together and stitched round the bag, then turned it right side out and stitched round the seams again, so that the raw edges around the body of the bag were encased, and the bag had very stiff, but very strong edges.

Then, I had to bind the top edges.  In an ideal world, I would have bound them in the African fabric...but I didn't have enough to make bias binding with.  So, I ended up with some commercial binding.  That made my life Rather Difficult, and resulted in a lot of jiggery pokery around those thicker side seams...a bit of judicious clipping, plus some stre-e-e-tching of that bias binding, and I got it all covered.  Phew.  Life would have been a lot easier with slightly broader binding... but hey.

I'm not entirely sure what kind of handles to add to this bag.  The original has fabric handles; I'm tempted towards cord.  And probably a magnetic closure.  Or a strap, across, and a button.  Decisions, decisions.  This has taught me a lot, however.  Might, for instance, have been better to stitch the fabric onto heavyweight lutradur, and then created a loose lining, which would have solved all the construction problems.   That said, from a design point of view, I rather like it as it is.  But it definitely pays to think things through from the start on a practical project like this... a bit more fabric would have been ideal.  Hindsight is always perfect...

At the end of the day, this is far from perfect, but it's not bad for a first attempt.  As I said earlier, I like the way it has turned out, though the finish could be a lot smoother... hopefully, practice will sort that out.  I have enough fabric left over from the waistcoat I showed you yesterday, to make a similar bag to this... I'll let you know how I get on!

Monday, December 02, 2013

Nearly There...

just the bias binding to do.  I've got that on the kiddy waistcoat, but I'm not showing that one, as my daughter in law has a tendency to sneak a peek at my blog, and I want it to be a surprise...

this one is for my mother in law, who isn't quite as keen on computers, and who presumably won't peek... and if she does, hopefully won't admit to it!

I'd forgotten the time consuming fiddly bits involved in this... not as much binding as on a quilt, but curved edges.  And then, of course, the inside seams.  I like my waistcoats to be reversible, in theory at least.  I do the quilted clothing equivalent of a flat fell seam, cutting back the gubbins inside the seam, along with one side of the front fabric, before stretching the remaining piece over the whole seam, and stitching it down by hand, thus completely covering it.

It's still a bit bulky, but I prefer doing it that way, to binding the seams with yet another piece of fabric, which makes it bulkier still.  Flat fell seams are usually top stitched; I don't do that to these just because of the bulkiness.  Hand stitching is quicker and easier, and looks better, too.

Now, all I have to do is add the binding, and we'll be done. One gift down, lots to go...

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Having A Highland Moment.

I was 'talking' to Ferret on Facebook this morning, about various different parts of the country.  As we talked, I found myself looking at images in a folder named 'Inverness Source'.  And for the last half hour or so, I've been looking at some of these images, tweaking them a bit, and generally having fun.  I'd forgotten how much I enjoy doing that.  I use Paint Shop Pro, rather than Photoshop; someone recommended it to me, years ago, and I've stuck with it.  Cheaper than PS, and similar in functionality, at least at the level I use it at...

I started with a view, untweaked; my friend Alison used to live here...

Funnily enough, in the same folder, I found an image of my own view, the one I live with, here in Norfolk: they are not dissimilar in some ways...

I've probably said before, that Norfolk and the Highlands are very similar; it's just that in Norfolk, the scenery is horizontal, while in the Highlands, it's vertical.  You can see how flat our view is, compared to the incline in the Highland hills in the image before it.  I love both landscapes, but find the Norfolk one easier to live in, somehow... its openness seems to encourage me to be open, too.

But I digress... no surprises there, huh?

Then, I started playing with images...

Fun.  One or two of these, I suspect, will eventually be printed out on Bertha.  But not right now... I need to get on with my soon to be born grand daughter's quilt, and the Christmas presents I'm working on.

Friday, November 29, 2013


with the waistcoats... this is my mother in law's .  It is made from an African fabric I bought from Maggie Relph at the African Fabric Shop, more years ago than I care to remember.  Yes, fabric hoarding... but I am using it now.  I bought two fabrics from her at that point, and the second is being turned into bags...but more of that another time.

I wondered about how to quilt the fabric.  Quilting each individual leaf would have been overkill, I thought... so in the end I picked up the edges of the blocks, where there were irregular, curving lines running the length and breadth of the fabric, in quite an irregular way.  Right up my street, really...  I'm debating adding a bit more, though I like the irregularity of the quilting.

Finding a fabric for the lining was quite challenging; in the end, I settled for a purple commercial fabric.  As you can see, it works quite nicely.  I had hoped to avoid making my own bias binding, partly to save time, and partly because I'm not entirely sure where my bias binding maker gizmo is... but had no luck in finding anything that was suitable locally, and a trip into Norwich is not on the cards.  Fortunately, there's enough of that purple to make bias binding, as well as lining for a matching bag.  Busy?  Me?  Just a bit...

PS If, like me, you've forgotten how to make continuous bias binding... check out the video and tutorial here; sadly, I can't help you find your missing bias binding maker...I'll have enough bother finding my own!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Making Mayhem.

As you probably know, I run bespoke workshops in The Little Green Shed; read more about them here, and see a picture of A Tidy Workspace...  Sadly, it's never like that for long, as the above picture proves.  This lot is out there in preparation for a cutting session.  I want to make my MIL's Christmas present, a quilted waistcoat, and, while I'm at it, cut one for my soon to be born granddaughter.  Hence, the pile of Stuff, brought out from the house.  I can cut small things in my upstairs studios, but prefer to use the big table for dressmaking and/or cutting lots of stuff at the same time.

I really thought I had been supersmart, and brought everything with me that I needed.  No trips back to the house in the freezing cold for me...and this picture proves just how cold it was... lamb's ears (or lugs, for the Scots among us, I was chastised publicly for using the English word on Facebook this morning...sigh...).
Pins, I thought.  I don't use pins very often, but I do use them for the hats, so I knew that I had some out in the shed... I needed them for pinning the patterns together.  Wrong.  Wrong thought.  Wrong pins...when I looked, here's what I found...
...great for using with hat blocks, not so great for pinning a pattern to fabric...  That's okay, I thought, there's some on the window ledge in the kitchen (also hat related)... there aren't.  Then there's some next to the sewing machine... nope (who knows where they went...sigh).  I ended up using what there was in the only pincushion I could find...
...and the dust on it proves that it hasn't been touched in Rather A While.  This tidying up lark is much over rated, you know...

So... I cut, and cut, and cut.  And ended up with this lot...

... of which more, another time.  And if that wasn't enough, I also chopped up some felt, so that we can make little bags at the Hub on Thursday, which I think we'll fill with artificial holly, or poinsettias, or something... just to make it a little different...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Things We Forget...

in this case, I forgot that I had printed and stitched this...until I was drifting through the photographs on my hard drive, and came across this one.  I know it's much bigger than I usually print out, and I know I printed it on canvas.  What I don't where I put it.  So tomorrow, I'm going hunting in the places I have stored my work in, and see if I can find it... I wonder what else I'll find...

Friday, November 22, 2013

Lino Cuts...

are such versatile things... especially if you make them on Evolon.  I made a cutting of a fern frond; this is it with stitch;
The fabric was, of course, white; the print was made with fabric printing ink, and the purple in the background is made entirely of stitch.  But I wanted to ring the changes... so I made this one;

Dark Fern has a layer of Lutradur 30 on top of it, immediately changing the colour of the entire background.  Stitch is a variegated metallic stitch, simply outlining the fern frond.

Finally, there is this one;

This is Autumn Fern.  The piece has been transfer dyed in layers, and then hand stitched.

Just for a change, I used stem stitch for the central vein of the leaf.  It's interesting to see what a strong contrast it makes with the long stitches delineating the edges of the leaf, and the small stitches creating the background.  On reflection, I think a back stitch might have been better for the delineation task...but it's fine as it is, I think.

All three pieces have been stitched on cotton wadding.  I think, myself, they're closer to embroideries than to quilts, but technically, I suppose they qualify...what do you think?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

There's something very comforting...

...about strip piecing.  It's almost mindless.  I've been making covers for all sorts of small appliances (see the Etsy shop for more images, if you're interested); this one is for a Kindle.  I like the front, but the back's even better...

I do love working with bright, cheerful fabrics, but they can take over in a small piece if you're not just as well to find fabrics that all sing, so that they can harmonize together!

PS Straight lines...?  Hmm... sort of...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I shouldn't be allowed... write blog posts when I'm feeling sorry for myself, my apologies for getting a bit maudlin yesterday, and my thanks to the kind people who responded.  Since I have so much work floating about, and not enough room to keep it all, I'm listing some of it on Etsy at what I think are good prices; I want them to Move On Out There, and keep other people happy.  And, of course, letting me buy more wool, to make more felt... it's a virtuous cycle.  (Well, okay, that's my story and I'm sticking to it).

This is the first of them; Dreaming The Butterfly.  I love making felt, and hope to spend more time doing it in the near future.  This piece is made from hand dyed wool tops, hand stitched with hand dyed perle threads, and then mounted on transfer dyed Lutradur XL.  I'm pleased with it.  It's a small piece, about 8" by 6.75" all told.

I also want to make more work associated with butterflies.  Butterfly is one of my totem animals; it represents change and joy (read more about it here if you're interested).  Butterflies seem to have been following me around this year.  For some reason, I spent most of the summer encouraging them to get out of the conservatory, even though there are no flowers or tempting things for them in there, or anywhere near it.  And the garden has been full of them.  Next year, I'm going to plant flowers for them; I've already added a buddleia to the border at the bottom of the garden.

In this particular piece, though, the butterfly is still in its cocoon (the only bit of wet felting in the piece), and is dreaming, under a hot red sun, of what its life will be like as a butterfly.  We can all dream happy dreams about the future now and again...I hope this piece will remind someone of how important positive thoughts are...

Monday, November 18, 2013

Basket Case?

Baskets are on my mind at present...mainly because I'm having a Domestic Goddess moment...or two... I'm tired of being so disorganised.  So, instead of a clutter beside my chair in the living room, I now have two large baskets.  One of them is full of wool tops, yarn and threads, all of which have been untangled (so there!); the other has all sorts of bits and pieces, including the things I'm finishing off at the moment, mainly phone cases and felt things like little brooches.  And an increasing amount of hand work.  Propped up beside them are a couple of large lino blocks, which I intend to carve over the next day or so, to make hand printed Christmas cards, and perhaps little books, too.  So, I'm tidied; just need the discipline to make myself tidy up every night before bed.  I'm thoroughly looking forward to being able to find things.  Well, okay...some things, sometimes...

As we get towards the end of the year, I find myself wondering what's next.  After a lot of careful thought, I've decided not to teach at Festival of Quilts next year, though I have signed up to do a couple of shows with Grosvenor (Spalding and Harrogate, if you were wondering).  Basically, I just can't afford to subsidise my attendance there.   I'm seriously thinking about giving up art for public consumption.  It's great being considered inspirational, and all that, but it doesn't pay for paint.  People tell me they love my workshops, take the information away and ... nothing happens...  I've given this my best shot, and perhaps now, it's time to recognise that I've failed.

Monday, October 21, 2013

An Oriental Diversion...

Well, I'm easily distracted.  This piece had been kicking around my studio for ages, without the hand stitch.  As you can now has Quite A Bit of hand stitching... my current obsession.  Sadly, I don't have a before photo to go with the after, so you'll have to take my word on it that it looks Much Better.  The piece was made from a piece of my hand dye, with scraps of a commercial batik added.  The circle has some foiling round it ; as always, glitzy bits don't show up well here...but never mind.

I particularly like the back, though.  It is hand dyed cotton velvet, and the stitch shows up beautifully against it.

Problem is, it looks better shown this way from the back and the other way from the front.  In theory, a box frame you could look through from both front and back would be the answer; in practice, I think I'll have to choose...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Intuitive Working...

is my norm.  I make a mark, I make another mark, in response to the first, and on it goes, until a piece is finished.  In the last day or so, I've been making interesting marks on Evolon; the image above is one of the small pieces, which I decided to hand stitch.  It's a series, with a working title of Organic Rhythms.  The photographs don't really do it justice; it is layered and relayered with transfer dyes, and they merge to produce interesting juxtapositions of colour and shape.  Click on it, to take a closer look.

I decided to hand stitch this one.  I've recently been using perle and other thicker threads, but for this, I'm using a reel of quilting cotton I bought on the way home from Scotland; it so happens that it seems to reflect all the darker colours in the dyes.  I started the way I usually do, selecting a shape, and filling it with stitch, then moving on to another one :
So far so good, I thought... and continued to stitch, with an increasing sense of discomfort.  My stitches were getting longer and sparser, making the earlier section appear fussy and inappropriate...

... plus, it made me think of an art movement....of which I couldn't remember the name.. .in the end, I found  it.  Suprematism, a Russian school founded by Malevich.  "The term suprematism refers to an abstract art based upon “the supremacy of pure artistic feeling” rather than on visual depiction of objects." (Wikipedia)
Which pretty much sums up my work, really...though I had never seen myself as having much in common with that particular school.  It's amazing how your tastes change as you make more art.  But I digress (no surprises there).

So, there was only one thing for it; the earlier stitching had to come out...and out it came.  I detest unpicking...but when it has to be done, it has to be done.  Leaving me with this...

I'm very pleased with it.  The long stitches are interesting.  Purists would doubtless be appalled, and say it Wasn't Quilting.  But they are stitches, holding together more than one layer of cloth.  And what's more, looked at in certain lights and at certain angles, they throw interesting shadows beneath themselves, strengthening the line.  Above all, they are simple, and that's the effect I want.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Continuing To Struggle...

... as my Granny would have said, there's nothing else for it.  I'm continuing to work on the piece I showed you yesterday, though I'm fast coming to the conclusion that depression and hand stitch do not mix well; three times, I've stabbed myself with my own needle, hard enough to draw blood...sigh.  So I think I'll go and do some more monoprinting, instead.

Here's a close up.  The piece is called 'Out Of Kilter'; the circles appear at first glance to be in a structured grid pattern, but they aren't really.  Some are ovals, some are circles.  It looks like I feel... a regular person on the outside, shambolic on the inside...out of kilter.

The next stage is to add some lime green crosses, I think.  No idea why, except that the colour is important.  They won't be regular, either, I shouldn't think.  For the meantime, though, I'm off to paint...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


with the demon depression once more.  I've had a period of several months where I've been pretty much a depression free zone, but the last couple of days have been difficult, today especially.  So...when the going gets tough...I turn to paint, in this case, fabric paint.  I'm fascinated by monoprinting, and went out to the Little Green Shed to play with some recently dyed fabric.  The above is one of the results... watch this space for more of them!  Looking forward to stitching this one, I like it a lot.  Hand stitching with variegated stitch, methinks.  A haiku piece, not as small as postcard sized, but not as big as journal sized... you can tell I just can't be bothered getting the tape measure, can't you...

Monday, September 23, 2013


Those of you who know me from Facebook, will know that I've been writing random haiku, recently. Like this one;
                                   Fabric covered floor;
                                   Beauty coming together
                                   In tiny pieces.

 Not sure why I've started writing, all of a sudden.  Except that I've always loved poetry, and have written the odd poem.  Haiku appeals to me because it has a clear structure; always three lines, a certain number of syllables to each line, and usually a surprise in it, a leap of faith of some kind on the part of the writer.  Not sure that I manage that third part, but I figure that might come with practice.

I realised that part of what makes the Meditation In Purple And Gold pieces coherent, is a similar tight structure.  Always three pieces of that purple and gold fabric.  Always three fabrics. So, I thought I would make some more pieces, but with slightly different 'rules'.  Again, three fabrics.  Postcard sized, to reflect the shortness of the haiku.  Stitch.  And the addition of an optional embellishment or surface design technique.

Lets look at each one, briefly, in close up.

This was the first one I made.  I sat looking at it for a while, wondering what to do with it, finally deciding to make a spiral.  All three fabrics are hand dyes; the last is painted with fabric paints.
The second piece was easier;

The base fabric was a foam marbled blue colour, with two pieces applique'd onto it.  Because it already had a form, of sorts, it was easy enough to work out how to stitch it.  The stitches are deliberately irregular; I think of stitch as mark making, where irregularity adds interest.  I'm not particularly interested in making a pattern here.  The third, though, was difficult...

Three pieces of fabric stitched together, two hand dyes and a commercial fabric.  It had no obvious patterning in the fabric at all, and I struggled to know what to do with it until I spotted a small piece of blue/green yarn, which I stitched onto the fabric in a way that is reminiscent of the River series I began some time ago (must make some more...).

Focus.  If you want to make simple work, you have to have focus.  It'll be interesting to see where this takes me.  What do you think?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Meditation in Purple and Gold : Changing My Mind...

...again.  Usually, when working like this I would just Make Another One...but when something doesn't feel right, I feel the need to improve it.  The last piece I made looked like this (you can read about it here)

But... like I said, it didn't feel right.  So... here it is again, but with the long strip removed, and replaced by a rectangle.

As well as changing the third piece of purple fabric, I've changed the orientation, and much prefer it that way.  It feels as if it has a strong horizontal flow, despite the obvious verticals.  Looking at it here, I'm wondering about moving that third piece of fabric down a might give a better balance...   Ultimately, there are so many choices... perhaps this one needs to be Left Alone, and the series of sketches continued.