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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. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Creating Constructed Fabric...

...for a handbag for my friend and collaborator, Clare Hedges.  It was meant to be a quick and simple exercise, using bits and pieces I had to hand, including some scrap threads she'd given me (it's handy, knowing a weaver...) between two layers of lutradur.   Wanting a bit of glitz, I stitched it with metallic threads...and that was my downfall...  For some reason, the thread kept breaking... changed tension...changed needles...broke needles... nyargh!!!

And then, two thirds through the process, I thought...err... metallic thread.  Heat gun.  Melting.  Not Going To Work.  So...I restitched it with grey rayon threads, thinking that, well, if the metallic threads melted, in places, the cloth would still hold together well... and so it proved (phew).

This is what I ended up with before melting...I stitched in a grid; you can see the metallic sparkling all over the cloth.  After melting, though, this is what it looked like;

Interesting, huh?  I had an irregular grid of cloth strips in there, and you can see it quite clearly.  Looking at the close up, though, there's not much in the way of metallic threads left... in fact, don't think there are any in this image...though if you look at it closely, you might find places where stitching stops and starts again, that's probably the metallic.  I'm really pleased with the cloth...would have been pleased with the bag...except that I managed to mix up the dates of the event Clare was going to, and didn't get it ready in time... day late, dollar short, as usual.  These things definitely come in threes... stitching problems, melting threads and missing a deadline...  Still, it will go very well with her new dress, the next time she wears it... sigh...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Lucky Me....

just look what arrived in the post today!  Jennifer from Incomparable Buttons asked us to tell her which of these we liked best...and being a truthful person, I said...I like em all... so she sent them to me!  There's a lot to be said for Facebook, and not all of it's bad!  Thank you, just know I'll put them to good use.

Here's what it says on the website about this incredibly creative company; 

"Incomparable, SA was started as a small company in 1984 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Working around a kitchen table, often late into the night, Jennifer Pascall was busy transforming small pieces of ground stone & clay into buttons of all shapes and sizes. Many of the first designs, which are still popular today, were inspired by Africa’s rich ethnic artworks, colourful flowers and distinctive wild animals.
Over the years Incomparable began specialising in the creation of handmade buttons, craft pieces, craft kits, painting kits, greeting cards and jewellery.

As the company evolved, ladies from the local community were hired and trained in the art of button making. Today, Jennifer’s son & daughter, as well as several women from the local community are involved in the business.

Most of the Incomparable team had never held a paintbrush before they joined the company and are now absolute masters of their art and justifiably proud of their work. 

The ladies sense of belonging within the company and skills as crafters not only gives them tremendous pleasure but also provides them with economic empowerment.
Many of the team are the sole breadwinner of their family."

Their buttons are fabulous... do check them out!

Friday, September 06, 2013

And Now...

...for something completely different... I'm going away for a week, up to Scotland to visit my son, daughter in law and assorted relatives... so the sketches are going to pause for a while... I did, though, think that I needed to take some hand work with me to do, and promptly came across a version of Mooncat, which needed some hand stitching.  But rather than wait til I got Up There, I Just Did It...and here he is.  Mooncat is an occasional series, a white, translucent cat in a variety of gardens; the first one can be found, here.

This one is called Mooncat In The Autumn Garden.  You can't see the hand stitching in this image; the thread is silver, and only really shows in the light.  Mooncat is made from Lutradur 30; the blue is my hand dye.   So here's a close up...

Now, of course, I have to find other handstitching projects to keep me going next  Other than hand stitching the binding on a kiddy quilt.  Fortunately, there are various UFOs upstairs; doubtless one will be suitable. 

I don't expect to be blogging over the next week, though I may surprise myself!  Try to stay out of mischief while I'm gone...!

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Meditation Continues...

Wonder if anyone noticed the not so deliberate mistake in the last post?  The stitch was large scale, sure enough, increasing progressively across the piece, but it was made using the purple metallic thread, doubled, rather than Decora.  This quilt, however, does feature Decora (knew I'd used it somewhere...).

The third fabric is working quite well; it's a floral dress fabric, a light weight muslin, close to cheesecloth, and therefore difficult to work with and much lighter than the quilting cottons I'm working with.  I debated the wisdom of moving from one problem fabric to another, but decided that the print was what I needed.  I think it was the right decision, all told.  This piece has a 'dangly bit'; I wanted to emphasise the purple verticals; the appliqu├ęd strip combined with the large stitches does just that.

Blogging, I think, is as much about talking to oneself as it is talking to an audience.  I had taken and edited this photo yesterday, in preparation for today's post.  When I looked at it, though, I realised that I had put the dangling strip too high on the quilt; it looked unbalanced.  So, reader, I unpicked it, and replaced it.

In this version, it is lower...but it's still not right.  And it wasn't until writing this post that I realised why; it looks like a bit of washing hanging on a line.

And this is the final version.  I'm still mulling about whether I should have it starting up above the section with the gold lines...but I don't want to lose the length of that vertical, so I suspect it will now stay as it is.  Thank heaven for blogging...and photographs...and scissors...

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Meditation : The Next Steps.

After the red herring, I was a bit cautious about where I went next; this piece is tiny, 4" square.

meditation in blue and purple 
Making this one was particularly interesting...I discovered some of my own assumptions were absolute nonsense!  I've worked at small scales before, notably in the ACEO format of 2.5 by 3.5.  I assumed that small stitches would be 'right'; they weren't.  And that a lighter colour of stitch would be A Good Thing; it wasn't (see below).

This is the piece in the early stages of stitching, with a gold coloured thread.  It doesn't look too bad in the photograph; it looked dreadful in real life.  I discovered that part of the point of these quilts, is that the stitch is purple. Being tempted away into gold disrupted the flow of the quilts.  I wanted the stitching to be an inherent part of the piece as a whole, rather than an entity that attracts attention to itself at the cost of the rest of the piece (if that makes sense?).   Reader, I unpicked it.

However, I did replace the purple metallic thread I had been using with a variegated purple Decora thread, and made the stitches uneven, but large.  I think that the small stitches allowed the strong gold stripes running down the centre of the piece to dominate too much.  And finally, adding two small pieces of the purple and gold fabric running horizontally across the piece, restored the balance completely.

I'm beginning to realise that I could work in this format almost indefinitely.  And I am reminded of a poem, entitled Piecing, by Robin Morgan, the first section of which seems to sum it up nicely...

"Frugality is not the point.  Nor waste.
It’s just that very little is discarded
in any honest spending of the self,
and what remains is used and used
again, worn thin by use, softened
to the pliancy and the translucence
of old linen, patched, mended, reinforced,
and saved.  So I discover how
I am rejoicing slowly into a woman
who grows older daring to write
the same poem over and over, not merely
rearranged, revised, reworded, but one poem
hundreds of times anew."

This is my work.  Similarly, this is who I am.  On a good day, I can't tell the difference between them.  Both series and life continue..  It is amazing, what art does. 

Monday, September 02, 2013

Meditation : The Red Herring.

And on we go... another Meditation In Purple and Gold quilt.  I knew I had run out of one of the three fabrics I was using, but when I went up to make some more 'sketches', I realised that I had effectively run out of two of the three.  So this quilt is completely different in colour, tone and feel.  The blues are greener than this image suggests...the whole thing has a definite beach/sea feel to it in the original. 

So where's the red herring?  It's the second new fabric, a fish batik print.  Cut in narrow strips, as in this quiltlet, it is abstract, and therefore fits the bill for this quilt.  Making a second quilt, however, showed that it was too small a print to be used in larger strips.  The fish 'read' as fish in larger strips, which was not the effect I wanted... so this will be the only variant using these fabrics. 

I hope you are enjoying the development of this series of sketches as much as I am.  I've felt a need to hand stitch recently, and it's certainly fulfilling that particular need... I'll show you tomorrow what the substitute fabric is, and the results.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

More Meditation... When Is A Series Not A Series?

I showed you the first of these pieces yesterday, 'Meditation In Purple And Gold', here.  It's interesting, working in this way, creating 'rules' for myself to follow...though they are not rules as such, more like limitations.  In this particular series, the basis of the limitations are simple.  Use three fabrics.  Use three pieces of the most important fabric (the purple and gold).  The rules, of course, are made to be broken... the first piece in the series has four fabrics, and I think might be the better for it.  So...guidelines, not rules.

The three pieces are very small; I've been working with these colours, and this was my way of using up the scrap.   The first piece is 14" by 7.5" , the second, , 9" square, the third, 5.25" square (all approx).

Two of the three fabrics were inherited  from my friend, the late Lynn Bunis (still miss you, Lynn x ), the third a large scale turquoise poppy print which I bought on a whim.  The darker turquoise with all the different colours in it, was a fabric I couldn't really see how to use, a semi abstract, large scale beach theme, with shells and fish .  Cut up, though, and used more or less at random, the inherent meaning of the shapes on the cloth is lost, and it becomes a mixture of colours and shapes that are interesting, pleasing to the eye, but much more difficult to decipher.  THe purple fabric is a stylised spiral pattern with occasional dots.

Now, though, I have to make more decisions.  I've run out of the darker turquoise fabric.  I considered cannibalising it from one of the unfinished tops I made to start with...but that doesn't feel like a good option, even although one of them isn't yet spoken for.  So I can't continue this series with these fabrics.  In addition, I've got small amounts of the purple and turquoise poppy fabric, though parts of the latter have strong yellow elements, which I've been cutting around, so not as much fabric available as you might think.  I think in this case, I'll continue with this theme, and substitute a third fabric, continuing under the same guidelines as before.  

Is it a series?  Mmmm... if a series is a cohesive body of work, then yes, arguably, it's a series.  But I'm not convinced.  I actually think that this little body of work is a series of sketches, a way for me to explore what working in a series might mean for me, and how to approach it.  This is, in many ways, most unlike me; I tend to turn up and work with what comes to hand.  I'm not good at the structured, make a sketchbook, research etc approach as seen in an art school near you... but these little pieces have given me a direction to move in.  I'll continue to make them until the fabric runs out... and then I'll make the series that is waiting to be made.  

When is a series not a series?  When it's a preparation for Something Bigger.