Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Never say never!

I can't believe that it's been almost a year since my last post. The time has just flown by but sadly it hasn't been a very productive time. Having got my lovely studio organized and now with the space and time to work, suddenly the muse has flown and I have been bereft.

Various reasons for this including some untimely deaths which have affected me but gradually the muse is returning and I am beginning to make a new start!

More to follow, but for now here's a photo of our lovely wild flower meadow

The Sweet Williams must have been included in the original mix as we didn't sow them but it just goes to show what you can do with not much effort

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The Ys and wherefores!

 It never ceases to amaze me just how difficult it is to sew two pieces of fabric together with a straight seam. No matter how careful I am  to use a measured 1/4 inch seam, not to stretch the pieces when sewing on the bias, to press rather than iron it seems that the pieces still end up skew whiff . When I spend ages measuring each piece, making sure I've got the ruler lined up correctly and only cutting when I'm sure Ive got it right it is puzzling that when two pieces of fabric that are the same size when I cut them turn out to be different sizes when sewn together! But, I am improving and after making the blocks in my latest Craftsy Class,  quaintly called Piece Like a Pro, I have decided that perhaps I am not quite as rubbish at patchwork as I thought.

Donna Thomas, the class instructor,  is very good at explaining and demonstrating the techniques and I have learned a lot from the class. One criticism is the lack of written instructions especially illustrations of the blocks showing what they should look like. I discovered that some of my finished blocks didn't look like hers and when I checked,yes I had got pieces shown the wrong way round, back to front etc! A steep learning curve!

In one of the lessons Donna showed a lovely block which she calls Gentle Breeze. I tried to work out how it was put together, but failed miserably, so I contacted her and she told me it was a pattern she had designed a while ago but had stopped selling. She not only sent me the pattern, but free of charge and also included notes about how to adapt the pattern to cut the shapes with a rotary cutter rather than using templates. 

The pattern requires mastery of the y seam. This involves sewing three pieces of fabric together so that they lie flat a challenge indeed! So You Tube to the rescue with a video showing how it's done and several failed attempts I finally managed to make the block. 

And here it is! Not just lying fairly flat, but the middle is almost in the middle and apart from the horrible fabrics which I took out of the failed block pile, I'm very pleased with myself.

Then the challenge if to decide what fabric to use to make the quilt. Of course I do have a little bit of fabric in my stash, but of course, I don't have anything that would be suitable. Or do I?

Ages ago I bought some very pretty blue and cream fabric which has languished at the bottom of a long forgotten box. I decided to use it as it will split into dark and light and there will be enough to make a lap quilt.

So here is the first sorting of light and dark which I thought would work, and here is the first dark block which I now realise doesn't work!

Having got it together and deciding to overlook the fact that the middle isn't in the middle, I now think that I need to change the background fabric from dark to light to add some contrast and liven it up!

So here is the first light block with the dark background which I think works better!

As for the y seams! These are used to sew the triangles in place  and after some practise I think I have cracked it!

Of course it is all very much displacement activity because it is taking up time I should be spending on Art! But that's for another day!

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Going against the grain!

I've  always been rubbish at traditional patchwork partly because I came to quilting via embroidery and didn't have much idea of the basics and partly because I try to go too quickly. What amazes me after a lifetime of dressmaking and sewing is just how hard it is to sew two pieces of fabric together. I measure twice or more times before I cut, I try to get my pieces cut accurately and they look right but sew them together and they aren't!

So being a Craftsy junky and also having an eye for a bargain, I saw a Craftsy class called "Piece like a 
Pro" with Donna Lynn Thomas and it was on sale! So I signed up! I'd never heard of her, but she's written several books and is very well known and is a very good teacher. In the class Donna shows how to make four very traditional blocks, but covers a lot of basics which I can use in my rather untraditional quilts.

Apparently it's all a matter of working with the grain of the fabric and understanding how squares, triangles and other shapes can be sewn together. So I've learned the difference between half and quarter square triangles, how to make a pressing plan so the seams will butt and the block will lie flat, how to line up and cut shapes with the straight grain and how to get an accurate 1/4 inch seam.

These little squares show what Donna calls the four patch pop! When the seams are manipulated so the middle lies flat! How cool is that!

And here is the block with almost matching points and on the back

Four patch pops galore!

I've also made this

Where the middle is almost in the middle and it's lying flat well flattish.

And this, where the points almost meet

Sadly sewing two pieces of fabric together so the edges line up, the seam is straight, all the points are aligned etc isn't ever going to be my strong poin and I ask myself if it really matters in terms of my "Art". Well I think it does matter in terms od disciplining myself to take more time planning my projects and thinking them through before launching myself bull at a gate fashion. Hence the pieces in these two blocks are supposed to have the same orientation but right at the beginning I sewed the first two triangles the opposite way round without realising! Never mind.

When it's done and quilted everyone will think I planned it that way! Who am I to argue!

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Feedback ...

Sometimes when were working on a project we get so immersed in it that we stop actually seeing it and the harder we look, the less we actually see. This often happens to me and that's when I like to show what I'm doing to others so that they can pick up on what's going right or wrong and tell me what they see. It's difficult though because we are often afraid of offending by saying that we don't like this or that or that colour doesn't work or it's just not very good and often we avoid the issue by making some bland comment which doesn't really help anyone.

So it's important to remember that if you say "I don't like that" it isn't the same as saying, "I don't like you" but sadly the two statements are often interpreted as meaning the same resulting in hurt feelings and bruised egos.  A very good friend once said to me, "own your art" meaning don't be afraid of what other people might think of it, but learn to accept constructive criticism and not take it personally.

At the moment I'm working on a large project which is the first one I've designed from scratch and planned meticulously rather than just throw together to see what happens. I've reached a stage where I felt ready to show it off and ask for feed back and fortunately I've had what I call genuinely constructive and helpful criticism which was given to me in such a way that I didn't feel upset or defensive. So I'm feeling really lucky to be a member of a lovely textile art group and am beginning to feel at home back here in Cornwall.

So here's a very poor photo of the work in progress which I've put to one side for a while so I can think about the comments I've received and decide whether I need to make some changes.

But I haven't been idle and despite the frost, ice and snow I'm going off to workshop etc. the first of the year was at West Country Embroiderers when my friends Jill and Lindsay ran a workshop on crewel embroidery. Not something I've done before, or even thought I might do, but it was great fun and reminded me that sometimes, sitting by the fire while the DH is watching football on the TV, doing a bit of hand embroidery is just what you need.

So this is my little piece in progress and I'm really enjoying doing it as a bit of light relief!

I've also been lucky enough to get a lovely new toy and am really enjoying it. Although it's a new machine, this model has been around for a very long time and is renowned for being a good workhorse for free machine embroidery. So putting it through its paces I've made this little embroidery

I've also been luck enough to go to a wonderful workshop at the Embroiderers Guild when Karen Scannell was showing us how to print with Thermofax screens and thickened dyes. My results were mixed but it was great fun and a technique I will be able to incorporate into future work.

Lots of projects on the go now with deadlines looming and also lots of exciting workshops booked! So time to shut down the computer and get going!

Thursday, 1 January 2015

When art becomes a chore......

....... its time to stop and take stock. With me this process has been going on for a while and only now do I feel ready to get started again. This time last year I seem to have so much on the go what with the Gelli plate, various projects for all sorts of challenges, dyeing fabric but recently, no ideas or any real creativity.

So the excuses for my lack of creativity are;

We've had a lot of visitors over the summer and autumn and I haven't had any time to do anything apart from cooking, cleaning and entertaining;

My beloved Juki sewing machine isn't behaving itself and I haven't been able to use it;

It's been too hot/ cold/ light/ dark to work in the conservatory and my famous shed still doesn't have power or insulation;

We've been working nonstop in the garden;

I don't ever seem to have the right colour fabric that I need and I've run out of some of the dyes/paint I need

I could go on and if you believe any of the above I shall be very surprised! True we have had visitors and we have been doing a lot in the garden, but the real reason I haven't been creating anything in the textile line is that I just don't seem to be able to think of any ideas for making a start.

Being a member of two textile groups should have been enough to spur me into activity and although I've enjoyed the various meetings, that's as far as it's gone!

The St Ives textile group meets at the Porthmeor Studios which overlooks the beach and the following photos show us busy making mono prints. Our theme this year is seed heads and I've collected a fair number of these which have been slowly shedding debris everywhere!

I've also been on various courses and workshops and have been busy honing my free machine embroidery and quilting skills.

This is the design for a quilt I produced with much guidance from Susan Denton. A wonderful teacher who makes fabulous art quilts but who is so patient with those who are a bit lacking in grey matter! This will be my contribution to an exhibition at Wheal Martyn China Clay Museum in September, if I can get it made!

And below is some free machine embroidery, now actually finished and made into a cushion!

These samples were made at a workshop with Jan Tillett using shrink polyester. I love the textures, but haven't yet thought of a way to use it in a project.

All too soon Christmas was upon us and off we went on our travels to Yorkshire and St Austell and finally landed back home last Sunday. Then, I remembered the dreaded journal quilt deadline and after quite a bit of displacement activity, e.g.  tidying the workroom, reading my kindle books, sighing etc, I finally got started! This is how I knew I was in trouble. The ideas just wouldn't come so rather than sit and fret, I just got some fabric out of the stash, cut it up and started sewing it together. After getting four little pieces made, I quilted them and finally got them uploaded today only a day late.

And here they are!

That does seem to be the answer. Rather than just sit and think about it, just get on and do something, anything and after a while the ideas do come along! So now I have finally got the ball rolling perhaps I will get on and do more after all a sunrise does suggest endless possibilities!

Happy new year everyone!

Monday, 8 September 2014

Where to start....

Well, it's been very hot and we've been inundated with peas, beans and courgettes. The great success story though is the sweet corn, which has been fantastic after a ropy start.

Our trip to Art in Action went well, but we didn't manage to see everything we wanted to because of the heat, but we did enjoy the trip and also the visit to Dorset on the way home.

This wonderful carving really took my eye in the woodworking marquee and no sign to say please don't touch, so I did!

Lots of hat makers in the textile tent, but no quilters this year.

No sooner back home than our first visitors of the summer arrived. They were walking parts of the coast path and although we were tempted, it was just too hot, so we provided the transport and the food!

My next trip was up to Birmingham to the Festival of Quilts. This year I decided to fly rather than suffer the train journey, so the journey was very smooth despite the threat of the hurricane!

Although I can't get to the meetings as they are too far away, I am a member of the Exe Valley Contemporary Quilt Group. Our group quilt, entitled, Triassic Trio won third prize in the Group Section even though there wasn't a single Meerkat in evidence! We were each asked to make a strip representing a rock type found in the West Country, and my strip was Serpentine in the bottom right corner.

It was a wonderful show and I thoroughly enjoyed myself looking at all the quilts and meeting up with friends. The organisers had obviously listenened to our criticisms because this year the lighting was very much improved and there was more space around the quilts. However, more space came at the expense of some of the seating and getting a chair was a struggle at times.

Then we had to get ready for our next set of visitors, just day trippers this time! A wonderful walk around the Lizard from Church Cove to Housel Bay, with a cup of tea at the hotel. On the way we saw exotic plants, gannets diving and blackberries ripening!

The colour of the sea was so beautiful!

After all the visits, I managed to finish my quilt for the exhibition at Cowslips and spent a lovely day stewarding and having a lovely lunch with my DS.

The idea came from an old photo of some slate which I thought would do really well on the theme of "Layers!.

Now the weather has started to get hot again, sewing will have to wait because we're off to the beach!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Time for reflection

After some glorious sunny weather, rain was forecast so I took time off from the garden to go to Truro Cathedral to see an exhibition of quilts entitled Saints of Cornwall. The quilts were made by Cornish quilting groups from all over the county. Each group chose a saint connected to their own little bit of Cornwall, and each one designed their own quilt which, due to the limitations of the display area, had to be made to a designated size.

The standard of the work was very high and it was very interesting to see how the various groups had approached the design process and also to see the enormous variety of materials and techniques used.  The lighting in the cathedral was poor and they had requested no flash photography and so my photos were not wonderful! Here are a few to whet the appetite!

 This lovely Celtic cross looked so real it was difficlut to believe it was not made out of stone!

Apart from the rather gruesome stabbing, this quilt was a delight and was full of machine embroidered motifs and embellishments.

This quilt contained lovely images and text and had been beautifully free machine quilted with what looked to be metallic threads!
Another Celtic cross. This one was made by Lynn Carr a CQ member!

This quilt from the Scilly Isles was lovely, especially the boat. See the rather out of focus close up below for an idea!

This quilt was my favourite because it was such an original design and very much to my taste as a contemporary quilter. Made by Caroline Richards and Susan Hooper who are both CQ members.
For more and much better photos there is a link to their blog Beyond Patchwork here

This quilt also stood out because of its really original design and very restricted pallette. the black and white truly reflecting the Cornish flag.

Very uplifting to see the quilts in the setting of such a lovely building. It must have taken a lot of organising to get all the quilts finished in time and to the right size so congratulations to everyone who took part.

Now the sun is out, so before I get back to my latest project I'm off to do a bit of weeding!