31 March 2008


"Be careful what you pretend to be, because you are what you pretend to be."
Kurt Vonnegut

(Finding a picture to go with the quotations is an interesting little game - I put just one word into Google Images and hope to find an image in the first 24 pages. After that, another word can be added. This time I used "pretending" and then "painting".)

30 March 2008

Day of delights

The highlight of the CQ meeting was an amazing talk by Alice Kettle - here she is starting to tell us about her workwhich has culminated (so far) in the 16-metre piece you can see, in thumbnail, on her website. This took her a year to embroider and as it grew, got too heavy to lift. Alice's work has to be seen "for real" to get the full effect of the gleaming threads and dimensionality of the resultant fabric - quite apart from the painterly qualities and general impact. Marvellous.

Afterwards, Judy and I were heading for Holborn tube station when we noticed this shop in Pied Bull Yardwere drawn to the window display
and had to go in. Amazing luscious spotted fabrics made up into bags, cushions, lavender bags - and a range of contemporary items, many with spots, by other makers - like these mugs.
Note the laser cutting on the side of the leather chair -
All very covetable! We were enthusiastic and as we were the only people in the shop we were able to chat with Margo. Paying with a credit card meant going downstairs to the workroom - where further delights awaited - The scarf lengths are felted and gorgeously soft -Fabrics are woven by a mill in Suffolk, and Margo uses the scraps for pieced cushion covers, with serged seams to prevent unravelling -Of course what appealed to us most was this work in progress -We'd got diverted by Margo's shop immediately after spotting Blade Rubber and of course had to go in there too -- it was hard to resist the "useful textures" stamps (block of 4 for about £15), and these by the English Stamping Co (£5.50 for the large size) -

27 March 2008

Almost there!

This yarn, from Fleece Artist (made in Mineville, NS; bought at Urban Yarns on West 10th in Vancouver, great shop) has been a delight to knit. I think the colour is Storm. The first sock got ripped back a couple of times, to get the heel shaping to work properly; grafting the toe together is a good way to finish.

The plan for what's left is to knit the toes and heels, and maybe the ribbing, in dark red (surely there is something suitable in my trunkfull of yarn) - and to start at the toe so as to use up all this lovely wool.

Neither abandonned nor forgotten

"Ginkgo" went up on the "design wall" this morning. I'm adding more leaves, and wondering whether that gold panel is too bright, and where the sparky contrast is going to come from...
Here's a detail, showing the metallic organza leaves that were appliqued onto the squares before the squares were sewn together:This landscape has been hanging up since the workshop last week, and is collecting miscellanea that turn up as I gradually make order in the workroom:
The WIPs pinned to the design board include something A3-sized that really should be abandonned [could it be recycled into a bag??], a dotty fandango inspired by a Howard Hodgkin painting, a nearly-ready journal quilt from last year's "rain" series, and a discharged piece done in Bob Adams' workshop last year, which got some added stitching:
The motto, couched onto pink velvet, reads: Snatch the eternal from the desperately fleeting.

26 March 2008

Twin bags

I got carried away with this month's BQL bag challenge. But I cheated - and found out that cheating doesn't pay.

Instead of using strips of fabric and foundation piecing onto wadding, which would have been interesting and fun, I thought it would save time to use some stripey fabric found in the charity shop and sewing along the stripes - which was extremely tedious! There was enough in that stripey piece for two bags ... so I cut the fabric for two before starting sewing - and finally, here they are, slightly asymmetrical and looking more like fraternal than identical twins.

The handles and trim are from an African print skirt also found in the charity shop, but the lining is new fabric - its lime green picks up that hint of colour from areas of the African fabric.

Each has a useful little pocket on the inside - and will carry two bottles of wine and a cabbage without complaining.

20 March 2008

A few more moments' work

Back in January I started this journal quilt, and even did a few stitches on it while on the plane. At last, with added handstitching and quilting, and a satinstitched edge, it's finished:
Rather than replicating the 9th century Mesopotamian bowl that inspired it, this piece makes me think of a big splash - and the "cuneiform" elements in the middle are more like sharks' fins than a writing system. Hmm, something for next time perhaps....

Also for next time: either make the quilting look perfectly regular, or perfectly irregular - there's to be no hugging of the middle ground of sloppiness in this. And I'd like to try some more french knots used as quilting.

The Alchemist

Gundel in the kitchen, 1991.

The Russians

... at the Royal Academy. The luscious colours in the Gauguin, especially the rich blue, made me want to get out my Laurentian [waxy Canadian] coloured pencils and scribble down lots&lots of colours. And what do they have in the shop but colouring books - for kids of all ages - based on painters; no Gauguin, but the Kandinsky will do nicely.

18 March 2008

Landscape workshop

London Quilters arranged a workshop with Ineke Berlyn. We were to make a landscape, using foundation piecing of strips of fabric. She had 4 example with patterns, in lovely zingy colours, but I decided to use two pictures from an old scrapbook - this one for the middle panel -
and this one for the sides -
Here are my less-than-zingy fabrics sorted by tonal value -
and here's the middle panel laid out, indeed somewhat stitched -
The sides included scraps from the big bag of fabric that Ineke brought along -
And here it is, not really like the starting photos at all -Everyone laid their work out - what a lot of different results -
Now they need quilting. The aim is to show them all at the next LQ meeting, in 29 days.


This 12x12 is "on the wall" at my desk - I keep looking at it, hoping to see what it needs now... it doesn't feel quite finished ...

Little gifts

Ah, those five little words - "I have something for you" - and it turns out to be a beautiful orange wrapper. Started about 15 years ago, my collection has about 400 different orange wrappers (see some others here). They are few and far between these days. Thank you, Tony!


Magnificent, despite the wintery weather! St James Piccadilly courtyard - this is a Wren church, a good space for concerts. On Friday and Saturday the courtyard is filled with the striped booths of an artisan market.

13 March 2008

Frosty artistry

Last month (in Pitt Meadows, BC, Canada) the days were sometimes spring-like, but the clearsky nights meant the mornings were frosty, and often misty -- lovely for early-morning walks, or just for looking out the windows.

The Sunday Sailors

Seeing this quilt always makes me smile. It was a delight to make: a few years ago Pauline sent me a bag of scraps of the then-new line of Kaffe Fassett striped fabrics. Hmm, must have been quite a few years ago...! When ironing them, I got the idea of mountains and sailboats, and within moments had laid out a few boats and excitedly pulled fabric for the background.

The "story" for me is that these are boats on English Bay (Vancouver), with the North Shore mountains in the background, and some marina somewhere (?Granville Island) in the foreground. And it's mixed up with a couple of days on sailboats while visiting Vancouver some years ago, at which point I decided it was better (for me) to admire boats than to be aboard.

"The Sunday Sailors" measures 27" x 37" and used nearly every scrap Pauline sent.

11 March 2008

Done! - but not dusted

After undoing the shoulders to shorten the body -- in the middle of the night -- I was sewing the sleeves in while at the airport - and finished a mere 5 minutes before it was time to head for the gate. Sue had to sew the buttons on.

And after all the bother getting more wool to finish the sleeves, it does rather look as they're too long after all (even though I'd already made them shorter). Something to fix on my next visit. Meanwhile, the shoulders need a firm tape sewn to the seam; that'll help somewhat with sleeve length.

Favourite pattern

This makes a dishcloth from 1.5 oz (42.5 g) of cotton, using 4mm needles.

Cast on 4.
Knit 2, yarn over needle, knit to end of row.
Repeat till you have 44 stitches.
Knit 1, knit 2 together, yarn over, knit 2 together, knit to end of row.
Repeat till you have 4 stitches.
Cast off.

09 March 2008

Self-indulgent weekend

I've been settling back in and catching up. And sewing, with Radio 4 on all day.

Which meant there was time to do another project on the "art for quilters" course. This one started with thinking of a pleasurable or unpleasurable sensation and the colour (and shape) associated with it. I thought of putting your hands in nice warm soapy water to do the washing up, and associated a buttery - no, creamy - yellow with it. As it's relaxing for me, the shape I chose was circles. But while pulling fabric I found a strip of zingy orange, which might represent the washing-up bowl, or maybe something else; at least the diagonal line adds a little dynamism. Here's the first layout.It all had to be moved to cut and sew the fabric, so the circles got rearranged. Seeing it as a photo, I decided to change the proportions of the background:Hmm, has this "taught" me anything? Not so much about rationalising my colour choices, or being deliberate about choosing colour; is this an "adjacent" colour scheme - orange, yellow, green? Again, the piece is a bit too fussy and busy (less is more!) -- but I was able to resist adding the small circle that was subsequently found lying on the floor! The circles are straight-stitched around and then satin stitched over that - it would have been easier to use bondaweb for them all. The quilting in the top part is shadow quilting, started by going straight across the piece about 2/3 of the way up, then travelling around anything that got in the way, and adding parallel lines up to the top; the next section was done the same way, 1/3 of the way up. Mainly, I'm not sure the colour conveys the sensation. But this "Dishwater" piece was fun - and it would be fun to do another with horizontal lines of stitching holding the circles on ... sometime ...

"Art for quilters"

Catching up with the Quilt University class that started 9 February. The first assignment: a still life. Drawings are: the example showing composition, and (below) an attempt to do it "by the book"; top right, my intuitive approach, and below, the more or less final sketch - with spotty fabric in mind.Maybe I could use some of the spotty fabric bought in Canada:The starting layout, in the 12x12 format -The final result: with a few changes of fabric. It was done in a hurry, and on looking at it again, the placement of leaves, and shape of pot, could be improved. The "animal" figurine references the plaster cupid in this painting by Cezanne - and all the awkward objects that get put into still lives because they just seem to fit the space.

Where do ideas come from?

Often ideas begin with a photo and a feeling, said Linda. Some of old photos are especially full of feeling for me, like this one of my grandmother with all her children in 1944:"It is the heart always that sees, before the head can," as Thomas Carlyle said.

And while we're on the subject of feelings, consider how they might relate to colour:

Who told you that one paints with colors? One makes use of colors, but one paints with emotions. - Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin

08 March 2008

"Building a sketchbook"

Even though I missed the first two sessions of this course, the final Saturday was productive.

Techniques were transfer drawing, a form of monotype using a tracing and then inking the back and re-tracing, and printing from a polystyrene block. I made a quick decision and quick sketch based on a birch forest, and used it for several transfer drawings.This 5-foot long "walk in the woods" is made up of multiple prints of the polystyrene block. It works better turned on its lengthways, and might end up on calico with added bits of colourful fabric.
Here's my "diptych or triptych" distilled from the images and techniques taught: three block prints, on tracing paper; on tissue paper, with the white ink taking off some of the black ink underneath; and black ink on tissue paper, with (rather subtle!) stitching added.
And here's what I don't want to always be doing: making fussy messy things, however colourful!

London's river

Sweet extravaganza

I'll miss the family dinners - and desserts not available in UK. Coffee; nutty butter (choc flakes and peanut butter!); heavenly hash (marshmallow swirl and choc-covered nuts); and Dad's favourite, three kinds of chocolate (he adds choc syrup).