30 April 2008

Journal quilts again

Here are a couple I made earlier - above, trying to convey the pleasurable feeling of warm soapy washing-up water; and below, a rainstorm -
The rainstorm started with a monoprint on the splodgy dyed fabric (a black dye that separated out into component colours), and the grasses are two different threads on the top layer, rather than the colour being changed by the dark overlay. And you're right, I should have been more careful with getting the gold piece straight....


Wanting to use the lovely shiny old rayon threads found on the March Regional Day bring&buy table, I tried discharging some black fabric - also from the bring&buy - but the bleach splodged out of control. Never mind, artists do something and then respond to that, don't they - so I stitched round the shapes so as to see where to stitch - the rayon threads were being used in the bobbin, and the stitching on the wadding did help with placing the colours. It was very therapeutic to run the machine back and forth, back and forth, and to keep adding more colours till the entire thing was covered - but I'm not at all keen on the result, hence the small picture -
Even so, I've had several thoughts about how to do it "better" next time.... Still have quite a bit of the thread left. The outsides were rather dusty but underneath the thread is astonishingly vivid. I'm enjoying rescuing it.

World gone mad?

Marketing magazine reports that this luxury burger will be available in selected upmarket central London locations. It will contain wagyu beef and foie gras (I hope they do something about the bun). Burger King wants to show that it's more upmarket than McDonald's.

In a slightly less imperfect world, BK would donate the profits from those burgers to Food Aid.

However we can all donate rice - and improve our vocabularies - at www.freerice.com

28 April 2008

Happy list

This weekend the Times published a Rich List, and the Independent published a Happy List - which is a lot more relevant to most of us. It consists of 100 people who make Britain a better and a happier place to live - and makes cheerful reading. It includes Britain's oldest man and the inventor of the wind-up radio, as well as founders of charities -- and artists, who fall into the "pleasure" category.
In its "Happy facts", the Independent says: "Giving to charity not only assists others, it also helps you to feel better about yourself, research has found. A Canadian study of how people spent their company bonuses, published in 'Science' magazine, reported that those who gave some or all of it to charity or to others had greater feelings of well-being than those who spent it on themselves."

Britain is known for its volunteer culture. "Some 27% of Britons regularly volunteer with a formal organisation, charity or local group. According to data published by the Institute for Volunteering Research, the causes that benefit most are: education – schools, colleges, universities (31%); religion (24%); and sports, exercise or "health and disability" (both 22%). The institute adds: "The largest proportions of activities were: 'raising, handling money' (65%) and 'organising, helping run an event' (50%)." The most active regular volunteers are 16- to 24-year-olds (43%), followed by 55- to 64-year-olds (42%), and the over-65s (41%). Women are more likely to volunteer than men."

And if you're wondering about the picture, the tulip is called "Happy Hour".

25 April 2008

Two bags

Yesterday morning I was able to devise a pattern for and make this yellow bag (love that junglacious fabric!). The pocket in the lining is a separate panel, folded back on itself to make a "seamless" pocket. The handles are formed around 3 layers of wadding, and the bag has a layer of wadding, lightly stitched. It's reassuringly solid, and the whole thing took a couple of hours. There was time to find fabric and cut out pieces for the April BQL bag:Sewing it took a surprising three hours - the handles, gusset, and body are quilted onto the wadding. And the lining has three pockets. The half-circles at the base of the handles are sewn on by hand. The fabric came from the Gambia, some time ago, and was a gift from Ingrid. This bag is big enough to be seriously heavy when it's full.

22 April 2008

Quoting Thurber

"Let us not look back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness." - James Thurber I'm surprised to see that Thurber said this. His subtle cartoons and blobby people are intriguing insights into the human condition, and his memories of working on The New Yorker magazine make good reading. Not to mention all his other writing, which I now have the urge to re-read.

You can read "The Night the Bed Fell" here.

In my search for some Thurber images, this art lexicon sight nearly distracted me: http://www.artlex.com/ -- here's a thurberesque illustration of contour lines:
The caption is: All right, have it your own way -- you heard a seal barking."

18 April 2008

The past comes back to haunt you

(Or, the subconscious influence of unexpected good fortune ...)

Looking for a different bit of information, I was surprised to come across the Spring 2004 newsletter on the London Quilters website, and see that I'd written this - which might explain my fascination with buying "interesting" men's shirts in charity shops:

"Lucky Raffle Ticket by Margaret Cooter

"A few meetings ago I won a prize in the raffle, and want to take this opportunity to thank the unknown London Quilter who donated that prize. It was a book, "Traditional Quilts from Around the World" by Miranda Innes, and it's a delightful book. Published in 1992, it’s still in print, and if you are a traditional quilter or interested in historical quilts, this book should be in your library. It would be a good present for someone who's just discovered quilts and wants to get going on a medium-sized project.

"The book centres on "18 easy patchwork, quilting and appliqué projects to make by machine" - but don't let the thought of yet more projects put you off (after all, who needs more UFOs??) - that said, the instructions look to be clear and complete, and the projects eminently manageable, even for the time challenged among us. It's as a reference book that this book comes into its own. The sections introducing each of the projects contain a two-page spread with a succinct exposé of the art form and several sumptuous photos of examples. These circle the globe: Hawaiian appliqué, Ghanaian Ewe cloth, an Australian tailor's quilt, simple Amish shapes, British strippies, French boutis, Japanese sashiko, Pakistani tasseled quilt, Seminole patchwork, Swedish woolen quilt.

"As a transplanted Canadian, I was enlightened to see a tradition I'd not been aware of: Canadian shirting quilts. Aha, a catalyst for finally reusing those recycled stripes and plaids (a.k.a. old shirts); obviously, fate has taken a hand by putting this book my way ... it must be time to start a new project ...."

And above are some fabrics reclaimed from men's shirts, still waiting to become that "new project". (The pale lime green near the top will provide the "spark" in the essentially dull selection.) The book in my 2004 review seems to have disappeared from my shelves, but researching shirting quilts on the net has turned up some inspiring pictures and interesting snippets of history.

Lauren Phillips is working on a shirting quilt based on a Kaffe Fassett design - it needs 1,116 triangles!
Round about 1900, shirting fabrics were popular for offsetting dark colours, as in this quilt - see a detail on this site
And there's more yet to be discovered...

A favourite gone

For many years I've mixed oil&vinegar salad dressing in this little jug - but recently I mixed too hard and - oops!

Apart from being a good shape and size for the purpose, and having lovely colours in its simple decoration, the jug brings back memories of stumbling on an art studio in Crouch End with Lisa and Daphne, back in the days before everything there became either a trendy shop or a trendy restaurant. Well not quite everything - it does have a library and washing machine repairer.

Of cabbages and ... trees

While "choux a l'anglaise" was steaming in its buttery sauce, I quickly printed these. Here they're little pine trees, but they could also be big (brown) pine cones.

11 April 2008

London miscellany

Gordon Square, WC1 - I often walk through it on the way to browse at Waterstone's or window-shop along Tottenham Court Road -- John Lewis department store on Oxford Street goes back to 1864. Here it is from the back, the Cavendish Square side. The square was planned in 1717 as the focus of the estate of the Earl of Oxford and Mortimer and gradually gracious Georgian houses were built around it, while sheep grazed on the turf --
Men at work - this building has suddenly appeared near Euston Station, or maybe I just came out of that trance-like state that accompanies "going to work" and noticed it --
The shroud covers what was once the 250-year-old Middlesex Hospital, and will become yet more luxury apartments --
And not strictly London - an embellished train (note the safety feature) --

10 April 2008

Can housework make you breathless?

Under the fatuous headline: Cleaning 'improves mental health', the BBC reports that "Just 20 minutes of sustained exercise a week - from cleaning to jogging - can impact upon depression" - but the exercise must induce breathlessness.

I'm all for beating depression and for getting exercise anywhere other than the gym, but am left wondering what kind of housework would fit the bill. Marathon hoovering? Dusting the ceiling? Record-breaking floor scrubbing? or perhaps --

08 April 2008

Old treasures, new sox, and darning

One of the traders at Region 1's Spring Regional Day - Jackie Maxwell of Grandmother's Workbox - had all sorts of "preloved" sewing-related treasures, gleaned from here, there and everywhere. Nostalgic and irresistible.

I was excited to find a darning mushroom - but it's too big to fit into the toes of my dainty Falke kneesox. What's needed for those is a sock darning egg like this one:
Searching for a link to my fave sox, I discover that the 65% cotton knee highs come in other colours than black - and that you can easily get all-cotton sox online, rather than having to constantly revisit John Lewis because they have your size, or your colour - but not both.

This online discovery entirely makes up for the disappointment of the darning mushroom. Indeed, it makes it superfluous -- what, these days, is worth the time-investment of darning? Yet there was a time when textiles were precious and darning was an important skill - which was learned through "darning samplers":
Pattern darning is part of several ethnic embroidery traditions (Japan, the Ukraine, and the Punjab, for instance), and can be difficult to distinguish from weaving - indeed one variant is called huck weaving. This kimono design is called kagari, the Japanese word for darning:

07 April 2008

"Vision is not enough. It must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps, we must step up the stairs." - Vaclav Havel

If this quote is a translation, it's a clever translation - or else Czech is remarkably like English!

Havel's 1984 speech "Politics and Conscience" includes this interesting comparison:

What is it, actually, that the world of the medieval peasant and that of a small boy have in common? Something.substantive, I think. Both the boy and the peasant are far more intensely rooted in what some philosophers call "the natural world," or Lebenswelt, than most modern adults. They have not yet grown alienated from the world of their actual personal experience, the world which has its morning and its evening, its down (the earth) and its up (the heavens), where the sun rises daily in the east, traverses the sky and sets in the west, and where concepts like "at home" and "in foreign parts," good and evil, beauty and ugliness, near and far, duty and rights, still mean something living and definite. They are still rooted in a world which knows the dividing line between all that is intimately familiar and appropriately a subject of our concern, and that which lies beyond its horizon, that before which we should bow down humbly because of the mystery about it.

The image above might be in Vancouver?? Another interesting stairs image, based on the famous ones by Escher, is on Harold Davis's photoblog.

05 April 2008

Under the needle

The Ginkgo piece is getting its leaves stitched on by machine, and then it will get some hand quilting or big-stitch embellishment --And the elongated "heartbeat" piece is systematically getting its grid, with a lustrous reddish rayon thread in the bobbin --
The rest of "life" feels a bit frantic at the moment - it's good to switch off by doing some sewing!

At such times I find I need something that doesn't require much thinking - carefully following straight lines is perfect (and knitting is good too). I drew the lines onto iron-on stabilizer, along the direction it would tear off easily. The vertical lines have been stitched, the stabilizer torn off, and another layer of stabilizer added for the horizontal lines. The next stage, adding the ECG tracings, will be tricky -- but thanks to Cathy C-M and Debbi, I know now to get the T wave looking perky. A little knowledge of why ECgs look the way they do would be helpful -- it's like using a foreign language, you don't want inadvertently to say something inappropriate.

Thanks also to Sue and magsramsay for ideas on how to "drown" the gold in the Gingko piece - that got me thinking.