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What I did at the weekend

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These are really not very good photographs of the work I did on the new Laura Ashley piece.  I have had a big burst of interest in this quilt, and I am wondering if it is because the other large piece has gone.  There is a lot about at the moment on the subject of decluttering.  One idea is that you have to clear out old stuff to let the new in.  I wonder if I had to let go of that piece, which had every technique I knew at the time in it, and completely wiped out my bead collection, in order to produce something new.

Anyway, I spent a couple of hours yesterday working with scraps of cloth to put together the foundation for two panels.  Again this is mainly fabric which would be in landfill if it hadn’t ended up on one of these pieces, although the Regency prints are commercially produced.

I wanted a record of how they looked before I started really working on them.  The pinkier one has some embroidery already, but the bluer one is at the very beginning.  The minute the embellishment starts to go on they really change.  All of my embellished quilts are like Vegas showgirls – nothing much until they put on the bling and step out into the lights.

I will post again when I have made some progress on them, and it’s good to have some hand-stitching to do again in these long, dark winter nights.




The Red Thread


When I wrote about the panel shown above, I mentioned the red thread.  I thought it might be worth describing it in a bit more detail.

It is a red thread which in other cultures binds us all together in one-life sustaining network or ‘entanglement’ or ‘enmeshment’ to use vocabulary of Tim Ingold (2007); it is a  red thread which binds us to all those we will meet and who will be significant to us in our lifetimes.  In the Eastern tradition we are bound to our life partners by a red thread tied around our ankles or fingers.  There is no escaping the tie.  In one Japanese story a young man encounters a wise old elder out on the road.  The old man tells the boy that he will show him his future wife in the next village.  When they reach the village they see a young girl.  Our hero has no interest in marriage, being far too young, and interested in anything but girls.  Instead of making his courtship dance, he throws a stone at the girl and goes on his way.  Several years later his parents arrange his marriage which is done according to all the rites.  The bride is veiled.  The two have never met.  Fearing the worst, he is led into the bedchamber where his bride sits turned away from him.  He lifts her veil and discovers she is, of course, beautiful except for a strange decorated patch over her eyebrow.  When, as is his right on his wedding night he peels this back, it reveals a small scar, put there, years before, she says, by a wild boy throwing a stone at her.

I really like this idea, and use it quite a lot in my work.  I love to use red so it isn’t that difficult to work in.



Ingold, Tim (2007) Lines: a brief history. London: Routledge.

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Relaunching the Laura Ashley quilt


I have had a new lease of life with my Laura Ashley project.  My huge Body Shop/Anita Roddick quilt has finally gone to its new home and this seems like a good time to make a start on the large Laura Ashley piece.  As ever it will be made in panels because this is only way I can manage something as big and heavy.  I will post pictures of the other panels I have soon, but wanted to show you a finished one based on the outlines of clothes.

So many of the scraps that I stared my patchwork career were fents – the bits that are leftover from cutting out pattern pieces – that they keep on creeping into this project.  This is a page from a sketchbook project where they re-emerged:


This panel is all hand-stitched and I had a good time manipulating the fabric using a kantha type stitch which relies on running stitch in parallel rows to ripple the fabric:

IMG_0824And you can really see the effect of the variegated thread.

I also really enjoyed using stem stitch.  I have never been able to do this until I got a lesson from the fantastic Tanya Bentham.  I love in this picture – where I am playing with the idea of the red thread which binds us all together – the way that the stem stitch sits on top of the kantha-y stuff:


Really, though in this post, I just wanted to post some pictures taken in very strong sunlight.  One reason is that this is so rare.  It is dark, cold, grey and wet here, so a crisp sunny day is a real luxury.  I have posted before, however, about how much I love to photograph my work when there are strong shadows and contrast.  I love it because in close-up (with the wonderful new camera) the textiles take on a sculptural look:

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I will post a bit more about this panel, but I know that some people read my blog on Sunday afternoons, and I wanted to have some nice pictures for them.


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What I did at the weekend


This isn’t what I did last weekend, but the weekend before, a very blustery weekend in January spent in Porthleven in Cornwall with my very excellent friends, Alison, Ceri and Becky.  Alison’s family has a house right on the sea wall, the white house first to the left of the stone building with the tower.  It is unusual because it has sea views on both sides because it is built on a feature jutting out into the harbour:


These weekends are fantastic, because Alison usually phones up and says the house is free on a particular date, come if you can.  It generally works out that we have a wander round the little town, which has yet to become St Ivesified and still looks like it could conceivably be a working harbour – although Rick Stein has just opened a place there.  These are some pictures I took of it because I felt I had to take the standard inspiration ones!


I really loved those pastel float things on the boat here.  And no-one can resist lobster pots with a splash of turquoise:


We walked further out and saw this:


Sadly, no wrestling to report on, but across the bay you can just about see the remains of the tin mines:


There were also some great flower forms to sketch:



And this one looks a lot like the verdigogh zentangle which I have never found easy to do:

IMG_0782imgres-1There was also this lovely colour scheme:






which I have used before in my Collars project:

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Plus, owing to infatuation at an impressionable age, I can never pass by a stone wall without thinking of Kaffe Fassett:




The informal deal on these weekends seems to have worked out to be that they do the cooking, which is wonderful, and I provide a workshop on the Saturday afternoon.  As no-one had done monoprinting with a Gelli plate, that’s what we decided to do.  I took two big bags of paint, stamps, rollers, paper, fabric and stencils and gave them a tiny bit of input and they were off:


I took pretty cheap acrylic paint so that no-one would feel inhibited about splashing it about, and this was a bit of a false economy as the Gelli plates seem to work better with thicker paint with more pigment.  But we got some great results and had a lovely time trying out techniques, particularly with the stencils:



I had never used the Gelli plates on fabric before and was eager to see what happened.  We used yards of waste curtain lining, which was a kind of cotton sateen, from my mother’s friend’s son, Graham.  I like using this fabric, and have used lots of his samples in my recent applique, because otherwise it would go into landfill.  So it is a form of recycling.  It is also something from nothing, which appeals, and I think that having a lot of materials – yards of fabric and plenty of cheap paint somehow gives people permission to experiment and try things out.  The worst that can happen is that it really does end up in landfill.

The printing on fabric went really well, and I will put some pictures of what I made in a later post.  I printed enough to make a reasonably large piece, although the stitching will largely be machine done as the paint has stiffened the fabric even with some textile medium in it.


I shall end with some lunatic surfers who were kite surfing in crashing waves:













Garden Bloggers Foliage Day – January 2015

I will be back to blogging about my own work shortly. In the meantime, here is a lovely post on a blog I follow which has some fabulous leaves which might provide inspiration.

New Year’s Doll 2015


Every year on New Year’s Day I make a doll.  I either make something which reflects how I am feeling about the past year or something that I want to work on in the coming one.  Here are the links to the last two New Year Doll postings:



Very often I just sit down and see what sort of doll emerges.  My rule is that it has to be made in a single day and be recognisable as a doll.  This year I had an idea what I wanted to make, which was a Gibson-Graham doll.

This is where we get into academic quilting territory.  J. K. Gibson-Graham is actually Gibson and Graham, two feminist economic geographers, who are/were interested in alternative economies.  Sadly Julie Graham died in 2010.  Katherine Gibson continues to work in this area.  Essentially they tried to imagine what sort of economy we could have if we decided to end the inequalities of the capitalist economy.  One of the things that I like about their work is that they recognised that even trying to think beyond capitalism is fiendishly difficult.  They begin with a quotation from Frederic Jameson to this effect:

‘It seems to be easier for us today to imagine the thoroughgoing deterioration of the earth and of nature than the breakdown of late capitalism; perhaps that is due to some weakness in our imaginations.  (1994: xii, quoted here: ix)

They published a scholarly work, The End of Capitalism (as we knew it): A Feminist Critique of Political Economy, and then a much more accessible field guide about how to change the economy and bring about change in communities in Take Back the Economy in 2013.



I have to admit that the earlier and more scholarly book has me sound asleep after roughly three pages and so took a long time to read, but the popular version is much easier to read and is full of examples and pictures!  They are well-known for their insistence that there are already alternatives to the capitalist economy up and running, but we do not value them because they are not paid work – this is the old and familiar feminist argument that housework should be waged because otherwise it does not ‘count’.  They argue that the economies are like an iceberg: the waged work we do in capitalist institutions is the only bit that economists see, but underneath the waterline is a mass of unseen economic activity.  This is my version of their well-known diagram:



Now, the reason that I am interested in their work is that it describes very closely the phenomenon that I am fascinated by in my work on Laura Ashley.  The women whom I study and who have very freely contributed to my project are not considered interesting by conventional social science because they are not in that bit of the economy that Gibson-Graham show sticking up above the waterline, but I argue that they are strong economic actors in the economies below.  They are carers, which makes a massive contribution to the waged economy because it allows their children to work while the grandchildren are looked after, and they care for elderly parents.  They do all sorts of community service, they give their dependents gifts of money, time, things, support.  They donate.  They serve.  They are the invisible glue which holds things together to allow the mainstream economy to function.  But like the invisible glue, no-one sees them.

This is an area that I want to work on this year so I made it the subject of my doll.

I had the triangular doll pattern that I bought in Stoff og Stil in Copenhagen.  I had naively thought that as I am fairly accomplished at following patterns I would be able to follow it.  Sadly it seems that Norwegian patterns – which is the country of origin of Stoff og Stil – have instructions rather than diagrams and I had to trace off the pattern.  So, I made it up in my own way, but it was pretty straightforward.  It could be a cushion really, but I put the face on so that it would be a doll:



I decided that I wanted the top to be shiny and gold like money, and that the bottom would be made up of all sorts of things chopped together and then burnt back under organdie.  I used only either gifts or things that were salvaged and saved from landfill which I thought fitted well with the Gibson-Graham ethic.  So here are some photos of the fabric.  I took them in my dining room which has great strong light in the morning on a sunny day and makes nice crisp shadows:


This one has a lovely piece of embroidered William Morris fabric which I was give as a sample when I went to the launch of a curtain shop.


When this piece was in the whole it looked like the masonry in a stained glass window.  You can also see some of the paint I patted onto it to accentuate the burned back synthetic (a bunch of curtain samples my mother gave me).

Purely by accident when I was taking the photos, the sunlight hit something and caused this fantastic prism effect.  I think it was the bevelled edge of a mirror:


Here are some more:


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This last one is some of the offcuts from the fabric I cut the doll shapes out of, as is this:

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This last one is the sample piece I made to try out the various techniques – mainly to check that the machine needle would stitch through all the layers.

I put some marbles that were a Christmas cracker prize in the bottom to get the doll to sit upright.  I didn’t quite do it in one day.  We were invited to a New Year’s day lunch with very good friends to share leftovers.  It struck me that Gibson-Graham would be much more in favour of that activity than sitting alone making pedagogic dolls.

Happy New Year.


Gibson-Graham, J K (2006) The End of Capitalism (as we knew it): A Feminist Critique of Political Economy.  Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Gibson-Graham, J K, Cameron, J., Healy, S. (2013) Take Back The Economy.  Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Jameson, F. (1994) The Seeds of Time.  New York: Columbia University Press.