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Inspired by boro

This is not the best picture in the world, but it gives an idea of my latest boro-inspired experiment. I used a convenient pomeranian dog to prop it up against for the photograph and I don’t think it really worked.

This piece, which is about the size of an A4 piece of paper, is made from strips of silk, mainly slubbed dupion, which I tore ages ago to make a scarf.  I had made about a foot of the scarf before I realised it looks fantastic in the book but would look ridiculous on me.  So, I was left with a bag of bits, and, as regular readers will know, I can’t bear to throw anything away.  I found them recently when looking for something else of course.   I rather like them as a variation on the boro idea of making up a cloth using tiny scraps, and I particularly like the rich colours of the shot dupion:

The strips were hand sewn with perlé cotton onto a piece of linen from a charity shop skirt, and the whole thing was a delight to sew.

I am doing quit a bit of hand sewing at the moment as it is too hot for machining in my studio and the fan blows all my stuff about.  Plus, I am still learning how to use my behemoth of a new machine.  Watch this space, though, for when it cools down and I start to become more machine confident.

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Little Boro Bear and Big Boro Bear

I haven’t posted much recently because I am so busy trying to get my business ideas off the ground or preparing to give talks to groups.  I really don’t want this blog to turn into one of those thinly disguised sales pitches, so I am trying to avoid writing too much about upcoming events and workshops.  However, I have really loved making my boro-inspired pieces and wanted to share a bit of the work which is delighting me.

I have made a couple of boro bears, following on from the popularity of the boro dog.  I tend to make these stuffed toys in the same way.  I start by making a piece of fabric and then cut out the shapes.  Where possible I draw round a template and stitch and then cutting them out as this is much less fiddly than trying to machine stitch round little pieces.  Here, though I drew round my template with chunky felt tip pen and then cut inside the thick ink line.  I have used all sorts of things to mark with, but I get really irritated if I cannot see the fine pencil line I drew thirty seconds ago, and that is not good way to feel if you are stitching.  So, this was my big piece for the big bear in the photo:

There was plenty left over after cutting the bear out to make other things such as little brooches or key rings.  Then I sewed him together.  He is all hand stitched, whereas the little bear was the result of an experiment to see if I could do some approximation of boro on the sewing machine.

I added the red tassels on little bear’s ears and a bit of hand embroidery just to finish him off.  Big bear got a ruff:

If I were making them again, I think that I would make the body a bit longer and remember to slant the cut at the top of the arms so they point down more (little bear is better in this respect).

This is a leftover.  I like it because I think the blue crosses with the bit of yellow capture the spirit of boro a bit more than some of my work.

One thing that helped here, I think, was putting a layer of wadding on top of the cardboard template and under the face fabric before drawing up the thread around the cardboard.

Picture pinched from the internet

This is the easiest way I know to appliqué a circle, although I would need a considerably larger turning than the one shown in the photograph above.  I like the slightly raised and padded feel the addition of the wadding gives.  Another idea worth considering would be reverse appliqué as no bear’s face is slapped on top of its coat; it should come from underneath.  I might try this if I make another.

I was making a sample playing with the cross shape which is very common in boro, and found that it made a perfect-sized blanket for little bear:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lots of fun just trying things out and experimenting.

 

 

 

 

Five Valley Quilters’ Exhibition, Nailsea

Well, it was a damp, warm, dizzly day here today as the Medieval Historian and I made our way to Nailsworth in Gloucestershire to have a look at the the Five Valley Quilters’ exhibition.  We went through some lovely English countryside of the type you would want for one of those Victorian costume specials about vicars’ daughters and agricultural workers.  It’s only that green because of all the rain.

The show, however, was lovely. exactly the right size.  There was just enough room for lots of variety but not so much stuff that it became a bit of a slog to get through it all.  The quality of the work was uniformly very high, which is unusual for an open group exhibition and it ranged over everything from traditional patchwork to experimental pieces.  I really loved the way that several quilters had explored working with some of the very modern prints which look gorgeous on the roll but can be hard to make the most of in finished pieces.

I heard a woman behind me say that she was interested in learning patchwork but didn’t know where to start.  This exhibition was perfect for a beginner who wanted to see what was happening in the craft, and also because it was really well stewarded by friendly and enthusiastic quilters throughout.  I came away feeling really cheerful because I felt I had spent a happy hour in the company of people who loved what they were doing.

There was a lovely welcome on the door, great homemade cake and a very good value sales table.  I am not sure you can ask for more.

I have not included pictures of individual quilts because that didn’t seem fair, but one lovely touch was a collection of antique chain-stitching machines on a window sill, a couple of which were really prettily painted:

All lovingly restored and in full working order.  Which is more than you can say for me.

 

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Red-eared Celtic dog

One of my morning rituals is to listen in In Our Time on Thursdays on BBC radio 4.  I start out full of optimism that I will understand the science-y ones, but really I prefer the history and culture subjects.  Last week it was about the collection of Welsh folk stories, The Mabinogion.  I knew a little bit about this, but not much, and I know a lot more now.  I recommend a visit to the podcast, as it was a brilliantly clear exposition of the the collecting and content of the stories, and made me want to read them.

The point of this preamble is that I learned from the programme that in Welsh mythology there is an Other World, Annwn, which is a sort of parallel world to this one.  In the Other World you lose your memories which only come back when you return to the everyday.  I discovered that there are very subtle signs that you are in Annwn which are a bit puzzling to the modern reader, but were well-known to the contemporary audience.  One of these sign is that dogs have red ears.  I couldn’t resist making one.

So here is my boro version with red ears:

I made the boro fabric up in a piece and the cut the dog out of it:

Boro is a Japanese technique for mending work garments, usually indigo dyed, and often with white thread.  My version is a very westernised version, and I love to make it because I like the way that it textures the fabric so well.

I couldn’t stop his head bending to one side which I think was a combination of my stuffing technique and the way the grain was running over so many fabrics in so many directions.  I think it gives him a bit of character, so I didn’t try to fix it.

One note is that I decided to use safety eyes rather than beads.  Went up to Hobbycraft to buy some and discovered that they only sell them in packs of 25.  Interesting challenge to find something to do with that spare eye.

Advance notice: there will be a boro workshop coming up at Pomegranate Studio very soon.

 

 

 

June marketing post 2

 

Well, the polythene bags for my June marketing campaign have arrived.  Sorry to trouble you with this very unglamorous photo.

Desperate times call for desperate measures

 

Things are not going brilliantly well with my new businesses, which is because I haven’t really been marketing them very well.

So, I have decided to combine them in a way and start a rather ambitious project which is to do a month’s giveaway, leaving handmade articles in a variety of places with details of my naming ceremonies service.  So, for thirty days I intend to leave something I have made with details of what a humanist naming ceremony is and a small gift that people can keep anyway, plus my contact details.  This is a lot of work, but I hope it will raise some awareness.  I also hope that it will provide something interesting to write about for the blog.

Any suggestions or feedback would be great.

 

 

 

 

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Little blue baskets quilt

I am giving a talk next week about frugal quilts and am making samples to demonstrate my points.  This little quilt, which is about 20×20 inches is made from really small offcuts of a traditional hexagon patchwork, which is in turn made from the leftovers of a bed-sized quilt which will eventually feature on this blog.  These are the scraps from the scraps.

I decided to use them because I saw a photo in my mother’s copy of Quiltmania.

I don’t usually do straight copies of things, but these little pieces by a Japanese quilter, whose name, shamefully, I forgot to write down, really appealed to me.  I had a happy half hour doing sketches and making rough templates:

I am not sure if the photos are of a high enough resolution, but you might be able to see the messiness and roughness of these pages.  I love neat, photo-ready sketchbooks, but mine are very much design notes.  They are not meant to be a work of art.  I am often working things out on paper.  And I often make mistakes, particularly with proportion.

The next stage was to quilt the square(ish) backgrounds.  I pieced the main bits of the baskets and applied them using needle-turned appliqué.  I find hand appliqué really relaxing and very good to do in front of the television.

The background is a bit of a very old, very laundered, very well-loved linen shirt kindly donated by the medieval historian.  I quilted it with Madeira lana thread because it makes a good, slightly distressed mark and some of the variegated colours are lovely and subtle.  I stitched it together with a perle cotton:

One of the design techniques featured in this piece is stitching in different scales.  There is big stitch quilting on the background with the wooly thread, and small over-stitching with the perle, and as invisible as possible stitching with ordinary dark grey sewing thread on the appliqué.  There is also a bit of decorative stitching with the perle:

I like the wonkiness of this quilt, and the unusual shape of the baskets.  They look a bit like the sort of bag you can construct by folding cloth to make a shopper.  I can never work out how to use them so that the contents don’t spill out on the floor, so I don’t make them, but I do admire the look.

I made this quilt for fun and for the soothing quality of the hand appliqué and it was quick and delightful to make.  All the fabric, except one ancient Jinny Beyer print comes from old shirts, and the wadding and backing come from the trimmings of a much larger piece, so it cost nothing to make.  File under craft as therapy.

 

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Yellow Ribbons 2

If you had a look at this blog a couple of weeks ago, you would have seen Yellow Ribbons 1.  That version of the design was stitched entirely by hand.  This one is stitched entirely by machine.  The point of these two small pieces, to recap, is to use up the tiny strips of fabric you can see forming stripes at the top and bottom.  With this piece I stitched the strips on with a decorative stitch:

I quite like the effect although the decorative stitch is pretty basic.  I am awaiting delivery of a very shiny new machine from a supplier I will not name, and it has a vast range of stitches and embroidery functions which I look forward to trying out.  I have reluctantly decided to give up on my belovèd old Bernina which is showing signs of fatigue after thirty years of constant hammering doing all sorts of techniques requiring bursts of dense stitches.  Of course, the minute I take this decision it decides to sew like an angel as you can see from this awful photograph of the quilting:

All these photos are dingy, for which I apologise.  The quilt is pretty zingy.

I decided on this quilt to use some of the motifs from a Kaffe Fassett print which is not included in the pack of strips I am using but which clearly is in the range with the central panel.  I bondawebbed them on and then did free machining to secure them:

They don’t shout out from the piece but they add a nice piece of detail.

Drum roll please – our first workshop

Design for a seaside wreath

 

Well, I have finally pressed the go live button on Pomegranate Studio’s very first day school.  This is on Maying: wreaths, garlands and Green Men.

Here’s the blurb:

Information about the workshop

Around Christmas there are any number of lovely workshops on creating wreaths to decorate the festive home.  It forms part of our Christmas tradition.  We bring evergreen holly and ivy into our homes when the days are shortest and most of nature seems to have gone into decline.  We love the natural world and want to hang onto it even in our darkest days.  We do this by twisting lengths of holly into decorative wreaths and using other plants and flowers and shiny things into wreaths for our doors.

There is something about this tradition, which seems to get more widespread every year in my part of the world, which acknowledges a silent promise: spring will return, nature will be rejuventated, and the plants and flowers will flourish again.  What we don’t seem to do is celebrate the keeping of that promise.  We love it when spring begins to roll round, but we no longer celebrate Maying by bringing the new greenery into our homes.

In this workshop we will look at a selection of ways of bringing in the May through textiles and stitchery.  I will demonstrate all of the following and you can decide which to develop yourself.

What we will cover

  • Wreath makingWe will look at making wreaths from fabric and possibly yarn and paper.  These can be wall-hangings or made on hoops like door wreaths.  We will take a little inspiration from Polish pajanki – paper chandeliers – which are hot in design shops like Anthropologie right now.It’s worth noting that the trend for wreaths is really big but sparse and elegant.  The really trendy ones are broken – a bit like a crescent moon.  Think minimal not showy.

 

  • Garlands

    Bunting is so over. We will be making garlands which can be used to decorate depending on the time of the year.  Scope here for making pompoms which are really having a moment.  We can also use unloved fabric to make tassels, or work with beads and bits of broken necklaces.

  • Green MenSpring and May includes the wild side of nature, sap rising and blood rushing to the head.  The Green Man, The Wild Man of The Woods reflects this.  We will make fabric Green Men.  These look difficult but are really easy to make when you break the design down.  You can turn your Green Man into a cushion cover, wall hanging or decorative panel.

 

To book a place you need to click onMaying: wreaths, garlands and Green Men link on the home page and then the button on the right hand corner.

Exciting times

Patchwork and quilting for the fashion forward, Part II

In this post, I return to the trends for interiors  identified in Elle Decoration for 2018, and have a look at how we might adapt them to add a bit of an update to our textile work.

Plates on the wall

I have to admit that I found this one quietly hilarious, having been brought up in an age when old ladies had plates on the wall, but the difference here is that the plates are either solid colours or very sophisticated patterns.  I have adapted this for my garden and have collected and painted plates for the fences.  With regard to textiles, many of the craft magazines such as Mollie Makes, which I really like, by the way, run features on mounting work in embroidery frames/hoops and putting those on the wall.  I am not sure how many of us actually do that in ‘real life’.  On the other hand, the porthole quilt could be an adaptation of the circular theme.  This is a form of a reverse appliqué with a large cut out circle on top revealing the feature fabric underneath.  I have made one block of this just to try it out, and it is a nice effect and so I might make more.  It is one way of working with large circles.

The plates in the article certainly were too beautiful to eat off, and I think that is analogous to some fabric being too beautiful to cut.  This would be a way round having to slice into very lovely fabric and also a way to use difficult fabric like woven metallics as the feature cloth can remain a square under the circular aperture.

Colour trends

The colour trends this spring and summer include grey.  This is a bit of a disappointment given that in the UK at the moment pretty much all the weather we have is grey.  There is one element of inspiration here, though, which is the notion of using different textures of grey including metal, metallic mesh, concrete, stained wood and so on.  I like taking one colour and using a lot of shades of it, particularly red, which I think really benefits from this treatment.  I certainly know a lot of fabric and textile artists who work extensively with different neutral textures to great effect and it would make an interesting project to use some different textures in a large piece.

Other colour trends include monochrome and there are lots of black and white graphic patterns in interior design magazines at the moment.  The twist is that the monotone is pared with terracotta.  I am not a big fan of terracotta; it reminds me too much of the 1980s and really quite nasty furnishing fabrics and paint charts.  I think I could just about cope with it as a highlight colour or a sparkle fabric in a monotone quilt.  Burgundy is also singled out.  This is another of my least favourite colours, so it looks like I am doomed this season.

Fairly monotone table runner in my studio,

Reflective surfaces

In interior design terms this means lots of mirrors and shiny paint.  In textiles I don’t think we can go as far as reflective surfaces, unless we use really massive sequins or pieces of acrylic, but we could try putting in a bit of metallic fabric into our work occasionally,  The odd patch of gold or silver always perks things up in my view.

Bristol Blue Bubbles Anita

Bristol Blue Bubbles Anita

This panel from a quilt of mine was stitched and then painted with my very favourite Golden Fluid acrylics.  I like them because they are liquid but with a lot of pigment so the colour stays true even if you put it over brightly coloured fabric like this yellow silk.

Bengal tiger rugs – not real

This is a bit of a if you only take away one thing let it be this moment.  It seems that the Bengal tiger is a super trendy motif.

I suppose we could use this as a colour scheme inspiration: black, white and orange which would make a zingy type of quilt, or think about making an appliqué piece which would be an alternative to a tiger rug.  I would love to have a go at this if I had time.