, , ,

Cuckoo Bush Quilters

A couple of weeks ago I went to my mother’s quilting group’s exhibition in Gotham, Notts.  This is Goat-ham not Gotham, home of Batman.  It’s got its own Wise Men of Gotham lore in which the inhabitants acted like fools to stop a royal visit which would have meant opening up the road to the village which they didn’t want to do.  One of the foolish activities they undertook was to hedge in a cuckoo and the village commemorates the very spot where this was supposed to have happened.  The spot turns out to be a neolithic burial ground.

There is also an 18C nursery rhyme:

Three wise men of Gotham,
They went to sea in a bowl,
And if the bowl had been stronger
My song would have been longer.

And so it goes on.  The villagers are very proud of this tradition of feigning idiocy to avoid inconvenience.  I once worked for a boss who had an ‘I’m a simple country lad from Bridgwater’ routine which threw people off the scent of his really quite forensic brain.  I am, however, digressing.

The exhibition was held in the local church as you can see from the above photograph.  The medieval historian had been lured in with the promise of tea and homemade cake, but was actually quite interested in the church itself, which, it appears has some fine tombs and some very early stonework.  And there were indeed cakes.

It was a lovely exhibition because it was a good group show.  I like exhibitions where everyone is included and where there are displays of different quilts coming out of the same workshops or group challenges.  This show was nice because so many of the quilts were draped over the pews and various sofas, so it gave it a kind of cosy nomad tented feel.  By this I mean that you could imagine reclining on all the soft quilts, and then being able to pack them up and be on your way following the herd or going to the next oasis or whatever your nomadic tribe got up to.

I very much liked this quilt which was draped over some choir stalls:

I love the vintage placement and all over design with a modern palette.  It is wrong, really, to single out one piece, but it is the one that I would have taken home with me.

Really, though, this was about my mother showing off her quilt.  Now this quilt has been hanging about in various stages of construction for years.  In the end, I said I would take it and get it long-arm-quilted for her so that it would get finished.  I also did the binding and the hanging sleeve, so I like to think that I made a contribution to it.  It’s called Scherenschnitte after the paper cutting technique, where you fold paper and cut to make symmetrical snowflakes:

This is not a brilliant photograph because the lighting was not the greatest on a really rainy day, but it gives you an idea of the layout.  It is all hand appliqué:

But, I have to give a load of credit to Frances Meredith who did the quilting.  That perfectly fitting circular motif was just gorgeous, as was the extravagant feather border:

She took something that we really just wanted to see that back of and made it into a stunning piece which was greatly admired.  She even told me the fabric range that the main blue fabric came from so that I could find the dark blue binding to match.  I cannot recommend her services highly enough.  Her business is called Faberdashery and she is a joy to work with.

So, a success all round, and we also won a raffle prize which turned out to be some lovely fat quarters from the Moda Grunge range.

, , ,

Yet more recycled fabric

This is one of those pieces that I am making but have no idea why.  I am just really enjoying stitching together these tiny scraps leftover from the leftovers of leftovers.  I think after this I might finally have to throw the scraps away.  I think it has the spirit of boro: never wasting anything, and if there is a gap finding a piece of fabric to cover it and then stitching it down.

It is put together on curtain lining scraps with embroidery floss which is turning out to be my current favourite thread:

 

I don’t really know what to do with it.  I might cut it up and make it into another dog or a bird:

It will be quite big when it’s finished.

I think it’s a form of crazy patchwork although the wadding is already on the fabric which has been machine quilted.  It’s quite hard on the wrists, though.

, , ,

Boro blocks

Making stuff is great, and making samples just try out a technique is also satisfying, but there is often the question of what to do with them afterwards.  I was walking past a house in my neighbourhood which had a pile of oddments of bits of pine from some home improvement job.  They were left outside the house, and it is a custom in the area where I live that we leave stuff out that we are happy to give away.  Fortunately, I had a backpack and so I took them away because it struck me that they were just about the right size for my boro samples.

It was really strange quite how well they fitted together.  The boro is just the tiniest bit bigger in most cases.  The one with turquoise beads was cut to length but otherwise they just paired up.

I sanded the wood a bit and then was going to paint them with trendy Farrow and Ball colours, but I had a can of off-white chalk spray paint which I had bought to do up another street find, and I used that.  This really speeded up the process, and, because I gave them a light spray the blocks looked a bit like they have been limed.  Once they were dry I stuck the textile to the wood with a generous dollop of PVA glue.

This one is made with an off-cut from a  red and white quilt I trimmed with some hand-embroidered laisy daisy vine wandering between the two boro patches.

This is made from scraps of sari fabric, worked with perle cotton.

This is a combination I really like of blue and orange.  The orange beads are from a broken necklace from a charity shop.  The orange thread is perle crochet cotton which I dyed for my boro workshop.

I am not quite sure about this one as it is a little pouch.  I suppose it could be a money box

This is probably my favourite.  Lots of Tula Pink fabric and some turquoise beads.  I like the colour combination.

Grouped together I think they look particularly nice.  After the workshop, I will be putting them into my Etsy shop.

, ,

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.

, ,

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.

 

,

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.

 

 

 

 

, , , , ,

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.