Tuesday, 19 May 2015

8 easy steps to a wonky-ish log cabin quilt

Friday’s class was all about Inktense and we had an interesting time exploring it on fabric and paper.  Yet again, I forgot to take any pictures.  Oops.  Must add it to my lesson plans to remind me!  This week is a design day, coming up with random ways to make unusual abstract quilts.  It’s going to be entertaining!

Apart from my classes and making new work, I’ve been rather occupied making a new baby quilt.  It is a while since I’ve made one and it was fun to be back making a more traditional quilt.  As you can see from the photos, the new baby is a girl (our great niece), which meant the quilt took a bit longer.  I have lots of blues etc I can use in a quilt, but absolutely no pink.  So a special shopping trip had to be made. 
Lovely view out of the window!
I love log cabin quilts and playing around with the format and this is what I did for this quilt.  It measures 36 x 48in and was made from only 9 fat quarters, including the binding.  Here’s how I did it (in a very quick 8 steps):
1.   Use one fabric for the centres and cut 12 3½in squares
Use one fabric for the binding and cut into as many 2in strips as you can get.  Join these strips together into one long strip, which can then be made into double fold binding.
2.   From the remaining 7 FQs, cut each one into a variety of 1½in, 2½in and 3½in squares.
3.   Choose the 3 lightest FQs and use these for the first two rounds of adding strips and use the remaining 4 for rounds 3&4.
4.   I tried to be organised so that no colour would end up being repeated in the same block, so each of the 3 lightest FQs were used on 4 centres each, varying the width of the strips.  Then each of these 4 centres had a different colour for rounds 3&4.  It sounds a bit complicated, but it is obvious when you are doing it.
5.   I made all the blocks at least 13½in square (I had to join a couple of smaller off cuts for the final rounds).  Some have two complete rounds, others three.  I then placed my 12½in ruler at an angle on the block and trimmed to size.
6.   The blocks were placed on my design wall and moved until I was happy with the arrangement and then I stitched them together.
7.   I followed the shapes of the blocks and free-machine quilted lines within them, before adding the binding.
quilt laid out on the floor
One very cute little baby girl now has her quilt to do with as she wishes, but hopefully she will have as much enjoyment as my kids have from theirs.  Even now, they are still on beds and are used as tents, rugs and princess capes!

Monday, 11 May 2015

Switching exhibition venues

Unsung Muses at Farfield Mill
Yesterday saw the end of my exhibition at Farfield Mill and whilst it was lovely to see it again, it was also sad to take it down as it looked so fantastic in that space.  As I had to be there anyway, I ran a workshop for them called ‘Print, Paint, Play!’ and I had a marvellous day with a wonderful group of ladies who worked incredibly hard using gelli plates and then adding paint on top with Inktense and Markal.  
Gelli plate prints from workshop
It’s great when you learn something on a workshop you are teaching (it happens virtually every time).  The lesson for me yesterday was that metallic paint can be used really well, without over-powering a piece.  I tend to avoid glitz at all costs.  I shudder at gold lame!  However, watching the students yesterday using the copper and gold paint was fantastic and I will definitely have to start trying to use it subtly. 
Great use of gold metallic paint!

So the Unsung Muses are now mainly on the tables in my studio, waiting to be put away until  – apart from the four which are already hanging in their next show.  As part of Forth Valley Open Studios, they are in the Pop Up exhibition at the Tolbooth,Stirling.  
Unsung Muses at the Tolbooth
The exhibition opens on Saturday and if you are in the area on Friday night, please come to the Private View from 6-8pm.  I’m intending to be there – three little monsters permitting!
Unsung Muses at the Tolbooth

Last Friday’s class in the studio was also on gelli plate printing and, again, there were some amazing results, particularly from using leaves.  However, I was so busy, I forgot to take any photos of their work.  Mental note for this Friday’s class on Inktense!  [small plug – there are still some places available on the next three Fridays if you live nearby and fancy trying Inktense or improving your design or stitching skills...]
Printing in action

More gelli plate printed fabric

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

How to: ice dye fabric

Iced dyed cotton
I’m sure that like me, most of us just want to see summer and enjoy some sun.  We’ve had some bizarre weather here recently: last week it was warm, dry and sunny; this week it is sleeting and pretty miserable.  I was too busy taking the kids sledging when we had a small amount of snow this winter to do any snow dyeing and as I was teaching a dyeing class last week, I thought it would be fun to try ice dyeing.  I know – it would have been more optimistic to do sun printing!
Iced dyed cotton muslin
I found a little bit on the web about ice dyeing, but not a huge amount of detail, so I thought I would share my experiences with you to add to the general knowledge out there.
Iced dyed cotton
You need a container to hold the fabric and ice and then something underneath for the excess dye water to run into so it doesn’t muddy the fabric.  Most people use some kind of rack over a sink, but I didn’t have a rack, so I used a foil tray bake tray in which I punched some holes with a scalpel knife.  It worked really well.  I balanced it over an Ikea storage box.
Iced dyed cotton
First I soda-ashed the fabric and it seemed to work better if you left the fabric wet rather than using dried fabric.  I placed this in the bottom of the tray, all scrunched up.  I poured a bag of ice over the top, making sure that the fabric was covered.  Some people use crushed ice, but these were cubes and I didn’t break them down.  Finally, gently pour some concentrated dye liquid over the ice cubes.  For one of the experiments, I sprinkled dye powder directly onto the ice, but I’m not particularly comfortable with having the dye particles floating around my studio and even after the ice had dissolved there were still some lumps of powder left.  I also don’t think the result was that different, so it is better to use the safer method.
Iced dyed cotton muslin using dye powder
And that’s it!  You just leave it overnight until all the ice cubes have melted and the excess dye has dripped through.  Wash the fabric out in cold water.  The excess dye is still good for dipping another fabric in and it already has soda ash in it.  That’s what I used for my original shibori dyeing.
Iced dyed cotton

The students on Friday also had a go and some of their results were fantastic.  I can’t wait to show them.  The next couple of Friday classes are Screen Printing on 1 May and Gelli Plate Printing on 8 May.  There are still a couple of places left so if you are in the area and want to join, please drop me an email or leave a comment.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Dyeing Day: 1st Workshop at Gillian Cooper Studio

Adding dye to the group ice dyeing pieces
‘Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start’ and what a better place to inaugurate my new home studio classes than with fabric dyeing – the start of most of my projects.
Shibori using elastic bands
We spent today experimenting with procion and cotton fabric.  We tried colour mixing, toning fabrics, dyeing in cups, over-dyeing fabric, shibori using elastic bands and set up ice dyeing.  I certainly enjoyed myself and I think the students did too!  It was lovely to have textile enthusiasts in my studio and to share my knowledge with them.  What’s so exciting about teaching any class in person is that it is a circular process - the students learn from me; they learn from each other and I learn from them.   I’m really pleased with how my demonstration samples turned out and I can’t wait to see how the students’ pieces work out after they have been washed out.  Most of them are doing next week’s class too (though there are still a few spaces available!) and so I will get to see the results then.
Twice dyed
Even better is I still have some dyes made up so I can do some more over the weekend.  Also the tidying up wasn’t as painful as I expected and I didn’t have to cook dinner for the family as we had the leftover soup and homemade bread from the lunch.  I think I am going to enjoy teaching from home!
Dyed in a cup
Working hard
Some of the ice dyeing melting away

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Studio makeover all over, so let the work commence

The new look TIDY studio
I promise this will be my last post about tidying my studio because.... IT’S FINISHED!!!!  Okay, you still can’t access the shower in the spare bedroom, but no-one needs to for another three weeks, so that’s fine.
Part of my bookcase, with organised books
I am writing this at one of my lovely new desks, sitting on a very comfortable new swivel seat, surrounded by all my things, which are in all the right places, apart from what is currently being used.  I am definitely having that post tidy up problem of not being able to find anything as I reorganised where most things went, but at least I had the foresight to stick ugly labels besides everything to remind myself.
Useful window ledge
Tidying and cleaning are not talents I’ve ever shone at and having reached the ripe old age of 40+something, I have decided to live with it rather than get upset at the mess and my inability to deal with it.  But... having got it this tidy and with teaching from my home, I’m looking forward to the minimum standard of tidiness and cleanliness being significantly higher than over the last five years.  Fingers crossed anyway.
Very ugly labeling
One delight of tidying up (and it has been this way for me, ever since my teens), is rediscovering lost books, or even, books I had forgotten I even owned.  This time was no exception and I was thrilled to see these two resurface.
Rediscovered book 1
Rediscovered book 2

Right.  Tidying - done.  Notes written for first class on Friday – done.  Time to get back to the fun stuff of creating!

Neatly organised threads

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Groundhog Day Studio

My studio reorganisation - ongoing...
I would love to be showing you photos of my latest pieces of work and how I am developing the next stage of Unsung Muses. Unfortunately I'm still stuck in studio reorganisation Groundhog Day.  Apparently to keep me positive I'm meant to focus on what I've accomplished. 
The tables and chairs before I emptied the cupboards.  Going to look good
The tables and chairs have all been constructed and are in the room, on top of the beautifully repainted floor. New shelves are up. I've worked out where the ironing board can go. 
More mess
I've also emptied out lots of cupboards so I can reorganise where things are stored, so I can now no longer see my beautiful new tables and chairs!  
Usefully sharpened pencils

Oh I have sharpened lots of my pencils. A very useful thing to do!

But it feels like an insurmountable mountain just now – never ending and I just want to make some artwork – draw or stitch or something.  I was trying to hold off to make sure I got the tidying done, but this morning I finally gave in, cleared a bit of a desk, got out my sketchbook and pastels and started this drawing. 

The start of a drawing
I couldn't take it any longer - I needed to create something other than mess and reorganisation!  This drawing still needs a number of hours of attention, however, I think I am going to have to get on with tidying... again!

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Painful progress: setting up my new studio

There are two things in life with which I struggle: tidying (and cleaning) and admin.  The last week has been full of them both.
Furniture waiting to be made for Gillian Cooper Studio

I desperately want to start making again now my exhibition is up, but before I am allowing myself to do that, I need to get my studio organised for teaching.  In the abstract this is really exciting.  In reality, it is a bit of a nightmare because I need to tidy, organise and do the admin.  The teaching bit will be fun as is designing the classes, but removing all my stuff from the studio and working out what goes where – not really in my skill set!  I did start last week with good intentions and I was making slow progress, but on Saturday, I was ordered by R to stop pfaffing about, take everything out and start from an empty shell adding in only what was required.  This was a nice idea, but of course, where do we store everything in the meantime?  So we got as far as removing everything that was on the floor.  The playroom now has an extra table, the hall the embroidery thread unit, the kitchen the comfy chair and the spare bedroom and its en-suite bathroom are full of sewing machines, boxes of fabric and dyeing stuff.  What R has forgotten is last time he suggested this approach was when we had the studio built four years ago and I’m still emptying my stuff out of the old room I used as a studio.  This has become urgent as it is being turned into a kids bedroom (why does everything happen at once?!), so goodness knows when I will see any of these rooms again!
One of the less flattering photos ever of me!

At least it has meant that I got the floor in the studio repainted on Sunday.  I was fired up to get all the new furniture in, but I can’t for at least 72 hours.  So come tomorrow evening, hopefully the studio will look like a new teaching one, even if all the tidying and sorting needs to continue.  Any good tidying tips anyone?  Please do not suggest not buying in the first place or binning everything.  I know that and it is not pretty to watch a grown woman cry!
Just to prove I did the floor myself

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Video of Unsung Muses at Farfield Mill

This is a video of Unsung Muses at Farfield Mill.  [Please note it will not work on Apple products.  Trying to sort out this new technical difficulty]


As I said in my earlier post, I stupidly shot it vertically rather than horizontally as I was shooting it on my phone and the figures are vertical, so it seemed the best way to do it.  Luckily, thanks to a simple google search (“how do I rotate a video”), I found a way to turn it round.   
There is no sound beyond my gentle/spooky footsteps – I didn’t want to add a commentary and my next task is to find a website that has the right type of music to play in the background.  I have a strong sense of what that soundscape should be, but being one degree off tone-deaf, I can’t communicate it to anyone.  It is one of my ambitions though to work with a musician to create an overall exhibition experience, assaulting both sight and sound.  Anyone know of someone daft enough to want to work with me?

This is only my second attempt at video, we rarely even video the kids, preferring to photograph, but it is the best way to document an exhibition like this.  So my goal for my next one I suppose is to add some commentary – do you feel it needs it?

Monday, 23 March 2015

Inspiration: everyday materials, sheep, exhibitions, talks... and Ikea!

I haven’t written an ‘inspiration’ blogpost for a while – I’ve been so busy making the work I was already inspired about and getting everything to exhibition standard, which also involves remembering to pack things like staple guns and labels.

So now that the exhibition is up, I feel I can get back to normal and start looking again and get inspired, rather than have tunnel vision and just focus on the show.

On Friday morning when I went to photograph the exhibition, it was a beautifully sunny spring morning.  I intended to go for a walk in the countryside in my inappropriate footwear (see I was too focussed on the exhibition), but instead I was distracted by this tractor and other old industrial, rusting machinery in one of the workshops besides Farfield Mill.  I think they are wonderful.

I did also make it into the fields because I felt I should and the sheep were just crying out (or baa-ing) to be photographed!

On my way home from Farfield, I dropped into the 62 Group’s exhibition at the Upfront Gallery, near Penrith.  There were some interesting pieces, particularly by Catherine Dormor and Hannah Lamb, but unfortunately no photos were allow so I can’t share them with you.

Saturday was also a lovely sunny day, which I spent in the company of the delightful ladies of East, Midlothian and Borders Area of the Quilters’ Guild.  I always intend to take photos of these events, but then I’m so busy delivering the talk (this time about how I get from inspiration to finished quilt) and then discussing the individual pieces with the quilters that I forget.  Anyway, they were great and some of them even enjoyed my lame jokes.

On the way home I popped into Ikea to buy the furniture I need to turn my studio into a teaching space.  This week is going to be spent tidying out the studio and then, hopefully, putting the furniture together – wish me luck – I think I’ll need it!

Friday, 20 March 2015

Solo exhibition at Farfield Mill

Unsung Muses by Gillian Cooper at Farfield Mill
I'm feeling a bit de-mob happy today. My exhibition at Farfield Mill is on the walls and hanging from the ceiling.  I'm really pleased with how it looks - obviously you are entitled to your own opinion. And so after several very intense months, the pressure is off slightly and I'm going to have a day or two off and relax.  Bliss!
Unsung Muses by Gillian Cooper at Farfield Mill

It is a lovely feeling seeing the work at Farfield as it is a beautiful, well lit large space and I was able to place the figures where I wanted - no restrictions due to where the lines could be tied off.  The figures have space to breathe, but still have a 'conversation' with each other.  I had fun yesterday taking photos of them through the middles of other ones.  
Unsung Muses by Gillian Cooper at Farfield Mill
Sara, the centre manager, was a fabulous help at hanging the work.  Bizarrely, it was where to put the wall pieces that caused more issues than the figures.  I think this is because they have been made over a period and so keep developing, whereas the figures, even though there are three new ones, have stayed pretty static in concept.  
Unsung Muses by Gillian Cooper at Farfield Mill

I made a short, unpolished video on my phone, so you could get a feel for the exhibition, but I shot it vertically and when I try to load it onto the blog, it is showing sideways...  I tried making some videos on my expensive camera with a tripod, but they haven't worked - the movement is too jerky.  Another skill to work at when I have a moment!
Unsung Muses by Gillian Cooper at Farfield Mill

The exhibition is up until 10 May, so there is plenty of time to see it and there are another two special exhibitions on at the same time.  I'm also running a workshop at Farfield on 10 May and there are still some places available if you are interested. 
Unsung Muses by Gillian Cooper at Farfield Mill

Unsung Muses by Gillian Cooper at Farfield Mill, in the Foyer

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