Monday, 27 June 2016

Out & About: Glasgow Botanic Gardens


Each of the C&G Patchwork and Quilting courses I run have a four day summer school in June.  The two Certificate Groups each had a day out to the Botanic Gardens so we could be inspired, learn to look and to sketch.  

The weather couldn't have been more different between the two days.  For the first group it drizzled and wasn't very pleasant, making drawing outside interesting, especially if water soluble pencils were being used!  However, we spent some fantastic time in the green houses and the Keble Palace fernery. 

The second group struck lucky with the weather and I ended up with mild sunburn.  However, this meant that the glasshouses were not conducive to spending lots of time in them as they were so hot... and we are Scottish and not used to it.

The aim wasn't to create beautiful drawings, but useful sketches and ideas to then move into fabric.  And this was definitely achieved by both groups. 

Although beforehand some were a bit hesitant about drawing in public, I think everyone enjoyed it and we all agreed that you see so much more when you slow down and attempt to draw something rather than just snapping with your camera and thinking you'll do something with it later.  At least if you have tried to draw it when you come to do something later you understand it better.
The plants had been watered just before I took this photo
Having said all that, all of these images are photos that I took!  I did do some drawing as well, although, of course, I was there to teach the others, not to spend time coming up with new ideas myself.  I have already made some more drawings based on my photos and initial sketches and some thermofax screens of poppies.  So I've got plenty of ideas to work on over the summer when I'm having a break from teaching... not that I will have that much time as the kids are off from school!







Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Inspiration: Celts at the National Museum of Scotland

Tis the season of summer schools here.  With the first Diploma Group we had a trip to the Wemyss School of Needlework and the Fife Folk Museum.  Both the Certificate Groups are having a day at the Botanic Gardens in Glasgow (more to follow).  For the other Diploma Group, I thought long and hard about where to go, before settling on the National Museum of Scotland, because there is something for everyone there.  Everyone went their own way to explore and sketch and we met at lunchtime to exchange inspiration.  
Celts exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland
Whilst we were there, I went to the special exhibition on the Celts.  It continues until 25 September 2016, so there is still time to visit it if you can.  And you should!
The exhibition guided you through the idea of the Celts and their place in Europe from the earliest times right up to the revivals in the 19th and 20th Century.  The degree of interpretations was fascinating, from who viewed themselves as Celts and when the whole concept of the Celtic world was born.  The variety of objects was fantastic and there were many which totally fascinated me.  In particular, I loved the patterns and the repeats and how the shapes hinted at animals and objects without being totally explicit.  Unfortunately, no photography was allowed, although there are a couple of images on the website - http://www.nms.ac.uk/national-museum-of-scotland/whats-on/celts/ 
pages from my very rough sketchbook
As the aim in taking the students was to encourage them to sketch, I felt obliged to do the same.  
More pages of quick sketches
However, it is the patterns on one object that really grabbed me - one which I couldn't really sketch at the time as it was circular in nature and circles are notoriously difficult to draw freehand. So when I got home, I got out the compass and drew the interesting pattern.  I scanned it and reprinted a couple of variations to try colouring in.  
I know colouring in is very popular at the moment, but those detailed colouring in books would drive me nuts.  I can't stay within the lines and all that concentration, just to be ruined by not being accurate enough...  
Coloured in with felt tip pens
I didn't mind doing these, but I did realise it would be a lot quicker on the computer, so that's where the second lot came from.  And all the colour is within the lines!
Versions from on the computer - nicer colours too
I've now moved into fabric, but that is for another post as it is in early stages.  I know where it is going, but all you can see at the moment is the insipid under layers.  

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Books about British Quilt History

After our day out last week for the Diploma Summer School, we spent three days in the studio, enjoying historical quilts and getting frustrated with mathematical sequences and progressions!  Lesley, a reader of this blog, asked about books on British Quilt History and as this is something we have just been doing, I have all the information to hand for a blog post.  This is not a definitive list of books on British Quilt History, just ones I have in my collection and which I have found useful.  


This is the book I refer to the most.  Well written and researched, with many images.  Something strange is happening with my images, so either you are seeing this book twice or not at all!  Apologies.  It is Janet Rae's The Quilts of the British Isles in case it is not showing up.
Traditional British Quilts: Dorothy Osler
Not a recent book, but for me, the one where all the interest in the history of British Quilting kind of started from.  Since it was written, much more research has been undertaken and more information has been discovered, but still a great starting point.

Patchwork and Quilting (Shire Library) by [Audin, Heather]
Part of the Shire Library series of short books, primarily on subjects you never imagined anyone would write about!  A good short introduction, written by the curator of the Quilters' Guild Collection

A great exhibition and a lovely catalogue, with large full colour photos and lots of essays written by different people, with different views and approaches.
Another good exhibition and related catalogue

The journal of the British Quilt Study Group of the Quilters' Guild, published annually contains papers presented at its conference on a wide variety of quilting matters past and present.

This book is titled, you just can't see it on the cover!  It is Making Connections by Janet Rae and Dinah Travis, all about the history of log cabin quilts


At the less scholarly end, the relatively new magazine Today's Quilter has had a couple of supplements about different aspects of  British quilt history over the past year, often abridged from books.

Most of these books are available on Amazon.  A word of warning: the prices on Amazon can be a little bit bizarre as some of these books are out of print and don't get offered on Amazon often.  You should be able to pick them up second hand for under £10 each.

A book that I don't have, but which I would like to own as it is very informative:


And finally, coming out later this month, so I haven't read it, but I do have it on order:

Jan has written a number of books on British quilting, and I know she has put a considerable amount of research into this, her latest title.  I can't wait to get my hands on it.

Which books have I missed or that you find informative?  Are there any gaps in the documentation of British quilting history that you think need to be addressed?

Friday, 3 June 2016

Out & About: Wemyss School of Needlework and Fife Folk Museum

Log Cabin Quilt at Fife Folk Museum
As part of the C&G Diploma in Patchwork and Quilting that I am teaching, the students are required to produce an illustrated history of the past two hundred years of patchwork and quilting.  This is an area that interests me and I have a number of books on the subject, but no actual examples for them to examine.  And seeing real quilts brings it to life.  So the hunt was on to find some antique quilts reasonably locally.  Whilst Glasgow Museums has a great collection of embroidery, there are not many quilts in their collection and apparently it is very hard to get an appointment to view them (I'm willing to be corrected and visit the collection if I've got this wrong!). 
One of my students in the other Diploma class, Catherine Palmer, had been investigating where she could see quilts and had made a visit to Fife Folk Museum last year, where a lovely volunteer, Margaret, had looked out all the information she could find on the quilts in their collection.   So I got in touch and on Tuesday we went to see the quilts.  As it is a bit of a distance from here, we combined it with a trip to Wemyss School of Needlework, which is relatively close by.  Wemyss does not have a huge collection of quilts, but it is also good to be aware of other forms of stitching and they had some lovely examples of embroidery.  
Viewing at Wemyss School of Needlework
The sun shone and it felt like a bit of a road trip - especially when the sat nav on my phone directed us to the waste transfer station in another village 15 minutes away!  
However, when we finally got to Wemyss, there was a lovely sense of calm in the 
Workroom.  
More of Wemyss School of Needlework
On the huge table there were some examples of quilting laid out for us, along with some exquisite embroidery and records of the people who made them.  Fiona Wemyss gave a great talk, setting the collection in context and then we were free to look around for a closer examination.  Photos of specific textiles were not allowed, but general shots were, which is what I have here.  There was also a well stocked embroidery shop, which was raided by many of the students (and me!).
Enjoying the sunshine at Ceres
On to Ceres, to Fife Folk Museum, and they had not fibbed when they told me it had a great cafe!  The cakes were wonderful.  We had a private viewing of the quilts which had been specially hung by some of the volunteers.  We had a lovely session examining the quilts and the records in detail, sharing our knowledge of quilts with the volunteers, whilst they filled us in on the history that accompanied those quilts.  
Unflattering student photo at Fife Folk Museum
My photos are not great or numerous as my phone battery was almost dead by this point!  
Blurry photo of a lovely hexagon quilt at Fife Folk Museum.  I got very excited by the red fabric, which had lots of regular holes in it - where a different colour dye has eaten the fabric
I'd highly recommend a visit to either place and will definitely be revisiting the Fife Folk Museum soon - it had lots of other interesting things to see, but we ran out of time.  Well, actually, we chose to have coffee and cake rather than running round the other galleries!
This silk quilt at the Fife Folk Museum had a lovely paisley shawl as its backing

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Adding some bling

I have been teaching from my home studio for a year now.  I thought I would enjoy it, but have been surprised at just how much I love it.  Part of this is due to experimenting and constantly challenging myself to learn new things to share with the students, but it is mainly due to the students themselves.  They are lovely - so inspiring, experimental, enthusiastic and (mostly) with a great sense of humour.

One of my lovely students, Pat Grant, has just been on a Colouricious trip to India, which she greatly enjoyed.  At the last meeting of her Certificate Group, as well as showing us the amazing photos from her holiday, she gave us all a little goodie bag of textile things as a little gift.  I told you I had fabulous students.
My bag of goodies

Inspired by the bag, which to be honest contained things I would never normally chose to work with, and also by others in her group who just seem to produce work at a fantastically quick rate, I decided I need to make something using all the bits in the bag.
The contents of the bag


I thought blues and purples would go well with the contents, so I made the backgrounds on firm sew-in Vilene, using transfer paints.  Having cut them to size, I then did the 'easy' bit first - printed on top of it using the little print block.  It was a lovely block and the repeats worked well.  I initially tried silver acrylic, but my silver (from The Works) was too watery and didn't show on the blue.  So I used black.  That showed up!
The first piece


I then stitched on the gold braid-ribbon.  This is the part that challenged me most.  On both pieces I ended up stitching into it with other colours as I struggle with 'bling'!  As I was trying hard to use sparkles, I added some sequins on the first piece and some small beads from my own collection, before finishing it with the giant silver tassel.
The second piece


I decided to add more detail on the second piece, and added some hand dyed knit along the bottom.  More ribbon was added to tie it in and make a more cohesive piece.  I attached the mirror to some chiffon using a shisha embroidery stitch and then stitched that in place.  

I'm not sure that these pieces are very successful, but it was really good to try something so outwith my comfort zone!  I have a collection of beads and bling, but I never really use them as they don't feel obvious to me, so it is a positive learning experience to use them, although I may not be using them again for a while!


Friday, 20 May 2016

8 Things to do with an old copy of World of Interiors


I love paper and I love magazines.  Our house is groaning full with both, but I do find it hard to throw out possibly useful bits of paper and gorgeous old magazines.  I've been trying to be a bit tidier and more organised recently and cull some old magazines, but I do find it very hard to just put them in the recycling bin, so I've been trying to use them in artwork.  Here is a list of what I have done with just one copy of World of Interiors.  

You can do a lot with a single magazine, so it isn't really helping with the tidying, but it does make me feel a bit more justified in holding on to it for so long (it is the December 2011 edition).

Do you have any more ideas to add to the list?



  1. Make envelopes
    Don't you think one of these would be so much nicer to receive in the post than a plain brown or white one?  I'm just using a white sticky label to add the address


  2. Labels
    I love little tags and was delighted when I discovered you could buy cutters to make them the perfect shape.  So beautiful photos give beautiful tags.  I've also been making collages from them.


  3. Paper piecing templates
    I ran a workshop on hexagons at the K&S Show in Edinburgh earlier this month and all the hexagon templates were cut from this magazine.  I find the paper in it is the perfect weight for me to work with.  Some people like their templates thicker but I find it too difficult to stitch through.


  4. Glue sheet
    I always need a spare piece of paper to use in the background when I'm glueing.  A magazine is perfect as you can just fold the pages together when it gets too sticky and move onto the next page.
  5. Pages in a book
    I've been making little books recently and carefully selected sheets of the magazine make lovely pages when interspersed with plainer paper.


  6. Collage
    Instant great colour, what could be easier than making a collage from these pages, especially when you cut or rip it up in such a way as the images become indistinct.
  7. Backgrounds
    One of my students (thanks Chrystine!) discovered that when you paint over a glossy magazine page with dark ink, some colours don't take the ink and so remain shining through giving a lovely background to work with.
  8. Inspiration
    This one is almost so obvious it goes without saying.  The colour combinations, the lovely interiors, beautiful gardens, photos from exhibitions and books and the general styling are always very inspiring to make other work from.













Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Out & About at Highland Quilters

The only downside about working from home now is that I don't leave the village very much.  It is too easy just to stay put, especially as most things are at least 30-40 minutes away.  So I was very pleased when Highland Quilters in Inverness invited me to give a talk and run some workshops for them.
Luckily the weather improved on Thursday as I set off, so I had a great drive and even managed to go for a short work near Aviemore on route.  I also had to have another break as I had forgotten to take shoes with me as I had put on old trainers to take the kids to school.  They really were not suitable to be seen!
A design in progress
The talk was appreciated and on the Friday I had the group painting to music, rolling dice and sticking tissue paper.  All perfectly normal quilting activities! 
Getting the fabric laid out
In the afternoon, we progressed to fabric, looking at how to recreate our designs with small pieces.
Stitched overnight
There were some lovely quilt designs as a result of this and one of the group had even managed to start stitching her piece before the next day's workshop!
Culloden Battlefield
As the hall Highland Quilters used was near Culloden, I managed a quick visit to the battlefield site after the workshop. 
Culloden Moor

It was very quiet and beautiful and much more atmospheric than my trip to the site of the Battle of Hastings.  The wind, the marshes and the lack of sight at points all added to the sense of place.
Stitching the scraps together
The second day, I shared my scrap piecing methods and we then painted the quilts with watery fabric paint to pull it all together.  After attacking the quilts will hair dryers to speed up drying, we then added details in Markal paintstiks.  
Highland Quilters at the end of the Scrap Piecing for Art Quilts Workshop

I did remember to take photos of this session, including my first ever cheesy shot of all the workshop participants holding their pieces at the end!


Spring Gorse











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