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











Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Hexagons Galore


Five years ago, I wrote a blog post about starting a hexagon quilt.  I was making it purely for my own pleasure and I wanted to make it for our large double bed.  I had calculated I would need over 2,000 hexagons and it would take me at least 18 months.  Well, that was me being hopelessly over-optimistic as normal!  Five years later and the quilt is still in progress.  Realistically, it is going to take me another five years.
In progress
The process is slow, but satisfying and it is perfect for picking up and stitching now and again.  Mainly I have been stitching on long drives (when I am the passenger!) and on holiday.  It would be great for sewing in front of the TV, but I don't often sit in front of the TV that long at the moment.  It goes in fits and starts.
My hexagon kit
I keep the ongoing pieces in a little pencil case, but the actual top is now getting a bit bulky, so can only be stitched at home.  I worked out the best way of piecing - I make the rosettes, with a central red hexagon, then two full rounds of hexagons and I add 8 white hexagons on one side.  I had played around with the layout trying to work out the best way as I didn't want to be stitching just white hexagons for months on end as I near completion.
An individual section ready to be added to the quilt
I taught hexagons, along with layer and slashing and fabric postcards at the new Knitting and Stitching Show in Edinburgh at the weekend.  It was a lovely event, and great to share my passions with other stitchers.  I also enjoyed catching up with friends old and new.  I had to make a little sample for the hexagon workshop and thought I could just use a piece of the larger quilt in progress... except it didn't look right, so I had a very pleasant day on last Wednesday just hand stitching this piece.
The sample I made this week
I have also started a couple of other little hexagon projects and have paper to make a diamond quilt.  But really, I need to just concentrate and get this one finished... in about five years time.










Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Out & About - North East Embroiderers' Guild Weekend


Love the leaves and the contrasting colour added around them
Things have been wonderfully busy for the past month - lots of exciting teaching, some days away with the family over the Easter holidays in the North Yorks Moors, a little bit of experimenting with my new heat press and even more teaching.  All great fun, but it means I haven't had much time to blog (sorry Mum).  So time to rectify that and get blogging again and I'm going to start by telling you about my fabulously intense time with the North East (of England) Embroiderers' Guild at their spring school in one of the colleges of Durham University.  The course was called 'Print, Paint, Play' - try saying it fast - not very easy!
Selection of one student's work
They started work on the Friday afternoon and when I arrived at about 10pm, as I had been teaching at home, there was still some activity going on in the room and a great start had been made using Inktense, along with a scavenger hunt for materials to print with.  Over the next two days, I introduced painting with thickened dyes, gelli plate printing and using Markal paintstiks.  
Love the black print on white fabric using a stencil
I was really impressed with all that they managed to create - very inspiring for me too, particularly in how they used stencils.  Normally I am working with quilters, so I thought that the embroiderers would approach things differently, but actually, I didn't see much difference.  Perhaps only that they were happy to make smaller panels and mount them rather than stitching them together into a larger piece.
Great interpretation of a cave painting theme
All of the photos in this post are of their work.  
Two different colourways of the same printed tatted bookmark
On the Saturday afternoon, there were a few hours off and I headed into the centre of Durham to visit the cathedral, a place I visited often in childhood.  My memory of it was surprisingly clear - even the cafe looked as I thought it would!  I was lucky and timed my visit so that I heard some of Evensong.  It was really calming and a lovely way to spend some down time whilst teaching so intensively.
Great use of a stencil over a print
Lovely surface
Looking at the work at the end of the weekend
Fab gelli plate print of found leaves.  We were looking rather longingly at the lovely big house plants in the college, but they were too healthy to have shed leaves!
Rubbing of honesty leaves over dyed fabric
Sometimes things are just more effective on black fabric than white

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Latest in the Muses - Unseen Time

Unseen Time by Gillian Cooper
This is my latest work, completed just in time for the Show at the SECC earlier this month.  Although it may look rather different, it continues on my Unsung Muses theme.
The design comes from a detail of the painting of a Cycladic figurine. 
One of my sketches of a Cycladic figure

Nowadays, when we see them in museums, they are gorgeous shaped pieces of stone, but originally they were painted in such details and colours that they would seem gaudy and garish to our eyes.  These details have been worn away by time, but due to some amazing science, archaeologists have been able to work out what they looked like - the different colour pigments in the paint apparently wore the stone down at different rates, so they can identify where was painted and in what colours.
I have been musing over this image for a long time and there are a number of different pieces in progress using it.  For this one, I pieced lots of bits of hand dyed, painted and stencilled fabric.
The pieced fabric
To get it to gel together, I overpainted it with gesso mixed with some ultramarine and burnt sienna paint.  This gave a lovely surface to work on.
The fabric overpainted
The painted detail was then added in Markal paintstik.  I used a mix of the matte and iridescent colours.  Once dried, I stitched around in, free machining in matching colours, adding some more licks of detail.  
Detail of Unseen Time by Gillian Cooper
Finally, I stitched in the patches to give more interest in the background.  As it had to fit in with Turning Point's Magnification collection, I cut it to size.  I've left it raw edged as I wanted that distinct edge - if I had bound or faced the edges, it would have made them too soft.  
I still don't think I've finished with this image - perhaps I will finish the other pieces based on it which are still in progress.









Monday, 14 March 2016

Things to do with Gelli Plate Prints - 3 Make Quilts

Having spent the other weekend at the SECC showing people how to use Gelli Plates and making lots more prints in the process, I thought it was time for another in the series of what to do with the prints once you have them.  This time I'm suggesting you make a quilt.
Bamboo Beauty by Gillian Cooper

This was one of my new quilts which was on show for the first time at the SECC as part of the Turning Point display and the background was made entirely from Gelli Plate Prints on fabric.
 I showed you how to Gelli Plate print in this blog post here, using the bamboo as an example.
 I deliberately printed onto dyed fabric as I seem to have something against white at the moment!  I had a big pile of prints on a variety of different fabrics.  
To make things easier for the piecing, I decided to piece them into columns.  Each column was a different width, but it stayed the same width all the way down.  I put the prints on my design wall to decide upon the layout, then pieced them all together.  I had intended to use a variety of fabrics, but in the end, I liked the simplicity of the prints on cotton.

Rather than add the different fabric prints, I added several pieces of sheer with bamboo leaf shapes cut out from it.

This is becoming like a game of spot the difference between the photos!  As the quilt was going in a group show, it had to be a specific size, so I trimmed it to fit.  I felt it needed something else on top.  I had always envisioned black bamboo on the top, but then I discovered my roll of purple and blue silk sari strips and fancied trying those.  I didn't think the colour contrast would be sufficient, but I really liked the strips, so wanted to give it a go.
I was right  - it didn't work!  Also, the shape of the leaves were not quite right, so I redrew it and cut it out of black fabric.  I will eventually Gelli Plate 
print a background for the purple/blue leaf.
I liked it a lot better and spent quite a time considering whether anything else was needed.  I decided to leave it (either less is more or I was worried about spoiling a quilt when I didn't have time to make another!).  All that needed to be added was the black binding.  Originally I was going to bind the edges using the same fabric as the prints, but it needed the black to pull in the leaf.
I now have several prints left over to play with further and lots of bamboo shoots cut out from sheers!

Monday, 7 March 2016

The Stitching and Quilting Show at the SECC, Glasgow

Unsung Muses at the SECC
Today I'm back in the studio after four very busy and fun days at the Stitching, Sewing and Quilting Show at the SECC.  That's a bit of a mouthful, so I'm just going to say 'Show' from now on!  Sorry for the quality of the photos - I just used my phone and it's getting a bit worn now.
Different view of the Unsung Muses
I took my Muses for an outing and they looked great against the black background - it was the first time I've seen them against black and it definitely worked and added something different.  Yesterday was Mothers' Day here in the UK and R bought the kids in to see the Show/me in the afternoon.  I haven't dared ask them about what they thought about the quilts, but their two purchases were cheese and chocolate!
My mad family, who came to visit and who can't stay still!
I had a table set up with info about my work and also about my classes.  I'm going to offer the C&G in Creative Sketchbooks in my studio starting in September, so it was good to be able to tell visitors about that and my other one and two day courses.
Rachel getting ready to gelli plate print
I also took my gelli plate and Markal paintstiks and my friend, Rachel, and I spent the four days demonstrating how wonderful they were.  Amazingly, we kept the mess under control and I now have a fabulous array of prints on paper and fabric to work with.
Some of my prints now waiting to be used
I was selling both the gelli plates and Markals and intended to put an A4 sheet in with each of them so that anyone who purchased them would know what to do when they got home.  I got a bit carried away and ended up writing a 20 page full colour booklet on each technique instead.  I'll be adding them to my website soon.  
The Turning Point exhibition - can you tell which one is mine on these photos?
My two newest pieces were in the Turning Point display, which was lovely (more details on them in a later blog post).
More of the Turning Point Quilts
It was also great to see so many of my students there and to see their work in the competition and on other stands.  In particular, a mega congratulations to Senga Bain for winning the art quilt category with her parrot quilt.  It was magnificent. 
Senga Bain's award winning quilt
So now I'm in the Show aftermath, with all my work/junk back in the Studio and I need to get it all sorted before the next class on Thursday, when I'm running a two day course in Sketchbooking.  

Ellen Griffith

Pamela Docherty

More of the Muses

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