Friday, 11 December 2009

Final 2009 Journal Quilts

I fell a bit behind on the journal quilts from the Popular Patchwork Challenge as this academic year I have 8 hours a week less child free, so it is a harder juggle at the moment. However, I wanted to finish and get actually achieve a new year's resolution for once, so I had one last push to get the remaining four done. I decided to make them of the same image to make it quicker and I liked my image of coral. It was, of course, too complicated to translate easily into an A4 sized quilt and I got two finished. I think I am going to have to admit defeat on the other two, which were appliqué and hand quilting.  The hand quilting one is underway, but I decided to use a thick thread, which made tiny stitches impossible (for me anyway) and so the design is not really showing up: it just looks like a jumble of stitches.  This is the image I was working from.  I spent quite a while manipulating it on the computer.

In the two I finished, the techniques were machine quilting and layering sheers.  I used an embellisher to layer the sheers over a painted background.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

New exhibitions coming up

A few weeks ago I was feeling a bit despondent, which is why I wasn't writing my blog.  I don't have much time to make new work and what was the point anyway if it was never going to get shown.  Perhaps that is why I have been making so much simple patchwork as it is pleasurable and generally appreciated, whereas with my artwork it sometimes seems a bit of a slog. 
Well, enough of feeling sorry for myself as amazingly I was contacted by the Changing Room in Stirling about my 37 steps piece and it is going to be shown there, as my first proper solo exhibition from 12 February to the end of March. In the same week, Duncan of Jordanstone got in touch about which pieces of my work are to be included in its Crafts Festival next year.  So my work does get shown.  I just need to spend more time promoting it and making it and less time feeling sorry for myself!

Monday, 7 December 2009

Cushion covers

Having made the flying geese blocks for the mystery quilt in the normal wasteful way, I had a collection of 128 yellow/red half square triangles just begging to be used.  So I made cushion covers with them.  I still have some left and I am thinking of making a box to hold finished blocks in rather than just leaving them around my studio getting creased and dusty.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Mystery Quilt

The Popular Patchwork revealing my mystery quilt goes on sale today, so I can finally show you what it looks like.  It is incredibly bright for a bed quilt, but I like strong colours.  The material is called a batik, but it is more of a tone on tone pattern, which makes the quilt less flat than the solid colour would have.  I don't make many large quilts, so I was pleased that this one was actually quite square when I checked it.  The design is just from playing with colours, initally on paper, but then I used EQ6 to check it on the computer.  It was useful to see as I could then make lots of small changes in the design quickly and so refine it.  It is not my normal sort of work, but it is good to just make something different every now and then and to prove to myself that I can do a version of traditional patchwork.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Cot quilt

While I know I should be concentrating on my art work in the few hours I have, it is easier to make quilts as there is more physical making and less thinking required, at least at the start. And when a friend has a much longed for baby, you just have to make a quilt. The baby arrived a few weeks early, before the quilt was started, so it was a rapid make, but he seems to like it now. I used fleece to make the circles to add a softness to it. The circles are to break up the squares a bit. Some of the fabrics came from Magie Relph's African Fabric Shop.  She has a lovely range of really brightly abstract patterned cottons amongst other great things, including beautiful wicker baskets.  I used fabrics from the quilt top for the binding, but looking at the photo now, I think I chose the wrong ones as it would probably look better with a darker edge. Still, I'm sure a new baby will not mind that and it was made to be used, not as an art object for contemplation in a gallery.  The picture is a bit wobbly as the light was low and this was the best place to photograph it before it got sent away.  The pattern probably be appearing in Popular Patchwork in a few months, when I finally get round to writing it.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Bringing the knit inside

The exhibition at the forest in Aberfoyle has finished and so it was time to remove the tree 'scarves'.  It was remarkably easy to unwind them and they were in surprisingly good condition.  Surprisingly no-one challenged us as we pulled the work from the trees.  Maybe the ladder made it look like we were meant to be doing it or did I just look like 'that sort of person'?!  There were some little beasties crawling across it, leaving silvery slug trails and some tree resin, especially where the staples had been, but no other major changes.  In fact, the biggest change was after I washed then as they felted some more and are now even shorter.
I loved having the work outside and recently I saw some images in a book (The Culture of Knitting by Jo Turney), of gigantic knitted cobwebs hanging between trees, which looked fantastic.  I hope I get the chance to sculpt some other knit for an outdoor exhibition again.

PS No little beasties were knowingly harmed or washed.   Can't tell you what they were as I'm not up on creepy crawlies.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Christmas is coming ... far too fast

I love Christmas, it brightens up a very cold and wet winter and allows us to have some fun.  In an ideal world, I would be making lots of handmade presents, but in reality it is not going to happen, at least not this year.  However, I did get the boys to help make some tree decorations which will be given as presents, which were included in the December Popular Patchwork.  The pressure was on to get them made in time and we got one of each finished.  I now 'just' have to machine the rest together.  Bets on which Christmas they will be ready for?

Monday, 2 November 2009

Halloween wrapping

I find that wrapping is something I'm often drawn to as part of my art practice. There is something primeval about wanting to cover and envelope an object. Well, it has passed over into my 'other' life too. The eldest monster (of his own choice) wanted to dress up as a mummy for Halloween and I got wrapping again!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

sashiko and pottery

Part of the reason I couldn't go to Houston to see my photo was the quilt show clashed with our half term holiday and it would have been a bit mean to leave DH with the monsters. We visited in-laws and spent a few days in York, cunningly arranged so I could visit the Quilt Museum (, as I hadn't been yet and the Sashiko exhibition at the York Art Gallery.
DH took the monsters to the train museum, which they loved and I would have hated and I got a few glorious hours looking at quilts and Japanese sashiko textiles. The sashiko show was amazing. It was well researched and I loved the make do and mend tradition it comes from. It makes me feel guilty for throwing out socks with holes rather than repairing them. The layers of repairs and shades of blue and brown made beautiful compositions. Michele Walker, who curated the show, wrote the book on quilting I used to have on permanent loan from the library. She has also created a website with lots more info and images ( It's well worth a look. Not surprisingly, there will be an article about the exhibition in Popular Patchwork some time soon.
As an added bonus, I saw Five Sisters at York St Mary's. It's an installation of pottery mosaic and paintings by Emma Biggs and Matthew Collings. I was rather taken with it and took lots of photos. I also love the idea of work being created specifically for this medieval church. It didn't use the space as well as I think Caroline Broadhead's piece did a number of years ago, but it was still worth the visit.

Whilst I was taking the photos, the monsters were playing with the mosaic tiles left out for the kids to play with and created this.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Has it really been this long?

Been having a bit of blogger's block. I've had to cut down on my work time this academic year to allow the middle monster more time at school nursery as he starts school next year. This just means lots of ideas and no time to do anything after I do the Popular Patchwork subbing. I have also written many blog posts in my head, but they have never quite made it to the machine. Anyway, I am back online and actually thinking about a new series of work.

But before I get to that, as it is still all based in my head and not even on paper, some other things to share.

I have had my first work exhibited abroad - I'm thrilled. The cobweb photo on my last post was included in The Eye of the Quilter: Inspiration exhibition at the International Quilt Show in Houston. The first I knew of it was when a hand written envelope with an American stamp on it arrived addressed to me. It had to be exciting - and it was. Two comp tickets were also included to the show and I spent a pleasurable hour trying to work out if I could go (it was 10 days beforehand) and what it would cost and the logistics. So it wasn't really possible this year, but I've already started planting seeds in DH's mind for next year. Playing around on the internet last night I found images of the exhibition, including my piece (top left on the photo). There are lots more images of the show at I so want to go next year!

Sunday, 6 September 2009

quilters' inspiration

On the SAQA website (, there was a last minute call for entries for an exhibition of photos taken by quilters for the big quilt show in Houston. As it required no real work and I have lots of photos, I thought I would submit some. These are the images I sent in. It took me ages to select three as I have so many photos taken over the years of things I find interesting. Then there was the small issue of whether I had actually taken the photos as Richard and I share the camera and some of the oldest monster's photos are really good too. In fact, I get really inspired by his use of the camera as he just plays with it and has no inhibitions like the camera should be held still. He does great self portraits too, because what is more fascinating to him than himself. I end up trying to copy some of his techniques to get some interesting effects.

playing with numbers

Maybe it is due to my accountancy background, but I love number sequences. Sad, I know. Even better, the oldest monster is following in my footsteps and really enjoyed learning about binary from his uncle last weekend. He is thrilled to be 111 rather than 7.

So I've been wondering about making a quilt based on the Fibonacci sequence for a while. It does have practical value too as apparently lots of things in nature follow it, like sunflower heads and ammonites (just don't ask me how - I never did practical maths!). Anyway, I'm making this quilt where each square size and number of stripes follow the sequence (1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21 etc - each number is equal to the sum of the previous two).

This is the first sample - I didn't pre-wash the fabric and then washed it after. I liked the shrinkage, but of course, the stripes all frayed in a not good way! The background quilting was wavy lines, but I think it is too distracting, so I won't use it next time. It also made me think of quilted leather handbags, which for some reason I don't like. This bad photo here shows my first attempt of a bigger piece. I've still to quilt it and add the stripes. I'm not sure how it will develop and whether I decide to make it less rectangular.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Festival of Quilts aftermath

I am a bit late writing this post as I intended to write whilst I was at the Festival, enjoying my new technology buy of a dongle (at least I think that is what it is called). As it was, I spent too much time enjoying the quilts to have any time to write and last week has been spent in the normal post Festival of Quilts daze as well as organising my parents' ruby wedding party. This week was spent recovering from the party and having five people to stay, as well as eating all the leftover food. I'm glad we over cooked!
Well, the Festival was great. There were some amazing quilts and exhibitions. I'm always a bit wary of posting images of other people's work without their permission, so the only images are of my samples from Chunghie Lee's workshop.
Her work was great. I loved the thought behind it, about honouring the unknown makers. She also has ideas for a large scale installation, which sound exciting art. I was really pleased to be able to interview her for Popular Patchwork. Her website is worth a visit:
I also got to interview Jenny Bowker, whose work was also fascinating. They were more traditionally quilts in the sense of the three layers, but not traditional in their content. Her pieces were large scale pictorial wall hangings with Middle Eastern subjects. Her website is
The workshop with Chunghie Lee was inspiring. I haven't done so much hand stitching in one day for ages. My stitch size needs some work - they are much too big for a traditional pojagi, but it was really good to learn some new techniques. The concept of wrapping cloths is lovely, so much better than disposable wrapping paper.
So I now have lots of ideas for articles (including some I'm not going to get to write!), and ideas for new work. I've just got to find time to get started.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Festival of Quilts

I'm rapidly trying to get ready for my adventure to the Festival of Quilts - I leave tomorrow and have to get packed and organised and as much work finished as possible before. Today was the first day back at school, which should of helped, except the second monster has an awful cold (not swine flu) and so was off nursery.

So here is my August Journal Quilt, which I finished a week ago, but which I only photographed today. I'm getting a bit behind as I should have September's too, but had to play Scooby Doo games instead of working today.

As well as writing about this year's Festival of Quilts for Popular Patchwork, I'm also taking a one day workshop on Thursday with Chungie Lee, based on Korean pojagi or wrapping cloths. I'm really excited about it as it is a subject that I have been interested in for year's and Chungie's work is fascinating. It is difficult to pack for as taking fabric and threads that interest me could amount to more room that I have in my luggage...

Tuesday, 4 August 2009


Last week was a busy week, setting up for two exhibitions which both opened on Saturday. The oldest monster had fun in the woods on Tuesday whilst I held the bottom of a ladder and let other people do the difficult winding of fabric round the trees. I wish I was better with heights! When we returned on the Wednesday, I was relieved they were still in place despite the never ending wind and rain the previous night. They were then firmly attached with staples, just to make sure. Again I held the bottom of the ladder whilst others did the work. As I had all three children with me, I spent the entire time worrying that one of them would end up in the stream, which was incredibly full for the end of July - it had as much water as in the middle of winter. Normally it would now be rather dry.
Friday was spent at Pittenweem hanging the aquarium pieces. I was really pleased with how they looked in the end, with good lighting and against a white wall. It was the oldest monster's seventh birthday that day and we celebrated with fish and chips for dinner by the harbour in the rain. That weather again! We called it an 'adventure'! But all in all, I think he had a good day, which started with birthday cake for breakfast. During the private view, DH took the monsters round lots of the different venues, whilst I stayed put. It looked a great exhibition from the little I saw. Next year, I want to go back and see more of it. I love the idea of the entire village being taken over by art for a week, with every possible space being used, from gardens, garages to other people's front rooms as well as the more traditional galleries.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Pittenweem Fishes

These are my pieces for the Threads of Gold exhibition, part of the Pittenweem Arts Festival which opens next Saturday. They comprise of two layers: knit on the bottom and silk digital print on top and they are felted. I've mounted them on white canvas to make them easier to hang and I still have to finish sewing them on to it. But, hey, I've still got plenty of time!!! The other thing I have to do is name them. The images all relate to things found in aquariums, but they are deliberately obscured and layered, as is our understanding of the sea and sea creatures if our knowledge just comes from days out at aquariums. I am trying to play on the notion of the visible not being the reality and so I want a good title, not just pond life or fish 1 as I have been referring to them. Got to get thinking so they can have nice labels besides them.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Tree hugging

Funny how some days are productive and others are not. Tuesday felt a slog, partly because I had a cold (not swine flu!) and then not helped that the yarn broke on the knitting machine whilst I nipped out of my studio and it took 40mins to sort it all out.

Today on the other hand, I was on a roll. The knitting machine whirred all day and generally behaved itself, so I was able to do some subbing at the same time and I miraculously tidied up a bit too. I got another piece felted, got some fabric prepared to try bleaching for the latest journal quilt and I even made it up to Aberfoyle to try out the tree wrappings. I'm definitely going to need a ladder to get them at a decent height. Even stretching to my full 5 foot 3 1/2in, they are very low down the tree. I hope someone will be able to help me as my talents lie more with textiles than with heights!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Work in progress

Summer holidays are now in full swing here and so my working time has become rather restricted. However, last week I had a fabulous, almost guilt inducing, four full days in the studio. The oldest monster was away camping with his grandparents and the younger ones went to nursery. So I worked from 8.30 in the morning to 5.30 at night, knitting and stitching away. I was really lucky not to have any real amount of editing to do, so I barely wrote a word either.
So at the end of the productive week, I had knitted three hugely long pieces to be wrapped around trees in Aberfoyle; knitted and felted the final base pieces for the Pittenweem Show and then needle felted my gorgeous organza digital prints on to them; done a reasonable amount of machine quilting of the mystery quilt and even managed to do some drawings.
The digital prints are amazing. I did guess the sizes reasonably well and it was with great trepidation I 'destroyed' them by punching them into the felted background. I think the results are interesting. Now I just need to mount the pieces for the exhibition.
The tree wraps used up all my wool and more arrived on Thursday to do some more. They take a full day each, but it my normal over optimistic way, I am hoping to get another four done in the next ten days (total amount of childcare over those 10 days: 12 hours!).
No photos of this work yet, I was too busy enjoying doing it to take a photography break. When I have a moment this week, I'll post some photos. I'm now back into normal life and have just spent a lot of time this weekend editing. September's Popular Patchwork has some challenging projects to check and then there is a redesign on to create an improved look, which is exciting.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Getting ready

Another day in the studio - bliss. The local sports centre is running fun days for primary school children, so the eldest monster is going there whilst the younger two are at nursery during the holidays. The middle one just can't get the idea of holidays - why is Daddy still working if it's the holidays and more to the point, why am I at nursery?

Without monsters at home, I was able to concentrate on sorting the imagery for my digital prints. They are going to be added to knitted and felted pieces of similar imagery - once the wool has arrived. Apparently there was a number missing from the address so it hasn't arrived yet. Hopefully it will arrive tomorrow as I have run out part way through a piece, so couldn't get on with other knitting stuff today.

Instead I got my images sorted. The base photos are from my aquarium series. I've then projected them onto fabric and manipulated the images. I've also had to guess the final size of the knitted pieces as I've run out of time to wait until they are finished before ordering the prints. I tried scientific calculations and ratios, but really it is a matter of fingers crossed and waiting and seeing. I've just got to remain confident about it working!

Thursday, 25 June 2009

The next journal quilt

This week I have been able to spend three days in the studio - a huge treat. I am still pondering how to display my pieces at Aberfoyle, but to make sure I make the deadline, I have started knitting today on the first large piece. However the work is shown, I know they will need to be big to be seen there - the trees are just so tall.

The sun has shone for some of the week too so I was able to make the July Journal Quilt for Popular Patchwork. It required sun printing and it rained all last week, so it is a bit later than I intended. I don't understand how sun printing works as it seems to bleach the colour out of the covered areas, rather than those exposed to the sun - a bit of reverse logic to me. However, I was happy with the results. As the pieces of fabric I created were not fabulous designs, I cut them into strips to create uneven pleats; the idea being it would be like waves in the fish tanks. I am pleased with the fabric and also with the pleats - something to mentally file away in case it could be suitable for a larger piece in the future.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

tree scarves

I took my knitted and felted sample up to Aberfoyle on Sunday to see how the colours went with the trees. In order to be able to photograph it, I put it up against a tree trunk and it stuck. Now I've got a bit of a dilemma. I was intending to have these as free hanging pieces, in between the trees, but I now also like how it would look if they were wrapped around them instead. Not sure what to do. If they are hanging, they will have to be incredibly long to have any impact, at least 4m. But I am slightly concerned about the health and safety impact of this - if there is a strong wind, they will flap about and potentially hit someone - which would not be pleasant! If they are on the trees, I wouldn't have to worry about this, but then I have the issue of how to attach them to the trees without damaging them and I'm not sure if wanted to make tree scarves!

I hate being indecisive, and I need to make up my mind soon as I don't have much time left....
At least I am pleased with the colours as the aim was to blend them in with the trees, rather than standing out from them.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

back to life, back to reality

So I have been a bit quiet recently. It doesn't mean I haven't been busy! As well as the Loch Lomond Show pieces, I have been working hard on a new mystery quilt for Popular Patchwork. I have now finished the quilt top and I am really pleased that it is actually square, with no fudging required. Yes, it is meant to be square! Frustratingly, I can't show it to you as it is meant to be a mystery. I am delaying quilting as I have this fear of spoiling it with poor quilting, but I really need to get it under way as I have just six weeks in which to finish it. This may sound a long time, but I also have to deliver new work for two exhibitions at the same time, do all the subbing on Popular Patchwork and the Scottish school holidays start in 8 days time. So life is somewhat busy.

Part of the reason for the rush now is that we have just had a glorious two week holiday in Greece. A good friend was getting married there, which was a great excuse for a holiday. It was incredibly relaxing and I actually enjoyed doing very little apart from play in the sea and on the beach and eat good food. I only finished one book, which is a record for me on holiday. Normally I would read 4 or 5 in a fortnight.

We all enjoyed visiting Mycenae and I could have spent hours more in the museum there looking at the figurines and other things found at the site. They are over 3,000 years old, but they are still fascinating. I've been thinking about them for a while and how to use them as the starting point for a project.

Anyway, the only arty thing I did on the holiday was build stone piles. Much more fun than sandcastles!

Back to normal life, today I made some more samples for the exhibition work. They are in the washing machine now, so photos soon.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Loch Lomond Quilt Show

So, I’ve finally done it. My Shelter pieces are installed and are open to be visited as part of the Loch Lomond Quilt Show until Saturday. The last few weeks have, as normal, been very busy. I’ve been trying to get these finished for the show and praying that they would fit in the car. It was very tight on Sunday evening and wI had no real viable back up plan, but with help from our friendly neighbour and his Land Rover, we just managed to put all six of them into the two cars to bring to Vale of Leven Baptist Church, Alexandria. There was no room for anyone else in the car apart from me!

There were a few hiccups as you would expect with the installation (no one there to open up, so they had to be taken elsewhere overnight for storage!), but now they are in place and look good. I have to stop referring to them as people, but I do feel that they are having a conversation or a dialogue with each other.

Visitors’ reactions so far have been positive and friendly, which is nice. I’m in a room at the back of the church and you get a great view of the work as you walk in the door. You can’t see me when you see them first of all, so I could hear the initial honest reactions. Luckily, there was nothing bad; they ranged from 'Oh, my god!' to several 'Wow!'s

Monday, 27 April 2009

June's Journal Quilt

Having spent so long making my short bit of fabric, I wasn't going to give up on it! One of my favourite photos from my series from the aquariums is this one, even though there aren't any fishes in it.

I think the black is a wall or something similar, but I just love the patterns of the reflections on the water. Although my final piece looks nothing like this picture, this was the starting point and I still want to go back and do more pieces based on it. It's almost like the edge of the world tipping over into the abyss; how I imagine people thought the ends of the world looked when they thought it was flat not round - I still have trouble explaining that to our six year old!

Technically, I had fun using the twin needle and my old workhorse machine. It really will sew through anything without complaint and isn't fussy about what thread you use either. Sometimes, simple is good.
Next month's needs sunshine and it has just started raining after a really unusually good few weeks here - I hope I haven't missed the boat. Last year summer seemed to be over by mid May in Scotland!

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

those 2 1/2inch squares again

Having said this morning in a post, I never wanted to cut another 2 1/2inch square - what did I end up doing this afternoon?

I was making my latest journal quilt and my new machine didn't like the twin needle and I wasn't happy with what I had done, even after I had switched back to the old one, so I cut it up into 2 1/2in squares and sewed it back together again. It wasn't exactly what I was meant to be doing and it is now too short, but I am a lot happier with it, even if I ended up with lots of broken thread, one broken needle and lots of 2 1/2inch squares.

Easter Break

Making the Shelter pieces

Well, it should have been a time for the family and it was... in between manically making my mystery quilt (next time I'm starting with larger squares - I never want to cut another 2 1/2inch square again!) and sewing my large shelter pieces.

Details of the Shelter pieces

The Easter Egg Hunt started early in our household when on Saturday evening, DH and I couldn't remember where we had hidden the eggs. One hour later (precious lost work time!), and in mega panic mode as by this time even the Co-op had shut, so it would look like the Easter Bunny had forgotten the little darlings, he found them at the bottom of his wardrobe. Chocolate was enjoyed by all!
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