Friday, 29 April 2011

When in doubt, ask a builder

Our building work is almost finished now and I'm really excited about moving into my new studio. I am slightly concerned by some of the logistical problems. We decided that I would move in slowly so to keep the mess under control. However, the most important thing I need is a table and I can't get either of my tables out of my current room at the moment due to boxes, piles and knitting machines...

Earlier in the week, I decided I wanted to make my own pattern block for rubbings. I found some old mountboard and was looking for some string, which, of course, is buried in the container with the contents of our old garage. However, our lovely builders came to the rescue with this wonderful thick blue string, which made a great block. I'm really pleased with the effect.

When I bought the Shiva paintstiks in Houston six months ago, I thought they were a huge extravagance for something that was fun, but that I would be unlikely to use regularly. How wrong I was! These paintstiks have been fabulous for adding the figures to my fabric and they are so easy to use.

So, whilst the rest of the country/world is celebrating the royal wedding, I am having a pleasurable day using my string block and paintstiks to add figures to some of my pieces for the Festival of Quilts. I'm certainly happy with this arrangement!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Construction: fabric style

I've got a new toy and it is very exciting! The lovely people at Pfaff have lent me a Creative 4 machine, which is a top of the range quilt and embroidery machine. It has huge possibilities, including designing my own stitches for sewing with. It also has an embroidery unit which can embroider patterns and quilting designs. What fun. Even better, VSM, who own Pfaff in the UK were able to send out one of their people, Jamie Warren, to show me how to use it. This was fantastic and Jamie was able to show me lots of tricks which will make life easier for me.

Given all these possibilities, so far I've used.... straight stitch and zig-zag! I had hoped to spend time over the Easter weekend trying lots of different stitching strategies, but I had a hideous migraine, which lasted until Sunday evening, so when I finally got down to stitching on Monday, it had to be my pieces for the Festival of Quilts, not play time.

So here is one of the three pieces which got stitched on Monday, ready to be painted. It will look totally different once it is finished. I enjoy using scraps and it is great to see the memories in lots of these pieces: there is some shibori bleached fabric, I patterned myself; the leftover lining from a dress made for my daughter; some off-cuts from the surprise quilt I made for my parents' 40th wedding anniversary and so on. I pieced it this way up, but I'm not sure which way it will be in the end: some of them have looked better at a different angle once finished! What do you think?

My only problem with the new machine is that I am left handed. I've always known that machines are right handed and this can be a bit awkward. However as they get more computerised, it gets even harder! But I will get used to it and it will improve my dexterity on my right side! And even if anyone made a left handed sewing machine now, I suspect that I am so used to right handed ones, I couldn't use it.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Grandmother's Flower Garden

One 'flower' of the Grandmother's Flower Garden design
As part of my monthly series looking at the stories behind different quilt blocks for Popular Patchwork, I decided I had to delve into hexagons and Grandmother's Flower Garden.  I like piecing over papers and have made a number of small projects over the years: particularly leaving the papers in and looking at them from the reverse.  I've made book covers and 3-D objects like vases and bowls.  So far with the Building Block series, I've resisted the temptation to make the blocks.  I've played around with them lots in EQ7 and spent obsessive hours researching on the internet, but not actually touched fabric.  However, the call of hand piecing hexagons has been too strong.  I really don't have time to start a quilt just now, uniquely for my own pleasure:  I have got an entire gallery to fill at the Festival of Quilts in less than four months and not a single piece finished, although some are well underway and it will all be ready in time.  But the siren call of the hexagons has got me and this time the aim is large... bed quilt large ... I calculated the number of hexagons required and it is almost 2,000.  It should only take me 18 months to make, but don't hold your breath!
The back of the 'flower'

Sunday, 17 April 2011

How to continue making art during the school holidays

Our children's Easter holidays finished today... a week before Easter! They had two weeks off school and we have had a great home-based holiday.  There is a fabulous Science Festival on in Edinburgh, which kept them entertained for hours, full of hands-on things to try, including old fashioned photographic development.  I was really impressed by their results and desperate to have a go myself.  Unfortunately, only children were allowed.
To keep myself sane and to keep things moving with my artwork, I had to sneak in a bit of drawing when they were not looking.  These drawings were done in various parks whilst they were off jumping on and off roundabouts.  Obviously I should have been paying more attention when they went mud sliding on the grass at the Burrell Collection, but the drawing was going really well at that point...  I ended up having to buy the oldest one new trousers as we were on our way to the ballet and I didn't think that muddy jogging bottoms were appropriate.  Actually, I didn't think clean ones were either, but I'm not going to win every battle!
The ballet was Alice, a new one by Scottish Ballet in Glasgow.  I really enjoyed it.  The costumes were interesting, the set very clever and made me think about perspective and how I need to add it in my work.  The music was also very pleasant.
This weekend, I have been allowed some child-free time and have been rapidly machining another sample piece with figures and cutting a huge stencil.  I also was writing an article for Popular Patchwork on the Cindy Rennels collection of American patriotic quilts which I saw in Houston.  As it was a lovely day I was able to sit outside typing on my laptop.  Aren't they a great invention!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

My exciting new studio

The inside of my new studio

... is a work in progress!  After six years of dreaming and a year of planning, work is finally well underway.  Our old garage is being converted into a studio and a new garage is being built in the front garden.  The building work should be completed in the next two to three weeks and then I need to start work on making the new room into my studio.

The view from the outside

We also need to refill the new garage with the junk that came from the old one - we have no intention of using it for the car - but bikes and cardboard boxes and the store of art work by the kids at our Saturday morning classes at ArtWorks.

The worksite with the new garage on the right

My current studio bombsite

As you can see from my embarrassing current studio photo, I really need the new one!  I am determined to keep it tidier and more organised (honest!).  Whilst I'm not the tidiest creature on earth, my studio has been out of control basically from day one as I didn't have time to organise it when we moved in (I was very pregnant with our middle child and then no.3 arrived 18 months later).  So this is a great chance.  I am so looking forward to it.  I have dreams of this lovely tidy, bright and airy studio - and I am going to move my things in slowly so it can be sorted as I go.  I'm also looking forward to what surprises I will discover in my old space as I dig deeper into the cupboards and boxes and find bits and bobs that I had forgotten about!
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