Friday, 30 August 2013

Inspiration: Pinterest Friday: Ancient Figures

I’ve finally joined the Pinterest brigade and could spend many hours looking at gorgeous and inspiring images.  If used well (as opposed to a way of playing on the computer, pretending to be useful!), it is a great research tool.  I’m still making work based on ancient goddess figures and was amazed at how many amazing images were out there – I had performed numerous internet searches when I first got interested and was rewarded with scant pickings.  However, 15mins on Pinterest and there was sufficient imagery to last me ages. 
Ancient Figures at the Ashmolean

I know there is an ongoing debate about copyright and pinning on Pinterest, so I’ve only included a screenshot of my board.  You can see the whole thing here.  Just to whet your appetite I’ve also included a couple of images that I took myself at the Ashmolean in Oxford and the Burrell Collection in Glasgow.
At the Burrell
I’m hoping to make this a regular Friday feature, which gives me an excuse to waste/spend time on Pinterest!  Have you got addicted yet?
At the Burrell
At the Burrell

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

How-to: Faux Chenille

One of the best bits of teaching City & Guilds Patchwork and Quilting is having to explore techniques and make samples.  I suppose you get to know what you like and it is easy to stick with it rather than experimenting with new ideas, so it is good to have a reason to play with techniques which are not part of my normal repertoire. 
And so it is with faux chenille.  I remember making (not very successful) samples when I did my City & Guilds Embroidery course and it is a technique I had thought about for my Unsung Muses series as it is very much about concealing and revealing.  But I don’t think I ever tried it.  So it was really good to have to research it to teach to the C&G Group at the Studio at Loch Lomond.   

Here is the step-by-step on how to make faux chenille:

What fabrics?

You can use any fabric that will fray.  Cotton generally works well, flannel is great.  Some manmade ones are good, others do not fray.  You need to experiment with what you have to see what will work. You will need somewhere between 4-7 layers of fabric.

Bright colours work well.  Remember that all the layers apart from the bottom one are going to be cut through, so it is a good way to use up old fabrics you no longer like or buy cheap ones specially for the task.

Getting started

1 Put your backing fabric face down.  This should be one of the nicer fabrics if you are intending the back of the work to be seen. Important: all fabrics should be placed on the grain – you need to be able to cut them on the bias, so place all fabrics square on to the grain.

2 A good tip I read was to place the next fabric also face down as the edges will curl round.

3 Layer up the rest of your fabrics all face up.

4 Turn the sandwich over and draw a diagonal line from corner to corner on the bias.

5 Pin the layers together to hold in place.


1 Stitch along your marked line, using a smaller stitch size than normal and putting a few backstitches in at the start and end of the row.

2 Stitch a line parallel to the one you have just stitched, about 1/2in away – you can experiment with the distance between the lines.  For the first sample, use the edge of your presser foot again the line you have stitched as a guideline.

3 Keep stitching parallel lines until the fabric is covered.


1 Cut between your lines of stitching but NOT through the bottom layer.

2 Throw the piece in the washing machine and then, if you have one, the tumble drier.

3 Fluff up with your fingers and leave to dry.


I got really excited making this group of samples and now have loads of ideas of how I could use this in patchwork and my artwork.  Apparently Asda sell good quality plain coloured cheap sheets, which would be fantastic for this.  I just need to get to the supermarket!

Here are some links that I found useful when I was researching.  Kim Thittichai seems to have used the technique with newspaper in one of her books and posts a beautiful piece inspired by her book on her blog.

Also I just loved the baby blanket made in such strong jewel colours on Dana Made It blog.

Have you made any faux chenille?

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Out & About: Fine Art Quilt Masters at the Festival of Quilts

Although I said I hadn’t done any work in the holidays, it wasn’t quite true.  A few weekends ago I went to the Festival of Quilts.  After all the discussion on this blog about last year’s Best in Show, this year there was a new competition/invitational category called Fine Art Quilt Masters.  I was very keen to see it, partly to see what would be included and also excited because it should have been full of ‘my kind of artwork’ as my Dad puts it.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Yes, there was still quite a variance in standard and I may have chosen a few different ones (but of course, it depends on who puts their work forward).  The lighting was truly atrocious (hence limited photos), but the organisers were well aware of this and promised they would sort it for next year.

Dorothy Caldwell, detail of How do we know when it's night

Dorothy Caldwell, detail of How do we know when it's night
 So what about the quilts?  The winner was Dorothy Caldwell with ‘How Do We Know When It’s Night’.  Her piece (actually comprising of two hangings) was monumental, measuring approx 3m in each direction.  From a distance, personally, it was almost too much, especially given the walls weren’t really high enough and the lighting.  However, when I got close up and started photographing the details, I felt it revealed its beauty.  Personally, I would love any of the details as a complete piece.

Sandra Meech, The Last Silence
At the other end of the scale was ‘The Last Silence’ by Sandra Meech, measuring 35cm square.  It was a very different piece from the work I normally associate with Sandra, although still on the same theme.  I loved the way it was contained within the frame, setting boundaries for the work, which had to be concertina-ed to fit inside.  Again like Dorothy’s hanging, the mark-making was amazing.

Sandra Meech, detail of The Last Silence
Elizabeth Brimelow, detail of Round Meadow

Elizabeth Brimelow, detail of Round Meadow
I am obviously drawn to works which are less quilt-like as two more I liked were Elizabeth Brimelow’s ‘Round Meadow’, which snaked across a plinth in a spiral form, full of little notes and annotations and hints at larger pieces. 
Christine Chester, Portraits of a Memory
Secondly, ‘Portraits of a Memory’ by Christine Chester comprised nine panels of industrial felt pinned to the wall, with paper and voile on top carrying slightly scorched images.  The starkness of the piece was very appealing with its monochromatic colour range and it has a sobering subject matter of memory loss due to dementia.  On a frivolous note,I have to admit part of the draw for me is that industrial felt is one of my favourite fabrics to look at, even if it is something I haven’t used in my own work yet.

Christine Chester, detail of Portraits of a Memory
This is just a small selection of what was on show.  I found these pieces rather thought-provoking and very inspirational.  I hope the organisers get good feedback on this category and that they continue with it.  Also I hope as it gains momentum, more textile artists at the top of the game apply to have their work included to keep adding to this valued dimension to the Festival of Quilts.
Did you go to the Festival of Quilts?  If so, what did you think of this category?

Friday, 23 August 2013

Out & About: the Summer Holidays

The school summer holidays have now finished here and that means I am properly back in the studio.  I had intended to make loads of work over the summer – all beautifully photographed and blogged of course – but the reality was I really needed a break.  So I had one.  This doesn’t mean I didn’t do anything creative, but it was nice not to feel pressured into working with deadlines looming and to spend time with the family camping and chilling.

Bags of collected PomPoms
All the PomPoms were taken down in the few days leading up to the school holidays and every time we thought we had them all, more seemed to appear.  They are now being stored in my loft, waiting until 12 September, when they are going on an outing to Baker St Gardens in Stirling as part of the Stirling Fringe Festival.  It will be really good to see them all again.
The moment the kids finished school, we whisked them away on our annual camping holiday.  We went to France, this time to Brittany and then again to Ile de Ré.  The weather was fantastic and I made sure I got my annual aquarium photography session as we went to Océanopolis at Brest.  I love photographing fishes in aquariums and this one is a real goodie.  It also has a fabulous penguin tank where you can see them swimming under the water.  I am always slightly queasy about the ethics of zoos, aquariums etc, but I seem able to put that to one side when I see the amazing creatures and especially the gorgeous coral.
Fish (don't know the type - do you?)


Paint bombing
The weather this summer in Scotland has been stunning – by far the best since we
moved back up north eight years ago.  So we were able to spend time doing outdoor things.  In my case this was feet painting and paint bombing with the children.  I think I ended up with the most paint on myself, despite being the only one who was vaguely trying to remain clean.  I also had a very unsuccessful attempt at sun-printing.  It has worked well in the past, so I’m not quite sure what I did wrong this time.  I’ll be able to use the fabric for something though.

feet painting

Attempts at sun-printing

Felt monster face by Harry
Apart from running an afternoon felting workshop at the Tolbooth in Stirling, I didn’t have any formal work commitments, which was lovely.  It is also lovely now to be getting back into work and I’m starting to sketch and draw new work, whilst trying to finish off some of these pieces which were put to one side in the PomPom frenzy.  I also have a number of articles to write for Popular Patchwork, which I am enjoying researching.
Did you do any fun things over the summer?
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