Stitching News November 2019

I have a dear friend called Janine whose home is Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates. She is currently  the president of the Quilters Guild group there which is called “Capital City Quilters.” 

Earlier this month I was invited to be “In The Spotlight” for their monthly newsletter!

I included a photograph of me here, simply because I included it in the article, feeling that it would make my contribution more personal. I have many readers/followers to my Stitching News who don’t know me, and I thought this was a way of introducing myself!

One of the members of Capital City Quilters, called Sarah, works very hard during the weeks surrounding the monthly meetings to produce an amazing, comprehensive newsletter about the group, the members, and the meeting. It is full of information, tips and features; it is a quality “mini magazine”. I am full of admiration for her huge contribution to the group.

As it has taken me many hours to produce the article I am taking the opportunity to use it in my blog this month, particularly as many of the subscribers to Stitching News do not know me. For those who do,  it is a little trip down memory lane. So read on …

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“My name is Di Wells My husband and I retired to Cornwall in 2009 to a small coastal fishing village called Mevagissey. Before retirement I had been teaching patchwork and quilting for 18 years, and having done a lot of teaching since we moved to Cornwall, I could add 10 more years to that!

Initially my classes were 2 hour “beginners” evening and daytime classes, in the community. After about 5 years, I started to teach a City &Guilds course in the local Further Education College. Gradually, by the time I “retired”, I was teaching all levels up to diploma level. A colleague and I also wrote a distance learning City & Guilds Patchwork and Quilting course.

DSC01731 (2).JPGIn 2003 and again in 2005 I was invited out to Dubai to teach a “summer school” week. It was an exciting time, and it was on my second visit that I met Janine. We sat next to each other at lunch time, and we chatted about my College teaching. I told her about the Distance Learning course, and she asked if she could sign up!

I was her tutor, and Janine was an inspirational student. I loved receiving her parcels. In each one there was something magical! It was instantly obvious that she had many skills. Her work was always fascinating, thoroughly explored and creatively presented. We became very good friends during those two years and have met many times since, allowing  our friendship to flourish.

On the left is a photo of one of Janine’s pieces. It is hand printed onto fabric, and mounted onto hand painted textured tissue paper.

I love it and am delighted that it hangs in my sewing room.

My mother introduced me to patchwork, (English pieced hexagons), when I started my training as a student nurse (52 years ago). At home on leave one day, she showed me how to make and use a template then cut out the fabric hexagons. I was keen to go the whole hog and started a quilt… finishing it 10 years later!

I learned all the traditional methods of patchwork and quilting by going to local courses taught by excellent tutors in the early 80’s.  I love contemporary work these days, as well as exploring methods, and techniques, old and modern,  and I sew every single day, even if it is only half an hour. I make do with twenty minute here, and twenty minutes there ; it is surprising how much you can do in a short time! I always have several different projects on the go; hand and machine projects, and I more often than not combine hand and machine work in the same piece. My sewing machine is a Bernina 1015, which I had for 35 years. It does everything I want it to, although it is a basic machine. I love it.

Printing is one of my favourite techniques. There is something for everyone in printing. For instance, have you ever tried printing with a Brussel Sprout? Years ago, I was making a quilt depicting 6 typical houses in the medieval town of Tewkesbury where we lived for 24 years prior to moving to Cornwall.

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I wanted to add texture to some fabrics that I was going to use in the gardens, so I cut a sprout in half with a sharp knife and painted fabric paint onto the textured surface. I experimented with the printing first on paper and fabric before finally printing the marks onto my chosen fabrics. This gave me the feel of how much paint I  needed to use (It is important to realise that printing on fabric usually requires a little more paint, than on paper; also that subsequent prints can give lovely changes in quality, which can be brilliant in their own right!  If you look at the black “framing strip” in the centre of these two panels, there are “trees” either side and apart from the dark green one in the right panel, they have all been “sprout” printed!” The printing gave just enough texture to make a difference.

I made this quilt in 1996, and the photo shows two of the six panels. The finished size of the individual panels is A3. The houses and gardens are appliqued. The miniature curved log cabin quilt was machine pieced and measures 4” from the centre of the top binding, to the centre of the bottom binding. Measuring in a similar way, the width is 3.5”. Each of the 9 blocks which form this particular miniature is a different shape due to the perspective. It was foundation pieced for accuracy. The Amish miniature was hand pieced and quilted, and measures 4” by 2.5”

My favourite methods for printing are using eraser blocks, compressed foam blocks, carved lino blocks and Eco printing.

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The selection shown on my cutting mat allows you to assess their sizes. At the top of the photo, from left to right there is a spiral polystyrene block made from a packaging block of solid polystyrene. The small black box contains some of my eraser printing blocks of houses. Just below the box is another eraser block illustrating that letters and words have to be in mirror image.

To the right of the box are four more eraser blocks; flower heads plus two abstract designs which feature in a later photo, and a gull.

The compressed foam blocks are the fish, the row of houses, robin and large squawking gull. Below are some examples of work, in which I have used some of the selection of the printing blocks in the photo.

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This is a page from one of my sketch books called “Around the Harbour”. I have made several printing blocks of gulls, and this is the large, thin, compressed-foam gull, printed onto han dyed blue cotton. The small gull is printed onto paper.

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This hanging inspired by Klimt, is made from painted and waxed brown paper. I had ironed a soft iron-on Vilene to the wrong side of my brown paper, then printed it before I cut it up and made the hanging. The reason for this is that  stitching through one surface of paper will perforate the paper, resulting in easy tears! The Vilene, makes it more like a “fabric”.

The lower two sections of the hanging features spiral prints in metallic blue paint, made by the spiral polystyrene block seen in the collection of printing blocks above. I purposely printed them so that they were discreet, i,e, not too much paint on the block.  The small paper spiral hooked over the large paper spiral, illustrates the shape of the printing block very clearly, and leads the eye to the printed background behind it.


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The compressed foam row of houses has been lightly printed in my sketch book. I like the almost ethereal feel to the print. The different imagery and media on the page increases the interest and instantly leads to suggestions for a piece of work!



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This marshy landscape panel is A4 in size. Perhaps you can see the heron at the bottom left, in the rushes swaying in the breeze. The heron is appliqued. The border at the bottom of the panel, and the section on the mid right have both been printed with the two abstract eraser printing blocks shown in the printing block photo above.

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These leaf prints were created using a method called Eco printing. Janine first introduced this process to me about four years ago and I have experimented ever since. There is a lot of information to be found on the internet and to me it is endlessly fascinating. Basically it is a “direct” form of printing. Leaves are placed between plain sheets of paper which have been dipped in white vinegar. The “parcel” of papers is then tied firmly together with string and put in a steamer with a weight on top to help with creating as much leaf to paper contact as possible. (It is important to use dedicated equipment for non-kitchen use). The parcel is then steamed.

I make books, cards, bookmarks, and notelets from them and am currently experimenting with machine and hand stitching into the papers.

DSC01720 (3)Finally, I have been really interested in Lino printing for several years.

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Two years ago, I was given a Victorian book press, which has totally revolutionised my printing technique because I have been able to print onto fabric very quickly, whereas beforehand I had to burnish each print and the process was so slow.

Above left is a carved lino house block and a subsequent print onto blue cotton fabric. I printed it onto many different colours and gave them to students in a Kantha class. They chose their own colour of house before the class and built up a “garden” with a palette of fabrics from their own stash, surrounding the house. Finally the Kantha class arrived, when they learned the rudimentary and simple rules of the technique! The lovely texture produced by Kantha quilting is what the technique is all about.”

As many of you know, I enjoy several other forms of printing too but for the article I obviously needed to limit myself. I have been able to add a little more information within my own blog, and have taken advantage of that.

One of my favourite blogs is by an American stitcher called Ann Wood. i Have mentioned her before, and I particularly enjoyed her latest blog, and have copied the link for you to dip into if you are interested. As you may have devised she works entirely by hand stitching all her projects. They have a particular charm, and she has a very definite individual style. Click on the link       to access the latest blog.

She makes delightful birds, each one so individual. I have to admit, I love all things small and that is probably why I find her blog so endearing. She often includes tips which I have found really useful, and certainly relevant to my own work. Occasionally she produces free patterns too. She has an excellent shop on her website….really interesting to view.

This is a very busy time of year for all of us. The autumn weather has produced excessive storms and rainfall over many areas of the country causing much heartache and huge stress for so many people, and I am sure that we hold them all in our hearts.

Until next time….

Happy stitching.





4 thoughts on “Stitching News November 2019

    1. Hi Liz, many thanks for your lovely words. So pleased that you enjoyed this newsletter. It really was great to have an opportunity to catch up a little last month. your exhibition of work was stunning. xx


    1. Hi Rosemary, Thank you so much for your enthusiastic comment. It really makes me smile when I hear that readers are inspired and can’t wait to try out ideas. Good luck, and enjoy the experimenting.
      Di x


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