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  https://www.annwoodhandmade.com/blog/       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.

 

 

 

 

Stitching News October 2019

Welcome to the October Stitching News blog.

A warm welcome to new readers who have signed up for the newsletter over the last three months. Hopefully you will find that there is something for everyone in the newsletters. I do hope you enjoy them. Autumn has very definitely arrived and there has been so much rain that the ground is really sodden! Working in the garden has been a very muddy affair, and we have had to pick our moments! Often I have just resigned myself to “having to stitch instead”!

In this October Blog, I am talking about;

  • paper bags!
  • A new stitched panel for Christmas
  • A new hand made folded book (mentioned but not discussed last month)
  • Avocados!

Many people make their own hand made paper bags. It has always been a great source of delight to me when I have been handed my purchase in a “hand made” paper bag. It has invariably been abroad, particularly India and Africa.

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A couple of weeks ago I was given a bag made from a sheet of musical manuscript (a score) at a local craft fair. I loved it! I went home and folded my version of bags from magazine pages. Subsequently I have bought wooden pegs of various sizes to hold the tops closed!

The photo above shows a selection of sizes. Once I started it became quite compulsive!    I  intend to use them for putting Christmas presents in whenever possible! I have used a Pritt stick rather than Sellotape, avoiding plastic. Many Christmas wrapping papers contain plastics in various guises so I am trying to be as Eco friendly as possible. These fill that brief beautifully. I am also going to experiment with making the back of the paper bag taller. This will allow it to be folded over to the front, making the contents more secure.

Christmas Robin; I have had great fun this month creating a new applique panel featuring a robin.  This will be this year’s Christmas card. The size of the finished panel is 7″ x 6″.

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The background is hand dyed as are the majority of the other fabrics. I have used three fabrics in the red breast of which one is  commercial as is the batik fabric I have used for the “tree” trunks.

Robins are frequent daily visitors. in our garden, they have learned how to perch on the bird feeders which makes it easy to observe them. I had read and subsequently noticed that they are a very olive brown colour. I had some pale hand dyed browns, but nothing remotely olive brown, so using Koh-I-Nor paints I mixed an olive brown, and painted a small area onto a couple of light brown dyed fabrics in my stash.  When they had dried I could see that the colour was far better than anything I had, and with adding in some black threads at the end of the tail, I was pleased with the end result. I have quilted the background of the panel in straight lines, varying between machine stitching and hand stitching;  the latter using hand dyed threads from my stock. I really like the mix of textures and added interest that these choices give.

I have also been totally absorbed in making a concertina folded book, which contains  twenty two little stitched studies. These papers have all been “extra” delights resulting from my Eco dyeing. I have had similar results many times over the years, but have never really paid much attention to them. Recently I have been quite captivated by them.

Last month I posted a few glimpses of the book and contents that I had made after Eco dyeing plants from our garden. This new zigzag presentation is totally different, as it will hang vertically.

When I Eco dye the leaves, they are sandwiched between pieces of paper. I wrap theses “parcels” with cotton string which holds all the layers together. The string also acts as a resist to the colours coming through from the plants, and weights etc. This results in different grids on the outer paper where the string directly touches it; by definition these papers are at the top and bottom of the little parcels.

I use old fashioned iron 2 lb weights on top of the parcels to press the paper surfaces as closely together as possible. The weights are made from cast iron. The iron can also add colour and marks to the papers. Finally the marks within the steamer also create more patterns and grids on the papers where they are in contact with the steamer “shelf”.  I have used standard machine sewing threads when stitching into the majority of the pages and the stitching throughout has been by hand.

Of the two steamers that I use one is a very old electric steamer that my friend Phyl was discarding. She had used it regularly for many years but it had become really discoloured. It was still totally safe to use, but not at all aesthetically pleasing any more. So when I asked her, she was very happy to give it to me to for Eco dyeing and was delighted it could still be useful. The “shelf” that the steamer contents sit on is a plastic grid. The other steamer is stainless steel with holes in the floor of the steaming pan.  A lovely muted palette of colours was obtained on the papers during the steaming which I love. All in all I have had great fun of thinking of different approaches of stitching into the papers.

Unfortunately this project is incredibly difficult to photograph as a completed book. Each stitched page is 4″ long by  2.5″ wide, so you can imagine that the entire  folded book is very long, and therefore showing detail is completely lost. So I have just photograph  a limited number.

DSC01685 (2)Here are two groups of three pages which, for ease, I shall number 1 to 6 from the top. They  illustrate some of the wide selection of patterns I have been working into to create these little stitch studies.

They were all created when I was Eco printing leaves, and in the main were the top and bottom pages of the little parcels of paper which enclosed the leaves in the steamers. Within the book I have also included 3 or 4 pages which include printed leaves, or a section of a leaf….to link the processes.

Page 1. This paper was the bottom layer of one of the parcels, and as such was touching the string. I have stitched along these lines with fine black thread.  The paper was also in contact with the electric steamer shelf.  The latter has a fine “brick pattern” plastic grid which I have stitched in a matt gold thread.

Page 2. has a piece of rosemary Eco printed on the page, and was also pressed against the “bricky” shelf. The stitching has resulted in a rather Japanese feel.

 

Page 3. I have amalgamated two printed pages  highlighting the black/  grey  palette. I have used black and copper coloured threads to link it up with other pages. Seed stitches, and cross stitches occur within the group of papers, several times.

 

 

 

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Page 4. is another page created from two printed papers. Both had prints from the 2 lb weights. Limited stitch in black thread echoes the black shades  deposited by the iron.

The soft browns, are wonderful, and soften the colour palette.

 

 

 

 

 

Page 5, was sitting on the stainless steel steamer pan which has perforated holes in it. I have stitched long straight stitches across some of the holes but it is still possible to see faint ones at the right hand edge of the paper. The seed stitches pick up the beautiful copper colour on the paper.

 

 

 

 

Page 6. Finally, I have used the fine cotton “string”,  which wrapped the parcels, to stitch on some of the papers,

I have used this thread in several of the stitched studies. The contrasts between the fine machine thread, and the string, is interesting. A third iron weight which I picked up in a junk shop, has a ring handle, and is a totally different size and shape to the other 2 lb weights. It is tall and has a smaller base. It also has a hole in its base creating a change in scale of circles on some pages.

This page, and several others, seem to have an industrial quality to them.

 

 

I didn’t plan any of the stitching before starting on each piece. It happened quite organically according to the marks.

Throughout the folded book the design elements of line, repetition and pattern, colour, texture and form are repeated; the 3-D element resulting from the folded zigzag presentation.

“Aren’t you going to save the avocado skins?” came the throw-away comment from a friend. Georgina, an avid quilter, and long term friend was staying with her husband for a few days and went on to tell me about an article she had read about dyeing fabric with avocado skins and stones. Unusually for plant dyeing, avocados don’t need any mordant.

I have never done any “natural dyeing”; using plants and vegetables to dye fabric. Having said that, I grew up in an environment of natural dyeing, as my mother was a skilled natural dyer. We had a Rayburn coal fired heater and oven in the kitchen, and there were often hand dyed hanks of spun wool first boiling in saucepans followed by drying after they had been immersed in her “concoctions” as I thought of them. At that time, I had no interest whatsoever!!

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I gathered some more skins from other friends over the next few days, and had a go! I could not find much information on the internet in my brief search, so just had to have a sensible guess! I read that you need to remove any green flesh still inside the skin, and really wipe the stones clean. I had 5 skins and stones.

 

Avocado water gives various shades of pale pink to different fabrics when they are boiled with avocado.

A while ago I was given four old pillow cases which had wine coloured floral sprays printed onto a white background. Unfortunately the original pure white, had taken on a grey hue from use. It was hoped that I might be able to recycle them, but the colour didn’t lift my spirit at all, shall we say. So, I felt I had nothing to lose by boiling one with the skins and stones.

I cut up the skins into small pieces. (the larger piece of skin you can see in the photo above, was noticed and cut into small pieces).  It all went into a saucepan with hot water and I added half of the pillow case to the solution with two pieces of Indian Rag Paper and a skein of  white cotton thread to see what their uptake might be too.  It all simmered for an hour, at which point I added the 5 avocado stones then left it all to simmer for a further hour. I then took it off the heat, and left it to steep until the following morning when I washed everything in a warm water with a touch of Stergene in it. I rinsed it all gently, then left it to dry.

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This photograph shows the results, alongside samples of the fabric, paper and thread before they were dyed! Very subtle but I love it. It is a sort of rose pink or pale taupe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Using the same dye stock, flesh and stones, I repeated the action, to the letter with the remaining half of the pillow case. The photo below show the results.The largest amount of the pillow case, which is sitting underneath the other two pieces is the result of the second dye, in the same dye stock. The white is the original, and across the bottom right corner, is a piece of the first dyed cloth.

I am delighted with the second dyed result, and almost tempted to try a third dye!!  I feel the dye stock could still yield enough to give a soft colour to the front of another pillow case.

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I have been doing a little stitching into the fabric….It has a very tight close weave, so I thought it would be difficult. However, my needle just glided through it when I did a little embroidery on it as a single layer. I felt as though I was stitching into a beautiful quality fabric. It was a dream to stitch…and I wondered about its origins.

I have placed  a thin cotton wadding as a second layer, and am quilting now. It is more difficult this time! The pale thread is the one I dyed in the pot, and the dark wine coloured thread is a silk that I dyed a while ago. I haven’t added a third layer, as I am going to be making draw string bags, which will be lined.

 

Happy stitching!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stitching News September 2019

Good day, from a blustery Cornish coastal village. The sky looks threatening today, but the sun is shining and the rain drops from a sudden shower are glistening. Last week and this are like chalk and cheese! I love the changing season from summer to autumn. Everything is really overgrown and when we finally get down to cutting back, it will look tidy, and be so gratifying. Today is crisper. I needed an extra layer.

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Dead heading, cutting back, gathering the already falling leaves; there are hours of work to be done! This is a fraction of our very overgrown garden. My excuses are many!

 

I had a wonderful and very creative friend staying last week and although I had planned several outings …we only went out for one half day trip….and guess what it was to a quilt shop. I needed nothing, you understand, although I did get ideas for Christmas presents, and of course, I had to buy one of those ideas for myself, to try it out! Janine my friend, came away delighted with her purchases.

This month I have several things to share with you.

First is the scrap quilt I have started. My cousin Patricia and I share all sorts of ideas we have seen, or heard about, and I told her that I was wanting an easy, project; scrap fabric, and hand sewing to take to my two quilting groups. I didn’t want to have to think too hard about it. You know the sort of thing I mean!

She had seen a photograph of a scrap quilt made from 8 oblongs. The finished size of the individual oblong was  2″ x 1″. It is portable; needs no serious planning; could be assembled in small blocks, (finished size 4″) and is perfect for hand piecing.  It ticked all the boxes. I liked the idea this presented, but wanted to change it slightly, to make it “mine” I suppose!  I decided to use 7 oblongs  as above, and two 1″ squares. I have a stack of cut pieces, and have made a start. I will post a photo when I have made a few more of the blocks. The size of the oblongs could be increased and this wouldn’t take long to make on the machine! Maybe I will think again!

Since the last newsletter  I have made a dress and a top from the same Merchant and Mills “Trapeze Dress” pattern.  The dress is made in a black linen/cotton mix. It is a good weight and I bought it from Coast and Country Crafts; Cornish Garden Nurseries, Barras Moor, Perranarworthal, Truro TR3 7PE        https://www.coastandcountrycrafts.co.uk

Coast and Country Crafts are also now stocking some  of the Merchant and Mills Patterns.

DSC01505 (2).JPGI apologise for the quality of this photo. For some reason I cannot produce a good photo of the whole dress. Whether it is something to do with it being black I have no idea. It just goes out of focus. It is not for want of trying, believe me!

I lengthened the pattern to make the dress mid-

calf length. I have tried to edit the photo to show a close up of the double daisies, but it does not want to know!! It just goes very fuzzy. The daisies I have embroidered around the hem of the dress are a larger size than those of the neck and sleeve. All the daisies have been embroidered using my hand dyed threads. Each individual lazy daisy “petal” has another petal embroidered inside, hence the “double daisies”. A single French knot sits in the centre of the smaller flowers and a group of French knots sit inside the larger daisies around the hem. Sometimes I have used a different tone of the same colour, sometimes I have used a complete contrast! I certainly used up a lot of threads.

To return briefly to the black dress, I made a toile first in order to get a measure of the sizing of the pattern. The toile was in a good quality white fabric that I bought from Whaleys for dyeing, many years ago.  I just hand tacked the shoulder and main dress seams. I didn’t put the sleeves in as it was the bust measurement I was really assessing. I have since over-dyed the toile in the washing machine, using a navy Dylon and following the machine-wash directions for dyeing, to the letter. I have tried the toile on again and I have decided to turn it into a pinafore dress, possibly slightly enlarging the arm hole. I will make this version shorter, and give it a “feature” pocket! Watch this space.

I made the top, shown below, from the top part of the dress pattern. It is quite full and loose,but very comfortable and easy to wear. This fabric is a linen/viscose mix, very soft when it had been washed. A lovely quality.DSC01654 (2)

I bought this fabric from Bridget who owns The Fabric Bee in Gorran, a village very close to Mevagissey. She has a lovely Log Cabin shop in her back garden, with a fantastic array of both patchwork and dressmaking fabrics. Phone to ask if you can visit her, and you won’t be disappointed.   

Bridget says:  “After running Fabrics Plus in Bristol for 31 years I decided it was time for change and along with my husband, moved to the south coast of Cornwall. However, I still wanted to share my passion for sewing and lovely fabric, hence, “The Fabric Bee” was born. Our extensive range of patchwork fabric includes well-known brands. There is also plenty to choose from in our gorgeous selection of dressmaking fabrics, including linen, jersey, lace, viscose, cotton poplins and denim.”    www.thefabricbee.co.uk      

The Fabric Bee The Hawthorns, St Austell, Gorran, Cornwall, PL26 6HN.                    Phone   07928 398134

I love to have “hand dyed” threads available. They are so versatile and useful. So, I just had to prepare some more after making the dress! I find it a very therapeutic exercise.  I did them in batches of ten at a time. First I had to wind the thread around the top of a wooden chair into individual hanks. Many moons ago, I measured lengths of thread and wrote the results down in a book.

“So many complete winds around the top of the chair = so many metres of thread”. It took a while to make up my chart at the time, but it has paid dividends since.

I then add one extra wind to allow for shrinkage as I always give them a boiling hot rinse, during the washing process.   When I have a handful of “hanks” I  soak them in a soda solution making sure that the solution has totally penetrated the thread. I make up very small quantities of about 5 different Dylon and/or Procion dye colours.

I place one or two hanks in several recycled plastic trays and using pipettes dribble the dye over the soaked threads, leaving  them to sit in the dye for several hours and usually rinse them out the next day. They need plenty of rinsing to remove any excess dye. Then I roll them in an old towel to remove excess moisture and hang them up to dry.

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When they are completely dry, I wind them onto small units of mountboard,  as in the photo above and that is the exciting part. Yes, of course it takes time!  But it is time well spent. Nothing annoys me more than thread in a complete mess when I come to use it!

Look at the threads in the photo above, you can see the variegation in colour so clearly when the thread is organised like this. Another “plus” resulting from the winding process is that the threads never knot or get tangled thereafter.

Those of you who have been loyal readers for the many years when I was sending out my newsletters by email, and more recently when I had to change to a blog format, will know how much I enjoy Eco Dyeing on paper.

While Janine was here last week she wondered if we could do some Eco dyeing together.  over the years I have read as much as I can find about it, and have experimented several times a year.

It transpired that Janine hadn’t done any for quite some time, so it was just a refresher that was needed! Well, that was the start of almost three days of experimenting! We were getting some fascinating results, adding more to the pot; choosing different ways of producing our individual results, and getting more and more enthusiastic and excited at our results.

Over the last three days I have produced a zig- zag book with some of my Eco prints. This book may become part of my personal exhibition pieces, along with other work that I am not ready to show at the moment. Textiles+ group, of which I am a member, is having an exhibition of work, in June next year. More details will be given in due course about dates and venue. In the meantime, we are individually and collectively working on our projects.

The photo below was taken looking down on the book, which is lying on its spine on the table.

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Here are a few glimpses at some of the pages. There are 24 “page surfaces” within the book….and most of these are my results and interpretations of plants in my garden.

The extension ideas are more abstract, and very definitely more contemporary! I have started work on a selection of these which will be presented in a different format zig-zag booklet but there is much more to do yet!

 

 

 

 

 

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This photo gives some sense of how I have constructed the book. The outside supporting structure is concertina folded watercolour paper. I know virtually nothing about watercolour paper, but this seemed a good supporting weight, and I thought it would produce a sturdy “hard back” feel to my book. I am not disappointed.

 

 

I concertina folded a strip of it to produce 4 valley folds. It stood up on the table, firm as a rock and I was happy that whatever I added to it. it would remain secure.

Each valley fold has another folded paper insert and pressed tightly into the original folded watercolour paper. These were all secured in place by a simple pamphlet stitch made through the two folds. Any work that was going to be added to any of the four surfaces of the inserted paper, as well as the two watercolour paper surfaces was completed before the pamphlet stitch secured that particular unit of work.

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The thread I used for the pamphlet stitch was the thread that had been wrapped tightly around my Eco dyed parcels while they were steaming. Some of those threads were further boiled in the bottom of the steamer. After completing the pamphlet stitch the thread was knotted at the back of the valley fold, and as you can see in the photo, it acted as a carrier though which to thread my “closure” ribbon!

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The view of the back of the book also shows the marks I made on the watercolour paper, before any work was applied to the surfaces. I had some Cotinus leaves in the bottom of the pan,  and I took a leaf out and used it like a paint brush to “paint” the watercolour paper!

 

 

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This final photo shows a blackberry leaf with fruits on the left page and a male fern on the right with a glimpse of a wild geranium just peeping from an inside page.  I love the detail that has printed from the blackberry fruit, not to mention the detail on that particular leaf.

What a joyous time we had “playing”! I cannot emphasise enough that it is this kind of continual experimentation with whatever project you are exploring that gives interesting and inspirational results. Years, quite literally; untold hours of trial and error is what gives textile artists all over the world, whatever their medium, the skills and informed plans for further experimentation! It doesn’t “just happen”.

This particular session of work has now given me more ideas! Thankfully I have been writing notes and thoughts down as I have been working.

Finally, for those of you who look forward to visiting Westonbirt Arboretum in the autumn, the poster below gives all the details of what will be an excellent exhibition of work by “Cotswold Edge”.  There will be inspirational, very professional collections of unique and skilled work to view and buy. Talk to the makers! Find out “how they do it” and make it a feature of your day’s visit to the Arboretum. You won’t regret it.

Liz (Brooke Ward) will be displaying her wonderful “new” selection of textile work, which is stunning;      http://www.lizbrookeward.com/

David (my twin brother), will be displaying and selling his fused glass.  Very sadly Dave is no longer able to do copper foiling due to his eye problems. However, he has terrific ideas and some amazing fused glass to exhibit.      http://www.aveningglassart.co.uk

Grahame will be exhibiting his unique, fascinating wood sculptures. You will wonder at how he achieves his end results.     http://www.grahametucker.co.uk/

2019 Cotswold Edge poster-A4

I shall be able to visit the exhibition this year, so I hope to see you there too!

Happy stitching!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stitching News: August 2019

Welcome to the August Stitching News. It is earlier than normal, but we shall be away towards the end of the month, so I am trying to get ahead of myself!

Seventeen years ago, in 2002, I made a quilt which I called Inca. It is one of my all time favourite quilts and was constructed with many “wonky spiral” log cabin style blocks and predominantly machine quilted throughout with spirals. The two large warrior blocks at the top and bottom of the quilt were developed from rubbings that I took from our Peruvian leather topped coffee table that was given to us as a wedding present by my brother in law.

At the time he was stationed out in Peru with the RAF. I recreated them in Mola work, and the work in those panels was all done by hand; the applique and the quilting.

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This photograph shows closer detail of the wonky spiral blocks which surround the central panel, and also the little Inca warriors, which form two long borders down each side. 

If you can zoom in on the device you are reading this on, you can see that every Inca Warrior is different. All pattern on them was inspired by Peruvian pottery.

 

 

 

 

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This photograph shows the detail of the “centres” of the outer blocks. I created many “centres” first. They were all wonky, and in the region of 1″ finished!

I then built the rest of the block around them. The intention was that the spiral would catch the eye and the rest of the block would sit quietly!

 

 

 

 

 

I made this quilt seventeen years ago in 2002. When we moved down to Cornwall in 2010, I was asked if I would do a workshop on the irregular spiral log cabin blocks.

I always like to refresh myself before a workshop, especially if it is a while since I have approached the technique, so I decided to create some new blocks and turn them into a bag.  It would be a totally different use and could show them off well. So here I can explain the process of actually making the “wonky spiral” log cabin style blocks.

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Making bags has always been a great joy for me. The one I am showing you now I made several years ago, but I hardly ever used it….. probably because I was onto the “next one”!! However, it is a really nice size and is particularly roomy as well and I am enjoying using it now!

 

At the designing stage I had worked out the size of the bag, and the size of the pocket I wanted on the front. This view, on the left,  shows the front of the bag, with the patchwork pocket.

 

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I drew out the full sized finished shape of the pocket onto freezer paper. It was to be 10″ wide by 7.5″ deep. I divided that shape into two. The central dividing line would be a stitch line when applied to the front of the main bag, thus dividing the large pocket into two, both having one large wonky block. I also chose to have a change of scale by creating a 1.5″ deep border of small blocks across the top of the pockets, and then divided the top border into 6 units. Finally I numbered each individual section.

I marked the top edge of each block, then cut them up into the individual freezer paper templates. ….eight in total.  An example diagram is shown above.

I then prepared my strips, choosing two hand dyed fabrics, which contrasted well. Wonky units are made with some strips cut as a wedge shape. I also had standard strips of different widths. Some are thin and others much wider, especially in the larger blocks. 

Those of you familiar with the assembly of various traditional log cabin blocks, will be able to see the seam lines of the blocks and therefore work out the order of piecing, starting in the “centre”, but the photo of the order of piecing is below, as a refresher, and also for newcomers to this technique. The order of sewing the strips is very important as the colour placement creates the spiral.

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The function of the freezer paper templates is crucial to ensuring that the blocks fit well together.

I worked on several blocks together and as they seemed to be approaching the size I wanted, I could place one of the freezer paper templates over them, and could instantly see which edge required another strip, bearing in mind that I needed to trim the blocks half an inch larger then the freezer paper template. As each block became viable, I ironed the appropriate template in place on the right side of the block, lined up the 1/4″ line on the edge of my ruler, on top of the edge of the freezer paper, trimming the blocks with rotary cutter, thus including the seam allowance outside the template.

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You can see the back of the bag in this photo.  I made more wonky blocks and stitched them together, making up the “rectangle” to the size of the front panel using the navy blue patterned fabric down each side and along the bottom.

As you can see this wonky panel is asymmetrical….my choice! There was always the option of creating a regular rectangular wonky panel if preferred!

 

 

 

 

 

The corners of this bag have been boxed if you are interested in this technique which creates a nice roomy bag it explained the technique in the April 2018; link below

https://stitchingnews.wordpress.com/2018/04/05/stitching-news-april-2018/

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As the bag was so roomy, and I was going to add a poppa closure with tassel, I decided to make the top of the bag a little less “open”, and vulnerable to “gaping”.

I did this by stitching and linking buttons, back to back at the top of both sides, stitching through the folded gusset….the photo shows the detail.

I just fiddled until I got the result I was imagining! It does the job admirably, helping the bag to keep its shape well!

It does us all good to “think outside the box”.  This is the way our personal ideas and creativity expand. I created interesting straps with this bag as well, because I didn’t have enough of the main blue fabric for two blue straps. but the end result is much more interesting!

In last month’s blog I said I wanted to make a dress and bag, and would show you them this month. The dress is made and the bag will be during the next few days. However I am going to post them next month because there are a few friends and family who read this blog, and I want it to be a surprise when I see them in three weeks time! I have very definitely made the dress “mine” as you will see, next month. I am delighted with it.

I will show them both next month as they go together! The dress pattern is the Merchant and Mills Trapeze pattern. It was very straightforward. I made a toile first, so that I could estimate the size, and was pleasantly surprised at how quickly it made up. I must admit I only hand tacked it, without putting the sleeves in even though I had cut them out. It was sufficient to show me that I could get on and make up the dress in my chosen fabric. The toile was made out of a very nice weight white fabric 100% cotton that I bought from Whaleys many moons ago. In the autumn I shall make it up and dye it in the washing machine over dyeing jeans at the same time.

Dates for your diary. 

Brenda Thomas, who many of you will know makes absolutely beautiful pictorial hangings, has an exhibition of her work at Cowslip workshops; Newhouse Farm, Launceston PL15 8JX, until August 30th.  Among the exhibits the “Good Morning Gorran” quilt will be there and a large quilt of Mousehole. Not to be missed if you are looking for a lovely day out in a perfect venue!

August 30th, 31st and 1st September,  Leominster Quilters exhibition at Bodenham Parish Hall, HR1 3BL. Opening times 10-4 each day. More information available at: https://leominsterquilters.com/   (Please note that this is a new venue for the exhibition.)

12th –14th September. Harbour Quilters Exhibition.  Jubilee Hall, Chapel Street, Mevagissey, Cornwall PL26 6SS Open 10am – 4pm. Admission £2. Two beautiful raffle quilts (one French linen & one Irish tweed), trade stall, refreshments (incl. home-made cakes & light lunches). Disabled access to hall, and parking within short walking distance. For further details please contact Pam McCallum on 01726 843520.

Happy Stitching until next time.

 

 

 

Stitching News: July 2019

Welcome to this month’s Stitching News with a special welcome if you are reading this blog for the first time.

I have had many emails from loyal readers, asking if I am OK as I have missed several of my regular monthly blogs. Thank you for your concern,  I haven’t been too well, so decided to have a break from writing, and pretty much from sewing too, but am feeling so much better now, and am picking up the pieces again.

In this post I am including a couple of projects I have been working on and information about Harbour quilter’s exhibition in Mevagissey, this September, as well as other quilt exhibitions that may interest you.

 

DSC01375 (4)I have always enjoyed making zipper pouches. They are endlessly useful for a myriad of different items. They are instantly identifiable because they are so personal, and fantastic for keeping individual pieces of “kit” especially when packing for a holiday: sewing kit; medication, chargers for various devices; camera, sketching equipment; jewellery items etc etc.

This photo on the left is the front of one such pouch. I have used various fabrics with along with some white batik fabric I found in our local market a couple of years ago. It had white spots of wax on, so I decided to dye some to see what happened! I space dyed, and when it was dried and ironed, I could see that the “wax” spots had taken up the golden yellow dye, rather than resisting it! That was interesting!!

So I added two or three more fabrics, and then quilted with hand dyed threads.

 

 

 

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To the left here is a photo of the back… a different arrangement of the same fabrics, with machine as well as hand quilting this time. Finally below the photo shows a possible selection of contents for this pouch!

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Pouches make great little gifts. I say “little” which rather denies the amount of work involved when hand and machine quilting  as well as lining and inserting the zip!

The finished measurement is 9.25″ x 4″

Another small project, I have been working on started off as hand stitched cards for sale at our next Textiles + exhibition which will be in June 2020.

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My initial thoughts were for cards, but as I worked on them and realised how much work I was putting into them I have had to change my thoughts!

I will mount them onto mount board and sell them ready for any prospective buyer to frame.

I took a photograph of some earlier stitched work (which will be in the exhibition) and I printed the photo onto computer paper, as photographic paper looks awful when stitched! However, the representation of the colours was poor..they had “greyed” …understandably. I should have used a much higher grade of paper!

Anyway, I painted over the individual areas again, with Koh-I-Nor inks.  (The original pieces of work are fabric and are A4  finished size.)  I then cut some plain Indian rag paper, using a very diluted blue ink, to mount the painted paper onto so that it would support the paper when stitching, as well as give a pleasing first mount. I really disliked the result of the inked rag paper, as the colour was far too dense. I turned it over, and the ink had bled through in places, which was just perfect. I am pleased with the result now!! The moral in this story is keep going when you don’t like something… until you do like it. This has worked so well for me in many situations over the years. It is really important to keep evaluating your your work as you are working!

Rob, my husband,  has been very creative himself recently. He has always been very involved with wildlife, both when he was a teacher, and very much more now. In fact most days his volunteering is the mainstay of his day! Many of you have known him a long time as he has always been so supportive of everything I have done, joining in with a wide range of the activities over many many years.

He is one of the founder members of Three Bays Wildlife group, which keeps an eye on the health of the wildlife along our local shoreline and up the streams. One of the regular activities of the group is a harbour floor clean. This activity is always done during a school holiday when  visitors are encouraged and warmly welcomed to participate! This year he has been collecting the old, small coloured plastic fish forks. These were discarded in the harbour, over many years. Apparently wooden knives and forks have been used for many years now….indicating that some of the plastic ones maybe tens of years old.

Rob has been playing with an idea of how to use the imagery of this plastic! He washed the last haul, and left them to dry having gathered them into colour groups. some are damaged, which doesn’t matter in the least, He saw them as all being part of family groups. He arranged them onto a piece of black fabric, and when he was happy with the result, he photographed them. He took his photo to a T-shirt shop in St Austell, and had the image printed onto the front and back of a black T-shirt.

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As you may see, there are various configurations of “family”. It has certainly caused some comment and interest! He even wore his T-shirt when 3 Bays wildlife group were presented to Prince Charles when the Royals came to Cornwall for a three day visit last week! The committee had been doing a harbour clean whilst waiting for the visit, so Rob also had a few forks in his hand to illustrate what it was all about!! They all had there wellies and shorts, and high viz waistcoats on! Prince Charles shook their hands and chatted with them.

I have a dress and a little bag to make over the next couple of weeks. Hopefully they may be photographed for the next blog…..we shall see!!

Dates for your diary:   A selection of Quilt Exhibitions this summer.

  1. 1st to 4th August at the NEC Birmingham, The Festival of Quilts
  2. 6th-10th August  Flowerpatch Quilting  Exhibition, Central Methodist Church, Launceston, Cornwall, PL15 8BA Admission £2. Refreshments available, sales table, disabled access. Raffle quilt in aid of a new Air Ambulance for Cornwall. For Further details phone Anita on 01566 86666.
  3. 15th, 16th, 17th August   The Mint Methodist Church, Exeter EX4 3AT. Admission £2. Refreshments, trader, sales table. Disabled access available. Public car parks nearby. On Matford Park and Ride route ( green bus). Contact Pam Smith 07825649694
  4.  29th, 30th,  & 31st August, The West Country Quilt Show.  University of the West of England Exhibition Centre North Entrance, Frenchay Campus, Filton Road Bristol, BS34 8QZ.
  5. 12th –14th September. Harbour Quilters Exhibition.  Jubilee Hall, Chapel St., Mevagissey, Cornwall PL26 6SS Open 10am – 4pm. Admission £2. Two beautiful raffle quilts (one French linen & one Irish tweed), trade stall, refreshments (incl. home-made cakes & light lunches). Disabled access to hall, and parking within short walking distance. For further details please contact Pam McCallum on 01726 843520.

It is always a delight to visit the local exhibitions, sample the cakes and often the lunches too. quilters are masters of baking….It is inspirational to see the lovely quilts on display and the vast array of skills; ideas and technical abilities on show.

These exhibitions demand a huge effort before hand, and a great big thank you goes out to all those who have been organising the “behind the scenes work” of planning and making the raffle quilts; and often a huge array of goodies for sales tables; organising the raffle tickets; planning the publicity (which involves contacting the quilting magazines months before the event; finishing work to be exhibited; preparing labels, and/or a catalogue. Quilt stands have to be got out of storage, and cleaned. Many groups who do not have stands, have to organise the hiring of stands from other groups who are able to hire theirs out. Then props, flowers, hanging of the quilts have to be considered, traders contacted, and refreshments bought and made…..lists of stewards are one of the last things to plan. I am sure I have left other considerations out!

ENJOY and be inspired wherever you go.

Happy stitching, Di

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the reverse side. I have used the same fabrics in a different arrangement, and with different proportions

As above, I have used machine quilting and hand quilting.

 

 

 

 

Stitching News March 2019

Welcome to the March blog. It has been a while since I last wrote. I missed out February …the first month I haven’t written a newsletter for many years….but I am back again now!

It gladdens my heart to see and feel the sunnier weather we have had during this last week! The garden flowers are glorious. Ours is very much a spring garden and it makes me smile everytime I walk outside. In almost every nook and cranny, in every flower bed, under the hedge and in the paths, there are primroses. The pond is teeming with life, and the birds are announcing the herald of spring as they chase around, flirting with each other and collecting nesting materials! Lets hope that winter is indeed behind us!

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This month I have been really focussing on my very big quilt, indeed it has been my main focus for several months now, so I thought I would go through the stages of the planning and execution of the quilt in this newsletter. It is a wedding present for my neice.

She lives in Canada and when she told us she was getting married, I asked if she would like a quilt as a wedding present, stressing that I would not be offended in anyway at all if she didn’t think they would use one.

When she said they would absolutely love to have a hand made quilt I explained how to measure the top of the mattress and the drop to the bottom of that top mattress, as this will be the finished quilt measurement. Beds over there are huge! Hence the final measurement of 105″ x 108″ It is the largest quilt I have ever made!

The palette requested was black, white and grey.

When we discussed the design possibilites she said to me: “I love traditional patchwork designs Di, so I will be delighted with whatever design you would like to choose”.

She is not a quilter, so I chose a design which would show off the huge diversity of fabrics I wanted to use. I was conscious that I needed to choose a design where the black fabrics would not dominate, but would make a “quiet statement”, integrating well with the white and grey!

Once I had the measurements of the mattress and the drop required, I could see that the border was going to be 15″ deep. That is a very wide border all around the quilt! I wanted it to reflect the fabrics and the design elements in the main body of the quilt as it was important to me that the whole quilt should blend as one design.

In order to just give you an overview of the quilt design I chose I have posted a photo above which shows a small section of the quilt laid onto my dining table. The top had been pieced, and hand quilted, but the quilting of the borders had yet to be started….but it shows you the main design of the quilt, before I go any further.

Ninety nine percent of the fabrics were bought from Jo at Cowslip Workshops in Launceston, Cornwall, and I added in two or three of my own hand dyed greys.https://www.cowslipworkshops.co.uk/fabrics

I actually started the quilt in 2014. No! I Haven;t been working on it that long! I will explain all, later on!

The inital planning was a challenge as it was essential to try to work out the quantities of fabric I needed to buy. Having been given the measurement of the mattress top I was able to work out the size of the main blocks (12″) and the width of the “sashing” (3″)and consequently the size of the “setting squares” (also 3″). The main design of the quilt would sit on top of the bed and all of this was worked out on imperial graph paper.

Next I planned the borders. Having a depth of 15″, there needed to be variety and interest in them and I chose more stars as the main feature. These would be in black framed by white fabric. At this stage it was also really important to plan the corners of the borders. They had to look interesting and an integrated part of the whole design! 

I was now in a position to estimate fabric quantities. I made myself a comprehensive list and bought the fabrics in Cowslip January sale, that year.  This helped considerably with costs!  I added an extra metre here and there,  a wise decision, as it turned out. All fabrics were washed and ironed before commencing! 

The king sized beds in Canada are vast! I don’t want the quilt to fall to the floor, because of the safety issues. It is so easy to catch your foot and trip, especially at the corner of the bed where there is more fabric in the drape of a quilt.

I decided to begin with the setting squares, and counted the different white fabrics I had. Although this is a black, white and grey quilt, I have used many different fabrics within each of the colours. This is not immediately noticeable, particularly with the whites. However they do have different white on white patterns, and a variety of different weaves. Some have a sheen, others are matt, etc. and overall it does add so much more interest to the finished effect.

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I cut the correct number of squares evenly distributed between the white stash. Then I repeated the process with the black circles, cutting them from a wide selection of the black fabrics.

To create perfect circles I made a 2.25″ diameter card template and drew around this on the reverse side of the fabric. The circle was cut out allowing a “generous 1/4” seam allowance outside the drawn line. I then made a running stitch in between the drawn line and the cut edge, starting with a knot, and leaving a tail.

This done, I positioned the fabric circle wrong side up on the table and placed the card template so that it matched the drawn line again, and I could then pull the ends of the thread so that the fabric circle pulled around the template hugging it tightly. The threads were then tied securely with a knot and I could press the “unit” as a whole with the iron on cotton setting. I had a perfect circle!  To remove the card, I just carefully bent the whole unit, and could ease the card out of the back of the fabric. I made several templates, so I could work economically with my time.

Each circle was then appliqued onto a square, by hand, matching the fabric grain of the backing and the circle. The photo above shows a limited selection!

The stars for the border were my next focus. Again, I needed to work out how many stars I needed, and using my stash of midgreys and  blacks create an even distribution of fabrics again. A lot of work…but so much more interesting than just black and white!!

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The most straight forward way to prepare these was in batches. If you look at the photo of the 8 pointed stars, to the left, you can see that they consist of a centre black square; four corner grey squares; 8 grey and 8 black  “half square triangles”.

So I could cut these out in batches,  putting each “star” in a separate pile, and I could then assemble them, one or two at a time, as I was able. They were all machine pieced.

I laid them all down on the floor in my sewing room and could keep an eye on the “mix and match sequences!

I chose to do the 8 pointed stars in the border, because at each of the corners of the main blocks in the body of the quilt, the way the sashing is constructed creates an 8 pointed white star, where four blocks meet. The “setting square” becomes the centre square of the star, as you can see below. It is also clear to see the white stars in situ in the very first photograph at the top of the newsletter.

It is probably appropriate here to explain how the stars were quilted after assembly, when quilting the borders, (then I shan’t forget to explain later on)! I quilted a 2″ square centrally within the middle of the square. Next I quilted in the ditch of the main 3″ square at the centre of the star. Then I marked out a third square 1/2″ in from the outer edge of the star block and finally the edge of the star block was quilted in the ditch. So each star has four quilted squares reducing in size from the middle.

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Setting Squares sit at the corner of the main blocks. Sashing sits along each side of a main block. Above is a “one-off” setting square in this quilt. The reason for it is that I just had to have a “bit of me” in this quilt, so I chose to create a unique area of 5 tiny appliqued houses on one of the 3″ squares! This will sit at the left hand corner on top of the bed! All the other setting squares have white squares with the appliqued black circle.

At each end of the sashing unit, which is made from one of the black fabrics, there must be two white triangles. When four sashing strips with their white triangles meet,  an 8 pointed star is created. I used many different white fabrics for the points of the stars.

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This photo shows one of the main blocks with the stars at each corner.

When the whole of the quilt top, including borders, had been constructed, my husband helped me to centre the backing fabric, right side down, on our dining table. We marked the centre with a fold line. The 100% cotton “Request” wadding was then centred in the same way on top of the backing. The centre of the pieced top was obvious from its design and this was placed on the top. The weight of the fabrics hanging down over the table kept it all flat. I slid the “sandwich” across the table to pin the layers in place initially,  working on 1/4 of the quilt at a time. When it was all pinned, I then tacked it all, constantly ensuring the layers were not rucked up, and working in 1/4’s again. I tacked it all in a square grid. Each tacking line was approximately one hand ‘s width apart. It took me three days!

Stabilising the quilt…

In order to do this, I used the walking foot to ensure an even feed of fabric. I machine quilted down each side of all the sashings, “quilting in the ditch”. I worked from the centre sashing on the top row of the quilt, and stitched straight down to the bottom sashing.  Then, turning the whole quilt around 180 degrees, I machined from the “bottom to top”, in effect, on the opposite side of the same sashing  with the next row of quilting, and continued in this manner working from the centre towards one side of the main body of the design. Quilting top-to bottom then “bottom-to top” in long rows, helps to keep the quilt flat, as it evens out any possible tight tension. 

I then repeated this…i.e. top to bottom, bottom to top….across the other half of the quilt.

After that I made a quarter turn of the whole quilt, and repeated both processes once again…eventually creating a machine quilted grid across the main body of the quilt. I also had to machine quilt in the ditch of the six strips which made up the borders all the way around the quilt.

Hand Quilting. Once the stabilization was complete, I could start hand quilting the main 12″ blocks. The quilting design repeated elements within the piecing; circles, squares, and an 8 pointed star. This can be seen clearly in the last photograph.

Each piece of black sashing was quilted 1/4″ inside the perimeter with a central quilting line down the centre of the sashing. Each of the circles in the setting squares was quilted 1/8 of an inch away from its edge. …and it is impossible to see, but the white star was quilted in the ditch on the “outside of the star”. Again, most of these features are visiblein the photo above. I made card templates for the circles, and used a hera marker and omingrid ruler to measure and mark the long straight lines.

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The photo above shows the arrangement of units at the four corners of the quilt.              From the outer corner:  A black 3″square,  a 1.5″ black square, the 6″ black star square; another 1.5″ black square and finally on the inner corner of the border, another 3″ black square.

Wedding called off! Sadly the wedding was called off and the making of the quilt was put on hold. It was put away But now our niece is to get married, and would love the quilt to be finished, So I am working hard to do this, if possible by this August. She has stressed to me that she does not want me to feel pressured for the wedding date, as they will be delighted to collect it whenever it is convenient. I am not quite sure if I will make that date at the moment, but I am making a good effort.

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The photo above shows the hera marker, a piece of white plastic with a point at one end, and a curved edge at the other, lying on the black star. Using my 6″ Omni square I can run the hera marker along the edge of the ruler, pressing firmly onto the quilt sandwich. In this photo you can see where I have marked indentation lines ready for quilting along the top white border and also in between the stars. I haven’t yet marked the long white border at the bottom of the photo. Using the hera marker means that there are no smudgy pencil marks to get rid of. The indentation line disappears into the ditch of the quilting. This is one of my favourite methods of marking quilting lines.

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Finally I would like to show you my favourite fabric in the whole quilt. It is the pale grey and white leaf and flower fabric above the long white strip, shown in this last quilt photo. It just begs to be outline quilted, as you can see where I have quilted the leaves and stems. …(the flower has more detail and looks delightful when finished). It is taking me a long time to do, because there are two very long strips (108″ long x 2) of this fabric within the borders along 3 sides of the quilt, and two strips 105″ long on the top of the quilt.

I am using a 14″ hoop for quilting the borders as it is so much easier to manouvre, than the 18″ hoop I used when quilting the main blocks. I have used a pewter coloured Empress Mills cotton thread for all the hand quilting. It is a lovely quality; soft, but strong.

The needles I have used for the hand quilting are size 11 Roxanne betweens. They are very small but have a good sized eye, and they are very strong; the best needles I have ever used for hand quilting. I bought them online, 50 needles in a little file. You can see how short they are as there is one threaded in the bottom white un-marked border.

The yellow handled needle nosed pliers are a boon. They cost about £1 in our local market “tools” department, When I have loaded the needle with between 3 and 5 stitches, I often need a little help pulling the tiny needle through all the layers. These spring based pliers are fantastic. I wouldn’t be without them!

This quilt is a real labour of love, and I can’t say that I shan’t be pleased when it is finished, but I am really delighted with it.

Happy stitching! Until next time….

Di

 

Stitching News January 2019

This month’s Stitching News gives details of:

  • Little Miss Lottie; a new pattern I have written
  • The proportions to help you design and make your own rag doll
  • Dritz tube turners! These are new to me and already a firm favourite!
  • A delightful needle case to make …from one my favourite stitching blogs.
  • Brief update on my black and white quilt

If you are new to reading my “Stitching News”, a very warm welcome!

I hope there is something to interest everyone in this first blog of 2019.  Why not sign up for it to drop into your inbox when every fresh post has been written.  You can do that by clicking on the FOLLOW button, and giving your email address when requested. WordPress, who manage the blog for me, will then send an acknowledgement into your inbox. You then need to acknowledge the message, as requested, then sit back and wait! Job done!

I usually just write one fresh post per month; very occasionally I will write a second.

For the last few weeks I have been quite lack lustre, battling a chesty viral infection.  I just think I have “cracked it” then four or five days later it is back again! It has been quite exhausting, back with a vengeance again as I write, now! So I have been concentrating on creating a new pattern. This will be my 6th pattern over the last twelve months. It will be available from next month. All money from sales goes to the Albanian sewing project.

Little Miss Lottie is a stuffed doll pattern. Cost; £8

On the outside of the pattern pack, along with a simple description of the doll I have impressed that Lottie is meant as a “collection” doll. She is not suitable for a child.dsc01301 (3)

She measures 9¼” from her toe to the top of her head (excluding her mop of unruly  hair!)  There are endless ways that she could be embellished; the imagination can run wild.  All information is given for making her patchwork dress, as well as assembly. Included in the Little Miss Lottie pack is:

  • A requirements list
  • A template sheet.
  • Method sheets (with photographic stages)

In addition to the above I have made up small packs of the yarn that I have used for Lottie’s  “hair” as well as a piece of mount board around which to wind it. I measured the amount of yarn I used and this is the amount supplied! This additional pack is inclusive in the price of the pattern, but not included in the pattern pack, allowing the purchaser to make a choice! I have two different colours of hair, (one pack of hair per pattern). Lotties hair colour is a browny/aubergine. The other choice is shocking pink, as shown on Lotties companion, Lulu. (Photograph below on the right.)

I have made Lulu using the same templates.  DSC01309 (3).JPGI wanted to illustrate that although the method sheet gives all the instruction for Lottie, once you have understood the basic method…you can alter anything according to your own personal skills and taste.

Lulu’s dress material is a hand dyed fine soft cotton. I ironed a drapable iron-on Vilene to the reverse side of the fabric to give it a little more weight. I appliqued a patchwork strip across her dress using a blanket stitch along the bottom edge and French knots at the top edge. Then I added a couple of rows of hand stitching above the strip.  I also made her a beaded bracelet, instead of the necklace that I made for Lottie.

dsc01308 (4)N.B. I shall only sell the patterns locally. The reason for this is that there is only one of me, and I do all the preparation!

At face value that may seem to be a simple process, but it is really time consuming. There are different amounts of preparation, printing, etc involved with all the patterns, and the prices reflect this.

Those details are in: Stitching News  September 2018  

 https://stitchingnews.wordpress.com/2018/09/

There you can also see a photograph and read the contents of each of the pattern packs listed below:

  • Funky Angel £4.75
  • A concertina folded, dip-dyed booklet with inspiration for creating a tiny “woodland walk .     This is a pattern/half kit, as you can read… £8
  • A rooster lavender bag£4.75
  • An Angel lavender bag£4.75

A fifth pattern is another small project; to make a purse where the zip and the lining are sewn in simultaneously. This technique lends itself to a range of different pouches and bags. The instructions are written over several printed sheets, with coloured photographic stages. Cost £7

I have been invited to three or four different Cornish quilting and embroidery groups this year, and have also been invited up to Bodrugan to meet up with various groups who will be spending a fabulous week of sewing there. Whenever I am invited to a group, I always have a selection of small sale items and this will include patterns.

I have mentioned Ann Wood in my Stitching News before. She lives in New York and designs and creates imaginative fascinating little creatures, insects, birds and dolls, to mention but a few of her ideas. Occasionally she gives some useful sewing tips for particularly tricky techniques. In her latest blog she has given a free mini workshop on a delightful little needle case. Take a look. It is really interesting, and immediately suggested to me other ideas for a similar project!  She has explained the process and illustrated it very nicely through her blog.

https://www.annwoodhandmade.com/the-worlds-sweetest-needle-book-a-free-sewing-pattern/

In her December post she recommended a few of the favourite tools she often uses in her sewing projects. She highly recommended a set of Dritz tube turners.

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When I read about them I instantly knew that I would find them very useful so I sent off for a set and have used them for making the limbs on both of these dolls. As soon as they arrived I could see that the first thing I would need to do before anything else was to make a long thin bag to store them in! Ten minutes later…and it was finished!

The set consists of three sizes of purple plastic “straws”, for want of a descriptive word. Each end of these “straws” is cut at an angle. Accompanying each “straw” is a “prodder”.  For the purposes of the photo I made a “doll’s leg” in the dyed dark blue fabric to demonstrate how to use the tool.

In the photograph to the left, you can see the wrong side of the prepared leg. I inserted the straw into the open end of the leg, and carefully pushed it right up to the top of the “shoe”, which was the closed end of the tube.

Then, as you can see, I have gently pushed the wooden “prodder” into the shoe (the closed end of the fabric tube), pushing it down inside the “straw. This action means that the leg/shoe is being turned to the right side.

It isn’t always necessary to to push the stitched tube the whole way down the inside of the straw. If you withdraw the stick, you can continue the process by hand, if you wish. It all depends on the length of the fabric tube you are wanting to turn to the right side!

Over the years I have spent many hours, turning tubes…had even tried using a straw with varying success. This tool worked in seconds! I used the middle size for the dolls’ limbs, as you can see. Such an amazing, simple, useful tool! Well worth the £6.95  with free delivery. I notice they have gone up by about £1 since then. On reflection I think they were on offer when I ordered mine. Two of the “prodders” are wooden, with a smooth pointed end and a flat end. They are perfect for pushing in stuffing! The smallest prodder is a strong, metal rod. The “straw” is made from a sturdy, good quality purple plastic. Have just bought a set for a friend’s birthday!

Dolls have interested me for a long time, recently really capturing my imagination and I have been researching facts and figures of proportions for making a doll with a head, neck and trunk, as well as the limbs. I tried some sketches but quickly realised I had no idea how to draw something that seemed in proportion! I am NO artist!!

I want to be able to make a body, and then clothe it, rather than the approach I have used for the doll above! There is a great deal of information on the Internet, too much that was of no interest to me at all, so it took several hours to search out the basics. I have found some very useful facts, from a range of sources and the drawing below has been drawn using the facts and figures I discovered. Within the search information I had included that I wanted to make a cloth doll of about 8-9″ in height. Armed with some basic information I then drew a very simple diagram using the simple proportions.

DSC01311 (2).JPGI drew around the template for Lotties head and neck, estimating where the top of her neck may be and then applied the formlae I had found. I stress that these measurements are for a doll, not a human body (although some of them are very close apparently).

The body (length from top of neck to crotch) = 1.5 x the length of the head. The width of the body, is the width of the head. That seemed weird to me, but I drew it on my diagram, and when I added the arms, it looked better and ok to begin with.

The legs and the arms are also 1.5 x length of the head. Feet are an added extension, personal choice I think, as I could find no suggested ratio.

This information came from a German Doll maker. She made a point of saying that it is a starting point and the designer/maker can of course make longer legs, alter the body shape etc.  The site was not secure so I have not included the URL here.

From another source I learned that the width of the head is 2/3 of the length of the head.

From yet another source I discovered that in order to place the facial features on the head, it is necessary to measure from the top of the head to the chin and then divided it into 1/4’s. The front hair line is 1/4 down from the top of the head. The eyes are half way between top of head and chin. The nose is midway between the eyes and the base of the chin, and the mouth is half way between the nose and the chin. (Note to self: I think I will put a note in with the Lottie pattern, explaining that I have discovered this information since I made Lottie.…but clearly the maker can also make her own choices about the facial features!

Finally, I continue to work on the huge bed quilt) 108″ x 105″ I am now hand quilting the borders. There are many, many hours of quilting still ahead of me but I have managed some steady hours lately, which is very pleasing. My enthusiasm comes and goes with my energy levels, so there are many reasons to get this virus out of the way!

Happy stitching until next time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stitching News December 2018

Welcome to the second stitching Newsletter of this month. Indeed, it is the last of 2018. Hopefully you have all had a lovely Christmas. It will have been very busy for some of you and hopefully quiet and peaceful for others! In this newsletter I have included items about;

  • A house warming present
  • “Dotty Lottie” and her little folded book
  • My new Light box

A friend, Suze, moved house in mid December. She has often admired the different small stitched house projects I have been working on, so I thought it would be a nice surprise for her if I made one of myStand Alone” little houses, for a house warming present.

 

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For the main pieces I have used fine quality shirting fabric which I dyed. The three front pieces were English paper pieced. The papers were removed, then the front and back were ladder stitched together with a trapped “wadding” layer. The Guterman thread spool in the photo gives an indication of the scale of the little house which is 6 cms tall, (2 and 3/8″). From start to finish these little houses take 12 hours to complete and are all hand stitched. The gift tag was painted with water colours.

About two months ago the very same friend, asked me I would like a child’s basket chair that she wasn’t able to take with her to her new house. Her grown up son wasn’t keen to have it but she thought that our 3 year old grandson may love to use it. I was delighted to have been asked and a couple of weeks ago I made a cushion for the seat.

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The larger photo shows off the gorgeous fabric more clearly.  I bought it from “The Fabric Bee”;  https://www.thefabricbee.co.uk   It is a Makower fabric, range “UK Home Grown”, reference number  1776/B F5908

What a lucky little boy our grandson is! The chair is such a delightful old fashioned shape and has obviously been well loved in the past and was loved to bits again this Christmas. He sat in it at every available opportunity and loved the cushion too, especially that it was just for him and the chair!!

To make the cushion I cut a newspaper pattern of the seat shape. I was able to cut the front of the cushion from a fat quarter, but had to piece the back. It matched well, so the join doesn’t really show. I decided to allow for a little depth in the cushion and I already had a long strip of denim which had been cut on the bias and was 1 1/2″ wide. This was perfect to give an inch depth between the underside and the top of the cushion.

An old feather cushion was well past its sell-by date so I modified it, re-using the original down-proof fabric. A few feathers flew around the room but with my husband’s help and a very large polythene bag to catch most of the excess feathers, the job was quickly completed. I am very pleased with the end result. The gift of the chair and the notion that it could be loved once again by a younger generation is a joy.  A lovely way to recycle.

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During the summer I made this dolly and have decided to give her to my great niece, Adela, for her birthday early in January. I don’t see her very often as she lives in Hong Kong but her Mum, my niece, has told me in the past that Adela loves any hand made cards I send her!  A few years ago, when she received one of these from me, I was told that she had kept it on her bedside table for a whole year. It was such a joy and a lovely compliment to hear that.

This doll is 9 3/4″ tall.

I have also made a little folded book to accompany the doll. It gives a small explanation about the detail on her. The book measures 2″ square. Below is the very short story that I have written inside.

 

Hello Adela. 

My name is Lottie. My Great Aunt Di made me. Sometimes I heard her call me “Dotty Lottie”!

My hair is wild, and I am not glamorous, but I have some nice features! 

I like my pretty necklace. Aunt Di made some of the beads from paper and she did a lot of stitches on my dress. It was just a plain blue and white striped material, but she used her hand dyed threads to make it prettier! She also made me pretty shoes.

I am not sporty, like you, but maybe I might become clever if I work hard, like you do.

I hope you can find room for me in your bedroom, on a little table or a shelf. Happy birthday Adela! I hope you have a lovely day.

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This is a photo of the little book which will acompany the doll. The pages are Indian rag paper. I tore a 2″ strip and concertina folded it along its length. Then I wrote my text with a 0.1 Unipin fine line pen. This is pigment ink, water and fade proof, and is my absolute favourite pen for hand writing tiny text.  I left the first “page” blank, as this would be stuck to the inside of the front cover. It also gave me a little flexibility in case I wanted to write anything else on it! I also left the last page blank. I then cut off the excess of the paper strip.

Employing this approach, seemed the best way to work out how many pages I would need for the book! I didn’t need to do a “practice write” which I usually do if I have text to fit into a specific space. I could just write my little story and then see where the text finished and make sure that the last fold was a “valley fold”, matching the first fold. If it hadn’t been a valley fold, I would have moved along the strip of paper to the next valley fold and trimmed the paper accordingly. Should there have been a couple of blank pages, they could have been easily utilised by writing another couple of sentences!

N.B. A valley fold receeds, and a fold that comes forward is called a mountain fold. You can identify these two folds in the photos, if you are not familiar with the terms.

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I  used mount board for the book covers with a Tana Lawn fabric, shown here in the photo to the side. The mount board will give stability if the book stands up. It also keeps the cover flat, and sharp.

 

Cardboard would not be as effective as it is pliable and can easily get damaged. The right-hand cover in the photo is the front cover.

Closure of the book is by a button and fine cord. The button was sewn in place through the mount board, before the back of the first page was glued to the cover. You can see the button on the right hand cover.

The fine cord has two tiny buttons tied to the end of it, which makes it very easy to hold onto. The cord was glued securely to the inside back cover, before the back of the last page was glued to it. Finally the two flowers inside the covers were cut out from the Tana Lawn fabric. To do this I cut a small section of the fabric, which had two flowers reasonably close together. I ironed some Bondaweb to the wrong side, and cut out the flowers. The Bondaweb makes the fabric very easy to handle as the paper makes the fabric stiff.

After peeling off the paper, I position the flowers and  briefly placed the iron tip to each of them, and checked that they were stuck down. It is important to “press” these fabric flowers in place, rather than “iron” them down. No marks will be left on the page this way.

I do hope Adela likes it! It has been great fun to make!

When one of our sons asked if there was anything particular I would like for Christmas I asked for a light box. I must admit that I saw this fantastic one being used last Autumn. I was teaching a group of ladies who had come down for a long weekend’s workshop. Maureen was actually working on a project that she had brought with her, and was tracing off her pattern using this light box. I really thought it was an amazing tool. Years ago I had a light box which involved having a sheet of perspex balanced on supports which were placed under each end of it. There had to be enough height to clip a lightbulb underneath. I used it a great deal in the past but then, to be honest, I have no reollection of what happened to it!

This one is a totally different kettle of fish! It is light weight, ultra slim, and daylight LED lit.  I chose the A3 size. It is also available in A2 and A4 sizes. It comes with its own storage bag. The controls are all touch buttons, flush with the top surface, and they respond immediately. On the underside are anti slip disks. There is an on/off  button and four levels of brightness. It plugs into the mains, with 6 feet of available cable.

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I read various reviews of similar products, and eventually decided on this one by Vario; a British company which also offer a 2 year guarantee. It was £35. A fabulous present!

This photo shows the light box, with a Vario document underneath, and a piece of computer paper just laid lightly over two thirds of it. You can already imagine how clearly the information could be seen, and this is with no pressure on the top paper, at all. Finger tip pressure as there would be when tracing is all that is needed! It does come with two clips, which do not have enough extension so are practically useless! I would just use other little weights on the surface! So no problem!

I hope you find something of interest in the newsletter. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those of you who have contacted me throughout the year, some by leaving “comments”,  and others emailing, but all saying how much you thoroughly enjoy reading them.

I wish everyone a very Happy New Year and very best wishes, for good health, and inspirational creativity!

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stitching News December 2018

Christmas Greetings to you all!

Welcome to my Christmas newsletter! This month I have written about;

  • My Christmas card choice for this year
  • Preparation for my Christmas cakes; …and “what has that to do with patchwork?”  you may ask yourself! … Well, it’s all in the tools!
  • A quilt which I am endeavouring to finish for September 2019….I am hand quilting and it is huge!
  • My plans for my tiny wooden spools
  • My Advent calendar and a few other decorations!

Most of us will have been planning  for Christmas in various ways recently. Since my last newsletter I have been making Christmas cards;  finishing little presents; working through the rest of the present list; making Christmas cakes, and planning menus.

I made my Christmas cards towards the end of November.

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I actually made this little stitched panel about 12 years ago. It was an extra sample for a class I was teaching about using sheer fabrics. It measures 8.5″ x 5.

As you can see it is hand stitched, with hand dyed threads. I have trapped layers, (some of which are also sheers), under a top layer of sheer fabric. In other words, it is a sample of shadow applique.

I remembered it, when I was thinking about ideas for this year’s cards.

I photographed it, and printed the photos, in three different sizes onto standard A4 glossy photographic paper. The larger photograph size fits 4 photos to an A4 sheet.  One photo can be mounted onto a standard A6 single fold card; therefore 4 cards per sheet.

The middle size fits 9 photos to an A4 sheet. I also mounted these onto A6 cards, but because the photos are smaller, there was room to write the start of the carol…”while shepherds watched their flocks by night, all seated on the ground… ” around three sides of the photograph. This particular size is a plus, as one sheet yields 9 cards!

The third size fits 35 photos onto the A4 sheet, and I make gift tags using these. I cut 2″ x 4″ units of plain white card, then fold them in half making a square gift tag. I trim the photos with my rotary cutter and mount one to the left of centre on the front of the tag, leaving space to write “Merry Christmas” along the edge of it. Inside, I punch a single hole near the fold, at the top of the card, to thread to loop a cord through.

The three sizes are photographed below! I just love the fact that the Christmas card and the tag are an item!

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I also made my Christmas cakes on the last weekend of November….probably should have done it about three or four weeks earlier! I thought it apposite that I should explain why my 6″ Omnigrid square is in the photograph below!

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You can also see my cake tin in the photo. It is the 12″ Lakeland cake tin that has dividers which can split the tin into various size units within the 12″ framework. Each year, since I bought the tin, I have made four six inch Christmas cakes to give to various members of our family. I use the Omnigrid square in the preparation of the liners for the four divided sections.

I cut baking parchment into a square; the size of the square is the width of the roll. Next I fold the square diagonally in both directions, centre the 6″ Omni square and draw around it’s edge. I then cut away a square at each outside corner of the large square, and make a sharp crease along the 6″ border of baking paper which is left along each side of the internal square.

When each surface of the individual 6″ cake tins has been lightly greased, the baking parchment liner can be dropped accurately into its area. The folded sides of the paper square can then be lifted up and will sit snugly against the walls, and will stick in position! It is fiddly, but it works well, and I feel the time taken is well worth it.

I really have my work cut out for the next few months, as I am aiming at finishing a very large bed quilt by September 2019. It is a present for my niece. I asked her  to measure across the top of the mattress and down to the bottom edges of the top mattress. It is a king sized bed, with a very deep top mattress.

Her choice of colour scheme was black white and grey, but she left the actual choice of fabrics to me We discussed design possibilities and she said she loved “traditional” patchwork but left the final choice to me.  I had a great deal of work to do before I could go shopping. I drew out an outline of the finished size, and had to divide it up, so that the central part of the quilt design fitted on top of the mattress with the borders hanging down the sides. I could then work out the size of the design elements. I worked out placements of the dark, medium and light values and the sizes of the various components within the quilt, and then roughly estimated quantities…and how many fabrics I would like within each value. I rounded all quantities up, and bought  a little extra of everything! With all that information written down, I was ready to purchase!

I largely used my machine to create and assemble the quilt top, but I am entirely hand quilting it. The centre is completed, and I am now quilting the borders, which are 15″ deep. The whole quilt measures 105″ x 108″. Most of this work was completed over two years ago. For various reasons, it was then put on one side, and I am just picking it up again.

 

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Although it is a traditional design, I have amalgamated six borders reflecting the use of fabric and elements from the central panel. Squares, circles and pieced stars, of varying sizes, predominate. I just had to have a little bit of me, and what I do, in there somewhere! Hence the group of five little houses in one of the setting squares! The finished size of the setting squares is 3″.

The preparation of this square was started by drawing a 3″ square onto freezer paper. I drew the group of five houses within the square, allowing a 1/4″border between the group and the edge of the square. The drawn shapes were all numbered, and then cut up, and ironed onto the right side of my fabric choices, before cutting each shape  out with a 1/4″ fabric seam allowance around each shape.

The same freezer paper templates were then peeled off the front of the fabric, and slid underneath, in preparation for the English method of piecing the individual houses. (Each piece of fabric was tacked over the template, so that the raw edges were hidden. When each of the 5 houses had been assembled, it was pressed carefully, before the tacking stitches were cut and the paper templates removed. The reason for pressing them was to give a sharp crease at the edge of the houses, which would keep the raw edges in place. The next stage was to stitch the windows and doors  in place. Finally each house was tacked into its correct position on the 3″square, and appliqued in place.

Last month I teased you with a photograph of empty cotton reels, and asked you what I might be going to do with them! I have started!

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The reels are tiny; measurements 1/2″ tall  as well as 1/2″ across the end of the spool too! So they are almost “square”!

The very large spools in last months photo will not be used, as they are too heavy, but I have some others, only slightly larger than these here, which I will include!

By now, if you didn’t realise before, you probably understand that small is beautiful to me, and doesn’t phase me at all! I know that “small” is incredibly fiddly and fussy for a large majority of people, but there are some of us, who actually enjoy “small”!! “Small” often means easily portable too, which has definite advantages.

They will be part of a string of bunting…, but not necessarily for Christmas. The fabrics are all Liberty prints which I have sewn onto the spools. So far I have done about 50 and I have the same to do again, They will be threaded onto a cord, interspersed  with little flags, that I am also in the process of making. About 10 have been completed with a little channel on the reverse side to thread the cord through. When looking through my UFO’s the other day, I found some house bunting that I had started a couple of years ago. I actually got on really well with it but never finished it.  Note to self….want to finish that this year. Seeing it again really enthused me!

I will show you more, as the spool bunting progresses! Ideas pop in and out of my head, about this bunting, all the time!

Another spool item! During a holiday in Canada recently, we went to see a quilter who lived on the Cabot trail, and opened her studio to interested quilters. I loved her front door, which sported a wonderful row of cotton reels, which were “half shapes” so that they fitted flush to the wooden door. What a fabulous idea!

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Her name is Anne Morrell Robinson, and she is a prolific and amazing quilter.

She had a beautiful studio, which was huge! Many of her quilts were stacked flat and high on a large wooden surface,akin to bed size!

Downstairs she had another comparable stash which we were also thrilled to view.

Making quilts was her business, and she advertised and sold her work extensively.

https://www.kingrossquilts.com/anne-morrell-robinsons-studio/

 

I have long had a fondness for Advent Calendars. This year, a dear friend gave me a Sally Swannell Advent card.

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It is absolutely delightful, I didn’t know anything about this lady’s work, but she has gorgeous ideas and is worth looking up if you are interested;  https://www.sallyswannell.co.uk/.

I have some favourite Christmas decorations which go up every year. This is one of them; an advent calendar, which I made almost thirty years ago!

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It is in two parts. The photograph on the left shows the 24 days leading up to Christmas day. The pieced and appliqued squares are 3″ square. Each one has two little black hooks above it for a numbered cover to hang from.

When it is hung, on December 1st, I don’t put the covers on in any specific order, apart from the 24th, which is always covering the crib in the bottom right hand corner.

There are no pockets for sweeties or little presents,

 

The “game” was always to guess which picture was underneath the cover before it was removed each day! I made this when our two boys were about 9 and 10. They watched the progress as it grew over the course of many months, and even made suggestion for some of the 3″ blocks. At one point when I was wondering what to do next, one of them said “You can’t have an advent calendar without a Santa”! We talked about how he might be represented; “Coming down the chimney, of course!” was the answer!

When it was all finished and had been up for its first Christmas, my husband said; “It is likely that at some stage you are going to lose one or two of the covers…so perhaps you should make them “work”! He suggested that I make another hanging, that the covers could hang from!  So this was the idea I came up with!

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First, we had to work out a phrase with 24 letters in it!  “A  VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU” worked well! Then I could draw a working diagram.Red green and the same background fabrics were used.

I pieced it in horizontal rows, and hand quilted a Sashiko design on each of the coloured squares, using a Sulky gold metallic thread.  With the covers, I  stencilled the appropriate letter onto the reverse of its partner number, using a metallic gold paint. Then each letter was back stitched by hand to emphasise the outline, being careful not to go through to the front of the cover!

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Fortunately the numbers on the front of the covers had been quilted before the covers had been assembled, and were stitched with just a square of wadding underneath. Tehy were then layered with the backing square, and bound.

Now, number 1 has an on the reverse side; number 2 has a V; number 3  an E; number 4 has an R; and so on. You get the idea! The photograph shows 3 numbered covers and three covers with 3 letters.

So, by Christmas Eve all the covers on the advent calendar have been taken off, turned over and hung on the partner hanging, revealing the Christmas message.

It is a “working” Advent Calendar”! It is difficult to clearly photograph the detail on the second hanging, but at the top two corners I quilted a Christmas tree, and secured a bugle bead topped by a star sequin at the end of each “branch”, suggesting candles. The densely patterned fabric hides the small detail, unfortunately.  In between the words at the bottom of the hanging (position identified by the wooden red berries) I quilted holly leaves.

Here are a few other favourites!

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All are hand made, and some are typically very traditional which I love! There is nothing wrong with that!

The two 3-D tree decorations each consist of three identical oval card shapes. which have fabric glued to them, and the seam allowance glued over the edge, so that it is hidden when the shapes are sewn together.

In 2010 I recorded a video of this particular decoration, with Jamie Malden of Colouricious.  If you would like to see a detailed version of how to make the little decoration, just copy and paste How to Make Christmas decorations – Di Wells – Jamie Malden into a Google search and you will see a detailed tutorial on You Tube.  (You will need to delete the initial advert that always precedes any You Tube film!)

I made the Christmas houses about 5 years ago. They are double sided, with “snowy” roofs, and a Christmas tree on each side! This means that they can hang on a tree and the detail can be seen which ever way they turn! I over-dyed some very fine woven quality shirting fabrics. This took away the stark white background, giving a more muted result, and some texture too. The tiny fabric trees were cut out of a Christmassy fabric, and bonded in position. We hang several of these houses against our Cornish stone fireplace, at Christmas! They are suspended from a fine dowel threaded through the chimneys!

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I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, which will hopefully be filled with fascinating and inspired stitching!

Until January…

 

 

 

 

Stitching News November 2018

This month I am going to write a little more about the way I often like to approach new work. But, first I would like to put some cheerful autumnal colour into your lives, and show you a scarf I have made…

…along with the shoes that I bought! Let me tell you the story!

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Anyone who knows me will know I am a very “blue” girl!”. Most of my wardrobe consists of blue in some form or other! So, when I went to buy some new shoes at the beginning of this month, I wanted blue. I knew the style I wanted but they have not produced them in blue this year!

They had the style in red suede or black, and the red shoes were my size, so having said to the shop assistant that I definitely did not want red, and very particularly not suede, either…I looked around, but nothing else caught my eye….so I said “Let me just try on the red ones….and then perhaps you can order the black, in my size”!

Well I don’t need to finish the story. I fell in love with them immediately. They made me feel so happy! …but then I just had to make something to wear with them!!

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The photo above shows the other side of the scarf. The two sides have a mix of my own dyed fabric, and some commercial prints. I made the two lengths and then tacked them together, rights sides out. There is no inner layer, as I didn’t want to add any more “bulk”, wanting the scarf to be drapable.

Cotton fabric might not be the best choice for drapability, especially batiks, of which I have included several patches, but with all the stitching I have done, it feels a nice weight, and quite drapable, as well.

The two sides are pieced, using the same range of fabrics. The front has three appliqued patches as well. They have been applied by hand with a blanket stitch. I did this to add more colour and to break up the large geometric pieces. They have added interest, and offered obvious areas for a change of direction in the quilting. I have quilted throughout with a big stitch and hand dyed threads…a brilliant way to use up odds and ends! I turned in the edges, hand stitching with a tiny running stitch, and a fine machine thread.

I feel ready to burst through Autumn and definitely into winter now. Why have I never had red shoes before…? I love my scarf. It makes me smile, as do my shoes, and I will never get fed up wearing them!

Now, to return to my (often) preferred way of starting a fresh body of work.

As I explained in last month’s newsletter; http://www.stitchingnews.wordpress.com/2018/10/   I have built up several bodies of design work over many years. All this experience has shown me the design tools that I feel “most comfortable” using when planning fresh work.

In the October newsletter I explained and showed you my approach for designing my first two house panels, and the third is on the drawing board. I drew this one on a distorted hexagon grid this time, shown below.

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I drew in my houses, removing many of the grid lines which simplified the design considerably.

I also really like the fact that there is still evidence of the hexagons as well

I thought it would be fun to create these houses with teracotta roofs and white walls, but couldn’t work out what to do about the background, so I painted it , and really disliked the result. I was disappointed, as I had already spent a lot of time on it!

 

This is all part and parcel of the lengthy process of designing, and let’s face it, far less costly in time and materials, than making it up, and then wanting to put it in the bin!

What to do next? I put it on one side for  few days, kept looking at it, then decided to cut away the colour I didn’t like in the background…..

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Now I felt I was getting there! I was beginning to smile again….I can see possibilities, that I hadn’t even considered before! May change the colour….as not sure if I want it so bland! On the other hand it is part of a “series” and as such offers a different palette!

The biggest transformation was that I needed to remove a lot more lines, to simplify the “negative space”. It was still far too busy,

 

 

 

 

In the grid photograph of the line design, I have already simplified, and may well do a little more, yet. As I was making changes to my working drawing all the time, I cannot show you how “busy” the original was, I’m afraid.

It has now become a very worthwile exercise to have done! It illustrates very clearly why it really is important to keep on….!

I can work with the ideas here, but will also work with the hexi grid design as well. As work and ideas progress, I will keep you up to date!

Moving on to a different process but using still using Fibonacci for my final design decisions

Below, the first photo shows a section of a drawing of a Welsh whole cloth quilt design from the Welsh Folk Museum in Cardiff. I had taken my students for a visit, and during the day the curator had given us all the opportunity to see drawings of traditional patterns from their archive. We were allowed to photograph and draw them. She was an extremely knowledgeable lady and we had an amazing day.

Working from the inspirational traditional Welsh pattern I developed my own  patterns. Whether I use them or not, it is a good way of experimenting!

I like to work within structured geometric units as the grid formation really suits my “organised” mind! It was an automatic way for me to work… I actually didn’t plan it like that, I found it was just happening! Below are a selection of pages from one of my work books.

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There are lots of ideas within all of this work as well as in the rest of my book, certainly plenty to come back to at any time!

Some of these ideas are simple, others far more complicated….but areas can be subtracted using L-shapes, or a cut out window, which can be trawled over a page. This really helps to isolate an area, and simplify detail.

Just writing about this has triggered  ideas that I didn’t have time to explore at the time! I would certainly want to experiment with collage and colour Autumnal colours and painted paper; magazine papers, and a dip into my “paper scrap stash” would be a great start!

At the time, these exercises and several more eventually led me to start planning for a piece of work, which would be a triptych. The fact that I have done nothing with it to date is irrelevant. It is all well documented and can be picked up and modified at any time in the future!

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As ideas formulate it is essential to be considering techniques and materials and a final size for any piece of work.  Contrasts; change of scale; texture; repetition, colour, and so much more are all really important to a successful result.

I must emphasize that there are many many ways to design quilts, hangings etc, and a mathematical way is only one. I can hear many sighs of relief, and imagine vigorous nodding of heads!

We are all very different, which means there is always a terrific energy in the wonderful work we see within our stitching groups, and in all the exhibitions we are lucky enough to visit.

The main thing is that every individual just enjoys what they are doing, and that it makes them smile! Which ever way we get there is personal to us. I find it endlessly fascinating to read how other people do it, so I hope this has been an interesting and insightful read for you, too.

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Now! What could I possibly be going to do with a box of cotton reels!  I will show you in the n  ext newsletter. I have started!

 

 

I will also explain how my idea for this year’s Christmas card has come about!

 

 

 

If you enjoy reading my newsletters, please recommend them to your stitchy friends. There is a real mix of information, ideas, mini tutorials etc in them. Hopefully, there is something for everybody.

I constantly hear from past readers, (and those are only the ones I come into contact with),  that they are confused when I mention my newsletter. They realise that they haven’t had one come into their own inbox for ages.

The very first blog I wrote explains the reasons for that, so if you also hear your friends say this, please inform them that they can follow the stitching news from the blog site, and start receiving it again. I cannot put them on my email list , as before, each individual must activate it themselves.

Happy stitching!