November News

We have been away for quite a chunk of this month, and consequently I have not managed  as much sewing as normal! That doesn’t mean to say that my mind hasn’t been working overtime though! I definitely need hour extensions to every day.

We saw Guinea fowl many times on holiday and they totally fascinate me. I love the way they herd themselves to run away, or on other occasions they may run away in a long line. Their black boxy shape and white spots are so smart. The wattle and neck are a gorgeous vivid blue, contrasting with the bright red beak and the horn on the top of their head!

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I had always believed this to be a crest, but on closer inspection of recent photos it is quite solid! I took lots of photos, and shall be making printing blocks, hopefully before too long.

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Before we went away I printed my Christmas cards, and I have been doing the finishing touches to those over the last few days. They are simple technique, which Grahame,  a great friend, and artist, showed me how to do, and I will show them and explain what I did after Christmas, as then they will still be a surprise to my friends! I will also explain how I made my gift tags to match!

I have had a great time dyeing sari silk and threads, this month. Autumn colours are so gorgeous, and inspirational. I also took the opportunity to dye some more threads while I was being messy! I prefer to wind my threads onto small units of mountboard. It does take some time, but the plus side of that is that the threads are totally ready to use; don’t knot as they are completely untangled; and I can really see the lovely space-dyed effects clearly.

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I use cotton and silk threads, and have just tried dyeing some antique linen thread. They all behave differently.  If you look at  the middle row of threads, there are two “golden browns, and a blue all sitting next to each other. These are the antique linen thread. They are much coarser, stiffer and quite “spindly” in comparison to the cotton thread I buy to dye (from Empress Mills at the shows). A lovely friend gave me two big spools of silk, many years ago. One was a dull dark pink, and the other golden yellow. I really wasn’t sure what to do with them, as I had limited use for using a pink and or yellow thread, although they are beautifully soft. Then I decided to over-dye them. Since then I have created quite a range of colours, considering how dark the red is, and the colour mix theory, which clearly sits alongside this process! On the top row of the threads the five on the left hand edge, are silk threads. You can see the slight slub in the thread.

Charity Day:  Jo, at Cowslip Workshops, Launceston, has very kindly booked me another day for a charity workshop, next year. It will be on Tuesday September 11th and, as last time, there will be two projects on offer. Students may spend all day on one project, or chose to do a half day on each. It was a really successful day last year, enjoyed by one and all; a large spacious area to stitch, friends to share and chat with, good food on offer for lunch, or you are also very welcome to bring your own picnic lunch, a sales table, and raffle, and “inspiration” table… and last, but certainly not least, a wonderful shop to browse as well! What more could you ask for? We raised a magnificent amount of money for our two chosen charities, last year, so hope we can rise to the challenge again in September.

I am delighted to say that Rosemary will be team teaching with me again. We have been planning our projects for the workshop, and in the New year we will let you have more details of what will be on offer. I already have three bookings, even though I explained to the ladies that no decisions have been made about the projects on offer yet! As before, we shall split the proceeds between a local Cornish charity, and the sewing project in Albania. There is magnificent work going on out there, and having been run and very well organised from Devises in Wiltshire for the last 20 years, a solid local team over in Albania who have been involved and trained for many years, are taking over the reins themselves now. They have been supported and working towards this, gradually, for a long time, and are doing a superb job. What a success story!

With this in mind I have made a start on thinking about creating items for the sales table for the charity day!

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I always like to aim at some small pieces, that have an element of hand stitching, so that they can be picked up easily and worked on, even if only for ten minutes at a time! This is how I manage to achieve quite a lot of work, as I often tell people! Little and often! These “few minutes”. here and there, very quickly add up, whereas finding “half a day” to sew, can be a large chunk of time which cannot always be found.

However, just because they are small items it doesn’t mean that they are quick to make! Far from it. There is always a lot of preparation in any project before you get to the stitching stage, whether it be large or small. Personally, I like to be neat and have items well finished too, so that if anyone looks inside, upside down etc, there are no raw edges or loose threads! My motto has always been; “If something is worth making, it deserves to be done well”! So, however small, there are no compromises!

The two photos above show the two fronts, and to the side of this text are the two  backs of a couple of pouches. They are approximately 3″x 4″ and 4″ square, finished. The depth across the base is 1″. This is created by “boxing the corners”

Here is a brief overview of the process.

  1. I made tiny individual log cabin blocks from the dyed sari silk. Before the dyeing process I had torn the sari silk into strips, approximately 3/4″ wide.
  2. I  then completed the fronts of the pouches by piecing the little block with recycled denim pieces.
  3. Then I constructed the backs of the pouches out of denim pieces. (N.B. They needed to be about 3/4″ larger than the fronts, to allow for the diagonal slash, and re-piecing).
  4. I folded and pressed one of the silk strips in half  lengthwise. laced the raw edges of the silk to one of the raw edges of the slashed denim. The other slashed edge was positioned, right sides together, trapping the silk in between them so that it was ready to stitch with 1/4″ seam allowance. Only 1/8″ of the bright coloured silk is revealed this way. This is only a small detail, but it packs a punch! As you can see from the photos these two pouches are pieced differently.
  5. Next, I cut two “medium to heavy weight” pieces of calico, and layered and tacked them to the front and back panels.  I didn’t want to add more bulk by using a wadding, but I did want to add stability, for the quilting.
  6. I hand quilted the panels, as shown in the photos, using a white “denim thread”.
  7. Finally I cut linings to size, and sewed the zip and lining in together. I boxed the corners to give the pouches shape and “roominess”, and added a ribbon detail to the zip pull.

I shall always be grateful to Helen who showed me how to sew the zip and lining in to a bag/purse at the same time. I have used this technique dozens and dozens of time since, and taught it to many people. It is an efficient and tidy method. The secret is to buy zips, longer than you actually need, so that you are not having to move the zip pull out of the way, when stitching. Next month I will explain the process in this technique.

This week I found a pieced cushion front, that I had made well over ten years ago. I had potato printed some fabric which I had used in the centre of the panel, building it up as a cushion panel. I didn’t like it then, which is, presumably why I didn’t take it any further. Looking at it again I still didn’t like it, so I have decided to cut it into four, and treat each quarter differently. I aim to make four items for the sales table out of them. Below is half of the cushion front, from which you will be able to imagine what the whole thing looked like.

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Below you can see how I have altered the first one. I trimmed away the pale blue borders and appliqued red circles onto the batik fabric, finally adding the denim borders. I just have some hand stitching to do around the internal edge of the denim. I have decided that this will become a pocket on the front of a cross body denim bag. The back of the bag will be made from recycled denim.  It has come alive now, particularly with the pop of red, and of course the quilting. I have started to prepare the second quarter now, and it already looks very different to this one! How will that turn out! I will show you next time!

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Just a week ago, Rob and I visited Cheltenham, to go to Montpellier quilters exhibition. What a lovely time we had! A really lovely exhibition, with beautiful workmanship in a wide variety of quilts and artefacts; wonderful old friends to see, great refreshments too. Montpellier quilters had told us they had voted to support the Albanian sewing project by having it as one of their chosen charities for this exhibition. We were absolutely thrilled…so another HUGE thank you to them.

Tip of the month:

I have two “non stitching” tips to offer this month! Please forgive me if I am “teaching my grandmother to suck eggs!” I had no idea about these two simple short cuts, until very recently, and they have saved my sanity!

  1. I recently bought a new laptop, and the key board is incredibly sensitive. As a result, my text size zooms in and out frequently, and  alarmingly! I really don’t know why or how it happens! I was getting really irritated by this constant distraction and interruption, having to look up at the top task bar, move the cursor to it in order to return to default size. I have now discovered that this can be done quickly and efficiently by holding down control and clicking 0. This is far easier, and very efficient.
  2. Another problem that was happening far too readily, and was SO frustrating ; “disappearing text”! I could be writing an email or document  when unexpectedly it would suddenly totally disappear. I could never ever find it again, and felt totally helpless. I googled the problem and found out that there is a very easy solution;    ctrl z. This will magically return the text! You have to do it straight away, and very occasionally, will need to do it two or three times, particularly if you hadn’t noticed, and had written another couple of words. It can’t be just me that experiences these really frustrating laptop idiosyncrasies!

Happy stitching until next time……,

Di

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October News 2017

P1040408 (1) I love the month of October; the misty mornings; the leaves changing into glorious autumn colours; berries, hips and haws abound in the hedgerows and the birds are eating voraciously from the feeders, giving us endless entertainment! Early in the mornings there are spider’s webs everywhere in the garden and when I saw this one it made me reflect on how hard the spider had to work to catch her early breakfast! This then led me to look up whether it is male or female spiders that make the web, and the complicated processes involved. What a story! It is a fascinating read….

My lovely sewing room has become more and more disorganised, just because I have so much on the go all the time!!  My projects seem to be grouping together, on tables or the floor while I am “auditioning” fabrics for each of them!  I suspect that many of us, do this before launching into making piece of work. I often want to pin work up for a while, or even put it away for a few days/ weeks, until I have a more concentrated period of time to concentrate on it. That doesn’t mean to say that I am not turning it all over in my mind, constantly.

One very good friend said to me one day, as I was apologising about the state of my room; ” Di, you cannot be creative and tidy! Don’t worry about it”! I don’t, I can assure you, but I do like to have a good tidy up occasionally, as it helps to clear my mind! Anyway, I decided to make some calico tote bags, so that it is easier to separate the different projects, and store them. This would help to tidy up my room, as well as other areas in the house! First, I stored them in various cloth bags, and hung them from some butchers hooks just to get the feel of what I wanted! As I already use these bags on a regular basis, they couldn’t be in permanent use! But, immediately it was tidier than it had been for many weeks. That was the just the incentive to get on and make them!

P1040425They had to be quick to make, but I equally wanted them to look smart. I used a heavy weight calico…no adornments other than a tiny additional loose “pocket” pinned with an outsize safety pin around one of the handles. I have slotted a card into this with the project name easy to read! Job done. Will be making another couple very soon!

I finished the quilting on the lino printed panel that I showed in the last blog. It has been an easy project to get on with as it is relatively small. I really love having hand sewing on the go as it is so easy to transport, and to sew in the evenings, or with friends when chatting! I cut out some more denim to border the panel, which also made it up to the correct size for the front of the bag. I also sourced a denim pocket for the back of the bag; such a useful addition to have. I chose a fabric for the bag lining and cut this to size, before stitching a padded pocket in place on it.  In the final construction I sewed the lining and the zip in together and created boxed corners at the base of the bag to give a pleasing shape, and a roomy interior. I have made this bag specifically as a gift; designing the lino print, choosing colour, size etc.

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During the first three years after we moved to Mevagissey, I taught eleven residential courses up at Bodrugan Barton, a farm on the edge of Mevagissey, whose wonderful owners, Sally and Tim could not have been more hospitable. The courses were great fun, and when I “retired” the ladies started to book retreats there for themselves and friends.

They frequently invite me up to the farm when they are staying there. It is a wonderful way for me to keep in touch with everyone. I get to see what they are all working on, and they get to see what I have been up to too! We chat, laugh, share a mix of ideas…and of course cake and coffee come into it as well!! This last month I have three invitations up to see old friends. They are very special times.

I also taught 15 wonderful ladies from Brockhampton Quilters, Gloucestershire, a week ago, for a long weekend.  This is the sixth annual “workshop weekend” that I have taught for them in Mevagissey, and hopefully there may be more! They have already booked again for next year! It was a very happy weekend, with much chatter and laughter; a lot of very productive stitching going on in between the coffee and cakes and other delicious food and everyone supporting each other fantastically.

The Saturday “whole day workshop” was a mini landscape day. They had all brought their own source material to work with and a fabric palette, threads and hand and machine sewing equipment. I had dyed some scrim in different colours, as well as extra  threads for anyone to dip into…and I also had a selection of painted mixed media to hand for their use, as well. It was very much a learning experience for some, while others were more comfortable with the process….but I was SO impressed with the fantastic progress they all made. One of the ladies had brought a quilt which was under construction, so she was making the most of the time to get on with that.

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There was a terrific range of styles and embellishment, and they should all be very proud with their end results.

The previous weekend, I had prepared  P1040409 (2)a mini landscape. I took a photo of  the garden from our sitting room. and then worked out an order of work, which gave a basis for the handout and a suggested start for the workshop. The result is shown here on the right. I need to do a bit more at the bottom of the panel, but it was sufficient for teaching purposes.

I used a wide range of mixed media as well as my dyed fabrics and  threads, and really enjoyed the process. The size unfinished is 4″ by 10.5″.

I did an Eco dyeing demonstration for the group on Friday evening, which worked well. I had also made a little book with some samples in, and talked them through the book making process too. While the leaves were steaming, they began the preparation for their landscapes, so it was a very full 3 hour class, starting late afternoon!

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The two photos above show one of the the page spreads and the outside cover of the book.

On Sunday morning we had another small project; a flat, narrow pencil case which involved the insertion of a zip. I use my 1/4″ foot for zips, rather than my zipper foot, so I was able to show them how I do this, and for those who had never tackled a zip before, they were really excited about the finish. The secret, of course, is to have a zip which is a good 2″ (or more) longer than is required. It is then trimmed to size after insertion. We made small flat pencil cases which are an ideal size for putting in a hand bag.

I hope you have enjoyed this newsletter and look forward to being back in touch next month. Happy Sewing!

Di

 

 

 

 

September News

I belong to Harbour Quilters in Mevagissey, and we have just held our biennial quilting exhibition. It was a great success and we met many old friends, and made some new ones. It was delightful to see some potential new members at our following meeting. There was a wide range of items on display, from miniature to very large!  Below is one of my entries!

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I called it “A quilters day at the seaside”. Needless to say, it was one of the smaller ones! I enjoyed making these ladies last year, and they looked interesting set with the deckchairs which have been great fun to make. They are all pieced, appliqued and very much embellished with stitch.

I am really excited as one of my sons has given me an old renovated book press for my birthday. I have hankered after one of these for many years, wanting to be able to use it for printing. He bought it from E bay, from a gentleman called Neil, who lives in Dudley. It has been in my possession for over a month, but I had so many tasks underway that needed completing that I did restrain myself from trying it out until after the exhibition. “Restrain” meant practically sitting on my hands!

The first photograph shows it’s condition when the restorer first starting working on it. I am sure you will agree that he has done a fantastic job. I have several photographs of the progression of his work, which is a fascinating record and accompaniment to go with the press. The way it works is that you screw the top plate down, using the huge T-bar handle. In the second photo it is almost wound down to the bottom plate. There is excellent clearance when it is wound up to its maximum height. I have cut a piece of mountboard, exactly the size of the bottom plate, and drawn a grid on it so that I can position the prepared printing block  centrally under the screw (not shown).

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I sit the lino block on another piece of paper, then ink it up with a roller. Then, I can carefully slide it from the paper, onto the grid and carefully position it in the centre.    The material which will receive the print, is placed right side down, over the block, next a protective piece of paper, in case any printing ink comes through to the back of the fabric, then a thick layer of felt or old blanket to provide a cushion underneath the rigid top.

The press is wound down, as firmly as possible, until the top plate makes a firm contact with the “sandwich”, underneath it.  Then the handle is rotated in the opposite direction, lifting the top plate clear. The mountboard, with its “sandwich” is removed, and the layers under the printed material carefully peeled back to reveal the result. Magic. I have printed with my own lino blocks in the past, without any form of press, and it is quite a time consuming process. This is pure joy,  in comparison!

I have created a new lino printing block, specifically to use as a stitched panel on the front of a denim bag. I did some drawings of the design  and when I was happy with one of them, I transferred the design to the lino block, by turning the drawing over, with a piece of carbon paper underneath it, and drawing with a sharp pencil. The tools that you see in the photograph below, alongside the lino block, are very sharp  and need to be used with great care and respect. I have a wooden block frame that was purchased from a specialist supplier. The piece of lino fits inside this, and can nudge up against two adjacent sides at a time which helps to protect my fingers, and the surface that I am carving on. A small amount of royal blue, and black oil based inks were mixed on a glass plate, then having been “worked up” with a rubber roller, the ink was applied to the surface of the lino block.

I made 7 prints in total using four different hand dyed backgrounds, some plain, and some had some patterning on them from the dyeing process. I far prefer the latter, and I have now started quilting the first one, (shown below) and am really enjoying the slowstich process, and the wonderful therapeutic action of the stitching.

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I could not resist making a couple of small house printing blocks at the same time, seen below. These are 1″ wide and are for a different project. I shall be making more!

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Earlier in the month I did another batch of Eco prints again. I am delighted with the prints I am getting from the leaves. These are direct prints onto paper, which has been soaked  in white vinegar overnight. The vinegar is a mordant, and helps to create a colour fast result.

Finally, I was lucky enough to go on a day mono-printing workshop at Roseland Mews studio, last week. This was taught by Sophie Fordham. It is a really delightful venue, in a beautiful setting, close to Liskeard. Jane, who manages and owns the studio, is also a great cook, and a light lunch is on the menu for those who would like to partake!  It is a real treat to attend a workshop there.           http://www.lynhervalley.co.uk/roselandmewsstudio/

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I, personally,  wanted to create some abstract prints, with the intention of doing further work on them in the future, and I was very happy with my results. I kept on building up layers of colour and shape with repeated paper templates. My intention is to edit them, and put iron-on Vilene to the back of the papers, which will help to strengthen them and support stitch. Watch this space!

Finally I have been asked to mention a few exhibitions coming up in the next couple of months:

Diary Dates:

October 6th and 7th: Lighthouse Quilters exhibition. Venue: Falmouth Cricket Club,     TR11 4JB

October 7th and 8th (Saturday and Sunday 10am -4pm):  Ledbury Quilters 25th Anniversary Exhibition. Venue: Lady Emily Hall, Tarrington,  Herefordshire,  HR1 4EX

November 18th(10-5) and 19th(10-4), Montpeller Quilters Exhibition, The Reddings Community Centre, Cheltenham Glos,  GL51 6RF. Entrance £2. Refreshments, Sales table, Raffle. They are very kindly donating some of their takings to the Albanian Sewing charity which we support.

November 16th to 19th: “All Things Christmas” (including all aspects of needlecraft, paintings and knitting.) The Christmas journey in various themes based on Carols. Venue: St Nicholas Church, Ashchurch, Tewkesbury.  10 am-4pm.  Entry is free, but donations welcome.

Until next time…..

 

 

First Blog

I have been writing a newsletter for the last 6 years which I have sent out as an attachment to an email. This method has worked very efficiently until this year when I have had  huge problems sending it, as many, many have been returned to me as “undelivered”. I have investigated this and have been told that many of the large servers are now limiting the number of emails a subscriber can send out. My Newsletter goes out to about 600 readers  so I am clearly on the hit list!

I was assured that email will not be disappearing because it is too important to industry and public and private companies etc.

The outcome of all of this is that I have to find a different method of delivering my newsletter, and I was advised to write a blog. I am using WordPress.com and this first short blog is to alert you of the change, and to try to ensure that if you are still interested in the newsletter, that you will be able to open it. I am still learning, and by the time I write the next newsletter I will have hopefully sorted out how you may be alerted of posts as I write them!

I would be grateful if you can employ the old “bush telegraph” system and let anyone you are in touch with for the change of system. I will also do my very best to let everyone know!

I lived in Gloucestershire for about 30 years before moving to Cornwall, and have many quilting friends and colleagues in that area. I like to support them in publishing stitching exhibitions up there, as well as our exhibitions locally too. This is why there are usually diary dates for the two areas!

Here are a few reminders of the events taking place over the next couple of months.

September 14th-16th  Harbour Quilters’ Exhibition (Thursday to Saturday)  Jubilee Hall, 10 – 4.30 Raffle; refreshments, trader (Coast and Country Crafts). All proceeds in aid of Cornwall Hospice Care and other local charities. Entry  £2-00.

September 21st – 23rd  Karenza quilters exhibition, 10 am -4pm, Kea Church, near Truro, Cornwall, TR3 6AE

September 28th-30th  Trelyn Quilters’ Exhibition, Fraddon Village Hall, The Old A30, St Columb Major, Fraddon, Saint Columb TR9 6NT

October 12th, 13th, 14th; Leominster Quilters Exhibition: Sports and Social Club Hall, South St, Leominster HR6 8JQ: ex British Legion Hall, same place different name!

 October 6th– 12th  Cotswold Edge have an exhibition of new works.  This very respected group of artists comprise: Liz Brooke Ward [contemporary stitched textiles], David Laycock [copper foil glass art and fused glass], and incidentally my twin brother, and Grahame R Tucker [sculpture in wood]. The venue for the Exhibition and Sale is: The Great Oak Hall, Westonbirt Arboretum from 10:00am to 4:00pm daily except on the 6th (11:30am to 4:00pm). Why not treat yourself to a day at the arboretum, and a visit to the exhibition. You will not be disappointed, I promise you.

Finally, in this introductory blog, here are two photographs of a piece of work I have completed recently, which will be in Harbour Quilters exhibition next week. I was inspired by the wonderful Kantha work of the late Tricia Warman, which was being displayed at Cowslip Workshops summer fair this year.  It wasn’t long before I was designing my own small panel. I prepared a background to support many small pieces of fabric. These were a selection of my hand dyed fabrics, and some liberty prints, within a limited colour palette. I stitched rows of close stitches over the entire surface, staggering the rows slightly. Some are vertical, and others horizontal. The result is a lovely textured ripply surface which is known as Kantha. There are many interpretations of Kantha. If you are interested there is a lot of information on the internet.

Until next time….