Saturday, 31 March 2007

I been playin'

Ok I should have been sorting out my studio (more of this later) but I found some cellophane bags plus fantasy film and angelina fibres and I got sidetracked into an "I wonder what would happen if..." moment.

This is the result.

These pieces were made by cutting pieces of cellophane and fantasy film and laying them together (with strands of angelina sprinkled over the top, plus afew seed beads on the third one) between two pieces of parchment paper (baking parchment) then ironing lightly until the cellophane started to crinkle (use a silk setting and keep checking what happens - it's very easy to destroy the cellophane if you over-iron it).

The second picture shows the other side of the pieces.

Now I have to decide what to do with it. Or maybe I'll experiment some more - I've just acquired a heat tool that I'm itching to use.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

patchwork with dyed fabric

Two more quilts I found sorting stuff out - my two prizewinners!

This one's Jammin'. Made from a whole range of hand-dyed cottons I'd done at various times using different methods. Pieced very freely, based on chevron log cabin. Began by cutting four-inch squares from some of my favourite fabrics. Cut other fabrics into varying widths. Added these onto two sides of the squares until each block measured the right size or larger, cutting back to the right size. Then joined into blocks of four to make larger blocks, joined to make the centre, bordered, machine-quilted and bound (also by machine).
And - yes - it was as quick as that sounds.

The inspiration was Leeds West Indian Carnival with its clashes of sounds and colours.

The quilt was exhibited at the GBQF (the last one, under the auspices of The Knitting and Stitching Show) where it won a special prize for use of hand-dyed fabric. A lot of quilters, including traditionalists, enjoy it even though it breaks rules left right and centre! (A friend of mine overheard someone saying: " The pieces don't match. And everyone knows you can't put green and purple together. But I love it!"

Which is quite possibly the best accolade I've ever had!

The second quilt won Best Use of Colour at GBQF and second best in the bed-quilt category and for use of colour at Quilts UK. It's very large (over 100 inches square) and unfortunately I haven't yet been able to photograph it flat on. I tried it on the bed and this is what happened.

Hello Pepper!

Here's alarger picture that shows a little more quilt and a bit less cat.

The quilt's called Caging the Moment adapted from a line in a poem by Lous McNeice. It contains fabrics in 25 different shades of Blue-Violet 7RX, all flat-dyed in jars (adapt quantities from dyeing in a bucket, put dye and salt and soda into the jar. add wetted out fabric, put on the lid, wrap some old fabric and a plastic bag round in case it leaks and "churn" for ten minutes and then intermittently for an hour before rinsing and washing). It also contains a whole lot of different greens (the whole thing was inspired by the colours of spring) which were blast-dyed in small pieces using different techniques and various combinations of blues, yellows and golds with some black. The blue-violet grid goes from light at the edges to dark at the centre. The triangles (green plus yellows blues and purples go from dark at the edges to light in the centre (I bleached some fabric to get it really pale). The colours partially merge in the middle where you have values meeting, which is an effect I really like. I think the original inspiration was Deirdre Amsden's colourwash quilts, the ones with blue triangles on top, but it has come some way from there. It reminds me of Wytham Woods, the bluebells and the dappled colour through trees (see postcard below).

Anyway off now to do some more sewing - no more resting on laurels!

a different slant on wholecloth

I've had something of a fallow period recently so decided to sort out some stuff. For several years I kind of went AWOL from the quilting/dyeing world following my husband's death and my own treatment for cancer - until last year when I began again: at first mainly traditional stuff (a series of cat quilts for Project Linus) then more of the stuff I really want to make.

Coming across things I'd made earlier has been a great encouragement to keep going creating my own art quilts. Here are two wholecloth quilts made with hand-dyed fabrics.

The centre panel of this one (called Autumn Dusk - not very original but it seemed to fit) was dyed in a "stack", a low-water method adapted from Ann Johnston's book Colour by Accident; it's a cotton poplin I discovered that takes dye wonderfully (Cotton poplin Delphina from Whaleys for those of you in the UK). The method I used is as follows.

* Cut a number of pieces of fabric. Provided it has been prewashed or is PFD use it dry;

* into a small container (I used a small plastic tub of the kind used for selling sweets in) pour some dye that has been dissolved in chemical water and two which an equivalent solution of soda ash has been added;

* add some fabric (amount is up to you but I use one metre or half metre pieces and vary the amount of dye accordingly), scrunched up, and push into the dye slightly. Allow a few minutes (till you see the dye beginning to wick into the fabric;

* repeat the last step until you have used all your fabric, using different dye-colours/mixes each time: TIP - don't use too great a variation of colour or you will get a lot of brown: I get the best results mainly adding colours from one or two colour groups with one contrast somewhere in the middle - e.g. blues/greens with a touch of purple;

* add a further layer of dye + chemical water + soda on top of the last fabric. Leave for a few minutes then press the whole stack down (this avoids getting white bits where the dye hasn't got to);

* leave for as long as you can bear to without rinsing (minimum two hours, longer if you've used turquoise).

The border is hand-dyed cotton wadding - Warm and Natural - dyed in a tray using a variety of dyes plus chemical water mixes, fabric wetted out first, dye poured on one colour at a time to cover the fabric then pressed down so the dye penetrated the fabric fully.

The whole thing's quilted with variegated rayon thread (machine) and big-stitch stippling with three strands of hand-dyed stranded embroidery cotton. I love the way the stitching sculpts the dyed wadding, though the wadding did have a tendency to pill with too much handling.

The second wholecloth piece is called Through the Hedge. The title came after the fabric itself which reminded me of a summer hedge with light shining through and lots of insects buzzing in it.

The fabric came from a highly-charged impulsive dyeing session. I'd spray-dyed some fabric in a tray from different angles and had a piece of fabric left over which I used to mop up the tray (again, this fabric is the cotton poplin I mentioned earlier) I put this fabric into the tray and sprayed it from different angles with various dyes dissolved in chemical water - a marigold yellow and a deep olive are the two I remember. Deciding it was time for a bit of an experiment I brushed dry purple dye into the folds allowing some of it to dissolve in the spare liquid.

The result was a piece of fabric I knew I'd never be able to bear to cut into. Or sell, for that matter (though several people pleaded - yes I know you're told that in business you should sell what you'd like to keep but there are times you just can't bring yourself to). Eventually I hit on the idea of quilting it so it could hang on a wall. Mainly machine quilting, denser in the "thorny" bits with some big-stitch hand-quilting in the yellow areas.

Note: the pictures should enlarge if you click on them.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

a few postcards

These are postcards I made as part of Myrna Giesbrecht's Self Expressions Studio class at Quilt University.

The first two are developed from some close-up photos I took of mosses. The first is made of layered cotton scrim, hand-dyed, cut and roughed up with a fingernail to get the soft blurry effect, plus hand-dyed wadding. The second is wadding on hand-dyed cotton, with couched rayon/glitter thread, also hand-dyed.

This one is based on English woodland, specifically Wytham Woods near Oxford where I grew up and where my brother still lives. It's made of fused hand-dyed cottons with free machine stitching.

The shiny bits in this postcard are fantasy film fused onto cotton, plus Angelina fibres melted cut and fused - the first (but not the last) time I've used these.

And finally, a piece I made for an exercise which was to take a favourite artist as inspiration. I got two for the price of one here - Henri Matisse's papercuts and the Welsh quilt artist Bethan Ash (who at times has also drawn on Matisse for inspiration). The shapes are cut freely from cotton bonded onto Bondaweb (same as WonderUnder) and fused onto the background, then quilted with various coloured cotton threads in vertical lines.

Altogether a lot of fun, and quick tomake.

Monday, 5 March 2007

studio cats - part one

This is Django who loves being a studio cat. He came via my vet from a feral colony though he's always loved his cuddles and never acted feral (apart from being an expert scavenger). Last summer he suffered a serious road accident (three pelvic fractures) and it took major surgery to put him back together again (and nearly two anxious months for the nerve damage in his right hind leg to heal - for some time there was a risk he might lose the leg). Apart from being too nervous to go far from the garden (no bad thing) he has recovered well. He offers great support and constructive criticism.

Nibs is the most recent addition to the family. He came as a stray, with bad teeth and hyperthyroidism: the teeth are now sorted and his thyroid problem under control. He's called Nibs because he likes to be boss ("his nibs" means "his lordship" in the UK). He has a killer stare which the camera flash has enhanced here. He follows me around everywhere and luckily has now learnt not to interrupt too much when I'm sewing.


This is a piece I made as part of Myrna Giesbrecht's Self Expressions class at Quilt University. The brief was to take something you disliked and turn it into a piece about A4 size. My dislikes included a hideous printed fabric which I bleached to get rid of the awful combination of colours, used as the snake fabric; a dyeing drop-cloth for the background; and snakes which I really do not like though I can appreciate their beauty ( I did encounter one recently which I almost liked; though I couldn't quite bring myself to handle it I did touch its skin which felt silky).
The snake fabric is covered with silk tulle, hand-dyed, and gold net; couched hand-dyed rayon/metallic thread outlines it and the binding (stops the snake from wriggling out of the piece.)

This is the final piece from Myrna's class. The brief was to produce something that summed up where I was now.

Snakes and Ladders seemed an appropriate theme - I find the whole process of creating something full of stops and starts, highs and lows. In this piece I was more intent on snake symbolism so not all the snakes are negatives. The two large snakes are the snake that dreams and the snake that explores. Smaller snakes include eternity or going round in circles (I always find it difficult starting); tying itself up in knots (I always hit that one sooner or later) and doubting (the question mark). The pair of snakes is based on the caduceus - the snake that gives life and the snake that takes life away; and the snake at the bottom is the one that when you've just started to get somewhere takes you back to where you started. The ladders are just ladders.

I started by weaving a grid of hand-dyed fabrics, then covered up areas with hand-dyed organzas and chiffons, stitching the snake and ladder outlines and cutting back the shapes to the stitching, which I then outlined in satin stitch.

The quilt still has to be finished - suffered RSI after doing some of the satin stitch (trying to keep turning while stitching the curves rather than doing it the proper way (that'll learn me). Needs quilting and binding/finishing...

Thursday, 1 March 2007

one I made earlier

This is a piece I made some time ago. The design is based on a costume from Leeds West Indian Carnival. I'd wanted to make a mola for some time and really loved the colours of the silk dupion, which seemed like an awful good idea at the time. Turned out to be not a beginner's fabric especially for fine applique but having spent good money on the stuff I wasn't not going to use it.
I solved the fray problem by cutting only about half to one inch at a time before stitching it down, which worked quite well and has left it miraculously whisker-free.
I started with a base fabric of blck silk (kept the edges from fraying with masking tape) onto which the design was drawn. I also made templates for each of the basic fruit shapes, applying these with a very find hemstitch onto the black. Reverse appliqued the outer bits of the segments and cores, and then used the same process for the inner bits, which were cut freely without templates. This made it possible to achieve the fine black lines without too much difficulty.
The last stage was the blue and purple outlines. First I covered the back with purple fabric, tacked in place, then drew the lines freely on the front (this sort of pattern is one of my favourite doodles. Hemmed the black down onto the silk, using two needles, one for each side of the channel cut. Then covered the front with purple, tacking along the blue stripes, cut along the tacks, cut back and hemmed on top of the black.
It's not something I'd tackle again, at least not in dupion, and if I used silk again I'd use a lightweight fusible to minimise fraying. It took a long time but I loved doing it (I've always found hand applique very relaxing).
It still needs a binding - I need to make samples and audition them - and I still haven't decided whether it's a large cushion (the design was for one and tried to take into account the bending in at the corners) or a small wallhanging. Overall it's 20 inches square. Suggestions welcome!
By the way I've discovered you can enlarge the pictures by clicking on them. Just ran a quick check and luckily it doesn't look too bad close up!