Friday, 11 September 2009

Journal Quilts May - August

This series of four continues the steps theme by celebrating journeys. The first, a walk through Bolton Abbey Woods in May. There's a shelter on a path that takes you on a steep walk up through the woods and while you eat your lunch and draw your trees you look down on the view on which the first journal quilt is based.

I've called it May with its Light Behaving from one of my favourite W.H.Auden poems. It's made by first stitching the outline shape of the river onto the wadding, then cutting it back. I did this in hand-dyed viscose satin, two layers, one river-coloured, one green; flipped up the green to cut away the grey (avoids having two layers of thick fabric), then used reverse applique scissors (also called lace scissors) and carefully cut away the green where the river should be. Then laid pale viscose organza over the river, free-motioned outlines of the shapes and cut this back, and did the same with green hand-dyed silk-metallic organza over the trees. Finally had lots of fun with free-machine quilting, stitching very closely over the exposed edges to secure them (usually I use granite stitch (small overlapping circles) to do this, but there are other options). And isntead of binding I've couched down some metallic/viscose hand-dyed chainette.

The second is inspired by a view I had to reconstruct from memory. Driving to Contemporary Quilt Summer School I decided to take the scenic route through the Forest of Bowland; after taking a wrong turning it became even more scenic (I knew I was in the right direction so I wasn't actually lost, though there was a hairy moment when a signpost had got turned round).
I rounded a corner and suddenly came across this view - nowhere to park up and not really safe to stop on narrow winding roads so I had to simply drive slowly and commit it to memory. It was chiefly the colours, the golden field full of buttercups, the green hedges, the blue hills beyond. The whole area is the essence of The Shire in The Lord of the Rings. Tolkein knew the area well and used local place-names from this area, so I've called it Not All Who Wander Are Lost.

Hand-dyed silk habotai and taffeta, overlaid with gold chiffon (field) and blue (hills) organza, then free-machine stitched. For the binding I cut the rolled hem off the gold chiffon scarf I'd used, rolled in the raw edge and couched it down.
I had planned to combine a visit to my brother with Festival of Quilts, but in the end FOQ won out as I thought if I tried to do both I'd miss out be not being able to give either my full attention. So after making the decision in July I used a remembered walk from Christmas and imagined what the Dead Tree Walking would have looked like with late summer woodland colours behind.

More silk hand-dyed habotai with hand-dyed silk charmeuse fused on, and the whole thing FMQd.
Another walk in Strid Woods was the inspiration for my August journal quilt. A favourite place. The colours came from a photograph my late husband had taken of the Strid many moons ago at this time of year. This is the one I had most fun making. It's built up in layers. Silk charmeuse, viscose satin, silk habotai as a base layer, then built up in snippets and layers of silk organza, with some layers being partially cut back, with a layer of undyed white organza for the frothing water: a combination of onlay, reverse and shadow applique. The final layer was the stitching, added a bit at a time (I have a tendency to overdo it). I loved doing this, and though I have reservations about some aspects of it (this is normal for us all, right?) I really like the finished piece. Though I didn't enjoy binding it in velvet, it did work better than any other fabric for binding.

This one could end up being the first in a series. Now on to September and beyond...

Monday, 7 September 2009

Wildwood - final part:

The final episode begins with the second set of trees. First the autumn trees, then the spring ones:

Next at the front is the fallow deer one of the three kinds of deer in Wytham Woods (the others are roe and muntjac) A deer-fence limits them to part of the wood only, to minimise damage to trees.

On the other side leaves and a scarab.

Next the toad - I kept him safe, well away from the grass-snake:

I'd originally intended to use bracket fungus as the reverse, but whatever I did to it it just looked toad-shaped. Surprisingly, the mole worked much better:

The back of this section begins with the dragonfly. I remember once walking along the bottom path on a hot summer day with thunder in the air being followed by a huge emperor butterfly which kept pace for about half a mile. My mother used to be scared of them, as are many people, but they are in fact completely harmless.
On the reverse a moth. It started as a copper underwing but bits got added ... you know how it is!

Last in this section is the tawny owl, on the back of which is a Daubenton's bat (they're the ones with short ears)

And finally as the endpiece we have, appropriately I thought, a hibernating common dormouse: it took a number of goes to get this right:

With, on the reverse, a brimstone butterfly, one of the earliest of butterflies to fly in the year: hence I've paired it with primroses.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Wildwood Part Two

To continue: there are two double sided pages that serve as links between the groups of four: Above and below are the first of these, one with spring and one with autumn colours:

The next group of four begins with, on the front, great tits. The great tit colony in Wytham Woods is the focus of climate change research, for example in recording earlier and earlier nesting times.
and the green woodpecker on the reverse of the page is one of my favourites (though more often to be found looking for food on the ground than on tree barks, so this pose is a bit of artistic licence.

Next the odd one out, the ghost orchid. I have seen one but not in these woods. When, as little more than a child, I saw a whole group of them and discovered from my plant book that they were rare I was really excited. Didn't know then that even at that time they were so rare that people got really excited and reported their findings.

On the reverse are bluebells from my favourite time of year in the woods. Doing this page was a challenge, but eventually I traced each drawing onto opposire sides of a piece of tracing paper with different colour pencils, adjusted as much as I could then cut out the bits where there was no plant, which has actually worked out well and has provided each with an interesting background. Could have saved a lot of problems if I'd thought of this approach earlier. If you look closely you will see that I had to use a pale pink in order to get the highlights on the bluebells to come out the right colour - another example of what's there not being what you expect to see!

The back pages begin with the plantains - not specifically a woodland plant but you do get them, especially where the paths and tracks adjoin fields.

And on the other side, for spring, I have ramson buds. Otherwise known as wild garlic. These I drew from life in Strid Woods (couldn't get to Wytham that month!)

And the final page of this quartet begins with the crows, witty birds and amongst my favourites, here shown in tender domestic mode. I adapted this from a photograph on the Arkive site - - by the late Maurice Tibbles, including details of my own drawings of crows from the stuffed specimens in Leeds City Museum's Development Centre:

And on the reverse a violet ground-beetle (more violet than is usual in real life) with all sorts of oddments including toadstools, leaves and a centipede:

One more instalment to come!

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Wildwood - Part One

It seems very self-indulgent showing both sides of all sixteen book pages' but people have asked to see them so here goes! To begin at the beginning, with the title page. It was originally going to be much grimmer (the working subtitle was A Story of Life and Death) but I chickened out of showing things like crows feeding on animal carcases though I am annoyed with myself about this as it would have been more honest to have done so, and would have developed a more interesting theme, i.e. the way in which death for one kind of life-form becomes life for another.

Next to the titl-page comes the fox, in his uncorrected state (I did later elongate the front leg out of the picture so it got to be back in proportion.

And on the reverse, what else but foxgloves! All the pages are see-through (shapes cut in painted pelmet vilene with a scalpel; then covered in hand-dyed silk organza - for each side; then stitched and sandwiched together with dyed silk net in the middle, and finally quilted, the organza cut back in places so that the light could come through in a similar way to the dappled light in woodland). Designing double-sided pages proved challenging: this is one of the more successful ones.
The next page in the middle bit shows a squirrel: not one of the most successful pictures (though as my art teacher pointed out you can see its a squirrel:
backed by a stag beetle, one of the pages I like best:

On the back section is a grass-snake (not normally associated with woodland but my dog once found one curling itself round his hind leg after running into some undergrowth, and you do still find them in the more open bits of Wytham Woods).

with brambles on the reverse: they do tend to throw out suckers which makes them appear to grow in loops and coils - and I was relieved, after a great deal of trial and error, to find something woodlandy that would go on the back of a snake!

And the last page of this set of four has snails...

and on the reverse badgers. They are fat because they are from the badger colony adopted by my sister-in-law's father who feeds them on suitable left-overs. Once has was asked to stop feeding them while Oxford Wildlife Films (some years ago) could make a documentary about the effects of drought on the Wytham badgers; they then phoned and asked him to come back - the badgers refused to come out and be filmed until Sid reappeared with food and water...
I suppose that's the badger equivalent of Equity rates!
Next instalment coming soon.