Monday, 28 November 2011

Big Buttons and Catching up

The Contemporary Quilt Group Journal Quilts for the October-January pieces are all required to use buttons, causing many people including myself something of a real challenge.  Looking through my button box I came across eight huge buttons and the idea of using these as focal points for composition proved irresistible.  As I have eight buttons I have challenged myself to double up and make two pieces per month.  I've also set myself the task of exploring complementary colours in each one.

The first, called Yellow Colour Field with Big Button is a collage of various fabrics - cotton, scrim, dyed wadding, felt and butter muslin anchored with machine quilting and embellished with couched purple thread and bits of silk carrier-rod - lots of  time playing with the arrangement but the stitching was straightforward.

The second arose from a series of samples I made for a workshop I taught on Improvised Curved Strip Piecing for Textile Without Limits.  It uses fabrics which originated I from Ghana along with some hand-dyed fabric.  This is also a tryout piece for something larger.  It's called Ghanaian Grid with Big Red Button.

Number three, which also uses fabric from Magie, dyed damasks and Zimbabwean prints, is called Big Button Blues.

The fourth one uses my stash of fabrics designed by Native Australian Artists.  My husband was born in Australia and was fascinated by Aboriginal Art.  Improvised curved piecing again but this time in crazy form.  Couldn't resist calling this one Big Button Dreaming!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

June-September Journal Quilts

For this series of CQ Journal Quilts I have chosen to explore family history, specifically four generations of women in my family at similar points in my life.  These pieces all use text - a specific requirement for JQs in these months.

The first piece, 1968, relates to myself - yes folks the picture below really is me, taken from my passport photo, posterised, solarised and blue-printed in Paint Shop Pro, then printed onto Extravorganza, cut out and stitched down with a simple running stitch, which has also been used to emphasise some of the features.  It is appliqued to a piece of tie-dyed silk taffeta; the whole thing was then machine-quilted, very simply, using the same thread as for the applique, then bound with tie-dyed cotton.

The words round the edge were suggested by an idea from fellow CQ member Margaret Cooter, who created a piece of artwork using the last three words of popular phrases.  In my case I have used the last three words of favourite sixties quotations, plus one quotation from something written later about the sixties.

In 1968, I was a student at London University.  It was a heady time, with a rather strange feeling of a worldwide student community (I suspect for those of my contemporaries have to devote their energies to earning a living things might have felt different) and a real belief that we could change the world.  It was also a huge amount of fun, and a great time to be a student in the swinging sixties. 

The second piece centres on a picture of my mother in 1944.  She was then doing war-work in the Vickers Armstrong factory at Castle Bromwich in Birmingham, making Spitfires (she told my brother about the Spitfires, me about the partying that went on in off-duty hours); to hear her talk it sounded like a bundle of laughs; it was only later that I found out about the long hours operating a capstan lathe and the fact that the factory was the target of bombs (one bombing raid had taken out one of the main sections).  This piece again uses a photograph (printed "straight" this time) on Extravorganza, layered onto pale fabric.  The background is a contemporary fabric of the sort used to make overalls and aprons; another contemporary fabric contains the text that describes her life at the time.  The poster is used with permission of the Imperial War Museum.  The whole thing is quilted very simply, with the addition of the outline of a Spitfire.

In 1926, the year of the General Strike, my grandmother, who is the subject of the August JQ, was 23.  She was a miner's daughter, married to a policeman, though there doesn't seem to have been any sense of divided loyalties; though having to police pickets and demonstrations publicly, in private my grandfather sympathised strongly with the miners' cause; he also helped support her sister's family through the hard times of the twenties and thirties.

Unfortunately, I have no early photograph of my grandmother, though I do remember her as very young-looking well into her fifties.  The drawing here is a combination of later photographs and my own memories - though not the best drawing I have ever done it did succeed in capturing something of the look she had.  The other pictures are all taken from contemporary sources, and again there are some details in print about her life at the time.

The final piece centres on my great-grandmother.  My research into family history began with her, and I have included the family record from the 1901 census as well as a tinted photograph from a couple of years earlier, at around the time of her wedding (again printed onto Extravorganza)  The census entry means the piece goes back a further generation, including my great-great-grandmother.  Both were quilters, and they quilted professionally.  My great-grandmother died young, in the flu epidemic of 1919, but her mother went on to quilt for the London market in the 1920s, in common with many other women from her home town of Maesteg in South Wales.

Both census entry and text are printed onto commercially-treated cotton, with hand-painted silk chiffon layered over to give an antique feel.  The whole piece is hand-quilted, including a characteristic Welsh spiral pattern (which unfortunately doesn't show too clearly at this scale.

One annoying feature.  The commercial fabric I bought came in sheets, and unfotunately none of the sheets in the pack were straight, as a result of which it distorted when being taken off the backing paper, and no amount of gentle tugging could make it straight again - unfortunately I had not more left and it was getting just about to the deadline by then so I had to go with what I'd got.  But I shall be exploring similar themes again - and next time I'll get it right, I promise!


Sunday, 9 October 2011

International Quilt Challenge

Partly inspired by seeing the work of the Twelve by Twelve group at Festival of Quilts, I have recently joined an internet challenge group, The International Quilt Challenge.  Sixteen of us, including quilt artists from the UK, Ireland, Australia and the US are producing a piece every two months to a theme set by each member in turn.  The first theme, chosen by Annabel, was Sunshine and Shadow.  For a long time  I couldn't decide what to do then, pondering one morning with the deadline imminent, I became fascinated by the shadows of my neighbour's ornamental plum tree on my bedroom curtains, which reminded me of yet another photograph taken by my late husband, of evening shadows on the mesh curtains in the downstairs bay window: 

What I found particularly intriguing was the way that the shadows of the leaves in some cases were crisp and in others half-formed and varied in depth/intensity.

The resulting quiltlet was composed intuitively and at speed with no sketchbook input.  The ideal base fabric presented itself to me - a piece of silk charmeuse I'd dyed some time earlier, and the shadows were made from layers of silk and polyester organza I'd also dyed.  I ironed the organzas onto black mistyfuse, then cut and bonded freely composing as I went.  Then finished the composition with free-machine quilting. Though the end result is in my view a bit limited, and has nowhere near the depth of some of the other pieces in the challenge, I do sort of like it...

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

More challenge pieces

First updates on work from NWCQ Weekend group - aka Textiles Without Limits:  Mary's piece with the couching finished:

Phyl's leaves (well worth enlarging to see the detail, especially the embroidery:

and a clearer photograph of Leah's piece!

and a whole series of small pieces by Julie - showing a wealth of techniques and a wonderful degree of imagination, not to mention artistic ability!

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

NWCQ Weekend Group: the Challenge Pieces

Just over a month ago I put together a series of challenge packs of bits of fabrics thread and so on from my huge hand-dyed stash - an attempt to do something useful with it instead of letting it just sit there.  The pack contained a variety of small pieces of fabric - felt/wadding, silk, cotton, satin, scrim, butter muslin, velvet, chiffon/organza, a silk carrier rod, stranded embroidery cotton, ornamental thread, and jute scrim.  The challenge - to use some of the contents (plus any of your own that you wanted to add) to make one or more small pieces - these could be sample pieces, the idea being to explore the possibilities.

The results amazed and delighted me, not just for the quality of the work but also on account of the enjoyment people obviously had in producing it.

So here goes - in no particular order (or rather the somewhat arbitrary order in which Blogger uploaded the photographs:

This gem of an abstract composition is by Ann Horton: something of most of the fabrics laid onto felt, embellished with stitching, couched thread and absolutely amazing use of beads which really make this piece (unfortunately the beads have not shown up as well as I'd hoped for which apologies) 

Catherine's work - in progress - started with the satin, which suggested stormy sky, together with the stormy sea of the hand-dyed cotton and scrom suggesting foam (if I'd known this fabric could look this good she might not have got it!)  I also loved the felt sails with the emboidered crosses.  Look forward to seeing this one finished.

Hilary's beautifully appliqued leaves really wowed me and I love the way she's found just the right fabric to use with the fabrics in the pack - and the stitching is wonderful too - again, really looking forward to seeiong this one finished.

Ena Glogowski's Volcano is a really dramatic and exciting pieces.  This is the first time Ena had tried anything like this and she has made really effective use of the materials - the silk volcano, the muslin and scrim mountains in the foreground, the fibres, jute scrim and bits of silk in the smoke and fire.  A very special piece - and Ena's comment - "You have introduced me to a Real Good Thing" is the icing on the cake.

The following piece - probably the most adventurous of all - is made by Anne Egerton, Ena's daughter.  She describes it as a 3D sampler, and once again I'm not sure the photographs do it justice.  Part of it is quilted satin made into a sort of cornucopia...

with various other fabrics spilling out in a sort of wild profusion - an effect I love but which I always find difficult to achieve; she's also included ornamental gift ribbon.  I especially love the stitching on the satin and the way she's used the jute scrim so effectively.  Again, one I look forward to seeing finished.

Helen's work will be familiar to those who have followed the Twelve by Twelve group or seen their book and exhibition at Festival of Quilts.  This piece contrasts the mass-production (shown in the comparatively flat machine-stitched background fabric) of textiles with the richness of handwork: and here it really is rich - if you click the picture it will enlarge so you can see the detail.  The more I look at this the more I see in it, and I particularly love the asymmetric composition and the way in which the tiny darker pieces of silk carrier-rod bring the whole thing together.

During the meeting Ann Horton made a frame for her piece (hope we get a lesson at some later stage - is there no end to this woman's talents?)

Dina is another member of the group for whom all this peculiar stuff was new, challenging and ultimately exciting and worthwhile.  Her piece is a sampler of different materials and techniques depicting the twelve months of the year, beginning with the paper fan ( a fanfare for the coming year, and including april showers made of scrim, chiffon plants, frayed velvet for a November bonfire, a painted apple and winter fires in jute scrim: a really inventive use of the materials.  She was also stitching a really beautiful scarf during the meeting.

One of the members of the group got a little stuck (it happens to all of us from time to time) and passed her pack over to Ann Horton, who made this piece for her friend - not only taking on the task of finding ways to use the fabrics effectively but also making something her friend would like  - beautiful felt and velvet leaves, padded petals and a variety of fabrics and threads for the flower centre.  Lucky friend!

Leah Higgins is the groups convenor and produced a beautifully finished geometric piece: unfortunately the photograph doesn't do it justice.  A pity because she's used a whole range of fabrics in a very complex way to produced a beautifully balanced composition.  Using simple shapes she's used a whole range of techniques - different kinds of edges, lines and overlays.  And being me I love the touch of asymmetry.  Another one I could look at for a long time (I hope I'll get a better picture at a future meeting.

Finally to Mary's.  Apparently her technique was to spread out the contents of the pack on the background fabric, rearranging until she got something she liked the look of and it really has worked well.  I love the contrast of colours and textures and particularly the way the wiggly lines in the jute scrim and the thread with silk carrier-rod contrasts with the straight-sided geometric shapes elsewhere.  Another one I wish I'd made.

And there are hopefully more to come.

Pleaase if I have mis-spelt or got names wrong could somebody tell me and I will correct it (I was still a bit train-lagged after going to London the day before!)

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Journal Quilts and More Ferns

The first of my journal quilts this year is inspired by memories of a very difficult period of my life: my husband died eleven years ago and during the first two years after his death I experienced financial hardship, problems with the house which needed repairs I couldn't afford and depression.  I also neglected friendships and became rather hermit-like.  If the piece above, which I have called Dark, looks grim, it is because it is meant to.  I've also deliberately used coarse fabrics - various scrims, including jute scrim, raw edges and silk carrier rods - the black-dyed rods it occurs to me are like huge blocks of something barricading me in from the outside world, which is exactly what happened...

The second phase is where I was beginning to cope - living very abstemiously, paying off debts, decluttering the house and applying for a renovation grant.  However, another setback occurred when I wa diagnosed with endometrial cancer.  This left me feeling raw and vulnerable, hence the title of the second piece, called Raw:

The third piece is after I had been operated on and had undergone radiotherapy and the work on the house had begun.  I was also financially more stable by this time and the title, Mending, describes the time when I was beginning to find things enjoyable again, and becoming less isolated, repairing old friendships and developing new ones.  Hence the brighter colours.  I've also used materials and techniques which suggest healing - the dyed mesh is fabric used for wound dressings; I've used darning and knots.

The fourth journal quilt is called Light, and describes more or less where I am now, having shed some of the previous burdens: treatment for cancer was successful.  The house is still a work in progress, but only in terms of bits needing redecorating - all the serious stuff has been done.  And although I apparently earn well below the national average I can live comfortably within my income.  I am enjoying life and feel comfortable in my own skin for the first time in a long while.

The final project for this month has been a small quilt I made for a display at the Quilt Museum in York of work from our region of the Quilters Guild.  The challenge was to make a long narrow quilt in tints and shades of one colour only.  And somehow I found myself visualising ferns:  here's the quilt - it will be on display in the Aldwark Gallery for the months of July and August: