Sunday, 26 December 2010

Christmas Day in Penzance

Happy Christmas everyone.  OK, I know it is now Boxing Day but somehow finding time to upload the photos I took was not the highest priority.

We have spent every Christmas since 1986 except two in Penzance but I think this is far and away the coldest.  In the days when we used to drive down, always with two cats in the car as well as most of the food in the days when Penzance did not have a supermarket, we never got stuck by snow or ice, but I don't think we would have made it this time.  We haven't really had any snow in this second lot, especially when my sister in Shropshire has had it as low as -13 degrees, but it has been very cold indeed.

Christmas Day dawned brilliantly sunny.  We eat Christmas Dinner in the evening and we do not do family Christmases so we always try to get a breath of fresh air.  There have been times in the past when we have taken sandwiches for lunch and gone for a walk on the Coast Path, seeing seals and finding the air almost balmy.  Not 2010.  However, we did go for a walk on Penzance Promenade (the one in the painting The Rain it Raineth by Norman Garstin) where it is fun to watch people in the large hotels eating their Christmas Dinner.

There are always a few people like us although I think yesterday there were not as many as usual.  One dog was having a Christmas Day swim

The tide was right out so the dog and his owner walked/swam some way out.  Not so good for the owner who ended up with his wellie completely full of water.  This part of Penzance is all reclaimed which means that as the tide comes in some interesting patterns appear in the water.

The esplanade (for that's what it is) has been reclaimed more than once from what were originally dunes or Towans as they are called here.  It is difficult to imagine what it must have been like two hundred years ago but winter storms do batter the prom. and dump sand, stones and seaweed over the road quite regularly.

The sight of these rivulets turned my attention to the patterns of lines created by the low angle of the sun.

The Jubilee Pool was looking wonderful although it is not easy to take photographs when you have to poke the camera through the railings.

There were interesting arrangements of lines at the Pool, too.

I took a lot of photos and will use them as the basis of some design work in the Moleskine Notebooks that I got as a present.

The other thing we noticed was strange signs.  It is just that when it is quiet and you really start looking you see things that you would normally walk straight past.

We know John le Carre is a local but we did not know his characters frequented the Jubilee Pool cafe.

A bit difficult to read but the Ritz Bingo hall appears to have moved to France.  At least the sign is suggesting you swim there!

And finally the harbour wall rises to nearly ten feet tall as you approach the wharf where the Scillonian berths. That's the ship that travels to the Isles of Scilly.  The wall plunges vertically at this point.  Would you really want access we asked ourselves?  But obviously walking along it has been a youth sport at some time.

The views across Mounts Bay were glorious.  That is the Lizard in the far distance with Prussia Cove just behind the point on the left.

Then it was home again to concentrate on that important element of Christmas: eating.

The cats knew there was pheasant about and they know the leftovers are still in the fridge.  I made this hanging over ten years ago.  We put it up each year but one or more cats then swings on it until it is right at the end of the baton.  I will have to see if I can find a wonderful photo of Nui doing this when he was young and scan it.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Quilting with cats

A few days ago I decided it was time to tidy up the part of my studio that is in the bedroom.  As a quilter I have learnt never to throw anything away but I am beginning to think that if I have had something for a number of years and not used it, it should be junked.  However, tidying up is easier said than done when you have two two year old Siamese cats.  (The older one isn't bothered - he's seen it all before.)  So this is what happened.

The stand of cane baskets contains various thick threads - just what we love.

Any fabric or UFO is fair game for a toy which will then be dragged around the house.  Pania is particularly fond of wadding, so much so that I have to keep most of it in the studio where she has no access to it or in a closed hat box on top of the wardrobe.  The problem really arises when I have a large quilt that is already assembled as I do at the moment.  I have put the whole thing in a plastic bag that held a duvet which had been to the cleaner.  I then put the bag on top of the wardrobe where it seems to be relatively safe - probably because it is too heavy for them to pick up.  Here is what happens with smaller pieces.

But the top of the wardrobe isn't an impregnable place as Hinemoa has worked out how to climb up the clothes if the door is left open, making her way onto the top shelf and then up onto the top.  From there she can walk across to the bookcase where I keep my stash and an assortment of jars of threads, embellishments etc. just like all quilters.  So when I had finished cleaning the shelves I went off to the shops without checking that I had shut the wardrobe doors.  This was the scene that greeted me on my return.

The things on the floor were in an open container on the top shelf.  She reaches over and hooks out things  (you can just see a piece of gold ribbon hanging down in the top left of the photo).  Once on the floor the two of them select a nice piece or two to serve as Toy of the Day and then proceed to drag it round the house.  I know I should abandon having open containers on the top shelf.  There is a second bookcase on the opposite wall.  As that one is next to my sewing table it is even easier to reach into it and there have been numerous occasions when they have helped themselves to plastic bags containing works in progress and then upended them on the floor during the night.  For the first year I made them sleep in the study but in the hot summer nights (yes, we did have summer once) they spent hours scratching at the door to be let out so I got no sleep. In the end it was easier to give in and let them loose.  Fortunately they did tire (a bit) of all this nocturnal activity especially once it got cold and the alternative was a bed.

And this is where they were when I got back the other day.  Butter wouldn't melt in their mouths.

Friday, 17 December 2010

December Journal Quilt

I have just finished my December journal quilt and photographed it and uploaded it to the cqgb Yahoo site .

What a wonderful feeling to have completed them all before we get to Christmas.  We have had so much snow in Cornwall this year, compared with normal, that I had to put it in this last quilt.  Although I am not daring enough to drive to the beach to see where it lies, there are plenty of photographs on websites and in the local press.  You will recognise some of the fabrics in this quilt as ones I used earlier in the year so I am keeping to my resolve to only use things I already have.  I gave this one its wintery feel by quilting it with metallic thread and then hand stitching snowflakes, using silver stranded cotton.

It is interesting how after a time, you can find yourself repeating themes and/or techniques.  This quilt is very (too) similar to February 2009 when we also had snow.  That one is snow on the moors and was completely hand-stitched.

I have now reached the point where I think I should take a break from journal quilts so I have decided not to do them in 2011.  I must get Zelah's quilt finished and I have hardly started the one I am doing for my nephew as a wedding present.  But I also have a lot of ideas for art quilts that I need to get out of my head, into some kind of drawings/art work and made.  I think my life has become a bit dominated by journal quilts which speak to me because I like to work small.  So hopefully 2011 will see something different.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

And still there is ice

It has been quite a week here with all the snow and ice.  I knew our road was a frost trap from last year but I was somewhat surprised to find myself scraping ice off the car at 2 pm yesterday.  (Didn't think to photograph it but will tomorrow.)  It just won't melt and we have had the heating on all day for several days, having decided that at our age that's what you do.  I go round telling people that your heating bills are much higher if you don't go to work.

This morning I went into the garden to feed the birds and realised that the frost on the plants was very beautiful so I grabbed my camera.

I love the way the undersides of the leaves are a different colour.  It makes a beautiful abstract print so I shall print this one out.

This is a cyclamen struggling to survive.  I noticed that another cyclamen that is in a pot within reach of the outlet of the boiler is looking very bright.  Because it generally does not get very cold down here I always chance it by trying to over-winter things.  If they survive I save myself some money on plants in the spring and if they don't I do not feel I just threw them away.  But this parsley looks as though it has found its way to the freezer ahead of time.

There are lots of interesting patterns to be found in 'iced' plants because you see the lines so much better.

Because the garden looked so good this afternoon I went for a short walk up the nearest rural road.

In the past this valley has been very inspirational to me, including providing the idea for one of my journal quilts in 2009.

This was in spring when the Cornish hedges (banks of stones covered in vegetation) are full of flowers and there is gorse along the top of the hedge.  This afternoon almost all the ice had melted from the verges but the road was still somewhat icy so I did not go as far as I usually do.  I found these in the driveway to a farm.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Snow in West Penwith

It is most unusual for us to have snow down here but this year is an exception.  Yesterday we woke to four inches or so on the ground and more fell during the day.  As soon as I pulled back the curtains I grabbed my camera to take the view out the window.

Like many of my neighbours I rushed out with my camera late morning just as the sun broke through.  I thought I might get some shots that I could use for Christmas cards although whether I have time to make them is another matter.

This is the stream that runs down the other side of our lane.  I particularly liked the snow on the bare branches  and took several photos that I could fiddle with in Elements to create designs.

Birds were sitting in the topmost branches - see top right, silhouetted against the sky.  I think I should have gone out a bit earlier than I did as a couple of people told me they had got lovely shots of the trees in the field on the edge of the village where people go to exercise their dogs.  This area is not nearly as picturesque as the villages we lived in up-country and in conditions like this I am not prepared to risk driving to get to the beauty spots.  As we get so little snow only the main A routes are gritted and it very hilly.  So I contented myself with walking round the village and taking photos of snow-covered roofs 'for the record' as they say.

At the same time I found one or two interesting detail shots.

These agapanthus heads were in a nearby garden

and these calabrese were in the allotments.

Later, having cleared a path from the front door to the studio, not least because the washing machine lives there, I then made it into the garden.  The sun had gone but the pond was quite interesting because the pump is still running and has left a clear spot which in theory could provide water for the birds.

Overnight we had more snow which means it turned very icy.  I have learnt to rely on BBC Radio Cornwall at times like this and  there are lots of photographs on their website if you are someone who holidays down here and want to see what is like out towards Lands End.  The last time I can remember it being this bad was, I think, in January 1988 when the palms on Penzance Promenade died and roads to the west of Penzance were all closed.  The group of cottages where our holiday cottage was is at the top of a very steep hill just outside Penzance.  Fortunately we had gone back after our Christmas break but they were snowed/iced in for several days and the farmer had to pour the milk down the drain.  Yesterday I was talking to one of the neighours when we heard a clanking sound and turned round to see the milk tanker going along the road out of the village with chains on.  First time I have seen that!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Blitz on Journal Quilts

I can't believe it but I have finished three journal quilts this week!  I got my machine back at the end of last week and decided that I must do these before I worked on anything else.  So here they are:

This is September.  It is called Coastal Currents because it reminds me of the patterns that I see in Mounts Bay as I drive down the by-pass to Tesco.  Depending on the state of the tide, the winds and the clouds different colours appear.  This is the piece I made by hand because I wanted to test out some cheesecloth that I space dyed a long time ago.  It hand stitches beautifully but I do not think the machine, even after a service, would like such a loose weave and light weight.

October: called Nets after my husband remarked that it looked like the patterns in fishing nets.  This is the one based on Kathleen Loomis's workshop on narrow piecing.   It has a few wobbles in the lines but journal quilts are supposed to be for trying out techniques so I did not consign it to the UFO pile.

Finally November: Autumn Flight.  We are under the flight paths for migrating birds here and on Sunday I saw a flight of about fifty geese honking their way across the house.  It was quite moving and reminded me of when we lived in Oxfordshire near Berinsfield where there were old gravel pits well patronised by birds.  The migrating birds here often stop at Marazion Marshes about two miles away.   The marshes are a nature reserve built on the site of a former brickworks.   At this time of year there are lots of twitchers about, both there and at various other bird friendly sites in the area.

The background to this piece is a hand-dyed piece of cotton sateen which did not work, i.e. the dyes came out too pale.  It has been waiting for some more treatment for a very long time but it was ideal for this.  I used a Thermofax of tufts of grass which I applied in three colours: brown and two shades of olive green.  It worked really well so now I need to find the other pieces of this fabric and treat them as well.  I have an idea for a larger piece about the coast round here and this represents the dunes very well.  The journal quilt is machine quilted and I then stitched black felt birds on to it by hand.

If you are reading this you will have seen that I now have a link button on this blog.  This will take you to the new website for Contemporary Quilt.  Do have a look as there are loads of wonderful quilts to see.  Contemporary Quilt is a specialist group of the Quilters Guild of the British Isles.  Our only presence on the web until now has been via the Quilters Guild site and we have our own Yahoo group but that is only open to members.  I am really pleased that the new website means people who do not belong to the group can see what we do and I hope some people will decide to join us.

Friday, 12 November 2010

No sewing machine

My machine has had to be rushed off for an overdue service.  I meant to take it when I was going to be away during the summer but it fell off the bottom of the list.  Last week it started objecting to the quilting I was doing: both the in the ditch with a walking foot on Zelah's quilt and the free machining on my latest journal quilt.  In between it agreed to piece.

I had decided to try one of Kathleen Loomis's tutorials on very narrow piecing.  I quickly realised that I had done seams with 1/8 in. seams before but it is trickier than you think and I ended up with some very wobbly lines. I chose to use over-dyed fabric that had no real purpose in life.  This was the first piece, made from a fat quarter with insets of commercial fabric including one of the V and A museum's pieces from the quilt exhibition earlier this year and a lovely piece of green I bought from the Hungarian people at Festival of Quilts.  (can never remember their name)  I planned to cut it to the journal quilt size but then I decided it looked better in its original form so I have pinned it up so that I can think about it.  I have plenty of the commercial fabrics so could add to it in some way.

Then I did a second one which is going to be a journal quilt.  Again the lines went wobbly but I plodded on as far as starting to quilt it.  That's when the machine gave up so I have had to put it away until I get it back.  You can just see the beginnings of the quilting in the bottom right hand corner.

As I was seventh in the queue for servicing I don't expect to have the machine back for another week.  I once owned two sewing machines but the second one was very basic and I never used it so I sold it to a friend.  I can't really justify having two, just for the odd occasion like this.  I have been wandering round the house feeling a bit lost, even though I often don't machine for days on end.  I could and should use the time to do some more printing etc.

However, I had already started on a totally hand stitched journal quilt.  A couple of weeks ago I rediscovered a large piece of cheesecloth that I space dyed a couple of years ago.  It is calling out for wholecloth treatment but I have a feeling it is not going to go through the machine without pulling badly.  I had a couple of other pieces of the same cheesecloth, different dyes and smaller pieces so I thought that some experiments were called for.  The design has been very random.  I began by selecting a load of variegated threads from my collection ( a few more were added after I took this photo).

I put three layers together and then just stitched with matt threads.  No designing!  I just followed the lines of different colours.  Then I added glossy rayon thread.  I always find this a bit problematic as if you cut the pieces too long they start to fray.  Also I did not have the same range of colours.  The next stage was to add some embellishments of beads and sequins.  In order to keep some sense of where they were placed as they all roll off with each stitch, I 'designed' them and then took a photograph.  I left this on the camera and just turned the photo on when I wanted to check what I was doing.

I think it is nearly finished but it will have to wait for the return of the machine for its binding and I may add a little more colour at that point.
It is a very quiet piece which I am calling 'Coastal Currents'.  Every time I drive down the hill to Tesco I see colour patterns like this in Mounts Bay.  It is a view to die for with St Michael's Mount and the Lizard Peninsular visible in the background, but obviously you cannot stop to take photographs on a ring road with no pavements so you will just have to believe this is my inspiration.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Calendars for Christmas presents

I think this posting is a bit of a plug for one of those internet photography shops but it explains why it has been yet another week with minimal textile work.  Three years ago I decided that making calendars of photos I had taken was the perfect Christmas present for brothers and brothers in law.  The first year we ( and it was definitely John and I as my Photoshop skills were not quite up to the job) used a template that appeared in Digital Photo magazine.  It was OK but there was nowhere in Penzance that could spiral bind them for us so they all looked a bit amateurish.  Also I use the kitchen calendar as my main diary these days and these did not have enough space for that.

The next year we discovered Photobox  This company does wonderful A3 calendars on heavy quality paper.  They are not cheap so I like to take advantage of their special offers.  The offers only appear for about a week so I missed the October 'two for one' offer but it did remind me that I should start the design process and then wait for the next offer.  Last week there was a '3 for 2' offer so we now have three on order but really need another two.  I decided I could afford to wait a bit longer in the hope that another offer will appear.  It is quite a lot of work because you have to choose your photos, edit them, upload them and then put them into the calendar.  I have learnt that Photobox do not do 'shrink to fit' so bits can disappear off the edges (I think I have lost the bottom of some legs on one of this year's photos!) and portrait shots suffer from this more than landscape.

I like to have a theme. The first year they were Cornish scenes.  In 2009 we enjoyed photos of my 2008 trip to New Zealand.  Last year I decided it would be English country views since I am primarily a landscape photographer.  I was surprised at how I had a reasonable spread of different places built up since we got our first digital camera about 2002.  This year it has been a bit more of a problem for various reasons, not least taking package holidays where groups will not stop for serious photgraphers!  As a result I do not seem to have very many suitable images.  I persuaded John that since he now takes photos himself he should use his photos for his brother's.  This will be getting mostly Cornish shots on the theme of the Sea.  I decided Venice would be my subject this year but most of my photos were in portrait format.  I have paired some and hoped for the best when it comes to the shrink to fit problem.

The covers always look lovely but unfortunately you only see them before you hang the calendar up.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Experiments with Thermofaxes

I don't know what's happened to October.  Actually that's not true.  I always think that October is the month when you have to sort out the garden and as usual my eyes were bigger than my pots when it came to buying bulbs.  I have now done all of them except for one pot of tulips.  The shrubs in our garden are gradually taking over which is a bit of a pity as I keep thinking that in another five years (we have been here nearly five) there will be no gardening to do other than the pots.  Then I tell myself I will have more time for textiles.

I have been working hard on Zelah's quilt.  She turned two in September and is now in a 'big' bed so I feel a little pressure to get on with it.  I managed to make the quilt sandwich on the dining room table without the cats crawling all over it.

 Now I am quilting it in the ditch with invisible thread in the top.  I am very aware that invisible thread does not last and as this is a bed quilt rather than a cot quilt, I would like to think she will still be able to use it when she is a teenager.  I plan to put some more quilting (not in invisible thread) in some of the larger blocks once I have finished this stage, but I have to say that it is looking quite good.  I like the way quilts begin to get texture once you start quilting them.  I am telling myself not to over-quilt it as I am so used to doing very heavily quilted art pieces.

Anyway, today I decided I really must get back to some art quilt work, not least because I am very behind with my journal quilts.  I bought a starter kit of Thermofax inks from Claire Higgott at Festival of Quilts but I have not had time to use it so I got out the three screens that I have bought from her and two pieces of fabric: one plain white cotton and the other a piece of blue cotton that I dyed several years ago.  I had a lovely couple of hours trying things out:

The first layer was yellow which did not show up at all on the blue - until it dried.

It was better on the white.  I then mixed some green but this was a bit disastrous as I put far too much blue in it -I should know as I have done this sort of thing with dyes many times.  I did not put this on the blue piece and it came out almost black on the white.  Then, still using the same stencil I added scarlet to both.

I was beginning to like this so I then changed stencils and added an overall pattern to the blue piece.

And here is a detail.

I then went back and put some more yellow on the white piece but I have an awful feeling that at some stage in the afternoon the ink began to solidify in the mesh and I may have semi-wrecked the stencil!  

I am not sure that the colours of these photos are quite true but I have realised that having photographed each stage I now have photos that I can manipulate in Elements so the potential is enormous.  Now I just have to wait for the pieces to dry and heat set them before considering what use I can make of them.