Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Wedding present cushion

My eldest nephew is getting married in London on Saturday.  This is the one I am committed to making a quilt for as a present.  However, I made it very clear that it would be some months before they see it (after all I also have Zelah's quilt half made and heard last week that she has now gone into a proper bed!).  So I have made them a cushion as a sample/promise that they will get it.

In the end I went back to the Churn Dash block I had tried in June.  The churns will be yellow and the backgrounds greens and blues.  They do not want yellow greens which is fine by me but makes it virtually impossible to choose fabric on-line so collecting the fabrics is taking some time.  Making the cushion front was quite easy but it ended up a very non-standard size which meant I had to make the cushion pad myself rather than buying one.  This taxed my brain somewhat as I did not want the cushion cover gaping at the back.  It now has two buttons fastened by loops.  I was really relieved when I finished it yesterday.  However, it also means I need to carry it to London and pass it over to a member of the family on Sunday as I thought posting it would be very awkward and probably cost rather a lot because of the pricing based on size.

My husband keeps asking me what the origin of the Churn Dash block is.  It is not easy to find out.  The only place I have found a reference to it is in America's Glorious Quilts by Dennis Duke and Deborah Harding (1987) where it is listed in a group of blocks inspired by trades.  So there you are - some dairy maid/farmer.  Since milking was such a female task I like to think this block is feminist!

In addition to making the quilt, I have had to make myself a top to wear to this wedding.  With hindsight I should never have decided to try and put together an outfit using clothes I already had.  It would have been quicker and easier to start from scratch but down here we never wear formal clothes so it felt like a waste of money.  Making the top really took me back to my teenage years when I made absolutely everything.  It wasn't a difficult job but the fabric is a rather slippery satin type polyester which I had no experience of using. Fortunately the man in our local embroidery/sewing shop was really knowledgeable and told me to use TearAway in the seams.  This meant I had no problems at all but the whole exercise did feel rather nostalgic.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Collograph Printing course

What a busy fortnight!  Last week and this has seen the St Ives September Festival which is the highlight of our cultural year in this area.  There are concerts every night, talks on topics related to St Ives history in the library, lunchtime talks at the Arts Club on art related topics and on the two Wednesdays and the middle Saturday, Open Studios.  I will return to the festival next time.

Before I had mentally registered the dates for this year's festival, I enrolled on a two-day collograph printing course at handprint Studio  This studio is situated only a five minute drive from me and one of the big attractions was that having learnt the basic principles, I would be able to avail myself of their Open Access facilities.  This means that in future I can make my blocks at home and then go up there to print them.  I do not need a press, which I cannot afford and do not have room for, and I will not have to invest in lots of ink.  I was the only local person on this week's course.  The four other people had all come down for the week and were much more experienced printers that I am and all them were spending five days on printing.

It was a really good two days.  It was almost like being on holiday without the additional costs as it meant I left the house and did not think about domestic things, cats. etc all day.  The first day we made blocks on different surfaces.  The aim was to make four.  Here are mine.

This bears a vague resemblance to the estuary of Hayle river.  It is done on mountboard and uses tile cement and carborundum.  The medium grey part was pushed through sequin waste.  Although I was quite pleased with this block, the first print I made from it on the second day was not that great, demonstrating that applying the ink is a vital part of this process.

This one is a piece of metal.  Strips of sellotape, parcel tape, masking tape and the film you use to cover books with have been applied to it and it was then burnt with a heat gun.  At the tutor's suggestion I then took a craft knife and drew some lines about a third of the way down.  The result was a lovely print of the coastline with cliffs (the brown part here) and hills (the 'drypoint') behind them.  There will be a photo on the blog at some point but it was too far down the pile to photograph and I have left everything to dry at the studio.

This one was also burnt, hence the dark colour.  It was made on plywood.  The shape is just random playing but it incorporates neat PVA glue, dilute PVA and carborundum.  It was quite nobbly so I had to sand it and I think I overdid that as I was not very pleased with the resulting print, despite having sealed it very thoroughly.  Another one you can see in a future posting.

Finally, a second one on wood.  This time I began with a photo I had taken of a collapsing wooden barn window.  I drew this on in tile cement with a few grain lines added and then put a carborundum border around it.  Then I was attracted by the sequin waste option so I added some of that and decided that it no longer looked like a bit of barn but might pass for a piece of a Venetian building.

On day two we learnt to handle the inks.  In addition to applying them as intaglio, we tried graduated colours applied with a roller and viscous printing where you first paint intaglio, then roll over quite runny ink with a lightish pressure in another colour and finally roll over a second much thicker colour taken straight from the ink jar and applied with heavy pressure.  The thinner layer of ink repels the thick ink.  In my case I thought very little of the first ink had ended up on the print but I was pleasantly surprised by the final effect.

This is the Hayle estuary block with a very dark blue/black applied first, then a light layer of light grey with other colours added to it to give a sort of Wedgwood colour, and finally a layer of dark yellow.  I have to say I think the effect is slightly Durer like!

I made two pressings of the Venetian block and then one on fabric but that one had the inevitable thread that got caught across the face of the block!  When will I learn to put masking tape around the edges of the fabric to stop this happening?  I always forget.

The better of the two presses was this one where, after doing the intaglio a graduated tint was applied with a roller.

I am looking forward to collecting the dry prints next week especially the one of the coastline which I did early in the day so that it ended up near the bottom of the pile of drying prints and I could not photograph it.  I will definitely make some more prints from that one.  I have decided the burnt one on wood is a bit of a disaster but that's the way these things go.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

September on the Mount

Now that September has arrived we locals feel that we can venture out again to the local beauty spots.  Actually this year there are still loads of visitors as we found when we went to St Michael's Mount on Sunday.  The tide was out and I really like walking across on the sand rather than bumping over the cobbles on the causeway.  Our aim was simply to get some fresh air so we started with a bite of lunch at the cafe (not the National Trust restaurant).

We sat outside and managed to avoid getting dive bombed by seagulls which are a permanent problem in these parts.  NEVER attempt to eat sandwiches of pasties outside in St Ives.

Then I went searching for images that might be useful for designs.  I am very lazy about taking sketching things with me on these occasions and I know drawing makes you stand back and observe much more carefully but never mind, the camera is a wonderful thing.  A number of people live on the Mount.  They have rows of plants outside their houses and I was really struck by the succulents.

The colours in some of them are wonderful.

The little ones suggested suffolk puffs.  I haven't made suffolk puffs for years.  The last time I did for my City and Guilds course, I had terrible problems with one of the cats we had then stealing them and wandering off around the house with them.  They tend to be a despised technique but when I saw these plants I thought they would work well in journal quilts.  I also remember that they are the sort of thing you can make while travelling.

And finally, the dark red ones which I love.  Although they grow very well down here I do not have room for them in the garden.

I think it is very sheltered where these plants grow but the owners do not get much privacy during the tourist season.