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.