Friday, 27 April 2012

Quilts from leftovers

Reading Kathleen Loomis's blog today  I was reminded that she set me off on a new project after Christmas and although it is far from finished, what she said today echoed some of the feelings I have had about the quilt I am making solely from fabric I found in my stash.

In November Kathleen said she had a long time ago taken her unused and unloved fabrics and used them to make simple traditional quilts.  I decided to do something similar.  One reason this seemed like a good idea was that after slipping in the shower and pulling/tearing some ligaments in my knee really badly, I needed something that I could make without going out to the studio.  The day I started stitching I made a big mistake and worsened my leg badly by using the foot control but then I realised that one of the reasons I had bought the Bernina I did in January was that it has a switch which enables you to work it without using your feet at all.  This was the answer!  It was a bit like swopping from a manual to an automatic car and I don't think it works for free machine quilting because you have to press the switch to stop, but for straight stitching it is fine once you get the hang of it.

I went through my stash and pulled out vast quantities of fabric, much of which no longer spoke to me.  At the end of this exercise I was surprised to realise that a lot of it fitted together in terms of colour.  I suppose we all tend to work in certain colour ranges and I know I am (a) very fond of yellow and (b) much more of a blue/green/cool side of the spectrum person than I am a lover of hot colours.  I decided on simple nine patch blocks and made a lot of them.

There is a lot of yellow because I made a wedding present quilt with yellow in it last year and there was plenty left.  I decided that the overall effect is of 'acid' colours.

I then simply sewed the blocks into rows until I had a top that was large enough for a lap quilt.

Then Journal Quilts got in the way and I didn't pick it up again for weeks.  I found a half yard piece that was big enough for a one inch wide inner border and then made an second border from two rows of squares, using up a lot of the ones left from the nine piece blocks.  Yesterday I finally got around to starting to attach the border to the quilt.  And it was a case of 'started'.  I had forgotten what it like to work with large pieces and despite close pinning I found I had to restitch a lot of it because the very narrow border and the 56 inch wide top kept parting company!

I am not into working for hours at a time at the moment as I am back using the large sewing machine and still have to watch my knee and leg so I only got two sides done but I guess it is progress.  And it was quite cheering to read Kathleen's blog about the problems of dealing with large pieces, even if her quilt is vastly superior to mine!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

April Journal Quilt

Happy Easter everyone!  I am celebrating having finished my last 'red' quilt.

I am continuing my study of twentieth century artists and art movements as inspiration and learning a lot.   This quilt is based on Cubism which we studied recently in the history of art group I belong to.  The Cubists were mainly concerned with line and form (shape) which are two elements of design central to quilting.  Their work was often done in tones of brown and grey but I decided that using shades of one colour as we have to this year would be fine.  Although their work was primarily abstract, various symbols frequently appear and I thought I would try and incorporate some of these.  They include music, print and newspaper headlines.  Still life is also a common subject so that's what I chose.

I raided the refrigerator for a vegetable or two and bought some tulips.  I then drew the picture freehand.

You will see that this drawing includes a piece of music stave and a long column on the right on which I planned to write a 'headline'.  I was thinking of stencilling and Markal paintsticks but I soon realised that the main challenge for this piece was the A4 size.  There is a lot of detail in the picture and fitting it all in was obviously impossible.  So, as so often happens with quilts, various things got eliminated.  I was also keen to use commercial fabrics as a change from all the hand-dyed ones of previous months.   In my stash I found some Lenni Rossi fabrics which I bought over five years ago. These had print on them.  I also had a piece of 'stave' fabric and the 'tablecloth' is from the collection that the V and A museum issued to go with their exhibition some time ago.  I see that you can still buy some of this fabric on-line.

I pieced the background and then collaged the rest, cutting templates from photocopies of the drawing.  How simple things are with modern technology!  Everything is machine stitched which was a complete change from the hand stitched March quilt.  Now that I have finished these four red quilts, I am left with a wide variety of pieces of red fabric, mainly from my dyeing session.  I will have to think whether I have any more 'red' quilts in my head.  The next task is to dye yellows as that is the colour for the second four quilts..  I used up a lot of my yellow stash last year making a bed quilt and need to think about what types of fabric I am likely to use.  'Shades of yellow' is also an interesting challenge as I assume it includes orange but that can so easily turn into browns.

Saturday, 7 April 2012


I am very aware that there have been no postings about Cornwall on this blog for several months.  The reason for this is that I have not been able to get out and take the photos that are the basis of the posts, due to two falls and some badly torn ligaments.  However, yesterday I managed to do my usual 'constitutional' walk for the first time since November.  I knew I would have to go much more slowly than usual and I realised that I have never posted about this route so I took my camera and here you are.  The walk is about two miles but I have never measured it.

We live at the bottom of a steep hill which leads up to the village of Madron.  Madron has an interesting history.  According to some sources, it is mentioned in Domesday Book.  Penzance was a very small fishing village in the middle ages and Madron, which belonged to the Manor of Alverton, was an important centre and had the mother church for Penzance.  There was only a chapel of ease where Penzance's parish church now stands. The church is dedicated to St Madron or Modron, the Cornish for which is Maddern.  It is a typical village church with quite an extensive churchyard.

At this time of the year the churchyard is full of flowers that are probably wild but possibly were once planted.

The village consists of small cottages, many built of granite, plus a large amount of social housing and some modern developments.  Although a few of the cottages are holiday lets, this is more somewhere where people who work in Penzance live.

Historically the village provided various things for Penzance.  There is a Holy Well about a mile beyond the housing, which until the eighteenth century was the principal source of water for Penzance.  Madron was also the site of Penzance workhouse.  This is now very derelict and rather a depressing site so I do not have any photos of it.  It was designed by George Gilbert Scott and William Bonython Moffat and completed in 1838 with space for 400 paupers. That sounds like a lot for a town the size of Penzance but I imagine that there were many seafarers who ended up homeless in their old age.  One of its most famous inhabitants was the painter Alfred Wallis.  The workhouse closed in 1948 with the advent of the NHS.  It then became an abattoir but that too closed about ten years ago, since when the whole site has just fallen into disrepair.

The school is also famous because it is very old.  It was founded in 1710 by George Daniell whose family were Lords of the Manor of Alverton which covered the area of much of what is now western Penzance.

It was/is an endowed school and at some point was renamed St Maddern School.  I know from looking into my Penzance family roots, that education was important here especially in the nineteenth century when the Methodist church started schools in addition to any like this one that were linked to parish churches.  I haven't searched out the statistics but my great-great grandparents who were born around 1830, were both illiterate but their children were not and my great grandfather even attended Penzance grammar school (a kind of Dotheboys' Hall if you ask me).

Another thing that Madron celebrates is the arrival of the news of Nelson's death in England.  According to legend (because there is nothing in the official records) a Penzance fishing boat made contact with the ship carrying his body back to Falmouth.  The fishing boat brought the news to shore where it was declared from what is now the Union Hotel, a former coaching inn, in Chapel St in Penzance.  In 1945 Madron church decided to hold a Trafalgar Day service on the Sunday closest to the 21st October.  The service is still held today and attracts all the local dignitaries.

My walk is a circular one as it is possible to walk down to Trengwainton, our local National Trust garden, by another hill.  Until last year I used to do this on a footpath across the fields from the school  but now I cannot risk the uneven ground so I have to use the road.

This is the stile where the lower end of the path comes out on the road.  There are wonderful views across Mounts Bay from the field.

At the bottom of the hill, just before the gates to Trengwainton, is a water chute: the Cornish equivalent of a village pump.  This has become a bone of contention recently because people have started using it as a carwash, possibly because we have the highest water rates in the country.  At weekends there are often two or three cars in front of it and lots of horrible suds around the pool.

Having reached the bottom of the hill, I turn left and make my way towards home past Boscathnoe Reservoir

which is a main source of water for Penzance and an extremely popular fishing spot.