Wednesday, 24 December 2014

How to put quilting at the centre of Christmas

I meant to put a link to this blog post on yesterday's post but forgot.

You want the post for Friday 19 December.  Dove grey reader has a daughter currently living in New Zealand and this post describes the amazing Advent bough she made for her with loads of quilted ornaments.

Enjoy: .Dovegrey reader scribbles

Tuesday, 23 December 2014


Only two days to go. I don't know why Christmas seems to consist of carrying long lists in my head of things to be done, especially when there are only two of us, but I have been busy for what feels like weeks sorting things out, so no sewing.  As all our family live in other parts of the country the schedule is set by Posting Dates although it is not as bad as the days when we had to send things to New Zealand. T hen when I had a sister living abroad  we used to swop presents when they were home in the summer.  In 1999 they delivered two lovely Zimbabwean bowls in August which then went through our house fire in November!  Fortunately the firemen rescued them and we have used them almost every day since we opened the presents that Christmas.  Now I find myself reeling at the price of postage but tell myself it is cheaper than petrol for driving elsewhere.  And yes, I do buy most things on-line but sometimes, like the calendars we give brothers-in-law, they have to be sent here first.  I have also got heavily into e-cards this year which is much cheaper and means I do not have to get to the post office as this is becoming a bit of a problem because of no longer driving.

The second challenge is the gluten free cooking.  The situation is compounded by the fact my husband does not eat meat in any shape or form and I am allergic to fish unless it is smoked.  So pure vegetarian it has to be.  Last year's choice of main course did not work very well and this morning my husband remarked that the menu seemed to be going round in circles!  I think it is sorted.  I bought a gluten free pudding at vast expense via Amazon.  (The first year I made one but you end up with several puddings and most of the gluten free puddings in the shops are big enough for one tiny helping.  I have always been very fond of Christmas pudding.)  Mince pies are not a problem as I have been able to adapt the popular pastry with orange by adding the orange juice to the egg that you are supposed to use for gluten free pastry.

Cake I buy from Marks and Spencer (not sure I am allowed to give them a plug on a blog!).  Traditionally our Christmas has always had a distinctive Italian touch to it as that is where we were living when we met.  I have given up on panetone as it is complicated to make and I used to end up eating most of it myself.  However, this year I have had a go at gluten free panforte.  There is a small shop here which sells all sorts of crystalized fruit so that was not a problem. Whether we will be able to cut it is another matter.  Last year I made one from a recipe that contained chocolate and it was so hard I feared for my teeth.

So that's the food dealt with.

We have a had couple of little problems this year.  First my ice cream machine decided to die last week.  I have not attempted to replace it yet because we can only fit a small 'bomb' in our freezer.  Bought ice cream often contains gluten and as a New Zealander I am an ice-cream snob so don't like most commercially produced brands.  We will live without it this year.

Our other problem is related to the tree.  We are rather Continental about this ritual and generally decorate it while listening to the Kings College Cambridge carol service on Christmas Eve.  But we know that English people buy their trees well in advance as in the days when we used to drive down here for Christmas, there were often none left by the time we got here. I learnt to order them over the phone.  So now we buy it in advance and store it in the greenhouse.  Fine, but yesterday when we got the decorations out of the roof, there was no lametta and no Christmas tree stand!  It may be a lametta less Christmas but some friends have offered us some of theirs.  The Christmas tree stand was more of a problem.  We think some of the workmen who have been in our roof this year have moved it to a part where we cannot reach it (it is a very confined roof space) so we had to buy a new one.  Luckily the nearest garden centre still had some but then we found that the tree was too big for it.  So this is what my husband had to do this morning:

Having lost some of its trunk it is now up in the conservatory although still not stable.

The cats were very annoyed that they were not allowed into the garden to witness the tree alterations but they are more or less indoor cats and it was almost raining.

I have updated the photos on my Facebook page to ones with a Christmas feel. Joining Facebook has put me in touch with a lot of my quilting friends again so has been well worth it.

And,finally, I have decided it is time we 'retired' the quilted decorations.  Like most quilters I have an assortment of wall hangings and table mats which used to come out each year.  However, finding places to hang things in this house is difficult.  They seem like a symbol of quilting times past, so they are staying in the suitcase where they live.  So I think that is Christmas sorted for another year.  I hope you all have a good one.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Knitting and New Zealand women in WW1

dovegreyreader scribbles  latest post is about about knitting in World War One and how everyone was encouraged to knit all the time.  I immediately thought of how both my grandmothers were expert knitters.  In my early childhood at the end of the 1940s both of them were always knitting.  I particularly remember my paternal grandmother knitting socks - there was always a four-needle piece of knitting sitting by her chair.  My maternal grandmother also knitted socks but she lived in a different town so I did not see her regularly.  I do remember her talking about knitting socks for soldiers in World War Two, though, so I began to wonder what they had both done in the first war.

My paternal grandmother was married and had two babies during World War One.  She was 31 when the war broke out.  My maternal grandmother was four years younger.  Her father never allowed her to work: she was very much the unmarried daughter who was expected to 'look after' her four brothers.  At the beginning of the war she got engaged to my grandfather but he then went off to fight and did not return until December 1918.  We knew all about Gallipoli because he was wounded there and then he went on to the Western Front and fought in the Battle of the Somme amongst other things. Having lived in Britain for over forty years I know a lot about what women here did from nursing on the Western Front to working in munitions or taking over work on farms,  but I knew very little about women in New Zealand.  So I spent an interesting afternoon doing some internet research by searching for 'New Zealand women knitting World War One' and thought I would share my findings.  I must, however, apologise for a lack of photos as all the sites I went to had copyright issues and I could not use them.  If you want to find out more or see some of the photos, I would recommend a website called

New Zealand is very proud of the contribution it made to the First World War.  It was the first colony to declare war and sent a higher percentage of its population to fight than any other colony.   Mention of the fact that fifty per cent of the state funded schools were one teacher schools is interesting because so many of the teachers went off to war.  At one point my maternal grandmother taught for a short time in a school at Lake Coleridge where a large dam was under construction.  She was completely untrained and had left school at fourteen so I think there was a real problem finding teachers.  The population of New Zealand was only just over one million. One thing I noticed from old newspapers was the number of trained nurses who left and went to France or Britain.  Nursing has always had high status in NZ and I am sure they were well trained.  These were not VADs although I know people who were VADs in the Second World War.  New Zealand, like Australia, recognises that it 'grew up' as a result of the war and these days Gallipoli has huge significance although I do not remember this being nearly as marked in my childhood.  Perhaps this was because we were still recovering from the Second World War.  Most of us had fathers who had fought in that but not that many people I knew had grandfathers who had served in 1914-1918.

Within the first two to three days of the outbreak of war, Lady Liverpool, the wife of the Governor General, established a fund to assist the soldiers overseas and encouraged women and children to knit socks, sew shirts and contribute money to the cause. Lady Pomare, who was a high status Maori, also had a fund to raise money for Maori soldiers.  There are accounts of the committee meetings for these two funds and it is apparent that being on committees is what the 'establishment' people did.  However, much of the work was done by sewing and knitting bees.  Women who were not in paid employment made clothes for Belgian children, as well as socks and shirts for soldiers.   Children also contributed to this 'textile' work. Virtually all women were used to making their own clothes so it probably seemed a natural thing to do.  I had assumed that there would not have been a problem with access to wool such as there was here but then I found a letter to the paper in which the writer complained about a shortage of wool and being expected to pay for the wool herself.  When wool ran short in Australia, people in Melbourne and Sydney bought spinning wheels.

The advertisements in these old newspapers are fascinating.  There is one for a knitting machine and Kirkcaldie and Stains department store in Wellington advertised Patons wool 'specially woven for Soldiers' Comforts'.  Lady Liverpool produced 'Her Excellency's Knitting Book'.  It was felt that work like this helped women to feel closer to the men on the other side of the world.  Of course, some women worked and I found a wonderful photo of a course teaching women how to grade fleeces.  There was even a 'knitting song' which originated in Britain and reached NZ via Australia.  The main music shop in Wellington advertised the sheet music.  I expect it was the same in NZ.

There are regular pieces in the newspapers listing the articles people had made and donated: socks, balaclavas, scarves cholera belts, mittens, pyjamas and day shirts.  The names of donors are given and from this distance it is easy to see it may all have become very competitive.  Old clothing was also recycled, e.g. old (I assume leather) gloves were sent to England to line waistcoats.

Women were also heavily involved in fund-raising through garden fetes and market stalls.  And they sent food parcels.  My maternal grandmother had a brother serving on the Western Front and she used to talk about sending fruit (i.e. Christmas cake recipe) cakes and Russian toffee.  As a child I always used to wonder how the food survived the journey which would have taken at least six to eight weeks.  My sister tells me that this grandmother used to talk about knitting socks for soldiers so there you have it.  Unfortunately I know almost nothing about what my paternal grandmother did as she lived in a more rural area.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Developing originality - some musings

Since my last post I have been wrestling with the problem of originality as I try to work out how to make map quilts that are not simply clones of other people's.  Like many of us I have always been 'addicted' to maps and will spend hour reading them.  (My husband, in contrast, is an avid reader of dictionaries.)  I also have a great interest in local history so I decided that I would try making maps of this area from old maps.  I already had a couple of this village but I also bought some local old maps from Alan Godfrey Maps  Unfortunately our house is situated just off the top left hand corner of the Penzance map!

I Googled 'map art quilts' and saw that this is quite a popular genre.  As I know I am in danger of simply cloning Alicia Merrett's technique I  bought a copy of this book by Valerie S Goodwin.

She uses collage rather than piecing but I have decided to stick with piecing for now.  So I attempted to make a top of a small part of our village.  It was only then that I realised making 'real' villages is not easy so I have ended up with something that is rather imaginary.

Now that the top is assembled I can see what is wrong with it!  I wanted to use fabric I already had but there is not enough contrast in the values.  I also thought that I would use the 'real' colours of Cornwall which meant lots of browns and greys because the houses are mostly built of granite.  As the moors around the village have a distinctly 'brownish' tinge to them, especially at this time of the year, I though I could get away with various pieces in my stash.  I soon realised that one reason why Alicia's quilts 'work' is because of the contrast between the buildings and the landscape.  And I won't mention the fact that my roads are straight up and down!  However, I have not given up yet as I still have to quilt the piece.  I have decided it is a good idea to make several small pieces and treat them as a learning exercise,  Then I came to a halt because I broke my free machine quilting stitching plate and have had to send away for spare parts.

However, I have had plenty of opportunity to think about all of this because of two recent blog posts.  First Elizabeth Barton who wrote a very good piece on 4 November which she titled: Original? Or Derivative?  Art and Quilts, Cogitations Thereon.  This post is well worth looking at even if you do not regularly read her blog.  She talks about how you can identify a piece of work as original and says that 'originality comes from going beyond the predictable'.  This obviously applies to both ideas and techniques.  I totally agree with her advice to not work to a formula and to 'come up with fifty ideas that the Big Name never even thought of'.  I think my idea of doing 'old maps' probably works but I still have a long way to go to work out how to translate this into techniques.  As I write this it occurs to me that I should pay more attention to the symbols that are used on old maps and how they can be represented in fabric and thread.

The second useful blog post is Alicia's own.  She has contributed to the Round the World Blog Hop and described how she makes her map quilts.  I particularly liked the section on how her process works as her 'map fragments' are what I think I am doing by working very small.

So that is as far as I have got.  Since I ended up with plenty of leftover house strips I realise I should start on a third piece using them and combining them with some of the many blues I have in order to make a 'fishing village'.  I have lots of hand-dyed blue fabrics because for the last ten years or so most of my work has been inspired by the coast and the sea in this area.  Quite a lot of this fabric is not cotton: I have linen, cheesecloth, indigo dyed fabric etc.  So there you are, I should be led by the fabric and see where that takes me.  I suspect a lot of us run into problems over originality and, as I have said many times before, I am pretty cut off from art quilters down here and have realised I should blog more often and get people to comment as that is another way of bouncing ideas off other people.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Another UFO finished

Some months ago (but I cannot find the post) I remember saying that I wanted to finish off various UFOs before starting on new work.  Well I am pleased to report that I have now finished the lap quilt which had been sitting half-quilted in a pillowcase in the studio.  I made this from a Cut Loose Quilts design that I had used before.  It has large 'blank' squares and when I made the first quilt I hand quilted these but my days of intensive hand quilting are now over.  I could not decide what to put in the squares so the quilt sat there for over a year.  Finally I decided to cut my losses and simply put a large diagonal cross across each block.  The pieced blocks are quilted in the ditch.

What did please me, given that I had bought the fabric at the Festival of Quilts about three years ago, was that I was able to make the binding from left over strips of the backing.  The backing was pieced using some of the same fabrics as the front plus a couple of others.  I even had a suitable piece of wadding and of course plenty of threads so it was really quite a cheap quilt.  Batik is not cheap though.  I just love it.

The quilt goes really well with our sofas so I have put the one I had there in another room.

It is also greatly appreciated by Hinemoa.  In fact I had trouble hemming the binding because she would not get off.  Every evening we have 'television time' when she sleeps on it on my knee.

However, this afternoon she was less keen about being a model.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Matthias's wall hanging

At last I can show the wall hanging that I made for our third great-nephew, Matthias (pronounced the French way as his mother is half-French).  Matthias was born at the end of May.  I decided to make him a wall hanging rather than a cot quilt as they are living in Los Angeles and I thought something that could be easily carried in a suitcase would be a good idea.  My sister and her husband (the paternal grandparents) went to LA last week so now I can show it on here.  I didn't want to reveal it earlier in case my nephew and his wife read the blog!

The design is taken from 'A Quilters Ark' by Margaret Wolfe.  This is quite an old book but I have used it a lot.  On this occasion I chose animals of the world because both sides of the family have lived abroad a good deal.  My nephew was born in Egypt (hence the camel) and the family also lived in other parts of Africa.  There are a couple of North American animals and a koala because his mother has family in Australia.  It is foundation pieced and I have to admit I bottled out of trying to create a kiwi as this is a technique I find useful but do not particularly enjoy.

Last year I made the baby next door one of these hangings but with farmyard and domestic animals.

I had to give my sister instructions on how to hang it so we were pleased to get an e-mail yesterday showing the hanging correctly hung!  Now I am wondering whether to make one for my hairdresser who is expecting a baby in the New Year.  I have realised I can make a smaller one, either two by two blocks or three in a vertical row.  In the meantime I plan to get back to map quilts, having got an idea for a second one in my head.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Map quilt finished

This must be something of a record for me this year.  I have finished my map quilt!  The quilting was quite straight forward.  I made it pretty dense as I remembered the fields where we lived in Northamptonshire which is a big arable area.  The finished quilt is thirteen inches square which was a very manageable size. - really a journal quilt.  Now I have to think hard about how I can make map quilts that are more 'me' and less Alicia.  Changing the colours is easy but at this point I have not thought about the techniques.  Interestingly, my husband said he thought they were more 'aerial views' than maps so I am turning that over in my mind too.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Map quilts after Alicia Merrett

I may no longer be able to go to the Festival of Quilts but thanks to social media and people's blogs it is easy to see some of what I missed.  I also decided this year that as I am saving a lot of money by not going, I can afford to buy new books.  So I have bought three to start me off.

First up is Alicia Merrett's book to go with the exhibition she had at  This book is a brilliant idea.  It combines a catalogue of the exhibition, photographs of other map quilts she has made and a short workshop on how to make map quilts. And of course there are more in the galleries on her website.   As I am a map junkie I have loads of ideas for subject matter but it is a good idea to check out the techniques first.  I have studied with Alicia in the past so I am familiar with her method of curved piecing but I decided to make a trial piece to remind myself of the method.  A good idea this as it is very easy to lose track of what you are doing and that means you will not have a real map.

I began by going to my 'sweetie jars' of small scraps and found plenty of pieces for the houses.  It was a really good way to use up lots of leftover two inch pieces from bindings.

Then I turned to my large basket of green scraps to choose pieces for the fields.  I have done lots of work in green in the past but I realised that a lot of the scraps were patterned or had too much contrast of colour for this exercise.  Also I seem to have much more yellow green that blue green.  However, I was determined to make this piece from what I already have.  Following Alicia's instructions I laid all the pieces out, having done a drawing of a mythical village.

Then I promptly lost the plot of the design as I sewed them!  Finally I told myself firmly not to be such a perfectionist and remember this was just an exercise.  So here is the top.

I need to tidy up the edges and then it will be fourteen inches square.  As the weather forecast for the Bank Holiday tomorrow is dire I hope I can do the quilting tomorrow.  In my head I am asking how I can take Alicia's principles and make the technique mine.  This one would be instantly recognisable as 'hers' and I think that is one of the main problems with taking workshops.  I am wondering whether I should do something from an old map in 'old' colours.  I have plenty of rust dyed fabric which might work.  We live on a crossroads which is one of the oldest parts of the village and I know it was there well over a hundred years ago, so perhaps that should be my next one.  There are also the two villages we lived in before moving down here.  Then thee is the area where I spent the second part of my childhood which is now a suburb on Wellington but was originally a farming settlement and which has a wonderful straight road going right down the middle of it!  I can see I am not going to be short of subject matter.

I also noticed on Amazon that there are several books on map quilts so I am wondering if it is a bit 'flavour of the month'.  Certainly having access to things such as Google Earth and various map apps. means you could tell the story of your life in this form!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Modern quilting - what's in a name?

Every year at Festival of Quilts time there is a lot of discussion as to whether particular quilts have been entered in the right category.  This argument is often about the 'art' quilts and 'contemporary' quilts.  I know it is a dreadfully hard decision to make when entering the competition and I well remember way back in the early days phoning and changing the category of my entry after I had sent in the form!  I am sure you would not get away with that these days.  This discussion has gone on again this year but there is also another
discusssion that is wider than deciding which class a quilt belongs in.

The Modern Quilt movement started up in the USA a few years ago and there are a number of groups in the UK.  My understanding a couple of years ago was that the movement began among younger quilters who were looking for something different from established groups.  The aims were to make functional quilts that used lots of white, bright 'pure' colours and possibly traditional patterns but not slavishly.  For a definition of Modern Quilting go to  I remember being told that these new quilters were media savvy, liked blogging and used social media rather than going to meetings in church halls and adult education centres.  I could sympathise with where they were coming from as, like many of my generation who had demanding jobs, I had very little time for textiles (I originally did a lot of embroidery) and I did not have the demands of a family as well.

So when the Quilters Guild launched a specialist group for Modern Quilts at Festival of Quilts I did not think it was for me.  I joined the  Contemporary Quilt specialist group when it was first set up and these days I call myself an art quilter or a textile artist in places where people have a very narrow traditional view of quilting (this includes Cornwall).  However, mainly because I said I was keen to see more younger people in the Guild and because I would love there to be more members down here, I found myself signing up to their Yahoo group.  I was not the only one of 'mature years' and long experience and I am interested to see that I am also not the only one to be asking myself whether I am willy-nilly a modern quilter.  Go to Google images and search for 'modern quilt images'.  You may be surprised at what you find and, if you are a quilter, how many of your quilts would qualify.

Now look at these.  They are quilts that I have made, a lot of them a long time ago, without giving a thought as to their 'type'.

This one was made about 1990 and is tied (badly) rather than quilted.

Early 2000s.  I made this one totally by hand as I wanted something to work on at the quilting group I went to.

Another one made around 2000. This one is still in use on a sofa and much appreciated by one of our cats.

I have made several quilts using designs by Jan Mullen in her book 'Cut Loose Quilts' and I suspect some of them would qualify as 'modern quilts'.

And I noticed one quilt on the Modern Quilt images site that was very similar to this cot quilt which I made in 2005.

Now, to see how this discussion is influencing us, go to Susan Briscoe's blog Sashiko and other stitching and find the entry for 14 August which is on the same subject as mine.

I cannot help but have another slant on all this, however.  My academic background is in social psychology and this leads me to ask myself why people want their quilting  to be labelled/put in a box such as traditional, modern or contemporary.  Is it because they need to identify with a particular group of like-minded people?  Is it about rejecting a different group?  Or rejecting certain techniques and approaches, e.g. wet work?  And is it possible to identify with more than one group?

In the end I wonder if it matters.  I learnt to do patchwork as a child and became serious when I realised quilting was a better occupation than embroidery if you were short-sighted.   I just knew that I wanted to 'paint' with fabric and that I did not have the patience to make sure all my points met and so I became a contemporary (art) quilter.  The different definitions hardly existed when I began and I think I have decided that you should just do what you want and not worry about which boxes you tick.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Current exhibition at Penlee House

There are two art galleries in Penzance; The Newlyn Orion and Penlee House
Penlee House has the country's main collections of paintings of the Newlyn School which operated in Newlyn at the beginning of the twentieth century. These are what I think of as 'genre' paintings because if you really study them you learn a lot about the society in which they were painted.  Although I am really a modern art person I do room stewarding at Penlee House which means I get to see the exhibitions several times.

The current exhibition which runs until early September, is called 'Model Citizens: Myths and Realities'.  I think it is a really interesting exhibition because it focuses on the people who modelled for the artists and on how the artists interpreted life in Newlyn in a way that would help them sell paintings.  So there is an element of myth and reality in the depictions of people and settings which means that 'artist's licence' operates and, for example, the women's dress is shown as more traditional than it really was.  Details of scenes are also altered so that the painting will appeal to a wide audience.

Stanhope Alexander Forbes 1857-1947
Gala Day at Newlyn, 1907
Oil on canvas, 106 x 136 cm
Hartlepool Art Gallery

© The Artist’s Estate / Bridgeman Art Library

This is a  painting that I know well but I had never thought about how the artist had changed the direction of the procession and removed the markers of Methodism, substituting a Union Jack for the Methodist Band of Hope banner.  Methodism was very important in Penwith society (I know:  My grandmother's father came from Penzance and was a staunch Methodist and many Methodist practices were passed down to us).  There are a number of other paintings of Methodist processions in Penlee House's collection.  They were obviously an important feature of life here and, although church based parades no longer happen, carnivals such as Galowan and Mazey Day in Penzance and Lafrowda in St Just are still a highlight of the year.

There is a second painting of Methodists in the exhibition: Primitive Methodists at Prayer.

William H Y Titcomb 1858 - 1930
Primitive Methodists at Prayer, 1889
Oil on canvas, 130 x 89 cm
Dudley Museum & Art Gallery

There are also lot of interior scenes in the exhibition and the point is made that interiors were 'women's territory' although this was a 'plein air' school and there are also many paintings of women working with fish or standing beside the harbour wall .

Edwin Harris 1855-1906
Mending the Nets, 1903
Oil on canvas, 86.5 x 102 cm
Bowerman Charitable Trust

Models were posed in the cottages in typical everyday scenes.  Women were heavily involved in fishing and the artists frequently posed them in traditional fisherwomens' dress, even though it was not longer worn.

Frank Bramley 1857 – 1915
Domino!, 1886
Oil on canvas, 89 x 112 cm
Crawford Art Gallery, Cork

Here the whitewashed walls and stairway are also representative of the 'Newlyn interior' while the map of West Cornwall on the wall also places the painting geographically.  What I really like about this painting, though, is the white dress, tablecloth and paper in the front, all of which look like textiles you could almost touch.  They are painted in the square brush technique of which Frank Bramley was a particular master.

The exhibition has an excellent book to go with it: Cornwall's Fisherfolk: Art and Artifice by the curator Mary O'Neill.  The book is really a social history book with many of the Newlyn paintings reproduced in full colour.  I learnt a lot from it including the possible origins of my mother and grandmother's huge consumption of tea.  I had not realised that the fishermen and Methodists (who were teetotal) in this area were great tea drinkers so I suspect that is where it began! I also like having the paintings in one place rather than the collection of tatty postcards I have built up over the years. I would really recommend the book if this is your kind of exhibition.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Studio almost back to normal!

Our new kitchen is now completely operational.  The builder finished a week ago but it has taken a long time to decide where to keep things, throw away a lot of the stuff that used to clutter the benches and then sort out the studio.  Today the sewing machine,large cutting board and rulers have returned to their proper home and I think most of the things I moved out so they would not be contaminated by the smells of cooking, are now back in place.

The kitchen itself if lovely and we are very pleased with it.

We are trying very hard to keep the benches tidy but as keen cooks we tend to have our 'tools' on display.

We have not yet done anything about replacing the fridge and freezer although we have decided what we want.  Sorting it all out was just too much while everything was a building site and as it stands on the opposite wall to the fitted kitchen, we are able to wait.  The space between the hob and the oven is rather taken up by a large trivet and the induction hob we bought for the temporary kitchen.  We think it is wonderful particularly for keeping things warm and making risotto so it is staying but I am going to have to learn to cope with a couple of rather small places for mixing things!

Now I can begin to think about sewing again!  I have acquired a microwave for dyeing as we decided to replace our rather elderly microwave and the old one will stay in the studio.  Now I need to use the internet to find out how best to use it with Procion dyes.  When we moved down here over eight years ago, I had the microwave from our old house but like many people I never got round to using it and it finally went to the tip.  I must try harder this time!  I am one of the people keenly waiting for Linda Seward's new book to arrive in the UK.  As I am not going to the Festival of Quilts, I gather I will have to wait a while yet.

I have managed to make a present for our new great-nephew in the States which my sister and her husband will take over with them in September as I have heard too many tales of what US customs can be like.  Unfortunately I cannot put it up on the blog in case one of the family looks at it!

Friday, 18 July 2014

From studio to kitchen - and back again

July has not been a good month for sewing or for blogging.  We are having a new fitted kitchen installed and the studio has been turned into a temporary kitchen.  Like most people my studio has many double sockets at bench top height, a free standing table (the kitchen table from our old house) and two sinks (although one is a classic artists' sink which means it is permanently stained and not much use for anything other than wet textile work) so at least we do not have to wash up in the bath.

Here is the sink end in better times and below is a photo I took of the workbench when it was new.

 A more recent photo shows the bench with the cutting board at one end and the ironing set up at the other.

These two photos show how it has adapted to being a kitchen.

I put away as many of my textile things as possible.  My cutting boards are currently under my bed, my two sewing machines are 'resting' in the study and the books and tools that are normally on the shelves are in various places including the shed.  I found a leftover piece of flooring to put on the workbench and protect it from spills although it was a few inches too short.  We have also been sharing the studio with the new kitchen parts and in the photo above you can see how the cook has to lean past the stacked pieces of cupboard, fascias, skirting boards and for several days, the uncut worktop.  Just as well the weather was very good until last night.

We have been operating with a microwave, a small table top oven and, remembering previous times when we have had to resort to an electric table top hob and how slow they are, an induction hob from Lakeland Plastics.  This is brilliant and we have decided to have it in the new kitchen because it is so good for keeping things warm and for making risotto.  It will take up valuable bench space (my opinion) but my husband, who does most of the cooking, has fallen in love with it!  It is the flat object next to the oven on the left of the photo.

The old kitchen table on which I keep my main machine has had to revert to its original function and is the general workspace and dumping ground.

The far end of the room is even more untidy than usual although I did manage to find something I needed on the shelves yesterday.

Now most of the work is done and the builder says we can cook in it over the weekend and use the dishwasher!  I have spent so much time washing up the last two weeks that I begin to understand why so many of our mothers did not have time to go to work. As we have been able to use the dining room (where the fridge and freezer have been relocated) I seem to have spent hours carry trays of washing up out to the studio, washing up, drying up and carrying everything back again.  The builder expects to finish on Monday so we are not allowed to put anything back until after that.  The microwave will be staying in the studio and I must find out how to use it for dyeing with Procion dyes.  As it is fairly elderly we have bought a new one for the kitchen.

I think it will be another week before everything is back in its proper place and I can get back to sewing as I realise I will also have to clear up the studio so that I can find everything again.  I will take photos of the new kitchen and post them when we have everything back in place.  The last time we had a new kitchen in another house about twenty years ago, we put the cats in the cattery and went away for a week but that was not an option this time.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Golowan and the Cornish diaspora

The last week in June is the Golowan festival in Penzance.  This is a revival of ancient celebrations for the patron saitn, St John the Baptist.  There is a week of events and the town is decorated with banners made in special workshops.

The week culminates in Mazey Day on the Saturday and Quay Day on the Sunday.  Mazey Day is marked by a series of processions through the town while Quay Day is based on the traditional fair for people from the surrounding villages and area.

Each year there is a theme and this year it is the Cornish Diaspora.  I find this very interesting as my maternal grandmother's family came from Penzance and emigrated to New Zealand in 1874.  In fact we live less than a mile from where they lived.  The Golowan celebrations included a small exhibition about the diaspora mounted by the Cornish Global Migration Project  Some of us contributed short summaries of our families' experiences.  I found it difficult to reduce my text to 400 words but when I visited the exhibition the piece on my family, the Sam Lukes, looked very good as they had put a photo of the family that I sent them at the top

and a photo of the house that one of my great-grandfather's brothers built as his 'gentleman's residence' in Wellington at the bottom of the article.  This house was called 'Treneere' and named after the gentleman's residence that lies between the street where the family lived and our place here.  In the mid-nineteenth century the area between our village and their street was all farmland so I assume that the children played there.  In 1939 most of the land was turned into a large council housing estate but Treneere House is still there and is now part of Penwith College.

Unfortunately no-one in my extended family has a photo of my great-grandfather's house in Wellington which was called Tregellas after the farm on the Lizard where his mother grew up.  It took me years to track this down as all anyone in my mother's generation knew was that it was named for her.  We knew she came from St Keverne which is a huge parish at the far end of the Lizard and my grandmother used to talk about The Manacles a lot but it was not until shortly after my mother died that I located the actual farm.  It is now the base of the Roskillys ice-cream firm

The exhibition had a number of individual stories like mine and displays provided by Cornish associations in many parts of the world.   There was even a photo of two Australian Lukes who are Cornish Bards.  I had not realised that Cornish pasties were such an important feature of the diiaspora but there were photos of 'pastes' in Mexico which is their version of the pasties introduced by the Cornish miners.  Between 250,000 and 500,000 people left Cornwall in the century from 1850.  New Zealand does not seem to have had as many Cornish immigrants as places like Australia and the USA but I was told 150,000 went to NZ. Most of them were miners but my family were foundry men and there were also farmers and other occupations.  There were certainly plenty of people I knew in my childhood who had Cornish surnames.  The thing that strikes me about the diaspora is that it was just like immigration to the UK from the Empire after the Second World War.  Most of the migrants were single men who remitted money back to their families here and many of them returned.  Cornish miners were considered to the best 'deep' miners in the world.

I expect a lot of the schools' in today's processions also depicted the diaspora in their displays but I have given up going to Mazey Day because it is extremely crowded and very much for families.  I will just have to look at the photos in the local newspaper next week.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Linking Facebook and my blog

A few weeks ago my two sisters persuaded me to join Facebook so that I could see various family photos.  I set up an account, invited a very few people to be friends (mainly family and old friends from New Zealand) and told every one I was not going to post on it.  Then a little later I learnt about Facebook Pages and decided that if I set one up in the name of Reensstitcher I could (a) set it up with a link that would let people know I had posted on my blog and (b) use it to post photos of some of my quilts.  I am very aware that putting photos on it means people can 'rip them off' but this afternoon I have worked out how to do upload photos and the Reensstitcher page now has an album of quilt photos.

Deciding which photos to use was an interesting exercise as I found I had worked to themes more than I realised.  I will probably open another album with some of my other work at some point.  The next problem has been locating the photos.  How I wish I was a methodical tidy person but I am not sure if this comes naturally to creative types!  I have photos everywhere - on a memory stick, on a free standing hard drive and on the computer although I moved most of them off there at the end of last year.  Now I discover that some must have vanished when I bought a new computer in 2009 as the filing system (such as it is) seems to collapse at that point and there are at least two photos I wanted to use which I am going to have to take again.  So here is Gwithian Two which you may have seen before but nowhere can I find Gwithian One.  Fortunately I still have the quilt so I will retake the photos tomorrow.  I cannot even find it on my blog although I distinctly remember taking the original photos.  The album I have set up is on the theme of the coast and the sea around Penwith.

The other task involved in setting up the Reensstitcher page has been to organise a link between it and the blog.  I have had good e-mail instruction from a fellow contemporary quilter but I am still far from certain that I have done it right.  It appears that there is now an automatic link between the blog and my main Facebook account but not between the blog and the Reensstitcher page.  Of for a handy young person to sort me out!  If you have got to this posting via Facebook chances are you are one of my Friends rather than someone who has ticked 'Like''

I have however, been glad to learn in the last twenty-four hours that I am not the only one facing these problems.  There is some interesting chat on the SAQA Yahoo group about following blogs and what widgets to have.  Interesting what happens when the older generation decides to take over the younger generation's social media and I am not surprised most young people have abandoned Facebook.  The Preview page tells me I cannot access my widget so it will be interesting to see what happens when I publish it.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

SAQA benefit auction

I have belonged to SAQA for several years but I have never entered any challenges or participated in anything other than doing a stint on the stand at the Festival of Quilts every year and attending the get-together they have there.

Then last week I suddenly realised that SAQA had extended the deadline for contributions to the annual Benefit Auction.  At the same time I realised I had several journal quilts that measured 12 ins by 12 ins. which is the size required.  I could easily live without one of these but which one?  I become hypercritical in these situations and several were rejected because they were too dull in colour or rather boring in subject matter.  In the end I had to ask my husband to help me choose, something he does not like doing as he is not artistic.  I also had to make my decision very quickly: no chance to mull it over for a couple of days as I was in danger of missing the new cut-off date.

Here is the one that I finally sent off on Monday.

Potting Shed

I still have doubts about it being rather dull in colour and in this photo the edges do not look straight (but they are!)

I made this quilt and several others on the theme of watering cans after taking part in a workshop run by Bobby Britnell at a Contemporary Quilt Summer School.  I became really enthusiastic about what we learnt which included monoprinting and a lot about shading in order to create 3D effects.  I had already learned monoprinting techniques at a printing group I used to attend but this was the first time I had used them on quilts.

Potting Shed began with monoprinting onto calico with black ink.  I cut out templates for the watering can and flower pots and used a wide toothed comb to create the vertical lines in the background.  The unique thing, though, is the use of Chromacoal to colour the 'picture'.  I seem to remember that those of us who took this workshop went and bought up almost the entire remaining stock of Chromacoal in the UK.  This had something to do with it having been discontinued because of health and safety issues but if you look at Bobby's website you will see the work where she has used it.

Having coloured the top, I put it on a stiff wadding that Bobby recommended and then free machine quilted it.  Then I had no idea what to do with it so it sat in a box with other the same size.  When I read about the Benefit Auction I realised it was a really good cause.  This is SAQA's main fund-raiser, based on donations from members.  I do not really expect this to sell but it might appeal to someone who wants a decoration on a gardening theme.  The other thing is that it has made me realise how much I like this size of quilt so I am all set to make some more, using up some of my UFOs.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Nui Maidment 2001 - 2014

We were very sorry last Monday to have to say Good-bye to our older Siamese cat, Nui, the day before what would have been his thirteenth birthday.  Nui was rather special because of all our seven Siamese he was the only one who was not a sealpoint.  This was simply because he was the only boy in the litter and we wanted a brother and sister.  He was a lilac tabby and a particularly beautiful and large cat for a Siamese.

If you are wondering about his name, it is Maori for large. His sister was called Iti which is Maori for small.  We have always had Maori names for them after we named the first cat Tiki. We chose these two names before we got the cats and we did not realise how true they would be.  Nui was very large for a Siamese while Iti was tiny.  She was possibly the smallest in the litter as sealpoints tend to be girls and are often the runt of the litter.

Cats often feature large in quilters' lives and this was certainly true of Nui.  He and Iti got into textiles at an early age.  Here they are helping to construct a sampler piece.  It looks as though butter would not melt in their mouths but this was not always the case.

Here is Nui celebrating his first Christmas by attacking the Christmas decorations.

We lived in Northamptonshire in those days and the cats had to travel to Cornwall several times a year.  They were very happy to have these holidays although we had to be careful about letting them outside so they were on leads.  You read about people bringing their cats down and the cats then running off.

When we moved to Cornwall at the beginning of 2006 we decided that as we had a walled garden, it would be safe to let them out without leads.  Needless to say, Nui soon discovered how to climb up the wall so in the end he and his sisters came to only be allowed out when we were in the garden with them.

Nui was passionate about heat - what cat isn't?  In Northamptonshire he was often to be found in the drier

but here it lives in the studio.  He quickly discovered the airing cupboard and down the years clawed the hot water cylinder so badly that on one occasion the man who was servicing the central heating told me he thought we had rats!

In 2009 Iti suddenly died of kidney failure at the age of seven.  We have always known that this is a problem with Siamese as our first cat had it at eight but survived.  Just as well because in those days you did not insure pets and we were permanently short of money.  Tiki had a week on a drip but he outlasted all our other cats and we finally lost him at the age of fourteen.

Nui was devestated when he no longer had a sister so we decided to get him another one.  This proved to be quite difficult because people had stopped breeding them because of the recession.  We finally found a breeder near St Ives.  When the kittens were born there were six rather than the expected five and we had twenty-four hours to decide if we would take one or two.  After speaking to a few people who advised us that two kittens could play together and leave the older cat in peace, we opted to take both and so we got Hinemoa and Pania.  We were finding it more difficult to think of Maori names by this time so I turned to an on-line dictionary of baby names.

This was our first experience of introducing an older cat to young ones.  It took only a week for Nui to decide that sisters were a good idea and he spent most of his later years curled up with one or both of them.

When the cold weather comes, they move from the conservatory to their igloos next to the radiator in my bedroom.

The interest in quilts continued although he became better at not helping himself to pieces of fabric, ribbons and wadding. When I got a new quilt last autumn Nui decided he preferred the old one.  I realised the other day that I made the first one the year we got him so he had always had it and I think he must have liked the colours..

But any quilt will do.  Here he is with Hinemoa on a sofa with quilt,

In the end kidney failure got Nui too.  We had known he carried the gene since Itil died so for five years I had to give him a 'high blood pressure pill' every evening.  Pedigree cats do not live as long as moggies and over the last few months we had seen him begin to show signs of ageing.  Fortunately his final illness was short.

I will leave you with a photo of him in his prime in the garden.