Friday, 31 October 2014

Testing, sampling, recording

Having wasted  yet another hour or two looking for a sample for a technique I know I tried, I am attempting to be more organised in keeping samples.  When I was at Raystitch last week, I liked how they had samples of fabric sewn on to pieces of card and hung up in the shop.  This reminded me of the mounting of my samples from the printed textiles courses at Morley, and a question to myself as to why I wasn't using that technique to keep my samples.  Therefore, 


testing out the trapunto technique from the workshop with Philippa Naylor , using folded fabric flowers from "Fantastic Fabric Folding" by Rebecca Wat.  In the end I starched the fabric for these flowers before folding them and that made the technique much more manageable.


The trapunto gives a good dimensional effect when the background is quilted.


Next up, was testing out the trapunto technique on bias strips of varying widths. 


Phlippa has a very straightforward technique fin her book, Applique Mastery for getting these single strips to vary in width down their length.  How straightforward this will be on strips longer that A4 remans to be seen, and may call for some "design solutions."  The lower strip has the trapunto, and even without background quilting, the raised effect can be seen clearly.


As part of the searching, I did find various blocks and bits, that in the spirit of " Found and Finished", have gone off to Project Linus as a contribution.

One of Philippa's comments on the workshop was about why she makes one quilt / year.  Admittedly she is a professional, and makes her living out of teaching, based around her quilts. but her comment about making one excellent quilt, rather than lots of OK quilts really rang true.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Poppies - go and see them if you can

No Morley this week, so I met a friend and we went to see the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red at the Tower of London, and Sculpture in the City.  We both found the poppy sea very moving, despite the crowds due to half term.  I hadn't appreciated that some of the poppies are laid flat on the earth, rather than being on stems.  This meant that several of them had been placed on ledges and on steps within the moat.  Seeing the autumn leaves among the poppies added to the poignancy.



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There have been mixed reviews of this public art work, positive here, negative here, but it all seemed very positive to us on Tuesday.


Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Weekend in wonderland with Alice

Many years ago, I was a reasonably accomplished dressmaker, and made my own wedding dress.  ( We had a low key wedding.  The stylish orange bucket in the background typified the event: photographs taken by friends and family).

Wedding dress front 0002

Wedding dress front 0001

Wedding dress front

Due to many factors: lack of time with a young family; difficulty in accessing good fabrics; increasing availability of petite sized clothing; problems with fit of commercial patterns; I have not sewn any garments since then.  That is now about to change due to a superb weekend on pattern-cutting with Alice Prier at the beautiful classroom of  Raystitch in Islington.


Alice helped us use the method developed by Anastasia Vouyouka to make a block to our own measurements.  There were 4 of us on the course, all different sizes, and it was like magic to see how accurate the pattern was that emerged from the measurements that we took of each other.  Day 1 focussed on measuring, transferring the measurements to paper, and then cutting out the toile in calico.    An absolute light bulb moment was when Alice went through how to move darts on a bodice to give different effects, while still maintaining good fit.  I have watched videos of this on youtube, read blogs demonstrating this, and read about it in books, but Alice made it very straightforward and simple to understand.

Day 2 was then an exploration of how to use that block to either adapt commercial patterns, or to develop our own patterns.


Alice was an excellent teacher, enthusiastic, amusing and very encouraging.  She brought some garments from her own collection to show us how she had used a standard block to make a customised pattern.

The team at Raystitch looked after us very well, with drinks, lunch and cake provided on both days.  We had a few minutes to browse their lovely collection of fabrics and notions.  A useful tool that we worked with during the weekend, the Prym pattern drafting ruler, is now on my Christmas list.

One of the participants, Jane, impressed us all by wearing her own makes on both days.  Her blog,, has great detail of her sewing projects. 

If you want to take the plunge in to making you own clothes, I can recommend this course 200%.

( and if you are wondering if I still have the dress?  Not in its original form, but the bustle became an evening wrap, and the roses sometimes appear on a coat lapel when I am feeling dramatic).


Thursday, 23 October 2014


So, the drawing is still nerve wracking and I sometimes need to revert to a bit of paper cutting, but some of the efforts from this term are below.



The one above , done from this photo.  Horizon is all over the place, but I'm quite pleased with it otherwise.


Sketchbook Alston Hall

Sketchbook boxes

Fantasy flower, drawing and cut paper



Monday, 20 October 2014

Philippa Naylor workshop piece, quilting completed

Even although the sun was shining on Sunday, I stayed in to stitch.   Guilt did kick in… a bit….. but I feel I've done my bit of compulsory being outside when our sons were young.  I completed all of the stitching on the piece started at the workshop with Philippa Naylor.

Philippa Naylor workshop

I love the fact that all of the colour on this piece comes only from the threads used ( Bottomline, Superior Rainbows, Alcazar, Lunatic Fringe for the heavy couching in the central symbol).  The workshop has given me the confidence to try out much more elaborate machine quilting patterns, to use the decorative stitches on the machine for quilting, and to understand that it doesn't all have to be done in a single line - it is possible to stop and restart with new thread.  Details below,




Just the binding to do now.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Modern glass

Alston Hall ( see previous post) has a very jolly commemorative stained glass window in the little chapel.  I first noticed it when I went for a walk on a very misty Sunday morning.

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From within, the colours glowed


Then today, in the Morley College Gallery, there was an exhibition by the Guild of Glass Engravers ( on until 23rd October).   I've never been sure about glass engraving, as a lot of it seems very formulaic and a bit repetitive, however, the pieces on display were very inspiring.  Glass is very difficult to photograph well, but the galleries of each of the artists have excellent representations of their work.

Greg Sullivan


William Saltmarsh


Katharine Coleman


and very movingly, Alison Kinnaird, " The Unknown"


All that, after a lesson on two point perspective, and attendance at a talk last night by Barbara Chainey about her huge collection of pieces made by the Tentmakers of Cairo, was much food for thought.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Inspirational weekend - sculpture and stitching

I have been away to the Contemporary Quilt Group Winter School at Alston Hall.  What a treat.
On the way, I visited the Yorkshire Sculpture Park to see the work of Ai Weiwei , Ursula von Rydingsvard and James Turrell.  Wow, on all counts.  The works by Ai Weiwei are as thought provoking as ever, the scale of Ursula von Rydingsvard's work is astonishing and the Skyspace is a mesmerising experience.  The Yorkshire countryside was at its autumnal best, so the sculptures were seen in glorious light.  This park is on such a scale, it is worth planning a weekend around it.
Iron tree, Ai Weiwei
Ursula von Rydingsvard
Nature provided its own shapes and colours
Blue and orange
Toadstool - thanks to my brother, now identified as a shaggy inkcap.
Then on to meet over 30 textile-obsessed women, all there to learn.  Seventeen of us crammed in to  a rather small room, with voluminous quantities of equipment, to learn about machine trapunto with Philippa Naylor.  Philippa is a generous, encouraging and inspirational teacher, so if you ever get the opportunity to do a workshop with her, grab it immediately.  Her new book , Appliqué Mastery, is full of tips, as well as a full size pattern for her award-winning quilt.
The view from my bedroom was inspiration in itself, changing as the light of the day changed.
The trapunto was a surprisingly straightforward technique, and I managed a whole weekend without breaking a single size 60 needle - Philippa's recommendation.  This needle made a huge difference to the quality and density of the machine quilting I could achieve on my machine.
I have of course come away from  the weekend with another object to finish, so the "unfinished list" has just got longer.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Found and finished - fingerless

Found at the bottom of a bag of cloth and thread, some long abandoned knitting in the round.  

In the 1980s, I did lots of knitting, particularly the patterns of Patricia Roberts, as I was horrified at how much these cost to buy in the Covent Garden shop.  As this was before digital photography, I don't have any photos of my creations to hand, but favourites were Scrabble, spotted here, Cats and Dogs, spotted here and Grapes, spotted here.  

The finish it urge lasted through an episode of " The Honourable Woman" and these are now complete.



( Note the emulsion paint manicure).  The yarns were a random dyed sock yarn in dark - mid blue and another space dyed yarn in grey, brown and blue. This was my own random pattern, hence the odd twist to the bottom half of these.  Long and warm.  I would really like to make a pair with this " Mind the Gap'  yarn, but the maker is not currently active.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Found and finished

I find that some textile pieces  just languish, momentum is lost, inspiration fades and the object lies reproachfully somewhere, often out of sight.  I'm therefore trying a "finish, donate or bin" approach to these objects.  In this spirit, I had a finish last night.

This quilt made up from two different planned quilts, neither of which came out as I envisioned.  As it is so busy, I've used it to practice my machine quilting and a binding method applying the binding to the back, and then securing to the front with a three-stitch zigzag.   The wobbly edges are due to the hanging, I hope.  I had some pieces left over, so had made a pieced back.


I'm not sure about this now, as it could be interpreted as having a religious element, which was not intended at all.

Learning from this one - watercolour pencils will not necessarily wash out, particularly red ones!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Sorting, finding, finishing, viewing

Inspired by Margaret's posts about sorting out her studio, I am continuing the sort out in our own house.  First up, how many pencils, pens and felt tips can one family accumulate?


A pleasant hour spent sharpening, scribbling, doodling and writing, has reduced this to more manageable and functional proportions.  Storage was in a set of little wooden drawers, that before scrubbing and sanding revealed this little bit of graffiti, hidden on the back of one of said drawers.


What a pleasure that must have been to know that is was there, and that your parents didn't know.

Sharpenings have such great colours and shapes.


A couple of pieces of embroidery are now postcards


and a birthday present - can't be revealed yet.


Two exhibition visits yesterday, to the wacky vegetables of Patrick Laroche, very colourful and good fun.  On view until 31 October.


to the rather more esoteric offerings at the Threadneedle prize  for figurative art in the Mall Galleries ( on until 11 October).  There is a good review of the exhibition on the Making a Mark blog.

The shortlisted works were very impressive, but only a few of the other pieces caught my attention.  There were two stitched pieces by Tom Jean Webb, interesting, but I'm afraid the finish of the stitching put me off.  The little pen portrait by Pablo Garcia Martinez on a Post-it note was technically amazing to me. The piece I wanted to bring home was Pendennis Point through the rain by Jack Davis.  Painted on aluminium, this medium really worked for the light on the water and the contrasting rain.  The ?????? piece was  a painting , I think, depicting some masking tape stuck to a wooden board.  The artist Alastair John Gordon, paints trompe L'oeil paintings, so I had to believe hat this was a painting and not only some tape on a board.