After my last post I thought Spring would gradually creep up on us and longer and warmer days were ahead. Hmm. The Quilters’ Guild had its ‘Spring’ Regional Day for our area on the Saturday the snow returned. The start of the day was not promising (unless you wanted a snow-filled day!) but most braved the early morning elements and, despite what looked like a blizzard outside most of the time, the roads were clear for our homeward journeys. We were amply rewarded with meeting many friends, patronising the traders and being treated to two excellent talks.
Heather Hasthorpe showed many of her stunning quilts whilst debating what constituted a Modern Quilt or a Contemporary Quilt. Generously she showcases many on her website here so do go and enjoy! I think my favourite was Red Dragons but there were several contenders.
In the afternoon, with the snow still swirling outside, we were transported to a hot and dry Ghana by Pat Archibald’s account of her visit there, encountering many craftworkers. Weavers, dyers, basketmakers, bead makers – all working with the meagre resources available to them, recycling, repurposing and investing huge amounts of time and labour. One walked two or three hours to gather wood to fire his small kiln which he balanced on springs taken from dismembered car seats. Her lively and humorous talk gave much food for thought as I surveyed the abundance of ‘stuff’ in my workroom later. Pat has produced some stunning work based on her African experiences; you can see it on her website here.
The blocks at the top of this post are waiting for me to decide what to do with them. Our textile group’s most recent challenge involved each of us being given a piece of a beautiful Nancy Crow fabric, to do whatever we wanted. It graded from light to dark, with a subtle range of greys and misty purples, and I immediately was seized with a desire to make small log cabin blocks (I have no idea where that came from!). In a way it’s wasteful of a precious fabric as so much is hidden in seam allowances, but I do just love the colour movement you can get with this technique. So I have eleven 3 1/2″ blocks to play with. Watch this space!
We had some weather here last week, the sort you can’t ignore. Here in the south easterly, relatively sheltered, area of the UK we are used to comfortably watching others cope with seriously disruptive snow in more northerly parts or overseas. And we were again spared the worst.
I did, however, spend a couple of days not venturing out from fear of falling on icy paths and hearing from others of impassible snowdrifts. I had one magical early morning walk in deep fresh snow. And I did some snow-dyeing!
I was inspired by seeing online what others were creating and very fortunately I had everything to hand that I needed. Such fun scooping up cold whiteness and then scattering powdered colours that stood out against its brilliance. And the delight of seeing the unpredictable patterning emerge as I rinsed away surplus dye.
I am determined to use some pieces, not just fold them away in a drawer. I feel the urge to free motion quilt, or maybe hand stitch? I will let you know.
Launching into something completely new is always exciting. Doing it with a group of friends makes it extra special. Last week we each arrived at our textile group meeting with six different fabrics and set out to explore ‘interleave’ quilting. We were inspired by a Kent Williams’ quilt and one of our number worked out how to approach the technique.
Sorting out our colour combinations was the first step – a bit of a leap in the dark, for me anyway as I wasn’t quite clear how the final pieces would come together.
Then cutting the major shapes – a triangle sitting in a square. I am relatively new to quilting and still of a mindset of accurate angles and measurements. It was liberating just to ‘cut a triangle’ (once I’d overcome the urge to use the angles on the ruler!)
Slicing up into one inch strips and stitch & flip followed, with the shapes gradually appearing as we worked and the colour combinations revealing themselves
I thoroughly enjoyed the day, especially seeing the colour choices of everyone else. This technique really does make colours zing, even my quite muted ones (the one at the top here). I can’t wait to try another one.
The new course I’m delivering starts next week and it’s very different to anything I’ve done before. Usually I’m presenting techniques with elements of design included. This time, from the start, the students will be embarking on designing their own pieces, with me offering support on stitches and techniques as they go along.
“Creating Textile Journal Maps” combines my fascination with all things cartographic and a desire to explore elements of my life in embroidery. So, for example, a memorable holiday in the Loire Valley is being recorded with a map containing images and text. I was enjoying this new approach so much that I suggested it to my students as the next course and they seemed equally enthusiastic. I can’t wait to see what they come up with.
The map at the top is Britain, from Mappa Mundi in Hereford Cathedral, and it’s hard to recognise!
I now need to resist the urge to research yet more about maps and map-making though. I find so many, particularly older ones, so intrinsically beautiful and fascinating that I spend far too much time on this; the internet can draw me in for hours.
It’s absorbing, too, working on different ways of representing things in stitch – so many ways to depict roads or paths, for example.
Now I will have to wait and see what the group comes up with; I know they will all be different and personal. Exciting.
I do enjoy the notion of a fresh start for a new year. An illusion, of course, as I never really ‘finish’ a year off in terms of having completed all projects and having nothing to carry over into the next! I do have some minor rituals to mark the passage of time. I tidy and clean my workroom and make an attempt to reduce the amount of clutter. I start a new desk journal to capture this year’s to-do lists, jottings, plans etc. I once again determine to work more effectively – to get things done, rather than find them unfinished in a box at the end of the year. Have you done anything to mark the transition to 2018?
A couple of posts ago, I when I reviewed my favourite stitch books, I said I would tell you about technique books that I have found valuable. The first is one I have written about before: The Anchor Manual of Needlework, a volume that sparked my love of embroidery.
More recently I have learned a great deal from Gail Marsh’s Early 20th Century Embroidery Techniques. This is a wonderfully illustrated, thoroughly researched and delightfully written exploration of the embroiderers who developed traditional skills and designs and influenced the course of embroidery for the rest of the century. The Gawthorpe collection provided the source material and much of it has not been seen in print before. Fascinating.
An Australian author, Effie Mitrofanis, has a fresh approach to traditional techniques such as Casalguidi work. Her work is firmly rooted in needle skills but allied to a more contemporary and lively appreciation of the potential of colour in previously neutral and monochrome schemes. Her 2009 book, Threadwork, presents a lively combination of beautifully worked stitches and cords and beading with an exuberance of colour.
I am also enjoying the ongoing series of technique manuals from the Royal School of Needlework. If you want to know the ‘right’ way to do something then these are the books for you. Stitches and methods are well illustrated with photographs of the workings and there are lovely examples of contemporary interpretations of such traditions as crewel work, canvas work, blackwork, whitework and more.