Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dog kite

In one of the blogs I visit, Wednesday's Child, Joanne shares her everyday life with a wry humour that I really appreciate. She talks about life as it is, and comes across as very open and honest, something which I admire a lot. Still there is always that sense of humour and the ability to stand back and look at what others might see.

In her January 24th post she wrote:

"I wish I had someone walking the dog with me. So I could have a photo to show you. Me, walking on the street and Riley, walking up on top of the tallest snowbanks he can find. We bring joy to every passing car. Or at least a big smile. A woman with a dog kite." This idea of the dog kite just got stuck in my mind, and soon the creative cogs and wheels started whizzing and churning. Now, I'm not all that good at drawing, but I made a few sketches, searched the internet for photos of snowdrifts and walking dogs, and gradually improved my sketch so at least you could see that there was a woman and a dog there. As I mentioned in the previous post, I admire the work of Janet Bolton, and wanted to try a similair method of appliqué. I used a piece of osnaburg for my background, and stitched my picture on to a felt backing. So there you have it. Woman With a Dog Kite. I hope you like it Joanna!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

New inspiration

News items about the recently opened quilt exhibition in London's V&A have been popping up everywhere lately. The exhibition even has it's own blog. I knew I wouldn't be able to visit in person before it closes this summer, so once I realized there was a new book out for the occasion, my finger didn't hover over the pre-order button on Amazon more than a few seconds before I pushed it firmly ;-) The book arrived a week ago, and I have been sneaking peeks all week, postponing the savouring of the book until I had enough time to really enjoy it. A few days off from work now seems the perfect opportunity to settle down with some choice books and a nice cup of tea.
I don't know if I have mentioned it here before (I know I keep doing so in a lot of comments I leave...), but I absolutely love the V&A! Ever since my first visit at 19 I have been enthralled by this treasure trove of crafts and art pieces. The textile collection in particular, so I just knew that this was I book I had to get. In fact, I believe that it was in the V&A I first saw patchwork and quilts in "real life" - if you can call exhibitions in a museum real life, that is.

I remember being particularily taken with this patchwork coverlet (ca 1860-70) on my first visit. Made of tiny pieces of dressmaker's silks it has a stunning 3D effect. What made it particularily endearing to me though, was that it seemed to have been worked at over a period of ten years, but it had not been finished, so you also got to see the construction: each little piece stitched around a carefully cut out piece of paper from a newspaper, complete with news, ads and all. The fact that the maker's relatives had seen enough value in this unfinished piece to think it worthy of a museum instead of throwing it out, was also very moving to me. I have made up lots of scenarios in my head about how this patchwork got to be made and by whom, and always made a point of seeking it out when it has been on display on my visits - like meeting up with an old friend. I'm looking forward to settling down with my new book over the next couple of days to see if I can learn more about it.
My book parcel contained another treasure, very different from the first one, although this too is about patchwork and quilting. I have long admired the work of Janet Bolton, and could hardly bring myself to leave her exibition at the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham a few years back. Her work has a certain naivite, a bit like folk art, yet at the same time they are sophisticated, creating emotions and waking memories in the viewer with simple lines and gentle curves. In this book she explains how she goes about creating her pictures. How she plans the designs and the techniques she uses to appliqué her little figures. I wish I had known more about this before I started my little picture, which I'll show tomorrow, but maybe
I'll pick up a few pointers for the next one, although I daresay I'll never make anything quite like a Janet Bolton piece. But that's not the point, though, is it? I have my own journey to travel and my work will be my own. But learning new skills is never a waste of time. And looking at pretty pictures nourishes the soul. Aren't her giraffes sweet? And have a look at her Three Happy Girls Flying Kites or her Three Ladies Crossing the Wide Beach. You can actually feel yourself straining against the wind of a blustery seaside afternoon, can't you? Ah, I think I need a nice cup of tea.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A glimpse of Spring

Yesterday was the warmest day we've had for ages, the snow has been gone for almost a week and the temperature was high enough to let one's shoulders down and fill one's lungs with sweet fresh air. The sun was out, and although I lovingly welcomed that old friend again, it sternly pointed out to me that I had been neglecting a few things. Oh well, cleaning windows is not so bad once you get started, and while I was out on the balcony I also enjoyed the first spring preparations in the various pots and planters out there, pruning, cleaning and tidying. My friend the sun pointed out to me that some dusting was required indoors too, but never mind, with the door open and all that fresh air filling my rooms, the job was almost pleasant... The ranunculus (or should that be ranunculi in plural?) I bought a week ago looked a bit peaky, with the lower half of their stems grown soft and mouldy so I took advantage of the clean windowsill with all the candleholders and vases on display, cut the stems of and distributed the flowers among them. How's that for a nice little Welcome Spring tableau? It turned out that Spring wasn't all that interested, so this morning I woke up to a world covered in white again. Most of it has melted by now, but there is still enough of it on the hillside to see our Mountain Man. Hopefully for the last time on this side of summer. Can you see him?

Oh well, I'll just stay in and make another quilt backing for now, and enjoy my new quilt books. More about those later.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

And now for something completely different...

There's a limit to how many blog posts I can use to talking about the backing of my quilt, isn't there? So, while the work continues, here are some coasters I have been working on. I needed to print a picture for my sister on a sheet of ink-jet printing fabric and was casting about for other images to print at the same time to get the most of the fabric. In my files I found these fruit crate labels I had downloaded from Dover previously. You can subscribe to their newsletter, and each week you get the opportunity to download images from their books of old drawings, pictures etc. I have a folder full of these by now and have been using them for all sorts of things. The victorian Christmas selection make nice Christmas cards, for instance.

I filled my page with different labels, but I must admit to beeing a bit stingy about space, so I got very scant seam allowances, which is why these labels are a bit cropped, but it was a nice try, anyway. I added strips of white cotton on all four sides, placed all the pieces on a a piece of batting with backing fabric underneath and quilted them all in one go. Then I cut them apart and added single fold binding. Vintage labels are so pretty. Now why don't they make them like that anymore? You can also find a lot of vintage labels and other images on this site.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Elusive stars

One problem with choosing a new cover for your ironing board in your favourite colours is having trouble finding your work in progress on it... :-D

I've been having fun making some intricate double stars from Judy Martin's book Knockout Blocks and Sampler Quilts. They are all made in different shades of turqouise/aqua/teal, making them blend into their backgrounds pretty well. I am adding these to solid squares in the same colours to make the backing for my Autumn quilt. Now, why put such a lot of work into something that will hardly show, you may ask? Well, just for the fun of it, I suppose. I like the idea of having a backing with some nice surprises in it that you don't see right away.
And actually, the work wasn't all that complicated really. These blocks consist of many pieces, and seem very intricate, so I guess I have been feeling a bit intimidated and reluctant to try them out until now - I have had this book since it first came out in 2004, but this is my first attempt at actually making any of the blocks. I redrafted them in EQ6 which let me print templates in the size I needed, without any complicated maths. Then I just cut the pieces using ruler and rotary cutter, placing the templates under the ruler as a guide. I finger pressed the seams open along the way on the small stars within the large stars, and pressed the seams to one side once I begun to stitch the larger pieces together, to avoid too much bulk at the intersections. And the great thing was that they all came together beautifully, and I didn't have to rip any seams along the way! And even better: they were all a perfect 9 1/2" when I was finished. Now when I first started quilting I did it all in "the old way" with cardboard templates, but I have abandoned that method a long time ago, preferring rotary cutting and speed piecing methods, and just avoiding complicated blocks. Now it turns out that this is a method that actually works for me, so I will definitely use this again.
I almost finished stitching the backing yesterday, but wouldn't you know it - I'm coming down with another cold tonight, so there has been precious little sewing - somehow my bed seems more tempting. But tomorrow is another day...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Enough fabric?

I did manage to get all my fabric tucked into the mushroom crates I use for storage (I should look into som better storage solutions, I suppose...), but only after pulling out a lot of older stuff. It is very obvious when I look at these latest photos where my colour preferences lie. I can't seem to resist light greens, aquas or any shade of turquoise - I really need to use them more!

I'm making a dent in my turquoise stash at the moment though, working on the backing for my Lonni Rossi autumn quilt. I have stitched eight star blocks (five of them today!) and cut several large squares that I'm going to stitch together tomorrow. I finally managed to find some 505 basting spray (my favourite) and bought three cans, so I should have enough to

tide me over for a while. That's good, because I seem to have a lot going on all of a sudden!
I mentioned pulling out some old fabrics: I've decided to piece a green backing for my woven quilt, using all my darker, mossy, leafy greens that I never actually use in quilts anyway. I found a couple of yards of black fabric with green leaves, and some bright blue bits in between. I will use this in strips in between the greens to give them a bit of a lift, and to tie all the different shades together, I think.
I also pulled out a lot of old blue fabric to make into a simple utility quilt for one of my nephews - he just turned 13 and suddenly the quilt I made for him some years ago with kittens and frogs is very embarassing to have lying around... I've decided to make a blue quilt: just big squares, with the occasional dash of orange, and just back it with orange fleece (blue and orange are the colours of his favourite football team) - cool enough for a young man, yet warm enough for a chilly night. Hm, this might just mean that I'm setting myself up for a new round of quiltmaking - the other five might want new ones too... Oh well, that will keep me busy for a while, I guess!

Saturday, March 06, 2010


I seem to be all over the place, crafting wise, these days. I pick up one thing, work on it for a while, sigh, put it down and go for something else. I can't seem to settle down to working on one thing for long enough to actually make any progress. Now, winter is not really my kind of season, and it has been a long and cold one this year. I just want to bury myself under a heap of blankets not to resurface until Spring. Of course, that is an urge I cannot give in to - one has to make a living, and that means actually showing up for work ;-)

Oh well, time to pull myself together, isn't it? Working on lots of little bits and pieces the way I've been doing creates a lot of mess: patterns pulled out, stuffed half heartedly almost back, but not quite.. Knitting needles and wool migrating from its basket, ribbons, floss, fabric - I tell you: the stuff gets everywhere!
So today was my first designated clean-up day in a while. I've been sorting through my stash of fancy yarns - I realized that I need to find some one- or two-skein patterns to make a dent in that stash (and I don't even think of myself as a knitter - why did I buy it all?). I resisted the urge to start looking for patterns while I was sorting though - keep your nose to the grindstone girl...
I'm happy to say that things are looking much better now. My ribbons are wound up and placed in a pretty little tin I just had to have, but never found a use for, magazines are lined up in new magazine files and stacks of fabric from recent projects and newly purchased ones are sorted, ready to be put away.
I'm planning to "prune" my stash of old fabric by making some utility quilts for family members - big squares and fleece backing - just something quick and easy to keep them warm through the rest of this intermittent winter. Then I might actually find room for my recent purchases...
I'll see how much of it I actually manage to find room for now, though, and then I'll settle in a cozy corner with some ofmy ongoing projects and see if I actually may finish some of them, and then I just might share with you what they all are... Riveting, stuff, isn't it? :-D