Friday, 4 May 2012

. . . by the Skin of their Teeth - part 2

I promised to tell about the second quilt for the Quilters' Guild Region 3 By the Sea challenge.

Even though I had known about the challenge for a long time (I was at the committee meeting where it was first discussed!) it was still last minute. The fabric was dyed/printed on April 16th and the final stitch went in on April 27th - some kind of record I'm sure.

The challenge was to create a quilt 10" wide by 50" long. I have been working on some fabric at Committed to Cloth on a sea theme (one of my recurring themes) which was going to be ideal for this quilt. Trouble was, none of the pieces I had was long enough, and it needed to be wholecloth (you'll see why if you look at the photos). So last time I was there I made a piece specially for this quilt. The fabric is inspired by photos of West Wittering beach, particularly the row of old groynes at the top of the beach near the river/ harbour mouth. They keep cropping up in my work - I have drawn them (see the sketch book in February) and collaged them and I'm sure they'll be around for a while longer.

The marks on the quilt are printed using thickened procion dye and  an old credit card. The credit card is also used to scrape dye mixed with varying amounts of manutex over the rest of the cloth to colour it. The colours used were black (it tends to look blue when diluted), rust orange, petrol green and red-brown. The top of the fabric represents the sky, then the sea (lots of it) with the beach and the groynes in the foreground (lots of artistic license here - as anyone who knows this beach well will tell you!).

I thought, as time was short, that I would simply machine quilt in wavy lines to represent the sea, and do something different for the beach and the sky. However, nothing is ever that simple, and after I had machine quilted lines to supplement the grasses in the middle the beach, and the FMQ'd the wood of the groynes and the puddles at their bases,  the beach was crying out for texture. So I hand-couched a thread, and then another, and another.

The slippery slope!

Having started I had to continue adding hand stitching to the beach - first my favourite seeding to blend the areas round the groynes, and then I needed something quicker to fill the background. I tried a large-ish quilting stitch but as I wasn't able to get it really even I didn't like the effect, so out it came. As I started to unpick, I noticed that the smaller stitches visible on the back, spaced at about 1/4", looked really effective, so that's what ended up on the front - they give a Kantha-style effect en masse - and the ripples are just right for sand.

Now anyone who is a quilter will know that dense quilting significantly reduces the size of the piece. So by now the bottom of the quilt was 3/4" narrower that the top! There was nothing for it but to hand quilt the top section and the sea as well!

So the sea has straight lines of running stitch in various thick threads. The sky, which is pale grey with a pale orangey-yellow, prompting the naming of the quilt Early Morning, has more seeding and  the same tiny, spaced-out running stitch, this time in curved lines reminiscent of aeroplane trails. Then all I had to do was add a faced binding and a sleeve (at the Stitch Witches' meeting that evening) and it was done.

The thing I forgot to do before taking it to the Regional Day in New Milton the next day was photograph it. So these photos are dreadful - poorly lit (in a school library) and not facing straight on to the camera for the full length, which is why the rows of stitching under the groynes look curved.

We had 28 entries, all of a very high standard and so diverse. These quilts will all be displayed at the Quilt Museum and Gallery in York during July and August, so if you're near go and have a look.

And the best thing? Against all the odds, my quilt was selected as the winner of the challenge by our two speaker/ judges, Janet Twinn and Gill Turley. So sometimes last minute pays off, although I wouldn't recommend it as a way of life!

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