Saturday, 3 August 2013

The quilt that asked to be made

Have you ever had a quilt that asked to be made?

'What is she talking about?' I hear you say, 'talking rubbish again!' And until April I would have agreed with you. But this particular quilt asked, no - begged, to be made.

Hazel and I had run a couple of classes on wax and starch resist and other surface design techniques for our Inspiration to Stitch students. In order to have plenty of inspirational samples we had had a play day where we prepared lots of fabric ourselves. We prepared so much that ended up finishing some of mine off at C2C (when I was supposed to be focusing on my own work) by colouring one side pale blue and the other pale brown. I justified spending the time on 'teaching samples' because these fabrics were in coast-inspired colours.

It was as I was washing out the fabric that the quilt demanded to be made. The fabric said: 'I'd look great cut up into squares and pieced back together.' The marks were mainly circles and lines, so they all coordinated very well. Once they were dry it didn't take long to find several fabrics from my stash which complemented the resist fabrics, and the quilt virtually made itself. This is the benefit of becoming really familiar with your theme - you begin to internalise the colours, textures, lines and shapes, so that you just can't help producing work that belongs together.
Full Circle 

As you can see I used several sizes of square and rectangle to showcase some of the fabrics and add variety to the piecing. Once it was pieced the brown circle was monoprinted on using a large sheet of plastic (and nerves of steel!). Then the whole lot was machine quilted - following the circle and with a simple grid over the rest of the quilt. The next step was to block it as the circular quilting has skewed the top somewhat. This is the first time I have ever blocked a quilt; I usually find that liberal application of a steam-iron does the job, but this one needed more. Perfectly square and flat, I gave it a faced binding and sent it off to the Festival of Quilts last week.

Soy-wax and starch resist is great fun and eventually Hazel and I got to the stage where we were searching for more fabric to 'treat', having run out of plain white fabric. So I have a whole range of colourways ready for new quilts and hangings (and overdue journal quilts) - just need to get organised!

Friday, 12 July 2013

The last three weeks . . .

. . . have been hectic but exciting.

It all started with a phone call from Grosvenor, who run the National Quilt Championships in Sandown,  to say that my quilt All that Remains II had won not only the Theme category (A Touch of Yellow) but also Best Art Quilt and also Best in Show!! I was speechless.

So that was on 23rd June. The following weekend we had our last ever C&G student exhibition at Odiham - of which more later - but in between I had to finish a quilt for Contemporary Quilt's Horizons challenge (deadline 1st July). Normal service has resumed, and as usual I had left the majority of the work to the last minute. The quilt in question is the third in the series of the seascape quilts. These are wholecloths, with dye-painted and printed fabric, some machine stitch and lots of hand stitch for texture. Hand stitch, unfortunately, takes ages! And once started has to be done evenly across the whole surface, otherwise distortion ensues.

So on Sandown weekend I still had approximately half of the surface to stitch. I sewed all day on the Saturday, and then till the early hours on Tuesday and Wednesday night. The final stitch went in at 3.30am on Thursday morning!

We hung the C&G exhibition on Thursday. A couple of students had had similarly late nights, but the work looked amazing and fitted the rooms at Odiham perfectly. Alongside the C&G work we displayed some of the books and sample pieces made by our first Inspiration to Stitch students, and they also put on a very good show.

The weather was improving, and to round the weekend off Saturday was Armed Forces Day in Odiham, complete with army bands in full regalia (Bearskins!), tea and cakes and picnics in the church yard, and parachuting teddy bears off the church tower! This brought people to the exhibition who had never seen this kind of thing before and we had loads of complimentary & admiring comments from visitors - both those who knew what they were looking at (who were amazed at the quality of workmanship and diversity of the work) and those who didn't (who were just amazed that you can do all that with a bit of fabric and thread). In all it was a lovely weekend.

Photos of the exhibition are in this web album 
C&G Group 4 & ITS 1 exhibition

Final day of term for all three courses was last week, and Hazel and I were treated to lovely lunches by our students on three days running!

So - onwards and upwards - InStitches courses are filling up for next term - that's exciting too!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

InStitches - taking the plunge!

Well, after months (years?) of talking about it, Hazel and I have finally taken the plunge and set up our own business. It's called InStitches, and is all about delivering exciting courses to people who love patchwork and quilting, dyeing and stitching and sketchbooks.

We have spent the last month developing the website, talking to accountants and business advisers at the bank, designing and ordering business cards and working out costs (the courses have been planned for a long time). It has been time consuming getting all the little details right - you wouldn't believe how long it takes to get everything linking to everything else on a website (or how gratifying it is to be able to figure out how to change the colour of the background to a non-standard one, or insert a HTML/Javascript back button).  OK - I'm turning into a nerd, but it is so exciting to be getting bookings and deposit money appearing as if by magic in the bank account!

So now I need to spend some time (OK a lot of time) stitching my quilt for the CQ Horizons challenge, otherwise it will be another skin of the teeth production.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Something wrong here?

It is the beginning of May.

The Festival of Quilts is not till August.

Apart from the binding I have (whisper it . . . ) finished one of my entries!

Granted it's not huge - 48" x 33" - and it is simply pieced, but it has been thoroughly machine quilted. And when I say thoroughly I mean a half-inch grid - all over. Except for the large (24") circle which was mono-printed on using fabric paint after the piecing but before the quilting, and then machine quilted. The mono-printing was a nerve-wracking process - fabric paint tends to be a permanent process so it had to be right first time.

The fabric is a variety of hand-dyed and printed fabrics, all in pale(ish) blues, greys, browns, teals - in other words colours of the sea. I've been making this fabric over the past year, and the latest lot is double-sided (ie one colour on the front and another on the back), wax and flour resist, mainly with distressed circles and other textural marks. It was this fabric that was responsible for the quilt. It spoke to me whilst I was washing it out (a long process - as anyone who has done wax resist with thickened Procion dye will tell you it becomes addictive and you just keep making more) and told me to cut it into squares and rectangles and make this quilt!

So no photos of the fabric, because I've cut most of it up. I'll take some quilt photos soon and post them.

Skin of the teeth productions is alive and well, however, with the first 4 journal quilts of 2013 posted at midnight on 30th April (the deadline!). The final stitches had gone in less than an hour before.
January - Wheal Grenville

February - Wheal Frances

March -Wheal Coates - the iconic tin-mine on the cliffs above Chapel Porth beach

This year the format is 8" x 12" landscape, and we have to have a theme. My theme is By the Sea, and these 4 quilts from left over tin-mine designs qualify in that they are all by the sea (and anyway, nothing is very far from the sea in west Cornwall).

I have discovered a great way of binding these little quilts, which is Not Cheating. It involves using pre-fused fabric which you stitch at the front as usual, and then simply press in place on the back. Wouldn't be sturdy enough for a bed quilt, but perfectly fine for this application. And I expect everyone else has been doing this for ages, but I was always a bit slow on the uptake!