Friday, 1 November 2019

The Endeavourers #8, Dreams, "Moonlit"

Today is the 8th reveal for the Endeavourers art quilt group. 

Our theme this quarter was 'Dreams' and I knew straight away that I wanted to make a quilt about the moments between twilight and dawn when your senses become really acute but at the same time the natural world takes on a magical and rather dream-like quality. 

One of the best things about being involved in a quilt group like ours is being inspired by all the other members.   In this quilt I borrowed a technique from Fiona who is always so adventurous in trying out something different.  In her last piece for the group she used cyanotype (solar-printing fabric) and the colour and effect of this technique fit perfectly with what I envisaged.

My initial plan was to use a bit of cyanotype along with overprinting and painting but once I got started I fell so in love with the process and the result that I did not want to add any further colour or techniques, so my quilt owes a far bigger debt to Fiona than I first intended.

You can buy the chemicals required to create cyanotype fabric yourself but I bought ready-to-use fabric.  You use sunlight to 'expose' it, masking out the shapes you want by placing found or made material on top.  I used flowers, grasses and foliage along with moth shapes which I drew and cut out of card.  I also tried drawing on acetate but the result was too faint.

Once you have taken your piece of cyanotype fabric out of its lightproof packet you obviously have to work quite quickly to compose your image but it was not cheap so I was careful to plan my images first.  I took some glass out of a couple of picture frames and placed it on top of each piece to stop my materials blowing away - the sun doesn't make it over the roofs into my garden at this time of year so I laid out my work first on the pavement outside, and then on the roof of my car in the street!

The glass also helps to hold your material flat and in contact with the cyanotype fabric, resulting in a crisp image without any 'shadows' where the light has got in round the edges,  but I liked the more blurry and ambiguous results best as they are far more ethereal, delicate and dreamlike and I stopped making any effort to weight the glass down completely flat.  I also really loved the differences in colour according to how long each piece was exposed, and how sunny it happened to be at the time.  I exploited this for the section that is supposed to look lit by the abstract moon. 

Having assembled images into a composition (which took ages of faffing) I wanted the stitching to add texture and interest without dominating in any way, so the only thing I did was to add some barely-there embroidery (seed stitch and french knots) to the moths and fennel flowers, in off-white Aurifil wool because I love the matt and organic look and feel of it.   I also took advantage of the pattern showing through the 'moon' from underneath and highlighted it with some machine quilting.

It's always very exciting to read how the other members of the group interpreted the theme, and to see how this was translated into their quilts!  Please check out all the quilts on our group blog, where you'll also find links to members' individual blogs.

Things I learned:

The colour in cyanotype fabric is only on the surface - and stitching left tiny white puncture holes.  These show in my seams if you looked closely, and also where I tried and took out some additional machine stitching, and I would try a very sharp needle and very fine thread (eg Aurifil 80?) next time in case that helped.

The texture of the fabric is more open than quilting cotton and there is a lot of fraying.

The colour of the fabric after washing and drying keeps developing over the next several hours, becoming deeper.

I don't know why it didn't occur to me to cut at least some of the fabric sheets into smaller pieces to play and experiment with first!

Thursday, 1 August 2019

The Endeavourers #7, A Walk In the Park, "Taking a Lion for a Walk"

Today is the seventh quarterly reveal of quilts made by The Endeavourers and our theme for inspiration this quarter was "A Walk in the Park".

As usual it was a lot of fun thinking random thoughts about the theme, which suddenly went in the direction of a doodle we used to do at primary school called 'taking a line for a walk' - maybe you know the one; you do a squiggly line and then fill in all the intersecting loops with different colours or patterns, preferably using your best felt-tip pens.

For no real reason I thought perhaps I could take a lion for a walk (ho ho) and so here is my quilt.

My little lion has just taken a wander through a park filled with flower borders, and is now sitting down smelling the flowers and enjoying a rest.

My quilt is approximately 26x24 inches. The flower borders are made from Liberty scraps.  The lion's mane and tail are accentuated with lazy daisy stitches in perle thread, and I used 28 weight aurifil for the stipple quilting.  I used fusible bias binding for the line, and carved a stamp for the paw prints - the first time I've used either in a quilt and now making me think of other possibilities. 

I wanted a binding that looked like a picture frame so attempted a faux-flanged binding and have to admit that it took me two goes to get it right.  So although my quilt is really just a bit of fun I tried to use some 'new to me' techniques.  I enjoyed making this one a lot and am quite pleased with the result!

I'm looking forward to seeing how the other members have treated the theme and, as usual, learning from their adventurousness!  You can find their quilts on the group blog today where there are also links to their individual blogs.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

The Endeavourers, #6, Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, "The Pond"

Today's the day for the sixth quarterly reveal of The Endeavourers art quilt group, and 'Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head' is the theme of our reveal.

When I first learned this was our theme I initially felt a bit despairing as nothing came immediately to mind except Paul Newman on his bicycle and the song in Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, but luckily we have a whole quarter and I started to really enjoy thinking about it.

Once I'd got Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head out of my head it quickly got replaced with Chopin's Raindrop prelude, which is a beautiful piece of music evoking the kind of lovely, peaceful, heavy but gentle rain you sometimes get (except where I live where more often than not it is accompanied by a high wind and coming at you horizontally).  It really makes me think of rain falling on greenery, on a still dark day, and so eventually I settled on the idea of rain falling on a pond and its surrounding plant life.  Since the raindrops also had to be falling on someone's head I added a frog, who is making the most of the wet.

Although I know someone who has a complete horror of frogs I love them.  I have the smallest pond liner you can get, about 1.5x2 ft, in a corner of my allotment and in a good summer I can come down and find seven frogs peeping above the surface which makes me very happy.

The pond in my little (15 x 16.5 inch) quilt is surrounded with marsh marigold, rushes, and water forget-me-nots.  Fish swim below the surface.

I used shot cotton, mostly Oakshott which is my favourite fabric to make pictures with, and began by appliqueing the fish and adding a little embroidered detail for their spines.  With some darker fabric
I also made a shadow in the water at the edge of the pond where vegetation would hang over.  I then made the surface of the water shiny and 'submerged' the fish by layering a piece of blue-green gauze on top of them.

The idea to use the gauze came from two things - my mother-in-law had made a lovely shimmery cushion cover by sewing a piece of gauze over an appliqued pattern and I was reminded of this when I used tissue paper to protect the blackbird quilt of my last post while pressing it and really liked the softened effect as the image showed through.

When I'd added all the foliage and flowers round the edge of the pond I finished up by adding some quilted rings for the ripples in the water made by the falling raindrops.

I added some squiggles and lines in the background to suggest more greenery, and it's quite a textured quilt because of the quilting and free-motion embroidery which I used to add details to the leaves and flowers, which also have french knots: but the water is still and calm except for the ripples.

I am very intrigued to know how the other members have tackled this theme - you can find all the quilts on our blog together with links to each member's own website.

15 x 16.5 inches
Shot cotton and gauze
Raw edge applique
Free-motion embroidery and quilting

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Winter Blackbird II

This poor blog doesn't see much action these days as I'm rather neglecting it in favour of Instagram, though my recent absence has mostly been due to a winter slump in creativity which I'm just coming out of.  

Hopefully the slump is at an end, mostly thanks to a commission which meant I had to get my big girl pants on and get on with it.

Winter Blackbird II is made using a curve-pieced panel on top of which I've added the blackbird and cotoneaster branch using raw-edge applique:  they are fixed in place with free-motion embroidery in Aurifil threads as I find that using the 50 wt with a sharp new needle helps prevent too much fraying round the edges.  The background is made using shot cottons supplemented with some old cotton curtain lining, and metallic gold silk for the winter sun. The blackbird and branch are also sewn using Oakshott cottons - the different warp and weft colours add so much life to the fabric and stop it looking 'flat'.   The blackbird's eye is a shiny black bead sewn on with a couple of stitches of Aurifil wool to add the highlight.  


Sunday, 3 February 2019

The Endeavourers, #5, Texture - "Drops and Drips"

I'm a bit late sharing the quilt I made for the first reveal of 2019 for the Endeavourers.  Our theme this quarter was 'Texture', and this was a lovely one to think about!

When I make a quilt for The Endeavourers I usually start by looking up the dictionary definition of our theme.  It kickstarts the thought processes and it's interesting sometimes comparing the entries in different dictionaries.

In this case, some dictionaries focussed on what you might think of as the obvious definition which describes texture as the tactile characteristics of something, which are experienced through touch.  Others added the idea that texture can be experienced visually too.  And others added another idea - that texture is the quality you get when you combine different elements, for example in literature or music, or even in life - you could say the way in which the elements, or strands, are 'woven together', which is a nice fabric metaphor!

Anyway, I started off by thinking about the tactile qualities of different fabrics.  For some time I've been fascinated by the lovely (I think!)  pattern made by bubbles and drips in condensation on my window and so I made this odd piece inspired by the visual texture, experimenting by putting velvet and cotton together and then added more texture with bubble quilting.   I also used trapunto to create some of the larger white bubbles, and portholes through which the velvet appears for the black ones.

When I came to square up the quilt, I thought that it had an organic quality that make squaring it andcontaining it within binding feel wrong so I cut it into a wavy asymmetrical shape, and "bagged it out" rather than binding it.

I was still so interested in the theme though that I started wondering about adding texture to fabric.  I was thinking back in particular to these pictures I took last summer of some ripple patterns of sand on the beach which are so beautiful.

This made me wonder at the time about the possibility of using pleats and folds in fabric in a quilt which is still in the pipeline.

I absolutely love being a part of this group - having a prompt to think about is such a luxury, and seeing reading about the quilts that the other members have made is so interesting as we all work in very different ways.  You can check out the other quilts on our group blog, and also find there links to each member's own blog.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

The Endeavourers, No 4, Improv

The theme chosen by the Endeavourers for this quarter was Improv.

Probably everyone has their own idea about what improv means in quilting terms.  In general terms it means "to create spontaneously without preparation, or to produce or make something from whatever is available."

Anyway, thinking about the two definitions I started with the idea of producing something from whatever was available.  I thought that this suggests making the most of limited options so rather than pick and choose from my stash I artificially limited the options by choosing to use a pile of small pieces of interiors fabric (possibly linen shot with silk) from a sample book I picked up in a remnant bin.

Then I tried to be spontaneous!  First, I spent a lot of time thinking how to be spontaneous....  Then I worked out a plan for spontaneity...   I decided to make piles of samples and cut them stack and slash style.  Then I mixed them up prior to sewing them back together.  I tried to be random but couldn't help making a few changes when too many pieces of the same colour or tone ended up together.  Having pieced my blocks I spread them out randomly, but again I had to make a few changes because I wanted to have an even distribution of colours and tones, without any distracting clumps. 

Because I cut the piles in different ways, some of the blocks turned out a slightly different size from the others, but I didn't trim them down - yay, spontaneity.  As I joined the blocks into the quilt I threw some gold fabric into the mix, but I think this was less spontaneity and more obsessive tweaking. 

The quilt was very insistent that it wanted organic (spontaneous) pinstripe quilting in Aurifil wool, but unfortunately it only made its mind up about this once I had already quilted in the ditch, so I had to do a lot of unpicking and I'm still not convinced the quilt was right.   

I did enjoy making it, and it was fun trying not to overthink things, though it somehow took a very long time.   I do wish I'd been more adventurous.  Setting the personal challenge of using the sample book fabrics limited the options a bit and this theme has made me think about future experiments where I had more materials to choose from.

I think the idea of improv suggests that the results are random but in fact that's not really the case.  In (successful) improv comedy nobody just stands and shouts random words.  There's usually some underlying structure, like a chord progression in improv jazz,  that makes sense of the result.    In quilting you actually have to get your pieces to fit together into quilt form, and aesthetic considerations mean that you might be spontaneous only up to a point.

I'm looking forward to seeing how the other members of the group treated the theme.  You can find us all together on the blog, where there are also links to each individual member.

Quilt photo fail

Quilt details:

Approximately 2 x 3 ft
Furnishing fabrics, content unknown, possibly linen/silk
Quilted with Auriful lana

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

The Endeavourers No 3, Spiral,

Today is the reveal of quilts made for the third quarterly challenge of The Endeavourers quilt group.  You can find all our quilts displayed on The Endeavourers blog, and there are links to each individual member.

Our challenge for this quarter was 'Spiral'.

The path of a point in a plane moving around a central point while continuously receding from or approaching it.  A three-dimensional curve (such as a helix) with one or more turns about an axis.

When Mr Random Number Generator picked this theme from our hat I was momentarily stumped but I got completely fascinated by it.

There seems to be something which is universally satisfying about the shape of spirals and they have featured for thousands of years in art and decoration from the neolithic period onwards; for example  there are spirals in neolithic rock art in Scotland.  In some cultures the spiral represents the sun, and by association the passage of time.  It has been used to decorate early tombs and so is associated with the cycle of life and death, and it is found on stone carvings of the mother goddess as a symbol representing the cycles of fertility, creation and birth and cosmic forces.

Spirals feature in nature - from DNA to spiral galaxies, in the arrangement of leaves on a plant, and in the growth of cones, horns and shells,   Mathematicians are interested in the properties of spirals, and engineers and architects make use of them.

As usual my thoughts went off in a number of directions and gradually came back together in a plan towards the end of the quarter when I was on holiday in Robin Hood's Bay on the North Yorkshire coast.  

My quilt is all about spirals in nature, as represented in a view of Robin Hood's Bay.  The quilt shows a view of the cliffs on that coast, as glimpsed through some of the local plants.  A convolvulus or bindweed climbs up a stem, in a spiral helix, and its buds furl and unfurl in spiral form.  There are two snails with their spiral shells, and and an ammonite from the cliffs - a long extinct fossil sea creature also with a spiral shell.    Robin Hood's Bay is an area with a dynamic geological history, so it also really encapsulated for me the forces of creation and the passage of time which have come to be symbolised by the spiral.

Just after I'd made a plan I read that the spiral is a symbol of the pantheist movement, which celebrates the power, beauty and mystery of nature and the Universe.  This made me happy!

I wanted to take a painterly approach to the quilt so as well as applique, hand and machine embroidery, I used watercolour paints to add a wash to the silk used to make the sea, to add details to the shells and ammonite and to add colour to some of the quilted pebbles.  Binding is faced, with the bottom edge being cut in a curve.


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