Monday, 1 May 2017

Four in Art: Light - Light in the Darkness

As you may know, I belong to the quilt group Four in Art, and each quarter we reveal a quilt which we have made according to our annual theme (this year it's Light) and the current sub-theme.  The sub-theme for this quarter, which was chosen by Camilla, is "Light in the Darkness".

The thing that makes me most happy about belonging to this group, apart from the inspiration and encouragement from other members, is the sheer luxury and fun of thinking about the themes.  This theme was no different - there were so many ways to think about it.  

The first thing I thought about was light in the darkness of space - how we still receive it from stars which may be long dead, and how the colour of it carries information about their composition and temperature.

Light in the dark is a source of comfort and helps you to find your way - the 'light at the end of the tunnel', for example. It has an effect, both in practical terms or as a metaphor in a religious or spiritual context, on people who are imprisoned or lost.

The idea of light as something which adds clarity to our 'vision' is ingrained in our language when we talk about 'shedding light on a situation', so that we 'see the light', or 'see things in a different light'.   The opposition between dark and light is used for the difference between order and chaos, truth and falsehood, and between reason, or knowledge, and ignorance.

So there is a bit of all these things in this quilt. Seen from a distance the rays are just a comforting or guiding light in the dark, either in a physical or spiritual sense.  Closer up, they are pieced with a text print about astronomy and mathematics, so they could represent the light coming from the stars in our sky but also represent our attempts to shine a light on our experience using evidence-based thinking (which I don't believe is incompatible with religion).  Most of all I wanted it to be about the light of knowledge, truth and reason in the 'post-truth' era of 'alternative facts'.

You can find the other Four in Art members below, so please visit them to see how they have been inspired by this quarter's theme:


Light in the Darkness

22 x 22 inches
Black Oakshott cotton
Text print
Freemotion quilting in black thread
Hand quilting in two shades of perle cotton
Faced binding

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Four in Art: Light - "Shimmer"

This year's Four-in-Art challenge theme is Light, which is really exciting and full of inspiration.  The sub-theme for this quarter is 'Shimmer' and this was my choice.

I chose 'Shimmer' because it's such an evocative and beautiful word, and while it's not onomatopoeic there's something about the word that really does sound like what it represents - to me at least.  I was curious about this so I went off and read up a bit on phonosemantics which is about the idea that there's a relationship between sounds and meaning - that particular sounds convey a particular idea by themselves; there's a connection between them. There are various ideas about what the connection is - you can read more here.

 'Shimmer' means 'shine with a soft, slightly wavering light'.    (Shine, soft, slightly - lots of sh and s sounds in that definition.)  Some of the shimmery things I thought of are moonlight on water, or silk or sequins (more s sounds) on a moving body.  It's a much softer effect and quieter than 'Glitter' - and does it fit halfway between that and a 'Glimmer'?  I wonder.

Anyway, enough rambling.   This is "Shimmer".

The inspiration behind this quilt was the facets of the cut glass doorknobs in my living room which fascinate me every time I go past them.  What I wanted to capture is the effect of the light bouncing off the individual facets - how when you look at them they keep the integrity of their individual shapes, but that these shapes are still broken up by reflections from within the room and also by reflections bouncing between them.

For something to shimmer, for it to have that wavering quality, there needs to be some movement involved.   Like the doorknobs, my quilt is static, and the reflected light doesn't softly waver as it does on water - unless it's hanging up in the breeze... The shimmering happens when the person looking at it moves, so although you can see some of the effect in a photograph you'll have to take my word for the rest.

Actually, it was fairly breezy, and I need to take some pictures on a less overcast and windy day - we ran out between showers.  Here's my lovely assistant, stopping the quilt from blowing away between shots.

I'll write about the practical details of the quilt in a separate post.


36" x 32"
Gold silk dupion, gold metallic silk, Oakshott and Kona cotton
Aurifil 50wt

Please do visit the other four-in-arters and see how they interpreted the theme.


Instagram #fourinart


Tuesday, 29 November 2016

A while back I saw a beautiful super mini quilt by @dianaeowen on Instagram and liked it so much that I commented that I wished there was some way I could persuade her to send it to me.  It was only meant as a joke, but she wrote back to say that she would send it to me in return for some hoop art!

So, I stalked her Instagram account a bit and made her this, which I hope she will think is an acceptable swap:

The picture is for someone who likes quilts, cats, dahlias and babies. Unfortunately, in this scene, the babies are being naughty in another room so she's had to abandon her plans for a sit down with a cuppa and a bit of piecing, and now the cat has stolen her chair.

I had a lot of fun thinking about the details, like the embroidered steam coming from the abandoned mug.

I was particularly pleased with the tiny reel of thread which is about a cm in size.

It's a lot of fun disappearing into an imaginary world to make pictures like this, even if I usually have to surface to make dinner.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Four in Art: Colour - "I've Got the Blues"

Each year the quilters of Four in Art take a theme,  throw quarterly sub-themes into the mix and produce a series of quilts inspired by those themes.  Today we are revealing the quilts we have made for this year's annual theme "Colour", with the quarterly sub-theme "I've Got the Blues".

Please check out the reveal posts from the other FIA members - as always I'm excited to see what they do:

Instagram #fourinart
This sub-theme idea is a lovely one and should have been perfect for me because blue is my favourite colour and it represents many things that I love including the sea, but I really struggled this quarter. Earlier this year I made a quilt for the "Colour"/"Music" challenge using fabrics in various blues and rather exhausted my blue fabric inspiration, so I spent a long time thinking about the theme - which is always my favourite part of the process - and trying to come up with an interesting idea.

In the end, I decided that I would go again with a musical connection and try and combine that with the sea - taking blues in sea colours and combining them with flashes of gold, which could represent flashes of light on the waves but would also be positioned in a way that could represent the notes in the chords of a twelve bar blues.


So far so good, but when it came to implementing this plan I soon realised that it was not working as an art quilt.  This set me thinking about what art is - for me it does some of the following

provokes a reaction
makes you look at commonplace things in a new way
represents or encapsulates an idea
is aesthetically pleasing
or aesthetically challenging
employs new or unusual techniques in order to achieve these things

I wasn't happy that what I was making would meet any of these criteria and completely lost confidence.  There didn't seem to be anywhere to go from that point.  I So here is part of "Dead End 1: I've got the Blues".  It earned its title!

Failure and creative guilt

If you think of the creative process as involving starting with an Idea, going through a Creative Struggle and finally ending up with a Product you can beat yourself up at any stage!

So I feel bad that I couldn't take the idea and turn it in to the thing that I wanted, and I feel bad that I couldn't muster the enthusiasm to power on through, and I feel bad because I have not got a finished piece to show.   Maybe we can cut ourselves some slack sometimes and adopt the point of view that there are no failures in art because, as in science, each route you go down and discard as unproductive is actually enlightening in its own way.   Meanwhile I am very apologetic to the other Four in Art members!

"Dead End 1" - unfinished quilt detail

You can see other quilts I have made for FIA if you click Four in Art in the categories links in my sidebar.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Bloggers' Quilt Festival: Anemones

Every year I really love working my way through all the entries in the festival which Amy puts so much work into.  As usual there are many beautiful quilts on show here and some amazing talent.   I hadn't planned on entering anything this year but I love Amy's encouragement that "Whatever you do, don't let the beauty of what someone else has created keep you from sharing your own project" so now at the last minute I'm entering this in the Art Quilt category.

There seems to be a number of different opinions on what an art quilt is - does anyone agree?! - and I hope that this qualifies simply by not being abstract and/or geometrical.  This quilt was made for the blogging quilt group Four in Art - we post quilts quarterly which we have made to a theme chosen by members. The theme for the quarter in which I made this quilt was 'purple passion' and was part of this year's concentration on the wider theme of 'colour'.  I chose to make a quilt representing anemones in shot cottons in the red/blue/purple spectrum.

The background is made of tiny pieces of different low volume fabrics quilted into place with close lines, the jug is pieced, and the anemones and leaves are appliqued.

The centres and stamens of the flowers are embroidered with french knots.

If you want to, you can read more about this quilt (and see more pictures) here.

I'm grateful that we have this chance to join in and to visit and enjoy so many different makers' works. Thank you Amy!

Stitch Gathering: Warning - long post with an overload of superlatives

Yesterday was spent at Stitch Gathering. As usual Jo Avery and her helpers made it a fantastic day.

It started with handing in our 'tickets'.  Each year, the 'ticket' has actually been a project to complete and bring along with you - for example one year it was a tote bag to be decorated and given to a partner.  This year it involved taking some special fancy Stitch Gathering fabric which Jo had had printed and using it in a 12.5 inch block showing your ideal house.   Kind volunteers are taking these blocks home to make quilts for the charity Siblings Together.  There were some absolute beauties, some of which you can see here

My ideal house is probably a late Georgian rectory with a walled kitchen garden, preferably in a nice village with a friendly pub, but that was a bit ambitious for a 12.5 inch block so my second choice would be a little timber framed Tudor cottage.  So here is my block complete with cat waiting to be let in.  It was fun improvising the wonky beams.

I posted a couple of rather scruffy pictures of it on Instagram but this is it after the POWER OF STARCH.  I have never used starch before and now I am an instant convert, even though I suspect inhaling it can't be good for you.

Next up was the optional name-tag swap, for a secret partner.

I made it for Kim @kmj_creations who brought along her stunning Passacaglia work in progress for show and tell.  I had a lot of fun making this, and put a little pocket on the back to keep safe scissors and seam ripper, because these are things I always lose under piles of scraps when I'm sewing.

Here is my nametag I received from Catriona @cat2832 .  Catherine is a long name to fit on a name tag and this was such an original and ingenious way to handle it.  It got so much admiration decorating my bosom from one side to the other with its rainbow gorgeousness.  I really love it!  This is its temporary home on the Stitch Gathering goody bag but as soon as I tidy my shelves it is going to hang over my sewing table.

My morning class was in learning to draft patterns for paper piecing with Juliet @Tartankiwi who brought along some of her amazing quilts to inspire us.  It was such a pleasure to meet her - she is a great teacher and her work is just amazing.

Three works by @Tartankiwi, and my attempt to draft a bird pattern

At lunch we found our partners for the optional potholder swap. This is the one I made for my partner.

and her is the one I received from Sarah, with its great vintage cutlery and kitchen implements, which is just in my taste!  It was so nice chatting away with Sarah I forgot to ask her if she is on social media so if anyone knows how to find her please let me know.

In the afternoon I joined @trudi_wood for a class on free-motion quilting.  I'm too ashamed to show you my disastrous efforts but she was lovely and made the class a lot of fun and it has really inspired me to want to be more adventurous in quilting.

And finally, here's the awesome goody bag we received!

Thank you generous sponsors @aurifilthread and @dmccreativeworld (lovely thread), @mybearpaw (beads), @dearstellafab @michaelmillerfabrics @cloud9fabrics @blendfabrics @windhamfabrics (enviable collection of fabric), @duckeggthreads (lovely Liberty scraps), @lovequiltingmag (quilty porn) and @nairnsoatcakes (sustenance)!

By the end of the day I was completely knackered but I had a great time and it was so nice to get the chance to meet blogging and instagram people in the flesh. Thanks Jo Avery and her helpers and the teachers who made Stitch Gathering 2016 so much fun.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Four in Art 3: Colour/Purple Passion - "Anemones"

This is the third quarter's Four-in-Art quilt reveal.  Themes for the year and for the particular quarter are suggested by members of the group and the theme for this year is "Colour" and the sub-theme for this quarter is "Purple Passion".

When I first read that this was the quarterly theme I was a bit stumped.  I wondered at first if this was because I didn't like the colour purple - I don't wear it, and I could only find one thing in my house that colour.   But the one thing I have is a little coloured drawing of flowers that my mother did for me. This made me remember that I do actually love purple - in nature, especially in flowers including hardy geraniums, perennial wallflowers and so on. I currently work as a gardener,  so flowers are a big part of my life; you could say, a passion.  With this in mind, I decided to do a flower-inspired quilt, using anemones as my flower.

Another picture highlighting the texture of the quilting and embroidery.

The rationale behind this quilt is that it follows on from my first two for this year's "colour" theme.   My first one was monochrome black and white.  The second quilt progressed to one colour and worked with several variations on that.  With this third quilt I thought I'd expand further on the theme by using purple, the primary colours it is made from (ie blue and red), together with its opposite on the colour wheel (yellow). Anemones were a great flower because the shades they come in made it possible to use several purples containing different amounts of blue and red.

My other FIA quilts have generally been abstract in design and I had been thinking about what an art quilt is, and worrying if I was being artistic enough for the group.  I looked on the Internet (as you do) to see if I could find a definition of "art quilts" which matched the way I think of them and needless to say there was a lot of variation in opinion.

Apart from the fact that it explores the colours in the way that I described this quilt actually has less 'meaning' than the more abstract quilts I have made.  I don't think an art quilt has to be pictorial, but one of the aims of Four in Art is to challenge ourselves and I really just wanted to use fabric and thread in a way that was a bit painterly and impressionistic, for example I tried to piece the background in a way that would be the fabric equivalent of broad, thick brushstrokes - it is made out of lots of scraps of 'low volume' fabrics fused to a backing fabric and quilted into place.  All the scraps have raw edges which I hoped would add to the textured effect.

I outlined stems and leaves with machine embroidery using colour in the same way as I would in a watercolour painting and I used shot cotton for the flowers, because it has a lovely sheen and catches the light beautifully although it is difficult to capture the full glory of it in a photograph.  The different colours in the warp and weft make it far less 'flat' than a standard coloured fabric.

Fused applique
Raw-edge applique
Machine embroidery
Hand embroidery using French knots in Perle 8
Straight line quilting
Background: Quilting cotton
Flowers and jug: Oakshott shot cotton

I enjoyed thinking about and making this quilt so much and am always so happy to be part of this group.  I am looking forward to seeing how the others have treated the theme.

We have a blog, Four-in-Art Quilts, but you can find the other Four-in-Arters here!


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