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:

Betty         https://www.flickr.com/photos/toot2
Camilla         http://faffling.blogspot.co.nz/
Elizabeth     http://www.occasionalpiece.wordpress.com
Janine         http://www.rainbowhare.com
Nancy         http://www.patchworkbreeze.blogspot.com
Rachel         http://www.rachel-thelifeofriley.blogspot.com
Simone         http://quiltalicious.blogspot.com
Susan         http://patchworknplay.blogspot.com
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!

Thursday 9 June 2016

Be Happy

It's been a really up and down month.  My cat died and I was really miserable!  I had him for nineteen years which is a very long time and he was my friend through so many life events and kept me company, often lying on my works in progress as cats do.

He was ill for a couple of weeks and all my energy was taken up with worrying about him, so the day after he died I was sniffing away and feverishly trying to finish Six Coffees and a Tea, take photographs of it and blatt it up onto the internet in time to make the deadline for entry to the Umbrella Prints Trimmings Challenge that evening.  The entries for the challenge were amazing - you can see them on Instagram #umbrellaprintstrimmingschallenge, and on the Umbrella Prints Pinterest board - and you can believe that I was surprised and quite a bit madly happy when my quilt won the quilt section. Hooray!!!!

I am very excited about the prize, which is my choice of products from the Umbrella Prints store.   I enjoyed using the Trimmings pack in my quilt; they are beautiful fabrics and organic as well and I am looking forward to making more Umbrella Prints projects.

In the meantime, I have been making (or trying to make) a card for the latest Very Berry Handmade ATC swap. Like an idiot I managed to burn the first one with my iron!   It burned right through some of the stitches and left big scorch marks. Doh!  I decided to pretend that it looked vintage and finished it off but I couldn't really send it to my partner so here is Mk 2 - the theme this time round is 'Say Something' and I was thinking what more could you wish anyone than this?

Tuesday 31 May 2016

Umbrella Prints Trimmings Contest: Six Coffees and a Tea

I've just checked to make sure that it is still 31 May somewhere in Australia, and so at the last minute I'm posting my entry to the challenge!

I ordered a lovely pack of trimmings from Umbrella Prints with a view to entering the contest.

(Picture credit: Umbrella Prints)

I had been thinking of how to showcase the pieces, and when they arrived I immediately thought of my collection of vintage coffee pots, which are decorated with patterned panels.

Here is my entry:

The pots are set against a background of recycled duvet cover, and the quilt is bound with some gingham I found in a charity shop - this seemed suitable for a vintage-inspired quilt that was all about using up what you have!

 My favourite coffee pot:

Edited to add: I pieced the pots just by cutting, sewing and trimming them as I went along, so they are more or less improvised though I used freezer paper to make templates for a few of the fiddlier sections.  I am irritatingly spacially challenged when it comes to matching angled seams.

The steam is freemotion quilted with Aurifil wool.

Thank you umbrella prints for all the fun!

Friday 13 May 2016


Now that I know that my partner has got the parcel I sent her, I can tell you about #bigstitchswap2. For this swap you have to make something the size of a mini quilt, cushion cover, pouch or bag and include an element of hand stitching.  There is some amazing creativity from people taking part and beautiful makes which you can check out on Instagram.  

My partner posted this image, rather than a mosaic, as her inspiration pic:

and included Alison Glass in her favourite fabric designers.

This was my first big swap and it's quite scary making something of this scale for someone else, but I stalked her Pinterest account a bit and decided to make her a mini quilt with a back so it could be used as a cushion if she wanted, and to include a rainbow collection of colours, taking into account the fact that she didn't like red as a focal colour.

I used a selection of Alison Glass fabrics to make cathedral windows on a background of Oakshott cotton, sashed with black Essex linen, and the corner pieces are Robert Kaufman solids.

I quilted round the centre panel with black perle cotton and the corner pieces are quilted with matching colours, and I tried to funk it up a bit with a rainbow collection of buttons sewn on using a fancy stitch.  By the time I was done I really wanted to keep it.

I made an envelope back out of very bright fuschia pink and yellow and sent it off with a couple of little extras including the thread she posted so she can make her own project, wrapped round a hedgehog!  

Unfortunately I made the stupid mistake of mis-spelling her name with an H which occurred to me just before I handed the parcel over at the post office so I had to write an apologetic note on the outside of the parcel and hoped she would forgive me!

Wednesday 4 May 2016

Show and Tell

Despite the current traditional Scottish weather of four seasons in one day my paid gardening work is picking up again after the winter so I have fallen a bit behind on blogging.  It's a bit easier to keep up with Instagram (where I am @knottedcotton) so apologies if you have seen the following already.

April was quite a productive month as I rashly signed up for two swaps as well as needing to complete my Four-in-Art quilt.  First up was the #veryberryhoopswap on instagram. It was a small swap in more ways than one - small group, and we had to make a mini hoop, maximum size 5cm.  I haven't received my own yet but here's the one I made for my partner.

She liked lots of things, including blues and greens and the sea, which I tried to capture with this rustic embroidery.  I've got used to doing little pictures for Artist Trading Cards, but the tininess of this was a challenge to me and a sign that I should be wearing my specs more often instead of holding things at arms length like an old lady.  You can see how small it is from the pic of it nestling in my sea glass collection.  I made a little loop to hang the hoop from and my partner kindly said she liked it.

I also took part in the second Big Stitch Swap - my parcel is on its way to my partner, and hopefully one is winging its way here, so more about that soon!

Then a very loved friend was doing exams so I made her a good luck card.   It's about six inches on the longest side - the little birds came from an Aviary selvedge, I think, and are really tiny.

Finally, my geek husband's birthday laptop cover which of course I had to wait till Star Wars day (May the fourth be with you) to show you.   We are big Star Wars fans in this house.  It's lined with both batting and fleece so his beloved technology should be well-padded and cosy.   I managed to get the pattern to line up, I was quite pleased!


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