Friday 3 November 2017

Farewell to Four in Art

Back at the beginning of 2015 I was lucky to join the Four in Art quilt group.   There is nothing like commitment to the rest of a group and having a looming deadline as an incentive to do something creative and it is just a great environment for exchanging ideas and for friendly encouragement.  Best of all belonging to a group like this is a reason to really think about a subject, and how to express it in a quilty fashion, which is sheer luxury if you like lying in bed at night dreaming and planning.

As time went on I've worried that I haven't been adventurous enough and that my quilts didn't qualify as 'art' quilts, but a theme speaks to you in a particular way and you kind of have to roll with it.  All of the quilts I've made have things I don't like about them and almost all of them live in a drawer under my bed, but with each of them I've learned a lot (often about things that I would do differently given another opportunity!)  and it has been an opportunity to work out the things that I'm interested in.

I thought I'd put them up in series below.   They are a diverse bunch but I'm realising that some things are fairly constant; shot cotton (in particular Oakshott), silk, solids, and gold.

2015 Literature 

#1: The Moors

- inspired by the use of landscape in literature and the works of the Bronte sisters

#2: Haiku

Inspired by a work by the poet Basho, about a frog jumping into a pond.

#3: Mrs Midas

Inspired by the poem by Carol Ann Duffy.

#4: Birches

Inspired by the landscapes in Anna Karenina.

2016: Colour

At about this point we abandoned the previous 12x12 size restriction.  In the first year it was a really interesting constraint to work in, and meant having to think in a very particular way about how to approach the theme.  I found this a really satisfying challenge, but although some of the group more or less stuck to it, I think I would have eventually found it too difficult to keep up.

#1:  'Microscopic', Building blocks

I thought I'd start the Colour year with Black and White and treat the 'Microscopic' theme by drawing an analogy between quilt blocks and cells.

#2: 'Music', Rhapsody in Blue

Inspired by the piece of music, and the images it evokes of a city at night and a particular era.

#3: 'I've got the Blues'

A quilt which was supposed to represent the notes in the blues scale, in a way which was supposed to look like sparkles on water,  but which didn't work out....

#4: 'Purple Passion', Anemones

Rare figurative quilt.

2017:  Light

#1: 'Light in the Darkness' 

I was thinking about light in the darkness as a source of comfort, or in terms of astronomy, or as a symbol of knowledge and evidence-based thinking, and the light of reason in the 'post-truth' era.

#2: 'Stained Glass Shadows'

About the qualities of light as it comes through coloured glass and falls on a surface.

#3: 'Shimmer'

Inspired by light coming from facets of my glass living-room doorknob and the way they look as I go past.

#4: 'Illumination'

See my last post for a lengthy explanation...

One of the most fascinating and exciting things about belonging to the group was in seeing the different ways we all responded to a particular theme, and the very different styles and techniques we used.   If you keep an eye open for 'retrospectives' from the other members (Elizabeth has already done one here) you will see what I mean.   I've learned such a lot from this group.

Four in Art has now come to an end, but Janine, Nancy and I are moving forward with eleven other members and a new group - 'the Endeavourers'.  Our first theme is Nature, and our first ever reveal will be on 1 February.

Wednesday 1 November 2017

Four in Art: Illumination (Number 4 in the 'Light' series)

If you've been reading for a while, you'll know that for three years I've been a member of the quilt group 'Four in Art'.  We have been making a quilt every quarter to an annual theme and quarterly sub-theme.

Our annual theme for this year is 'Light', and this quarter's theme, chosen by Janine, is 'Illumination'.

I've absolutely loved this year's theme - so much to think about.  The particular nature of the subthemes this year also made it possible to return to some sources of inspiration and with each quarter I got more and more interested in the qualities of light and in light as a metaphor.  So my thought processes for the final quilt in this series turned towards these again and spun off something like this:

  • Illumination as in lighting, light, sources of light
  • Illumination as in illuminated manuscripts - where 'illuminated' comes from the Latin for 'lit up' or 'enlightened' and refers to gold or colourful decoration of important and precious texts ...
...which might be a source of
  • illumination as a metaphor for intellectual or spiritual enlightenment
...which all sent me on a train of thought back to
  •  the beauty and colour of cathedral windows...
  • a source of illumination which in turn made me think of motes of coloured light dancing on old stonework (a different quality of light to that in Stained Glass Shadows)
  • and back to the idea of colour and gilding in illuminated manuscripts

I wanted to incorporate all these inter-related elements.  So this quilt has all the things!

Patchwork cathedral windows represent the real thing, casting dancing coloured lights on old stonework.

The quilting, a combination of straight line and stippling, reflects rays of light on weathered stone.

But you could also imagine illuminated texts, with gilding and beautiful colours on paper or velum, and these texts are themselves a source of 'illumination'.

The gold represents beams of light (illumination in the physical sense), or gilding, and also contributes towards the idea of illumination in the metaphorical sense.

30" x 30"
Oakshott cottons and gold silk
Aurifil 50 and 28wt in two colours
Faced binding

Sadly, this will be our last Four in Art reveal!  Thank you fellow members for being a constant source of inspiration and enthusiasm, many thanks to Rachel, our current chairperson, for organising us, and, most especially, thank you Elizabeth for being the drive behind such a warm, supportive and thoughtful group.

Please check out the other Four-in Arters who also reveal their quilts today;

BettyElizabethJanine, Nancy, RachelSimone or on the group blog.

and stay tuned for The Endeavourers, as Janine, Nancy and I move forward with a new group next year.

Thursday 14 September 2017

Call for Members!

[EDITED TO ADD: We are delighted to have had such an enthusiastic response and we're sorry to say this group is now full.]

Would you be interested in joining a new Art Quilt group?

Sadly the Four in Art quilt group will close after the next reveal (1 November) as members move on to new things, but Janine who blogs at Rainbow Hare and I are starting anew.

Our group will be called 'The Endeavourers' (from 'Endeavour': try, attempt, venture, undertake, aspire, aim, seek) as this embodies the spirit with which we hope to approach our quilts.

We are looking for members who would really like the opportunity to take part in a quarterly challenge to make a quilt of any size according to a general theme chosen at the beginning of the quarter (we'll either select it randomly from suggestions, or take turns to suggest it).  You can work in any style suggested to you by the theme, but once in a while, we thought it would also be fun to throw a particular technique into the mix as an incentive to be adventurous.

We would like members to post about their progress and thoughts on their blogs (and any other social media), and on the shared group blog we will create, keeping the finished quilts for a shared 'reveal' on 1 February, 1 May, 1 August, and 1 November where we can also talk about our own inspiration for our quilts.

We will publish the first theme on 1 November 2017 and our first reveal date will be on 1 February 2018.  We would ask for a commitment to one year to start with so we can get off to a good start.

Our mission statement is:

- to share enthusiasm
- to share inspiration and ideas, and document our progress and process
- to challenge ourselves to move outside our comfort zones (for example by working with new colours, fabrics, materials or techniques
- to develop our own styles and practices
- to encourage each other in all of the above
- to boldly go where no quilter has gone before (not really)

Don't worry if you don't consider yourself to be an accomplished quilter or an artist.  If you share the aims in our Mission Statement and would like to join, please do contact us by commenting below!  We hope to have a group set up by 15 October in order to sort out all the final details by the end of the month.  You can see the quilts Janine and I have made for Four in Art by clicking here and here.

We'd love to hear from you!

Friday 1 September 2017

A pattern! - Six Coffees and a Tea

Huge excitement for me because I have a pattern in a magazine!  It's a re-imagining of my little quilt that won the Umbrella Prints Trimmings contest last year, made a bit mid-century modern with Karen Lewis fabrics.  It's aimed at quilters with a basic understanding of foundation paper piecing and you can find it in issue 18 of Make Modern Magazine - you can download a copy here, or treat yourself to a subscription!  (NB: affiliate links)

Saturday 12 August 2017


A while back @dittanym destashed some curtain/upholstery fabric samples on facebook and I was lucky enough to get them.  The fantastic thing about free fabric is it allows you to try out things that you might not have otherwise had the chance to, because although I know I am very fortunate, fabric is very expensive on the whole, and the dread fear of wasting it is often quite off-putting.

Anyway, having this fabric was quite liberating and I thought I would chop and sew and see what happened.  It was also fun having the constraint of working with pieces of a fixed size - on average, they were about 8x12 inches.

I didn't measure anything, though halfway through the quilt it did occur to me that it would have been at least useful to work in multiples of a particular measurement in order to actually get blocks to fit together!  I did some cutting down to fit and didn't worry about the results, moving things around and discarding things that didn't work like the acid yellow pieces.

I've never tried Pojagi but will have to give it a go as I am getting increasingly interested in the effect of quilts against the light.  I discovered when making this quilt that nasty cheap polyester batting allows the light to shine through beautifully.

It's now awaiting some decisions on quilting - half of me wants to try out some really major perle stitching, but the other half doesn't want anything to get in the way of the shapes and the beautiful chambray colours of the fabric.

Bear with me because the following story is relevant.  A while back when one of my children was very small and learning about the Egyptians she got very keen on the idea of embalming.  This prompted her to suggest that she could embalm her goldfish.  When we pointed out that she was fond of the goldfish and perhaps we shouldn't hurry it off its mortal coil she said hopefully that perhaps she could get another goldfish that she didn't like as much!

Anyway, faced with dithering about how to quilt the project above I thought perhaps I could make another, sacrificial, quilt and have a go on that to test the effect.  So I made this one.

It's made using the neutrals from the same sample book.  I used to do a lot of etching and relief printing and I wanted to get that kind of effect which is a bit hard to capture in a photo.

It's only a tiny quilt but the problem is that like a sacrificial goldfish I've got to quite like this one too, and now I'm dithering about both of them.

Tuesday 1 August 2017

Four in Art: Stained Glass Shadows

This quarter's theme for Four in Art was chosen by Elizabeth.  Our annual theme is Light, and the quarterly sub-theme is 'Stained Glass Shadows".  I found the shadows above in the National Portrait Gallery, but Elizabeth posted some very beautiful inspiration pictures on her blog here.

I don't have much to say about my contribution - there's not much to explain, except to say that I was fascinated by the way the shadows in Elizabeth's photos read as purple and made use of this colour in my quilt.  I thought for a long time about the challenge, but what I could not find a way to capture what I really liked - the quality of light which she neatly described as 'powdery' - in fabric.

In the end I decided just to try to reflect the saturated colour, and the way that the 'shadows' cast by stained glass lose the definition of the original and become blurred, with colours merging into one another.  I also like the sharp edges and gaps that you see when the 'shadows' fall on a shaped surface.

The beautiful colours of shot cotton are as close as I could get to the quality of the colour and light, and I tried to blur the lines of the shapes with heavy variegated Aurifil thread quilting.

I wouldn't say that this quilt uses any exciting or novel techniques but I have tried to express what I find beautiful in the light cast by stained glass and reflect my response to the theme.

The other Four in Art members can be found below - please do visit them to see how they were inspired by the theme.


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



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