Thursday 3 May 2018

Book Review: Polar Bear Country by Carina Endvolsen-Harris

Since I first discovered and started reading craft blogs one of my favourites has been Carina's Craftblog, for her engaging writing style and for colourful photographs of inspiring projects (plus occasional pics of Blake the dog!).

If you are familiar with Carina's blog too, or follow her on instagram, you'll know that she designs and sells pretty, imaginitive and quirky embroidery patterns and that she is the author of Mandalas to Embroider and a new book Folk Art Embroidery to be published in September.  Now in a slight departure she's published an ebook in which embroidery and applique feature as the embellishment on different sewing projects.

The book is called Polar Bear Country and it is inspired by her fascination with Greenland and manages to combine her fondness for polar bears and other arctic fauna with her love of flowers!

There are thirteen projects in the book which makes the price (£16) seem very reasonable.  These include a variety of both pretty and practical items, two quilt tops, and as a bonus, there's even a cupcake recipe.

There are three sections - first there are pictures of all the projects together with detailed instructions on how to make them. The second section has instructions for embroidery stitches, and tutorials for techniques you will need in more than one project. The third section has templates which can be printed out (and as they are at the right size you don't need to faff around with enlarging or taping pattern parts together).

This all means that you have everything you need to know in order to get making - the only thing not included is instructions for finishing the quilt tops into quilts, since many people have their preferred way of doing this and if not it's easy to find instructions online.

I love the chatty and encouraging way in which this book is written - it's liberating to read a 'pep talk' telling you that wonky embroidery adds personality to your work, and that mistakes aren't a big deal in the grand scheme of things! It's also good to know when you can omit a step 'if you can't be bothered'!

The projects are very adaptable and can easily be modified to suit your needs - for example you could enlarge the applique pattern for a whale tail brooch and use it to make a cushion instead, or put different templates together in a number of ways. Some applique templates have additional details so that they may also be used as embroidery patterns.

The different projects also lend themselves to a range of different levels of ability or ambition and would appeal to both a developing beginner and a more advanced sewer who likes to add their own spin, and they are very charming!

These qualities might also appeal to someone like me who would like to do some parent-child bonding over a shared craft project.  I'm planning to do just this and make the sea eagle table runner with my daughter as a present for a friend who particularly loves these birds (watch this space).

You can buy Polar Bear Country here if you are in the UK/EU and here if you're outside.

Disclaimer: I received no remuneration for this article other than a free copy of the book for review and the opinions in this article are my own.

Tuesday 1 May 2018

The Endeavourers #2, Change/Transformation - Cycles

Today is the day that The Endeavourers art quilt group reveal our second quilts.  This quarter's theme was Change or Transformation.

As usual it was a very thought-provoking theme!  The fact that it was thrown into the hat by four of our group was interesting in itself.  I guess that this subject has a lot of personal resonance.  So  my first thought was about change from the point of view of an individual human.  I also thought about the way that as we get older we become more layered - it would have been interesting to represent that in quilting.

Then I thought about change, especially transformation, in nature.  The transformation from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly for example, or from seed to plant - which is always on my mind as I sometimes work as a gardener.

Transformation suggests a transition into something completely new, which would have been an interesting line of thought to follow, but then I started to think about change as cyclical.  Change and transformation can be positive or negative, but some change is just part of the ebb and flow of life, neither good nor bad.

Anyway...this takes me to the background to my quilt.    When we were lucky enough to travel in New Zealand a while back we went to visit the Kauri forest in North Island.  The trees there are almost inconceivably old and huge, and convey a sense of stillness (like columns in a cathedral) that fills you with awe, while life goes on about them. In contrast to this stillness tiny humans scurry around, and other vegetation moves in the breeze, like speeded up events in a time-lapse film. Some of these trees may be over 2000 years old, and they have just quietly stood there while many many changes have taken place in the world.

Closer to home and on a very much smaller scale, trees live through the cycle of the seasons.  This cyclical change was what I chose to represent in my little quilt.  This change is neither good nor bad, it's just part of the flow.


As the seasons pass, the sun moves across the sky and sinks lower in the horizon.   The leaves on the trees change colour and finally blow away, turning into birds who fly away in winter, only to return in the spring and begin the cycle of change again.

As the sun moves across the quilt it follows (nearly) a sine wave - I think there's something aesthetically pleasing about this shape and in the quilt it is there to reinforce the idea of a repeating pattern.

My trees are birches, which I think are very beautiful and textural.  (You can see my other quilt about birch trees here.)  I didn't want to fill the quilt with leaves as there is already a lot going on, and so I suggested the leaves with triangles, trying to capture the fractured and angular patterns of light you get when you look up through their rather sparse canopies.

The background is made using curved piecing which is densely quilted, leaves and birds are fused applique and the trees and suns are hand-sewn turned applique.  I added hand embroidery in thick perle cotton round the suns.  Materials are almost entirely shot cotton, with silk for the trees.

You can see all our quilts 'exhibited' together on our blog The Endeavourers, where you'll also find links to each individual member.  Please do have a look!

Shot cotton, silk
Curved piecing with dense quilting
Fused and hand-sewn turned applique
Hand and machine embroidery
17 x 22.5 inches


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