Friday 20 November 2020

A Life on the Ocean Wave

Having finished my Sea themed quilts for the Endeavourers after rather a long period of creative drought, I suddenly felt inspired again.  I do think that the sea, as a theme, offers up so many possibilities and I am going to keep going.   I've just finished another little quilt.

A Life on the Ocean Wave

Inspiration for this quilt came from an unusual source - my coffee pot!  I suddenly saw a beautiful wave, and an idea came into my head pretty much fully formed.  It is lovely when that happens.  

I had such fun making little silver fish out of the metal from tea lights (thanks to Fiona who used this metal for her beggars' tokens)

and seagulls out of modelling clay.

I've hung the quilt on a piece of driftwood

and am just waiting for a less wintry day so I can take even more photos.

Saturday 7 November 2020

The Endeavourers #12, The Sea

The Endeavourers art quilt group have been working on the subject of the sea this quarter, resulting in a beautiful collection of quilts featuring all kinds of different techniques - check them out here.

I'm arriving late to the party.  The last few months have been difficult for us all and, like many people I'm sure, I haven't felt much creative enthusiasm but as people say in motivational books I gave myself permission to play for a bit! This subject is very close to my heart as I grew up near the sea, and still live near to it albeit in another part of the country further down the coast.   I find the colours and textures endlessly fascinating and it was these that I decided to think about to begin with, concentrating first of all on wave forms.

I started with the simplest wave quilting on calico.  It's a very peaceful and meditative exercise.

Then I pieced some waves.

I love that this piece almost looks carved in stone.

After that I progressed to colour

and then combined piecing, quilting and colour.

I realised that I loved the unfinished edges of this piece and will have to find a way to use this in future.

I made a copy so I could play with some seagulls

but this was just a diversion because I wanted to concentrate on making abstract pieces.

Finally, I wrapped three finished pieces round canvases - separate works which are also supposed to work together.  As things sometimes take on a life of their own, the pieced quilt became a kelp forest  (and by the way, if you have not seen the film My Octopus Teacher, with its stunning photography, it is worth looking up as a lovely and gentle antidote to the state of the world.)  The other two pieces reflect waves and ripples in sand.  Unifying all the quilts is a fairly heavy natural (and seeded) calico which I used for its lovely sandy colour and texture.  

Kelp Forest


Shore Line

The Sea

Although we have chosen our new theme - Memories - to work on in the coming quarter I think I will carry on working on sea-themed pieces as well.  I don't think I've finished my exploration of this subject:  getting these works finished has got me thinking again and I'm really looking forward to trying out some more ideas.  As a subject it opens up fairly limitless possibilities!

As always, I'm very grateful to be part of such a lovely group of creative and supportive members.  Please check out the other quilts on the group blog where you can also find links to each individual quilter.

Saturday 1 August 2020

The Endeavourers #11, An Imaginary Voyage of Discovery in the South Pacific

Today The Endeavourers quilt group reveal their quilts for the quarter.  This time we did not have the usual quarterly theme but were to make quilts inspired by a prompt sent to us by our partner - a poem, a picture, a piece of fabric, etc.  My partner, Janine, sent me this wonderful compass as my inspiration piece for this quarter's quilt.  I was quite overwhelmed to receive it.  

Knowing that all my fabric was, at the time, in my studio where I couldn't get it during lockdown Janine also very kindly and generously sent me some fabrics, including the marvellous piece of map which went into the quilt.

The compass immediately set me thinking about great endeavours.   I love the stories of Scott and Shackleton, and sea-going adventures, like Darwin's on the Beagle.   A couple of years back, we visited the Discovery in Dundee, and I was really taken with the laboratory and its portholes.  

Then, having a particular interest in plants and horticulture, I read up about some of the great plant hunters who travelled the world bringing back new (to us) species from round the world.  In my head all these things finally came together in this quilt, combining science and adventure.

The story goes...

It is sometime in the 1800s.  The occupant of this cabin, the Scientific Officer of HMS Persevere (Leith), has gone on deck to watch as the tiny South Sea island they have just visited recedes out of view as they head further south.  On his bench are some shells he picked up there, and a piece of Ipomea pes-caprae - named Goat's foot morning glory because of the shape of the leaves - which grows on beaches throughout the world.  Its seeds are dispersed in salt water.  It is not a great discovery as it is already well known, but it was beautiful to see and he may paint it later - he is a competent botanical artist.  A Monarch butterfly has found its way on board and will hopefully evade the killing bottle.    The Scientific Officer has been delighted in the last month to receive a letter from his wife, enclosing a studio portrait of his three little girls who he hasn't seen for a year.  He hopes to find more letters from home next time they reach a port visited by packet ships.    He misses his family very much, but until then he will be busy examining rocks and barnacles under his travelling microscope (currently in its box away from the salt air), and writing notes for posterity about beetles of the South Pacific.

Porthole view

Monarch butterfly

A family picture

A real, and a stitched shell

I had a lot of fun making this quilt and imagining the life of its subject has been a hugely therapeutic bit of escapism. Thank you so much Janine for such a lovely prompt!  Please check out the other quilts on our group blog where you will also find links to the other members' personal blogs. 

[Note: Leith is part of Edinburgh where I live, and contains a large port.  The motto of Leith is 'Persevere' - a good motto for the times!  The little Victorian girls in the photograph are actually my great grandmother and her sisters in the 1800s.  The butterfly is a tribute to my grandfather, an entomologist.  I still plan to use a picture of my other great-grandmother as a stand-in for the Scientific Officer's wife, but she is currently in a box somewhere at the back of the attic!  The woman of this era who were not fortunate enough to be adventurers themselves deserve a lot of sympathy and recognition.]

Quilt details

Size: 18 x 24 inches

Techniques used:  watercolour and acrylic paints, textile pens, trapunto, raw edge appliqué, free-motion embroidery,  printing on fabric, free-motion quilting

Fabrics used: Quilting cotton, Oakshott cotton, gauze, interfacing

Friday 1 May 2020

The Endeavourers #10, A Scene From a Book, 'My Mistress' Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun'

Today is the 10th quarterly reveal of the Endeavourers, and our theme for the Quarter is A Scene From A Book.   You can find all the members' works on our group blog and I'm looking forward to seeing what scene everyone chose, and how they've represented it.   I feel especially grateful to be a member of the group just now.  While we are all locked down it's reassuring to feel part of something that involves such positive human contact.   But whenever I get the chance to communicate with anyone I'm talking far too much, so be prepared for a long post!

At the beginning of lockdown I didn't feel in any way creative, and was concentrating on doing practical things to prepare for all eventualities.  However I did spend a lot of time thinking about the theme. I initially struggled to think of a scene from a book because I've already turned some of my favourites into quilts, but finally decided on Shakespeare's sonnet No 130 which I love.   (Not really a scene from a book, but a scene from a poem in a book...)

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

I love the way Shakespeare is poking fun at other contemporary poets and their flowery and somewhat ridiculous use of metaphor to describe the objects of their desire.   But while he is doing that he also manages to builds up a picture of his mistress - a real woman who doesn't float about but treads on the ground - who he loves to hear speak and thinks as rare as anyone described with false comparisons.  With social media placing so much emphasis on conforming to a particular, idealised and often artificial idea of beauty this poem has quite a contemporary relevance.

Incidentally, out of curiosity I looked out images of woman of Shakespeare's time.  Being wealthy and important enough to have their portraits painted, decked out in their finest, and on their best behaviour, they often look rather bland and lifeless. The poets Shakespeare teases, with their unrealistic, idealised view don't seem to properly see the real woman, and I didn't get much feeling of the person underneath in these pictures.   

However I came upon some paintings by Artemesia Gentileschi and it is worth looking them up. (I was just now adding the link to the Wikipedia article and realised that there was actually going to be an exhibition of her paintings at the National Gallery this year but it has been cancelled because of Coronavirus.)  She used herself as the model for several paintings and her intelligent face is beautiful and full of character, though somewhat sad as she had a rather terrible life which is reflected in some of her grimmer pictures.  I like the way she confronts the viewer.

Anyway, that was a digression.  I began by thinking about what I could make with a rather ragtag collection of bits and bobs I had at home.   It was an interesting challenge to use up some of it in my quilt, just as I'm getting creative at making dinners out of what's left in the fridge because of course you can't just casually pop out to the shops.  My plan was to throw these odd scraps into the pot and make a mosaic quilt using them to build up a picture of the woman in the poem.  That seemed to fit the times and to fit the poem which also builds up a picture with each line.   I thought I would make something quite colourful and down to earth.  

However, when I started laying out fabric, another quilt started to take shape by itself.  It moved totally away from the original colourful mosaic idea.   I like this about making pictorial quilts - it's a fairly leisurely process and you're not committed until you sew.  Things sometimes take on a life of their own.

My Mistress' Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun
My black-haired woman was cut from one small piece of black Oakshott cotton, which was fused to another piece of cream Oakshott, then the whole thing was machine appliqued to a pieced and quilted panel I had made for another project and not used (the section in the middle of this quilt).

I found a bag of scraps of batting in a drawer under my bed (yay!) and 'frankenbatted' them together to extend the size of the panel by sewing them round the edge.  I had cut some calico from the back of a mini quilt, which I had planned to use as a substrate for scraps in the mosaic quilt plan, and that turned into the border.   I had a tiny piece of gold silk, only just enough for the sun.

My Mistress' Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun
I took the above photo in the sun outdoors so that the shadows would show up the quilting. She's not the colourful earthy woman I intended to make, but there you go!  I wanted to make an image of a woman who asserted her personality into the picture, so she is framed by the border around her but is not constrained by it. She has a direct gaze and I tried to make her to look as if there's more to her than what you initially see.   

My Mistress' Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun


Crafting during Coronavirus. The dining room is now also for sewing, online pilates class, and growing sweet pea seedlings in toilet roll tubes.

Wednesday 26 February 2020

Mr and Mrs Blackbird

I've just finished working on this quilt, which is the fourth in a series of blackbird quilts, though the third is still waiting for a few finishing touches.

Like my other blackbird pictures this has a curve-pieced background which is quilted before I start to lay on the applique.

Then, as usual I sketched out various elements on pieces of paper, and tinkered with the composition until I felt it was right.  This part of the process takes ages.

I use Oakshott shot cottons a lot, as you can see if you look for the label in my side bar.  The different warps and wefts create a feeling of dimension, and the colours are extremely beautiful, so they are ideal for applique.     

Only the brown was difficult to get right and so I used a single French General fabric (front and reverse) for Mrs Blackbird.  This turned out to be very fortuitous because I have run out of the second-hand black beads I used for the eyes of previous blackbirds and I couldn't believe my luck when I looked at the colour test circles on selvedge.

I added a shine to the eyes with a french knot.

This piece is a commission, and I wanted to give it a bit of clout so, rather than binding, I finished it by wrapping round a homemade wooden 'stretcher'.

Mr and Mrs Blackbird
Shot cotton and quilting cotton
Curve piecing, raw-edge applique, free-motion embroidery
38 x 38 cm

Monday 3 February 2020

Poppies by the Sea

I've just finished a quilt inspired by a miraculous sight last summer when there was a beautiful flush of poppies by the sea near where I work in East Lothian.

They were such a surprise as they are not what I usually associate with coastal flora.

Although they look so delicate and fragile, with their silky petals, they seemed to stand up surprisingly robustly against the wind and rain.

I love those colours against the sand and sea.

This little quilt is at about 12 inches square.  It is pieced, quilted, appliqued using Oakshott shot cottons, and embroidered.

Poppies by the Sea at Cockenzie, East Lothian
12 x 12 inches
Pieced, quilted, appliqued, embroidered
Oakshott cotton, quilting cotton
Mounted on canvas


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