Picking up the threads

I’m beginning to feel nearly ready to pick up where I left off, though not quite in the same way. Having completed my PhD, I’m now returning to full-time work. I have somewhat mixed feelings about this, having organised my own time for so many years. The main benefit, of course, is a reliable income, which is something I haven’t had for over a decade. The other benefit, I’ve decided, is that I can continue to stitch in my own time, at my own pace, without the pressure to promote and/or sell.

excavations 1

I didn’t expect to ever come back to the blog, but I’ve learned that life bombards you with surprises most of the time.

I’ve been collecting a few thoughts, and stitching them down before they can run away.

oseberg 1

Watch this space.

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500 and out

I did promise something spectacular for my 500th post, and here it is:

Not quite what you were expecting.

I’ve been quietly making some spectacular changes to my life. During my blog break in June/July I researched, wrote and submitted an application to study for a PhD in English, and have recently received confirmation that my application was successful.

This means that from September I’ll be a full-time student for the next three years. At my age that does sound faintly ridiculous, but there it is.  Clearly, a PhD is going to involve quite a lot of work – 100,000 words and a bibliography the length of a football pitch. I aim to give it my full and undivided attention, which means that I’m withdrawing from my online and blog-related activities.

Writing a blog takes a surprising amount of time and effort, as those of you who maintain blogs will know. Keeping up with the blog circuit also takes a lot of time and effort.  Art doesn’t pay enough; at least, not in my case.  Admittedly, gaining a further qualification also isn’t going to pay the bills, in the short term, but in the longer term at least it has some reliable earning potential. I hope that this period of study might lead eventually to further work in research, publishing or undergraduate teaching.

Obviously I will continue to stitch in whatever spare time I end up having, but only for my own amusement. I’ve already closed my flickr account and will be making a decision about my facebook page in the coming weeks.  I still have a few pieces of work for sale here on the blog (see the tab at the top of this page). I have course fees to pay, and, frankly, I need the money.

So, there it is – my 500th post is also my last, at least for a while.

It’s been a lot of fun: I’ve met some incredible people from all over the world, some of whom have become real, true friends and will (I hope!) remain such. Most of you have made me laugh at some point; all of you have made me think. It’s been good to show my work here, and to write about it, and to read your thoughts about it. It’s been very satisfying to know that my work lives with some of you in your homes; little stitches on cloth witnessing the passing of time, the living of different lives.

But mostly it’s been good to travel with you on this brief passage through my life – your life, our lives – and I thank you you for it.

This is it!

Thank you.


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Well, I can’t carry on calling it Beardie Quilt, can I? And every artist, at some point in their life, produces something called ‘Untitled’.

It turned out all right in the end. I like the back, too:

I’ve added this to the ‘work for sale’ tab at the top of this page.

WordPress informs me that this is my 499th post.

Better start working on something spectacular for the 500th!

Posted in art, quilts, textile art | Tagged , , , , | 18 Comments

Keeping calm

Still quilting

Still embroidering

Still bearding.

Keep calm and carry on.

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Scraps Quilt 2

This is Scraps Quilt 2, which will be a gift and should be finished by the end of the year. This one will be very slightly different from Scraps Quilt 1:

This time it’s 7″ blocks. I didn’t like the even numberedness of the 8″ block, which was prone to dividing itself rather too neatly into four equal quarters. A block made of odd-numbered inches seems a little more interesting. This time, as you can see, each block will have a little accent of something else in the centre(-ish).

They won’t be going together in this order; this is just the total number of blocks completed so far. I hope that the whole quilt, when all 110 blocks are pieced together, will read as effectively in real life as it does in my imagination. Bear in mind that these are just scraps, and this is just evening-and-spare-time work, and it really is surprising how much you can achieve with a few spare minutes here and there. To date, 8 down, 102 to go.

However, I think it’s more like task avoidance, since I’d rather be making these blocks than working on beardie-quilt. Tomorrow, I keep saying. Tomorrow I’ll tackle the tough beardie quilt. Really. I will.

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the spirit of perseverance

I wondered if embroidering this quilt might be easier than quilting it.

It wasn’t.

Embroidering cardboard is just as difficult as quilting it.

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On the table today, an unfinished quilted piece that I rediscovered recently while tidying. Sometimes it can be interesting to revisit something from the past, just to see the difference between then and now.

This is from several years ago and was based on a woven paper collage:

Unusually, for me, the cloth version is machine pieced. Hand quilted, of course.

Most of the fabrics are commercial prints masquerading as hand-dyes, though some are actually hand-dyed. I quite like it, and it took me a while to realise why it remains unfinished. Having spent a few hours with it today, I know exactly why I gave up.

Usually I prefer wool batting, or occasionally 20/80 poly/cotton blend. The batting in this one is 100% cotton, the first time I’ve ever tried it.  Quilting it is mostly like trying to quilt cardboard, but the worst thing about it is this:

Non-stop, relentless bearding. I will persevere this one time, but I will never use 100% cotton batting again. It’s quite possible that there will be more batting on the lint roller than there will be remaining inside the quilt.

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Begun on 1st January 2012; finished on 15th July 2012.

Ninety-nine 8″ blocks, hand-pieced from scraps, hand-quilted, joined and bound by hand.

Originally I was not going to use binding on this quilt. Many historic and traditional English quilts do not have binding; the front and back are simply stitched together around the edge. Binding is mostly an American innovation. However, it just didn’t look right without binding of some sort. In the end I went for a very narrow (half-inch or so) binding, just to finish the edges and to provide a boundary that unifies and frames the patchwork.

The back is almost as interesting as the front:

You can at least see the (admittedly, fairly minimal) quilting better on the back.

I estimate that this has taken somewhere over 600 hours from start to finish, which equates to about a month of my life. Given that I am likely to spend a total of around 26 years of my life asleep, I think this is a pretty good achievement.

And, of course, my next question is naturally, ‘what am I going to do now?’

Since life provides me with a seemingly endless supply of scraps, the answer is – well, another quilt. The next quilt will be a gift.

It has been an enjoyable and productive break.

Posted in patchwork, quilts, textile art | Tagged , , , | 23 Comments


No, I’m not totally here yet… but today I belatedly turned over the new page of the Paul Klee calendar that hangs in my workroom, and I couldn’t help thinking…

…wouldn’t this make a marvellous quilt?

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Taking time

A few stitches on the first ‘Time and Space’ quilt:

I found that very fine crochet cotton (the long yellow stitches you can see here) is perfect for basting.

This area will be quilted in squares eventually, so there will be more quilting lines perpendicular to these.

And a little box of time in the lower corner:

And now I’m stepping into – or outside – the box of time for a while. I’m taking some time out for some time away, then I’ll be giving some time and thought to other things.  I may need a week or two, or I may need a month or two. I’ll be back when everything is sorted.

No need for concern! See you later.

Posted in In progress, Reflections, textile art | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments