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.

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Slow progress, piece by piece, on putting the scraps quilt together.

It’s about half done. A pessimist would say half not-done.

A few people were asking about the quilt-as-you-go method and some interesting questions (and answers) were raised:

  1. Does the batting beard through the seams (because paper piecing effectively presses seams open rather than to one side)? – No, it doesn’t. Not in the least.
  2. Do the spaces between the squares (where the batting is joined) feel any different? Is the quilt any thinner or less ‘quilted’ at these parts? – No, it isn’t.
  3. Does the quilt ‘bend’ more readily at the joins between squares? – No.
  4. Does it feel in all other respects just like a ‘normal’ quilt? – Yes, I think it does.

the back

Really quite amazing what you can do with a few evenings and a needle and thread.

And practically no social life.

Just the way I like it.

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In print

A big thank you  to Jennifer of Sew Somerset magazine for featuring my mixed media samples book in the current issue, out today.

This is little a cloth book I made a couple of years ago, when I was still using the machine and experimenting with various mixed media techniques. The pages are about 7″ square. You can see some of the cloth pages printed in the magazine article, but I thought it might be helpful to post pictures of all the pages here to give a better overview.

back cover

inside front cover and page 1

page 2 and 3

page 4 and 5

page 6 and 7

page 8 and 9

page 10 and 11

page 12 and inside back cover


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As well as the larger series, which will be quilts, I’ll be working on some smaller pieces, which will be cloths – that is, not quilted. Just bits of cloth and stitch on a cloth ground. Something very honest and simple, intuitively pieced and stitched.

I’m calling these small pieces ‘Reflections’. I’m thinking of them as little self portraits. Myself as cloth and stitch. No figurative or pictorial referencing, just a feel of who and where I am, in line, colour and texture. Just to see what I find.

It is impossible to see yourself in the same way that you can see others, in the flesh as a  living and breathing being. The only way you can see yourself alive in the present is by looking in a mirror or other reflective surface. And then you are not seeing yourself, but a two-dimensional reflection of yourself. The person in the mirror isn’t real. You can see yourself in photographs or video, but these are always historic. They are images of you in the past, even if the picture was taken a few seconds ago. This idea really interests me, and I’m looking forward to working on both these series. ‘Time and Space’ will be more expansive, more outward-looking; ‘Reflections’ more introspective.

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Time and Space

So with all the dyeing, rinsing, washing, rinsing, drying, ironing, cutting, sorting, folding, packaging, and mailing I’ve been doing recently, I have been not-stitching. At first this was a source of irritation and frustration, because stitching is what I do, and I wasn’t doing it. I wasn’t doing the work.

However, as a little time and space emerged, I realised that I was able to step back and think about the work, and think about it constantly and quite deeply while being engaged in something else. The subconscious mind is a truly marvellous and remarkable thing, whirring away in the background, working out all kinds of problems and issues. All it needs is a little time and space. Eventually I realised that time and space is mostly what my work is about. Most of my work is about the passing of time – how time passes as well as how we pass our time. About how our lives are full of time and yet we ‘don’t have time’ for one thing or another. About how the sum of our total time equals our life. A Life of time. About how time and space can be two sides of the same coin. ‘Now’ – a temporal adjective – can abstractly describe a place, and ‘there’ – a spatial adjective – can abstractly describe a time.

And then I could begin linking different times and spaces. If you’ve been with me a while, you might recall the collages I put together some time ago. These have always been destined to become cloth and stitch, but they have been biding their time, waiting for the right space to come along.

So I’m reworking some of the collages as sketches, planning them as something like 40″ square – a manageable size, meaning that standard width fabric can be used as backing, while still being quite substantial in scale. And obviously I’ve been wanting to use some of my own hand-dyed fabrics. I’ve planned nine of these: a giant nine-patch in the end, though each will be separate.

I’m doing most of the piecing by machine, because I want to spend the time on the surface, not on the construction. This is the first one, pieced and ready to layer to batting. I intend to piece all nine over the coming weeks so that I know what fabric I need to use, and what I have left over.

Time and Space: a series of quilted works. It sounds interesting… and it looks interesting… and it feels… well, interesting. So in the long hike that is life, after taking a short rest for refreshments – onward.

Posted in art, In progress, quilts, textile art | Tagged , , , , | 13 Comments

A Rat’s Tale

Interrupting a busy week to share the story of a rat – and if you hate rats, read on. Perhaps you might change your mind.

I don’t normally share a lot of personal or domestic information here, because this is the place where I stitch. But apart from stitching, rat-keeping has been a huge part of our lives for the last 12 years. We have had over twenty of them during that time – though not all at once, obviously! – all complete individuals, each one a unique character. Rats are fantastic little pets, as intelligent as a small dog. You can house train them, they can learn their names and simple commands, and they will do pretty much anything for food. They are clever, affectionate and clean; they are loyal, trusting, loving and loveable.

Last month we lost our last remaining little rat, a beautiful lilac boy named Bilbo.

Most of our pictures of Bilbo are a streaky grey blur. He loved exploring, and didn’t sit still for long. Like all rats, he was most enthusiastic about food and he loved treats of all kinds. We taught him to pull up a banana chip tied to the end of a piece of string, and he would sit on the stairs hoisting up this string with his little hands, like a sailor with a rope. Our attempts to photograph this particular activity were always unsuccessful. Occasionally he would just lie still and be pampered.

So when we lost him at the grand old age of three, our house became a very sad and empty place.

Soon afterwards, I happened across this blog, written by the hugely talented Jenny. At the time she had set herself the enormous challenge of ‘a walk on the wild side’, creating a stitched animal every day. You can probably guess what’s going to happen next. When I saw this, I contacted her to see if she could create a little something just for me and my hubs to remind us of our sweet boy.

To my excitement, she agreed. And she did it perfectly.

Just 3.5″ square, mounted on a wood block, my beautiful lilac boy immortalised in stitch. Jenny’s work is really stunning and skilfully executed. Her drawings are so sensitively realised, with just the right amount of detail and texture, perfectly balanced in colour, form and composition. I am totally delighted by her interpretation.

And here he is, already perfectly at home, sitting on the shelf in my work room:

You can see more of Jenny’s work here. And if you’re a facebook person, pop along here and give her an extra ‘like’ for me.

Thank you, Jenny.

Posted in art, mixed media | Tagged , , , , , | 22 Comments

Hand dyed

Making the most of a whole two days without rain.

There was a hole in my glove.

My finger is the colour of mahogany.

My own hand, dyed.

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99 blocks

This, believe it or not, is a pile (two piles, in fact) of 99 quilted blocks.

Each block looks roughly like these:

I took a long time deciding what was going where, and who was sitting next to whom, but I think this will work.

Extra challenging to know that the backs are all different too, and also have to sit well together. A bit like doing a double-sided jigsaw.

And then I just had to see how they actually joined together, never having done quilt-as-you-go. Each layer has to be secured separately, so the top is oversewn in the usual paper-piecing way, then the batting is ladder-stitched together edge-to-edge, and then the backing seam is slip stitched closed. Sounds more complicated than it is, though it is fiddly and time-consuming – but then, really, you’re doing three parts all at once.

The first pair of blocks (fronts):

And the same pair from the back:

97 to go.

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One of my favourite bits of Shakespeare, these lines come from Macbeth

And last week’s piece is now sitting nicely in its own frame:

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a short story

A couple of bargain frames from the charity shop this week:

I removed the bright red plastic gerberas before photographing them. Why on earth would anyone want a pair of unnaturally red gerberas in boxes on their wall?

I’m composing a little story for one of them. Every good story needs a beginning:

a middle:

and an end:

Frames still a work in progress.

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