Sunday, 28 August 2011


I am just compelled to create; it’s what I enjoy so much. So, as I have come across these vases left over from one of my workshops, I am going to have to use them in a still life. I will explain my method as I go along over the next few blogs.

Flower vases

The first thing I have to create is the backdrop for the vases. For the ledge I intend to use ready-fused strips left over from other projects. To start, I have drawn an 8” x 30” strip on baking parchment, which is then placed onto an ironing surface. I start to fill it in the space with over-lapping strips, which I stick together with an iron. I want to give the impression of light coming in from the right.

Auditioning fabrics

The next step is to create a strong background and at this stage I need to audition fabrics so I can gauge the over-all look of the wall hanging. Taking a photograph really helps and my impression at this stage is that it is going to look a bit too confused, particularly if I choose the central fabric with the vertical strips. I have done another picture in this style and it is now framed above the fireplace. Comparing the Fabrics, I realise now that I need to use a stronger background.

Flower vases 1

I am working hard on my series of landscape pictures to see whether I can enjoy working this way, like a lot of grown-up artists do! I am slumped over my sewing machine most days, free-motioning anything that lies still long enough!! After doing the general background texturing, I am now adding more detail.

Aside: This reminds me of a chat I had with another quilter at the FOQ. She was saying that, in her opinion, many quilts are spoiled by being ‘machine quilted to death’ and I know exactly what she means. But here are a few words in defence of my method. I try to use strips of fused fabric as painterly brush strokes and this means that there are many edges and loose ends across the surface of the quilt. The purpose of my thread stitching is 3-fold; it secures the strips onto the batting and backing; it helps the colours to blend one into another on the surface and it adds fine detail.

Adding detail

Adding detail

I didn’t really buy much at the Festival of Quilts this year because I chose to spend what time I had there enjoying the quilts. But, the one item I did buy, ‘Hugo’s amazing re-usable glue-less tape’ is wonderful! I strongly recommend it if you, like me, have loads of threads on cones. I went for the wider tape which seemed expensive at about £15:00, but I cut it into narrower strips for economy. If you wind it round your cones of thread, it prevents the annoying unravelling that happens when they are stored on the vertical in boxes. Worth its weight, I say!

Magic Tape

And guess what? ‘Comparethequiltsdotcom’, our Meerkat wall hanging, won Viewers’ Choice as well as the best Group Quilt. We are thrilled and grateful that our fellow quilters took the time and trouble to register their votes for us. We thought we had a good chance because there was always a crowd in front of our quilt and we often over-heard ‘meerkats’ mentioned in random conversations. It was the right quilt at the right time, and having the public vote showed that we were in harmony with our fellow stitchers.

Delighted of Nercwys!

Sunday, 21 August 2011


The week has flown by again with much activity. I am very aware of the passage of time but I do pack a lot into my days so that I have something to look back on at the end of them. The visual evidence is what I include in my blog but in between there is much socialising, mundane tasking and the like.

I am down to earth now after last weeks win at the FOQ. Unfortunately, all the winning quilts are kept and exhibited at other shows until their return in December so I cannot show any detail of the completed panels. However this is the initial design that I drew. One of our members almost decided to drop out, as she didn’t want to make any furry things so I tempted her back on board with the right hand panel. It shows a disappearing tail and it did the trick!

Design right

Design left

The individual meerkats were traced onto calico. The light parts of the fur were prepared as painted bondaweb and ironed in place. The darker parts were produced using free-motion machining over a coloured base. We sewed with a variegated thread and cotton batting was used as a base for stability.

Free motion stitching

Here some of the prepared meerkats are outlined and trimmed and auditioned onto the prepared background before it was cut into individual strips.

Auditioning the background

After that we took our individual panels home and worked on them, preparing a mini quilt and dressing the meerkats as we liked. We also had to think of something humorous or profound for the speech bubble. Seeeemples! And the rest is history!

We have our idea for next year but as it is top secret, I can’t tell you or I would have to kill you!!

I have completed the fusing of a fourth and final landscape. I have added a plain calico border to all four and they are safety pinned on the batting and the back awaiting the decorative texturing and detail. I have sewn all round the outer edge so that there will be no movement of the fabric layers during quilting.

Country Lane Landscape

I have also pinned the free motion embroidery of the cow parsley flowers (originally sewn on a vanishing medium) onto the background fabric. Batting and a backing have been added using the turn-through method and this too is ready for machine texture. You may have noticed that I have cut the large lump of stitches into smaller clumps to look more like the flower. I think that I will perhaps thread-draw silhouettes of the flower in the distance.

Cow Parsley

So this coming week will see me slumped over my sewing machine in an attempt to texture and quilt all the painterly landscapes. I have never worked in a series like this before, preferring to be more spontaneous with my work but I will let you know my feelings on this way of working next week

Sunday, 14 August 2011


This is a rapid posting as I have just returned from a few days away but what a week I have had!

The down side first: My mother fell and broke her hip! The duty doctor examined her, said it wasn’t broken and recommended painkillers, but as my mother was in so much discomfort, a second opinion was sought 2 days later. An x-ray was done, just to be on the safe side, and it showed that it was indeed broken. So we have had the build up to the operation, many tests and thankfully a successful outcome. She is not out of the woods yet but at least she is on the right side of the operation.

Next the upside: Regular readers may recall an earlier blog where I mentioned that I was part of a group who got together to make a quilt that was the antidote to the swathes of Jelly Roll quilts we had just seen at the Festival of Quilts 2009. Last year we exhibited this ‘masterpiece’ at the Festival of Quilts and also at the Great British Quilt show in Harrogate where it won a first. It featured Forward roll, Spring roll, Electoral roll, Fig roll, Bog roll, Swiss roll, Sausage roll and Jewellery roll. It was fun to do, we bonded well as a group and we helped each other every step of the way.

Beyond the Jelly Roll

Our next project was discreetly mentioned way back in Blog 48, and a couple of sneak previews were shown. (It could have been rotary cutters at dawn for that indiscretion but, as the designer, they had to let me stay!)

Sneak preview 1

Sneak preview 2

I have just returned from the Festival of Quilts where our finished quilt, ‘’, won the group quilt section with a generous prize of £1000. We are ecstatic! But more of this later when I have caught my breath.

Kat with a pearl earing

Sunday, 7 August 2011


I have been playing all week and I am pleased with my first landscape picture because it looks spontaneous and painterly. All the fusing is in horizontal strips and it was done within a couple of days, after short periods of intense concentration. I just got on and did it! There is of course much work still to do, to complete it as a gallery hanging but, because I like it, the quilting/texturing is going to be no hardship!

Sunset landscape

As my worktop was littered with ready-fused fabric strips, I decided to continue with the design process and try a country landscape, using more delicate colours. I started with horizontal strips but then decided to try vertical strips for the tree trunk and bridge and softer rounded shapes for the foliage.

Country landscape

Now I think I understand what I am doing technique-wise, I decided to try a more formal garden setting, with lawns, walls, shrubs and hedges. So it has been a busy but productive period and I am more than pleased with what has come out of just playing!

Formal landscape

I also found time to do a bit more on the cow parsley picture. With the layers taut in a hoop, I started by scribbling in the base stitches with white thread, drawing some larger flower heads in the foreground.

Cow parsley Base stitches

Then I changed to cream thread for more texture, before adding a soft pink hue.

Cow parsley: decorative layer

I dissolved the supporting layers and ended up with a dome of flowers that didn’t look right for cow parsley. A bit of shaping solved that problem and here I have taken a pic to auditioned it is situ.

Cow parsley in situ

I have unearthed another work-in-progress this week. It is a large picture I made about 5 years ago, ready quilted and awaiting a garden gate. I have put too much work into it to ignore it. This will make a good lap project for those cold winter months ahead of me. All I need to do now is design a gate to go over the top of it … and that’s probably the reason I came to a stand still 5 years ago!!

The setting sun