My work has appeared in…

Thursday, 19 January 2017

A blue and white quilt…

A new house calls for a new quilt, and for a long time I've hankered after a blue and white one. The one I have in mind will reflect the style of house we live in, an open plan, square, 60s style building with a flat roof. There will be 25 (highly convenient from a quilting point of view) patches to represent the number of flats and houses on the estate and I'll add the occasional strip of red to suggest the paths that divide us into small blocks. I've cut my fabrics, most of which came from stash including the red one which is a piece of 'nui' style shibori that I stitched and dyed for my book* some time ago. I've been saving this scrap for something special as I love the spine-like effect the stitches created, and was delighted the end result turned out as I'd hoped—it's not often that happens! This fabric will be used sparingly as there isn't much of it, so a little will have to go a long way.

Now all I need is to set my sewing machine up, which is easier said than done. While most of the boxes are finally unpacked and I have a brand new sewing table, the machines themselves are still in storage. This has at least meant that I've been able to continue with my needleweaving, which has grown quite a bit since you last saw it although I'd like the stitching to eventually extend to the fabric's edge. But for now, it's time to set the hand needle to one side and dig out the sewing machine.

* After months of waiting my book is almost ready for release. As soon as I receive copies from the publisher I'll give you a tour of the insides.


Monday, 5 December 2016

Stitch inspiration…

I can't remember where I first saw these images but as soon as I did, I thought, wouldn't they make a great bit of stitching? Both remind me of the sort of machine Willy Wonka would have in his factory, with cogs and wheels made from Whirly Pops & and brightly coloured Gobstoppers. I love how the aerial photography flattens the perspective and turns fairground rides and vehicles, beach umbrellas and sunbathers into what look like randomly scattered sweets.

My interpretation is monochrome rather than brightly coloured, but I'm still aiming for it to look like a plan for a piece of machinery that wouldn't look out of place in either Mr Wonka's factory, Professor Wolff's (of The Great Egg Race) laboratory, or a Heath Robinson sketch. Basically a visual contradiction of something that is both overly complicated and terribly simple at the same time.

I'm using three different weights of cream thread and have drawn some strands from the edge of the fabric to use in the piece. My stitches consist of buttonhole and blanket stitch and lots of needleweaving. I've also added a trio of Dorset buttons. I'll keep working on it until there is no distinction between fabric and stitch, or I run out of thread, whichever comes first.


PS: For some reason Blogger has changed the way it is used. It's supposed to be an improvement but I prefer the old interface.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Sewing spaces: the view from Holmenkollen…

Stitched sample of an impression
of the view from Holmenkollen

Way back at the end of May (three months after we accepted an offer on our flat, and, had an offer accepted on a house) Patrick and I went to Oslo to visit my half-sister. It was a full on, and hugely enjoyable few days that culminated in a trip to the Holmenkollen ski jump. It's a strange thing, having Norwegian relatives who like strapping planks of wood to their feet in order race down mountains (one is a competitive speed skier), or hurl themselves into the air for the sheer thrill of it. By contrast, I am a complete wuss who gets dizzy if I wear high heels, and avoid physical danger at all costs. So, although I found the jump impressive from a distance, there was no way I was going to set foot on it. Oh no! fate would surely decide that that would be the precise moment the steel structure should collapse and my destiny was to plummet, along with it, to an agonising and terrifying death.

So I did some doodling from the safety of a reassuringly solid rock. And afterwards, when we went to the nearby restaurant (fabulous meatballs!) I doodled some more. The view of Oslo fjord is staggeringly beautiful from that vantage point. Beyond a banner of conifer trees all I could see was an uninterrupted blend of water, islands, soft curves of the fjord, and the sky. Add to that that everything was in tones of blue, grey and mauve and my eye was tricked into thinking the islands resembled clouds floating above the trees.

Details and doodles

Back in England, convinced we were about to move 'any day now' we packed up our belongings and waited for contracts to exchange. And waited. For a very long time. My sewing machines, and most of my sewing equipment were put into boxes, the same went for Patrick's painting materials. Eventually we moved but most of our stuff is still in boxes as we have taken on a bit of a project (also known as a money pit) which was part of the reason it took us so long to move. Other factors included a slippery estate agent and a seller who was so economical with the truth we nearly pulled out of the move. Absorption with the move is also my pathetic excuse for leaving it so long between posts!

While we are still knee high in power tools, dust sheets and paint tins there is light at the end of the tunnel. My office is almost ready to move into, which means my temporary office will become my new sewing space, and at long last, I'll be able to unpack my sewing machine!

Ribbon roses

However, although I've spent more time with a sander/paintbrush/drill in my hands over the last few months than needle, fabric and thread, I have made time for some sewing. My Holmenkollen doodles have been turned into a stitched sample. I also had fun preparing samples for some workshops on ribbon roses, Dorset buttons and needle weaving I taught at the Knit and Stitch show.

Dorset buttons

Needle weaving

But I'm itching to get stitching in my new sewing space, with it's ceiling to floor windows that look out onto a wood. It's a great view, admittedly not as great as the one from Holmenkollen, but it's my view, and will make a wonderful sewing space.


Friday, 1 July 2016

Sewing spaces…

While writing my book I had a lot of fun playing with fabric and stitches. This was the purpose of the book (more of which, I'll tell you about when I can) to play and explore without feeling the need to make specific 'things'. It is something I want to carry on with—experimental sewing with no time restrictions, or the need to make something useful.

I have houses on the brain at the moment as we are currently in the process of moving to somewhere where I will have a dedicated sewing space, and Patrick will have his own study. This planted the seed of an idea in my head for a series of stitched pictures/doodles/explorations (call them what you will) all based on a theme of physical space. They could be geographical, for example favourite places or holiday scenes, or they could be about home, buildings and interiors I particularly like. I've started by sewing over one of Patrick's architectural drawings, a detail of a school he is currently working on. Before you accuse me of vandalism, I had full permission to do so, I didn't just plough through his portfolio and decide to deface his work.

Architects use a visual language of lines and marks to represent objects, eg coping stones, brickwork, insulation etc will always be rendered with the same instantly recognisable symbols and motifs, all of which can be found in The Architect's Handbook. I thought it would be fun to try a similar thing with stitch but was thwarted by my choice of image transfer fluid which left a nasty gel-like substance on the fabric. This meant French knots and most other looped or raised were unworkable as the needle got all gunked up, so I had to make do with straight stitches and a bit of detached chain stitch instead. It's a lesson learnt, next time, I'll draw directly onto the fabric!

The great thing about a project like this is that it's non-exhaustive so I'm unlikely to get bored with it and drift off. It can be as long or as short as I like, can include any type of media, such as collage, paint and sewing. I didn't want to do something too pictorial, like flowers or people, so spaces are perfect as they lend themselves well to abstraction where it's all about the stitches and fabric, not how well I've drawn a particular subject. My plan is to fill this book I made some time ago with sewing spaces stitchery.

I started thinking about this project a couple of months ago; long before we knew the result of the referendum. I wasn't surprised at the result, just disappointed in a terribly British way (the South and major cities exist in a bubble of complacency completely at odds with the rest of the country who inevitably feel powerless and decided to let us know about it). Now though, I see my sewing spaces as a way to pin down and bring places together—at least in my imagination, which is the very opposite of what is presently happening where Britain is in a state of unravelling.

This is a personal project with no particular sight in end but my sewing spaces will be calm and united places, devoid of the post referendum ugly name-calling and recriminations I recently heard when working in-house for a few days, and can be heard every time one switches on the TV or radio.

Sewing is good at that: creating a safe little space where everything is alright.


Sunday, 12 June 2016

The lacemaker…

At last, I have something to show that I've made!

Knitting is something I do to relax, something I can do while watching TV, so the things I knit tend to be plain. Generally stocking stitch or rib, with very little shaping, that way I'm less likely to make mistakes. This also reflects how I like to dress, nothing too fussy, with neutral colours. It's not that I can't knit more complex patterns, I can, but I'm also terminally lazy, and as I said, knitting is something I do to keep my fingers busy while watching telly. Lately however, I've grown bored of endless inches of stocking stitch, so decided to try something new, hence the above shawl. The pattern is Paris by night which I chose partly for its wonderful name (who could resist?), but also because the lace border presented enough of a challenge to keep me entertained, but not so much that it might make my head hurt.

I had intended for the colour to be the opposite way round, darker stocking stitch with a lighter border, but my local knitting shop only had a limited supply of yarn in stock. I'm an impatient sort, and couldn't wait for them to order more in, so I bought what they had and switched my colour order. The yarn has the most beautiful drape, it's part silk, part wool and part linen, and is the slinkiest, most luxurious feeling thing to wear around my shoulders. Indeed it will be the perfect thing to wear on a romantic evening stroll along the Champs Elysees should Patrick and I ever get round to arranging the trip to Paris we've been promising ourselves for the last few years.

The border was fairly simple, although as there is a little bit of lace work on the reverse of the knitting it does make any ripping back more difficult. At first, I wasn't too impressed with the finished shawl, it just looked a bit lumpy, and the pattern not very distinctive, but a good blocking transformed  and really bought the lace border to life.

Now that I've broken out of my knitting rut and had a go at a lace pattern, I quite fancy tackling some colour work. A Fair isle tam perhaps? Colour and pattern—that really would be pushing it!

The Lacemaker is a rather depressing French film starring Isabelle Huppert that my stepmother (a French & Latin teacher) took me to see when I was a teenager. I didn't dislike the film but being a basically uncomplicated and cheerful soul I couldn't empathise with the main character's enigmatic demeanour and retreat from the world (I found her a bit wet). I did however like the title, so pinched it for this post.