Tuesday, 10 January 2017

1 Year of Stitches

Nothing like the start of a new year to kick start new ideas and projects that have been spinning round in my head into action. Trouble is I have also got lots of PhDs (Projects Half Done) that have been hanging around for far too long, piling up in the corner of my sewing den taking up valuable space. That coupled with the fact that my Other Half has invaded my girl space with his desk and PC resulting in me having to do a major sort out and de-clutter before I can even think about starting a new project. I am taking the 'does it spark joy?' approach to getting rid of the great unwanted which is quite liberating in a scary sort of way.  I have made Other Half aware of this philosophy in order he should  avoid getting in my way when he is sat at his desk lest I end up chucking him out with everything else if he doesn't spark joy in me. 

So all this brings me to 1 Year of Stitches which is a new project I am embarking on and which has got me really excited. The brainchild of Hannah Claire Somerville it is really more of a challenge than a project where the idea is to make at least one stitch every day for 365 days. The stitches will be on a piece of fabric stretched in an embroidery hoop and over the course of a year the hoop will fill up with lots of pattern, colour and stitches like the examples above. You can read more about it on Sara Barnes' blog Brown Paper Bag but basically here are the rules:

1. Make at least one stitch every day.  If for some reason you can't do this, it's OK but at least take a picture that day. 
2. Take a picture that shows your project.
3. Date your picture and write a sentence (or a few words) about the embroidery or your day.
4. Share online through social media or a blog - On Facebook and on Instagram post using #1yearofstitches and @1yearofstitches.  

Hannah has described the project as one of mindfulness and a personal map making exercise. For me I think it will be a great way of practicing my hand embroidery which I'm not that brilliant at while at the same time hopefully giving me the chance to spend a few contemplative moments in thought. I find that stitching like knitting can be a great way of occupying idle hands and getting the thought processes going or just escaping from everyday stress.  The other great thing of course about this project is that it takes up very little space and is extremely portable so I can keep it by me on the sofa to add a few stitches of an evening when watching TV, take it on holiday or stitch during my lunch break at work.   

Here are my first basic stitches. Not very inspiring I must admit but small steps to what will hopefully become a rich and colourful tapestry of stitches. Well that's the plan anyway. I may even take it to the pub and stitch whilst  having a pint.  Now there's a pleasant contemplative thought! 

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Goodbye to Christmas and A Christmas Rag Rug Wreath

I think once Christmas and New Year is out of the way I don't know of anyone who still likes to have their Christmas decorations lingering around the house. Once the last cracker has been pulled and the final bottle of prosecco drank on New Year's Eve, the last thing you want to see when you do finally surface on New Year's Day with a humdinger of a hangover are the Christmas Decorations. I know a lot of people don't wait for Twelfth Night or even New Year but whip them away as soon as the turkey curry has been served. We have two crates that we keep in the garage for Christmas decorations and every year have the usual Krypton Factor puzzle trying to fit them all back in those crates from whence they came and still get the lids shut.

So conversely what was I doing last night instead of taking all the decorations down and starting to pack them away?  I was up to the early hours making a Christmas wreath of course.  Back in October I attended a really great workshop given by local artist Bridget West on rag rugging and bought a kit (as you do) to make my own rag rug Christmas wreath. What a good idea I thought. I will have stacks of time to finish that in time for Christmas.  Well I did start it way back in November but it became another of my PhDs and remained unfinished all through Christmas. So I thought there is no way I am putting that away unfinished, plus I would only have to finish it next year when all the decorations come out again. Last thing I would want! So I stayed up late and caught up with 2 and a half omnibuses of The Archers while busy rugging. Above is the finished article, put up for just enough time to take a photo and now carefully crated away back in the garage ready for Christmas 2017. 

Footnote: One of the main Christmas decorations that starts looking a bit worse for wear very soon into the festive season, even before the turkey's out of the oven is the Christmas tree. Understandable though as in most cases it stands in a hot heated room usually next to a radiator and almost certainly without water. No wonder it has a tantrum and drops all its needles. The Christmas tree though in my book is the Headliner of Christmas decorations. Don't concentrate too much with festooning the house with too many support band decorations such as garlands, tinsel, flashing Santas, sagging Santa bottoms stuck out of chimneys and windows.  Less is more and we  always have a real one so this year plumped for a Scots Pine and I have to say and this is no exaggeration, it looked as good and fresh today as it had done when we first bought it five weeks ago. The only few needles that had dropped off it were from when my daughter first put the lights and baubles on it.  So Scots Pine again for us next year. We felt almost sad to see it go.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone who reads my blog.
Here's to some great new stitching projects in 2017. xx

Monday, 21 November 2016

Running Stitch 'City' Exhibition

I belong to a local exhibiting textile group called Running Stitch and for our exhibition this year we chose City as our theme.  We normally aim for an exhibition every 2 years but had to wait another year while Solihull Arts Complex morphed into The Core Library & Theatre. I have to say though  that it has been well worth the wait as The Courtyard Gallery is a superb exhibiting space and so much better than the old gallery space on the first floor.  Here are a few shots I took on the day of install last week plus a few glimpses of our artwork.

Jacqui Thomson's My Walk to Work based on my journey from Snow Hill Station to Ikon Gallery, Brindleyplace

Our collaborative piece Found in the City based on objects found on the streets of the city  

The felted cityscapes of Anne Thumpston 

Patricia Cravos' work based on street art in Digbeth 

The Grade I listed Birmingham School of Art embroidered by Helen Wallis

Julie Hunt's stitched map of the railways and canals of Birmingham in the 1850s

Nadine Reid's abstract views of city buildings using the chenille technique

Rita Best's stitched painting of the Rotunda and St Martin's Church 

Detail of my piece Sketches of Brum showing the Bullring Bull.

A group photo (minus Anne behind the camera & Nadine) l to r, Me, Rita, Julie, Pat & Helen.  Well done girls - a superb install.  Running Stitch's City exhibition continues at the Courtyard Gallery till 28th November.

Monday, 7 November 2016

The Perils of Sewing

So the very latest in trendy footwear. Resting my foot after a day in hospital for surgery on my foot. Lesson to be learnt in health and safety while sewing. Don't drop sewing pins on the floor and if you do don't tread on them or at the very least wear steel toe caps when sewing. The perils of sewing.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Travelling Sketchbook - Scrap Buster Reverse Applique

My latest page was inspired by a quilt I saw at the Festival of Quilts this year made by textile artist Louise Baldwin using a technique called reverse applique. Unlike traditional applique where a fabric shape is sewn on top of a base fabric, reverse applique involves cutting away a layer of fabric to reveal a shape appliqued underneath.

It's also a brilliant way of using up all your scraps of fabric.  As any textile artist, sewer, maker or crafter knows, it goes against the grain to throw away any offcuts of fabric from a project, however small.  This of course results in burgeoning shelves and bags full of scraps but you never know when these itty bitty scraps will come in handy as the last thing you want to do is cut into a virginal fat quarter just for a tiny scrap of fabric.  Thus reverse applique, in fact any kind of applique is the ideal scrap buster. 

Above is a picture of Louise Baldwin's quilt shown in detail. 

For my version I kept the shapes similarly abstract and by layering many scraps of fabric onto a calico base this allowed me to cut back and expose the many various coloured fabrics underneath. I then used a teasel brush to fray the raw edges even more.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Travelling Sketchbook - The Cobalt Blues

My inspiration for this month's pages was a workshop I went to probably getting on for about five years ago now, at Unit Twelve Gallery near Stafford, led by textile artist Emily Notman.  Unit Twelve is a great gallery and exhibition space run by artist Jennifer Collier and if you have never been it's well worth a visit, as not only are there great workshops and exhibitions but it's a chance to see the participating artists making work in their own studios there. In the workshop Emily got us to dye strips of various neutral coloured fabrics with ink. These were then hung up to dry then assembled and layered ready to add stitch and embelishments. 

I have done the same here dipping strips of fabric into Cobalt Blue acrylic ink which I diluted with a little water.  It was interesting to see how each of the fabrics took on a different hue depending on their content and texture. 

I then layered them all together on a backing of calico and then free machine embroidered them together adding some beads as a bit of embellishment.

My original sampler from the Emily Notman workshop hangs on my sewing den wall.  I had combined strips of pink dyed fabrics with lace, netting, threads and sequins.  It's actually not finished as I meant to work back into it with more stitch and embellishment.  Another PhD!  Please do visit  Unit Twelve Gallery if you get chance as it's not that far up the M6 from Brum and nearby Stafford is a lovely little market town with lots of little cafes plus of course Shire Hall Gallery which has a changing programme of exhibitions often textile based.  A grand day out!