Wednesday, 8 April 2015

The Bean Bag has landed

So the bean bag is finally finished!  Having started it in February it has not been without its trials and tribulations.  Namely, the blessed poly beads just seemed to spill everywhere no matter how careful I was in filling the bag. I am still finding them now in the most unusual places as they become static and stick to everything and I do mean everything! I downloaded the free pattern from allaboutyou which seemed quite straightforward until it got to the bit where I had to pin and stitch six evenly spaced darts around the top of the bag to fit into a smaller circle at the top where the handle goes.  Now to do this I had to calculate the circumference of a circle and maths has never been my strong point but after much googling found I needed to use the formula C = 2πr.  Tricky! Anyway I got there in the end and very pleased I am too with the result.

Micky and Goofy seem quite pleased too...

And it's just perfect for sitting and watching TV on....

And for resting my feet on after a long day.  Bliss, especially if Poldark is on TV.  Well recommended - both  Poldark and the Bean bag that is.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Fashion, Embroidery & Stitch 2015

Never one to miss out on a chance to add to my SABLE (Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy)  I couldn't wait to get myself over to Birmingham's NEC for the Fashion, Embroidery & Stitch show a couple of weeks ago. Combined with Sewing for Pleasure and Hobbycrafts it's also an ideal opportunity to see the work of some really great textile artists and group collective exhibitions and there's nothing better than seeing an artist's work up close and personal to find inspiration to  kickstart the creative processes.   Here are a few things that caught my eye:

I loved this Mary Poppins style embroidered bag with the wistful eyes. 

Below is the work of one of my favourite textile and mixed-media artists Ineke Berlyn. She is from the Netherlands but moved to Bromsgrove in Worcestershire in 1978.  I find all of her work very inspiring especially this quilted fabric book.  

Ineke makes the most wonderful dress quilts - they look like dresses hanging up but in fact they are quilts.  This dress made out of recycled denim has certainly got me inspired to make something similar as I have not thrown any jeans away in our house for about ten years, hanging on to them with the idea that I will eventually get round to making something really useful with them. 


If you look closely at the detail, Ineka has used a Sashiko hand quilting running stitch to make a Boro style patchwork which is Japanese for tattered rags and is the method rural Japanese housewives used to repair clothing, cotton bedding and futon covers.  I think I feel a throw coming on for my old sofa! 

Here Ineka has made the quilt from a patchwork of hand-dyed fabrics then machine quilted.

Instead of throwing away all the newspapers covering Obama's inauguration in 2009, Ineka kept them to make a dress quilt using a paper-lamination technique combining the newspapers with organza and silk-screen printing.

You can never have too many jumpers - a quilt of Nordic style jumpers by Gillian Travis

How very Sofie Grabol

Great beetroots of our time? Or turnips? 

And here is the best of the rest:

Inspired by the Klondyke Gold Rush this artist had embroidered a monochrome picture of a gold panner combined with text from an old newspaper which had been ink-jet printed onto a background of silk organza.

So I have an old deckchair in the garage and this would be an ideal way of upcycling it. Lots of great ideas and yet more inspiration for more projects which should keep me well and truly occupied till the Festival of Quilts hits town in August. Happy stitching! x  

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Great Jumpers of our Time # 8 - A Favourite Old Jumper

A favourite jumper here that I bought quite some years ago on holiday in St Ives which quite frankly had seen better days. It had just got too bobbly and a bit small or maybe it was just me that had got bigger.  Anyway another Phd/WiP is felting old jumpers, either my own or from charity shops (or should I say vintage shops) with a view to sewing them up into  - yes you may have guessed by now if you read my previous blog - a throw!  You might think too that I am surely running out of old sofas for all these throws but you can never have too  many throws. So chucked it into the washing machine with the weekly wash (jeans are good for this - the more friction the merrier) plus a blast in the tumble drier and it felted up a treat. 

It was a lovely lady called Hilda Haarhoff who first got me interested in felting old jumpers. She came to do a talk at the Solihull Embroiderers' Guild a couple of years ago and she has a fantastic  little wool shop at Earslwood Lakes Craft Centre where she stocks some really great yarns not usually seen on the high street, not that there are that many wool shops on high streets these days. There is a dearth of independent wool shops in Birmingham and don't get me started on the demise of the so called haberdashery department in my local John Lewis in Solihull where the bathroom cabinets and fancy rolls of wallpaper seem to be ever encroaching into the wool and fabric department. Hoping for greater things when the new John Lewis spaceship lands in Brum in September and considering the Great British Sewing Bee is back on our screens again making sewing and dressmaking popular there aren't many independent fabric shops around either. Anyway back to Hilda again who champions the great art of knitting and crochet by running workshops from her shop. Power to the pins!!

So onto the next stage then which is to open the jumper out by cutting the side and underarm seams then cut into squares.  I used a 6 and 1/2" square template and a rotary cutter.

Which ended up like this little bundle ready to be sewn up with contrasting squares to create a colourful throw something like the one below which is one of Hilda's that I photographed in her shop.

Felting the wool creates a firm fabric which does not fray at the edges so can be machine stitched together using a zig zag stitch.  Hilda uses a combination of her own felted and hand-dyed machine knitted squares and felted vintage woolly jumpers found in charity shops. 

And the story so far on my bean bag project is inner lining sewn, stuffed with poly beads but needs more so waiting for more poly beads to arrive.  5 cu feet needed in total for adult size bag. 

Outer sewn ready and waiting for lining stuffed with beads. Watch this space

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

WIPs, UFOs, PhDs

So it seems a bit late to be posting about New Year resolutions but at the start of this year after having a busy and frankly quite frantic 2014 taking part in an exhibition, a talk for Worcester Embroiderers' Guild, an art trail, two day artist residency in Ikon shop, and completing two commissioned quilts I promised myself that I would invest much more time to completing my own projects.  I have so many WIPs (works in progress), UFOs (unfinished objects) and PhDs (projects half-done) cluttering up my work space that I have decided this is the year to try to get them all finished and to clear up some valuable space. So in no particular order here are some of the ones I have earmarked for completion (and believe me this is just the tip of the iceberg - there are lots more lurking on shelves and hidden in boxes waiting to pounce and shout out "Why am I not finished and making your sofa or walls look nice?") 

So first up and one I have been wanting to make since buying the fabric in 2012 from Hole in the Wall in Walsall is to make my own bean bag. Lining is almost sewn together so I just need to fill it with the polybeads and then sew the outer. I am reliably informed by a friend that stuffing the bean bag with the poly beads can be a bit of a nightmare and recommends doing this part in someone else's house. Her mother-in-law is still picking up the beads years later.  I might try this outside but look out for snow storms in the Shirley area.

This bargain stash of fabric remnants is destined for a throw for my worn out sofa.  Cabbage Patch Fabrics is a country barn stuffed full of the most wonderful soft furnishings and quilting fabrics deep in the Scottish Borders countryside just south of Biggar, Lanarkshire on the A702 to Edinburgh.  A sign saying 'Fabric Sale' just happened to jump out in front of the car so I had to stop and take a look didn't I?  It would have been rude not to. 

I got the idea from seeing a lovely throw there which had been sewn together by a young boy student who works there just on Saturdays. I just love the combination of colours and fabrics above that he has put together.  I was really inspired then to make my own. One thing I do find though about throws is they are lovely thrown over a sofa until someone sits down.  I do tend to spend a lot of time straightening my throws and have been tempted sometimes to throw out the throws. 

Last year at the Festival of Quilts I could not resist buying some Liberty fabrics.  One of the stands was selling reasonably sized off cuts of Liberty Lawns for £1.00 each so I splashed out on a tenner's worth here.  It was like a rummage sale with several other ladies frantically trying to bag the best prints with only about ten minutes to go before the show closed. Panic buying of the finest order.  Amazingly, it transpired afterwards, was that one of the other lady rummagers who I had been fighting with for the best bargains was none other than famous fabric designer Amy Butler and who had spoken to me about hoping they took credit cards as she had quite a stash to buy. I have yet to decide exactly what to do with these beauties but I think they would make excellent patchwork cushions.  

My stash or (SABLE) Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy expands every year as I can never resist buying up the odd Fat Quarter or six.  I think there are several quilts in this little lot. You can never have too many fat quarters! 

This is my denim stash.  I have not thrown any jeans away for years. My long term plan was to completely recover my old sofa (instead of those annoying throws) with covers made out of jeans something like this one here:

A little too ambitious perhaps but I made this cushion a while ago and have a mind to cover an old  chair. 

More do-able than a sofa I think.

This is a quilted sampler made from scraps of fabric from a workshop I did a few years ago.  Think I am going to make it into a cushion with some other scraps to make the back.


And some old shirts I have been collecting for ages with a view to making curtains or a throw.
Plenty to keep me occupied till Easter then.

Happy stitching!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Emily's Quilt

Another commission but this time a small appliqued quilt for DD Emily for her to put on her name plate outside her room at University of York. She loves colourful African, batik and ikat fabrics and has a liking for elephants too so here it is in glorious technicolour and I also got the pleasure of pinning it in place. 

Monday, 5 January 2015

Last Snowman Standing

So tonight is twelfth night although I took my Christmas decorations down last night on the eleventh night as frankly glad to see the back of them once the festive season is well and truly past. Why oh why is it though that every single year I can guarantee one of the decorations gets forgotten about and left behind once the storage crates have been stashed away back in the garage despite me carefully scouring the house for the odd bauble or stray bits of tinsel. So this year after hoovering up the last of the pine needles (and thank you Wood's Farm in Shirley for selling me a pup of a Christmas tree guaranteed not to drop its needles when it certainly did - everywhere and they do get everywhere believe me!) and like a Krypton Factor puzzle trying to fit them all back in the crates so the lids can close properly, what did I find when I finally sat down last night to watch Last Tango in Halifax (and aren't Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi absolutely marvellous in it) but a cheeky little snowman sat beside the TV staring back at me listing heavily to one side. 

It's no good, he tried to escape but it's the garage I'm afraid for him for another year.  

Monday, 29 December 2014

Jane's Quilt

My latest commission was a quilt for a lady's 70th birthday on 21st December.  I didn't get chance to meet Jane as it was going to be a surprise for her birthday from Shocka one of her daughters but from making the quilt and creating the design I felt I got to know her quite well.  Shocka asked me to  include the names and nicknames of her mother's six children - Val (Shocka), Robert (Dennis), Etus (Junior), Amos (Tony), Verna (Vee) and Carmen (Gloria) and to also include a palm tree to reflect Jane's Jamaican roots.  Jane loves her garden and is particularly fond of roses so I made the background from six fat quarters of Tanya Whelan Barefoot Roses from The Cotton Patch in Hall Green.  I liked the idea of juxtaposing the two diverse cultures of Jane's Jamaican upbringing with her English rose garden.

Note the slipper socks are not part of the design! 

The trunk of the palm tree was made up from various batik fabrics from my stash.

The coconuts in the centre of the tree were made from the Tanya Whelan rose fabrics to which I added embroidered text.

 Shocka asked me to include some of her mother's favourite sayings.

I then embroidered the names of the siblings on the leaves of the tree adding a bit of bling with diamond buttons.  Their nicknames were embroidered down the trunk of the tree and a border added using the same green marble fabric used for the leaves to bring the design together and to create a narrow frame.

And here is the finished quilt with a framed photograph of Shocka fastened onto the base of the tree with more diamond buttons .

Happy 70th Birthday Jane!