Thursday, 27 August 2015

Festival of Quilts 2015

Earlier this month I visited The Festival of Quilts which is is something I never miss. There were over 1000 competition quilts along with exhibitions of individual and group textile artists.  A great way to immerse oneself in the joy of stitch and  of course a great excuse to stock up on bits and pieces for the studio/work room/sewing room/girl shed and add to your stash. I love the art and pictorial quilts and it's hard to believe sometimes that they are quilts and not paintings but here are a selection of my favourites.

There was an amazing exhibition from Through Our Hands, a group of affiliated textile artists, curated by Laura Kemshall and Annabel Rainbow, with a mix of stitching, print, paint and mixed media.  

Genevieve Attinger

Annabel Rainbow

Jenni Dutton has created a series of drawings called The Dementia Drawings which evolved from the time when she was a carer for her mother.

The drawings are actually darned portraits using thread sewn through netting stretched over canvas and are based on family photographs from albums that she and her mother looked through and became a way for Jenni to explore the themes of ageing and her mother's gradual loss of memory.

This was one of my favourites from the group category where here each artist has sewn a panel each for form one large quilt.

This textile group had based all their quilts on images of food.  I love these tomatoes.

This was just a small selection of my favourites and I could have included many more but the blog would have been a mile long if I had. It was another great Festival of Quilts and I always come away with masses of inspiration not to mention more fabrics to add to my stash. I couldn't do a FOQ either without visiting my favourite art suppliers Art Van Go and this time I treated myself to a Gelli Printing Plate which I have always wanted. I just need to learn how to use it so lots to get on with for the coming Autumn and Winter months.  Happy stitching!

Monday, 17 August 2015

Journeys #7 - Masking Tape just got Better

Every artist has a roll of masking tape in their kit.  We all know how invaluable it is for its adhesive qualities but did you know it can be used to make your own decorative tape rather like Japanese Washi Tape.

For my 'Journey' here although I have used the masking tape as it was originally intended, for sticking, you will see that it has been painted over.   This was achieved by using a great technique I learnt last year on an Art Van Go printing workshop.  

The object of the workshop was to create colourful printed textiles so masking tape was stuck onto large squares of white cotton in a grid like pattern to mask off areas which were then printed over using fabric paints and various printing blocks and stencils.  

The masking tape was then peeled off. 

The process is repeated several times with the masking tape each time reapplied in a different grid pattern and using different coloured paints.

You are left with a colourful decorative surface printed fabric which can be used in various projects such as patchwork and quilting.  The lovely decorated masking tape is therefore actually a by-product of the whole technique but rather than just throwing it all in the bin once it has been peeled off the fabric, Viv from Art Van Go suggested we stick them in a sketchbook as they are just too nice to throw away.

For this one I cut an apperture in the preceding page which then forms a frame to what is underneath.  So for something that was destined for the bin I think it's a great way of creating your own Washi tape and can be used to decorate any surface. Masking tape just got better!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Travelling Sketchbooks June - The Humble Running Stitch

So for June's sketchbook pages I have turned to the humble running stitch for inspiration or more precisely a bargain book I picked up (yet another book on stitch!) called Machine Embroidery: Stitch Techniques by Valerie Campbell-Harding and Pamela Watts. I followed a few of the exercises in the book based on running stitch which although the most basic of machine stitches can be overlooked as something more versatile. These then are my pages for June: 

I stitched lines of running stitch very very close together using a variety of metallic, rayon and variegated threads on artists canvas which is excellent for stitching on as it is thick enough to stitch into without the need to use a stabiliser underneath or an embroidery hoop. I must admit this exercise took ages and once started I felt I had to carry on although I was very pleased with the effect once it was finished, looking rather like a deckchair stripe I thought.

I love stitching onto paper so loved this exercise which used up torn painted paper combined with organza and then stitched to secure. Tearing paper rather than cutting with scissors always gives a more interesting and decorative effect and here the white torn edge forms a frame. I used Fabriano paper which is quite a thick artists' quality watercolour paper which comes in rolls. 

I keep a box of painted papers which can be anything from cut up failed paintings, old sketches, printing experiments or just messing about with paint and paper using various paint techniques using  watercolour, acrylic or inks. They will always come in handy to use in collage, sketchbook work or  to make greeting cards.  

Here I sandwiched threads and yarns of various thicknesses between sellophane then machine stitched random lines of running stitch to secure in place and cut an aperture placing the stitched piece behind it and then glueing to the page underneath to form a frame. 

I always like to give an explantion of my inspiration so again combining stitch with paper I have used cotton rag paper pressed with flower petals bought from Paperchase a favourite shop of mine for  hand made paper.  The humble running stitch really ain't that humble, the trick is how you use it! 

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Journeys # 6 - Blue Bird

For my latest Journeys rail ticket challenge I have used a stencil I got as a free gift from a sewing magazine.  There were quite a few included but the one that appealed to me most was of a bird which reminded me a lot of the logo used by the now defunct Blue Bird Toffee Company which used to be based here in the West Midlands. Blue Bird toffees (so named after the Blue Bird of Happiness from a 1908 play by Maurice Maeterlink) were a very popular brand of toffees around when I was a child which I absolutely adored. The factory was in Romsley about two miles south of Halesowen but on the tins the district was called Hunnington and I remember on numerous occasions when out for a ride in the car with my mum and dad we would drive past and I would always wish that we could pop in and look round to see how the toffee was made, just like in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.     The factory eventually closed down in 1998 when it was bought up by Needlers and moved to Hull. The vintage tins if you can get hold of them can be worth quite a lot of money. So here is my Blue Bird inspired Journey inspired by my child hood memories of those delicious toffees.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall

When I was a kid I would get very annoyed with the grown ups when they wished for rain for their gardens in a dry spell or a heatwave. "This will do the garden good" was a phrase I often heard from my mum and dad when they would look through the window at a downpour with relish. I thought they were bonkers.   Now I am a grown up myself of course with my own garden that is exactly what I have been thinking these last few days so today's showers have been very welcome. So who's bonkers now?  Out with my camera today then snapping between the showers. I always think the petals on the flowers look so attractive with a few raindrops on them.  Here is what is currently in bloom in my garden.

The majestic Clematis Jackmanii  - the blooms can be as big as tea plates.

 Campanula - a rockery favourite. 

 And another rockery favourite Dianthus

Another species of Geranium giving a good display of colour to the borders.  

I love this Cistus but I have to say though that sudden downpours and heavy showers although keeping the plants healthy don't do the blooms any favours. This Cistus was looking lovely here but the heavy rain has now knocked off most of the petals. The best kind of rain is soft steady rain which soaks right into the soil to get directly to the roots, neither destroying the blooms nor evaporating off  too quickly with the heat. 

The rain of course brings the slugs and snails out in force. I wonder they dare show their face in view of the fact they munched their way through my lettuces and courgettes. The temerity!

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Bloomin' Marvellous

When I was little living at home with my mum, dad and brother I loved our little garden at the back of the house. Dad mowed the lawn and cut the edges while Mum looked after the plants and did the weeding. If our next door neighbours happened to be in the garden too, cups of tea would be made (always tea even during a heat wave) and passed over the garden fence along with slices of home made cake followed by endless chatter.  For me the lawn was the main attraction just right for picnics with my dolls, making wigwams out of bamboo canes and an old blanket and then when I was older lying on that same old blanket for sun-bathing. The plants did not mean that much to me.  They were just the flowers around the edge of the lawn and I would get a telling off from my mum if I stepped into the border, usually to retrieve my ball.  Now I have a garden of my own I have inherited my mum's love of flowers and plants. 

Over the past few weeks I have taken photos of the flowers in bloom because one thing I did not realise until I had my own garden is that very few flowers last all summer long. The Laburnum tree above when it comes into flower looks such a picture but after about a couple of weeks at most the vivid yellow blooms starts to fade.  I try to capture the flowers when they are at their best before they start to fade so here are a few more:


The poppies are spectacular when they are in full bloom but sadly don't last long especially if there is a downpour of rain.

The rain is never kind either to this beautiful peony.

'Snow-in-Summer plant'  Ideal for rockeries.  

This is Vibernum, a shrub producing delicate pink almost white blossoms.

I love to encourage bees into the garden and bees certainly make a beeline for the Geranium 'Johnson's Blue'.

Geranium  'Wargrave Pink' is another Geranium that attracts bees into the garden and is also very easy to grow by dividing. Just cut back after flowering which encourages a second flush of flowers.

Digitalis, commonly known as Foxgloves are perennials that prolifically self-seed in the borders providing architecture and wonderful colour.  Perversely the whole plant is extremely poisonous including the roots and seeds. It is also known by the sinister names of Dead Man's Bells and Witches Fingers.

Not a plant generally grown for its attractive flowers but soon they will seed and grow into delicious raspberries. I definitely feel a Raspberry Cheesecake coming on..........

Can anyone identify this perennial?  I love the yellow flowers on this plant and I see it in so many gardens. It reminds me so much of my garden at home when I was little.   

Clematis Montana gives a glorious display of flowers in late spring but is another where the blooms only last for a short time. After the flowers drop it seems to go berserk growing stems that continually need to be woven into the exisitng stem structure. I swear it's like a beanstalk literally growing overnight. Lots of inspiration then for watercolours, sketching and stitch and hopefully more flowers to come into full bloom during the rest of the summer.