Sunday, 5 July 2009

From grindstone to personal joy

I am deeply joyful to say that finally, after a spell of time making bags and quilts for other people, I'm able to get back to my own stuff. It's been a hard lesson, realising how much creating for myself and those I care about means to me, and how much I need to be doing for myself rather than giving my energies away. Both are UFOs (UnFinished Objects), dear to me because I have loved doing them and they were both given to me by two beloved people

Japanese Maiden is a cross stitch created by Dimensions, it's part of their Gold Collection, the great thing about kits is that everything you need is there in one place The Gold Collection are kits created with an enormous range of colours, variety of stitches and numbers of threads in the needles which create beautifully shaded results. In this case, the picture is of a Japanese lady under a willow tree in a traditional kimono decorated with cranes, symbolic of longevity, prosperity and good health. I love the delicate shades of her face, which I have just done, and the teracotta of the kimono which is subtly blended with gold thread, a nightmare to sew with but a joy to achieve. Japanese Maiden was given to me by my dad in one of his characteristic moments of generosity at Letham Craft Shop in Angus, I mentioned that I was planning to buy the kit and he offered to buy it for me. It wasn't cheap, but with a kit there is no added expense, unless it be framing.

Cat Tails was given to me for my birthday by one of my best friends, Lesley, and has been a delightful education in new techniques and familiar ones. The background is machine pieced and rotary cut, I'm (more than) familiar with all that, but the applique is felt pieces cut from templates, lots of leaves!, and sewn in place bit by bit. I'm currently working on the hand quilting, which I've done a bit but not a lot of. It's been wonderful seeing it come together under my hands, the cats are just so cute!

Thursday, 26 March 2009

New blog

As you can see, I've long been listing the books I've been reading down the right hand side of Sleeping Dragons. However, I want to make comments and so I've created a new blog, butterfly reader, at It's a work in progress, I'm slowly uploading the backlog from the oldest posts and having great fun doing so. I want to keep Sleeping Dragons for my sewing and arty stuff (ha ha!) but do want to have something for writing about my reading journey

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Holdfasts and sanitary towels

Just spent a lovely overnight stay at Stevenston, on the west coast just next to Ayr. Journey was long and a bit tiresome, 3 hours to go coast to coast and that with the assistance of the A92, M90, M80 and M77! Our friends' house is literally yards from the sea which there is sheltered by Arran and Ireland. I was amazed how long I was able to be out there with wet hands without getting cold, it's a real contrast to Carnoustie where there is little between you and the winds coming down from the Arctic, where the warmth is leached out of you fairly fast and you need to have several layers on. The range of beach debris was amazing to someone used to east coast beaches, at Carnoustie we get a lot of bivalves and seaweed, and occasionally an influx, like the brittle starfishes we found washed up in their thousands on Lunan bay, but for the most part the joy is in finding the most beautiful worn down stones and glass, and in the fury of the sea on a windy day. At Stevenston the beach was strewn with debris, only a small fraction of it human and that, I was told, from the council's habit of shoving household waste into containers and dumping it out in the Firth of Clyde where they hope it stays sunk. There are tiny bivalves thin and translucent like fingernails which my girl is using as fairy wings in her pictures, the smashed remains of sea urchins, a vast array of driftwood from small bits of straw to knarled lumps and pieces of coral. I will upload pictures when I get to drawing, it's going to keep me busy.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Snow angels and bags

Teaching making bags is going really well, and here's one I made earlier! Plus a picture of my 5 year old making a snow angel, does it get much better! The fabric I used for the bag was the very first fabric I ever bought, from the lovely patchwork shop on the Green in Aberdeen which has now, unfortunately, closed down. I really love how the gold waves on the abstract fabric and the fish go together. The charm was made at Augment too, aren't they funky!

Monday, 12 January 2009

If winter comes...

...can spring be far behind

I'm fairly cheerful, yes it's cold but spring is on it's way. My five year old is in mourning for Christmas, I swear she'd wear black if her school uniform wasn't green.

As ever I've been amazingly busy, a new project on the horizon, starting up a craft business for Augment, the user-led mental health charity in Abroath I try to get myself into once a week. We will be selling handmade bags, hats and quilts to raise money for Augment. We're going to be called Selkie, which brings in a lot of connotations we want. Firstly, transformation, Selkies are a Scottish myth, they are seals that transform into humans when they come onto land. We are transforming old unwanted clothes and curtains into beautiful hand made bags, quilts and hats. And in the process we will be transforming ourselves, from people who say they can't and have no confidence with a machine to people who know they can and, as quilters know, the action of working with the hands is just the best therapy. Selkies are Scottish and connected with the sea just as Augment is based in Arbroath, originally a fishing town still 'well kent' for it's smokies, and obviously Scottish!

I learned how to make my first bag from a class I attended with the wonderfully patient Fiona Brockie at the Seattle Quilt Company in Aberdeen, a place that it's just as well it's an hour and half away otherwise I'd be spending all my time there! It's run by the lovely Lisa Dinkelman from Seattle and is a real shop / workshop run for quilters by an extremely experienced quilter, fabulous fabrics that rotate often, lots of great notions, friendly enthusastic staff who are just as nuts about fabric as I am and a light airy workshop towards the back which is a great space for Lisa's packed programme of classes. There's also a long-arm quilting machine, hmm, temptation...

I had tried a bag before, made for my daughter, and it was okay, but Fiona really gave me confidence. The bag I've made most often is this little sweetie, called, appropriately, Little Charmer, which is made from charm (5 inch) squares. This one is my daughter's. She picked out the fabrics and buttons herself. I made the same bag three times, twice in pinks and once in edible batiks, for people at Augment for Christmas and (hopefully) will be teaching people how to make it for themselves tomorrow.

Although this was a commercial pattern I've written instructions out which take into account that the people I'm teaching have never sewn before, it's amazing how much, even after a short time, you pick up and don't need explained. Trying to think how to explain rotary cutting was fun!

Quilts also look like being fun, the grandmother (hah hah, she's going to love that) of the little girl this was made for told me said little girl was overjoyed with this doll quilt, not least because it had her name on it! Children just love to have something that's theirs. I made a cot quilt the same way, with simple patches, and it's a lovely way to mark a birth. I've pulled up the instructions for Isabel's quilt as a future project for when people get a bit more confident.