Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Lap Quilt #2

Jean's Quilt Front
Lap Quilt number 2 finished all quilted and bound, and I'm actually nearly there on the third one.

This one was another lesson in fabrics that aren't nice thin weight cotton, the lovely yellow William Morris fabric is a slightly heavier furnishing weight fabric, but still a good cotton if a bit sore to sew through when quilting at the seams. I don't think the green was pure cotton but it's all used up now! 

The choice of colours is my inner unconventional child getting her way, I always remember the quote 'red and green should never be seen', well, I think it's wrong, think about Christmas for starters.  The colours of this quilt are warm and rich to me, medieval colours of a rich bluey green and bluey red combined with the Morris fabric itself inspired by medieval fabrics and designs.

Jean's Quilt Reverse
With the quilting on this one I wanted the thread to show a bit more, so I quilted in the ditch around the stars but wanted to do something a bit different with the nine patches, particularly where there were plain squares, hence the quilting pattern of curved squares (can you say that!) and stars.  As always the flannel kept moving, I don't think I could have done it on a machine without much shoutyness.

My maternal grandmother sits in her room with this on her lap and watches the birds outside the window in her room in Harrogate.  

Friday, 14 October 2011

Norweigan Sampler

As I've said before, the gift of creating something for someone is a gift of love, and this was a real labour of love.  My mum doesn't cross stitch any more, but she'd bought this cross stitch in the 1960s and could never get to finishing it, so she gave it to me to finish for myself.  Being her she wouldn't have dreamt of asking me to do it for her.  But it was clear she loved it so I applied myself and earned some major brownie points and a huge smile, what more could I want!  Funnily enough she'd always kept the frame she had made for it, and it fitted and looked great.  It was lovely to work, really soft linen and soft colours and because it wasn't solid cross stitches it was actually done quite quickly.  I usually flatten out hoop marks by stretching, but my mum would be taking it home on the train so it needed to be roll upabble.  So I gently ironed it with a steam iron from the back, hovering just over the fabric at first, and it came out great.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Caitlin's first projects

My final posting is a proud one, my daughter's first two projects, completed just before she turned 8.  The dolphin (Dolly) was machine pieced with very little help, the dolly, Emily, she hand sewed herself, with some remedial work from me when she lost the beads in her bum (ahem!).  Both are kits which are perfect early projects for a child, the dolphin is a Minicraft Sewing Kit and the Emily doll kit comes from Dimensions Needlecrafts, although her dress is slightly different.  Both are sitting on Caitlin's bed, on the quilt made for her by my very patient and talented mother.

Lap Quilts

Margaret's Quilt Front
It was me who was the bright spark that wanted to create lap quilts for my maternal grandmother and Scott's paternal grandparents, after all, when you've reached their age what do they really need?  My grandmother is in a nursing home and I'm sure is thoroughly sick of chocolates and bath salts, me and Caitlin are going to visit her in November so this was an opportunity to make something that would be useful and hopefully look good.  Scott's grandmother always admires my sewing, so it was a no brainer for her too.  They will have names when I've decided which one is going to whom, I think this one is Margaret's colours but will have to consult with the big man.

I decided to use only fabric and piecing thread from my stash, which included some heavier weight cottons and some polycotton, the latter giving me enough trouble that I will sort through and put them out!  The former was a pretty William Morris fabric that I was happy to have the difficulty working with.  I adapted a Lynne Edwards design from her Stash Buster Quilts which I shamelessly stole off my mother, very much learning as I went how to fit the full size quilt design down to a lap quilt.  Her easy method for creating the nine patches is great fun but needed adapting when I didn't have enough fabric to do more than three or even one block.  I machine pieced the quilt with hinderance from my cats who were determined to sit on the blocks
Lap Quilt #1: Reverse

I bought the wadding (Hobbes 80/20 Heirloom, white) and backing, choosing to use a plain flannel which is lovely and warm but a pain in the butt to quilt, even with careful basting it moves!   I was hand quilting though which made it easier to manipulate as I went along.  I quilted in the ditch all round the star panels on this one and did swirls for the 9-patches.  Most of the fabrics in this one are from my and my mum's stash, so I have no idea what they are, but two are V&A fabrics from the Quilts 1700-2010 exhibition (Hearts (Red) and Seaweed).  The blues I can identify are a Fossil Fern from Benartex (possibly #2 Patina) and Leafy Glade #36.  The quilting thread for all three was Superior King Tut, in this case Jewel of the Nile (#913) which beautifully matched the red and blues.

So, one down, two to go.  Having said that, I'm a good way through quilting the third and the second is just being bound, so I may be there soon.  All I have to do then is choose which one to give to whom.

An update in January, it did go to Scott's grandmother and she phoned a few days later to say she loved it.  The matriarch and heart of a loving extended family, she and Matthew have them on their laps in the evening to protect them from drafts.  What more could I want.

'Wish You Were Here' postcard

For September's Quilters; Guild Regional Day in Perth the challenge was to make a postcard with the theme 'Wish You Were Here';.  While for most people this had them going in search of farbic for beach scenes, the phrase means something very different for me.  I wish that people I have lost were here, I still miss my grandfather who died when I was 3, and my grandmother who died about 10 years ago.  The latter was a watercolour painter and fierce spirit, she adored all four of us grandchildren and would solve any crisis with mountains of sandwiches.  This postcard is a copy in fabric of a photograph given to me by my aunt, her daughter, who is also an exceptional artist and spirit.  I wanted to give her something I could do, I feel more and more that for the people I care about who appreciate hand work as I do giving of my time in this way is more valuable than a shop brought gift.

I first drew the picture onto white polycotton (never using that again, it's the real thing all the way from now on) using Inktense pencils, I just got myself the full box set of these and they are wonderful.  I then layered two pieces of the cotton with a piece of wadding and free machined the yellow field of oil seed rape and the grasses to either side of the patch.  Then I hand stitched the river before doing more free machining over the top to build up the greens.  I increased the intensity of the blue in my grandmother's smock using the Inktense pencils. Finally I dotted white / beige french knots slong the right side of the path where the cow parsley is in the phtograph and created the oak tree to the right of the picture with french knots using several shades of green DMC floss in my needle.    The other trees are created with short seed stitches in various shades.  The last few reeds and my grandmother's hair were created with single stitches.  Finally I did the border using satin stitch.

We have just lost another friend, only a year older than us, and it reminds me of the importance of keeping records like this one.  I keep a diary on a daily basis, and unless I diarise what I'm creating those I leave behind wont understand my drive to create.  My aunt was astounded when I gave this postcard to her, I find it hard to see my work through other people's eyes, to me it seems uninteresting, but I have to accept others see it differently.  I guess when I create especially when it is for, as in the case of the lap quilts, or of, someone I love very much, that love goes into every stitch in a very karmic way.

Updates on the Sampler Quilt

10. Bargello

This was a tricky one to do regarding the colour changes and thickness of the seams on the thin strips but I loved quilting it in smooth curves in contrast to the stepped curves of the Bargello. This was not one of my favourite designs when I looked at it in the book, but I felt I needed to do all the blocks to learn the techniques.  I prefer seminole, which this is similar to, but am glad I took it on, I was pleasantly pleased at the effectiveness of the lines and with myself for carefully following the excellent instructions.  The quilting wasn't easy given the closeness of some of the seams, but I'm pleased with that too

11. Attic Windows

After carefully selecting the graduating fabrics for Bargello this one was quite easy, using the orange cotton which is kind of the ground colour for the entire quilt, and a red to contrast for the uprights on the window frames. Then I chose a range of fabrics from my palatte to graduate from the yellow in the bottom left corner to the black in the opposite, using fussy cutting from the same fabric in two of the sets of panels.  I was really looking forward to doing the quilting in this one, using the sun rising to echo the movement from light to dark in the window panels.  My hand piecing wasn't perfect but once the yellow sashing was on it looked fine, the yellow working well as a contrast as it sin't used in any of the edge windows.

12. Pineapple

This was the first foundation piecing I'd done for quite some time, squirreling in my stash to find some tearaway stabiliser.  I always find it difficult to remember which way my seams go but Lynne Edwards' instruction were, as eve, clear and easy to follow.  I prefer log cabin but am happy with the way this turned out, even if I did have to cut the corner triangles twice because I had the stripes going the wrong way!  I like this way of using the fabrics so it looks like a jagged x shaped fan rather than an octagon framed within the outer triangels.  I just quilted along the lines for this one, which was needed as I'd just missed one of the seams on the foundation piecing, for once my machining was less accurate than my hand sewing.  I blame the fabric...

Monday, 27 June 2011

Mystery Quilt finished

It took me a while, but I finally sewed together the binding strip and got my Mystery Quilt finished off.  Oddly enough, I was really careful following the instructions for making the binding but still sewed half the bindings seams the wrong way!  Oh well, it was a lovely time spent doing the slip stitching, I do love the feeling of having a quilt on my lap while I work on it.  But the saga of the curmudgeonly cat continues, we'd had it on the bed a couple of weeks when we came up and it was all rumpled.  The cat had chewed it again, so I'll have to find some wall space.  It's a shame, I loved having my own hand work on my bed.  Will just have to get on with the sampler quilt.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Mothers' day stress

The original photo

Attempt 1: Pen and ink

Attempt 2 - watercolour

But it is a cold, lifeless business when you go to the shops to buy something, which does not represent your life and talent, but a goldsmith's.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, 

So, mother's day is coming up and I've spent all this time painting, so what could be better than a drawing of her grandchildren.  Answer, a GOOD drawing of her grandchildren.  Being this nervous made me tense up, and the second attempt was okay but not great, I'm sending it anyway!  It's funny how I've painted my daughter as more as she is now than as she was 2 years ago when this photo was taken, and how I find her much easier to paint than my neice.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Fuzzy buzzy bee

Saw my first bumblebee of the year yesterday, a lovely buff tailed fuzzy hovering around the bamboo while I was bringing in the washing and my daughter was climbing on her playhouse.  A beautiful few days here in Scotland, although snow is forecast at the weekend!  Have cut back the rosemary and got plastic down on the raised bed warming the soil, just got to do the blueberries and if we avoid the snow the carrots, beetroot and spinach will go in the soil this weekend.  Spent yesterday planting peas and nasturtiums with the P2s at school which went well although it never fails to amaze me how many are still genuinely horrified at the sight of a worm.  This from the same children who see no worry in flushing their class mates shoes down the toilet... Enjoying the sun while it lasts!

Last art class - cubist watercolours

My very last painting and drawing class - sob!  Since I've been fascinated with perspective, anatomy and clothing I decided to break down the model's torso as much as possible using pen and ink to create geometric blocks and watercolour to provide indications of shading.  It's not Picasso, but it solidfies the direction of my interests.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

I was very happy with this last attempt at acrylics on an acrylic board that I got for my birthday.  Acrylic boards are great and I'll look out for more in the discount stores, they don't give like canvas on stretchers.  This wasn't supposed to be monochrome but ended up that way, I was mixing burnt umber with orange and white to get skin tones and focused so much on tone that colour kind of went by the way, but I prefer a restricted palatte anyway.  I actually started doing the head a little smaller but wanted to really focus in on the facial features after last week's figure drawing so I started again.  It's getting there

Tuesday, 15 March 2011


An elegant demonstration of the fact that, at least with my size of pins and wool, that a knitting stitch is not the same width as height.
Multiple of 8 + 4 (worked well for me, 8 x 3 is 32, plus 4 is 36)
1st row: k4, *p4, k4; rep from * to end
2nd row: p4, *k4, p4; rep from * to end
Rep the last 2 rows once more
5th row: as 2nd row
6th row: as 1st row
Rep the last 2 rows once more

Rep these 8 rows

Vertical Zigzag Moss Stitch

Another day another patch, a nice fiddly one this time.  It's multiples of 7, which made 35 a good number!  A pretty and pleasingly fiddly pattern to keep the brain working

1st row (right side): *p1, k1, p1, k4; rep from * to end
2nd row: *p4, k1, p1, k1; rep from * to end
3rd row: *[k1, p1] twice, k3; rep from * to end
4th row: *p3, [k1, p1] twice; rep from * to end
5th row: k2, p1, k1, p1, *k4, p1, k1, p1; rep from * to last 2 sts, k2
6th row: p1, k1, p1, k1, *p4, k1, p1, k1; rep from * to last 2 sts, p1
7th row: k3, p1, k1, p1, *k4, p1, k1, p1; rep from * to last st, k1
8th row: [p1, k1] twice, *p4, k1, p1, k1; rep from * to last 3 sts, p3
9th row: *k4, p1, k1, p1; rep from * to end
10th row: *k1, p1, k1, p4; rep from * to end
11th and 12th rows: as 7th and 8th rows
13th and 14th rows: as 5th and 6th rows
15th and 16th rows: as 3rd and 4th rows
Rep these 16 rows

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Oil pastels for life drawing

An example of living and learning, I find the inexactitude of oil pastels frustrating, but then I could have worked this more by scraping back, using thinners and using other media.  However, my proportions on the body are right and I'm happy with that.  The picture behind the model really caught my attention, done by a first year student and although the limbs are exaggerated there is still proportion and great beauty in the lines.  The subject obviously caught my attention too.  I was completely daunted by the model's geometric sixties dress to start with but I just got in about it and was fine.  A major problem was that the dress was black and white and I don't like using black, but the purple works well, and is still very sixties. I was happier with the treatment of the blue cloth, so it looks like working layer over layer works well.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Birthday presents

I couldn't post this acrylic painting before because it was for my husband's birthday, I have the same problem with another project which won't go up until Christmas!  It's him skipping stones on our holiday in Orkney, and he was thankfully happy with it!  I'm mostly happy, especially with the movement in the sky and water, and the body which was very difficult to draw, but I think I'd do a slightly better job of the anatomy now.  The funny moment was when I took it in to work on the body, in particular the stripes on the jumper which weren't dark enough and the details of light on the body to get movement into it.  I was happy with what I'd done and turned away to do the conte crayon sketch of the model, when my teacher commented that that was great, that I could leave it and go back to it.  I was finished! 

The second picture is by my 7 year old for her daddy's wall at work, his work smokes fish so she wanted to do a fishy for him.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Conte crayons

My first try with the conte crayons I got in Manchester, just a lovely tiny pack of the four original colours, sanguine, white, black and brown, and I really enjoyed using them.  Less dusty than soft / chalk pastels but more controllable and sharp than oil pastels and didn't need any fixing.  This was a good likeness of the model, who was this striking, and the use of coloured paper really made the highlights stand out.  I feel I'm slowly getting a handle on anatomy and being able to see hue rather than just colour. I think I like exactness and a more graphic style rather than a diffuse style, I'm drawn to line and blocks of colour

Monday, 28 February 2011

Double moss stitch

As if I haven't got enough to do, to use up the cheap double knit wool I've got left I decided to make a sampler blanket of lots of stitches that I like, so I got the book Knit and Purl Stitches: 250 to knit by Erika Knight from the library and set to.  Unfortunately the book doesn't give any tensions so I'm just using size 7 needles, double knit wool and casting on 35 stitches and hoping for the best...  The swatches give me a nice break, I can do one in a few hours depending on complexity.  The multiples number is self explanatory, the plus number is the number of balancing stitches I needed to add on, so 34 is a multiple of 2 plus 1 is 35, great.  Sure it won't always be so easy!
 Double Moss Stich
Multiple of 2 + 1
1st row: k1, *p1, k1; rep from * to end
2nd row: p1, *k1, p1; rep from * to end
3rd row: As 2nd row
4th row: As 1st row
Rep these 4 rows

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Oil pastels first time

I had oil pastels as a child but never could really use them, so I sat down with Karen, who uses them a lot, and started this Orkney landscape.  She showed me how to measure, measure and measure again to create an accurate drawing, how to blend using both fingers and other pastels, and how to match my colours more accurately, not depending on the eye but actually bringing the photo up to drawing to check colour, darkness and contrast.  Finished this off on lazy Sunday and am happy with the effect.  The pastels themselves were a bit of a trial, on a visit to my dad in Manchester I made a pilgrimage to the wonderful Fred Aldous on Lever Street and bought a lovely box of 36 oil pastels, but I must have left them behind because I can't find them.  So it was a sharpish visit to WH Smiths running in the door 10 minutes before closing to get some more.  Sweet daughter said she was delighted to try out her trainers, and incidentally we found that Lidl were selling fabulous pads of coloured paper at only £1.49 each, so that was good!

DUFC hat #2

Skull flap hat by Carolyn
Finally sat down in my kitchen and finished off my second attempt at a hat in Dundee United colours, it's big but really comfy.  Another lovely pattern from Ravelry. My only real issue was keeping the stitches on my dpns, much swearing while picking up lost stitches and recounting how many I had on each needle.  Sat down on a Sunday morning while my husband and child were busy beating each other up and got some peace.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Measure, measure and measure again. And anatomy

For the first time a life class I felt completely satisfied with, deep thanks to Karen the previous night teaching me to measure and remeasure, and to both her and Lesley for buying me Sarah Simblet's Anatomy for the Artist which I have been slowly reading.  I didn't think any of it was going in to my rather dull brain but I am beginning to be able to pick out the antomy under the skin which will also apparently make my drawing more accurate, rather than focusing on surface level details.  This model's hands were beautifully large and I was happily able to lose myself in details of beard, trousers and shoes.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Coloured pencils and pen and ink

This was a restless art class, I couldn't get settled, I started doing a large scale pen and ink with ink washes but kept spilling red ink over myself and wasn't happy with the colours of the model's shirt darkening too quickly.  So towards the end I did a couple of drawings in my sketch book.  I'm very happy with the pencil drawing which follows the contours of the model's face.  The pen and ink drawing was an interesting error, both the head and body are correctly drawn from quite an odd perspective, I really enjoy the challenge of odd perspectives, but they are out of proportion with each other.  I'm fascinated by the relative importance of our senses and the idea of drawing elements out of proportion with reference to their salinity to us interests me, for me the head would be larger than the body because I pay too much attention to cerebral matters and am doing mindfulness to redress the balance.  It would be interesting to empahsise the eyes and minimise the ears, as the senses we tend to prejudice one over the other.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

DUFC hat #1

Well, I encountered my first catastrophic failure, I'm sure it was me not the pattern but I did a fantastic ear flap hat in orange and black, the colours of my husband and daughter's favourite football team, and by proxy mine, Dundee United, my English team being Cambridge United...  It had these great mad skulls on the side that were really my kind of thing. I don't know what I did wrong, but it was too small for any of us, and wouldn't even fit my daughter's doll.  Oh well, now starting another, you live and learn...

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Pen and ink, and drawing pencil

Two sketches of the same model done at class, I do like drawing folds and creases in clothes, though proportion was better on the pen and ink drawings than the pencil drawing.

And a by the way, I'm thanking my small amount of common sense that I have photographed and uploaded pictures of my drawings.  The big sketches are on A2 paper and I'd put them under the sofa to keep flat and safe, and the cat weed on them.  Aargh!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

And finally ... catching up with the Sampler Quilt

9. Clamshell
Ironing fabric onto freezer paper as with Inner City, but this time the pieces are curved, technically more challenging but looks good, and they are appliqued down like roof tiles rather than pieced.  This gave me a chance to use a nice colour changing piece of ikat as the background and some of the smaller scraps of the Naturescapes fabric used carefully to complement the changing colours of the ikat as well as a new toning fabric.  Looked lovely when I created it as it was and then even better when it was quilted and the shells really stand out.

10. Folded Flying Geese
I really liked this way of forming the flying geese units, preferred it to the more wasteful method used on the Mystery Quilt but it does have its drawbacks, the points aren't quite so accurate and it leaves flaps which can catch, although I solved this by quilting each triangle down.  I really liked using a range of the remaining fabrics to create the graduated effect of each 'flock', I decided right away that since I have more of the yellow left than anything else this would be my background colour and many of them are created from selective cutting from an ikat piece.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Knitting: turning a necessity into a pleasure

Knit1 Slip1's Boyfriend Hat
Christmas with my husband's parents was lovely, nothing like taking the edge off an overexcited 7 year old like being able to hand her over to her grandparents, however, I left my lovingly knitted glittens (gloves that have a mitten bit that flips over) and my hat in Turriff so got busy knitted two gloves from the wonderful Ravelry site which offers thousands of great free patterns that do really work.  So I made a slouchy hat which will match with the gloves when I get them back, knitted in Creative Yarns DK Rainbow Multi #0343 Jumping Castle from HCS Crafts.
Eyelet Arm Warmers

I had previously made these wristies in the same wool but colour #345 River Rafting, both change colour to look like Fair Isle when knitted up but I wasn't as impressed with Jumping Castle, the colour changes were less frequent and interesting.  This lovely pattern with eyelets is from Stitch Style's Mittens and Gloves: Twenty Fashion Knit and Crochet Styles which I got from my local library. I like working circular knitting on double ended pins, no seams!  I'm going to try and make some knitting presents for Christmas, if I start now I might be fine.  I've ordered some nice looking James Brett DK Woodlander in L5 Bark, L3 Bracken and L4 Ash from Readicut which always has great value offers on craft stuff, I felt it in the knitting shop in Dundee and it felt fine.  I found that one of the DKs I ordered online, Sirdar's Crofter, and it didn't seem to be DK thickness, more like 4 ply.  Well, I learned that lesson.
Witch cats hat by Christine de Savoie
And this is the second hat I made, which was a bit fiddly but enjoyable, in general I prefer something that challenges me and this really did.  I made it with cheap DK just to see how it knitted up and I think I wouldn't do all the top cat rows next time, but it does look rather good. I had to learn how to carry the colours across the back, called stranding, where you catch the colour you're carrying across in the back of the knitted stitches, and end up in a horrible tangle at several points if you're me.

Blackwork sampler

I love the purity and simplicity of blackwork, and the sense of tradition, dating back as it does to Elizabethan times when real lace was prohibitively expensive and thrifty housewives came up with an alternative.  The sources for this sampler are from a number of sources, mainly Lesley Wilkes' excellent Beginner's Guide to Blackwork but also online sources, and I can add to it as time goes on.  It's a rememberance as well of the true origins of the sampler, not as something just beautiful in and of itself but as a aide memoire to the needleworker as to how to create a stitch.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Charcoal and putty rubber #2

A second try at charcoal and putty rubber with a second model.  I had problems getting the charcoal background smooth, kept picking up the texture of the underlying board, and I did it very large which led to some proportion errors but you learn from your mistakes, and it's certainly expressive!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

New year better handle on acrylics

Following the demonstration by our wonderful (and patient) teacher I tackled acrylics again, this time working on a background painted in mahogany-red acrylic first with charcoal, then following the lines in dark brown and finally working on the picture with a range of browns, oranges and white for an actually pretty good likeness!  Really enjoyed this, feel I'm beginning to get a grip on how to paint.  John encouraged us not to refine too much and the result is expressionistic and lively