Wednesday, 30 June 2010


I was very remiss yesterday in forgetting to post about the most beautiful postcard I have received in a one to one swap with Lorna who blogs as Artymess. 

This lovely card has so much in it that speaks to me and Lorna is a girl after my own heart.  I don't think the photograph shows up all the details but the card is  beautifully layered with organza over various yarns and angelina and a gold ribbon.  I love the Buddha as I have a  Thai Buddha in my conservatory that has a similarly serene face.  The little green heart reminds me of my stepdaughter as green is her favourite colour so I will always think of her when I look at this card.  The card has been finished off with gold free machining and hand stitching which is Lorna's forte.  Thank you Lorna for a beautiful card.  My card for you will be on its way soon.  Promise! I'll just go and do the satin stitch and it'll be ready to go!

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Miscellany and a Birthday

My Mum is 85 years young today and, while we couldn't get down South to celebrate with her she has had a lovely day with special friends who surprised her with lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Thames and a birthday cake from my lovely cousins with her name on it!   We will be celebrating with Mum in a few weeks time so Interflora had to take our messages for us until then.  Happy Birthday Mum!

Just one or two more photos of the beautiful gardens at Crook Hall but this time it's more inspiration based.

The gardens are populated with figures, little and not so little, some tucked into corners, which are sure to delight some of its younger visitors, or maybe scare them.  They add to the magical atmosphere of the gardens and also give opportunities for some digital manipulation for future projects.

I'm quite pleased with this photo of the paperweight from the table in the tea garden.  You may just be able to see the writing on the menu underneath it.  I'm looking forward to having a play with this in Photoshop.

Talking of playing, I've made a start on the sketchbook workshop that Carole Brungar in New Zealand is running.  You can click on the link in my sidebar if you are interested in joining in.  There is still time to join the class as it is running until September and you can soon catch up.

So far I have painted watercolour papers with a solution of Redbush tea (it was well past its best before date), torn it into pages to fit the book cover I found in a charity shop (which is now minus its own pages), printed out a selection of words onto cotton and silk printable fabric and sorted out some greeting cards that I have received over the years to make more pages.  I am a bit behind the rest of the group as I joined up a bit late but I am looking forward to working on this book.

These are some of Carole's images of her own finished book,

We will be covering several techniques including image transfer and stitching on paper and Carole has a lovely relaxed style in her teaching videos of which there are plenty on the blog that she is teaching from.  I thought if I did this workshop it would motivate me to try out some things I have been wanting to try for a while but never seem to find time for.  So far it's working and I'm having a great time.  So much so that I already have plans for a second book.  At least it's giving me something to do while this terrible heat lasts in our part of the UK.  Unfortunately it's affecting my gut which is debilitating so I am drinking loads but I am staying close to home for the time being. 

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Beautiful Durham and Crook Hall

It was DH's birthday last week and instead of a present we decided to have a short break to Durham in the north of England.  We were lucky with the weather which was warm and pleasant and not glaring sunshine so ideal for photographs. 

We went to Durham with the thought of visiting the Cathedral but our priorities changed when we read Julia's post about Crook Hall.  We decided we couldn't miss this gem of a house and garden so we went there on Thursday.   

This beautiful house sits in equally beautiful gardens that are quite magical and caused my DH and I to slow down, relax and smell the flowers. 

The gardens are set out as a series of rooms and the walled garden, hidden behind its wooden gate, gave the feeling of entering a secret place. 

Sit awhile, enjoy the peace.

The gardens are full of glorious roses.

In another part of the garden the herbaceous borders are overflowing with soft textures and colours.
The houses you can see in the photo above are all part of Crook Hall.  The more recent Georgian part is on the left and the Jacobean house is to the right.  You may also just be able to see the 13th century mediaeval hall which is reputedly haunted as is the Jacobean building by 'The White Lady' whose presence has been documented and attested to over centuries.  The owners of the Hall are most generous with their home allowing people to relax in front of the wood fire (yes, even in Thursday's temperatures) on gorgeously comfortable settees and even to take down a book from the bookcase to browse for a while.

I don't think I've ever seen so many Enid Blyton books in one place and this is less than half of the collection!

As you might expect browsing such beautiful gardens calls for refreshments and Crook Hall has a lovely courtyard for just such a requirement.

We took our morning tea and ginger cake under the trees in the shade in an adjacent part of the garden.

Strolling on there is more to enjoy and savour.

Inspiration for a quilt?

Or maybe this?

Another chance for a rest by the moat pool which was alive with mayflies.

Echoes of the Cathedral in the distance.

You'll have gathered by this photo heavy post that I am in love with this garden!  Despite the number of people visiting it was never crowded and always peaceful.  I shall save some images for another post.  Enjoy your Sunday wherever you are in the world. 

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

What day is it?

Where did the last week - and a bit -  go?  In a haze of frantic stitching mostly!   I was determined to get my Festival of Quilts entry finished if I possibly could so I set aside the best part of two days to get on with the quilting.  I appreciated Sandra's suggestion that I make printouts of the photo of the quilt top and try out some quilt patterns and thread colours on it but in the end I just made a couple of samples and trialled some threads before deciding which to use.  In the end I settled on a pale lemon and blue variegated thread and a wavy line design. 

The quilting took two days as it was very tiring with all the pushing and pulling through the throat of the machine.  The binding is one of the hand dyes I had used in the quilt. 

You may be able to see the colour change in the thread in  the photo above.  Some of my wavy line stitching got a bit erratic but I've chosen not to let that bother me.

I'm really pleased that the back of the quilt came out neatly, despite a slight drift in the vertical line.  (Note to self, don't use a clearly vertical pattern next time!)

I'm really pleased to have got the quilt made and I feel freed up to play now that it's finished.  I just have to remember to post it on time! 

When I haven't been working on the quilt I have been busy making a fabric postcard for Emma who lives on the Isle of Skye.  Emma is celebrating her 50th birthday this week and asked for 50 people to swap postcards with her.  As Emma has now received her card from me I can now show you it.

You will notice a bit of a similarity to my quilt.  I also decorated the envelope for Emma which you will see if you click through to her blog.  It's worth having a look at all the beautiful cards Emma has received so far, there is so much variety from so many very talented artists.

I had a lovely surprise a couple of weeks ago.  I received an email telling me that I had won a book in a prize draw.  My first reaction was that it was spam as I couldn't remember entering a prize draw but I suddenly spotted a name I recognised and followed the link to the original posting and the light dawned!  I had won! 

This was my prize.  This gorgeous and inspiring book is by Joanne B Kaar who lives in the far north of Scotland.  The book is beautiful in itself as well as being informative and has some beautiful images inspired by the sea and shore.  So it's definitely my kind of book.  Joanne has a blog which promotes a crofter's cottage museum in Caithness and she has recently staged a huge exhibition in conjunction with an artist in New Zealand inspired by the voyage of the 'Westland' from Tail o' the Bank Scotland to Port Chalmers in New Zealand..  The book covers paper making and book making and I fully intend to try some of the projects in it.  Meanwhile I shall enjoy the beautiful illustrations.

Now that I've finished the quilt project I thought I would join many others in becoming part of the Sketchbook Project.  For a fee you are sent a Moleskin Cahier notebook to work in according to a theme which you can choose yourself or have selected for you by the organisers.  The idea is to send the sketchbook back by a date in January next year (so no keeping the work you make) and the sketchbook will then form part of a permanent collection at The Brooklyn Art Library.  I have chosen the theme "This is not a Sketchbook" as I thought that would put the least amount of pressure on me and give me plenty of scope.  Apparently my sketchbook is in the post so the fun can begin!

I don't have a photo but my DH does so if you click here you can see our lovely baby blackbird that fledged about a week ago and is still hopping about the back garden.  His Mum brings him down to our pond to get a drink and it's lovely to watch them.  I don't often look at my DH's blog as I am so busy with all the other blog's I look at (shame on me!) but you might like to have a bit of a look around while you're there as he has some lovely birdie photos lately.

I hope you're enjoying a bit of summery weather wherever you are in the UK and if you are not in the UK I hope the extremes of the weather systems in certain parts of the world are not affecting you too badly.  I won't be blogging again for a few days so have a lovely weekend and I'll see you soon.  (It's pleasure not pain to explain my absence.  DH and I are going to Durham to visit the cathedral and Crook Hall for his birthday this week.  Tell you all about it next week when I get the photos organised.)

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Strike While the Iron's Hot!

It's been a long day today!  I decided to get on and attack my quilt while I was feeling brave!  You would not believe how long and how much effort it has taken to measure everything umpteen times, cut it, pin it , stitch it back together, trim it and pin together the quilt sandwich!  I am totally drained and unfit for anything but I have a great sense of achievement and a quilt ready for quilting. (And a glass of red wine to fortify me!)

I now have to give a lot of thought to how I should quilt it and particularly to the colour of the thread(s) I will use.  I think it's going to live on the back of the door for a few days while I recover and think about the next step.

In between working on this quilt I've managed to finish my Journal Quilt for May. Not unsurprisingly it bears a strong similarity to my main project.

I was using this JQ to try out some quilt patterns before I decided to cut up the big quilt so, while I've practised free-machine quilting it hasn't helped me decide on how I'm going to quilt my main piece. Ho hum!

I'm not much of a football supporter but I feel I have to say "Go England!".  (Sorry if you're a USA supporter.)  If you are a football supporter, enjoy the match!

Friday, 11 June 2010

I'm Excited!

I have been to my art group this morning and took some printouts of the quilt top with me and had a play at chopping it up and rearranging it.  Sandra Wyman had suggested that I cut the strips to different widths so I experimented with that.  Thank you Sandra, it was a good idea.  

So, first of all I tried the cut strips arranged with the middle sky strip pushed higher than the other two.  No, not so keen on that.

Then I tried cutting it into 4 strips of various widths.  I definitely prefer this arrangement to the original 3 strips and the varying widths is more appealing too.

Finally I cut 4 uneven strips and flipped two over.  I think this is the one I am going to go with!  I am really excited by it as you can still see that it is about the sea but it makes you look further.  Soooooo, the next step is to make some samples to sort out what colour threads I should use for the eventual quilting.

Funnily enough, I feel less worried about the quilting now that I have made my mind up to cut it up.  It feels less precious somehow.

Thank you all for your comments.  It's wonderful to be able to share your creative problems and get advice so quickly.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

A Mixed Bag

I don't seem to be blogging too much lately but I have a hotch potch of bits and pieces to bring you today.  First of all is the new life that is growing in our garden hidden in the pyracantha just outside my studio.
You should be able to see 2 of 3 baby blackbirds that are keeping their parents busy.  I think from the look of their feathers they are not far from fledging.  We have been charting their growth by the volume of noise coming from the nest when the parents bring food.  It has been getting progressively louder as the birds have got bigger.

Diana asked the other day if I could show a couple of pages from Ineke Berlyn's book.  I wasn't sure about doing that but Ineke does allow a view inside her other book on Amazon so I thought in view of the fact that it might encourage sales for her I would put up some excerpts.

Basically the book shows pages from Ineke's various sketchbooks and some of the works (Journal Quilts) she has made from them.  It is a beautifully colourful book and as ever it is always informative to look at other people's sketchbooks, especially when they are as talented as Ineke.  The more you look at the photos in this book the more you notice.  The words are mostly only the ones in the original sketchbook entries but there is a wealth of information in the images.

My work on my entry for the Festival of Quilts is continuing apace.  So far I have pieced the top and have it hanging on a door (hence the door handle in the photo).  I continually get glimpses of it as I go through the hall and it is beginning to tell me what it wants.  I was hoping it would tell me how I should quilt it but instead it keeps saying this to me

This is a sketchbook trial of what I would like to do but I don't think I am going to be brave enough to take the scissors to it!  I have a very small margin for error across the width as I am committed to working to a size that I had to set for myself when I sent the forms off.  What happens if I cut it up and then can't piece it back together and it all goes wrong?  I have about 4 weeks left to complete this so I really don't want to have to start again.  Hmmmm! Further thought is required.

While I was trawling through umpteen blogs tonight in a tired stupor I came across a great way to waste time/indulge your creativity at the V&A site.  If you've ever fancied making a quilt from one of your photographs you can now get a ready made pattern.  My photograph of a sunset in St Ives became this in patchwork

I'm not sure if I'll ever use it but it was fun to play for a while and divert my tired brain from wrestling with quilt patterns.  

Sunday, 6 June 2010

I'm in Love!

Our beautiful great nephew!  Just 14 weeks old.  We had a lovely time today seeing our family and playing with Max. :o)

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Repeat After Me.....

I must not buy any more fabric!  I must not buy any more fabric! LOL  Of course, now I've said that you'll want to see what I've  been buying and I've forgotten to take a photo and I'm in a rush now so I'll have to show you my sins later.  

So, where have I been shopping?  Today was our local Quilt group meeting for Region 10 of the Quilters Guild and, horror of horrors, they have traders there to tempt you!  "It wasn't my fault mi'lud!".  Oh, hang on a minute, I'll go and photograph my stuff.

These were all (mostly!) going cheap from a lady who was closing her shop or from fabrics brought along by group members to sell.  I thought the letters might come in useful for something and it was only £2.  If anyone wants a bit let me know and I'll fussy cut some for you (don't all rush at once!)

Then I got tempted by Ineke Berlyn's book which I have seen several times and resisted but I was feeling weak today. ;o)  I do love Ineke's work.  I bought her book of Landscape in Contemporary Quilts long before I started sewing seriously just because it was so beautiful to look at and I thought it might inspire my paintings.  

(This photo above doesn't look as if the group was very well attended but I think everyone was off getting drinks and chatting somewhere).

Ok.  That's the confession over with!  This is the second Quilters Guild meeting I've been to and I really enjoyed it again today.  The days tend to be informal and friendly and there is time to natter and see what everyone has been working on, as well as chance to stock up on a few things if you need to.  The morning soon drifts into lunch and then the invited speaker makes their presentation.  Today it was the turn of Liz Hands who lives near Lincoln and who was a very entertaining and informative speaker.  (Sorry I can't find any internet links for Liz but I have her email address if anyone wants to contact her for classes).

Liz is a most generous quilter in that she was happy to share her work methods with us and also wasn't precious about us handling the quilts after her talk.  As you can see from the photo she covers a wide spectrum of work and, even though I may not wish to take up all the things she is able to teach I could see how some of the skills would enable me to make the kind of non-traditional work I am interested in.  In fact, attending the group today has solved several problems that I was having with the construction of my quilt for the Festival of Quilts.

Liz's 'face' quilts are quite dramatic and this quilt above was her response to the events of 9/11.  

I think lots of people wonder whether to bother joining groups, especially if they don't see themselves as traditional quilters, but I am enjoying my membership of the Quilters Guild.  I joined the guild in the hope that it would link me up with people locally who were involved in quilting and art quilting and that it would be a way of finding people to teach me the skills to get me where I want to be.  I'm pleased to say that so far I've not been disappointed.  Lincolnshire is a bit spread out and Region 10 covers a large area but the meetings move around to give everyone a chance to go without having to travel too far.  If, like me, you are new to textiles, you could find it useful to join the Quilters Guild.  On top of local groups there is the Quilt Museum in York which offers workshops at very reasonable (cheap!) prices and there are special interest groups within the guild like the Contemporary Quilt Group which has a Yahoo group so there is always someone to answer questions and share things with. (here endeth the advert for the Quilters Guild! lol)

I'll keep this vaguely short as I am off out tonight for a couple of hours for a reunion with work colleagues, some of whom I haven't seen for 14 years or more.  Hope I can remember their names! :o))  Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Oops! I nearly forgot.  Look who's living in our garden,

There are three baby blackbirds and they're getting bigger and noisier every day.  Sweet!