Friday, 28 October 2011

Through The Window

I think I mentioned before that I have recently joined a group that calls itself The International Quilt Challenge group.  Our second challenge which is due for completion and reveal on 25 November is titled 'Through The Window' and I have been giving it a lot of thought over the past few weeks.  My immediate, and probably obvious, first thought was 'Through the round window.....' as in Play School.

Similar to the last challenge, as soon as you start thinking about windows you see them everywhere (well, they are aren't they?) and you start thinking about every interpretation of 'through' and 'window'.  A window to the past, a window through time, windows of the soul, window of opportunity, looking in through the window, looking out through the window.  Window - an opening allowing a connection between one space and another, light pours in through the window, a surface that reflects light and its surroundings. A window can be many shapes; it can be clear, frosted, reinforced, mottled, distorted, etched, of many colours.

An abstract painting that I made on the subject of looking back through time which was made with a window cut from a photograph incorporated into layers of torn watercolour paper with crayon marks added and manipulated in Photoshop.

Inevitably, and to cut a long story short for the moment, my thoughts turned to stained glass windows, which I love for the light that they allow to pass into the room.  The window above is part of the stained glass in Chester Cathedral and I have used part of it previously in a watercolour sketch (still need to find that).  

In our local parish church we have a beautiful stained glass window by John Hayward entitles Christ Walks on the Water.  With the Quilt Artist's eye that I now have I can see several ways of interpreting this window.

Over the years, and particularly in the past these stained glass windows were a way through which people who could not read learned the Bible stories.  Over the years stained glass windows have become more abstract and convey their meaning in other ways.  

As a way of finding my way into this challenge I thought I would play about with cut through fabrics, especially after reading an item by Naomi Renouf in the June 2010 issue of Workshop on the Web   that I found on my computer.

I've started by layering scraps of fabrics onto a background and securing them under a layer of organza with stitching running at right angles to the run of the fabrics.  Subsequently I cut through the channels deciding as I went along how far down to cut.

The next step is to machine at right angles to the first lines of stitch opening up and catching down each cut layer to reveal what lies beneath. (detail above)

I am quite pleased with the result so far.  I feel it has some of the movement in the window in St Wulfram's church and I am excited to work it on a larger scale.  

I have been trying to decide whether this would work with a more transparent feel to it so that light can actually shine through and I've made a further piece but have not achieved that transparnecy yet.  Once you start thinking and looking there are a lot of ways of interpreting (light) through the window and I'm glad I've got a few more weeks to work on this project.

I have been trying to track down a link to a programme that brought home to me the power of stained glass some time ago and I can't find it.  I think it was  a clip of (?Rolf Harris/Michael Palin?) in a chapel with stained glass windows designed I think by Chagall or maybe Matisse.  My overriding memory is of the presenter standing in the chapel with light from the window pouring over his fingers like water.  For some reason the image took my breath away and brought a lump to my throat.  Such is the power of light through a window.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Roman Blinds 2

Thank you for your comments yesterday, I still have a few to reply to by email but as ever I do appreciate you taking the time to comment.  As I've been busy trying out arrangements today i thought I'd get on and show you what I've been doing.

Yestrday evening I trimmed all the blocks to 8" squares.  Sadly I had my opinion that I am not a traditional quilter reinforced as one set was slightly wonky so if anyone has a serious perfection gene please look away ;-)

As you can see I cut off the timiest slivers from each side to square the blocks up.  Ideally the 45 degree angle should lay along the diagonal stitch line but I was adrift on a few.

Having trimmed all the squares up I then had a play with potential layouts.

First of all a basic layout (excuse the untidy and scruffy bedroom)

This keeps the 7 designs in their straight lines.  Did you spot the deliberate mistake How did I miss that!

Layout 2, still in design lines but with what I call windmills.

Layout 3, diamonds.

Layout 4, Flying Geese.

Layout 5, a central star with blocks still in a uniform design arrangement.

Layout 6, central star with the blocks mixed up a bit.

And finally, layout 7 with the blocks mixed up and a small adjustment made to the arrangement compared to layout 6.

I don't think there's a lot to choose between 6 and 7.  I don't like layout 1 or 4 but I do like 5 and 7.  Because there are 6 rows and 7 designs of block you could play forever to balance the blocks so that you don't get obvious duplicates throughout.

I have pinned together in rows the blocks from layout 7 but I am not going to sew them yet as I have to decide whether to add sashing anywhere and I also need to select fabrics for borders to make the quilt big enough for a bed.  I may yet change my mind about the layout too!

Monday, 24 October 2011

Roman Blinds

A couple of weeks ago at my monthly quilting group Trudi, who blogs as 'Quilting Prolifically' gave a workshop on piecing Roman Stripes (not Roman Blinds as I keep calling them!).  Probably for the first time ever I have actually come home and finished off the project and made something with the blocks. 

This cushion, which is a bit overstuffed until I can get the proper pad for it, is made with my Roman Stripes made from 2 commercial fabrics and my hand dyed greeny fabric and my hand dyed background fabric.  As I ended up with 9 blocks I played about with them until I had an arrangement I liked.

The evening must have hit my inspired button as I couldn't wait to have a play with a collection of batik strips that I had bought last year and which were reclining in my drawer begging to be used.  The first step was to sort the 2 and a half inch strips into group of light medium and dark and then to select groups of three to join together along their length.

Once you have joined each set of three strips you need to cut a 'backing' strip from your background fabric, the width and length of the joined strips.  These two pieces are then sewn together with right sides facing. (Sorry I forgot to photograph that step).  This is my background fabric:

Once the fabric sandwich is made the fun starts!

Take your quilting ruler and line the 45 degree line up along the bottom edge or line of stitching of your block. (The arrow above shows that I lined mine up with my stitch line).  Once you're sure it's straight cut along the edge and discard the end piece.

Next slide the ruler up so that the 45 degree line lays along the top edge or top line of stitch and cut again.

You will end up with a triangle which opens out to reveal the backinground fabric and magically makes a square!

How good is that?!  Continue along the strip and every subsequent strip until all your squares are cut and you are left with some excitingly shaped scraps!  More photos to come!

I have currently got 42 blocks to play with and because of the width of strip I used my blocks will finish at about 7.5 inches so I have enough for a top which I will probably add borders to to make a bed quilt.  At the moment I am trying to decide whether I could possibly make these up in a Quilt As You Go fashion.  Any advice anyone?

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Sunday, 9 October 2011

Ally Pally

was great fun and despite the vagaries of travelling by (delayed) train I enjoyed the day, not least for the enjoyment of the wonderful views over London and the beautiful building that is Alexandra Palace.

First task on arriving was to sit in the Palm Court and have some lunch and I couldn't resist taking a few photos of the reflections in the huge mirrored doors.  Also in the collage above is the amazing Great Hall which towers above you.  The stained glass window at the far end looks beautiful and I'm sure would inspire many a quilter.

The first thing that greets you as you hand over your ticket and walk into the exhibition is the Battle of Prestonpans Tapestry.

The tapestry was created by more than 250 embroiderers from across Scotland and tells the story of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745.  It is over 104m in length.  The tapestry was designed by Andrew Crummy who designed each one metre panel which would then be brought together to form the whole tapestry.  My photograph shows only part of the tapestry.

I had decided to concentrate on the textile hall as my time was limited and there was plenty to see.  Immediately on entering the room I was stopped in my tracks by the Textile Study Group. This group of artists produce exciting and inspirational work and this exhibition is accompanied by a postcard from each artist's personal collection and an explanation of how it has influenced the development of their art practice.

This beautifully delicate piece titled 'In Decline' by Shelley Rhodes spoke to me with its subtle colours and variety of marks.  If you click on the photo you should be able to read about her inspiration.  Ruth Issett's work needs so introduction and was as brilliantly colourful as Shelley's was delicate.

I didn't make a note of the title of this piece but love it for its colour and vitality.  It should be on prescription!

Gwen Hedley's piece was close to my heart:

This is just a part of the piece which as you can see is bound parcels of found objects from beaches.  Gwen's statement says that 'mark and message are more significant than medium'.  It is titled 'Excerpts from a Visual Diary'.

The Textile Study Group exhibition was accompanied by a book 'Individual and Collective' sponsored by an Arts Council grant and at £5 it is an absolute steal! 

(Oops! Is that shopping I see there?)

After a chat with Mary Sleigh (no photo sorry) I went in search of Dale Rollerson and spent a very happy time indulging my shopping gene!

 Dale's stand was very busy so we only had time for a very brief chat but I enjoyed the beautiful colours that abound in the fibres she had on sale.

Prefelts, beautifully dyed scrim, sari silk, threads, inspiration pack, silk weaving ends and gorgeous copper buttons all came home with me, not to mention a pack of sponge letters and numbers for printing.  I think I benefitted form the exchange rate Dale was using.  Thank you Dale :-)

The cornerstone of the exhibition was dedicated to the memory of Beryl Dean who was an exceptional ecclesiastical embroiderer.  Photography was not allowed of the main part of the exhibition but I did photograph a piece made in collaboration with Alice Kettle  which was allowed.

Do go and Google Beryl Dean and have a look at the images for her as her work is amazing and timeless.

Chungie Lee's beautiful and diaphanous Pojagi (Po-jah-ki) fascinated me and I loved Jilli Blackwood's wonderful layered and hand embroidered clothing and hangings.  I wish I could be as free and expressive. 

There was much more to see in the exhibition and I did manage to get round all the Halls but I kept well away form the majority of the trade stands as I didn't want to exhaust myself. 

The final highlight of the day was the walk back to Alexandra Palace railway station on a crisp and sunny autumn afternoon.  The view from the terrace of Ally Pally is wonderful with the whole of London spread before me.  I was particularly struck by the contrast of urban habitation set against the modern skyscrapers in the background.

Also to be seen in the distance was the skeleton of the 2012 Olympic stadium.

If you click on the image above you will see the triangular shapes of the stadium.  Not long now till the Olympics!

This was my first visit to Ally Pally and it lived up to expectations and helped to give me a lift.  I enjoyed the atmosphere of the exhibition and the enthusiasm of the young students who were keenly gathering ideas and inspiration and interviewing the exhibitors with much more confidence than I had at their age. 

It was interesting to see the impressive Victorian building that is Alexandra Palace and to be reminded of its history in the pioneering days of British Broadcasting.

Thank you, everyone, for your lovely messages of support and encouragement.  I appreciate the support of this wonderful community and I know we will get through these trying days.  We are making progress and I have a lot to be thankful for, not least that my Mum is safe and we can spend time together.  Small steps will make progress and my mood will improve I'm sure.


Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Light and Shadow

Where to start?  Have you noticed how it gets harder to start the longer time there is between posts?  Added to that I have been slipping into a slough of despond and  coupled with Blogger being difficult I really haven't the patience to blog, but here goes!

I was recently invited to join a new challenge group and we have just completed our first challenge.  There are 16 of us in the group with members from across the world and it looks like being a really exciting experience. 

Annabel set the first challenge as Light and Shadow and after and initial panic and some brainstorming I eventually settled into exploring the effects I had photographed on a visit to the Eden Project in Cornwall.

The biomes which house the plants are made up from hexagonal shapes and I was taken with the striking shadows cast on a massive rock at the back of the biome.

My initial thought was to manipulate the image in photoshop and I was quite surprised and excited by the effects.

I finally settled on the image above and decided to work it on my embellisher which has been sadly neglected if not ignored lately.  I used part of an old blanket as a base and used prefelt, silk scarf, chiffon, wool tops and carded wool to build the design.

I felt (no pun intended) that the large dark area on the right was a bit overpowering as I had used a piece of pre-felt for the shape so I pulled bits of it off and needle felted some lighter wool from the back.  Overall I am quite pleased with the final effect although I may add some stitch and I still have to decide how to finish the edge.

The International Quilt Challenge Group is a very illustrious group and I feel a bit inadequate in such experienced company but I  have enjoyed the experience of this first challenge.  I probably should have mentioned that my piece is A3 size.  The next challenge, due in November, is 'Through The Window'.  I have had a few thoughts about possible interpretations but I need to find some time to sit down and work them through.  'Through the Window' could have many interpretations, both literal and not so literal so I shall have to stir the old reluctant brainbox into life and hope for inspiration.

I should own up to feeling very low lately.  I don't like to bring personal stuff to the blog, especially negative stuff,  but I am down in a bit of a hole at the moment and blogging and facebooking are both feeling like hills to climb (not to mention tackling the tip that is my house at the moment!).  The sale of my Mum's house fell through today (we need to sell it to pay for her care) so you can understand that that felt like the final straw in a rubbish year but a bloody good roar and a couple of soaked hankies has helped me get a few things into perspective and it's not the end of the world.  Onward and upward!  (A trip to Ally Pally on Thursday to meet Dale Rollerson who will be there from Australia should be a helpful pick-me-up!)