March 31, 2008

Snip, snip, sniff, sniff

Well, it's official: I've got a cold. I spent most of the weekend dragging around wondering what is wrong with me, and now I've progressed to the resigned state, sitting on the sofa wrapped in a quilt demanding cups of tea. (It's hard to demand cups of tea of a dog: you don't tend to get much).

So I am cutting up bits of fusible fabric and making up pictures for machine applique. I've been sitting with a book of embroidery designs from the V & A museum (one of my favourite places!) open on my lap to help me along with some ideas.

This is a detail of the embroidery on a hanging from the second half of the 16th century. It's appliqued velvet (the black is probably velvet), and couched metallic threads onto satin, with embroidered details.

Wouldn't it be nice to applique some of these designs in a modern take on the Tudor style?

I can't get over how delicate and dramatic this embroidery is, all at the same time.

Or what about borrowing details from these beauties, and working them into a design?

There are ideas a' plenty: check back later, and we'll see what I've come up with as a start.

March 24, 2008

All Too Exciting!

Ok, this has got to be the quickest quilt top I've ever made.

A wonderful friend of mine, in London, just gave birth to a miracle baby girl last Wednesday. I say miracle, because the first two were IVF babies and this one decided that she'd just come along to surprise Mom and Dad, and I think that's pretty wild and amazing. I'm sure they did, too!

I can hardly WAIT to meet this young lady! It's only 2 months 'till we get there.

I've been stacking and re-stacking fat quarters for a while now. Something to do with having a table directly under a window that gets filtered afternoon sunshine, and now that it's not burning hot in the afternoons, I'm back in there.

So I had a shoebox under the sunny window, and I kept popping in fat Q's that remind me of summery days until it was fit to burst at the seams....

So the quilt was made in a spirit of celebration, with sunshine and butterflies - and for once, because this time I am so far behind the game that I know she's a little girl, I've gone to town on the florals (this is pretty extremely floral for me). I hope you love it, my lovely friend, when you get the real thing!

Now to quilt and to sew down the flower extra-tight against little fingers pulling it off.

Just don't ask me about finishing any of the other projects I've been enthusing about. I'm getting there already... :-) Blue tea towels are done, a stack of mending ('What?! take away her quilting certificate! That girl wastes time on mending!'). Well, it's done. Just a couple of massive projects with scary deadlines to go. No problem. Pass the coffee.

Now it's off to finish that research application. I'm having a few butterflies of my own as I have to part from the application and set it loose in that big scary competitive pool. Just don't mention the words 'quilt' and 'procrastination' in the same sentence - I will deny it all strenuously.

There's gold in them thar' hills....

This is where I have been working for the last couple of days - just over there to the right, behind the green lamps.

Anyone can work here - it's the State Library of Victoria (Melbourne) - so it's free, and public. Even if all I am doing is looking at the pictures in art books, the surroundings make that seem very worthwhile.

-And even more so on a quiet Easter weekend, when the usual students are not whispering and chattering (look how empty it is! That just astounds me.)

It feels like I'm moving forwards after a period of consolidation. I've been trying to draft an application for a Creative Fellowship, which would give me the tremendous privilege to work on research in this library for a couple of months. Although it is difficult and daunting to write a proposal for such a fiercely competitive grant, it feels like the right time to get back to drawing together art history with my writing and research skills. -And somehow, the crafts, textile arts, or decorative art need to be represented in my project: but I don't know how. (At least, not yet!)

I guess it's a case of 'watch this space'. Wish me luck.

March 21, 2008

Colour Wash

Two tidy tea towels with snippy scraps of sewn-on summer.

I've had very little time to sew over the last week and a half, since the long weekend, and the old fingers are itchin'. So I welcome the Easter weekend with quiet glee.

It's now official: I have resigned from my day job, and we are embarking on an 8-10 week around the world jaunt. The idea has been bubbling along for a while now, and what was originally a plan for a brief holiday in Europe later this year has become the catalyst for a complete change of plan, a desire to throw all the pieces up in the air and to see what happens when they come down again, and above all, time for a major life change.

So if you are one of the kind friends who provides accommodation for us in the UK, please at least try to look surprised if you receive one of these sets of colourful applique treats.

A major reason for travelling is the people we want to visit. We've been in Australia for 3 years now, and we miss our UK friends and family, none of whom have managed to make it out to see us here. It's just SUCH a long way, as we well know and are coming to understand, the longer it takes us to confirm our round-the-world itinerary.

Thinking of seeing everyone naturally leads the quilter to grand designs for handmade gifts. Ah, you say. 'Ah'. - That will only lead to the heartbreak of late-night stressed-out sewing the day before we arrive at Friend A or Friend B's house.

Yes, I know. But I'm doing it anyway.

If my sister can bear with me 'just tucking in a few last ends' on the quilt I made for her, all through a 10-day visit to Quebec city, then my friends will laugh and make me cups of tea, too. After all, what are friends for?

Here are a couple more details of the things on the way:

This design is an American folk art flower. I've just got to add in a stem (embroidered), and some more freehand stitching. But I'm quite pleased with the way it looks so far.

There will be red ones, and a set of white and buff-coloured ones, and perhaps a yellow and white one with a bee on it. - One thing at a time!

The applique is done with Wonder-under, ironed down, and stitched around with zig-zag stitches on the machine, as well as freehand embroidery to hold down and embellish the colourful bits.

And I sewed some bright Indian woven ribbon into the opposite corner so that you can hang them up in the kitchen.

Hoping for more sewing fun over this long weekend. Happy Easter to you!

March 9, 2008


This weekend is a long weekend, which means.... extra time to sew!

A valiant and enjoyable battle is waging in my front room - fabric is flying, snips are being snipped, threads are all over, the iron is hot (and I've even set it up properly), and there's a companionable whirring coming from the sewing machine.

Here's the first item to emerge, completed, from the wreckage:

This t-shirt was given to me this Christmas by my Mom, and I loved the design on it - really cute, and well drawn. But it was a little too long, and I just wasn't wearing it. It was what I call, an American-style t-shirt - high neck, long straight body, and longer wide sleeves. Here's an idea of what it was like:

Nothing wrong with that!~ I just wanted to wear it more, so out came the scissors and the pins. I don't pretend to be anything of a seamstress, but I love remodelling t-shirts! It's easy, and you can be pretty courageous and wait to see how it will come out.

I had a little trouble getting the neckline right, so in good t-shirt remodelling style, that means covering the oops with a scrap of beautiful quilting fabric:

And one on the sleeve for good measure.

Two more t-shirts on the way! And the applique project is taking shape, too. I love weekends....

March 7, 2008

Taking shape

Just a few photos of the new project, taken outside this morning in haste - too bad there's no sunshine today!

My glamorous assistant wanted to know what we were doing:

Maybe a different background would be better?

March 5, 2008

A bit of procrastination...

Last night, what with a deadline pressing for the quilt to be completed, emails to write and overdue proofreading to complete (I am halfway through proofing a book on Japanese suicide missions in WW2, and the subject is as depressing as they get, so can I really be blamed for procrastinating?) - Anyway, last night I started a new project. It's like skipping school; I got a cheeky pleasure out of ignoring the 'ought to' and playing on the floor with paper and glue and fabric and a hot iron. (Sharp scissors and a hot iron! Hahahah!) - 'Scuse me, that's the naughty school girl crowing with glee.

Of course, because I was in denial when I went to "just be a few minutes in the front room, dear", I didn't set up the ironing board, instead choosing to lay out an old white bathmat and to do my ironing on the carpet. Which I do more often than I am willing to admit. 

Anyway, the new project: it's based on the Swedish designs I discovered in my new secondhand book, and it's my first attempt at using doublesided underfacing, Wonder Under. The intention is just to create a little scene and to use it as a base for hand stitching and embellishment. As I write this, it suddenly occurs to me that this might be the perfect project to take with me on our travels for hand sewing to soothe the stitching beast. Mmm.

I think, and this is the hard part to write, I am retreating into some stitching to soothe some things that I have seen going on this week. Some days I feel very lucky to be in a happy and supportive relationship - and the world feels like a bit of an ugly place.

So that's why I had to stitch a smiling woman in beautiful clear colours on a white background, and not to do my dutiful, income-generating, polite bill-paying member of society activities. This woman's mad, and a little bit sad, and watch out, she's wielding a needle!

Enough for now. May you find peace in stitching too. 


Things to make me smile:
- Podcast of Miriam Margoyles interviewed by Andrew Denton - rich and ripe and very, very funny. This one prompted uncontrollable snickering on the commuter train. Now my neighbours think I'm a weirdo. 

March 2, 2008

Inspired by folk art

Yesterday, we went to our local travel agent to see what it will cost to run away to Europe for a few weeks this year. I can't tell you how the concept fills me with glee! After we had a chat with the very helpful agent, we - without discussing it - headed for the very interesting-looking secondhand bookshop we had spotted across the street.

I bought two exciting art books, and I've been thinking about them all day since. One of them has got the quilt twitch good and happening in the old fingertips.

The Decorative Arts of Sweden (there are actually several pages online if you want to read them) was written in 1948 by Iona Plath, and this edition was published in 1966. So, we're not talking about glossy home and lifestyle illustrations here; in fact, we're not even talking about colour. But the illustrations had me in a whirl of ideas, as well as rather awe-struck by the work and skill that went into making these handicrafts.

I guess a Canadian like me ought to know that the winters are long and quiet, but this stitching is incredible!

There are also lovely wall paintings, which beg to be worked in applique, or painted onto quilt tops and then stitched:
So here's my first attempt at a couple of rough sketches for stitching: I could even see the bottom one as a quilting design, couldn't you?

And this ribbon would look incredible, don't you think? I think another quilt design is about to insist on being born.

More to explore: