Janet Clare Workshop


I was very lucky last week to go to Janet Clare’s talk at Bristol Quilters and then to her workshop the following day.  The talk was about publishing her books, and came in a series of talks we have had recently on quilting as a business, rather than as technique.  She had some really interesting advice about how to be a professional artist.  I liked the idea that she put on a uniform – which you can see in the picture above: her customised pinny, a pair of clogs and red lipstick.  She also challenges herself to do one risky thing on Fridays which she is convinced bears dividends.  She is a very good speaker and it was a stimulating talk.

The next day I did her workshop on drawing with a sewing machine, which is something that I haven’t done before.  Clearly she is great at it:

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And being a dog lover, I really liked the terriers that occur in her work.


I didn’t see this lovely pieced landscape with the tiny house until the end of the day or I might have tried to make one.  But you do need an artist’s eye to carry off this sort of playing with scale.

In the end, though, I really took to the drawing with the sewing machine element, and found I had a bit of an aptitude for it.  Our first exercises were structured really well.  We started with some calico and a wadding layer and wrote our names, and then drew a face using our machines..  These two elements were the most difficult and so everything was easier after that.  I thought that was a great way to teach this technique:


Then people shouted out animals that we had to draw out of our imaginations, which was more of a challenge.

I liked Janet’s approach to this.  If it doesn’t work: throw it away.  It’s too hard to unpick tiny machine stitches.  Just start again.  Which is why she starts with faces.  If you get that right the rest is relatively easy.  I also liked the way she said just start stitching and see who turns up.  She was right, characters did turn up like this one that I made (and see the disapproving bird in the sample above):


After we had got this far we had to do a repeat element and think about the connections.  Mine were pretty straight forward and based on zentangles, so the links weren’t that interesting:


Janet’s parade of ducks showed how it should be done:


After we had stitched a base outline, we moved onto fusing fabric on top, which we then stitched into again.  So I could redeem myself with some acorns and some linked leaves down the side, and some ladybirds which I introduced because they are my friend Beatriz’s favourites:

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Once we had done this we were off to design our own pieces.  Sadly my camera was full so I could only take a few photos of the pieces that other participants produced, but they were lovely:

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I was a bit stuck because I didn’t have much of an idea what I wanted to do, so I used some of the sketches I made at the Gudrun Sjoden exhibition on a recent visit:


I know she has no feet, but I couldn’t bear to cut off the trousers!  After this I decided to make some fashion plates:

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Finally I made a nice piece which did not fit with the other fashion models.  It was supposed to be a bit Dior new look, but it ended up rather flamenco-y:


But not too bad, considering it was free-hand out of my head:


Once more, everything I used with regard to fabric was scraps saved from landfill.  I like this because it makes you not precious about using the fabric or cutting into it.  This is all furnishing fabric scrap, mainly from sample books, but that is all you need for small-scale applique.

I really liked this technique, although I did a lot more stitching than other people, including Janet, so mine has a more scribbly finish, and I will use it again, probably when I get on to working on Gudrun Sjoden.



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