More good works at Pomegranate Studio

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We had two days of glorious sunshine at the weekend which I took advantage of to repaint the summerhouse at the bottom of the (very short) garden at Pomegranate Studio.  I was using Annie Sloan chalk paint which I am assured sticks to everything without need of sanding and priming.  It shows the sort of place this is that when I ran out of painter’s tape to mask the glass I used what I had: several rolls of washi tape mainly from Tiger and Paperchase.  The problem is that now I rather like the gingerbread cottage look it gives.  Certainly the fresh green and the airforce blue (‘Aubusson’) seem to work well together.

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The paint is fantastic, though.  It dried quickly and I think I might get away with one coat, at least for now.

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The summerhouse is in a bad way needing a new roof covering, plus a good scrub out, but the structure is pretty sound.  The lovely Adirondack chairs I bought myself as a present were in good shape too.  I will post pictures as the makeover continues.

This is my Westie, Hedy, who was on hand to help throughout.  But the end of the afternoon she was covered in blue paint although I thought I kept a close eye on her.  Miraculously it washed off when she had a bath.  Another plus for the chalk paint.

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Frome Vintage Textiles Market

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I spent most of Saturday morning at a vintage textile market in Frome.  This was a mistake, as it is always a wallet-hoovering occasion when I meet old fabric in a commercial setting.  I spent rather more than I intended to, but there were some lovely pieces on sale.  I didn’t even look at the price tags on the quilts, but there were plenty for sale and quite a few in pretty good condition.  There was also quite a lot of new fabric which I hope the traders weren’t trying to pass off as old.  Vintage seems to mean anything over twenty years old, although most of what was on display in Frome was rather older than that.

I bought the red and white/pink and cream pieces above, as I have fallen in love with red and white quilts, and intend to make something with the old and some new fabric.  The pieces above came from a ‘lucky bag’, which was reasonably priced.  I also bought some specific red pieces:

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This one just looks old, and therefore right to me.  It looks like a lot of reproduction fabric I have seen over the years with those little pin-pricks of black.

This one is all red and very red.  I absolutely loved it, although the trader said it was hard to shift because it was just too red:

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It’s a gorgeously rich colour in the flesh.  The next one was such a glorious print that I  couldn’t resist it, even though it is just a scrap:

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I wonder if it’s from a popular song.  It doesn’t look like Ophelia floating off to her watery end.

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Plus the banana tree in the background would be oddly placed.

This one also has a lovely print:

 

Nearly faded away but just about visible.

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This looks like the edge of a quilt or a valance, but has a wonderful colonialist feel to it.

I also bought prints just because they were pretty like this one:

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and this lovely hyacinth one:

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I have also started to enjoy bark cloth, which I only discovered this year.  It’s a thick cotton fabric, popular in the 1950s with a heavy texture.  It was used a lot for kitchen curtains and such which lingered on into my 1960s childhood.  I used to think they were very ugly, but I think the nostalgia bug has bitten:

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This was a cheap bit bag, but it gives a good idea of the gloriously overblown prints of the time.  I have some other pieces which are much more modernist and ‘cool’, but the sheer liveliness of these bits sang out to me.

I got a large piece of Laura Ashley fabric which I also collect, for a good price:

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Some fabulous falling to pieces embroidery:

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which will come in handy for something somewhere, and some tiny buttons:

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It’s always hard to judge sizes, so here is a terrier to help give scale:

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The terrier also features with this lovely piece of pretend crewel work:

I am ending with a lovely piece of tattered woven silk:

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So, it was a really good day, and there was lots I would have liked to have bought with an endless budget, but I came home pleased with the haul.  I know very little about dating old fabric or where they came from and so on, and I think this is potentially a good thing for me, if not the fabric, as it doesn’t inhibit me from using it, as it would if I knew it were really precious.

Restorative walk in the woods

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The Medieval Historian and I decided to go to Westonbirt last weekend to walk the dogs and have a bit of an excursion.  This was beyond stupid.  Westonbirt is the national arboretum, with the national collection of Japanese maples.  If you can’t get to New England in the Fall, then the next best thing in the UK is Westonbirt in October.  At least that is what half of Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Somerset seemed to think.  It was heaving with people.

I thought that I might get some nice photos to work with at some point, but only took my phone camera.  This made me a considerable lightweight as people were hauling round cameras with two foot long lenses and the obligatory tripod.  People formed orderly queues to take photos of particular trees, such as this one, without others standing in the picture:

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Glorious, but it only gives you half the picture:

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Everyone and their dog had their cameras out.  Most people queued up and took the shot and moved away, but some families took another approach and set up shop to have picnics under the boughs of all this autumn colour.  It struck me that it was like going to one of the big blockbuster art shows or even the highlights of the great national galleries.  You begin to wonder if anyone is looking at anything or just using it as a photo opportunity.  In the end, I got very fed up with the people and the cameras and the buggies and constantly looking out to see if the dogs were getting trampled and we left the maples and walked round the less visited native British woodland areas.  That was lovely.   It was my stupid fault for suggesting the trip and, of course, people have every right to troop through the trees en masse, I just wish we had gone on a weekday and missed the crowds.  I did get some lovely photos, though, hypocrite that I am!

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Even the seed pods were pretty.

I will end with a couple of very odd but interesting experiments my phone decided to make all on its own:

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Moon quilt

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This is my most recently finished quilt.  It isn’t the greatest photo of it because I thought I could either wait until I could get a great shot or write the post and the latter won.

There are a few things which I think are interesting about this quilt.

  1. Although it is made from new fabric it is a memory quilt.  I bought the charm pack squares when the very lovely Marybeth Stalp was over last year and we were touring quilt shops in the South West for our research project.  So it immediately reminds me of Marybeth and the great time we had together.  Then I stitched a lot of the very simple four patch blocks together in Copenhagen hotel rooms as I was doing my academic work over there.  So it reminds me of that and of what I think of as my Scandi family who live in Copenhagen.
  2. It is what Jane Brocket calls a ‘Collection Quilt’.  This is a modern quilting possibility when you use all the fabrics in one particular manufacturer or designer’s collection.  In this case it is Nocturne by Janet Clare.  I absolutely loved the fabrics in this collection.  I wasn’t that keen on the neutral blenders, but I loved all the ‘feature’ fabrics and the indigo colourway in particular.  All the colourways blended in this collection so that was good.  I think this is an interesting modern development.  Many quilters now have the disposable income to buy a piece of an entire collection, and Moda in particular caters for this with its precut packs.  Jelly rolls seem to encapsulate this small piece of all of them approach to me.  It’s a bit like the tasting menu or the assiette of desserts.  I quite like the bountiful and indulgent feel of it sometimes.
  3. The quilt is hand pieced but has a lot of machine work.  I decided to use a Janet Clare-type technique on a Janet Clare range of fabrics by applying the large pink batik circles.  This is not Janet Clare fabric.  In fact, it was some bargain batik that I picked up at a Quilters Area Day.  The blue-y undertones of the pink seemed to fit with the yellow-y blues of the patchwork fabric.  I used bondaweb and cut the circles with my Sizzix machine (a die cutting machine) and then top stitched them on with Mettler black quilting thread.  Mettler is definitely my favourite thread at the moment because it is really smooth and strong.

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I thought the batik looked like the gas clouds on Jupiter.  You can also see the long-arm quilting pattern done at Midsomer Quilting, which looks like orbits to me particularly on the second grey patch at the bottom left.  This is a good example of the quilting enhancing the design, I think:

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The quilting design is called champagne, which I also like.

I remember once reading the tongue in cheek but nevertheless sage advice somewhere that you should never make art about menstruation.  This quilt does have red moons which is inescapable symbolism.  I like to think of it, however, as a liberatory, Thank God all that’s over quilt, rather than let’s embrace our femininity and squat in a red tent, sort of piece.

Finally, I like the simplicity of this quilt.  It is a medallion quilt, made up entirely of strips and squares, very simple to do on the move by hand.  I have been doing some very traditional quilting recently and have really enjoyed it.  I will be posting some more pictures soon.

van Gogh Green and Red Inspiration

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I chose this slightly less well-know study of sunflowers for my red and green piece:

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We used straight stitches and then whipped them with contrasting colours.  I thought my finished piece looked like an aerial view of a garden.

This was the first piece we did and I wasn’t quite sure about working with van Gogh’s brushstrokes, but the layering of the fine wool worked reasonably well.  And no beads were added for once!

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The couched sewing ribbon made a lovely crunchy texture:

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From a distance the whipped stitches look like bullion knots but they are much easier to do.

 

 

Inspired by Janet Edmonds and Vincent van Gogh

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On Wednesday I went to a great workshop with Janet Edmonds which was based on working with van Gogh as inspiration.  I knew it was going to be a good day when I sat down next to lovely Nathalie who got her stuff out and told me I was welcome to use anything she had brought with her.  In the end we didn’t use that much of each other’s stuff, but the offer made for a lovely atmosphere.

The exercises were designed around one stitching working in colours inspired by van Gogh’s paintings.  So this one is based on his pairing of orange and blue:

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imagesThe stitch was sorbello which is illustrated above and is actually quite straightforward once you get into the rhythm.  I did it with thick and thin threads and strips of torn fabric.  It looked okay on the day, but I took it home and added to it, and stood back from it, and thought it looked like the sort of aesthetic you got in the 1960s and all that creative embroidery that I grew up with, the work that Constance Howard did, for example:

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The colours were okay and looked vaguely Egyptian to me, and I realised that they would look much better lifted with a bit of gold, so I stitched on some beads in the gaps left by the stitches:

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You can also see the layering of the stitches in this photo with the finer thread over the strips of silk.  I love the crunchy texture of this stitch:

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I am not that huge a fan of van Gogh.  I had my van Gogh phase quite early as my extraordinary school had a series of morning assemblies with my art teacher, the wonderful, Mrs Pandora Finlay-Broadbelt, reading from Vincent and Theo’s letters.  I just went because I fancied a day learning something and just enjoying stitching, but it turned into a lovely day and I made some things I really liked, which I will post about as I finish them off.

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Bloggy the Blog Dog

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I bought this fantastic little dog at the Bristol Embroiderers’ lovely show at the weekend.  I just loved his exuberance.  He’s like a 3D sampler with his beautifully couched back and his french knots and loop stitch. I love the perfect facetted bead nose.  He’s made from an old blanket, I think.

The exhibition was a delight.  I really enjoyed the way that the members had taken and updated a lot of traditional skills which may well soon be lost.  There was also some lovely drawing with the needle.  I don’t like singling people out, and I had my favourites, but Margaret Maple’s exquisite gold work given a really fresh look through her colour palette was a highlight for me.

The Red Thread

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When I wrote about the panel shown above, I mentioned the red thread.  I thought it might be worth describing it in a bit more detail.

It is a red thread which in other cultures binds us all together in one-life sustaining network or ‘entanglement’ or ‘enmeshment’ to use vocabulary of Tim Ingold (2007); it is a  red thread which binds us to all those we will meet and who will be significant to us in our lifetimes.  In the Eastern tradition we are bound to our life partners by a red thread tied around our ankles or fingers.  There is no escaping the tie.  In one Japanese story a young man encounters a wise old elder out on the road.  The old man tells the boy that he will show him his future wife in the next village.  When they reach the village they see a young girl.  Our hero has no interest in marriage, being far too young, and interested in anything but girls.  Instead of making his courtship dance, he throws a stone at the girl and goes on his way.  Several years later his parents arrange his marriage which is done according to all the rites.  The bride is veiled.  The two have never met.  Fearing the worst, he is led into the bedchamber where his bride sits turned away from him.  He lifts her veil and discovers she is, of course, beautiful except for a strange decorated patch over her eyebrow.  When, as is his right on his wedding night he peels this back, it reveals a small scar, put there, years before, she says, by a wild boy throwing a stone at her.

I really like this idea, and use it quite a lot in my work.  I love to use red so it isn’t that difficult to work in.

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Reference

Ingold, Tim (2007) Lines: a brief history. London: Routledge.

Gillian Travis at Malvern Quilt Show

 

 

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There was a lot of lovely work on show at Malvern, but the ones I liked the absolute best were Gillian Travis’ Indian quilts.  I think this is probably because my own work is going through such a figurative phase.  I loved the vibrant colours and the clever techniques

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Nice use of block printing over the finished piece, here, for example, and I like her substitution of foil for glass shisha mirrors.  I also really liked the use of a small mini-quilt on the side of the main piece picking up a design element:

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The figure here is a very clever layering of black tulle.  This is the ‘detail’ quilt

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I also admire the machine quilting in metallic thread, which really isn’t as easy as it looks here.

Her book with Pat Archibald, Dual Journeys in Stitch is absolutely gorgeous and had the weird effect of making me want to reach not for a needle but my sketchbook.  I did say that I wouldn’t use many photos as people are  increasingly nervous of having their international property stolen, so she has a lovely blog, website and facebook page, so there is plenty of opportunity to see the work.  Here’s one more quilt to finish the post:

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On the joy of getting something right

 

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Last week I had a particularly bad day at work.  I went to a meeting where just about every behaviour I warn students about was on display.  So, no-one (except idiotic me) was prepared to stand up to the leader, the decision was made to do something that we had done several times before which had always failed, and there was a collective delusion about the organisation we work for and how prestigious it is.  This is known as corporate narcissism – when you fall in love with your organisation and convince yourself that it is so great that nothing but success will be had.  It almost always leads to your competitors overtaking you.  So, decisions were made based on what we always do which looks really logical in short term but actually endangers our long-term prospects.  I couldn’t quite believe how people were behaving.  I have a bit of a reputation in my department for being right.  This is not because I am psychic, but just because I have been around the block many times and have seen it all and its consequences before.  If you do x then you will get y.  No-one wants to hear this, of course, and so no-one wanted to hear my point of view and I left the meeting wondering why I had been invited, and hoping I wasn’t asked again.  Despite the fact that I think I had a valid point, I left the meeting feeling stupid, naive, gullible, childish and a fool.

So, what a fantastic relief to make the small panel at the top of this post.  It took less than half an hour.  I absolutely knew what I wanted to do.  I had the materials to hand.  I found some eggs to trace as I find egg shapes peculiarly hard to draw.  The Bernina worked first time.  So, the speed was pretty much a function of preparation rather than skill.  The end result, however, pleased me very much.  Those of you who read this blog occasionally will know that I like sparkle, deep rich colours and textures, trimmings, embellishment and more meaning more.  But this piece has a very restrained palette and simple stitching and that makes it work in a naive folklore-ish way.  This is a new way of working for me, and I like the contrast with my more ornate stuff.

But what I really wanted to think about was the sheer joy of having an idea for something and then sitting down and being able to do it, to know how to do something, to be confident in my ability, to have a clear ‘voice’ in the work, to be able to initiate and then execute something really well.  I experienced real joy in making.  I felt a visceral excitement, and this was heightened by the previous week’s experience of being stupid and worthless.

When I call myself an academic quilter, it is usually because I use my work to think about academic, cerebral things, but my very brief sewing experience this morning consolidated a great deal of what I know about group theory and decision making, and about strategy, organisational behaviour and leadership.  This is going to sound a bit pious, but organisational politics and dysfunctional organisations are death.  Creativity is life.

This is the finished panel after I added the writing:

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