New quilting design


I have been working on a project with the wonderful Paula Hyde at Manchester Business School which has involved making pieces together.  This is the second stage of the one Paula started:


Hers is the lovely latticed ribbon square in the centre.  I put some very luscious silk around two sides and included two quotations: ‘To know the history of embroidery is to know the history of women’, from Roszika Parker’s foundational text, The Subversive Stitch, and ‘Stitching assuages touch hunger’ which is my own idea based very heavily on Eve Sedgwick’s thoughts on craft and work with the hand in A Dialogue on Love (not for the faint-hearted, this one, brilliant passages on suicide).

Anyway, I wanted to sew my quotations over some heavy quilting.  I started out with a design that I have used a lot in the past but not so much recently:


I love this design and this time I did it using a full complement of rubbery thimbles which helped me push the fabric about.  I had never used them before but they really worked, although when I tried to get them off after using them for a while there was a rather peculiar sucking noise and I thought I had dislocated a finger.  More about them, probably, in another post.

When I came to the second panel, I started with the frondy, swirly design, but suddenly thought about a design I had used in zentangles.  Most of the patterns have cringe-y names with a ‘z’ on the end, and I think this one is called ‘krownz’:


It’s usually used as an edging, like this:


See the bottom right-hand corner.

It turned out to be very simple to quilt as it is a continuous line and the variations in size and shape give it its energy:



I will use it again in a context where I am not stitching over it, but I wanted a really heavily stitched effect here and I am pretty pleased that it worked out well.

BTW, the writing, of course, was a less happy experience, with a broken needle and a large amount of tutting.





I am sorry that there has been so little activity on the blog recently.  This is because there has been so much of it in life.  I have been incredibly busy for the last two months, and am just about starting to catch up.

All I have had time for is some participation in an on-line drawing course by Carla Sonheim.  So the drawings here are finding animals in photographs of cracks in the pavement.  Really quite relaxing, although the zentangles did rather take over mine!

Back to textiles shortly.



What I did at the weekend


This isn’t what I did last weekend, but the weekend before, a very blustery weekend in January spent in Porthleven in Cornwall with my very excellent friends, Alison, Ceri and Becky.  Alison’s family has a house right on the sea wall, the white house first to the left of the stone building with the tower.  It is unusual because it has sea views on both sides because it is built on a feature jutting out into the harbour:


These weekends are fantastic, because Alison usually phones up and says the house is free on a particular date, come if you can.  It generally works out that we have a wander round the little town, which has yet to become St Ivesified and still looks like it could conceivably be a working harbour – although Rick Stein has just opened a place there.  These are some pictures I took of it because I felt I had to take the standard inspiration ones!


I really loved those pastel float things on the boat here.  And no-one can resist lobster pots with a splash of turquoise:


We walked further out and saw this:


Sadly, no wrestling to report on, but across the bay you can just about see the remains of the tin mines:


There were also some great flower forms to sketch:



And this one looks a lot like the verdigogh zentangle which I have never found easy to do:

IMG_0782imgres-1There was also this lovely colour scheme:






which I have used before in my Collars project:

IMG_2737 2



Plus, owing to infatuation at an impressionable age, I can never pass by a stone wall without thinking of Kaffe Fassett:




The informal deal on these weekends seems to have worked out to be that they do the cooking, which is wonderful, and I provide a workshop on the Saturday afternoon.  As no-one had done monoprinting with a Gelli plate, that’s what we decided to do.  I took two big bags of paint, stamps, rollers, paper, fabric and stencils and gave them a tiny bit of input and they were off:


I took pretty cheap acrylic paint so that no-one would feel inhibited about splashing it about, and this was a bit of a false economy as the Gelli plates seem to work better with thicker paint with more pigment.  But we got some great results and had a lovely time trying out techniques, particularly with the stencils:



I had never used the Gelli plates on fabric before and was eager to see what happened.  We used yards of waste curtain lining, which was a kind of cotton sateen, from my mother’s friend’s son, Graham.  I like using this fabric, and have used lots of his samples in my recent applique, because otherwise it would go into landfill.  So it is a form of recycling.  It is also something from nothing, which appeals, and I think that having a lot of materials – yards of fabric and plenty of cheap paint somehow gives people permission to experiment and try things out.  The worst that can happen is that it really does end up in landfill.

The printing on fabric went really well, and I will put some pictures of what I made in a later post.  I printed enough to make a reasonably large piece, although the stitching will largely be machine done as the paint has stiffened the fabric even with some textile medium in it.


I shall end with some lunatic surfers who were kite surfing in crashing waves:













Vikings Life and Legend at The British Museum


The Medieval Historian and I have just had a couple of days in London. We went to see the Viking exhibition at the British Museum. I had been really looking forward to this. It’s a bit of a family joke that I am 99% Viking, coming from that bit of England that was settled under the Danelaw. These feel like my people, and I did come over a bit peculiar at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde just at the sight of those magnificent prows coming towards me. In the end, though, this exhibition fell a bit flat for me. Our first mistake was to go during the school holidays, There were many very bored children slumped about the place, and they grew more plentiful as the exhibition went on. It wasn’t their fault. There really wasn’t that much to hold their attention. The exhibits were really very small for the most part and difficult to see as the exhibition was so crowded. They were also really badly labelled. I know that labelling is a big area of contention in contemporary museology, and that curators often think that people spend more time reading the rubrics than looking at the objects, but in this case there was no indication what some things actually were. This was frustrating if you wanted more than just a casual glance. I felt it was one of those exhibitions, which you usually get at the Royal Academy where you get a better view from the catalogue back home on your sofa with a cup of tea.

A major problem, though, was that the whole exhibition was built around a newly discovered Viking ship, found under the Roskilde Viking Ship Museum, surely the last place you would think to look for one. The problem was that although the steel armature built to hold it is spectacular and has that extraordinarily moving (for me) shape, there was only 20% of the original ship left. Which isn’t that enthralling if you are an eight-year-old boy.

Another problem for me is that the central message of the show was that contrary to popular belief, the Vikings might have started out as marauding raiders, but they morphed into farmers, traders, settlers, decent sorts of chaps who intermarried with local women and became family guys and patrons of the arts. All this is fine, but not that new. The Medieval Historian had already pointed this out to me every time that the stereotypical Viking turned up in films like The Vikings with Tony Curtis and Kirk Douglas, and I wonder how many people likely to turn up to the BM also knew this. So two big reveals fell a bit flat.

Finally, I suppose I have been very spoiled by visits to Roskilde and the wonderful Swedish and Danish National Museums, which have such fantastic galleries. This made this show look a bit tame.

That aside, I did love the artefacts on show, and they did make me think of zentangles. The page from my sketchbook below shows things I picked out for having zentangle elements. I made a zentangle from the lovely writhing, interwoven snakes that were on so many pieces and tried to use good Viking colours such as red, blue, yellow, white and black, which suggest that when the Viking pieces were new and painted they were easier to decode than they are now. This is at the top of the post.


This is a detail of the snake drawing:


and this is a zentangle based on designs I saw in the exhibition:



So, a bit of a mixed bag, even for a quasi Viking like me!