Thursday, 31 May 2012

The journey of the Journal

As you may recall from my very first post, I would consider myself a maker of "comfort" quilts rather than art pieces for the wall. So, for this reason, when I saw an advert in Purely Patchwork for a course on Journal quilts, I was intrigued. I had wanted to try and make some kind of record of our trip to Alaska last autumn, as opposed to just make up the kits which I had bought and this looked like something that might fit the bill. The example on show was entitled "Vincenzia" and was an A4 sized piece in deep reds and blacks and embellished with tiny beads and a large gold broad. I am not a bling blingy, glitzy type when it comes to my quilts but this stunning little piece caught my imagination so I quickly booked in for the day course with Freida Oxenham toute suite ( not to mention collected by loyalty points at the same time). I also purchased two sheets of the printable fabric in readiness of choosing my centre feature and set off home in happy anticipation. However, little did I know that as the day approached fear and trepidation flowed over me in a way a quilt project had never done before.

I had downloaded the list of pre-requisites which Esther of Purely Patchwork had emailed to me and my brain went numb! OK- so I already had a theme- our two week tour of Alaska, taken last October and probably the highlight so far of my travels with my lovely JB. But what else I should take along to the course?  I did not have a clue. The list said we could use anything for embellishments and should take the background fabric, pieces of wool, ribbons, buttons, embroidery threads and basically everything including the kitchen sink. And this is were the dilemma lay.  Give me too broad a remit and my artist bent goes right out of the window and panic will ensue and this was exactly what my JB experienced come Saturday morning. I hauled out every piece of trim, every thread and every button I could find but could not see in my minds eye how any of this was going to come together. The whole shenanigans was not helped by printer issues meaning I couldn't print my map as planned without a trip to Tescos and the purchase of a brand new printer.  All in all the day fell apart and our planned day trip to Perth in advance of an evening with the legendary Jack Bruce was curtailed, but did ended up with a quick but unexpectedly sunny supper before the concert.

What I did not know was that my fellow attendees to the course had all had exactly the same experience. We all turned up with the same trepidation, carrying bags of haberdashery, trimmings and weird and wonderful bits and bobs we had all spirited away for a rainy day. Never have I been so happy to be amongst like minded hoarders, I can tell you. Best of all Freida very quickly put us all at our ease and before you could say "raid that stash" we were all rummaging away and the creative juices were flowing. The mixture of chosen focal pieces from everyone was interesting, ranging from  parents old wedding photos to Parisian Ladies and Ecclesiastic adornments and  with Freida's guidance the layering of our journals quickly took shape. The key, she explained, is in the planning and always considering that the layers need to fit through your machine without stressing the engineering itself, which could prove extremely costly.  Also the stability of the background fabric is key and must be up to supporting the embellishments. We worked on our focal pieces by backing them to give them depth and then some of us added hand stitching and the like. I decided that I would put a red running stitch across my map marking the Artic Circle which picked up the red edging and then I added a small red bead to mark each place we stayed on the trip , for the nine different locations, from Whittier in the south to Chena Hot Springs in the North. 

I had taken a piece of denim for the background and very quickly realised this was not at all what I wanted and spotted a stunning batik which looked like a landscape to me so used this, with  sweeping waves stitched across it to layer it and give the stability required.

After this it was just a case of trial and error of looking at what I had brought along with me and some how ( and I still have no idea how it happened) it fell into place. I have used some pieces of wine silk ( left over from sitting room curtains), a piece of similar toned craft felt and then added a pleated section of silver grey organza which reminded me of the Matanuska Glacier.  The finishing touch was  strap line taken from one of the holiday guides we picked up on our travels and which summed it all up, reading " On the road from Anchorage".

All in all I was delighted with my first attempt at this style of work and have since thought is would be a great way of marking special events an occasion. As such I think I may try and pull together  a Diamond Jubilee Journal this weekend, so will be scurrying off looking for inspiration tomorrow in my lunch break. I also think Emily will be inspired with this approach because of her wonderful photography skills which can be translated via the focus panel, so I am looking forward to sharing this new found skill with her.  Freida's pieces are stunning and I will never be of that level but  I definitely will be branching out into the "art" world.


  1. I'm planning a new fairytale quilt so this sort of embellishment and story telling is just what I had in mind! I look forward to doing one for our holiday too!

  2. You should be really proud of this piece and what a splendid reminder of your wonderful trip to Alaska! Thanks so much for your lovely write-up about the class too!

    1. thanks Freida. Perhaps Provence next week will inspire as well? who knows. Can't wait to make another one.


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