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.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Loch Lomond

Well I am a week behind in writing a new post. I would like to say this is due to having so many fun things to do , but mainly its been the pressures of work at the office but equally it has been the joy of having my husband back from work offshore. I feel guilty sitting typing away when I haven't seen him for two weeks and there is always so much to catch up on, even if the majority of it turns into a " gibber" as he likes to put it.  For some of us its " that time of year" when work gets the better of our lives but that is coming to and end and being able to return home at a sensible time will soon be a realistic goal.  My stitching is my safety net against these pressures and its always fun to see the look on my colleagues faces on a Monday when they enquire if I have has good weekend and I answer " Oh yes, I've been quilting". I am sure they have me down as a slightly mad and potty woman who probably has 15 cats and no friends.
Anyway, I digress. This is a post about our trip to the Loch Lomond Quilt Show 2012. This was my first visit as every year since moving north of the border it has clashed with a prior engagement so I was delighted when Brain and Carole, of Beechwood Longarm Quilting, reminded me of the exhibition. Staged around 10 venues around the Balloch and Alexandria area of Dunbartonshire, the exhibition is arranged by quilters for quilters.

We started out tour  with "Remember Me", an exhibition of quilts honouring great Scottish Women of Achievement throughout history and it was a fascinating mix. A large number of the quilts had been finished by Brian and Carole so it was exciting to see a group of their works all together for the first time.  A diverse group of quilts, and a pleasure to see. If you would like to see some examples of the works I am sure they will be happy to oblige if you contact them here.

We then headed up to Loch Lomond's shores themselves where a number of quilts had been hung in the trees. Sadly the weather wasn't the best but we did have a little ray of light come through at one moment allowing me to snap these lovely exhibit. Sadly my eye sight was not up to reading the details of the makers so many apologies to them for that- do let me know if you happen to see this and where a contributor and we can spread the word and give credit where credit is due.
The whole mix of exhibits is too long to list here but my favourites were probably a couple of "Turkey Red" quilts which were great to see given the historic tie in with area, with Alexandria being the home of this dye industry in the 19th Century. To find out the full details of the show click here.
All in all the visits took us the full day and was a really great  treat, so make a date for your diary for 2013.  The ever popular "Male quilters" competition will return so if you have a willing male in your life try and persuade him to use his hidden talents.  This year's exhibits were impressive and have certainly lit a spark with my own dear JB, so watch this space.

For those not so familiar with the area, Loch Lomond is a beautiful gateway to the Argyll Forest and very popular, but luckily and, probably because of the weather, it was a quiet day for us on this visit so we were able to enjoy a leisurely lunch before covering the remaining eight venues, both large and small.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Hobo Quilts

This a guest piece written by Emily herself , rather than her Mum. It shows off the skills she has picked up from spending too much time tucked away with Mum, but more importantly how talented she is herself.

Hobo Quilts is a rather lovely book I had been hankering for a long time.

I first saw it in Stirling and it piqued my interest in pictorial quilting. The book is 55 blocks based upon the symbols American hobos would use while riding the rails during the depression. The symbols include things like "work for food", "bad dog" and the obvious like "go this way". Interspersed with the symbols are little snippets of information, stories and accounts from the time.The book also has various examples of how to put the quilt together. Some of which are particularly boyish as they feature trains and carriages, the others are generally quite interesting to look at. 

 I decided to make the block quilt in quite muted colours, colours that I thought would have been around at the time. I used a lot of plaid fabrics and some recycled fabrics; old shirts etc. I wanted a vintage looking quilt that would tell a story through the use of both the symbols and the fabrics.

I haven't finished my quilt yet, I still need to put the border on it. I was planning on embroidering the back in black silk with the simple line symbols and the meanings. 

 Overall I really like the book, the patterns are interesting and generally pretty easy to create. Some of the sizes came out a little squiffy on the 1/4" foot, but were easily fixed. The applique pieces were particularly simple and with a bit of embroidery around really pop in the quilt.The blocks take between 5 and 30 minutes.

I would recommend this book to a quilter of medium experience and am looking forward to doing more of it.

(the Emily belonging to Mum, sometime photographer and adventurer. Check out my website here)

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Guilt free ( well nearly)

It's seven months now since baby James arrived on the scene for my train buddy and his wife, which means I am seven months late in delivering him a little welcome quilt. Its not for the want of trying, but more a case of life conspiring against me and general lack of organisation. I've had the fabric for months, having found a lovely design by Riley Blake called "Scoot"  which I spotted whilst browsing in Mandor's Fabrics in Edinburgh one day. I struggle to find fabric locally so like all avid quilters, have to take the opportunity to pick up a fat quarter, or as on this occasion, a half metre when ever I can. Why is it still nicer to ask for half a  yard I wonder? Old habits die hard. 
As with the majority of my baby quilts little planning usually takes place, with them tending to evolve as I go along. I know this sounds a bit haphazard and has regularly led me to ending up spending vast sums on backing after the size doesn't fit well with any fabric widths, but I like to think  the process is just like a little person growing themselves. We start with a little bundle that we know will grow into something we love and then low and behold things take a whole different turn and you end up with something you adore more than you can ever imagine.
Quite obviously  half a  metre was not going to do the job for James so I sought out a charm pack via Google which I found at  "Prints to Polka Dots" who are based in Witney in Oxfordshire. A nice speedy service from them and an interesting little set of samples sent with my order so i think I will be visiting their site  again soon. 
"Scoot" Charm pack
I am not sure why but my first instinct was to stitch these in  pairs of lights and darks and these then turned into an Hour Glass central section. As you will notice with lots of my quilts, I quite like a small 1" inner border before adding anything else as I think this always sets a pieced areas well , making it "pop" as they say, so I added the terracotta strip and then had an inspired Stash moment when i found a matching stripe. So that's me , all bordered up, with the original fabric from Mandor's setting the whole thing off with a 4.5" top border and a 3" side border.

The final step will be to head off to Brain and Carole's, my friendly local Long Arm quilters, to spend a couple of hours finishing this off. Its always a pleasure spending time with them, not only because of Carole's flapjacks, but for all the chat and the chuckles at Brian's individual input into any process. Again a very talented couple and they offer a great great service which I use regularly. 

So there we are. A great and productive day and hopefully little James will sleep more snuggly soon and I will have rid myself of the misery and guilt , not to mention the constant nagging from his father at my tardiness. 

I won't let it beat me

Deep breath..... and we are off. I am really not sure how this is going to go but stick with me and we can learn this blogging malarky together. I think that given the lengths I go to boring my family to pieces ( if you excuse pun) about any projects i am conjouring up, then this has got to be the best way of venting all that pent up stitching fever and letting them off the hook.
After more than 15 years of tucking myself away in my den , where ever that has been, its time for me to come out of the fabric cupboard and embrace the community of fellow addicts to sets, points, strips and stashes. I'm not one of the most artistic quilters and probably fall into a very traditional category, but that doesn't mean to say I would call my quilts boring or too run of the mill. My description would be homely and usable and whenever I am stitching away my first thought is "who is going to be using this quilt" and how much love and comfort can it give. Let's just call them a "hug in a blanket". I so admire all those amazing art quilts and their incredibly talented creators who, to use that dreadful expression, can think outside the box and create a stunning piece of Art. That's not me. I just scrapped through O-Level art with the aid of a set of HB pencils, a very patient art mistress and a green glass bottle full of bubbles!
Anyway on to real matters. My plan is to drop by with background on recent projects, whether they be successes or failures and then probably any randomness that might flow at the time or writing. I am sure that I will find it hard to stick to the subject on the majority of occasions but if any reader has the patience to stick with me and find any iota of interest or enjoyment out of my ramblings then  "Gawd bless 'em " as they say
So onwards and upwards... there is stitching to be done.