Saturday, 27 April 2013

Fresh Focus on fmq - working out from the corner

All three samples today have started from a corner working out in a circle.
This is using one very simple motif in different sizes to give a variety of density. The 'negative' 
un-quilted rings also take on an important part of the design. At some point I will try the same idea with other motifs. For this one I did draw some free-hand guide lines for the rings. They are not perfectly circular, but as I've side before, I like things slightly out of kilter. 

For this one, as you can probably tell, I did not draw guide lines, but just went for it. This is the first time I have done this design as a circle. I usually do it in straight lines. I do like the way the two circles meet and intertwine like a zip, but I think the two unquilted corners distract and don't quite work. Might be back to the drawing board with this one.

This is one of my favorites. I particularly like the two sets of triangle in the lower right half. The shapes are almost shaded in with the tread. It's quite a small sample, not quite 6"s not quite square which means using a thin 50/2 cotton thread. Anything thicker at that size produced knots. (Sorry about the camera strap in the corner - that is not part of the design!)

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Fresh Focus on Free Motion Quilting

Although I was drawn into quilting through a love of colour and dyeing, I am also fascinated by texture – which led naturally to free motion quilting.

At the moment,  I am focusing on free motion quilting as the star of the show, the raison-d’être of the quilt, rather than a supporting role of adding interest or texture to the quilt’s design. 

I have an idea of the quilt I want to construct in my head – what I call one of my ‘mental masterpieces’. I am very good at mental-masterpieces. They highlight what is good about the quilt and are conveniently very vague about bits that don’t work and issues that need resolving! It is all so easy in my head and it never quite works out that way in real life! I was intending to enter this quilt at the Birmingham Festival of Quilts, but I realise now that I have a lot more playing about and exploring to do. The idea needs time to mature!

So, for the next 6 months or so, I am going to do just that – play around and explore free motion quilting. This is going to be the main focus of my blog for a while. I am working on small samples– mostly about 6” not quite square. A lot of my work is not quite even, regular or symmetric. I don't want it to look like a machine - and I love the phrase "consistently inconsistent" although I can't remember which quilter said it.

So, here are the first two pieces.

The first is radiating out from a central point, using one motif that gets larger as it grows out from the center. I've gone a bit wonky on the left hand lower corner, but that is easily sorted. The sections are divided by a double line of stitching. Likewise, I have deliberately tried not to match the side corners of the triangles with the triangles of the next section. If the corners meet up, the eye seems to be unable to decide whether to see the triangles as the positive - or the space in between as positive and the triangles as negative.

 The next one again uses the idea of radiating out from an off-center center. I've done very irregular curves and filled some of the spaces with the every useful pebble motif. I quite like this one and it would be very easy to variations replacing the pebble motif with a different filler.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Dyeing to Quilt - How it all began and my first quilt

Dyeing to Quilt – How it all began

My first career was as a musician. I had trained at the Royal Academy of Music in London and then moved to Paris to study for a further year. One way or another, I got stuck there, and one year turned into ten. I then moved to Germany, having been persuaded by a very famous German flautist that there was a lack of good flute teachers there.  (There certainly was a demand for being taught by a famous name – an ‘unknown’ wasn’t quite so popular, but I did manage to get a post, earn a living and learn German into the bargain!)

One of my treats on my annual holiday home, was to stop off in London and spend a delightful afternoon browsing in one of the really big book shops. I can’t remember what book I was looking for on this occasion, but the book that caught my eye was ‘Dyeing to Quilt’ by Joyce Mori and Cynthia Myerberg. I loved the colours and was absolutely fascinated.  But I was neither a dyer nor a quilter, so there seemed little point in buying it. It went back on the shelf. The next year and a different book store, and suddenly I found myself with the same book in my hands. I remember distinctly looking at a colour gradation showing eight values of the same colour - a delicious blue ... and something in my soul stirred. I was sorely tempted, but, I persuaded myself, the book, and therefore the dyes used, were American and would not be available in the UK. ‘Dyeing to Quilt’ was again returned to its shelf.

Move on another year, another book shop and there again, staring me in the face, was the same book. This time I decided fate really wanted me to have this book, and I returned home with ‘Dyeing to Quilt’ in my bag. My fears over supply were of course unfounded – Procian MX dyes are readily available in the UK (where I had now returned to live). 

One kitchen swathed in protective black bin liners and I was on my way. I started by dyeing two colour runs. I was thrilled and enchanted by the jewel like colour of each 8” square steeping in its dye filled plastic beaker. I was disappointed and perplexed by the greyed apology of a colour that each square possessed once rinsed. The jeweled effect had certainly departed down the plug hole with the spent dye.

With the help of my book, I diagnosed the problem as a lack of urea. My step-father, a retired chemist and inveterate collector of maybe-could-be-possibly-in-the-future-be-useful stuff appeared with half a sack of urea that he had 'rescued' from a disbanded lab years previously. It had been sitting in the garage for years, had gone solid and had (don’t ask me why) got quite a lot of bits of straw in it – but it worked. My next dyeing attempt left me with a washing line full of little squares moving in incremental steps from blue to green. Over the weekend, red to yellow followed and even some experimental browns and bronzes.

Wonderful! I now possessed a collection of colours squares of cloth that delighted me – but what was I going to do with them. The obvious answer was to sew them together. I bought a basic sewing machine. Since I had squares, squares seemed like a good place to start. Much as I love colour and fabric, I am not a fan of traditional patchwork and didn’t want to follow a traditional pattern. I decided that I would chop up and reassemble the squares, making each one different. I had no plan. I just improvised each square, making it up as I did it. It became obvious to me, that each one being different was just going to look muddled, so I decided on a few patterned squares amongst solid colour – rather like bathroom tiles.  I didn’t have quite enough to make it as large as I wanted and at that stage did not have the skill to re-dye matching colours. So I bought some red and yellow fabric, put a broad band of yellow around my squares, then made a border of all the meaning bits a pieces, adding in a sort of log cabin way (although I didn’t know it then) strips of red and a final yellow to complete.

You will notice that there is no quilting. I didn’t know how to quilt, so fixed the layers together with buttons. It is quite simple, but I love this quilt. It has been used as a throw, warming my knees on cold evenings and gracing the back of the sofa the rest of the time. My cat is very fond of it too. It really need a clean, but sadly, such was my lack of experience then, that I didn’t prewash my bought fabric and I am frightened that the colours will run in my washing machine and shrink. Has anyone any experience of dry cleaning quilts and if it avoids such catastrophes? The dry-cleaners here will not guarantee.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

An ugly duckling

This piece started out many years ago as an experiment in dyeing. I wanted to create muted colours by doing a colour run between complementaries - and for some reason chose various shades of pink and  green. The result was not pretty! The material lay forlorn on a shelf, where I occasionally looked at it and decided I so disliked the colours, I really wouldn't like what ever I made with it, which quite discouraged me from making any effort.

A couple of months ago a slow roof leak just above my stash of fabric forced me to wash everything and brought these 'ugly ducklings' to light. I decided to over dye them with charcoal. I wish now I had a photo of the original to show you. At first, I wasn't quite sure about the colours but it was definitely an improvement. So, out with the rotary cutter - and here is the result - a somewhat small throw - and I now love the colours. I hope you agree with me that my 'ugly duckling' dyeing turned into a swan in the end.

This gives you some idea of the size - not very large, but I didn't have enough material for more.
At the moment, I am focusing on free motion quilting - my other passion, apart from surface design.
I cut the pieces into 2" squares so that I could quilt a motif in each one and pieced them in a spiral. I also decided that although I really like the greys and taupes, they need a little lift, so I added thin slivers of silver insets which catch very nicely in the light.

I wanted the whole piece to have a randomness to it. There is no pattern to the sequence of colours or where the silver insets come. Likewise, the fmq motifs have no sequence, but I did try to avoid putting the same motif twice close together.

I did at one point toy with the idea of making every motif different, but that was a bit too ambitious! I used a lot of paper doodling to come up with the number I had anyway! Besides which, I think it looks good with some repetition in it.

So there you are - my first serious blog.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Creating my first post

Hello and welcome to Quilting Worshop Blog.

Although I've been dyeing, printing, piecing and quilting for 15 years, I have been blogging for only 15 seconds! So, whilst I try to work out what I'm doing, below enjoy a sample of my work.