Sunday, September 24, 2006

City and Guilds - Lines (3) - peppers

Today was my second C&G class and we spent the morning drawing fruit and vegetables. My attempt at an apple failed becuase it was so juicy I just had to eat it. These however, are some of my attempts at a pepper ( they don't scan very well). The idea is not to be a good artist ( which as you can see is just as well) but to start to look at lines in more detail and to be observant about what is around you which can then be used in the formation of a design. I have to say that in all the years I have been chopping pepper and throwing them into a pot I had never noticed all the fine lines inside them. Nor, as I usally cut the top off first, rather than doing a pure disection as I did today, have I ever noticed how the seeds hang to the stem.

Part of what we are learning is 'mark making' using different media to see the difference in the lines on the page. The next step is to isolate part of the sketches with a window template, enlarge and then develop that set of lines away from its origin into something new.
I had actually never used waterclours before this exercise but bought a tiny starter palette in a plastic travel box just to do it and with one pepper I am kind of hooked. I had seen other quilters, in their books on sources of inspiration, show holiday paintings which they had then used for colour or line ideas on their return, and dismissed that as something I could not do but, in fact, I now think perhaps I can - I will be trying it out in due course. Not least because a fellow student had a gorgeous wooden box full of paints and I love boxes full of things so I need a justification to get myself one. But more seriously I can see now that painting the scene to use in quilting already has one step of simplification and interpretation in it which photography ( my preferred medium) does not have.

Another task I have to start soon is to produce a few pages in my display portfolio on an artists influenced by line. Well, that at least is easy, having been reading Nancy Crow's new book. Inspiration on a plate!

No fear quilt

A little while ago I bought 174 Fat quarters of batik fabrics which came nicely folded and they looked so beautiful when placed in my wicker storage baskets that they became quite indimidating in that I thought I'd never have a quilt idea that was quite good enought to cut into them and if I did I'd never chose which of the 174 colours to use. So eventually I decided to hack into them and make whatever turned out. ( To unfreeze myself I promised that if I grieved for the used FQ's I could buy more to replace them!) So I selected a few bright ones, having been sitting in my garden smuggly appreciating the fact that against my father's advice we painted the fences blue becuase its a great way to keep the garden bright in autumn when you forgot to plant any flowers as we did this year!

So I began last weekend with a simple fourpatch proposition, no pattern and a challenge to make somthing to use outside so I could prolong the use of the garden into these chillier nights. The photos below show its progression on the design wall to the top finished yesterday and placed on the bench it was intended for. As you can see, I ditched the sashing in favour of a border at the last minute. I had a lot of fun just cutting away and there are loads of strips left so there will be a mix and match somthing to come I am sure.

Wadding (batting to you US readers) and backing ( plain bright pink) was purchased today but no time to finish it as I have to go away to Leeds now for 3 nights then Birmingham and Manchester before finally arriving home on Friday evening. ( So there will be a blog gap as I for once and not hefting my laptop around with me. The suitcase contains handsewing though!). I intend to tie it on my return as it is meant to be quick and casual.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Weird day

I spent all today sitting in my judical capacity deciding how much of the £79,000 litigation costs claimed in a High Court action were reasonably incured and should be paid by the losing party. Then I came home and since then I have sitched lotss of pink squares togther, made lines for my course by, among other rings painting a pience of dried, ridged, penne pasta and rolling it over paper and by painting the paper and dragging the strings of my hard boiled egg cutter through it. Now I am using my scanner machine to make colour photocopies of African fabrics with lines in their design. Is this what they mean by work life balance?

Sunday, September 17, 2006


Diane in her recent post set out a list of book recommendations. We have a lot of authors we like in common (e.g Elizabeth Berg, Joshlyn Jackson, Jeanne Ray, Judy Henricks, Michael Connolley and Jodi Picoult. But there were lots on her list that I'd better check out as we have overlapping tastes. Which if you read my post on clearing out you will know is just what I need - more books. I could get then from the library but then you have to give them back :( Plus I can't abide the feel of that plastic stuff they insist on covering them with.

In fact I have not read anywhere near as much fiction this year as I usually do becuase I have been so busy with the quilting and have accumulated a whole shelf of books on that. In fact I have to recognise that it is some kind of sickness I have, because I have in fact acquired another 7 just this week ( three borrowed, two gifts, two bought.)

So here is my list of some fiction to try if you have read everything on Diane's list together with some of my favourites from the quilting shelf:

Easy undemanding reads for bedtime or times of sickness

The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency ( and the rest in the series) by Alexander Mc Coll Smith
Eleanor and Able - Annette Sandford
Romeo and Juila - Jeanne Ray

Good more literary novels

We Need to Talk about Kevin - Lionel Shriver
Purple Hibiscus - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My Cleaner- Maggie Gee
Disobedience - Naomi Alderman
Small Island - Andrea Levy
The Abortionists Daughter - Elizabeth Hyde
Love and other Impossible Pursuits - Alyelet Waldman
House of Sand and Fog - Andre Dubus III
Everything Anne Tyler has ever written

Books offering at least a hint of another culture

Londonstani - Gautam Malkani
Frangipanai - Celestine Hituara Vaite
Disobedience - Naomi Alderman ( winer of the Orange prize for first novel)

If you liked Ya Ya Sisterhood...

Angry Housewives eating bonbons - Lorna Landvik

If you liked Bread Alone...
The Baker's Apprentice - Judy Hendriks ( the sequel)
Sophie's Bakery for the Brokenhearted - Lolly Winston
All the Adriana Trigiani novels

Quilting books that go beyond the usual how to do tradtional blocks but still contain instructions for specific projects

Quilt Africa - Jenny Williamson and Pat Parker
Quilt Inspirations from Africa - Kaye England and Mary Elizabeth Johnson

Quilting books that show techniques but with no full projects

Textile art: A Practical and Inspirational Guide to Manipulating, Colouring and Embelishing Fabrics
Circle Play - Reynola Pakuscich
Making Connections - Around the World with Log Cabin
Quliting Masterclass - Katharine Guerrier

Books helpful on design ( with excercises)

Contemporary quilts - Design, Surface and Stitch - Sandra Meech
The Quilter's Book of Design - Ann Johnston

Gorgeous, gorgoeus, drool over coffee table gallery books

Spirit of the Cloth, Contemporary African American Quilts - Carolyn Mazloomi
Transitions - Nancy Crow
The Quilts of Gee's Bend: Masterpieces from a Lost Place - William Arnett et al
Art Quilts: A celebration - Robert Shaw

A book that I want to buy at a reasonable price - please email me if you are willing to sell me this because I can only find it at vastly inflated prices

Liberated Piecing - Gwen Marston

(If anyone has that book available and is not in the UK I will find a way to get currency to you or I could order another book you want for a similar price from Amazon and have it delivered to you and we can swap!)

Finally ( and especially for Diane who tells me she likes reading blogger's 'life dross' ( my phrase)) the neighbours worke us up this Sunday morning at 8.30 ( again) using power tools. Is it just me or is that unreasonable?!

Happy reading and if you are posting your lists do put a comment here so I can go and find them ( especially quilting books!)

Friday, September 15, 2006

City and Guilds - Lines (2): Photos

Blogger seems to like me today so here are my lines in the environment near the Novotel in Leeds:
Curved lines and straight along the canal walk.
Doesn't this construction site look like it is bordered with flying geese?
These photos are of 'the Bourse' a concave glass fronted building that reflects the old building opposite in its glass gridded front. If you move angles as you look at it the segments of the old building change.

The carpet in my hotel corridor!
Page from my sketchbook.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

City and Guilds - Lines

Last week I started my City and Guilds Level 3 in Patchwork at the School of Stitched Textiles which is about 25 mins away from me. I thought I'd blog about each lesson and my homework in between other entries so that anyone interested in the course can see what its all about and sort of follow along.

We are starting with the design module and our first lesson was on lines. I say lesson because actually we got no teaching at all. There are three classes going on together in one tiny room and each level has a table each. One tutor does all levels. She saw our group of 4 first gave us a short introduction and a collection of handouts then sent us off to read them and to do the exercises. Which was fine but the exercises did not take anywhere near the 3 hour lesson by a long way and it being the first lesson and having been told just to bring a notebok and pen I didn't have the materials to do them! So I ended scrounging stuff then leaving early to go to an art shop nearby.

I was a bit disappointed because I have been really looking forward to starting but when I got into the homework I kind of got re-enthused. I prefer to work alone than be taught anyway. I know it is the first lesson and I might find it entirely different in the future but even if I find the imput a bit lacking throughout, attending in person is - strangely - far cheaper than the option of being taught on line so I'll keep tipping up every other Sunday!

As for the subject matter - we are looking at lines and our exercises have been, first ,to play with lines - drawing and scribbling and using different pens,pencils to draw around things etc. Like being at primary school and definately a good activity when you are tired and in a hotel room! I've been cutting up striped wrapping paper and moving the pieces around to see what I get. It all felt a bit silly at first - very primary school like but within a few minutes I had an aha! moment and began to see how playing could lead to some of the fantastic designs I've seen other people do.

We also have to collect examples of lines, so as well as hacking away at magazines and sitting in Starbucks in Leeds' Border's covertly copying designs from books on tribal art I couldn't afford to buy ( but coveted greatly) I took to the street outside the hotel with my camera.

the whole point of this post was to show you my lines - but Blogger is playing up and won't post them!! I'll try tomorrow.

On blog-gaps and blotting cookies

For those who are kind enough to read this regularly I should explain that September and October are the time of year when I start to go off around the country on lecture 'tours'. My day job includes a lot of training other lawyers in family law and they all need to collect 16 continuing education points in a year, the year ending in October. Of course they all leave it to the last minute ( well most of them) and so every company who runs courses want me to run them in these two months. So I trot off with my trusty wheely case around the country living and working in hotels. Which I why from time to time I will have blog-gaps - mostly when I am in hotels without resonably priced wireless connections or when I am just knackered and good only for watching DVDs on the laptop and eating the leftover biscuits I can't seem to resist 'liberating' from the conference facilties.

I brought some freshly cooked white chocolate chip cookies back this week in a brown paper envelope the company sent the register in. When I came to eat them a few hours later the envelope was covered in grease - it looked like I'd put fish and chips in it. Frightening to think what was in that cookie. Or frightening for about five minutes until I figured that if the grease was on the paper it wasn't in the cookie anymore so it was OK to eat it! Do you think there is a market for a Food-Blotting diet?

I seem to have a kind of hotel kleptomania. Am I the only one who can't leave behind those free pens?

One advantage of being mobile is that I do get to visit shops we don't have locally which is how I came to acquire this book by Sandra Meech this week from Borders in Leeds. Handy for the City and Guilds I've just started... for which see next post.

I also came home to find both the Nancy Crow book and a coffee table book on the Gee's Bend quilts and a catalogue from Creative Grids had arrived. Yum yum.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Sewing spaces

I have become rather fascinated with other people's sewing space recently. I visited Chris Marriage at Father's Heart Quilting this week. ( I thought she had a shop but it's mail order and commission only but she was still kind enough to invite a complete stranger to visit her at home when I rang from the ring road near her home to say I'd made a huge diversion to find her!). She has a fantastic room for her long arm quilting machine, as well as a fabric room for her sales and quilts hung up all over the house. Other bloggers have posted pictures of their space recently too.
See Brenda's in her post of September 6th
and Helen's post of 2nd September
Tami's on 7th Sept and Melody's Johnson's dying space in her entry of 7th Sept - so professional.
In the spirit of sharing here are some piccies of my colonisation of our dining room and second bedroom for quilting:

I have set up camp on the dining room table with the ironing board set up in what we rather pretentiously call the library. Behind my seat are patio doors - its been like quilting in the semi-outdoors recently with the nice weather. I keep meaning to buy some table protector to work on but it never gets done. On the table are some batiks I took to slicing into strips and squares today. The stash is in this built in cupboard in the second bedroom in various baskets and boxes. Don't look at how many boots there are... some are hidden!Also in this room is the sofa bed on which I sometimes retreat to hand work in peace if the football is on the TV downstairs. (See all those piled up books I was complaining about!)
Back downstairs, my brand new design wall is a state of the art flanelette sheet bought on sale in Blackburn and held up over the book cases with three very heavy Penny Vincenzi novels. (On an erudite day I use my husbad's copy of Proust.) On it is a quick Project Linus quilt-cum-play mat I am making with those cheap plains from Denmark.
In the vague hope of keeping things tidy and at least a bit accessible given that the main store is upstairs, I bought some food storage boxes from Asda last week and stuck some of them by the machine and some of them on top of my collection of books about South Africa which is to my left as I sew. One for each UFO. The bag is an old laptop bag I use for carting equipment to classes

Friday, September 08, 2006

What's in your bag?

This is the bag I am currently using for work. Yesterday I realised that the contents were mounded up towards the handles and it was time for a sort out, so I tipped it upside down and shook everything out. Alarmingly, this was what was inside:

I key ring with keys for one car and three houses
1 orange and mango teabag
3 hotel pens
3 bags of mints from the Golden Tulip Hotel
1 old train ticket
1 folded article on diferent types of waddings
1 journal
1 quilters calculator
2 purses ( one for personal cash, one for business)
2 glasses cases containing glasses
1 empty glasses case
1 hair clip
1 hair scrunchie
1 entry form for the Malvern quilt Show next year
7 pencils from a Chester conference venue ( great for seam allowance marking)
1 cup a soup ( mediteranean tomato)
1 set of directions to South Cave
6 tampons
1 tissue
1 mobile phone
1 long quilter's quarter
1 Fairtraide chocolate brownie
1 Officlally Low Fat Fox's chocolate cereal bar
2 Alpen cereal bars
1 Hotel key card from about 2 months ago
1 lemon and ginger tea bag
1 earl grey tea bag
1 bank paying in book
4 indigestion tablets
1 makeup bag
1 set of makeup brushes
1 milage log for the car
1 notebook used to sketch inspirational patterns etc
1 letter
1 pin
22 loose mint imperials
1 perfume tester card
1 entry ticket to a quilt show at Trentham gardens last April
1 apple
1 old used staple
1 scrap of black fabric
1 copy of a Practice Direction on Court bundles

What's in your bag?!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

New Piccies

Yipee - the new camera lead came. So I can show you what I have been doing today:

A little 'play thing' using all my scraps from the liberated African quilt I did. Called 'Khayelitsha- Night'. I am aiming for a shanty town with a ramshackle use of uneven log cabins with light from the windows and doors topped with with a scrap fabric night in blues and blacks- that's the bit still in progress. Can anyone else see it? Den says it looks like a pile of fabric but then supportive though he is he can't usually 'see' anything until its finished. Even if no-one else can see it I can and its just for me so I guess that's all that matters - although comments from more experienced people would be very welcome. I still need to figure out how you edge an uneven quilt. Bias binding I guess?

I can also show you the two quilts I have just completed......I wish! No these are inspirational pictures snapped at the Kelvingrove Museum in Scotland

Re-homing books

Can any one tell me a sensible formula for deciding which books ( if any) one should (gasp) get rid off? We only have so many shelves in our house and a purge is necessary. Actually we have far more shelves than most people do. Not that the house is big, just that a lot of it is shelved. And all those shelves now have books crammed sideways on top of others which annoys me. There are also books crammed next to the TV on the bedroom cabinet and in a wicker basket by my bed and stacked up by the side of the sofa bed and... well you get the picture. Some of them are old quick read paper backs that I will never get to again. The problem is I always think I might. But I never do because I buy books so fast that they pile up and that's the very problem.

The tidy up came when I decided that I needed a dedicated shelf for my new quilting books collection. When I coralled them up from around the house even I was surprised to see that they came to a total of 34. Collected over a period of 30 weeks. With more on order. Those of course I will come back to over and over again. But what to do with the other overflowing books?

I could try and sell them on Amazon, but most have no resale value and some in fact have been unsucessfully up for sale for six months or so. We could put them in the attic. But there are already mounds of books up there. And in fact Dennis, who has lived here since 1993 still has boxes and boxes of books in his mother's loft in N. Ireland.
Oxfam has to be the answer doesn't it? After all how selfish is it to keep stuff I don't need when it can give clean water to toddlers? But which ones to give away?

I feels like each one is so special and if you can give one child away - I mean book - then you can give them all away because how do you distinguish? And I am certainly not giving all of them away. (Selling feels different somehow becuase it funds more book buying)

So for now they sit stacked up until someone can tell me how to do it.

Or until the pile falls over and kills me.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Earlier I decided to take a break from editing the second edition of my Family Law Key Facts book and sneak down to quilt. (Becuase (a) the editing is tedious in the extreme although the fee is not bad and pays fro all my fabric buying (b) the quilting is always tempting and (c) I have embarked on a project to finish several more traditional quilts I started when I first began quilting at the beginning of the year and now have lingering in various stages of near completion so I can start a clean start with some more exciting ones).

I had just finished my first machine applique and was thinking how nicely my Memrory Craft machine stitched when it jammed. The thread kept getting caught around the bobbin race. Panic! The race looks like this:
I could see that the spring under that slilver hammer thing had come loose and a tiny piece of wire was sticking out. After half an hour of fiddling with my seam unripper i did get it back in place but as soon as I sewed with it it came out again. Grrrr! I was trying to come to terms with the grief (in the sense both of inconvenience and a deep sense of loss) of having to package the machine up and send it away under the guarantee for days on end when I found a very nice engineer who turend out to be in the locality and came to rescue me. But in trying to fix the clip he managed to break it completely!

As it turns out it works perfectly well with the clip completely removed and we are not sure that it serves any function other than to regulate the length of the tail left after cutting the thread with the integral cutter. Panic over and I was able to go back to my first commission.... a fleeced back piece out of scraps my cleaner saw lying around for her dog to sleep on! Still, I suppose its all good practice.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Great Northern Quilts Show

Had a great time at the show yesterday. Looking at the quilts on show inspired me to enter some of my own next year. Not that I think I'm in the prizewinning category yet but I enjoyed looking at all of them and without others being prepared to send quilts in I wouldn't have had such a good day, so it seems only right to particpate. Which of course meant I needed to buy fabric for all these entries from the traders! One of which is Ragbags who recycle used and vintage fabrics. I bought a couple of their crazy packs - a total meter of fabric of diferent textures beautifully bundled. They sold them to make this cute little elephant but I have my own ideas for them! The pattern is for sale on their site.Along with lots of FQ's and a series of shades of pinks and purples in dupion silks I bought this book, which is giving me lots of ideas for all the African fabric I can't help but stash and the beautiful but hard to use Japanese garden fabrics Dennis bought me for Christmas. By the way, remember the dress fabric I sketched when we saw the African Children's choir? I found just a half meter of it for sale, so snapped that one up pronto!

Does anyone want to join with me in sponsoring a prize for supportive spouses? Mine wins this weekend I am sure. He gave up his last weekend before going back to school ( he's a teacher) to come with me to Harrogate just so I didn't have to drive home. The plan was for him to have a day out in Harrogate book shops and to watch a match at the rugby club while I did the quilts. However, he was persuaded to come in and join in my excitement ('Just for the first hour - so you know what I am talking about'). But then torrential rain set in and rugby watching was out of the question so the poor man sat in a bad cafe the whole day just waiting and bag watching. And then - when we came home he bought me a gift!! Star or what?

The gift? This gorgeous coffee table book I had coveted at the show and left then regretted leaving.

I did find time for a couple of hour workshops too with Gail Lawther famed for her stained glass technique and a foundation pieced seascape class with Sally Holman. came home full of enthusiasm to finish the quilt I have been working on so I can get onto other projects.... and ran out of thread with about a square quarter of a meter to quilt. Arrgh. Thank God for next day deleiveries from The Tabby Cat that's all I can say.

Friday, September 01, 2006


I found a new craft shop just 5 miles away in Billinge today. Just one basket of FQ's so far - its mainly card making and beading - but she is looking to expand into fabrics and quilting notions so I gave her a huge list of things I wanted selling on my doorstep. She is planning to set up a Staurday quilting group too which could be good.

Camera lead is still missing and even our superb cleaner couldn't find it so I went to get a new one. I rang the camera shop to check they had one was told yes but bring the camera in to check they sell me the right one. Got there 15 mins later, having paid fo rthe car park just to list them, and they tell me, no they don't have any and never did today. I told them I would buy from another shop that offered good service and got totally baffled looks all round! So it's on order from Curry's and hopefully I'll be back with pictures by the end of next week.