Saturday, July 19, 2008

Tour break

Today I made this block for a birthday block swap. It was remarkably easy (and will look much better ironed after its travels from Penrith!) and I think I shall in due course be making more ( albeit in different colours). maybe by hand on my travels.....I am about to take a little blog break due to some pending wandering about the continent. I know that in theory I could predate posts but frankly, I have run out of time, so unless I pop into an Internet cafe this will be your lot until somewhere around mid- August.

However, here is a teaser list of what I shall be up to:
Tomorrow a bit of theater with the actress better known as Mrs Bucket.

Then, the bit my husband said was the bit that excited him most - a train to London. (Honestly - he said that!! If I'd known in advance I could have bought him a season ticket to and from Crewe and stayed at home to quilt.)

Some fabulous African art at the October Gallery. (This could be expensive - I have only ever once had the hankering to buy original art the way I want to own something of this guy's who has the gallery as his agent, and that was how come I own some of Nelson Mandela's art!)

Then to Hampton Court with a sketchbook, to Creative Quilting and coffee with Kate North - our first meeting since finding each other's blogs.

And then flight to Berlin for the Jewish Museum, designed by the wonderful Daniel Leibskind. the Holocaust Denkmal, the Jewish cemetery and this quilt and yarn shop.

Train ( yup, he's excited about that one too) to Onsnabruck, small town with no real tourist attraction save another Liebskind building ( also a Jewish related site), and- ha!- this quilt shop.

Train ( oh, he is such a lucky boy) to Amsterdam where we base ourselves on a houseboat for explorations which - at least in my case - include an aboriginal art museum, a museum of purses and handbags ( with shop of course), another Jewish museum ( with art work from Israel and a sculpture route), an exhibition on the Jewish community during the war at the Hollandeshe Schouwburg , quilt shops in Amsterdam ( one, two and - lucky girl - three), more quilts shops in Utrecht ( which also stocks Shaker stuff), Harlem, ( where we can also see the Corrie Ten Boom House) The Hague and Den Bosch, which is on the way to this theme park which has a delightful fairytale forest trail and a great pancake house.

Finally flight, home, unpack, hopefully a blog post, then the day after , pack and back up to my Mum's B&B for a class at Morceau in Penrith, home, unpack, hopefully, if my friend accepts my invite for that night, a night at an African Circus (if not we shall just eat out and I shall do the circus another night), then pack and off to Festival of Quilts for four days. (If anyone reading this is going to be there and wants to try and meet up for a quick coffee ( quick because I find I stop only to drink and eat enough to prevent keeling over, there is so much to see and do!) please email me ( on with the days you will be around and your mobile telephone number. If you are going salsa dancing let me know that too - we could try for a table together.)

Now, here is a little competition. Answers on a postcard please:
In what kind of things is Helen interested.....?!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Liverpool trip

On Saturday my Quilting Buddy Lesley and her sister Claire came down from Durham and Penrith respectively and we went into Liverpool to see a quilt show to celebrate Liverpool 08 (one of the European Cities of Culture this year). The show included theme quilts in a visitors' choice competition and each of us independently voted for this one.We then wandered down to the new John Lewis's department store where we tried hats on. Lesley dubbed this the Roadkill Hat. Personally, I love it but since it costs 27.8 metres of full price fabric (£250) and since I am not about to get an invite to Buckingham Palace anytime soon, it is still in the shop.
As you can tell the photo was taken before we skipped lunch in favour of free makeovers at the Dior counter. Then, on to the Klimt show at the Tate. What a cultured girly day we had.

At the quilt show I met Bron from my City and Guilds class who mentioned that she had seen my quilt in Popular patchwork. I was a bit confused, knowing that I had a pattern and an article or two coming up in British Patchwork and Quilting and not realising that they had been published. After talking at cross purposes for a while she got through to me that Popular Patchwork had done an article about the Quilts in the Garden show at Trentham where I had entered three quilts including She is more precious that Rubies shown here being held up by Chris Marriage the longarm quilter who let me try out her machine on it. (If you have not seen my previous posts on it, it was made for my parent's 40th wedding anniversary and now resides on their bed.)
No copies were to be found in either Liverpool, Penrith or Durham but I tracked one down in Manchester today. The article showed just thirteen quilts from the show including some of the winners and they chose mine as well. Apparently, 'it attracted a lot of attention'. I am chuffed to bits. It more than makes up for the duff marks it got from the Judge!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Quilt mentors

I've just had a blindingly good idea. Or not. Its hard to decide when your brain is frazzled from spending hours writing legal case notes for lectures. (Yawn) See what you think. (And whether you have any idea at all how to achieve it):

It started with a comment on my last post from Kristen La Flamme in which she referred me to her own posts here and again here about City and Guilds. In the latter she makes the excellent point that what she wanted from the course was really a mentor. That is certainly something I would like. At the same time today I got a lovely email from Gina saying how helpful to her my Quiltland Chronicle challenge had been. We corresponded generally about how people needed to be encouraged and supported to take steps towards original design.

And so the fireworks went off. Based on the fact that most ( indeed possibly all) quilting bloggers I have met like ( a) to encourage others and (b) to learn from others, how about a Quilt Mentor Dating Agency?

You upload your profile into one or both of two sections:
Willing to mentor
Want a mentor
The site will allow you to describe what you have to offer - what type of quilting, level, can you do face to face meetings within a certain geographical area or is it just online? What time commitment can you give a mentee? Etc. If you want a mentor you fill in a similar profile. So you can control what you are prepared to enter into and can define what a mentoring relationship would mean for you. I am thinking that it will mean different things for different people but will be more than a casual comment on a blog type of friendship. (Kirsten - you started this - albeit unwittingly - what did you mean by a mentor?!)

(As a side comment there are interesting definitions of mentoring here and here).
Although I suspect we would need a less formal more organic approach.

Anyway, having registered, you search the opposite section and see if anyone takes your fancy. You can then contact them and propose a first date. It is then up to the two of you to correspond and see if you are interested in pursuing a mentor/ mentee relationship. If you decide you are, then your profiles are marked 'taken' on the website/ blog on which this is all set up ( I am a bit vague on those details!) Obviously if you feel able to mentor two or more people that would be fine too.

I am thinking that most quilters are anxious to see skills passed down the generations and like to give back to the community so this might work. I envisage that you end up with chains of people both being mentored and giving a less experienced person mentoring themselves and thus the confidence and support 'cascades'. But I suspect we would need some real experienced people to get involved and I doubt they are messing about reading my blog ( if you are - now would be a good time to say hello rather than lurking!) Maybe they are too busy actually doing art and quilts to get involved? Maybe they just need to be contacted?

What think ye out there? Does anyone want to help set it up? Do I need to go lie down in a cool, dark room?

What is city and Guilds?

floribunda kindly commented on my earlier two rants as follows:

"Hi Helen -- for us non-Brits, could you explain what "Cities and Guilds" is exactly? Or point me to a previous blog if you've already done that?
Ta "

Um - no I didn't do that - obviously I should have done!

According to their website, in 1878 'City & Guilds was established following a meeting of 16 of the City of London’s livery companies and the Corporation of London, the traditional guardians of apprenticeships and work place training. Its aim was to establish a national system of technical education. ' It is now the main examining body in the UK for vocational education - so they do everything from plumbing, cleaning, photography, embroidery etc and much more. It is an internationally recognised qualification too I believe but is London based in its admin.

As I understand it the textile related courses were often available in local adult education centres and further education colleges, so available as night classes for example along with Spanish and maths and car maintenance etc. However, much funding has been withdrawn from such courses by the education authorities and so now the main source is probably textile artists who are making a business from it with mainly online teaching. Linda Kemshall told me that to teach City and Guilds you are supposed to have the level above that which you are teaching so there should be some guarantee of quality but as my experience shows (and I believe that of Gina if you see her comment on my last post) holding a qualification (even an old style school teaching certificate) is no guarantee that someone is a good teacher.

Recently in the UK they introduced a requirement that to teach in formal education establishments you need a teaching certificate but this only a very short basic night class course as well. Obviously mots people making a career of teaching would have a formal qualification but for example, a local watercolour artists who was teaching a leisure evening class is now caught by this. I anticipate that private institutions and distance learning are in any event exempt from this. Certainly I do not need it to teach law to other lawyers on commercial courses for example. The requirement will probably prevent some very good textile artists sharing their skills in formal education settings though, unless they take the certificate.

Doing a City and Guilds therefore gives you a proper recognised by employers qualification... the question is whether we need one or not!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

City and Guilds thoughts - part 2

This post follows on from Part 1 and will probably make more sense of you read that first

This post is about the circular thoughts that are raging in my brain as I consider whether or not to go on and do the City and Guilds Diploma in Patchwork and Quilting. I share them because I was encouraged to do but also because the wise comments I hope to receive may help me!

The first thing I should say is that the thoughts are a little premature as I have a year left of the Certificate to do before I can do the diploma anyway, but I am genetically programmed to think ahead!

My first dilemma I think I have solved - that was whether to stay at the same level and do the Certificate in Machine embroidery. I do want to learn much more about machine embroidery but I realised that I was going to have to repeat all the same design work as I had just done if I did the same level course. In some ways this means I could do it better than I did first time round but on balance I want to go forward so I shall not be doing this. I will however be setting myself goals to learn in this area and in due course buying lots of books so if you have recommendations - please comment.

So the remaining dilemma is whether or not I should do the diploma. Here, in no particular order are the contradicting thoughts running through my head. The log book for the course can be found here:

1. My experience with the Certificate makes me sure that I do not want to continue at the same institution. I want the benefit of good personal tutoring from active artists. A long conversation I had with Linda Kemshall convinced me that her company would provide just that. It would costs a lot more than going in person to my existing institution.

2. However, at the end of the same conversation she asked me why I felt I needed a course - why I didn't just learn by myself! This is a very good question and goes to the heart of the issue requiring some real navel gazing. I have several graduate and post -grad qualifications - I have (excuse the lack of modesty here) excellent research skills and learn very well independently. My time management skills are re known. So learning alone is no problem - either literally alone or online without a class structure.
So why am I so attracted to a course? Possible answers are:

(a) I am a qualification junkie. I love education and learning. I think constantly that there is more information or knowledge out there that I could glean if only I was at the right class and I want it. ( To wit: I just e-mailed a museum in Aboriginal art which we may go to on our holidays to ask how to get on their digeridoo workshops. Do I need to learn the digeridoo? No of course not. Do I need to spend holiday time in a class? No. But I could have done and what fun that would be! In fact they no longer run them. Bah!)

(b) I respect other people's knowledge. I believe that people can teach me. I am also jealous of people who know more than me and I want to be like them. I believe that I can do things if only I learn how. I was bitterly disappointed however with the standard of teaching and inspiration I got on my certificate course and would be very very careful to ensure that I chose the right person this time round. I had a similar experience with a University when I started my third masters degree, which was my second in Creative writing ( see (a) above!). The standard was dreadful and half the class including myself pulled out. So I am very concerned that I falsely assume that a course holds the mysteries I am seeking. Plus, it occurs to me I could spend my money on a series of master classes at Festival - the three days ones that run before the show for example - or travel to short courses and achieve a variety of teachers inspiring me.

(c) I like purpose. So the idea of a qualification at the end is a motivation to do work, which I might have otherwise avoided, not realising that it would actually be of worth to me in the end. However, I think I might finally have learned this lesson and now know that sketchbooks and samples are not a waste of time necessarily! I have an exceedingly supportive husband so it is not a case of needing an excuse to work on my 'hobby' but somehow a course gives 'playing around' validity.

(d) the Diploma involves an in-depth research project with samples and work coming from that chosen inspiration. I love the idea of a research project. I thrive on research projects. My whole family ring me to get me to Google all and sundry rather than research it themselves because I am good at it. So, I could just set myself a research project and set to. Why do I need to spend £1250 ish to do it? Because there is a qualification.....

(e) Why do I need a qualification? Well, I don't right now in career terms. I guess in the future if I wanted do teach it would be handy to have a diploma. But my 'day job' is such that I would not be giving it up to do textile art ( love it too much/ it pays too much) any time before semi-retirement. So I could do the diploma later.. but if I am going to do the work now, why repeat things?!I did say to a friend that I wondered if I needed the approval - you know having a tutor say. Well done you clever girl'. She told me to find my validation elsewhere ,which might be good advice if I knew how to do it!

(f) Will the course be what I want? To some extent it is in the sense that it involves taking what I know to the next level. I feel that I have so much more understanding of how make the course work for me than I was given at the beginning of the Certificate that I could really make the most of this one.
to learn what I want to learn if I just taught myself stuff and on the other that I would be stretched into areas I However, it involves some work I am not fussed on (miniatures) and doesn't cover some I am ( machine embroidery, felting) - although I gather there is real scope for edging towards that in the way you interpret the syllabus and work. I feel that on one had I would have more flexibility might otherwise ignore if I did the course. And If I did it online there is no rush as it is time flexible so I can go off into jollies in other areas anyway. Indeed I quite like the idea of spinning it out so that (i) I can really do it in depth whilst still having time to do fun quilts and (ii) I can avoid having to find another course to do when I finish it :)

(g) wherever I do it - is it really worth the money? I am lucky in that I can pay for the course without worry. However, that money can only be spent once and I do not want to waste it. Is it better spent on materials/ books/ short courses etc. ( Or blown on a trip to Houston?!) How much value is there in what I pay for as opposed to the the value of the work I would do for myself anyway? Of course one option is to pay to register in person at my current institution knowing full well I will not get the inspiration and tutoring but in effect allowing me to teach myself but still get the qualificaton - sort of C&G-lite! (It galls me to give them my cash though!)

Well, this is a long post and I guess that if you got this far you must not have found it too boring. In summary I think my head is saying I don't need it and it costs a lot of hard earned money and my heart is yelling 'Its a course - take it , take it!'.

Sigh. What do you think?!

City and Guilds thoughts - part 1

I have been encouraged by Kirsten L Flamme to carry out my threat to gaze at my navel and talk a little about my thoughts on City and Guilds courses. I am going to split this into two posts, this first one being about my experiences so far on the certificate post, the second will be about my debate about doing the diploma.

I hasten to say that what follows are my personal experiences, no doubt influenced by my personality. Other people may well have entirely different views and if so I invite you to blog them and comment her to let us know you have done so.

I have been doing the Certificate for Design in Patchwork and Quilting for 2 years now. I attend in person, once a fortnight on a Sunday morning, at an institution which also offers distance learning. It is 20 mins drive from my house. I found the course in the February of 2006 after I discovered quilting in January 2006 and was excited to find a course that would take me through all the different techniques as well as design methods. However, by the time it started in September 2006 I had learned an awful lot myself through books and my class at Morceau in Penrith.

You can find the syllabus for the course here.

We did it so that the first year was concerned with building up portfolios on the five design methods: line, form, colour, shape and texture. This involved a lot of art techniques albeit at a very basic level - my husband and I took to calling my class 'going to kindergarten' because there was so much sticking and gluing. We were banned from doing anything with stitch for these portfolios which I found frustrating.

However, I did learn from doing these portfolios and I now do look at the world around me with entirely different eyes. Personally though I found that some of what we had to do seemed extraneous. For example we had to paint a colour wheel. Having read about and viewed a colour wheel I don't think painting it added anything - but then I learn well by reading. Others learn better by doing. I did feel that there was a strong element of doing to show that I had learned. Obviously that is always going to be the case with a formal qualification. However, I would have preferred to be able to work to a greater and more advanced level with the textiles themselves . I am still unsure why I made a model of an African chief's hut from table protector, a San Miguel box and Costa Coffee Straws!

It is certainly the case that doing the course has opened my eyes to design theory and practice. However, it is not a course which really respects improvisational design. They assume that good design requires planning samples etc

As for the samples and techniques, I found that we were given scrappy pieces of handwritten notes ( 2 or 3 pages A4 per week.) Sometimes these were taken ( in breach of copyright) from other books. I found my teacher used the words 'difficult' and 'tricky' frequently in relation to every technique and was generally very discouraging. There was no inspiration from her current work we could take as she teaches by showing her own dated portfolio from when she did her certificate some many years ago. My class were frequently befuddled by what we were supposed to do and got little or no guidance. I learned from books.

The class was held in overcrowded conditions when it was very hard to actually work in class - most of the time we used it as social time and did the actual work at home. Supply lists for each class were often inadequate anyway so we found we did not have what we needed for that class and got into the habit of bringing something different to do. All very annoying! However, I have made good friends from my group which in itself is valuable.

I do strongly suspect that this experience is related to this particular institution and may not be the case if the course was done elsewhere.

I am now at the stage of going to on to making my resolved pieces and can see that I am working in a way which I would not have done without the course. I also feel though that I was not supported to achieve the quality of work I could have done in my earlier pieces though and am now in the dilemma - do I go back and redo samples to satisfy myself that I have done the best I can or, do I leave them at the 'passable' stage they are at and use my time to go on to new things.( My tutor has seen very few of my samples.)

I would think that any one with a basic art training and who has either done some patchwork and knows the basic techniques or who can follow book instructions and / or is prepared to supplement books with short classes on line or in person would not get much out of this course. If you have no design background at all or of you wish to ( slowly) work through techniques and are happy making samples for samples sake then you will get something out of it.

The advantage of attending in person has been that the fees are much much cheaper. Doing it by distance with this institution costs £1,175 in total and I have paid I think £600 for the three years plus £55 registration fee. However, I would think that if you took the log book ( see link above) as a starting list and invested in a good library, you could - if you had sufficient self-motivation- easily learn everything by yourself for a much lesser cost ( bearing in mind I had to buy the books anyway because the teaching was skimpy).

My views as a say... I don't regret doing it because I haev learned a lot about design from it, but my mixed experiences are causing me dilemmas for the future... see the next post!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Dennis wishes the following to be known:
"I did not read Delia. I did not consult Delia. She just came up first on the web search. I did not use pancetta. I did it all myself. What is pancetta?"

As for me I need to buy a small camera I can just stick in my bag for days when I don't expect to be photographing. (Yes I have one on my camera but I have never fathomed how to download from it.

Today I planned to go into work at the crack of dawn, prepare my case, go to court, do my stuff, return the endorsed backsheet to chambers ( important that bit, it's what gets me paid!) and come home for more work. I started off well but then recalled that the quilt show I am going to on Saturday had started in the Parish church across the road so I popped over, carefully averting my eyes so as to avoid spoiling my Saturday visit, to drop off Project Linus leaftets. Turned out there was a bag of Linus quilts there that someone was kindly going to bring to the office.

So, I went to court, but after getting my bill in ( important that bit - it's what pays for the fabric) called back to St. Nicks for the quilts and could not resist a very quick scan of the quilts- just enough to etsablish I am going to enjoy Saturday (and will have to take the big camera). Then I bumped into Susan from my City and Guilds who was serving refreshments, so tea and cake was in order and a good chat with her. She told me that there was an exhibition of City and Guilds work at School of Stitched textiles which I should have known about but didn't, so I shot off there and got 50 mins in before it closed at four. It both imspired me and reinstated my dithering about going onto diploma level ( I suspect that is another navel gazing post for another day). I juts wish I had pictures

I kind of like being self employed!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A day off?

No phone call ensued so I assume my collegaue is now healthy. I took full advantage and started work on a City and Guilds final piece - a bag based on these Egungun masquerade costumes from Nigeria. Here are a couple of pages from the beginning of my design book to show you the inspiration

I have decided to make a large enough bag to take my sewing machine extension table and a project box to and from classes and maybe to add a few little matching bags for the inside for rotary cutters, threads etc. So far I have the underneath layer and one layer of freehanging strips done - the strips still need to be quilted. This is a concoction of pieces and strips pinned to the design wall. The bag has a similar but diiferent design on the reverse and will have more strips at the top. I am also thinking it needs beaded fringes on the bottom of the strips and some colour in the binding. It is a folded bottom bag so definately a flash of colourful African cloth in the side pieces, still to be added.

The photo makes it look very flat but is not in real life. I'll try for a better photo next time I work on it.

Meanwhile Dennis, after some secret internet research then just a smidgen of advice from me, learned how to make lasagne. he is a touch confused at the discrepancies between the methods open to him. Apparently Delia puts pancetta in and Delia butters the pan....
Maybe. But can Delia design an innovative resolved piece while it is the oven? Bet not.

PS. It was delicious.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Goodies in the post

At the moment I am siting in limbo waiting for a call to tell me what my day is to be. Either I do a rush to court to cover for a judge who was sick yesterday and may or may not be sick today, or I stay at home with a bonus day off and make a City and Guilds final project. Can't quite decide which I'd like! (In case that seems like an odd statement I remind you - the job pays for the fabric and days off are unpaid!)

Anyway - this weekend I got goodies in the post:

My materials from Hannahs Room' s Beautiful Batik club arrived

and so did a Journal made by Sue Bleiweiss that I won in a giveaway in her Journal making class.
I had the pick of anything in her Etsy shop and picked this because it will be perfect for planning notes for a big trip we hope to take in a couple of years or so.

She put real effort into the pages.

I have still been feeling tired so apart from flopping and watching back episodes of The Quilt Show and reading The Painted Quilt I all have done really is finish these cushions commissioned by a freind to go with an African quilt I made for her some time ago.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Queen returns

The Chronicles of Quiltland has a new post and a challenge is planned by the weekend. Come over and see!