Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Inspiration Tuesday

Have a Happy Christmas everyone. I will see you in the New Year.
Here is the mistletoe on the tree behind our back garden to see you through the season.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Awww How Sweet!

Tonight we had our Candlelight Carol Service at church. Here are the children from my Sunday School class all ready to go sing "Away in a Manger". From left to right Shepherd ~ Amy, Joseph ~ Denzel, Sheep ~ Temi, Mary ~ Abike, Angel ~ Gideon. They all sang very well.

The costumes have been well used over the years. I have several boxes of a variety of Bible time clothes that I have made over the years. I think my son wore some of those clothes at that age, and he is now at uni!

Friday, 19 December 2008

Endless Cup of Friendship

I have been participating in the Journal Quilt Challenge with the Contemporary Quilt Group this year. Previously they did the A4 journals like the ones on the Quilt Art List. This year the challenge was 12" x 12".

Most of the other pieces I did this year were abstract - shapes and colours. I used pieces of an old wool blanket I got in a charity shop. I dyed the pieces different colours using Koolaid given to me by someone in America. Above is my December piece. The whole idea to do a series experimenting with the wool was because I wanted to explore dense thread painting on the wool. So, that is what I have done here. A lot of times I make myself leave the favourite idea to last. Do you ever do that?

I started with drawing shapes, but they turned into cups of tea/coffee floating in the sky. So, they began to stand for the time you spend with friends having a cuppa.

I guess I'm kind of needing friends at the minute. My sis is very ill. I am going to fly out there near the beginning of next week. We are looking at flights. (Actually the cups also looked a bit like luggages when they were turned sideways.) I'm also waiting to hear a bit more, but the doctor said that my sis in Alaska and I should go sooner rather than later.

So, the blog posts will be a bit sparse for a couple weeks.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Timely Presents

Another bag I made from the bag challenge was this one from 3D bow tie blocks. A bit out of my comfort zone...I am not really a patchwork person. I decided to use colours one of my sisters likes. We have a large family, so each year for Christmas, you gift a different person. It was my year to gift her and her husband.

Last week we found out she was very poorly. The bag arrived yesterday just as she was preparing to go in hospital for treatment. She loves it and used it to pack her bits and pieces. I am waiting to hear how she is getting on.

I am really glad I made the bag.

The teaching training course is finally over for this term (even though we are already being given assignments for the next part of the course!). So, hopefully I can get reacquainted with my sewing machine tomorrow. There is a growing collection of UFO's to get to! I am still doing the Handmade pledge, although, like some, I have had to amend that to allow buying books. How could you do any gifting in our house without books involved? I haven't had time for sewing things, yet, but I am baking things to give, so that makes a change.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Inspiration Tuesday

One late afternoon last week when I was drawing the curtains, I noticed this awesome ring round the moon! The colours aren't from the camera effects, they were actually in the sky! I tried to zoom as far as I could for the closer photo. I quite like the look of the photo with the cloud across. Very atmospheric! I actually got some photos as the cloud moved from left to right across the moon...however, though the others don't look too fuzzy, it wasn't still enough to keep from getting a very peculiarly shaped moon!

I am looking forward to getting inspiration from these. How about you?

Monday, 15 December 2008

Solar Optics

Back home! Here are the small pieces (about A5 size) that were in the display at the library. They have been there since August! One or two may become Christmas presents...but I haven't decided. Looking at the photo, I see I have kind of forgotten which way some are meant to go. I think the first one at the top and the second one at the bottom should change from landscape to portrait and vice versa.

I had fun making them at the time. They are developments from when I tried to capture the image which the sun sears into the back of your eyes and which remains when you close your eyes. Well, at least it is the image in "my" eyes!

If you look at them from 1-6 from the left to right starting at the top, I already had 1-Solar Optics: Radiance, 2-Solar Optics: Blaze, and 6-Solar Optics: Flame up on my website. I had the others started, but finished the edges quickly before taking them to the library. I never got photos though. They are 3-Solar Optics: Glow, 4-Solar Optics: Bright , and 5-Solar Optics: Brilliance. Solar Optics: Dazzle is also on the website. It is A4 size and the one I settled on for the best representation of what I was trying to achieve. I have a few other words I have collected...perhaps I will make a few more before long. Perhaps they will warm up the winter a bit!

I never even got to put labels on the back, so that is something I need to do before I put them away. However, I am glad the librarians and the customers at Birch Hill Library have been able to enjoy them. They would have sat in my cupboard otherwise.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Posh Clutch Bag

My friend Kandy Newton developed the pattern for this lovely clutch bag. She runs BQL (British Quilt List - now in its 10th year.) This past year, she gave us a bag pattern a month. You can see the results here.

I only got as far as August, which is this one, and I just needed a bit more hand stitching on it to clear it from my "to do before the end of the year" list. So, I did that today.

I think the challenge was very forward thinking on Kandy's part. At the beginning of the year, she told us about how many plastic bags go into landfill, etc. So we got on board making bags...many choosing to use up fabrics in their stash. During the year, the supermarkets began to change their thinking about producing so many bags for landfill, and began to either charge for bags or to proactively provide reusable bags. They even started to do fabric bags, as they realised even the "Bags for Life" weren't sturdy enough.

Fast forward to the end of the year and the concept of reusing bags and recycling in other ways has developed to be more of a way of life. And now with the financial crisis round the world, more people are looking for ways to be more conserving in their spending...but not only that to think more about what our throw away culture will be doing for our children and children's children.

So, well done Kandy! One reusable bag in the hand is worth several thousand in a landfill!

What are you doing to recycle/reuse? I'd love to read your comments. Just click the comment link under the post and type in your message. You will have to fill in a little form, but it is to beware of spammers and weirdos.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Christmas Boxes Day again

Today was the Christmas boxes workshop at Great Hollands. At first we thought there wouldn’t be anyone. It was very rainy and being close to Christmas, people were probably going into town. There weren’t many people visiting for books either. So, eventually, the 2 library ladies sat down to do it with me. The first photo is Pat showing her final product. She was very pleased as she thinks she is not good at that sort of thing! The other librarian is Lynne. She got stuck right in with her box, as she makes alot of crafts.

They had nearly finished when to junior aged boys came in. They were interested, so, I showed them how! We didn't get photos, but the youngest one knew his box would be just the thing for his mum because he had got her some jewellery. The librarians had more customers then, so left the table. While the boys were still working, a lady came and we asked (convinced her really!) if she wanted to do it. She had a dear little boy who was a good as gold while I showed her. There is the photo with him holding the box. That stage of the "lesson" was rather fraught since the boys and the lady were all at different stages. the lads actually went off without their library books!

When they had all finished, it wasn’t long and Lynne's son and daughter came in.That bit went very well and they really enjoyed it. The young man is at uni for graphic design – as in developing products, and the daughter is in visual marketing. So we had a good chat about the applications of what you could do with the boxes. and even started talking about how you could make boxes with more depth or of a more rectangular shape. That was pretty cool for me!

So, even though the structure of the time was a bit all over the place, everyone who made one was pleased. We didn’t get on to decorating the top, (although we discussed it with the college kids) but after all, that had been the extension activity for anyone getting done fast.

If you'd like me to send you a copy of the instructions I typed up, just send me your email address, and I will send it to you as an attachment!

Friday, 12 December 2008

Recycled Christmas Gift

I wanted to show you a cool bag I use for projects on the go. Last year my mother-in-law gave me a little case with "smellies" in it. Nice hand cream, etc. However, the washcase/make-up bag or whatever it was meant to be really caught my eye.
I love the sequin pattern on the front, and inside there are zippered pockets which are just right for small projects to take with you on holiday or wherever. You can see into them and know what you have. But, for instance, if you have beads and needles, you also know that if they escape, they won't go all over when you first open the bag.
The whole thing zips round like a suitcase, so you can actually lay things in the centre, as well...like a small sketch book. The fact that you can open it right up helps with the part about seeing what you have. With many other tote bag styled carriers, you find you have to dig around in the bottom to see what is there, or pull everything out.

So, if you get this sort of thing this Christmas, you will be all set up for a projects on the go bag!

Today I went to suss out the layout of the Great Hollands library for the Christmas boxes workshop tomorrow, since I haven't been there before. It looks good! This time the library will be open while the workshop is going on. So, instead of putting little decorations on top with the glue gun, we are going to use double-sided tape. Perhaps some parents will want to make a box with their kiddies!

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Tactile Textiles 2

What a great day! The ladies all were the sort that you explained something and they just got stuck in and did it. And what was even better, they said "What If?", and came up with things to try, different fabrics to try it on, etc. They got excited about potential possibilities, and came up with new ideas for me to discover!

In the photo above the purple sample is about trying the shrink texture technique (shown
here using a grid) but instead of doing squares or diamond shaped grids, one lady suggested circles. So that set my mind off on one! Like I am known to do! I started out to do circles and ended up with ovals first. We were discussing trying to stich round the circle to make the centre pop when the shrinking takes place. I was just playing, so the actual stitching could be greatly improved. but the idea does have it's possibilities. However, I was thinking that if you stitched circles, and then cut away the foundation fabric all round the outside of the circle, that it would work. Well...it didn't.

The other sample was something I had them do on the spur of the moment when I realised I only had enough tools to do 2 bubble texture techniques at a time. So the 2 not doing it did this technique. (Which I will admit I discovered from a "mistake" when I was trying to do something else too fast!! It is a technique that is used elsewhere though.)

Basically you have your stitch length the longest you can get it. Then you stitch lightweight fabric fast, but you don't let it flow smoothly out behind the foot. Instead, you put your finger there causing it to bunch up...but not all in one wadge...and let it go alot more slowly. When you pull it all out from under the machine, you have a ruched stitch without having to draw up the threads yourself. I was quite surprised at the delight expressed by the ladies when I showed them. They quickly rushed off to try it! It is a bit unpredictable as to the rate it will gather, but if you do several lines in a row, it looks quite nice. For instance on random sections of a scarf?

So, now I am shattered. The one thing I regret? I meant to get photos of the ladies and their samples and forgot!! Maybe if they read this, they will take some photos and send them to me to post. Please?

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

My Studio

I thought you might like to see photos of my studio. Aren't all the cupboards wonderful? I have daylight simulation tubes in the lights. It is so special to be able to see everything! Besides, it is great for the grey days of winter.

  1. No.1 shows where I sew. The ladies (M'Lady and Mademoiselle) live behind the desk area where the sewing machine is. I swing my chair round and use the overlocker. The pile of stuff next to the machine is actually somewhat ordered. But every so often I have to dig around to find what I know is there. It is boxes of pins, zipper seal bags, gold and silver pens and quick unpicks, etc. Stamping things and spare sewing machines (which I sometimes loan out) live in the big space under the desk.
  2. No.2 travels left. I will replace the curtains soon (okay, maybe) so at present they are in dire need of being hooked back up. I shall have to do a daytime photo so you can see there is a patio door with lovely louvered blinds, which my husband put up when I was in Houston. There is a recessed area next to the door to the room, so the big office drawer file fits there without coming into the room. I don't really use it for files, but it is right full of painting type things. The microwave on top is reserved batching dyed things. It means I don't have to worry about dye chemicals in the kitchen microwave.
  3. No.3 going on around. There is the door which goes into the lounge. It doesn't latch so I frequently have my little black friend, Pepper, come in to see me. Then is the computer desk which would be more comfortable if I didn't have to angle to the left. I will have to rearrange things if I get a new printer. That one decided to quit.
  4. No.4 moves on. You see more of the huge wardrobe that was also in the last photo. I have costumes and other clothes I have made but don't wear regularly in the right side. The left has things that want fixing, and piles of fabric in the bottom which I have been given and that don't fit into the other cupboards. As you can see, the bookcase sticks back into the corner. this was a good idea in theory. But not so good in actuality. You can only see a small portion of books, so they begin to live other places once I have dug them out of there. The other cupboards all have their own types of fabrics or whatever in them. One day I will show you those...but not today. you can see the magazines and papers stuck in the cubby hole that is next to the other jumble near the sewing machine. I DO have to get busy and organise those.

I thought I better do this today while I had tidied in case my Tactile Textiles 2 workshop ladies come in here tomorrow!

PS I am not sure how to make it so you don't have to scroll up and down to see the photo and read the description. But think of it as excercise for your scroll finger (if you have that kind of mouse) or for your moue hand.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Inspiration Tuesday

Last week we had the moss on the fence effect. Here is what can happen to brick walls. I like the look of the organic texture combined with the grid pattern of the brickwork.

This was taken in June in a place near here. The wall is part of what was the old estate belonging to the mansion at South Hill Park. I think the whiter areas is old moss and the greener areas are new growth. However, I know in nothing about moss... it may even be mould...which is also possible here in shady, damp places that don't get the sun. Because it was so dark, even on a Sunny June day, I had to use the flash.

Do you notice interesting stuff like this round where you live?

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Christmas "Toy Run" 2

Just to give you an idea of the size of the Toy Run! Can you imagine all the bikes roaring through Reading!! And look at all the Father Christmases! I love the pink angel wings on the one lass in the foreground.These are photos Niki took while they were there. I sent her the ones I took, and she sent some back. She said I could post some here. They also went to the run with our friend Mike (with the beard) who has also been going for several years.

I will be busy tomorrow preparing a microteach for my teaching training course on Tuesday evening, so I guess two posts today can make up for none tomorrow. I will stop in for a minute on Tuesday to do Inspiration Tuesday, though. The microteach this time is on a topic involved with teaching, so although less prep for a making activity, there is more prep as I had never heard of the topic before I took the course!! It is about Continuing Professional Development. Like most things I have discovered, that is a fancy name for something common sense. It is just continuing to learn things about teaching and about your teaching subject which in turn helps you do be more professional.

Christmas "Toy Run"

A photo of my husband and our friend Niki before they went off on the "Toy Run" today. Loads of bikers go up to Shire Hall in Reading and take a toy with them. Then the police shut the roads and they slowly ride through Reading to the Barnardos Home for orphans. It is organised by the Christian Bikers organisation. They have a short talk before all the bikers take off again.

This links to a feature about it last year. Toy Run

They usually dress their bikes up with tinsel, etc. Niki has been doing it for a lot of years, so this year she spent nearly 2 hours each night doing up her bike in wrapping paper! This is the first year my husband has gone. It meant he actually went into the loft and got down the Christmas stuff already! He was looking for the garland and stuff.

It was quite cold this year. We had very thick frost, and even by noon when they left, there were still some icy spots on the road. I told Niki she looks like the Michelin man. She had a Santa sack rucksack on as well.

Hope you aren't too cold.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Christmas Pudding Earrings

It's the start of the Christmas "Occasions".

These are my "Christmas Do" earrings. (costume jewellery) I wear clip earrings as I don't have pierced ears. I quite like small earrings. It is hard to find clip earrings in the first place now days, let alone small ones. A few years ago, my mother found these and sent them to me. What is special about them is that they are meant to be Christmas Puddings. Christmas puds are common here in the UK. When I was in America, Christmas Pudding was only heard of in Dicken's books and similar. So, since we have earrings representing British tradition, but which came from America, it makes them a bit special.

Today I went to a Ladies Christmas Lunch hosted at a church in a town near here. It is the one time a year I get to see some of these ladies, although we used to have more things going on together in the past. Today I got to see old friends and to get to know the daughter-in-law of old friends, whom I had never got to speak to before.

Also I heard a lovely flute solo by the teenage daughter of a friend I knew when she was a teen! I makes me want to get my flute back out and just have a go. I am in no way as good as she is, but my flute has a very lovely tone which I think would be a nice pick me up now and then.

Sometimes you think, "I don't have time for this", but then you go and come away finding you are very encouraged.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Dragon Claw - improvements and the Story

Right! Here is the improved version of the dragon claw. I am soooo chuffed with how this turned out! You may have thought yesterday's photo looked pretty good, almost like the claw was clutching the fabric. But believe me, in person it wasn't very pretty. It had wadges of fabric poking up all over.

But now, all puckers have been quilted into submission. I put a layer of wadding under the whole of the claw and drew round the major lines with a thread similar to the yellow silk, but with a few flecks of other colours in it. Then I put another little layer behind the knuckes area. Then 2 layers behind the whole thing.

I decided to quilt the "ground" with a bit of a small cobblestone pattern, and the "wall" with a freehand Greek key sort of pattern. I decided to use a thread which closely matched the silk to carry on with the small pebble type patterning I used for the skin where the other colour left off. All the quilting has helped to make the claw stand out with somewhat of a 3D effect.

I had used a piece of silk which was uneven on one corner, this means the resulting piece can have a more organic edge shape to it. I think I may take these studies later and either create a book or put them into a quilt... Not squares with sashing, but a bit more like this.

Okay, I think you must be ready for the story that came to mind as the study developed.

This dragon has a bracelet with what looks like a charm. It is really a scale from another dragon. Some Dragons exhange shed scales - usually small ones from the sensitive area near the ear - with other dragons as a token of friendship. However, what is not commonly known is that if a dragon is in need of aid, any damage to the scale will summon the other dragon. Each of the scales have a special ability, which works in a similar way to GPS (global positioning system) and helps a dragon know how to locate his friend.

The reason why more dragons have not been observed coming to the aid of another, (and indeed why there has been such a decline in dragon population), is due to the fierce independant nature of dragons. It is rare for one dragon to actually use the scale in order to summon the other's aid. Many dragons, knowing they are facing danger, will actually leave the token at home. On the other hand, this action could be interpreted as evidence of a dragon's concern about bringing close friends into danger.

A word of WARNING: If a dragon should offer you a token scale, DO NOT...I repeat, Do Not refuse. It is highly offensive. You may wish to give a lock of your hair in exchange. Although it may seem unlikely that you could come to a dragon's aid, it has happened on notable occasions.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Dragon Claw

Here is my study of a dragon claw...attempting a close up and trying to ensure there is value to create depth, etc. I am very pleased with it! I did a sketch first, and then used the sketch as a guide to where I should have lighter and darker threads. As you can see, even though I had two layers of stabeliser, there is so much stitching, it really puckered the fabric. So, I will stitch round it onto wadding, which should take care of the puckers and will also help to have more of a 3D effect.

The first ring on the claw has a crystal bead "gem". The second ring when seen closer is a "band of stones" made of red fabric. The third ring is stitched with metallic and then a small pearl sewn on. The last ring is just metallics.

Even more than being pleased about the outcome is that I thouroughly enjoyed myself and was able to work on this all day. I have had so many bits and pieces lately that I haven't had any thing showing real evidence of completion...or is it that I haven't been able to work on something for sometime that gives me sheer pleasure?

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Christmas Decorations

Today I finished a few felt Christmas decorations for my Sunday School class. Stockings with white tops and Christmas Puddings with "icing". The tops are open so you can stick something inside. Some of my kids do NOT need more chocolate or sweets, so I probably will find something like a pen or something to stick inside. I hand stitched round the botom parts with a running stitch, but used the hot glue gun to stick the white section and the hanging string on. I have made these before, but it has been a while and the new bunch of kids haven't seen them.

So, those are some of the gifts sorted for Christmas. If you notice on the side there is a badge for the Handmade Pledge. I am trying to make presents this Christmas instead of buying them. Click on it to go check out all the pledges at
I am also working on a wardrobe refashion, but it is not ready for public viewing yet!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Inspiration Tuesday

Interesting patterns in the moss. Plenty of places here in the UK don't get enough sun to keep the moss from growing on fences.
Do you look for patterns in unusual places?

Monday, 1 December 2008

Two Years On

Although these photos are from this past summer, I finally remembered to ask my friend Gabrielle for a copy. So, now you get a chance to have a look ,too!

Two years ago I was a winner for my entry in the Student Category at the Festival of Quilts. It was an A2 design board showing a skirt design called
"Distressed and Deconstructed" made of rust dyed fabric to suit the theme Environment: Erosion and Decay. Last year, I made this up and entered it into the Quilts Creations category, which includes 3D and wearables. Following that, I was given the privilege of having a gallery booth at this years show. You can see photos and read about it

Although I have been working on many different things in the past 2 years, I decided to concentrate on things connected with the ideas I was exploring at the time I won the award. The techniques included rust dyeing, twin needle cording and channel cording, and hand stitch embellishment. In the photos above, you see experiments with cording on fancy fabrics, including a gown created by draping on the stand, a quilt, and photos of the 2007 Bernina Gown "Epic Quest of the Last Dragoness". There are also examples of twin needle cording on printed bamboo look fabric and striped fabric, as well as calico and muslin. there are 2 child size corsets of the Tudor style. You can also see some of the textile art with rust dyed fabrics.

It was a wonderful chance to connect with so many people!I really appreciate the opportunity Andrew Salmon and Twisted Threads gave me.

I wanted to mention what I did to plan the layout. First of all I looked through my work to see what fit into those categories of what I was exploring at the time. Then I thought about one or two things I had intended to explore but hadn't. I spent a day or so laying out possible pieces which to cover those areas.

Next, I made a simple scale drawing using graph paper to visualise the size of the gallery booth better. Then I cut little rectangles of graph paper to represent each of the pieces I had and some for the ones I hoped to make. I coloured them slightly so I could see at a glance what they represented and also get a feel for pieces might work well together. I started to stick them to the scale drawing with blue tack, trying this and repositioning that. I wanted people to be drawn in by something as they approached from either side of the opening and then to be able to follow the thought process. On the back wall, I tried to have pieces that led from the rustic looking work to the more fancy work. As I did this, I also took note of any gaps I might need to fill. One main one being a fancy piece that represented my fashion work "in the flesh" so to speak. This is because the 2007 Bernina Garment is still on tour.

After planning, I went to work to make up the ideas pieces and the fancy piece...the draped gown. In the final days, I typed up labels to go with the work for people to discover the meaning if all they wanted to do was view. My son helped me to set up the booth, and at first, I was rather intimidated, as I hadn't been able to visualise the 3D size aspect still even with the 2D plan. However, once we got started, it really worked well. Everything ended up in the same general place as the plan, only slight adjustments to distance, etc.

The experience at the show was fabulous. I talked nearly non-stop...mostly to people wanting to know about rust dyeing. My friend had suggested I have a leaflet with instructions for how I do the rust dyeing. So I had done about 150 and ran out on the Sunday morning. some visitors were bringing friends back to have me go throught the spiel again! I also demonstrated twin-needle cording to visitors who were more attracted to traditional types of quilting. I was also asked about doing workshops for quilt groups, which is why I have been working on developing talks and workshops, hopefully for the coming year.

If you know of any group that is interested. Do let me know!