Green’s My Favourite Colour

October 19th, 2020

On FB recently I saw an announcement about a colour challenge with the Aeteoroa Quilters of NZ, and it is open to non members anywhere around the world. Although challenges are in effect themed exhibitions, and I don’t normally work to other people’s themes, unless they tie in with my own work, but green is my favourite colour, plus I happen to have some fabrics that I think qualify as ‘lime green’, so I think I’ll have a go. Yesterday I did a sample to see whether I need to work on a light or dark, the jury’s still out on that.

This first sample is very yellowy, so I tried out a green thread that isn’t lime BUT sewn over yellowy colours and that makes the whole unit sort of ‘read’ as lime. Further stitching showed that greens oversewed with this flouro green/yellow look more ‘lime’ too. So food for thought, but if I go further, this will not be the pattern.

I’m procrastinating a bit – the water and the land textures of the tiny landscapes piece need attention; I’m thinking about making a very large new piece to go on our dining room wall – which would need to be 1.25m wide and at least 1.25 long…. and not sure how to manage something so big with the hand stitch I’m so focused on at the moment 🙂 🙂

Other procrastination activity this week included tidying up my work table, and putting pens and markers, scissors, bobbins, thimbles, needles and similar collections of important sewing notions into those clear plastic containers that our cereal, nuts and some salads come in. The wonderful thing is they’re stackable and totally see through.

Work space can easily be expanded behind and left of the machine.

Tiny Landscapes, Continued

October 16th, 2020

I am now at the point where I have attached the 24 landscapes to their background background. The next stages are some embroidered details in the ocean spaces and in parts of the landscapes. On the landscapes I’ll be doing at least vegetation textures a little and hope to have some recognisable Aussie animals if I can successfully do them very very small. If not I’ll leave them out and just made surface texture marks.

As I said previously, I rarely use blue in my art, and so didn’t have any embroidery threads in blues, either, meaning I had to include it on the list for a rare shopping trip last friday morning. with this pandemic, it’s months since I went shopping, but a list was building and the threqds sealed it, I had to go. My favourite specs needed straightening after I sat on them. I needed certain sewing needles and the blue threads. From the stationary shop I wanted blue acrylic paint and printer inks. I wanted a few non-medicinal things from a large pharmacy chain that stocks different lines from the smaller one we have barely 100 steps from home. I hadn’t been into a mall for several months, and really felt the need to browse a bit while hunting for some new joggers. Mike offered to ferry me around – parking in Carrasco’s a total nightmare these days and I have difficulty driving our vehicle, anyway.

The first stop was the merceria, haberdashery store. It’s probably been there for ever, as on an early visit to Uruguay in about 1990, I shopped there for safety pins and hand sewing needles. That was an interesting experience, knowing as I did perhaps 30 words of spanish at the time. Someone probably helped me with the basic words, I guess, and then summoning up my courage, I ventured into the shop to buy what I needed. That day the shopkeeper took out a packet, opened it and asked how many I wanted, and I thought she was asking how many packets I needed. I was hand quilting a big project at the time, and as needles do wear out and get lost, I thought two packs would be a good idea, JIC, just in case, and responded with “Dos, gracias.” (two, please) To my utter amazement she selected two needles, placed them on a small piece of blue butcher paper, folded it up and looked up signalling she was ready for my next item, safety pins. No surprises there – the group of about 10 were all locked onto one pin. So last friday, as we neared the shop, I reminded Mike of that story, and hopped out.

In all the years I’ve been living in Uruguay, every time I’ve returned from Australia or the USA I’ve always brought back some of my preferred brand of thread in the basic colours I use most of, plus packets of machine and hand sewing needles. I have a good stock, JIC, and honestly doubt I’ve bought needles here in all that time. The woman who served me was possibly the daughter of the woman who served me 30 years ago, but I have to tell you that in that merceria, anyway, the system remains unchanged, and again I was blown away !

As you can see, I bought 7 skeins of embroidery thread, 2 needle threaders, 1m of pearlescent sequins and 3 needlesThe total came to $U580(pesos) or US$13.60, meaning the needles were about US 23c each.

According to the docket, the needles cost $U 10 (pesos) about US 25c each. There were several drawers and boxes of packets of needles, but they weren’t out on display, and I’d loved to have had a rummage to see what she really had in that tiny shop. However, this time I could at least ask why she sells needles individually and not in packets – and her answer was because they’re imported and therefore expensive. I should have realised way back then even; I always take care of needles but haven’t ever really thought about what they cost. When you think of it, though, US 23c or Aus 30c each is really quite a bit for such a tiny little thing.

“Pandemic Pattern” Selected For Quilt National 21

October 12th, 2020

A few days ago I received the very exciting news that “Pandemic Pattern” was juried into QN21. My regular readers will remember I started this quilt with view to entering, Knowing time was a little tight, once the sewing was moving along, I made an appointment well in advance with my wonderful photographer Eduardo Baldizan Roca, allowing just one day for some technical hitch before the entry deadline. I have less endurance for hasty last minute dramas than I used to. Eduardo produced his usual reliable, high quality photography and even dropped my photographed quilt here to me at home, bless him – people here in Uruguay tend to be very kind to seniors.

Alison with “Pandemic Pattern” 2020. 72cm x 104cm.

Once it was finished and entered, several people around me were complementary about it, but as usual I wavered back and forth between confidence and self doubt, thinking perhaps the jurors wouldn’t like / understand / think it was high tech enough, whatever – there are lots of reasons why a perfectly good art quilt might not be selected for any exhibition. And, it was a single entry: it is often recommended that artists have more chance of selection if they submit two or three similar works, a portfolio from which one would be chosen – something about presenting the artist’s voice or something, and usually I do have two or three to enter. I knew I had left my run a bit late-ish this time, but also typically underestimated how long the finishing off would really take. So with binding still not on, and about a week to go before the deadline, it became clear I wouldn’t have time to make another one. But that idea will keep – the pandemic’s not going to quieten down any time soon, unfortunately. The wonder was that my entry went in 48 hours before the deadline.

I did not expect to run out of thread at about 750m, which I’d have thought would be more than enough! I’ve never found my favourite threads, Gutermann, on sale here in Uruguay, and with no time to go hunting, had to blend in another not quite the same colour, which with the sewing and re-sewing to achieve that, plus all the binding and finishing, the total was at least 900m thread used. And people do ask that kind of thing, you know, especially at exhibition openings! It’s interesting, because quilted textile art is still strongly associated with its traditional heritage. People have seen awards of excellence made to some amazingly intricate designs in fabric and thread at quilt shows and state fairs. In the traditional world, excellence is achieved through precision and numbers of stitches per inch. In the art quilt world, design and colour are paramount, and technique needs to be appropriately and competently carried out well enough to present the artist’s vision without being in itself a distraction. People will also ask how many hours it took to make, and I’m sure about this one, someone will surely ask how many little pieces of fabric did I stitch onto the background? I always such questions by smiling and saying I really don’t keep a tally of that kind of thing, but do feel free to count or guesstimate!

As I pack it up ready for shipping in the next few days, the photo Mike took of me today it may be the only chance I’ll ever get. I’ve always had a pic taken of me with quilt at every opening (QN 93, 93, 05, 07), but unless the pandemic just goes away between now and 28th of May 2021, I won’t be risking my life to travel to this opening. That’s a shame, but in this pandemic ravaged world, on a scale of 0-10 it’s a problem of zero importance by comparison with what so many people aree stuggling with every day, which brings me right to the underlying theme of my quilt: I’ve been shocked by the pictures we’ve all seen of hundreds of graves being hastily dug and filled in, frequently without any ceremonial and not a single mourner present. It’s happening day after day in Covid pandemic hot spots around the world.

Gift Of The Nile

October 9th, 2020

I wrote before that the current Stitch Club workshop by Vinney Stapley is not enough to draw me away from focusing on my girt by sea/ little landscapes right now, but students in that very good workshop are doing some really wonderful things with sheer fabrics using mostly motifs from Nature.

I was somehow reminded of the sheer pieces I made ages ago, 2007-8, and often written about elsewhere in this blog, particularly from the point of feeling a bit dissatisfied with hanging options. Time’s flown though, and I think if I were doing these things now I’d fit them with grommets and hang with clear nylon fishing line – a method much more acceptable than it was way back then.

In 2007 Mike and I travelled to France for a some delightful travel with several Aussie friends on canals in Burgundy, followed by another week in and around Paris. We then left them to continue on their trip, and we made our way to Cairo, Egypt, where we had a wonderful introduction to that country under the guidance of a friend who was living there then. I did write about this at the time, but didn’t continue with some of the things that impressed me most visiting some of the tombs, very special archeological sites, wandering through some of the impressive and very ancient temple ruins. We visited the wonderful Egyptian museum in Cairo with all the treasures of Tutankhamun’s tomb and other archaeological sites laid out on display, albeit rather crowde. A new musuem, The Grand Egyptian Museum now set to open in 2021, will be a wonder of the modern world, I think. With every step, every day, we were aware of the ancient history of that country. Back in the C5th BC, the Greek historian Herodotus described Egypt as the ‘gift of the Nile’ river, and it is as true today as it has been through the five thousand years of its history. Perhaps no other country on Earth has ever been so profoundly shaped by a river. My head was brimming with all this and the thrill of having actually been to that ancient country; and soon after arriving back home I became absorbed in making this piece, Gift of The Nile:

Gift of The Nile, 2007 120 cmw x 100cmh
Gift of The Nile, collage of details.

I’m sometimes amazed to see something for the first time in years – so long in fact that in this case, I somehow neglected to include it in the illustrated catalogue of my textile art that I put together 2-3 years ago, and after working so hard on that, I really thought I’d dug up absolutely everything – but as a recent post demonstrated, I need to remain alert and open minded!

In 2002 I attended Fibreswest, a week-long festival of residential workshops and fun in Western Australia, and took a workshop on Korean bojagi with Chunghie Lee, We used silk organza which eventually prompted me to think about experimenting with sheer fabrics. In 2008 (what on earth took me sooooo long?) I made a couple of wall hangings, which have never hung – the same old hanging method ‘problem’:

Right away you can see the bojagi patchwork influence in the incredible amount of seaming!!! (which was done in metallic gold thread) as is the quilting in each block of each quilt. However, if I were doing either of these again, motifs sandwiched between layers of probably nylon organza, and (sewn together block by block) I’d set the pieces in a grid style layout, baste them into place onto the backing piece of fabric, carefully place the top layer over and baste that into place, then do free machine quilting on the front/top, and finally remove the basting.

Auditioning Skies For Tiny Landscapes

October 5th, 2020

The piece I have in mind involved one of two options, one being hand sewing over strips of coloured fabric, as I’ve done a bit of lately; or placing lots of little landscapes against some kind of ‘sea’ background. That really needed me to make a bunch from which to choose, so in the past few days I made these 35. As I worked on them, it was easy to forget how tiny these little landscapes really need to be, with some ending up too big to go into the layout on the 40cm x 60cm format. Clearly some I want to use I’ll have to trim down to the size of the smallest ones here:

I mean these earthy coloured abstracts to convey the variety of landscape colours in our huge continent nation, not to be actual pictures of anywhere. They’re really memories of ‘home’ and all that word conjures up, meaning I can’t listen to certain songs without tearing up a bit, as in “Our home is girt by sea.”

In the group photo above, the difference between the sprayed blues I’ve used conveys different moods that can be felt in a landscape during changing weather. Each was carefully auditioned before I cut into a sky colour. Here’s an example – the blue spray was onto a couple of pieces of light grey shibori fabric, and using one of these I felt would give the feeling of an approaching storm across a flat landscape that I have so often seen and experienced, so I went with the upper left option.

Auditioning sky fabric options: final choice upper left. Mood – stormy.

I find I can do a maximum of 3-4 hours only on this each day, after which I need a change of activity, or other things call for my attention, anyway, so the plan of action from here on is:

  • Select the 24 little pieces I most love, bearing in mind that not all Australia is iconic red sandy desert, so include plenty of greeny ones.
  • At least some of those will need to be trimmed or even re-cut and sewn to make much smaller. They’re so fiddly that for one or two it might just be simpler to find more of those little scappy bits and sew another.
  • By ‘trimmed’ I don’t mean cut to a square or rectangular shape; I mean to preserve the irregular edges to a degree.
  • Arranging them in their 24 spots on the background.
  • Decide if any stitching or applique needs to be done to the ocean part of the background before attaching the landscapes.
  • Making some samples to help decide whether to applique them by machine or hand, and what thread(s) to use for that.

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