A Shared Taste? Not Really …

September 2nd, 2016

Pinterest this morning sent this email:   “Alison – meet X!  They say great minds Pin alike. And we just found someone who shares your taste in Pins. Follow their boards to discover more Pins you love!”  I’m about to be disparaging about her pinning, and as I don’t know her, but have two friends with the same name, I’ll just stick to “X”

First up, this person has set up 111 boards to pin her 13,000+ saved images onto.  My experience is that anything over about 30 boards is a red flag, as I typically find such a pinner’s selections are of a ‘pin everything’ approach, and it becomes time consuming and sometimes confusing to sift through.  I’ll back out quickly from such a time waster.  I have no idea how I’d keep track of thousands of pins in hundreds of boards, as I’ve only saved 450 images or so over several years.  I’ve found more rapport with pinners who seem to carefully choose whether to pin or not, and whether something is important to their ideas collections.  I believe it is definitely a case of ‘Less is more’.   Having a huge number of boards somehow seems the equivalent to the groups of  holiday travellers on organised guided tours.  We’ve all seen them, no matter where we live.  All the passengers on the bus are from the same foreign country, they hurriedly alight, take masses of pics of each other standing in front of whatever view/building/monument/large sign is behind them, and then quickly clamber back on board for the next whistle stop on their tour.  Pinterest for some people is clearly the same kind of hurried ‘travel’ in the field of ideas.

Secondly, on X’s page this morning, I scrolled and a few lines down found a board labelled “Kantha Stitch Style Fibre Arts”.  Several years ago I attended Dorothy Caldwell’s wonderful workshop on mark making with reference to Kantha , so thought I was in for a treat.  Kantha is not a technique, it’s a style of embroidery from W. Bengal India that uses running straight stitches to form patterns and fill shapes of  flowers, birds, animals and scenes of everyday life that are meaningful to the maker and her community. 

6" square, hand stitched, straight/running stitch filler, chain outline.

From my workshop with Dorothy Caldwell; I chose a kangaroo shape to stitch a 10cm sq. kantha-style stitchery

In the west, with the growing popularity of hand stitch, ‘Kantha’ is one of the trendy hand stitch buzzwords, and while technically it is ‘merely’ a running or straight stitch worked into all kinds of patterns, the scale and potential of Kantha work within its cultural context is rich, often complicated and overall glorious. (see the above link or google Kantha images)  On X’s page however, faced with lots of hand stitchery of many different kinds, I saw nothing ‘kantha’ before pulling out at about image #50 or so.  There were however some mixed media hand stitched textiles, most of which featured some pattern darned areas; and it became clear as I looked further into X’s boards, with “Kantha style 2”, and “kantha 3” listed lower down, that X equates Kantha with pattern darning.  I know, dear reader, that might seem a bit nit picky, but there we are – that’s me.  I am a bit pedantic on things I know a thing or two about.  There were other gems in the boards in X’s boards titles –   “tea bag fibre art” 🙂   “safety pin fibre art” for heavens’ sakes, and, well as I said, 13000+ pins under 111 titles.  I guess I was overwhelmed at what this represents in terms of time spent looking at, collecting and saving images of other people’s work and inspirations.

We all know social media run on algorithms based on how we use those media sites.  They’re often enough totally wrong, but we put up with that for the other benefits we enjoy by being part of them.  Today Pinterest got it quite wrong when it told me that X and I are an exact match – but that’s ok – I’ve vented and will be back on Pinterest again in a few days’ time, prolly.



The SAQA Oceania Group Bloghop – My Turn !

August 28th, 2016

Welcome to my regular readers, of course, and a special welcome if this is your first visit to my blog.  Underway since August 15th, this blog hop features posts about 12″x 12″ art quilts made by members Oceania group of  Studio Art Quilt Associates, Inc, for the 2016 SAQA Benefit Auction, which begins here September 16th.

Mosaic 1 blog

‘Mosaic Pathway’ 2016,  12″ x 12″. SAQA Benefit Auction starts September 16.

I’ve always loved mosaic pathways, and they’ve often made me feel I need to ‘do something’ mosaic-ish inspired by them and yes, you might say ‘patchwork’ in general is really mosaic-ish.  One day in May I was looking back over old patterns and designs, and digging into old photo files, searching ‘for something’ and realised the picture of this grey pathway (below, right) had been up on my inspirations board for a very long time, and was now telling me ‘It’s time to do something about this’.

mosaic paths blog

Some of the mosaic pathways I’ve photographed down the past 10+ years.

For some years I’ve collected bits of metallic finished leather, often without any actual plan at the time; but I have used leather shapes  on quite a few quilts and also I love sewing with metallic threads – it seems I just can’t resist glitter.  Another glittery impulse buy was 5 or 6 metres of silver mylar backed nylon for about $2/m in a fabric disposals market zone while travelling in Santiago Chile one time.  I couldn’t resist it and would have bought gold, too, if they’d had it.  That sat in my cupboard unused for years until this particular day.  I had just returned from travels during which I saw an actual El Anatsui wall hanging in real life – utterly stupendous – and so perhaps all that and some other things all came together at once – and so I pulled out the mylar/nylon, scrap fabrics and some leather bits.  I’ve found if an idea strikes while I’m doing something else, I need to quickly stop to capture its essence for another time, and so I whizzed up these little sample snippets, longest 14cm widest about 8cm.

Mosaic samples blog

Quick samples –  mylar backed nylon (L) metallic finished leather (R) machined with gold thread.

Sometimes doing a little snippet leads on to something new/big/good/a series, but other times, having analysed it, I’ll put it aside for ‘later’.  I almost never throw out a sample, as you just never know what it might trigger months or even years later.  You should see some of the bits I’ve got in that box on the bottom shelf!  Anyway, having done the sample, its potential was immediately obvious, and I knew I had to think it all through before starting.

A sample is one thing, but to make an actual ‘art quilt’ I had to stay within the accepted paramaters of two full layers of fabric sewn or fastened together by stitches or something that serves the same purpose.  (Irregardless of surface design, in this case leather segments)  Although I didn’t need to use any form of batting, (which involves a basting step) I knew I’d need to somehow keep the layers together well enough so there’d be no slippage and wrinkling of fabric as I applied the leather bits.  I came up with the quick answer of just fusing a denim weight front to a muslin/unbleached calico back, forming a nice non-floppy base on which to stitch the leather with gold machine stitching.  This one-step applique/quilting process did not, however, mean any time saving 😉   At the torn edges of the fabric, the leather pieces simply stop, overhanging the edges slightly.  It felt right to just leave it that way without covering those interesting edges with some kind of binding.  Plus, in my mind this non-edging also related to erosion of surfaces over time, of geomorphology, symbols, mark making, archaeology and man made marks on surfaces… all of which have been on my mind a long time and are coming to my attention again.


The previous post in this series was from Sally Westcott, August 27th, sallydunn.blogspot.com

The next post will be by Lee Vause,  August 31st,  www.addicted2fabric.com

If you missed earlier posts, go to www.saqa-oceania.blogspot.com August 10th, for full date/artist/address listings.

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Alluring Lines

August 27th, 2016

posted previously on a great design workshop I attended nearly a year ago in the Wool Museum at Geelong, Australia, with fibre artist Jan Mullen. Photos I took of various activities that day included this and several others of pages of a huge wool fabrics sample book lying open on a table.  This morning, while mulling over a request for information and images of most most significant innovative works had me looking back through photos and information sheets to select a few key works of mine to include in a submission to SAQA for possible inclusion in a book.  Of course, looking back takes time, as it is soooo easy to be distracted 🙂 and I could have my stuff half assembled by now; but revisiting these photos in the files compelled me to resize and post some, shown below.


wool sample sheets 1 blog

This morning I revisited those photos of lovely lines and printed this particular one to pin on my wall to look at whenever I walk past.

Wool samples file NWM geelong1

These others are inspirational, too, though for the moment they’re not getting a page of their own on the pin board.

Followers know that I adore  fine freehand cutting and piecing, and I can feel some of that coming on in a way I haven’t quite dealt with it before. To me, the line is the single most important design element, and that includes the expressive potential of the glorious straight stitch.

SAQA 2017 Trunk Show Sample

August 23rd, 2016

Members are making and  preparing to submit 10″ x 7″ samples for the SAQA 2017 Trunk Show  (these little pieces are way too small to call  ‘an art quilt’, in my opinion!)  The purpose of the trunk show is to share/spread technical information and inspiration by way of these samples, on the back of which will be quite a bit of information provided by each artist.  Several hundred are expected based on previous trunk shows, and they will be divided into groups of about 40 to tour for 3 years, including being available for hiring out to groups.  After that time some will be selected to add to SAQA’s permanent collection.  They have no set theme, but may be of a any technique used in art quilt making, can explore new ideas including materials, or may also be by a technique or style with which the artist is familiar.   Items in the collection will be in plastic sleeves so people can handle and really look closely at them.   Touring schedules and hiring information will be posted on through www.saqa.com from early next year.

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This untitled 10″x 7″sample uses many of the materials and all the techniques of a much larger work entitled ‘Land Marks’  2016,
and it is possible there will be further works in this series.

I’d certainly like my offering to be added to the permanent collection.  This sample is on grey metallic finished leather backed with nylon organza, coated with silver sparkle glue.  Silver mylar backed nylon hand patterned with permanent marker pen was cut into slices arranged in a loose grid format, and sewn on to the leather base using very fine clear nylon thread.  The edge is defined with a single line of silver machine stitching, which, see my previous post, was a bit awkward to do because of the springy nature of the thread, but hey, it was only about 33″ of hand/machine sewing.

Springy Threads – Potential Trouble Spots

August 19th, 2016

I’ve been sewing some silver glitter to leather today, and it took me a while to get going.  I hadn’t used these particular materials and threads together before, and found as I did the little sample I always do, I had real problems with the top silver metallic looping and being fed below to the backside of the work with a crazy result; and that every few stitches if they weren’t looping, there were occasional skipped stitches. Pulling out stitching with leather of course leaves holes, so when you re-do it you need to have the same stitch length to re-use those holes, going slowly until you’re in new territory.

I need to say, too, that my machine here in Montevideo is a very basic domestic Bernina – a great little machine, but there’s absolutely nothing computerised in it, and there probably are newer models that easily handle this kind of thing with the flick of a button or two.

I noticed that every now and then there was a skipped stitch (upper left)  Now I really wanted to use this silver thread and so decided I’d just try this little sewing job of 75cm, I’d take my foot off the pedal altogether and just turn the drive wheel manually. While doing this slow motion thing I I saw the springy thread loop under the needle point and come up round behind the needle so the next up-down movement would make the thread loop and bunch underneath and I realised this was probably causing the thread to skip occasionally.   I finished the line of stitching around the edge of the leather, having the time to keep the several potential trouble spots under supervision.  These are highlighted in the pics below.  I know I could use a much larger needle, like a jeans topstitching needle,  or there’s probably a leather needle I don’t have, but I did not want to make large holes in the leather, so that’s a trade-off I faced and decided to keep the needle as was.


springy thread blog

(UL) Skipped stiches; (LL) twists/loops may occur at the feed into the tension discs; (Centre) twists/loops may occur at the top of the overhead arm; and (Right) thread may twist/loop round the back of the needle.

Sometimes I wonder why I do the things I do – and you might, too.  More on the overall little project some other time.

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