Yes, It Took A While, But It’s Finished

August 18th, 2022

Today I made and attached three hanging sleeves to the backs of quilts.

After almost two months working on this first piece, today I finished it off by attaching the hanging sleeve. I’m still mulling over the title – Concentric Squares isn’t interesting enough… though at this point I’m wondering if the squares themselves aren’t very interesting, either… Nah… I’ve just been too close to them for too long!! I know I’ll feel a bit differently when I’ve stopped looking at it every day for a while.

At the start of the hand quilting process, and by sheer luck I had a thread in my stash that 100% matched the grey background fabric.
I edged it with a binding of the same not-quite-white nylon organza I used in the outer row of squares. As a binding it was was a bit fiddly since it almost frayed just when I looked at it – nevertheless, was worth the effort, and it’s a good photo of the nice shiny binding, I’m sorry I couldn’t get the clarity of the stitchery but I’m sure Eduardo’s photos will be spot on. Very soon.

The next was for this one, Caribbean Crush, finished a couple of months ago, though as my works hang on the wall they really aren’t finished until the sleeve is on the back… but I was needing a change of activity and itching to start work on the next 🙂

Caribbean Crush” shown here in the process of having a border row added. I then added a backing before doing some minimal quilting and applying a facing.

And the third sleeve was a replacement one for “Slideshow”, which needs to be shipped soon to SAQA for inclusion in its exhibition at the 2022 SOFA Chicago expo I’d snipped a couple of holes in the sleeve to have it fit over hardware already in the wall where I hung it in our house until recently – so sporting a new sleeve it’s more fit to be seen.

“Slideshow” 2015 ~100cmh x 125cm

Primal Patterns

August 8th, 2022

I have always used the term primal patterns to cover those most basic human instinct driven marks that alone or combined make up patterns or tell stories. So in thinking about my long love of squares inside other squares, I googled to see if ‘primal patterns’ is a thing… and found myself in the world of serious body shaping gymnasiums and fitness, so quickly backed out of there!

My next move was to squares, and I found myself closer to where I expected to be, in amongst the most basic shapes I was looking for – circle, square, triangle and rectangle, to which I’d add the line and the point.

Googling on to prehistoric mark making symbols, I came across a really interesting, fabulous article in NewScientist, 2016, about the work of paleoanthropologist Genevieve von Petzinger, suggesting that coding within rock art on cave walls could be the precursor to human writing. The earliest known human writing comes from the middle east, in what is now Iraq: “The first formal writing system that we know of is the 5000-year-old cuneiform script of the ancient city of Uruk in what is now Iraq. But it and other systems like it – such as Egyptian hieroglyphs – are complex and didn’t emerge from a vacuum. There must have been an earlier time when people first started playing with simple abstract signs. For years, von Petzinger has wondered if the circles, triangles and squiggles that humans began leaving on cave walls 40,000 years ago represent that special time in our history – the creation of the first human code.” Totally believable and thought provoking.

Because they are found in prehistoric markings on rocks and cave walls on every continent, I’ve always believed that any human, no matter how young, when given a surface and a marking tool will doodle with it and eventually come up with these basic shapes, no matter which culture they’re growing up in; and even if we can’t assign any known meaning or symbolism to ancient marks on objects and surfaces in the landscape, we certainly recognise them as made by a distant human being. Note to self – keep a closer eye on the latest news in the world of paleo-anthropology…

I regularly browse in Pinterest, and there one of my collection boards is ”lines and shapes”. Recently I came upon an image of rows of different hand drawn lines and shapes, of the kind I and countless others have often assembled, doodling basic shapes, making patterns and arranging them in rows. Though I can’t relocate that particular image right now, it carried a stern warning that this was original work and was not to be used without specific permission. It is somewhere on a site called The Pattern Base Archive which is a pattern file you can subscribe to, file your own patterns and access someone else’s pattern. Tags on the post included pattern, drawing, doodle, cubes, strips, blocks, and more could have been added like snakes, waves, concentric circles, dots, overlapping arcs, latticework, chevron stripes, zigzags, waves, hexagons… I thought the admonition a bit silly really, but, having once been hit by Getty Images there is no way I’d use that image here without permission! It took me just a couple of minutes doodling to produce this little snippet –

There’s nothing particularly ‘original’ about arranging these and other basic shapes in lines, and many of us use this kind of pattern making in our textile art.

I’m nearing the end of a current project featuring hand appliqued concentric squares, and they’re pretty primal. I’ve been thinking more about squares and grids, fusing, and hand applique, and this morning I googled around and jotted down a few notes of possible directions to explore, like x o +

I also think it could be interesting to work on, develop, or adopt something as a new, highly personal symbol for something only I know know about, and make it a kind of signature element in my art.

This One’s Going To Take A While, Continued…

July 27th, 2022

I posted the previous article on this project just a little over a month ago, June 22nd. Though I’m putting as much time in as possible, it is taking at least as long as I thought it would. I did estimate the number of concentric square units wrongly, but essentially 11 rows of 11 units works out at 121, so I must have just transposed figures, which I do tend to do a little – but didn’t realise until I put the whole thing up on the design wall today and understood why I was finding I had a few more than I expected to finish in the outer row.

Now that the whole design is almost finished, and I feel the ‘brown’ ones, of deeper gold shimmering sheer fabric strips overstitched with copper thread, are coming up just a bit too dark.

I have few options –

  • do nothing – see upper left
  • unpick some copper thread and sew over the fabric strips in gold thread – see right of of this pic.
  • add some gold stitches in amongst the copper stitches to lighten those units a bit – the central of the right square, and the fight side of that square.

It was evening when I finished doing this sample square, and in the night light it didn’t seem to make enough difference to justify the amount of extra work to change all the coppery blocks. However I’ve left it pinned to the design wall and will make a final decision when I see it in the morning light.

I have just 5 blocks of the outer row to finish.

An Obsession With Squares

July 23rd, 2022

My followers know I learned traditional geometric patchwork and quilting when we moved to Denver in 1987, but after a year or so I began to make my earliest art quilts. I’ve been focused on the nice symmetry and balance of a square ever since; and while searching for my earliest mention of concentric squares, aka the Square in a Square block of traditional p&q, I found an early 2005 blog post – and it amazed me that the quilt I referenced in that was made so long ago –

“Heritage Quilt” 2005 ~70cm x 95cm (in retrospect that’s an odd title)
work in progress

These days I’m still basting square outlines of ~4inches, which must be my inbuilt comfort setting; and I’m still finding ways to use squares in/on other squares. Let me quote from that 2005 post –

And finally, a little session focused just on doodling with pencil and paper did it. Just squares and triangle thingies, dots and dashes, and all of a sudden inspiration took over.”

This is still how a lot of my design work begins….. and I concluded:

“I feel this is a new direction compatible with my interest in the origins, factual and legendary, of patchwork and quilting, and exploring the common ground between the traditional quilts and what has developed in the contemporary/art quilt world. The square outlined by the grey basting stitches is around 4″ side.”  The right half of the photo above shows just a little of the grey basting thread up near the top of the frame. 

I was a teenager when I developed an interest in early Man and his primitive activities as known only by unearthed artefacts and markings on cave and rock walls. That prompted me to to study at tertiary level the better documented and understood later ‘ancient’ civilisations of Greece, Rome and Egypt, and I’m always thrilled every time new discoveries are made on all continents. I’ve always been fascinated by markings and patterns that appear from within human groups we know were not in contact with each other. These marks probably have proper name, but I just call them ‘primal symbols’. I feel I need to thoroughly investigate ‘squares’, probably one of the great primal symbols… but today I don’t have the time – I’m stitching at full speed on the latest squares work, and have only 25/112 left to do – and have to get back to that. It’s a dank grey day outside, perfect indoors / stitching weather.

These squares are ~3.5″ across, so about 4″ must be my comfort zone! And yes, that is a big needle, in fact a darner which suites me perfectly, and with the hoop’s help, enabling me to sew each stitch quite fast, in one smooth movement..

Hand Sewing, Continued …

July 22nd, 2022

While accompanying my husband Mike on a business trip here to South America in 1992, I felt I really should buy another packet of the sharps I was using to quilt “Ora Banda”, as we were shortly to be heading off into the wilds of Argentina. (Geologists’ wives accompanying husbands on work trips are used to spending time on our own during working hours!)

“Ora Banda”, 1992. 127cm x 150cm. QN93

I knew very little Spanish at the time, so I think I did pretty well to find a haberdashery, sort out the vocab for buying needles, and remember to take along one I w as using to show what I neededThe assistant put a packet on the counter and asked how many I wanted. I replied I’d take just the one packet please, but she repeated the question to make it clear she meant how many individual needles I wanted. Thinking quickly on my feet, I covered my surprise by answering with a smile and my best manners that I’d take 3, please.  She wrapped those three needles in a small piece of blue (moisture proof?) paper; I paid the modest per needle cost in pesos of course (perhaps US 3c each) and walked out onto the street a little stunned. The country was still recovering from the military dictatorship, so I just presumed this was a struggling economy thing.  

Fast forward to the first pandemic year, 2020 and with overseas travel impossible and my stock of large needles running perilously low, I returned to that same shop which is now being run by the previous shopkeeper’s daughter. She produced just three large needles, which were not exactly what I wanted, but in an emergency beggars can’t be choosers ! so I bought them anyway, felt a little easier, and began to think this is a cultural thing.

I’ve since found a shop in another part of the city that does stock packets of the darning needles I need. A few months back my spares were down to four, so I called in for more. The shopkeeper placed a box on the counter and produced two unopened packs of ten #7 darners, and another containing just seven of the of the original ten. I bought the lot.  I started a new packet today, so pristine spares now number nineteen 😊 

Yesterday Virginia, a born and bred UY friend who sews and crafts a lot, said she’d never come across that, but she’ll ask around, and I’ll post any answer here.  She also told me something I’d never known or noticed – that in UY a person will never hand a needle directly to you but will always put it down for you to pick up.  Another UY friend Graciela, who lives in Australia and is currently visiting family here, said it’s always been possible to buy the just section you want from those made-in-China cards of 100 different purpose needles – I’m sure you know the ones, which also include a needle threader on the card.  I’m sure that all partly shaped my earliest needle buying experience here.

What started me on this article is that I was digging around in my hand needle stash the other day for a useful little gadget I keep in there.  A snag needle looks like a darning needle, but at the blunt end it’s tooled like a metal file, so it’s not technically a ‘needle’.  I was going to describe why and how to use one, until I found this little ~3min video on that very subject https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqfriMwpPJo  It’s something everyone should have in their hand needle stash!

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