The Sketchbook Page Today…

February 21st, 2015



sketchbook today feb 22 blog_edited-1

With arrows, stars, words and comments, this is a typical sketchbook page. ¬†They’re always in pencil, but I re-did this one for you in pen to get a clearer scan. ¬†I understand my own handwriting and abbreviations in this aide memoire, ¬†and even if it doesn’t mean much to you¬†I’m happy to share these¬†marks as part of my process. ¬†You’re welcome to anything else you glean of the ideas they encapsulate :-) ¬†There is much reference to several previous works or things I’ve been working with in sample form.

I regret that my hand writing has deteriorated, partly age-related :-) ¬†but even more a sign of the times. ¬† It is¬†the nearest I ever come to journal keeping, but of course it is definitely not that. ¬†I really don’t know how the beautiful artist journal keepers keep it up ¬†:-) ¬†This morning I was casually googling around holes, sheers, grids and marks, when a couple of ideas struck. ¬†Not wanting to lose a second, and with the sketchbook upstairs as usual, I took a sheet of waste paper from the printer and jotted them down. ¬†I’m a diagram person, and when¬†epiphany strikes like that a simple diagram+words, stars and arrows captures it. One¬†just might solve a nagging problem to do with using sheers that has long bothered me, and I must let Rosemary Claus-Gray know ….




QuiltCon 2015 or Modern Traditionalism

February 20th, 2015

Modern traditionalism – what a great term! ¬†Tradition and Innovation coexist strongly in all kinds of human endeavour, and quilt making is no exception. ¬†It’s very human to want to continue doing things the way they have always been done – but equally human to want to vary it a bit – or a lot.

It is very interesting that in¬†less than 10 years, the Modern Quilt Guild has rapidly taken off as a large subset of the Quilting Industry. It began as a movement of ¬†mostly younger makers juggling jobs, families and creative time deficits which led the founders to communicate online; but as other people joined them guilds began to appear to cater to a desire of people to meet locally in real time – exactly the same function of such groups in the ‘other’ older and more traditional part of the Quilting Industry. ¬†The focus of Modern quilt makers has always been to produce decorative practical home items (more bed quilts than wall quilts) ¬†which are made with the now standard rotary cut fabrics, machine pieced and machine quilted. Improvisational piecing finds a natural home with many Modern Quilters, though not to the degree I’d have thought would prevail by now, as Modern quilts still predominantly feature straight edge pattern shapes. ¬†I have been working freehand, template-free, that is, improvisationally, for over two decades now; and since I learned how to do that have always freehand cut the inner shapes of any repeat unit ( ‘block’ ) ¬†and very often the outer edge too. ¬†I love grids and how straight lines contrast with more organic lines. ¬†Modern Quilters still happily talk of ‘blocks’, and it is interesting to me that the movement has not found its own distinctive terminology to set itself apart a bit more from things traditional. While the Modern Quilt movement has brought quilt making into the lives of people many of whom have never quilted before,even though their mothers and grandmothers might have, there’s also quite a percentage who have defected from their more traditional quilt guilds and groups including some who have gone so far as to ditch their non-modern fabrics, and there are some with a foot in each camp.

In setting their identity apart from traditional quilt making, Modern Quilters maintain certain particular goals, some of which are spelled out on the movement’s¬†website,¬† and the following generalisations can be made: these quilters tend to be younger in age than more traditional quiltmakers, are strongly literate in digital communication and social media, produce primarily functional quilts, ¬†are (allegedly) inspired by modern design, and they favour use of bold clear colors and prints, lots of white/grey/neutrals with high contrast and graphic areas of solid color, improvisational piecing, minimalism, expansive negative space, and alternate grid work.¬† whatever this last term means…. ¬†I also found this whole sentence,¬†lifted exactly as it appears on the MQG ¬†website –¬†¬†“Modern traditionalism” or the updating of classic quilt designs is also often seen in modern quilting.” ¬†

I’ve been browsing at the pics of the winning quilts at the QuiltCon 2015 exposition in Austin, TX ¬†By all accounts, if measured by enthusiastic crowds alone, the Modern Quilt Guild’s annual event is probably well on the way to reaching equivalence to the more traditional International Quilt Festival Houston every october. There are classes to take, vendor booths with fabrics books and notions, speakers, discussion panels, block competitions and more, with a huge variety of categories of entered quilts vying for enticing prizes with attendant prestige.

The term ‘modern traditionalism’ is one of the exhibition categories for QuiltCon 2015, and below is the winner – for a closer look go to¬†¬†¬† It bothers me as much as most sampler quilts I’ve ever seen – only rarely are they well designed, as distinct from ‘well made’, which this one certainly seems to be. ¬†Traditionally sampler quilts are a first project in which a quilter learns how to piece or applique quilt blocks while coming to understand the basics of colour, value, balance and contrast, the quilter then learns how to set them into a pleasing layout, with or without sashings and borders. When you add the sandwiching, quilting and binding, that’s a lot of learning in that one project. For this quilt, the addition of generous grey, white or grey/white print sashings ,and perhaps the odd empty block to surround the splashes of lovely clear bright colour would have achieved more expansive negative spaces and introduced some element of minimalism. ¬†Some blocks could have been withheld from the front and pieced into the back where they would still available as a reminder of the learning they covered.


1st Place
Long Island Modern Sampler by Kim Soper
Centerport, New York
Individual MQG Member
Pieced & Quilted by: Kim Soper

There are some very interesting individual blocks in this overwhelming collection, and I hope Kim Soper selects one or two to work with for something more out of the box for next year. For example, she/he could take the bright mint green improvisational cross at lower left – it’s a popular motif for repeat units, modern or traditional. I used it ¬†in a repeat unit design in organza in 2005:

transparent quilt 2 copy tiny_edited-1


The following link shows all the winners and runners-up in the exhibition and many are from countries outside USA, pointing to the growing popularity of MQG around the world – there’s even a couple of Aussie winners !yay! – check these out –

Bias Tape Quilting Challenge

Sponsored by Panasonic


1st Place
CPU by Katherine Jones
Chigwell, Tasmania, Australia
Tasmania, Australia MQG
Pieced & Quilted by: Katherine Jones


2nd Place  Stock on Hand by Katherine Jones

Chigwell, Tasmania, Australia
Tasmania, Australia MQG
Pieced & Quilted by: Katherine Jones

 I was born and raised in Tasmania Рthere must be something in the water besides the flouride :-)




1st¬†Place ¬† ¬† ¬†plus a Judge’s Choice award !
Rainbow Magic by Mollie McMahon
Sutton, NSW, Australia
Canberra MQG
Pieced by: Mollie McMahon
Quilted by: Mollie McMahon
& Jules McMahon


And it is especially pleasing to see Best of Show awarded to this wonderful quilt by fellow art quilter¬†Kathy York¬†¬†whose work has been known to me for a long time –


i Quilt by Kathy York
Austin, Texas
Austin MQG
Pieced & Quilted by: Kathy York

You can see all the winners of QuiltCon2015 here

Go to the Modern Quilt Guild website and there visit some of the galleries, clicking on slices/thumbnails for a complete view of each quilt.



A Wall Quilt Featuring Botero Prints

February 15th, 2015

botero wall quilt_blog-1

I will never put this on exhibition of course, but if I had to name it, this wall quilt would be called “Homage to Fernando Botero” ¬†which I finished this week. ¬†It now hangs in the bano social¬†in this house, where odd ceiling angles provide the perfect spot – ironically above the loo which Fernando Botero himself is never shy of depicting in the background to a figure when appropriate.

botero wall quilt

Mike and I are devotees of the Colombian ¬†artist Fernando Botero who Wiki introduces as the most recognised and quoted living Latin American artist today, and continues “His signature style, also known as “Boterismo”, depicts people and figures in large, exaggerated volume, which can represent political criticism ¬†(Abu Grahib drawings and paintings) or humor, depending on the piece.” Just google his name and you’ll find a wealth of images of his sculptures, paintings and drawings – and of the artist himself.

One of my very favourites in the work with humour group Р(he has mostly stayed away from political comment via his art)  is Mujere Con Pajaro / Woman with Parrot, seen here in my not very brilliant photo of this pastel drawing behind glass which caused a couple reflections.  (but googling you can find a couple of images, neither of which have good colour)

botero's girl with parrot

There is such a lot of wonderful detail in this portrait of a woman – ¬†the dress is gorgeous, her nails and jewellery are meticulous, the parrot is there on her shoulder of course, as she pours drinks for herself and whoever is just out of the picture. ¬† But the most (pun intended) eye-catching thing about her is her turned eye. ¬†Yet he called it ‘Woman With Parrot’

A couple of years ago we went to a fantastic exhibition here in Montevideo of his ¬†pencil drawn still lifes and portraits, which prompted me to contact a dealer … and I found that I’d need to win the lottery to buy one, and so I will if I ever do! In the meantime we have to make do with the catalogue of that exhibition, and ¬†personal visits to his work whenever the opportunity comes up – for he is widely represented in major museums and collections around the world.

botero's adam and eve bronzes web

When we visited Columbia last year we found his work everywhere – there are huge bronze sculptures in plazas, gardens and museums, paintings and drawings in art museums, and we even found some delightful small giclees of not very good quality but great affordability in artisan markets in the historic city of Cartagena. ¬†We bought a few. ¬†We looked but could not find one of the woman with parrot, but love the ones we did choose to bring home and display, somehow. ¬†Instead of the group of framed or mounted things on the wall, I decided to ‘frame’ them in fabric, by means of a wall quilt.

So it is now installed where we can enjoy some of his art every day, and those of you who are in Montevideo and visit our home occasionally, we hope you’ll enjoy it too!

For some other textile artist’s work this week go to¬†









Love Affair With a Special Fabric

February 14th, 2015

A very special fabric and I were first introduced in 1990, and I’m still in love with it. ¬†Its a cotton, ¬†printed black with irregular tan coin spots, designed by and American designer, Jennifer Sampou for P&B Textiles in the early ’90’s.


I was living in the US when it was released, loved it at first sight and bought some on the spot realising it was¬†the¬†perfect border and sashing for this quilt, below, I was making at the time.¬†“Through The Windows of My Mind” 1990, 256cm sq.¬†became one of the earliest¬†¬†Colour Memories quilts, inspired by the vegetation colours and landscape features of the remote tent camps we lived in for a couple of field seasons in the Northern Territory. This time, 1975-6, I now refer to as our Tent Period, and to me this quilt says it all.

Through The Windows of My Mind blog cropped-1

Several years later, I saw this fabric remaindered somewhere in the USA at $3/yd, so naturally I bought the remaining half bolt. ¬†Although this fabric design was released in several colourways, the tan/black certainly is evocative of Australia’s sunburnt landscape and our national sense of colour; plus clearly in the minds of some it also referenced the dot paintings of some of our indigenous artists. ¬†As Jennifer and her range were clearly American I am sure this is happy coincidence, and I think the black/tan colourway was actually too hard for American quiltmakers to use with their totally different ‘national colour palette’ – no wonder it was remaindered, imho. ¬†Having about 9m of this fabric now, I began work on this 2m sq work, “Desert Wind” 1995, and I wish I had $1 for every time someone said something like “Oooh, so you do Aboriginal quilts, too !!”

Desert Wind copy blog

I understand the comment of course, but it’s never been said about this next one though, which to my mind might be more deserving. ¬†Its title¬†“Kimberley 2″¬†2002 ¬†90cm x 110cm refers to the Bungle Bungles rock formation located in the Purnululu National Park ¬†up in the Kimberley region of Australia:


Kimberley 2 blog


I also used it as a background fabric to the blocks in this next quilt, “New Directions” 2002 ¬†96cm x 84cm ¬† ¬†in which the lines and arrows represent people coming to our ancient continent from all directions over its entire ¬†human history: the black/tan of course here signifies the original immigrants, our indigenous people who crossed the land bridges from Asia ¬†perhaps at least 60,000 years ago.

New Directions blog

I still have about a metre of the fabric and eke it out, ¬†and there are plenty of small bits in my scrap bag so pretty well every Ebb&Flow quilt has a little in it somewhere. ¬†Some of it went into a bed quilt for our daughter a few years back, and there’s some on our bed, too. ¬†I kick myself when I think of the 4 metres I used on the (never seen) back of¬†“Desert Wind” . ¬†¬†I guess I naively assumed at the time that such a marvellous fabric would always be available … well of course, I now know that’s not true ! ¬† But what is true is that every now and then a fantastic fabric will come into my orbit; ¬†I will instantly emotionally bond with it and recognising it as special, will buy as much as I can, at least 3 metres if possible. ¬†I always make sure I have a credit card or some cash on me when I’m out and about in likely places. ¬†Most important of all, I know I will use it because I love it.


Reading At The Moment

February 9th, 2015

I read quite a lot, particularly when you take into account the audio books I have playing when my hands are busy quilting.  I have three on the go at the moment, all with a strong foundation of history.

conquistador¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬†Tonight I might finish this fascinating book, ‘Conquistador’ by Buddy Levy, telling of the Spaniard Hernan Cortes’ setting out from Cuba to conquer the Aztecs of Mexico and other groups of people in the region at the time in the quest for new dominions and treasure for Spain. Fascinating and quite bloody, ¬†but I am really enjoying it. ¬† I shied away from history at school because of the incredibly boring teaching style of our history teacher. ¬†Years later, long after I graduated from university without modern history under my belt, I discovered how interesting it really is ¬†– the power of a teacher, good or bad, to influence life choices!

narrow road to the deep northI’ve been reading but was interrupted and haven’t gone back yet, to Richard Flanagan’s ‘The Narrow Road To The Deep North’,¬† ¬†about an Australian doctor who went to war and ended up as POW of the Japanese, working on the Burmese railway to India. It was¬†last year’s Man Booker Prize winner; and such a powerful, wonderful read that I need to put down every now and then to think about what I have just read. ¬†I guess it was at one such point a week or so ago that I realised that as Conquistador is one of the new books in the book club I belong to, it must be returned this wednesday and so I’m focusing on finishing it by tomorrow evening to avoid the late fine ;-)

code red¬†¬† ¬†Last but not least, I am listening to John Maulden and Jonathan Tepper’s ¬†‘Code Red, How to Protect Your Savings from the Coming Crisis’ ¬†Definitely don’t put retirement savings in the banks I’ve learned, and taken in a bit about why – so we’re on track there. ¬†A fascinating snippet from this afternoon’s listening ¬†is that the population of Japan is so heavily weighted with seniors and retirees at the top of the demographic table that the population is shrinking or will soon do so, and that in Japan in 2012 sales of adult diapers/napkins outperformed sales of infants diapers/napkins for the first time ¬†!!