New Life From Scraps

March 7th, 2017

Somewhere the other day – and I’m sure it was Margaret Ramsay’s blog but of course can’t find it now ūüôā ¬†I found a comment about how liberating the artist found it to just use scraps and offcuts in her surface designs instead of cutting into pristine new yardage. ¬†I totally agree. ¬†I keep all reasonable sized off cuts from earlier projects, and blogged about this¬†some time back. ¬† We all know the thrifty ethic thing that is supposedly part of the back story of quilt making, so there’s a bit of the feel good thing there, though that’s not why I do it. ¬†Scrap bags accumulate scraps of fabrics that you’ve already liked ¬†– you’ve bought them and used them in something. ¬†According to my theory stuff you like goes together as a rule. ¬† So scraps are ‘auditioned’ for their next project appearance, and piecing begins.













For every work of mine that has segments of colour forming a shape, as in all the Ebb & Flow series (see gallery elsewhere on this website) the process of putting bits of fabric together into strings before cutting them to the next edge shape, is fairly fiddly but very calming. ¬†Once you have your heap of scraps extracted from the scrap bag – which is about the only colour designing you do ¬†– then it’s time to put the bits together and just sew, iron, cut and sew. ¬†Repeat. ¬†You sort of know how they’re going to look, but don’t always, and some are better than expected. ¬† This little sample on grey has silver metallic edging on the curved strips which are about 3″ long – gorgeous but a bit daunting to make into a larger work. ¬†Having said that – heck, why not? It’s on my mind.











I’m currently working with scraps of summery colours on a cream background, and really, to do the lines of patches and then cut and sew them into the rough square takes a total of about an hour for each one from start to stop, with plenty of ironing. ¬†This wall quilt will comprise sixteen ¬†8″ squares, which means the piecing alone will take me another 10-12 hours before moving on to the sandwiching, quilting and edge finishing.

Fishing around for another pic to go in this post, I found one of a miniature I’d quite forgotten –










It’s exciting because it reminded me that in a drawer somewhere I have several colours of this fairly thick very bright neon thread I can consider using to quilt the current project, and I might not have remembered it without seeing this. ¬†All this just goes to show how a bit of looking back can sometimes be inspiring.

Deconstructed Circles

February 28th, 2017

Someone commenting on my latest work said last week wrote “deconstructed circles are popular now”, and she’s right, they are appearing in more art quilts, though I’ve been using them on and off for some time. ¬†For someone who loves grids and works freehand the way I do, the deconstructed circle has great appeal as a design unit, as these two works in progress show: early stages in the construction of¬†Maelstrom (2006) ¬†left,¬†and¬†Anna’s Quilt (2008)¬†right respectively.









What new work? you might be wondering. ¬†True, it’s been a long time since I blogged, chiefly because I wasn’t creating (not even sewing hexagons) during a long illness late last year and the subsequent recovery period. ¬†But recently I’ve found mental+physical energy coinciding, and have begun exploring ideas that have been on my mind a while. ¬†I’ve keenly followed the the rise of ¬†the Modern Quilt Movement with light clear colours plus greys and white that are so appealing to many that they are even beginning to populate traditional designs. ¬†MQM’s website calls this overlap ‘modern traditionalism’, I just noticed. ¬†A favourite Uruguayan artist, Mario Giacoya¬†uses wonderful greens and yellows with small amounts of other light bright colours in his many rural landscapes. ¬†A primary influence in my work is still landscape shapes, and earthy Australian colours, but I’m finding I’m wanting more ‘light’ and ‘bright’ in my work.











Although I’ve used the unit before, and am always happy with lines that don’t connect, I drew a diagram this time to emphasise that I’m thinking of some units having many lines of fabric in them, others few, one or possibly none, and I’m still mulling over that and will continue as the work proceeds. ¬†This sample has more in common with¬†Maelstrom above as the arcs are segments of colour. ¬†My sample shows a complex set of them. ¬†These were a bit tedious to make, but I’ve been thinking about this too and will rationalise and synthesise what I learned in this sample making stage:















When sample making I normally just go as far as I need to learn something.  But this one I finished and bound because I plan to hand it on as a gift, hence this documentation.  I still have to think about

  • hand v machine quilting ?
  • any role for glitter here ?
  • what about dots?
  • And what a shame I only bought about 20cm of this wonderful striped fabric …

English Paper Piecing or EPP

November 5th, 2016

I’d seen this abbreviation a bit lately and had to look it up as I had no idea what it meant. ¬†If you don’t know hexagons, (hexies) and other shapes by EPP, you can easily learn.

This is my then-decades old project in 2006 – I’m getting closer to finishing now, just a couple more rows of cream hexies and that will be enough for a decent size bed quilt. ¬†Someone mentioned in a post today how thrilled they were to discover hexies, as apart from the crisp shapes we all love, the portability of a few paper and fabric shapes, a needle, thimble and thread in your handbag or pocket helps keep hands busy while waiting for kids or others. ¬†It’s relaxing and therefore quite therapeutic I feel. ¬†Any simple geometric shape can be EPPed as long as the sides match in length – there are lots of patterns built from basic geometric shapes here and elsewhere on the net ¬†–¬† ¬†and in addition you can do clamshell patterns, too. There’s a class at the IQF in Houston today on this very subject, though I thought the fabric chosen for the sample not entirely appropriate.

Here’s a link on how to EPP – ¬† ¬†with step by step instructions. ¬†The requirements and process are simple. ¬†¬†I learned from my friend Heather Stewart of Launceston Tas, one-time hexagon queen of Australia, who did not use the glue step and neither do I – quite unnecessary imho. ¬†So if you’ve a mind to join what feels like a growing wave of popularity, grab a few of your many scraps and have a go. ¬†You could be easily hooked in no time.

Land Marks

November 2nd, 2016


A detail of one of the Land Marks quilts I entered into Quilt National, none of which were accepted which’s Life of course. The silvery bits are that wonderful nylon backed silvery mylar fabric, and the black markings are hand drawn. The snipped segments are machine sewn with invisible thread onto a layer of mock patent leather backed with some nylon organza. ¬†When I fused the layers it all wrinkled – a fabulous effect even if a bit unexpected ūüôā

Just as well I had a real push to get these pieces finished to at least the ‘photography stage’ and submit my entries unusually early for me. ¬†My recent hip replacement turned into much more of a drama than I expected – I had a normal op returning home after a few days. ¬†But a week later I’d developed an infection, and then after becoming more sick thanI ever remember they found my body was rebelling against the strong iv antibiotic I was on. ¬†So blood transfusions, change the antibiotics and go to oral, and monitor, monitor, monitor – for another 9 days in hospital. ¬†I’m home now, feeling a bit more normal each day but still not eating well – and I’m losing weight which at the moment suits me just fine as I have plenty of extra and summer’s coming up – but I do not recommend this way to ‘diet’ !

While I was laid up I was asked to consider devising a challenge for the Ozquilt members online group, so I did and that will appear on the page around mid january. ¬† ¬†This ¬†feels like a good time to get out the old hexagon project and do some more on that. ¬†The weather’s foul and the friend Suzie who’s staying with us is industriously smocking – and talking of course, so I think I could be stitching ditto ūüôā ¬†We’ve watched several movies including Emma, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trilogy and one or two less impactful ones. ¬†I’m way behind with Pinterest browsing but will get a bit of that each day from now on and bring something interesting to my readers – there’s such a lot going on out there. ¬†I’m glad to be able to re-focus on matters textilian again.



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” ūüôā ¬† “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.



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