Making Dots – Samples

June 11th, 2017

During the last 2 years some of my works have had the added surface design element of painted dots. These were applied by hand, using a cut-off paintbrush, but it could easily have been a cut off green twig as used by various peoples who use dots as a signature element of their painted designs, including Aboriginal Australians.  However applied, no one has a lock hold on the use of dots, so I don’t feel there is a problem with my using them in this way around my own original design shapes.

Last time I was in the USA I was thrilled to find some plastic bottles with applicator tops that I really thought would revolutionise, ie streamline, my application of dots of paint on the designs in which I wanted to use them, and happily paid a few dollars for a set of 6.  As always when trying something new or different, I did a sample.  In the next photo, paint and cut-off brush are placed near the applicators containing thick and thin versions of gold paint, and the sample piece on which I used both paints.  The result on the 6″ square of black featuring pieced-in colours, and easily show that  (1) either I need a lot more practice using the applicator bottles, both thick and thin paints, or (2) I need to go back to using the sawn-off brush to apply paint such dots in future 🙂

In the past couple of weeks I have viewed s0me videos, with the following take-away points that I totally agree with.  To develop one’s vocabulary of textile art techniques, a would-be artist needs to focus on experimenting to discover possible variations, no matter how limited the range of  techniques or stitches that person knows.  Making samples to ‘see what happens’ is vitally important – this is one of my soapbox topics! 

The key person in is Sue Stone, who studied with the legendary Constance Howard for several years, and that influence shows.  I feel it myself, as I count myself fortunate to have been in a 4-day workshop taught by this now deceased, legendary, British embroiderer, in the Outback Australian mining town of Mout Isa, where I lived at the time.  It was either 1979 or 1978, a long time ago.  How we came to get her to stop over for a few days on her round-Australia teaching tour, owes a lot to Ailsa Bray, the intrepid secretary of the local embroiderers’ group in that town at the time.  Having snagged the booking, Ailsa asked the tour organisers “When the flight arrives, how will we know which passenger she is?”  The answer, delivered with a slight chuckle was “She’ll be the only passenger with green hair.”…and so it proved to be!  Amazing for the times; but once we had been in her presence a few hours, we all forgot about the colour of her hair and found ourselves totally focused on all that his amazing woman could teach us.  Her influence stays with me still, absolutely.

Mounting Textile Art on Artist Stretchers

June 10th, 2017

Small pieces of textile art too small to be called ‘quilts’ in my opinion really need to be framed or mounted in such a way to make them look important and not like a potholder just hanging on a nearby wall.  There are different ways to do this, w/wo frames, w/wo glass or plexiglass, and more, but I like textiles to be out in the air, able to be touched with clean hands, breathed on and closely inspected generally! Though of course you can buy the bars and canvas and make your own for very little cost, I find purchasing ready made canvas covered stretcher frames a helpful starting point and economical enough to add only a few dollars to the other material costs.  They come in standard sizes, and are always available in the art supplies stores in my area.

This method will work for any size for which you can buy or make such frames, though I personally have interest only in very small pieces, from 20cm up to about 40cm maximum, and my priority in working this out was wanting the result to be clean and neat on the back once the mounting was done.  

Such frames come in a variety of depths, but this frame was about 2.5cm deep, so I cut piece of fabric about 5cm wide, and the length of the outer circumference, 84cm (18cm +24cm+18cm+24cm) Other frames I use are about  1cm deep – you’d still need a strip of fabric about 4-5cm deep for convenient handling.  Sewing the strip into a circle with about 0.5cm seam, there was enough stretch in the fabric to enable me to ease it over the frame, seam on the outside, bringing one edge of the fabric about level with the front edge of the frame.  Using a tiny #10 stapler and taking care to hold it straight, staples were placed around mid side and close to the corners.  If the staple goes in unevenly remove it and repeat – I confess I had quite a few repeats before I got the hang of it.  Very small carpet tacks would probably be fine, but we didn’t have any.   I’ll check the hardware store some time.

Left hand pic ease the excess fabric back over so that it folds along at the same level of the front corner edge, right side showing now and seam on the inside, right hand pic. I didn’t use glue because on this shiny black fabric it can show through even with care and a light hand, but on a print it would be ok.  What I did was place some bonding web inside the fold to hold it down flat, and rubbed the hot iron over it.

Fold the excess fabric back onto what is the canvas front of the stretcher, envelope fold the corners and either glue or stitch to hold firmly in place.  For the sake of the photo I used white thread but really would use black or whatever else would tone with the fabric 🙂  The work to go on front will be the same size, 84cm round, bound or faced, but could easily be a littlesmaller, so treat those envelope corners very neatly and whether they show or not won’t be an issue of embarrassment.    The back is neat and tidy with the fabric fold sitting even with the back edge that will rest against the wall.

The work that I will be attaching to the front will be glued in place, the frame upturned face down on the table under a weight, and left to fully set in place overnight.  Add your hanging hardware, write in your name, any title, and the date.  Your latest small work will then be ready to go to its new home!



Insights Into A Gridaholic’s Creative Process

June 9th, 2017

I think most of us have the impression a grid is made up of squares, but other general words come to mind including network, lattice, matrix, reticulation. It all depends on how you’re using the concept, but I suspect the most common one has been used to make maps and charts which for centuries have been drawn out on some grid scheme, though not always rectangular. Long a student of geography, I understand the different ways a mapmaker can present known locations of geographical information in a system that relates everything on some system of reference. These different systems are called projections, chosen for the usefulness of their final result to the task in hand.  You can check them out right here – and some will amaze.

I confess it, I am a gridaholic who usually thinks in rows of squares, but occasionally breaks out into triangles 🙂

I like the order contained in rows of repeated patterns, although within each of my repeat units there are always variations that make each unit unique compared with all the others around it.  This is of course, anathema to makers of  traditional quilts.  Take these nine patch block patterns for example. Though creatively used with other elements and sometimes in a minor way, each Nine Patch unit is made with precision and accuracy to result in exact repetition of every block.   It was this lovely strict order which drew me initially but briefly to traditional quiltmaking.  I love traditional designs overall, but have left them to others since the Flying Geese wall hanging I made in c.1989.  I am one of many art quilters whose work has evolved from influences of traditional quilt making.

Especially when I’m thinking of new work that I want to include some kind of patterning within repeat units, I take a printout sheet like this one, get my pencil and start  doodling.  I have this grid on file and can print off a few whenever I want.  A bit OCD I guess, instead of just freehand drawing the lines as I do in my sketchbook pages; but somehow it helps me focus my attention onto ‘fillings’.  They are just patterns, and could be hand marks, stitch marks, seams, whatever, but things do grow out of my putting them down.  It is about a year since I put pencil to this paper, and now certain things stand out, giving me more to think about.

These and some other mark patterns from another sheet, made it onto mylar backed nylon applied to leather in the small sample piece I made and donated to the SAQA anniversary trunk show collection   and, pleased with that, I made a 120cm x 90cm size wall quilt.

7″ x 10″ Sample piece submitted to Anniversary Trunk collection, SAQA, 2016.


The Layered Textiles of Nena Bardaro, Montevideo.

June 4th, 2017

Yesterday I visited a very interesting retrospective exhibition of the textile art of Uruguayan artist Nena Bardaro, Puntadas de luz,  By presenting this exhibition, the Museo Blanes recognises her importance in non-traditional textiles in this country, as an artist who led in technical and materials innovation, via a long engagment with the community through many activities using her art and creativity, but especially costume and stage scenery design, teaching and training teachers of art.  Her use of natural fibres and experimental use of synthetic fabrics which poliferated in the 70’s resulted in distinctive layered sheer fabric compositions on both grand and minute scales.  Fascinatingly, most pieces in the exhibition feature her particular signature technique of fastening the fabric layers together with what look like tiny stitches but are actually dabs with a very hot tool – a soldering iron or similar – the catalogue doesn’t say, and I could not tell from the photos that accompanied the exhibition.  In any case, such a technique is only possible with synthetic fabrics.

Nena Bardaro, wall hanging detail of stitch-like construction with heat tool.

It is true to say that her work imbues the traditions of the quilt with strong ‘simple’ designs as found in  molas  the hand stitched layered textile art of the Kuna Indians of Panama and Colombia. For the majority of artisans engaged in works of layered fabric held together by stitch (or dabs by a heat tool) the workshop is most frequently the home, on a domestic scale which can to some extent expand and contract as demands for space for larger or small works change.

Nena Bardaro,  Wallhanging, 1974,  175cm x 113cm


Nena Bardaro,  Wallhanging, 1976,  119cm x 190cm approx.

The exhibition opened on May 24th last, and runs until July 24th. Nena’s expertise spanned a wide variety of techniques, knitting, crochet and weaving included, but it is the layered constructions the Museum have chosen to focus on  this time, and I am so pleased to have had the chance to see this.  A full colour catalogue is available from the museum book counter.  An important part of this exhibition is its celebration of Nena’s teaching many art workshops and programs of art and hand crafts to children.  Today, children from many schools visit the museum, and I hope at least some of them find inspiration in this display, as I did.  I myself have a suitable heat tool I used to provide texture in such works as Timetracks 7 , 2006 and Post Apocalyptic Lace, 2009, both layered nylon organza constructions, though I haven’t used it for anything major for a while.  This week I’ll have an experimental day to see what I more can do with it as a stitch alternative with the nylon organzas and other synthetics I have sitting around.  Holes …

“Puntadas de luz” opened on May 24th last, and runs until July 24th.  A full colour catalogue is available from the museum book counter.  Museo Blanes information,

Arcs Are Everywhere

May 30th, 2017


Call them curved lines, curved segments, whatever – they’re all round us.  Consider the roof of the Sydney Opera House – those shapes they call ‘sails’.  I read that if all those sail shapes were somehow able to be all put together they would form a complete sphere, just as you can with an orange.  Marvellous.  All on the back of an envelope, too.   Anyway, in the world of patchwork, there are lots of designs like Rob Peter To Pay Paul  or Dunkards Path  that incorporate a curve or two into the pattern.  If your sewing skills aren’t up to it they can be a bit harder than piecing together straight line shapes,  but there are heaps of tutorials on You Tube now that you can explore for tips on how to piece them well.  Any design looks all the more dynamic for including some or all curved shapes, so imho they’ve always been very appealing.  If you’re into improvisational piecing, inserting curved shapes isn’t easy, and the smaller the harder, but it can be done –









Early in 2016, I was exploring a linear pattern, the knitted garter stitch, that had been on my mind for a long time – and wrote a blogpost on how I diagrammed the lines I saw, and the collage above includes the stages of inserting curved shapes (lines) and the particular piece that resulted from that exploration, Dreamlines #3, (lower right) which has since gone to a new home with a US collector.

I love this block -to me it says sun rays, but turn it round and it suggests rising or setting sun – and it probably goes by several names in the traditional quilt block lexicon.  On the left is an actual little 4″ x 4″ sample block – I have long thought I’d like to do a whole vast quilt of little blocks of this – there’d be hundreds – and it’s not so simple, really – I started, and found the work per block was considerable.  But I love it, and perhaps at a slightly larger scale sometime … or maybe not.


I have blogged quite often about starting points – inspirations if you like, and as I’ve said before, to me a line or a shape is a seam in waiting.  And many of these inspriations involve curves.  Another contemporary quilt artist who finds curves interesting starting points is Brenda Gael Smith whose most recent post actually put me in mind of the Sydney Opera House sails.   Lately I’ve been working on some deconstructed circles and while I was making them, a few other ideas came to mind about patterns of arcs.  My actual planning, um, visual diary, page has a group of doodles on it with so much other stuff, like lists of possible names, and other comments, that I selected out a couple of diagrams and re-drew them out on a plain sheet to include in a scan image for this post –

I do such diagrams sometimes as I am in the middle of working on something so that I don’t forget the brainwave I’ve had.  So they are loaded with information you can’t see, but I will share some with you – the top left hand square is boring and I labelled it so.  The top right hand square I’m no longer sure what it means as nothing seems obvious to me.  Lower left I was thinking of arcs of one colour with the darker shaded ends representing of that colour’s opposite on the colour wheel… maybe, or something like a bright red tip at the end of every arc no matter what colour – though the arcs would then probably be shades of all the one colour zone, like all blues; though I don’t normally work in blue. probably because much of my inspiration has always been landscape.  


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