An unexpected gift

The other day I received an unexpected gift of an Amazon voucher. This was in recognition of some work I’d done, and which will soon be coming to an end, and I was touched and very pleased. I then spent a pleasant couple of hours roaming about on Amazon trying to decide what to buy with it. More books, obviously, but which one? I eventually decided to buy a couple of books about American quilting which I’ve had my eye on for a while. The first is ‘Amish – the Art of the Quilt’ by Robert Hughes and Julie Silber. Amish - Robert Hughes and Julie SilberWhen I first spotted this I wondered if this could possibly be the Robert Hughes – i.e. the well-known art critic. And indeed, it is he. I have several of his books, and I’ve found his writing about art to be consistently impressive. Not to mention comprehensible, which is a great and unusual feature in an art critic. I’m looking forward to reading about his take on Amish quilting. This is an old book, incidentally, published in 1993, which I’m appalled to realise, makes it over 20 years ago. So the one I’m getting is second hand, although it’s claimed to be of pretty good quality.

The second book is ‘Gee’s Bend – the Architecture of the Quilt’ by William Arnett et al. Gee's Bend quiltsI’m hoping this will be good, although I was slightly put off by the single review on Amazon which criticised the ‘gallery’ style of writing. I have a feeling I know what the reviewer is talking about – in contrast to e.g. Robert Hughes mentioned above who consistently managed to avoid ‘gallery’ writing, and to be lucid and entertaining instead. Well, I’ll wait and see. I hope to enjoy the illustrations and the story of the Gee’s Bend quilters.

(NB click on the images to go to the Amazon website page for each of the books)

I’ll no doubt be writing a post on one or both of these books in due course, so you can share my thoughts. And if you’re reading this and you happen to have read one or both of these books, do please leave a comment.

Favourite textile and stitching books: Quilt Artistry

‘Quilt Artistry’ by Yoshiko Jinzenji is one of my favourite books. If you’re not aware of her work, I do recommend you have a look. The book’s subtitle is ‘Inspired Designs from the East’, and one of the most interesting aspects of it for me is seeing how Yoshiko has combined Western influences (notably from Amish quilts) with her own unique aesthetic. That aesthetic is one of apparent pared-down simplicity  – I say apparent because it’s clear once you start reading the detailed descriptions and diagrams that her processes are far from simple and that the outstanding results she achieves are the result of a huge amount of thought and very precise work.Quilt Artistry

The author is very generous with her detailed technical instructions. I find these valuable, not because I have any intention of copying her projects, but as an insight into how she undertakes the process of making. One aspect of her work that I particularly like is the recurrence of regular geometric shapes, especially the square which is probably my number one favourite shape. Here’s a very striking composition:Squares composition

This is a personal reworking of a very familiar pattern and theme in quilting. The choice of colours is stunning. This is an example where the detailed maker’s description is really helpful in enhancing the photograph. This is a floor mat, and its construction is appropriately sturdy.

Another example of Yoshiko’s use of squares:Baby quilt by Yoshiko Jinzenji

This is baby quilt, of which there are several beautiful examples in the book. It’s just exquisite.

There are many more examples of her work on Yoshiko’s own website.

I hope you can see why this is one of my favourite books. It’s a joy to look at, and every time I open it I see something new that hasn’t struck me previously.


My first quilt

There are a couple of photographs of my first quilt in the ‘Gallery’ section of the website. I was reminded of it yesterday when Laura Kemshall invited subscribers to the DMTV video series to submit pictures of work inspired by the videos. I’ve been a subscriber to DMTV for a couple of years now, but before that I read the Kemshalls’ book ‘The Painted Quilt‘. This was one of the first books I read about quilting and it got me thinking that I should have a go myself. Which I did. My first quiltI made this 2m square quilt while I was still doing the City & Guilds course which was not exactly good planning as it took time away from the course. However, I thoroughly enjoyed this initial foray into quilting. Here’s another photo showing a close up of the quilt.My first quilt close up

The quilt was made entirely out of commercially-dyed  material that I bought on a trip to the fabric markets at St Pierre in Paris (well worth a trip, although exhausting as it’s all a bit of a scrum). The material comprises silks, cotton (including a couple of batik prints) and a bit of something shiny and artificial. I pieced it on the machine and then quilted it, as you can see in the close up, with hand stitching.

It’s interesting to look at it now, because I wouldn’t make it like this again. I suppose this may suggest that some kind of development has taken place in my approach to designing things. For one thing that yellow looks awfully garish, although actually I think the photo hasn’t done it any favours and it’s more mellow than that really.

What would I not do again? Well, I think I’d probably try to use fabric that I’d dyed myself. Also, I’d put a lot more thought into how the colours fit together. One thing I really have learned is that you have to take your time over these things, and I think I rather boshed this up quickly. And, although I very much like the effect of hand-quilting, I have to say it took ages and I would hesitate to take on such a large project again.

What aspects would I repeat? Well, I love geometric designs, and I think I’ve got a lot left to explore with simple squares. And I continue to be very interested in greys. Also, although it’s difficult to do, I like the effect of using different types of fabric together.

This is all part of the process of learning by doing. I ended up with a piece that hangs on the wall and which I still like very much…. even if, every time I look at it I think about the things I would do differently.

I sent Laura Kemshall a photo of my quilt. The reason she was asking people to do this was because she is putting together a Pinterest board to show pictures of projects undertaken as a result of being inspired by DMTV. She has put my quilt photo on the board. It’s worth looking at the board, not to see my quilt because you can see it above, but to see the other contributors. There are some lovely pieces there.

A glimpse of Living Colour: Madder and Friends

Here’s a detail photo of my textile piece, Madder and Friends, that was accepted for the Living Colour touring exhibition:Detail of Living Colour textile

The Living Colour blog is being updated every other day to include a glimpse of one of the 32 exhibits. Mine appeared earlier in the week.

As you can see from the photo this is a very simple construction. I’m a stitcher rather than a quilter (although I would like to get much better at quilting) so there is no clever piecing involved here. I started making this in the summer of 2013 and it took me around 6 months, working at it on and off. One of my intentions in this piece was to demonstrate how harmoniously these natural colours work together – hence the title ‘Madder and Friends’.

These started off as 7cm squares, including a seam allowance of 1cm. Each square that you see in the finished piece therefore measures 5cm. A strict stipulation for entry was that the finished piece should measure 100cm x 40cm. This means that this work comprises 20 x 8 squares – 160 squares in all. I took squares in progress with me wherever I went – some of these were stitched on long train journeys. Because they are so small they were very easily portable. I used a lightweight calico backing which was very useful in providing some body for the lighter weight fabrics, especially the habotai silk. I used a range of different stitching designs – no two squares are alike – but I tried to bear in mind the organiser’s requirement that this work should reflect both ‘Living’ and ‘Colour’ – I have tried to suggest life and movement in the stitching.

Although I was very careful about cutting the squares and piecing them, I was a bit anxious about meeting the dimensions requirement; there was an allowance of + or – 1cm which is not much. However, the end product was pretty much spot on. To get the cutting right I had to buying a quilter’s ruler showing centimetres rather than inches. It seems that most of the rulers available are in inches, which no doubt reflects the US influence in quilting. Fortunately, because I’m old enough to remember using what we quaintly referred to as ‘Imperial’ measurements I’m happy to use either centimetres or inches.

I’m enjoying keeping up to date with the Living Colour blog. The latest work to feature on it is by Di Flint, of Australia, and it looks lovely. Do have a look…