Saturday, July 19, 2014

What groups work best for you?

Physical or online groups?

As I live alone, and with no family living in my adopted country, I often consider the pros and cons of joining quilting groups. These could be largish, like guilds, or small and local groups who meet in each others' houses on a regular basis. I have tried both, and there are limitations as well as positives. The plus side of the guild is that they sometimes have inspiring speakers, or invite well-known artists to run workshops, as well as putting on shows that are only open to members. The downside for me is that is is quite a distance, and many times I found the speaker had cancelled and people were just going to do show and tell and drink tea. Some members are very prolific and innovative, but the vast majority work in the more traditional designs, which no longer capture my imagination.

The smaller local groups were friendly, and it was easier to keep up with each person's development and ideas. However, I found most times that I didn't have any work that I could usefully take – most of my work needs concentration and quite a lot of space (I am messy!). I began to resent the time going to the meetings which I could more profitably use on my work.

So now my groups are all online. They have the advantage that participation takes only a few minutes when it is convenient. There is still a feeling of camaraderie, and shared goals, probably more than in a real group. It is interesting to e-chat to people from other countries and other cultures, learning a few details of their lives and homes, as well as combining in joint works or joint challenges.

I am sure that the best option would be a group that could meet occasionally to review each other's work for the year, but given the geographical spread, this is not easy to organise. I was lucky that most of my first online group was able to meet twice, once at the now defunct Long Beach show, and once in Canada for a self-run retreat. Some of the Latitude members have met each other, and more will meet at FOQ this year. I did meet some last year, and it gives a wonderful richness to the online life.

From my online groups I have made good friends in other parts of the world. From my local groups and guilds, I have made only one, and she is going to move away from the area soon.

I wonder how things are for others in their countries, and if they live in cities or countryside.   


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Collecting inspiration north of the Arctic Circle.

I’m just home from a fantastic tour north of the Arctic Circle. To a familiar place just like so many years before. We spent 2 x 10 hours in car both over and under mountains:

all the way from Bergen to Skjerstad in Salten. A fantastic tour. Crossing the Arctic Circle we knew we were almost at our goal.

Outside the Arctic Circle Centre there is a beautiful pillar of local pink marble:

We spent some wonderful, WARM summer days at and around Skjerstad. This was the view from the car-window on the road to Bodø

and one of the bridges over Saltstraumen

Even on a gloomy day ther are beauty in an overgrown garden

And of course, I had to take the usual trip up at my favourite place, Skarvhamran, a very windy hill crest, where the pines grows very slow, gets crooked, old and dies eventually, just to stand as dried sculptures.

And at the top I found these three charming birches:

Well back in Bergen, I headed south to Løkken in Denmark, to celebrate my brothers 70thbithday. Here was a totally different landscape, no mountains but charming bathing huts at the beach

And turning around I was met by this wonderful blue sea

So many impressions to keep me busy through the winter, hopefully some of it will end in one of my quilts.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Can quilting and minimalism co-exist?

A few years ago, when moving house, I realised the absolute joy associated with getting rid of stuff - decluttering! It generated feelings of liberation, freedom, space, air!  Heady stuff, indeed!

Before actually moving, I did everything I could to reduce the towering pile accumulated over many years living in one house. Garage sales, eBay, charity shops, neighbours, friends - it seems everyone benefited (I hope!) from my urge to declutter. And after moving, finding there was no room for some furniture and other bits and bobs, they went, too. Almost weekly, something else seems to be given the 'flick'.

It is such a great feeling!

But - how does this state of being co-exist with being a quilter? Quilters keep stuff. Piles and piles and piles of it. Fabrics, threads, supplies, works in progress, UFO's, samples, machines…..the list goes on. And I must say, I certainly seem to have quite a mound of quilting-related items. My neighbour didn't help a few weeks ago when she gave me 3 huge bins of furnishing and upholstery fabric samples and off-cuts left over from her interior design business. But they were of such high quality and beauty that there was no way I could reject these treasured items. So I've had to find a neat way to store them.

The other day, by chance, I was browsing through an old book that had been my mother's - Practical Home Mending Made Easy (1946) - full of traditional and practical tips for all manner of sewing and repairs. Of course, much of what is in this book is still practical. It was the section on sewing machines and supplies that made me think.

I have an old electric Singer sewing machine. I haven't used it for many, many years as it's heavy and ungainly but stitches like a dream - still! It got me thinking…..while I would never want to give up my modern machines I wonder do we really need all the gadgets and stitches incorporated in high-end modern machines. I suspect most of us do not! Of course, I'm not talking about machines for specific purposes such as free-motion quilting or long-arm quilting or complex embroidery.

After all, would we really want to go back to a quilting foot like this? My old Singer has one just like it!

And as for the eye-watering range of products available to tempt us at quilting and craft shows. My goodness, you'd need a lifetime just to try them all, and a bank balance to match!

Although I'm not obsessive, in my house and surrounds I dislike clutter - I feel more relaxed in a tidy environment. Being a quilter or artist is inherently messy, so how do I 'marry' the two - quilting and moderate minimalism? I've decided it's relatively easy:
  • Keep all my quilting and sewing in a separate room or space. I don't have the luxury of a spacious studio, so works in progress do creep out to other parts of the house, but I try to put them away when I'm not working on them.
  • Keep my quilting space as tidy as I can. The philosophy of 'everything with a place and everything in it's place' is a goal I aspire to!
  • Recycle products and reduce waste where possible
  • Try to be disciplined and only purchase what I need
  • Try to be super-disciplined and only purchase new products if I know that I'm going to try them out. I must confess to not always being successful with this one, but my intentions are good!
So have I reached the point where quilting and minimalism can happily co-exist?

Monday, June 16, 2014

The inspiration and process for making my "Stone Love" quilt

In 2012 at the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham UK I attended a class called "Digital imagery in stitched textiles" with Sandra Meech.

The aim of the course was to make the connection between the images we take with our cameras for inspiration, painted surfaces we do for fun and their important connection to fabric and stitch through collage.

For this class we were asked to bring several black-and-white photocopies, different saturated, on cartridge paper, of something we would like to to use and work with during the class and also one or two pages with our personal writing, describing the theme of our choice.

As Sandra said "The use of personal imagery and writing is a wonderful way of expressing a personal theme".

As I love stones and stonewalls my choice/theme was a very old church ruin, Karnbo church ruin, situated very near where I live.

I took a lot of photos of the ruin, above are just a few of them. I also wrote an A4 page by hand describing when it was built (during the 1200 hundred century) rebuilt etc. With lots of photo copies of the church ruin and the handwritten text we started to paint every page with diluted acrylic paints. Brusho, Koh-i-noor (bright water-based dyes used for painting on paper) and procion dyes also work very well.

As a background for the collage one white A4 copy paper was folded vertical  and one was folded horizontal.

5 - 7 pieces of paper in different widths were then torn from the painted theme photocopies and personal handwriting and then glued to the white copy papers. Our collages where after that photographed for the computer and printed on fabrics.

Vertical collage on paper and
The paper collage printed on fabric.
Landscape collage printed on paper.

The same paper collage printed on fabric.

As another exercise I tore paper strips from my black-and-white photocopies and also a little piece from   a painted paper and made a collage.
The collage on the right hand side was then my inspiration for the Latitude Quilt´s  March quilt with the theme LOVE.
I called my quilt "Stone Love"

Sandra Meech has written several books. In my possession I have her three latest.

Connecting art to stitch. 2009. ISBN: 978-1-9063-8810-2
Connecting design to stitch. 2012. ISBN: 978-1-60705-622-5
Creative quilts. Unlock your creativity with design classes and techniques. 
2013. ISBN: 978-1-849941-112

Those books can not be to warmly recommended.