Tuesday 29 April 2008

Experiments in Screenprinting

I had very enjoyable birthday with a workshop at Rainbow Silks on Freehand Screen printing (thanks to George and Sheila) and wonderful fishy meal in the evening at 'Oporto' (thanks to Sue and Peter )
I did 'proper' screenprinting at school for 'A' level art ( involving one of those vacuum presses which suck the paper down). Even then I had a loose scribbly style so I didn't take to the time-consuming process of accurate cutting of individual screens, getting the registration right and waiting for ink to dry. I thought the ones that went wrong had more character but got marked down on those. This method was much more fun! First of all in true Blue Peter fashion we made our own screens from duck tape and net curtain and then for templates used freezer paper ( for curvy shapes) and sticky-back plastic (for geometric shapes). Results on paper using poster paint above
My favourite technique however was using torn strips of masking tape (above)
After lunch and some retail therapy in the shop ( silk rods and 'BubbleJet Set ) we moved onto fabric, Ruth demonstrating scribbling with Neocolour 2 crayons and using acrylic fabric medium instead of printing ink to push it through the screen. Magic!
I noticed that the colour went through more than 1 layer so used some silk organza in the top layer. When it came to using the printing inks (below) the colour went through 3!(silk organza, thin kimono fabric and cotton sheeting as well as leaving a trace in the old sheet I had as a printing table). I realised afterwards the similarities between what I'd produced and shibori!

Several people in the group were discussing how you never use do anything with the samples you produce on workshops. I'm not sure I agree - I'd made an effort to bring fabrics which I thought I could use in potential projects rather than just relying on those supplied. Also with limited time and money for workshops I select ones I think I can get the most out of. Having said that, I'm not sure how much screenprinting I'll do in the near future - the main drawback is the rinsing out of screens and as our kitchen sink is tiny and made of white resin, even washing my brushes out is a trial! However I did bring my home-made screen back and I've yet to try out the 'thermofax' screens I bought a while ago (along with some 'Speedball' Inks) - the Neocolour crayon technique appeals.

Sunday 27 April 2008

Qualities of Paint

For my 'official birthday' (it's actually tomorrow) we had lunch at Savoir Faire ( horrified to realise we hadn't been since before Xmas) and a visit to see the Peter Doig exhibition at Tate Britain (thought it was going to be the last day but it's been extended until 11 May). Olga in her blog has already described very well the tactile, textile characteristics of many of the pieces. Besides these, what particularly struck me was the different qualities of the paint, from impasto and lumps, to dribbles, splatters and translucent washes.
Some of my favourites : in Room 1 'Hitch Hiker' which was painted on postal bags, the lettering still showing through; the sketches and and studies in room 5; the 'black curtain' in room 8. You could see the brush marks in the white translucent paint- such a sense of committment, no going back or removing it if it went horribly wrong but that sense of freshness and danger in all his work. Lots to think about.
Off to 'Rainbow Silk' tomorrow for a freehand screenprinting course.

Thursday 24 April 2008

The Character of Cloth

I've been buying small damaged strips of Ndop indigo stitch-resist cloth from Cameroon every time I see John Gillow, with the idea of incorporating them into a larger piece of work. Up until now I haven't worked out a satisfactory way to interpret those free-form lines and shapes. I took some of the cloth and photos to the Charlotte Yde Workshop on 'Swinging Curves' and was particularly taken with her 'crooked crosses' technique. I made up some squares in creams,ochres and indigo blues, inserted a piece of the Ndop cloth and did some minimal machine quilting to hold it in place.
I was looking through John Gillow's 'African Textiles' ( a wonderful book!) to get an idea for stitching and decided that the way I'd inserted the strip was not in keeping with the organic character of the cloth. 2 hours later , after lots of rude words and sighing , I'd unpicked the machine quilting and seams - its amazing how much time it takes to undo 5 minutes careless machining. Worth it though. I reapplied the Ndop strip on top (by hand) and reassembled the 'sandwich' with some lovely soft wool batting from a sample pack and cheesecloth on the back. Work is a bit difficult at the moment , with some sleepless nights, and its been very soothing and therapeutic to hand stitch this piece and reconnect with the tactile qualities of cloth.
When I came to trim the quilt down to 12 x 12 , I decided to cut at a slight angle to emphasise the wonkiness ( I'll need to add a label to say 'It's supposed to be crooked").


When I was downloading the photos I was struck by the similarities to a Gaudi wall in Parc Guell, its combination of organic and straight(ish) structures.

Monday 21 April 2008

Take it Further April

Initially when I read the brief for April's Take it Further Challenge, I thought I would go with the concept which was of 'change'. However I've decided to go with the colour palette ( which is almost the same as my Medieval Tile Quilt), concentrating on the central gold colour. In 2 weeks time we'll in Greece in Paralio Astros ( 5th time , alas without Al as rep this time- I never thought I'd be one of those people who keep going back to the same place ) We thought we'd like to take part in the 'World Beach Project' co-ordinated by Sue Lawty so I was looking through photos from Paralio Astros to get a head start. I love the colour in the stones and the strips of seaweed (there had been a stormy few days)

I printed off part of the image on bubblejet set treated poplin and then returned to the idea of transparency layers using silk organzas. I'd tried putting strip inserts in but wasn't very happy with the results , particularly the frayed uneven edges (normally I use French seams for organza). However after a long lunch on Saturday with Sue who liked the raw edges and suggested I make a feature of them, I inserted a few more and also some pieces of shibori from class at Festival of Quilts last year. I've just got a new toy (early Birthday present) of a Read 16 needle smocking pleater and I've been feeding it with bits of organza- I love the rippled effect.

It's still pinned as I'm not sure I'll get it finished before I go to Greece ( perhaps I should take it with me to stitch there for extra authenticity - I'm thinking of stones collected there as embellishments )
When I was sorting through the travel wallet, I came across my diagram drawn last year to explain to the owner of Irini Filoxenia that we had ants in our apartment. In the end I didn't have to use it or resort to chemical warfare as the boiling water was sufficient to deter them. I thought it would save the pantomine we had the first time we stayed there when Ian's brown socks fell into the garden from the washing line not once but twice! At least she remembers us with a grin!

Saturday 19 April 2008

'Go Green' Challenge

I've used plants as inspiration for surprisingly few quilts given that I'm a botanist! The main exception was my 'Lady's Slipper Orchid' quilt from 2000 where I documented the stages in propagation that I'd carried out from seeds in the laboratory to plants back into the wild (there's only one plant left in the UK! ) I showed it to our conservation partners from English Nature (now Natural England) and I was delighted when they bought it for one of their boardrooms at head office - I've seen it a couple of times, now framed behind glass ,when I've been for meetings in Peterborough.

It even featured in 'Popular Patchwork' with a description of the silk painting enhanced by the large quilting stitches (if they thought that was large I dread to think what they'd think of the size of my stitching now)
Quilting Arts magazine have a 'Go Green ' 5inch square readers challenge using recycled materials which I'd thought vaguely of entering and collected a few items together. I thought I'd missed the deadline but gained extra materials this week as we had a massive clearout of old lab coats so looked at the article again and had a go. The extra inspiration was finding the ribbon with delegates badge for the '1st European Congress of Conservation Biology' I'd attended.

This is actually the one I'm NOT entering ( not sure of the etiquette of sharing images of quilts being submitted so erring on the side of caution). The main difference is the addition of a disposable scalpel ( without blade!) There's now a labcoat missing its pockets on one side. I used photo transfer paper to iron on images of the lab , plant/quilt and seeds , machined quilted, and then attached the embellishments. I made holes in the bottom of a Petri dish with a heated needle and stitched it on , the 'agar' is black wadding with beads for seeds and tufts of cotton perle as seedlings. I couched down some sterile inoculating loops, filter paper seed packets and filled some tiny vials with beads. And as a final touch, that 'Conservation' ribbon.

One savaged labcoat

Monday 14 April 2008


3 posts in one day - unheard of ! But then sometimes so many threads come together that you have to follow it up. I've worked quite a lot in the past with silk organzas, specifically printing on them using the computer and using them in layers but have been following a highly opaque route recently. When I wrote recently on 'skylines' , I had a comment from Neki about using the technique with sheers. Ooh I like that idea. And then I saw what Jude in her 'What if?' blog had been doing incorporating translucent fabrics in her work - lovely. I first saw 'Pojagi' items in the Korean Galleries at British Museum and the V&A and then the catalogue of a collaboration between Australian quilt artists and Chunghi Lee ( one of the reasons I joined Surface Design Association)
I later came across the book ' Rapt in Colour' which is full of examples to make you drool. What I really like about 'Pojagi' is the way the seams are like the lead in stained glass windows, important and integral to the design, and also the 'moire' effect you get when organzas are laid over each other.
I made this door curtain specifically for the doorway from the kitchen to the back stairs in our old flat. I scanned Eucalyptus leaves and printed them onto silk organza to get the idea of them drifting downwards. As I was printing on A4 sheets I had work out a way to join all the pieces - I settled on French seams as the best way to trap all those loose threads!I was originally going to trap real leaves between the layers but they proved too brittle and so made silk leaves instead.

As there are leaves printed on both sides , one of the bonuses when the curtain was in situ was it looked very different according to whether the light shone onto it and when it was backlit, in natural or electric light. Unfortunately we haven't yet found a location for it in our new property

After I'd done it I found instructions on how to sew the seams 'properly' on a Japanese Pojagi site (no English but the diagrams are clear). When I was in Japan, the books mentioned on the site were top of my shopping list and I bought a couple of kits (the fabrics are translucent ramie). I bought some light kimono fabric with Pojagi in mind - perhaps now is the time to think about transparency again.


When I looked at my email and blog on returning from Cambridge, I was really chuffed to find that I'd been nominated for a couple of awards by fellow bloggers - the Arte y Pico from Anne Wigfall and Annabel Rainbow and the Thinking Blogger Award from 'Love Fibre'. Thanks very much - it's rather flattering. I must say though that I feel a bit uncomfortable about passing them on as you are supposed to - chain letters and allied schemes always stop with me and these feel similar (if benign). I suppose it's one method of creating more links but there's other ways of doing it. What I most appreciate are the insightful comments that people leave ( there should be an award for that !) I've made lots of new contacts through the 'Take it Further Challenge' following up comments which has opened up new areas. I also try to regularly update the list of blogs that I read ( makes it easier for me to find them too) but try to keep it short as those lists that go on forever can sometimes include all kinds of irrelevant stuff. But please don't feel offended if you're not on the list- I'll probably have you bookmarked!

Swinging Curves and Stained Glass

Just back from a very enjoyable weekend in Cambridge for the Quilters Guild AGM,catching up with friends, excursion to Ely and some retail therapy with Art Van Go ( Inktense pencils) and Magie Relph (lush hand dyed damask from Africa). Sue unfortunately couldn't come so a last minute pack of bags was involved to catch a train, but arrived in plenty of time for the workshop with Charlotte Yde on 'Swinging Curves'. Many in the class had like me long admired her work and had booked the workshop as soon as the details were released. She was very generous in explaining her methods including sharing all those essential little hints that make such a difference. I'd bought fabrics with me in indigo and creams/yellows to match some the strip weavings from Cameroon and set to assembling saltaire crosses .
I like the idea of incorporating old textiles into new pieces and using the designs from these, giving new life to precious fragments. This will be my April 12 x 12 Journal quilt, a test piece for a larger construction. I'll be quilting it by hand mainly but not overpainting with acrylics you'll be pleased to hear!

On Saturday went on an Excursion to Ely Cathedral which although I've seen from the train , have never visited. We had an interesting tour with a knowledgable guide accompanied by songs from Ivor Novello sung by a Welsh Male voice choir limbering up for a concert in the evening! ( reminds me of a visit to Canterbury Cathedral when there was a special service for guide dogs - they were also rather vocal). There was a small exhibition of textiles in the Lady Chapel inspired by the architecture of the cathedral. It was very easy to feel inspired , particularly by the colours of the stained glass tinting the stone in the sun.

Then up a steep spiral staircase to the Stained Glass museum where we were shown round by the curator. What a treat! I love glass in all its forms ( note the number of dichroic earrings) and it was wonderful to see stained glass up close and examine the detail. I was torn between a John Piper piece and a very contemporary looking section from 1210 that just glowed. Didn't have sufficient time to do justice to the shop as the coach was leaving. Definately worth another visit

Tuesday 8 April 2008

Moore Dismembered ( and More!)

The Henry Moore exhibition at Kew has finished and is being dismantled - I shall really miss having them around and wish I'd taken more opportunities to draw them. The Double Oval was one of the first pieces to go and as I didn't have a camera with me, missed the chance to take pictures of the combination of sculpture and crane ( both having been subjects of recent quilts!) . I've had my camera with me since as the sculptures are gradually dug up and moved to the end of the Broadwalk for crating up. They have fences and security staff ( not just for health and safety) so can't get too close but I rather like the strange juxtapositions and the 'bodies' taped up like bandages. It's like a cross between a zoo and a casualty department.

This weekend I had a frantic stitching and painting session and finished off my 'Thin Blue Line' challenge piece - I'm calling it 'Gythion Glow'. I'm not sure about the etiquette of sharing completed quilts before submitting them to exhibition so I shall just show a glimpse of the sky. I'm generally pleased with it - there were some problems with scale-up even tho' I'd done a 1/4 size sample. I need more practice mixing blues , the sea part didn't work so well but you'll have to wait to assess for yourselves.

My other recent project ( which I can now reveal as she's received it!) was a 60th birthday present for Sue. I knew she wouldn't want yet another cushion and wanted to make something that was useful and reflected our shared interests ( and her love of purple)

In the end I made a sketchbook cover with 60 samples of purple fabric from my stash, including bits of seams and buttonholes from shared charity shop buys , fabric she's given me and some African fabrics. I'm slightly ashamed to say that even with my recent stash edit, finding sufficient fabrics was no problem. I could also easily do the same for other colours.

I glued down the inch squares and zig-zagged them to a batik background (ebay purchase!) and used vilene as batting and made a matching card from a photo applied to monoprint tissue.

I've been interested to see the results on various blogs of a journal-making course run by Sue Bleiweiss. It's something I'd like to have a go at as a completed art project but for actual sketching in my view there's nothing to beat Daler Rowney hardback sketchbooks spiral bound as scrapbook/'lab-book' or casebound for drawing/painting out and about ( just have to watch that they don't have perforated sheets-I hate those). Having worked out how to do it, I now want to make covers for my own sketchbooks- perhaps with board inserts so that I can use the very cheap student sketchbooks available in floppy excercise book format.
If I could work out a way of having 2 extra hands that would be useful what with juggling my water pot ( lantern with handle) , watercolour box ('bijou' with thumb ring ) , sketchbook with bulldog clips (to keep page from flapping) PITT pens and No 10 travel brush ( not forgetting tissue to mop up the drips). I've tried substituting a water filled brush pen for the brush and water pot - ok for smudging watercolour pencils but not very satisfying brush marks.

Off to Cambridge on Friday with Sue for Quilters Guild AGM.- we're doing a workshop with Charlotte Yde and going on the coach outing to Ely. Should be fun!

Sunday 6 April 2008


Well I know that snow was forecast (one of those multi-purpose weather symbols that could encompass most conditions) but it still came as a surprise. It's intriguing how the snow unifies various elements such as the conservatory, tool shed roof and next doors awning, to transform the view from the mundane.

Not sure how far I'll progress with the acrylic overpainting today on my Thin Blue Line piece as the white blanket on the conservatory roof rather blocks the light. It's beginning to melt (interesting patterns to enhance with Photoshop ) so may get the opportunity later.

I ventured outdoors armed with umbrella, the snow makes even the ugly crazy paving attractive . " I don't suppose you took the compost out?"says Ian with a sigh.
I looked for our resident robin in the Kerria japonica thicket but he was quiet for once ( I'm used to getting a ticking-off whenever I hack back some of his habitat)

What a difference from Friday when I walked around at lunchtime in shirtsleeves! I 'd taken my camera to work to take pictures of the dismantling of the Henry Moore exhibition ( more about that in another post) when I came across a skip behind 'Climbers and Creepers' containing huge quantities of discarded children's artwork. I dashed back to the lab to get a pair of scissors to cut off a selection, much to the amusement of my staff.
It looks as if it is poster paint (now very powdery) applied with feet, hands, etc to very large pieces of calico (I couldn't unwrap most of it , just some pieces from the edges). I prefer the backs in most cases where the colour has partially seeped through.
The question is now having rescued it, what to do with it? I was thinking of washing some of it to see if some of the stain remains but wondered how I could stabilise the paint?

Tuesday 1 April 2008


I learnt the trick of inserting straight cut inserts in curves from Alison Schwabe on a course at 'La Maison du Patchwork' in France in 2004. She is a master of this technique, slightly altering the width or putting tiny insets in the strips in her 'ebb and flow' series , although it is 'Mirage' which makes my heart sing! I put this into practice for the 'Silver Threads' challenge for 25th Anniversary of the Quilters Guild of the British Isles but haven't used it again until recently, adding some variety of colour line to my 'Thin Blue Line' piece besides stitching. This will also provide the colour cues when I come to paint it .
I liked what I'd achieved so decided to use some of the leftover strips I'd cut and insert them in the other kimono fabric I've been using which has an amazing mix of colour in the threads it is woven with. This, after stitching with a twin needle in bright variagated thread is my March CQ Journal Quilt 'Skylines'

Interesting effect on the back from the 'zig-zag' of the twin needle.

Having just looked at Alison's blog, I was a bit uncomfortable to find that my 'Skylines' shares a lot of similarities with her recent 'ebb and flow' piece. I don't want to paint this piece as I don't feel it needs it but I almost feel I have to, to put my mark on it, to distiguish it.