A catch up before Christmas

Time flies when you are having fun (or are very busy)! I’m behind on my blogging – Instagram has been my only online presence lately.

So now on to a short round-up of recent events. My trip to Melbourne in October also included  The Thin Line textile exhibition at the Tacit Contemporary Art Galley.  I splurged and purchased one of the works who is now safely at home.

image  Scout  is  the work of Melanie Hill who goes by the name of textileallsorts on Instagram and he will be installed on my walls at home this week-end.  He is made from vintage fabrics and combines embroidery, crazy patchwork and more than a touch of whimsy. I love him!

On the stitching front I have been busy stitching gifts which need to stay secret until after Christmas! 🙂

My most exciting news is my recent fabulous week-end of creativity at the Sydney Modern Quilt Guild show.

On Friday I did a foundation-piecing workshop with Carolyn Friedlander when I produced this tiny work of art.image

It tested all my creative skills as I had never done any foundation piecing before and this little creation was quite tricky to produce, but it was a great day.  Carolyn was a very calm and generous teacher. As you can see from the photo below we all produced some great shirt combinations, plus some houses and a tree.


Then on Saturday I did a workshop and attended an evening trunk show with Anna Maria Horner which was an absolute delight.  The workshop was called Mod Corsage and involved talking about and designing a quilt which combines patchwork and applique.

Anna Maria bought along a collection of her most recent quilts using these techniques. imageimageimageimage

She is such a warm friendly person who clearly loves her work and teaching . It was an absolute delight to spend time in her company with “quilty” friends.  We don’t often get the chance to do workshops with international visitors in Australia as we are considered to be too far away here.

imageThis was my feeble attempt to start a block design.

I can’t wait to continue to work on this over the Christmas holidays. I really enjoyed learning some new techniques, including my first bias binding to use in stems and it was a wonderful break from work and computers.

I hope you are all not too stressed with the lead-up to the holiday and I plan to be back soon.


Oh joy, oh bliss!

I don’t know about you, but I love getting books in the post.  I sometimes buy online because many textile books are not available in bookshops here. Occasionally I’m disappointed because I can only go by reviews and the limited page views online, but I got lucky with two recent purchases.

Slow StitchSlow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith has been out of print and I have been impatiently waiting for it to be back in stock and I’m not disappointed. It is beautifully illustrated and fits my mood for slow stitching during winter. I’ve read it from cover to cover and it lifted my spirits.  You could almost regard it as a meditation on the art of hand stitching and has some beautiful photography as well as quotes from well-know artists to reflect on.

I was intrigued by a reference to a “relaxation response” which, according to Harvard Professor Herbert Benson,  is a measurable state created by textile activities such as stitching, weaving and knitting, and which induces a feeling of calm which lowers blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension.  Perhaps this is why I often prefer to do hand-stitching rather than machine piecing of quilts after a day at work.  I tend to do most of my machine stitching on week-ends.

I think by most quilter’s standards I am a very slow stitcher because it can take me a couple of months to finish a quilt. I tend to stitch when it feels right and when I’m in the mood as I never want it to be something that I feel I have to do.  I want to enjoy the process and the creativity. Sometimes after a hard day at work I don’t have the energy for machine stitching or quilting, but have recently found that embroidery or English Paper Piecing is just right as I can relax on the couch with “the boys” on my lap or close by, and meditatively stitch away during the evening.

Embroidery workshop

Rebecca Ringquist”s Embroidery Workshop also looks fabulous and packed with projects and ideas. It is filled with stunning photography and has a modern take on this ancient art. Some embroidery books make me feel like I need to be cinched in a bodice, stitching by candlelight and a wood fire to set the mood! Unfortunately there is no Mr Darcy waiting in the wings.

I’ll add a review after I have tried a project or two. I’m hoping for some future gift ideas.

I’m not sure which I love more, books or textiles of all kinds – but why do I have to choose, surely I can have two passions 🙂 It’s my bank balance, or lack thereof, that is the problem.

What have you been reading lately? How do you get your creative juices flowing?

Isn’t this amazing?

Grayson PerryI came across this new acquisition  of Maps of truths and beliefs by Grayson Perry on my visit to the UNSW Art Gallery last Saturday.  Unfortunately a mere photo cannot do it justice.  It is huge – at least 2 metres high and about 3 metres or more wide. The stitching is astonishing.

You could gaze at it for hours and still find some small piece you hadn’t noticed before.

Grayson Perry 2Grayson Perry 3










Rather than use my words to explain it – these are his. Sorry for the blurred image, people kept walking past so I had to snap the pic quickly!

To stash or not to stash – that is the question

When I first started quilting I soon realised that I needed to learn a new language – sandwiches, backing, stash, blocks etc all took on a new meaning.

I also became aware that many quilters took great pride in their stash, almost to the extent that it was a competitive sport.  Initially I enthusiastically started buying fabric that caught my eye without having any plan for what to do with it.  As I started making quilts I quickly realised that whilst I might like a fabric, it would not necessarily suit my quilting style which tends to be modern and abstract, and based on my designs.  As a result some of those first fabric purchases were given away or swapped.

I live in an apartment already filled with books and other possessions so my ability to store huge amounts of fabric is limited. I have found that I prefer to buy fabric when I have a specific project in mind.  I do buy lots of solids, as I always use them in my quilts, but tend to buy prints only if I really love them and can also envisage what I might do with them.

One thing about stash discussions that has always irked me is the “humour” about hiding fabric or not admitting to the cost of fabric purchases which seems to permeate blogs and sites like Pinterest.  Admittedly I’m single and have no need to explain myself to anyone, and didn’t even when I had a partner, but I have never seen why grown women feel the need to do this, or to find it amusing. It seems to me that in doing so they are devaluing their skill and creativity which is involved in quilting.2014-11-26 15.53.45Recently when I was searching online for a scholarly article about quilt collections I came across the journal TEXTILE – The Journal of Cloth and Culture and a 2006 article Hiding the (Fabric) Stash: Collecting, Hoarding, and Hiding Strategies of Contemporary Quilters by Marybeth C. Stalp which explores some of these issues.  I was intrigued to discover that hiding and hoarding fabric had been the subject of academic research!

The article is an interesting read. Stalp maintains that quilters are in a unique situation as they are both collectors, and participants, in a serious leisure activity. She suggests that “fabric hoarding” stems from the perceived lack of support quilters receive from outsiders, families and friends. Because of this they feel that they must squeeze in their leisure practices amongst other family and work responsibilities. In her view this is akin to illicit drug users, with quilters engaging in secretly hoarding and hiding fabric to keep their families from knowing the extent to which they are involved in this leisure activity. She suggests that such women may carry a deviant stigma by engaging in secret practices because, in a contemporary life, quilting is a luxury and is not always legitimated as an activity worthy of the time, space and resources which are usually afforded to non-utilitarian collectors and hobbyists.

My take on this is that the longer these practices continue they are self-perpetuating – if we are not upfront and proud of what we do, we can’t expect it to be given the recognition it deserves.

I also wonder how much the impact of the internet and an active blogging community may have changed perceptions since the article was written in 2006.  Perhaps now these activities are less secret because there is an interested audience and a wider community that respects the skill and creativity involved.

I’d love to know your thoughts – are you a hoarder and a hider, if so why?

Textiles The Whole Story

Textiles The Whole StoryTextiles The Whole Story by Beverly Gordon is another addition to my collection of textile books this year.

This is a book to be read, and re-read, and also one which dazzles with illustrations of paintings and photographs of historic and contemporary textiles which are being created, exhibited and worn today. You can see some of these in a slide show on Gordon’s website.

The sub-tile of Uses, Meaning and Significance  encapsulates the depth of this book in which Gordon reminds us of the significance of textiles throughout human history.

With six chapters:

  1. The Very fabric of Existence
  2. Living on the earth
  3. The Ties That Bind
  4. Cloth and Temporal Power
  5. Cloth as Communication
  6. Textiles and the Spirit

and over 380 illustrations and a very comprehensive list of Further Reading and Resources and Citations, this is a book that any textile enthusiast should have on their bookshelf. Combining perspectives from art, craft, history and anthropology Gordon reminds us that many of our experiences of cloth take place in a social context, and for me, that is their real joy.  Unlike many other art forms, I can always “connect” to textiles regardless of their purpose or origin.  As the preface says, this book reminds us “why textiles matter“.

I have been reading it by dipping in and out and I sometimes pick it up just to marvel at the stunning creations that it contains.