Sunday 15 September 2013

Reading challenge

Lured by the chance of book tokens and goodie bags, I've joined the Six Book Challenge that Stockport's library service is promoting. It isn't really pitched at people of my reading level, but it's nice that it is inclusive enough to encourage people like me to participate.

Considering that I have four books on the go at the moment, I shouldn't find it hard to read 6 by the end of November, but I also want to get a lot of other stuff done. It gets hard to find the time to enjoy a book, but as I'm between crafting projects, spending my commute reading sounds like a good plan.

Thursday 12 September 2013

Finished project: embroidered rock pool postcard

I was finishing the backing on my way to the guild meeting last Saturday, but I did get it done on time:

embroidered rockpool postcard

The good: I liked using the plastic confetti and sequins, which isn't something I would usually think to do, but the request was for bright pieces of work, and they did make it positively sparkly. The satin fabric was fun, too, and I do like the way it folds. The folds are just scrunched and held in place with either two small stitches or a bead. I might try the technique with different fabric someday, maybe on something machine washable.

The bad: My good intension of using several different stitches quickly turned into lines of mainly running stitch. It would have more interesting to look at and demonstrate embroidery with if I had used more stitches, but I'm not skilled enough to stitch without concentrating. So, "done is better than best" and using running stitch means it got done!

The ugly: Because it's now in the guild's keeping, I can't show you how bad the back and edges are. I should have used a larger margin around the edge of the displayed part of the work, to give more to work with when turning and lacing the back. The folds could have done with filling that wider margin as well. It did all come together, but it really was a bodge job.

So, now that the postcard is finished, what am I up to? Well, I've put my sketchbook back in my bag and I am occasionally doing a bit of drawing. My dream of making a comic book refuses to die, even though I don't do much but dream.

At the moment, I'm sort of put off crafting by the state of my craft table. How many times have I whined about what a mess it is, and how I can't do anything when it is so piled with stuff? Enough times that my manager seriously suggested I need a clear desk policy for my craft table.

Tuesday 20 August 2013

My report on the Festival of Quilts

Need to start with a big thank you to all the people who made quilts, organised the show, or just attended the Festival of Quilts. I know it's a commercial event, but I still feel I should thank everyone involved.

It's been four years, but I finally got to go to the Festival of Quilts again. It was really nice, lots of great quilts and a really good atmosphere. I went on Saturday, and it was Tuesday before I felt recovered from the event, and it took until Friday for me to upload all my photos. So a big event for me. I'm just putting a few notes here, to act as reminders rather than give a full coverage of the event. I don't think I could write enough to do a full coverage!

I was surprised at how much I liked the quilts in the Pictorial Quilt category. Generally, I tend to think quilts should be quilts, and when a quilt is too representational, it tends to annoy me. But not at this show; I really liked a lot of them, not just for the technical skill in making them.
view of Luke Hayes' (the American Context 68) Double Elvis view of Dian Smith's Blodeuwedd view of Hilde van Schaardenburg's Hommage a Monet

The way quilters used prints also really caught my eye this year, especially how prints were cut up and re-combined:
view of Neil MacGillivray's Forth Again detail of Janet Boult's Out of Africa detail 2  of Ans Schipper-Vermeiren's Rozen (Roses)

I also liked seeing how the back of patchwork was used, either as a second side or as a design element in its own right:
detail of Danielle Coolbear Jenkins' Peonie back detail of Sara Edwards and Mandy Parks' Ivy's Quilt detail of Mandy Pattulo's Detaching Hexagons

Something I didn't see a lot of was frayed fabric. I suppose quilting has its fads, but the absence of fluffy strips reminded me of how much I like that technique.

I took loads of pictures, maybe too many. At one point I felt like I was looking at my camera more than at the quilts.

The nicest thing happened on my way home: I was sitting in an aisle seat on the train, working on my embroidered postcard (despite having forgotten to take my scissors- I think I've already blogged about my reluctance to have different bags because of my dread of forgetting to put all the things into the current bag? Well, I was limited to using threads I had already cut because I switched bags to go to the show and left my cutting tools at home.) A troop of people who had been to the show (I could tell from their bags) were getting off at an earlier station, and one of them nodded to my work and told me "That's beautiful" as she passed by to leave the train! How sweet!

Here's how it is looking now:
postcard in progress shot

Sunday 4 August 2013

Can't take the heat

I gave up knitting because it of the heat wave! I'm not sure if it actually was hotter than just sitting on the bus not knitting, or if psychologically I just associate knitting with stuff that keeps you warm.

Instead, I've started a hopefully quick bit of embroidery. The Manchester branch of the Embroiders' Guild is putting together a display piece of postcard size embroidered rock pools that can be arranged to link up with each other. I'm sort of slacking on the embroidery work lately, so I have a feeling of obligation rather than enthusiasm about this. Still, once I got into it, I am liking how it's looking.
embroidery rock pool

And yes, I am doing it totally backwards by putting down the sequins and beads before the stitching. There isn't much of a plan for this project, and all I knew was that I wanted it to sparkle. So I started with the sparkles and I'll just put up with the thread catching on them while I fill in the rest. I have a definite deadline for this: 7 September, to hand over a the next guild meeting. Hopefully, the weather will be cool enough to pick up the knitting after that.

Sunday 30 June 2013

less sketching, more knitting

It's the end of June, my deadline for sketching on the bus. I looked over the half filled sketch book last night, and it's not a sucess. I have proven to myself that having a sketch book doesn't make my sketching improve.

I'm now rearranging my bag to fit in my next bus craft project:
knitting for quilt

This is a spool of thin cotton velour yarn that was going cheap at the embroiders' guild meeting a few years ago. I have been knitting it up for quite a while now, usually just when I'm doing my minimum 30 minutes of Wii Fit. (Exercise is easier to do if I can do something else at the same time.) It's 4 meters long at the moment.

What is it going to be? It's going to be the edging on a quilt. Have you seen the stellarquilts? I love their textural qualities. Originally, I was thinking of trying to make one myself, but the amount of stitching was too intimidating. I started thinking about how to make a simpler quilt, but focusing on texture. My current idea is to put together a selection of different textured fabrics, including some swatches of knitting, in fairly large pieces without following a pattern. If the totally patternless sewing is too difficult, Plan B involves sewing patternless strips, then sewing the strips together.

For the backing, I have an old king size duvet cover in my fabric stash, so it will be a large quilt when it all gets put together. I know the knitting will shrink, but I'm not sure by how much. If it shrinks to just the right size to edge the entire quilt, I will be very surprised. Since the whole quilt is planned to be patternless, I'm not bothered if I need to splice in a different material for the edging. The important thing is to have something that feels good, and I'm certain that this bit of knitting will be wonderful to touch.

The need to assess my use of time and what goals I have is still building. My natural inclination is to stop doing something if it gets hard, but if I want to ever get something done, I'm going to have to find a way of managing the frustration and working through it. Or, change my mind about what I want to do.

Friday 31 May 2013

Time to time box

I am admitting to failure here. Instead of building up to drawing more, I'm still struggling to draw at all. And that's really bothering me. I feel like I ought to try to figure out what's going wrong, how to get motivated, blah, blah, blah. But really, I don't want to think about it. Besides, in my experience, thinking about not drawing never solved the problem of not drawing. (Though I have to admit, thinking has solved other problems.)

So, I've decided just to time box the problem. Rather than just giving up now, I'm going to try to sketch more, but only until the end of June. Come July, I'll start some sort of fabric craft. I don't know what it will be, but I'm looking forward to it already.

Monday 22 April 2013

Oh, the irony

The other day, P did a google images search for his name and found loads of sites using his CC'd pictures, including this picture of me on a career guidance site:

I have no idea what the site is like, but I found it literally laughable that a picture of me was used on anything offering career advice. I'm happy with my job and all, but it was just luck that I got it. I had a temping job, and some friends there saw the ad for the job while I was off and requested an application on my behalf. I was the only applicant, and the interviewers thought I was alright, or at least a better option than re-running the ad. So I'm still at the job 6 years later with no plans to further my career until they make me redundant.

I wish I could say my lack of focus on a traditional career meant I was more focused on the creative fun stuff that I do, but that would be a lie. I've been feeling especially un-focused lately, and I've not been doing much to speak of, much less blog about. But in one of those happy coincidences, I picked up a book at the library called Crafting Creativity: 52 brilliant ideas for awakening the artistic genius within, and, though at initial glance it didn't look promising, I couldn't see where on the shelf it had come from so I checked it out anyway. It's actually quite a good read (better than the other two books I checked out, which I will mention no more about), and I'm hoping that I'll be implementing some of the techniques soon. I'm especially interested in the idea of visualizing to improve crafting skills, like the way athletes visualize as part of their training. It seems a very do-able exercise, and I can sort of see already how it could be helpful. Some of the others sound a bit too professional to me, but others sound fun. I don't think I'll actually do that many, but it was interesting to just read about them.

Sunday 3 March 2013

Sketching progress

Wednesday was a good day, bus-wise. Getting on the bus home, I noticed a pile of straw near the front seats. Long stalks, straight and stiff, not like rabbit bedding. It made me wonder if a witch had had broom trouble and had to take the bus home.

It was also the first day I managed to sketch for an entire bus trip, just for the morning trip, but still worth noting. On my way home, in addition to wondering about witches, I was carrying shopping, which is a poor excuse for not sketching more. The rest of the week, I only managed to put pencil to paper for about half the time I was riding, so I feel like it’s still something I need to work on. What has helped is deciding beforehand what to draw: robots or towers, purely from imagination.

The robot idea came from my art-guru Caatje, who said on her blog that she didn’t want to be an art robot. It struck me that I do want to be an art robot, or at least, I want to be more consistently productive, and I want to make stuff that looks the way I want it to.  The robots I’ve been drawing don’t look how I want them to, but at least I am drawing.

The tower idea came from the art journaling, so that’s from Caatje, too. I got frustrated because I couldn’t get the images I had selected for a page to work together. Then I came across some scraps trimmed from other pictures and had the idea of stacking them together:
working on page 9 from start (1)

After seeing that, I thought it was a bit like a fantastical tower, and that led to the sketching theme. I’d like to do more towers in the art journal, but it’s been a bit neglected lately as I’ve just been busy with other things. As always, I hope to do more in the art journal, sketch book, etc., but I'm a bit sceptical about that actually happening.

Sunday 17 February 2013

Finished project: quilt from Guatemalan pillow cases

Well, I have a bandage on my thumb from some over enthusiastic pinning, but I finally finished the quilt:
finished quilt featuring Guatemalan  throw pillow covers

The good: It isn't a perfect example of the quilting arts, but it feels good and is full of jolly colours! I'm happy with the mix of fabrics and I like how they work with the bright weaving patterns in the old pillow covers. Also, my P likes the colour mix, too, which is important to me; I don't want to put something on our sofa that he doesn't like.

Also, I need to confess to my previous mistake in saying that the pillow covers were South American. When I actually looked on the label, it read "Hand Made in Guatemala". Oops. The original work was done by the Aj Quen association of artisans, which still seems to be going. I can definitely recommend their work.

The back of the quilt is pieced with a strip down the centre because the cloth wasn't wide enough. In my quilting heritage, the backs are always plain white fabric, but after seeing other  quilt styles with colourful, simply pieced backs, it was almost liberating to put together strongly coloured fabrics for the underside of the quilt.
back of quilt

The bad: It is lumpy, very lumpy. Because  I was using up old synthetic yarn for the batting, and particularly because the yarn was different weights, the quilt is never going to be flat. It's an experiment, and I am interested in how it will wear. At the moment, if asked my opinion on using knitting as batting, I'd advise only do it if you have enough yarn of the same type to use for the whole quilt. Or don't worry about lumps.

The ugly: Though the start stitch ties worked fairly well on the front:
detail of star stitch
And some on the back look quite good:

star stitch from back
Others are just a bit random:
not so stary stitch

The quilt needs to be washed before it goes on the sofa, but I'm a bit scared that it will fall apart or turn strange colours. Must be brave. If the worst happens, it can always go back into the scrap pile.

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Review of Redesigning Fashion at the Hat Works

The flyer for this show had a lot to appeal to me, what with mentioning make do and mend, sustainable fashion and ethical principals; and I'm happy to report that I really liked the exhibit. The re-use of materials is what really stood out to me, and I'm especially taken with this hat by Sue Daniels:
Detail of In a Stew by Sue Daniels
It's called Stew, and yes, those are the plastic bags onions come in. I've often wondered if those bags could be used in some way (two are sitting on my desk at work, sadly empty of the chocolate coins that came in them for Christmas). I can't say I'll be making something as nice as this hat, but I am feeling inspired to look at those bags again.

I also really liked the 3 minute film on the Eyesiga Mukama Craft Group in Uganda (I didn't watch the other videos, as I was on my lunch break and another 15 mins watching them seemed too long, so I just chose the shortest). The project produces 'artisan plaits' which look delightful, though what I liked best in the video is the women's dresses, the two buttons on the collars just look so sweet!

Redesigning Fashion is just in the small exhibit area at the Hat Works, but it is full of stuff. Like a lot of their exhibits, there's plenty of stuff demonstrating ideas that could be applied to other textile crafts, so it's not just for hat enthusiasts.

Wednesday 30 January 2013

Uninspired by Drawing from Life

I'm very superstitious, in some ways. For instance, though I know pigeons die all the time, if I actually see a dead pigeon, I'm convinced I'll have a bad day and the only reasonable course of action is to avoid doing anything rather than risk things going wrong. As I left the office for my lunch break/shopping trip, I saw a dead pigeon right in front of the building, just at the end of the little lay-by. "Ick!" I thought, and as I was picking up the shopping, I kept trying to think of how to rearrange my day to avoid the worst of the pigeon curse. I've been worn out the past two days, and was really looking forward to getting back on track today; but if my work was doomed to go wrong, should I not do anything at all? Or, is that the curse at work, directing me to make the wrong decision, so I should try to do something after all? Or, would that be hubris, a classic cause for all sorts of curses? As I struggled to figure out the best course of action, I finished shopping, headed back to the office, and noticed that the dead pigeon had strings coming off it. It was actually a lost scarf that had rolled up as it was blown against the curb. So, I really should do something now that I'm not cursed after all.

I've written before about how craft blogs tend to focus on the positive, so I'm stretching myself by putting out a rather negative statement: I found Drawing from Life: the Journal as Art Form by Jennifer New uninspiring. It looked appealing on the library shelf, so I checked it out. It is a very pretty book, but it all seems very professional rather than fun, and it made me feel like journalling is something important people do; and I'm not important, so why am I journalling? I know this isn't what the author intended, which makes me feel even worse.

On the plus side, it hasn't made me want to stop working in my art journal. Here's what I'm up to at the moment:
working on page 8 from start (1)

On the bus, I've been trying to draw in a sketchpad I've had for a few years. I've decided not to scan and post the sketches, because they aren't good, and I don't want to feel pressured about that. Plus, I've lowered my sights from aiming to sketch well, to just being able to sketch for more than 10 minutes at a time! If I can get to a point where I can sketch for the entire commute, that will count as a great success, no matter what the sketch actually looks like.

Sunday 13 January 2013

Stuff from the internet

I really don't link to enough stuff on the internet. For instance, I meant to link to a post by Miso in September, but it's only now that she's done a similar piece that I've got around to mentioning it:
Miso ; New York Moon (Bedford Ave) ; pinpricks on paper : 29 x 42 cm : 2013
I've tried to use pin-pricks to make images, but never managed anything like this. Really impressed.

Another neat thing I've come across recently is a post on Sri Threads about an unfinished Buddhist alter cloth:

I've heard a bit about these cloths, and what to my mind seems an odd combination (or even an oxymoron) of opulent scraps, and I think I may have seen one in a museum. What I hadn't realized until I saw this, was how similar the cloth is to what I would call a crazy quilt.

And finally, I really should link to the Knitting in 4 Dimensions blog, where a friend is documenting what I think is a genuinely interesting project: remodelling an old jumper. I'm a bit privileged in that I get to see it in real life, but if you knit and are interested in refashioning clothing, the blog is definitely worth taking a look at.

There! I feel like I'm all caught up now, especially as I haven't been doing much crafting recently. I still feel like I haven't properly gotten into the year yet.

Tuesday 1 January 2013

finished pages, new pages

I'm not sure which I like more, the finished pages:
finished page- 4 from end 
or the way they looked before adding the extra green dashes:
working on page 4 from end (5) 
It's not like I ruined it with the dashes, but I don't think they add anything. But the pages seem finished now, so time to move onto these:
fresh page- 5 from end 
Though I've selected a few images and some text, I haven't felt like deciding how to arrange stuff. I'm not very good with decisions, and I use that as an excuse to not work on things.

I also need to decide what to do on the bus. I had been thinking of  trying to do a crazy quilt patch, following the  instructions from the course I took years ago but never actually did the work for. But since the course is running again starting in Feb, it seems like the wrong time for me to start working through it independently and posting my work on this blog. So I'll put that on the 'do  later' list. It's not like I don't have plenty of unfinished projects to work on, but I just haven't decided what to do.