Friday, 12 October 2012

What I did on my summer holiday....

I've sorely neglected this blog over the summer months, but now the nights are drawing in and there's an autumn chill in the air, term is about to start on my new course, and it is time to recap on what I've been up to these past few months.  Also time to get back into the habit of using this blog to record my faltering progress (mainly for myself but readers are of course very welcome) and to track and save thoughts, images and reflections on my work, which is mainly in print-making but also in quilt-making.  And sometimes inevitably there will be stray thoughts about life in the not-so-slow-lane.

Last time I posted, back in July, I was trying to adjust to the prospect of a long summer without any particular commitments, and also trying to find a way to deal with the 'come down' feeling once the Art  Foundation course was completed.  I spend a couple of days exploring simple collagraph and relief prints, done without a press, and using very basic inks and papers from the local children's art supplies depot. 

I was happy to have flexed my print-making muscles a little, but found I was frustrated by poor quality materials.  I've decided to wait a little, see what kinds of inks we'll be using at UWE, and then decide whether and what to buy for use at home.  

Doing this little taster printing session helped me re-dsicover my creative energy, and I spent another few days delving into the gloomy world of papier mache, making a series of small bowls and boxes - none of which had so far been properly finished.  Another task for an empty autumnal afternoon or two.  (and I seem not to have any photos - so will put this right later...)

I have tried to make myself draw regularly, but have found it hard to fit in the time, and my natural reluctance to mess up has kind of immobilised my drawing hand much of the time.  However, i did spend a lovely weekend on an experimental drawing workshop at the Bristol Drawing School in early August, where we played with charcoal and graphite, drawing ink and gouache, and I made some marks and sketches which pleased me.  Here are a few images of the results of the mark-making workshop ...

It was good to loosen up a little, although I have not been good at keeping up the practice at home.  It was the summer holidays, after all, and there are other things I've been doing which have filled a lot of my time....

My old stand-by in times of creative doldrums has been to make a quilt - and this has been a welcome distraction recently.  I have been "commissioned" to make a quilt for a new baby due soon to a friend of one of my daughters, and decided to use some of the hand-dyed cloth which I made last summer.  The first piece, made of very simple 3" square blocks like a simple Court House Steps block, has become a small baby-sized quilt, using a piece of IKEA fleece blanket as wadding (endlessly washable). 

The second piece, made of 3" finished size nine-patch blocks, I turned into a tote bag for days out and carrying books and files.   

This rush of activity was enriched by a trip to the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham in mid August, with my older daughter Charlie, who is a whizz at quilt-making (as well as many other things) and we had a happy day browsing both quilts and stalls, and managed not to spend the entire contents of our respective piggy banks, only some of them.

It also inspired me to explore a much-loved but now very worn patchwork bag which Charlie had bought on a trip to France about ten years ago.  I unpicked it to find the pattern, and then made a new one using some blue charm-pack squares which had been lurking for a while.  I used quite a heavy polyester wading, to give it strength - but it means that for a while, until it has been weathered a little, it is rather too round.  But I liked the design and might make more to this pattern in due course.

Once back home, I decided to investigate machine quilting for the baby quilt, and picked up on Leah Days Free Machine Quilting Project blog, which has been a fantastic resource and source of inspiration.  Her tutorials are clear and unfussy, and I have been especially helped by her tips on adjusting tension, needle, foot etc on my sewing machine.  I spent a day or two playing with her advice, and produced a series of small test pieces to ensure I had the hang of manoeuvring the quilt and keeping stitches and tension in balance.  It was so much easier to follow her method (where you don't drop the feed dogs but instead turn the stitch length to zero).  Encouraged by these changes, I decided to machine quilt the baby qyukt.  But I think I rather over-did it - so the finished quilt is a little stiff, and a little less cosy and catchy than I had intended.

So I may still make another, simpler and perhaps more traditional little quilt for the baby - which is not due until late October so I have a bit of time left.

This quilting was fun, and I enjoyed relaxing into my old comfort-zone at the sewing machine.  My younger daughter Lizzie moved into an unfurnished rented house, shared with an old school friend, at the beginning of September.  It feels like her first real grown-up home - no more rooms in shared student houses, but somewhere she plans to stay for a couple of years, and can make homely with her own furniture etc.  Among the various bits of household stuff she inherited from parents, were a couple of old and timeworn quilts.  But I decided it was a good moment to make her a new quilt - and so, using the same very simple square block pattern I'd used for the baby quilt, I pieced a new 56" square rainbow quilt for her.  This is it,  in process of assembly: thank heavens for lots of space on bare wooden floors to lay it out and play with arranging the blocks.

Of course, it needed quilting.  And in the light of my over-doing the baby quilt, I decided this rainbow quilt would look best with hand stitching.  And so I have spent 5 or 6 evenings half-watching rubbish tv, and half struggling with the quilt on my knee and rather big quilting stitches in matching rainbow threads.  Oh dear: this is taking longer than I anticipated.  I may be working on this quitl for another week or two yet.  A Christmas present perhaps, rather than a moving in gift. 

Cutting the patches for all these quilts has left me a with a wonderful box full of tiny scraps and the edge trimmings from rotary cutting.  I have no idea what to do with these, but at present I can't bear to lose them....

And on top of all this, I also decided to finish off some long-standing UFOs, starting with a big pile of 1" hexagon rosettes, made back in 2008 when I was extremely sad about life and its vagaries, and sewed a fairly mindless set of pieces, without any real plan for their eventual use.