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Sunday, 10 February 2019

Skimming Stones appliqué quilt pattern

One day I'm going to have my own screenprint table… but for now I'm just going to enjoy the release of my Skimming Stones quilt pattern – made from swatches I screenprinted for a range of fabrics I designed. It's a great feeling knowing you've not only made a quilt but also hand printed the fabrics it's made from.
Surface design was something I had some experience with, but it's a different way of thinking to design for screenprinting, and it was a good 20 years since I'd done it previously – making sure you have a decent weight of line, thinking about the colours that are going to be created when inks overlap and how the colours with change depending on the fabric they're printed on.
I was lucky that I was free to use the print studio for extended periods, but still had a defined deadline, so I planned things out meticulously, making sure I could put all the same colour down at once and that I wasn't having to change screens too much in any one session. I was in heaven! Most designs ended up just as swatches, but one ended up as a length – the one at the top in the pic below. I still haven't quite decided what to do with that…
I always knew I wanted to make a quilt from these, but with other things going on, I did my usual trick and stuffed them in a cupboard while my mind did its subconscious designing and let me know when it was ready to get them out again.

Once I had a vague idea of how I might construct the quilt, I lay the swatches on the floor to get the balance of the patterns and colours right. In the end I didn't use the smallest prints – this quilt needed bold shapes. I also didn't use the heaviest canvas-weight that I'd printed some of the designs on.
Next came the trimming and rounding of the corners. I've kept every last scrap of this fabric, so no doubt you'll see it used again in something else.
Then I appliquéd the shapes onto a background colour. The Skimming Stones pattern allows for both raw-edge appliqué – which was what I used here so as not to waste even a seam's worth of fabric – as well as needle-turn appliqué. I'll be working on a needle-turn, wall-hanging version over on Facebook each week if you want to make along.
This quilt is great for large-scale patterns – think big Kaffe Fassett florals  – and the version I'm showing you here has fairly random placement of a lot of different patterns. Some of you might want a quilt that's a bit less random, so I've designed the pattern with defined colour placement – you can use any of the colourways I've suggest or, of course, create your own or swap any, or all, of the solids out for a pattern.
Now back to my screenprinted version… In the second half of last year I finally invested in a sewing machine that will allow me to quilt these kinds of things myself. Up until then I'd had a fairly standard machine with a narrow throat. While that was completely fine for piecing and clothes sewing, quilting anything larger than a cot quilt was impossible. I got six rows into this and that was the clincher. A few months, and a new machine later, I was on my way!
So there you have it – the Skimming Stones quilt pattern! I'm super excited that this quilt was also accepted into Quiltcon this year and in just 11 days I'll be there to see it hanging (although I may have to wait until day two as day one will be spent in class). And, of course, you can buy the pattern here in my Etsy store. Stay tuned for all the inspiration from Quiltcon.


Saturday, 15 September 2018

Fiftieth birthday quilt

This fabric was gifted to me from South America quite some time ago. At first I really wasn't sure what to do with it. I loved the striped sections with the supplementary wefts, but the solid bits had me stumped.

I was also aware these fabrics were problematic. Definitely machine-made rather than hand woven and also dyed with synthetic dyes rather than traditional natural dye. Likely mass-produced and sold to tourists, also potentially damaging the traditional weaving culture of the area.
Creating quilts from holiday textiles
But gifted – and bought with love and thoughtfulness. There are some who think I then compounded the error by cutting them up and turning them into a quilt. I admit I also buy textiles on my travels – you've seen them here. I do try to buy directly from the maker who is making them currently (not selling family heirlooms out of desperate need) or from a cooperative that pays the maker fairly. There are plenty that I hang as is, as works of art, but lengths of cloth are for making. Hopefully always with respect, fair exchange, curiosity and a willingness to share the maker's story where I can.

These conversations are important though, and the destruction and appropriation of indigenous cultures is something to be considered and avoided at all costs.

So, recognising these textiles are problematic, but having them under my stewardship, one day I got them out and started to fold them in various ways to see if anything appealed.
Designing your quilt from fabric collected on your travels
In hindsight, given the sashing I ended up adding, I might have been better going with the middle option, but hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I really wanted to go a bit freeform with this and not measure or fuss too much.

As you can see in the image below, I started by cutting off the outside bands of colour from each side of the centre strip. I then cut down the middle of the strip (ie down that band of dark green), and then cut right-angled triangles down the length.
Cutting into a precious textile collections
This is what all the triangles looked like before sewing them together. I should mention that the fabric was an incredibly loose wool weave, so to stop it unravelling I zig-zagged all the pieces. I then randomly chose triangles from different colourways to sew together, with a rule that no colourway should appear twice in a square. Once I'd sewn all the four-piece squares from the triangles, I realised the quilt wouldn't be quite as big as I wanted it. My main issues were the subtle differences in all the fabrics (even those of the same colourway) in terms of stripe width, pattern direction and pattern placement, so the finished squares ranged in size from 36cm (14.2") to 43cm (17")! If I went with the smallest size I was going to lose a lot of quilt.
Quilt layout
At this point, I knew I wanted to gift the quilt to the friend who bought the fabrics for me. She's a great traveller and I thought this would be a perfect reminder of all her amazing adventures, but with three years to go until her 50th, I stuffed the whole thing in a drawer and forgot about it.

Another house move, and I realised I probably needed to get my act together, so it was back to the floor trying out sections from the discarded fabric to see what would work as sashing. I settled on using the wide stripe at the back of the cutting image above. As you can see from the pic below, it was going to take some careful matching to make sure I had the stripes in those small triangles the right way up for both the supplementary weft section (all correct in this image) along with its corresponding colours (incorrect in the image below). You can see the stripe in the right hand triangle is red at the top and pink at the bottom whereas the strip leading into it has pink at the top and red at the bottom.
Adding sashing to your quilt
Despite the extra mucking around, it meant I could remove the smaller squares and deal with a five by five grid. They're pretty big shapes so the top came together quite quickly then. I obviously needed a lot of subconscious thinking time with this quilt rather than sewing time!

One thing I was sure of all along was how I wanted it quilted. There was no way I could do this kind of direction changing on my small Bernette, so off it went to Leanne at Mount Vincent Quilts. It came back exactly as I was hoping!
Straight line quilting close up
And there we have it! The finished quilt. If you pop on over to my Facebook page you can even see it being gifted – my all-time favourite part of quilt-making. It's hard to believe after all this time, that I'm not going to have this half-done quilt hanging around anymore.
Stitch and Yarn quilt finish
Do you collect fabrics on your travels? Have you made them into something, or like many of mine, are they still in a drawer? How do you choose the textiles you buy? Do you learn something about how they're made, about the maker themselves, or about the tradition it comes from?

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Open House – The 3rd Tamworth Textile Triennial

I think I'm almost over the jet lag after flying back from the UK this week. It's been a bit of a shocker. My friend Lou has also been overseas and I've been babysitting her car while she's been away. Given today was the last day I had the car, and Maitland is nearly the only place the travelling Tamworth Textile Triennial is showing close to one of the cities I live in, I got on the road and headed north.
Part of the collection of  Noongar Dolls – at left by Marcelle Riley and right by Fatima Drayton.
I've never been to Maitland Gallery before and was surprised by the large, modern space. The 2017 triennial, showing in an upstairs gallery, has been curated by Glen Barkley and "celebrates the open-ended, porous nature of textiles practice today".  None of the artists shown have featured in the triennial before and it was refreshing to see work by Indigenous, multi-cultural and environmental groups among some familiar names.
Detail of 'The New Neighbours' by Meredith Woolnough.
While I was taken with a number the works, I didn't find the exhibition as cohesive or compelling as the second triennial. This may have had something to do with an event that the gallery was setting up in the same space, due to start half an hour after I arrived! Not ideal when you've travelled a distance to see a show. I felt quite rushed, the works had been rearranged somewhat and there were a few that weren't easy to access.
'Devoted Body' by Ema Shin
Centre panel of  'Devoted Body' by Ema Shin
Or maybe it was because all the works were at the very edges of what would be considered 'textile' art. I think I might have found it more satisfying if there were a few more typical textile pieces – there wasn't a lot of cloth to be found!
'Ganbina' by Treahna Hamm
'Ganbina' by Treahna Hamm
In addition to the works I've photographed here,  I really enjoyed Jeanette Stok's 'Inherited Borders' which was Hardanger embroidery made from galvanised wire and the dilly bags made by Carol McGregor – I was so very tempted to touch them.
'Wobbegong Shark' by Ghostnets Australia – Sue Ryan. A collaborative piece to cover the shark during a three-day Indigenous art festival in Queensland.
Has anyone else been to see the show? I'd be interested to hear what others thought.

It's on in Maitland until 14 October followed by:
Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery, Coffs Harbour, NSW: 16 November 2018 to 28 January 2019
Artisan: Queensland Centre for Craft and Design, Brisbane, QLD: 23 Feb to 27 April 2019
Broken Hill Regional Gallery, Broken Hill, NSW: 10 May to 7 July 2019
Murray Bridge Regional Gallery, Murray Bridge, SA: 28 July to 8 September 2019
Jam Factory at Seppeltsfield, Seppeltsfield, SA: 4 October to 24 November 2019
Swan Hill Regional Gallery, Swan Hill, VIC:  6 December 2019 to 26 January 2020
Orange Regional Gallery, Orange, NSW: 8 February to 22 March 2020
Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, Katoomba, NSW: 28 March to 10 May 2020
Bundaberg Regional Gallery, Bundaberg, QLD: 25 June to 23 August 2020

Sunday, 22 July 2018

What three years of saying no to new clothes looks like

Colour combo love. My half-thrifted, half-handmade PJs
I got quite a shock when I went back through my posts to see when I basically stopped buying new clothes... It was January 2015 – three and a half years ago! No wonder things are starting to get dire in places. I haven't gone back to the audit document a lot, but it would be interesting to see whether it's decreased much in size. I am aiming to fit all my clothes into the wardrobe together without having to swap winter out for summer etc, but I'm still a way off that.

I haven't gone all minimalist and whittled my wardrobe down to a handful of items. While it might be a great online fad, I don't see how it's very sustainable – throwing out perfectly good clothes to keep only the ones you wear a lot. It just means you'd end up replacing them faster when you could have put clothes that aren't on high rotation into the mix to extend their life.

Nor have I gone on a making spree. Again, I think it's more important to look after my already considerable wardrobe and only replace when necessary using this approach.

There are few categories of clothing that I'm never going to buy secondhand, nor likely ever make, and that's the shoes and underwear. The first things to go have been the shoes, as they were fairly old to start. I replaced a pair of summer sandals last season and a pair of winter shoes this season, but other than that there's been nothing new*.

Falling apart at the seams

A few weeks ago, there came a perfect storm of clothing disintegration. First there was the pair jeans that had already been mended once – they're now back on the mending pile for another go. I was out to lunch with friends and took a giant step back onto the balcony, after having been for a bit of a wander, when there was an almighty rip. Thankfully we were about to go home anyway...
One woman's personal challenge to see how long she can go without buying new clothes by mending, making and thrifting.
Then I noticed the wear on this pink vest. I don't think I've ever worn out a knitted item before – except socks. I'll try some darning on this and see how it goes. It's a firm winter favourite so it would be great to extend its life.
One woman's personal challenge to see how long she can go without buying new clothes by mending, making and thrifting.
Then there were two pairs of pyjamas that completely wore through – in the same week. They're so threadbare now that they'll be added to the rag pile with better bits salvaged for upcycling in quilts.
One woman's personal challenge to see how long she can go without buying new clothes by mending, making and thrifting.
I'm clearly spending WAY too much time sitting around in my PJs these days. To solve this problem, I bought a flannel shirt from the op shop and some flannel fabric to make myself a new pair of PJ bottoms by cutting a pattern from one of the pairs that died.
One woman's personal challenge to see how long she can go without buying new clothes by mending, making and thrifting.

Better than shop-bought

It's the longest time since I've sewn a garment, but it only took an afternoon. I have to admit I got into them the minute I got home yesterday – they're so comfortable, and making them myself meant I actually got a pair of pants long enough for me.

I can see these ones will be in danger of wearing through too!
One woman's personal challenge to see how long she can go without buying new clothes by mending, making and thrifting.
There are so many great indie pattern makers out there these days and lots of online inspiration. Have you been getting back into making your own clothes?

*Except for the gym emergency back here.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

The textile art of Second Skin

Last month, Tenfold Textile Collective held its second group show in the very welcoming city of Ballarat. The exhibition was open Thurs – Sun for three weeks. We were really happy, and maybe a little surprised by the number of visitors we had, both locals and those making the trip up from Melbourne (or beyond).
Page 5 and Page 47, Tara Glastonbury
The works in the exhibition started with the notion of textiles as a second skin. Throughout our lives our skin is almost always in contact with textiles. From being wrapped in cloth at birth and again at death, using it as a protective layer, as an evolving form of self-expression and a statement of our values through the textiles we choose to use. We sit on cloth, sleep between its layers, decorate our homes with it and work with it.
Left: Lou Hicks, from Amour de soi series. Centre and right: Morgana Robb, Skin series (all three pics by Paul Hicks)
The pieces explored notions of identity, ageing, emotional expression and belonging, and featured natural fibres, found objects, recycled clothing, clay and plastic bags.
Rose Kulak, Fibreshed Scarves
My quilts (at top) are based on page layout grids. Taking my older working identity, or skin, as a design manager and fitting it to my newer skin as a quilt designer and maker. The rules and conventions of graphic design being made to fit quilt design. They are also a celebration of the freedom of having complete creative control rather than being dictated to by a client.
Claire Munnings, Shield Maiden (photo by Paul Hicks)
‘What do you do?’ is one of the first things we ask people we’ve newly met, and ‘How’s work going?’ for friends and family. How we earn a living is a large part of our identity in Australia. Not having an easy answer to these questions for the last few years has made for unsettling times, as I no longer fit into an accepted mould.
Korina Leoncio, Weathered series
The quilts are also made from another second skin – our clothing. Leftover toiles from my pattern making, clothes of mine that are no longer wearable, and donated pieces all went in to the works.
Lisa Mori, Slow 1, 2 and 3
No matter how early I start, I still seem to be sewing things at the last minute – it didn't help that I changed my mind so many times before settling on an idea for this one too.
It's a good discipline though. I've missed two other deadlines recently, for shows I would have liked to submit my quilts to, but juggling work alongside making means quilts don't always take priority. The Tenfold exhibitions are not deadlines that can be let go so easily, and for that I'm grateful.
Left: Sarah Williams, The Story Behind. Centre and right: Ana Petidis, Untitled Cloth
I've spoken to quite a few textile artists recently who've asked how we've come together as a group and how we manage to put on exhibitions. It's made me realise again how lucky it was for us to have magically landed in the same year to study. Beyond that though, it's keeping your eye out for gallery call-outs, ongoing proposal writing even when you've been rejected, and providing each other with motivation to continue. I hope some of the textile artists that visited our show are now tempted to organise their own... We're already back to writing proposals for 2019!
Jem Olsen, The Daily Disrupted