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Sunday, 20 October 2019

What happens when your whole apartment becomes your sewing room

My absolute favourite thing about having the studio in Sydney, was that when I was done for the day, or more likely was really in need of dinner, I could shut the door on the mess and walk away.

Right now, it feels like my entire apartment has become my studio and yesterday, to amuse myself, I decided to take a picture of all the little quilts-to-be piles dotted around the place.
This quilt below for instance, is one I started in Maria Shell's class, but I'm adapting to make a version of my Strip Weave quilt...
Sitting on the bookshelf next to it is another little pile that I have ideas for, but haven't quite got to the point of testing. Realistically, these jelly rolls need to go in a drawer for a while.
These shirts are going to become a queen sized version of my new Catty Corner pattern, but I'm kind of thinking about tinkering with over-dyeing to get two of the other four colours I need in the set, and I'm not sure how realistic me doing that any time soon is. Still, these are going to sit on the table for now. Maybe I could at least cut this lot up?
The pic on the left below is actually made up of two quilts-in-progress and they're both pure fantasy at this point. I'd almost forgotten they were there until I looked up to the top of the bookshelf and found them staring down at me. The pic on the right was me just matching up shirts to a fabric I had an idea for – it will get made, but definitely not until 2020 so this also needs to go in a drawer.
Next we have an actual, real live quilt-in-progress. This is another variation on my Strip Weave pattern and is about a quarter done for a single bed quilt. This one will actually progress this week so it's staying hanging over the spare room door.
And this is so close I can taste it! I just need to bind this one. It's a wall-hanging version of my Catty Corner pattern and I'm thinking a faced-binding. Fingers crossed this also gets done this week and can be photographed and moved from the couch arm.
I think I need to document this more often! One, as it's made me write down some of the ideas so maybe now the fabric can get put away, and two, it's freaked me out slightly about how many projects are lying about the place. This snapshot for instance, doesn't include two textile art projects I'm also working on, nor the personal clothing knitting and sewing strewn about the place.

So, what did I do in the face of all this mess? I started another quilt... I kid you not.

I think I'm off to do a bit of a tidy up!

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Handloomed quilt pattern – the khadi collaboration

Earlier this year I was reading instragram posts by Liz – from Woven Stories Textiles – as she travelled around India sourcing fabric. One of her suppliers in West Bengal was lamenting that he needed to find new markets for his textiles. I loved the vibrancy of the fabrics that Liz had been posting and there's something about a textile tradition that has been carried out for generations that really speaks to me – possibly as someone who has very tenuous roots both personally and culturally.

So, it sparked an idea, and I contacted Liz to see if she would be interested in a quilt collaboration.  Wonderfully, she said yes. We communicated back and forth online and settled on a pattern.  Liz sent fabric samples, but in the end, I decided I really needed to see and touch ALL the fabrics, and so I boarded a flight to Perth. I'm so glad I got on that plane as Liz's fabrics are divine.
The quilt design is made from khadi cotton. To be true khadi, the fabric must not only be handwoven, but hand spun as well. This is the local, everyday fabric – it has texture, rich colour and the hand of the weaver woven into every piece. I live quite close to the place where I studied textile design, so I spent quite a bit of time researching the textiles of West Bengal, and India more generally, in their library. One book that particularly interested me was about modern Indian designers who were taking their textile traditions in new and exciting directions (Tradition and Beyond: Handcrafted Indian Textiles). In the end, that's what I decided to do – not do a design based on a culture that's not my own, but rather a quilt that honours the weavers as a modern take on the weave structure and makes the most of those vibrant colours.

I made a sample, that I took to WA with me, but once confronted with all the colour choices, things became difficult – honestly, how to narrow things down to just a couple of colourways was a killer. Thankfully, my lovely Instagram followers helped out, and in the end we settled on 'Flower Market' – bright pinks, oranges and yellows – which I made the throw in, and 'Spice Alley' which has the red- and yellow-browns and became the cushion.
The quilt pattern comes in throw and cushion sizes and is sewn together in strips, forming columns – rather than the usual rows. The sets of strips are then cross cut and sewn back together to form the woven pattern.
I quilted the cushion following the lines of the warp and weft pattern design, but used a diagonal pattern meeting in the focal point of the large solid square for the throw. Either way, the texture comes up brilliantly on the khadi.
Liz will be at the WA Craft Show on 2, 3 and 4 August with the throw and the cushion, along with kits she's made up in both colourways that include the pattern. Naturally, if you want to make up your own colour combination, you can buy the pattern separately. Liz's online store is here if you want to take a look at the other colours she has in stock.

The pdf pattern will go live from Monday 5 August and I'll come back and pop the link up when it is. I can't wait to see what you all do with it!

#handloomedquilt #stitchandyarnquilts

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Forage done and dusted

Last month Tenfold Textile Collective hosted their third annual show at Neon Parlour. We had a good number of people come and visit, but for those who didn't get the chance, I thought I'd walk you through it here. The works are in the order they appeared as you wandered around.

'Encore Career' – Tara Glastonbury

From left to right: Quarter acre block (sketch); The straight and narrow; Toe the line;
Off the rails; A bet each way; Corporate life.
Upcycled business shirts, machine pieced, machine and hand quilted.

Image by Paul Hicks
Foraging, for me, happens in my local op shops, or in the bags of shirts donated to me by friends. In some ways, the quilting industry is as bad as fast fashion, with new fabric ranges released each season – here one minute, gone the next. My response to this pressure to consume is to use fabrics that others have discarded. Deemed no longer useful, I give them new life as works of art.

'Heartwood' – Claire Munnings

Rug wool, nasturtium stems, jute, madder, turmeric, onion skins, avocado pips and skins, osage heartwood, purple cabbage + black beans
Image by Paul Hicks.
An experimental weave that plays with natural dyes and their effects. I discovered the Osage Orange after my father was describing a fruit known as a ‘horse apple’ on my uncle’s farm. The fruit is avoided by humans and foraging animals, giving it distinction as an anachronistic ghost of evolution. The Native American Osage Nation traditionally used the heartwood of the Osage tree for dying and also bow making. Sadly from 1921 to 1925 around 60 Osage Native Americans, whose land was producing valuable oil that earned lucrative annual royalties, were killed by people intent on taking over their great wealth. More recently I discovered an Osage tree in a park in Preston. I foraged a branch, then whittled from it the heartwood to use as a dye. This process gave me a respect for the Osage and their traditional uses of this wood, this slow way of creating, a largely forgotten art. While engaging in this process, I'm reminded of the lives deemed unimportant in the face of colonial and capitalist greed.

Our very popular dye room (image by Paul Hicks).

'For her age, nullipara' – Jem Olsen

Three miniature quilts created from disposable medical garment and medication packaging waste.
Image by Paul Hicks.
Questioning the amount of single-use waste being generated within the medical field, I have used disposable medical garment and medication packaging waste to create a series of miniature quilted blankets, items imbued with notions of warmth, family, memory and the handmade. The arrangement of these pieces are based on the quilt designs "Opposites Attract" by Ankas Treasures, "Darby Road" by Sassafras Lane and "Grandmother's Flower Garden" (source unknown).

'From Above' – Morgana Robb

Winter Mandy; Pink Palace; Pushkar Baths; Aperetivo Hour; Flurry; Sandy Beach.

Image by Paul Hicks.
These paintings are foraged compositions made from widely gathered visual memories, photographs, and places. A flaking wall in Jaipur, an orange on my blue studio floor or a blurry texture in a magazine. These backgrounds or quiet compositions are noticed, remembered and brought to the fore in a new form. The materials too come from many sources, re-claimed newspapers, information on parking fines, last year's wrapping paper. Thousands of words, all that bad news pulped up and re-purposed into a new language of colour.

'Liminal' – Rose Kulak

Botanical hot printing on wool and silk cloths. Handmade plant fibre papers. Hand stitched. Mount board.
Just a sample of Rose's pieces in the show (images by Paul Hicks).
Plant materials foraged from beside railway lines, former municipal dump, and garden waste as seasons transition.

'Junc chandelier' – Louise Hicks

Salvaged lampshade, juncus reeds, raffia.
Image by Paul Hicks.
 Societal markers of decadence and luxury commonly boil down to junk.

'The Gold Within' – Sarah Williams

Sour sob and onion skin dyed weavings, on cotton and wool with other salvaged fibres.
Detail image by me.
Foraging and extracting gold from unexpected natural sources. Making those golden threads into little woven treasures. Finding optimism in the discarded and joy in the unnoticed.
Image by Sarah Williams.

'Nah worries' – Ana Petidis

Detritus consisting of cigarette butts, packaging, e-waste, ear-plug and synthetic rope wrapped in yarn waste.
Image by Paul Hicks.
I am not worried about smoking.
I am worried about our changing climate and the devastating effects human consumption, waste and disposal is having on land, air, water and animals.
As I decorate the detritus foraged from an urban street, I worry and imagine:
  • What if the sustained campaigning by citizens and some governments, despite the far-reaching wealth of giant corporations and mining, led to the same widespread awareness, behaviour change, funding and countless resources that anti-smoking and tobacco control has achieved in public health. 
  • What if food waste disposal became a government-taxed activity?  
  • What if packaging of textile goods presented graphic warnings of resource waste and devastation? 
  • What if plain, recyclable packaging replaced every selection of food on grocery shelves? 
  • What if bans occurred on advertising black Friday, boxing day, stocktake, Easter, Christmas, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter…every bloody sale?
Your consumption is a public health concern. 

'Once Before' – Korina Leoncio

Naturally dyed abaca paper, silk tape and linen using Corymbia Maculata (spotted gum) dyebath, photographs taken by artist.
Image by Paul Hicks.
Hand knitted lockets encasing snippets of a fading past.

'Entangled' – Lisa Mori

Kite surfing sails and woven plastic bags.
Image by Paul Hicks.
Entangled examines the effect that our epoch the Anthropocene has on the ocean and marine habitat. Eight million tonnes of plastic enter our oceans each year, pushing marine life and seas to the verge of collapse. In this work I have woven used kite surfing sails and plastic bags. While I was unpicking, cutting and weaving the sails I wondered how do we right this imbalance without losing the things we love and love doing?

We've just had our first meeting to kick off ideas for our next shows. So we'll be seeing you to do it all again next year!

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?