Tuesday 30 June 2015

Sunshine: The Heathlands Project Quilt 2015

Work in progress
Once again it is that time of year where myself and my textiles group up at The Heathlands Project embark on the insanity that is making a quilt for the Festival of Quilts at the NEC in Birmingham. This will be our fifth quilt; every year I swear we're not going to do another one but the guys always talk me round. Secretly I really enjoy these projects and it's a great opportunity for the guys to showcase their work further afield. It's also great seeing how much people's skills and ideas have developed and being able to hand over more and more of the making to the members and to other staff each year. Soon I will be surplus to requirement (sob sob.)

Using the patterns found in fabric

Arranging pieces

Working from our designs

Usually I get the members to choose the theme but for various reasons I was a bit late getting this project going this year and because of when the forms have to be submitted by I had to make an executive decision and choose a theme. Actually, I wanted to do 'Cosmos' but I was over ruled by my staff who wanted 'Sunshine.' So, our 2015 quilt is based on the theme of sunshine. I harbour a sneaky suspicion that this is simply a means to make me use orange. (For anyone who doesn't know me, I really dislike the colour orange, people use this against me.)

Translating drawings using fabric appliqué

Stitching designs

Appliqué and stitching

Each year I try and do something a little bit different with the guys, even though the group changes there are usually a few in the group who've worked on quilts with me before and it's a good opportunity to introduce them to new techniques. This year we're aiming for a random, crazy patchwork type of affair with some kantha style stitching. As I write this I realise this may be something of a challenge...

Building up the design

Design and patch

Adding extra bits

I have asked each member to work on an individual patch using whatever technique they like. Most of the members have chosen to use a combination of appliqué and embroidery but we also have some needle felting, beading and tie dye. These patches will then be arranged and stitched onto a base cloth and the whole lot quilted with lines of stitching. I want to leave the edges of the individual patches raw to add more texture and because we've done paper pieced patchwork several times already. I selected a load of fabrics to use so that there is a common theme running throughout the patches to help it all work together as a finished piece.

Working together

Working in layers

This year I have handed over a lot of the work to other support staff, this is good for me as it frees my time for other things and also reminds me that I work with a team of very capable people with excellent ideas who often don't need my help! I hope that it's good for them too as they realise they can successfully take more of a lead role, building their confidence and hopefully job satisfaction.

Tacking pieces down

Manipulating fabric

As always I have so far been impressed with the ideas the guys have come up with. Already we have several beautiful patches, all different and showing the personality of the maker. Soon I will be able to start putting it all together. Or maybe I will delegate that task too...

Design and patch

Finished patch (worked independently)

Finished patch

For interest, you can follow the links below to see our previous quilting endeavours...
2014 The Summer
2013 Stitching Friendship
2012 Magik
2011 The Forest

My patch in progress


Sunday 28 June 2015

What's it got in it's Pocketses?

My pockets...

This weekend I have been working on a project introduced to me by an artist, Kay Steven, I first met online and who I then met 'in real life' at my Tullie Textiles group. This project is part of a larger project called From Lincolnshire and Back  from artist Carol Parker and the idea is to encourage different approaches to work and networking amongst artists. The bit I took part in involves filling three small pockets with mini artworks which will then be collected and displayed by Carol in a book format. Each of the artists taking part in the main project were asked to fill a line of pockets themselves and pass a line onto another artist, which is how I got involved!

Pockets and instructions

Making bits and pieces

Adding drawings

As some of you will know working on a small scale is really not my strong point so this presented quite a challenge for me. However, it is good to be challenged and to work in a way that you wouldn't usually and the idea of pockets fits in quite well with the work I'm doing around wrapping at the moment. As always, things connect.

Printing on plastic

Pocket contents

Drawing in printed pocket

One of the guidelines for working on the pockets was to make something that was a bit about you and your work so I decided I would include a combination of drawings and stitched work. For me this project was a bit of fun so I have used it as an opportunity to use techniques I enjoy. I made some small feather drawings, some small samples of tatting and some Dorset wheel buttons. For the buttons I used threads I'd dyed myself, the wheels are a good way to show off the subtle colour variations.

How to make things removable...

How to make things removable...

Dorset Wheel Buttons

Dorset Wheel Buttons

The pockets are made of a plastic film stitched (by Kay) onto white card. As I started working I found that there was a bit too much plain white so to add a bit of texture I printed my page using some lace and acrylic paint. This made a good surface but obscured the pockets contents, this was good as it led me to experiment a bit more.

Playing with layouts

Playing with layouts

Print and buttons

When I started out I had a fairly fixed idea of what I would make to go in each pocket but as I worked this changed several times. I played around with the layout quite a lot, changing things around and swapping things in and out. In some ways the piece is more heavily worked than I would normally make it but it still has quite a minimalist look as I stuck with my usual muted colour palette. It was also suggested that a business card or similar was included so I added one of my 'hands' cards. Originally I had been going to have it landscape which made it hard to get out of the pocket so I added a buttonholed loop and ribbon. In the end I put it in portrait anyway but I left the loop as I like it!

Feather detail

Pocket detail

Feather drawings

Card detail
Overall, I think I'm quite happy with the finished piece. It's not like my usual work but it's given me a chance to work in a slightly different way and think about things a bit differently. I like the assemblage element of this work and think that might be something to take forward. I can't wait to see other people's pockets and the different approaches they've taken.

Sunday 21 June 2015

Seven Stories: St. Bede's School #3 Fabric Collage and Stencils

Rainforest Fabric Collage: Selecting materials

I've been working with a local school for the past few months on a big project from Prism Arts and Cumbria Library Service called Seven Stories. Recently I've been catching up on my blogging about this project, this post is about the collaged and stencilled flags we've made.

Using paper templates to cut out shapes

Using paper templates to cut out shapes

Using paper templates to cut out shapes

As I mentioned in my previous post about this project I wanted to give the students the chance to try a range of different techniques so having made our collagraph printed flags and felt flags and because I knew the pupils were really good at paper collage I thought fabric collage would be a good technique to try.

Arranging the fabric collage

Arranging the fabric collage

Arranging the fabric collage

I really like working with collage, both paper and fabric, as it is a very accessible way of working and allows for a lot of experimentation. It is also a good opportunity to get to handle different materials and to explore colour and texture. Fabric collage also allowed the pupils to have a go at pinning and tacking, skills they may not necessarily get to develop otherwise.

Work in progress

Pinning the pieces down

Arranging and pinning

One of the things I've been working on with the students is getting them to work through a process; a lot of modern life is so fast and is all about instant gratification I think it's good to do things that take time and that you have to work out. I think it helps the students understand that the more time and energy you invest in the work the better the outcome. I also think that some of the slower, more labour intensive techniques give them chance to really think about what they're doing and so gives them the opportunity to develop their analytical and problem solving skills.




Making both the fabric collaged and stencilled flags involved quite long processes and as you would expect each student found certain parts of the processes easier than others. This class has been good at concentrating on their task from the start but I have noticed that over the course of the project the pupils ability to stick at things has improved and really importantly their confidence in their own abilities has grown. Because there is only one of me and 28 of them I obviously can't give them all my undivided attention all of the time, this has meant that rather than always waiting for me to say 'yes, that's right' the students have become more confident in trusting their own judgement and just going for it.

Taking pride in their work

Work in progress

Abstract arrangement focusing on colour

Another reason I think their confidence has grown is that all the work they've produced is their own, by which I mean there has been very limited input from me beyond demonstrating and explaining processes. When a student asks me what to do I tend to turn the question round and ask them what they think they should do. We can then have a little discussion about different options but I let them decide how to proceed and get them to do it. I want to support the students to create their own work, try new things and learn by doing rather than having me do things for them.

Paper stencils

Paper stencils

Paper stencils

The class really enjoyed working on the collaged flags. As always they had some great ideas and produced beautiful work. Similar to the felt flags the collaged flags were based on the different landscapes of the stories. We started by making templates to cut out shapes related to each landscape as I wanted to encourage them to try a more abstract approach rather than a pictorial approach. We then had great fun selecting and cutting fabric shapes which were then pinned and then tacked in place. I then took the flags home to sew on the sewing machine.

Using the stencils

Using the stencils

Using the stencils

Building on the idea of shapes for each landscape we took a similar approach to making the stencilled flags. Making stencils can be quite difficult, it can be very hard to visualise which bits to cut out and which to leave to create the image you want so I was impressed with the stencils the class produced. As with a lot of the techniques we've been working with simple shapes often work better than complicated ones and some of the pupils whose work is small scale and intricate found this quite hard. However, everyone ended up with a usable stencil and was able to make a flag, as before some really beautiful work was produced and this activity was a really good example of how the students have learnt to persevere and keep going until they get the result they want.

Flags hung up to dry

Stencilled owls

Stencilled snowflakes

So, we now have collagraphed flags, felt flags, collaged flags and stencilled flags. These will be sewn together in pairs to make double sided flags which can then be sewn onto ribbon to make a string of flags ready to be installed in the library in November. Best get stitching...