Tuesday 30 December 2014

A modern year end

Almost a year ago, I ordered some screen printed scraps from Karen Lewis.

I immediately sorted some of them into what I thought would be the makings of a good quilt.

But then I got busy with other things and it got put to one side.

A couple of weeks ago, I revisited my idea and decided to add some more fabric in. As you can see, they are only small scraps of fabric so it seemed to me, the best way to show them off, would be to attempt to make a modern(ish) quilt.

I completely took as my 'pattern', the design off one of Karen's prints.

And off I went.

I made it smallish because well, I wasn't really enjoying it that much.

At one point I was in danger of falling off my chair with flat out boredom.
There is just something about a limited colour scheme and great wodges of plain fabric that just don't do it for me.

I want a personality in a quilt and I just felt this was a bit flat, clinical and completely not me.

Colour is off in this one - the vagaries of night time flash photography
However, finisher that I am, I powered on and last night sewed the binding down.

We woke up this morning to one of those rarities - a perfect winter's day, which meant my little bit of modern was going public.

So as it was my idea, I got to do the long walk down the quay.

Which therefore meant I was not in control of the all important art direction.

Errr hello, camera on quilt please

Closer would be better if you wouldn't mind

Thank you.

And the back.

I don't dislike it but I'm not in love with it either.

It was a useful exercise in trying something different but that was it.

I shall continue to make quilts that to me are exciting, visually stimulating and that use a ton of prints.

Roll on 2015 -  may you walk to the beat of your own drum.

Saturday 13 December 2014

Being modern my way

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of meeting Kathy from Material Obsession in person and came away with not only feeling inspired but some of the fabric from her first line.

If I were to make a Desert Island Discs of top quilt blogs which inspire and excite me on a regular basis, then hers would be in there. I completely love the quilts she and those around her produce,  for their individuality, for being that little bit different. But does that make them modern? More on that later.

I chose this feature fabric just because.

Deciding to feature large areas of one fabric in a quilt are slightly outside my comfort zone.

I like being outside my comfort zone.

And I wanted to create a scrappy quilt with a limited scrappy colour zone and these are not normally colours I'd either gravitate towards, nor put together.

So, game on.

I made a 60 degree triangle shape around the bird to surround it all. In the process that meant I couldn't cut the same sized shape from all the birds and remedied this by cutting the remainder of the birds out individually and applique them to solid fabric (yes, I used solid fabric. More on that later).

I also took some of the trailing leaves, cut those out individually and applique them to the solid triangles. All the applique pieces have been sewn in place with a layer of batting behind them so that, in theory,when I come to layer the quilt top with batting and backing and then quilt it, the applique pieces will pop out some more.

And this is what I have ended up with.

Now a couple of days ago I posted a screen grab on Instagram of my 'rejection' confirmation for this quilt which I had submitted to QuiltCon.

It was very much a last minute decision to enter and I was swayed more than anything by the fabulous quilting done on it by Krista Withers - she'll be teaching at QuiltCon next year by the way.

I kind of knew I was on a wing and a prayer with this one because it doesn't fit many of the Modern Quilt Guild's definitions of what it believes modern quilting to be, namely:

  • graphic areas of solid colour
  • improvisational piecing
  • minimalism
  • expansive negative space

So when I got the 'rejection' email from QuiltCon I wasn't surprised and I put it up on Instagram more as a tongue in cheek response to those who were posting screen grabs of their 'acceptance' emails. I didn't take the 'rejection' personally, had a bit of a chuckle to myself, fired off some flippant responses to those who commented and chalked the whole thing up to all part of life's rich tapestry. (Which would be made up of lots of prints btw, not solids).

But then the whole QuiltCon reject/accept thing kind of gained momentum on social media and people started emailing me about it and and blog posts were appearing and suddenly the debate had a life of its own.

Having been at the receiving end of the QuiltCon experience before I have broad enough shoulders to know everyone is feeling their way along a new path and are doing their best. I actually don't have a problem with who gets in and who doesn't. That's life. Latifah has an excellent post Former QuiltCon Juror Tells All that is well worth a read. My only small comment on this would be I didn't like how you couldn't actually enter your quilt into the category you had in mind - in my case it was 'Modern Traditionalism.' Seemed a bit odd but open to hearing why.

However, for what it's worth, my own personal points are:

  • If you're paying to be considered to enter a quilt competition and you are not accepted, would it not be possible to at least have a one or two line explanation? I know a comment has been made on Latifah's post that it is not industry practice to explain why something has not been accepted. However, we're talking about a Guild which has only been formed within the last few years with a definition of modern quilting which many people struggle to either accept/get their heads round. I was fortunate in that I didn't make my quilt specifically to enter QuiltCon although a lot of people did. How are those people supposed to know how to move forward if they don't know what it is about their quilts that wasn't 'modern' enough? I realise 'modern' is subjective so were the decisions to not accept those quilts that weren't accepted based solely on gut instinct or were there criteria  that had to be fulfilled? You might not like/agree with the feedback but at least you know where you stand. The MQG could add the caveat 'no correspondence will be entered into' to stop any ping ponging of emails. At least people will know why they are throwing their toys out the pram. 

  • why does a quilt need to have 'graphic areas of solid colour' to be considered modern? Amy Butler and Anna Maria Horner are two fabric designers who spring to mind who excel at designing loud, blowsy, stunning fabric designs and both are/have been involved lecturing at QuiltCon. Would a quilt chocked full to the gunnels with their fabrics be considered 'modern'? Ditto some of the instructors for QuiltCon next year - some of them are not what I would call 'modern' quilters by the MQG definition.  Ditto the online quilt fabric stores favoured by 'modern' quilters, with tag lines such as 'your online source for modern quilting cottons' and 'modern quilting fabrics' where 80% of their stock is prints.

  • When does 'modern' stop being 'modern' and its definition redefined? Freddie Moran was ahead of her time and I still think she produces exciting, different and visually stimulating quilts. Looking at her work though, would she fit within the constraints of today's definition of 'modern'? I mentioned Kathy Doughty/Material Obsession earlier. She's innovative and different...but 'modern'? What about some of the massively popular quilt bloggers out there - by the MQG's definition they're not producing 'modern' quilts yet it is their types of quilts people are drawn to and the makers themselves believe they are 'modern' quilters.
There are so many quilters out there (both established and new) who feel they identify as 'modern' quilters. I myself have recently let my membership lapse of the (British) Quilters Guild because it feels as much me as flower arranging. I know my style is all over the place but I definitely gravitate towards, what I perceive to be, 'modern' quilters. I feel at home with the loose meaning of the word 'modern.'

From what I can see, 'modern' quilting is a broad church of styles. The MQG has chosen a definition so constrictive and narrow it's almost like its own sect. Let's broaden the definition and open ourselves up to a range of 'modern' quilting styles and in the process welcome more people and more ideas.

We'll all be richer for it.


Saturday 6 December 2014

Soy Amado No. 53...and an update

Nice and simple.

All the blocks from one person.

Please note the blue sky.

Photographic evidence to look back on when we revert to the winter default of grey clouds.

My husband paid a visit to the home in Mexico City last week.

The walls are slowly being replastered.

The director of the home thanks everyone who has helped. Apart from brightening up the surroundings considerably, he reiterated how important it has been for the children to have something that belongs to them only and is nothing like any of the other quilts.

It makes them feel individual, special and that they are wanted.

The children have also been busy baking cookies and cakes to sell in the local market, to help raise funds for the home.

And honing their icing skills.

Now, I know over the course of this year, as I have photographed the various Soy Amado quilts around this island idyll I call home, that I have no doubt massively boosted visitor numbers here. Much like when people visit LA and take a bus tour round the 'homes of the stars', I am sure the buses I have seen chugging round the island are on a Soy Amado quilt location tour.

However, before you go booking that trip of a lifetime, I do feel, in the interests of full disclosure, that you should know exactly what you're stepping in to when you arrive here. So, I'm sharing some of the headlines from the local newspaper over the past week or so, just to give you the bigger picture.

Swap 'man' for 'woman' and add in 'in-law' after 'mother' and that could quite well be me

Wasn't me. Honest.

Top legal 'speed' here is 35m.p.h so he was probably hammering along at 41 m.p.h

And my personal favourite:

I'm still looking...

Friday 28 November 2014

Something from nothing

The best kind of quilts for me, the ones that have their own personality, their own individuality, are most definitely scrap quilts.

There is a certain freedom when starting a scrap quilt. No need to measure for the right amount of fabrics, no need to ponder colour and fabric placement to any great degree.

A scrap quilt to me is a chance to take scraps and make something from nothing from them, all the while making it up as I go along.

This one was a looong time in the making.

It's paper-pieced and is the Spider's Web pattern which I changed by making the two measurements either side of the central tip unequal. I realise that may not make any sense to you, so if you look at my side bar you'll see it's mention number two under 'popular posts' if you need further details.

With the traditional equal marking of the two lines either side of the centre tip, you'll end with Spider's Webs all the same. The way I do it, you'll end up with two different shapes. Dependent on what measurements you go for, you can make quite interesting and original second designs.

It's a long and (at times) tedious process to paper piece a quilt of any significant size with this pattern. You need eight triangles to make a Spider's Web. On the plus side, you can use up the most teeny tiny scraps of fabric and (in my opinion) it doesn't seem to mater what you place by what - it all seems to work.

Absolutely every single piece of fabric in this quilt was a scrap, so to see the scraps reinvent themselves in this way feels quite spectacularly special.

When I'd pieced the top, I decided to send it to Krista who long-armed it for me. A couple of years ago she worked her magic on what remains one of my most favourite ever quilts. I gave her absolutely no direction, other than to stretch herself and think outside the box.

It came back a few weeks ago and I've just finished sewing the binding down.

Krista's quilting adds another layer of movement to the quilt that I don't think I'd have had the patience (nor skills) to achieve by myself on a domestic sewing machine.

There is something very accessible about scrap quilts.

You don't need a whole line of the latest 'must have' fabric to make a great quilt. You can use cotton from old clothes (I have in this quilt) - just about anything works. The uglier and random all have their place.

I love this quilt so much that I made a last minute decision to enter it into next year's QuiltCon.

That meant I had to come up with a title for the quilt.

I never name my quilts. It's just not me.

But name it I must so it's called 'No yardage was harmed in the making of this quilt.'

Hello, in my opinion of course, rather gorgeous husband

I've seen quite a bit of chatter on Instagram the last few days as quilters stress about meeting this week's QuiltCon entry deadline and wondering if they are just making something to fit within the constraints of the definition of what 'modern' quilting is.

I have no idea if this quilt will be accepted into QuiltCon as 'modern' enough, especially as one of the definitions is 'graphic areas of solid colour.' Clearly I disagree with that definition but maybe I am in the minority.

I shall continue to make quilts that are visually exciting to me, regardless of whether they are perceived as 'modern' or not.

Perhaps I should have called this quilt 'No solids were harmed in the making of this quilt'?

Sunday 23 November 2014

Soy Amado No. 52

If I'd remembered how quick it is to knock one of these up, I wouldn't have taken a four month break from making them.

And if I hadn't waited so long, I wouldn't now be faced with all my possible photo locations drowning in a depressingly dank sense of greyness.

The sky is grey.

The sea seems grey.

The land is grey.

And did I mention windy too?

As the winter starts to close in, I am reminded of random facts I have retained over the years. In particular, the one from a former work colleague who used to work for Ann Summers and who told me that the company sold more vibrators on my island that to anywhere else in the British Isles.

I'm not sure if that's a reflection on the adult male population here or that in the winter with such dismal weather there is very little to do.  If you had a choice between an AS purchase or pondering whether to drive clockwise or anti-clockwise round the island for a little bit of light relief on a slow Sunday afternoon, what would you do?

Click here if you'd like some more enlightening facts about life on a small island.
No. 19 in particular struck a chord with me - is a daily NEWSpaper for 62,000 people really possible?

Anyway, I digressed.

This is No. 52.

Friday 21 November 2014

A long time coming

It has taken me what seems like ages to finish quilting this quilt.

Granted I kind of went off the quilting boil for a while.

Like completely off.

The summer was so lovely my quilting mojo totally disappeared.

I stopped reading quilt blogs and magazines and replaced it with other types of reading.

I read books that made me cry. A lot.

And books that had me fanning myself. A lot.

Ok, an awful lot.

And generally I took a complete step back from quilting world.

As the weeks went by and the weather turned from summer, to autumn, to  I-can't-remember-the-last-day-it-didn't-rain, I started thinking about the room at the top of the house again and whether I fancied venturing in there. I told myself I'd get excited again when Anna Marie Horner released a new line - which she did. I would sell my right kidney for any AMH stuff (well, not strictly true, I only have one anyway so slight exaggeration), especially as I thought Pretty Potent was her best collection ever. And then Honor Roll came out and (sorry AMH) for the first time ever I didn't rush to buy it.

It was at that point, with not even my AMH enthusiasm barometer working, that I did wonder if my passion for all things quilty had permanently dried up.

I hadn't missed the incessant call to purchase this line of fabric or that latest gadget.
I hadn't missed book blog tours.
I hadn't missed being told what I must have or use
I hadn't missed the whole commercialism that seems to have taken over and shaped much of quilty blog world in the past few years

However, I've missed creating for the sake of being creative.
I've missed interacting with other like-minded individuals and so I have re-emerged into quilt world.

I have slowly, slowly been quilting the above quilt.

I used so many different threads, it almost became a crash course in which threads my machine liked and which it didn't.

I used just about every brand you can think of, including a thread from a collection from my husband's aunt who passed away ten years ago.

With an Aurifil 40wt in my bobbin, the thread which hands down quilted the most beautifully, was this one.

It's a Sulky 40wt. I'm not sure what line it's from but it produces a lovely shimmer to the quilting.

I've slightly darkened this image up so you can hopefully see the glean that comes off the thread.

All the other threads I used played fine, it was just for me, the Sulky 40wt was the stand-out star of the whole long process.

With so much stop starting as I changed threads, there were an awful lot of threads to bury once I finished quilting. I think I underestimated just how long it would take.

Then it was on to binding.

And finally it was done.

On the down side, the image doesn't really capture the wonderful texture the quilt has from being quilted so densely.

On the plus side, I don't think the image captures the rain pouring down as I took this picture.

I have no doubt my opinions will change but just for the moment, it's my most favourite quilt.

So what's next?

Well as you can imagine, with a blog as prestigious as this one, I am inundated with requests to collaborate on all sorts of things.  I was particularly thrilled to receive this email.

Not wishing to dilute the authenticity and integrity of my blog, after much soul-searching I've decided to decline this intriguing offer.

Sorry Paul.

Meanwhile, now I am emerging from my quilt funk, I have ideas a plenty for more quilts, as well as a pile of Soy Amado quilt blocks (hello Canada, I haven't forgotten you) that need sorting out.

I am back.

I think.

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