Monday 29 October 2012

French knots par excellence!

On a grey and dreary day I really need something to make me smile, so I thought that I would share this gem with you.
It was made by my Grandma many years ago. She was a smart lady, always beautifully co ordinated with beads or a scarf, favouring plain navy or black over colourful prints for her smart clothes, and yet at some moment in her life she created this mad hymn to colour and pattern.
It is stitched on to a red spotted handkerchief which you can just about discern in amongst the dense texture of stitches. The dots are satin stitch and the zig zag border is chain stitch, The rest is a glorious profusion of French knots the like of which I have only ever seen on this cushion cover. They are crammed together in the most exuberant  mix of colour and pattern. When I was little and we used to visit her and Big Man George (Grandad by another name) I would gaze at this creation and wonder about it. Strangely I never asked her what had prompted her to make it, a great regret to me now.
I took it in to school the other day to show some students that I had been teaching French knots to, and was delighted by their oooooh's and aaaaah's. I like to think that Grandma would be too.

French knot mayhem

Detail of corner

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Photos the whys and whats

My little digital camera has transformed how and what I take photographs of.
I was given my first SLR by my dad back in 1981. It was a Minolta XGM and I loved it. Easy to use, great lens and not too bulky. I shot mostly on magical Kodachrome and looking back, that particular stock taught me a lot. I fell in love with the vibrancy of everyday, found colours and textures, and it wasn't a cheap option so I tried to make every shot count. I composed in camera, there was no 'Photoshop' option back then to rescue misframed pictures, and I had many internal debates about whether a shot was worth taking. Was the light right? Was the shot strong enough?
And then there was the process of the processing. Finishing the film and winding it back into its light tight container, praying it wouldn't jam. It never did but there was always that slight possibility. Flipping open the back of the camera and then popping the yellow, metal canister, full of my carefully chosen images into the preprinted yellow envelope and posting it to somewhere in Hemel Hempstead.
And then the wait.....
And the return, a satisfying clunk on to the mat by the door, and the excitement of looking at the finished slides, in the first instance just by holding them upto a window one by on. then I acquired a little viewer and finally a light box. The laying out of the thirty six, sometimes thirty seven or even eight, if you were really lucky, small framed pictures was always a special moment. I would pour over them recalling the exact moment I released the shutter - even today I can look at thirty year old images and remember with some clarity the time and place.
So these days I take more pictures, digital photos don't have the same price tag attached to them as transparencies, but I don't shoot randomly, and I rarely take more than one of a given subject. I still compose in camera, or rather on screen and I edit as I go. What I find frustrating though is the storage and cataloguing of digital pics. I love my boxes of slides and negatives, there's something tangible about them, but digital is just pixels and codes that fill up my memory, or rather my computer's memory. So that is an issue I am going to have to tackle head on.
And what do I do with all this picture gathering?
Here are some collaged pages from one of my sketch books, themed in colours, subjects or textures.
Hope you feel inspired to have a go and get creative yourself.

A page of assorted windows with thoughts on opposite page

I am not really a pink girl but I love this random selection

Glorious orange compositions collaged together

Friday 19 October 2012

That's my boy!!!

I am truly a proud mum this week. My son who is in year nine, that translates as thirteen years old, brought back from school his DT (design technology) textiles project this week, a pair of slippers. He had told me very little about what he was up to or how it was going, and refused my offer of extra sewing machine tuition, so I was curious to see what he had made this term.
At this point I should say his last textiles project wasn't a roaring success - he screen printed a logo onto a teeshirt  which went well and he does wear it so I take that as a sign that it is an acceptable item. However there were supposed to be a pair of pull on shorts to go with the tee shirt, thereby creating a set of pyjamas. To say that he had found mastering the sewing machine a challenge would be an understatement, and his comprehension as to what actually needed to be stitched appeared confused, so I waited with baited breath for this latest project.
Gasps of admiration all round!!! He has made a rather smart pair of slippers, complete with heat transfer panels and a snazzy mix and match combo with green and black fleece. So somewhere along the line my textiley genes have seeped in,despite a modicum of resistance. I am so proud of him!!

My son's slippers - so proud!

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Of brilliant bargains & fabulous finds

I have always loved a bargain, born partly out of necessity and partly out of a desire to get the very best buys for my money. I also enjoy the chase and unexpected finds that shopping in charity shops, car boots and jumble sales can unearth.
I started my second hand shopping career in Manchester. I used to have a Saturday job at a graphic design suppliers and would be handed the little brown envelope with my wages in at lunchtime. I would then run across town to the haven known as the Elite Dress agency, clutching my wages, eager for that special find. Complete outfits with great labels could be bought  for a few pounds - I was hooked. Charity shops back then were, on the whole, rather dowdy places with a certain whiff about them and not places to be frequented by a sixteen year old in search of stylish clobber. So the Elite was my first choice every time and served me extremely well.
These days I love carbooting, although this year has been disastrous for carboots due to the horrendous weather and quite frankly I'd rather be curled up in bed then trudging round mud laden fields where all the goodies are hidden under plastic sheets and everyone is a bit soggy.
So imagine my delight when I discovered a local jumble sale this weekend in a rather upmarket village!
Fabulous finds included brand new Clarks lace ups with a hint of Victoriana about them, suede wedge shoes unworn, super stripy scarf and linen cropped trousers all for £4!!!

Jumble sale finds for under a fiver - my sort of shopping!!

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Finally...pieced cushions

It has taken me rather longer than I had hoped to make my random pieced panels into cushion covers. On the list of things to do they fell behind taming the wisteria, filling several rawl plug holes in the wet room and endless school uniform washing/ironing (my son's that is, who daily cakes mud on to his knees playing football.)
But they are now complete and I am rather pleased with them. They are so easy to put together and use up any number of odd scraps. I don't do any planning for them beyond a mental game of teaming up the fabrics,  and then I just let them evolve - mixing and matching velvet with ticking, vintage florals with classic ginghams as I go. The fabric linking these four together is denim, recycled from various jeans. Taking inspiration from Japanese Boro textiles and the quilts of Gees Bend  I included seams, distressed hem lines and flip sides to show seam construction.
May be I should run a workshop and get everyone stitching these fun designs?

Slithers of fabric too small even for mice to make waistcoats from

Three blue themed cushion covers

Detail showing print guide from selvedge of one of the fabrics
and inside jeans seam

Ticking and denim with floral detail from ancient curtain

Jeans seam with spots and checks and stripes

Ticking and denim detail

Blog Archive