Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Two Trips to Unique

On Saturday Al and I travelled to Spalding to visit the Open Studios at Unique Cottage Studios.  These are a series of farm outbuildings that have been converted to artists' studios and an exhibition space and there is now the addition of a lovely cafĂ©.
All the artists were in their studios, demonstrating their skills and showing their work.  It was a very inspiring time.  Al studied ceramics a long, long time ago ('when dinosaurs were alive' according to eldest grandson) and has also done some stained glass work so he was particularly interested to talk to potter, Tony Orvis, and to glassworker, Gillian Wing.  I think he might sign up for some workshops with Tony in the near future and Gillian shared a technique of layering glass on glass, like a mosaic, that I think Al will be trying.  I was happy discussing the textiles group that meet at Unique regularly and seeing some of their work on display.  Something totally unexpected captivated us both, Katie Smith's 'Moveable Museum of Found Objects' and we had a lovely chat with Katie about her work.  I do encourage you to have a look at her website.

On Monday I was back at Unique, this time to do a workshop with lovely Angela Daymond and joined by my friend, Ros, all the way from deepest, darkest Norfolk.  The workshop was called 'Slow, Slow, Stitch, Stitch, Slow' and we worked on naturally dyed fabrics.

Angela had provided us with a lovely selection, dyed with woad, daffodil, logwood and weld, among others, and we arranged our pieces to create a new cloth in the boro/kantha tradition. Up cycling is not new!
We then started to stitch, with lots is support from Angela and using mainly a straight running stitch. So therapeutic, a quiet and relaxing day, even for Ros who doesn't "do random". 

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Quilters' Book Club

Thanks to Julie I have now signed up for the online Quilters' Book Club run by Starwood Quilter.

I had noticed for sometime that Julie was reading quilting-related books, most that I hadn't heard of.  Apart from Tracy Chevalier's "The Last Runaway", the only novels featuring quilts that I have read are those of Jennifer Chiaverini, the Elm Creek Quilts series.

The plan as a member of the Quilters' Book Club is to read the book for the month and discuss it online.  Then to make a quilt block related to the book.  It would be lovely to create a "reading quilt" to curl up under but one step at a time.  Many of the books do not seem to be available from my library but I have been able to order the next three (May, June and July), used, from Amazon.

If this book club appeals to you - and how interesting to see many quilters list their other pastimes as similar to mine - pop over to Starwood Quilter and see what's coming up over the next months (you can join in at any point and it all seems beautifully friendly and flexible).

It's been a dry and sunny week so not much sewing has been done.  The garden is starting to look less like a jungle.

This weekend sees a visit to Unique Cottage Studios near Spalding where they have an Open Studios event, and I'm back there on Monday to take a Slow Stitching workshop with lovely Angela Daymond.  Watch out for a post sharing what I achieve.

Wishing you all a lovely weekend, Lis x

Friday, 18 April 2014

"Boro: Threads of Life" Exhibition at Somerset House

Last Tuesday I went to London with Sara and Sam to see the exhibition of Boro at Somerset House.
We were somewhat delayed by having a wonderful time playing in the fountains in the sunshine but eventually made it to the East Wing Galleries.

Photography was permitted and Sam was given a postcard of one textile to try and find - good thinking.
You can see in this photograph how the textiles were displayed.

I delayed writing this post as at least one friend is visiting the exhibition this week.  I wanted them to be able to make up their own mind, unclouded by preconceptions from my report.  I have say I was disappointed with "Boro:  Threads of Life".  Not with the textiles themselves, but with the manner in which they were exhibited.
There were a few items that were exhibited in the way I expected, as the original garments were made and used in Japan.  (Apologies for the strange tint to the photographs, it seems to be a result of the exhibition lighting).
Most textiles, however, were exhibited like this.  As if the exhibition was an art gallery.  The pieces were all of similar shape and size.  Several pieces appeared to have been mounted on new fabric and all the pieces had been smoothed over stretcher frames or similar.
Sara and I were both astonished at how flat and thin the boro was, so much so that I took a photograph of the edge of a piece that wasn't mounted in this style.
Nowhere could I find any information about the boro, no origin, age, description, nor on the way they had been mounted for exhibition.  Each item had only a number alongside it.  The book accompanying the exhibition was simply a collection of photographs of the items.  I feel the textiles must have been reduced in many cases to their outer layer, they certainly appeared to have had the guts ripped out of them.
Moving closer gave some texture but the overall impression was of a flat, almost lifeless, sea of blue.  Am I being too harsh in my disappointment?  Maybe I should have been inspired by the innovation of the exhibitors.
"They carry with them the evocation of family members, the presence of ancestors" it states in the exhibition guide.  It was exactly this that I felt was missing.  These historical textiles had somehow been reduced to gallery exhibits (with enormous price tags I later discovered) and their life and soul, their very integrity, had been removed along with the creases, filling and lumps and bumps.

I must state that I am not opposed to using old textiles in new ways, nor to individual expression and creativity but this exhibition contradicted itself in using the traditional words to talk about the boro while treating them in a way that disparaged all those words.  It was sad and we were glad to get back out into the sunshine and the fountains!  For another perspective on the exhibition and more pictures, including some good interior views of the galleries, you might like to pop over to Susan Briscoe's blog post here.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Holiday Snaps

I used to love the holidays when I was teaching as it was a much needed time to rest and recuperate, but I think I love them even more now as I get to spend loads of time with Sam during the school breaks.  We've just been at Kellah Farm near Hadrian's Wall for a week, Sam's choice of holiday destination.  We did all the things he wanted to do and had a great time.  Here are a few photos:
Sara and Sam riding on the swing boats at Beamish Open Air Museum.

With Connor (named after one of Sam's friends) the pet lamb.

Sara having her first ever ride on a horse and Sam very confidently showing her what to do!

Inspecting the bath house.

Organising the troops.

Having a not very disciplined moment for a Roman soldier.

Inspecting his flock after a day on duty on The Wall.

And I took a few "arty" shots but didn't manage much stitching - Sara and I were shattered at the end of each day, fit only for eating local fudge and watching DVDs!
I'm having a lazy weekend now as next week we're off to the Boro exhibition at Somerset House.  If you can't wait, Susan Briscoe blogged about it here.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Parcel Two - Boro Delight

"This is a vintage noragi vest from Hokuriki district. It is made of beautiful sakiori fabric. Sakiori is a traditional Japanese technique of rag weaving.The rag strips are cut finely and woven into a tweed-like fabric. In olden times people in northern district were poor, and people used their fabrics repaired and repaired, and finally make the fabrics to sakiori fabrics, and made noragi, interior fabrics and obi from sakiori fabrics.
This piece has especially beautiful (well worn) sakiori pattern. Textile is very very thick. And in the back near the neck, sashiko stitches are done. Its white pattern is exceptionally beautiful. Please check the fantastic sakiori and sashiko details with more photos.
It has a tear in the right chest, but as a whole it is in very good condition.
For the connoisseurs."

Above are the details from the Ichiroya - Kimono Flea Market website where I saw this vest and, although I am no "connoisseur", I knew I had to have it.
It arrived in the post yesterday, 

along with an apron I took a liking to and a gift of a lovely piece of kimono silk. Ichiroya are great to deal with and the descriptions and photographs of items on the website mean you know what you are buying.

The vest combines so much of what I love about vintage Japanese textiles.  The woven "sakiori" 

fabric, the sashiko stitching, the indigo dye of course, the concept of "boro" and also wabi sabi.  Here are my thoughts, I would appreciate your views.

The vest is old, and fragile in places.  I want to wear it once in a while and I want it to continue to have a life, not just become a treasure I store away in my sewing room.  It has evolved over time and I think it can continue to do so.
Can I do some work on it without stripping it of its integrity?
There are two areas I would like to pay attention to, the tear in the right side of the front (shown in the first photograph) and the stitching down the sides.

am thinking of patching the front using some vintage indigo fabric, hopefully patching from inside if it is possible.  I would then use a simple sashiko stitch to hold it all together.
I would like to extend the stitching up each side of the vest, using the same stitch and in a cream cotton sashiko thread.
I feel that doing these things would prevent further damage to the vest.
However, should one repair such a beautiful item?
I really would appreciate your opinions and suggestions.

Japanese-speakers out there.... what exactly is on my apron?  Ichiroya say it advertises fish sausages. Are these anything like fish fingers?  I love the zipped pocket detail on the apron which I didn't notice initially!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Global Piecers' Hearts

It was a good day for post yesterday so I shall write two posts!!

I received two exciting parcels from overseas, one from Japan and one from Australia.

The parcel from Australia was from my Global Piecer friend, Sal.  I knew it would contain a heart block, the final one in the swap, and so I looked forward to deciding how to arrange all the hearts I have received.  But Sal is a pretty generous gal and so the parcel contained not just the heart block (which was fabulous) but loads of other goodies:  fabric, beads, soap, chocolate bunnies (I imagine Sam will help me with those) and a lovely cosmetic purse that Sal made for me.  I love swaps, they're fun to put together, buying and making things you hope your partner will love, and they're fantastic to get.

This swap was for a heart block, of any design or technique.  The block was to be 6.5" in one direction and a multiple of this in the other.  We all indicated our preferred colour palette, mine being:
I would like traditional dusky pinks and dark reds for my heart blocks please, I'm thinking full blown English roses :-)

Having a break coming up soon I wanted to have some hand stitching to take with me.  I started to layout all those heart blocks and, amazingly, I have managed to assemble and layer a wall hanging today and now I have lots of lovely hand quilting to do.  While I am stitching I will be thinking of you lovely Global Piecing ladies, you're great.

Another Finish

My beach huts quillow is finished, here is a picture of it all folded into the pillow bag. Clever eh?
The pattern was by Anya Townrow and the fabrics were by Makower, all called "Coast"
I called my quilt "Tranquility Restored" in recognition of the terrible damage done by the storms and sea surge at the end of last year and the way the mess has been tidied up and repairs are started. People are even rebuilding on the sites of destroyed properties, such optimism in the forecasts of this being a "once in a century" event. The sea is so calm it is as if nothing happened.