After the excitement of the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, I was ready for a new challenge. This has appeared in the shape of the #100days100blocks challenge, which is coming from Australia. I found out about it on Gnome Angel’s website (click here to go to her site). Thanks to the wonders of the world wide web, it’s possible to take part in something like this internationally. What fun! The challenge is based on the book by Tula Pink ‘100 City Blocks’, which I already own, so I was all set to begin on the start date of 17 August. I know I need to work on the skill of really accurate piecing and one hundred days of piecing sounded like the perfect way of encouraging myself do that!
The whole challenge is being carried out on Instagram, so therein lies a second challenge for me, as I have been urged to make better use of Instagram, so I will now be compelled to use it every day for 100 days! I’m hoping that I then continue to use it as a good daily habit. Over time, I aim to post photos of all the fabrics I have designed and also pictures of items I have made from my fabrics. Now the fabrics can be ordered via Spoonflower from Berlin, Germany as well as from Durham, USA, they are more accessible for customers in Europe. (Click here to see all the fabrics in the studio).
And the third challenge? Well, that’s to do with colour. I have noticed how little I use purple and mauve in my quilt-making. I can’t really account for that, but there it is. So all my 100 blocks will have purple, plum, violet and/or mauve in them.Here is the first block, for the 17th August 2016.
To see participants on Instagram, search for #100days100quilts. You will find me at: @amandajanetextiles
And the tea-pot cosy (or rather the cafetiere cosy which preceded it) was originally made for a coffee-drinker I know, who complained that the coffee cooled too quickly in those handy plunger-type glass coffee pots. I made two cosies in the end and then wrote a pattern, so you can make them too.
Each year my Quilt Group (Durham Quilters), travels together down to the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, England to attend the Festival of Quilts. We generally spend three days at the Festival, which lasts for four days in total. However, this year some of us set off at 7am on the Thursday, arriving soon after 11, so we gained an additional day.
For the first time, I entered some quilts into the Festival, so I was keen to see that they really were all there! Of course, they were. I haven’t cropped the photos, so you can get a sense of how the quilts were hanging in the space (several of the halls at the NEC are taken over during the Festival of Quilts). I have also included, in quotation marks, the catalogue entry written for each one.
The Quilters’ Guild Challenge for 2016 was ‘On the Beach’. I made a single-bed sized quilt with fabrics I have designed. (To see the fabrics, click here). Here’s the quilt, entitled ‘Happy Holidays’. “This is a celebration of holidays at the British seaside, remembering buckets and spades, sandcastles and beach balls, plus the frequently necessary windbreak. Treats such as ice cream in cornets are included, plus my particular favourite, candy floss.”
In ‘Contemporary’, a single-bed sized quilt was made from up-cycled embroidered fabrics and it was entered in that particular class because of the unusual use of materials. “Non-traditional fabrics used here are embroidered pieces from the 1940s-1960s: tablecloths, tray-cloths and towels. Though the unknown embroiderers have used standard patterns and motifs, it is lovely to see how they have revelled in the colours available to them. This re-purposing of their beautiful work is a way of celebrating them.” Here’s the quilt:
In ‘Traditional’, I went for the very traditional hexagon motif and used the English Paper Piecing method to make the quilt, so all the hexagons were stitched together by hand. It was also hand quilted and even hand-stitched around the edge. There was a story behind the design and making of this quilt (called ‘The Missed Exhibition’): “Arriving in York, I found both the Kaffe Fassett exhibition and the Quilt Museum closed. Mortified, my consolation was the online purchase of 40 Kaffe Fassett five-inch squares (the centres of the rosettes) surrounded by fabrics from my collection. In between the rows, Kaffe Fassett fabric bought on a later, happier visit to York.” Here’s the quilt:
‘Modern’ was a new category this year and I made a cot-sized piece called ‘Dawn’. I thoroughly enjoyed working in an improvisational way, picking colours as I would select paints when I am painting. “A Willem de Kooning painting entitled ‘Rosy fingered dawn at Louse Point’ was a strong influence on the making of this quilt. The size is suitable for a cot or first bed, the colours appropriate for the dawning of a young life.”
In the Pictorial section, I submitted ‘The Bride’, which included a number of techniques, including, patchwork, applique, printing, painting and quilting. The antique lace around the edge was a gift from my husband’s aunt and the modern lace was a scrap left from my daughter’s wedding dress. Click here to find out how I made the dress. Here’s the quilt:
The last quilt, which went into the ‘Two Person Quilts’ category, was made with my friend Alison Moore. We devised a plan to challenge each other with fabric choices. “We are friends living in two villages close to each other in County Durham. We each made 10 light and 10 dark blocks of four squares, then swopped them to add borders. No new fabrics and no repeats allowed. We got together to agree the lay-out and do the quilting. It was scary, but fun.”
The judges’ remarks and feedback on the quilts (with just one small exception) was encouraging and will spur me on to work on my skills: I know what I need to improve on. It was a great experience exhibiting this year, so when I am asked that difficult question ‘What do you do?’, I can at the very least say ‘I am a quilter’!
I have been working hard on completing the finishing touches to the quilts I have entered to the Festival of Quilts at the NEC in Birmingham, which takes place from 11-14 August 2017 (see www.thefestivalofquilts.co.ukfor more information). If you have bought your tickets already, see you there! A large package was sent off to the organisers today from our wonderful local post-office in the village.
I have entered six different categories, one of them with a friend (in the ‘Two Person Quilt’ category of course!) so there has been a lot of stitching going on at my house, and even some stitching going on whilst on holiday, in the beautiful South-West of Scotland. This was my top location for stitching:
I had to negotiate stitching time whilst on holiday with my co holiday-maker, but fortunately the European Cup was on at the time and so was Wimbledon, so agreement was quickly reached!
One of the things I have most enjoyed about being self-employed has been the opportunity to design fabrics. I trained as a surface pattern designer between 1995 and 2000, by means of a degree studied part-time. Although I then taught Textiles in school, this mostly involved encouraging the students’ creativity, rather than exercising my own. Over the two years since I began Amanda Jane Textiles, I have drawn and coloured 69 designs, which Spoonflower can print onto a wide range of fabrics and also onto wallpaper and wrapping paper.
Anyone can go on to the Spoonflower website (www.spoonflower.com) and order original designs from literally hundreds of designers. Spoonflower now has a base in Berlin, Germany, so items can now be produced and sent within Europe, where this is desirable. My fabric designs are all visible in the ‘Amanda Jane Textiles’ online studio on the website (click here to see them). Many of them have been created in response to the Spoonflower ‘contest’. This used to occur weekly. Recently, it has changed to a once-a-month challenge, which provides a useful brief to work to.
This month, the challenge was set by a company called Story Patches (www.storypatches.com) who have devised a quilt label which includes a computer scan-able code, giving access to pre-recorded message about the quilt. So the brief was to design a set of four labels on the theme of ‘family’. I wanted to create images that wouldn’t be too prescriptive of the type or size of family and in the end choose to depict family relationships among creatures.
The idea came from a chance happening a week or so ago in the Druridge Bay Country Park, in North-East England. A mother swan with quite a crowd of cygnets was swimming near the bank of the lake.
On the shore was a human family accompanied by a large dog, which barked at the swans, whereupon the baby birds became very agitated. All at once the second swan, who I assume was ‘dad’ drew himself up out of the water wings outstretched, beak open, making a loud hissing noise to deter the dog and protect the little ones. It was quite dramatic! So the incident gave the inspiration for the label bottom left:
Last year I made a dolphin quilt for my niece (click here to see this), so a mother and baby dolphin became the subject for the label top right.
Dachshunds have always been popular in our household (notional ones, I should add, never yet an actual dog), so that made another ‘family’ (top left).
Finally, there have been reports of peacocks in our County Durham village (click here if you don’t believe me); they even made the national news, briefly. No-one seems to know where they have come from and they are considered a nuisance by some local inhabitants and valued by others. So they became the subject of the fourth label bottom right.
Where do ideas come from? Well, from all over the place!
No, the Key Lime Pie of the title is not an edible one. It’s my title for the quilt above, which has been on the double bed in our AirBnB house for the last year (click here for more information about the house). The house is painted white throughout, which makes the colours of the patchwork quilts sing.
There’s a new quilt in one of the single bedrooms, which I’m calling ‘Pinstripe’ (see above). The soft blues of this quilt make the room appear calm and restful.
Anyway, back to ‘Key Lime Pie’: the ‘lime’ aspect is due to the inclusion of the sharp light green colour in the quilt and the ‘pie’ is because all the pieces are wedge-shaped (a bit like a slice of pie). It is simple to cut and to construct and I’ve written a very straightforward and easy-to-follow pattern for it.
The final size is 74 x 67″ (188 x 172 cm). In the photo, it is covering the top of a standard double bed (4′ 6″/ 137cm).
This weekend has seen major celebrations in the UK, as the Queen’s 90th birthday has been celebrated. In this case we are talking about the ‘official’ birthday, as her actual 90th birthday was in April. On Saturday the Queen wore a bold bright green coat and hat – the colour of a neon highlighter pen, which seems to have wowed everyone.
Designer: Stewart Parvin Photo: Getty images
The colour stood out strongly against the red of the uniforms of the soldiers on parade during the ceremony of trooping the colour. You can see the effect in the photo above. The shade of pink on the hat is also a perfect foil for the green. Fabulous!
Bogod & Company, the manufacturers of Bernina sewing machines, decided to join in the celebrations with a ‘Quilt Fit for a Queen’ project. You can see some of the entries on the Bernina blog here. This was also a fund-raising project, benefiting the charity ‘Friends of the Elderly’, as each square-maker made a contribution. I thought this was a fun idea, so decided to join in, with a pair of corgis (the Queen’s particular favourite dog):
Also this weekend: a long trip to celebrate a family birthday (84 years) and rather a large amount of football watching (on the television) and listening (on the radio) by those around. Fortunately, I have two hand-sewing projects on at the moment: a big hand-stitched patchwork, pieced over papers and the hand-quilting of a single quilt that I am making with a friend. Sneak previews below:
At the weekend I helped with an exhibition day organised by the North-East region of the Quilters’ Guild. My tasks included selling Tombola tickets (great fun seeing people win sewing-related items), and then later, looking after the sales table, full of quiltery-type items for sale: mugs, cards, address labels, patterns, etc and – most usefully – some non-slip quilting gloves. I’ve heard good reports of these, and have seen a friend quilting away with similar gloves on, gently stretching the fabric away from the needle on either side, the textured surface of the gloves providing traction. Looking forward to trying them out…
As the Quilters’ Guild no longer, sadly, has exhibition space in York, it has put together some travelling exhibitions which can be shown in different parts of the country. One of these so-called ‘suitcase collections’ , known by the name ‘Travelling Trunks’ came to the village of Hett in County Durham, so that 40 beautiful small quilts, all made by members of the ‘Traditional’ special interest group of the Quilters’Guild could be put on display. Here are just a few :
These pieces demonstrated a wide variety of traditional patterns, and were a pleasure to examine. An accompanying folder allowed visitors to read each maker’s statement about their particular piece.
This small quilt by Lynne Johnson was a particular favourite of mine:
This is an interpretation of the centre section of a historic quilt, made in 1805-10 called the ‘Billings Coverlet’, from the Quilters’ Guild collection. Click here to find out more about the Coverlet. The notes accompanying the suitcase collection revealed that this quilter had not only made the small quilt, but also a full-size 80″x 80″ version of the full quilt!
If, dear reader, you belong to a quilt group affiliated to the Quilters’ Guild, you too could arrange an exhibition of these small gems. Click here to go to the Guild website.
I have a new profile picture and the photographic credits go to Luke Ogden.
Luke is one partner of the film-making duo ‘High Six Media’. Click here to go to their website to see what they do. I was treated to a personal photo shoot when High Six Media had a film-shoot nearby, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
I also have a new studio. It is fairly small but packed tight with good storage and I have a large area to work on. This is making it much easier to do all my activities in one place (e.g. drawing and painting for fabric design; cutting and piecing fabric for quilts; quilting on the sewing machine or by hand; making other textile products; writing quilt patterns; preparing for workshops – oh and writing a blog!) There have now been 10,000 views of this website and 4,500 visitors since I started in August 2014, so I am minded to continue. Thanks, everyone, especially to those of you who follow the blog. If you would like to join them, please click the button below.
There seems to be quite a trend currently for ‘showing people round one’s studio’ on-line and I really enjoy seeing how other people use their creative space. There’s a book on my bookshelf that repays constant re-reading, called ‘Artists and their Studios’ (photography Eamonn McCabe, written by Michael McNay). I haven’t quite finished the stowing away in my own studio (a quart is being made to fit a pint pot), so I’m not sure it would stand public scrutiny at the moment, but perhaps some of the storages ideas could be shared…
My sewing threads are kept in this wooden cantilevered sewing box (found in a charity shop, of course!).
Inside, the threads are organised by colour in each of the sections. There is no chance of them unravelling, as each is held by a small elastic band, one of the kind that were so popular in the UK recently for making ‘Loom bands’ and I’m indebted to my friend Maggie for the idea.
It’s really easy to use, and if I’m teaching a class, or going on a quilt retreat (my quilt group goes away twice a year!), I can just pick it up and go.
I thoroughly enjoy shopping in charity shops. It’s the lure of the chase. You never do quite know what you will find. I’m always on the look-out for haberdashery, although I’ve learnt the hard way that thread which is ‘antique’ and looks beautiful may have become too weak to use. But many of my buttons, cards of elastic, ribbons and patterns have been acquired this way. Sometimes it’s a piece of fabric that catches my eye, and in fact my ‘Funky Flowers’ quilt pattern was inspired by a little girl’s dress I found in a charity shop.
On Saturday I was in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, a town well-endowed with charity shops when I spotted a small oval box:
When I lifted the lid, I felt rather excited, as on the top lay a very small deck-chair.
A few years ago, I had quite a long “dolls’ house” phase, although I now only own two. One is one-twelfth scale (one inch in the dolls’ house furniture is equal to one foot in real life), so the deck-chair will fit in quite well. The smaller house is one-sixteenth scale, so these lamps and fireplace will go in there.
The little pink cupboard has an opening door, shelves and a drawer, while the pink wash-basin is cast in metal.
The black and white dog is also cast metal, while the somewhat less stable small black one is plastic.
There were tiny implements: a tray, a vase, a shovel, a spade and fork and a cake slice??- or maybe a trowel for pint-sized plasterers?
Finally, there were three rather scary babies. The larger one has a moulded-on nappy (perhaps you were supposed to paint one on), but the two smaller ones are in fact dressed in fully-fashioned romper suits with straps. I’ve let them sit on a one-twelfth scale hexagon patchwork quilt that I made years ago. It was quite nice to see it again and remember that I really had worked at that size, as I am currently engaged in a full-size hand-stitched hexagon patchwork quilt. It involves a whole lot of stitches…
I’m also busy preparing for classes. Click here to see what’s on.
During my short visit to the ‘Queen of Welsh Resorts’, I stayed in a hotel looking out onto the promenade and beyond that to the sea. There were some over-eager morning visitors:The conference centre (where the Quilters’ Guild conference and AGM took place) is also placed in prime position looking out to the sea. So nice to step outside between sessions onto the wide promenade and breathe in the sea air. So nice to step outside between sessions onto the wide promenade and breathe in the sea air.The town was ‘dressed to impress’ for visitors. I liked the horticultural displays, like this:Meanwhile, inside the conference centre, there was so much to enjoy. Each conference is run by one particular region of the Quilters’ Guild, in this case Region 13. The conference had a particularly Welsh flavour, never more than with the appearance on Friday evening of a sixty-strong Welsh choir, who sang in both languages and proved that it was not necessary to understand the words, to take in the emotional impact of a particular piece.In one session, Diane Gaffney of Textile Traders gave an interesting presentation about the hand-made textiles she and her husband bring in from many parts of the world. Click here to find out more. There were examples to see after the talk, like this Hill Tribe skirt:I also learned from the Modern Quilt Group (a special interest group of the Quilters’ Guild) how to put a binding with a contrasting flange around a quilt, like the one below. Very useful. Click herefor more about the Modern Quilt Group.I spent a very pleasurable hour watching a demonstration of hand-quilting by Jean Jeffery, an expert practitioner. She marks her designs in pencil (and the quilt is washed at the end of the quilting process). Marking-out takes a considerable time; Jean uses traditional motifs, partly drawn using templates and also including some elements drawn free-hand.Jean showed us how she hand-quilts with the work held in a frame on her lap. She gave us numerous hints and tips garnered during a quilting lifetime to help us with this kind of stitching. Such skill! I am determined to try and include this traditional stitching in one of my upcoming projects. Practice is everything it seems, so I shall have to start somewhere. Watch this space.