Tuesday, 21 October 2014

excited about new work

If you only know me from my blog you may be forgiven for thinking that I fritter my days away visiting stately homes and gardens or maybe stay all day in the kitchen baking for hours on end. Of course what you read here is a heavily edited version of real life - no one would want to know that I'd spent most of the day tapping out emails would they? I suppose I work the same hours as most people, it's just that because of the internet I can be flexible to a certain extent. Instead of sitting at my desk from 9-5 I can choose to go out and enjoy the weather on a sunny day as long as I play catch up when I get home. That's often when the creative stuff happens too.


It's rare these days that I get a whole day in the studio but I love it when it happens. Luckily I have deadlines for DMTV and I find that's a marvellous incentive to make the most of my free time. This week I'm designing and making a small quilt with 'Art' as inspiration - here's a quick preview of the early stages on my design wall. I'm loving the rich colours!


The gold print was great fun too. The rest of the detail will rely on the quilting. I can't say too much about it now because it will be a step by step project over the next 3 weeks. If you're a subscriber and you like the idea of kick starting some new work by working along with me remember to watch this week's video.


Nature has a habit of beating any colour combination a quilter can come up with though doesn't she? Our dogwood is almost glows in the dark right now.


 And the red dragon outside my studio door is gorgeous. Wish I could rival that!


Nature has also inspired one of our subscribers. Margaret was kind enough to show us the Attic Window quilt she's made with a single fat quarter of Laura's tree print fabric - many thanks for sharing Margaret. You've done a great job!


Of course despite the piecing, printing and quilting I still have to deal with the garden produce don't I? The mild autumn has kept the tomatoes going strong. Quite frankly we're pretty much tomatoed out now! Funny how delectable the first red tomato of the summer is and then how the appeal begins to fade when you've had them every day for weeks on end.


He who gardens mentioned there might be a few tomatillos left to pick - this is what he came back with. Good job they freeze to feed us another day!

Thanks for reading. I'll show you how the crow quilt is coming along next time.
Love Linda x

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Celebrating harvest (again)

This morning was typically autumnal and foggy - perfect conditions to bejewel the cobwebs on this rusty garden art.


Laura and I probably looked rather odd clambering on the base of the sculpture to get the best camera angle. We'd gone to National Trust property, Dudmaston Hall for Orchard Day and as the Morris Men began to dance the sun broke through the mist. They were singing about a beautiful day so maybe the words of the song had a magical effect.


If you're not English this lot probably look rather eccentric but teams of Morris dancers are part and parcel of country life around here. Whenever I hear them I start jiggling about much to the embarrassment of my children. I overheard Laura whisper to Amelie that she'd better get used to the sound because she was likely to hear a lot of it if she spent much time with grandma and granddad!


I think this particular team came from Shrewsbury but lots of villages and towns around here have their own teams of dancers and musicians who travel to entertain at country festivals and events. It always looks as though they are having a whale of a time and is surely a more fun way of keeping fit than going to the gym. I am very tempted to sign up myself but I'd have to do something about those outfits!


This chap is explaining what the dance is all about before the men behind him start bashing those fiercesome looking staves against each other and the ground. All very dramatic. In the orchard, the stallholders had set up their wares and there were lots of tempting goodies to try and to buy. Most things were apple based of course. The freshly pressed juice from desert apples grown at Dudmaston was pure and delicious. We even had a turn at working the press.


There were wonderful baked goods from Swifts, the award winning artisan bakery from Ludlow. I bake my own bread but it's always good to taste varieties I've never attempted. The walnut and Stilton was particularly good. Note to self, must be more adventurous and stop repeating the same old recipe all the time. It shows a total lack of imagination!


Most of the apples had already been harvested for juicing but the medlars are still ripening on the tree.


The enormous Actinidias gleamed like glorious beacons in the sunshine. They flourish against the heat retaining brick walls that surround that area of the garden.


And here's evidence that someone else couldn't resist the beauty of leaves at this time of year either. I'd like to thank Marjolijn for generously allowing me to share her beautiful work. She was inspired after watching a recent DMTV video on watercolour techniques. Marjolijn tells me she painted this on holiday in Tuscany whilst enjoying a lovely glass of Chianti. I'm trying not to be too envious!

Thanks for dropping by - Love Linda

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Getting back to work

I've been enjoying getting my workroom back into commission although it's starting to look smaller and smaller as more stuff finds its way back in! I had felt quite bereft for the couple of days I couldn't find my art materials or use my machines! Now most things are in place I'm heeding Laura's advice about keeping it uncluttered. It's definitely easier to be productive when you have clear table tops and an empty design wall!  To help my minimalist intentions I've started to put some more artworks for sale. You can find the info on the blog menu under 'Small works for Sale'  if you'd like to know more.


There is a limit to how much heavy furniture you can move when you're not as fit as you once were so we took a break from the hard work to make the most of the weekend weather.


Hanbury Hall is a National Trust property and along with many Trust properties they celebrate the apple harvest every year. The gardens were looking as immaculate as ever.


The clipped hedges are impressive and the bedding plants were still really colourful considering it's October.


They keep bees in the orchard and we were able to buy a block of beeswax. I don't expect I'll use it as polish but it's my favourite thing for waxing papers!


I love old pieces like this bellow operated smoke gun. We saw it in use later in the day when the beekeeper was opening one of the hives.


But of course the main focus of the day was the harvest produce - these are just a few of the varieties they grow on the estate. We tasted juice fresh from the press and then enjoyed apples in many guises in the courtyard restaurant. Lovely relaxing day after all the upheaval of the last few days!

Thanks for reading - Love Linda

Friday, 3 October 2014

Little things mean a lot

It's probably an insignificant event in the grand scheme of things but my new floor is making me very happy today!


With the room empty it feels like a dancefloor! Maybe I should leave it like this and just have parties in there?


Deciding I'd better be more practical I've started to move my art books back in. The room isn't big enough to house my sewing books as well, they have to be kept in the house. It may not be an original idea but I thought I'd amuse myself by arranging the books by the colour of their spines. Who'd have thought I'd have quite so many blue books?


Or that there would be so many black ones? I used to work in libraries when I was younger. Dewey decimal was never this much fun although I expect you could find what you're looking for more often.


I found another whole box of painting panels - have to start on these as soon as I find the paints again.


The only good thing about being barred from the studio for a day or two is that I spent a lot of time in the kitchen. Yesterday's bread used Matthews' Cotswold 8 grain flour and turned out remarkably well. I'll be using that again!

Back to the coalface now - talk to you again once I emerge from the heaps of stuff. Love Linda

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Oh the joys of renovations

If you've read our newsletter today you'll already know that Laura and I are both living in a state of chaos at the moment. Her situation is far worse than mine as it involves considerable changes to her whole property. At the moment there is a trench around her house that makes it hazardous to attempt entry and the cats are learning to be quite acrobatic. You're never quite sure if there'll be water or electricity when you visit but she's a stoic under pressure. I on the other hand am merely having a new floor in my workroom. How hard can that be?


Well, it took the best part of 2 days to empty everything out. The garage is full to bursting so the overflow has had to go into the conservatory and guest bedroom.


This is a small example of the heaps. It's hard to believe that all this stuff ever fitted into that small room. I've always thought students' excuses for lack of work when they've packed up to move house sounded a bit lame but I had to be more sympathetic yesterday when I could find a sketchbook but had no idea where to lay my hands on a pencil.


There is a positive side to the temporary upheaval of course - I have discovered lots of things I didn't remember I had! Just look at all those painting panels - I need to get the paints out asap! Laura tells me I should have a serious cull on what finds its way back in but you know how it is - as soon as you throw something out it's bound to become exactly what you need.


This isn't a pretty sight right now but the preparation is underway and I'm promised it will all look beautiful by the end of the day. I do love a good move around and I've had sleepless nights planning where everything will go. I'm really looking forward to getting my easel out and my machines set up again!!

I'll let you see the transformation once we've hauled all my bits and pieces back in.

Thanks for reading - Love Linda

Monday, 29 September 2014

More on the Powerquilter and altered book

 I thought you might like to see a typical page of the book I'm altering before I start on it.


And then see what it looks like with a layer of gesso to edit out the bits I don't want.


As you can see, I've eliminated several images and all of the text. I thought the page would be too busy if I let the rhododendrons remain so, pretty as they were, they had to go too. I have to make enough space for my own drawings.


I've used the Liquitex heavy body gesso with a hog brush and notice how I've painted out the descriptive label even though it divides the image of the stem - I'll draw or paint that back in later.


You couldn't see it from the first photos but this cute little flower was down in the right hand corner of the page and I couldn't resist leaving it too.


Now of course there's no time to stand around watching paint dry is there? Luckily I have a quilt to work on! So, while the book sits in the lovely September sunshine that's streaming through the studio windows, it's back to the Powerquilter. I'm learning a lot about this machine now I've had more time to play on it. There's a clever device that lets you set your preferred speeds for different styles of quilting. You can select any of the 3 presets at the touch of the screen, so if you need a slow speed for close detail or a fast speed for more expansive stitching it's an instant choice. Another great feature is that it remembers your speed and needle up/down position when you come back to a project after switching the machine off.


I've wound a few bobbins now. I've never had a separate machine for bobbin winding but this is very straightforward to use and makes short work of the double sized bobbins. I'm using Madeira Cotona 50 in turquoise to fill in the sky area with curvy shapes and working closer angular lines between the feather-like swirls. I'll let you see the whole quilt when I've made more progress.

I'm always amazed at how many people take the time to read my blog - according to the today's stats I'm approaching half a million visits since I started. Wow, wow, wow! Thank you all for being so interested and so loyal.
Love Linda

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Still excited!

I've been in the studio all morning and it's great to see progress being made with my latest quilt. People have asked me what I think of the new Pfaff machine and why I think anyone would need to buy one if they already have a reliable sewing machine for free motion quilting. There are several reasons I like it so much. I'm loving how the big table supports the weight of the quilt and lets me keep everything smooth and flat around the needle as I sew. It makes the visible area of the quilt much larger than it would be with a normal domestic machine, even one with a sizeable table extension. Being able to see a lot of the quilt helps when you are quilting without having marked a design on the fabric because you can see exactly where you're going. The huge throat means you can fold or roll the top of the quilt as you work in the centre or lower section and yet still have the immediate area nice and flat.


I certainly wouldn't recommend sampling on a 'proper' quilt, a scrap sandwich of the same materials is much better for that, but I got carried away on the Powerquilter this morning and you know how it is when the devil drives! I was impatient and couldn't resist putting some of my Madeira threads through their paces. I tried out different types - tanne, rayon, polyester, cotona 30 and 50 weights and a variegated cotona 50 too. They all behaved beautifully so I'm happy I'll be able to carry on doing what I always like to do - mix it up! The bobbin is twice the size of most machines so it lasts for ages, even if you stitch as densely as I do. There's a separate winding machine for the bobbins but I've yet to use it because I've been working with the full bobbin that arrived with the quilting machine - I'll report back on that at a later date when I've tried it.


I've still got lots of background quilting to do but I'm beginning to draw in the details of the crow face and feathers using the stitched line like a pen to follow the shapes in the print or to invent them where they don't exist. I'm using a Madeira rayon thread in mid grey. I think it's a softer effect than black and shows up well against the colour of the bird. Rayon is lustrous and catches the light so it makes a lovely contrast with the cotton threads I'm using in the background. I know the Powerquilter is capable of very fast sewing speeds but I haven't been brave enough to venture beyond 35% yet. Laura will probably laugh out loud when she hears that!

This is a very short post today because as soon as I've had a bite to eat I'm going back to my quilting. I'm having a very satisfying day - hope you are too!

Love Linda