Monday 31 December 2012

In with the new

Hope you had a happy and peaceful Christmas. At our house a good time was had by all even if some of us slept through the best bits!

It was wonderful having everyone together for the big day but after all that cooking I really love Boxing Day when we can sit back, relax and live on leftovers! It's also a time to finish off bits and bobs of projects that have been hanging around making me feel guilty they weren't finished sooner.

Amelie's Christmas cardigan will now have to be her New Year gift! All I have to do is knit the rest of the collar band that goes all round the edge to join itself at the centre back. I'll do that tonight in front of the TV. It's a really easy Debbie Bliss pattern that I'm sure I'll do again in a larger size for the spring.

I've had a lovely time in my workroom this morning. I love it when it's raining hard on the glass roof - somehow makes it really cosy to be inside. This may become my favourite T shirt from now on. It's a Burda pattern that is so easy it can be made in about half and hour if you have an overlocker.

There are only two pattern pieces and four seams. The back is cut to lay flat and the front is slightly oversized so the front neck drapes. It's cut wide so it looks like there are cap sleeves. Good for women of a certain age! What makes it even better is I bought the jersey fabric as a remnant for £1 on the Rag Market! I am wearing it as I write this and you can expect to see me in many variations of this top!!

Happy New Year to everyone who reads this column. I really appreciate your visits! I hope that 2013 will be creative for you all and you'll achieve whatever you set out to do. Right now I have to get back in the kitchen - today's bread is ready for the oven and we must remember to feed the body as well as the soul! Bye for now - Linda

Friday 21 December 2012

All the latest

What's happening lately?

I haven't blogged for a while - my excuse, like everyone else who has good intentions that don't come to fruition, is the hectic run up to Christmas. Here at DesignMatters there's always a lot of admin to deal with as soon as everyone realises the holidays will start any minute now! With all that finally up to date our own preparations for Christmas are well under way. In true Kemshall fashion the first two batches of mince pies have already been eaten and I have to confess we sampled one of the Christmas cakes this morning when relatives dropped by unexpectedly. It's no good saving everything for one day is it? The tree is up and decorated but Amelie seems more interested in cuddles than twinkling lights.

It's unbelievably distracting to have a new grandchild but I am still making a few of my presents. Whether this rather fetching leg warmer will become one of a matching pair by Tuesday is in doubt! I may have to giftwrap it with an IOU.

With more important things in mind, we recently started a new Creative Sketchbooks course. Some of you reading this might be new to my blog having signed up since enrolling. A warm welcome if this is your first visit. I tend to chat in general about stuff I'm working on at the moment but from time to time I'll also be posting occasional words of wisdom about working into a sketchbook and illustrating them with examples of wonderful work produced by our students. I hope that this will be of interest to everyone whether you are a student or not. If you're taking the course, all you have seen so far are our sketchbook pages - I'm sure you're dying to know what everyone else is doing! I'm not mentioning individuals' names alongside the pictures but many thanks to all who share their work here.

For a number of reasons the first module is probably the hardest. Unless you have taken an online course with us before you don't know us yet and are probably wondering what we expect from you.

There is no right or wrong way to work. I recognise that there is a big emphasis on drawing in the first module, and that is intimidating for beginners, but there are also little tricks and cheats that will enable anyone to create an attractive sketchbook page. If you are prepared to have a go and try things out you will eventually find your favourite methods and media.

With any sketchbook work you have to begin with an idea. That may be the first stumbling block if you're not used to working in this way. A cutlery drawer or the contents of a kitchen cupboard may seem unusual subjects but they are familiar, available and a challenge to draw!

Whatever your level of experience, most of all we want you to have fun!!

Often people feel the need to know exactly where they are going with a project. They want to know what the finished thing will look like. I know this of myself only too well! If you can try to relax and go with the flow, I think you'll find it will be a more interesting journey!

I hope this post has been useful or at least you are interested to see some examples of the sketchbook pages. from Module1. I'll sort out a few more for next time.

Thanks for dropping by - I'll be in touch again soon. Linda

Monday 3 December 2012

If she can do it so can I

It's not that we're competitive you understand but when Laura says anyone can find 10 or 15 minutes a day to do something creative you just have to rise to the challenge don't you?

OK so it's only a couple of luggage tags but by Christmas I'll have 25 of these to string along a ribbon kind of like paper bunting! I've used oil pastel with a wash of concentrated watercolour paints and added a few gold dots with a metallic pen.

It takes way less than 10 minutes to paint a load of gesso onto an altered book page.

I'm adding some feather drawings to the Eggs and Nests book I'm altering.

I like the way the brushmarks in the gesso add character to the pencil drawing.

I'm including some birds too. This was meant to be a Jay but sadly looks more like a demented Kookaburra. Ah well, back to the drawing board - more than 10 minutes definitely required for this!!

Bye for now,

Monday 26 November 2012

Labour of Love

Well at last it's finished. Cue fanfare of trumpets!!

The cushion has a border of crosses and a piped edge. There are large couched Xs and blue triangles too although you can't see them in this picture.

You couldn't call it anything other than a labour of love when the quilting has taken so long! I wouldn't dare count the hours because it might be depressing but I'm very happy with the way the stitching has turned out so it was well worth the effort. It's such a dark November afternoon that I've struggled to take decent photos. I'll try again when the sun shines - then I'll show you the whole thing.

Of course with the cushion finished it's time to move onto other things. The pieced landscape on the wall in my workroom was beckoning, so today I started to add more discharge paste.

I'm using deColourant plus and deColourant paste to extend the treeline to each side of the quilt and to create some shapes that will give me something to stitch around. The discharged shapes will also help marry the different horizontal bands of fabric.

I know it's a bit of a cliche but there has to be a moon as usual - this one is going to be quite colourful but I won't know exactly what it'll look like until the paste is dry and I can iron it. I've applied the paste very crudely so some areas will remain dark and hopefully look crater -like.

I'll show the results in a day or two. Thanks for visiting! Linda

Wednesday 21 November 2012

I could do this in my sleep

Actually, if I could stitch while asleep I would make more progress. The simple running stitch I'm using in the Kantha inspired piece is very repetitive, mindless and totally compulsive! I keep telling myself to stop but not till I've reached some particular point - even if it is late at night and I should really be tucked up in bed.

Just one more needle full of thread, just one more colour......

It's feeling so lovely in the hand now there's all this quilting.

And I love the spark of red and indigo against the dark silk. A few more hours of stitching in daylight hours would be good but my excuse for this project taking so long is this little distraction.

I know it looks like butter wouldn't melt but she doesn't sleep all day!

Laura's trying her hardest to get back to her creative work too but there's only so long a baby can have a kickabout in her rocking chair and then grandma has to come to the rescue. Not that I'm complaining you understand - the Kantha can wait!

Talk to you soon - Linda

Sunday 18 November 2012

Village living

As long as you're not the sort of person who hankers for the bright lights of a big city, village living has its attractions.

We've got a village green. According to a plaque I noticed for the first time today, the oak tree at one corner was planted in celebration of Prince Charles' birth.

We're lucky to still have a lovely little junior school.

And best of all, we have a village hall. It may not be the prettiest building but it brings the community together as a venue for classes and social events.

The local art society held their annual exhibition there this week. It gave us the opportunity to introduce Amelie to the world of painting and drawing. She seemed rather underwhelmed by the affair but at 10 weeks old it's still early days and I'm sure we'll bring her round eventually.

Thanks for dropping by - talk to you again soon. Linda

Wednesday 14 November 2012

So, how did that happen?

It's been something of a momentous week. It would seem that I am now officially old! It's crept up on me while I wasn't looking but I've qualified for my state pension so it must be true. With the rocking chair and shawl beckoning I have resolved to finish lots of bits that have been hanging around for too long.

You might have seen these discharged trees before - now I've added on some hand dyed horizontal bands and a patchwork foreground. It's back on the design wall while I decide if I want more patchwork on the bottom. I had intended to include some appliqued crow fabric I made ages ago but I had a change of heart this morning. The crows will have to wait a bit longer for their moment.

The fabrics are a bit mean and moody to suit this melancholic time of year but I'm intending to add some copper metallic painted details once the quilting is finished - that'll liven them up a bit!

The stitching continues on my Kilim and Kantha inspired cushion.

DMTV members can see Part 3 of the project from tomorrow and I've promised to show the finished cushion here when all the quilting is complete. With this amount of hand quilting it may take some time!

There's still lots of glorious colour in the garden. This euphorbia is just outside my studio door. I love how many colours there are on a single plant and the beads of water are an added bonus.

And speaking of colour this purple mushroom appeared in the woodland part of our garden yesterday. Mushrooms are notoriously difficult to identify - I'm hoping it may be an Amethyst Deceiver mostly because I love the name!

Here's a picture of Amelie taken a few days ago. She's looking pretty colourful too!

Thanks for reading this. I'll be in touch again soon - Linda

Friday 9 November 2012

OK I know I'm hopeless

I know, I know, you don't have to tell me, it's been ages since I've blogged. I've been laid low with an unpleasant virus which has made it hard to just keep up with the essential daily tasks but luckily I'm better now and will do my best to be in touch more regularly.

I don't want this to turn into a knitting blog but at the end of a long day when you don't have much energy for anything else knitting is a mindless occupation that keeps you productive when you're slumped in front of the TV in the evenings.

And of course when you have a new grandchild there's plenty of reasons for knitting. This raspberry coloured dress is a pattern designed by Tora Froseth. I found it for free on the web.

It turned out so well in raspberry that I couldn't resist trying it in a denim blue sock yarn. It's knitted in the round so miraculously there are no seams to join up when it's finished. My knitting is OK but sewing everything up neatly isn't my strong point. This may become my favourite construction technique!

When you see how quickly Amelie is growing you'll understand why I have to knit so fast!

He who gardens presented me with a culinary treasure this week. The weather has turned so cold at night that he had to pick all the chillies before they protested, turned up their toes and threw themselves off the plants. There is a limit to the number of fresh chillies two people can eat so I've spent a couple of hours today preserving them for the freezer. Let me warn you that this should involve gloves!! My fingers were on fire for more than two hours! I won't make that mistake again!

Despite the wintry weather today's bread turned out rather well. There's nothing more satisfying than spending time in a cosy warm kitchen on a dull cloudy day is there?

Perhaps it would have been kind to issue a warning before showing this case of rather impressive insects - especially following a picture of innocent loaves! I love the winged creature top right and intend to use him in some work very soon. Apparently he is the world's largest Cicada -  a very good reason for avoiding a trip to Indonesia don't you think? Some of the critters look as though they are made of metallic foil but I would be happy to wear the green irridescent ones just like jewellery! 

When I'm not knitting I'm spending every spare moment hand quilting a project for DMTV. It's better than therapy just stitching away for hour after hour. I'll let you see the results when it's finished.

Talk to you soon - Linda

Wednesday 24 October 2012

No time to lose

There are times when it's OK to start a new project with no deadline in mind and be happy pick it up to occupy a few moments here and there. Laura started to knit a little baby sweater when she was pregnant - what could be more relaxing than knitting with your feet up in front of the TV? Of course when baby decides to arrive 5 weeks early it can throw plans into disarray so when she showed me the half finished sweater a couple of days ago I could see there was no time to waste if this was going to be finished in time to still fit.

It's a very simple pattern from Debbie Bliss Knitting Magazine spring/summer 2010. The picot edge is cute isn't it?

Laura was making the newborn size but Amelie is growing like a weed now - luckily it's stretchy so maybe she'll still squeeze into it for a couple of weeks.

After months of trying to track down supplies of our favourite compressed printing sponge and failing dismally we decide to bite the bullet and approach a company to produce it for us here in the UK. Packaging our own product meant we could include step by step instructions for use and some pattern templates to get people started if they were nervous of drawing. I've enjoyed sampling the designs on paper and on fabric. This pear print is a tryout in my sketchbook using a mix of red and gold acrylic paint.

I love the bubbly texture of the print - that's the main benefit of using sponge to make a print block. The voided shapes of the bubbles allow the underlying colour to remain visible and it marries the shape to the background in a pleasingly delicate and transparent way. Of course, being an acrylic paint it also means you can wash more transparent colour over the print later with no risk of the original print lifting. Much fun to be had with this technique!!

And if it's good on paper it's even better on fabric! Here's an Attic Window Quilt I made as a thr3fold challenge a few years ago. The sycamore leaf is printed to stand on its stalk within the window. I added a shadow with Inktense pencil to make it look more convincingly 3D. The print block was drawn from an actual leaf. We are drowning in autumn leaves at the moment but I rescued a few from the garden just before I took the picture. When they dry off a bit I shall preserve them by pressing them between the leaves of some absorbent paper.

See, I keep saying I hate this time of year and then I keep finding reasons to love it!
Talk to you again soon - Linda