Thursday 31 May 2012

Celebration time

It can't have escaped anyone's notice that it's Jubilee celebrations this weekend. We're doing our bit and flying the flag in honour of Her Majesty. I hadn't noticed until I took the photo how the house looks as though it's being swallowed by the jungle of clematis and hydrangeas!

'He who gardens' has grown a patriotic red, white and blue scheme of Petunias for the chimney pots outside my studio door.

If the weather co-operates they'll soon fill the pots and be lovely all through the summer!

We've even had a stab at a vaguely flag-shaped arrangement in one of the beds. It'll look OK when the plants cover all that bare earth!

It offends me slightly that the Royal blue Petunias are more than a little violet but nature can't always be relied on can it?

I'll finish with a fun shot especially for Pam who says she enjoys seeing our wildlife! This little frog wouldn't co-operate either - he had to be rescued from a hot greenhouse but he was far too lively to be photographed without a careful restraining hand. I got a quick picture before he jumped off to the cool shade of the shrubbery!

If you have celebrations planned this weekend like we do I hope the rain holds off and you have lots of fun.

Thanks for dropping by - I'll be back again soon - Linda

Monday 28 May 2012

This is how it is

My youngest daughter has been chastising me again about my blog. She thinks it's too severely edited and doesn't reflect reality. I've told her that the people who read this want to see my creative side and if I wrote about all the other stuff that fills my days no one would visit. She insists I should be more candid - she's worried you think I have a charmed life!! She says I make everything look effortless as though fairies appear in the night and do all the work! It's true that I don't spend my days lounging in a hammock sipping cocktails and if I am wafting around the garden in a caftan it's usually only for a few minutes to take photographs. I do spend a lot of time in the office but when I escape to my workroom I'm a bit of a demon. In an effort to be real I'm going to show the organised chaos I work in. This is how I get the most stuff done in the shortest possible time!

It's only a tiny space so organisation is key. Behind me in this picture is my longarm machine. That's a monster and takes up the whole of the far end of the room but it earns its keep when exhibition deadlines loom. I'm lucky to have a number of sewing machines. They all have different functions and here you see them lined up so I can flit from one to the other. I don't even have to stand up - my chair has wheels and just scoots across the room!

I'm still making an effort to tie up lots of loose ends - you know what I mean, all those unfinished bits that only need a binding or a sleeve or a label. Why do they sit in a heap for ages when all they need is a few minutes of my time? In the picture above I'm attaching a binding to one of my Iris quilts using the straight stitch machine.

 Behind me the embroidery machine is making the label for another quilt. Once the design is loaded I only have to press the odd button or change the thread colour from time to time. I can't tell you how satisfying it is to hear two machines purring away at the same time - the best kind of multi-tasking I know!

The overlocker is kept busy as well - here's my latest jersey T shirt. It's so much easier to get stuff done if the machines are sitting there ready and waiting. I know I'm lucky to have a creative space of my own no matter how small. After many years of working at the kitchen table this little room is now my sanctuary. I feel creative just being in there!

Hope the long days of summer are lifting your spirits and encouraging your creative juices too. Bye for now - Linda

Thursday 24 May 2012

Where the wild things are

People often ask me why birds appear so much in my work. I know it sounds weird but I had a recurring dream when I was little. In the dream I didn't watch birds, I was a bird. Or at least I could fly like a bird. I still have vivid memories of how it felt to fly over the house where I lived as a child. Now before you consult an analyst on my behalf I think I'm fairly sane these days but I'm still fascinated with birds, feathers and flight. I have a particular affinity with Rooks and Crows but when a fellow like this drops by while you're enjoying lunch in the garden who could resist photographing him?
In the sunshine his irridescent feathers were as gorgeous as any peacock.

By the way, please don't mention the weeds - he who gardens might take it as criticism! This is our wild bit of garden and we leave the pesky weeds because butterflies love them. We have a lot of butterflies!

I promised to show the cushion you saw me quilting a day or two ago so here it is in the garden next to the plant that inspired it.

The sun has bleached most of the pink from the leaves of the Sorbaria but the fabric print shows it in all its springtime glory.

It brightens up the rather dull colours of my sofa!

In contrast to the high tech digital print I've got this applique cushion on the other side of the room.

It took an age to stitch but it was a pleasure - those hand dyed scrims are like sewing through butter! There is a bit of machine work in there too - the scroll design is digital embroidery densely worked with a variegated Madeira Lana. In fact I used Lana for all the stitching on this.

Sorry about the shadow on that picture - my big head getting in the way again I suspect!

Hope you're having a creative time today. Making things makes you happy you know! Talk to you soon - Linda

Monday 21 May 2012

New cushion (well nearly)

Hooray, the sun is finally shining and since I had a little free time this afternoon I finished the quilting on the printed leaf cushion top and its hand dyed fabric back. I guess that sounds odd but my workroom is in the garden and on a day like this I can sit at my sewing machine with the windows and door wide open and listen to the birds going about their business. It's just as good as being outside and I love it!

I thought it would be good to keep the leafy theme going on the cushion back so I stitched a leaf and tendril design that fills the space really quickly. The apricot thread looked too low key on its own so I brought in the hot pink and the same green I'd used on the front. The looping tendril stitch is a great way to get out of a tight spot and travel onto where the next leaf needs to be. This kind of quilting is the equivalent of doodling with a pencil! Continuous lines rule!

It might be the promise of summer that's making me lean to all things floral at the minute or it might be because my Mom gave me this lovely Hydrangea last week.

Whatever the reason it's prompted me to revisit an old sketchbook. I did these pages when we wrote the Painted Quilt but I never made more than a few stitched samples and a small hanging from them.

The colours are gorgeous and the undersides of the petals are just as beautiful as the tops.

I'm sure there's mileage in these pages so I shall ponder my sketchbook, make some new drawings from Mom's Hydrangea and see if inspiration strikes. Fingers crossed!

Bye for now - Linda

Sunday 20 May 2012

Latest treasure

I know some of you might be waiting with bated breath to hear what treasures I found at the flea market this week. Well I was happy with my find even if most people wouldn't be impressed!

No less than 58 pairs of knitting needles, 3 crochet hooks, a stitch holder and 2 big sewing needles for £6 - must be a bargain! Mind you I don't actually need lots more needles as I probably have every size I might want to work with already. I think maybe I was tempted to buy because of the packaging.

I've always got some knitting on the go. The Giro d'Italia cycling race has been on TV the last couple of weeks but although I'm keen to catch up with the race highlights in the evenings I never watch TV empty handed. If I'm concentrating on the screen my knitting has to be something I can manage without looking or counting!  I'm using this pattern to make the sleeveless top in cashmere merino silk aran but I've opted to use moss stitch rather than follow the 24 row pattern repeat suggested. Makes life much easier and should look OK I think.

I only knit at night. The daylight hours are when I sew. I always have a few different projects in progress at the same time. That way I can choose between machine sewing or hand sewing and make best use of my time. I am often asked how I get so much done but it's easy if you always have something you can pick up for a few spare minutes. I'm making new cushion covers at the moment. It's the quickest way I know to freshen up a room. I think I'm destined to be Laura's best Fingerprintfabric customer - I simply couldn't resist having a piece of this glorious print. We have 3 of these shrubs in the garden so it's lovely to bring the same colour and shape into the house. Deciding what colour of thread to use for the quilting is one of my favourite things. I could have gone with any of these but in the end I plumped for the leaf green.

I had planned to keep the quilting really simple by stitching the central vein and then outlining each leaf but I enjoy free motion quilting so much I never want to stop. The green background had to have a little vermicelli quilting too.

I'll let you see how the cushion turns out when I've made it up. This is in danger of becoming quite a long post so I'll call a halt by showing you the dress I have almost finished from one the Rag Market fabrics we struggled home with this week.

All it needs is its self coloured belt and the hems turned and it will be finished. Laura has claimed it as her own so you may see her wearing it on DMTV very soon!

Thanks for reading this far - I enjoy your company! Bye for now,

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Onwards and upwards

I won't bore you with the details but we've had a tough week here and that's the reason I haven't posted for a while. However, they say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger so, feeling very strong now it's onwards and upwards! It hasn't been all bad news. I have finished quilts that just need their labels and those lovely people at Husqvarna have some great software with a template that allows you to design quilt labels very quickly. (It's called Quilt Design Creator and labels is just one of the things it can do). Here are a couple (of the many!) that I stitched out on my embroidery machine over the weekend. I used a scrap of digital print from the recent moth quilt to make its own label - how cool is that?

Laura made a DMTV video on the importance of documenting quilts recently and it made me feel very guilty about my lack of attention to final detail! Now that I have a few different designs saved on my memory stick I am resolving to label all this year's quilts properly rather than rely on a permanent marker pen. We'll see how long that lasts when an exhibition deadline looms large!

The second quilt in the moth series is going to feature this fellow. You might recall I showed you him a little while ago. His face will be scanned and printed out much bigger than the original drawing which is only A4.

I've been hunting through my moth photos and decided this beautifully marked specimen was a contender for the quilt. Pity he's missing a wing tip but we all bear our battle scars don't we?

I'm planning to make more moth drawings so I have a few different elements to choose from when creating the halo of moths around the man's head. This quilt will be called 'Remembering'. The cloud of moths will once again represent the thoughts and memories that we all strive to hold onto as we age. I'm hoping he looks suitably reflective and thoughtful.

For a change of scene we escaped the office for a trip to the Rag Market yesterday. With optimistic thoughts of approaching summer I wanted some fabrics to make new clothes. We drove through a hailstorm to get to Birmingham so didn't arrive in a state of mind to choose pretty floral prints. Anyway, those ideas went out of the window - it was all stripes and spots! There was a butterfly print but even that was grey!

I bought 13 different jersey fabrics so even if my daughters claim a couple each it's still going to keep me busy for the foreseeable!

To finish on another happy note, here's a picture of our first asparagus of the year. We're normally enjoying it from late April but it has been delayed by the dreadful cold, wet weather. Never mind - it's here now and we'll have a surfeit for a few weeks!

Thank you for reading this. I'll be back soon! Best wishes, Linda

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Playtime again

My sister Maureen has been away at her French house for the last few weeks so it was lovely to see her today. We had a lot of catching up to do but we don't like to waste time sitting around just drinking coffee and gossiping - we'd much rather do something creative while we talk. Today we voted to wax papers.

It doesn't take long to cover every surface with creative clutter and very soon we had piles of waxed handmade papers, waxed found papers, waxed leaves and even waxed fabrics!

The lovely paper in the picture above looks like confetti but it actually contains flower petals from a wedding bouquet. Maureen's son got married last year and rather than throw the flowers out when the bride and groom left for their honeymoon, she dried some of the roses then added them to the paper pulp. Isn't that a lovely way to keep the memory of a special day alive? Waxing the paper makes it translucent, revealing all the lovely colour and texture of the petals.

This is such a quick and easy technique we had piles of beautiful papers by lunchtime. As you can see, Maureen even started cutting some out ready for collage.  I shall encourage her to blog her creations when they're finished.

No pressure Maureen but get a move on please - we want to see what you do with all these lovely bits!

Some of you may not know but my sister runs a quilting service - if you'd like to find out more please visit her blog I know she'd love to hear from you!

Thanks for visiting! Bye for now, Linda

Monday 7 May 2012

Monday drawing frenzy

I intended to paint the tree panels again today but I got ambushed by the blank pages of my sketchbook!

I need more characters for the moth quilt series I'm working on. I've been putting it off because it's easier to draw almost anything rather than faces but once I get started I usually enjoy it! I do quite like this chap - he looks quite thoughtful and might be one I go for.

I'm planning to have the drawings enlarged and printed on Laura's digital printer again. The sketchy pencil marks should work well with the photographically precise moth images I think.

I wanted an older woman's face to contrast with the young girl I've already drawn but this one looks too miserable so I don't think she'll be the one.

Leaving the workroom with camera in hand I snapped this bit of the garden. We're trying to get as many wild flowers as we can to grow in this area. It's too early in the year for poppies and cornflowers but the honesty and the forget- me-nots are doing beautifully. There are even some late daffodils and lots of bluebells further along the path.

Hope you enjoyed your weekend, especially if it was a long one like ours.

Thanks for reading this. I'll post again soon!

Sunday 6 May 2012

Next step

Yesterday I added the bare bones of spiky tree silhouettes to the landscapes and today I started to paint on some leaves and fruit.

I've been looking at the landscapes of Egon Schiele and Indian Miniature paintings for inspiration. Not to copy you understand - just for atmosphere. The Indian paintings are particularly decorative in the treatment of trees.

I wanted to be able to see the spiky branches so there aren't many leaves!

And the fruits have no visible means of support yet.

I hoped some interest at the lower edge would anchor the trees to the ground. The grasses are a commercial stamp. I don't often use other people's stamps but this just seemed perfect - here's a closer detail.

I'll look at these again tomorrow before I decide what to do next.

Enjoy your weekend. It's a holiday here so another good reason to be painting all day!

Thanks for reading - Linda

Friday 4 May 2012


Just a quick post today. I thought I'd better show that I am doing some work and not just enjoying myself frittering my pocket money away at auction houses!

I'm painting on canvas covered board with acrylics. What I'm aiming for is the suggestion of an atmospheric landscape. I'm working on an easel to encourage the paint to drip and flow.

Painting with a large brush is so quick I'm painting four boards at once - that stops me getting frustrated having to wait for a wash to dry.

I'm not happy with this first layer of colour yet but I'll add transparent glazes tomorrow to hopefully build an interesting surface. I'll have to be careful not to lose the contrast between orange and blue though!

Once I'm happy with the backgrounds my plan is to paint a tree silhouette on each of the panels with the branches extending across the red sun. There's a long way to go but I thought you might like to see how these things begin.

Thanks for reading - Linda

Thursday 3 May 2012


It was Oscar Wilde who said he could resist everything except temptation wasn't it? I know just what he meant. All I can say is avoid antique auctions if you are weak willed and easily tempted like me! Anyone who gets our regular newsletter will have seen my latest acquisition but here it is again.

Who could resist such a lovely thing, even if it didn't have its workings and was a bit sad and neglected? I have to confess I bought two that were quite similar and two others that were even more derelict. Laura has plans to do wonderful things with them so we'll have to wait and see! Right at the end of the auction there was a lot that no one seemed interested in. Seemed like everyone was there for the old clocks and unlike me didn't see the appeal of a chunky glass inkwell.

Trouble is when you buy at auction you often get more than you bargain for. The lot included a number of other inkwells, perfume bottles and salt cellars. Not sure what I'll do with all of these but they were a bargain!

When we got home with our treasures we spotted this cluster of gold and black between two of the plant pots in the conservatory. My younger daughter says I should include a warning symbol when I post pictures like these but I've told her to get a grip and stop being such a girl!

 Mind you I did squeal a bit myself when seconds later they shot off in every direction like this.

I shall confess to my other mad purchases at the auction another day. I don't want you to think I got carried away!

Thanks for reading this - I appreciate your company. Bye for now, Linda