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

Monday 22 September 2014

Out of the box

You probably wouldn't believe how restrained I can be. I'm one of those annoying people who always reads the manual - every single word of it. Not sure where that comes from, certainly not my mother! So, once the machine was out of its box and onto its sturdy table I resisted the impulse to switch it on right away. Patience and restraint are not characteristics Laura has inherited and I know she would have made a quilt by now but I prefer to take my time when I get to play with a new toy.

Next morning I had a few minutes on a practice piece and then moved onto the latest crow quilt. It's a good feeling to finally get this digital print of one of my gouache and Indian ink paintings under the needle. It's been sitting around waiting far too long. I need to get a move on and finish it before Laura arrives. We have promised not to argue over who's turn it is next!

At the moment the machine is not in its intended place. I'm having new flooring in my room soon and since everything will have to be cleared out for a couple of days I haven't bothered to plan properly yet. With luck I should have this quilt finished before I have to empty the room. With all the stuff I've accumulated over the years that's not a task I'm looking forward to but I guess I'll enjoy putting it all back after the refurb!

 It's a miracle there's any time for quilting when the tomato crop is now at its height. We're loving them fresh every day but the surplus has to be roasted and sieved for freezing. It's a tedious job but we'll be glad of the sauce all through the winter months.

The tomatillos have excelled again this year too. This heap are halved ready for the grill.

And these are part cooked. Once they begin to char they're cooled and then blitzed in a processor with loads of chillis, a little lime juice and a big bunch of coriander. With the addition of fresh oregano it makes a wonderful cooking sauce for slow cooked pork.

Sunday is usually my day in the kitchen. I've made 4 loaves of bread, a huge vat of roasted tomato sauce, many portions of tomatillo chilli verde so, domestic chores taken care of it's back to the quilt!

Talk to you again soon - Linda x

Saturday 20 September 2014

I'm so excited!

Can't tell you how excited I am by this cardboard box!

It just arrived today and I can't wait to get it out and start quilting! I'll let you see what I'm working on as soon as it's all assembled.

Linda xx

Friday 19 September 2014

There's sometimes beauty in destruction

The bright green caterpillars that have made such a meal out of this obviously loved the plant as much as I do.

In the face of such destruction I couldn't help but think it might inspire a little embroidery worked on water soluble stabiliser. (If you've watched this week's DMTV video you'll know exactly what I mean!).

The poor thing is still producing beautiful trumpet flowers but it smacks of desperation!

The saddest thing of all is it should by rights look like the one we saw when we took Amelie to Dudley Zoo. It was in a tropical house and had monkeys climbing through its branches - don't think we can run to that but we'll try to be more attentive to it in the future.

Leaves have been on my mind a lot lately. Maybe because the first signs of autumn are in the air and plenty have already started to fall. Although I don't welcome the approach of winter I do love the colours beginning to appear in the trees right now. I painted this from a leaf I picked up in Laura's garden a couple of days ago. It's a mixed media study in my altered book but because we've had so many requests for more information, the techniques I've used will also feature in next week's DMTV show.

Yesterday was very busy - we recorded a video first thing in the morning before we had our annual verification visit from City & Guilds. It will be our last official visit now that we have decided not to offer C&G courses again. We have decidedly mixed feelings about the changes this will bring but I can't help but confess to a huge sense of relief that there'll be less time spent on all the paperwork and filing! More time for sewing and painting - yippee!

Talk to you again very soon - Love Linda

Friday 12 September 2014

More altered book, adding to the collections and Sue's appliqué

It's all been a bit of a blur over the last couple of weeks. Although we have as much work as usual we've also had time for family parties, much baking, a house guest, and a day out at the zoo. Amelie's birthday celebrations can't go on forever so, now that things are getting back to what passes for normal around here, I am trying to make progress with my latest altered book.

I gessoed over the text on this page before leaving for Laura's this morning. The only original part of the page remaining visible was the illustration of the orchid at the bottom left. It only takes a minute or two to spread a generous dollop of Liquitex Heavy Gesso with a big hog brush, purposely making loose, textural marks. When I got home this evening I only had an hour or so to spare before meeting up with friends for dinner. I could easily have frittered the time away painting my fingernails but spurred on by Laura's challenge to make a drawing in her sketchbook every day I felt compelled to make an effort! No time for a detailed drawing tonight but a quick watercolour was doable.

I applied the watery paint to create the shapes of the petals and while still damp I worked into it with Derwent Inktense pencils to make those fine yellow and pink lines. Once the watercolour was dry I took a brush dipped in clean water and lifted some of the paint away. I think this helps give the impression the petals are quite delicate and almost translucent. There's still work to be done but I'll hopefully have a bit more free time over the weekend to finish this page.

We get hundreds of emails every week and amongst the routine and often frankly boring ones we have to deal with we get some that really brighten our day! We're always pleased to receive images of work inspired by DMTV so many thanks to Sue for sending in this lovely appliquéd blue tit. What a lovely character - I love the gleam in his eye!

I'm an inveterate collector of all kinds of interesting bits and pieces. Kitchen implements fascinate me so I couldn't resist these vintage sieves. They'll never be used for culinary purposes again but they'll look great hanging in my kitchen.

A tactile, carved crocodile and a lovely wooden glove stretcher just had to come home with me too. I am a lost cause when it comes to bargain buys at a flea market. Want and need are two completely different conditions aren't they?

Hope you are enjoying this Indian summer - long may it last! Love linda

Monday 8 September 2014

How long can you make a birthday last?

Amelie celebrates her second birthday this week but it's impossible to limit it to just one day. We had to organise a family party at the weekend for everyone who wouldn't be able to visit on the actual day. Sunday was gloriously sunny and 26 of us enjoyed a great barbecue in the garden. You can't see everyone in this photo but I suspect the rest of the guests were at the far end of the garden working the calories off on the trampoline! I thankfully was excused such exertions as official photographer!

We're having a small lunch party on the day itself followed by a trip to the zoo next day. I can't wait to see how excited she'll be about that!

 In my free time (when I'm not busy baking birthday cakes!) I'm continuing to work in my latest altered book. There's a lovely old illustration of a bunch of grapes in the book and since our own grapes are looking almost ready now it seemed a good idea to make a drawing of them.

Ours are black rather than green but you can't have everything can you?

I'm drawing with Derwent Inktense pencils onto a layer of Liquitex Heavy Gesso. Once the drawing is done I add a wash of clear water to intensify the colour of the pencils making sure to preserve white areas as highlights. I'll be making more of the deep shadows next time I find a few spare minutes. By the way, if you haven't seen what Laura is doing with her Daily Drawing Challenge you really should have a look at her blog. I'm so impressed that she's sticking to her guns so far - no one works as hard as she does so if she can fit a daily drawing session into her busy day anyone should be able to do the same! As her concerned mother I do notice that some of the drawings don't get posted till after my bedtime!

Much as I loved being in my workroom drawing this morning the garden still beckons. Today's priority was picking and dealing with the enormous crop of tomatillos. I'm going to grill them till they're charred then blitz them in the processor with chillis, coriander and lime juice. The resulting paste will be used to cook chicken to a tender deliciousness!

And although the carrots aren't desperately calling for attention and will stand quite happily for some time yet, Amelie seemed to enjoy grabbing a few for dinner today! It's lovely that she already knows about how food grows and doesn't imagine it comes shrink wrapped in a polystyrene tray!

Thanks for reading. I'll be back again soon - Linda x

Thursday 4 September 2014

Feels like harvest festival

I love this time of year. All of the efforts made by 'He who Gardens' come into fruition - quite literally! At dinnertime I just walk up the garden path and choose what we'll have that evening. Of course nothing ever arrives in modest portions - it's always all or nothing.

Looks like we may have tomatoes again tonight!

Better make that Ratatouille!

And a side order of beetroot. No one can say we don't have our 5 a day!

We spotted these on our walk yesterday, they may be edible but decided not to risk it!

In between all the cooking and eating I am making time for the latest altered book. Here I've started to invent bits of the tulips that didn't exist in the original illustration. They now have ridiculously long stems and some rather elegant leaves. The beauty of drawing over gesso is that the paper surface has so much more character than when it was smooth and shiny. The graphite pencil picks up on the texture of the gesso and helps make even the simplest mark more interesting. I am getting through quite a lot of Liquitex Super Heavy Gesso in this project but I know where I can get more!

Thanks for dropping by - Love Linda