Saturday, 13 December 2008

Two quilts

I just wanted to show you the two lap quilts I have finished. They're both Christmas presents and I am very pleased with the way they have turned out. I haven't really done much quilting so I decided to keep them simple and let the fabrics do the talking. Both are backed with co-ordinating fleece which made them very easy to sew and will make them nice and cosy for their new owners. The blue quilt is from the fabric pack I got from Quilterscloth (see post on 9th November) and a few other pieces of blue and white fabric I already had. So I now have lots of plans for future, more adventurous quilts swimming around in my head (that probably explains the cotton wooly feeling I've had in my head - or was that the cold?).

Sunday, 23 November 2008


I don't know whether you've come across this site but I think it looks interesting. It's called Ragbags and they sell packs of recycled fabric for quilting and patchwork. I haven't ordered anything from them so I couldn't vouch for quality or reliability but it seems an excellent idea. If anyone has tried them I'd love to know what you thought. Obviously being recycled fabrics you are taking pot luck to a degree and have to assume there won't be any more of a special fabric you really like, but if you take that as part of the charm it could be an exciting way to put a project together. It isn't any cheaper than buying fabric new but it is a little greener. They sell fabric in packs eg blue and white stripes, large floral, etc and also some kits.

Sunday, 9 November 2008


I just had to share this with you because it is far, far to good to keep to myself. A couple of days ago I was a-hankering after some more cloth for a quilting project I have in mind. I looked at a couple of the websites I usually visit and saw a few possibilities, but nothing that really screamed "pick me, pick me!". So I googled it as you do and fell over the most wonderful site ... and I am smitten, I am in love. Quilters Cloth is a shop based in Cambridge - I have no idea how lovely the shop is but the website is utterly beguiling. The fabrics and the fabric packs on offer are beautiful and the range of stock is substantial, but it is also the design and usability of the website that are particularly impressive. It really is user friendly and so well planned and organised, everything tucked away in neat little drawers with proper labels - as it were. And I love the way you get three views of each piece of fabric - close-up, mid and distant. How sensible and useful is that?

Well, I placed my order just after lunch on Friday - and by Saturday morning I had my parcel. This is the gorgeous confection I found inside:

You know you are a bit obsessed when...

How do you know when you have become totally obsessed with craft, and making things? There might be a top ten list of symptoms to look out for, but which one is most important? The appearance of which one indicates the point of no return?

I have three that I would like to offer up at least as contenders to join the list:
  • Just like a toddler, you're more interested in the wrapping paper and its many possibilities than the present inside.
  • You see you daughter's new t-shirt covered with lots of funky buttons and already you are working out how long it will be before she's grown out of it so you can harvest those buttons...
  • Rather than admiring the awe-inspiring view you're focussing your camera on an odd shaped stone on the path.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Photoshop alternatives - for free!

This is a fantastic list! It is a list of 10 free and functioning photo editors, yes that's right free! So if you are pining away without Photoshop then pine no more! All of these will do the important stuff Photoshop does, and I would figure that with 10 to choose from at least one will have the tools you would use the most. I haven't explored them all in depth but I have opened each one, and uploaded one of my photos. All programmes opened fine and all looked very good and very professional from a first glance. A couple of them required Adobe Flashplayer which I didn't have time to download, but it looks like all 10 work easily enough, and work very quickly from a standing start. Within a couple of clicks all were open. The one I think looks most fun is no.9 Fotoflexer (although you wouldn't necessarily think so from his description - makes it sound very dull). Within a couple of clicks I had applied some great effects to one of my pictures. So yet again ... go play!! (Some have free photo storage space too).

10 free photo editors

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Further design development work

First of all I tried some samples from the firmest of the fabrics I used for the stitched samples, to test if the bags could retain their shape if constructed directly from cotton fabric. They collapse gently so I need to find something to help them keep their shape.

cotton chintz shapes

I backed the fabric stitched samples with felt and this works. Thinking things through this is going to be the only way to do this if I use textured pieces. I won't be able to sew the felt and fabric at the same time, as one piece of fabric nor will I be able to quilt the fabric - both would affect the outcome of the textures and detract from the effect I am aiming for.

fabric backed with felt

I tried sewing some of the textured pieces to other flatter fabric samples. Making the textured pieces is time consuming (the best and most interesting results come from hand stitching), and as each piece is drawn together at the end to achieve the texture, each piece ends up a lot smaller. So I think their use will have to be restricted to feature panels or even to use as part of an outward facing seam (extreme 3-d effect!!).

samples using textured pieces

I drew some test patterns for the bag side panels:

sketches for bag designs 1 sketches for bag designs 2

Finally I started to add some tonal patterns to some of them to begin the process of finding the right final design. I need to spend more time experimenting here, maybe doing some more samples, especially for areas where I wll end up with several small pieces.

first ideas for designs 1

first ideas for designs 2

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Are you left brained or right brained?

Try this out - it's fun! Most people see it very clearly spinning one way or the other and its very hard to "make" it go the other way. I do know one person who claims she sees it changing direction... hmmm.

The spinning woman

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

"Craft: transforming traditional crafts" - the review

Well, of course I could not actually resist buying myself a copy of "Craft:transforming traditional crafts" (issue 8) - see earlier post on 17th October. And I am pleased to report that it's really quite impressive. They have packed a lot into a compact size - it's following the trend of some magazines here to downsize so its about 2/3 the usual (although frustratingly its a matter of millimeters too deep and wide to qualify as a "letter" rather than a "large letter" by the Royal Mail).

There's a number of well written articles including the now compulsory contribution to the debate about the uneasy/unholy alliances between "fine art" and "craft" and whether the two terms can ever be used together for the same piece (personally I say yes and stuff all the snobbery, but that would make a short and dull article).

I don't know whether it is just conincidence but there are two separate articles about craft mixing with technology for some fascinating results. The most intersting of the two was about knitting yarn that is coated with infrared ink. As the knitter knits they can stop at various points to record videos, photos or sounds. Once the piece is complete they do some technological voodoo and you can then use an infrared camera to locate specific points on the garment that link to the recording made at that time. One person was knitting a scarf for her brother and various points along the scarf were linked to a series of videos and pictures of her baking some cookies. Another person recorded moments of resolving technical challenges in the piece (could be ever so useful for Distant Stitch!). Another article included someone who had woven a piece out of audiotape and "when you touch it, your skin completes a circuit and it generates a series of clicks".

Some things seemed ridiculously ambitious, for example the piece explaining how to create your own stained glass "over just a weekend". I wonder if that includes for time spent in the emergency department or not? Or how about making your own stilts? There was the article on making a bedcover out of vintage scarves - I had to scream "no", because it seemed infintely preferable to keep them as scarves to me.

Other items that were great and I can't wait to ty them out include build your own lap loom, make your own googlemap of places of interest in your area, create your own digital handwriting typeface on , and weaving a rug from old sweaters. Although I haven't had time yet to try out any of these and test just how robust the instructions are, they do look well written and logical and are set out in numbered steps.

My conclusion is, certainly worth buying specific copies, although a monthly subscription at £9 a time is maybe a bit steep. I'd be quite happy to start it off on a postal trip around any Distant Stitchers who are interested ( if you give me a week or so to enjoy it first). A quick calculation on the Royal Mail site gives a postage cost of 90p second class, so if you're interested just let me know.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Easyart and Photobox - a poster is not just for Christmas

Here's an idea for promoting your textile art. Take a photo of your work, perhaps the piece you are most proud of and turn it into a piece of canvas art for someone's wall. Or maybe take various shots of your stitching and create a calendar ... or a mug or a jigsaw. Christmas is looming after all and every year it gets harder to find something unique. If you've "got it, baby" why not flaunt it for the world to see? And maybe you're a great photographer on the side too and have some fantastic photos people would love to hang on their walls.

1. Great idea no.1 - You can go to the Easyart site, scroll down to the bottom third of the home screen and look for "sell your art". There's a one off charge here, depending on how many pictures you upload at once, but after that they can stay there indefinitely and if they are good people may buy them - and you, the "artiste", will get 20% of the retail price. Could be a nice little earner for Distant Stitchers .... perhaps make enough to be able to afford Summer School without loading the credit card? Over the years I've bought quite few different pictures and posters and they've always turned up quickly and been good quality, so I feel very happy to suggest them to you.

Oh and while you are at Easyart, do check out the paintings of Susie Lipman (just type her name into the search box at the top of the site home page). Susie is the partner of my nephew and she is a really talented artist with a gallery selling lots of fantastic art in Burnham (the gallery is Oberon Arts).

2. Great idea no.2 - Or you could turn your "piece de resistance" into a mug or a jigsaw or a calendar. If you go to PhotoBox you can do all of these things in less time than it would take to thread up your sewing machine, or unpick that last row of knitting. I've used Photobox for several years and they are a very fast and reliable site, and I think the colours and quality of their pictures etc are really good. Its also a great place to store your photos safely (its also one good way of backing up some of your most treasured photos in case your home computer blows a gasket or sets fire to the whole house). And they can do lots of funky things like turning your once in a lifetime holiday photos into a smart little book - much easier than fighting with those gummed photo corners.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Chapter 12 - part 2

For the assessment piece for module 2 I have to design and make a three dimensional item. The first phase, after thinking up a few potential ideas for items, is to make some small mock-up 3D forms - see below:

The yellow shape on the left is a cylinder with a base. My easing in around the circle was a little tight, but if you turn it on its head it has the makings of a chef's hat...

The one on the right is a rectangular vase shape.

On the left a semi-circle and this time easing in the curve has turned out more evenly. On the right is a simple pointed hat shape made of three segments.

Next is simple hat made from four pieces.

Lastly two variations on a simple bag shape.

Chapter 11 - stage A

I have made three fabric samples based on the paper patterns (see earlier posting entitled Chapter 11).

I decided the first one above had turned out a bit tame so I tried adding a few more forward facing seams - see next two pictures.

Things still seemed a little ordinary so I went the whole hog and made every seam forward facing.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Chapter 12

I've made a start with some sketches of 3-d shapes and possible items that I could make.


While I'm on a posting roll and before it flies out of my mind, I also thought I'd share this one with you. Its called Block Posters ( and its a free site that enables you to upload any picture and transform it into a truly MASSIVE poster. You end up printing out a series of normal sized sheets from your printer that you can put together and use as a large version. I think you have to really want the particular picture as it'll use up a lot of ink but it might come in useful. There's a gallery so you can see some examples which are not that inspiring of themselves, but it could have some interesting uses for Distant Stitchers, apart from the perfectly normal and acceptable use of "pure playing". You could make a huge version of a picture of your work to put up on a wall to contemplate it. You could select just one sheet out of a big picture. You could probably do lots of things, but I'll leave it to you to have a look for yourself. Go play!


In my many wanderings around the internet I stumbled across the following and thought it looked quite interesting, and so I wanted to share it with you. It's an American magazine called "Craft:transforming traditional crafts" that seems to be a great big smorgasbord of crafts. I'm quite taken with the look of issue 8, especially as it features weaving, so I might treat myself to a copy soon and see if it lives up to its promise. If or when I do (who am I trying to kid??) I could write a quick review to let you know if it's all its cracked up to be. I've seen some honourable mentions out there on 'crafty' blogs so the rumblings are positive.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

I have launched another blog, a very different blog to the Wrinkle in the Calico!

I decided to try my hand at a second blog. I've named it Comfort Blanket and it is about finding small doses of healthy escapism from the credit crunch and all the other nasty things out there. Do go have a look and see what you think. I am aiming to post blogs 2 or 3 times a week so it will be interesting to see if I can keep that up. Its probably a bit ambitious but we will see how it goes.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Its all about texture...

These pictures all come in pairs - front then back

I got a bit obsessed with textures ...

1 and 2 - this is still a work in progress. The larger threads are 3 step cable stitch, with various stitch lengthes of whip stitch going diagonally.

3 and 4 - this thread is too thick and bobbly to go through the bobbin so it is couched on with random loops added. These could be left or cut and left as loose thread ends

5 and 6 - lots of whip stitch of various lengthes and widths in zig zag stitch

7 and 8 - layers and layers of zig zag whip stitch, varying lengths, varying combinations of top and bottom threads

9 and 10 - this is another work in progress. The spaces become raised so I want to work on this a bit more and modify the tone

11 and 12 - pure texture no added colour. Thick thread is couched onto the reverse creating a subtle black surface

13 and 14 - lines of straight stitch, with the bobbin tension set very loose. The white threads are building up a sort of ikat type pattern. The black raised sections between add texture. I also really like the subtle effect on the reverse of the looped black threads so may develop this in another sample

15 and 16 - truly crazy, lots of tight circles with the bobbin tension very loose - its actually even more textured than the picture seems to show

17 and 18 - simple black circles on black cloth, with a very loose bobbin tension

19 - a very restrained one in comparison!

Friday, 26 September 2008

Chapter 11

Here are some pattern ideas made from my decorated papers.