Thursday, 28 May 2009

An English Garden

A couple of years ago we were able to make some changes to our garden. There had been a hideous block paving feature shaped like a shield. I dug it up one summer. But it left the garden without form and full of rubble.

We live in an old Victorian farmhouse built around 1860. All the land around the house had been sold by the time we purchased the property 10 years ago. But the house still retained some charming stables and is surrounded by old brick walls. Having grown up in the wide open spaces of east coast American suburbia, I love the sense of enclosure the walls give.

I spent years planning what I wanted to do with this part of the garden. I wanted a winding brick path to that would run from my dining room window and end up at the stable door.

And I wanted an outside sitting and dining area that was covered by a pergola. And I wanted everything to be made out of old materials so it would look like it had always been there and would fit in with the character of the house. We had some wonderful builders who specialize in restoring period homes and they helped source the materials and create the pergola. Then some local landscape gardeners put in the path and laid the paving and gravel. Now that the hard bones of the garden were in place it was fun to add the plants and flowers.

We were able to encourage the wisteria over the stable to start covering the pergola from one side and planted climbing roses and clematis. This is the third summer and everything is growing up. This rose is one of those David Austin Roses that smell like heaven. It looks so pretty against the wisteria.

I'm grateful for this part of my garden. Planning a garden is alot like creating a quilt, it's so satisfying to see something I've been picturing in my mind for years come to life.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Alfred, Lord Tennyson 1809 - 1892

The Lincolnshire Wolds where Tennyson was born and spent his early years are rounded hills cloaked in fields and pastures. These beautiful fertile hills and valleys coloured with the changing crops of wheat, barley, rye, rape and poppy, lie between the low fenlands and the sea.

We live just on the edge of the fens and pass through the wolds on our family trips to the seaside near Mablethorpe. We've sometimes stopped on the way to visit Somersby; the little village where Tennyson was born. It's odd to think that such a sleepy village on the other end of Bag Enderby could have produced the most famous Victorian poet. After Shakespeare, Tennyson is the most quoted writer in the English language.

The 4th son of 12 children, Alfred Tennyson went on to become the Poet Laureate. Among his friends and admirers were Gladstone, Browning and Edward Lear, not to mention Prince Albert and Queen Victoria.

The film dramatization of Tennyson's poem The Lady of Shalott opens to the general public for viewing at The Collection Museum in Lincoln this week. It will be available for viewing through out the summer. Click the Wag Screen icon on the right for more details.

Friday, 15 May 2009

The Lady of Shalott

This famous pre-raphaelite painting by John William Waterhouse was one of the inspirations for Wag Screen's adaptation of Tennyson's Lady of Shalott. Compare the original Waterhouse painting with this still from the film.
My contribution, apart from providing children for the cast, was the tapestry you see in the boat. Pauline Loven, a producer and costume designer for the project, used images from the collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings which were re-created using applique and then embellished using free-motion machine quilting. Creating film props with machine quilting was a new experience for me. I enjoyed the challenges of recreating something from the past in a hurry! It was so exciting to be a part of the project and so rewarding to see how it all came together so beautifully at the premiere today.
I'll post more about the Lady of Shalott later. Meanwhile you can click on the Wag Screen logo on the right to follow a link for more info and images from the filming of the Lady of Shalott.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Mother's Day

This photo shows my kids nine years ago. Peter, the baby, is just about 4 months old. Ellie with the hat and no hair is nearly 2, Rosie in pink is 4, Emily, holding Peter and her twin Ben are 8 and Katie, the red head in the middle is 10. Thinking back, that was such a busy time.
My friend Eileen came over for a visit that summer. Eileen has a gift for helping people to get vision for what they want to do in their lives. Often we get so used to just doing the next thing that we loose sight of what our real dreams and hopes are. Eileen asked me what I would want to do if money and time were not an issue. I said, "Make a quilt for everyone that I love!" But the way life was, I never thought it would happen.
A couple years later my mom sent me a machine quilting frame. This didn't change the amount of time I had left over for quilting but it did mean that I could make the most of it. And within a few years I really did finish lots of quilts. Not yet for EVERYONE I love, but at least I've made a good start.

So Happy Mother's Day to my mom in America and mothers everywhere. I'm so glad to have lovely little people to quilt for and I'm grateful for my mother too!

Friday, 8 May 2009

Bold Colours Simple Design

This quilt began as a spin off from curtains for the playroom which in turn was a spin off of this wonderful bright stripy IKEA rug.

I'd been keeping this rug safely rolled up waiting to re-do the playroom properly. But we got it out for a party and everyone loved it and wanted to keep it out. So I decided to make bright and cheery playroom curtains to go with it.

I delved into my fabric stash and pulled out all my brights and themed kiddie prints. These I interspersed with batiks and stripes and spots.

The curtains were a big hit and there were lots of squares left over. So I decided to go ahead and make a quilt for Peter. I'd just got a Janome 6600 which I use for piecing and Peter, who is 9, loved all the gadgets on it. So it became a mother son project. I guided the fabric and he operated the foot pedal and pushed the thread cutter button. Very soon we had this great 'favourite things' quilt all pieced. I backed it in a cuddly blue fleece and quilted it with loops and hearts.

I needed just the right thread for the project and found a King Tut that was perfect. Cleopatra #921 was a variegated machine quilting thread that had all the colours of the quilt in a precise one-inch colour change.

Against the bright background of these saturated colours, this bright thread acts as a 'neutral' - it blends into the pieced squares creating texture without calling attention to itself.
This variegated King Tut thread reads as a neutral against the brightly coloured pieced top

I found that the bold colours and simple design worked well together. The piecing and quilting designs were so simple. The bold bright fabrics combined with the bold and bright lines of stitching worked together to make this quilt something special - Peter loves it!

Monday, 4 May 2009

Starry Starry Night

Here's another example of a simple loop machine quilting design. This time I added stars. I made this quilt for a special family friend's sister's baby. The piecing is a simple colour wash. I love blue and I enjoyed creating a twilight sky with the 5 inch squares. The top was backed in navy blue fleece and free-motion machine quilted using this really cool glow in the dark thread from Superior Threads called NiteLite. This is such a fun thread to use with children's quilts because it really does glow in the dark for hours!

Here in England we are on the same latitude line as Ontario, Canada. That means that our winter evenings start really early like 4:30! But in mid- summer it can stay light until nearly 11:00. I made this quilt in the summer so I had to stay up really late to see it glow. The thread looks and quilts just like normal thread so the white against all the blue looked lovely in the daytime. But it really does come into it's own in the dark. This glow in the dark thread comes in several pastel colours; blue, yellow, green, pink and orange, but for this project I used the white.

I learn something new from most projects, this one taught me about phrasing. We have it in our minds that all machine quilting line designs need to be continuous. Continuous lines are great for many designs and ideal for pre-programed designs on professional long arms. But maintaining a continuous line can sometimes be difficult for the hand controlled free-motion quilter. I found the stars challenging, not in themselves but I seemed to loose my place after the stars. So I decided to use what I call phrasing.

Instead of aiming for a continuous line, I would begin with a star and add a few loops and a star and a few more loops and end with a star. This was my phrase. Then I would step back and decide where my next phrase would look good. This helped with the spacing and kept me from getting too anxious. We're supposed to enjoy this process, right? As long as I anchored my starting and finishing stitches with a few small stitches in place, the lines of stitching were secure. I was pleased with how it turned out and have gone on to use phrasing in other projects.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Ladybird Ladybird

When my daughter Ellie was 3 years old, she developed a liking for ladybugs. We went on ladybug hunts and collected them in jars and later released them in the garden. We found some fantastic ladybug books and I began to collect bug fabric for a quilt.

This book is so cute. It's about a ladybug mom with five little ladybug children, she goes off to the shops but forgets her purse. They follow after to bring it to her. It makes a great present for little girls but my sons have enjoyed the book as well. I used to give the book and a little purse with chocolate money inside as a child's party gift. It would make a fun present for children and grandchildren too. I've made a link to it on Amazon on the sidebar.

Another good book was Ladybird Moves Home by Richard Fowler. This book has a cardboard ladybug that slips through a cut in the pages. The kids love to slip the ladybird through the openings in the pages. Again I've got a link on the sidebar.

The bug fabric collection generated three quilts. The top quilt here, is the simple machine applique with various bugs in jars. This is the quilt featured in yesterday's post that's been machine quilted with loops and daisies. The quilt underneath is a stripy quilt with a ladybug theme. Each strip was machine quilted in a different pattern. So it became a stripy machine-quilting sampler.

Lastly, there was this red, yellow and green 'traffic light' quilt, a present for a family friend. It was fun working with such bright colours featuring spots and bugs and flowers. Click the photo to see a better view of the yellow daisy and loops machine quilting pattern.

Have you ever noticed that books and quilts are like family fossils? They record the various likings and interests that we have explored over the years. Now Ellie loves horses but we still enjoy the books and quilts from the ladybug phase of her life.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Coming up Daisies

Loops are one of my favourite machine quilting moves. There are lots of reasons for this. First of all, you get to cross the lines. Lots of people give up at free-motion quilting because stippling is so hard. You know that classic meandering stitch that has curves like puzzle pieces. Keeping track of all those directions at once, while never ever crossing the lines can be so frustrating! If you've spent hours stippling away getting stuck in corners and trying your darndest NOT to cross over any lines, you'll find loops liberating. Because with loops crossing is OK. Good even! Loops are liberating.

Next, loops are a great way to maneuver round your available space. Loops help you to move in any direction. You can loop up or down, right or left. Loops make it easy to gracefully change directions and keep your line of stitching bold and flowing.
Finally, although loops look great just as loops, they're fun and easy to add a shape to. Here I've added daisies. In this early quilt, I wanted the daisies to imitate a daisy chain, the kind that little school girls make sitting in the grass during break time. I began without the loops but later when I added the loops I thought that the pattern looked more graceful. When I'm quilting daisies, I create the lines and loops and flower petals first. Then I go back and add the centers of the flowers.

Click the photo for a good close up of the stitching. As you can see, I'm going for an informal pen and ink kind of look here. I used a black MasterPiece thread to get this line drawing style. I went back and drew the center of the daisies with a yellow King Tut. The variegated shiny thread that is the 'lady bird' trail above is a Rainbows, Jester #801. I love how it shows up against the black.

Bluebells from our garden.