Sunday, 16 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

This is my 2012 Christmas post card, sent bareback through the postal system. Made of hand-dyed cotton, backed with watercolour paper, it was stencilled with silver acrylic, stitched with metallic thread, and bedazzled with crystals.

To my 12 by the dozen collaborators, best wishes for the holidays! May the coming year bring many adventures in art and creativity to us all. May we continue to delight in each other's enthusiasm and to find support in our nurturing friendship.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Flapper style

I'm in New York this week, enjoying the festive season. The windows of Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue are a highlight, filled with elaborately-costumed mannequins, dressed in twenties-style. Here is one of them. Her dress reminds me of the treasure that Dianne used as inspiration for her wonderful Threads challenge. The chevron and zigzag are seen in many of the costumes, and suggest an Art Deco influence.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Just in time! 

You'd have though as it was my choice I would have had something already in mind.  I am thrilled to see that some of the ideas I had played with in my head have been done superbly by others - Silver Threads... by Patricia, Spiritual Journey by Venetta for starters.  I also thought long about doing something with gauze along the lines of Helena's Lucy (New Girl on the Street) because it is so 'thready'.

In the end I decided to do something I have been wanting to do for a while - I even have several photos lined up.  That is thread painting - on a theme of door architecture (locks, latches, key holes, etc).   The photo was taken at Alston Hall, venue of many of our Contemporary Quilt weekend workshops.  It is a lovely old baronial home in the Lancashire countryside overlooking the Ribble Valley, now run by the Country Council as a residential venue for craft workshops.

The image was printed out on Jacquard fabric sheets - brilliant brand for colour.
Lesson #1 - it is going to pull terribly with all this close stitching - use lots of stabilizer.
Lesson #2 - how ever many shades of thread colours you own you haven't got enough!
Lesson #3 - I had fun playing with altering the tension to bring up the 'mouldy' green thread from the bobbin to create the mould in the grout.  Also a rust coloured thread from the bobbin for the specks of rust in the metal.
Now I see the photo there are areas that need a bit more work, but I am happy to be at this point.

In honour of the final theme for this set of twelve, I have chosen the word...... Encore. Sometimes when working in series there is an obvious ember still burning for the next piece (which is a treat) and sometimes an idea can present itself when enlarging a section or detail of a piece to carry forward a new technique or palette. Any interpretation is entirely up to you, as always.Perhaps this will just be a chance to look back on the work produced so far and appreciate something from it with fresh eyes or in a different light . In any case, I hope your experience is as playful and creative an experience as in the past. Enjoy!  


I was very privileged to have had in my hands for a few weeks an embroidered dress, still on it's fabric base of silk organza.  It belongs to my sister-in-law and was made by her uncle's mother.  We think from the style that it was done in the 1920's.  My daughter did the drawing of what we think the dress would look like and I printed it onto some rust dyed silk/cotton.  I embroidered the zigzag which has become way too stiff to put beads on  - the wash away must not have all washed away!

Originally I had thought to simply copy a section using machine embroidery but was then awed by the work that went into the design.  Drawing up the zigzags must have been a formidable task way back then.  The embroidery was something else!  I just felt that this was something I had to acknowledge.  Albeit with not much time left!  

 Here is the back of the dress and you can see the border that was done at the bottom.  The dress part drops to just above my knees (I'm short).  And the front - also with the band at the bottom.

 And the embroidery and beads!  You can see how she transitioned colour using both the beads and the thread with which they were put on.  Very clever.
 Part of the neckline

 And the band at the bottom.
 And just anther close-up of the work.

 I'm just waiting to hear if the McCord  museum in Montreal would like to have it.

Last of the first

This is quite a moment for the group - the last theme of our first round.  We have all travelled along a winding, twisting, path of exploration, experimentation, shared experiences, hopes and ideas.  It looks like our first blog was by Dianne back in October 2009.

Michele, I believe it is your turn to chose the next theme, not Venetta as I wrongly announced - sorry, Michele, sorry Venetta.  Michele, please do the honours and choose our theme which will take us into 2013.

I personally am thrilled and and very grateful for the support and friendship that exists amongst us.  I would like to see us carry on in some way.  Whether it is in the same format - size and timing - or whether we would like to make a change is up to the group.  Let's talk about it and hear some ideas.

Over to you, Michele,


PS  I am still working on mine - I promise it will be in before the day is over!  H

Spiritual Journey

The theme for this challenge goes to the very core of why I am a fiber artist: it is because of  thread. Thread that makes cloth. Thread that is used to sew to create something new.  Thread is my art medium.

In keeping with trying a new technique, I felted bamboo, wool and acrylic fibers onto an aubergine colored burlap background with my felting machine. Then I continued to felt silk threads to add color and texture.  I couched silk covered cords to add movement and more texture. I used a wool thread for quilting by machine, then I hand stitched pearl cotton for additional depth and interest.

When making this piece I found myself in a state of happiness and play. There was no angst and there was no plan, I just wanted to allow the colors, the textures and the thread to guide me...a true spiritual journey.

This is the title I thought of the moment the new subject was announced.  I wanted to construct a design and not a "picture" as this is what I tend to do most of the time - maybe I am too literal and see things in pictures!  Anyway I drew this up and used lots of metallic thread once I started the thread work.  I hope you can see the silver threads among the  gold, they are not too clear in the photograph, but are there nevertheless.  It was a lovely theme and I thoroughly enjoyed the process.  The background is hand dyed cotton, gold silk in the design with lots of metallic threads.


Light Snow Dusting the Fields

This colour study was made by blending silk organza, linen and sheer cottons on an embellishing machine. Some of the fabric was found on a recent visit to King Street Fabrics during our amazing trip to World Festival of Threads in Toronto and Oakville. Metallic stitching and beads were added before mounting onto gallery canvas. I have been thinking about a more reduced palette as our season of colour also fades from greens toward browns and silvers.This sample may be useful in relation to some large vessels  that I have been attempting to construct.The first successful prototype is freestanding, built from1/4 inch industrial  steampressed felt, then faced with embellished silk top, and beaded. They can be seen on the memory vessel page of my website.The threads of past endeavours have filtered through from my days of 3D work in ceramics and have now crept back into my work recently. I would like to see if it may be possible to evolve the concepts into more of a releif form which would simplify life in so many ways.

Flower Threads

Having been away for 7 weeks in the period since the last reveal, I was rather taken by surprise when I realised that the work was due at the end of November.  My body is still telling me it is only the beginning of autumn.  My immediate thought when I heard the title 'Threads' was to wonder how I could show off some of the many threads in my cupboards.  Flowers on a black background seemed an obvious choice (I apologise if it's too obvious).  I wanted to continue practising my free machine skills, so the only marking I allowed myself was some chalk lines in a grid.  Then I just played!  As I worked I found I used brighter and brighter threads, maybe my brain was following it's own thread of action.  I'm still wondering if I should quilt the background in black, but on the whole I like it just as it is.

THREADS - all thing connect

"Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect."

I came across this the other day and wrote it down but not by whom or where I saw it.  I thought it was quite appropriate as it brought me all the way back to our first challenge 'connections' and this completes my series within a series of 12 pieces. It also confirms our connection by thread across the world.

I have incorporated the bought piece in the middle (frog and surround) but the border is all my work and then I machine quilted it.  It was quite humbling sitting at night doing the handwork.  A quiet, thought provoking but thoroughly enjoyable moment.

                                                    ‘The Thread that binds us.’

When this title was given three months ago, ‘the thread that binds us’ jumped into my head.  It ruminated there until ten days ago – my wedding anniversary.  ‘Marriage – the thread that binds us’ – and away I went!
I painted a 12” square canvas board using a few drops of walnut ink mixed with gesso.  On top of that I placed a sheet of hand made textured paper.  Image transfer techniques were used to transfer my wedding photos as well as those of family members.  I finally embellished it with a piece of nylon ribbon and thread.
I loved the topic and my husband loved his anniversary gift.

Threads: Jerry at the Cottage

I took this image from a drawing I made almost 40 years ago of my father-in-law, Jerry. I used my Cityscapes technique of fusing and heat-away stabilizer to translate the drawing into cloth.

The drawings I made in this series, for a class taken as part of my degree, are not so different from the drawings I have made for Cityscapes, so in a sense I am "picking up the thread". I am also thinking of the "ties that bind", those family relationships that persist even after death. Jerry passed away in 1980, and yet we can still recognize him and remember him as he was, relaxing in his favourite spot at the cottage, no doubt watching football on TV. Looking a lot like his son Ron, my husband. Another thread.

Empty Nest

In celebration of an empty nest to come in the very near future. Two of our children have moved out this year and the last one will be moving next month. The nest was constructed on a clear stabilizer by laying threads and stitching over them. The flying geese are our 3 children flying upward to new beginnings. The 2 crystals in the nest represent my husband and myself shining brightly for our new found freedom.

Spools of Thread

As soon as the theme was announced, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I created a screen from an image I found online (with permission from and printed it on different colours of fabric, then echo quilted it. Instead of batting, I used two layers of black felt, which also stood in for the binding. Voila!


I may have mentioned before :-) that I am a very literal person so when I read that the next challenge was 'Threads' that's all I wanted to do! Except that I couldn't think of a way of re-creating my photo in fabric - until I attended a workshop/retreat with Gillian Travis on how she creates many of her pieces using paint and stitch. I've written about the workshop Art to Stitch on my 'Occasional Jottings' and quickly realised that I needed to get better acquainted with my acrylic paints!! I'm reasonably happy with the outcome. There are definite glitches in the perspective and whilst I was pleased with the highlights I decided not to push my luck by trying to add the shadows too!!!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012


How exciting to see the Threads post building up, it's a bit like waiting for Christmas! Mine is finished and the backing is on, it just needs a quick press and it's ready to photograph - days before the deadline - wowser!

Monday, 19 November 2012

World of Threads Festival, Toronto

Michele and I were delighted to be able to attend the World of Threads Festival in Oakville and Toronto last week. Three years in the making, with 195 artists and 21 venues, it was well worth a visit. We found it to be superbly well-organized, quite a feat considering the scale of the event.

While searching out the different venues, we came across one huge industrial building, 401 Richmond Street West, repurposed for art galleries and creative start-ups. We found the Gladstone Hotel, which houses art display spaces, studios and thirty-some hotel rooms, each decorated by a different artist. We stumbled upon the very interesting Distillery District, featuring Victorian-era red brick buildings which have been renovated to house caf├ęs, galleries and studios. We also found ourselves in a super fabric warehouse on Spadina, King Street Fabrics. And we finished off our trip with a visit to the excellent Freda Kalo / Diego Rivera show at the AGO.

Distillery District, Toronto
I have written three posts to my blog about some of the fascinating art we saw, all of it fibre-based. Michele and I are thinking about submitting work to the Festival at our next opportunity.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Catching up

I've been away a lot over the last couple of months and am spending today catching up! I also began my Threads piece - with only fifteen days to go, several of which I'm away for, it could be 'interesting' ! I'm using a technique we used on the five day class I attended last week, the results of which are on my blog which should make life easier, but who knows what pitfalls there'll be along the way. Here's a taster from the work done last week:

Monday, 12 November 2012

Gallery news and Houston show

I was invited to show my work at the Canadian Guild of Crafts gallery on Sherbrooke Street in Montreal, right next to the Museum of Fine Arts. This is quite an amazing honour! Above are "Many Shades of Grey" and "Night Circus".
In other news, Marion and I were fortunate to go to Houston last week where our Vitamin C quilt was shown.

We were able to meet up with Venetta for lunch. What a treat! We caught up on news and sat outside enjoying the sunshine. I also showed her my Threads piece which is finished!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012


I am not sure how the rest of you feel at the moment but with just over three weeks to go I have not been able to settle on anything specific for my piece and so have decided I need to make a decision before time runs out.

My taster takes me to the many, many organisations around South Africa who have empowered black needy women and men with embroidery skills which have enabled them to support families and give them some dignity.

This is part of a cushion cover I have, stitched by one of the people from the Kaross Embroidery Group which is quite well known and well established.

These little pieces are from the local Hillcrest Aids Centre (I think) but very typical of the things that a lot of the groups are producing.  They are small and flat and easy to pack for tourists and can be stitched onto anything or framed at a later stage.  Each one tells a little story and is often linked to the lifestyle or circumstances that the embroiderer has faced or experienced.

Where am I going with this ? ........................The end of November will reveal!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Another VESSEL

Here is the only other vessel I photographed.

The blue pieces are flattened metal bottle tops (Sprite, Soda Water & Smirnoff) and the whole thing works.  I love the shape.  There were about 7or 8 in total and they will be on the KZNSA Gallery site under the Exhibition name 'Recollect'.

Thursday, 1 November 2012


My favourite local artist, Hendrik Stroebel, has an exhibition on at the moment on some old and some new works which are going to Dubai for his first solo exhibition there in March 2013.

One of his new items, for me, were his vessels. This one I particularly liked ... ceramic vessel/vase covered with embroidered fabric and decorated with ceramic beads and embroidered hanging bits.

I cannot explain the reason for the words on the fabric and I cannot for the life of me remember what he called this work which I did not understand either ...... I am not very good!

This is another of his smallish pieces (approx 8" x 10") . The combination of the soft embroidery and the hard ceramic works so well.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Jubilate Deo

Well, here it is.  The idea was to create a sense of space and height by having imagery of vaulted church ceilings at the top, music floating upwards and the angelic choir boys at the bottom.

I am disappointed that the ceilings have come out so dark - that was unexpected as they seem to be much lighter on paper.  I guess that's where you learn about checking how much toner is in the photo first...
I may work on this piece and try and knock back the heaviness at the top.


Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Jubilation - what jubilation?

Oh dear, is this an idea or project that should never have seen the light of day?  Using the medium technique has meant I have the images transfered to the fabric - but what a mess and dismal result.   The toner is not completely fixed inspite of the paper being so dry it is crispy and curled (left overnight in the airing cupboard where the hot water tank is - lovely and warm and dry).  This means that in rubbing away the paper some of the image is taken off.   The paper was very wet and soggy.  It's looking a bit like a mural discovered at Herculaneum!

It is also interesting to see the transparency happening.  As this is a learning curve (steep one - why did I think I could just do this on the final piece?!!!) I am finding this fascinating and I'm sure if I carried on with this technique it would be very interesting to play with this aspect.  As it is I am ticking the box - tried it, done this, bought the T-shirt - now for something new...

The trouble is I still have to make a Jubilation piece.  I am going to take this piece a step further and either mess it up completely and rescue it.  At the moment it is a 'dog' and needs CPR.

What to do?  Quilt and then gently roller paint over? Use it as the background and work over the top ignoring what's there - very like an old master painting over a painting)?  screen print over? Stamp and stencil?  Just add more images?


Sunday, 23 September 2012

"Best Of Show"

Belonging to the "12 By The Dozen" group has changed my life! Four years ago, I wanted my quilting to take a different turn and direction and to express myself using the medium that I am the most comfortable with: fabric and fiber. Being a member of this amazing group of like minded fiber artists from around the globe, has helped to inspire, encourage, and explore this new world for me. The quarterly challenges have not been easy but definitely  has enabled me to grow in my art that I never expected.

Last night, I was awarded "Best of Show" at our annual Houston Area Fiber Artists (HAFA) "Focus on Fiber" show exhibited at 18 Hands Gallery in Houston. The process started in August with meeting the "call" (deadline) and then waiting to hear if any of my three pieces that I entered were accepted...all three were accepted!  We were fortunate to have a very well respected local artist to jury and judge our pieces. As you can see, my winning entry was  "A View From a Venetian Gondola".  Even though it was small in size compared to other entries, the judge liked the variety of techniques that went into making this piece and the overall impact. I am still pinching myself to make sure that this isn't a dream!

I want to thank each and everyone one of you for your artistry, your generous sharing, comments and positive influence in my life and my art!

Dyeing Workshop

Well, as I have to wait for the Jubilation piece to dry I am using the time to catch up and post the promised photos from the wonderful recent workshop with Jan Myers-Newbury.  It was a 5 day workshop - 4 days dyeing and 1 day design, held in the fabulous Potters Barn which is Claire Benn's pride and joy and quite rightly so as she thought about every detail and has produced the perfect work space.

View of the end wall of the barn.
The workshop area.
There were ten of us and I knew one fellow CQer and knew of one of the other students.  Jan is a calm, extremely knowledgeable, encouraging and generous teacher.  The workshop ran smoothly because it was carefully planned and managed.  We all produced a substantial amount of dyed fabric which will be more than enough to keep us busy designing for quite a while.  I learnt a lot about the value of underpainting with dye - no soda in the dye or fabric - letting the fabric dry and then working with it (clamping, stitching, wrapping, etc) and dipping it into a dye bath with soda.  In fact I learnt a lot about the value of working on a piece of fabric through more than one or two stages.
Underpainted with 3 green stripes, then pole wrapped and dipped in brick red.

We clamped: wooden kebab sticks, coffee stirrers and tongue depressants (from dentist/doctor), empty celotape rolls, wooden coving and  kid's plastic train tracks - were some of the strange but very effective resist items used.
Kebab sticks between folded layers, carved erasers clamped
We pole wrapped:  first without using any string, but folding and wrapping different ways and angles.  The fabric was held in place top and bottom with elastic bands.  Then we used string, thick, thin, hairy - you name it.  I did one piece where the string went on very haphazardly and the results were brilliant.
Rope, poles and kebab sticks tied and ready to dye - most for the second time

Poles wrapped without string ready to dye
 We wrapped around very thick rope.
The wonderful effects of thick rope wrapping
Two of my best pieces were first stitched into tubes on a machine, one with darts in and the other with folds made as I wrapped it around the pole.

Tucks sewn in then wrapped
Folds added during wrapping
Here's my pin board with a couple of day's work, mostly with just one dyeing process, though the one with circles was underpainted as was the top left hand corner piece.
Part of 2 days worth of dyeing
The two dark pieces in the lower right corner were first clamped and dyed, then stitched in various ways and dyed in midnight blue.  Here they are ready to go in the dye bucket.

After 4 days of dyeing, we then had plenty to work with thinking about how we could use them.

First attempt - needs lost more work...
Piece by Jan using my fabric. 
Marks were made by the elastic bands holding the wrapped fabric on the pole top and bottom.

 And as a treat some photos of the washing lines to end with...            Hilary

Those wonderful marks made by plastic construction toy pieces.