Monday, 29 April 2013

Sewing to the limits...

 It is the Henley Arts Trail this weekend,  May 4/5/6. Somehow, until about 48 hours ago May seemed to be AGES away. It isn't. May is the day after tomorrow. I am exhibiting three quilts in the show at Lady Sew and Sew and a load of class projects I will be teaching. I've not been doing as much work as usual this past few months as I've been ill, especially not doing much of the sewing , if you sew when ill you make horrendous mistakes. Well, I do. Oooops. Now sewing against the clock... finished this one, the Tulip hanging.


Did a tray mat for my "Christmas Jelly Roll" project.


Working on completing my "Bird Tree" quilt- started way too long ago and set aside- needs to be complete by Thursday afternoon.


Made a Kimono Cushion...what else can we find for me to do by May 4th? Well, there's a Tulip Runner to match the hanging for a start. And did I mention my new "Colour Tree" design? So much sewing, so little time!


Thursday, 25 April 2013

Tanum Quilt finished

 I have enjoyed making this very different quilt. Lots of hand sewing, working with the needle and thread as with a pencil or brush, drawing as I go, no marking out in advance.
 The quilt is based on a visit we made last year to Tanum in Sweden to see the Bronze Age rock carvings. The rocks were by the sea way back then, now they are marooned in woodland, shadowed by trees, weathered and colonised by lichens, their layers of images of people, animals, boats, sun discs and many, many circles softened and patinated by time. They really caught my imagination, somehow the repetitive rhythm of scraping  rock was linked to that of hand stitching. I used earthy colours, textured fabrics and all traditional and natural fibres- three thicknesses of cotton and some linen thread- the edging is pieced from traditional British wool tweed weave sample scraps, the embroidered and quilted shapes based on the rock carvings and Bronze Age stone loom weights.

 I loved using the Japanese textured woven fabrics, so pleasant to stitch through and feel in the hand.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The lost dance floor of the Festival of Britain

Back in the 70s as an Art Student I did a design history project on the Festival of Britain. Part of the presentation was a set of colour slides showing those bits of the Festival site we could access that had survived the intervening 20 years. The only intended permanent building was the Festival Hall, by that time looking very neglected and unloved, everything else was to go once the Festival was over. Anyone old enough to recall the South Bank before its recent regeneration will know that though the Festival was- mostly- demolished, its memory remained imprinted on those bits of the neglected site not built over.  
 The Jubilee Gardens site, only lately cleared of  Festival remains and re-landscaped, had a big round lawn that effectively was the foundations of the Dome of Discovery; the brick retaining walls to the gardens and some of the flower beds were the bottoms of the walls of various pavilions. Back in the 70's there were still traces of paint under the railway bridge, the marble backing and rusting water pipes stuck out from the embankment where the fountain used to be, infills in the railway arches were from the Festival, foundations, particularly near the railway side of the site, were still very obvious and the rough crumbling green tarmac of the car park was the old dance floor- still with its diagonal lines and the little pits for light bulbs clearly visible. We had to leave our colour slides with the college as part of their design library and how I wish I had made two copies as over the past decade nearly all evidence of the Festival has gone bit by bit.
 I was at the National Theatre today, left the play at the interval as I was not enjoying one bit. Decided to wander down and see if anything at all was left of the Festival site 60 plus years on. All evidence of the pavilions and Dome was gone from the recently re-landscaped gardens near the London Eye. To my astonishment the dance floor car park was still there, untouched, even more dilapidated. I walked around; there was the green tarmac, there the diagonal stripes, there the pits for light bulbs that lit up at night when the area transformed from concourse to dance floor. The attendant came over to see what I was doing, I explained to him, he was born well after the Festival, hadn't even heard of it, but told me that the site is due to be re-tarmacadamed in a week or two.
 So, if you are a fan of the Festival of Britain, get down there and see what is almost the the last little 'real' bit before it goes, the  romantic, almost lost, wildly optimistic Open Air Dance Floor. One railway arch has what looks to be its original wood and glass infill, the raised second layer of the car park nearest the railway with its tatty low rough plastered wall used to be the floor of the Land of Britain Pavilion and some rusting metal pieces poking through the tarmac alongside were, I suspect, part of the decorative supports for its frontage- these will be all that is left of the 'tonic to the nation'.

 Oh how I wished I had my camera with me today to take some photos of the floor and the cheek ( and a big enough bag) to pick up a lump of the green tarmac to bring home as a souvenir...but here is how it looked when spanking new. Photo of the Festival taken from the Embankment end looking back over the fountains to the dance floor- the Dome of Discovery, now the gardens and the London Eye, to the right. Follow the HUGE queue back to the Festival entrance from Waterloo- this section was built on quite soon after the Festival, Shell House. In the foreground the dance floor, now a car park. Must have been a windy day as it looks like the fountain water has blown over a whole section of the floor!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Sunday, 21 April 2013

A Spring Special

 May I introduce you to the Bee Fly? These little furry bees are a real indicator of Spring. Patrolling the flower beds and shrubs, they pick out something full of nectar and then defend it from  all comers. They fly round and round their chosen plant at great speed, buzzing loudly, pausing occasionally to feed with their  sharp black proboscis- almost as long as their bodies so it can reach right into the deepest flower trumpet and garner the nectar within- or to sun themselves. They come in furry buff/orange and furry black and when two of them argue over a flower, circling and darting at eachother, the noise is amazing. Only around 2 cms long- including their great big 'nose'- the buzz they produce is awesomely loud for their size. On the first day I hear them in the garden, I know Spring has properly arrived. If you look carefully at the top right corner of the photo, you can see a ginger Bee Fly sunning itself on the gravel before returning to patrol a clump of narcissi.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Tula Pink's City Sampler- Sew along with Sew Sweetness

 For a while I have been pondering making a sampler quilt as a bit of relaxation- you know where you are with a sampler quilt, you just do what it says on the tin, then put it together and learn a lot in the process. It is also really fun to sew along with other people. So when Sara of Sew Sweetness announced that she was going to host a sew along for the new Tula Pink  City Sampler book, I decided to go for it.
 Sara who writes the blog Sew Sweetness is a whizz at designing bags, really enthusiastic about all matters sewing, has an eye for accurate detail, is very enthusiastic and encouraging about sewing and hails from Chicago. In Chicago they have 48 hours in a day instead of 24, I know this as Sara manages to do all the normal mum stuff AND blog AND write patterns AND answer daft questions from people like me. Sara is a very nice lady with a really refreshing and practical sewing blog.
 If you have read my blog for a while you will know I have been a fan of Ms Pink's fabric designs for quite a time. I was thrilled when they became available in the UK, even more when the lady herself came over here last year for the Quilt Festival and taught a class. I've seen her quilts up close and they are stonking. Tula writes with humour, warmth and by heck, that gal knows her stuff. Her first book was really informative- some great technique tips- inspiring and idiot-proof ( I am that idiot...): her second, from the quick peek I've had here, looks to be as good, if not better. So, why not join in the sew along? The book comes out here in the UK in early June, we will need to play 'catch-up' for the first blocks as it starts on May 20th, but if you fancy joining in some sassy creative sewing fun, I think this will absolutely fit the bill- heaven knows after this last endless Winter we could all do with some fun...

Friday, 5 April 2013

Shhh...don't make a sound...I think Spring may be happening....

It is still cold out there, it is still blowing like a strong 'un from the North, but things are stirring.

Not just flowers, furry things are stirring too.