Monday, 29 May 2017

Sampler exhibition in Cambridge

Having some time off on a Bank holiday weekend is a thing of pleasure.  So when I get one I like to make the most of it, especially when the weather promises to be good. Never one to miss out on a good exhibition I bundled Paul into my little Fiat with the promise of lunch and a beer and we headed south to Cambridge. My friend Patr had mentioned an exhibition of Samplers at the Fitzwilliam museum so I just had to check it out.

I have to say it was well worth the stress (and fee) of parking. There were over a hundred embroidered samplers from the museum's collection. There is a great selection from the 1600s onwards,  with interesting notes on styles, meaning and historical context.

Early samplers were worked in bands.
This whitework band sampler is dated 1663 and has the initials 'DB' embroidered on it. Who was DB I wonder?

Here is some of the needlelace cutwork on the sampler. There is a supply of magnifying glasses in the exhibition so you can really get up close to the detail. Samplers were usually worked by girls and young ladies. What skills!
By the 18th century, girls were encouraged to display their numeracy and literacy by including it in their designs.
 This one was dated 1802 and is worked by Mary Ann Crouzet as stated at the top of the piece. This is all done in cross stitch and includes a small amount of gold thread too. The work is exquisite.

I loved the pieces with motifs in it.
This was created by 15 year old Sarah Williamson in 1795. I would have been thrilled to have created something of such beauty at that age.
Not all the pieces were traditional wall hangings. There are a couple of bags included too.
This one is beautifully beaded and doesn't look 380 years old! 

Another stunning bag from the 17th century. 
A stunning pocket sampler from 1844 by Sarah Roberts.

Here are a few more pics.
Susanna Gellett in 1800.

Dorcas Haynes in 1720
M Quertier in 1799.
There was a very touching line in the notes on the wall. "For many a woman of the past, the sampler that she stitched in her youth is often the only record if her existance."  Very poignant. 

This is just a little taste of the wonders there are on display. If you get the chance, then pay it a visit before it finished in 2018.

Monday, 22 May 2017

A bit of retail therapy at the Malvern Quilt show

Well it has been a busy time since I got back from Nepal, with shows, magazine deadlines and a whistle-stop tour of Rome with my Dad. I got back on Friday, with a show on Saturday and Sunday was a day off (at last). So what did I do? I dragged a compliant Paul halfway across the country to a quilt show. Of course I did!

So a bit of retail therapy was the order of the day. I spend so much time creating samples for others that it is nice to simply get something gorgeous for me. Goodness knows when I will get around to making them - Paul was horrified when I went to about 4 different stands and said "yes, I have that but haven't made it yet!". I explained UFOs and PHDs and left it at that :)

So what did I buy?
Well my first stop is always to the stand of Kim Porter of Worn and Washed. I adore the feel of her pre-loved fabric, and she has moved into Liberty fabrics now too. So I treated myself to a Liberty cushion kit which will eventually make it's way into my Summerhouse. It's just gorgeous.

Then I brought a pattern by the phenomenal Maggie Davies - the queen of Applique! This is all hand appliqued and is another one for the holiday pile - or the 'soon to retire' pile. I love the delicate florals and the scrolls so it just had to find it's way into my basket!

Finally my love of Japanese fabrics forced to me get the "Takara" style patchwork and applique cushion kit from Euro Japan Links. Every time I see their stand one of their kits makes it into my shopping bag - and this one is just champion! I am going to hand quilt the finished cushion with the Sashiko thread once it is all sewn together. Sashiko is a decorative reinforment stitch from Japan that is simple but beautifully effective. If you haven't discovered it yet, take a look at the work of Susan Briscoe for inspiration.

So with my purchase clutched in my happy little hands I headed over to look at the quilts. The quilt entries were  beautiful, and well worth a browse through. A highlight was the quilt by my friend Moira Neal who just takes free motion embroidery to another level!

 It was tricky to get close to it with the throng of admirers gathered around it.

She won first prize, the fabric painting award AND won the overall championship too! Well done and well deserved!

This one was called "All Things Bright and Beautiful" and won a plethora of awards, including the rosette for Best Hand Appliqued quilt. Well Deserved I think. I didn't have a show guide so I am afraid I don't know who it was by, but I loved it! And the work that went into it is just mind boggling!
So a day looking at quilts - with a 4 1/2 hour round trip by car. Probably my favourite way to spend a Sunday!

Thursday, 4 May 2017

I quilt because it's cheaper than therapy!

2016 felt like it was a tough year around the world. The rise in hate, what looks like political chaos in places we previously thought were stable, the loss of so many innocent lives in Syria, and the deaths of many of our childhood heros has made it difficult to see the brighter side of life. I reminded myself that I am extremely lucky, and that my 2016 was professionally and personally a cracker, but no woman is an island, and some things hit me hard. The biggest sadness was the loss of a huge inspiration in my childhood!

Princess Leia may have been a gun toting girl in a sci-fi movie with mad hair and no bra, but to me she was a revelation. I was born at the beginning of the 70s, so the release of the first movie "A New Hope" passed me by at the time, but by the time the later movies came out with the "Empire Strikes back2 in 1980 and "Return of the Jedi" in 1983 I was old enough to understand the games we played in the school yard had a new bad ass girl in town. As a girl with brothers, early games with boys involved me needing to be rescued, and sitting quietly awaiting my freedom, or screaming/simpering for some knight/prince/cowboy to spring into view and save the day. After Leia, this was no longer the case. The princess didn't need saving - in fact, she saved the boys! Who can forget " Someone has to save our skins. Into the garbage chute, fly boy" when Luke attempts a poorly planned rescue. No meek and mild, whimpering 'girl' there. She was the first bad ass chick who showed me that girls didn't need to wait to be saved, we could save ourselves quite well thank you! Since that first revelation, I have been a huge fan of Star Wars, and Princess Leia/Carrie Fisher, and so I was deeply concerned when I heard that she had suffered a heart attack on board a flight. I had just started listening to her audio book "The Princess Diarist", and if it were possible, I was even more in love with this woman than before. The woman was more than the princess - she dealt with so much in her life but remained brave, outspoken and positive throughout it all. So I kept my fingers firmly crossed. Surely a year that had already taken so many inspiring people couldn't take this feisty, strong woman too - we needed her 'hope' more than ever. But it did! And I cried! Like a baby!

So that day I did what I always do to deal with pain, I got my sewing out. This was a quilt that I started making for myself a couple of years ago because I was doing a TV show on Star Wars Day (May 4th) for Create and Craft US. I had finished the top, and showed it on air, but not got round to quilting it. So I started on the day we lost Carrie Fisher. I decided that I wanted to do more than stitch in the ditch, because I was quilting this for someone special. I was quilting it for Princess Leia, for Carrie Fisher, for the girl I was when I first discovered that girls could be strong, tough and brave, that they could be the hero, the general, the powerhouse, and that we could do anything we wanted to do! I wanted this to feel special.

So I put "A New Hope" on the DVD and I quilted, late into the night and through the next day. I used a melon template to mark the quilting lines and I used the knee lift on my machine to help manoeuvre the walking foot around the curves. It felt good. I was doing something practical and I think that helps sooth the soul. The death of Carrie's mother Debbie Reynolds the next day pinched my heart again as I finished this quilt.
Quilting with a melon shape

Now the Binding is on, and the quilt is finally completed. There is no secret that today is Star Wras day around the world, so this post seems perfect timing! (#HappyStarWarsDay)

Turned 9 patch Star Wars quilt
Here it is, and I feel sad, proud, and hopeful when I look at it. Star Wars may be a movie, and life isn't like the movies, but it is a tale of a small group of individuals changing the universe through Hope, Love and Bravery. This is a message we need more of, and she is still a shining light talking to that little girl in Shepton Mallet, who would learn she could be a bad ass too!

So next time anyone disrespects me, I'll stick out my chin and say "why you stuck-up half-witted scruffy-looking nerf-herder" . RIP Carrie Fisher - your legacy lives on!