Monthly Archives: May 2012

Journal Quilt May – A feast full of fish

As promised, here is a fishy tale ready for the end of the merry month of May.  As the first of my Journal Quilt pieces I thought I’d start off quite basic, and try to combine a few techniques I’ve used before with one or two I hadn’t.

I started off by thinking in design terms of what I was trying to do.  I had only just written a father’s day card (a whole month early) and so was thinking of my dad.  Those who know him, will know he is a fisherman.  Not your blow-the-wind-southerly-fishing-for-a-living type of man, but an avid angler who never seems as happy as when the rod’s in his hand.

So fish then.  A good theme. I did a little sketch of the sea floor with some seaweed and a few fish swimming by – it was very Finding Nemo.  It was also very bad (and I’m not showing you!). So I created a new sketch, trying to turn my somewhat naive seafloor into something more abstract. This is what I came up with.

Well it’s a starting point! From paper to fabric then!  I started by splitting the design into 4 segments, creating the background of each segment then embellishing individually before appliqueing all together.


1. Sun-dappled water

I made this by doing some simple square patchwork using hand-dyed fabric, so it looked sort of watery.  I mixed up the colours to give the impression of sun shining through the water (aaah). White bubbles were then added using the most wonderful Bondaweb – which fuses the fabric onto the top layer.  These were satin stiched around the edges to make them look more bubbly.

2. Fish

These were actually really easy – as they are essentially flying geese (or should I say flying fish) made by using applique triangles bonded onto the background.

3. Deep water

This was a good excuse to practice some more free motion quilting in new designs, by leaving the background plain and then quilting the waves ontop. I had thought to add seweed but decided it looked a bit naff.

4. The bottom.

Ok, so I really cheated here and just used patterned rock fabric.  Well wouldn’t you if you had some perfect sea-floor rock fabric just lying around?

Each of these segments were sewn together using a blind-hem stitch of my machine.  Never actually used that setting before and am rather impressed I have to say.  Think it’s normally used for trouser hems (though I best not tell my HB that, or he’ll expect me to fix his). Once it was all one piece, I added backing and wadding and quilted it all together.  I got a bit over-excited when doing my waves, and thought to try out another new technique: stitched writing – that incredibly fun, even if I need a bit more practice!  The geordies in the audience might recognise the lyrics…

The finished piece:


I’ll keep this for when the boat comes in 🙂

Happy stitching!


Journal Quilt Challenge

The thing about quilts is that the instinct is to think big, and make quilts that are pretty large.  This is great for showing off the beauty of a nice pattern, however a bed size quilt comes in at around 100” x 120” – not an insignificant undertaking!  Even a small quilt which just covers your lap is roughly around 60” x 60” and takes maybe 3 or 4 days to do the patchwork bit and another 2 or 3 days to quilt it.

A few years ago, some bright sparks came up with the idea of journal quilts – very small individual pieces, sometimes about the size of an A4 sheet or smaller – which you can use to practice your techniques and try out something new.  These can be done regularly and so map out your mood and feelings throughout the year.  Plus you get the sense of achievement of finishing something very quickly. Apparently they are quite fashionable in the quilting world at the moment (who’d have thought – me being fashionable!)

So, my challenge to myself for my artful year is to make one mini quilt, measuring 10” x 12”, each month.  I plan to try out some new technique or idea in each one. There’s lot of things I want to try already, and I’m sure a whole host of exciting techniques I’ve not even come across yet.

I managed to finish my first one this week for May which I created around the theme of fish. Just in time before June arrives!  Stay tuned for my next post to take a look!

My first steps to becoming an artist

Hello.  This is my very first post. I’m embarking on an adventure – an exploration of art and design – over the next year and I’d like to share that journey with you!

I’m a scientist by nature and by training, and have been pretty obsessed with maths and science-y stuff since I was about 11 or 12. I remember being put of art at a very early age at school.  Kids who were clearly naturally talented and could draw beautifully without really trying were helped to develop and mature – the rest of us were pretty much ignored.  I used to love to be expressive and generally make things, but getting 2/10 for homework consistently generally puts you off!

So since then, I’ve worked in analytical jobs and read science books and had my creative brain on the back burner. I’ve dabbled with artistic stuff over the years, like cross-stitch embroidery and oil painting  (which was fun!), but it wasn’t until I bought a new sewing machine about 4 years ago that I discovered a real outlet and a passion for textiles.  While I was a kid living at home, my mum tried time and again to show me how to sew, but I never paid much attention.  It’s been funny how turning 30 changes your perspectives on life.  After using the sewing machine to fix the curtains, I wondered what else I could use it for.

I’ve always been facinated by quilts – particularly in their use of geometry and colour (there’s the physicist brian talking). So I bought a bag of fabric scraps from my local fabric shop, and made my first quilt.  Four years on I’ve never looked back!

My very first block made from surprisingly co-ordinated scraps (2008)

My current style – part of a series of seasonal square block quilts I made last year

As I get older, more and more of me wants to be able to think in a creative way – like my art half of my brain knows how long its been neglected and is fighting back!  I’ve done lots of fairly traditional patchwork, and its time for me to edge out into the contemporary world of art quilting.  Over the next year I’ve got plans to study art and design, new quilting techniques and try to learn what’s possible, and hopefully have a bit of fun too!

I hope you’ll find my journey interesting!