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I spent the weekend in Mum & Dads Norfolk garden soaking up some sun and live inspiration for some stitchery.

My dad was pleased as punch that this giant hollyhock self-seeded and grew this big in just this year.

And I enjoyed translating it into embroidery.

When we visited Asia last year I was so inspired and awed by the new-to-me culture and decoration of Buddhist and Taoist religious spaces; in particular the use and construction of a variety of temple hangings.

I have had these hangings in mind as I am working my way through all kinds of delicious inspiration from those travels. This first completed hanging is a bringing together of all kinds of interpretation and methods of print and stitch.

I began painting this beautiful illuminated manuscript from the Islamic Arts Museum in Malaysia in a simplified way by isolating the little scalloped shape and flower.

I then developed that into a printable silk screen using flour and water paste – a very simple and easy homespun method.

As you can generally only use the screen once (the paste deteriorates as its washed clean) I printed up a stash of luscious fabrics to use, overprinting one particularly yummy fabric that I had previously batiked and tie-dyed.

I chose to stitch the flowers into each shape rather than hand-print them as I was looking to add texture and colour to the surface. The rectangular bottom section features a simple floral lino-block I developed from drawing embroidery motifs on items in the Textile Museum in Kuala Lumpur.

The elephant print began life as a teaching demonstration for how to using screen filler to screen-print hand-drawn images. I re-drew a section of this beautiful wall decoration from the Wat Chaiya Mangalaram, a Thai Buddhist Temple in George Town using drawing fluid. It is later coated in another filler and later the drawing lines are washed out leaving the space as printable mesh (I don’t have of photo of that – sorry)

Here it is printed onto a randomly dyed base fabric and I added some fabric foiling too (another demo).

I lived with the pieces up on my design wall for a while, visually editing it and adding in sequin trim and a fantastic gold dangly bit I’d squirralled away sometime. I decide to learn a stitch called Cretan Insertion to attach the gold ribbon to the bottom seam and I think it finished it off perfectly.

Now to re-group and begin the cycle again.

I’ve been playfully stamping my Malay Flower lino block onto fabric grounds; some tie-dyed fabric, screen-printed ombre cotton and hand-painted silk using a gold ink pad I bought in the Xmas sales.

I’m just allowing some creative play at this stage; some prototyping maybe – I’m trying to not think ahead too far but see what comes. I’ve also added a few hours of stitches to one to bring some of the weaker printing results into focus better.

Nell Whatmore   Free Spirit fabric

Nell Whatmore Free Spirit fabric

I am just back from a day at the annual Festival of Quilts at the NEC near me in Birmingham, UK.

I wanted all of these!

I wanted all of these!

I took loads of photos and was wondering how I’d edit it down however it turns out all I had to choose from were the ones that aren’t blurred!

embroidered book cover

embroidered book cover

I love this show because it has such a wide range of talent, concept, taste, technical and wit all played out using cloth in a quilted manner.

Karin Briden      A pair of pants

Karin Briden A pair of pants

This amazing quilt was called Every Text He Ever Sent Me by Lara Hailey and looks to me to have been stitched by hand – awesome!

Lara Hailey Every Text He Ever Sent Me

Lara Hailey Every Text He Ever Sent Me

This one produced a wry laugh – it’s called Blog and records a daily activity in stitch not mega pixels.

Irene MacWilliam  A Blog

Irene MacWilliam A Blog

Irene MacWilliam  A Blog

Irene MacWilliam A Blog

But talking of pixels this one was amazing because close up it looked like random colours but from afar became a Peony.

Danielle Coolbear Jenkins  Peonie

Danielle Coolbear Jenkins Peonie

A lot caught my eye for colour or motif reasons like these birds flying.

Janie Harvey- Douglas A Slight Murmur of Starlings

Janie Harvey- Douglas
A Slight Murmur of Starlings

And it’s not all 2D work either there are books, clothes, 3D sculptures and even some items using all three at once!

Sally Snushall The Mouse and The Cuckoo Clock

Sally Snushall The Mouse and The Cuckoo Clock

There are of course always the old favourites like Kaffe Fassett…

Kaffe Fassett  Rail Fence Quilt

Kaffe Fassett
Rail Fence Quilt

and here’s some gorgeous Sophie Digard scarves for a bit of eye candy…

Sophie Digard

Sophie Digard

Sophie Digard

Sophie Digard

Sophie Digard

Sophie Digard

And I even had company this year – my daughter has picked out a Flying Goose pattern as her choice of quilt for me to make her and today we were hunting down plains and patterns to make it with.

Marianne Mohandes  Full Circle

Marianne Mohandes
Full Circle

She wondered if it might be ready if she leaves for uni in 3 years or so, I was aiming for Christmas, so we’ve quite a wide deadline there thankfully 😉

Marianne Mohandes  Full Circle

Marianne Mohandes
Full Circle

Summer 2010 Julie Arkell

 I enjoyed the whole Smile exhibition but must admit that seeing Julie Arkell’s work in the flesh was the motivating factor for going.

Her work fits perfectly into the brief for the exhibition because it is delightful, whimsical, nostalgic and amusing. It made me smile, coo, ahh and giggle.

Julie Arkell is one of Britain’s most recognisable folk artists. She works in paper mache and mixed-media .

Her construction process is completely  handmade,  beginning with manipulating the paper mache into figures and then dressing them by knitting and sewing bespoke garments.

Her work is the meeting point of domestic craft traditions and sculpture.

My heart’s in high lands with lambs Julie Arkell

The ‘people’ she makes have references to bunnies, people, children and dolls but are none or all of those things at once.

I think this is what gives her work a storybook quality. That and the narrative which is hinted at through the embroidery on the clothing and the title of the work itself.

The clothing is reminiscent of an earlier age where petticoats and hobnail boots were standard. Julie likes to re-use items from the past such as lace trimmings and brooches which reinforces the historical quality of the characters.

I have always loved to make things using accessible materials like paper, glue, cardboard, fabric and wool, which relate to my papier-mache pieces. I am able to make pieces that express my feelings, thoughts and ideas, bringing past and present together. Julie Arkell, Flow Gallery.

They were sisters Julie Arkell

 I really loved this one A LOT. I love the expressions on their faces made through very little marking but a lot of expression through shape. I can just imagine these two sisters gossiping and comparing notes on things.

I adore the way their hair has been made and piled upon their heads and pinched in with ribbon.

I’m amazed by how much character comes thorough with such a lightness of touch. Carefully poised dots and lines, rouging and a clever wittiness with the printed text all combines to create a character that you can ‘read’ almost instantly.

There is something endearing about anything that is miniature and this outfit is no exception.

All because of Stanley

Collecting things is an important part of my work. I look for postcards, plastic dolls (that I take apart and rearrange) old books, aprons, fabric, buttons, jewellery, used toys and much more that captures my attention. I’m constantly writing down words and phrases and thinking up stories for the world I make. Julie Arkell at CAA

I think her work perfectly suited this particular exhibition and I admit that I would like to don an apron and a pair of knitted ears and go and live in her fairytale world where it looks like relationships matter and its playtime all the time.

Jillian Tamaki

I happened upon these beautiful book covers by Jillian Tamaki.

Jillian Tamaki Front cover of Emma

They are from a new range called Penguin Threads.

Jillian Tamaki

And they are of course all beautiful embroideries designed to be book jackets.

Jillian Tamaki Front cover of Black Beauty

I love how Jillian uses different kinds of stitches to represent the texture of the real life object. Emma’s hair looks like a real plait, Black Beauty’s mane is so realistic it could have been sewn with horse hair and the leaves on the Secret Garden cover are gorgeously shiny and plump.

Jillian Tamaki

I know they are released in the USA now but I hope we get them in the UK because they are works of art in themselves never mind all three stories being keepers too.

Jillian Tamaki Front cover of The Secret Garden

embroidered cushion

Here’s another finished project that has been lurking in the ‘to do’ pile for too long. It’s from the book Kyuuto! Japanese Crafts! Embroidery (Crafts) which I got for Christmas last year (completing it inside of a year isn’t too bad now is it?!)

close up of embroidery

I’ve gotta say that embroidery is not my thing and this has reminded me of that! I’m too impatient and it’s too fiddley, plus my forty-year old eyesight isn’t what it used to be!! It took three hours to fill in a tree trunk! Thank heavens for Location, Location, Location and Kevin McCloud’s Grand Tour.

embroidered dog

I discovered along the way that buying cheap embroidery thread is a false economy because it untwists almost immediately and becomes straggley. But this sewing is good enough and even here where the thread split when I sewed through it, it just looks like the dog has an opened barking mouth – of course I meant that to happen, it was no accident- ha… I also discovered the joy of memory foam cushion filling – little sausages of really dense sqiddgy foam. I stuffed the whole bag in. It’s an arm workout moving it around the sofa!

So now we have the best dressed sofa because of the new cushions this week. They look great, it’s just a shame no one is allowed to lean on them!

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