A fantastic idea by Hannah Claire Somerville – an American artist – taken up by Brown Paper Bag blogger Sara Barnes who interviewed Hannah about her project (read the interview by clicking on the Brown Paper Bag link).

Basically this is a journal exercise – rather than drawing or writing every day, try stitching! Fun – creative – interesting – imaginative.

I decided to join in with this as I had spent the last year doing a daily exercise for my unFOLD wave/sound piece, having spent years ignoring the idea of a daily practice for artists. I then found the daily trip to the beach quite compelling – I have a video of my frozen fingers operating the sound app on my phone to prove that even the cold weather didn’t deter me.

So I had a bit of a gap to fill once the recordings had finished. I enjoyed the discipline of the regularity of the practice, the limitations of the rules I had set myself, and the results.So I decided to join in the year of stitches project – have signed up to Sara’s newsletter – and am encouraging studio users and FB friends to join me and use the Studio 11 FB page as a way of keeping in touch with what is happening.

I have my hoop – and quite by chance I am using the exact same fabric that Hannah used for her 2016 exercise: Osnaburg – and my lovely soft unbleached cotton fabric.

img_4687 img_4686









I also decided that I had to have a plan for the stitches – I am not very good at random and I thought that if I try to fit it into my work then I might keep up with it more effectively. So I have a ‘design’ based on neural networks and an microscope image of stained brain tissue. I am planning on voiding the network paths so all the stitches will be around the pattern.


And I have set a few other rules and some more may occur over the next few days as my practice gains momentum. One of friends doing this project alongside me, decided to use a particular measure of thread and stitch just that measure, which I thought an excellent idea. I debated with myself only doing one thread full a day, but decided that actually there will be days I won’t be stitching when I am away teaching, so if I feel like doing more than one needle full I will.

I have selected my threads for the first month of practice and stored them in a bag from which I will randomly select a thread. I will stitch in lines using line stitches or composite line stitches, gradually building up  texture. You can see my first day’s stitches in the photograph at the top of the page.

I think setting yourself rules to work by – time of day for stitching – thread type – length of thread – stitch type – colour of thread – helps to allow the creative part of the brain to see a pathway forward, rather than floundering with too many choices and therefore getting nothing done.

I will use the Studio FB page to publish my progress weekly rather than daily and hope to encourage others to show theirs. I also think that Christmas Open Studio in December would be a great opportunity to display my work and the work of anyone else living locally who is joining in. That will give me an extra incentive to keep up with the project!

Sara suggests photographing work daily, and allowing yourself not to stitch or just take one stitch, and photograph anyway. This could form part of the journal exercise as a record of how your day affects your creativity. If you publish on FB, your own blog, or Instagram don’t forget to use the hashtag #1yearofstitches so everyone can share together – and do a search for this hashtag to see what others are doing.





From Pockets to Handkerchiefs

4 Hanging Pockets - final selection

I finally completed my MA in September and the display included these plaster casts of empty pockets which I used as a metaphor for absence and to illustrate the remains or traces of a person revealed by dementia.

Having spent so long discussing why pockets (my father had empty pockets during his final years), I felt that I needed a slight change and wanted to focus more on the one thing that is found in pockets and handbags of dementia patients: handkerchiefs. I sent out a call on social media and whenever I did a talk with a quilting group, for donations of ladies handkerchiefs – I had cast a lot of trouser pockets and wanted to adjust the gender balance somewhat.

I was given beautiful lace and embroidered hankies, as well as printed colourful ones. I have a wonderful collection now and material for several hangings.

So I started to experiment – first of all sorting – very important as a delaying tactic! It took me a while to pluck up the courage to work with these gifts from people, even though I had been very clear that I would be ‘destroying’ them in the process of making something new.

I have 2 on the go at the moment: one is embellished and is really meant to be a sample, though I am rather enjoying the embroidery I am doing on it – more on that one once I have progressed to a more substantial piece. The second is a hanging where I combined all the printed hankies with those classic stripes all round the edges which make up a hankie which I thought, looked rather like a ready made 9-patch.

I had been wanting to cut up and reconstruct words for a while, suggesting fragmenting memories and language. So I organised 9 hankies into a further 9 patch and wrote on them in dye using 2 different tools.











To use some kind of structure for the cutting and re-assembly I thought about the relevance of the ‘disappearing 9 patch’ block and how that linked to the disappearing person and their relationships. So I decided to pursue that thought – but to try it out on paper first

I had thought that I would follow the pattern of reconstructing the format of the original hankies and having trialled it on paper, I then tried it with the fabric. By this time I had decided that I would bond the hankies on to a white background, and as they were all different sizes I positioned them unevenly within regular squares to give some larger and smaller gaps. But when I reviewed the fabric version, I decided that it was still giving an image which was too regular and organised. So I went random – literally. I turned my pieces of paper over, juggled them up, and then turned them over one by one.


This is what I ended up with – after a couple of tweaks!

But it was all looking rather clean and fresh – I needed it so look older, worn, tired. So I have just got to the stage of doing flour paste resist on it.

First of all covering the whole top with flour paste, letting it dry, scrunching it up randomly (I did ponder whether to follow the grid nature of the piecing for the scrunching) and then painting India ink on. This last process I did do in a sort of random grid as I wanted some of the gaps and hankies to have no marks.

This last bit is really difficult to get right – too much or too little is hard to judge. You can only tell from looking at the back but with 2 layers of fabric and bondaweb in the mix even that is not any indication of what might show on the right side once it is washed off.

So now its a long and agonising wait to let the India ink cure sufficiently that it does not lift off with the hot soda which I use to soak off the flour paste. And then….do I mono print or laminate….?








The Quilter Magazine

I am very excited as I have an article in the Winter issue of The Quilter magazine – the subscription magazine of the Quilters Guild. The article is about the links between my exhibition at Festival of Quilts, and the MA which I completed in September 2015.

For those of you who dont get the magazine, here is a link: The Quilter article. This article first appeared in Winter 2015 issue (no. 145) of The Quilter, the quarterly membership magazine of The Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles: www.quiltersguild.org.uk

And I am also featured on the back page with a lovely picture of my ‘Alice’ piece, The Dark at the End of the Tunnel.

And there is more news to come – when I am allowed to go public…..





What a year! I had a fantastic time in my gallery at Festival of Quilts, with several new pieces showing alongside some that had been shown in juried galleries elsewhere.

I completed ‘Alice’ – proper name The Dark at the End of the Tunnel – and was delighted with the result.

And I completed my Masters degree. Don’t quite know how I managed to fit everything in  – what do they say about giving a task to a busy person!

I was really pleased with the ‘Alice’ piece which had proved to be a simple concept but very hard to achieve. After the trials of the 4 black circles which, because of stupid errors ended up by being 6 circles (I have 2 spare for a rainy day), and then the machine lace words constantly twisting and dissolving out of shape, I then ended the process by breaking several of the battens on the last day of stitching!

4-blog-3 4-blog-2






As I was stitching the first 2 layers together using the machine lace words I had made, I needed to hang the layers to get the distance correct between the layers. So I had to rig up something high enough (using my studio print benches) and stable enough (using plastic boxes weighted with drawing boards) to balance the acrylic bracket on so that I could then slot in the acrylic battens.

I sat on the floor and stitched each line of stitching between the back of layer 1 to the front of layer 2, matching them up to the ends of the lines which I had already stitched on to layer 1. That was all very awkward but I was very careful about the way I moved around the work.

All was going well until right at the end. I was lifting the battens out of the bracket and one end of the bracket slipped off the box and as it tipped, although I caught it, the battens  were already partly out and so the ends snapped off on 3 of them….


Oh no – and the front of the bracket snapped too. I was horrified. I went home and had a very large glass of G&T with a very good friend who happened by quite by chance, and suffered me raging about my incompetence.

She suggested glue…!

I did have enough time where I could have got another bracket made, but the layers were glued to the battens so they hung over the front of the clear plastic bar and nothing interrupted the view of the transparent fabric. So I went and got some superglue and mended the acrylic battens and bracket and decided that I had to hang it when it went to Festival as I would not want to give that responsibility to anyone else!


I hope that one day I get the opportunity to hang ‘Alice’ again as I was very happy with the result.

And so what next…Afterwards…

I am still working on dementia – I don’t think I will ever run out of my emotional connection for this topic but I am now also working on a piece about the sound of the waves on the beach which I hope to hang in a gallery at Knitting & Stitching Show 2016 with a group I am a member of: un.FOLD. So watch this space for updates on that project and our exhibitions.

Nearly There!

This is the last post on the Alice in Wonderland piece until I show the work at Festival of Quilts in the NEC this year. It is nearly finished…..and I probably wont be able to see how it hangs until it is actually up and on display.

The story so far..


I have my 4 layers of sheer poly voile with black circles painted on. This is the top layer – the one with the smallest circle, and I have stitched words from the experiences of people suffering from Alice in Wonderland syndrome. These are the conscious thoughts on the white fabric.









And this is the second layer. This has a jumble of words that appear in both the book, and the descriptions of the symptoms of the syndrome. This time black stitching on the black areas and extending out to the edges of where the circle on the third layer ends – with me so far? These represent the unconscious thoughts.

I have finally had the nerve to soak off the dissolvable fabric which would seem to suggest that the stitching is finished on the voile. The layers turned out very well but the edges of one appear to have distorted a little so my tacked edge is no longer a rectangle – no quick cutting after all!

So the plan is to attach the loose words made from machine lace techniques (stabilised with some invisible threads running along the length so the letters dont fall apart!) to the back of the first layer at the end of the lines of text, disappearing down into the second layer and then coming back up as the words from Alice.

This is the bit I have not completed yet but I have taken some snaps with some text pinned in place to give an idea of what it will look like.







Next stop – an expert with acrylic to help me get it mounted in the way I want – with at least 1″ gaps between each layer hanging from thin clear battens slotted into a pair of brackets.


My Adventures in Wonderland!

2-blog-5Why am I in Wonderland? Well, because things keep growing and shrinking under my gaze! Transparents are so tricky….

Lucky that I had the 2 spare black circles from the slightly botched print run, as this allowed me to do full size sample of stitching to try out my ideas. So that is the stage I have reached – I have now done all my sampling and am ready to start work on the piece itself – Gulp!

First I tried stitching on the poly voile itself. I decided to work within a ‘stream of consciousness’ format to keep the words within a band rather than having them all over the piece so I tacked out a stream and started to stitch, stabilising my work with Aquafilm (Romeo). I was uncertain whether this would be sufficient to keep the very flimsy fabric stable with the amount of machine embroidery I needed to do.


Apologies for the appalling quality of photos but white AND transparent – almost impossible to photograph!

After dissolving the Aquafilm, a good press resulted in a lovely swathe of stitching which still hangs beautifully – RESULT!

The next sample to try was the machine lace that will link the first 2 layers and qualify the piece as a ‘quilt’ (2 or more layers stitched together – my interpretation of ‘stitched together’ is quite loose admittedly!). So more writing with the sewing machine on Aquafilm. I had a piece of thick wool felt sealed with acrylic paint which I knew I could pin the writing out on.


2-blog-9 2-blog-10 2-blog-8


I carefully pinned it out, dissolved and….clearly had not added enough pins! So I did it again – with more pins….


I nearly used a whole box of pins just doing one line of text! By now I had 2 pieces of polystyrene to pin on to – a by product of Christmas! So I pinned away and then realised that my sink at home was too small to get the polystyrene into! So I had to use running hot water – never a satisfactory way of dissolving Aquafilm so it was luck it was only a sample. I will have to do the main piece at the studio in my lovely large and deep sink where I can leave it soaking. This time, even with the difficulty with the dissolving, I got a good result.

I then pinned the little bits of machine text between the 2 layers – see the picture at the top – to check out which colour worked best. Still not sure but think I will stay with the pale and possibly some black behind the innermost circle. I can foresee some trouble in assembling as I suspect I will have to do this once the layers are hanging from the battens. Mmm…. may have to ponder that one some more….!

In the meantime,  full steam ahead with the main piece, once I had tacked out the ‘stream’ on to the top layer. This involved tacking the outline of the whole piece on ALL layers – something I did at the studio on the print bench so I did not have to scrabble around on the floor – so much easier on my knees!


So those sewing lessons all those years ago in school were not a complete waste….as I tailor tacked and loose tacked through all 4 layers so that I could gradually remove a layer at a time and retack the outside edge of the piece to make sure the circles would all end up in the right place in relation to one another. It took virtually ALL DAY during an Open Bench session at Studio 11 – and I promise I was not talking to lots of people slowing me down; I was very focussed!

All ready to stitch on the top layer now…..



In The Spotlight

I am delighted to have been asked to represent Region 2 (South East) of the Quilters Guild in the Festival of Quilts Gallery ‘In The Spotlight’ – for up and coming quilters.

When I accepted, I had not realised there would be a theme – I have been so focussed on working on my dementia series that I felt I might not be able to rise to the challenge! However, having accepted I thought it would be ungracious to pull out.

The theme is Alice In Wonderland, next year being the 150 anniversary of it’s publication – yes 150! I had not realised it was that old either. I considered making patterns with hearts – that would be fun – then making mazes – that would also be fun. But neither of these ideas really represents me as an artist.

Then I heard about Alice in Wonderland Syndrome – a condition associated with migraine that Lewis Carroll may have suffered from and the effects helped him create some of the more outlandish adventures, including the tunnel and the shrinking room. So I have decided to use this to look at conscious and unconscious, creating a work using familiar materials such as transparents.

Sample to try out layering effects

Layering up 4 black circles in decreasing sizes in loose suggestion of tunnel, or a rolling ball as one sufferer described her experience of the sydrome’s sypmtoms. But also representing the consious and unconscious.

Scaling up was a simple matter – I thought! Make a stencil from newsprint and draw a circle. The large circle was going to have to be around 80cm so I pinned into my design wall and drew a circle using a thread and pen.

Drawing the circles

Cut out and then paint black acrylic on to sheer polyester voile.

alice-blog-1-7 alice-blog-1-6

First problem – how to stop the paint from the first circle corrupting the clean fabric for the second circle. Answer – cover with paper. Second problem – how to stop the spare fabric around the circle getting corrupted as fabric being moved off the print bench. Answer – fold and peg excess fabric before lifting off.

Circles completeSo I spent a happy day on Sunday printing circles. In fact I printed 6 circles not 4 – I failed in my attempts to get clean prints on 2 circles and had to repeat. But I have to have samples to try out the stitching on – right?

And I got left with some interesting papers to play with for another project perhaps….




alice-blog-1-3Next stage – stitching – trying out some words on dissolvable fabric – more pics next time.

Artists Open Studio 2014



I have had a lovely couple of weekends doing Artists Open Houses in Eastbourne. Opening up Studio 11 to show work and talk about available courses. There is still 1 weekend left if anyone is interested in coming down to see my work and fabrics, and maybe eat cake!

I have help from some lovely friends (Sally is in photo below) who have taken over the duties of demonstrating as I am currently unable to  do any printwork, but am hoping to be able to next weekend on Saturday. I have been stitching though, and thoroughly enjoying myself doing some machine quilting.

If you want to read more about Open House or find out times of opening etc, please follow link to the Studio 11 blog.