Sunday 31 August 2014

Grayson Perry, Matisse and the Festival of Love

A few weekends ago I headed to London for a Nice Day Out. It was early August but thanks to some stormy weather it felt like we'd somehow travelled a few months in time and woken up in October - cold, windy, rainy, and (thanks to the high winds) the ground scattered with leaves.

Luckily my plan for the day involved indoor things: visiting a couple of exhibitions with my Art Pass discount.

My first stop was the Foundling Museum, to see their exhibition Progress... mostly because I wanted to see the tapestries Grayson Perry designed during his excellent documentary series All In The Best Possible Taste. I love Grayson Perry, he is always so smart and funny and has such interesting things to say (both in his art and his writing). I was very happy to go back and rewatch All In The Best Possible Taste as a refresher before visiting the exhibition!

The Perry tapestries were fabulous (as expected) and it was nice to have an "excuse" to pay a return visit to the Foundling Museum. Since my last visit they'd completed the new Introductory Gallery and I spent quite a while exploring this and learning a bit more about the Foundling Hospital's sad but fascinating history.

Happily, the weather had cleared up a bit by the time I'd hopped on the Tube and off again and arrived at St Pauls...


... though it was still very breezy and there were a lot of giant puddles dotting the streets! 

My next stop was the Tate Modern, for a bite to eat and to see the Matisse exhibition. This is one of many exhibitions that I've visited in the past year thanks to my Art Pass - without that magical discount, buying an £18 exhibition ticket (on top of train fare to get there, etc) would simply be out of my budget.

The Matisse exhibition was incredibly busy, possibly the most crowded exhibition space I've ever been in and definitely the most crowded ticketed exhibition I've been to. I guess this is what you have to expect from blockbuster exhibitions - especially when (like an idiot) you visit them on a weekend in peak tourist season.

Crowds aside, it was great! The scale of the cut outs and the way they're constructed from painted pieces of paper is just lost when you see small reproductions. It was so interesting to see these oh-so-familiar images in a new way. 

After feeling a bit hemmed in by the crowds I wanted to get out into the fresh air so I went for a walk along the Southbank, visiting a couple of small galleries along the way but mostly just enjoying the sights and sounds of the busy riverside.

There's always so much to see and so much going on in a busy city like London, you spot new things every time you revisit old places. It's always a pleasure to just walk through the city and take time to look

One unexpected sight was due to the weather - a section of the pavement was completely blocked off by flooding, so all the passers by (including me) had to slowly walk along the narrow wall next to it, clinging on to the railings. Anyone going in the other direction had to walk along another narrow wall without anything to hold onto (eek). Being busy central London, this happened with a crowd of photographers taking pictures from a nearby vantage point.

The rest of the walk was a lot less eventful!

I paid a visit to the Southbank Centre...


... having a drink at the roof garden cafe...


... and exploring the Wonderground (which included a revolving, carousel bar!) the Festival of Love and the other summer attractions (like an actual carousel for the kids, and lots of street performers having their acts disrupted by the high winds).

I especially loved the Temple of Agape:


Aren't those bright colours just delicious? Such a wonderfully cheering thing to see, especially on a day when the weather was so grey and miserable!

Friday 29 August 2014

Crafty Ladies: Meet Lucie Summers

This week's Crafty Lady is Lucie Summers of Summersville

Lu is a designer and quilter whose work positively pops with colour and pattern. I am always wowed by her quilts, adore her fabric designs and drink tea out of my Summersville mug most days. 



I’m Lucie Summers, known around the internet and to my friends as Lu. I’m a screen printer, award winning quilter, and now author (!) living in the Suffolk countryside with my farmer husband, two football/cricket mad sons and a large ginger cat, imaginatively called Ginge. I’m pattern mad and like nothing better than planning my next print designs or dreaming about the next quilt to make.


Recently I’ve been making… 

I’ve actually just finished piecing quilt number 4 for my second book which is due out next year. In Quilt Improv, the quilts were very much for walls - I hesitate to call what I do as ‘Quilt Art’ because that sounds a bit pretentious - but they were colourful and joyful and definitely meant to be hung and enjoyed. This time around, I’m making bigger quilts for beds and I’m really enjoying myself.


I’ve been working on…

When I’m not sewing, I’m designing surface patterns - I’ve got a few ideas up my sleeve for some new collections of quilting fabric that I’m really excited about. I recently completed an online surface design course and really enjoyed it - I’d definitely like to take more to brush up on my digital skills.


I’ve been blogging about…

I’ll be honest - I’m a terrible blogger! I haven’t updated my blog in such a long time. I’m much more frequent on my Instagam account these days - so I’ve been Istagramming sneak peeks of my new quilts, and some screen print experiments and some little sewing makes like pencil cases and coin purses.


I’ve been reading…

When I get downtime, I’m more likely to be found reading books rather than blogs, although I always drop in to read my friend Katy’s blog at I’m a Ginger Monkey to see what she’s been up to. I also enjoy Life Style Etc written by the team at Living Etc magazine. I’ve got lots of creative books I’ve been dipping into lately too - the Orla Kiely Pattern book, Sarah Ahearn Bellemare’s Painted Pages and The Collier Campbell Archive.

I’ve been watching...

I watch a lot of TV while I work, I really enjoy a good mystery, so I love Agatha Christie’s Marple. I watch BBC iPlayer where I discovered Inspector De Luca which was really good to watch, although not so easy while I worked as it had subtitles! I watch lots of Endeavour, Lewis and Inspector Frost.

Lucie’s 3 Top Tips for Making Patchwork

1. Start with something small - that way you’ll get it finished! A piece for the wall or something tiny like coasters or placemats are ideal. I love to make 12” mini quilts.

2. Don’t stress about it - it’s meant to be fun! Don’t worry about matching seams and points - you’re never going to be laying on your deathbed thinking ‘If only I’d matched my seams!’

3. If you think you’ll make more, invest in decent equipment - get yourself a cutting mat, rotary cutter and acrylic ruler and buy the best sewing machine you can afford - if you plan on using it every day, you’ll never regret it!


Click here to visit Lu's shop, Summersville. You can also find her on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

P.S. I'll be reviewing Lu's fabulous book Quilt Improv as part of a "book week" here on my blog next month!

You'll find all the posts in the Crafty Ladies series HERE.

Please note: the Amazon links in this post are affiliate links.

Thursday 28 August 2014

The Festival of Quilts 2014

My goodness, how I love the Festival of Quilts!

Quilting is a crafty universe that I know very little about. I started a hand-sewn quilt when I was a student (over a decade ago) which is still a work in progress, and I've done the occasional patchwork project... but that's about it. So, why would I want to go to an event that's all about Quilts???

1. It's nice to step outside my own crafty bubble to see new and different crafty things. For me, going to the Festival of Quilts is the creative equivalent of going abroad on holiday, as the world of quilting feels like a different crafty "country" to the one I live in. It's fun to be a creative tourist and see lots of new-to-me things!

2. Not knowing much about quilts doesn't stop me from admiring ones people have made - just like how you can enjoy an art exhibition without knowing much about the history of painting or being able to paint a picture yourself. I love seeing all the different quilt styles on display and the creative textile art too. There's so much to look at and to oooh over.

3. Looking at all this amazing work by other people is very inspiring. Visiting the Festival has definitely inspired me to try more quilting (and I've even bought the fabric for a specific project which I'll hopefully be starting and blogging about soon) but I also get a lot of inspiration for non-quilty projects too. It's often the small details that I find most inspiring, like particular colour combinations and stitches.

4. The sheer enthusiasm for making things that radiates from everyone at the event is wonderful. Each time I visit I come away every year feeling like sewing is completely awesome and wanting to make lots of things.

Here are some of the quilts that caught my eye this year (and their makers).

Clockwise from top left: Judith Dahmen, Christine Mignot, Alicia Merrett & Janet Raine

Clockwise from top left: Laura Armiraglio, Anita Gogerty, Tracy Aplin & (not sure who this is by - if you know, please leave a comment!)

Left: Sylvester, Right: Ruth Parker

Left: Judith Mundwiler, Right: Chloe Redfern

Clockwise from top left: Gillian Theokritoff, Kellie Sweeney, Lesley Illingworth & Joanna Hobson

My favourite piece in this year's Festival had to be this amazing working grandfather clock. I love the whole idea of this and the details were just wonderful.

Kate Crossley

5. You can do lots of shopping! Obviously, you don't have to be a quilter to enjoy a nice bit of fabric shopping. Buying craft supplies online is great, but there's nothing quite like being able to browse in person - especially if you're trying to match particular colours.

The stalls at the Festival of Quilts don't just sell fabric and quilting supplies but lots of other things too.  Among the many supplies on offer I spotted felt, beads, buttons, cross stitch patterns and kits, yarn, handmade scissors, embroidery threads, bag making supplies, decoupage papers, carved wooden stamps, and much more. This year I did quite a bit of shopping (click to see what I bought!), but "window shopping" is fun too and you can pick up business cards along the way for shops you'd like to visit online in future.

Here are some snaps of just a teeny selection of the stalls...

Yummy fabric and other supplies at the Eternal Maker stand.


Pretty Liberty prints at Alice Caroline.


Lots of crochet goodness at TOFT Alpaca (remember I reviewed the TOFT book earlier this year? It includes the patterns for all those crocheted animals), plus textile loveliness at the Selvedge stand.

More yummy fabric at Needle & Thread, crochet & linen goodness from Namolio whose shop I've admire on Etsy for years, and quilty inspiration at the Vilene stand where I said hi to Laura of Made Peachy (who guest posted for me earlier this year).

6. And - last but by no means least - you get to meet lots of lovely, crafty people!

I had a lovely long chat with a lady on the (totally jam packed!) train to Birmingham on Saturday morning, all about how she got into quilting and what projects she'd working on at the moment, and chatted with lots of other people during the two days at the Festival as we sighed over lovely supplies we were tempted to buy and oohed over quilts.

It was great to be able to say hi to makers and sellers I know through my blog and lovely to be able to say to people making awesome things: "your work is awesome" - to actually, in person, compliment someone on their work instead of the usual slightly impersonal routine of "liking" stuff on Facebook and so on. 

I didn't recognise most of the quilt designers doing book signings, etc, but was totally thrilled to meet mega-talented fabric designer Amy Butler. She was very nice - not only sweetly answering my questions about how she got started designing fabric and how she gets the inspiration for her collections, but also asking me about my own designing and making. Lovely lady!

Amy Butler

I met up with Bridgeen (of Cherry & Cinnamon) and Chiaki (of Chiaki Creates) for a natter about making and blogging and lots of other stuff. Bridgeen had a quilt in the exhibition, which was made with fabrics she'd designed.

Bridgeen & her quilt

I also bumped into Julie from Button Button, Emma from Sew Sweet (who, like me, used to sell felt and other crafty supplies... so we had lots to chat about!) and the lovely Jen, the editor of Love Patchwork & Quilting.

Me & Jen

Aaah... so much crafty goodness. Next year's Festival is already in my diary :)

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Christmas Crafting... In August?

So, it's August and I've been sewing Christmas ornaments!

Sewing stuff out of season isn't a new thing for me in my work-life - designing projects for my blog and for books and magazines you get used to working on themes that are months out of synch with the calendar. This time round though, I'm just sewing for fun.

It feels a teeny bit weird to be starting on Christmas stuff so early (although a lot less so now the weather has turned chilly and autumnal) but I'm really enjoying it.

What am I sewing, you ask? Why, charming felt ornaments designed by Alicia Paulson of Posie Gets Cozy, of course.

I've got five of her ornament kits which I bought as Christmas-gifts-to-myself over the past few years and then never got round to stitching. There are always so many projects on my "things I want to make!" list, it's so easy for planned makes to sit in a box metaphorically gathering dust while I'm busy making other things... and that's exactly what happened with these kits.

As I'm still not feeling 100% after my recent illness (ugh) cutting out the templates and felt pieces for the ornaments has been a perfect absorbing-but-not-too-challenging task for my sleepy brain.


I'm so excited to be finally stitching these lovely ornaments! They are so pretty and, as a designer/maker, I find it super interesting following someone else's instructions and seeing the different techniques they use when crafting with felt. Plus the embroidered details Alicia uses in her designs tie in perfectly with my plan to learn some more embroidery stitches.

For example, this afternoon I will be learning how to do French Knots so I can add some snow to this tree ornament.

A relaxing sewing project + a Due South box set + sleeping kitties to keep me company = an excellent way to pass the time when you're feeling under the weather!

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Vintage Pansies: Almost Finished!

After a few more hours of stitching at the weekend, my embroidered pansies are coming along nicely:

I finished stitching the purple sections then (finally) made a decision about how to stitch the centres. As you can see, I decided to stitch them mostly in yellow with some black lines for added detail.

One of the fun/scary things about stitching up old embroidery transfers is that you have no idea how the design will look when it's stitched and just have to wing it when it comes to your colour choices. It took me ages to work out just how I ought to stitch these pansies, but I think they turned out okay!

In the spirit of showing your workings, here's a snap of the back:

Now I just need to choose a suitable shade of green for the leaves and stitch those, then it will be time to do a happy and slightly embarrassing "yay! I finished my project!" dance.

I will be sharing pictures of the finished pansies, of course, but not of the dance :)

Monday 25 August 2014

A Visit to The Cornershop

I took a trip to East London last week (as part of a Nice Day Out) to visit Lucy Sparrow's Cornershop.

This is a pop-up shop with a difference - all the products in the shop have been hand-stitched from felt!

Lucy stitched all the products herself, right down to the felt signs and felt till / cash register.

There are biscuits and beer...

... lots of felt newspapers...

... tins of sardines, baked beans, soup, custard and fruit cocktail...


...  and jars of sweets and bottles of gin.


There's a chiller cabinet with butter, cheese, milk, cans of Coke and boxed sandwiches...


... and freezers with ready meals, oven chips, plus icecreams and ice lollies.

Don't forget the Marmite and Custard Creams!

There are also felt versions of all your household essentials, like toothpaste, shampoo, washing powder and dog food.

Plus (of course) lots of schoolkid-tempting treats like sweets and crisps.


The Cornershop is open every day until the end of August. You can read more about The Cornershop and Lucy's previous felt artworks here and buy products from the shop here.