My name is Charlotte, sometimes known as Ms Lottie, occasionally as The Slightly Mad Quilt Lady. This is my blog, where you'll find me writing a lot about my quilting and textile arts and a little about my family's life in a small seaside town in New Zealand. Haere mai!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Pushing hard towards the finish

Tomorrow is KOAST (Kerikeri Open Art Studios Trail) set up.  I'm a guest artist at a shared venue, so instead of opening my studio for visitors, I'm setting up a display and pretend studio in a hall.  Luckily there is a good friend of mine sharing the venue, and some of the residents at the village where we will be are putting on a Devonshire Tea to raise money for Hospice.  So I'll have good company and hopefully great tea!

Tonight is one of my 'Blogtober' nights.  Earlier this month I pledged to blog every second day to help get myself back into the habit.  And it's going great.  I haven't run out of things to blog about, people have been engaged and interested, and I'm enjoying it.

But tonight I'm doing the final push to get another quilt finished to show at KOAST.  So you'll forgive me if this blog post is short and fairly shallow on content.  Here's the quilt I'm trying to finish:

While I've been working on this quilt I've been telling myself a narrative about that contemplative hour around dawn.  Occasionally I'll get up really early (when I don't have to) and manage a cup of tea with no one else around.  The dawn chorus is the soundtrack, I'll write morning pages, and I'll feel extremely contented and full of expectation, like the day is full of promise.

Maybe I've just named this quilt.  Dawn Contemplation.

Come and see me (and hopefully this finished quilt) this weekend at Oakridge, off Cannon Drive, right in the heart of Kerikeri.  There will be two other artisits there, you can buy a Devonshire Tea to support Hospice and you'll be able to buy a trail guide to go and visit other artists too.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Why I use silk organza in my art quilts.

Jaye commented on my last post and asked:
Do you have a color preference for silk organza or tulle? Is there a difference in the two fabrics? Do they disappear once quilted or can you see the color of the organza (tulle-we use tulle here, though I suppose people use silk organza. I haven't heard much about silk organza used in the way you are using it) 
I started replying to her and the more I wrote the more I realised that this topic deserved a whole blog post all to itself.

Hand dyed silk organza


Tulle is a synthetic fabric and you can buy it in just about all colours of the rainbow.  It is almost like a fine netting but it is fairly stiff.  If you use it in art quilts as an overlay, it can provide shading or highlights.  I once created a (slightly scary) self-portrait using layers of tulle.

This was done in 2010, it's nice to see my free-motion quilting has come a long way!

But tulle has scratchy edges when it's cut and the holes in it give a texture to the quilt top that I don't really want.  

I took a Susan Carlson class once and she sometimes uses a layer of tulle over her whole quilt to hold all her tiny collage pieces down.  It's a handy technique.  But I find that if I use it as an overlay over my entire quilt, it 'deadens' the look of the quilt a bit as the tulle is all one solid colour, even if you can't really see it except close up.

You can buy white tulle and paint it, but it's not as easy to colour as silk organza.

You can get finer grades of tulle - often known as netting - but while softer and finer, it still has the holey texture to it, and I can't always find it in shops.

Silk organza is finer, it's a natural fibre so easier to colour, and it has a sheer finish to it so I don't get that added texture from the weave.  Because the weave is finer, the appareance of the fabric is 'denser'.  I can use it like a piece of cotton fabric, such as an applique shape, but it still has transparency.

I first came across silk organza when I did a workshop with Jeanette DeNicolis Meyer in 2012.  We painted pieces of silk organza and then worked on abstract compositions layering up the colours.  I fell in love with the luminous qualities and the complexity of colour that you could get from layering them.

Above is one of my pieces in progress from that workshop where you can see the layers of fine colour.

And here's my beautiful friend, Sue, working on her painterly piece.  I adored how she had a piece with multiple colours, I hadn't thought to try that.

I also came across a book by Melanie Testa, titled, "Inspired to Quilt."

Melanie also used silk organza in her quilts, often as whole overlays, and she would paint it or use thickened dyes to colour it.  Her quilts are glorious, with lovely colour and transparency.

So these strands sort of all came together over the years to lead me down the silk organza path. One of my first quilts where I used it was 'Sunset Tui'.  I was using leftovers from Jeanette's class cut into curving shapes to create the background.  I attempted to free-motion quilt those pieces down but got frustrated by all the edges constantly lifting up as I would run my darning foot over them.  I put the quilt away for a while in frustration.

Then eventually I used information from Melanie's book to make a whole silk organza overlay for the whole quilt.  I used stencils to print a bird and flax frond on it and painted the rest.  The dreamy colour it made and the ease of using it to hold all the fiddly bits down had me hooked.

So now I buy silk organza wholesale and dye it myself.  I love the colours and I love to have more than one colour in a piece so I can get that range of colour onto my quilt top.  I also love that I can stencil an image onto it, which you cannot with tulle because of the open holey weave.

The other thing I can do with organza that I can't do with tulle is use a fusible web with it.  I prefer Mistyfuse because it is so fine that it doesn't come through the sheerness of the organza, but I have also used Vlisofix with some success.  However, a fusible with defined texture to it like Steam-a-seam shows very clearly through the organza and I won't use it.

Above is a picture of some of my hand-dyed silk organzas ready to use in quilts.

I found a great blog post over at Droplet Weddings, with good images, on the differences between several types of sheer fabrics.  So if you need clarification of what the different sheer fabrics look and drape like, head over there.  She say that silk organza has a lot of body to it and she finds it quite stiff.  I will add that once it is dyed and washed it softens up, but having a bit of body is not a bad thing with sheer fabrics when you are using them in art quilts!

I hope that answers your questions, Jaye.  I don't know many other people who use silk organza in the way I do, but I love it and the effects it can give.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Piwakawaka in Dappled Light

I remember spending a lot of time in the bush as a kid.  We lived on a 15 acre block that had lots of regenerating native bush and some huge old macrocarpa trees and we would run around and climb trees and play games and explore.

There's a special kind of light that hits the forest floor through the undergrowth.  It's green and bright and dark and soft all at the same time.  And that's often where you'd find the fantails, or piwakawaka, hanging out.  They are bug eaters and I guess they can see the bugs better in the shafts of sunlight.  They used to follow us, eating the bugs that we would stir up with our passage through the branches.

I started this quilt with a reverse applique.  The positive cut out of the dark grey leaves got used for another quilt, but I had cut them out of a big piece of fabric so I could use the negative shape too.  I placed some bright green hand-dyed fabric behind the grey fabric and fused it place.

Next came an overlay of silk organza to tone it down a bit and tie it together.  I stencilled a few fern fronds (the burgandy and the white one) onto the silk overlay to go with the light green fronds that are underneath.

The fantail shapes are a pinky fabric underneath the overlay.  The overlay is mostly green but had some blue in that upper region and I wanted to pick that up and get some warmth into that top corner so pink birds plus blue overlay equals a little bit purple.

I added some coloured pencil detail to the birds before I sandwiched everything together and began quilting it.  I began with the shapes that would create a foundation - a circle (marked with a mixing bowl) and the outlines of the leaves, fronds and birds.

I even recorded a little video of some of the free-motion quilting I did on one of the fern fronds.  I mistakenly call it a nikau frond in the video - who knows why!

If you follow me on Instagram (find me here), you will have seen the bottom photo of the fantail quilting in progress.  I wanted to convey the funny way the birds dart and flit and circle and almost seem to play, but are actually hunting and feeding.  

And here they are finished.  I had a lot of fun doing the 'graffiti' quilting.  Free-form flowy shapes, a few pebbles and paislies thrown in to fill up the corners.

I used an organic straight line background texture for the rest of the quilt.  It pushes the background back nicely and provides a good contrast in texture to the quilting inside the circle.  I varied the colour of the thread to help convey the dappled light feeling.  The photo above is taken in very strong side sunlight to show you the texture.

I'm not entirely sure of the quilt's name yet.  But I had better decide quickly as it will be on display and for sale at KOAST this coming weekend!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Wellington Quilters Exhibition and an interview with Fyvie Murray

While I was in Wellington judging the Wellington Quilt Exhibition, I recorded a podcast.  Part of it is an interview with the president, Fyvie Murray and part of it is 'a day in the life of' snippets of my day as a quilt judge.

Fyvie actually won Best in Show, which neither of us knew at the time of the interview.  Her silk quilt, Wellington Sampler, was a lovely work depicting iconic Wellington landmarks.  Fyvie displayed skilled stitching and quilting on the difficult silk fabrics, and an unusual colour palette that contributed to an eye-catching quilt.

Photo by Wellington Quilters Facebook

I haven't interviewed or recorded in a little while, I feel rusty!  But it feels good to get back on the podcast horse.  I love sharing our quilt stories.  Enjoy!

Download this episode (right click and save)

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Stitch and Bitch

Back when I had my studio and gallery on the wharf, I also held a stitch and bitch night once a week. It was a casual gathering where locals came for a cup of tea and a chat on a Tuesday evening.  They would bring knitting, sewing, sketching, collage, card making - anything and everything creative.  And I loved it!  I saw some great community spirit and forged new connections and watched friendships form.

And then I had to close the gallery because the space was no longer available (insert sad face here.)

One of the things I really missed was stitch and bitch night.

I was able to move my studio into our flat, but I couldn't really hold gatherings there.  The driveway was tricky and parking non-existent beyond one car.  The stairs leading up to it were steep and there really wasn't a good space for a group of chairs, so I just put it out of my mind.

Then we moved off the boat and into an apartment and I moved everything out of my flat studio back into the home.  And THEN we moved out of the apartment into this house we are in now.

Man.  That's a lot of moving crap round in just a few short years....

Anyway, to cut a long story just a bit shorter, I really wanted to find a way to hold stitch and bitch again, but I couldn't really have it in this house either.  I started thinking about alternative venues and I decided to approach my daughter's primary school.  It's a small school with a fairly cozy hall and it's not far from where I used to hold stitch and bitch.  The school likes being involved in the community, because the community in turn supports them, and so they said yes!

Stitch and bitch started up again on Tuesday nights about three months ago, and it couldn't be going better!  The hall is great, it has tea and coffee making facilities, a few tables that I can set up and enough space for people to spread out patterns or quilts on the floor.  There is plenty of parking, good heating and it's easy to find.  It's neat that quite a few of my old regulars are coming back and great that there are new faces joining in too.

Have you ever thought about starting up a group like this in your community?  If you have, I urge you to go and ahead and give it a go.  People are really keen to make connections with others and if it's a low key, no expectations gathering, you'll even net the shy ones.

I use Facebook and IRL notice boards to advertise and I put out a weekly reminder on Facebook.  Sometimes I have two people turn up and sometimes I have six or seven - I don't give myself any expectations on numbers and am quite prepared to sit by myself for a quiet evening of sewing, but it's never happened yet.  Last night we had a fun crafty 'destash' night where we brought along our excess craft supplies cluttering our cupboards and had a buy/sell/swap night!

I always come home with a 'feel-good' feeling.  I enjoy chatting with nice people, I like working on projects with other people around to give feedback/support but I also like knowing that I'm the one making this little community happen.  Maybe not very altruistic of me, but it's a good feeling nonetheless.