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!

Monday, October 22, 2018

KOAST - done

Well, the Kerikeri Art Trail is over.  I'm exhausted, but on an exhilerated high, a bit like giving birth!  And I learnt a few things.  

I learnt that exhibiting and talking about my art non-stop for three days is hard work, but fun.  I learnt that I got better at talking about my art the more I did it.  I learnt that I actually LOVE talking about my processes and inspirations to people who have no idea about textile art.  

I learnt that people enjoyed watching me demonstrate how I did something.  Trail goers were fascinated to watch me free-motion quilt the swallow quilt above, and really interested to see me stencil on the sample below.  It was a great conversation starter and question generator.

I learnt that bringing my sketchbooks for people to look through was a great idea, even if it made me feel a little vulnerable.

I learnt that people are happy to pay fair prices if they love the work.  I learnt that participating in an art trail is really good for my ego!

And I learnt that comfortable shoes are a must...

I don't know if I'll get to do it again.  I can't participate in KOAST unless I'm an invited guest artist, as I was this year, because I'm not actually a Kerikeri resident.  But if I ever get the chance to do it again, I'd jump at it.  It was so very worthwhile on many different levels.

A few thank yous are in order - my family for putting up with my KOAST focus in the past couple of weeks, my fellow exhibitors Jane Shaw and Judi Souter, both very talented artists and the best co-exhibitors I could wish for, and the lovely staff and residents at Oakridge Village who looked after us, made lovely cups of tea and served us the best scones I've ever had!

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)