Sunday, March 18, 2018

A traditional baby quilt

Sometimes it's satisfying to get my teeth into a traditional quilt project. I've taken my inspiration for a baby quilt from Spectacular Scraps, by Judy Hooworth and Margaret Rolfe.

The projects in the book are based exclusively on the half-square triangle. The authors suggest choosing two colours to use in all the squares, and then creating blocks of four squares in one or two of 256 arrangements, as diagrammed above. The book gives advice about how to cut and sew the half-square triangles, and how to choose colours.

Here's a baby quilt I made in 2016 from the same book. In this case I worked with many different greens and pinks, and a single block for the design.

Above is the design I've chosen to work with this time. Instead of limiting myself to two colours (blue and cream are used in the model), I'm sorting my scraps into darks and lights. It's satisfying to use up what I already have on hand. Sometimes I can use one fabric as a dark, and then use the flip side as a light. My palette has been inspired by the wallpaper chosen for the baby's nursery, a large floral with greys, browns and beiges on an ivory background.

There are times in the making of a traditional quilt when the workspace is disorderly. Here's the pile of cottons after I've had my way with my scraps.

But most of the time I try to get the work done in an efficient and methodical way. For example, here is a tray of half-square triangle pairs, ready to be stitched together, one dark to one light. Consistency in measurement is important.

I use my sewing machine to chain stitch one triangle to another, creating long strings of triangular banners that I can easily transport to the ironing board for a good pressing.

Half-square triangles as they emerge from sewing machine

Still linked for ease of handling,
ready to be pressed open

And here are all those squares up on my design wall. This is the time to ensure that the various colours and prints are well distributed throughout. You'll see that I've introduced a little pink into the mix, just to add a bit of oomph. And there are tiny bits of colour (green, red, blue) in some of the prints, to add some interest.

If you squint, you might be able to see that there is a zig-zag, ribbon-like
frame around the border, and 9 dark stars in the central part.

It's quite a challenge to move the individual blocks to the sewing machine, keeping all in order, and having all the triangles in the correct orientation. I like to listen to an audiobook or a podcast when doing this kind of work, which manages to be mindless while at the same time requiring focussed attention.

Once the top is pieced and quilted, I will be sure to post the finished baby quilt here. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Quilts as Tools for Resistance: Hyperallergic

Sometimes the general viewing public is surprised that quilts can carry a political message, when in fact quilting has a long history of voicing political and social concerns.

This recent article on surveys the many quilts displayed at QuiltCon 2018 (Pasadena, California, late February) that convey messages of political activism.

Liz Havartine, "She Was Warned"

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Eco-Dyeing: a Resource

As a subscriber to Fiber Art Now, I was delighted to access their complementary e-book on the exciting topic of eco-dyeing. Now I am sharing it with you!

Perfectly-timed with our anticipation of spring and more time spent outdoors, environmentally-friendly dyeing can be achieved using plant material and simple techniques. The book also includes inspiration and how-to on rust dyeing. Eco-dyeing can lead to fun projects with children (Easter eggs, perhaps?) to intriguing wearables, or to the most sophisticated of gallery installations. The approach can be used with papers as well as cloth.

The e-book is available here. Consider it a taster for what could well become an obsession.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Art Quilt Quarterly

Delighted to have a piece included in the latest issue of Art Quilt Quarterly. This journal is produced by SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) and is aimed at collectors of art quilts, museum curators, and professional art quilters.

Haut-de-Cagnes, 2016, 11" x 9"
hand-dyed and hand-painted cotton, machine-stitched 

You can find out more about this publication here.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

New Project Underway, Part 2

Our textile art group has committed to put together a show of six works, each one inspired by a different aspect of the Maude Abbott Medical Museum collection. I have blogged about this project a few times in the last couple of months.

My piece is inspired by the museum's surgical instruments. It is essentially a quilt that will be stretched over a canvas, 36" x 24". A bit like a sampler, a bit like a patchwork, it is composed of 17 different elements.

Some of the elements depict the surgical instruments themselves. A surgical tray typically has multiple scalpels, clamps, needle drivers and scissors laid out neatly, and I have referred to this presentation in my piece.

scalpels: shapes are fused and stitched

shapes are made with a satin stitch

Grips are fused then zig-zag stitched,
with a small meandering stitch as background

scissors, needle drivers, clamps: their outlines are stitched onto antique linen

Other instruments are depicted with photo transfer directly onto hand-dyed cotton.

I have used my imagination for other elements in the project. They resemble images one might see looking under a microscope, and evoke cellular growth: perhaps healthy tissue, perhaps pathology, but all utterly imaginary.

This was made by layering organza and tulle onto hand-dyed cotton,
then stitching in chains of rectangular shapes and
applying heat, to burn away the synthetic fabric.

These look like nodules in striated tissue. They were made with free-motion machine-stitching.

Seed stitching, done by hand with lightweight wool. 

The ovoid cells were fused and stitched into place,
while the lines were made with machine-stitching and couched wool.
Beads were added later.

couched yarns and hand-stitching,
with tiny buttons added for interest

pebble-like shapes, with spaces that show the mottled quality of the
hand-dyed background

Trapunto technique was used to stuff these circular shapes, about the size
of a loonie. I "deconstructed" a maxi-pad and used the rayon fluff as stuffing.
Highly therapeutic.

French knots as nodules on hand-dyed cotton background.

A sampler of suture stitches, tacking together pleated cotton.
Found this antique instruction manual on Wikipedia.
It served as a guide for the suturing.

Cloth and Stitch: Inspired by the Maude Abbott Collection will be installed at the entrance to the William Osler Library, McGill University, and will run from mid-May to mid-June. I will be sure to post here as the date approaches.

Meanwhile, there is much to be done to document the show: bios, photos and artist statements for each artist, a brief history of Text'art and an intro to the exhibition itself. The Museum will produce a booklet and a poster for the show, and promote it throughout the McGill community, and several weeks of lead time are needed for this.  Putting this together has been a new experience for our group of six artists and we have every intention of rising to the challenge!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

British Patchwork & Quilting

So pleased to learn that 12 by the Dozen was profiled in the current issue of British Patchwork & Quilting. I was a member of this group for about 7 years, having resigned just last year.

Mentioned in the article is the week-long get-together the group had in England in the summer of 2016, when seven of us met up at Birmingham's Festival of Quilts. At least two former members also shared in the festivities.

Despite the occasional swapping out of members, this international group has continued to forge ahead with quarterly challenges. Their latest series is inspired by individual artists, each of the twelve members setting the subject in turn. The most recent "virtual exhibition" focused on the works of M.C. Escher. Previous challenges have centred on Klee, Klimt and Hundertwasser.

You can learn more about 12 by the Dozen by going to their website and blog.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Visit to the William Osler Library

entrance to the library, where our show will be mounted

I am preoccupied these days with our Text'art group show, which now has a title. Cloth and Stitch: Inspired by the Maude Abbott Collection will be installed at the Osler Library of McGill University on May 11, 2018. The official opening is May 17.

To familiarize myself a little better with the space, I visited their current show, Materia Medica, by Montreal artist Loren Williams. Williams is the recipient of the Larose-Osler-Artist-in-Residence for 2017, and she was invited by the Osler Library to create a body of work on the theme of Montreal's medical history.

Using epidemiological maps, Williams explored the sites and neighbourhoods
of the city's devastating outbreaks of Typhus, Cholera, Small Pox and Tuberculosis.

A detail from the cabinet shown above.

Another detail: A reference book has been "innoculated" with pox by the artist.

The work in this exhibition draws inspiration from books and artifacts in the Osler Library as well as a wide variety of other sources. Early maps of the city offer a form of time travel, indicating the location of the first hospitals and their large gardens, used for food and medicinal plants. Three hundred year old streets such as rue de l'Hôpital and rue des Soeurs Grises still exist in Montreal today, drawing direct lines to Montreal's medical history, as do streets named Jeanne Mance, Marguerite d'Youville and Penfield.

First aid kits and their compartments double as garden plans for medicinal plants.

Images of medicinal plants used by the First Peoples and early settlers of Montreal
 were created using a 19th-century camera-less photographic process, Cyanotype.

The blue coloured images reveal the shadowy forms and details of the plants.
Cyanotype requires sunlight and water, as do the living plants.

On my visit, I also explored the two floors of the Osler Library. On an earlier occasion, I was able to visit an inner sanctum, available for viewing by appointment only. It holds a fascinating archive of antique books, as well as the ashes of Dr. Osler himself. The library's holdings number about 100,000 volumes.

The reception for our show will be held here, in the main room of the library.

The McIntyre Medical Building that houses the library was designed as a round tower. Before construction in 1965, the design was modified to accommodate the Osler Library, which was moved piece by piece (including stained glass windows and plaster cornices) from its original location elsewhere on the McGill campus.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Josef Albers in Mexico

While in New York earlier this month, I visited the exhibition "Josef Albers in Mexico" at the Guggenheim Museum. The one-minute video, above, serves as a quick intro.

Variant/Adobe, Orange Front, 1948-58, Josef Albers
oil on masonite

I have long been a fan of Albers' colour studies. I've also been interested in the work of his wife, textile artist Anni Albers. Both Josef (1888-1976) and Anni (1899 - 1994) were German-born, and both studied and then taught at the Bauhaus until the school was closed by the Nazis in 1933. They then emigrated to the U.S., where they taught at the Black Mountain College in North Carolina, and strongly influenced a whole generation of American artists and craftspeople. Albers' book, "The Interaction of Color", has been a standard text in art studies for more than 50 years.

The Albers visited Mexico 14 times, and the exhibition includes many hundreds of their photos of Pre-Columbian ruins,  clearly laying out how the architecture made a huge impact on Josef Albers' imagery.

Study for Sanctuary, 1941-42, Josef Albers
ink on graph paper

Memento, 1943, Josef Albers
oil on masonite

Biconjugate, 1943, Josef Albers
oil on masonite

Over the years I have been intrigued by the way that Albers used his colour studies to explore the interactions of colour. This show at the Guggenheim suggests that the format for these studies was derived from his experience of the pre-Columbian ruins on his travels to Mexico.

Study for "Homage to the Square",  1958, Josef Albers
oil on masonite

Study for "Homage to the Square: Closing", 1964, Josef Albers
Oil on masonite

Study for "Homage to the Square: Starting" 1969, Josef Albers
Oil on masonite

Study for "Homage to the Square", 1974, Josef Albers
Oil on masonite

Interested in this series of "Homage to the Square"? Here is a brief introduction to these works, for which Albers is best known.

The exhibition continues until March 28, 2018.