Judging the needlework and textile art at the Eisteddfod Festival was a truly wonderful experience. I had no idea when I arrived on the island of Jersey that the residents were so productive, talented and creative.
When faced with the plethora of designs, styles and techniques on the first day, I wondered how I’d ever be able to do justice to the incredible work before me. Being the adjudicator for this festival was a daunting challenge, but one that I thoroughly enjoyed.
I attempted to understand the thinking behind each creative work and in so doing, feel I now have a better understanding of life on this unique island.
I almost feel that I know the makers intimately because I had the privilege of handling and studying the work into which they had put so much time and effort. I fully understood and appreciated each piece because in fact, I have either studied or done all of those techniques myself.
It was a special privilege to see the work of the schoolchildren who have no preconceived ideas and are thus free to experiment and dive right into their projects. Their teachers are to be commended for enabling them to try different techniques and stretch their artistic wings.
The clothing sections were especially dear to my heart, as I sewed and designed my own clothes at their age.
It was so hard to pick a winning entry because I wanted to give each and every one of them a prize. They show so much promise.
This imaginative woven dress got the Premier Award.
There were a wide variety of quilts as well as knitted and crocheted blankets
in bold bright colours.
I felt the embroidery categories were especially strong with many outstanding pieces in so many different styles.
You could almost smell the lavender when looking at this embroidered scene by Blandina Gonzales.
such a quiet contemplative scene
I loved this foxy embroidery by Di Wherry.
I enjoyed studying the stitches in this elephant by Alexandra Vautier.
Sue Bone's cushion was very appealing.
Clare Burchell's parrot had loads of lovely details.
and of course I loved this felted Fly Agaric mushroom.
Everyone should be proud of their work because it was all so stunning and inspiring in addition to being nicely stitched.
I was treated very well by the ladies in charge of the show, and I’d like to thank them all for making me feel so welcome. It was a pleasure to work with them and a privilege to judge this festival.
I hope that everyone on Jersey enjoys attending the Eisteddfod Festival as much as I enjoyed judging it.
I saw my first slime mould a couple of years ago at Park Wood near Huntercombe in Oxfordshire. It was bright yellow and covered the lower bit of an old log with a beautiful web of colour.
I took a lot of photos and when I got home and looked it up, I found that it was called Badhamia utricularis and that it was a common slime mould.
I also found out that slime is neither a plant or a fungus but a plasmodium that can move to seek food, leaving trails of slime as it goes along that disappear after it has found its new location.
Above you can see half of a Jelly Rot fungus (Phlebia tremellosa) being devoured. The slime will move up and totally consume the rest before the day is out. The slime trails are fascinating too.
Below is another view of the slime having a feast on Jelly Rot (Phlebia tremellosa) and Hairy Curtain Crust (Stereum hirsutum) which it favours.
Below is Badhamia utricularis feasting on some more Hairy Curtain Crust (Stereum hirsutum).
When ready, the slime will coalesce to form balls.
Eventually the balls will hang in bunches on skinny yellow strings.
The yellow balls gradually turn darker.
Then they become almost black with greyish tinges.
Some people think they look like bunches of grapes, though not very appetising!
There can be literally thousands of these black balls.
The black balls gradually turn grey and flooffy as they become ready to release their spores.
The slightest breeze will disperse the spores to all corners of the woodland, leaving just the strings which quickly disappear. Finally, it looks as if nothing had ever been there.
I haven't written much on this news blog, because I have been posting my work on the home page. This work takes the form of nature articles for my local newspaper and some local magazines. I am enjoying it all very much.
I have almost completely turned my life around, and am now living full in time in Oxfordshire, with only brief days in London when necessary. And although I love all aspects of nature, I find myself drawn to the world of mycology, finding it both fascinating and beautiful.
Such is the seriousness of my new obsession that I am getting a microscope! This is rather daunting but it the right step if I'm going to pursue mycology. So, watch this space and let's see what comes up (so to speak)!
So much has happened since my last post in February. To misquote Hamilton, "The world has turned upside-down." I couldn't have begun to imagine how much my life would change over the course of just a few months. If you had told me in February that the Festival of Quilts would be cancelled (along with my summer holiday in New Jersey), I wouldn't have believed you. But here we are in the midst of a pandemic with no end in sight. It really is mind boggling as they say here in the UK.
One of the best things that has happened is that my daughter acquired a new Border Terrier puppy just before lockdown commenced. Saké (named after the Japanese rice wine) has proven to be a life saver in so many ways. Alysson had been talking about getting a puppy, and being at home 24/7 was the perfect opportunity to get one.
We moved to Oxfordshire in early March, Two of the three children moved in with us for 2 ½ months, as they were able to work remotely from our cottage. It was good to be out of London during those crazy scary times. I embraced the incredibly good weather we had in the Spring and basically spent every minute outside, either gardening, walking, training the puppy, or just sitting on my terrace with binoculars to see what flew over the garden. We had Red Kites nesting on our property so they spent a lot of time calling each other from this branch.
My main obsession is now photography and nature. I am sending out an email a day to our local neighbourhood and interested friends (I'm up to day 110) featuring either a wild plant, bird, butterfly or insect. On a recent walk with my husband, I mentioned that a year ago I wouldn’t have known the name of a single plant we were passing, but now I know them all, or photograph them so I can find out when I get home. It’s been such an education, but it does take a lot of my time, which is fine as time is what I have got.
Here is a Hummingbird Hawk Moth feeding on Valerian in my garden. The Hummingbird Hawk Moth’s wings beat at an amazing 70-80 times a second, so it it ‘hums’ as it hovers. This motion sometimes makes it look orange.
Another great joy of living here in the countryside is that we have at least five hedgehogs who come to the special restaurant outside our front door every night (I leave out hedgehog food and water). A few months ago while I was gardening I found a plant with gigantic leaves in my compost area. I decided to take a photo, so cleared away some of the twigs and nettles around it. I lifted up a leaf and there was a hedgehog sleeping right in the middle of the plant. Needless to say, I gently dropped the leaf and walked away to let him slumber on. It's fascinating to think about all the wildlife living on our property as we also have rabbits, squirrels, muntjacs and various voles and stoats. Also a rat or two and the occasional fox or deer. Loads of birds have nested here earlier in the spring we so have lots of baby birds coming to our feeders.
I vacillate between being really happy and really anxious. It depends both on the weather and whether I watched the news or read the newspaper. I’m trying not to do that, as there is really nothing I can personally do about this world situation. I just have to ride it out as best as I can. But I do feel that we’ll be living here in the country at least for the next year and maybe longer. Our lives won’t get back to normal until there is a vaccine. The children have moved back to London permanently and it’s really much better for all of us, although I do miss Alysson’s cooking (not the clearing up!) and Saké, who grows more enchanting by the day. I am now on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/quiltmaniac1/
so check those out if you are interested in my nature photographs (and the occasional Border Terrier).
Can it really be true that I haven't posted anything since last October? Where on earth has the time gone? I must have had my head in the clouds.
Never mind. Just a quick update: My book: The Complete Book of Patchwork, Quilting & Appliqué is going to be re-published by Search Press later this year. I have a meeting with them next week to discuss updates to the art and text, although going through it again after so many years made me realise it is actually quite a good book for beginners! I am looking forward to working on it again and making it an even better book.
These photos were all taken at dawn on January 20th. I feel that they will be a good inspiration for a new quilt....after the book is done.
I gave a lecture to the London Quilters on October 15th entitled Contemporary and Modern Art Quilters. Here's a review! The quilts in the images were made by Natalia Manley and Luke Haynes.
I'm very pleased to report that Bernina has posted a video about my quilt, Jack of All Seasons. I made this for the Bernina Challenge for this year's Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, England.
If you go to this link, you'll be able to watch it! I hope you enjoy it.
I bought this heavenly fabric a few months ago and finally had a chance to try Paula Doyle's fabulous "Easy Stack" technique with it. Paula's technique for making kaleidoscopic blocks is based on her new book, Easy Stack Quilts. A simpler version of the popular stack-and-whack concept, Easy Stack allows you to create a multitude of totally unique blocks from just one fabric. It is so much fun to do and and really brought me straight back to my quilting roots of sewing simple 4-patch blocks.
But after tearing the fabric half and trying to find the repeats, I realised it is a very unusual fabric indeed. Only the blue flowers on the left (above) and the red on the right (below) have any sort of repeat! I have never seen this before. And even within the repeat, there are variations due to the flowers to the left and right of the usable strips.
Undaunted (and because I had already torn the fabric and was quite determined!), I gave it a try.
Here is one block. Note the strange appearance of the pink flowers around the edges. So two pairs of squares were totally matching, but all four didn't match perfectly unless I turned them a certain way. However, I don't think it matters.
Again, for this one, the white flowers at the edges are different on two pairs of blocks, even though the middle flowers match.
I decided to use the yellow flowers for the sashing since I couldn't do Easy Stack with that section.
Here are all the blocks I made, arranged with the yellow sashing. I didn't quite have enough of the yellow so had to piece one of the long sashing strips, but just made it. I plan to frame it with the white and pink flower strips, so watch this space!
Paula's Easy Stack book came out in time for Festival of Quilts this past summer and I love it! I'll be teaching this technique for Paula at Lady Sew & Sew in Henley on November 30th. Book soon to reserve a place!
I made this quilt for Urania who will be 98 in July. She is the mother of my friend Judith.
Urania loves dogs and gardening. I originally pieced in the navy blue dog fabric, but then found a fabric with golden retrievers (like her favourite dog, Cedric), so added that as a flap on top.
When Urania unzips the zipper, bright flowers are revealed. The stretchy net is from a shower scrubber and is lovely to pull.
The doily was crocheted by my grandmother, Grandma Fett. It's hidden under some spongy shelf liner that feels really nice to touch. Urania loves travelling so there is a little Eiffel Tower key chain on top of the strawberry fabric.
I went to visit Urania today to give her the quilt.
She loved it!
She enjoyed looking at all the fabrics and fiddly bits with her daughter.
We had a lovely chat and some tea.
Jack came too, but he was more interested in the squirrels in the garden.
It's lovely to be able to make something that brings so much pleasure.
I just finished making this memory quilt for my friend Roy Stout. Roy was a talented architect who designed fabulous buildings that have enhanced the London skyline.
He designed and oversaw the building of my house, so I wanted to put some images on the quilt that would remind him of the job he loved so much. (He especially loved bricks!)
He also enjoyed visiting churches, and the cities London and Paris. I was very glad to find fabrics with those images to include in the quilt.
As I was sewing the last stitches on the binding, I got a call from Roy's son to tell me that he had died a few days ago. I am so sorry that I'll never see him again and that he will never see this quilt. He was well loved.