Monday, June 29, 2009

But is it Art?

Do you remember the story of the Emperor's New Clothes, where the Emperor was hoodwinked into paying for a fabulous new suit of invisible clothes, and none of his courtiers dared to tell him the truth, for fear of being labelled stupid or incompetent? He embarks on a grand procession to show off his new finery, and a small boy, as yet unaware of political correctness, blurts out the truth.
Well, in the interest of truth over PC, I have to say that this is an ugly quilt.
And so is this.
And yet these quilts, with many others made by the women of Gee's Bend in Alabama, have been exhibited in prestigious museums, sold for noteworthy sums, and praised by the foremost art critics. The U.S. Postal Service even issued a series of Gee's Bend Quilt stamps.
Most of you probably know the story of the women of Gee's Bend and their quilts, sewn from worn clothing and factory offcuts to keep their families warm. The quilts are, at best, primitive in their design and construction, yet the praise for them has at times verged on the hysterical, if not downright ridiculous.
New York Times art critic, Michael Kimmelman, called them "some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced".
Others spoke of "ravishingly minimal blocks of beige, brown, black and red corduroy" with "irregular quilting stitches wandering triumphantly in dotted lines across fields of colour" and
"recycled denim creating panels of skyscapes and clouds, the faded knee patches immortalising hours of toil in the fields."
"The Quilts of Gee's Bend" (Tinwood Books, Atlanta, Georgia) tells the story of this small settlement and the women who made quilts there. Many of their stories are poignant and courageous, and one can only rejoice that they have gained recognition in the wider world, and a ready market for their work after generations of struggle.
But, is it really Art?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

All wrapped up

It's been a while since I posted, but I've not been idle. Not, unfortunately, sewing.
Mr T's plastered arm has been a right nuisance, to me as well as to him. Riding a bike (his usual mode of transport) is forbidden, so someone has to drive him to the station for his commute to TAFE in Bendigo, and to his part-time job - we live about a mile from the town centre, and it's winter...
Domestic duties like washing up or - Heaven forbid - cooking are also out of the question.
So chauffering and general Domestic Goddessing duties have eaten up some sewing time. Add in two family reunions, a grandson's Year 8 graduation, and some Goldfields Quilters stuff - no wonder Bauble production has slowed down.
When I do make it into the sewing room, nothing works out as planned, anyway. The last attempt at a Bauble wound up in the bin; it seems as if my brain doesn't have room for creativity, being stuffed too full of the mundane at present. So for the moment, I'm making small crafty gifts for the upcoming trading table. There's a Quilters working bee on Saturday, I'll show you what I've been making after that.

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However, there are still some Baubles you haven't seen yet. These were the result of some experiments in wrapping strips of fabric around a ball. Here's the first one -
I'd like it more, I think, in different colours.

Then I did this -
fine cream cotton, embroidered in pale green and lemon.
I called it "Simplicity".

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Here's one I prepared earlier

Still working my way through the backlog of Baubles, this one I'm quite pleased with.
The foundation ball was light green cotton, which I covered with stretch lace - an op-shop find. The lace even came with toning spangles. With judicious cutting it was easy to make it appear seamless.
The leaves? I'm glad you asked, I'm quite proud of them.
Here's how they were done. I used two pieces of medium weight Vilene, ironed together. Painted it green with acrylic paint. Made a cardboard leaf template, traced around it, cut out the leaves. Then sponged gold paint around the edges of each leaf.
Then the leaves were attached with gold-coloured thread, each group finished off with a sequin centre.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The artist's day

I've been working on a new Bauble. It's just not going right. This morning I unpicked two days worth of embroidery.
Then I drove Mr.T to the doctor's - he who went on a trip to the snow late last week, and predictably, fell off his snowboard. Nasty swollen wrist.
At 11, he rang "I have to go to Bendigo, the local x-ray machine is on the blink." (his Mum, Ms. J. is at work all day) 60k round trip to find out if his wrist is broken.
I came home, surveyed the needlepocked and slightly grimy Bauble, and sewed up a new one.
4.15, back to the doctor for a verdict on the x-rays.
6 p.m, Mr. T finally emerged, resplendent in a large, knuckle-to-elbow plaster cast.
Arrived home neck and neck with Ms. J, cooked dinner (fried rice, the best thing that happened all day. Enough left over for Ms. J's lunch tomorrow, too)
After dinner, devise a plastic bag/elastic band combo for Mr. T's shower in the morning.
8 p.m. stuff new Bauble. Turns out I should have used a heavier interfacing, the seams twisted as I stuffed it. Aaaagghhh!

Monday, June 15, 2009

But it is Art?

Today's subject is a little hard to describe. It's a site I found using StumbleUpon (more about that later) called Zentangle. Zentangles are basically doodles, created using a set of formalised patterns. Here's one-
The creators of Zentangles, Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts, enthusiastically promote the advantages of guided doodling, describing it as "fun and relaxing. It increases focus and creativity. Zentangle provides artistic satisfaction and an increased sense of personal well being."
They sell kits comprising high quality paper tiles, pens and pencils, an instruction book and DVD, and patterns for "Tangles". The Zentangle empire appears to be growing rapidly, with classes and weekend seminars on offer, and even a program to train licensed teachers.
It's a brilliant idea, and my congratulations to Maria and Robert on their entrepeneurship. Much of their work, and that of their students, is decorative, but is it Art?

Friday, June 12, 2009


I think of this as my 'French' Bauble, because of the colour, a deep intense pink.

In 1937, the Parisian coutourier Elsa Schiaparelli released her perfume Shocking, which was packaged in this shade of pink, her signature colour. The bottle, designed by Dali, was reputedly modelled on the body of Mae West, a client of Schiaparelli's.
Since then, bright cerise pink has been known as Shocking Pink.
I applied layers of fabric and lace, then stitched spirals in shaded cotton thread.
Finally I added embellishments of shot silk, with tiny gold beads in the centre.
I'd like to think Mme Schiaparelli would have approved.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Les Girls

Today at Goldfields Quilters, I finished a few more pin dolls.

They have a brooch pin on the back, and are about 3" high - the cotton reel in the photo gives an idea of their size. These little cuties will be used as door prizes at our Quilt-In next October.
Though I think the purple striped one with pink hair might find her way onto my new winter jacket...

Monday, June 8, 2009

But is it Art?

The first in an occasional series of links that inspire/delight/intrigue me.
Nikon's Small World runs an annual competition for the best photos taken through a microscope. The site has galleries of the winning photos for the last 32 years - stunning images like these -

Well worth a look. Is it art? I think so.

Friday, June 5, 2009


Well, what else could I call it?
Eight pastel moths on a creamy background, embellished with sequins and outline stitched.

I used Vliesofix to attach the moths, ironed them down with my nifty little Clover iron, then outlined them in backstitch.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Running repairs

Initially this blog was supposed to be exclusively about the process of making Baubles, but looking back over the posts so far, it all seems a bit too earnest, somehow. When I think about the blogs I most enjoy reading, it's the off-topic stuff that makes them more interesting to me - glimpses of domestic life, pet stories, sharing of links, even (occasionally) travel pics.
Like this one, written by a Japanese-American woman living in a rural Japanese city. Tanya shows us her quilts, but she also talks about day-to-day life in Japan, giving us fascinating glimpses of a different culture.
Or my friend Susan, a fellow Victorian who can make almost anything entertaining, from the antics of her menagerie to her completely over-the-top Christmas decorating, as well as her knitting and quilting activities.
So I'm diversifying, beginning with a small domestic disaster, and a happy ending.
My washing machine is old. No, I mean really old. I found the original guarantee:
the date is December 1981 - that's over 27 years ago!
It's had a hard life, with more than a few battle scars. Way too old to have any electronic components, it still works just fine.

When I moved house around 10 years ago, the plastic lid got badly cracked. I filled the cracks with Superglue - problem solved..

Last week, something heavy fell on the lid, the cracks came apart, and one corner of the lid broke off entirely. This effectively put the machine out of commission, because there's a small pressure switch behind the lid which makes everything go round, and now there was no pressure on it...

Of course I could have just bought a shiny new machine, with a computer and assorted electronic gizmos, that might last for two or three years at best - but, why on earth would I dispose of a perfectly good machine, with years of life left in it? There had to be a way to fix it.
I Superglued the cracks again, which sorta worked, but it was still pretty wobbly. Pity it wasn't a pair of jeans, then I could put a patch or two on it!

Then I remembered the sheets of plastic someone gave me, which I use for cutting templates. About the same thickness as heavy card, but much tougher. Out came the glue again, I cut a couple of patches, stuck them on, and weighted them down for a few hours.

Voila! Good as new! Now, if it would just stop raining, I'd do some washing...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Random words

I still think words would be good on a Bauble, if only I could figure out how to get them there. My first attempt was on Fiesta, not very successful :-(
This time I tried printing text on fabric, a process I'd used before. You just iron freezer paper onto the back of the fabric, feed it through the printer, then iron to set the ink.

Then I cut out the quote, in two parts, and appliqued it on. I added hearts and flowers, also appliqued and embroidered. Finally I echo 'quilted' it all over.

It's not a great success, the proportions are out of whack, somehow. The text should have been smaller. Another learning experience, I guess (sigh)

Monday, June 1, 2009


I've always admired the endless variations of banding on malchite, a copper-based semi-precious gemstone.

So I adapted them to a Bauble, using a pale green cotton fabric for the base.

I began by sewing on six randomly distributed clusters of sequins in various shades of deep green, which I outlined in dark green buttonhole stitch. Then I worked successive lines of stem stitch around each cluster, using five shades of green in all.

I allowed the shapes to join together as they grew larger, and filled in the gaps with more lines of stem stitch.

With hindsight, I think this would have been better with more variation in the stitching - chain stitch, for example - and maybe some prepainted lines on the ball to add a bit of depth. Oh well, there's always a next time...