The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook # 5

After Anne, who made it, I’m honoured to be first on the list to make a mark on the pristine pages of the Travelling Sketchbook.

If you’re not familiar with this project, I recommend you hope over to Anne Lawson’s blog and look at how it all came to be, links here:


It’s been a rough week or two for me health-wise as some of you will already know, but I’ve finally finished my entry, and here it is. Click on the photo for a larger, and enlargeable, image.

Kate Sketchbook page

A stitched image in fabric, a bit of loopy hand lettering and a sorta, kinda poem. The sewn fabric piece is the hardest bit of foundation paper piecing I’ve ever made, but knowing how fond Anne is of feathers, it was a challenge that just had to be met…. I’m not totally in love with the lettering, but sometimes you just have to commit to getting something down on paper, don’t you? And I like the words… Actually, I’m not even sure which way the page should go, landscape or portrait.  I think I prefer portrait for the feather, but then the words are on their sides. You decide for yourselves which is better.

The Travelling Sketchbook is even now on its way to Sandra (Lady Red Specs – see the link below), so remember to check her blog to see what she’s going to add. I can’t wait to find out – the additions are going to be widely varied and fascinating. I’m going to save myself the trouble by Following the lot of you!

Below is the list of participants and links to them, so you can keep track. Maybe later participants could save a bit of time by cutting and pasting the info? You can track its progress on an interactive map miraculously conjured up by Chas Spain, here.

and finally, back to Anne herself in Melbourne, Australia

The Sketchbook's route The Sketchbook's globetrotting

There is an envelope containing the Sister-hood list with contact info and addresses in the back of the Sketchbook, so do make sure if you’re a contributor that this travels along too. Anne has also made a map where we can record the Sketchbook’s travels, and I hope the others will also update and show this when they publish their contributions, in addition to following Chas Spain’s proposed interactive version (for more on that, jump over here and read up on what she’s planning – it’ll be awesome!).

If anyone reading this would like to join in, please contact Anne about it via any of the blog posts listed at the top – we may need to either add more pages or start Volume II…

So far, the Sisterhood is living up to its name, but the odd Brother would be welcome too, I’m sure….

Update: I’ve now added a Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook page to this blog, which records the background, the story, and the additions, page by page, as they are made. You’ll find it in the bar at the left, under the More Information heading.

The Cloths of Heaven 7: squared away

I am, I confess, very tired.

centre with cornersI pushed myself a thought too hard today, but I wanted so much to get the lettering done, and having finished that, adding the corners seemed like a minor add-on. Only of course, it wasn’t. But it is now done, and the centre is square(ish), ready for ivy wreaths in the 4 corners.

The more I have added, the more the bias edges have mounted up, and I now have some quite noticeable bagging and sagging. However, that will be taken care of in due course. A multitude of sins can be hidden in the lovely puffiness of hand quilting, and indeed, I propose that they should!

lettering detailI’m pleased with the hand lettering, not too many blobby bits, and all the interminable prep work has paid off. Silver was so much the right choice, rather than gold.

OK, enough typing. I’m off to soak my aching hands in hot water and then smother them in Aspirin & Arnica cream…

The Cloths of Heaven 6: the writing’s on the wall

Before you ask, no, I’m never going to run out of puns.

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 4.47.27 pmI left you with the silver pen tests, and the realisation that I needed to use the darker blue-based fabric for the ring around the central landscape.

There was only one problem; the fabric wasn’t quite large enough. I did a bit of thinking and scribbling, and realised that if I cut it in 4 pieces instead of 2, I could just get it out of what I had.

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 4.47.59 pm Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 4.48.47 pmSo once again, it was mark, mark, mark, make template, cut out, pin, sew, sew, press. Then I had a nice blue ring of fabric with quite exceptionally wobbly bias edges. Back to the machine, stay stitch to stabilise, and then the big nasty, the curved seam around this 32 inch diameter landscape. I got it done, took it calmly and slowly and used lots of pins. There’s a slightly baggy area around the centre top of the landscape, but that’ll quilt out.

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 4.49.27 pmI went back and used the same template to make up the master for the hand lettering. I checked first that it would show through the dark blue on the highest lux setting on the lightbox. It’s fine. Then I drew curved parallel lines in the template for the lettering. I’m not going for immaculate, pristine calligraphy, I want it to look hand-lettered, not machine-generated. Then it was time to start sketching in the lettering. It’s harder than you think to letter at this size; my hand is accustomed to forming letters of a certain size, and the size I need required fine control I won’t have in my arthritic hands much longer. Still, use it or lose it. Once I was satisfied, I inked in with a black medium Sharpie for good visibility when tracing, and tidied up as I went along.

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 4.50.12 pmPinned in position, ready to start tracing and silver inking tomorrow (probably). Once that’s done, I have corners to add, some ivy leaf appliqué to create and apply, together with bias strip ivy tendrils, and then, my friends, the central panel piecing is done. I had better start thinking about backing fabric, which tends to be much further down the track normally, but this is, let’s remember, a QAYG piece, 9 sections to be joined when completed, and the central panel, whilst the largest, is only one piece.

Still plenty to keep me interested and busy, wouldn’t you say?

Worldwide Friends: Crossing the final frontier

It’s done. Which is good, because I’m so ready for something new.

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The only straight shot that was usable on the windiest day this year!

It’s taken almost exactly seven months (a few days under – I started it on 10th November last year). It began as a piece of busy-work to keep my hands occupied and my mind peaceful when I went into hospital last year for a spot of surgery. It’s grown out of all recognition, well beyond my original idea for the piece, and has taken on a life of its own, becoming virtually common property amongst the worldwide friends who have contributed fabric, poetry, encouragement and vision. The Mackay Show deadline seemed like a good idea at the time, something so far away that it was easily achievable. But as always, time ran away with me and I’ve only just squeaked in, after subjecting myself to the sort of pressure I don’t really enjoy.

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 11.09.00 amDon’t ask me how many hexies it contains, because I don’t know, and I’m not going to count them. In any case, the answer to that question is “enough”. Here’s some detail:

This quilt is the result of a collaboration between myself and blogging friends around the world. The design was triggered by Carla’s gift of an indigo furoshiki, or gift-wrapping cloth from Japan, which featured rabbits, waves and the moon. According to Japanese legend, the figure seen in the full moon is not a man, but a rabbit, who was placed there by a holy man in return for an act of kindness. This beautiful cloth gave the rest of the quilt its Japanese flavour and the name of the quilt is written in Kanji characters across the middle, which translates to Worldwide Friends. On the back are haiku in English about both quilt-making and the rabbit legend, some written by fabric donors, others by non-quilting friends in lieu of fabric. Many of the indigo fabrics are Japanese, others are from Indonesia, India and Africa as well as Europe, the US and Australia.

Techniques used
Front: English Paper Piecing, hand appliqué
Back: Machine piecing, English Paper Piecing, hand appliqué
Hand painted calligraphy on front in gold resist medium
Handwritten calligraphy of haiku on back panels in ink
Lightly hand quilted in ‘big stitch’ quilting to stabilise layers only
The quilt is faced with hexagons on the reverse rather than bound, to retain the hexagon shapes at the edge.
Hanging tabs are integrated into the top seam, as this is a wall hanging
The quilt is effectively double-sided, allowing it to be turned to display the haiku on the reverse.

The Worldwide Friends:
Carla, Australia
Tracey, Australia
Nanette, Australia
Dale, Australia
Rita, Belgium
Jan, Wales
Lynn, France
Viv, France
Gun, Sweden
Cath, USA
Sue, USA
Esther, Netherlands
Emmely, Netherlands
Jule, Germany
Annett, Germany
Carole, UK
Kirsten, UK

This quilt is now, at last, ready for entry into the Mackay Show on 25 June, and I am so ready to start another project!  My first priority is to produce the three blocks I’m making each month as part of the Foot2Freestyle block swap. After that, I have a birthday quilt to make for mid-October, a large bed quilt to make for my niece to celebrate her marriage (already late, but she forgives me), and then, finally, I’m free to choose. The list of candidates is considerable…

But first, a day off… maybe.

Worldwide Friends: FFF!

Or, Finished the Flowers for the Front!

That’s 294 hexies made and assembled into flowers, plus another 42 for fillers, since 7th March. With 10 days off in the middle for motorbikery (although, as we know, I did manage to make a few in the in-between times I wasn’t actually on the bike), and a day out to make the Dowager’s birthday gift (for which I now have two more orders, as predicted…).

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 11.56.23 am Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 11.57.09 amYou can see from the second picture where the new strip starts – everything above the red arrow is new. Now they all need stitching together. Give me a few days… I need to let my fingers heal a bit. They’ve got holes worn in them from the needle. Did I mention before that I loathe wearing a thimble except when I absolutely have to, for hand quilting?

Now that the front is in the home straight, I can start thinking about the back. I’d better go and press all the fabrics I’ve assembled so I can audition them. Once the front is stitched together I can measure it and then take it down while I lay out the back on the design wall.

I still have to do the calligraphy for the haiku before I can piece that section – imagine stitching the panels in and then making a mistake in the lettering! And I need to inscribe the names of all the contributors on the front in small gold lettering, scattered here and there. I think it’s going to look rather pretty. It seems there’s a day or two with gold resist ink and a small paintbrush in my future!

There’s only one thing bothering me right now.  The front is landscape in format, wider than it’s tall. The back of my mind (the part that demands symmetry, order and regularity at all costs)  is telling me it needs another row or two at the bottom to square it up a bit.  The front of my mind is screaming “nooooooo!”. I’ve had enough of little blue hexies for a little while…

It’s not even remotely square, but then it’s not going on a bed, so does that matter? Does every single one of my quilts have to be square or should I get over that particular obsession? What are your thoughts on the subject, please? I don’t promise to act on them, but I would like to know what you all think!

Memory’s muscles

The body has a memory of old skills.

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 11.53.32 pm Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 11.54.15 pm Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 11.55.50 pm Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 11.54.53 pm Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 11.55.13 pmIt must be 15 years or more since I did any calligraphy on a regular basis.

There’s a difference to how you hold your pen to write a letter in your normal handwriting, and how you hold a pen to form letters in calligraphy. It’s a mixture of precision and relaxation. More and more these days I type rather than write; my keyboard speed is far faster than my pen, so my hand does not lag behind my brain. So, like riding a bike, I needed to reacquaint my hand and brain with the process.

It takes a while for the hand and brain to remember what they’re supposed to be doing, but it does come back.

The hardest stroke is where you are directing the nib from right to left – if you’re right handed,  like me, that is. You must let it flow lightly, smoothly and confidently. If you press and push, you’ll dig a hole in the paper with the square nib, it’ll splutter and skip and your beautiful curve is spoiled. It’s a skill of the whole hand and arm, not just the fingers.

It’s curious to note that now that penmanship is no longer a skill taught in most schools, younger generations find learning calligraphy much harder, lacking the years of practice we older generations put in on shaping our letters. If you’ve never paid attention to the way you hold a pen, never operated a fountain pen with real ink, or observed and consciously selected your preferred letter forms and signature cursive style, calligraphy is hard, and needs to be painfully learned from scratch. It’s harder still for an adult to learn this, because for a child, learning to shape letters is embedded into the whole process of learning to write.

Increasingly, calligraphers are being paid to make personalised items because the beauty of a hand written object is acknowledged but cannot be achieved otherwise. Sad for the population at large, to have lost this skill, but great for a new generation of professional calligraphers.

The same ‘body memory’  applies to embroidery and hand sewing of all kinds. Once learned, the skill is retained, and after a little practice, the body remembers, and miraculously, starts to build calluses on the figures to cushion the needle – or indeed, the pen.

After several hours with a couple of different writing tools, I feel more confident in shaping and marking.

I don’t think I’ll be ashamed of my eventual results…

Exercises written with Artline 0.2 Calligraphy fibre-point pen on paper and Sharpie Fine Point on fabric.

Worldwide Friends: friendship is golden…

Sekaijū no tomodachi

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 10.15.48 pm

The quilt’s name, painted freehand onto the fabric surface using a brush and thick red-gold resist ink

That is what this says. And its meaning is Worldwide Friends or Friends around the World, whichever way you prefer it.

The calligraphy nib on my pen was not the right tool for laying down thick ink on this textured surface, so I fished out one of my fine sable brushes for the lettering. It wasn’t completely straightforward. Having traced the ideograms from the original slips of paper using my LED lightbox and a quilt marker, I found the painting process was fairly laborious. The resist ink is thick and blobby, being very dense with gold pigment, and the surface of the fabric is a nubbly weave, making straight lines and neat corners a bit tricky. It dries quickly on the brush, and slowly on the fabric, so I had to keep moving.

Probably a Japanese person will be able to point out awkwardness or inaccuracy in my letter forms, but so long as it’s not actually saying something rude, I’m OK with it!

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 10.16.19 pmNow that I’ve done this lettering, the central section can be permanently added to the side pieces. I haven’t wanted to do that until now, because of the additional weight and volume of the sides making it hard to work with the middle – particularly when I thought I’d be embroidering the name on for a week or two.

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 10.16.39 pm

At the bottom is Nanette’s own hand-dyed fabric

After my last post on this quilt, which said that I would need more indigoes in order to finish the front, the kind and generous Nanette from Stitch and Sow has sent me even more loot, including some of her own hand-dyed fabric. So kind… As you can see, I’m making progress on the bottom strip. And no, I haven’t worked out how many more hexies I still have to make, that wasn’t such a great idea last time!

Suffice it to say there’s still quite a few hexies to go…

Worldwide Friends: Making my mark

I have been anticipating with some dread the need to do a lot of rather tidy embroidery on Worldwide Friends.

Not just the kanji symbols that make up its name on the front, but also the names of each lovely fabric participant and the haiku for the back. That’s a lot of immaculate satin stitch, never my best work.

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 3.20.35 pmInspiration struck when the Wedding Quilt for my niece Claire was making its usual nocturnal promenade through my brain, nagging me to make a start. Not yet, not yet…

But I had come up with a lovely idea for it, involving gold calligraphy winding a thread of poetry† around and around the border of the quilt. My calligraphy is rusty, but hopefully adequate, and I think I’ll be content with the results.

I had bought for this purpose gold resist ink and a broad calligraphy nib. You write, wait for it to sink into the fabric, and then heat set it with either an iron or in the tumble drier. Voilà, permanent, dry-cleanable and washable gold. You can also flush colour up to it and it will prevent migration into the next section. Multi-talented, multi-tasking ink. I wanted it in gold for reasons which are obvious if you read the poem, and luckily, I found some.

The WWF inspiration was the dawning realisation that the kanji and donor names would look beautiful if also done this way. The haiku done in black ink on white or beige fabric panels on the back would be the work of hours instead of days or even weeks. I’ll need to do a fair bit of practice to bring my lettering skills back up to speed and will have to sketch out lettering layouts/templates to ensure it all flows and looks nice, but I have great hopes.

It will be a Final Fabulous Flourish, with curlicues, finials and a cherry on the top. 


He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven, by WB Yeats.
In my opinion, surely one of the most beautiful love poems of all time, and peculiarly appropriate for use on a quilt which is also a wedding present to a dear niece. Love/Cloth/Night = Wedding Quilt!