Poem #16

Extension 1

for Sandy


Caribbean – a place where greening rain

lushes down on simple stoeped houses.

I’ve only been there on Walcott’s words

and through your letters from the island.


In Africa urban houses sprawl

cheek by jowl on the once wild land.

But blue sky and birds still sing

above these bared earth patches.


I stitched this into a quilt of cotton cloth

to warm the body and the eye.

I’m glad it crossed the seas with you,

and rests now in an island house.

Extension 1

Extension 2

A gap in the story

like a missing tooth

carried off

by the toothmouse.


On journaling

On a Saturday morning once a month I take the bag that holds my working journals, crayons, pens, pencils, scissors, etc. and head across town to a regular art journaling workshop with Sally Scott. https://sallyscottsart.wordpress.com And each time it is a morning of fun, companionship and experimentation. I cannot boast that I produce art at these sessions – but that does not matter, because during the workshops I become immersed in the process, and performance anxiety fades.

 Sally (top); Jill and Lisa; and an example of Jill’s mono-prints

Aware of the process versus product debate, I googled the words “art” and “process” for some background information. This is what Wikipedia has to say: “process art is an artistic movement as well as a creative sentiment where the end product of art and craft, the objet d’art (work of art/found object), is not the principal focus”.

Art journaling is thus a marvellous vehicle for process art. It is also an adventure. Acclaimed and versatile artist and teacher, Sally Scott, is very good at helping us explore new territory. Each month she teaches us something new and I have played with paint, made mono-prints, cut and pasted, sketched, glued, gesso-ed pages, made collages, and more. For someone who is much more comfortable holding a needle and who does not like to get her hands dirty (except when gardening), this is quite remarkable.

When Sally Scott first started these journaling workshops a few years ago I hesitated. Not my thing, I thought. But, having done a number of textile workshops with Sally, I was drawn to revisit her inspiring studio and classes. When I saw that the list of possibilities included fabric journals I was sold.

Last Saturday was the first workshop of this year and it was lovely to see the other art journalers again and to meet new people who came with bright new notebooks waiting to be filled with surprises. I have a practice journal, a “proper” journal, and a fabric book on the go. The fabric book was started at one of the workshops, where Sally helped me make the signatures (sets of pages, stitched in a special way) for the book. The design for the cover was ignited at another workshop when I spent my time cutting out strings of paper dolls and then decided to fabricate the idea.

The cover and the unfinished Book of Dolls, which still has many blank pages.

The first of the dolls, dressed in African Shweshwe fabrics.

Here’s a good definition from a good book on art journaling, Creative Wildfire by L.K. Ludwig. “What’s an art journal? An art journal is a space, most often a traditional book, that houses a collection of artwork created on blank pages that are really journal entries. The journal entries, while primarily visual, can explore the full range of an artist’s experiences” (p.10)

And from the same book, Katie Kendrick has this to say about process: “I remind them [her students] that the process is where the juiciness is, where the life is, that when they have a finished piece, that particular journey is over, so enjoy the moments of creating.” (p.50)

Like stitching, art or visual journaling, can be addictive. I am thinking about making a travel journal on last year’s Great London Adventure. Dare I say, watch this space?




Poem #15


My intention

­– buried as deep

as rock strata

beneath the mined

and broken earth –

was abstracted

into straight strips

and squared off.


The obsessive search

until the silver seam

is found.


the gutted Earth

gasps, goes unheard.


Who would follow

these strange maps

turtle turned into

a quiltmaker’s template?

The geologist

who has it now.


On getting into the swing


My sewing year got off to a bumpy start. Having announced in the first post of the year my intention to sew a house a weekend during 2019, I had fired myself up for the challenge. The first weekend of January came and I dithered about the background fabric. I wanted all 50 houses to have the same background, so it needed to be a fairly large piece. I decided on the size of the individual blocks – 6 x 4 inches – and started going through my stash. The whites were too white, the creams looked too flat, the browns were too boring, the greens too bright or too dull.  I even contemplated a black and white piece with a basket weave pattern (used before as backgrounds) and thought it would be too busy 50 times over. So I did a bit of gardening, took the dog for a walk, and then returned to the heap of possible fabrics spread on my cutting table. That “yes, this is the right one” feeling still eluded me. Then I remembered the yards and yards of sage-coloured cotton sheeting I had bought and stashed in another cupboard. It also looked too flat, but I told myself that quilting stitches in sky and earth colours would brighten it up.

January’s batch of houses

Luckily I had a photograph of houses that I wanted to mimic. (It was taken last year at Mevagissey when we visited and were enchanted by the town on the Cornish coast.) Luckily, too, the choosing of the fabrics for the actual houses went quite quickly. Offcuts of cream canvas were just the thing for walls and in the scrap bag I found the roofing, door and window materials. That left Sunday evening to sew the house.  It was fun to construct it, using machine applique, and a glue stick to hold the fairly small windows and door in place as I stitched around them with my magic darning foot. As it turned out, most of the background fabric was covered by the house anyway. By the next weekend I was keen to make house number two. It was a wider house, so I cut a six inch square piece for the background.  I will use the two sizes for the backgrounds as I stitch my way through the year. The four houses made so far have matching colour schemes and I am not sure what February will produce.


The Romantic poet, John Keats, famously wrote that poetry should come “as the leaves to the tree” or not at all. Well, the leaves for the newly completed quilt Silver Tree with Green Leaves, did not come easily. But I am glad I preserved. I used lurex with embedded sequins for the leaves because of the lovely shiny and twinkly effect of the fabric. The lurex tends to roll up on itself, so to get the leaves to lie flat I  hand stitched a stablising layer of black vilene between two layers of lurex. It was a rather fiddly task and I hope that I made enough leaves for a generous canopy.  I did also redo the bottom binding. This piece was started at least a year ago, and I am relieved (and also pleased) that it is now finished. Unless, of course, someone tells me that it needs more leaves!


Poem #14


In the back corner of the fabric shop

they stack the overdyes

– ink heavy bolts of cloth

that are black and stiff

with the layers

of reprinted patterns.

The trick is to sense what’s buried there

and then to take one’s chances,

for sometimes it’s fool’s gold.

I’ve developed a canny eye that probes

beneath the inky smudge, searching

for bits of brightness and bold lines.

I was looking for inspiration

on the shelves of new clean fabric

when I saw that bolt

out of the corner of my eye

and the lime green beneath the black ink cloud

snatched like lightning.

As the roll unfurled upon the counter

– metre after metre of swirling patterns

within the columns overprinted

on the original design –

my excitement grew

into a purchase of ten metres.

After soaking, hosing, washing, rinsing

the fabric again and again, until the water

was no longer a river of ink

the pattern came through,

bold and true,

and it was, indeed, unique.

It hung on the line,

drying into a brighter brilliance.

I sat in the garden,

unthinkingly traced

the dance of the design

onto the back of my eyeball.

Its imprint unfolded like grace

and I set to to make the quilt,

found matching plains and the cutting line

then sewed strip upon strip into place,

interleaving the thin bright bands

in the overdye’s intricate design.

I turned these into blocks,

pinned up a checkerboard

of pieced and unsewn squares,

stood back to squint-size it up

and somewhere between gut and mind,

saw that the blocks must be redefined.

In measured steps

I sliced the squares

into rectangles

to echo Fibonacci’s series,

felt the quilt resound

with a pleasing click,

saw again that our world

is ruled by chance,

and that with a bit of luck

contingency comes

disguised as serendipity,

and a quilt unfolds

to reflect this synchronicity.


On hubris

This is a rather fancy title for a post about slapdash sewing. But, hubris is a lovely word which perfectly explains my latest stitching mishap. It was a combination of presumption, pride and excessive self-confidence (all of which the OED lists as meanings of the word) which caused me to have to unpick and redo the binding of a quilt. This is not the first time this has happened and I really should have learned my lesson by now. Here is photographic evidence of the problem.

The problem arose because I sewed slippery fabric onto slippery fabric. I knew when I chose that silver taffeta binding that it would be difficult to sew it onto the velvet quilt background. But, hubris got in the way and I told myself that I could pull it off. I followed the same method I had used before, which is to square off the quilt carefully, then to check that the edges are the same length by folding the quilt in half lengthways and then sideways to measure the sides against one another. If there is a discrepancy, I cut off the extra millimetres and re-square the quilt. This method has always worked and resulted in a quilt that hangs true and square. In my over-confidence I had forgotten that I used to also carefully measure the binding to make sure that the sides were bound with equal lengths of fabric.

My presumption that I no longer needed to measure the binding as well worked for three sides of the quilt. 75% is not good enough but I hoped that the wonkiness would not matter too much because of the free-style design of the quit. My good friends Karen Davies and Catherine Knox both gave me the unwelcome advice to unpick the binding and redo it. It is well known adage that really good friends sometimes have to tell you what you don’t want to hear!

I did unpick it and found that the offending binding was 2 inches longer than the binding on the corresponding side. And then I carefully pinned and tacked the accurately measured new binding before I machine stitched it down. And it worked. Thank goodness for good friends.

silver tree
The rebound quilt, which is still a bit wonky along the bottom edge.

This tree is not finished. I am busy stitching its foliage, so watch this space.  And I have realised that the bottom binding also needs to be unpicked and redone.

Coincidentally, this week I read an article by Tricia Patterson titled “A Material Difference: Quilting with Satin” on The Quilting Company’s website (https://www.quiltingcompany.com). The main tip she gave was to sew carefully and slowly! In the article she writes:  “Satin is hard to manage while you are stitching, it’s going to slip around, and permanent holes will likely appear when you need to rip out threads from unintentional stitching. So, why bother? Because… it is incredibly beautiful in a quilt.”

I needed to read that because I have been asking myself why I choose to use difficult-to-sew slippery fabrics like velvet, organza and, yes, satin. The answer is, of course, for the result. But I think I am going to move to some well-behaved cottons for my next project.

Incidentally, it was my self-imposed Friday blogging date which spurred me on to fix the binding on the Silver Tree quilt. Otherwise I would not have had anything to write about. So, yay for blogging! Tomorrow is the anniversary of Fabrications, the blog site I started a year ago.

Poem #13

Cob House Village

The usual construction method

of stitching strings of house

to create a village of nestled homes

(sometimes bright and skewed

with red-pitched roofs and gaily painted,

other times pale and square

flat-topped by corrugated iron)

fell by the wayside.


This time rustic cob houses

low-slung and earth-toned

emerged from the fabric,

a picture of pastoral ease

peaceful on a hillside.

cobhouse village