To market, to market…

A year ago I tentatively explored the idea of becoming a marketeer. By that I mean “a person who sells in a market” (OED) and not a specialist in marketing (also OED). Now that I intend to do this in earnest, and in preparation for the Sunnyside Street Festival to be held in Grahamstown-Makhanda next Wednesday (1 May), I made a bunting banner of my brand name (ahem). It was too long to fit nicely into one photograph, so here is a piecemeal photograph of it.

I had fun making the bunting and used the sewing machine’s triple stitch, set on a close zig zag, to applique the letters. It worked like a dream and I am well pleased because I have not managed to successfully satin stitch along a raw edge before this. (In my last post I waxed lyrical on being shown how to use the triple stitch on my machine at Rosalie Dace’s workshop.)

And another set of photographs of the bunting banner strung up above my worktable:

We were at Hogsback for the long weekend over Easter and at the market there I put up a pop exhibition of ten of my smaller quilts (25 x 25 cm). It was a lovely autumnal day and the open air display twinkled nicely in the sun. I enjoyed chatting to another quilter who said she was inspired to make small pieces after seeing these quiltlets. If I had not put them up I would not have met her, nor would I have sold some quilts.


During the rest of the weekend I hand quilted and enjoyed the mountain air. Once again I was surprised and pleased at the difference rows of stitching can make. The piece I am working on is of fine cotton fabric, with muslin used for the backing. The needle and thread pass through the layers of the quilt smoothly and easily.



On the here and now

The here and now is an enormous and entrancing place. I discovered this at Rosalie Dace’s workshop this week. Last week I wrote about my anticpation of doing a class with this famous South African textile artist and teacher. Well, my expectations were more than fulfilled. It is 48 hours since I packed up my sewing machine and messy work table at the end of the three-day class, and I am still floating in a sea of ideas and excitement at what I learnt.

There was much energy, laughter, discussion, excitement — all signs that we were living in the present moment — as Rosalie guided us through our individual stitching adventures. I am aware that I am using up my stock of adjectives as I write. This is because it is difficult to describe in words the wonder and fun of those three days.

As I drove the 300 or so kilometres to get home I tried to pinpoint what lay behind the magic of Rosalie Dace’s teaching. If I say it is her abundant warmth and empathy, combined with superb technical skill and an artist’s eye, you may get an inkling of what I am trying to describe. Put more simply, she is a good teacher.

At the start of the class she said she wanted us to “design in the moment”. I did wonder how that would be possible, but by the second day I think that that is what I was doing. There were about 20 of us and each one produced something completely different. As Rosalie said, it was not a class where she was teaching a technique or method. But, where it was necessary, she patiently explained how to stitch to get a certain effect, or turn or facing, etc. She helped me to discover how to use my machine’s triple stitch. To non-sewers that may sound odd, but for me it was a breakthrough. This stitch sews three lines of thread at a time and is generally used to mend or reinforce the seams on, for example, a pair of jeans. For a quilter, it opens up a world of textural possibility.

Another trick she showed us was to use black paper to cut out shapes. For example, on the second day I decided that the thoughts, inspiration and ideas spinning about in my brain was what was happening in the here and now of that day, so I first cut out the shape of a head. (See what I mean about having fun!) Here is what happened in pictures.


I am looking forward to finishing my two “brains” — the rational one on the right (of the photographs) and the emotional brain (centre). Perhaps it was Rosalie advising us to consider how to simplify an image and pare it down that led to the making of these two heads (!). She told us that simplification is the hardest thing to do. The representation of the brain also gave me an excuse to use the newly discovered triple stitch on my machine (see the photograph on the right).

Each day we started with a discussion and learnt many things from Rosalie Dace such as the use of contrast, shape, line, layers, texture, symbols, colour, enhancement; the importance of making a decision, of simplification, of thread. She said many things, one of which I am going to adopt as my stitching mantra. It is: play, have fun and take risks. She also warned us to “beware of the tyranny of realism”.

She said a piece of textile art should have

  1. evidence of the artist’s own voice
  2. evidence of mastery of technique
  3. evidence of some risk taken

This is a tall order, but worth aspiring to.

We learnt much more than I have reported from Rosalie Dace and were all delighted when she said she would be happy to return next year to give us another class. What a privilege. Her website address is  Prepare yourself for a visual feast as you look at photographs of her work.

Here are some photographs taken during the class,  with apologies for the bad lighting.


On Anticipation

It has been a week of plotting and planning and over excitement. I have been thinking hard about the here and now because that is the theme of a workshop I will be doing next week with Rosalie Dace. She is a famous South African teacher who spends a good part of her year teaching in the United States, so we are doubly lucky to have nabbed her for a three-day workshop which she will be giving at St Francis Bay. I am over excited because I did a workshop with her some years ago, and so know that a feast of creative fun awaits me. The instruction sheet for the here and now workshop begins with the words “Unleash your inner artist and make a quilt that no one else could make as you develop a personal design… ” I am sure the quilters who are reading this are green with envy.

In preparation I have been combing through my stash. We are encouraged to choose a personal symbol, motif and colour, hence the preponderance of plum coloured fabrics in the photograph of my selection.


Yes, those are small square mirrors lying on the background fabric. I thought that this may be the time and place to use them. Watch this space.

The week has held a double dose of anticipation because I have booked for more quilting workshops later this year at the…

Interchange Quilt Festival

The biannual South African Quilt Festival is happening in August this year under the title and theme of Interchange. ( The booking for classes opened this week. There are many enticing classes to choose from, including classes with six international teachers.

I will be learning about Kantha stitching with Dorothy Tucker from London. When I read that she is “known for her expertise in Kantha and in exploring how these intriguing quilts can inform contemporary textiles” I was sold. The when I saw that one needs to bring several small pieces of thin, soft, worn, thoroughly washed white cotton fabrics and small scraps of transparent silk and muslim for a day of hand sewing and discovering how to stitch “fascinating variations of the running stitch”, I was completely sold. This is the description for Dorothy Tucker’s class on An Introduction to Kantha. I have also signed up for a second day of delight at her Contrasts in Cloth class where we will explore the “emphemeral qualities of old Kantha”. Then there is also her public lecture Kantha: The Art of the Embroidered Quilt to look forward to.

There are also public lectures by the other international teachers Lyric Kinard, Sue Spargo, Angela Walters, Anita Grossman Solomon, and Jacqui Gering. And of course I have booked for those too.

And this is not all that I am excited about. I will also be doing classes with two South African teachers. With Sue Cameron I will spend two days learning new techniques and embellishments, and will come away with a six page fabric journal. At the last festival I did her course and was very inspired. See Post #6. On textiles and texture

Last but not least I will spend a day with Marline Turner who will show us how to master hand applique.

To keep calm amongst all this excitement I have been stitching away and finished this small quilt, which you have seen before while it was in process. I was pleased (and excited!) to find that leaving a bigger space between the rows of stitching created an interesting ridge in the design.

From a Secret Garden #7. 25 x 25 cm.

Poem #19

Extension 4

During idyllic weeks on Patmos

where St John’s Revelation still reverberates

I used up a spool of film

on the blue and white houses

that float up the hill from the quayside.


The photographs have faded

but not the memory woven

into these township houses

– as simple and as square –

but made bold and squat

by joblots of paint.


On Quilting Bees

Once again I have been having fun with the Oxford English Dictionary. A bee is (1) a stinging hymenopterous social insect of the genus Apis… (2) a busy worker (3) a gathering for combined work or amusement. Isn’t it remarkable that a string of three (two, actually) letters can be packed with so much meaning. There is more than idle musing behind this visit to my trusted OED. I was looking up the origin of the term quilting bee, which is under Q in the second volume of this “Shorter” dictionary. It has the less stimulating description of “a social gathering for the purpose of making a quilt or quilts”. I am half tempted to write to the editors of the esteemed Shorter Oxford English Dictionary to point out that there is a serious omission here. What about the “amusement”? When there is a gathering of quilters, there is always fun, laughter, conviviality, teasing, enjoyment, excitement, sharing of tips and tricks, and remarkable creations.

And that’s exactly what happened yesterday when my local quilting group gathered for a workshop on how to make the birch tree block. One of our members had made a quilt, using her scraps and this design, and offered to show us how.

The inspiring birch tree quilt made by my good friend, Karen Davies

Apart from the fun, there was also the inspired hum of sewing machines as we produced a range of blocks that were the same, but different.

We have been stitching together for a long time and have come to know one another’s styles. It’s almost uncanny how easy it is to spot whose work is who’s.

This photograph was taken at lunch time. By the end of the day we had run out of space and were pinning blocks and strips onto the curtains!

I consulted google for background to the quilting bee. It dates back to the mid 1800s and was a popular social event. The quilting bee provided a social space for women to gather and gossip while they simultaneously expressed their artistic capabilities — and stitched communally on a quilt. The quilting bee was often held in a grange hall or a church vestry room which allowed for a maximum of 12 women. Often times, the number of guests was limited to seven, who, with the hostess, made up two quilting frames. (Http://

On coincidence, etc.

In my last post I mused about luck and chance and made a sideways reference to coincidence. [See On hand appliqué] Well, two days later I came across this passage in a novel:

“So,” said Attila … “you say it’s a coincidence we have met three times. What if I tell you I don’t believe in coincidences? By which I mean the idea that coincidences are out of the ordinary, coincidences happen far too often to be considered extraordinary. People are always saying it. My, what a coincidence!”

Jean thought about that. She nodded: “True.”

“A statistician will tell you that you are as likely to get a row of zeros on a winning lottery ticket as a row of different numbers. We should be less surprised when life takes an unexpected turn. Life is disorderly. In certain parts of the world, in the absence of plagues and floods it’s easy to mistake mundanity for normality and therefore to react to what seems extraordinary. But what we call coincidences are merely normal events of low probability. There’s another possibility, of course.”

“What’s that?”

“That you have been stalking me.”

“So you see,” said Attila, “we could never have run into each other if you were in a more conventional line of work. It was not a true coincidence, closer really to a statistical likelihood.”

“Of course you’re right. I’m a scientist, I should never have used the word coincidence. There’s less synchronicity and more causality than we often think. Things happen. Sometimes in ways we couldn’t even start to imagine…”

                                                                                                         (p. 61-62)

So, was it a coincidence or just a statistical likelihood that I happened to be reading this novel at the same time as I was musing on the idea of coincidence? And does it matter anyway? What does matter is that this novel Happiness by Aminatta Forna (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2108) has opened my eyes to many things – from urban wildlife to serious social issues –  and has been a delightful reading experience at the same time.


The travel journal

A few of you said you would like to see the proposed travel journal I wrote about in a previous post [On journaling]. I have since had fun learning how to make signatures (sets of pages) from the London brochures, by stitching them in a special way, and then managing to bind them together between two covers. And that is as far as it’s gone with the construction of the book.

This doesn’t look that exciting, I know, but it is a work in progress and it does open nicely like a proper book. Here follows an inside view.


Here are the handwritten and typed versions of the journal.

The next step will be stick down the carefully typed travel account, transposed from the notes I kept en route, and to decorate the covers, and maybe add a secret pocket or two for the more personal accounts, which I did not transcribe into the typed version.

I will probably only get around to finishing off the travel journal at Sally Scott’s next workshop, where I can get some guidance and inspiration. Time is also a bit of an issue as I am stitching away at various quilts, one for an exhibition and others as entries for the South African National Quilt Festival, Interchange.