Poem #8


Go little quilt

into the world,

proclaim your place

in a book of leaves,

signifying one

that turned




On Edge (continued)

The Fibreworks Edge exhibition at the KZNSA Gallery in Durban has been a big success and has been extended for a week until 4 November 2018. The following photographs were taken by Liza du Plessis/@osmosisliza, the gallery’s professional photographer.

fibreworks liza pic1
photograph by Liza du Plessis

I was thrilled to see that my quilt Nature’s Book was hung so prominently. Thank you to the show’s curators. It was hard not to be able to go to the exhibition, so thank you too for the photographs on the website http://kznsagallery.co.za/exhibitions/edge.htm

fibreworks liza pic2
photograph by Liza du Plessis

This is another view of my “garden quilt” proudly showing its colours amidst the other works of art. (Doesn’t this view of all these beautiful textile works make one want to visit the exhibition!) I wrote about the making of this quilt in a previous blog Post # 18. On Gardens  where I explained that the quilt was inspired by Beth Armstrong’s metal sculpture Page which graces the gardens of the National English Literary Museum in Grahamstown. And talking of Grahamstown — here is a partial photograph of the work, Dance, of our town’s acclaimed artist, Sally Scott, on the wall above the exhibition’s title.

fibreworks liza pic3
photograph by Liza du Plessis

Again I am proud to say that my smaller piece, Birdsong, is the central tree in the group of three works on the wall. For more information on the making of this quilt, see  Post #6. On textiles and texture

After my last post on the forthcoming Edge exhibition and my being a bit on edge myself after returning from our Holiday of a Lifetime, I came across Ali Smith’s beautifully written, thought provoking words on the same subject in an essay titled (wait for it) “On Edge”.

Edge is the difference between one thing and another. It’s the brink. It suggests keenness and it suggests sharpness. It can wound. It can cut. It’s the blade – but it’s the blunt part of the knife too.

It’s the place where two sides of a solid thing come together. It means bitterness and it means irritability, edginess, and it means having the edge, having the advantage. It’s something we can go right over. It’s something we have on someone or something when we’re doing better than him or her or it. It’s something we can set teeth on. And if we take the edge off something, we’re making something more pleasant – but we’re also diminishing it.

There’s always an edge, in any dialogue, in any exchange. There’s even an edge in monologue, between the speaker and the silent listener. In fact there’s an edge in every meeting, between every thing about to come together with something beyond it.

Edges are magic, too; there’s a kind of forbidden magic on the borders of things, always a ceremony of crossing over, even if we ignore it or are unaware of it. In medieval times weddings didn’t take place inside churches but at their doors – thresholds as markers of the edge of things and place are loaded, framed spaces through which we pass from one state to another. In the eighteenth century people found that standing on the edge of a cliff or a sheer drop was a very good way to view what became known as the sublime: a hundred years later Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote about the edge as a force of psychological sublimity, how “the mind, mind has no mountains; cliffs of fall / Frightful, sheer no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap / May who ne’er hung there”; for the notion of edge is double-edged, involves notions of survival and a natural proximity to words like over the.

(p. 126-127 from the book Artful by Ali Smith, Penguin (2013))

I could go on quoting from this text. I found it quite astounding, made more so that it came my way when I had been musing on the idea of the edge. It has also made we want to revisit that powerful poem by Hopkins, which begins “No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief”. There are a clutch of these poems of despair, called The Terrible Sonnets. Another of them begins “I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day”.

Rather a dark musing to end this week’s post. Just in case I have given the wrong impression — I am happy and excited at the prospect of a weekend of stitching.

Poem # 7

Blue Moon

Two moons full in that July

Night sky shwe-shwes in the beyond

Silvered beads sing the crescent, wax the rounding

365 moons in all their phases

Change ringing with certainty

The sea answers the pulling call

Secret record, subtly stitched

Extraordinary orbit of ordinary reassurance

Blue moon

On Edge

Textile work by C. Lemmer

An exhibition of textile works by South African artists is opening next Wednesday (10 October) at the KZNSA Gallery in Durban. The exhibition is titled Edge and I am happy to say that some of my work will be on display.

If you happen to be in the area, the address of the KZNSA Gallery is 166 Bulwer Road, Glenwood, Durban. Telephone +27 (0)31 277 1705. And the website is http://www.kznsagallery.co.za/

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Fibreworks has mounted a group exhibition that has an extra edge to it. Inspired by the example of a similar exhibition at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Fibreworks members have made textile works that are inspired by South African art works displayed in South African public galleries and/or museums. The idea was not to copy works by other artists, but to engage with them aesthetically. This is the tenth Fibreworks exhibition to be mounted. After its launch at the gallery in Durban the exhibition will travel around the country. Apart from the Edge exhibition, it also includes a Major Minors (small works of 25 to 30 cm) and a non-themed exhibition.

Fibreworks was formed in 1997 and has about 50 members, most of whom are South African. A number of the members are internationally renowned teachers and fibre/textile artists. Work from the Fibreworks group appears in public and private collections both in South Africa and abroad.

The aims of the group are:

  • To promote textile/fibre art as a serious art form and to establish a group committed to this ideal
  • To generate interaction, new challenges and critical input
  • To hold regional retreats
  • To hold a national exhibition biennially that includes the AGM
  • To circulate a quarterly newsletter

To discover more about Fibreworks and to see images of some of the work, please visit the website at http://www.fibreworksart.com

And now for a bit of musing. My fingers hesitated over the keyboard as I typed the title of this blog. “On Edge” refers to the exhibition, yes, but it is also a bit close to the bone. Should I admit that I am a little on edge?  A week ago we were preparing to fly home after a holiday of a lifetime in London. It feels as if I haven’t quite landed yet – hence the edginess.

Edge is one of those beautifully ambiguous words, with the ominous meaning of sharpness on the one hand and the intoxicating meaning of ardour and keenness on the other. When it comes to quilting, the edging or border fabric often demands the most attention and thought.

I hope I have not lost my stitching edge this past month when the only time I threaded a needle was to shorten some curtains. I did knit two pairs of socks during the in between times of our travels. Here’s one pair as proof.


This weekend I hope to reconnect with my sewing machine. The plan is to make a small quilt from this delightful charm pack of 2-and-a-half inch squares that I found at the Victoria & Albert Museum shop. Watch this space.



More on the doiley

In July I wrote about my happy doily discovery, when I decided that it could make a lovely lacy centre for a flower. Well, I had a second doiley up my sleeve, and this is what I made.

From a Secret Garden #6

There is something about old lace that evokes a quieter, slower way of life. My mind has been full of plottings and plannings for a trip of a lifetime, and stitching this second flower has been a good, calming exercise.  Here is a photograph of the pair of them.


I won’t we writing blogs for the next month because I am about to set off on my Great London Adventure. I will be taking my knitting along.

Poem #6

Beyond Blue

A bend in the line

teases the mind

out of stricture

into contemplation

of what lies

beyond the blues.


Angled lines break

the rigidity

of the old pattern’s


Then the soft hues

of purples and blues

hint at hidden rhymes.

Beyond blue

Post #24 On Houses

A few months ago Pam Holland, the distinctive award-winning quilter, put out a challenge to make houses inspired by her designs. It was an irresistible challenge because I am a sucker for houses and hers are so quirky and enticing. After pouring over her examples and doing quite a bit of thinking and stitching, this is what I produced.

Castle Close
Castle Close (39 x 65 cm)

I hope you can see why it is called Castle Close. I had great fun making it.  The rest of this post will give a step by step account of the process.

House quilts have always caught my imagination and I have made quite a few over the years, using the machine piecing and paper-based methods to construct villages (see post #8). Pam Holland’s challenge set me on a new path of replacing piecing with applique and of doing a bit of drawing with a fine marker to give definition the windows and doors. I copied the only two square buildings from her many and varied houses.

I rarely sketch, but this time I did do a bit of planning with a pencil and crayons. The aim was to work out how to get the effect of rows of houses nestling behind one another. I discovered later that it was much easier to get this effect with fabric.


Then I made some sample houses. Old habits die hard and I pieced the roof onto the walls of the house. It felt like a more solid construction once the triangle and the square were joined by stitching. The photograph on the left is of the sample houses. The other photograph is a trial run of the layout of the village.

Paper-backed fusible web was used for the doors, windows, and roof trims. It was certainly easier than piecing them in as they are pretty small. (The houses are each one-and-a-half inches wide.) Once the bits were stuck down I machined around the edges with straight stitching to stablise them and then used a permanent pen marker to outline the windows panes and door trim. The doors were “painted” with water-based coloured pencils.

I finished off each of the houses before I appliqued them onto the background. For this I used my favourite black and white commercial fabric and hand painted the sky and the grass onto the cloth with a watery solution of fabric paint.

The houses were then machine appliqued onto the painted background, in layers. It was an “aha” moment when I found I could get that nestled-behind-one-another effect by partially covering the first row of houses. Pam Holland favours putting her houses on hilltops. I found that by placing the rows in a gentle semi-circle I could create an echoe of this effect.


The railway line and street lights were machined onto the piece after the cluster of houses and all been appliqued onto the background.

And finally I sandwiched, hand quilted, and bound the village. As a happy surprise, the fabric for the binding fell out of my stash of fabrics (well, almost!). Truth is, I found it buried amongst the pile of orange and yellow pieces in my cupboard.

Congratulations to Susan Harrison Buckingham who won the competition. She created a world of Pam’s houses, nestled in folds of fields that went up hill and down dale.

Apart from being an exquisite quilt maker, Pam Holland is also a tutor, author, designer, illustrator, photographer and presenter. Her blog page is at https://iampamholland.com and she has a public facebook page. There you will find images of house entries from around the world.