Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Word - The Book

I love the way Drs/Dentists and Opticians like to present an art installation for our contemplation in their waiting rooms... sorry if this isn't focussed but you get the idea.

I learnt how to use my sewing machine as a cutting tool when at college.

Now I have adapted the method to cut out repeat shapes... here a simple hexagon allows me to make the pages for a book with ratty edged leafs  (and before you lambast me for the spelling, I mean as in Toronto Maple Leafs - both leafs or leaves are acceptable spellings, take your pick of the vegetation.)

I used some lightweight draftsman's paper, use a strong needle if you are going to do this and remove as much of the mechanism as you can (and don't hold me responsible if your machine clogs up - mine's a Bernina and they are work horses! that can be cleaned out thoroughly by even the less mechanical of us).
Your machine might not be so accommodating, especially if it has a horizontal bobbin case and race.  Yikes aren't we getting technical now.

I think I am going to stain the pages with coffee it has to look aged and distressed.  But that I will show you after Thanksgiving.  But now is a good a time as any to show you the inspiration for The Book
This is a miniature Koran, Thanks to for the image.
Such miniature Korans were often made to be attached to the tip of Ottoman battle standards, and held high when charging into battle.

Turkey. 1500-1550 A.D. 6.3 cm across. Ghubari script. Courtesy of the Nasser D Khalili Collection of Islamic Art.

Isn't it respect-demanding and gorgeous.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Did I upload this already? I can't remember

This is where I was last week... this week these things have been flying', but I can't show you that yet.
For privacy reasons.
Species 399 Semi-Free from karin millson on Vimeo.

Progress on Species 399

I have been working on these guys and putting them through their paces... seeing how they perform... auditions you might say.
These are my favourites
Next up - book-making.
And thinking about a jellyfish.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Houston Quilt Festival - The rest

This was always going to be overwhelming.  I mean I have been to two Knitting and Stitching Shows in Britain.  And I thought they were big.  This was going to be bigger.
It is an absolutely massive event that is renowned throughout Texas and beyond.They even have their own banners.  I have presented below just a few comments to go with some photos I took there.

I decided I would look at it not in the "I want to see everything" way, but more... "What has this animal got to offer me?" way.  Here are my personal highlights... and if you had gone, and maybe you did, you would have come away with your own story of the adventure.
This just got personal.
These bobbins were so photogenic.  The vendor (of the ribbons - bobbins not for sale) told me that a winning quilt was based on these bobbins viewed on end.  Very nice it was too.  but I find I don't have a photo.

I paid $12 to get in... Can someone tell me how that is not good value for money... (read on).
not having been at this event before I decided to buy a program - for $1 with a free gift of the 2015 Quilt Festival pin from 2014. Very pretty.  It does say Cross to me though - was it supposed to?

However the relatively cheap admission charge rather balanced up the parking fee- we paid only $12 but others paid $30.

Vally (seen here above with "Monument Au Fantome" sculpture by Jean Dubuffe)
V. kindly drove me to the event ) and her friend Mary who plays second violin in the Galveston Symphony Orchestra, as well as makes lovely quilts.  Proof that these people do have interesting lives over and above their involvement in needle and thread.  Mary suggested a good book during our discussions Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway. Click on it to see quotes from the book.

Vally went to set up the Houston Quilt Guild's Learn to Quilt booth where I later made my block - whilst under instruction from one of their members. It made a comical thank you gift for Vally.

Their quilt booth was beautifully decorated with work by Russian Quilters whose paperwork had arrived too late to have the quilts hung in the main exhibition space!!!  The Houston folks kindly donated their own space.  I particularly liked this one.

Russian Fairy Tale from Ivanavo City Club I believe
During the wait I chatted with a delightful lady who was from north of Huntington, where, I learnt, there are some prisons, though she lives some distance away from them.  Interesting.  She told me where to go to get a great (free) bag (for all the goodies I was possibly going to buy  - but I didn't get the bag nor the goodies).
Points of interest in the huge with a capital 'H' vendor's section:-

The techie businesses were manned literally - (there was a "Husband's lounge" - one wonders what was in there!
The foot massagers were well-busy
I got a new 'O' ring for my Eurosteam iron (that is made in Calgary!)
There is an excellent bead shop in Austin
A team selling bag patterns and all things bag had a magnet that might solve an issue with one of my 'one of kind' handbags
I saw a stall selling indigo and antique items -see previous post.
On show - an interesting gadget (that you can make for yourself, not as polished perhaps, but the way this thing works is clever and I will give it a go in my own way, when I need to cut out the shapes for a puppet-project item on my machine...
The darling Wonderfil (out of Calgary) folks couldn't tell me which store in Houston stocks their stuff, or which stocks the largest range... off-putting - just directed me to the web.. Thank  you.  That's a lot of money to be at a show for publicity reasons, down the tube.
Imprisoned by my Inner Demon - Pamela Contreras
Now the main exhibition space.  Probably as big, if not bigger than the vendors',  I was told that this event makes more money than any other, for the George Brown Convention centre, possibly vying with one other event some years (which I expect is the big Petroleum Conference or some such).  Sponsorship for the show, prizes ($1000s) and so on, looks pretty impressive.
Many different groups and companies use the space to show their work.  Eg., Spoonflower Where I found this wonderful piece.

Night Work - Terri Illingworth (Detail)

Displayed next to a piece by the curator of this section Jane Dunnewold - which you can't quite see, but i have included the photo for Terri to see the setting of her work.
I had lunch with  a new acquaintance...Margaret who was well-pleased to have found this quilting fabric - Shame it wasn't the Houston skyline.

I headed over to Art Quilts of SAQA. Lots of collage with "raw edge" quilting.  Nice in their own way, but not the most exciting works to my eye.
Cat and Mouse Game - Martha Ressler
Lighting in this area was very poor. All images have been adjusted in Aperture.

This one I have put in for my sister's pleasure
The Long legged Cats and the Long Legged Bird - Cathy York
Grieving Animal (seen from the back) - Chiaki Dosho
This is the view of an animal from the back whilst the creature is grieving for the earth in its current condition of change.  At last I say, a work that is meaningful, deeply creative, intriguing and not meant to be pretty, yet turns out to be so because it was made with such care and attention to detail.  How can it not interest us.
But overall the diversity of works in this section disappointed me. With lots of the raw edge quilting and not so much mixed media in the more developed art quilt vein.

I thought I might join SAQA but the lady who was manning the booth helpfully suggested I look online for information about the local group.  Another example of poor use of opportunity - If I may be so bold as to say such a thing.
Forgive me - I missed recording the title and maker but this piece is beautiful for it's complimentary use of mass hand stitching.
Stonecrop Tapestry - Susan Bianchi
This one got a lot of attention but the main comment when I was close by was - "That must be heavy"
A wonderful other moment was when I popped over to see the small demo booths. Cheryl Sleboda caught my attention because she was probably the youngest person in the room and she was working with Arduino and lights in her quilts.  It was a delightful short presentation she gave.
I want to incorporate lights that respond to magnets in some of my work with Wendy P-G. and maybe this was the push I needed to get on with it.

Here are a couple of quotes I heard at the event:-
"Did you come far to this event?" "No"
"Where from?"
"Wichita Kansas, - 12 hours away"

As a lady puts down some fabric and walks away from a vendor her friend supports her with a wonderful Texan accent, "You have such great resolve."

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The way my mind works:-

Shell perforation
View Through/Starfish

 Too late to work on this any more today - tomorrow edge burn and add thread.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Now we are getting there.

Going organic.
Can you tell I am a micropalaeontologist?
This is a single-celled organism believe it or not!
The stuff of dreams.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Mini Chores

This pin-sized delightful little darling is all I have to show for today's work.
Hope I make more progress tomorrow and get a bit more organic... this is far too perfect... and not the look I am aiming at at all.  But it is cute.

Houston Quilt Festival - Oct 2015 - First instalment.

Indigo at the Quilt Festival - A two centre story.
This may not be news to you, but ignorant little me knew nothing about American Quilts in Indigo. or the connection with my home town in Manchester England -in those dark days of Indigo, cotton and slavery.

I jotted down a few notes about one show area at the Quilt Festival that was absolutely plastered with no photography signage.  That is sad.  But True.  You could buy a book instead.  Funds didn't allow it.
I hadn't heard of this collection before  - The Poo Collection (yes really.... I will have to look into why it is called that).
I had a great chat with Kay Triplett who co-owns, with her sister, a collection of wonderful American 19 century Indigo quilts (amongst others).  I looked at the fabric and didn't understand - where did these fabrics come from.  She told me that the Indigo fabric was produced in America.  It was mostly created using resist methods and roller printing of the resist.  That is why the pattern is so perfect. (I like mine less so).
It was very interesting to learn that Indigo was grown here in the US (probably along with the cotton, I surmised) on the plantations.
Noting my keen interest and enquiring mind (ahem), Kim took me to see the only red white and blue quilt on show.  (I had asked her about the relationship if any with the Arts and Craft Movement (and W. Morris in particular).  She explained the red and blue quilts had some fabrics that had indeed been discharge printed, others used the American Resist method. She showed me some fuzzy edged patterning and the red (probably madder) dye.  I was in heaven.

This story developed for me, as later in the day I discovered a vendor Cotton in the Cabin Quilts who was selling indigo fabrics.  And wouldn't you know it they had some of the very same indigo dyed (resist printed) fabric. My purchases are shown above and below

 I chose two small pieces (we are still on cost cutting here in our Shell family) and asked the store owner if they could tell me anything about the fabric.
"Well I certainly can." said Mr. Loring McCay.

Indigo (from the 1600s) and cotton (of course) was grown in, most notably, South Carolina (Eliza Lucas Pinckney is credited with making indigo the largest export crop in South Carolina during the mid-1700s.) and West Virginia from about 200 years ago till the civil war, after asking her father to get her some indigo seeds and a slave! (The war had a knock on effect and the Cotton Famine affected many families in Lancashire at that time.)
However The fabrics were woven and dyed there in central America.  It is a truly shameful tale.  Here are some references I found online during my research.Credits for the quotations below go to  - -
"...when prices were high, indigo dyestuff could be exchanged for slaves; it is said that a planter in South Carolina could fill his bags with indigo and ride to Charleston to buy a slave with the contents, “exchanging indigo pound for pound of negro weighed naked." 

"Not a chest of indigo reached England without being stained with human blood … I have seen several Indian peasants sent unto me as a magistrate, who have been speared through the body. I have had Indian peasants before me who have been shot down by the planters. I have put on record how others have been first speared and then kidnapped; and such a system of carrying on indigo, I consider a system of bloodshed."

E. De-Latour of the Bengal Civil Service, Magistrate of Faridpur, giving evidence beforean enquiry committee, 1848

I will never look at indigo in the same light again.
However, another story emerged as Mr McCay spoke to me; one with a more personal connection.

The fabric I had purchased was the modern but identical version of these American fabrics.
Here is the story.
The indigo story in Manchester begins in the 1930s with  the emigration of Gustav Deutch to Lancashire.  He was a fabric printer/discharge printer working in Czechoslovakia and Hungary.
His mills were later purchased by Blue Printers Ltd, Wigan.

A mill in Manchester (I am from Manchester, did I say?)  wove cotton (probably sourced in America and ?India).  They dyed the cotton using Indigo (probably also brought from America or more probably India by The East India Company.  Of course it was then exported worldwide as well as being sold locally.
One of the places it was sold was to South Africa, the most popular brand was Three Cats made by Spruce Manufacturing (possibly in Wigan).

Three Cats now made by Da Gama Textiles in South Africa

I wonder how many years this had been a lucrative though bloody business, through the times of William Morris for sure... but things changed in the '70s, possibly because of health and safety aspects to do with the natural dye industry, or the prevalence of synthetic dyeing.... who knows (do write and tell me).

Two of the principal staples which India produces for exportation are opium and indigo. In one respect,and in one respect only, opium  and indigo resemble each other. They are both cultivated by a system of advances, which presents some features absolutely identical.
In all other respects these vegetable products can only be compared to be contrasted. Opium is a drug which is grown for traffic with China, and is that “foreign medicine” which now passes through the Chinese custom houses at a settled duty; indigo is a harmless dye, which is very welcome at Manchester, and exercises only beneficial effects upon our relations with the rest of the world.
An excerpt from “Brahmins and Pariahs: An Appeal by the Indigo Manufacturers of Bengal to the British Government, Parliament, and People,” 1861

In 1970 the factory in Manchester closed **and the machinery was moved to Da Gama in East London, South Africa.  Da Gama now own all the original copper print rolls from this period of Lancashire dyeing.
In fact my own research has shown me that Tootal invested in the South African mills and began to produce Three Leopards Brand.  For more information on this industry in South Africa go here.

Three Leopard Brand on the reverse of my fabric
On closure of the Lancashire factory, the remaining bolts of fabric in Manchester were thrown on the dump and a friend of Mr and Mrs McCay went and collected them - there were 1000s of yards of red, blue and cadet fabrics.

Production continues in S Africa - where the stiffness of the fabric denoted its quality.  My samples are actually rather stiff.  However, it is the odour that they carry that means more to me.  It is a scent that I remember from my youth when I used to go to the cotton mill in Manchester with my mother, Renate Kesler, who was a bookkeeper at Chain Bar Mill - who were cotton weavers, not dyers I believe. It took me back 40 years!
I hope you found this as amazing I did.

** During research for this blog entry I noted that a fabric is for sale today at
I am now wondering..... is there more to be discovered?  Research continues.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Tubular Belles

Working in shibori and loving it.
Anterior View
Posterior View
The mock up for something juicy in the future.
I'm working on a post about the Houston Quilt Fest. Be patient...