Wednesday, 11 September 2013

"Art's not a real A-Level"

Once upon a time I turned right when I could have turned left. I was forbidden from doing Art A-Level. A choice taken from me to ensure that I ended up with a proper career in something secure that pays. Gradually though the art has crept back into my life insidiously, more and more until I couldn't ignore it or play it down any more. I've been making jewellery, sewing, knitting and such thanks to kick-starts from workshops at Amy Surman's Oxford Bead Shop, Darn it and Stitch (now Pin Works) and of course the wonderful RatsasBigasCats. Doing those things in my leisure time but as a professional communications person, as well as someone with aspirations to sell drove me to taking photographs of my work. I then started to share my photos on Flickr, blogging here, using Tumblr to share my WiP's and such, as well as joining in with Twitter. I learned much from doing it and it has improved my making, kept good records and enabled me to give better strategic communications advice too, having actually walked the walk. 

The Fat Quarterly Retreat inspired me in a bunch of ways you've already heard me express but there was another I did not mention. See I vowed to myself I wasn't to go to another FQR until I had actually made a quilt! Might seem obvious but I suffered from a lack of confidence at the first one some of which I put down to never having made a quilt, as well as feeling a bit out-of-water, and yet there we were watching quilting done as a competitive timed sport! I also wanted to make the most of the opportunity to learn from such clever quilters, having actually made a proper size of quilted thing seemed like a good start. This vow thing did mean that I was deprived of this year's retreat - however it also meant a push to submit to the Festival of Quilts - that is on top of my own mouthing off about the lack of novelty and Modern Quilts.  

Once the Festival of Quilts was over I felt a post-FoQ slump though having ramped myself up to do it, finally made a quilt, photographed it to death, blogged it, exhibited even... and was left with the 'now what?' feeling. 

My lovely friends have, over the last months, nudged me towards a big decision. Dear Pritch (Comm's Kate) buys my jewellery and loves the sewn bits I make too, so gifted me with the 'Not on the High Street' 'Build a Business from your Kitchen Table' book and added a post-it note saying "Create, create, create, sell, sell, sell. Live your dreams.

Miss Coffs then commented on the photo of this on Flickr "She's right, Sally - live your dream. Do it now ... before you get entangled in mindless rubbish just to pay the bills. I believe you can do it! xx".

I had come out of some exhausting fixed term employments and in-between things I found myself free to consider the suggestion of my wonderful, kind, creative friends RatsasBigasCats and Borderline Straggler that, perhaps, I should try college - as an Art and Design student. *gulp* After all I was applying for jobs which my heart was just not in and I'd taken myself as far as I could before I would likely be sucked into just the quilting, when really I wanted to push myself into new disciplines and techniques, but just didn't know how. Some folk can learn via blogs, tutorials on YouTube in their leisure time and such, but really I like to see, touch, try, see again and ask questions.  

I didn't have a portfolio of my work but I went to an open day hoping to get an idea of what was involved in making one. There I was introduced to the course tutor, and, based on a sketchbook (made with Ratty's expert tuition) I had in my bag and photos of my makes on my phone via Flickr - I got in! The tutor was impressed with my having submitted to the FoQ, my skeleton cushions and rock quilting... and you could've knocked me over with a feather. 

So that's me now. Art & Design Student. Mature Art Student even. Learning all I can in a year, building a foundation towards becoming a better maker, learning new techniques, finding a job where this side of me is valuable... or maybe... going on to University... maybe... we'll see... dolly steps eh? 

In the meantime I shall still be selling the other makes (the hexagon things I do and such) that are not going into a portfolio via Etsy and elsewhere. Oh and I still consider commissions too. Those Library fines won't pay themselves after all ;-) .  


Sunday, 1 September 2013

FoQing done

Dotty me and my dotty side of the Geek Boy Quilt
My Festival of Quilts experience all done and dusted and my feedback in.  Folk keep asking me about how it went and what I'm upto next so here it is:

Judge 1 - 'Good use of fabrics especially the fussy cut images that help to tell the story. Very neat hand quilting. Well done. The back is lovely too. GF'
On the table of feedback she (I am assuming it's a she...) marked me as 'good' in all categories but for 'Design, Composition, Colour' where it was only 'satisfactory' and the same for 'Surface Design and Embellishment'.

Okay I can take that. I mean there wasn't surface embellishment because it's an actual functioning quilt that can go in the washing machine when it needs to and not a wall hanging. Honestly I'm not totally smitten with the front of it myself. Fine. Chuffed with the notes.

But Judge 2... The feedback from this one did get under my skin. I wish it hadn't... but honestly this is the reason I have held off from writing up my FoQing experience. I want not to let this bother me because I knew going there that I wasn't really going to be the Guild's sort of thing didn't I? But... hell what's blogging for but to vent these things right? So this was the 'My First Quilt' section - you might think they'd be kind and encouraging? I shan't run through all the categories and marks (tempting as that is) because they were equal numbers 'good' and 'satisfactory', but for one 'Quilting: Design & Execution' 'Needs Attention' - yeah? Really? The hand stitched hexagons and rays and rows? I thought they were okay but even if not - it is MY FIRST QUILT! *seethe*.

Judge 2 - 'Fine idea to make it double-sided. Backside surprising. You could think of more quilting. OS'
I often hear that I have lovely eyes, I've been complimented on my legs - but I've never before been told that my backside is surprising.

When I saw the quilt that won my section... I was more than underwhelmed. I haven't shared a photo or anything here because I don't wish to be a total bitch as a bad loser so I shan't go into why it wasn't to my taste, but just the thing that really bothered me. The rule was your quilt must be at least a metre in dimension - and the winning one was in two pieces. In two pieces? So... it was two small quilts to me. Right? 'A quilt in two parts in-bloody-deed'. The challenges of making a piece at this scale taken out? Yup. Oooh anyone'll tell you I'm terrible for playing by the rules of the game, and to me, this felt like it didn't.

The staff working at the event when I spoke to them about taking my quilt at the end of Sunday weren't very nice to me either. They more treated me like a nuisance  than anything and even failed to look me in the eye. The white gloved helpers by the exhibits were lovely. Vendors and bar staff and such... delightful. Look I'm no mousey shy girl, I can take feedback, I can ask for what I want, I can certainly handle bored hostility from some professions (in fact one of my favourite games is making the grumpy bus driver smile)... but here when the quilty guild are supposedly concerned about bringing young folk into the game, and in the My First Quilt section...? You might expect a note on the my first quilts feedback forms at least saying 'We hope you find these comments helpful and submit a quilt with us again next year' - something like that? Ummm... nope.

Oh and the feedback form was in Comic Sans! No wonder it churned my mood. Well it all just put me off. That's not to say I won't make more quilts, but I have no intention of playing this FoQing game again.

But hey not to worry. It doesn't really matter. Rant over. I'm not heartbroken - this is just my feedback on the event. I went to a funeral the next day and you struggle to care too much about such silly things then.

Back to the positive stuff? That day I got to see my quilt exhibited, admired, and photographed (which felt really odd)! I saw some interesting quilt details and kit. I got to be part of the first ever Pinworks excursion and I bought an amazingly lovely dinosaur ribbon.

Geek Boy Quilt was hung so you could see both sides! 
The Pinworks/ Darn it and Stitch outing was super fun and its FoQers were very supportive. Spending the day with Jo and Verity was a giggle (and hanging out with Penny (ratsasbigascats) is always a joy) (see pics if you like). Coming back to the mini bus to a chorus of 'You were robbed' and '...but yours was clearly the most original...' etc. from the rest of the ladies more than made up for the rest.

As you'll have seen from my previous blogs on the subject you'll know that I learned a lot from the whole experience... and most importantly I set the goal and met it. I exhibited a piece of my work - and hell being able to say that turns out to be a big thing. I can also now see why the Modern Quilty lot tend to work the event promoting products or books etc. rather than submit the wonderful quilts that we see them blog about and such.

What next..? It's late now and tomorrow's a big day for me *yawn* - but I'll explain soon.


P.S. Forgive me please if this post is typo-tastic but my eyes are tired.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Bookbinding lesson

I love notebooks. I really do. I believe a new notebook can be as good as a tidy room. Lucky for me then that my dear friend Penny (rats as big as cats) needed to practice teaching bookbinding for one of her outreach and inclusion activities.

You need a few tools but the use of the foldback clip was my innovation

Mini teaching aid notebook
Finished sketchbook

Why not have a Bing lining?

Just sewing and knotting. Easy.

Hardback notebook with sections. Tricky!

You need to use maths and logic.

Sewing and taping

Cardboard cutting is even harder than paper

Glue. Lots of lovely PVA glue

Inserted paper scraps to stop the glue from taking more pages

Penny kindly showing me and my memory (camera)

Finished hardback notebook of my very own!

So I likely won't get hooked on this activity but I ended up with two lovely new notebooks and a new found admiration for those who do make handmade notebooks. I also understand why it must be infuriating to make them and them not be used. I do tend to do that, smoothing lovely clean unspoiled notebooks and scribbling on the back of an envelope instead.

So here... look... they're in use!

I drew what was nearby - my foot and my phone.



Friday, 26 July 2013

Oxford Crafters

Oxford Crafters' came out of the Etsy Meet Up that took place recently. It's organised by some young disaffected W.I.'ers and the first meet up took place on Tuesday. The purpose was to shape the group, asses what folk want etc. and of course do some creative stuff.
My postcard scribbles (it was before we knew the name)
The crafting task was Royal Baby postcards. Now of course I would never normally participate with such baby hoo hah (even if it's someone I know) but was showing willing. After all I want more craft and maker networking in Oxford and all the better if someone else is doing the organising. Since I am a sucker for being asked my opinion and for flattery I was also giving networking, promotional, branding and social media advice (which we know I love to do). I brought the lovely Penny (Rats as Big as Cats) along with me who, on top of our help and advice given, even helped to inspire the group's logo with her brilliant red suitcase project.

I took photos too... these are they...

Looking forward to seeing how this group shapes up.

nbnq xx

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

FOQing ready - Geek Boy Quilt

I finished it! My Festival of Quilts quilt is pieced, quilted, bound and done. It's the biggest thing I've ever made and I'm so chuffed I can't tell you (some blogger I am), but I'll try.
Geek Boy Quilt front - aiming for movement and distraction see?

Geek Boy Quilt Back - neat and ordered but dotty just the way I like it

It changed a lot along the way from concept to completion and there are/ were so many mistakes! I couldn't visualize the quilted dimension and leaving space was difficult. The piece of dotty fabric that I had for the backing fabric just wasn't quite big enough so in went a row of hexagon blocks. Deciding to make the quilt double-sided then changed up the design again because I wanted the quilting to make sense on both sides and neither side to be wonky. The arrogance of starting with a double-sided quilt for my first go did bite me... but I love the back and am so proud that back and front both work!  

There was quite a lot of unpicking from the original piecing which had a variety of shapes appliqued on the front, not just hexagons, but gradually I took them all off - apart from the cyber men in the middle. It just didn't feel right and no amount of reassurances convinced me of it. I now know just to trust my judgement with such things. 
The squares had to come off!
Scattering of mini hexies and shadow hexies replace the ejected squares in the top right corner.
The 'back' of this quilt I love, it's hexagons, dots, framed blocks in a row and my hand quilted hexagons show up a treat. Control freak enthusiast that I am it brings me joy and peace.

On the other side, (a.k.a. the 'front') you may recall my goal was to achieve a feeling of movement. It was intended to be a proper quilt, to provide comfort and distraction for poorly or sleepy circumstances, and it seems that it does - but for now at least I struggle not to just see the flaws on it. I learned a lot in the making of it, and I am so proud of it but it's still doesn't have my heart... then again it's not FOR me. It does make its new owner (to be) happy and it is what I aimed for.

I have learned a LOT in the making of this: 
Handbinding mistakes take some time to remedy!
1) If I don't love it it's not going on. 
2) There are good reasons to use for a whole back to quilts.
3) Double-sized quilt design is HARD! 
4) Appliqueing straight lines is crazy-making. Ridiculous. Foolish. I will find a better way. 
5) Properly basting a quilt is not only so worth it, but also gives a TA-DAHhh feeling when it comes out at the end.  
6) Cutting into English Paper Pieced hexagons and having it go wrong - not a big deal. Fixable in fact.
7) Preparation is everything. Buy too much fabric, make too many hexagons, practice, play, measure and be ready. There's no such thing as 'too big of a fabric stash' after all. 
8) I really need to try out machine quilting and binding. Hand piecing, hand appliqueing, hand quilting and hand binding is lovely - but pretty sllllloooooooowwwww.
9) For a bigger quilt I'll need to move out a sofa from my flat.
10) Do not sew-up or cut-up a project that is the same material as the dress you are wearing. 

There are many yummy fabrics in the mix but the highlights for me are:

1) Inclusion of scraps of fabric from Kitenge in Rwanda - given to me by the recipient's sister.
2) Blueprint fabric from Spoonflower - the recipient being an engineering sort.
3) Cyberman fabric from Spoonflower - the recipient being a robot enthusiast & Dr Who viewer.
4) Cow print from Darn it and Stitch - to represent Oxford via G&D's ice cream. 
5) Hello Cupcake fabric from Asking for Trouble on Spoonflower - one of the recipient's nicknames.
6) Little boy and bunny print from Darn it and Stitch since the recipient had a 'bunny blanket' as a small person.

Handquilting and orange binding? Joy.
+ The orange binding I do adore. You can choose just to see the twirling orange hexagons and orange of the the binding too. 

I doubt very much whether most folk that attend FOQ will like my quilt. The tough-to-please ladies judging the competitions in particular, and I base this on feedback some of my friends have had from their submissions in previous years, and these folk are way better than me. All that they won't like about it the new owner does though so... meh. It's pretty imperfect, but then again it is in the 'My First Quilt' section - because it is just that, my first. There are more photos over on my Flickr.

Mostly I am pleased that I said let's submit Modern Quilts and that's what I'm actually doing! I've never seen one like mine before, so at least that'll break up the impeccably made traditional quilts some.  

The owner of this quilt isn't me and I hand it over fully once the Festival of Quilts is over. Soon I shall have to start the next... and this one will be for me. I'm thinking MORE HEXAGONS! 

nbnq x

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Darn it & Stitch (more DSLR douche-baggery)

I love Darn it and Stitch. Last time I was there I had my camera and when Jo was busy I took photos. These are some of them.

More on my flickr.

I can so see why a lot of DSLR douche-bags have blogs.

nbnq xx

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

FOQ me!

Mouthed off last year about the Festival of Quilts didn't I? Railing about the submissions of modern quilts I called out for us to do better... for folk to submit their quilts for us all to see in real life (not touch, oOOoh no not touch!). Me and my big mouth. Now obviously it comes time to put my money where my big mouth is and submit something myself doesn't it? I must make something of my own and walk the walk. Must I? Reeeeally? Yes, I definitely must.

My goal was to create a quilt that really comes into it's own when on a poorly person. You know that sort of poorly when you can't pick up a book, or watch telly but instead you just stare at cracks in the walls or divert yourself with a patterned curtain? That's what I mean. When  you've long hours to fill so you find a small detail makes you smile or transports you to elsewhere in your mind than in pain or discomfort, that's what I was aiming to achieve.

My quilt/thing/piece is hand-pieced hexagons (surprise!), appliqued onto a off kilter rectangle, which was pieced with my handle-turn Singer, appliqued straight lines (which are wonky but I couldn't face re-doing), basted and now part hand-quilted - but still with quite a way to go. It's not perfect. Really I would like to be submitting the back piece in which my hexies are safely and neatly framed into a nice neat row in amongst the polka dots. It's the side I prefer. The symmetry and rigidity pleases and comforts me - but as my kind friends have reminded me when I need them to - this quilt is not for me and my comfort. Always in mind I have the end result is not about pleasing the FOQ ladies but rather in the years afterwards to provide comfort to someone whom I care for in low times.
Geek boy quilt (basted stage) mini hexy detail
My kind, supportive, encouraging friends have provided guidance, encouragement and support (and I might need more still):
  • Rats as big as Cats has coached me and kept me focused when I needed it, as did Quilt Fairy and my friend Noreen - no small task since helping me to create 'movement' and making something A-symmetric did NOT come easily to me I tell you! 
  • Whilst making this I also have in mind Curly Boy who as my geek-quilter chum I so want to impress with this thing! I also know a lot of the old lady patchwork jacket crew are NOT going to 'get' it. I want to be able to add it to Curly Boy's Sew Geek Flickr Group for geek stitchery and be amongst those who will appreciate what I was going for. It ain't kittens and flowers.
  • Flylilypad chivvied me forward, encouraged me in sweary motivational language and reminded me of the coming deadline as did others, for which I am very grateful. 
  • Scruffalo who is to be the eventual owner of and snuggler-under of this quilt is therefore of course, my muse and inspiration but was the original motivation to get on with it at all! Something this size was terrifying - until the request came and I knew I HAD to do it. Been waiting aeons now mind and won't get it until the mid-August heat of summer! I am very glad of the patience. 
  • Jo and Klee from Darn it and Stitch have been beyond brilliant and so encouraging... Jo's being incredibly supportive... not like a cheer, or shouting encouragement, more like two hands on my back shoving me forward. Like let's arrange a coach full of people to FOQ and 'go and see your quilt' supportive. *gulp* 

I can't bear the idea of everyone I'd let down if I failed to submit (and one of them is me) so here goes... WISH ME LUCK!

So I've submitted my application *now*! I've written some blurb and given dimensions but now I need to finish it... soon, so soon... like best stop typing and get on with hand quilting sort of soon. Yep. *double gulp*

Enjoying the sunny weather? Not really sitting with a quilt on your lap weather is it? Nope. But on I go.

If you're in the same position do let me know. Let us encourage and support one another, then bring something to show and tell, in the hope that if I do you will then will all have an inspiring interesting time. There's no shame in being a beginner and everyone has to start somewhere. Come on boys and girls - submit - there's still time!

nbnq xx
 (if you wish to chivvy, encourage or berate me on twitter I'm @nbnqnbnq)

Friday, 15 March 2013

Manchester - indulging in some DSLR douche-bagging

Here's the story in pictures...
(I did say I'd be practicing my photo-taking so forgive the indulgence please)
 A cracking time was had... and my photos are coming along I think. Turns out it really is all in the camera and 'blogger' lens! But I am really open to tips on how to take better pictures so please do say if you have guidance!

The rest of them are on my flickr here.

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