Author Archives: margjoan

December arrived

Well, suddenly it’s December and the year has disappeared again. I’m not sure what happens to time in this house, but once we get into September, I only need to blink and I’m at the end of the year!

The month started with the release of the latest Fifteen by Fifteen quilt, this time with the theme of ‘re-arranged’ (all the entries can be seen at ).

For my entry I decided to re-arrange the elements of a shirt. This was decided mainly when I was rooting through my bag of bits and pieces trying to find inspiration. I came across some worn-and-washed shirt scraps, and an old hand-dyed work shirt. Most of the scraps were in shades of blue, so I decided to add little hints of colour contrasts – red buttons, buttonholes and a pocket hanky, and a colourful ‘tie’.  I used a plain fabric to add a collar shape, and quilted the same shape in red and white threads to complete the piece.


My attention turned to Christmas gifts and decorations, and the one that I enjoyed making the most was another small scrappy landscape. That scrap bag of mine certainly earns it keep – but somehow it never seems to get any smaller!! This one was destined for my good friend, and stitching partner Margaret (so I can only show it you here because I’m writing this on Boxing day).

  close up view:

Then of course, I was almost at the deadline for the Monthly art project. For this one I was experimenting with teabags (inspired by an article I’d read in one of the quilting magazines). Because I only had round teabags, I decided to depict abstract flowers (or weeds really!), and I found some rust-dyed fabric that toned with the brown of the teabags. I added hand-stitching (of course) to create more undergrowth, pattern and colour, and to add detail to the flowers. Not quite a masterpiece, but a bit of fun I think.

  close up view:

Now an admission – I haven’t done any more in my urban series, nor started my next Fifteen by Fifteen piece (which is due at the end of January). It seems that I’ve mislaid December without doing as much as I should have – so now I need to get my thinking head back on, and get the needle and thread out!

Happy New year to everyone – see you next year.




Shades of November

It will seem that I haven’t been doing much stitching this month – and to be honest I’ve done less than I would have liked- but some of this month’s efforts are for Xmas presents and decorations, so I’m keeping it under wraps for now!

What has been done includes this little  purse/pouch, that started life as an experimental piece if nuno-felt. I liked the colourful piece of fabric that the experiment yielded, but didn’t quite know what to do with it until I folded it over and made a pouch (thanks to Margaret for the suggestion). Of course, I had to add some hand-stitching – and this time I decided on some stylized daisy-type flowers (any gardener or botanist worth their salt will be yelling now that they’re nothing like daisies). I used some bright yellow and red threads that seemed to work well with the fabric. Here’s a close-up:

The scenery around my regular walking adventures has turned a wonderful rich and mellow colour, and I especially like the forms and patterns of the ferns just now. They may be brown, but what a diversity and depth of shade – it makes me think that maybe ‘brown’ gets an undeserved bad reputation for being boring. What do you think?


Now, the other bit of stitching I can share with you has been a while in the making, and belongs in the ‘Urban’ series, that I’ve been plodding along with for the last year.

Close ups:   

As you can see much of my ‘urban’ series has been taken from my potteries surroundings. I take a lot of inspiration from the ‘potbanks’ and in particular Middleport pottery which I visit often, and which is only about 1.5 miles from my house. At my last visit to the pottery on a sunny November day, I was struck by the autumn colours that are strikingly similar to the ferns. Since I need to make another 4 or 5 works in the urban series, I am thinking that I will focus on the derelict pottery machinery that resonates so much with the autumn colours.


But for the moment, it’s back to the Xmas decorations and presents!




Mellow October

It’s the last day of October and I’ve just managed to squeeze in this update! I would like to say that I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had time until now – but that would be a big fat fib!! In fact I’ve been having one of my ‘laid back’ times (you know, when you mean to do something useful but somehow can’t think what). Anyway, I managed a few small sewing jobs so I have a couple of things to share with you.

I had a little hunt around in one of my cupboards that is looking like it may collapse, and pulled out my rather large box of UFOs (unfinished objects). A couple of pieces looked me in the eye and asked to be completed, so I took pity of them, and salved my conscience by doing some work (though it hasn’t even made a dent in the pile!).



My first foray into the UFO basket pulled out a partly finished needle-felted landscape. The background was a dyed piece of felt, with detail added by felting fibres and threads onto the surface. I added a couple of little cottages in white felt with embroidered features. I have displayed this piece against a white stretched canvas, but haven’t fixed it on yet, as I’m not sure whether it should be left as it is, or framed. So I suppose you could say it’s still not really finished!


My next foray into the UFO basket yielded a collaged background that I created with various paper types and fabric. I think that they were bonded to the background with either wallpaper paste, or PVA glue – but of course, no notes were taken, and it was created so long ago that I don’t remember! Of course all the details were added with hand-stitching. Anyway, here’s the finished frame piece, and a close-up view.


We had a few days away in Majorca this month, which may have contributed to my down-time and lack of progress. I took some painting/drawing equipment with me, but needless to say, they didn’t get used – which was a pity because there were some fine opportunities for design ideas. I did take my trusty camera though, and snapped a few things:


I wasn’t totally bad though, and finished a couple of bags/pouches (not really quite sure what you’d call them) – that were all strips and scraps of fabric, kantha stitched all over. I think the colours reflect my Majorca adventure.


Now it’s almost time to think about Xmas gifts, and get on with my next quilt for the Fifteen by Fifteen group – so it’s onwards and upwards!!






September slipped by

September was a bit of a mixed bag for me, but here I am at the end of it anyway! I’ve managed a few bits of stitching, a few days holiday (hooray!), but didn’t manage to take part in the great north run because I picked up a stomach bug 36 hours before the run (boo!).

My month started with a bit if a mad rush to complete my Monthly Art Project (MAP) piece.  This one was created on a whim really – I spotted a piece of fabric in my (vast) stash that reminded me of sand and shallow sea pools, so that’s what I tried to create. I used a few silk fibres to add more depth to the water, then made all of the other details using hand stitching. I wanted the sand to look like it has those little ripples that you see near the water line, made by the action of the sea. I wanted to try to depict the water running in  between the sand ripples, like it does when the tide is starting to creep back in.

I hope that it has a peaceful, calm look – that’s always what the sea and sand make me feel when I paddle along the shallows.

Talking about seaside paddling, after my non-participation in GNR, we travelled to Northumberland for a few days break. Of course this involved lovely beach walks, which went some way to helping me to get over my disappointment in not running. You can see from some of the pictures the type of effect that I was trying to achieve with my stitched piece:


We went from Northumberland to the Yorkshire Dales, and some more walking. I love the wide open countryside and the views there will probably appear in more of my work later on. One of the wonderful things about the Yorkshire is the wool, and of course I was tempted (and succumbed) – buying some knitting wool, some fine wool for crafting and some fleece for needle-felting. The trouble now will be working out where to start!!


Now that I’m owning up to purchasing wonderful supplies, I should also mention that at the Festival of Quilts last month I also picked up a bagful of goodies, one of which was a package of odd strips of Kaffe Fassett off-cuts. Margaret bought a package too and we challenged each other to use these to create something (it’s our way of not having a guilty conscience about buying more ‘stuff’). Well, anyway, my contribution is a log-cabin style cushion.

Then, just today (since I’m late with this post), our latest FifteenbyFifteen group quilt challenge was published. This month our theme was ‘square’ and my interpretation of this was to depict a city of rooftops when seen from above. I chose this because I have always like the way that the tops of skyscrapers have random clusters of industrial looking structures on them. I used a selection of beads and sequins to depict these.

   close up view:

So now, it’s onwards and upwards, and attempting to make a little dent in the pile if ‘stuff’ that lurks in my workroom (aka spare bedroom), and perhaps some of my recent purchases will make an appearance!



August rushed past

My month started with our latest Fifteen-by-Fifteen group reveal. This was the third in a series based on ‘trees’ and our challenge was to depict our subject in complementary colours. I chose blue and orange, and depicted a lone tree set against rough moorland scenery (my go-to landscape type).


Just lately I seem to be in a bag-making mood – don’t ask me why – sometimes you just have to go with how the mood takes you. These are a couple I made this month, from fabric that was given to me in the form of sample books (from a window blind company). I’m very pleased with the outcome, and will probably make some more (or something similar) when the mood takes me.

Then there was my monthly art project entry – again this started with a scrabble around in my vast Unfinished Objects (UFO) pile. This one is printed and hand stitching worked on silk paper made with gold flecks included. I think this gives quite an ethereal effect, which fits well with the dragonflies (elusive and delicate little creatures).


Now I should be concentrating on my next Fifteen-by-Fifteen piece, for which the subject is ‘Square’. I’m a bit stumped by that subject so not making much progress on that, so, as normally happens, I start twiddling with other things (I think that it’s a sub-conscious delaying tactic on my part). So my scrap-bag once again comes out, and another little landscape has appeared.

   Close up view

I have a few other ‘twiddly bits’ in the pipeline – a couple of cushions and a larger scrappy landscape, but I need to try to put those aside for a little while to concentrate on the larger project. The only thing is I’m so easily distracted with things that grab my attention if I spot them!! Oh well, onwards and upwards.

Just to prove that this month rushed past without me noticing, I spotted some signs of approaching autumn yesterday, whilst we were on of our regular hikes – berries on the bushes. Thought I’d just remind you what’s round the corner now!



July slid by

I’ve only just managed to slip this post into my July deadline –  I’m blaming it on the heat!

We’ve had some beautiful weather here and been taking advantage of it by getting into the countryside and doing as much walking as possible. Although the vegetation is suffering in the heat, and things are drying up, the countryside still fills me with joy.

This was a field of barley we crossed on one of our walks, golden and wonderfully soft if you skim your hand lightly across the tops of the stalks. I have a few more pictures like this one, and I think that they may form the basis of future textile pieces (watch this space).


Now, I have done a little bit of textile work – though not as much as usual. My monthly art project this month was worked from one of the many unfinished bits and pieces I have lurking in my cupboard.

This one has painted Bondaweb added to the background fabric (an old sheet) with coloured paper cut shapes, sheer fabrics, and some dried flower petals added and stalks added.  I covered the whole piece with fine net (tulle) fabric before adding my stitching. Of course I reverted to type and did all of the stitching by hand. I find that the design resolves itself when I work this way. It probably takes longer than it would if I worked ‘correctly’, and did sketchbook drawings and samples (and I have tried in the past), but somehow I find that way of working inhibits me – or is it just that I’m too impatient to get my hands on fabric and thread. Anyway, that’s just the way I work!


  Margaret and I made a great find of fine wool checked fabric, at a local market recently, and we were also gifted some sample books from a local furnishing company.So when we had one of our sitting in the shed/workroom pondering what to do next we decided that we should make some bags out of this bounty. Again not much of a plan, but I’ve done a couple of ‘useful shoppers’ so far, and have plans to make a few more maybe with different designs.

My other twiddling this month included some knitting – I know it’s not the time of year for it (being so warm here),  but I saw the wool and couldn’t resist making a little dress for my granddaughter (I made it a little large so that she’ll be able to wear it this winter). It’s not a very good photo, but you get the idea!

  I’ve been trying to get cracking on using up a jelly roll that I’ve had knocking around for some time, so I made a series of simple blocks and I’m joining them together with plain white sashing. It’s still a work in progress, but It’s been keeping me out of trouble! (and I like the cheerfulness of it).





The joys of June

This month has been all about getting into the great outdoors in the beautiful weather. Of course this has mean that stitching has taken a bit of a backseat (I haven’t yet found a way to stitch and hike at the same time – I’m working on it though!).

The first joy this month was the latest reveal of the FifteenbyFifteen group, and this was the second in a series of three on the theme of ‘trees’, where the challenge for this piece was to depict the theme in abstract style.

I called this one ‘The light through the trees’ because the base fabric that I used reminded me so much of looking through a dense and misty wood. I added vertical lines of quilting to emphasise the tree trunk shapes. The panel on the left is my impression of the pattern of branches when looking up towards the sky through the trees. I added fabric that reminded me of leaf veins, and stitched leaf shapes around these. The circular pieces suggest tree rings of cut wood, or could be thought of as the sun.

My next task this month was to complete my monthly art project. My parameters for the project is to try and use up some of my mountain of bits and pieces, and for this one I found some bark-paper which fitted exactly one of my pile of stretched canvasses. This month I wanted to use some more of my mini-hexagons made from left over fabric scraps. I work on these when I need something to fill me hands in the evening and I have nothing else nearby – I hate to simply sit and watch TV. I chose hexies that use predominantly red fabric, and these form the heart which was cut out of the bark-paper. I then added chain stitch swirls in gold thread, and little red knots, to give the paper a texture and decoration. I think that the finished item looks like Elizabethan dress decoration, so I might use this technique again in the future.


I was lucky enough to attend a Suzette Smart dayschool last week at which we learned how to create concertina folded ‘story’ books using some image transfer techniques involving Bondaweb. There was no initial plan or design to begin with but as the day progressed I developed a waterside theme, that worked out quite well. My finished book isn’t quite as symmetrical or neat as I would have liked, but hey-ho that’s what learning is all about.


Now my month wouldn’t be complete without some twiddling! So of course I’ve made another little landscape out of scraps. I’ll add it to my growing pile of things that I need to do something with!!




May news

My latest monthly art project piece is a small, but came out better than expected! You may remember that my guideline for this series was to try to make inroads into my vast stash of ‘bits and pieces’ and to use up some of the blank canvasses that I have lying about. I’ve only partly met those parameters – I used a blank canvas, and some odds and ends, but sadly the mountainous stash does not appear to have gone down at all!!

   close up view

Myself and Margaret were considering the possibility of topics which might be taught as a workshop or day-school. This idea was suggested to us by outside parties, and therefore is something we thought we should investigate. One possibility was using my copious bag of scraps to demonstrate how to create a framed or mounted landscape (using the same method that I always fall back on when I want to do some ‘twiddling’). We had a ‘dry run’ session in Margaret’s work-shed where we both worked  through the instructions I’d written to see if they needed alteration. I think that it was a successful exercise, so we’ll be thinking of other topics to add to a set of possible sessions we can teach. Slightly wonky pictures below (I’m still fiddling with a new fancy camera, that I haven’t quite got to grips with yet!).

    close up view  

I would like to say that I haver other things to share with you, but I’ve been a bit lazy this month as far as stitching is concerned. I have been working on my latest FifteenxFifteen quilt, but I won’t be able to show that until next month, and I’ve been continuing to twiddle with some more needle-felted brooches, fronts complete but no backs or pins added yet, so they aren’t ready to show yet either. Do you get the feeling that twiddling is my main distraction? – you’d be right!!


Little things

This has been a month of small victories – or should I say, no big triumphs! I’ve been enjoying making a whole bunch of little objects and pictures, while putting off starting on my next piece for the FifteenxFifteen quilt group, which will be on an ‘abstract’ theme (and I’m never quite sure what ‘abstract’ means).

But I’m getting ahead of myself, as my first victory in the last few weeks was my latest FifteenxFifteen quilt.  This is the first in a series of three which will use trees as their subject, but which use a pre-defined theme, in this case black & white. I started with white fabric and used a number of things to print the background (including broccoli and toilet roll tubes), before applying black felt for the tree trunk, and bunches of tiny hexagons using black and white fabric, for the foliage. 

My husband actually likes this one (hooray!!), so it must have turned out OK.


My next project was to finish off my latest piece for the long-ago-started Urban project. I started this piece a while ago and got side-tracked, but in my quest for something to put off thinking about the abstract challenge, I found it in my sewing basket and decided it was worth finishing. It is based on the shapes and patterns inside churches – a sort of ‘deconstructed’ church, I suppose! I like the finished product, so as always I wonder why I didn’t finish it at the start. Perhaps it’ll get me in the mood to carry on with this series.

I have also been busy completing a commission for a friend who provided me with a photo of her daughter’s house, to be depicted as one of my ‘scrappy pictures’ (made from fabric scraps, not a comment on the finished product!!). I struggled with it a bit, as my pictures are usually landscapes that come out of my head, but in this case I needed to get the proportions correct. Anyway, I used “Colour Catcher” laundry sheets for the roof, a printed page from an old book for the foreground, and fabric scraps for the rest. Note also the two cats that were added to complete the family picture (another first for me).


Then finally, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed tinkering with some little brooches. I needle-felted a load of different wool fibres onto a sheet of felt, cut it into circles, then set about hand embroidering each one with whatever threads and patterns the underlying textures and colours suggest  to me. This is something I can do while sitting comfortably in the evening, so it’s a sort of selfish little pleasure (though I don’t feel guilty about it at all!!).

I’ve got a few more of these to work on, so they should keep me good for a few more evenings. On the other hand, I need to stop avoiding ‘abstract’ and get on with the next quilt. Let’s see what wins out!





Show and Tell

The last few weeks have been busy with exhibitions and shows.

My first sortie into this heady world was a tentative toe-in-the-water, in the guise of sending in a small quilt to the SAQA benefit auction. This piece started as a larger quilt that I wasn’t happy with, so I cut it down and now I like it better. It wasn’t laughed out of court, so that gave me confidence to continue!



So, next we decided to enter a local juried art exhibition. Three pieces entered, two accepted – hooray!! It is an open art exhibition, so to get a couple of textile pieces included with paintings and other artwork is a bit of an achievement, and good news for the textile world. You’ve seen these before, but here they are again.


I’d also decided to take part in an online monthly art project (in one of my more inspired moments!!). My parameters were to experiment with mixed media techniques whilst trying to use up some of my scrappy bits (and try to reduce the stash somewhat). I’ve enjoyed fiddling with these small projects, and these are my February and March entries.


We also attended the Stitching show at the NEC last week, which we find smaller and somehow more manageable than the quilting show, though still offering splendid retail opportunity! Of course we took full advantage of the shopping chances, and now the stash (which had been slightly dented) has again grown. Still, the colours, textures and patterns make my heart happy, and no-one is harmed, so what a good way to spend time and money!