Author Archives: margjoan

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!




Keeping up the resolution

Well, here I am in February and so far my resolve to make a monthly blog entry is still intact. You may say ‘yes, but this is only a month after the start of the year’ – but believe me in the past I’ve fallen by the wayside much earlier than this. I find in winter that my mojo is usually a speck on the creative horizon, but this month I stumbled on the latest edition of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine and it’s contents have sparked me into unaccustomed early-year action and has ideas firing in my head (a very welcome change to my winter attitude).

 So to start with, I thought you’d like to see my latest quilt for the 15×15 quilt group. This month’s theme was ‘Reflection’, and although I found it difficult to decide on a design as first, I finally settled on a depiction of city reflections in windows and shiny sides of skyscrapers. You can of course see more of this, with a fuller explanation of the design, and close-up pictures in the main 15×15 site at



Then I also thought you may be interested in the latest additions to my collection of what I call ‘scrappy pictures’ because they’re all made from scarps and oddments of fabric that I have left over from other projects.  (Apologies for the wonky view!). I have a huge bag of these scraps, which never seems to get smaller despite my most valiant efforts. This is probably because I save the most ridiculously small snippets (which I’m sure most people would just throw in the bin) – I think it must be some sort of sickness!! The full set of my scrappy pictures are in the ‘Scappy pictures’ section of the ‘Joan’s Gallery’ tab above  –


I also made a small picture in this style for a friend of mine, which was a view of a local pottery factory. It  was a bit of a departure from my usual landscapes, but it came out quite well, and my friend was really pleased with it. Of course, I forgot to take a picture of the finished piece (duh!) so I can’t show you that.

Now I’m moving on to something new, partly inspired by my mojo-boosting magazine, and partly by a new group that I’ve joined – Monthly Art Project (MAP) – that I mentioned in my last post. I need to complete my first offering for this by 15th Feb, so I’m glad that I’m not in my usual winter slump. I’m working on a mixed media piece 6 inches square (I’m not daft enough to go much larger than that!!), and in an abstract pattern. I’ll be showing you the finished product in my next post (try to keep your excitement in check – lol).

In addition I’m thinking I should really try to finish some of my burgeoning flock of unfinished projects. They’re overflowing the basket they live in – in fact they’re overflowing the cupboard that the basket lives in! The only problem is that now I have the mojo-boosting magazine, I want to start on some of the new ideas that are whizzing around my head! – oh well, there’s always a snag!!


New year 2018

Now that the Christmas decorations have been put away, people have returned to work and school, and life begins to resume it’s normal routine, I have started to focus my mind on the year ahead. I would like to say that I make New Year resolutions, but they’re more like good intentions which generally fall by the wayside as the weeks progress. This year is no exception, and I won’t bore you with the full (and extensive) list, but it does include my intention  to update this blog on a monthly basis – we’ll see how long that lasts! Another intention is to try not to spend so much dithering about what to do next and doing trivial ‘stuff’ to put off making tricky decisions. That requires a bit more of an effort on my part!

In the run up to Christmas, I was making a few gifts and small items for sale, that you can see below.



Now it’s time to get down to some more substantial work. To get us going this year, Margaret and I have set ourselves a challenge to create a sketch a day for a month. I’m not good at drawing so this is a scary activity for me, but so far all is going well. In addition, we’ve both joined an on-line group whose aim is to produce a monthly art piece, with parameters set by each person. My aim is to produce mixed-media pieces which will also use items from my scrap-bag. This may be a bit of a cop-out for me, as I love to use my scrap bag to produce pictures (as you can see above), but hey, as well as taking part in a challenge you also need to enjoy yourself (or what’s the point!). Perhaps I’ll surprise myself – watch this space!!



Where does the time go?

Well, it’s about time I updated our blog instead of me relying on my talented stitching partner.  As Joan has shared some of her work on our ‘urban challenge’ I thought I would show you my latest endeavour.


and a close up


I had a change with this one and decided to use a piece of hand dyed blanket with hand stitching and appliqué. Fairly pleased.

On a different note, we spent a couple of days in Formby and Crosby and I really liked both places, especially the beaches.

These are our two  cockerpoo puppies enjoying the surf.  We had superb weather and enjoyed walking for miles along the beach at Formby.

We moved onto Crosby because we wanted to see the Antony Gormley statues.


I hadn’t realised there were 100 of them positioned along the coast and we thought they were awesome.

If you have been, thanks for reading and I’ll try to  be posting again soon, no promises though.

Enjoy the rest of the summer, bye for now,


Now for May’s challenge

Well now I at last have my May version  of our ‘urban’ challenge, even if it’s almost a month late! This is entitled “The old and the new”, and is inspired by the sweeping away of old fashioned terraced housing and disused buildings, to make way for high rise housing. Whilst the new housing may be more efficient than the older version, I find them impersonal and sterile, compared to the friendly neighbourly feel of the older type of housing.

Close up views:


Now all I need to do is to design and work my next urban challenge piece, and since it should be ready for the end of June, it looks as though it’s going to be late again!! I think I need to snap a few photos around  town to get a bit more inspiration, and I’m hoping that not one but two pieces will spring from my brain, so that July’s piece will also materialise. (Springing into action isn’t really my brain’s best feature!).

I thought I’d also share my latest piece for the ‘Fifteen by Fifteen’ group. You may recall that we’re producing work in which follows a single theme to produce a series, and that my theme is seed heads.


This piece is based on Nigella seed heads (also known as Love-in-a-mist). For this one I tried to use flimsy threads and delicate stitching to create a misty feel (you may be able  to see this is the close-up view). For a change, I actually have an idea for my next piece, and have started work on it, so maybe I won’t be rushing to finish near the deadline.

Here’s hoping that I’m a bit more productive in the next few weeks. (Joan)





May’s challenge

Continuing with our challenge to produce a monthly urban landscape, I thought I’d share the one I completed for the month of April. The reason I’m not sharing May’s effort? – yes, you’ve guessed it, I haven’t done it yet! So this month I’ll be needing to make two urban pieces, because I’m enjoying this challenge, so I don’t want to give up on it.

 I called this one “There were potbanks among the houses” – and it reflects the fact that in the not-too-distant past there were indeed streets of terraced houses with potteries at their ends. At one time, the landscape of this area was dominated by bottle ovens, and of course workers lived cheek-by-jowl with their places of work.

This piece was created by printing calico with a commercial stamp depicting little houses. The shape of the bottle oven was cut from dyed kitchen paper, and the whole piece then overlaid with transfer printed organza. I hand-stitched at random some of the house shapes, and again added little curtain and window details to some of the houses. I added a few impressions of cobbled streets with running stitch.

 This close-up may show a little more of the detail.

We’ve had a bit of excitement in our little world over the past few weeks, when we participated in a textile fair at a local gallery. After a bit of frenzied preparation, where we found pieces we’d forgotten or fell out of love with, and pieces that we’ve produced recently, we eventually felt that we had a nice mixture of work to show. We used some of it to stock a little stall, and other pieces were wall-hung as part of a larger exhibition. As well as receiving many lovely comments, we sold a few small pieces, and Margaret also sold one of her larger ones.  All in all a real confidence booster.

My latest piece for the ‘Fifteen by Fifteen’ group has also been completed and was part of the reveal which as posted online yesterday. We are currently working a series of pieces based on a single theme, my theme being seed heads. This time I have based the piece on Nigella seed heads (also known as Love-in-a-Mist). see what you think:

close up view:

I’ve added this one to my ‘Fifteen’ gallery page in the tabs above, and you can view the whole group’s pieces at

Now to get on with two months’ worth  of our urban challenge.









Little things

Thought I’d catch up with some of the little things I’ve been doing lately (as my mojo has gone missing when it comes to more ‘considered’ pieces).

This first one is my March version of our ‘urban’ challenge (and yes, I know it’s almost the end of April, but the next one is underway – honest).  I’m calling this one ‘The canal at dusk’, and again it is inspired by the old factory buildings and potteries in our area. There are many disused and in-loved workings along the canals, but somehow they keep drawing me back (just call me weird!).

The one I’m working on now (for the end of April) is a bit more abstract than this one, so watch this space.


I find that when I’m working out how to start a piece, I ‘twiddle’ with scrap fabrics, and this next picture is the result of my latest twiddling. I think that not having an idea or design to work to, and using up bits and pieces of fabric that aren’t precious, gives me a certain freedom and therefore I find twiddling a very relaxing pastime (and it stops me from feeling guilty that I’m not stitching).



Next I can share with you my latest piece for the Fifteen by Fifteen group. As you’ve probably guessed this one is called Poppy. You can see the full reveal at


Finally, I’d like to showcase this little bag, to give my friend Margaret a bit of  recognition and thanks. She kindly gave me this because I liked it so much, and she thought it wasn’t very good. I don’t think she gives herself enough credit – what do you think?

See you soon (Joan)