Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Australian Textile Exhibition 2017

The Australian Textile Exhibition is on again next week and if you live in Melbourne, Australia or happen to be in town, it will be worth the visit.

The exhibition will be held at the beautiful Cranbourne Australian Gardens, corner of Ballarto Road and Botanic Drive, Cranbourne.

The exhibition is organised by Leesa Chandler of Chandler's Cottage and it will be held from Tuesday 28th February until Sunday 5th March.

The gardens are open 10am to 4pm daily and admission is free.

There will be quilts, sewing demonstrations, a Chandler's Cottage pop up shop and the Great Australian Bag challenge.

I happen to have three crazy quilts in the exhibition.

Crazy about Australia

Naturally Crazy

Crazy about Spring

As well as the wonderful gardens to explore and the quilts and bags to enjoy, there is a lovely cafe.

Sounds like a great day out.

Bye for now,

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Fabric sorting

I have spent the last couple of weeks sorting out my sewing studio. Did you notice that I wrote sewing studio instead of sewing room? That is the term I am supposed to use apparently, actually I should use the term studio not sewing studio if I am to be taken seriously as an artist!

We will see how I go with that. I am sure if I say my studio to the family they will not know what I am talking about however my son in his 20's talks about his music studio all the time and nobody bats an eye.

Anyway, since coming home from the Nancy Crow classes I decided to change things around. It took ages and I got into a terrible mess.

I sorted out the fabric that I loved and wanted to keep. I packed up fabric that I loved but knew I wouldn't use again and gave it to the Waverley Patchworkers Gift quilts program.

I packed fabric that was not in the more modern style and colours but still liked into boxes and stored them out of my 'studio'. I know where they are if I want them again.

Then I got out all my plain and more modern fabrics and sorted through them.

I decided to try sorting them into values instead of colours, the way Nancy had suggested. I am not sure if I will keep them this way though. Time will tell.

I've got my lightest lights and lights separated into two drawers.

Then I have my light mediums, mediums and dark mediums.

You can see by the photo above that I am very short of light mediums and finally I have my dark and darkest dark.

Having the fabrics sorted this way makes it easy to see what I am short of but I still am undecided if this will work. If I had a green drawer for instance I could still sort them in values but they would all be values of green.

Here are my cupboards nice and organised with all drawers and plastic tubs labelled.

I didn't just sort through fabrics though, I also changed my room studio around so that I can press the seams without getting up from my machine.

So far it's working well, now I just have to get on with some sewing and find out if I am really going to like my new style and what sort of quilts I am going to make this year.

I have been buying more fabric though and I am finding it so exciting and refreshing to be bringing home some new colours.

Bye for now,

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Two weeks with Nancy Crow

I spent the first two weeks of 2017 in New Zealand doing master classes on design and composition with American teacher Nancy Crow. It was the most wonderful two weeks of sewing, taking in new information and concentration that it took me the next two weeks to recover.

Below is a photo of me with my Australian classmates and Nancy.

Julie, Me (Linda), Nancy Crow and Wendy

There were 18 students from New Zealand and Australia and we stayed on site at the beautiful Silverstream Retreat. It was a short walk to our classroom and the dining room where we had all our delicious meals. We were certainly well fed.

Classes with Nancy Crow were all that I had heard they would be and more. It is not often that you get a chance to study with such a passionate and dedicated teacher who teaches classical art concepts in quilt design.

The first week the class was called Improvisations- Let's Experiment part 2. Many people in the class had done Nancy's classes before but for us new students it was a huge learning curve.

The class was supposed to start at 9am but Nancy was always there at 8.30 putting notes up for us to copy into our books. Pages and pages of notes about what our focus should be and definitions of colour and design and assorted exercises we had to do. We had to write quickly as well because those notes would only stay up for a half an hour.

After writing down the notes we had to start designing and only had one day to design and sew our first composition.
We all had our own work station of two tables and a large cutting mat and iron and ironing board and two large design boards. Here is a photo of me at my design board on the second week.

Me at my design board
My work station

We had to cut out various size strips and shapes out of black fabric and then start pinning them up to make a composition of about 20" x 20". We had to freehand cut with no rulers and no sketches on paper either.

My first composition
After you had quickly pinned up your black fabric design onto the white design board you had to start cutting out white pieces to fit in the spaces and sew it together by the end of the day.
What a way to start the two weeks, it was such a daunting way to design and sew. I somehow got it done. This first design was supposed to be the basis of our work for the rest of the week.

The next day after writing up more notes, we had to do a design at least 4 times the size but in black and white. We had to make a pattern in black fabric first and then sew it together using black, white and grey and we had a day and a half to make it.

My design pinned to the design board.
I somehow got it done by putting my head down and getting on with it.

Here is my grey-scale composition sewn together, I don't particularly like it but the idea was that you didn't have time to think much, you had to work quickly so the design started coming from inside of you. Nancy says that you have to make a lot of duds before the good stuff starts coming out. Even so she thought my composition was strong.

Week 1 grey-scale
Then we had two days to make the design again in colour. That is where I had a problem. We had to use only black, white and only 5 values of colour. We had to sort our fabrics in light, light medium, medium, medium dark and dark. I took over a hundred yards of fabric and so many of my colours had to go back into the suitcase. We used our phone cameras on black and white to see the values and if your fabric did not sit exactly into those values it couldn't be used.

Even Nancy agreed that I didn't have much left to work with. I didn't have any colours that were in each value group. So I might have had only a medium and light green and no other values etc. It made it very difficult and I had to really work hard to make it work! It was so hard but I learnt so much about colour and value.

Colour study pinned to design wall.
The photo above is where I left it at 1.30 in the morning after going through so much trouble trying to get it where I was happy.

After not much sleep I got up the next morning and sewed it together and managed to have it done in time for the critique session on Friday afternoon.

Me with final colour study week 1
At the end of each week you had to pin up all your work and Nancy would critique it. She was always brutally honest and we learnt so much from the experience.

Week 2 was called Lines, Shapes and Figure Ground Composition part 2. We thought week one was hard but week 2 was even harder. In this class we really concentrated on value and colour.

We were given design exercises with the idea of getting ideas and finding your voice. We were supposed to complete 9 configurations with various criteria. The first one was to make a design that had a linear curve and two lines but no figures could touch each other and one figure must touch the edge.

That was the easy one; number 7 was to make a composition that had 6 lines, 3 narrow curves, 4 shapes and 3 curvilinear lines. I am not sure now if it was this design below or if this was another one. Anyway, they got really complicated and we only had a day and a half to complete them. I think I got six done before she made us go onto the next thing.

For the last exercise we had to make a composition in black and white and make it again in white and black and use flat blacks and white and glowing black and whites and then start with colour.

We made it once and then had to repeat it in the opposite values. That means if it was a dark in the first composition it had to be a light value in the next one. We had to make 6 in all and it was exhausting work but once again we learnt so much about colour.

Finally on the last Friday we had to take it in turns to set up our work for the two weeks and be critiqued. I was so tired I could hardly stand but I was still sad that it was over.

When Nancy was not advising or answering questions she was watching and analysing us as well. I actually like a person to tell you straight out what she thinks. Too many people say that things are good or OK when they really think the opposite. Nancy has strong opinions but she can back them up with years of training, teaching and experience.

Me with my two weeks work

So what did Nancy think of me? She said that I didn't complain and had a strong work ethic. She thought my compositions were strong but the widths of my lines were too similar and I have to work hard at making them different widths. She also said that my colours were too greyed and depressing and she wants me to work with clear colours. She wants me to stop doing all the work that I have done in the past and spend a year working on abstract, contemporary design to find my voice.

So that is what I am going to do, it's only a year out of my life and I was wanting a change anyway. I wonder how many duds I will make before a good one comes out?

Nancy Crow is thinking about coming back to teach in two years time and if she does I will book in again for sure. Next time I will be more prepared and hopefully will have better choice of fabric to work with.

Bye for now,

Friday, 30 December 2016

Looking back on 2016

When the year comes to an end I cannot help but reflect on the events of the year and wonder what 2017 has in store for me.

On Christmas Day I managed to get one photo of me with my two grandchildren Savannah and Jack where we were all looking at the camera at the same time!

I really enjoyed 2016; it started off in the best way when my daughter and her husband told us that they were having their first baby. I could hardly sleep on New Year's Eve because I was so excited for them. Then in August little Jack arrived, a dear little cousin for Savannah and I have spent many hours at their place helping them out with the baby. It is such a wonderful time.


I had my first year as President of Waverley Patchworkers and I really enjoyed it even though it was such a busy year with Waverley's 35th birthday, the Quilt Show and the Spring Gathering. I hope my second year is just as enjoyable. One of unexpected benefits of being President was being privy to both the good and bad news of the members. I was humbled by the friendship and support shown by the members to others in need.

I don't make New Year's resolutions these days but I do try and have some plans for improving my life and this year is no different.

1. Go back to art classes; I am going to do a drawing and watercolour class once a week. I have also booked into a weekend class in March by Malini Parker, an artist that I have admired for a while.

2. Go back to exercise classes; I have had trouble with an inflamed hip (bursitis) and after a lot of treatment the physiotherapist has recommended that I start walking and doing some yoga and strength classes. She said that if I want a healthy old age I have to make time for exercise.

3. Keep a sketchbook; I started a new sketchbook last week because I was sick on finding bits of paper everywhere with ideas or measurements etc. Now everything must go in the book and I'll know where to find it, instead of looking everywhere for a certain piece of paper.

4. Continue with my Coral Reef series; I am enjoying making quilts with the coral reef theme and I plan to continue these in 2017.

Life on the Reef ©2016 Linda Steele

I am starting 2017 by travelling to New Zealand to do two weeks of classes with Nancy Crow. Nancy teaches advanced classes in design and composition and is known for her forthright critiques. I am going with some trepidation because I don't do pieced quilts and am heading straight into the advanced classes without doing her beginner or intermediate classes. I hope I am not too much of a beginner compared to the other experienced and usually very talented and well known quilters that are also attending the class.

 We quilters mainly work on our quilts at home in a solitary manner and I relish the thought of taking my quilts to a higher level and receiving some honest feedback.

We have to bring 100 yards of plain fabric and I am travelling there by plane so I had to buy extra baggage allowance to bring all the fabric. Apparently the classes are hard work with timed exercises and critiques. The classrooms open at 6.30am until 10.30pm and previous participants have worked there the entire time. We live on site and meals are provided.

Here is a photo of the fabric I have bought for the workshop, I had to buy it all because I didn't have any plain fabrics in my stash. I also have a bolt of black and a bolt of white fabric to take because apparently we go through a lot of it. It doesn't look like a lot of fabric in the photo but it is and it is quite heavy.

It sounds like a dream to sew non stop for two weeks with meals provided. I'll let you know all about the classes when I come back.

The classes I am doing are Improvisations: Let's Experiment part 2 and Lines, Shapes and Figure-Ground Composition Part 2 (advanced)

Let's hope we all have a happy and successful 2017!

Bye for now,

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Merry Christmas 2016

It's that busy time of year again where all everyone can think about is tidying up loose ends, parties and shopping for presents. I am doing all of the above as well as trying to fit in some sewing.

We bought a new Christmas tree this year because our last one was becoming a bit shabby. We decided to decorate it in only silver and we are very happy to have a change from the usual mix of colours.

I got out my collection of nutcrackers and took their photo, I have resisted buying anymore for a few years now because they all fit nicely on my mantelpiece but I had to be very strong this year because there were some lovely ones in the shops.

It's our turn to have the family over for lunch this year and I managed to find Christmas crackers and paper serviettes with nutcrackers on them as well.

I am looking forward to Christmas this year; Grandchildren certainly bring the joy back into Christmas. My daughter sent me a little video of Savannah skipping around the room and singing to the tune of 'Santa Claus is Coming', now we can't get the song out of our heads as well. She is so excited even though her photo with Santa had her looking a little more subdued. She loves him much better from a distance!

Savannah is very excited though and cannot stop dancing. Two is such a lovely age.

In between helping my daughters with some babysitting and shopping for presents I have been doing some sewing. I have been making quite a large quilt in my Coral Reef series and for some reason I thought I might have it finished by the end of the year!

That was not to be because I decided to try out a number 60 needle and it broke my needle threader; apparently you have to manually thread the small number 60 needles because the hole is too small for the automatic threader. I took it in to be fixed two weeks ago and I still haven't got it back.

I do have other machines that I could use but I love my Bernina 820 and I have all the bobbins set up in various colours and I love the big throat space.

I can still do hand stitching in my spare time and I transformed a plain spot fabric into coral by doing lots of colonial knots.

Plain spot fabric

Coral with colonial knots

Even I was surprised at the difference it made.

Merry Christmas

Bye for now,

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

David Hockney Exhibition

I was so excited to see the David Hockney exhibition at the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria). We had studied him with the Waverley Art Quilters in 2014 and I was really drawn to his latest landscape work.

The exhibition is called Current and it includes all his latest work including his huge landscape called Bigger Trees Near Warter which took up the whole wall of one of the rooms in the gallery. The original painting was done on many different canvasses and then hung together. These paintings were then printed and framed and put on the other three walls so once you entered the room you were surrounded by the landscape.

Bigger trees near Warter 2007 David Hockney
You can get an idea of the huge scale by looking at the person standing in the bottom left of the picture.

Of course I had to have a photo of myself in front of it just to prove that I was actually seeing it.

David Hockey is in his 80's but that doesn't mean he has slowed down; he loves the current technology and bought the Brushes app for his Ipad and Iphone as soon as it came out.

The paintings that he has produced on these devices have been printed out on a large scale and were displayed. I particularly loved the spring paintings.

The arrival of Spring in Wolgate 2011 David Hockey
Can you believe that he has done that painting on an Ipad?

There were screens set up around the exhibition that looked like a huge Ipad and you could see a video of him doing the painting from scratch. What really amazed me was how many layers he used. Just when I thought a section was complete he would go over it some more.

We could have been there for hours; there was so much to see. There was a huge gallery of portraits that he painted of his friends and acquaintances over two years and other paintings playing with perspective but I preferred his landscapes.

I bought the book that seems to contain all the images from the show as well as some of his older work and a big interview with him about his life and his thoughts on painting.

The images in the book are large so you can get an idea of the marks that he makes when producing his paintings.

We are so lucky to live in Melbourne and have the gallery bring these wonderful exhibitions to us. Earlier in the year we had the Degas paintings and last year we had Monet, every year we are presented with these wonderful displays.

The David Hockney exhibition is on until the 13th March 2017, so there is plenty of time to see it. I am going to try and see it again before it closes. I am such a fan and have recorded two documenteries about him over the last couple of years and I have lost count of the number of times that I have watched them. One of the films follows him around over 12 months while he is painting the huge landscape which was one of the reasons that I was so thrilled to see it in this exhibition.

You can see the post I did on David Hockney in 2014 by clicking here.

Bye for now,

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

SAQA Trunk Show-The Reef

I belong to the international art quilting group named SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates). They made a call for everyone to make a small 10" x 7" little art quilt for them to use at various venues to promote their group. Even though I am only a fledgling art quilter compared to the talented members around the world, I thought I would do a little quilt for them. I wanted to do a little underwater quilt because that is all that seems to be in my head these days.

When it came to getting started though I felt a bit stuck and truth to be told I had not very much free time.

As I was looking through my fabrics I came across the little composition I made at the Fibre Forum earlier this year.

It was too big but not by much and I had fused the motifs using a dry iron so I could easily lift them off.

I cut it down and changed the placement of some of the motifs.

Then I went to my set of Madeira rayon threads and chose colours to match all the elements. I put a piece of tear-away behind the quilt so the quilt top didn't bunch up when I did the stitching.

Here's what it looked like stitched.

Of course it always looks better after it has been quilted. I was given a sample of quilting felt to try from Embroidery Source and so I used that as the batting. I was very happy with the result and might use it again. The quilt stayed thin and not too puffy but it had some body unlike when you use a thin pellon and the quilt is all limp.

The Reef- 10"x 7"
I entered it into the trunk show and they accepted it and so I have already posted it to them. I hope they end up using it for something.

Bye for now,