Who’d have thought it: Teaching!

I have blogged about the importance of a challenge before and the last year has continued to prove this to me.  So much has happened since Chris and De at Midsomer Quilting asked me if I would like to have an exhibition at their shop on the Mendips.  This time last year I was unsure about putting my work on display and would never have considered teaching the techniques I use!

For the exhibition last November I challenged myself to make 12 pieces, these would hopefully show the creative journey I was on and how my techniques and confidence were growing.  I bought a tiny little pack of red dots in the vague chance that I may sell one.

I sold 7 of my 12 pieces and met so many lovely people over the 3 weekends and there I thought it would end for a while!

Before the exhibition started Chris (a former Head of 6th form at a local school) asked me to consider teaching with them at MQ.  Now this did seem a step too far, its one thing showing your work but quite another demonstrating  your self taught (probably slightly unorthodox  techniques).

Well, the first date was set after much persuasion and I hoped no-one would be interested and all would be well.

 I taught the first class in January, a lovely group who hopefully learnt something from my techniques.  I taught the second class last Sunday.  I learnt so much on that first course and thoroughly enjoyed the experience yesterday.


I designed a picture for us to work on and was so pleased with the progress everyone made, they were such a lovely group and I really look forward to my third class on the 5th of June.

On the back of this exhibition I have also undertaken my first commission piece and been asked to speak at two Quilting groups locally.

Sometimes it really pays to be pushed or nudged out of your comfort zone!













My first commission

I had never considered taking on commissions before but, a lovely couple who visited the exhibition in November asked if I would consider making them a Great Spotted Woodpecker.  They were moving soon and wanted to have a piece of art that reminded them of their time in Somerset.  Their Somerset garden was the first time they had ever had a Woodpecker visit them and it seemed a suitable memory for this bird loving pair.


I visited their home and looked at the spot they watched the Woodpecker from.  We spent a lovely hour discussing what they wanted from the picture and I took a range of images and fabrics to find out what they did and didn’t like.

We discussed how much involvement they wanted after this initial meeting and they decided that they would leave the rest to me.  I said I would send them an image once the bird was pieced but before I started sewing and they were happy with this.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable process and I set to work drawing out and planning the piece and selecting fabrics for the bird.

I loved the fabric they chose for the background and had taken it along as one of the options as I thought it would be a lovely one to quilt.


The bold black, white and red colours of the Woodpecker really ‘pop’ against the green backdrop.  We had looked at various trees and the bark the bird would be on and they requested a silver birch, which had the appearance of being pecked away by the bird.  They also liked the pictures I showed them of an orange fungi called Xanthoria.

Below, the final piece, ready for framing.  Thankfully they loved it and look forward to hanging it in their new home.



A Swallows Journey

I first thought of creating a piece based on the Swallows Migratory journey after completing my first Swallow picture, ‘Rush Hour’ last year.  In the hunt to find out more I came across ‘A Single Swallow’ by Horatio Clare.  This book gave me the story and more, its a fabulous read.


I started experimenting with text, fabrics and thread colours.  I’m not someone who does lots of planning and preparation before starting a new piece but, on this occasion it was unavoidable.  I struggled to find the right backing fabric and experimented with thread colours – some too light to be visible in artificial light others so dark the words ‘jumped’ out at you.  I wanted to represent through the thread colours the changing temperatures the bird experienced.   The spacing between the letters also took a great deal of experimentation.


Eventually I worked out the spacing, words and image, I settled on a Swallow sitting on a wire.  This is the smaller of two Swallow pieces I am hoping to make for the Contemporary Quilters West Frome exhibition.  This one tells the story of the bird after his journey North and what happens in the UK before the return journey south.



Above you can see the grid and lettering marked out using a iron-removable pen.


Above, stitching the double grid lines horizontally and vertically using a walking foot.


Starting to stitch the letters, lots and lots of threads to take to the back and knot!!


After hours of concentration and tired eyes the text was complete.


One of the wonderful things about being a member of a group like the Contemporary Quilters West is the advice you gain from really experienced artists.  Mandi Bainbridge suggested I try this technique to avoid the puckering I can get when piecing a small bird onto a lightly quilted backing.  By using  this material in a hoop I was able to minimise problems I had previously experienced.



Above, the bird partly stitched.  Below, the finished bird stitched into place on the final piece.  I still have the wire to stitch within all the letters and the birds feet.

It is time now to start planning the much larger piece based on the journey through many countries from South Africa to the United Kingdom.  I am at the moment juggling grid size with letter numbers…..Its a challenge but great fun!

AK015 A Swallow's Journey.jpg

A limited edition Giclee print of ‘A Swallow’s Journey’ will be available soon on my Website shop.


A Rook for Rook Lane

So many ideas and so little time…

The Contemporary Quilters West exhibition in Frome, Somerset is fast approaching and we need to submit our pieces for selection on May the 18th…. panic is starting to set in having lost two weeks to the holidays.  I have 3 more pieces I want to enter (with the idea of a 4th) – 2 of these pieces are in the planning stage at this point with this piece underway, awaiting stitching.

K3N gave me the idea of this piece, saying ‘you’ve got to do a Rook for the Rook Lane Exhibition’.  I am fascinated in Corvids generally but the beak of the Rook gives a good contrast against all those sleek dark feathers .

The idea is a great one and I have loved selecting the fabrics.  When you study Rooks closely their feathers are made up of the most beautiful ‘petrol’ colours.  Below are a selection of the fabrics I had to choose from.


I want this Rook to look stark and a little sinister and really like the contrast against the backing fabric (which I currently have absolutely no idea how I will quilt).


I enjoyed a shopping trip to Midsomer Quilting to select some appropriate threads.  Now the Easter holidays are almost over I can get myself back out into the workshop on Monday and get some pieces underway.  I look forward to showing some progress over the coming days/weeks…..