My Mother, Myself quilt

I have been dropping hints and sneaks of this quilt for a while now but on Wednesday I finally finished the binding. I like to kid myself that the reason it had been hanging around for so long was because I was using it as a teaching aid to show a few people how to bind quilts. While it did do this the truth is I have been too busy to finish it and when I have sat down in front of the tv to bind it I have very promptly fallen asleep. Several people have fallen victim to it's 'stabby-ness' from where I had pinned but not sewn edge and was just using it anyway - a habit BS is infuriated by!

 I've been longing for something a bit chevron for a while. They seem to be very on trend in the states at the moment and I had considered getting these sheets from Urban Outfitters shipped for the US to sate my desire but at a total including shipping and taxes of $200 I thought 'I can make a quilt cheaper than that!' and so I did (though the sheets are still calling to me like a siren).

I backed it with a vintage turquoise sheet that has been knocking around my stash for a while, it is all soft and worn from years of use which makes the quilt super snuggly already. Here is where it is living. It got its inaugural cuddle last night courtesy of my friend Laura.

And why is it My Mother Myself quilt? Just because as I was sewing up the chevrons they looked very like this book which sits on our shelves!

Things are quiet on here at the moment as there is a lot going on in my real life that is too personal and not really appropriate to talk about here, but I hope to keep dropping in with crafty updates as and when I can.


Of Course I'm a Feminist

This post has been brewing in my mind for a few weeks now, it started one morning over a lovely metropolitan breakfast and has ended with a sign on a noticeboard.

On Sunday I was accused of being a feminist. Why was I accused? Well I am not foolish enough to start bad mouthing my employer on the internet but there was a thing, it made me feel uncomfortable, I objected. What happened next? I was accused of being a feminist. Accused. Now before you start throwing copies of The Female Eunuch and How to Be a Woman at me let me clarify I am 100% feminist through and through*. I was brought up to believe that equality is important and relevant in my life. I don't think the fact that we have the vote and jobs means that the fight for equality is over. It isn't. If you're not sure of this follow @everydaysexism on twitter for a day and you'll see exactly how much there is still left to be done. So why then am I annoyed to be called a feminist. Well I'm not. It was the fact that I was accused of such and that the rest of the sentence involved the words 'get all militant' that really got me riled and has left me seething for days now. A friend and I discussed the etiquette of 'coming out' on your blog as a feminist, and trying to figure out what we had to add to the debate. Today I am finally taking the plunge and adding feminist debate to my list of things I will talk about on my blog.

Traditionally female crafts are at the root of my practice as an artist and as a crafter. I haven't got this far in my creative journey without having to think about the way these two ideals - traditional female pastimes (which could be argued were used as a way of subjugating women) vs my core feminist beliefs - make me question if my participating in a traditional role of femininity perpetuates a patriarchy I disagree with. I have even had this debate with my mother who watched in horror as I sat knitting a pair of socks for my husband one day, lamenting my betrayal of the feminist sisterhood. For me this conversation does belong on craft blogs, and does belong on a blog about my student experiences. It is a debate I find myself having almost every week with someone or other, intellectually stimulating, challenging debates about the nature of what I spend my days doing and the beliefs that I hold. From now on you can expect a little more discourse on this blog, some of it will be academic and based on the things I am reading or the discussions I am having, some of it will be frustration at the inherent sexism which sadly seems to be on the rise not on the decline, some of it will be anecdotes of sexism in action in 2012 - probably including the famous seminar where I had a 20 minute fight with my cultural studies lecturer who felt that feminism was 'a discussion that just isn't relevant any more' and later illustrated his argument by uttering the words 'boys don't knit in the same way girls don't drive ambulances'.**

I don't think any of you will be surprised or offended by this new addition to my blog and if you are brilliant - leave a comment and we can have a discussion about it! So here I am out of the feminist closet, off to sit in a pub, drinking wine, eating curly fries and knitting some socks.

*If you are unsure if you are a feminist I encourage you to use Caitlin Moran's handy check list taken from How To Be a Woman:

“But, of course, you might be asking yourself, 'Am I a feminist? I might not be. I don't know! I still don't know what it is! I'm too knackered and confused to work it out. That curtain pole really still isn't up! I don't have time to work out if I am a women's libber! There seems to be a lot to it. WHAT DOES IT MEAN?'
I understand. 
So here is the quick way of working out if you're a feminist. Put your hand in your pants.

a) Do you have a vagina? and
b) Do you want to be in charge of it?

If you said 'yes' to both, then congratulations! You're a feminist.” 

**I did of course win this argument by getting a first on the essay in question!


Circle of (college) Life

Do you have this song in your head now? Yeah, me too. Bloody Elton John.

Anyway, earworms aside I have spent most of this week at college falling in love with my new studio space. It has taken me a while but I am finally getting there. On Tuesday I was sat in said space drawing when the album on my MP3 player came to an end. It just so happened at that exact moment I heard someone saying my name in a group tutorial going on on the other side of the partition. I have a fairly unusual name, I am certainly the only Penny on my course at the moment so my ego got the better of me and I found myself listening in. It was a 3DSP tutorial a module I had done (surprisingly) well in last year and it was really nice to slip vicariously back into the same conversations and issues we went through. I heard the joy in someone's voice that they had finally found their thing. It was the sound of relief and inspiration mixed together in a heady mix. I heard the frustration that others had that they had to keep coming out of the workshop to do other things (for which read: less fun thingslike go to tutorials and write essays. I heard a tutor give the same advice he gave me last year and listened to the same mental penny dropping as it all made sense.

It was comforting and reassuring. Last year I saw 3rd years being frustrated and overwhelmed and inspired and ecstatic and surprised and heard them use the phrase "I wish I was back in 2nd year" and not believe them. And now I am there. I am them. I have in fact used the "I wish.." sentence at least 3 times a week so far this term.

And that is it. It is circle. There is nothing insurmountable about 3rd year, even though it feels a bit like that at the moment. Last year's graduates got through it and made beautiful and inspiring things and so can we.

Don't worry this optimism wont last for long. I'll be back to cursing the world and bemoaning how hard it all is next week but for right now I am enjoying the comfort.


The trouble with 3rd year blogging

Six weeks. I am six weeks into my final year at college and there have been exactly 2 posts where I even mention college. Now as a blog which is meant to be looking at the ups and downs of being a student you will be forgiven for thinking that I have a) been crushed under a pile of books for my dissertation and I can't get free or send for help like 127 hours but with more cups of tea and art theory b) I have decided to run back to admin after the enormity of 3rd year has finally sunk in or c) I am just too busy living a semi metropolitan lifestyle dashing from exciting social engagement to interesting yet stimulating work. Sadly it is d)a less extreme mix of a,b and c with a bit of other thrown in, and it is the other that is the focus of today's post. 

Last year I had quite a few long and interesting conversations with Greg of DunnRoaming about blogging and the problems of over sharing. Now he didn't mean over sharing in the sense of being too confessional, no he was more concerned about 3rd students giving away all their creative secrets. Yes, industrial espionage, or at least protecting your creative intellectual property. Case in point would be Ben from Ben's Bowls a 2012 graduate who was doing innovative and interesting things in combining wood and resin in turned bowls. I was lucky enough to be included in a group exhibition with Ben and other graduates last year so I learnt all about how he made these beautiful pieces. I could tell you about the tools used and the way he turned them but that is his intellectual property. That process is something he designed to create these beautiful objects and if he had been posting details of his work and process all over a blog along the way other people would probably have given it a go and his product would have been diluted. 

I know that this sort of discussion can get the hackles of readers rising. I love learning skills from blogs and learning about people's creative process and I am not saying that I should hide away in a workshop for a year to protect my precious ideas (if nothing else it feels a bit arrogant to think my ideas need such protection) but it is something that I have been thinking about which has held me back from writing about my current college work. I loved sharing with you my Final Piece nightmare of last year but I was very aware that the big reveal was an important part of the things I was making. I wanted to share parts of the the process and the ideas I was looking at but I wanted the impact of a grand d├ębut. 

My degree is leading up to showing at New Designers in London and if I spend the next year blogging about all the pieces I am making and the processes I am using then will I rock up and find someone has taken those ideas and used them for themselves? I know this seems like a highly unlikely thing but having read this article a few years ago it is a possibility which continues to worry me. So where does this leave me?  I enjoy writing this blog and the positive reaction I get to it. The majority of my time for the next year is going to be taken up with designing and making, or writing my dissertation and I want to write about the things I am finding so inspiring and exciting but I am going to have to keep some of them on the vague side. Essentially this is my letter of explanation if you find yourself wishing that I wasn't taking quite so many super close up pictures of my pieces, or if I could just explain what I mean by exciting 'new printing process today!' please forgive my vagueness and I promise you will be rewarded with a big reveal.

If you are interested about details email me and I'm sure I'd love to talk to you about them.


Quitches Be Crazy 5

How did it get to week 5 already? I have really enjoyed writing these posts, but as autumn has approached and the nights are getting longer my days are filling up with the final year of my course and nbnq is settling into her new job we have decided to switch from weekly to monthly. If you want to join in and this monthly approach suits you better, check out the quitch-along instructions here.

To celebrate my favourite of all seasons this week we have gone autumnal:

Q1) Text - Autumn is firmly here. What do you do to get into the spirit of the season? 

There are a few things that I do that I love so much I try and keep them just for autumn to keep their specialness and kick the season off to a good start. Like all people who work in or around university admin I never grew out of the academic year. For me 1st January is just the end of the Christmas holidays and not the start of the new year, but come October I feel a desperate need to buy new pens and notebooks and make plans for the year ahead. Since going back to uni this hasn't changed but this year is accompanied with a sense of dread and endings as this is my final year. Every month is going to contain my last something, so I am throwing myself headlong into my other autumn traditions to keep the gloom away. These include buying new wool and casting on new socks, drinking hot chocolate and gorging myself on Thornton's Special Toffee. I love this stuff like cats love catnip so I am very strict and only allow myself 1 month a year when I can eat it, so between now and November you are unlikely to find me without a bag of this somewhere amongst my person.

Q2) Photo What sums up the back to school season for you?

Wearing boots and tights obsessively though sadly these boots are getting to the point of no more repair. Like I said, this year seems to be all about endings!

Q3) Linky/ Photo/ Text - What's inspiring you this week?

The stash of books I bought last week are currently filling my head with possibilities and ideas. 

Q4) WIP?

I have finally finished and quilted My Mother, Myself quilt it just needs straightening up and binding. It is the first thing that has been properly quilted on my frame and I learnt a lot from it. I have a full post on it planned so no sneaky peeks just yet!

Remember to check out nbnq's quitch post. As we both share such an autumnal love I am looking forward to what she has written!

Sorry this is being posted a day late, I have been changing ISP's and it has as always been a nightmare! still transitioning so I am sending this from the wifi at work!


Feel the fear, then buy books

Last year this is what my car looked like. BS and I had an accident on a very wet and rainy night, we hit a puddle on a country road which turned out to be much deeper than it looked and we aquaplaned into a tree. Now the car looks all kinds of dramatic but we escaped with a few scrapes and bruises. I was also left with a big old fear of cars, especially being in or driving cars in the rain. Even the sound of rain on our attic roof has been know to keep me awake more nights than I care to remember. I live in Hereford which is pretty rainy county and having just bought a new car I know I need to get over this. Today dawned a grey and rainy day with no particular lectures or tutorials to go to so I decieded to take the plunge and drive to Hay-on-Wye to hunt out a few new architecture books. It doesn't sound like much of a challenge but purposefully choosing to drive in the rain, on winding country roads was a MASSIVE deal for me.I sang myself silly trying to remember all the words to all the songs I could from Once More With Feeling and Dr. Horrible's sing-along-blog in an attempt to keep the scared bit of my brain concentrating on something else. But boy was it worth it!

Look at this stash. Yes that is a stack of yarn on the top. Who could resist. I spent a fortune on these books but they are all hard to find and wonderfully inspiring - particularly the architecture details ones! You can expect to see a lot of the things from within this pile over the next few months.

First I found myself in The Wool and Willow shop I have been meaning to venture the last few times I've been to Hay, but as I am usually with a car full of people that I don't want to subject to my yarn stroking tendencies I haven't made it. This sock yarn is perfect for Christmas presents and I am looking forward to knitting it up at Craft Cwtch.

I got myself a quilt book for my dissertation research, I have been trying to get another book by this author for a while but been unable to get it at a reasonable price in the UK so I jumped on this.
This is the third book by Marilyn French I have. The first two 'The Women's Room' and 'The Bleeding Heart' are fiction books which use the narrative to raise women's issues in a way that I really respond to.

Finally this is a page from the Architects Details book. It is filled with images of buildings and corresponding plans. I love it and my mind is already full of ideas as to what I can do with them! If you are interested you can check out my instagram pics of the day by following me @ratsasbigascats


Loan Day Present

Friday was student loan day when my money for the term hit my bank account. This could meant only one thing, Loan Day Present. What is a loan day present? Well it is a usually a bit of a splurge to celebrate the healthy state of your bank balance! It should be something that you wouldn't usually have the cash to treat yourself to, but it shouldn't be something so big you can't pay your rent. In fact pay your rent first, and then if you have some money left get a loan day present. Traditionally for me this has meant a DVD box set or Amazon book binge but this term it came in the shape of a new outfit. Generally I have little or no success clothes shopping, so when the clothes shop fairy gives me a little outfit mojo I have learnt not to ignore it.

We ended up in Torquay H & M over the weekend and I found the perfect outfit for a new autumn term:

I fell in love with the jacket on site but despite scouring 4 branches over the course of the weekend I was unable to find it in my size (it seems for once I am too on-trend and they can't get the stock fast enough), I have ordered it online and am now stalking the postman waiting for it to arrive. The green trousers are actually much greener in real life but the H&M  website pics aren't great. They are more this colour in reality:

This is a bonkers bold colour for me and only the second pair of brightly coloured trousers I have owned in recent memory. The jumper is super snuggly and makes me want to drink hot chocolate after a brisk autumn walk involving excessive leaf kicking. And the blue shirt - it fits like a dream, who could resist! To make room for the new outfit joy I have spent some time this morning clearing out my cupboards and wardrobe of clothes that I no longer wear/want so I'm off to the charity shop before (dum-dum-DUM) my first dissertation tutorial. Wish me luck!

ps. I had a great time learning how to put together an outfit collage using this tutorial by A Beautiful Mess as part of their photography series. The series is really clear and easy to use. If you have some time check it out. 


Quitches Be Crazy 4

Q1) Photo - What was the favourite architectural detail or thing you saw on a building during your holiday then?   

I love this art deco building. The contrast of curves and repeating window shapes, it is almost a shame that it is a model from the miniature village we went to!

Q2) Text What did you see on your holidays and think of me?

There was a very ill advised game of Thomas Cook Monopoly which took several hours and ended in our buzz being firmly killed. Of course what we needed was a much more dramatic end to the evening, maybe with playing pieces being swallowed. 

We also saw some owls and even got to hold them, I took some 3D pics but I am not sure if they will be as good as my nbnqnbnq & JC shots.

ps I am blogging from a mac and it has been a very complicated and stressful attempt so apologies for the tiny post this week.


Oh my, what a big frame you have

....All the better to quilt you with.

Or at least that is the plan. In August at Festival of Quilts I saw a brilliant product which converts a domestic sewing machine into a long arm quilter-esq machine. For those of you who are not machine quilters the basic concept of long arm (LA) quilting is that rather than moving the fabric through a static machine, the fabric is mounted on rollers which hold it still while you move the machine around. Genius. LA's are VERY expensive in the UK and there is little or no rental market unlike the US where it seems you can't turn a corner in blog land before you stumble across someone sending their quilts out for LA-ing.  Silver Lining and I have been discussing going halves on a LA for a few years now but the cheapest smallest machine we could find started at £6k. Every year we wander round the Festival of Quilts playing with the LA's trying frantically to figure out a way to pay for one. This year we stumbled across Freestyle Frames. Finally a reasonably priced alternative to a long arm. I thought about it for about 12 hours before giving in and ordering a 6ft frame which I finally picked up yesterday.

And it is MASSIVE! I am very glad I didn't go for the 7 or 8ft both of which had been discussed. It only just squeezes in my pretty generously sized studio.

There are a few teething problem around tension and the shallowness of my machine's throat (yes, I avoided writing I need a deeper throat...nearly)but all in all I am in love with this baby. Why? Well several reasons the main one being you do not baste your quilt with this frame. Yes, its true, no more hours spent bent over a quilt trying not to stab my fingers for the 20th time and bleed all over my quilt while sewing basting stitches that only serve to keep the quilt together while I quilt it. Secondly I can adjust the frame to be standing height. I have nerve problems which leave me with little or no strength in my hands on occasion, a big draw back when my whole career needs hand work. This is aggravated by long periods of sitting in the same position. To be able to quilt standing up is going to have a very positive impact on my life!

I made a small sample whole cloth quilt yesterday to have a play and I am very happy with the results. I am off to spend a few hours with my sketchbook and my stash to make up some quick quilt tops I can sew to practice on.


Quitches Be Crazy 3

I have been reading about stash shame in relation to crafty women and how this can be seen as a feminist issue - why do women have to justify the supplies which are needed for their hobbies when the myth of the 'shed' or 'man cave' is seen as a valid requirement to ensure that men retain their masculinity and independence within a co-habiting situation....but that is a post for another day. Well nbnqnbnq and I have been inspired to tackle this issue by having a stash themed week.

Q1) Photo Stash shame is a feminist issue, let's tackle it with a stash shot (one or more discipline).      
Here is a cheeky shot of my recently reorganised fabric stash. You will see there is an awful lot of white, so much so that I had to divide it into different fabrics and shades. There are other stashes around the studio but this is the one that get used the most!

Q2) Text Do you read one book at a time or have a stash on the go? What's in the to read file? 

I am clearly a book tart usually having several on the go at once, something which has not been lessened by the introduction of a kindle into my life. I love reading but my tastes lean to the escapist and easy to read so I tear through books at an alarming rate. This is a combination of my in progress and to read books at the moment which are shelved only because my mother-in-law came to stay this weekend and the teetering stack by my bed seemed far too messy!

I'm currently reading Submarine by Joe Dunthorne, I really loved the film and the book it is based on is even better. I'm thinking of adding his second book 'Wild Abandon' to my pile as well. I also have Patti Smith's Just Kids which is the story of her and Robert Maplethorpe, my Dad bought this for me after I raved about seeing her perform at End of The Road this summer and it is great. I found myself saying to BS that it made me want to drop out of the rat race and live my life for art - to which he pointed out that I had pretty much done that already by chucking in my grown up job and coming back to art school! I have just finished rereading Coraline by Neil Gaiman but can't bear to put it away properly, I love the illustrations and  I am a complete sucker for books with coloured page edges. This edition has black edged page and it is this tiny detail which makes my heart sigh with glee. If I ever manage to find a way to paint the edges of my notebooks without sticking all the pages together you can expect a whole rainbow to reside in my bag. 

I will admit to having rearranged this shelf and accompanying stack before taking this picture to hide away the more trashy books in the pile which included 'The Cheerleader' a point horror book I owned as a young teen which I recently discovered in a charity shop, a couple of Nancy Friday books, and more teen fiction than a 30 year old woman should really admit to. 

Q3) Linky What can you show me to fill me with what they used to call 'girl power'? 

For my daily dose of Girl Power I head to The Vagenda. I like their writing style and whilst I don't always agree with the authors they do provide me with links to so many different issues and ideas it is a refreshing counterpoint to the DIY lifestyle blogs which litter my blog reader.

I am also a fan of this quote by Joss Whedon which made its way round tumblr a while back. It gives me a bit of that 'Girl power' flare.


Currently I am finishing up a quilt I have nicknamed 'My Mother, My Self' for which a proper post will be written once it is done.

Quitches Be Crazy 2

Welcome to the second instalment of Quitches Be Crazy, if you missed the intro to the series read all about it here and be sure to check out nbnq 's answers....

1) Photo: Let's have a sneaky peek in your ideas/sketchbook

2) Linky: When the urge to comfort shop overwhelms you where do you go (either online, on foot or both)?

I have never got the hang of clothes or shoes shopping when I need to feel better. I always end up feeling too tall, or too wide, or just not right, so for me comfort seems to come in the form of fabric or stationery.

I am too impatient to wait for things to be delivered so most of my impulse buying happens in person and sadly there is a decided lack of shops to indulge this need in Hereford. I usually find myself in one of the Doughty's shops stroking fabric and yarn imagining that I have all the time in the world to start yet another project. I am even getting a reputation in the quilt shop. There seems to be a collective good natured sigh when I walk in and say "so I'm thinking of....."

In my previous Oxford life I would happily while away comfort shopping times in Darn it and Stitch. This is a gem of a shop which still stands in my mind as the gold standard of crafty joy that I can only dream of emulating. It is owned and run by Jo (seen with tea below) whom I could write a shameless fan girl post about, but I wont - it'll just embarrass us all and rely far too much on the phrase inspiring! Let's just say if you are in Oxford take some time to visit this emporium of joy.

3) Text: What do you most love and most hate in/about blogs? 

This could be such a long answer that I am going to try and keep it simple. I am an irrepressibly curious person. I love learning about other people, looking through (metaphorical) windows into their lives. Blogs allow me to do this internationally! Crafty blogs were one of the things that added to the tide of reasons for quitting my grown up job and coming to art school. I was so inspired seeing all of these people living their lives creatively, some full time, others part time, it helped me see that if they could do it then so could I!  I particularly enjoy watching this blogging positively changing people's lives. There seems to be a spate of blogs I read getting book deals and secret projects they can't talk about which is intriguing and exciting.

I love people's blogrolls which direct me to new and exciting blogs I would never have found otherwise. I have discovered so many new internet places this way that it would be almost embarrassing to try and work out how many days I have spent flicking through other people's links. Yet despite loving this on other people's blogs I have yet to sort one out for my own blog *makes to-do note* bad blogger. Everytime I find a new blog I follow the same routine. I'll read the first few posts on the home page, looking to see how often the posts are, what sort of subjects cover, do I like the writing, the pictures, the general feeling of the blog? If so I usually skip to the November and December posts. I am a winter lady, I love the cosy nights, big jumpers, tights, boots and hot chocolate consumption of the season and all the blogs I love share this winter joy. So I head to the deepest winter posts to get lost in the pre-holidays sparkle. When I do get bitten by the smitten kitten bug I can lose hours exploring people's archives, following links, exploring their little worlds.  Its a dreadful habit I know but it is a wonderfully comforting way to get lost on a dull day.

I also love finding out that people I know in real life have blogs. This has started happening more and more this year, in fact just yesterday I found out about Caramel latte kiss, my friend George's blog. 

As for the things I most hate about blogs.... well there are style things which frustrate me. I hate a three column blog - it just offends my eyes, or the use of a hard to read font - what's wrong with a nicely designed, well spaced, web friendly font?! But generally if there is something about the blog I don't like I stop reading, there are too many good blogs in the world for me to waste my time on ones I am frustrated by. 

4) WIP? 

Sadly there has been very little sock progress. Instead I have been focussing on a college related quilty project. I am working with light and quilting again so I've been littering my studio window with samples this week. 

Remember to leave a link to your post if you are playing along with the Quitches and if you want to join in next week we'll be tweeting next weeks questions on Wednesday just follow either me @catsizerats or @nbnqnbnq . I look forward to your posts and discovering some new blog rabbit holes to fall down.

Tuesday workshop

On Friday I ran my first proper workshop as part of the programme at the Courtyard. is run across Hereford each year with artists exhibiting work all over the county and holding open studios or running workshops, which is what I was asked to do. I only had an hour and as quilting is a very s-l-o-w endeavour I needed a small, portable, quick and addictive subject.

The answer of course was paper piecing! Those little fabric hexagons are truly addictive - just ask nbnq. I was a bag full of nerves before I started but once we got going people seemed to enjoy the session. Everyone took away a little bag of paper templates and the start of a quilt top, or a cushion for those with less patience....

It was a good experience and I have even had an enquiry about running another set of workshops! All very exciting and scary in equal measures. I have a few secret projects on the go at the moment that are taking up quite a bit of my time. I'd would love to tell you all about but I need to wait a little bit longer until they are all confirmed and I can reveal all. But I have managed to get round to sorting out a proper blog for my stitch and bitch group Craft Cwtch. Go and check it out, and more importantly if you are in Hereford and fancy a stitch-y evening come and join us on 2nd October. 


Quitches be Crazy 1

Welcome to the first instalment of Quitches Be Crazy, if you missed the intro to the series read all about it here and be sure to check out nbnq 's answers....

1. What item that you could hold with one hand is your most precious? 

2. What's the best album/ playlist to craft to?

I am an audio book lover so for me they are the best thing to craft to. My current quilting company comes in the form of the Rivers of London series of books by Ben Aaronvitch 


3. What's your favourite motto(s) or quotes to keep buoyed and or making? 

Behind my desk/sewing table I have a whole lot of quotes and motto's which keep me making

1. 'Make it work. Carry on' I bought this print on etsy a few years ago and it is a quote from one of my favourite TV guilty pleasures Project Runway. It is the advice that mentor Tim Gunn always gives to the designers who are going off track. It reminds me that even if the thing I am working on is looking crazy at the moment I have to 'carry on'  because there is a point in every project that it just looks awful but if I carry on going I can usually make it work. It also reminds me that I am exactly where I want to be - at art school - something I didn't even dare to dream all those years ago when I was watching Project Runway at my parents house all those years ago. 

2. 'if you wanted a 0.05 tolerance, don't use fabric' This piece of advice came from my friend JC. Fabric is a trixy mistress and my work is deceptively simple and involves a lot of linear sewing - something that it is far to easy to get disheartened by. It is almost impossible to sew hundreds of perfectly parallel, straight lines so it is this bit of advice that has saved me from many a meltdown. Fabric isn't precision engineering. It doesn't matter if one of my seams is 0.05mm out, it isn't a bridge or a building, people aren't going to die if my measuring is wrong. Fabric isn't metal, it doesn't work that way. Threads warp and slip and get eaten by my sometimes blunt rotary cutter, no one will notice in the final piece. 

3. 'You've got to be kind to yourself' this is a card from Art Equals Happy featuring a lyric from the She and Him song 'Me and You'. It is the best advice I can look at when I am creating. Things don't always go right and when making it work or being at one with the limitations of my materials just doesn't work and it all goes wrong this motto helps me pick myself back up off the floor and start again. You wont always get everything right no matter how hard you try, some ideas are truly awful once you have realised them and you cannot spend your time beating yourself up about this stuff. You gotta be kind to yourself and learn from your mistakes. And possibly drown your sorrows in doughnuts. 

4. What is your current Work In Progress?

I have a shamefully long list of WIP's but this is the one which receives the most consistent attention. These socks are so nearly finished I am hoping they will be finished at some point this week and on my feet keeping my toes warm just in time for Autumn.


Quitches Be Crazy

There is to be  new feature here at Rats As Big As Cats, in fact my first feature! I am working with my good friend nearlybutnotquite and as if often the way her description of the series is much better than mine. Please check the original post over on her blog nearlybutnotquite

Quitches Be Crazy 

Quitches (noun): 
Meaning: Hardcore ladies who quilt 
Rhymes with: Witches and Bitches
Example sentance: I went to pick up my quilt from the show but the Quitches elbowed me in the ribs, pushed in front of me and sneered at it because of the modern use of colour. 

Quitches Be Crazy is a new feature which I am sharing with my dear friend Rats as Big as CatsWe're not like the other Quitches and are enjoying some learning about and inspiring each other whilst living far apart nowadays. We are in fact having a frenaissance, (yes it's a Friends' reference), where we get to know each other better again, after big changes in each of our lives. We are also encouraging one-another to blog-up too. Since we are thoroughly modern ladies we are going multimedia with this thing a mix of photos, words, links, and sounds to answer questions each week. 

If you want to play too we've got a button. We will pick our questions by Wednesday and post on a Monday. To go full linky do post in the comments here. It's a first for us and we're keen to learn from it. So feedback to me is very welcome. 

You can email me (nearlybutnotquite [at] rocketmail [dot] com, comment here or find me on twitter (as nbnqnbnq). 


Next week there are going to be some changes in the Rats house. They will mean there will be even less time to spend with BorderlineStraggler but we are both excited to be taking on new challenges. Our conflicting schedules will mean that batch cooking is going to be embraced and any tips or recipes for your favourite meals that can be frozen in one person sized portions will be gratefully recieved or I am going to be living on stuffed pasta and cereal again!

BS and I have spent some time this weekend talking about our worries about this coming academic year and at one point he said 'I don't think you realise how stressful you find being a student, how difficult you find the actual process of having your ideas and beliefs questioned and challenged'. It was said in the context of a wider conversation but I can't stop thinking about this. It is very true. I don't like having the foundations of who I am questioned when I don't have the answers. It exhausts me. Building up confidence in my work, the ideas behind it and the value of it have been massive struggles for me resulting in more tears and tantrums than I care to remember. This summer I haven't managed to keep up with all of my ambitious goals, I don't have a stack of finished quilts, or sketchbooks filled with new ideas or even a fully researched dissertation, but I do have a few moments of realisation that I am going to keep with me, some long after I have finished college, and some that are more pressing including this newest one from BS.

This is probably the only time in my life when I am going to have the opportunity to be challenged and to experiment with my ideas and beliefs like this. In 10 months time I will be a graduate and hopefully carving out a new place in a creative world professionally. I don't want to waste any of that student time stressing about being questioned, I need to stop worrying about how scary the process of questioning is and focus on the answers and what I can learn from figuring them out.

So wish me luck, this year will be listening and thinking not just talking and defending.

Final Piece - The big reveal!

I have spent the end of last week getting together various bits of copy and pictures ready for my web designer who is helping me take the next steps with my web presence and go While pulling my portfolio together I realised that I haven't posted any pictures of my final piece in its entirety. This week I remembered the main reason for this is that trying to photograph a white-on-white quilt which depends on the interaction of light and the viewer is not an easy thing to photograph! But here are a mix of detail and full length pictures of 'Called Control' and my accompanying artist statement.

You can click on each image to get a better close-up look.

Called Control
‘In the house where I was born lived a child called control and she never let go of my hand…..let it go, let it go.’

The visual rhythm in my piece reflects the repetitive nature of its construction. Inspired by municipal architecture from the post war period, which was the cityscape of my childhood, I am intrigued by the relentlessly functional design of these poured concrete leviathans. I look for the design flairs which each building has; hidden in the angle of a curve or the asymmetric placing of windows, proof that a person imagined every detail of these imposing structures. The same rhythm and detail is translated into my quilts. The process of making this quilt allowed me to explore my relationship with structure and control, how this relates to my own experience and ultimately learning to let go.


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