Thursday, July 31, 2014


The theme was announced and it sounds as “Under the surface”.

The first thought was to make a quilt which will show ground split but then it seemed to me too prosaic: there are a lot of wonderful quilts showing this.

What else can be under the surface? Underwater world… not my theme. May be to look at biology and consider the mystery of conception? There are many photos on internet… No, I don’t feel inspiration for that…

And accidentally I've glanced at the buttons which I just had made in ceramic class.
Buttons are for fastening clothes and what is under?

Sometimes we meet people who look too closed, not beautiful and you don’t have any desire even to talk with. In Russian there is saying about such people: ”He is totally buttoned”.
But very often after you start the conversation with such person, you see his inner beauty, his pearl which is under his surface.

Linen, scraps, pearl, couching.

'Don't Judge a Book by its Cover'

'Dont Judge a Book by its Cover' by Linden Lancaster 2014

Dear Book Lovers (and others),
Have you ever been sucked in by a book with a gorgeous cover, only to discover its substance was rather disappointing? Perhaps the blurb on the back sounded exciting? Were you swayed by the stickers that advertised ‘Good Read’, ‘Award Winning Author’ or ‘Top Ten’?
Conversely, have you ever discovered a wonderful story in a dull and understated cover? Perhaps it looked like any other book? Have you ever discovered a treasure in a second hand book shop that was a bit battered and worn?
As a school librarian I was amazed how many children overlooked terrific stories because the covers looked old fashioned, ordinary, or (God-forbid) a bit tatty.

People are like books. Some look flashy, capable or super intelligent. Others seem true until you scratch the surface. Others are, shall we say, a bit rough around the edges. Some of the best and most influential people in my life are the ones in plain wrappers.

In this piece I have depicted myself. I’m a little plump, and plain. I’m not young and shiny anymore. I could be any one’s mother, sister or wife. I look ordinary and you probably would not pick me up if I were a book!
But, if you look under the surface, I have much to tell. My life experiences, my values, faith, creativeness, skill, my loves and losses. I am unique.
What is under your surface?

Raw-edged applique, black Inktense pencil, photo printed on printable fabric.
Detail 1

Detail 2

Underneath, we are all the same

Quite early on in my explorations of Under the Surface, I knew I wanted to make a social commentary using the idea of a puppet theatre. I played first with the kind of paper dolls that have pins to make the arms and legs move, but this seemed overly complicated and not adding much to the subject matter.

It was a toss up whether I went for class distinctions or racial discrimination, but with the Victorian puppet theatre as the set, it seemed best to go for class distinction. From then on, it was just a matter of playing with the separate skirt parts, and the strings, and constructing fusible applique clothes.

Although there is a serious point to this, it was mainly a fun piece to make. The colours in the photo above are accurate. The one below is suffering from my trying to lighten the shadows. 


When I read the theme of our new challenge two months ago I immidiately remenbered a sketchbook exercise that was part of the Creative Quiltmaking course I took a few years ago. We had to create an arrangement of a selected shape on the page then cut it out partially and fold it in order to see the page below.
After dismissing a few other ideas I took my sketchbook and looked for this exercise, then started to find out how to turn this paper exercise into fabric.

I replaced paper with lutradur to get enough stifness to be able to fold the partially cut-out shapes. I first painted the lutradur with setacolor paint. As the sprayed ink I had used in my sketchbook flowed I used wax pastels to paint the heart shapes, a dark red for the bigger ones on the yellow lutradur and a light pink for the small hearts on the dark pink lutradur. I first painted and cut out the big heart then put the second layer under the first one in order to align both hearts. Like in y sketchbook I cut the bigger heart in the middle to open it like a window to both sides and left a small bridge in the middle of the smaller heart.
Both lutradur layers were stitched between the top fabric layer (the surface) and a bottom fabric layer plus batting and backing.
Contrary to my sketchbook work I didn't cut out a window in the top layer. Instead I left a flap I was able to roll open more or less over the hearts to accentuate the idea of layers, that the heart shapes are under the layer of green fabric. I added a few stitched squares to give the impression that one cannot see everywhere what is under the surface and has to imagine it.

commercial hand dyed cotton fabric
polyester batting
cotton thread
fabric paint and wax pastels


PS the picture of mmy sketchbook page for this quilt is still in the gallery of Creative Quiltmaking on the homepage of Linda Kemshall.

Under the surface - a long time ago

 With this theme, I decided - literally - to go under the surface. When archeologists dig, they relate to the different layers the soil has, and can place the different artifacts according to these layers. In 1905, two archeologists started digging in the Oseberg burial mound at Slagen in Tunsberg, and found one of the finest finds to have survived the Viking age. 
This treasure has inspired me in so many ways, so this is my tribute to what our ancestors left us. The green grass-grown mound above the surface, and the burial-ship with all its beautiful content under.

Cotton painted with fabric paint and gesso, fused applique, machine and hand quilted and some french knots.

Backside Mystery

Gabriele Bach - Backside Mystery

This challenge remembered me of a visit of a quilt exhibition many years ago. I just had begun quilting, the quilts shown were very modern from the leading quiltartists in Germany. At that time I didn't like it. One quilt was the backside of a quilt, not what you think, no, it was the bottom side of the bed, where quilts normally lie. It showed springs, dust, dirt and forgotten cloths. I never forgot it and today I think the artist did a good job.
Normally my quilts are neat and proper. You won't see seam allowances,  loose threadends or knots. But of course it gives them, hidden under the surface of the top.
So I decided to turn around a quilttop and show what is underneath. I used a piece of self dyed fabric, cut it, rearranged and sewed it. After ironing it looked like this.
I like this fabric very much and saved it for a long time. For this piece I could use it, because nothing is wasted, you can even see the seam allowances.

Backside Mystery - detail
When I backed it with batting and a backside. I embroidered it with white and red, self dyed yarn. I used the running stitch, because it looks equal on both sides.

For me this piece was hard work, because I must prevent me every minute from cutting the loose thread ends. I needed a lot of tries till I began every embroidery line with the knot on the top.



For the July theme "Under the surface" I decided to look under the earth crust. I think that roots of trees and plants many times have very interesting forms and textures, so my choice to interpret the theme 
was roots.

As in my May quilt, Spaced Bottles, I have painted a white background cotton fabric with Dye-na-Flow, a thin flowing acrylic paint. Putting templates cut from newspapers with the shapes of roots on top of it when still wet and after that placing the whole thing out in the sun to dry. The shapes that developed into a lighter value after that the fabric has dried, were then machine quilted around the perimeter. The same newspaper templates were used when cutting the fabric pieces. The fabric "root pieces" are raw edged appliquéd. In order to get some stability among the curvy roots, there where some lines added. The piece is framed with a narrow binding.

...lie the seeds

Under the Surface has been a great theme to work with, there were many different options and ideas swirling around in my mind and it was only when the Honesty, Lunaria annua began to set it's seed that the complete idea arrived. 
We have been hearing about a decline in birds and insects for the last while, partially due to the loss of habitats and the neatness of gardens in the suburbs. Our council has allowed the grass in the public spaces to grow long before cutting and with it we have seen numerous plant varieties that were not in evidence before. Those seeds must have been there, hidden away in the soil somehow surviving until they could once again grow into mature plants and set new seed. The benefits have been richer more varied habitats for wildlife with a greater choice of food. 
Honesty is the perfect plant for depicting hidden seeds, the seed-heads were full of colour at the time the grasses were turning gold and yellow and the seeds forming were visible only when the sun caught them at the right angle. Now they are beginning to bleach and turn white and those seeds are no lunger hidden under the surface. 
Techniques used: 
Flour paste screen for the grasses with thickened  Procion dye over bucket dyed fabric
Free machine embroidery on snipped layers of Voile through Romeo water-soluble film. Once the seed heads were stitched the Romeo was dissolved and the edges burned away
Machine wrapped braids 
Free motion and hand quilting using a variety of cotton, rayon and polyester threads
And finally textile paint to add colour to the leaves

Saturday, July 19, 2014

What groups work best for you?

Physical or online groups?

As I live alone, and with no family living in my adopted country, I often consider the pros and cons of joining quilting groups. These could be largish, like guilds, or small and local groups who meet in each others' houses on a regular basis. I have tried both, and there are limitations as well as positives. The plus side of the guild is that they sometimes have inspiring speakers, or invite well-known artists to run workshops, as well as putting on shows that are only open to members. The downside for me is that is is quite a distance, and many times I found the speaker had cancelled and people were just going to do show and tell and drink tea. Some members are very prolific and innovative, but the vast majority work in the more traditional designs, which no longer capture my imagination.

The smaller local groups were friendly, and it was easier to keep up with each person's development and ideas. However, I found most times that I didn't have any work that I could usefully take – most of my work needs concentration and quite a lot of space (I am messy!). I began to resent the time going to the meetings which I could more profitably use on my work.

So now my groups are all online. They have the advantage that participation takes only a few minutes when it is convenient. There is still a feeling of camaraderie, and shared goals, probably more than in a real group. It is interesting to e-chat to people from other countries and other cultures, learning a few details of their lives and homes, as well as combining in joint works or joint challenges.

I am sure that the best option would be a group that could meet occasionally to review each other's work for the year, but given the geographical spread, this is not easy to organise. I was lucky that most of my first online group was able to meet twice, once at the now defunct Long Beach show, and once in Canada for a self-run retreat. Some of the Latitude members have met each other, and more will meet at FOQ this year. I did meet some last year, and it gives a wonderful richness to the online life.

From my online groups I have made good friends in other parts of the world. From my local groups and guilds, I have made only one, and she is going to move away from the area soon.

I wonder how things are for others in their countries, and if they live in cities or countryside.   


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Collecting inspiration north of the Arctic Circle.

I’m just home from a fantastic tour north of the Arctic Circle. To a familiar place just like so many years before. We spent 2 x 10 hours in car both over and under mountains:

all the way from Bergen to Skjerstad in Salten. A fantastic tour. Crossing the Arctic Circle we knew we were almost at our goal.

Outside the Arctic Circle Centre there is a beautiful pillar of local pink marble:

We spent some wonderful, WARM summer days at and around Skjerstad. This was the view from the car-window on the road to Bodø

and one of the bridges over Saltstraumen

Even on a gloomy day ther are beauty in an overgrown garden

And of course, I had to take the usual trip up at my favourite place, Skarvhamran, a very windy hill crest, where the pines grows very slow, gets crooked, old and dies eventually, just to stand as dried sculptures.

And at the top I found these three charming birches:

Well back in Bergen, I headed south to Løkken in Denmark, to celebrate my brothers 70thbithday. Here was a totally different landscape, no mountains but charming bathing huts at the beach

And turning around I was met by this wonderful blue sea

So many impressions to keep me busy through the winter, hopefully some of it will end in one of my quilts.