Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Tree of Life

Almost on time :-). The beading took a bit longer than I had expected/hoped. Earlier this month I made a quilt inspired by Christo's Gates which showed winter trees against the orange gates. This is a variation on it. The 'dead' winter trees are again alive with blossoms and spring leaves.

All fabrics used are my own hand dyed ones. The picture is not the best, so you have to believe me, when I tell you that it is 12"x12" square :-).

November theme - Tree of Life piece

In the Northern Ireland Embroidery Guild we had speakers who told us about a Passion and Legacy Project which is based on images from the Lethbridge sisters panels that hang in Girton College Cambridge. One bought into contributing by purchasing an image from these panels, I think there were about 4 choices. One image entitled you to do a traditional wool canvas work piece. I did not choose much to my surprise the more modern one/s I chose a Jacobean like Tree of Life. This was well before we got the theme for our November pieces.

Here is my piece for this group, it was a tryout for my ideas for my finished piece which had to be A3 size. I used tulle for the 12 inch piece but abandoned it for my embroidery piece.

Below is my piece for the Passion and Legacy Project. Our local Art College (I live in Northern Ireland) is taking part and various other colleges and guilds one as far away as Australia are taking part. You are guaranteed one showing of your piece fairly locally and then they select for a touring show. I think this is vaguely the form of the project. I will be handing over my piece in a fortnight and all the guild pieces will be delivered. It is so easy partaking when one is not involved in the technicalities or logistics.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

December theme

The random number generator gave us Fish Tank as the theme for the coming month. Good luck every body.

Friday, 13 November 2015


This piece was done for was the 'Old & New' theme and its origin lies in an article I read recently about the restoration of Chartres Cathedral - work which has caused some controversy.  Some opponents argue that it is not authentic but surely a hefty covering of dirt and grime was not there in its mediaeval glory days?  They also try to say that the great mediaeval stained glass is not shown off properly as there is no contrast any longer!  Presumably that too was alright in mediaeval times.  The cleaning is not complete and what struck me was the contrast between the clean, light refurbished parts and those which remained dirty and dark.  I wanted to bring this out in the work.

In addition, I was reminded of a piece which was made for CQ's JQs in 2009 called 'Durham Fragment'.  This is the piece above.  It was based on my own drawings of this wonderful cathedral ,which happens to be my favourite, and I wanted to rework it.  This reworking represents the old and the new whilst the Chartres restoration also illustrates old and new ( and if you like, back to the old!)

This is the result.  My primary aim was contrast, both in colour and tone whilst the quilting patterns were inspired by the stonework on Norman columns.  The patterns used simulate patchwork fabrics as I like the idea of interpreting traditional techniques in a modern way.

Monday, 2 November 2015

November theme

OEQC is over and I am home again where my motherlist of themes is. For the coming month our theme will be Tree of Life. Hopefully this will inspire us all more than the previous ones :-).

Saturday, 31 October 2015

November theme

I am looking forward to the November theme. I have work to make for 2 shows and am stuck as to how to interpret the themes for them and am feeling frustrated at not really having anything to get stuck into. I have been busy with scrap quilts as a gap filler so hoping the November theme will give me something that  I can get my teeth into Happy Halloween to you all.

Monday, 19 October 2015


I know that this is very late but ideas take a long time to mature.  I eschewed the obvious interpretations of my theme e.g homeless placards, glitzy buildings, deprived people and obvious deprivation and excess in favour of a more subtle approach.

I took a very showy flower - in this case a paeony and developed it as the central image.  It is intended to be a metaphor for wealth and fine living.  It is safe in its enclave because it is surrounded by a spiky barrier which separates it from the perceived 'riff-raff 'on the outside.  However, this part on the outside is now being colonised by the rich too as shown by the golden circular 'islands'.  There is chaos outside as represented by the angry streaks as they try to cling on.

I am motivated to do this piece because, living as we do in Greater London, we are very aware of the extreme housing crisis in the capital and inner suburbs particularly.

Techniques include photo transfer and free machine embroidery.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Ups and Downs of Life

I just loved making this piece. I used some linen I had dyed some time ago. I screen printed - up, down and a graph.  These were done using a stencil I cut. I then stitched a grid so I could accurately place the stamped letters. They can be seen if you click on the image to see it enlarged.
I had intended to print - down - in green but forgot before I had even got to the first one. I was looking forward to seeing the pattern made by the coloured lettering, I was pleased with the spread of the red ups. I had so many phrases to choose from.
Irene MacWilliam

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

New theme

The theme for the coming month is: Ups and downs.
Again I have to admit that I had no time this month to create something for this group. As you might know, I am participating in Elizabeth Barton's masterclass this year and that takes more time than I had expected.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

2nd piece for Decay theme - Irene

This is the second compost piece 12 x 12 ins
I used some of the fabric over from the piece in my previous post. I also took a photo of my sun print and printed it onto fabric using TAP paper. I did not bother to fiddle with the photo so the colours are somewhat different. I also failed to wait for it to dry properly before washing, more than I would have expected of the dye came out. This created a worn looking fabric. However I call this 'happistance', it suited my theme. Using a metallic green paint I then printed.... composting is kind to the environment, it promotes diversity.

 I have just put out some more fabric with decaying leaves to sun print. I do not think it will be used for any more postings to this site unless of course I am totally excited about the result. Some of the bits were not staying in good contact with the prepared fabric so not too hopeful of a good result

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

August 2015 theme Decay Irene MacWilliam

When I heard the theme for August was decay I knew I had to make something to do with one of my great interests - compost making. Sounds sad but it just lifts me to see how all the decayable household waste can be turned into amazingingly productive soil. I found some old decaying leaves  and various other bits of growth and did the above sun print. I loved it. I was using reds, browns, yellows and a little green, not combinations I often work with. I find brown a difficult colour.  I did not want to cut it up but I had to.

This is the piece I made for the theme. I have printed a photo of the above onto TAP paper and am toying with producing another piece on the theme of  Decay. Again sorry for being late in posting. I also want to do the old and new theme and have an idea for that so again that will be late and out of sequence.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Apologies from Irene MacWilliam

I am hoping to do at least one of the last 2 challenges, either - Decay or Sign of the Times and maybe the latest Old and New. No real excuse except I just ran out of time as I was concentrating on producing work for a show.
I am off in a fortnight for a weekend retreat of quilters from both the north and south of  Ireland. We stay in this great place called An Grianan and have the use of a clean room for those who wish to sew and a simple art room, it is scruffy and has a sink but what else does one require. When we arrive we have to remove the lovely white linen cloths they have placed on the tables. Our weekend runs from Friday tea time until Sunday lunch time. The food is great. We are usually a group of around 6 - 10. I plan to be in the art room all the time. Hopefully I will produce something suitable for the 3 latest themes.

Monday, 31 August 2015

theme September 2015

My muse decided this month that she wanted a holiday, so I have nothing to show you. The theme for the coming month is Old & New.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015


Diane wrote me an email in which she said that she is leaving this group. Because of changes in her life, she now wants to make comfort quilts and not anymore art quilts with a theme.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

A Sign of the Times - Grandma's Clock

My Grandma had a very odd looking clock when I was a child, with all sorts of wheels that moved although I never knew what they did, I was too young!!  This is my interpretation of it.
 I firstly made a sencil, with Bondaweb and ironed onto calico, cut it out and stuck it onto the background fabric. The dial that holds the numbers was covered with "hot spots" from Nid Noi, with a sheet of Transfoil ironed over and then pulled off to leave lots of very small bronze circles. The wheels were part of the original stencil as were the fingers and these were painted before being stitched around. I had a real problem trying to add the numerals and eventually gave up and bought some stick-on ones from a craftshop!

August theme

The theme for the coming month is: Decay. Good luck everybody!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015


For 'Seaside' Theme.

Yes, this really is the seaside!  Well, almost!  It is, in fact, a creek which goes into the sea but one can surely stretch a point.  (I cannot 'do' buckets & spades, seashells, beach huts etc).  The blue surround indicates the euphemistically called 'migrant activity'' as they try to come in by boat.  (As I write this there has been an unprecedented attempted invasion of the Tunnel & 'Operation Stack' is back in place).  We feel that we cannot go anywhere in North Kent at the moment.  There are references to barbed wire, arrowheads and surveillance whilst the crosses are self-explanatory.  Access denied!

The quilting emphasizes the problem by putting up barriers in each section whilst the random quilting on the sea represents a turbulent crossing.  I particularly like the effect created by the random quilting on the outside sea area.  When I look at the original before me the effect is very textural & interesting.

Whilst the work is inspired by the current migrant problem I am not taking sides and it does not represent my own view as to what should be done.  I do not know the answer.

Friday, 10 July 2015


Not exactly a giant whirlpool with eddies and strong currents off the coast of Norway - more a wimp of a ripple on the River Tyne on that rainy day I have portrayed before. The ripple's movement is restless, however, and this is the response to that theme.  I have tried to emphasise this by dividing the work and quilting in spirals.

It has been an enjoyable piece to do.

Sorry for the late arrival but it was designed some time ago but I have only just made it up due to unexpected happenings.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015


I did a posting a few days ago about my ideas for the Seaside theme. I discarded them as I got the urge to paint some fabric so that is how my piece evolved. For both the sea and the land areas I painted off-cuts of the gorgeous fabrics in the Empress Mills bundles. I then made four simple stencils from freezer paper but only used two of them, the yacht and the fish.
For the wadding I herringboned two strips of wadding; no idea when I bought it. It is horrible as it has left a texture that is probably suitable for both the sea and land areas but I do not like it. I sat on the finished piece while watching Wimbeldon and drinking copious mugs of tea. It has not flattened it very much but storage may well rectify that. I still have some of the wadding left so no doubt I will use it again as I can not bear to throw it out.

Friday, 26 June 2015

theme July

The coming month we have a rather difficult theme: Sign of the times. Good luck everybody, I have no clue what I am going to do with that theme.


Last year we had the theme Life at the Beach and this month it is Seaside. Two themes which can be similar, but I think that the piece I did this month looks differently :-). I decided to have a more abstract view of the seaside:

All fabrics used are my own hand dyed ones, with the exception of the sailing boat, that one is a commercial one.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Restless theme

Initially I was a bit flummoxed by this theme and could only think of the song, The westward wind is a resless wind.
Then the idea came to me when I was busy doing something else. I found  a piece of fabric that had been created for backgrounds for my year quilts. I had sort of paint dyed it unevenly, then splodged on some other paint, it had then gone to a workshop where we were doing printing and screen printing but the paints we were given more or less washed out as they were designed for paper printing. I was dubious about their stability though the tutor had said they were fast once ironed.... hence my washing of the fabric; washing fabric is not my usual practice.  I stenciled the rectangles with some old smelly fabric paint from 1995 (smell goes once it has cured). Made a stencil and then using a home made screen and binder with dye colours (Colourcraft) I screen printed the boy images. Lettering is stamped using childrens' foam letters. I then free machine quilted the piece. For wadding I used a piece of old old black supposedly 2 oz polyester, dreadful stuff but it does use it up. I hate throwing out stuff and look at everything with a view to recycling somehow.

Restless Circles

Once again I found this a challenging topic for the month but eventually realised that one of Kathleen Gurrier's scrap quilts had been an inspiration for me in the past.  I took lots of scraps of fabric and particularly satin viscose from previous dyeing experiments and cut and frayed them into irregular shapes that looked vaguely like circles, assembled them and stitched down onto a base fabric.  Joined together they formed an appealing 12" square in colours I often find difficult to use!

Friday, 29 May 2015

theme June

The random number generator gave us Seaside as the theme for June. Good luck everybody.


Opposites sounds like an easy theme, but I have to admit that it took quite a long time before I had a design which I liked. The first designs I made were all too static and to be honest, rather boring :-). But finally I found one which I liked.
This one started out with a plain black background quilted with multicolored thread. On it are 3 fused white on white squares and to lighten it up a bunch of colorful circles. The squares and circles are quilted with plain thread.

In this quilt I could combine the opposites black/white, multicolored/plain, solid/patterned, big/small, circles/squares and black/white versus color.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015


I am getting rather anxious about the group. I do hope it is not going to fall by the wayside. I so enjoy having the monthly challenge though I have missed a few of them.
Would we be more productive if it were a new challenge every 2 months, or reverting back to the original way when we took turns to come up with the word or words for our challenge.
I would hate to think we would cease as I find it stimulating having such miscellaneous ideas to work on. The 12 inch format is such a convenient size for sampling and working on.
I will be interested in your thoughts.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Find the Opposites? Irene MacWilliam

How may opposites can you find? I can see around 9 or so. 
I really enjoyed doing this challenge once I had the idea to go with a simple interpretation.

Friday, 1 May 2015

May theme

Sorry that I am late. The theme for this month is: Restless. Good luck everybody.

Sunday, 19 April 2015


(Or 'A Ride through Yorkshire')

I started this piece in response to the 'Street Scene' theme but somehow it was never finished.  I was going to show it to you anyway when complete but the opportunity has arisen for it to satisfy the theme of 'Through'.

As you can see it is a response to the Tour de France spending the first two days in Yorkshire.  At that time there were high high hopes for a third consecutive British victory but, being British, we have to give the others a chance, don't we?  So Chris wobbled on the cobbles and Cav. crashed in the dash and that was that.  Business as usual!

I have tried to show the speed of the riders by portraying the cyclists and blurring the place names on route. The row of white roses was based on the fact that the Tour went through Yorkshire.  (For non-British members the white rose was the symbol of the House of York in the so-called 'Wars of the Roses' and has remained the badge of the county).  Coincidentally, I was writing this in draft on the day that Richard III was interred, with some pomp, in Leicester Cathedral.

The section underneath the riders is based on pavements, tarmac and cobbles whilst the spectators sitting in deckchairs was inspired by a poster I saw in which the Tour was going through the countryside watched by these relaxed inhabitants.

I tried to make the stitching reflect the subject matter although I am not sure that I managed to show speed that successfully.

In conclusion, we must hope for a better British performance this year.

Saturday, 4 April 2015


In March the theme for EB's masterclass was lines. I made a quilt for this one in a big size 40"x18", but before I started working in this size, I had made a small sample. This sample only needed an oval and it would fit the theme for this group:-). This is how it turned out:

There are always so many ideas floating through my mind, that it is nice if sometimes they can double up. This quiltlet will be by contribution for the SAQA auction later this year.

Looking Through Me ---Irene MacWilliam

As I said in my previous post I had a number of ideas but discarded them as they did not hold much interest. Years ago I designed some pieces using eyes but never took them further. I thought this would be easy, just establish the grid for the black squares which I did by machining the background to the felt wadding. However when I bonded on the black squares they did not always cover the the stitched grid so I had to unpick that. I then by machine buttonholed round each black square. I scanned in a photo to get the eye image using TAP for printing them. (Transfer Artist Paper by Lesley Riley). The eyes were bonded on. I did my narrowest binding yet as I wanted my outside squares not to loose too much of their dimension. I like the effect of a narrow binding so will use it more often. Now to do some of my designs on a larger scale and find an easier way of getting my black squares accurately placed.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Lateness with theme piece for THROUGH

Sorry been mulling over this theme and discarding ideas as they seemed too banal and had no interest for me in their construction. However yesterday I came up with an idea and spent most of the evening working on it so hope to have it ready for posting soon. It is rather stretching the word through but I had to have a go.
Have a good Easter everyone.

Monday, 30 March 2015

April theme

My quilt for March is still on the design board, but here is the theme for the coming month: Opposites. Good luck!

Friday, 27 February 2015

March theme

For the coming month the the is: Through. Good luck everybody and remember, if you want to add themes to the list, just send me an email.

Monday, 2 February 2015


I have had a frustrating time trying to find out how to change the orientation of a photo which came in on its side.  I still don't really know how I got there but it has worked!  It is now the right way up.

The source was a tree reflected in the pond at Wakehurst Place (now banned by us because it has decided to charge NT members for parking).  It then went through various stages as I flipped and mirrored it.  I needed a focus so I took part of the picture and repeated that too.  A swirl was added to increase the movement and the sides were taken from the same source.  Free machining was used to give the raised effect.

I have subtitled it 'Magic Carpet' because it appears to resemble one and it has given me ideas for more work on the same theme.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

theme for February

After several attempts this is the theme which came up using the random number generator:
Here kitty kitty.
Good luck everybody.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Irene MacWilliam - upside down theme

Another of my striped pieces. I am not sure which way up is best, which do you think? I enjoyed doing the stitching on the pink bird, the green spots were on the fabric.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Upside down trees

When I read this month's theme I knew that I wanted to do something with baobab trees. They look like they are picked out of the earth and put back upside down, don't they? This is what I created:

But that was not the end of it. Sometimes there are quilts who just want a bit more. I painted a canvas and glued the quilt on top of it. This is the final result:

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

A Painted Face!

Have really enjoyed this month's topic albeit rather late.  Hand drawn letters, coloured in with a variety of fabric paints and then appliqued onto a piece of hand dyed "grass" cotton.
Wishing you all a very happy new year.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Must apologise for being late for December, a multitude of niggling things have got in the way of a full day's sewing over the last couple of weeks.  I am almost there but have a Linus Day tomorrow and don't want to miss it, it's a good project and well worth supporting.  Hopefully back on Saturday!