Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Work unguessed before!

Happy Beltane, May Day or what you will!

This is my offering for today's reveal on the theme of  'Change/Transformation' and I hope it captures a little of the spirit of topsy-turvy celebration and carnival :)  

I actually thought I started this challenge in good time but it took so much longer than I expected I came perilously close to missing today's deadline. So I will just give an outline of my thinking here and put a more detailed post on myblog when I am not so short of time.

My quilt involves three variations on the idea of change.

1. Content - a change to a Nursery Rhyme 

I based my quilt on this on this rhyme:

Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?
I’ve been to London to visit the Queen.
Pussy cat, pussy cat, what did you there?
I frightened a little mouse under her chair.

I continually changed my mind about what to make for this challenge and I eventually settled upon using a silly rhyme, that popped into my head when the Trial and Error cats were rummaging in the vintage linens, in which the last line of the Nursery Rhyme, Pussy cat, pussy cat where have you been? changed to I found a trunk full of fine gowns to wear.  I am hoping that the original rhyme is so well known the change will stand out for anyone reading it. 

2. Materials - and another rhyme! 

Pondering the idea of 'change' kept bringing to my mind some lines from 'The Jervis Bay' by Michael Thwaites:

"So many a ship of peaceful purpose was called to the tasks of war,
Was manned and armed and made anew for work unguessed before,
Came quietly into the dockyard and, converted, slipped away,
Yacht, trawler, ferry, liner, tramp. So came the Jervis Bay." 

So, focussing particularly on 'made anew for work unguessed before', I decided to make this quilt using textiles that were originally designed and made for other purposes. 

These included part of a small quilt I made some years ago and never found a use for, a vintage tray cloth, scraps from old clothes, the corner of a handkerchief and embroidered pansies from a torn and much stained vintage table cloth.

3. Technique. 

I wanted to make a piece that was reminiscent of the hand drawn illustrations in vintage Nursery Rhyme books and my go-to techniques for these types of quilt are applique and some straight line machine quilting or a little had stitching, which function to hold all the layers together but don't have much to do with the subject of the quilt. So, for a complete change, I thought I would try to use the quilting as an integral part of the picture. 

I wildly underestimated the density of stitching that would be necessary to make the picture show up properly and I ended up stitching over stitches and filling gaps with straight stitches to the extent that it barely looks like stitching, let alone quilting, but, apart from the verse, all the stitches go through all the layers and are literally (and excessively) quilting the piece together. This did nothing for the stitches themselves and I think if I do something like this again I will embroider first and quilt selectively. And, perhaps I'll also use a single layer of batting, rather than patchwork/batting/backing/linen...

Ideally, I would have liked to have a neater finish but, were it not for the deadline, I'm sure I would have given up on this and the end result certainly looks a lot better than any of the individual areas did whilst it was in progress so I'm glad I persevered. I also have lots of ideas for incorporating elements of this into future projects - though probably not all together! And I have a new found joy in the thought of embroidering on a single piece of fabric :)

(BTW, sorry I have just realised I am late as we are now in BST not GMT)

I'm very much looking forward to seeing what everyone else has made.

Janine :)


  1. Love it - and so many ideas incorporated on the theme of change. I am all for upcycling scraps that would otherwise have no use. Beautiful interpretation

  2. Your work is always so much fun and always beautiful and inventive - no exception here :-)

  3. A friend posted a quote that went something like ...if you think you want to quit, remember why you started. It seems appropriate as you mention that you might ave quit this wonderful piece somewhere along the way. I especially like that you put elements together that were meant to be used on something else. Cool concept for a Change Challenge.
    xx, Carol

    1. Thanks, Carol. I'll have to remember that quote. My main reason for not quitting with this quilt was not having time to do another one! I'm grateful for having this group to push me out of my comfort zone :)

  4. Love the use of embroidered fabric - it really has the feel of some thing vintage and lots to look at!

  5. Loving all the different elements of change that you have included in this quilt Janine. Filling up blank spaces with embroidery stitches is frequently "work unguessed before" I have found. Well done for sticking with it to produce such an evocative piece :)

    1. Thank you, Fiona. It will be a long time before I try to make quilted grass again!

  6. I had tons of ideas about transformation and change, but this is one I would never have been able to come up with! So unique. And yet now I can imagine a whole series of updated nursery rhyme characters facing fresh situations. :)

    When I read the rhyme, I thought, "Oh, that must have had a lot of verses I never heard before," and then you said you changed it. I like it!

    We were on the same page with recycling old textiles and embroidering, and yet our pieces came out so differently. I love the variety this theme sparked!

    1. More nursery rhymes would be fun! I was amazed at just how different all our reveals were. When I saw you quilt I thought 'I wish I'd thought of that' but I never would have thought of it. It will interesting to see the variety of spirals we all end up making :)

  7. I have never thought of using such a variety of materials in a quilted piece as you did, BUT I LOVE IT! I caught the change in the poem right away. You write great poetry as well as create wonderful art quilts. Congratulations.
    I agree with Textile Ranger that a series of updated nursery rhymes would be fresh and fun.

    1. Thank you, Nancy. I'm looking forward to seeing what we all make for the next challenge :)

  8. This is great, really think out of the box. The grass under the sign alone must have taken hours and hours. Absolutely love the trunk full of goodies and the dressed cat. congratulations on a truly original take on the challenge.

    1. Thank you, Tonia. The grass did indeed take hours and it ended up being my favourite part of the stitching but I think it was a once in a lifetime thing :)

  9. Janine, you have such lovely, clever ideas!
    I love the cat, the wonderful stitching, and my you have a way with words ..... and it was very interesting to read where your title came from.
    Barbara xx