Irving Berlin, 1926

I just love this song, written by Irving Berlin way back in 1926, and the line ‘Nothing but Blue Skies from now on‘ really heralds in Spring.  This April has been no exception; the skies have been beautifully blue helping, in part, to lesson the trials and tribulations foisted on us all at this time!

This song was my inspiration for the challenge given out by Sylvia Priest in Spring 2020 to the Bloggers.  My personal challenge was Aphrodite, the Goddess of Spring.  After researching her and looking at lots of statues and artists impressions I wasn’t really feeling Inspired! So I made the decision to choose my own subject and after looking through some old photos found just the one to inspire me.  It is of my mother around 1928/1929 at the seaside in a huge bathing costume and a cloche hat.  She was born in April (1925), got married in April and had me in April so a fitting subject for the challenge.

‘Halted against the shade of the last hill, They fed, and, lying easy, were at ease, And, finding comfortable chests and knees, Carelessly slept.’   Spring offensive by Wilfred Oweni

For Landmark challenge in January this year I tried a new technique inspired by Hilary Beattie (read the blog on Blackpool Tower here).  I wanted to develop this a little further by using words in the borders instead of ‘scribble’ quilting to blend the patched pieces.  Hunting for songs and poems I found five that I felt I could use.

To start, I looked out fabrics that represented sun, sand, sea, wild flowers and grass and found all sorts of oddments in my scrap box. The centre piece, which was going to have the image thread painted on, was a vintage piece of Broderie Anglaise my friend had given to me out of her mothers stash.  It was lovely to use, even if finer than I would have liked.  Once happy with the arrangement I tacked the bits all in place.  This meant that as I worked I was able to adjust some pieces and realign others.

‘From you I have been absent in the spring, When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim, Hath put a spirit of youth in everything, That heavy Saturn laughed and leaped with him.’  Sonnet 98, William Shakespeare.

The quilting started on the edge of the lacy bit of the Broderie Anglaise and I worked vertically towards the left in long lines of free motion quilting about 1/8″ apart.  This gives a really solid base for the thread painting.

For the lace, I simply stitched around the holes making the daises ‘pop’; such a lovely effect.  Underneath the lace I had placed a single piece of yellow fabric so that it would show through the holes; like sand on the beach.

Once done I  needed to move onto the border.  I printed some large spring words like bird, blue, spring, April and Aphrodite (I had to include her somewhere!).  These were copied onto tissue paper so that I could pin the tissue to the borders and stitch around them.

‘Sound the flute, Now it’s mute! Birds delight, Day and night, Nightingale, In the dale, Lark in the sky, Merrily, Merrily, merrily to welcome in the year.’  Spring, William Blake.

Once the large words were stitched then the tissue paper was removed and the free hand text was fitted in around them.  There was a lace border around the white space (bottom, top and left side). but this wasn’t attached until the text was complete.  The lines for writing were marked out about 1/2″ apart and some lines were horizontal and some were vertical, broken up by the larger words.

At some point edges needed a little extra stitches to ensure they didn’t stand up from the quilted surface but, suprisingly, this was only needed in a couple of places.

The lace was heavily stitched in place, similar to the rest of the piece, with  lines following the curves of the vintage lace.  Now the piece was ready for the thread painting.

‘I wandered lonely as a cloud, That floats on high o’re vales and hills.  When all at once I saw a crowd, A host of Golden Daffodils; Besides the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.’  William Wordsworth


The photograph I used was blown up on the scanner (she could have been blown up even larger).  I then traced her onto tissue paper.  The hat and bucket I thought would look good in fabric so I traced onto heat-n-bond (wrong way around) and then bonded to some read fabric and cut out the shapes.

Placing the tissue paper onto the fabric I then had to position the hat and bucket under the tissue paper in the correct position for sewing.  This done I could then run the iron over the two pieces to bond to the background.  The tissue paper was pinned down and the machine made ready for thread painting  using a deep grey thread (red around the hat and bucket).  I did consider leaving the thread ends hanging free at the front, as in Rosie James style, but decided not to on this occasion – although in retrospect it would have added another layer of interest.

When the stitching was complete and all the tissue paper removed (a tedious job) it was time to block the piece by spraying with water and pulling into shape whilst pinning around the edge.  It was then left for 24 hours before it was trimmed to size and attached to canvas using an acrylic gell.  So here it is ‘Blue Skies’.


Blue Skies, in memory of Ruth Thomas