Thursday, October 12, 2017

Exciting News

So, there I was setting up this new website and thinking 'I really must get back to blogging, what shall I write?' when the news came through that a group I belong to has been featured on  What a great way to start!

I am delighted to say you can read all about my current work at

We are profiled individually and in alphabetical order, so I am near the end, but that's okay because it is all well worth reading.

As well as the framed pieces, I have used the bird designs to make iron on patches, which are available to buy online.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Disappearing Nine Patch Quilt

My last post was all about the quilt raffle I am holding to support my daughter's fundraising for Tearfund -  see
for details of how to enter - and as promised, here's a peek behind the scenes.

I decided to use fabrics from my stash so I pulled out lots of bits and pieces in soft vintage-ish colours, mainly shades of cream and pinky-brown, with a few bits of blue thrown in. Some of the fabrics have strawberries and patchwork imagery, making me think of afternoon tea on the lawn.

Step one - sorting the fabrics into colour value order.

Then trying out arrangements for the nine patch blocks.

 The quilt uses the disappearing nine patch technique, which is new to me.  I have collected lots of images and tutorials on my patchwork and quilting board on Pinterest so do go and have a look.  the general idea is to make a nine patch block, cut it into quarters, rearrange and reassemble.  So you end up with blocks containing large squares, small squares and rectangles which create complex patterns when you join them.

 Laying out blocks.

I machine quilted using lots of separate motifs - they show up more on the back - and brought the blue to the front with a self binding.

 The finshed quilt front
 and back.

Quilt Raffle

So here it is, your chance to win this lovely lap quilt I have made!  The raffle will be drawn on 8th October 2016.  Here's the front...

Disappearing nine patch quilt by Jane O'Leary

and on the back you can see all the quilting.  This is my favourite size for a quilt, just right for a summer picnic and we keep one on the back of the sofa for snuggling up when it gets chilly.  

Back of disappearing nine patch quilt, Jane O'Leary

If you want it to last as an heirloom, you can carefully store out of sunlight, and lovingly handwash it.  Or if, like me, you believe things are made to be used, you can just sling it in the washing machine occasionally and enjoy using it until it wears out, full of memories.
 Want to know more about the making of the quilt? Have a look at this blog post
but don't forget to come back to buy some tickets!

And that's not all, the second prize is a Craft Cotton Co. Quilt Collection kit to make your own small quilt,  kindly donated by Hobbycraft, Bristol.

I'm holding the raffle to support my daughter's fundraising - she is volunteering in South Africa at the moment with Tearfund as part of the government backed ICS scheme.  I have put a pledge on her JustGiving page to raise £600 and so far we have around £400, which is brilliant but we want to do more.

So, here's how to get your tickets, which are just £1 each and come in books of 5.

Quilt raffle tickets

1)  In real life - stop me and buy one, I always have a few with me.

2)  Online - send your donation directly to Katy O'Leary's JustGiving Page.  IMPORTANT - as you are buying raffle tickets you cannot add Gift Aid.  Send me an email at telling me how many tickets you would like and confirming you have donated, and I will email back a photo showing the tickets filled in for you. 

3) By post - send a cheque made out to Jane O'Leary to Quilt Raffle, 13 Cross Hands Road, Pilning, Bristol, BS35 4JB.  If you would like me to send the tickets to you, please also enclose a stamped addressed envelope, otherwise I can email a photo.

Don't miss out! The draw takes place on October 8th 2016.  Let's see how much we can raise to support this great cause.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Celtic Knot

So, I promised to explain what happened to the piece I was working on last March based on Irish dance dresses. We left it as an idea for making pieces/fragments in wispy silk paper with white on white stitching based on celtic knots, to be joined into a large hanging or made up into a dress.  It was a slightly melancholy concept.  And then a funny thing happened - the weather changed, winter ended and one particularly sunny spring day, I realised I didn't want to do it.  What I wanted to do was celebrate the colour and exuberance of the dance dresses in all their gaudy glory.

My next thought was to focus on the knotwork and let it escape from the dresses, so I came up with the idea of making freestanding knots on a larger scale.  I had just been working on this little piece

and really enjoyed it, so I used the same technique.  First, I drew the knot - a triangle elongated as if to fit the bodice of a dress - and cut it out from felt which I painted with silk paints in red and yellow.  I graduated the colour from red at the corners through orange to yellow in the centre.

 Next, I collected up reels of threads and yarns in red, orange and yellow and cut short pieces, mixing them in boxes to create the range of colours I needed.  Then I laid down pieces of Mistyfuse on the felt and sprinkled on the cut ends, fixing them by ironing.

Here you can see how I started with all the red areas and then worked through to orange and yellow, carefully blending as I went.

Once I had a layer of thread ends fixed down, I handstitched over the whole piece using long random cross stitches in the same threads.


Finally, I trimmed all those ends away to give a clean edge and painted over the back with fabric stiffener to stop the corners from flopping.  The finished piece is about the size of an A1 board.  Although I  attached a dowel for hanging in the exhibition at Sidcot, I like the idea of using it just propped sideways against a wall or leaning on a fireplace as a piece of home decoration - maybe several in different colours.  My only regret with this piece is that having carefully drawn the overs and unders in the knot correctly, they don't show, so perhaps for a future one, I can make it clearer.

I am putting the knot into the Bristol Embroiderers' Guild Exhibition in February - details below - so do come along for a look round, a cuppa and some homemade cake.

Embroiderers' Guild, Bristol Branch Exhibition
Feb 20-22nd 2015
Stoke Lodge Adult Education Centre
Shirehampton Road
Bristol BS9 1BN

Open Fri and Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 10am -4pm.  Admission £3. Light refreshments available

Friday, October 10, 2014

Exhibition at Sidcot Arts Centre

Still a few days left to catch this exhibition – it runs until Sunday.  Well worth a visit, we have work on three floors, a selection of cards and small gifts to buy plus plenty of tea and homemade cakes.

The full address is Sidcot Arts Centre, Sidcot School, Winscombe, North Somerset, BS25 1PD – follow the pom-poms when you get there to find the entrance.

Here are my two engine pieces hanging together for the first time – they look much smaller in this lovely large space than they do at home!

A rare opportunity to have my animated piece ‘Resolution’ up and running.  I ended up remaking it from scratch - the software available now is so much better that it was easier to start again than to persuade the original file to run on my current computer.  I also made a slightly smaller and much lighter backboard, so I think of this as the rebooted version.  Making a new backboard was, of course, a purely artistic decision and nothing to do with the fact that my current car is 10cm narrower than my previous one.  Honest.

As a group, we decided to mark the WW1 centenary by each making a small piece on the theme of poppies.  I was puzzled by this for some months as I don’t really do flowers, or at least not realistic ones.  When I sat down to have a go, I found I didn't have any reference images at home and no poppies in the garden so I had a look at The Commons in Flickr.  If you are not familiar with this, it is a very useful resource – images from public institutions that are out of copyright.  Searching for red poppies I came across a page from a seed catalogue dated 1914 which made me pause as it seemed so poignant.  The association we have now with the red poppy and remembrance of war is so strong, but when this was published, that lay in the future.  It was just a flower in a catalogue. This is my finished piece, which is the page printed on fabric with a little hand stitching.

You can see lots more photos of the whole exhibition over on where Jenn is doing a great job blogging about the group.

Now, attentive readers may have noticed that there is no mention of the piece of work based on Irish dance dresses that I was blogging about back in March
Well, it is there but in a very different form.  Another long story, so it deserves a separate post (and I will try not to leave it so long this time).

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Gordano Textile Artists

I have been a little lazy about blogging recently, but Jenn has being doing a great job over on Gordano Textile Artists, and you can see a glimpse there of my completed engine pieces ready for our exhibition in October.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Progressing slowly.



Work continues on Engine 22 and the first row of the main stitching is finished - that is 10 sections out of 44 – all good so far and the image is gradually appearing.

I have started thinking about my next piece for the Echoes exhibition in October.  My initial idea is based on revisiting Irish dance dresses now that my girls no longer dance.  I thought of making an ethereal dress that would hang by itself – an echo of the real thing and a kind of memento mori for a part of our life that has now finished.

A page from my sketchbook thinking about how to stitch the knotwork.


I cut out pattern pieces for a bodice and tried some ideas.



Slightly distracted into drawing hearts in knotwork.



I toyed with the idea of using bright colours and stitched a couple of samples, but soon moved back to white.  This next sample is a very thin piece of silk paper that I printed with lines in white acrylic paint.  The Thermofax screen is one I bought a while ago because the lines are reminiscent of my earlier work using patterns from electricity pylons.  I drew the knot in pencil on some soluble stabiliser and hand stitched the lines then dissolved it away.  It shrank more than I thought it would and unfortunately, the pencil lines marked the thread so it is now a dirty grey, but it is useful as a test.  I am going to try again but this time drawing in white pen  straight onto the silk.  My plan is to make lots of little pieces with fragments of patterns and join them with machine stitching into a single piece of fabric. I am not sure now whether I will make it into an actual dress or keep it as a hanging – will decide when I have more to play with.


Last weekend, I made some more pieces of silk paper but had a little accident with a couple of them.  I made them in the usual way with CMC paste and net, and had covered the table with an old PVC cloth.  Now, this is many years old – I originally bought it to protect the table from messy baby mealtimes and it has been used for painting etc for at least a decade.  For the first time ever, the colour ran and marked two of the pieces with pale flower splodges.  They sat around for a couple of days while I got on with other things and then on Friday afternoon, I gave myself some playtime, just for fun and did this.


These wonderful thread ends are from Marilyn, a very talented weaver who recently joined Gordano Textile Artists.  She came to our last meeting with the warp ends from her latest piece which you can see on the GTA blog here.  They are the perfect length for embroiderers to use and they are all dyed by her in the most wonderful rainbow colours.  She also had a bagful of snippets about an inch long which I pounced on.  I have sprinkled them onto the silk paper and layered with Mistyfuse followed by another layer of thread ends and then ironed it all together. I will need to add some stitching to stop the top layer coming off, but at the moment I am just enjoying the colours.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

January Making

It is always good to have some knitting on the go in the winter, so far I have made this shawl from some odd balls from my stash using this pattern

and one sock.
Socks are a great project to have on hand, portable and quickly finished. Once you have mastered a basic pattern, you can adapt it endlessly.  I have uploaded my favourite version to my new Patterns and Tutorials page so everyone can enoy it.

Work continues on my next engine piece - a companion to Engine 21 - but not much to see at the moment. Here are a couple of pictures showing progress on the background stitching.

 While the machine is running, I have time to ponder what the next piece of work will be.  My next exhibition is in October at Sidcot School with Gordano Textile Artists and the theme is Echoes.