Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Revisiting old haunts

After all of my blogging about the Victoria and Albert Museum last week, I realised that I was long overdue a visit there. The Kylie exhibit had been and gone, and somehow I had not visited in months. Time does fly.
I went straight up to the Textile Study Rooms (with a brief detour for coffee) as it is so easy to be seduced in by the sexier, totally glamorous ground floor exhibitions. Speaking of which - I ended up down at the New York Fashion exhibition later, and check out those pleats above. How fantastic.

But there's nothing like weaving your way through deserted corridors, through several changes in interior design and very bad lighting to make you appreciate the treasure trove of the study rooms even more.

The hundreds of screens that can be pulled out, the samples to be sketched or photographed, and the drawers filled with 8th and 9th century silk remnants. I tackled the Far Eastern section this time, and am headed back soon for the European section.
PS Expect an update from the Melbourne Craft and Quilt Fair soon. I hear that there were plenty of quilters leaving Jeff's Shed with new inspiration this year (as always). Sadly no photos from there (when will they learn to take their camera with them...), but photos from the shop coming soon too.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Quilt designing on the run

Greenwich 280707 004, originally uploaded by alisoninlondon.

Sometimes quilt design ideas jump out at you from the strangest places. I loved the design of this black and white litter bin in Greenwich (South East London).

Take out the words printed on the litter bin, substitute in your own text and you have a lovely geometric outline for a modern quilt.

The tile floors are of course an area where we all look for inspiration, and these (in the chapel) did not disappoint.

But there was also no shortage of colour with the glowing frescoes and golden accents that should be in every great European building.

The sky outside was a brilliant blue - could be aptly described as 'sky blue' in fact, but sitting inside was made bearable by the ornate ceiling design.

But the biggest treat of the day was stepping back outside into the bright sunshine and appreciating the touch of summer that had finally arrived.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Samarkand Silk Carpets

Samarkad Silk Carpets, originally uploaded by alisoninlondon.

We visited a silk carpet factory in Samarkand, Uzbekistan to see how the silk was dyed and then woven into the stunning carpets.

A lot of the carpets they sell are special orders from people that have visited the factory and specified the colours, pattern and size they wanted. However the design and colours of the other carpets are decided by the weavers. This makes them all unique, as they're not working to a recipe. Some weavers like to repeat the same pattern each time, with different colours, others prefer to look at a new pattern after months of knotting one design. Others just mix it up everytime. There's a lot of freedom of expression in this line of work.

Another thing that was immediately noticeable - these women loved their jobs. It wasn't a 'lets smile for the tourist moment' as it is not really a commercial tour, more a genuine enjoyment and pride in their work.

The factory has been established by an Afghani doctor, and there are strict rules about who can work there. The girls must have been enrolled in school until at least the age of 16, and most of the workers are over 18. Abdullah's family works there - it was his daughter that took us around, and they have a design that is their family design, and are rightly proud of this.

The natural silk thread is soft and well, silky, and the natural ingredients they use to dye the silk sound so romantic - madder root, pomegranate, walnut shells, etc. Madder root is particularly amazing - so many different red, orange and brown shades can be created from this one plant.

One day I will have a house filled with, among other lovely textiles, an Uzbek silk carpet or two. The quality was incredible - must be felt to be believed to use a cliche - and the chance to customise the design and colours (and the relatively reasonable price) almost justifies an excursion back to Uzbekistan.

And there's a few nice buildings to see in Samarkand while you are there...

PS If you want to read more about the Samarkand Bukhara Silk Carpets Factory they have a pretty extensive website at www.silkcarpets.net

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Melbourne Craft and Quilt Show

This week is the Melbourne Craft and Quilt Show once again. Melbourne is always a fun show, the only one with late night shopping in fact.

So, if you're in Victoria, you're probably already headed there. And if you're not, click on the craft and quilt show link on the right sidebar to find out when the show is coming to you.

I hear that Nicole Kidman was wandering the aisles of the Sydney show. Wonder who'll pop up in Melbourne?

Sunday, July 22, 2007


IMG_2222, originally uploaded by alisoninlondon.

And on a related note, the intricate tiling at the Registan in Samarkand.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Victoria and Albert Part 3

Vintage textile at V&A, originally uploaded by alisoninlondon.

This could become a Victoria and Albert Museum blog (if I let it), but no, this will be the last V&A post for a little while. At least until my next visit.

Several of the textile galleries are closed for refurbishment until April 2008, but there is plenty to see anyway. The patterns in the Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art could keep a quilter busy sketching for days. This fragment of a vintage textile was so delicate, encased under glass, but you could imagine the almost papery texture. I wish I'd noted when this was from. I know it was old.

Speaking of sketching, most of the museums here lend free creativity kits to kids and adults with all of the necessary tools - to get sketching, or even to spark some creative writing. So on a rainy day, on the spur of the moment you can pop in and get creative.

The low light of the gallery means that these photos can't really do justice to the rich colours and textures of the textiles. But until we all get to go there, this will have to do. (But really, if you have the chance - go).

Friday, July 20, 2007

Victoria and Albert Museum Part 2

IMG_4585, originally uploaded by alisoninlondon.

The V&A cast collection (2 rooms) encompasses plaster casts of all sorts of big and small monuments. The room itself is crowded, colourful and dark. There is such detail in each of the pieces on display, but it's easy to become overwhelmed.

In what is a high vaulted room, it's nice to focus right in on a piece. The artists that get to colour the casts to simulate the original statues, gates, tombs etc. must enjoy their jobs. Very satisfying.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Visiting the V&A Part 1

IMG_4593, originally uploaded by alisoninlondon.

If you're in London, the Victoria and Albert Museum should be the number 1 museum on your list.

This place has incredible textiles, a mindblowing cast collection (more on that later) and lots of other unexpected gems. One of them is the wrought iron gallery, not usually the first place I would head to in a museum.

These wrought iron - sculptures (for want of a better word) - are incredible. Incredible.

So delicate, yet sturdy, black yet somehow feminine. I couldn't stop taking photographs, but will spare you the thouands, and just leave you with this one.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Staying in Marrakech

I decided when I set off from Australia that I would buy textiles along the way. They're compact, light (well, that's the theory anyway - more about my Uzbek suzani on another day) and are exotic reminders of haggling, offers of mint tea and happiness all around when a bargain is finally struck.

I travelled to Marrakech for my 30th birthday, with my brother and his wife, and a friend also from Australia. When the brother (Nath) and his wife (Nam) left Marrakech a day earlier than Laura and I (we were headed back to London, they were off to Paris - jetsetters!), they had some Dhirrum left. I was entrusted with it, to buy a carpet that Nam had seen near our Riad.

Of course Laura and I went back to see the carpet, convinced that it would be far too expensive and not even worth haggling for. He named a first price less than what we had to spend. So automatically.... we thought something was wrong with the carpet... We finally decided that it wasn't well made, was a bit worse for wear from hanging in an alleyway and just not quite up to our standards. So started the great carpet hunt of April 2007. We found plenty we LOVED, at prices that would cause nightmares, but finally found a little gem at just the right price.

Then we were off to find a location for the authentic photo shoot (pretending that it was my carpet and didn't need to be handed over in a few days, lost to America!).

Laura led me down alleyway after alleyway and we finally came to this art centre, where she had taken tea while Nath, Nam and I were riding camels (proof above) a few days earlier.

It was definitely worth it, and even though this carpet didn't join my textile collection I have some good memories of looking for it, haggling, and then assisting stylist Laura with the photoshoot... and I always have my cactus silk bedspread to remind me of Morocco!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

More stripey cactus silk from Marrakech

Marrakech (170), originally uploaded by alisoninlondon.

Cactus Silk

Marrakech (309), originally uploaded by alisoninlondon.

Keeping up the international theme of the week on the Just Patchwork blog, the cactus silk bedspreads in the souqs in Marrakech were stunning.

I'm not entirely sure what cactus silk is - all I know is that I bought one, and wish I'd come home with many, many more (especially when I see the prices they ask for them in London).

Next time I travel to Morocco a whole suitcase of these stripey silks are coming home with me.

Monday, July 16, 2007

New Look

Morning in Topkapi, originally uploaded by alisoninlondon.

There's a new look for the Just Patchwork blog!

More out of necessity than anything else - the changes with Blogger moving to google (you know what I mean if you are a blogspot blogger) - have meant that there is some work to be done here.

And it is still a work in progress. So drop in over the next week or two to see if you spot the changes as they are being made...

In the meantime, enjoy the Iznik tiles from Topkapi Palace in Istanbul - a must for quilters to see the most mindblowing tile and textile patterns.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Minnie's Machine

Disneyworld (9), originally uploaded by alisoninlondon.

Quilting - Disney style.

This is what Minnie Mouse was working on at Disneyworld, Florida, when I visited her house in March 2007. I wonder if it's still a WIP, or if she's finished this project, and is on to the next one!