Thursday 23 February 2017

Copenhagen Part II - Designing our future

Our second day in the beautiful city of Copenhagen started with a hearty Danish breakfast at our Tivoli Hotel, offering anything you could want, including smoked salmon, cheese and meats, hot eggs and bacon, and gorgeous yoghurt and fruits - this would hopefully keep us going for a while. Today was my actual birthday and we decided to walk across the river and onto Christianshavn, one of the city’s prettiest quarters, and also home to the world renowned restaurant Noma. Ooh, birthday lunch I thought… alas, they seem to have lost our reservation… Haha! At over £300 per head, I think this one will have to wait awhile… though, following in Justin’s hero, chef Rick Stein’s footsteps, he had his photo taken in front of the building, that will have to do for now!

Walking along the river we came across the Danish Architecture Centre (DAC), a very interesting museum asking “how does architecture address challenges such as climate change, urbanisation and social segregation?” Using the city as their main exhibition, guided tours illustrate why Copenhagen and other Danish cities are praised around the world for their visionary way of combining liveability, growth and sustainability – surely topics that every country should have high on their agendas for the future. Even though we didn’t go on a tour… one of the many reasons to go back in the summer… we did see a fantastic exhibition called Wasteland – from Waste to Architecture in which architectural practice, the Lendager Group takes a look at how waste can create new architecture and even become a new resource in its own right. 
Courtesy of Kristina Neel at DAC
This upcycling process doesn’t just re-use materials as you would in recycling, but forms the basis for new, improved materials, often lengthening the life span of both products. For instance, by mixing new concrete with old, recycled concrete, you can make the material stronger than ever. Or, rather than trying to recycle house bricks one by one where often the mortar is stronger than the actual brick, they suggest cutting out a whole piece of wall as one unit and re-using it as a panel.

Throughout the exhibition there were some pretty frightening facts about world growth - did you know that the world's population is growing by five school classes per minute, or that it took only three years (2011-2013) for China to use more concrete that the USA used in the entire 20th century? It should be pretty obvious that our planet can not sustain this growth, and something has to change! Look at the housing crisis we have in the UK alone! Sorry, I’m getting a little passionate now, but this exhibition really did open our eyes, though maybe this is also because we’ve always been excited by modern, or different design, and some of the ideas that were featured made from upcycled materials were just genius!
Courtesy of Kristina Neel at DAC

The exhibition is themed around six different materials, including glass, wood, concrete and plastic. First we see the materials as by-products, then we follow their transformation into new materials, new buildings, and even new urban spaces.

One of my favourite ideas was this textured wall made from  different sized strips of wood attached to a frame. It is then treated to create this beautiful panel that I would love to have in my home! This is another factor that the Lendager Group focuses on, not only how to use waste as a potential resource, but also how to make these resources architecturally and aesthetically attractive. After all, waste is certainly a resource we will never run out of, and if smart and daring designers can come up with beautiful, practical and comfortable homes that we would happily live in, then this must be the way forward...

I have had a quick look to see if there are many UK initiatives following this idea, I found a couple of blogs about reupholstering chairs and repainting household items, but much of this is seen as more of an artform, with many pieces costing more than the original item, I don’t think this is the answer. This interesting post on Sustainable Build highlights the problems in the UK’s construction industry, such as the lack of information on sourcing and how to use these products in design, and also the cost of deconstructing a building rather than the cheaper option to demolish and destroy. I see so many boarded-up old houses where I live, and it makes me sick to see them just sitting there empty when we’re in such need for housing, both social and private. Yet the current answer seems to build inefficient box houses that all look the same, have no character or design, and call themselves four-bed detached dream homes.

Wow, this is supposed to be a quilting blog!! Apologies for going off-topic this week, I just felt our adventure in design and our discoveries had to be shared! This week I'm at my first quilt show of the year, the Spring Quilt Festival at Harrogate - I hope to see you there!

Thursday 16 February 2017

The Land of the Chair - My Birthday Surprise!

I may have mentioned that it was my birthday a couple of weeks ago, and that I was being whisked away for a few days, but had no idea where. My husband is such an old romantic, and had planned this trip months before, only telling me that I would need my swimsuit and a winter coat… I knew we were flying somewhere for a couple of days, so it had to be Europe, but when we got in the car and drove south down the M1, we obviously weren’t going from Newcastle, then we passed Leeds Bradford airport, then East Midlands airport… it soon became clear we were heading for London, Luton to be exact!

We stayed in a nearby hotel that night, which obviously meant an early start the next morning - looking at the departures board gave me too many options, Gdansk? Brno…?? I literally didn’t know until we headed towards Gate 2 – Copenhagen! Yay!!! So happy!

After an easy flight, and short train ride into the centre of town, we dropped our bags off at the Tivoli Hotel (4 star no less!!) and headed off for a mooch. We both love ambling around European cities taking in the architecture and design, always remembering to look up as well as around! Justin had a few visits planned, the first of which was to the fantastic Design Museum. Before we looked around though we needed sustenance and a chance to catch my breath, this meant a gorgeous hot chocolate with lots of cream, followed by some traditional Danish open sandwiches, the salmon and beef were amazing, not too sure about the herring though!

The Denmark Design Museum is amazing and well worth a visit if you love modern design and crafts as much as we do. Collections include the works of famous Danish designers such as Arne Jacobsen, Jacob Jensen and Kaare Klint. One of the current exhibitions, Danish Design Now was particularly inspiring and featured a selection of modern pieces from all areas of design – furniture, graphics, fashion and product design. 

As you can see, a predominant feature of Danish design is the chair – I’ve never seen so many, or so many beautiful pieces! We have always loved the curves and style of these Arne Jacobsen chairs, and it was wonderful to see them in person. 

From what I can gather from the museum’s website, there is normally an exhibition dedicated to the Danish Chair, but sadly we either missed it, or it’s not on at the moment.

There were also some very interesting textile designs that caught my eye, most of these were print designs, these cushions I thought were quite pretty. And this wall hanging was actually velour! How striking are those colours!

A new permanent exhibition is Fashion and Fabric, a chance to discover 400 years of the history of fashion and textiles in Denmark. One of the main themes is Handicraft and Industry, and it was great to see this beautiful English hexagon quilt dating from around 1800. There was also an accompanying film showing the process of EPP which ended with an interesting 3D technique, once I've had a go myself, I'll share it with you.

The museum is also home to the largest library in Scandanavia dedicated to the decorative arts and industrial design, and the shop includes an impressive number of books on crafts and design as well as a wide selection of industrial design, ceramics, textiles and of course postcards.

After this design feast for the eyes and soul, we returned to our hotel room where the lovely girl on reception had left us a bottle of fizz to celebrate my birthday! The Danes aren’t called to happiest people in the world for nothing!

The next day was all about architecture and food… more about that next week!

This week I'm linking up with Let's Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts, Midweek Makers at Quilt Fabrication and Needle & Thread Thursday over at My Quilt Infatuation.

Thursday 9 February 2017

Pre-Cut Party Free Pattern & Linky Party

I had a wonderful surprise birthday trip last week, a little cold but I did need my swimsuit…. More about that next week, now it’s Pre-cut Party time! I am aware that many quilters don’t actually use many pre-cuts, either they like doing their own ‘thang’ or they don’t know where to start with a strip set or charm pack. The idea behind my Pre-cut Party is to show you and inspire you to use these fabric gems. At the beginning of every month, I send out a free pattern to my Newsletter subscribers, each PDF includes full colour instructions and where needed, full-size templates. Patterns are based on one or more pre-cut formats and range from quilts and cushions to table runners and purses. 

So this month's pattern, a little late due to mentioned birthday trip, is a hand-sewing project and features an English paper-pieced Dresden plate to make up this gorgeous cushion. I have then used more 'wedges' to create a pretty border. I have made mine from my beautiful strip set in Henna Garden from Michael Miller, but you can use fat quarters, charm squares, or even scraps from the stash.

If this project takes your eye, or you would like access to past Pre-Cut Party patterns, all you have to do is subscribe to my Newsletter – it’s completely free, and what’s more you’ll hear about my latest products and events, plus some great subscriber-only offers. Click below to subscribe now! 

To keep on theme, I’ve decided to make the Pre-Cut Linky Party a monthly thing, linking up with that month’s free pattern. So, now it’s your turn, remember, it doesn’t have to be a finished project, it could even just be a pre-cut you’ve bought and have no idea what to make and you're looking for inspiration!

Also linking up with Let's Bee Social, Midweek MakersNeedle & Thread Thursday & Finished or Not Friday.