Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Two ATCs and a Postcard

This is the ATC that I made and sent recently as part of the fabulous Cyber Fyber swap and exhibition which Susan Lenz has been busy creating. It is made using cut-back or reverse applique using organzas plus machine embroidery.

This ATC is for another swap between myself and Annica Lindsten in Sweden. It is made of my own silk paper which I screen printed with the design of seed heads.

This is the postcard I made for the Cyber Fyber swap, again from the screen-printed silk paper but this time incorporating a disc of tiny-scale crazy patchwork embellished with machine embroidery.

My Cyber Fyber contributions can be seen in the on-line exhibitions here (ATC) and here (Postcard).

Other than this, I've been struggling since I last posted, having a couple of fluey viruses in quick succession. I managed to make my daughter a long dress to wear in her choir concert earlier in the month. My Christmas preparations were severely curtailed by my health problems and I did not manage to write my Christmas cards so have been thinking about a New Year card instead. I seem to have managed to miss this boat as well so will have to think again.

Wishing you all a very Happy, Healthy and Creative 2009!

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Saturday, 29 November 2008

Crochet Blanket

On a grey, damp and chilly winter's day like this one, what appeals it to wrap up in a shawl or blanket and drink lots of soup and tea or hot chocolate. This blanket is one I crocheted some years ago, from scraps and remnants of knitting yarn, and it has proven a valuable friend over the years, bringing cosy comfort to my children or to me whenever that has been wanted. The motifs are overgrown "Granny Squares", and gave me gentle occupation and a sense of achievement when I was bed-bound due to high blood pressure during my first pregnancy, and later when I was capable of very little activity when I first developed M.E. 20 years ago. Although both blanket and illness have been my constant companions throughout the past two decades, the blanket has been by far the most welcome.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

I Won A Prize!

Quick blowing of own trumpet: Doormat was awarded the prize for Contemporary Interpretation! Unfortunately, it looks as if I'll need to wait till next year to receive my prize as I can't get to any of the shows before the one in Birmingham, so I need to let the National Needlework Archive know that I would like the presentation to happen there and then. Meanwhile, my ego is enjoying the massage!

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Small Stitched Collage


Shown above is another mixed media textile piece I started at the Knitting and Stitching Show at the NEC earlier this month during a workshop with Claire Martin. I like its rich colours and touches of glitz, and I enjoyed mixing running stitch with oversewing and feather stitch.
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Rags Repurposed


Once, I bought a pair of linen trousers on eBay. They were a lovely, washed-out navy colour and they proved a useful and favourite addition to my wardrobe. Sadly, in time, they went the way of all trousers...


Worn out they might be, but I was loth to throw away this lovely cloth, and I decided to make myself a studio coverall,or craft apron out of the good cloth in my trousers.


Yesterday was the day, and my new-from-old garment took about three hours of gentle activity from start to finish. The remaining cloth is tiny scraps, so not even much waste came from this refashion.
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Thursday, 18 September 2008

Developing a Mixed Media Piece

A week ago, I spent the day at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham. It was the Knitting and Stitching Show and, having missed it altogether last year, I had booked this plus two days at Alexandra Palace next month. The NEC version is a smaller, more intimate affair while Ally Pally has more to see and do but is more of a scrum.

I also booked to attend some workshops there. Sadly, the person leading the first one I'd booked had broken her leg and wasn't there, but I rebooked on another with Claire Martin. She's a good tutor who runs an enjoyable session, so I took a second one with her as well. This was on mixed media work, and the pictures below are of the piece I began.

As you can see, I started collaging and patching different fabrics and papers, using glue and stitch to grow the piece, and layering up various items as I went. I have worked with paper before but this felt very different from my usual way of working, in an enjoyable way. It was interesting to make marks with stitches in a very carefree manner and to juxtapose the different textures available among the materials provided.

I worked a bit bigger than I might have done. The next stage was to apply gesso to integrate the surface elements, but I decided to do this at home once I had completed the stitching.

The gesso makes a considerable difference so that the individual elements are relatively subdued, and I am now thinking what to add next. It's one thing to follow a prescribed process and another to choose one's own direction. I'm contemplating moonshadow mist and either gilding with leaf or judicious and careful rubbing with treasure gold to emphasize areas of texture, but other possibilities, like Quink and bleach or reactive iron paint and rusting medium are also worth thinking about.

Unfortunately this day trip was very tiring and I've still not fully recovered from this excursion. However, there's no harm in taking time to think before progressing the work, and the day was so worth it.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Fibre Play

I've been borrowing my friend Gill's embellisher again (as I didn't get one for my birthday) and I have been enjoying playing and experimenting with some of the things one can do with this machine.


This is a needlefelted crazy patchwork piece comprising may pieces of denim, some painted and printed, pieced, overlapped, cut and repieced again. There are interesting things happening with the texture of the fabric and I've learned a lot from doing this one.


This little rondel is made of scraps of natural wool pencil rovings and wensleydale locks, using the embellisher to forge joints and interconnections. The scraps are from my Doormat piece, which had a haircut after working, and I wanted to try to use the prunings. There will be more experimentation with these materials but I'm sure Gill will need her machine back very soon. She really is a most generous friend.


Meanwhile, I took the opportunity to do some Extreme Knitting yesterday, when
Cornish Organic Wool had a stand at the Soil Association's Organic Food Festival in Bristol. It was jolly hard work, more akin to rowing than knitting! However, I was determined and managed to complete a row. I woke with very painful shoulder joints this morning and wondered why - it was only when composing this post that I realised the cause!

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Doormat: an update

If you click on this link and scroll down, you'll see a lovely picture of my entry for Poetry in Stitches, The Doormat. I'm so chuffed to see it these!

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Bath Abbey in Stitch

Last week we had a mini-trip to Bath, our objective being the Abbey. Naturally, it being Bath, we found other diversions, but eventually we made our way into the glorious sanctuary and found plenty there to keep our attention. At the altar was the stunning stitched altar frontal, the details of which are below.

What a masterpiece of design and stitchery this frontal is: glorious, vibrant and rich in colour, texture and imagery.

Meanwhile, around the abbey are displayed no less than 35 diptychs such as the one below. They are all the work of Sue Symons and collectively entitled "One Man's Journey to Heaven: Thirty-five Episodes in the Life of Christ". The initial inspiration was attending a concert of St. Matthew's Passion when artist Sue lived on Vancouver Island, Canada. On returning to live in Britain some twelve years later, she decided to pursue this idea as a retirement indulgence, for her own creative gratification and did not intend exhibition.

The plan was to work on a series of panels representing Christ's life, and to work each as a decorated text (incorporating lettering, writing, pattern and intricate design work), while alongside would be a second worked in fabric and thread as a means her other interest in working in textiles.

She actually studied Calligraphy specifically for the project, having found a teacher who welcomed left-handers (as one myself, I can attest to how tricky this adjustment can be). She was clearly an excellent pupil as the written panels are extraordinarily accomplished and do not look like the work of a beginner. The textile panels are a subjective interpretation of the same episodes, abstract and using a personal symbolism. Originally envisaged to last perhaps five years, the project took over one - she started in January 2006. Eventually Bath Abbey and Wells Cathedral were approached regarding exhibitions, and responded positively, with the suggestion the panels were displayed as diptychs. Jennifer Skellet purchased them for Bath Abbey and here they are for the moment (until 26th September 2008), though may go travelling on exhibition elsewhere in the future.

A comprehensive book of the project is available, while more information about the exhibition is
here and images can be seen here.

These works are stunning but, and I feel churlish for saying this, I'm not convinced that displaying them as diptychs really works. To me, the different styles of work, symbolism, colours and pattern, fight each other, to the particular detriment of the textile panels, but to the disadvantage of both. These creations ARE masterful, however and, in my opinion, well worth a visit.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Peacock kantha

I guess a couple of years ago or so, I participated in a round robin quilting project with an on-line textile art group, and found some wonderfully harmonious fabrics amid my material stash. The starting point for this kantha'd cloth was some of the left-overs from this project, which were too delicious to discard.

The finished piece is very roughly 18" square. The pieces include dupion silk, Liberty lawn in one of their iconic peacock feather prints, calico (US muslin) and
some patchwork prints. I searched hard for toning threads, and came up trumps with an assortment purchased via the Magic Armchair from my friend Dale in Australia. I pieced the fabrics, backed by two layers of buttermuslin(US cheesecloth?) and bound the edges with calico/US muslin. Then I started the kantha dance, using the stitch to blur the lines of the seams and to emphasize some areas of pattern and colour.

The stitching was a delight, like an act of meditation, intuitive, relaxing, centring. My father was very ill during his final illness as I worked this, and in working it I found a place of peace.

The back is also rather pleasing, showing the stitching without the distraction of the pieced and patterned fabrics.

Returning to this piece in the heat and humidity of summer, I realise I would like to work more in this way. It feeds the soul and creative spirit, is lovely to work and would make a great summer-weight bedspread, were I to choose to work that large.

This stitched cloth makes me smile.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Rusty stitches


Stitching with rusty threads on rusty cloth.

Rusty Hands



The rust play continues. I've obtained some henna stencils, which are wonderful to use because they have slightly adhesive qualities. Yesterday I used reactive iron paint on the fabrics I previously dyed with ferrous sulphate, including the overdyed indigo cotton and this morning I applied rust activator.

The results are somewhat camera-shy, but effective, and I'm very pleased with these experiments.
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Wednesday, 2 July 2008

More rusting

I've been playing with the ferrous sulphate again. I've been dyeing an assortment of threads, cotton velvet, scrim and turban cotton.


I've also been experimenting with some of the fabrics I dyed last week, but pictures of those will come later.


I've been trying to find a good contrast to these rusty orange shades, and it'a interesting to see how poorly these hand-dyed fabrics, coloured with natural dyes, go with their commercial cousins. However,
Magie Relph sells plain cotton which is indigo dyed, so I invested in a metre of this and it goes really well. I think the colours are too subtle to capture with my photography in terms of what goes and what doesn't but I might try a photo shoot on a non-raining day to see if I can demonstrate what I mean regarding natural hand-dyed vs commercially printed fabrics. Meanwhile, the cloths are busy oxidising on the line prior to a dip in soda solution, and they can do this in the rain as well as the dry.

My son is intrigued by these fabrics. His comment was that they look dirty, used and worn. I told him that was intentional, which has given him food for thought. He can sort of see the point of this. I'll be curious to see what he thinks of what I make with them, in due course.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Ferrous Sulphate Dyeing

Yesterday, the urge to dye came upon me. This, in part, was due to the arrival of my order from ArtVanGo. Among the goodies was a bag of ferrous sulphate, looking for all the world like mouldy salt. The sun was shining, the wind was blowing. There was no time like the present, so I went for it.


Instructions come with the chemical, which can also be found here. I'd also seen a variation on the blog of Purple Missus. I did a sort of hybrid method by adding the strong tea brew to the caustic soda solution. I found this knocked back the bright colour created by the iron rust, creating a muddier greying the longer the fabric was exposed. My first reaction was that this had spoiled the effect, but now the cloth is dry and pressed, I think the effect is of extreme ageing which certainly has its place in my palette. I dyed another length of calico with no tea/tannin added and this was much brighter by the time it dried - it's the fabric at the top of the picture. As in indigo dyeing, what you fish out of the pot is not what you eventually get.....

So here's some cloth to add to my collection, and I'll have to think about what I'm going to do with this technique to move it on. It would be interesting to try some rust transfer dyeing over this base cloth to create greater variation, and to consider tie dye techniques and using the tea to create pattern on the surface by dipping, dribbling or shibori methods. Meanwhile, I have these pieces to play with.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Melting with Maggie

I was lucky enought to get a place on a 2 day workshop (Hot Fix) with Maggie Grey on 13th and 14th June in Bournemouth. She has posted some lovely photos of students' work on her blog.

Here are some rather fuzzy pix of works in progress which I started during this very enjoyable workshop, learning all sorts of new techniques, as well as revisiting a few golden oldies.


It will be interesting to see how they progress now, and how quickly that will happen! I've sent off for supplies so I can take them forward. For example, the thread laid on the piece above belonged to another student, Sue H, (funnily enough, both we Sues are owners of Lily sewing machines, which is what Susan means). I took a photo for reference but it hasn't really shown up very well. Unfortunately, Sue H couldn't recall the thread's origin, so I've ordered some dyed threads from Stef Francis and some ready-to-dye ones from Texere for some do-it-yourself space dyeing. I hope that couching the threads and perhaps some beads will integrate the elements so that it looks less like a box of prettily wrapped chocolate truffles and more something richly organic.


This one needs some stitching, couching and beading, to emphasize and enhance the floral feature. I probably have what's needed to do that.


This piece will include stitching and beading, too. Integration and enhancement will be the idea behind this.


Not quite sure where I'll go with this crunchy rose, but there's no hurry - I've plenty to be getting on with!

Many of the techniques we used in the workshop are covered in Maggie's excellent new, hot-off-the-press book, Image to Stitch , also available from all good bookshops.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Fame at Last!


Recently, I volunteered to test knit some yak yarn for Kerrie of Hipknits, a good piece of occupational therapy for one laid up by a virus, following medical advice to rest. This is a new line and I really enjoyed knitting this light and lovely yarn.


Today it, and my photos, are featured here. Haven't told Anna she's a web-model yet - isn't the scarf a good match with her top?!


I'd happily use yak yarn again. It sounds as if it should be coarse and hairy, but I can assure you that it's anything but. It is very snuggly for its weight and very drapey, too.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Silk on Saturday


Last Satuday, Sarah and I had fun at the Avon Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers, where our Chairman, Joan Bowie,taught us how to make vessels from silk fibre. The rather odd "flowers" above are our vessels, drying on garden sticks in the sunshine. It's always fun to play, and an interesting technique that deserves to be returned to in the future.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Not a Bag

This is my entry to Poetry in Stitches 2, run by the National Needlework Archive.

It's my textile interpretation of a wonderful poem by Daphne Schiller entitled "Doormat" which she has kindly given me permission to post in my blogs:


I am a doormat,
I'm brown and homespun
But my welcome's worn off.
I'm tired of taking it all lying down,
I bristle when I'm beaten.
Deep in the fibres of my being
I dream of becoming a thick-piled rug,
Fluffy and frivolous
On which seductions take place.
I'm going to let my hair down
So just watch your step.

Daphne Schiller.

It's made using a combination of techniques and materials, from canvaswork to using the embellisher machine, hooking and progging (rugmaking techniques) and some straight embroidery and fabric painting.

Materials include hessian, threads of linen, wool and cotton, merino rovings and wensleydale fleece.

After judging next month, it may go on exhibition:venues to be announced. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Variation on a theme

No prizes for guessing that it's another bag! A variation on the BQL January bag, this time for a swap on the Yahoo Group, Unlimited Textiles. This one is going to Annie Bodelier in the Netherlands.


The pouch on the right above is the bag (left in the picture) folded up into its own pocket, so it takes minimal space in one's handbag or car glovebox and is ready at a moment's notice to take shopping and prevent the need for a plastic carrier bag.

The month's theme was Nature and this bag seemed appropriate to the theme, as it can potentially help the environment. I made it from stashed calico (muslin to my American readers) which I embellished with a floral design inspired by the clematis flowering in my garden, using fabric paint with a little embroidery. I so hope Annie likes it and finds it useful.

I also have Nature as a theme for a 5" quiltie and then I need to make a box inspired by "fantasy" and my May bag for BQL. I'm very behind with these projects due to the recurrent viruses that have come my way.

Friday, 2 May 2008

At Last! Stitching Again


Here is another bag I have made for the British Quilters' List 2008 Bag Challenge. I've had this wonderfully bright cotton patterned with multi-coloured cats for well over a decade. When I was planning this bag, I had in mind two different black denims, but this fabric had other ideas and insisted its time had come to be used. Another stash fabric proved a surprisingly good partner for it, and the result was utterly opposite to what I had originally envisaged.


The bag is again designed by Kandy Newton and it was interesting but easy to make using her excellent and clear instructions. My bags are getting plenty of use and I can see this one will be no exception

Thursday, 6 March 2008

A Bag for March (BQL): Stripy Shopper


Made from Kaufman's Potpourri Collection of fabrics plus a tan swirl print (Charms from Benartex) for contrast and completed with plenty of time to spare, this month!
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More of the Finished Objects


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