Monday, 31 December 2012

Refining ideas through iteration

Our current group project starts with a photo, in this case of the bridge and riverside at Worcester.  We then were to make an A5 drawing based on this image, use this drawing to produce another drawing, and repeat this process until we had six images.  We would then use this final image as the inspiration for an embroidery.

I drew five images and ended up with something so minimal that a further iteration would have led to an image far too dull to want to embroider.  At this stage I backed off from the image and simply reassembled the details I liked best from the drawings I had made.  This took the image back to a recognisable landscape.  I am not sure what I will do next, but the process of looking and drawing, and then having to re-draw, does make me look at both imagery and design in a more considered way.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Textile Bird Box

In the middle of making my Christmas bird, I heard that 'The Wednesday Group' have an exhibition venue sorted for next year. This led me to think of all the birds we have made this year and how we will show them.  I've already got my lovely cage but really we should have bird boxes too. I got to work straight away, seizing the moment, and made a little paper model of a fantasy bird box.

 Fired up and ready to go, I looked out some foam board pieces, scaled things up and started cutting walls of a life size box. This was to be the supporting structure under the textile exterior. Sadly I ran out of foam board before the end so this part is on hold until my next shopping trip.

However I kept looking at my little paper model........... before I knew it I was cutting tiny walls from felt! I used 'bondaweb' to fuse the felt to heavy duty vilene so the structure would stand and fused a lining to all inside surfaces to give extra support. Then I stitched away 'till lunchtime. I was ready for the roof to go on.

I share my working environment with two architects.....that is they work away in their office and I work anywhere in the rest of the house. At lunchtime I mentioned the fact I could be facing a construction problem with my building and immediately got loads of free advice. Things like 'splayed gable ends' ...'reduced effectuality of the ridge'... 'over balanced the entire structure' were being bandied about. I thought it sounded important but it turns out I hadn't designed it properly! I protested loudly that I wanted my walls leaning out and my roof overhanging and I wasn't aware that textile artists had to abide by building regulations!

Anyway they let me off and designed a tiny space frame for the roof and tiny roof trusses out of balsa wood.Then I stuck my roof on and they went away feeling they had another satisfied client. ( How do you sew a roof on?)

I put it in a tiny tree for now. I'm not sure I can make a bird small enough to go in it though.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Birds are back.

Oh, help. I think I overdosed on pink and purple. (I feel like I do halfway through eating a giant meringue.) See previous blog. Anyway, I put all the froth and flowers away for a while and went back to stitching bits of this and that. Then I had this overwhelming desire to make another bird.

This beautiful lichen covered Cotoneaster is cunningly placed to lure all migratory birds flying south for the winter.Once spotted, I enticed it inside with a trail of last year's Christmas pudding to get a better shot.

He's really sorry that he's arrived so early and not even December yet, but he needed to practise.
( Maybe I have a new career opportunity...stitching faux mistletoe!)
I think there may be several species of Christmas bird...keep your eyes peeled.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Licence for fun!

My licence for fun arrived in the post. Want to see?

I'll tell you does cheer one up on gloomy November days. I leave it around in pools of colour in my workroom and it really catches your eye and lifts the spirits.
Now I had better play catch up and let you know what this is all about. I am going to make my grand daughter a bridesmaid's dress for a special wedding to take place on a Scottish beach in March. (The beach bit explains why I showed you the purple/pink boots last blog but one.)
I was busy doing a project based on a piece of lace which belonged to my grandmother when I diverted to bridesmaid dress but I'm trying to combine the two.

Before I met up with my grand daughter, I did a few samples of flowers on net just to see if I could. The results were varied...I'll show you a few, warts and all.

I appliqued different fabrics, silk, organza and layers of net and tried a few ways of edging them, some by hand ,some by machine. After we had discussed the design  and established that the skirt would be several layers of net on top of satin, we discussed the embellishments and how putting flowers on the net might look.
I had imagined that an edging of flowers on net peeking below the dress would be interesting.

However, we both agreed that it would be better to purchase some suitable nets and carry on trying out ideas before we made any decisions. Since the arrival of my bundle of fun, I have been trying out ways of stabilizing the flowers prior to sewing as my machine doesn't really know if it is enjoying itself yet. One suggestion from my 'client' was that the flowers could be between the layers, so I put a few of the samples in a mock up of a skirt to see what effect it would have. I don't know whether you can see in the photo but it gives the feeling of depth. This could work.

Anyway, it's early days yet and lots of fun ahead. These flowers were all made of several layers of net but I've got to perfect the edging. Might try a corded edge. I must hunt round to find some variegated organza as that might give a shimmer to flowers underneath. Lots to do and think about...........

The wedding was on Easter Saturday, bitterly cold but fine! This is how it looked in the end, shot the day before on some boats on the beach.

No, she didn't catch pneumonia! Alexander McQueen designed an embroidered tulle dress and had it photographed up a snowy mountain on the edge of a precipice...but the model did have a fur jacket! I had asked for a photo with my model lashed to a mast with a background of a stormy sea .Well they did their best! We're not a sailing family.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Post script to bird fever. Have we recovered?

(We are unlikely to recover.)

It all started, you recall, in a gazebo in July. It rained heavily the whole day but we sat huddled stitching our birds pulling on more and more sweaters and coats. Truly, bird fever had gripped us.
We intend displaying them at our next exhibition, perching around the other exhibits, but what to do with them until then,,,you can't put them in a cardboard box! Mine have been perching in various places round the house until I came up with a plan.

I have been combing the souks and medinas of my nearby shires looking for a pretty cage for them with no luck. Then my daughter saw one whilst doing her weekly shop in a supermarket in Malvern Link! Perfect! I would never have thought of looking there.

So here it is complete with the little birds looking very at home. I really enjoyed making these...oh dear bird fever is gripping me again.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Grandma's lace.

Project hi-jacked!

It's third week into the 'Alumni project'.
 Last week we did warm up exercises with weaving. Lauren Reilly-Page showed us her beautiful weaving samples completed in her final year at college and then took a group to do more weaving without looms.  I hinted last week that I wanted to explore lace. Reading about Michael Brennand Wood and the influence of his grandparents and his adventures into lace struck a chord. I got to thinking about the piece of lace that was buried in my stash that once belonged to my maternal grandmother. Once that idea took hold, it wouldn't let go.I had to go and find it.(With the help of my cat of course who loves finding things in boxes.)

It's the kind of colour you get when dyeing with tea. The flowers are machined on to a base of fine net. It's a sort of variation of the Irish Carrickmacross lace.The Duchess of Cambridge's wedding dress in part was made of Carrickmacross lace. This type of lace has translucent shapes appliqued onto fine net by hand.

Then, everything went into overdrive! News came that my grand daughter was to be a bridesmaid and would I make the dress! My lace project was in question...or was it? Could I combine the two? A few details about the wedding whetted my appetite. It was to be held on a Scottish beach in March.The wedding dress had purple flounced petticoats. No namby pamby affair then. A project hi-jack! I'm hooked.
Off we go. The shoes are bought. (Important things first.) Grand daughter doesn't know this as they have to be a Christmas present. Please don't tell. ( But I'll show you.)

Just to show we don't just throw these things together, the colours echo the corsage of flowers on the purple sash of the wedding dress. The boots? How sensible for a wedding on a beach in Scotland in March. I want some. They're gorgeous.
So you can see how my project has been hi-jacked. My plan is to start with lace explorations with the intent to use the outcome somewhere in  the bridesmaid's dress. So not only will there be a connection with her great, great grandmother but part of it will be made from her mother's wedding dress which was also purple.
An exciting project to start. Granddaughter has very definite ideas  about what she will wear so we are to have time together at half term to come up with the design.

And..last but not least, for 'The Wednesday Group' only:-

The cheese ones always go first! ( Taken at South Worcester College only last week.)

Friday, 5 October 2012

Getting our design skills back in gear.

Alumni Project 1.

We are taking the work of Michael Brennand Wood as a starting point for our individual projects especially his work based on fabric structure and construction. With this in mind we were given a design exercise to get our teeth into...enough to keep us busy for a year by the looks of things. I think our tutor suspects that we no longer research artists and keep copious sketch books full of explorations and samples. ( As if!)

I won't bother to plough through the list of what to do but just show you what I've done so far. (Which to honest doesn't look much!)
 We had to take an image that we liked and copy it. I chose 'The May Queen' by Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh, one of the 'Glasgow Girls'. Then we had to cut up the image in strips 1cm apart but leaving a strip at the top uncut to keep it together. We had to do a colour analysis then, using this information, do a series of exercises by weaving coloured strips into the image.

I wondered what would happen if I wove it with the same image but putting it top to bottom.

Not such a strong result but it was just an idea. It did highlight some of the little details though and at least the colours matched.
But I did like the back of the first one.....

Little bits of random text and odd letters and photos appeared...perhaps this is what was meant to happen and lead us down another route. (May try this route if it's raining on Sunday.)
Michael BW does lots of work with lace and my antennae sort of wavered a bit when I read this....I do tend to hoard bits of lace..... so working along this train of thought I started leaving spaces in the weaving and filling in gaps with flowers...well she was The May Queen. We were warned not to predict the outcome of our design adventures but I'm pretty sure I will end up exploring lace.

Well, I've made a start and who knows where it will lead. Before I go I'll lead you up my garden path to explain where the rest of my time goes!

Ah! Wednesday Group. You were hoping for cheese scones, I know. I have a picture to show what you're missing but it's lost for the moment.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

After Summer's stitchy end...Autumn's stitchy beginning.

Monday morning....9.55am...the faint smell of cheese scones drifting up the corridor...can you guess where we are yet?
The Wednesday Group will be on red alert now - there can only be one place!

A couple of our group decided to return to South Worcester College for a new course for past City and Guilds textile students. We were lured by the promise of space to work in, arty vibes, tutor and group support to cheer us on and of course, cheese scones freshly baked on the premises every morning.

We can do our own thing. Some wanted the chance to finish off  C & G work. Many of us are taking the suggested starting point which was the work of Michael Brennand -Wood (new exhibition at Ruthin now!) and seeing where it led. After 10 minutes my head was buzzing with ideas. So exciting to be back!

Any way, next week we are promised a short workshop on weaving without looms with the new textile technician who specializes in weaving.She sounds a very interesting person with very up to date skills. It all ties in very nicely with our starting point.

How ever, we have to take in  examples of work which illustrate our style and that is what I'm doing now...deciding what I do!

Caroline remembered I made jewelry from vintage denim.

Over the summer,I've made large flowers. can be worn as hats (See previous blog-Anni's spectacular flower) or statement brooches or necklaces.

Sometimes I sew jokes, like my furry cake here.  This is one of a hamper full of stitchy button mushrooms you could really stitch on.

Oh, yes. This was when I saved the world. I stitched up the tectonic plates so there would be no more earthquakes. Seems to have worked so far, as long as the thread doesn't snap.

I caught three little birds I made trying to find out what they were in a reference book. I'm looking for a decorative birdcage to put them in, Shh, don't tell.

I'm going to think about it for a bit. I'm finding it hard to decide what I do. I suppose I like variety and I like making people smile. The answer's there somewhere.

I'll let you know how we get on with the weaving without looms and how 'going back' is progressing.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Summer comes to a stitchy end.

At last a few days came when I could finish that summer school project! I've got several unfinished pieces hanging around at the moment.......sometimes it's hard to finish things, sometimes it's hard to start. It was good to have the opportunity of working with Angie Hughes again so I felt I must finish off this one and take some of the ideas forward into my own work.

After day 1 of the workshop, we were sent home to look at the overall shape of flowers. So going back to the hazy days of summer, I remember staring out of the window through the rain drops to my garden beyond and thinking O.K. I'll do my homework from here! I spied a clump of Astilbe whose flowers start off as large spears above a froth of leaves. At that point they were all standing to attention and as dusk came on the seemed to glow against the dark hedge.

I worked with three flowers in my sketch book (see my initial stitchy blog) and felt they looked striking against the black but as time moved on, the wind and rain blew the clump of flowers around a bit and the flowers were pointing in every direction. This made me rethink the original idea and put more plumes in, bursting out of the frame.

As Astilbe flowers mature,tiny,frothy flowers burst out from the bottom and change colour so after a while the plume looks as if it's been dip dyed. I tried to get this effect with french knots and beads.

Angie fans will recognize her touch in the stems. They are made of painted and ribbled paper! I'm smiling as I write this as it takes me back to that afternoon. As soon as it was mentioned, ladies delved into copious bags under the table and brought out these little machines like fairy mangles. You feed in strips of paper and turn a handle and the strip is magically ribbled. Is that the right word? You know, like corrugated cardboard. I was entranced! How do you know if you want a ribbling machine at a work shop? Or do you take it everywhere just in case. Anyway, ladies on courses will always share their magic machines and they enjoyed my delight as I ribbled away happily on their machines.

This work has made more sense to me since I related some of the more abstract ideas to my garden. For instance, Angie suggested filling spaces with tiny shapes and stitches. I thought of how the sunlight picks out tiny drops on the grass and fills them with sparkle and colour and so I filled the foreground to suggest this with little squares and sequins but keeping the colours quite dark so that the Astilbe flowers still dominate.

So I did arrive at the stitchy bit...(well into Autumn!) At one point I had to use an awl to help me stitch through those plumes. Maybe like the ladies who carry round ribbling machines, I should always carry round an awl for when the going gets tough.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Getting down to the stitchy bit!

So- now- I'm working in the manner of Angie. ( See previous post.)

One of the ideas she wanted us to include was a repeated pattern. She suggested leaves which you can see in the photo in the previous post. One of the repeated patterns in my garden over the summer  has been me planting out seedlings and slugs/snails eating them! (I do love snail shells but not the squidgy bit that eats my plants.)

I dug out my secret sketch book to find some shell drawings done last year and from the observations I made a string print block.The method I used is quite quick.

1) Cover a printing surface in double sided tape. I used the cap of my hairspray but something rigid like wood is best.            
2) Remove the paper protection and firmly press in the fine string in your design.
3) Paint all over the string and the sticky surface in gesso or white acrylic paint. Leave to dry.
4) To print use a stamping pad or paint.

Then I printed the shells on some white fabric which I bonded to pelmet vilene.
I made a few samples as shown to see which looked effective. The ones I chose were sewn in small running stitches to enhance the swirly pattern and the one which had been coloured in water colour pencils.

These are now ready to fix on a narrow black hessian strip printed with gesso stripes.

Chance for a touch of humour here.
Glad to have started this project again.
I'm going to tackle the flower element next. Will let you know how it progresses.(That's if the snails don't get there first.)

Thursday, 16 August 2012

When do we get to the stitchy bit?

On the given day, at the given time,the chosen few approached the destination in darkest Herefordshire from different directions. I took the secret route.....well actually, this was because I took a wrong turn in the wilds of Wellington Heath...but it was secret, the trees closed over my head and grass grew in the middle of the road. The venue was to be marked with balloons..cunning eh?

No, it wasn't a birthday party...quite a good guess.... but an elite gathering to practise mixed media techniques at Angie Hughes ( famous local textile artist!) Summer School. Angie has been teaching world wide as well as all over the UK recently, so it was great to hold her captive here for a few days and to extract her secrets.
I'm going to show you a few pictures showing how we built up components before we got to the stitchy bit.  ( I must  explain that my work is not necessarily a good example but it's what I did and anyone could do it!)
First we had to slap some acrylic paint on to print paper and leave to dry. (Hee, hee, the messy bit, I love it. I had put a smock on but still managed to get a blob of bright pink on my do you get it out?)

Then we had to distress these papers in numerous ways..... by sprinting water or flicking paint or making marks with anything to hand.Then we could add another layer of metallic paint sponging or mopping it off in places.

My table cloth looked fairly distressed by the end of the session too.

The background for our intended work was to pieces of black and white fabric altered and collaged to a piece of pelmet vilene. To change the look we printed or marked white on white,white on black.
Whilst all this stuff was drying we took time to look at work by other artists who often use stylised plant forms in their work and to watch Angie as she began to assemble pieces to work on.(That was a good bit...who doesn't like watching people work...) Our homework was to observe any plants we had, looking at their shapes especially.
I have to admit to doing this from a window as it was raining! But actually it was quite good because some shapes became more apparent. The plume shape of the Astilbe and the triangular heads if a sedum caught my eye.
Fresh and eager to start the next day, we were shown how to bond our shimmery papers to pelmet vilene to make the basic flower shape and then sent to our tables to work on our own ideas.

This is how my sedum started.

By bonding them to vilene, the shape stand off the page a little. That day I worked on my sedum and astilbe ideas adding a few stitches to see what it would look like.

Ribbled paper stems.

Astilbe with the stitches appearing.
Eagle eyes will spot my addiction, the french knot!
Whilst I was stitching my sketch book, sensible people were already working on their collage and placing their flower shapes. Why don't I do as I'm told? Of course the next day they were well ahead and I still had to get my back ground ready. I felt that the Astilbe looked rather good on black so that was my start. I put a hand stitched frame ready to receive them and chose bits and pieces to fill in the rest.

My pieces of painted fabric assembled ready for action.

And that was as far as  I got ....but others did better so I chose a few to show how others worked to the
same theme.

June chose poppy heads and leaves and stencilled her white fabric.

I loved the muted colours that Sarita chose.

This was our inspiration board.
The piece Angie worked on throughout is on the left. So that is the work so far. I hope to continue with mine soon although I might try bonding my shapes to felt as this may be easier to sew through. There may be more of this story to follow....... (and answer the title question!)

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Besotted with birds

Kathleen, of Murgatroyd & Bean, introduced us to the delights of making little birds on our summer gathering at the Blue Ginger summerhouse.  We had a couple of patterns drawn on tracing paper, which we used to start with.  I had bought some wire from a hobby store, and also brought some galvanised garden wire left over from making supports for raspberry canes and a wall trained fig tree. I had also brought some of my jewellery tools, pliers of various shapes and wire snips, and safety glasses, so that we could make wire legs if wanted.

I had tried various patterns for birds ahead of this session, and had come to the conclusion that stitching little birds where seams were on the outside would be quicker and easier, especially when finishing off the bird after stuffing.  To make it easier to add wire legs it is better to make a two part belly, so that you can stitch from beak to middle and tail to middle, insert the legs and then close this final seam.  You can either do this with the frayed edges out like the rest or tuck them in to give a smooth belly.

first bird, silk scraps
I made a lot of legs; I discovered I really enjoyed the process.  The fine copper and gold coloured wires I bought from the craft shop turned out to be easy to work but a bit too soft for good stability of the bird.  You can make the legs any size, and a couple of the birds I made were large and weird and built up from the legs outwards in an emergent fashion.  Have fun with this, but I have included instructions for some simple legs that will work well for a small bird.

Working with wire is much easier if you have the right tools.  As a minimu you need wire snips and small pliers to allow you to bend the wire precisely. It would also be good to wear safety goggles wehn cutting the wire.

Cut the pieces of fabric to form the bird.  Chose patterns that you like for each piece, but remember that the two sides need to have the pattern facing opposite ways.

If you want to stitch any patterns on the bird before assembly do it now.  Both types of embelishment can look very good; do whichever you want.

Stitch the head onto the two side pieces, starting from the beak each time.  If you dont return to the beak each time ou will get a twist in the pattern, much like if you fit a zip by starting at the top of the fly and simply running down and then back up the zip.

Stitch the front belly on, stopping with a gap before the point you want to insert the legs.  You can change the way the bird stands by changing where the legs are inserted.

Stitch the second belly piece on, starting from the tail. If you want a tail piece you cna stitch it into place before joining this seam, or add it afterwards.  Which you choose to do will depend on teh nature of the material you want to add.  The birds with merino wool scraps as tails had these sewn into place before I closed this seam. I have made all the birds shown here by having only one belly piece and stitching the second half of the belly piece after the legs are fitted, but it is quite awkward.

Stuff the head and the tail of the bird.  Wrap some stuffing around the legs, tieing on with some thread or fine wire.  Insert into the bird, making sure stuffing goes all round the leg device.

Stitch the remaining side seams if any, and stitch the front and rear belly together.

Adjust the legs and feet to give a stable position that you like.  Stich on eyes.

You can wrap the legs with florist tape if you dont want to see the wire. I could only find green - brown would have been better.  Many colours are available on the internet.  You could also use threads or fine cloth, but you would then have to stich or glue the ends in place.

Cut 55cm of wire
Mark the midpoint of the wire.  Start making the foot about 5cm from this point
Bend the wire at right angles to begin forming the big toe.  I make the toes between 1 cm and 1.5cms long - bend again to make the toe flat to the ground.  Go past the leg the same distance and form the middle front toe. Make one outside toe, curve the wire behind the leg and around to the other side of the foot to make the final toe.  Complete the final toe and wind the wire around the leg and up to the middle.
Repeat on the second side.

If you have floppier wire you may need to wind the wire around itself more to give stability.  YOu can alsways reinforce the legs with another piece of wire if need be.

You will have some spare wire in the middle.  I make two curly loops to make sure the birds sit neatly and sturdily on the legs.  You can uncurl these loops later to make the bird take a different shape or to form a beak if you want.  The legs look like little creatures as they are, the top curly bits giving them lots of character.

Once you have made a bird or two you may want to change the scale, shape or even build mad freeform birds like the two shown here.  These little birds are full of charm and character, and a great way to use up small scraps of fabric.

Anni's spectacular flower

I need a flat-pack hat for a wedding in Sweden.  All the space in the suitcase is full of baking equipment and flour, so clothing has to able to squeeze into the gaps.  As I am making the wedding cupcake tower in purple, I asked Anni to make one of her lovely flowers for me to wear on my head.

Yesterday we met at Cafe Salvation near Ledbury for a morning of stitch and chatter.  Kathleen showed us how to do some of the handwork which appears on all her fabulous creatures and badges.

With two weddings next weekend, and Lindsay being mother-of-the-groom, talk turned to fascinators.  I had bought a cheap hairband and brought it along to the session.  A quick bit of stitching and the flower was fixed in place.  Lindsay modelled it so that I could see how it looked. Flamboyant without being fussy, this flower is a wonderful completion of the commission, and made at top speed too.

Anni has done a spectacular job and this headpiece is vastly more lovely than all the silly feathery things I have seen in the shops.  It also folds against the headband to make an easy to transport item.  Photos from Sweden have been promised, but in the meantime I present...Lindsay and the purple flower.

and here is a preview- I tried on my clothes before packing...and yes, it is actually sunny!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Bird fever spreads through TWG.

A few weeks have passed since that rainy day at 'Blue Ginger' when we sat huddled under a gazebo in the pouring rain trying to stitch a bird in four hours. It was obvious we had all been bitten by the bird bug when we met up last week!

The first thing to make us laugh was the sight of lots of body-less (bird) legs grouped on the floor! Ann managed to get a shot of them before they dispersed to new homes. Lois has the knack of twisting the wire and made a whole flock for us and is therefore the proud owner of a badge ( made by Kathleen) bearing the immortal words "Lois with the lovely legs".

Lois has even made a short film of the legs waltzing. Having seen them I bet they get up to all sorts of things after dark.

Over on a window sill, Lois and Alison's owls met up. You could tell they were going to be good buddies by the way they exchanged old hoots.

Even a Hoo-poe popped over from the floods at Diglis to take advantage of the brief sunny spell and dry his feathers. You have to admit, the creations are wonderfully diverse.

The little 'Brit Bird' with his patriotic plumage muscled in alongside the rest, refusing to be intimidated by razzle-dazzle.

Earlier on, three from the same nest decided to consult a reference manual to put an end to speculation as to their species.

One particular exotic bird had a hop round the garden before she left, and got a bit of a say the least!

We may have to hire an aviary next time we meet if this carries on.