EYE’s Residential Weekend…..

It’s been a long time coming but last weekend I taught my first face to face workshop of 2021 at Cober Hill near Scarborough. Originally booked for summer 2020, this residential workshop for the East Yorkshire Embroiderers had to be carried over to this year due to the Covid lockdown restrictions.

I did wonder if it was too soon for some and if numbers would be depleted but it turned out the ladies were very keen to get back to normal! Nineteen of the twenty ladies booked for the weekend retreat turned up, sixteen came to do the workshop and three came simply to chill.

Cober Hill was built in 1890 and was purchased by Arnold Rowntree, former Liberal Member of Parliament for York, and nephew of the chocolate manufacturer Joseph Rowntree, in March 1920. Rowntree had a vision for it “to be a place of joy and beauty, …a centre of refreshment and inspiration for many of those engaged in difficult public services… I hope experiments in Weekend Schools, Winter and Summer Schools of various kinds and of longer or shorter duration may also be tried there…” The venue, with its gardens, tennis court, croquet lawn, theatre and numerous other communal spaces, offers an annual programme of craft workshops as well as hosting private groups, businesses and schools.

The theme for our weekend was “trees” and the aim was for the students to combine layers of fabric and paint with machine and hand stitching. The finished work could then either be backed as a quilt or mounted in a frame.

After dinner on the Friday evening the group were shown examples of my “tree themed” work and I talked through the techniques I had used to create them. The ladies then started to plan their designs based on images they had brought for inspiration. Not everyone wanted to do trees, one lady chose to use the techniques discussed to do a moon gazing hare while another went completely “off piste” with her abstract take on an owl!

Maggie went her own way with an Owl
Melanie painting her background layer.
Dorothy and Debra painting their backgrounds.
Ann laying down the background for her trees.
Rachel’s background is painted and now she’s working on her foreground layers.
Sandra adding detail to her foreground trees.

With the bulk of the painting completed and dried on Friday evening the ladies could concentrate on layering and stitching their fabrics on the Saturday.

Hilary’s background has been painted and now she is layering up her sheer fabrics to create depth to her forest.
The moon gazing Hare is starting to take shape.
Dorothy’s forest is pinned and ready for stitching.
Evelyn’s work in progress.

I think the surprise of the weekend was Melanie who only came to Cober Hill to keep Ann, her grandma, company. This young lady doesn’t have the use of a sewing machine and had never done any free motion stitching before…..she borrowed Ann’s machine and took to it like a duck to water!

Melanie’s lone tree is starting to take form.
Rachel adding her gate and railings.
Ruth is beginning to add hand stitched detail to her tree.
Debra used lots of free motion stitch on her version of a tree canopy.
Using the same image as Debra for inspiration, Carol created a tree canopy in autumn colours.
Judy took her inspiration from my Walk in the Forest.
Hilary made good use of zig zig free motion stitch for her background trees.
Margaret did her take on my Three Tall Trees.
Dorothy added hand embroidery for her foreground grasses and flowers.
Melanie’s finished work…..fantastic to think this was her first attempt at machine sewing and hand embroidery!
Rhona’s moon gazing Hare….what this image doesn’t show clearly is the addition of black beads which adds texture and sparkle when you see it close up.
Close up of Sandra’s finished trees.

What I hadn’t realised at the outset was that none of these lady’s had done anything like this before, so for some it had been a steep learning curve! It was great to see everyone throwing themselves into the task of painting, layering and stitching and the results speak for themselves! By the time we left Cober Hill on the Sunday there had been some terrific work created. I hope some of my students will continue to develop these techniques alongside their more traditional skills. At least one of them has since bought herself a soldering iron for doing more of this kind of work which was music to my ears!

I just want to say a huge thank you to the EYE’s group for inviting me back to teach their 2021 residential and for being such willing students and wonderful company. I shall look forward to working with you again at some point in the future.

The EYE’s class of 2021

Circles & Holes…..

A few weeks ago, after trying to get from one side of my workroom to the other, I decided enough was enough……it was time for some serious sorting out! When you have students visiting regularly for workshops you have to keep things fairly tidy and organised but obviously, for the past year, this hasn’t been happening and so things had got seriously out of hand!

As well as the satisfaction of filling a bin bag with accumulated rubbish, it was great to discover a couple of books and a few samples of rust and tea dyed fabrics, and one covered with stamped leaves/grasses, which I had made a few years ago and completely forgotten about.

I’d been thinking of doing some felted work with the theme of circles & holes, and still will do, but on finding this fabric I knew I wanted to make some small ”circles & holes” combining the rust dye with the leaf stamps. So this is the result, all pieces are in square box frames measuring 25cm. Each hole was positioned to act as a small view finder for a rusty mark.

Having enjoyed making those I followed up with some more leaf stamping…..

…….and rust dyeing. This is all the same white cotton fabric but the grey marks are a result of soaking the fabric in tea before adding the rusty objects. To achieve the orange marks the fabric has been soaked in vinegar. My favourite piece, second from the right, has the grey background (tea) but also the orange marks from dipping the rusty bolts into vinegar.

These are two pieces made from the second batch of leaf printed fabric and that orange and grey rust print. In both of these the circles have been darkened by adding more paint.

Layer, Stitch & Burn…..

One of my favourite workshops has to the Layer, Stitch & Burn which I will be running again at the Alford Craft Market Centre on November 16th. This class teaches a technique made famous by the American mixed media textile artist Susan Lenz.

The title sums it up exactly, we begin by layering our fabrics, we use free motion machine stitching to hold them all together and then we set them fire! OK, so we don’t go quite that far but we do apply heat to manipulate and burn away sections of our work which results in a beautiful lacey effect.

This is an example of Susan’s work

I first discovered Susan’s work via a video on YouTube where she was teaching how she made her “In Box” series. I had only just discovered there was such a thing as textile art and had started experimenting with my own projects, so to see a Textile Artist with a heat tool and a soldering iron was pretty exciting stuff! It inspired me to research further which led me to Margaret Beal and her book New Ideas in Fusing Fabric…..needless to say I’ve had an interest in manipulating fabric by burning ever since!

Originally In this workshop we made a square piece of work to fit a small box frame but there is also the option of using this technique to make several smaller pieces which can be used as brooches. These leaf brooches were made using the same fabrics that are supplied for the workshop and the same method but students can apply it to any shape or subject matter.

Leaf Brooch made using the Layer, Stitch & Burn technique

It’s very strange times right now and, understandably, lots of ladies are not yet ready to come back to classes. I’m just hoping that we get enough interest to run this workshop on the 16th……fingers firmly crossed!

Connected…..

I’ve had the theme “connected” running around in my head for while and decided to use it to experiment with free motion stitch. Each of these shapes has been made using FM on water soluble fabric. The shapes were then connected to a painted vilene background, suspended using FM.

Must Try Harder…..

They say the longer you put something off the harder it becomes. Well I definitely find that’s the case when it comes to blogging! I’m not a natural “writer” but even so I can’t believe it’s been more than six months since my last post! Note to self….must try harder!!

Back in April I created two pieces of abstract wall art for the bi-annual Waltham Textiles Exhibition. It should have been happening later this month but, as with so many events, will now be taking place in 2021, fingers crossed!!

This first piece will be mounted onto board measuring 50cm x 100cm. Inspired by sunsets it consists of various wet felted fibres, Viscose fibres and a mix of natural and synthetic fabrics. It’s all held in place using machine free motion stitching onto a painted Lutradur background. I love the textures that can be achieved when using this technique and I particularly like adding synthetic glitzy fabrics for a little bit of bling!

Abstract Sunset
Detail of Abstract Sunset
Detail of Abstract Sunset

This second piece was constructed in the same way. Rather than mounting it on a board, I think I’m going to mount this one behind glass in a black edged 40cm x 80cm frame.

Burlesque – Abstract Wallhanging
Detail of Burlesque
Detail of Burlesque

Roots….

My latest work, Roots, was made in response to a challenge set by the Waltham Textile Group who meet once a month at Waltham Windmill.  This is an exhibiting group and, like many such groups, we all aim to produce a piece of work to a particular theme.  The work will be displayed together at our bi-annual exhibition at the Windmill next August.  Our current theme, leaves, couldn’t suit me better!  There are absolutely no limitations for this main piece, it can be any size, any technique, 3D or 2D.  This freedom in itself can be a headache because there are so many directions you can go in……..consequently I’ve yet to start that piece!

Roots – a Waltham Textile Group Challenge.

Running alongside our main theme we also have other, more specific, “challenges”.  One of them is to produce three A4 pieces of work using three colours, each piece to predominantly feature one of those colours plus a little of the other two.  This can be any style, any technique and any subject matter. You can see how I approached this challenge in a previous post “work in progress” and Roots is the result of that challenge.

Originally I made three wet felted backgrounds to which I was going to add lots of texture with fibre and stitch.  The felt was put to one side for a few weeks while I did other things and by the time I went back to it I had changed my mind (surprise, surprise!). Instead of using the felt I reached for my roll of Lutradur, practising what I preach and using the techniques and materials demonstrated in my Forest Floor Workshop.  

Detail from Roots showing the Lutradur leaves

It turned out to be a very mixed media piece with felted pebbles, free motion stitched ferns and weeds and Lutradur leaves and forest floor.  The only items not hand made are three small brown Beech tree pods.

With this challenge finished its back to trying out ideas and working up samples for my main exhibition piece.  I’ve no idea how that will look as yet but I’m thinking along the lines of it being “abstract”…..that thought may change several times between now and completion!

Work in Progress…..

Last year I joined a group of creative ladies who meet once a month at Waltham Windmill.  As well as working on our own projects we have a number of set “challenges” requiring us to work to a certain theme. This week I began one those challenges which is to produces three A4 size pieces of work using just three colours. Each piece is to have one predominant colour, plus a small amount of the other two. The format can be landscape or portrait but all three will be displayed together. The design, techniques and materials are entirely up to the individual.

My first thought was that I wanted my 3 pieces to be joined together and initially I was thinking along the lines of a leaf motif, using the veins to span the gaps between the work. The first design was for a very simple “spear” shaped leaf.

The second idea was to simplify it even more and loose the outline of the leaf. The background would possibly be heavyweight interfacing or Lutradur and the veins would be free motion stitched, spanning the gaps by stitching onto dissolvable fabric.
In the meantime I happened to take my dog for a walk in the woods at Hubbard’s Hills in Louth when I had a lightbulb moment! There were some wonderful exposed tree roots at the top of the hill and I suddenly saw these as being the joining element of my 3 x A4’s. The design now was for a “forest floor”.
Sketchbook page showing a design for piece of textile art
I realised that I would need a sturdy backing so I’ve wet felted these using Bergschaf fibres and they will be individually mounted onto stiff card…..at least that’s the plan so far! There will be little background showing on pieces two and three but far more on piece one so I included some thick cords under that sheet of felt to indicate buried roots.
Wet felted Bergschaf fibres
The tree roots above ground have an aluminium wire as their core, wrapped with wadding and strips of medium weight Lutradur before being painted grey.
Tree roots made from aluminium wire and Lutradur fabric
I’ve started making the weeds using free motion stitch on dissolvable fabric but I will look at alternative materials, possibly Lutradur, to introduce different textures, create more bulk and not least to speed up the weed making process!
Making weeds using free motion embroidery
The fallen leaves at the base of the roots will be FM stitched on Lutradur. Once they’ve been cut out using a soldering iron and heat distressed to make them curl they will be painted in varying shades of gold.
Lutradur leaves
I’ve managed to get a couple of other group members to send me images of their work in progress…..
Jacky approached the challenge by choosing blue, green and gold as her colours and using the “stack and whack” method to cut them up. After selecting her fabrics they were cut up quite randomly and then machined together in strips. The three sets were then layed on top of each other and sliced through again. The yellow and green shapes in the resulting strips made her think of plant pots and this led to her theme of “neglected pots and plants”. In this piece Jacky has added an appliqué cactus and free motion stitched the neglected straggly plants on the left. This one isn’t far off being finished but Ive been told the other two are still piles of fabric on the workroom table!
Carole has chosen to use a combination of plain and patterned fabrics in her chosen colour scheme of red, blue and yellow. Each of her A4’s feature a different piecing technique i.e. strips, curves and crazy patchwork. Again this is a work in progress but already you can see how individual members are putting their own mark on their work and how different everyone’s finished work is going to be. I will post images of the completed challenges next time.

Quilters Guild AGM…..

I slept like a baby last night having got home after three very busy, and very enjoyable, days at the Quilters Guild AGM. The event was held on the Jubilee Campus at Nottingham University and attended by approximately 450 enthusiastic quilters. Over the three days participants had the choice to be entertained, and educated, by hour long lectures, half hour mini workshops and demonstrations, half day workshops and full day workshops. There were several traders, a wonderful selection of second hand books at massively discounted prices, a raffle, tombola and exhibitions.

On the Friday morning I gave an illustrated talk entitled “My F-Plan Diet……Fabric, Fibre & Felting” all about how I was introduced to Textile Art and Feltmaking back in 2014 and how my work has progressed, up to present day. I featured a number of pieces to look at in detail, explaining the background to the design process and the materials used.

In the afternoon The Guild held what they call the “Carousel”. This involved four tutors, each in a separate part of the room, demonstrating a particular technique. I called my sessions The Half Hour Flower and at the end of each half hour period and bell was rung and the participants swapped to a different tutor…..it was like speed dating for crafters!

The Half Hour Flower

With this being a “quilters” event, and with all the other guest tutors being textile artists, I felt privileged that the organisers had invited me specifically to teach and promote Feltmaking. On Saturday I had a class of 14 students making wet felted “Landscape” themed pictures, several were trying out wet felting for the very first time. The ladies each brought an image they wanted to create and we began by looking at how they could interpret the various shapes and textures in their design using fibre. Some students incorporated prefelts and everyone had time to do a little needle felting if they chose to, to begin to add the finer detail. The variety and quality of work produced in such a short time was amazing! Being quilters I think everyone was intending to add free motion stitch or hand stitching to their work once they got it home so I’m really hoping I get sent some images of the finished work.

Fantastic work all round from Saturday’s class!

On Sunday I had a class of six ladies making Wet Felted Bowls. We began by discussing the different fibre layouts that can be used to affect the shape and structure of 3D objects as well as how we can create interesting shapes using prefelts and differential shrinkage. The ladies each chose a style they wanted to create from my examples shown below and, as you will see, the results were terrific!

It was a great weekend and I got to meet, chat and work with some lovely ladies. I would just like to thank all my students for being so enthusiastic and working so hard! Thanks also to the Region 10 Committee for inviting me to be a part of it and hope to work with you again in the future.

Jeudis at Manchester…..

Yesterday I travelled over to Manchester’s EventCity with fellow Jeudis member Christine Plummer for a day of stewarding at the Creative Craft Show.

We were there as members of the mixed media textile group Jeudis, to promote our group and our most recent body of work on the theme of Abstraction.  The work is very varied and include 2D and 3D pieces, wet felting, quilting, collage, hand stitching, machine stitching, etc, etc.  My main piece was inspired by rockpools and made with wet felted Bergschaf fibres,  found shells and pebbles, hand and machine embellished.

Rockpool on display at EventCity, Manchester

I took this theme further, making several items of felted jewellery for the sales table, and was delighted with the response these brought.  The rock pool bracelets were particularly popular and the grey necklet found a new home with a lady who looked absolutely stunning in it!

Rockpool Brooches

Rockpool brooches made from Bergschaf fibres

Rockpool inspired Necklet

The following photos show more of the groups work…..

…..by Gill Green

Close up detail of Gill Greens bowl

…..by Jean Baker

…..by Sue Lewis

…..by Cathy Ball

…..by Linda Settle

…..by Elaine Winterton & Sue Lewis

…..by Christine Plummer

…..by Hazel Brewer

Our next Exhibition will be at Birmingham NEC and I will confirm dates nearer the time.