The handover date for the latest LINQS challenge, to produce an art quilt inspired by any aspect of the life or works of Sir Isaac Newton, is fast approaching and I’ve still got a lot to do! When I began my research I was surprised to learn that Newton had been an Alchemist (obvious really given the age he lived in) and spent a lot of his time and effort in pursuit of the Philosophers Stone. I used this fact as my starting point and designed my quilt along the lines of an Alchemy illustration using a limited colour palette. Materials used so far include oil pastels and transfer foils on cotton fabrics and pelmet vilene. As I said, still a lot to do so back to the sewing machine!
Yesterday I spent a very enjoyable day in the company of a lovely group of ladies, the Spalding Embroiderers, who meet at Pode Hole Village Hall in the Lincolnshire Fens. The group had booked me to do a workshop for them, giving me free reign to decide what we would be doing.
I wanted to offer them something completely different and something I was pretty sure they wouldn’t have done before. I settled on putting together a workshop to make my Tyvek Leaves. Tyvek is a wonderful product to work with as it has so many possibilities when it comes to colouring, shaping and distressing.
It felt a bit of a risk as it would involve so many different stages and I wasn’t sure how the group would take to shaping wire frames using pliers. I needn’t have worried, their enthusiasm and positivity was terrific and the hall was filled with conversation and laughter all through the day! In fact, putting together this workshop has reminded me of how much fun I had designing my first leaves and it’s been great to get back to making more of them.
The leaves worked out beautifully. As you can see, everyone got their leaf to the stage of it having been distressed with the heat gun but unfortunately we ran out of time to get the holes embroidered so they will continue with that at home. I hope to receive photos of some of the finished leaves as and when they get done.
A big thank you to all the Spalding Embroidery ladies for making me feel so welcome and for being such wonderful, enthusiastic students! I shall look forward to seeing you all at our next workshop.
Our latest challenge at the Cranwell contemporary textile group has been to produce a piece of work based on a poem. We could use any poem, any style and any techniques, but the finished piece had to be 20″ x 15″, quilted, and it had to include lettering in some form or other.
With such a “loose” brief the first thing I decided on was that, whatever poem I chose, I would use wet felting and my finished piece would be very textural. I sat down with my sketch book and thought through some of the odd lines I knew from well known poems. Nothing lept out to inspire me until the words “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive” came into my head. I didn’t know who the poet was or which poem it came from but a quick search on Google told me it was from an epic written in 1808 by Sir Walter Scott entitled Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field.
I know very little about poetry but this surely has to be one of the longest poems ever written! It took me longer to read the poem than it did to make the quilt! You can read a potted version of the plot on Wiki, but basically it’s a story in which good triumphs over evil. One of the characters is a “fallen” nun called Constance who is condemned to death for her misdeeds and walled up alive on Lindisfarne. It was the fate of Constance which inspired my design.
Using Merino wool, the background colours were laid out and wet felted to prefelt stage, then cut into smaller pieces, relaid and felted thoroughly. This technique is one I particularly like and the one I used in memories of a Greek holiday.
Constance’s head and torso were made from air dry clay and later painted with Inktense. The lettering was cut from Lutradur using a soldering iron and coloured with a permanent marker pen. The first attempt at making a web was done with free machine embroidery on a soluable fabric and resulted in something that looked more like a fishermans net! The second attempt was more successful using free machine stitching on Lutradur and burning it away with my heat gun.
The background has been free machine stitched and hand embroidered with Colonial Knots.
Once again I am back to playing catch up with projects and posts. I’ve been feeling pretty down and lethargic over recent months, for reasons I won’t go into on here, but the year is fast coming to a close and it’s time to give myself a good shake up and get back to normal.
So the first project to feature is one I did as a result of being invited down to London to stay with my niece and her husband at the end of November. They have recently moved house and I got a request to make a pair of Roman blinds for their new study…….what better excuse could there be for a week in London? Sophie chose a lightweight dress fabric for the blinds, which give me a little concern as I wasn’t sure how well they would hang. It wasn’t the easiest fabric to work with but once they had been lined I needn’t have worried as they turned out fine and thankfully they are both delighted with them.
The second project was this years “ugly” fabric challenge with Sitting Ducks. Each year, just before Christmas, one of our members supplies us all with an A4 size piece of fabric (which we probably would never have chosen to use ourselves) and we have to make something with it. After a couple of weeks of wondering what to do with my green and orange crocodiles, and knowing that I wanted to completely disguise the pattern, I finally hit on an idea and Griselda was born. She stands 17″ tall, has a wire frame with a needle felted body and fabric wrapped legs & arms. I added three colours of netting as “wings” to make her into an Autumnal fairy. I had intended to make her face from fabric but realised, the night before we were due to hand in our pieces, that if I was going to get her finished in time I needed a quicker solution for her face, hence the air dry clay.
Although no-one said anything out loud, once we had all placed our work on the table it dawned on me that mine was the odd one out as Sitting Ducks is actually a “quilting” group. Hey, ho………I had fun making her anyway!
Last Friday I spent a wonderful day at Artvango learning the basics of how to Eco Dye with Jenny Leslie. Before the session we were sent a list of certain leaves which we were asked to bring with us as they are known to produce particularly good results with this type of technique. That in itself was a learning curve for me. Prior to this I had no idea what a Walnut tree looked like, and wouldn’t have known that there were so many in close proximity to our house. I had never heard of “Dogwood”, although I did recognise the plant when it was pointed out to me by a member of staff in the garden of The Lincolnshire Wildlfe Trust. Other leaves Jenny suggested included apple, blackberry and eucalyptus.
It was baking hot here last Thursday and by the time I had finished foraging some of the leaves were already beginning to wilt. I did wonder if they would be shrivelled beyond recognition by the time I got to use them as I was travelling down by motorbike and staying overnight at a B&B before the class. I needn’t have worried as it turns out the leaves don’t need to be freshly picked, in fact dried, pressed leaves also work well for Eco Printing.
Jenny, who has a background in gardening, began by showing us some of her wonderful work and explained how she got into Eco Dying. Obviously there were references to India Flint, the pioneer of Eco Dyeing, and Jenny brought along her copy of India’s book “Eco Colour” for us to look at.
There were twelve students in the class and I think I can speak for all when I say what a fabulous day we had. I did a bit of research before travelling down and I have to admit I wasn’t expecting such good results from a first attempt! We were like excited kids, selecting what we were going to use, dipping our leaves into the iron bath or the copper bath, and carefully wrapping our bundles around twigs, copper pipes or rusty old tins. Once they had been tied securely with string they were dropped into the boiling water or placed in the steamer. All the time we were busy Jenny was feeding us information regarding mordants and “baths” and the different ways we could alter the colours we had achieved, even once the bundles had been boiled. My notes are a complete jumble as I only got back from my 550 mile journey last night (I came home via the Isle of Wight!) but I am looking forward to sorting them out and having a play this weekend, once I have been out and collected more greenary.
Jenny recommended Soya Milk as a mordant for cotton while our silk fabrics were simply soaked in a 50/50 solution of water and white vinegar. Apparently there are lots of different approaches to Eco Dyeing with some folk recommending mordants while others don’t bother. The final effects can also vary depending on the type of fabric you use, the hardness of your water, humidity, etc, etc. I think the key message I took away was that we need to “experiment” and find what works for us.
The following photos show how my dyed fabrics turned out.
My linen and viscose sample started life as a pair of pale grey trousers. After soaking it in soya milk and wringing it out I layed on a selection of leaves including eucalyptus, walnut, sumac and an unknown vine that grows in my neighbours garden. The fabric was doubled over and wrapped around a short length of copper pipe and boiled for an hour. The result is subtle but I love it!
The two silk pieces were soaked for about 30 minutes in vinegar water, leaves laid out, wrapped, tied and boiled for an hour and then iron was added to the water and the fabric remained submerged until the water cooled. Again, I love the results!
I did as Jenny suggested and left my bundles until the next day before I unravelled them. They didn’t look too exciting while they were still wet but once they had dried they looked great! Some of the leaves can be seen while others left an area of colour rather than a distinct shape. I am really happy with results and keen to do more. I bought various fabrics from Artvango including a cotton/silk blend, a spun rayon and cotton Rossglen, all of which I have been told will take colour really well so fingers crossed! It’s not advisable to use your cooking pans for Eco Dyeing so I am nipping out now to see if I can find some old pots and pans in our local junk shop…….
Last weekend a friend and I drove down to Knebworth to see the “Artists in Residence” at Artvango. It was my first visit and turned out to be a really worthwhile day. The three textile artists demonstrating their skills were Clare Bullock (Feltmaker), Sharon Osbourne (Mixed Media) and Lynda Monk (Thermofax). Not only was it interesting to watch these artists at work but it was wonderful how they were so enthusiastic to share their advice and tips so freely.
While I was there I had my grey/lemon vessel in mind and within the first two minutes of arriving Clare had given me the answer to a problem I was having using synthetic organza with Merino tops. I wanted to include the organza as a another texture but I’d found that my fibres were not migrating through the fabric enough to bond the two together. Clare explained that using a very thin layer of fibres and rubbing, not rolling, was the best way to approach it, and it worked. Thanks for that Clare.
In another part of the studio Lynda Monk was demonstrating her use of Thermofax screens and expanding foam on leaf and hexagon shapes cut from Lutradur. What I found interesting was the fact that the wire she was using to give the leaves their shape wasn’t silver or copper coloured like I had in my workroom, Lynda’s wire was covered with white cotton. She explained that she uses this so it can be died to match whatever she is making. Call me sad but I hadn’t seen this stuff before and I was so excited I had to buy some! That was vessel problem two sorted. How to hide the wire? Colour it grey and lemon.
Opposite Lynda was Sharon Osbourne with the most wonderful collection of mixed media work on dispay. Sharon was demonstrating the use of wax crayons with rubbing plates to create patterns on fabric, the crayon is then sealed with a medium. I was standing next to another lady who, like me, works with LD students and we both agreed that having spoken to Sharon we were coming away with several ideas that we could use in future workshops. A couple of days later I tried the wax crayon technique at one of the care homes where I do craft sessions with LD adults and they loved it!
Anyway, back to the 3d piece. It’s now finished, compete with coloured wire, organza and felting. I decided that using all 3 panels would result in a vessel too large for the space I wanted to put it so I only used two of them. Once the machine stitching was finished the holes were burnt out using a soldering iron and hand stitching was added across the larger openings. The cotton covered wire was coloured to match the panels and sewn in place using zigzag stitching. I’m really happy with how this has turned out and it’s something I would definitely like to do more of, particularly incorporating felting into my work and continuing with a more abstract theme.
Since finishing my Flower Tower (and wondering what on earth I am going to do with it) I’ve been thinking about making another 3d vessel. If it’s a success it will be destined for the lounge to sit next to a felted bowl I made last year with Jenny Pepper. I love the grey and lemon colour scheme of the bowl and so I began by wet felting some fibres to match it.
I didn’t have a shape in mind but they turned out a bit like grey bacon rashers! I repeated the exercise, this time laying out three lots of very fine fibres and covering each of them with a strip of white organza. If you click on the photo below to enlarge it you will see the organza more clearly.
The next step was to roughly cut 3 pieces of Lutradur and paint it with Inktense Blocks. I say “roughly” because I want the finished effect to look organic and distressed so I’m not working to a precise measurement or shape.
I have several threads of dubious quality (I haven’t a clue what some of them are made of) so I spent a bit of time last night blasting them with my heat gun to confirm which are 100% cotton, as opposed to polyester, and which are Rayon, as opposed to Nylon. That job done, it was time to start machining with cream, grey, gold and dark olive. It needs a lot more stitching yet but I will put this piece to one side for now and work on the other two sections.
A couple of weeks back I was invited to attend a “Flower Tower” workshop which was being held at the Cranwell Contemporary Stitch Group. Before the workshop I was shown an example of what we would be making, the 3d tower was made from painted Vilene and covered with scraps of fabric which were machine stitched in place. The whole vessel was then embellished with beads and flowers made using a variety of techniques.
I liked the basic shape of the tower and the idea of painting onto Vilene and immediately thought that I would like to paint and embellish mine as a “scene”, rather than as an abstract. I have based my design on the velvet piece I did a couple of months ago, using some of the same stamps and threads. The tower has a wire frame which was couched on using zigzag machine stitch and it stands on tiny felted feet.
In my hurry to get finished I forgot to paint the lining fabric! As the vessel is hollow, and there’s no way I can add colour past the “curls”, I’m thinking of just sponging the tips blue and adding a felted “stopper” so you don’t see any further down into the tower. Once it’s done I will post an update and after the next meeting will add photos of the towers made by the other Cranwell ladies.
I recently came across this photograph of a beautiful art quilt by Rose Rushbrooke which has been based on a “fractal” design. Not knowing what that meant I googled it and discovered a whole new world of amazing images created using “Fractal” apps. I won’t attempt to explain the mathematics behind this process, there are lots of websites that explain it better than I ever could, but I did download a free app and after a few minutes of playing with it I came up with the following designs. The app I used is Fractile Plus, it’s simple to use and quite addictive. I don’t know if I will get around to doing anything with any of these but it they were fun to create and have the potential for inspiring future textile designs.
Thanks to Maggy for pointing out that I hadn’t posted a picture on here of my finished quilted version on Hockney’s self-portrait. I have just added it to “Hockney gets a scarf” under the “Art Quilts” category.
If anyone reading this is interested to learn more about the Lincolnshire Quilters “David Hockney Challenge”‘, which is gaining momentum nicely, we have a blog at http://www.linqsblog.wordpress.com