A Walk in the Forest…..

The latest quilt challenge for members of the Cranwell group is A Walk in the Forest and this is my interpretation.

A Walk in the Forest

A Walk in the Forest

With each challenge we are also given a particular technique to use somewhere within our work, for this particular piece we were asked to include painted Bondaweb.  This could be used over a large area or just included as a tiny piece, it was entirely at our discretion.  Those of you with a keen eye might be wondering where my Bondaweb is…….it’s so insignificant it’s not even worth me pointing it out!

When the subject was given out I immediately had this image in my mind of the trees and forest floor cut out of several pieces of Lutradur and stitched to create the illusion of depth.  I also knew that I wanted a shimmering backdrop to represent the daylight glistening at the edge of the woods.  After auditioning several fabrics, and not being happy with any of them, I decided to go with wallpaper for my background.  I had a sample of paper that was just large enough and created exactly the effect I was seeing in my mind.

The Lutradur trees were coloured from dark to light to suggest that the viewer is walking from inside the forest towards the light at the edge of the woods.  I figured the Bondaweb would be used fairly discretely to create shadow on the forest floor.  Unfortunately, as I had coloured the Lutradur with wax crayons, there was no way that the Bondaweb was going to bond!  Having said that, a tiny piece is clinging on, allowing me to say I have included Bondaweb in my work……..just not a lot of it!

Wet Felting and Textural – The Fate of Constance

Wet felting and textural

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.

Carded Merino is wet felted for the background.

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 finished quilt

The background has been free machine stitched and hand embroidered with Colonial Knots.

Detail from The Fate of Constance



Autumn Leaf Challenge…..

A few days ago prolific artist Laura, from Create Art Everyday, blogged about a challenge she is taking up which involves painting a leaf everyday for a month.  You can read about the challenge and where it originated here.  I liked the sound of this so I thought I would have a go…..I don’t do painting so this is a real challenge for me!  Last night saw my first attempt, fortunately I painted two leaves which I hope makes up for not having made the time to do one today!  

My idea is to use this challenge to create a “leaf” sketchbook which in turn can be used as a resource for making more Tyvek and Lutradur leaves.  I’m not convinced I can keep up with painting every day but I will do what I can and hopefully I might see an improvement in my painting by the end of the month!

Artvango & The Finished Vessel…..

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.

Finished vessel with the felted bowl which, along with the Flower Tower, provided the initial inspiration.


Detail showing the silver coloured organza.


Close up showing the burnt out sections which have been decorated with hand sewn threads.


Another 3d vessel…..

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.

My starting point for the grey/lemon vessel.

My starting point for the grey/lemon vessel.

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 painted Lutradur and pieces of felt ready to be sewn.

The painted Lutradur and pieces of felt ready to be sewn.

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.

The FM embroidery is work in progress.

The FM embroidery is work in progress.

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.


Lutradur Autumn Leaf…..

This is a photograph of two autumn leaves and a leaf skeleton I made from Lutradur.

Autumn Leaf skeleton made from Lutradur

This is a skeleton leaf which I created in response to the 4th quarter challenge from the Felting and Fibre Studio.  The subject matter was chosen by Zed, who specialises in felt making, and it required participants to create something along the lines of “land art”.

My blue/green handmade leaf stitched with metallic thread and embellished with tiny coloured beads.

Tyvek leaf with metallic thread and beading.

My immediate thought was to create an Autumn Leaf, possibly a leaf skeleton, and photograph it with real fallen leaves. I had previously made a couple of leaves from Tyvek which were embellished with metallic threads and beads, but for this challenge I wanted to make a more natural looking leaf.

A photograph showing my painted leaf having the veins sewn on using my Janome sewing machine

The painted leaf has veins sewn on.

I thought I would try out a new material which I had bought a few months ago but not yet made the time to experiment with. It was a heavy weight Lutradur purchased on-line from nid-noi.com Lutradur is one of several Spunbonded textiles which include Tyvek, Evolon and Kunin. These are manmade fibres with strength and flexibility making them ideal for textile art. They can be washed, dyed, painted, printed, stitched, burned, fused, foiled, stenciled, and slashed with ease. You name it, spunbonded textiles can take it.

I began by sketching an outline and coloured the fabric with Inktense blocks. Once the paint was dry I drew the veins, using a Frixion pen. The leaf and the veins were then machine stitched using Gutterman green 100% cotton thread and an open toe embroidery foot. Once the leaf was cut out I used my heat tool to distress it. It was at this stage that I discovered Lutradur doesn’t shrink and distort like Tyvek……it wasn’t reacting as I had thought it would. I had made the leaf larger than it needed to be thinking it would shrivel but it turns out that when you blast Lutradur with heat your work retains its overall shape and size. Having said that, I loved the lacy effect it created and was really pleased with the finished leaf skeleton.

A handmade leaf skeleton with a beautiful lace effect created by heat distressing the fabric.

Distressed Lutradur resulting in a beautiful lace effect.

Three Autumn leaves, two real, the other handmade.

My skeleton leaf created for the Felting and Fibre Studio challenge.