2021 First Quarter Challenge…..

The 2021 first quarter challenge from the Felting and Fibre Studio going out to all felters, spinners, weavers, stitchers, knitters, crocheters and mixed media fibre artists is to make something inspired by the decade 1900 – 1909.

Normally, with so many possibilities, I would spend quite some time looking at the different options but this time I knew instantly where I would be taking my inspiration from. It would be the book Art Forms in Nature which consists of stunning illustrations by the German biologist and professor of zoology, Ernst Haeckel. These illustrations were first published in 1904 and so fit the brief perfectly!

Haeckles illustrations have provided a source of inspiration for many designers and artists over the years starting with the Art Nouveau movement and continuing today.

A recurring shape seen throughout this book is the hexagon, hardly surprising as it’s everywhere we look in nature……from the basalt pillars of the Giants Causeway to honeycomb, it’s also found in the eyes of insects, tortoise shells, algae, fish scales and microscopic Protozoa…..the list goes on and on!

I decided to make two sample pieces of surface decoration based on the hexagonal and using Bergschaf fibres but each sample would have different positive/negative space.

The first was a very simple form which can be open or closed.

The second was created using exactly the same template and resist but what was negative space on the top layer in the first sample became positive space in the second, creating a totally different look.

If you are interested in joining in this particular challenge, or any future challenges, or if you simply want to see what others have created you can find details on the Felt and Fibre Studio website

One Scarf…..Several Possibilities

With the temperature dropping dramatically over the past week it’s no surprise that my last make of 2020 and my first of 2021 have been scarves. The beauty of both of these is that they are reversible so you have one scarf…..several possibilities.

2020’s last project was a fringed, reversible cobweb scarf made from a fabulous Superfine Merino blend called Champs Elyse from the Italian company DHG. The reverse side is a patchwork of hand dyed Margilan silk. I particularly love this and have been living in it for the past week as its incredibly soft and lightweight and goes with almost everything I wear.

I’ve recently made several single sided ruffle scarves but my first scarf of this year is a reversible ruffle.

As with so many of my projects, the colour scheme for my new year scarf changed and developed as I worked. Originally it was going to be a combination of colours inspired by the Champs Elyse.

Having laid out the central fibres in blue and green I ditched the multicoloured idea and I’m so pleased I did as I prefer the simplicity of this final scheme with this particular shape. It’s difficult to get a true representation of the colours in a photo but on the blue side I’ve overlaid with a very deep purple Viscose. This has created an extra depth of colour that I’m really pleased with. Apologies for the mismatched brooches…..I grabbed what I had for the sake of getting photos and posting this evening! I will be making a couple this week which will be more appropriate for the ruffle scarf.

Channelling the Grey…..

The past couple of weeks have been very grey, damp and overcast but, unlike a lot of folk I know, I love being outdoors when it’s like this and have even found myself volunteering for extra long dog walks!! Don’t get me wrong, I love the Summer but there’s something very atmospheric about a grey damp day and the smell of the soil and vegetation underfoot.

I think I’ve been subconsciously channelling the grey into my latest work because I hadn’t really thought about changing from a gold/rust palette to a grey scheme….it just seemed to happen.

Again, although I’ve not been dwelling on it, I also think that lockdown, and the resulting lack of opportunity for nights out and seasonal parties, has maybe left me pining for a bit of glamour.

The first grey collar was one of my mystery (unlabelled) fibre blends. It’s a little hairy but extremely soft. It’s the longest of the three which gives it scope for being worn in different ways.

The second is a blend of Superfine Merino with white Bamboo fibre which creates a fabulous sheen.

The third is Superfine Merino with white Bamboo and a dusky pink Viscose fibre. I love the silky effect that’s created by the Viscose and find I’m using this more and more.

I’m now working on shoulder bags to coordinate with the collars.

Nights out are on hold for the time being but we may as well be ready for when we can get that little black number on again!

Autumn inspired…..

These scarves celebrate my favourite time of year, the Autumn. All around us the leaves are now turning beautiful shades of red, orange and gold, there’s the crunch of leaves underfoot and the earthy smell of damp soil. It’s time for wearing warm scarves and mittens and what better excuse for making some Autumn inspired pieces. I couldn’t resist adding a few falling leaves to a couple of them!

Superfine Merino with Silk
Superfine Merino with Viscose
Even grey sky’s and faded pink blooms on the hydrangea can provide some Autumn inspiration. Nuno felted Superfine Merino and silk.
To say this one is a “holey” scarf it’s actually incredibly snug and warm and it’s so lightweight you don’t know it’s there! Superfine Merino and Viscose.

Wearable Art…..

One of my favourite pastimes has to be creating wet felted jewellery. I love the sculptural aspect of felting and when this is combined with small wearable items like necklaces and bangles, each one becomes a miniature piece of sculptural, wearable art.

These pieces were created early on during the lockdown when I came to realise that I was never happier than when I was working with lots of texture and a very simple monotone colour palette. In truth I’ve always known this but somehow it’s been amplified with spending much more time in the studio and noticing that the more colourful work was jarring with me!

The Superfine Merino necklaces are embellished with stitch, beading and tiny pieces of Nuno and finished with metal chain fasteners. The great thing about this technique is that each piece is totally unique, you could never have two pieces alike.

Shadows…..

Although there were many negative sides to “lockdown”, for many of us, there were also lots of positives. On the one hand all of my classes, exhibitions and shows had to be cancelled which was very depressing. One the other hand, it meant I now had unlimited time for walking with Maddie, my staffy boxer cross, which was uplifting. I’m sure a lot of us started to notice things we would otherwise have simply passed by, like these wonderful shadows cast by the trees.

Shadows cast by the trees on my morning walk
The shadows which were the inspiration for the design

I decided to use these shadows as inspiration for an abstract wet felted Wallhanging. The fibres used are Merino and Viscose and it’s been embellished with free motion stitch, hand spun yarn (my first attempt at spinning!) and Colonial Knots. The finished piece is mounted on board and measures 42cm x 58cm. It will form part of my “Fabric & Fibre of Nature” exhibition at The Quilt & Stitch Show, Uttoxeter in April 2021.

Adding Free Motion Stitch
Adding hand stitched Colonial Knots
Shadows – Fabric & Fibre of Nature

The Big Textile Show…..

Last weekend went in a flash! I was exhibiting for the third year running at The Big Textile Show which is held over two days at Leicester Racecourse. This show has a wonderful, friendly atmosphere and is big enough to provide a great day out but isn’t too large that you feel worn out by the time you’ve visited all the stalls!

My stall at this years Show

The exhibitions, which were displayed on the first floor above the food hall, included Feltmaking, Weaving, Beading, Quilting, Lace Making, Rug Making as well as paper sculptures and so much more! There was a room full of inspiring work to fire up the imagination as well as many of the items being for sale.

The trade stalls were located in a separate building, which unfortunately I didn’t get chance to visit this year. From what I was hearing there was a terrific variety of stalls and lots of opportunity to increase the size of your stash! These are just a tiny few of this years traders…..

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to say hello and for all the wonderful feedback given by visitors to my stall. The Big Textile Show is always held over the last weekend in October so be sure to put the date in your diary ready for 2020.

My next show will be at The Quilt & Stitch Village, Uttoxeter Racecourse from 17th – 19th April so hope to see some of you there!

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.