You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Make – Do and Mend’ category.
Making felt has never really appealed to me, it just looks like a lot of repetitive warm and wet work…. but the opportunity of recycling some old silk scarves and a much loved shirt that had beem ruined by a too-hot wash, overcame my reluctance. The technique for this fusion of felt and fabric is Nuno sometimes called laminated felt as the woollen fibres are felted into fabrics and is a comparitively new development of the age-old wet felt making.
I was shown a lovely colourful example of Nuno felted scarves, by Kirsten Hill-Nixon, that she had designed for a new workshop at Heart Space Studios and I could see endless possibilities for this technique. But with any new technique I have to experience it to develop and design for it. Teaching craft subjects via design-led software on a computer is not for hands-on makers….I want to feel the material, turn it in my hands and go through the whole basic process; get bored, frustrated and eventually assess how I feel about what I have made – and is it worth my while to do it again – differently or better?
Kirsten brought many and varied examples of her own Nuno felt and pieces that she has collected from her world travels to conferences and workshops.
The class members were really excited by these revelatory fabrics - it is so fascinating to see excellent examples of what you are about to begin to make. But first we had to choose the basic materials for a small sample to test whether our own fabrics would let themselves be felted.
I had selected a range of colours I knew would work together, even so it still took quite a while to decide which to actually work with.
and then which ones would actually submit to the felting technique? we made a small sample which we felted onto a strip of pre-felt.
I really wanted to felt the coloured lace as the colour is so vibrant and I imagined that it would produce unusual results. However…..
the lace just looked like purple scribble, the soft cotton refused to felt and the gingham organdie wasn’t adhering very well either. But the flowers on my ruined shirt looked really brilliant.
I laid out the workable fabics in large strips, about 2 metres in length and about half a metre wide. When I start any sampling process I usually work with stripes…I move on to checks and if things go well I do spots….stripes were sufficient for this exercise. However the 2 other students were much more adventurous.
Having carefully laid the pieces of silk onto the bubble wrap plastic sheet, overlapping the edges a tad to stop any gaps; we then had to get it very wet just spotting it by squeezing a sponge in drips and drops. Next we laid over rows of pulled wool fibre – in sheets as fine as possible, this takes a bit of practice, first one way….
then the other…
The colour of fibre will affect the finished fabric when seen from the silk side…Jane chose to put a multi coloured wool onto the back of her silk, Carole chose palest grey-blue
I chose stripes of course, first a coating of heather mixture all over for the first coat, then heather and mauve stripes – I feel that by experimenting with the coloured backgrounds in different patterns I could become fascinated by this technique.
Now to agitate the felt into shrinking and meshing the fibres into the fine silk woven fabrics. This we began by winding the lengths into large towels and simply rolling them backwards and forwards for about as long as I could stand it…. when the wool fibres had started to adhere to the silk, we took out the sheet of very delicate fabric and using warm water to heat it up, began to throw it at the table.
This took quite bit of courage on my behalf – but I was beginning to sense the real satisfaction to be got from this simple technique… the slooshing about with the wet soapy water over sheets of plastic (very sensuous) contrasted with the tedium of rolling that actually affords you enough time to think ‘how can I develop my ideas for the next time”? and last of all, the bashing – what’s not to like?
The result of this agitation process is remarkable; first the fabric has shrunk to about half its original size,
and now you have a whole piece of fabric in your hands - it is truly integrated, no longer just a patchwork of silk fabrics with a woolly backing but an complete length of fabric to do whatever you want to with – wear it, embroider it, cut it up?
So – Is it worth my while to do it all again? The jury is still out. I really really like the fabric I have made, it is rich and subtle in both colour and texture and as a scarf will tone with lots of my clothes – but that was the easy bit to get right, the textile designer bit. On the other hand, I don’t really like the feel of it, it is just too stolid. Maybe if it had been made in cashmere or a softer wool or maybe I need more free silk fabric with less felted areas?
But the one thing that may coax me back to doing this whole process again is the small sample of silver embroidery from an Indian cotton sari. It shines out of the soft background like a tiny jewel, very misshapen but luxurious and very precious…this may possibly become part of a metallic stitched piece of work that I have had on hold for some years now – waiting for an opportunity to redevelop my stitched metals, enamels and metallic leathers… maybe a patchwork of some description?????
I really love vintage clothes and still wear pieces I bought 30 years ago when they were at least 30 years old at the time; keeping my old clothes alive and wearable has probably prompted my fixation with darning and mending. So I was very pleased recently to help Cleo Holyoak-Heatley, the owner of my favourite vintage clothes shop, Clifton Vintage Boutique, in Clifton Arcade in Bristol.
I was talking to her about the current Mending Exhibition while scouring round looking for something -anything fanciable; it’s not worth going to look for something specific in a vintage clothes shop – the eyes, mind and purse have to be open to anything and everything on display, in season or out…..
It was a freezing day and I was checking out a rack of Fair-isle sweaters and vests, when Cleo asked if I knew of anyone who could possibly mend a favourite Fair-isle sweater of hers with a hole in the elbow? I at once volunteered – it could be a bit of a challenge but as I am currently running mending classes at Heart Space Studios, I thought I could get some practice in.
When I called back the following week, the sweater she brought out looked pristine, with band after band of different patterns, it almost looked like a sampler with sleeves. The hole was in the elbow and very small. I thought that this looked easy to stitch, what was going to be tricky was getting the right darning yarns in the right colours. Luckily Cleo had some old stock of vintage mending yarns, including a card of “Chadwick’s Wool and Nylon for Reinforcing and Mending”, the Nylon is included for strength so that the darn will last longer. Amazingly we found 2 perfect colours, I had to find the others – the background and some blue to mix to get the heathery look of the original wools. although this is a chunky jumper the yarn used is very fine, 2 ply – this is called crewel wool is embroidery terms and I have a stash of it to work my stitching samples when designing canvas needle work kits for Ehrman’ s Tapestry,
The first thing I had to do was secure the knitting form un-ravelling any further, easy enough in a small hole but needs quite a bit of reinforcement in anything bigger, I decided to try to re-knit the loops left over, but the wool was very weak and kept fraying. I have to say that what follows is for mending nerds only….. but if you want to see the finished result just go to the end of the post.
The problem with any patterns, knitted or not, is that several colours have to be used to make an imperceptible mend , and here the damage extended through 2 colours, the pattern and the ground colours. so threading up 2 needle with the colours on each row, I started a few cms. away for the hole and using a type of French Darning , which is covering the knitting stitches along the row in a zig -zag pattern, this covers the hole and reinforces the surrounding fabric.
The back not so wonderful to look at but the extra stitching makes for reinforcement and elbows wear out first
The mending looks OK on the front, you can just see the different colour tones of the darned area -
When I returned the sweater, Cleo was really thrilled and was wearing another of her Fair Isle collection…
The exhibition ‘Mending at the Museum’ has finally been launched at The Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery - and it runs until April 2013….which sounds simple enough but it is the culmination of at least 3 years collaborative practice based research between academics and professional makers and artists. The ‘Stitching and Thinking’ research group, which I facilitated in my post as a senior research fellow, evolved the exhibition via a series of mixed media workshops, visits to the museum’s mended collections, many meetings, discussions, conference papers and a small sample-stage exhibition; and it also caps off my academic career which started in 1973 and finished last year in 2011….. So no pressure then.
I co-curated the exhibition with Dawn Mason, currently the award leader of Drawing and Applied Arts at U.W.E. Bristol, and my long-term academic colleague and collaborator in all things stitched. In the museum we worked with Karin Walton, the Curator of Applied Arts at Bristol Museum, and who holds the secrets and the keys to the museum’s sampler collection, the mending samplers were the main inspiration for the work that has finally been exhibited.
When I arrived on the first morning to hang the work, Dawn and Karin had already placed the exhibits, still in their wrappings, on the floor below the wall space allotted to them, but there were piles of extraneous pieces, scattered over tables and chairs, it became my task to sort these out.
The idea of the exhibition is partly to show how ideas evolve during the making process – Dawn and I have written and spoken many times of the necessity of makers to have time for reflection; making work worthy of contemplation requires as much time for the thinking as it does for the making process. It is a constant making and thinking about what you made, re-making, re-thinking until somehow the pieces resolve themselves and you wonder how they could ever have become anything other than what they are.
Each exhibitor was responsible for physically putting their own work on the wall, this saves so much argument later….but with only 7 exhibitors who know one another well we each respected one another’s’ space – well most of the time. So during the next 2 days each member of the group came and sorted their own work out meanwhile just looking at all the unwrapped pieces was really fascinating as work seen only at the sample stage 4 weeks before, now appeared ready for the wall. Work can made or marred by the way it is hung and also what it is hung next to. We were all acutely aware of how the whole exhibition must work together. It comprises 3 different elements; some of the museum’s mending samplers, our own samplers of work made throughout the research period, and the pieces made specially for exhibition.
Steph Wooster’s knitted and pieced work looked different when it was stretched over some embroidery hoops that acted almost as magnifying mirrors – drawing the eye to the details of her messages. She writes of museums being ‘houses of high culture; they show the best of us’. Finding evidence of mending within the museum’s exhibits she delights in glimpses of ‘everyday life’ . Her work, influenced by the written messages on samplers, ‘celebrates the ordinary’ by using simple fabrics with ubiquitous machine knitting.
Jilly Morris‘ children’s aprons came neatly laid one on top of the other with a Fragile label printed on the cardboard wrapper – a comment, I felt, not about the fact that the contents could be damaged but of the fragility of what was inside and already ‘ damaged’ .
The title of the work produced is ‘Mending Takes Time’ and refers to the functional stitching that was traditionally taught as part of their general education to girls, as transferable skills in an era when fabrics were ‘treated with regard’ and material was frequently mended to preserve a precious commodity – so at odds with our easy access to all types of fabric from all over the world.
The cross shape made by various commercial medical dressings recall the basic shape of most darns seen on the samplers; when executed in ready-made modern plasters she references the ‘quick fix mentality and disposable culture’ of the present day.
Jess Turrell came in with a box of assorted table-wear cups, saucers and a range of metal components such as spoon bowls, fork tines, knife blades and their specially made handles – which she made up before she placed them in a large vitrine.
Her work is called “Inappropriate Mendings” and she is having some fun at the idea of making aesthetically elegant mending that is really useless for any practical purposes, fork handles are whittled from wax candles (gedditt?) cups are mended with calico, and spoon handles wrapped in plasters from the first aid tin.
Dail Behennah brought in a fragile darned wire piece, mercifully it was framed and so this was the easiest to hang…the piece is simple and refined and references a particular black darning sampler in the collection, which is placed in a vitrine opposite her work.
Dail reflects that the darning in an old garment are often stronger than the fabric that they hold together, she has taken this to ‘absurd lengths’ by making a piece of metal fabric entirely compose of darns. The shimmering quality of the image is created by the shadows set up by the work being suspended in a box frame, below is the darning fabric in the making
Dawn Mason exhibited a series of different responses to the mending samples, called Face to Face her work reflects the reverse side of the samplers, some how when we look at the ‘wrong’ side of a piece f stitched work it seems much more immediate, the involvement of the maker is more apparent because here we see the comings and goings or the threads and often the struggle the maker has had is left as evidence where on the front of the work all is perfectly presented and correct. (I know that given the opportunity people usually will look at the back of any stitched work – maybe searching for signs of the maker’s involvement )
The work she showed was made over the entire duration of the project and shows the progression of her own personal work…
Like Dawn’s exhibited pieces, my own work forms part of an ongoing series of stitched work, that has been a direct consequence of our involvement in this project. “Make it through the Night” includes many references to mending as mending broken hearts has been the major inspiration to my personal work for several years now – as this blog illustrates – there are many postings around the ideas and practice of mending, and the first ever post was about my mended clothes………
I have made a whole series of embroidered handkerchiefs, let’s face it some nights we have all needed a handkerchief if only to hold on to. So I have embroidered them with positive mending mottoes and other words of wisdom - the set is called ‘ Patch Grief with Proverbs’ a sentiment that rings true to me. How often we just find ourselves reciting platitudes in response to grief?
I made 21 embroideries all with their own distinctive darns and patches to reflect the written proverb, they took quite a time to get onto the wall…..I had to search many different sources to find enough texts to make a wall full – but one lovely Greek proverb was given to me by Basil Kardasis and this was the last piece I embroidered – an a very large-scale cotton handkerchief I had to purchase new – the rest were all on vintage linen.
Which brings me neatly to the last exhibitor, Basil Kardasis, his exhibit is called ‘The Buttonhole’, and he collected from his family and friends ( we all had to contribute) ” treasured, revered materials…that may represent them ” and also a button; then , with the help of his sister Ella, spent may months button-holing all the pieces together so that they made a “protective cloak” for his son.
Many different materials and articles appear in the cloak, which has a very colourful interior as well, the range of fabrics perfectly reflect his wide-ranging experiencing as a designer and educator world-wide, students and colleagues and friends from practically every aspect of his life gave him wonderful and rare pieces of cloth for this coat, my favourite is a piece of lasered leather in a lace pattern – now this I could really get working on – it only I had much more of it…..
Looking at the image now of this lasered work I am reminded of the joint piece of work that had to be abandoned for inclusion in this exhibition, due to personal reasons by my making partner Hanne Rysgaard. We were making a porcelain hanging from impressed lace fragments but sadly this was shelved until we can both find the space in our very busy lives to get together again and make it. Now I am thinking that these 2 disparate materials may somehow work together…leather and porcelain – Basil where did that lasered skin come from and is there any more?
I have been working with Hanne Rysgaard sampling new work for an exhibition of the Stitch and Think research group, called Mending at the Museum which starts in November this year and runs for 6 months at Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery. Hanne does not like mended things, in fact she is fundamentally opposed to the idea of mending or using anything cracked or broken BUT she does like transformation – well as a ceramicist she would wouldn’t she ? transformation by fire is fundamental to her practice.
We have been trying to get together to work since our visit to the Lost in Lace exhibition in Birmingham early this year, where we determined to develop some porcelain lace work – possibly a curtain. The idea is that Hanne will transform my tattered bits of lace into porcelain and I will stitch or embroider the patches together to make fabric.
So Hanne prepared some sheets of paper porcelain for us to work on and we set to work rolling several types of lace and drawn thread work into the surface of the clay.
She was much the stronger roller – my first attempts were really puny. We had placed the larger sheets of lace under the clay as we thought we may want the resulting ‘fabric’ to be seen from both sides. I prefer the stricter linear drawn thread work impressions but Hanne just loved the rich and romantic guipures..
We used all types of patterns to give ourselves a good range to sample with. We needed to ascertain how big the individual pieces could be as this would give an indication of the size of finished piece…I had envisaged a huge floor to ceiling drop of larger sheets of porcelain but Hanne explained that making hand -sized pieces of porcelain was more viable; first the pieces need to be fired without cracking and then be strong enough to be handled later when being stitched together+all my scraps of vintage lace are damaged and small sized, but how else could I have afforded to collect such lovely pieces?
As you can see the first impression in the damp clay is stunning, so crisp and clear, we were whooping with delight at the fine detail, every stitch can be seen and this is machine made lace. We now had to cut the lace into shapes and I was amused to see Hanne pick up a pair of scissors to cut it; but first I handed her an old fashioned tailor’s tracing wheel to impress regular holes in the surface where I have to stitch. We placed the holes anywhere we thought useful – we will have to regulate these more carefully on the finished work.
Now to the kiln…Hanne packed it….
and 2 days later I returned to collect the finished motifs…
The pieces are slightly smaller but the holes are fine for stitching, the quality of the unglazed porcelain is so like a starchy linen fabric that the transformation is uncanny – they look like material but are brittle and now all uniformly white….ethereal.
and like similar transformations in vitreous enamel, plastic lace often makes crisps and clear impressions.
So now it is over to me to develop the new fabric, I start by placing the different pieces in formal patterns – I originally intended to use wire to stitch between the gaps using decorative lace like stitches to fill in any spaces….now I realised this was not going to be at all easy, even at this moderate scale. The wire won’t behave well – it needs careful and regular stitches to develop the rhythm required to give embroidery its formal beauty.
I started to draw between the pieces to try to find decorative stitches that could be used between the motifs,
but it became obvious that I will need to use a backing fabric and applique the motifs onto it, this will act as some protection but it has to take the weight of the porcelain, so now I am researching silk organzas, cotton organdies and maybe netting…as we are both designers and therefor pragmatists we are liking the transparent quality of the organza first sampled – and applying lace motifs on a pre-made net ground is used as a lace making technique.
I have a long way to go before this fabric begins to do justice to the quality of the impressed porcelain motifs…..
This is a first for me and I want to share it with you – I am, from today, exhibiting in America. I have 2 pieces of work in an exhibition called Mending = Art showing at the Gershman Gallery in Philadelphia and this evening I should be at the private view, but instead I have just returned from Heart Space Studios having run a birthday party, making beaded brooches with ten 9 years olds – and very enjoyable it was too. But how I would love to be seeing my work in an international exhibition at such an amazing event as the Philadelphia biennial textile art festival FiberPhiladelphia 2012.
The call out came early last year, from American textile artist( she of the wonderful brilliant red website) Diane Savona, for textiles made around the theme of Mending…this must have been the universe answering my call. I had several things on offer, as looking at the ‘ Ongoing Work” section of this blog will show you. But unusually she also asked me to send her an image of the inspirational early woodcut that has inspired at least 10 years of textile and enamel work, and mending was the subject of my first post in this blog.
and above is the other work that Diane chose to represent my mending embroideries, a real heart-felt cry now that I look back on it, I can remember every stab that contributed to this image but then yoga certainly reaches the parts the needle can’t.
So this is the shorted post I have ever written, but now I am off to celebrate with a glass of something chilled and pink and fizzy……
OK so it’s the day after the night before day and here are the pictures from the exhibition sent today from Diane Savona.
and very glad to see a video work from one of my colleagues Amy Houghton,
then there is my work hung together with Frau Minne keeping count in the middle of it all….
something tells me that that red and white is the new black, white and grey of studio art textiles…..
and yet again…..well mending seems to = blood red for a whole lot of women.
Erin Endicott in front of her work……ooooh!!!!!!
The most hits my blog has ever received in its entire life span of 18 months, was shortly after the Commemorative Crazy post, and many people contacted me saying how much they liked the content and story. So I was delighted when Jane called in to Heart Space Studios to show me the finished cushions that she had made in time for Christmas for her 2 children.
They were so beautifully made, using fabrics from her late husband’s sports jackets and ties, and Jane had been able to use the small piece of tartan fabric, that was her husband’s clan tartan as the backings to the cushions. (did I say that I have a tartan as well – the Hay tartan – all brilliant red and greens overlaid with a very noisy white check - nowhere near as tasteful as this one)
She had embroidered “DAD” on one, at her daughter’s request, it is in whipped running stitch, very subtle and almost merges with the tweed background.
And amongst some other memorabilia, Jane found her husband’s ‘pips’, these are badges usually in the shape of a star or a crown and worn by army officers on the epaulettes of their uniforms. These particular ‘pips’ are actually stitched onto fabric in gilded thread so two of them they were put to good use at the seam joins of the crazy stitches. Usually a star is stitched at such points by the embroiderers of the traditional crazy patchworks.
Jane has enough fabric to make another cushion for herself and even some smaller gifts for other members of the family…. and then she may decide to design and make the large throw from the remaining tweeds. I will keep a record of this progress.
I am not a big fan of Christmas, I prefer New Year with its promise of a fresh start and better times ahead…but here at Heart Space Studios everyone expects us to do a Christmas window at least. But with a refurbished shop to launch, the powers behind my shaky throne decided to put out all the flags – well bunting to be precise – and go for it….hot mulled wine, mince pies and a late night opening party. Added to this was an idea for an exhibition of bunting.
But, first things first – find the inspirational object – I always do this when starting something new, search for an image or a piece of fabric – anything that gives me lots of ideas or gives a very strong atmosphere…Sophie found it on Facebook in the guise of a head – an animal’s head, 3 animals in fact, by artist Jenni Joule, who brought wonderful things in to a meeting about a month ago – we were away, a spooky-wooky frozen forest
Meanwhile all the tutors set about producing bunting…Debbie Bird held a class on making it and so Heart Space admin, ( Sophie Bristol and I) turned up to find out how to do it.I made several attempts at heart shaped bunting in very tasteful fabrics…they were soon abandoned. What I needed was a contrast to the white spooky windows..I realised I was trying to reconcile 2 different atmospheres in one space – so the only way to go is complete contrast, the more extreme the better. We would have one red window and one white. So I found an old and very crude Russian shawl in my stash, I hand painted the mustard coloured roses with some pink and purple dyes and then cut it up; next I went for glitz – why stop now? then I added tartan, I do love tartan and paisley – I couldn’t bring myself to cut up any of my old woven paisley samples – far too precious, but I had at last found a use for this old neglected shawl.
I didn’t bag-out the pieces but just cut them and left them, as they are cut diagonally to the straight grain they shouldn’t fray too much, and hey it’s only bunting…..I set about making 5 lines to sell.
But then we had to start stocking the shop. The first thing was to get one area working properly to set the tone for the whole place. An old and true saying is ” you can’t sell from an empty shop”; so we piled it all in, colour co-ordinated of course.
Teresa Searle’s felted and embroidered bags, mittens and cases look wonderfully colourful, setting the standard for the rest of the shop, my hand embroidered felt letters look strong and clash nicely with the work beneath.
And the pile of scarves hand knitted by Sarah Thorpe go happily with Janet Clarke’s beautiful soft coloured felts. For real winter warmth, the knitted and felted Hot Water Bottle Covers and neck warmers made by Steph Wooster all mingle together.
The shop starts to look like it is in business.
But what about those windows? The winter white one came together very quickly, it is now stocked with cream and white woollen goods for sale, with the 3 headed animal standing sentinel.
But the other window was more of a problem, the costumes that had been brought didn’t fit our stands and there weren’t enough animal masks to make an impression, beautiful though the horned mask is, by Jenni Joule.
I needed more red stuff to link with the bunting on the wall behind…so I asked Lisa Keating who was running a corset making workshop for us, if she had anything suitable to contrast with the white and silver and she lent us this wonderful glitzy black and gold number – now that’s what I call a contrast.
Then I took every red or silvered glass heart from home and hung them in the window – my house now looks bare – but the Christmas windows are paramount.
Eventually everything was finished and looked totally intentional; always the way when a design works out well, you can’t imagine that you ever had any other ideas than the finished piece.
It is the 11th of the 11th 2011 and I am in commemorative spirit; yesterday at Heart Space Studios we made the beginnings of a series of commemorative crazy patchwork pieces. After the last Crazy Patchwork workshop one of the participants Jane, asked me if I could help her make some more patchworks using the beautiful tweed jackets that had belonged to her husband, she could not bring herself to throw them away after his death, but now saw a way that she might be able to use them to make gifts for their children.
I was very pleased to be asked to conduct a one-to one session with her to help cut into the jackets and organise the patchworks. I knew it would be really difficult so I volunteered to cut into them for her , suggesting that she make a start by unpicking and when she arrived she had carefully unpicked and pressed them all; 3 beautiful tweeds in soft shades of beige, grey and brown and she also brought some club and military ties that she had been unable to part with, and a piece of her husband’s Scottish clan tartan.
This is what I find so compelling about many old and used fabrics, the story behind each piece; “Make, Do and Mend” is not such a simple statement when applied to projects like this. The first thing to do was to cut the cloths to make a sample piece of patchwork. I wasn’t taking any chances with such valuable fabrics.
The little sample would tell us what size patches would work best, which fabrics worked well together and what the ratio of ties to tweeds was best. The clan tartan turned out to be the right size to make backings for 3 cushions….so only the ties and tweeds to be organised
But the most important thing of all for the success of the project was selecting the colours of the embroidery yarns, they had to be chosen and tested. I had brought several types of woolen yarns for Jane to sample, the usual tapestry 4 ply and some crewel wools that can be used singly or in multiples, very useful for developing colour combinations. Looking at the colours embedded in the tweeds it was a real pleasure to try to match them ..and at first the pale turquoise crewel yarn seemed the best choice
But the colour that really delighted and just kept calling to her, was a zingy hot pink – not what you would imagine for this soft and hazy set of fabrics, but it demanded to be used, Jane kept laughing every time she picked it up.
We also discussed putting a message or an initial onto the piece, and I explained how in the Crazy tradition there are lots of written messages..so she is writing her husband’s initials on a corner piece of each cushion, but has just emailed me to say that her daughter wants her to just write ‘Dad’ on hers.
The use of the crewel yarns in the different tied herringbone stitches makes it easy to combine colours to soften and blend the brightest yarns.
Now Jane had to get brave and cut up enough to make a whole cushion square to take home with her – we distributed the tie fabrics between the tweeds…quite a bit of work ahead …
the last task before she left the studios was to machine stitch everything into place ready for the decorative stitches that are the true embroiderer’s delight in making Crazies.
During the workshop Jane explained that she had taken tailoring lessons to make her husband a coat from some tweed he had bought from Scotland, she now wondered what she should do with it – my suggestion is to combine the left over tweeds from the jackets and use them to make a huge throw or blanket using a strippy quilt design….so she is now happy that she does not have to throw it out but most importantly, when I wrote to ask her permission to use her ‘story’ she replied that she now felt that the jackets had “still got a life”. That is why I really appreciate using old and loved textiles to remake and recycle.
Recently I was advised to watch Kirsty Allsop’s TV programme, Hand Made Britain, in order to immediately offer a special class in whatever she had made that week in textiles; a new idea for attracting new students toHeart Space Studios. So this week I did just that – watched the programme that is all about making things for competition at County Shows, which I was delighted by having spent many happy days in marquees up and down the country gazing in amazement at the things that people produce for competition.
The local Portishead flower and produce show, even inspired an entire body of hand embroidered work, The Flora Embroideries.
I watched with growing fascination as Kirsty, aided by textile designer Claire Coles, made a pretty paper collage that was then machine stitched to produce a greetings card with a bird and flower design. She was obviously enjoying every minute of it .
OK, I thought – I can do that – and then I will make another version of the idea adding textiles to the papers to run as a short workshop, easy – peasy……
That’s what I thought until I started to make my sample. Looking in my plan chest I found some old presentation boards from my book, Crazy Patchwork, lots of lovely images and scraps of fabrics all ready to be re-cycled into new and glamorous greetings cards.
It was when I was trying to make a loose and airy design from my tiny scraps of fabrics and old flower pictures that it all seemed to go a bit wonky - but not wonky in the right way or enough to be quirky - which was the look I was aiming at. I eventually found that working on a coloured background was easier than all that white space glaring out between the collage ( I had been so busy writing my ideas down when watching the TV that I really hadn’t paid that much attention to the actual nitty-gritty of the proceedings) now I was paying the price of over confidence.
I am not a great machine stitcher so even with the embroidery foot in place, the card was quite difficult to stitch in a fluid line; using metallic thread didn’t help either but I often use metallic thread as a neutral tone for busy designs, plus the scale was very small for my level of skill.
For once I actually think that I preferred the back of the card as even though the stitching is really bad – it is a quirky drawing – I may work with this idea a bit more in future. I was beginning to admire Kirsty’s effort more by the minute. It took me about 2 hours to get to this stage, but it did look a bit sad - beads will cover a multitude of sins – like the holes in the middle of the flowers….
Eventually I got something I thought I could develop - I really liked the addition of lace to the paper and had to resist use all fabric instead and I like the odd combination of different materials so the next day quickly made another card to photograph for the Heart Space website to advertise the class. From these 2 samples I now need to develop a system to enable people to make their own versions simply and easily. So now I am off to source and organise papers, pictures, fabrics, glues, beads, threads and cards so that the students who come here can have a relaxed and enjoyable time creating something new from something old.
Back to Kirsty and the programme; she entered the card into an embroidery/hand craft competition at a show in Wales but won no prize with it – fair enough, it was her first attempt. What did win was a traditional embroidery made into a card, it was very precisely stitched – in fact the prizewinner carried off the ‘best in show’ award for what looked like a large – scale cross stitched alphabet; I suspect it was made from a commercial kit or someone else’s design.
For this reason, I generally find the craft displayed at most county shows dispiriting (unlike the produce which I love) all that seems to be rewarded is careful craftsmanship, but I suppose that is what the shows were originatedto promote. But I prefer to see things that people have had tried to fashion for themselves - some personal quirky things made up out of what is available which is why I always prefer seeing the children’s competitions that are often much freer in spirit, and originality is always rewarded, now what does that tell us?
This wonderful pinned heart, so bright and fresh but curiously authentic was made yesterday during a workshop at Heart Space Studios. The maker, Libby, had received the original some 25 years ago from her grandmother, to whom it had been given as a token of love by her husband, a soldier, probably during the first world war.
When she first received the heart, Libby tried to restore it…..with disastrous consequences; the whole thing disintegrated because the silk that the heart had been made in had rotted. She thoughtfully put all the pieces in a small box, with a scribbled note of the design – and yesterday it arrived to be mended. The first thing to do was to see what we had got and to clean it as best we could….
The pins were steel with several rusted, but we decided we wanted to use as much as possible of the original materials and also bright stainless steel pins would have detracted from the overall quality of the reconstruction.
I then had to draft a pattern to fit the purple velvet cross, luckily one of my old pinned hearts was the perfect size so I used this.
Libby decided that she wanted to use strong colours that complemented the original velvets, but disliking yellow she chose some of my own hand dyed green silk velvet to replace the shoulder appliques.
Next came the heart reconstruction, this time stitching by machine, it is stronger and quicker…..
leaving lots more time for time for the really fascinating business of pinning the beaded design back into its original position.
The washed velvet was still a bit dull and faded but little is seen when all the rest of the beads and the ribbon are in place.
I was pleased to see that the original woven silk regimental ribbon was still very bright after I had carefully washed it in several rinses of warm water. These ribbons with badges and coats of arms feature in many of the hearts I have collected, but none are as bright as this.
Libby re-wrote the message “FOND LOVE” onto paper and the pricked through it with a pin straight onto the silk. We had found some evidence of sequins in the remnants and they are useful to hide the raw edges of the applied fabrics; in my stash of beads I found some dull gold metal ones salvaged from a 1920′s dress, the same period as the original heart.
By the end of the day the heart was almost complete, except that there were a lot of the original beads left over…Libby said that she would keep pinning them into patterns as more is more in this type of thing. So that evening she brought back the finished heart which you can see at the head of this post.
The best thing of all though was how the remaking of this family heirloom originally made by Libby’s hardly remembered grandfather, resulted in her reflecting on her family and its history, the ties to the present formed by using the remnants of a family wedding dress; she was moved by the idea of actually touching the same beads and placing them in the same patterns as her grandfather had – I have seldom worked with such an enthralled and ultimately contented and student.