Janet Haigh : Her Work

Textiles: ideas, drawing, design, stitching….

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Valentine Hearts


Stitched Paper Hearts by Susie Bancroft

The small but delightful exhibition that the Heart Space Studios staff made in the mixed media session are all framed and ready to go on the wall ….


more stitched paper hearts by Susie Bancroft

the first to arrive through the post was a box of stitched printed paper hearts from Susie Bancroft – so I set about mounting rows of  them on Japanese hand-made paper or crumpled tissue papers ready for framing


row of large printed paper hearts – Susie Bancroft

the cotton threads just going every which way – I think they look like tiny heart shaped kites…….-


minute beaded black lace heart in tin frame- Jane-Marie Mahy

the tiny hearts are somehow the most appealing, they came in all manner of materials and techniques….


hand knitted and beaded heart by Amanda Jones

I must admit that I did take a few liberties with the mounts before framing… the more impact we can give them the better chance to sell them – and this is a selling exhibition


Larger black beaded lace heart by Jane-Marie Mahy

Jane- Marie Mahy Heart Space’s display guru brought hers in already perfectly framed, as did Debbie Bird – her teeny tiny paper printed scraps look very vintage when heavily framed in black


printed scrap paper applique by Debby Bird

but for something completely different we have knitted copper wires to join paper and fabrics…with a flights of swallows scattered above a nebulous clear pill-case heart


flights of swallows by Steph Wooster

true to her discipline as a designer, Steph sent in 3 variations on her birds and hearts theme,


Steph’s second bird and heart picture

the third piece is an intricately cut applique of shredded bank notes, paper and woolen blanket stitched and knitted with copper wire…now that’s what I call mixed media.


Steph’s totally mixed media heart

the beaded paper heart by Libby Butler is at last padded and applied to a dark blue fabric ground.


padded beaded paper heart by Libby Butler

and right at the last minute this evening a lovely folksy map heart came form Kirsten Hill-Nixon…really worth the wait.


crushed paper and cut maps hand stitched applique by Kirsten Hill-Nixon

and so for the 14th February 14 heart pictures.




Bling Slings


my vintage rose bouquet printed headscarf

To celebrate my return to posting my blogs I am showing a small selection of decorative arm slings – yes dear readers I have a broken wrist, my right wrist; so there has been no writing, stitching and perhaps worst of all no drawing/doodling/scribbling for more than a month now. But I determined to make something visually interesting for HER WORK from the whole unhappy event as soon as I could manage to use my Mac beyond typing/tapping with my left hand

pansy sling

my old favourite pansy scarf

Sensing a dressing -up opportunity I got rid of the NHS white cotton sling as soon as I could – like the next day, and instructed my husband, Steve, to take pictures each morning of mt slings. The commercial alternatives for the longer term support were in  dreary colours  – as if you wanted to hide the injured limb – I want everyone to see clearly my affliction and Keep Clear! So I determined to find alternatives from my stash of both vintage and modern scarves, let’s face it any excuse to dress up !

woven silk sling

my shot silk woven scarf with my co-ordinated enamel heart brooch and new pink cast

in fact I welcomed the opportunity to wear these old scarves, using them as slings affords much more are pattern to seen, tied around the neck only a small area is glimpsed if you have long hair.

woven striped sling

a really wide and draped stole sling

the really wide slings hide my new bright pink cast when it doesn’t tone with the clothes.

vintage 1950's scarf sling.

vintage 1950’s printed scarf sling

I am especially pleased to be able to wear the original art deco head square, very dynamic and such unusual colours and pattern clash.

art deco silk scarf

my art deco scarf looks so modern worn like this

and last but not least my actual ‘bling sling’ which is a length of vintage black beaded net, that I had previously stitched to a length of velvet ribbon in order to wear as a belt.  I went  to a party, the only party of the season that I had managed to attend; and I apologise for this bleary image but this was taken after the party had finished and we were both a bit tired and emotional,

black beaded bling sling

the original bling sling with my vintage beaded cardigan


Crazy Barcelona


crazy mosaic by Antoni Gaudi at Parc Guell, Barcelona

Crazy Barcelona – crazy patchworks everywhere, but not in fabric – in ceramic, stone and marble. OK then, crazy mosaics, but whatever you call them there is no better place to appreciate them than at Parc Geull, designed and built by Antoni Gaudi in the first 14 years of the 19th century. I have seen images of these mosaics before but never appreciated the size and the sheer exuberance of the patterns.


undulating crazy seating on the terrace


view of the entrance to Parc Geull from the crazy mosaic seating

I was delighted to see broken plates, tiles, and rounded roof ridge tiles put together in a myriad of ways, some where just pretty with sections with large flowers that had been broken but kept intact when cemented together and then surrounded by all shades of one background colour. Here is inspiration indeed, but immediately I thought of the Crazy Embroidery classes that I teach at Heart Space Studios, lots of new ideas to create crazy samplers.


broken flowered ceramic tiles  and plates with narrow borders

I started to see how the sustained patterning of the whole site didn’t just merge into one long visual porridge; there were sections of patterns with plain areas between them and the way that the patterns started to drift into plain areas was really brilliantly handled…


chintz patterns give way to a plain white area.

Sometimes the crazy patches were confined to simple shapes and surrounded by a sea of broken ceramics in a wide range of whites, the use of white ceramics when fired and glazed to produce many different variations is a major feature in this garden.


circle of crazy within white surround


diamond of crazy with mixed white surround


many different crazy whites shapes make for gentle and cool seating surfaces

there were other more fluid shapes contained by the white ground….


amorphous paisley shapes


commas placed in a line around the base of a column

I also really enjoyed seeing patterns within patterns,


patterns within patterns

I really like these wonky squares set in a sea of crazy patterns; the makers must have had such a good time doing this work. Transitions from patterns to solid colours was just masterful in places


this transition from rich colour to single coloured patterns is masterful

in fact the single coloured sections were simply beautiful – here is a range of crazy blue patterns


broken plates in a sea of blue


typical Spanish hand painted blue tiles


refined diamond designs on blue and white striped ground

while most of the ceramic patterns are traditional in flavour there were also some more abstract patterning to be found,


abstract patterns must have looked strange in the early 1900’s

but this whole set of designs is made from re-cycled materials, apart from the abundance of beautiful old and broken patterned tiles from the Spanish ceramic factories, I was happy to see this poorly fired plate used to good effect.


poorly fired glazed plate has been put to good use.

After an hour of my visit I started to see evidence of Crazy everywhere..


the sandy ground in the park is impressed with crazy patterns

looking down at the sandy pathways I saw crazy patterns impressed by the soles of many different shoes, and once out of the park, everywhere I looked was Crazy Heaven.


the Crazy cafe floor


and the Crazy marbled walls

So now I have decided to try to develop some of these ideas into new Crazy Patchwork designs for cushion cover designs to show Hugh Ehrman at Ehrman Tapestry company for their future collections.

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Knitwear – but not as you know it!


feather collar by Stephanie Wooster

We have a wonderful new exhibition at Heart Space Studios. It is a collection by Stephanie Wooster  ( who conducts unusual knit workshops with us) developed from her MA studies and it concerns itself with wrapping, tying and generally caressing the upper body. the names of the different pieces tell how they are perceived by the maker – Swaddle, Swathe, Shawl, Sheath, Mantle, Shroud. The work is embroidered, felted, machine knitted, plaited and patch-worked together, with feathers, braids and calico. It sets a calm but slightly surreal feeling to our small gallery space.


Steph starts to set up her exhibition

The first things brought in were  a series of clear plastic torsos which were then dressed in simple calico shifts before being hung on the wall.


The calico shifts or shrouds?

then Steph started to dress them up; first the dramatic feathered collar was placed to set the atmosphere….


scarves and stoles begin to be layered

Then out came feathered scarves, stoles and wraps, hand knitted and coiled hanks of wool, even felted knitting with feathers as the motif….


felted feather design on machine knitted wrap.

the large wraps, shawls or scarves, call them what you will – are made from several different textiles and hand stitched or even embroidered together often using a red knitted braid as a backing, this causes interesting lines to be drawn around the body when draped.


the feathered scarf with plaited woolen collar

the row of 4 pieces are really powerful and entice people to study them up close and personal…viewers are not quite sure what they are seeing, are these felted woven blankets, some unusual woolen ticking or  simple striped knitting?


row of 4 pieces awaiting the extra exhibits.

When this group were placed Steph brought out a whole range of very finely machine knitted lengths in different colours and combinations, these can to worn any which way – I like them draped around the neck as an elegant sort of knitted necklace.


wall of fine knitted necklaces in brilliant colours and pattern combinations.

We like to have exhibitions of selling stuff at Heart Space, and most of these pieces are for sale, but Steph also brought a selection of beautifully refined knitted ribbons, that are carefully joined at the back so that they always behave well when draped! This is  what I like to have for sale in the studios, exciting but wearable pieces with an edge, not fashion but style!

Also seen in far right of the picture is another knitted and embroidered piece ” I am what I am”


wall mounted scarf with embroidery ” I am what I am..”

this was made for another exhibition and shown earlier in the year , Mending at the Museum, it was really good to see it again with these earlier pieces and interesting to see how new work develops out of completely different stimuli. Steph has also made a series of mixed media hot water bottle covers, developed from her samples at the Heart Space Mixed Media workshop earlier in the year, with more of her hand warmers( it is Autumn after all) and these have specially colour co-ordinated to the exhibition.


colour-co-ordinated hand warmers – heat them first in the microwave!

This is what intrigues me about many successful textile makers and designers, they can develop many different types of work, from applied art pieces for museum exhibitions, to practical hand crafted things for everyday use. This is the way many of us manage to make our living while finding time and energy to research and develop our own personal work. In fact without the research and development of private passions many new and commercial designs would never see the light of day.


work book showing stages of making as well as research inspiration for the collection.

Looking through this book lets us see how Steph links all sorts of unusual images and ideas and then literally knits them together to make new and exciting wearable textiles.



Ribbon Felted Flowers


my totally moth eaten cashmere cardigan – but with darning still intact!

This is a sad story with a happy ending. My favourite cardigan that was included in my first ever post, Make Do and Mend, where I proudly showed the careful darning that I wore with pride, sadly,  got lost. When I eventually found it pushed to the bottom of my laundry basket (don’t ask) it was totally ruined even beyond my restorative darning powers.
I decided to felt it by boiling it twice. The colours are so vibrant that I just had to try to find a use for it and I found the perfect solution when designing with some lovely felted woolen blanket flowers that Kirsten Hill-Nixon had brought along as a new idea for a class at Heart Space Studios.


the reds and pink  selection- I really like the tartan rose.


the neutral colour selection

 Kirsten will make the flowers in the morning class and I will develop the design and make session with them in the afternoon…but first I had to design something with what she had brought me, and she had brought me a whole selection of disparate flower heads – just as I has asked her to.

I made 2 colour sets of flowers. the neutrals were really soft and wooly, very tactile and I thought first to just make a heart out of them – well I would wouldn’t I? and in fact this is a really nice idea I may go back to…..


sewing on some beaded and buttoned centres

But then I imagined them as adorning a woolly winter jumper or cardigan, they aren’t heavy but they are bulky and a brooch seemed better than stitching them to a piece of clothing. But I had been given so many flowers that I soon decided on a necklace….


Kirsten’s red flowers arranged as necklace

I set to work but when stitching them together without a backing fabric, soon realized that I needed just a few more roses….then I remembered my old ruined cardigan. I cut the sleeves into ribbons of different coloured stripes and stared to stitch the rose buds by simply rolling and folding the strips to suggest overlapping rose petals.


cut strips of sleeve being curled to start roses


stitching the rolled rose securely with matching fine wool thread

I had used this system many times as it is so easy – you just need to stitch as you go and control the folded edge,  I found the way to do it in a vintage dressmaking manual from the 1930’s; the natural affinity to roll for cut knitting really helps the rose petal effect. I was starting to see a new life for all my old felted woolens.


the finished necklace –

I inserted my knitted roses between Kirsten’s more substantial felt blanket ones, ( I really like her use of the blanket stitched edge for a fat rolled rose). She had provided leaves as well so they helped make the reds even stronger. Then I simply stitched 2 suede strips for ties onto the last roses and there it is – now for the neutral necklace.


the neutral necklace made of different blankets and added wooden beads.

this time I added wooden beads by threading them onto the leather strips to make a more decorative finish. Kirsten had filled some of the centres of the flowers with soft glowing beads so I added some wooden ones as well, the soft tones and texture of the wood feels just right for this sort of fabric.


finished felted blanket necklace

I was really getting into my stride, and now I just want to make more of these simple flowers pieces and I didn’t use the lively red tartan rose – so now I need to pluck up courage to felt my  tartans and paisley scraps to use with my old washed out jumpers……


Crazy Mixed-Up Samplers

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAstrip sampler of tweed, embroidery, nuno felt copper and paper- Kirsten Hill-Nixon

I am interested in developing a set of workshop using mixed media at Heart Space, think leathers, metals, ceramics, fabrics, glass and wood….. so I thought I could try the idea out on the people who work with us, all expert in their own field and up for a challenge.

And as Crazy Patchwork samplers have been such a success at Heart Space Studios that I decided to run an Away Day for the tutors and staff to enjoy time making together. I asked everyone who could attend, to bring their own favourite materials and their tools. Each person would make either a strip sampler  or a crazy square sampler by using decorative embroidery stitches to join the materials together.


tutor’s own stash of hand made wool felt


the administrator’s collection of everything vintage

Most people brought their own stuff to share between the group, I am always impressed by the generosity of makers in workshops like this. The group dynamic is encouraged so that people really want to help one another. What is also an added bonus is finding a shared love of a particular technique or material, even makers of different ages and styles come together when they find they both appreciate a particular aspect of their chosen discipline.

I also brought a large selection of materials from my home-based studios, all kinds of things: woven metal fabrics, stencilled enamels on copper, leathers, plastic lace, metallic damasks and other fabrics –  and also the tools to drill stitch and manipulate them.

one of the best things about attending any materials based  workshop is the abundance of new and unusual stuff that is introduced by people who are experienced in working with it – this can save days of researching.


my stash of copper discs, enamelled triangles and metallic braids


copper and aluminium wires for working with in any way possible.

I particularly like metallic leathers and fabrics, so I brought lots of these in for everyone to sample, as well as scraps of thin copper, some patterned with vitreous enamel. such a shame I had no time to experiment with the other tutors’ materials for this research session.


metal meshes and pressed copper foil, enamel applique and metallic leathers.

The task for the morning was to choose 3 different materials and join them together using their own preferred techniques or I would  teach anyone various embroidery stitches and techniques. As the group comprised experts in knitting, stitching, crochet, felting, print as well as display, administration and even a drama student (a daughter on a flying visit), it proved to be a mixed bag of talents, attitudes and experiences. Perfect for generating new ideas and enthusiasms


colour co-ordinated mother and daughter

Everyone set to work choosing their 3 materials and laying them out, the strip sampler proved to be the most popular as it is the easiest to co-ordinate; odd crazy  shapes take a lot longer to set up.For the task of joining two of the disparate materials together – colour, surface texture, weight of each material has to be considered as well as the selecting the technique.


traditional crazy shapes


strip sampler of cotton, leather and paper

I showed everyone how to make regular holes in various surfaces, involving textile techniques – a tracing wheel, an old darning needle and a hammer! It works for me every time…..and off they went with mixed but interesting results.


marking out where to make the stitching holes on copper.

At first everyone just chose a colour co-ordinated or used an unusual type of thread to work with…


metallic leather, woven braid stitched together with silky knitting ribbon, awaiting the addition of a scrap of plastic tablecloth.

only to find that when stitched it looked very different than imagined. after a relaxed start the makers’ critical faculties began to kick in!


colour co-ordinated threads and second thoughts

I noticed that the knitters worked completely differently from the stitchers; they immediately made a start by adding a linking system to one edge of a piece of material  either using  crochet or knit to form an edge ready to accept the next piece of material – this gave them much more contemplation time for what comes next – the stitchers are able to join 2 pieces together simultaneously. Why had I not appreciated this before?  However working the wire into fine leather was a fiddly affair – see below right.


knitting wool onto a copper foil strip


developing the crochet wire joining strip

Now I really must get the knitters to teach how to do this technique. When I first attempted to join metal together using my own stitching techniques I used a different system – making rows of simple cross stitches between the strips of vitreous enamelled copper pieces, so joining each at the same time. It took me some time to try the different insertion stitches. In fact it was an aversion to drilling all the holes that put me off developing this technique for a long time – but now I happily drill rows of holes for hours at a time – well not exactly ‘happily’….maybe I will get to like crochet after all.

my very first attempt at joining metal with stitched wire

When the crochet wire was worked into some copper strips it was very successful…the strong steady base really helps achieve an even texture and the structure gives the metal wire movement and elasticity which is much more compatible to work into fabric.


copper wire crochet edge to copper foil strip

now the strips of materials are starting to look like they belong together


concentrating on the task in hand- and a heart on her sleeve

I showed several people how to embroider simple insertion stitches for a lace-like join…securing the fabric to a piece of card first to steady the gap between the pieces, a traditional technique found in my old embroidery manuals for white work.


cigarette cards stitched onto paper to steady them ready for gold insertion stitching

Now the invention started to kick in…


insertion stitches and beaded braid for that vintage vibe – Sophie Bristol


a really crazy mix of materials crocheted together by Avril Best


elegant beaded joining stitches between rows of leather, wallpaper, metallic braid, crumpled copper foil, nuno felted silk and drilled copper sheet – Debbie Bird


various knitted materials for joining disparate materials;- copper, copper wire, silk and wool nuno felt, shisha mirror in wool embroidery – Clare Griffel


ripped card, copper foil, nuno felted silk and wool, tweed and hand embroidery all joined together in crazy style – Kirsten Hill-Nixon.


interesting how the plastic tablecloth now looks like a precious fabric when seen with the other expensive elements, leather, woven brass and silver fabric. Jane-Marie Mahy


all things vintage – patchwork cotton, linen thread appliqued enamelled copper circle , cards and silver fabric. Sophie Bristol


pre machine knitted lace, crocheted copper wire with copper foil and wall paper – Steph Wooster.

And to prove that sampling really does inspire people here is new work from Steph – the day after the workshop she added some of the sampled techniques and materials to her range of knitted hot-water bottle-covers.

steph hot

new knitted and embroidered samples – Steph Wooster


Vintage Darning for Mending-Nerds


it does what it says on the card.

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.


wall of beautiful embroidered gowns and shawls at Clifton Vintage Boutique

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…..


rack of fair-isle  knit wear.

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.


Fair – isle sweater

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,


damaged sleeve with selected mending wools

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.


starting to mend the  damaged area with the 2 colours of wool

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.


working the brown stitches over the existing pattern

 The back not so wonderful to look at but the extra stitching makes for reinforcement and elbows wear out first


back of darned area

The mending looks OK on the front, you can just see the different colour tones of the darned area –


finished darn showing different tones of stitched threads

When I returned the sweater, Cleo was really thrilled and was wearing another of her Fair Isle collection…


Cleo, in even more intricate Fair – Isle.