Janet Haigh : Her Work

Textiles: ideas, drawing, design, stitching….


Serendipity – Lillian Delavoryas

LD magnolias copy

Magnolias – Lillian Delavoryas

My recent meeting with Lillian Delavoryas is, in her words “serendipitous” and in mine “bizarre”. During October 2017 I was visiting various friends who were  taking part in the annual West Bristol Arts Trail . The artist, Anna Christy, recommended that I visit the studio of another friend of hers who, “used to design textiles”; she was sure that we had a lot in common. I recognised the name immediately, but it was late in the day and the studios were all closing, so with 10 minutes to spare I rushed into the signed doorway, and felt that my working life had come full circle.

Paintings hung on the bookshelves – all for sale

I walked into a sitting room full of people and hung with small jewel-like paintings of people, landscapes and flowers. lovely work  but this wasn’t what I was expecting!


wool tambour work wall hanging

but in an adjoining room I saw a large blue and mauve flowered embroidery, this looked more familiar. then delving further into the exhibition I found a piece of work I recognised, Nicotianas.


Nicotianas – Lilian Delavoryas

I had just a little time before she closed, and although I had never met her, I realised who she was, sitting on a settee amidst cushions that I also knew were her designs. Thanking her for the opportunity of seeing the exhibition, I introduced myself and explained that I often worked with Kaffe Fassett, organising the production of his patchwork quilts for publication and exhibition. Also that I had worked on the original  “Good Housekeeping Encyclopaedia of Needlecraft, first published in 1979 by Ebury Press and was now delighted to see some of her original work.GHE

2 days later, she emailed me asking that I visit her with the idea of helping to find a home for her collection of textile based books and various pieces of her old work , some half-finished canvases, needle work samples and painted design drawings. She thought it could all go to a school as an aid to design education!

Lillian Delavoryas  and Kaffe Fassett and were leading textile designers in the late 1970’s, when I first left college and became a freelance designer and illustrator in the Fashion industry. Influenced, no doubt, by their work I taught myself to hand embroider onto canvas as a way of the easing the frustration of my hectic working life. But my early works were tiny, so when I saw the scale of these pieces I was deeply impressed. Kaffe and Lillian knew one another when they both lived in America and  he is responsible for bringing her to the UK, in order for her work to be recognised here.

Good Housekeeping page Lillian and Kaffe

page of Kaffe Fassett’s and Lillian Delavorayas’ work Good Housekeeping encyclopedia of Needle Work

GH pages Lillian and me

Good Housekeeping pages with my tiny work blown out of proportion next to Lillian’s

For the past 3 years I have been working directly with Kaffe Fassett, organising the making of his patchwork quilt designs as well as other stitching projects. I was recommended to him by Susan Berry, the publishing consultant of  his major series of patchwork books. Susan was the first person to commission me in publishing, and I have worked with her on many projects over the intervening years. So now you see the complete circle!

Lillian Delavoryas

needlepoint hanging – vase of flowers, the corner of which can be seen on the page above

When I visited, Lillian had organised a whole lot of different books, copies of articles featuring her past textiles and the promised samples.

working samples LD

various cushion cover designs

stitched bird

sample stitched bid on large drawn canvas

Also, and this I did not expect, samples and books of fabric and wall paper designs from Designers Guild circa 1980’s , all looking very familiar to me. Lillian assured me that she had ceramics to match somewhere in her flat, and a lot more besides – if I was interested….  designer guild wp


2 wrapping papers

Designers Guild fabrics

Designers Guild fabric samples

working design painting

beautiful water-colour and pencil design drawing

Assessing what I was looking at – a part-archive of an innovative and influential designer of 20th century textiles, I suggested that she collect as much of her work as she could locate and that we try to tell her textile design ‘story’.  I thought that it would eventually become of interest either for a  museum to keep as an archive and a  work-in-progress exhibit, or to students undertaking higher degrees,  to research and catalogue it  all, enabling her to be set within the context of 20th century design.


Lillian Delavoryas October 2017

This is an ongoing story. My next contact was Hugh Ehrman of “Ehrman Tapestry” for whom Lillian, Kaffe and I have worked. Explaining to him of my serendipitous meeting he at once visited me, bringing  a folder of painted paper designs that his company had held on her behalf…but that will be covered in the next post on this saga.


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Kantha Club


Susi Bancroft stitching her suspended large Kantha piece in Heart Space Studios

Autumn is here and the new term started for Kantha Club – run by Susi Bancroft for Heart Space Studios. We all wanted to swap summer experiences and stories and show what we had been up to – or not!


Kay at the back of the Kantha sheet – the light shining though the colour was lovely, showing up the rows of stitches.

Susi had embarked on a very large piece ( I meanwhile had put my first attempt at a large piece aside). She had dyed the fabric in Turmeric and Tea to get this very subtle yellow. She finds it easier to hold the needle at the eye end to keep the cloth steady – so each stitch requires 2 hands on the needle, standing to work on such a large-scale fabric she says ” I am surrounded by beautiful colour with the light behind you, like being cocooned in colour ”


closed hand with thumb kept into palm = the narrow band


wide open hand = the wide band of stitches

Explaining how she made decisions for spacing the stitching bands by using simple hand measurements she said “I used the fact that I couldn’t see the whole cloth working so close up so the hand spans were the measurement I adopted”


hand spans for the gaps between stitching lines

to enable her to keep stitching rhythmically while standing up, she threaded several needles at a time in different colours, using each as she felt that she wanted them – relying on her instinct for the colour striations, she enjoyed  the feeling of  the fabric being “just being out of my reach’ whilst she worked.

Kay Swancutt showed us some dying samples that she had stitched , she had exhibited these recently at Nature in Art and used many natural materials to make the different patterns and colours


samples of natural dyed fabrics by Kay Swancutt


more of Kay’s experimental samples

Steph Wooster brought several examples of her earlier drawn textile work that she has now worked with a kantha stitched ground…these were  also exhibited at Nature in Art and I feel that they could lead to even more intricate background stitched patterns – I am thinking animal skin patterns, leaves, grass..


Steph Wooster’s Biro drawing of animals from the Bristol Museum, augmented with ripples of stitching

I particularly like the combination of the stark elegant drawings and the tone on tone rippled grounds.


Biro drawing of animals and kantha stitched ground – Steph Wooster

she also brought a new piece fabric that she wanted some feedback from us – it was a parachute silk sheet, very old and damaged,


choosing coloured threads to mend the fragile silk sheet

she wanted to mend it – we suggested she start with the weakest area.


carefully searching for the weakest points ot start to mend using Kantha as a technique

Meanwhile Naomi Clarke has been having fun just using Kantha technique to stitch the patterned cloth and also appliqueing it to the tie- dyed ground – as a technique this could really be developed to make lively fabrics


Naomi Clarke’s Kantha applique

I had started another project in the break – a quilt based on a painting by Alfred Stockham, an old friend and ex colleague, it is a small painting that had always called to me to be made as a patchwork…

alf quilt

oil painting by Alfred Stockham

starting in the top right hand corner I ripped some pieces of shot cottons into squares and strips and stitched them down onto a red cotton ground…the coours of the threads made for the nuance of his dragged brush marks


starting the squares of painting patchwork


completed square of kantha stitched patchwork







during the last few hectic weeks of launching my book it has been a relief to get back to simply stitching these square transitions from paint to cloth

I am interested to see how each square is in itself a small complete composition

JH5b  JH6b










I am fascinated by this work but it may take some time to get finished


the start of the first row of patches for the painting quilt.


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Best in Show – Ally Pally


Alexander Palace – the Knitting & Stitching Show entrance

And so to Ally Pally for the annual Knitting & Stitching show, attentive readers of this blog will realise that this is where Heart Space Studios headed to advertise our new book at the invitation of The Cotton Patch, the home of all things patchwork and quilting in Birmingham. For a week I worked at this amazing show – and looking at textiles for so long, I now feel well able to select my personal ‘ Best in Show’ awards to several outstanding exhibitions and commercial stands.

fish 5

Kate’s Place blackboard

In no particular order – ” Kate’s Plaice the Stitchmongers’ ” was by far the most amusing, the concept or rather – to use a literary term – “the conceit” was completely thought through, it was highly technically proficient  and the most entertaining piece of textile work that I have ever seen at this event.

fish stand

the fish stall

The installation was designed specially for the Knitting and Stitching show by Kate Jenkins, Everything on the stand was completely in keeping with the joke…from the dressed shop assistants that like all good fishmongers knew their subject inside out and wanted to share their delight and knowledge with you, to the stunning array of ‘ seafood’ on offer…


detail of the central fish counter

below are the details of the counter of fish, the use of material and the shapes and colour are perfectly chosen – you really did want to order and eat what was on offer…..









For those, like me, who prefer their fish cooked and served, rather than making the dish themselves, the fish platters definitely looked good enough to eat.

fish dinner

fish and seafood supper


tabasco and oysters















the hand written sign below, perfectly in keeping with the whole fish shop ethic, was written to deter a fellow exhibitor, an embroiderer, who pawed the little sequined morsels as they were being arranged, and was extremely rude when he was asked to stop! This is such an unusual occurance  – stall holders being rude to anyone, let alone one another that I feel it deserves reporting.

touch fish

thee sparkly lobster and the necessary notice!

Among the exhibition, chosen from recent graduates by the Embroiderer’s Guild, was this enigmatic large photographic  hand embroidered panel by Susana Borobia, part of an small body of work called ” Awaken Threads…this spoke ro me on lots of levels – it reminds me of my own work developed through a fascination with White Work techniques and the difficult transition from cloth or fibre to other materials…here is it managed elegantly and artlessly.

susan borobia

stitched photographic print by Susana Borobia





SB detail.

Detail of the stitched white work on the photograph
















Ihave to admit that I chose to ignore  the notice not to take photographs; it was early in the morning, I couldn’t find the student to ask and thought that she may prefer it to appear on this blog than me to ignore her work.  I have had this problem of no photography before …but it is a odd embargo now in the age of instant imagery and social media and who can possibly copy this ??????…that’s my excuse anyway.

robert ely

Robert G Ely, the perfect example of ‘ if you’ve got it flaunt it ‘  wearing his woven silk braces and bow tie

It is difficult to show a range of different work in such a small space as a booth in the fair – but here Robert Ely has managed to do exactly that – he shows his woven ribbon design work, such as braces and book marks  with his more art based weavings of sea and landscapes – the ribbon dimensions are shared but the colour depth and small scale pointilism is also evident in both sets of work – seen below are the 2 types of work on display


woven ribbon seascape – by Robert G Elybelow are the 2 types of woven work that Robert was exhibiting


braces, book marks and other finely woven sauciness.


















the seascapes exhibited made me think that he must live near me on the Severn Estuary, in fact these images are taken from much further down the estuary at Devon, Start Point.

god's river RE

this image I mistook for my local headland and lighthouse, Battery Point in Portishead, Somerset in fact it is form further down the estuary in Devon

what everyone goes to these fairs of is to stock up their stash! So 2 specialists who always show wonderful collection of the real things…first my old favourite importer of real Japanese fabrics, Euro Japan Links, a Japanese husband and English wife team who have been in business for years- long before their was a fashion in Japanese fabrics; their pieces of fabric neatly folded into colour co-ordinated  ranges never fail to fascinate me.

Jl 3

Japanese patchwork cottons


Japanese kimono prints

My other favourite company exhibiting and selling mainly tribal Chinese fabrics and clothing is Slow Loris. I  have written about this marvelous collection for sale before but do so again as Martin Conlon the owner is a fund of knowledge and is really enthusiastic to tell you the stories behind the garments. There always new things to see – well old new things.

slow lorris

The Slow Loris stand of ethnic Chinese /Tibetan textiles

The other exhibition I liked for its sense of space and calm and truly sumptuous colour was ‘The Other’ coloured work by Vivienne Prideaux paired with the white and neutral work of Amanda J Clayton. They made a handsome area of beautiful controlled textile hangings and panels. I thought that these these glowing panels by Vivienne Prideaux were just so desirable, the depth of texture and range of nuanced colour that this artist builds up with her various tie dyed and gilded grounds is so inspiring – makes me yearn to return to my own studio again.


small dyed panel by Vivien Prodeaux

prideaux 1

shibori dyed and gilded panel – Vivienne Prideaux



prideaux 3



















the neutral and range of white fabrics shown by Amanda J Clayton were perfect partners


Shifting sheets of fabrics installation in “The Other” exhibition.


So enough of what I like – what about my exhibit…i was given a space on The Cotton Patch stand, to show and sell my new book, Little Ribbon Patchwork and Applique – comprising designs based on Kaffe Fassett’s ribbon collection for Renaissance Ribbons

several people helped me to set up and run the stand during the week …


Setting up the stand with Cotton Patch ‘s Nik Sewell sorting out the Kaffe Fassett books and Jane- Matie Mahy organising the Heart Space section

several people helped to run the stand with me for the 5 days of the show….


Ilaria Padovani form Heart Space Studios demonstrating how to make a ribbon yo yo on the stand


Susan Berry who had the idea of the book in the first place

The Ribbon beads have proved to be most popular things we show how to make in the book, see the next post down!


Stuart from the Sewing Bee programme and Jane- Marie Mahy  with the ribbon beads – sort of says it all really!


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Making Ribbon Beads

deb's bead

One wonderful wrapped ribbon beaded bead by Debbie Cripps

And so to Bath, to launch the Heart Space Studio book, ‘Little Ribbon Patchwork and Applique’ at the American Museum, with a workshop in the morning to show how to make ribbon beads. I made these originally as a way of using up all the small ends of Jaquard ribbons made by the American company Renaissance Ribbons left over from the other projects in the book – but  also to show off the wonderful floating threads that form on the backs of the ribbons.

ribbon pack

contents of a ribbon pack given to each student for the workshop

As the workshop was conducted for just the morning before the launch, we had only 3 hours to make beads, and knowing that choosing the ribbons and felts takes a long time, decision decisions….we had made packs of small pieces of ribbon and the felt strips – enough for 12 beads, added tiny glass beads for embellishing and some gold thread for wrapping and stitching, plus a small wooden skewer on which to assemble the beads. Each student was first asked to choose a package.


wrapping the scrap of Jaquard Ribbon wrong side outermost around the felt.

start bead

wrapping the felt to make the bead base







constructing the beads is easy peasy – if you can stitch neatly, I showed how to make 3 simple beads with variations.


three beads wrapped and stitched in gold thread and different ribbons

everyone  quickly got wrapping and sewing and inventing different colours and patterns, fascinating to watch so many variations happen at the first ever class I have given in this technique.


colour co-ordinating beads with clothes

stitch bead

stitching the ribbons to the felted bead – a blur of activity!










just simple plain coloured thread cross stitch when repeated looks lovely..

naomi's bead

embroidered bead by Naomi Clarke

when all the ribbon beads are strung together with glass beads onto an elastic cord the effect is simply lovely.


Naomi's bracelet

the finished necklace by Naomi Clarke

After this came the launch party,  so we all made our way to the Gallery.

Earlier in the week, we had designed and re-packaged the basic Renaissance Ribbon packs that the gallery had in stock to sell with the books,

making USM packs

in the heart space studio making fresh sets of ribbon packs

we were really pleased with the effect….


our packs of ribbons displayed next to the new book in the gallery shop

lots of other people joined us for the launch…the heart Space tutors and friends all enjoyed a good time together

photo 3

rare picture of me with my friends – I’m the one with the ribbon bead necklace

photo 2

colourful Heart Space gals busy chatting together






All in all it was a good day, and lots of other guests have blogged it as well, most notably, Rosemary Murphy on  one of her blogs for September 2015  http://storiesinwood.blogspot.co.uk/


So that’s the Launch sorted,  what next?

new ribbonsNIK

new ribbon version of front cover embroidery for Knitting and Stitching Show

new design ally pally

new design for Cotton Patch stand F27, at Knitting & Stitching show at the Ally Pally, London










I have been invited to the Knitting and Stitching show in London by Nik Sewell the owner of The Cotton Patch to demonstrate how to make several  simple projects from the book on their stand, F27.  And to sell the books as well as lots of Renaissance Ribbons and Kaffe Fassett’s lovely shot cottons that are used throughout the book. So I am now busy developing new combinations as shown above.









Little Ribbon Patchwork and Applique: the Story behind the Book


opening the package of the advance copied of Heart Space Studios’ first book

Here it is, my very first look at the proper printed books – Heart Space Studios’  Little Ribbon Patchwork and Applique,  inspired by and featuring Kaffe Fassett’s wonderful ribbons. And this is the English edition, and it is published by Heart Space Studios…But oh the hopes and fears were in equal measure when I saw that neat white package of the first 10 advanced copies of the book…


all the angst and problems of getting the UK cover perfectly coloured have paid off

Originally the book was commissioned by the American publishers, Taunton Press ( and uses American terms and measurement – bliss – I was educated using inches and yards) and then I was offered the opportunity of producing a small UK edition and this is it. And as a consequence I have spent a large proportion of the last 9 months working on this and other publications involving Kaffe Fassett’s ribbons and fabrics……

first ribbons

the 5 original reels of ribbon I designed with

I was first asked, by Susan Berry, a book producer concentrating on textile crafts (whom I have worked with for many years) if I had any design ideas for using the beautiful Jacquard ribbons designed by of Kaffe Fassett and produced by Renaissance Ribbons. Susan advised me to see them at his exhibition at the American Museum in Britain, that took place in 2014. Then I was sent a few reels of ribbons to ‘play’ with and this is what I came up with in the first few days….

yo yos

single and double ribbon yo-yos

I have a vintage – quilt hanging on my studio door and I immediately thought that this system may translate to the ribbons; so I just cut some random lengths and using running stitch gathered them up to form these pretty circles…some worked and some didn’t  – see above; but it is a designers task to make them all work beautifully – so lots of samples later I made this, below, which I intended to grow into a huge throw or curtain.

yoyo curtain small

yo-yo hanging – sadly this failed to make it into the book – it proved too complicated to show how to stitch together simply….

Then of course I thought of crazy patchwork, and this eventually became the heart-shaped cushion on the back of the UK edition cover

hand emb copy

crazy patchwork with ribbons hand embroidered into position between the patches of shot cottons

of ribbon with the loose yo yo’s, easy -peasy as these ribbons have been designed to work together – a rich mix but what else would you expect from Kaffe Fassett?

original design - KF ribbons PW

ribbon and yo-yo strips – first ideas

I just took lots of photographs as I researched, and sent them off with rough ideas for a book of small patchworks made of ribbon and plain fabrics – but the journey from playing with ideas to a finished book has been long and let’s say  problematical –  ideas are always easy for me to come up with, making them work for inclusion into a “how to do it” book is not easy at all.

ribbon samples

new ribbon combinations

sample ribbons2

getting the new ribbons into colour combinations – here are the brights















The first thing I realised was that I needed to put some other ribbons and fabrics with these intensely patterned Jaquard ribbons. So I included the Grosgrains, or Petershams,  fine ribbed ribbons that come in many sizes and colours, Renaissance Ribbons have many different versions – and they duly sent me some and more of the new ribbons from their Kaffe Fassett range; and then I needed a ribbon that could be used to tone with the 2 brights – I chose my old favourites – tartans. Tartan ribbons are universally available now on-line, and they conform to the clan colours so I felt sure that most buyers of the book could get hold of them easily. But then which fabrics to use for the patchworks particularly the crazies?


my stash of shot cottons selected to tone with the ribbons toning ribbons

I am a fabric hoarder, like most textile designers, and I found some small pieces of ‘shot’ cottons – the warp and the weft of the fabrics are different shades or even different colours from one another so the woven fabrics are subtle colours and so more easily used with other materials; and by chance who were these shot cottons designed by? Kaffe Fassett. So that was an easy decision as well and I sent off to The Cotton Patch, (who have the best user – friendly, on-line ordering fabrics service) for more samples of these lovely fabrics. I started designing approximately 20 different samples of ribbon patchworks and appliques.

But I fist made myself some new fabrics – out of the ribbons themselves….

more ribbons Nov

designing ribbon combinations for ribbon fabric

crazy ribbon fabric

trying out different ribbon fabrics for crazy patchworks









what I needed to realise is that when you are making your own ideas for a book, it is important to be able to demonstrate by using photographs, drawings, diagrams and words how someone else, who has not got your knowledge and may even be a complete beginner, can easily follow the instructions …a lot of lovely ideas and more complicated designs got thrown out in this process.

But here are some examples of 20 samples that made it, from first ideas, through to illustrations of the steps involved and finally the 20 projects that I made with the samples. There are 4 types of patchwork and applique techniques in the boon, strips – see below, crazy, squares and yo-yo’s.

heart ribbon start

putting several ribbons together onto my work top, trying to make up a new ribbon fabric

heart mask

designing another variation of ribbon stripes for a heart shape applique













from the work table to the finished book in one bound!

ribbon illo

illustration to make the ribbon fabrics

heart bag

page from the book to show the heart shaped applique















and eventually this design turns up on the contents page as well….

open book1

content page of finished book completed with the same Ribbon Fabric

the yo yo designs quick and fun to make and design with, within the book they come single, embroidered….

hat band illo

hat band yo yo with button stitching ribbons


small yo yo patch

embroidered double yo yo square patchwork











halved and giant.

yo yos band

half yo yo bands


large yo yo

and one very very big yo yo.












in fact I could have written another book about making and decorating with yo-yos


project section of the book – with lots of different things to make

I could write for days about the book and all that it contains – but then why would anyone buy it? As I write I am waiting for the large consignment of books to arrive from the printers….it is a small edition but I have plans to advertise it, it is being launched on September 15th at the American Museum in Britain, well it is full of the American Kaffe Fassett’s ribbon designs… and for this I am giving a special bead – making workshop. ( more of which in a  later post )Then the book is being sold with special packs of ribbons and fabrics on the Cotton Patch stand at the Knitting and Stitching Show in October; but meanwhile we have a lovely display in the shop window of Heart Space Studios, devised by our style guru, Jane- Marie Mahy, please see below and I have devised a whole set of classes to complement the book – go to http://www.heartspacestudios.co.uk/workshops/ribbon-patchwork-hearts-half-day-class/. for more information. And eventually we will be selling the new book on our website – watch this space


photo 3[1] copy

Heart Space Studio window display by Jane-Marie Mahy












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Kantha Club

kantha 2

Indian modern Kantha fabric – from Liz Hewitt’s collection – wonderful patterns to start us all stitching

New to Heart Space Studios – Kantha Club; started as so many people who have been to our day classes, tutored by  Susi Bancroft,  have become fascinated by this simple method of hand quilting. We have 3 trial sessions being held once a month – each meeting is 3 hours long – enough to get re-acquainted with the technique and start something to take home to develop further.

susi kantha samples

3 different Kantha pieces from  Susi s collection demonstrating the different types of fabrics, colours and patterns afforded by this  technique

susi kantha introSusi, had brought lots of different pieces from her own work, the most interesting for me are the tiny patches of patterned fabrics all held together with simple rows of running stitches  and by allowing frayed and ripped fabrics to be caught in place, dense and rich cloths have been developed.

One of the things that I find interesting in Kantha is that each side of the cloth looks different depending on the choice of fabrics – so a simple ground will show up the stitches but a patterned ground is given another layer of pattern – the fabric below shows this very clearly.

back and front

Kantha strip showing back and front of the stitching – intriguing

Several people had brought in their own samples, some from earlier classes that they now wanted to develop….others already used the technique for their own practice and just wanted to meet up and develop and discuss the work with other people – we are hoping that the new textile clubs we are planning at Heart Space, will enable like-minded people to develop new work together….the 2 pieces below are by makers who has studied Kantha previously,  Kay Swancutt, and Liz Hewitt , 

samples 1

beautifully simple stitching by Kay Swancutt

liz 2

detail of Liz Hewitt’s densely stitched Kantha hanging











but some people although used to stitching, came along for a new experience – they brought other types of things – the different types of work were really interesting, I am looking forward to seeing how everyone develops in the coming months.

stitch run

small perfectly stitched quilted heart – but enough to get a maker to the next stage of developing new ideas and techniques

working 4

beautiful etheral embroidered and lacy fabrics combined with Kantha stitches by Nicky










After the introductions we all started to work on our own projects

kantha class1

the club gets down to real stitching, and Nicky is stitching the piece  above right

I have joined the club as well as I want to develop new work using this technique – I have played with this way of setting up rhythms across fine fabrics  and I brought in several pieces of old work to demonstrate how I wanted the work to develop – I want to make a stitched sea/sky/land scape – very large using images from my  photographs of the views of sunrise and sunsets from my windows at home.

jh research

series of my sky photographs from over the Bristol Channel

working jh1

my first attempt at putting the sky fabrics together








I am layering transparent fabrics so that many subtle colours are made to represent the sky, then held held in place by rows of running stitches. As my home view includes a stretch of the Severn Estuary and the Welsh hills, the textures and rhythms of the water, mud flats and tidal salt marsh in front of the house, could successfully be rendered using this technique, we will see…

working jh2

the layers of transparent fabrics are eventually held in place by massive tacking stitches

when everyone got to working Susi provided us with background fabrics and a wonderful array of her own threads, as well as books and a variety of other materials to help us help ourselves.

susi stash

Susi’s own stash of threads; and just visible my “kantha bible” The Techniques of Indian Embroidery by Anne Morrell

Several people started developing different motifs as samplers, using the books that Susi provided..

kay working

continuing older work using new inspiration


working 5

 working a sampler directly from the books provided










So we ended the first week with everyone having a piece of work to develop (or not!) for the next meeting…there were a few surprises in store.Some people had started new pieces and developed different techniques….

working 2

embellishing a ready printed fabric is a really good way to get started…

some really adventurous samplers have been started..

naomi wk2

Vibrant Kantha motif sampler on hand dyed base – Naomi Clarke

then there was this perfectly ordered piece of quilting on top of a traditional Indian fabric heart

2nd w 03

Heart Kantha by Jo Hurst

Others continued to develop their own work – I do like the ancient next to the modern in the image below – traditional stork embroidery scissors, hand made pin cushion and mobile phone!

2nd wk 06

continuing to develop the first colourful sampler – Jo Hurst

The motifs seem to be very popular but, like me Anne is trying some new colour background fabrics strips – really looking forward to seeing this develop

week 2 anne

strong coloured ground strips for experimental work by Anne Harrington

I hope she has more luck than I did! Eventually I want to make a large piece of work – at least 1 metre wide – so I had started off using wide strips – but found that the rhythms of the stitches started to develop a mind of their own, which I couldn’t get to grips with – so I chopped my original work into smaller segments and really let the running stitches go where they would – it is very exciting to work with…..but where do I go from here?

jh wk2

my tiny but wayward stitched sampler of sky and sea kantha

Well  – where else but back to the third Kantha club meeting to see how everyone else has developed and if they all feel that they want to carry this experimental approach forward into a functioning club, with membership, regular meetings, guest speakers, exhibitions and all the other benefits joining a club entails….watch this space.













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Things With and Without Wings

folded book sculpture

folded book of flowers and butterflies – Ilaria Padovani

The world is full of surprises. You invite a group of people to develop ideas together in a studio in order to make work for a themed exhibition over a period of 6 weeks, then they go away and come back 3 weeks later with something completely different  – Hey Ho! BUT sometimes the things they bring back are so different and you realise that they have taken a new direction because of the theme  – what could be a better result?


folded book with moths- Ilaria Padovani

So when Ilaria Padovani, who is a volunteer at Heart Space Studios, arrived the day before the deadline with 4 folded and paper sculpted books, I could only gaze in amazement (she was making a flight of patchwork butterflies last time we spoke)! I had asked everyone to write a few sentences about why they had done the work, knowing from experience that most people engage more easily and trust the words they read, rather than the images they view – I have the opposite point of view but that’s anther story!

 ‘VERBA VOLANT, SCRIPTA MANENT…Spoken words fly away, written words remain…’

  “This was my big sister’s reply to a letter I had written to her pontificating on how to raise her child. Although my intentions were good I had been arrogant and hurtful to someone I love dearly. After her phone call, I stayed up all night thinking of a way to show her how deeply sorry I was for my inconsiderate missive. I had wished the words I had written could have flown away from the page like a flutter of butterflies.

I started folding the pages of a book she used to read to me as a child. I folded a kaleidoscope of butterflies and arranged them soaring out of the pages. The making was cathartic to me and so was her forgiveness on receiving the book”.  


stitched and printed air mail letter – Steph Wooster

Writing was a theme for many of the pieces in this mixed media exhibition. Steph Wooster, was researching ideas about carrier pigeons, doves and messages of peace, so this old airmail letter has been printed and then embroidered in cross stitch with a the one thing that you can’t give up when waiting for news. Steph’s images are truly mixed media, she prints, knits and embroiders onto papers and fabrics of different densities – layering the multiple sheets of images and text together.


multi-media layered image of pigeons and laurel branches – Steph Wooster


multi-media Hope dove – Steph Wooster



 ” I have an ongoing interest in mixing media, materials and processes. Attending workshops at Heart Space has introduced me to paper-cutting and patching processes that I have explored further with my knitting, stitching, printing and sketching. Making work for Things with Wings I immediately thought of pigeons. I love pigeons, grey, common, mundane and overlooked. Their invisibility and homing instinct led me to layering maps, graphs, envelopes, knitting, photographs, feathers and tracing paper. I wanted to show the humble pigeon as cousin of the dove who brought Noah the olive branch, embodying hope for the future.”

Mary Bishop has  used her own  hand-writing to inscribe poems and rhymes that have been illustrated by embroidering into papers and fabrics. I always recite this rhyme when I see any magpies – its an old English saying. Mary has condensed and enriched her first sample idea that she was working on in the studios to make these encrusted applique and collaged pieces.


Magpie’s nest – Mary Bishop

My inspiration for this piece was my workroom which is like a magpie’s nest, full of bits that glitter and are pretty, things that cry out to be reused.  I really enjoyed reflecting it in this nest


ladybird, Ladybird – Mary Bishop

I love ladybirds, so pretty and attracted to colour, I was really inspired by my many colours of threads to build up this flower bed and the cobweb to illustrate this lovely poem.

Keeping with framed pictures, Debby Bird made some really popular (and fast selling) beetle things, some with wings but the main interest for all the viewers was the materials she used, interference foil that distorts the light rays into rainbows of different hues being the most fascinating. The free machine-stitched insect boxes illustrate her idea that many insects are as precious and beautiful as jewellry displays.


Things With Wings – Debby Bird


Flying and Crawling Jewels – Debby Bird

“Despite being overlooked and under-loved , Insects are the most successful of the worlds’ species . They are so varied and often more beautiful than the most precious gems, yet they can take off and disappear before you get a proper look.

My free-stitched specimen boxes are representing the energy of live bugs just gathered for a quick inspection before they fly home!

There are classes is this technique by Debby in the new Heart Space Studios Autumn programme of workshops

Sarah Dennis cuts paper by hand and the results are stunning, she conducts her very popular workshops, both day and evening sessions, for Heart Space Studios. The 2 large pieces of work attracted a lot of admiration, people can’t believe that they are looking at a hand made piece of such simple means. I like her simple explanation for the genesis of her things with wings…..


Deep Blue – papercut – Sarah Dennis

 I love nature; these pieces were inspired by watching a David Attenborough documentary.

Deep Blue was created after watching a scene where the ocean and the sky met together watching a bird dive from the sky and the whale swam around the surface of the ocean in a circular motion, the fishes sprung out of the waves into the sky. I wanted to capture the movement and life of that moment in paper.


Flamingoes, paper cut – Sarah Dennis

Flamingos is a response to how astounded I always am by the incredible journeys that animals make to survive. I try to exemplify the beauty of nature through the delicate detail of paper.

Some people are really good with the words that they use to describe how they developed their imagery – Sophie Bristol, our administrator – studied History of Art for her BA hons. degree at the Courtauld Institute, so I was not surprised by her eloquence when she wrote about the piece that, at first glance, looks to be just a highly decorative triptych.


gilded triptych – Sophie Bristol

 One of my greatest past-times is exploring flea markets, making chance discoveries of overlooked gems, which might not be particularly valuable, but are lovely none-the-less.

I recently stumbled across a pack of playing cards at a market, and was drawn to the gilded image of a bird on the reverse. The picture fascinated me because it was both beautiful and slightly sinister. I decided to incorporate the cards into a piece for the Wings and Things exhibition, using hand-embroidery skills, beading, and mixed-media techniques to continue to explore the tension between the beautiful and the macabre.”

Alas, my own framed pieces are very conventional – I had to make them relatively quickly at home in any spare time I could find, so relying heavily on my stitching skills, I made what I hope are amusing images of the ends of things….

“One of the daily tasks of running Heart Space Studios is sweeping the studio floor. Things found on the floor though, are often lovely – scraps of silk, ravels of multi-coloured threads and scatterings of beads; but as they are so small and dusty they usually get binned.

flying threads

the Apotheosis of the Embroidery Thread Ends – Janet Haigh silk hand embroidery

Buttons are another matter, they get used here for eyes and noses for toys made at children’s parties; but after a few months only the brown and beige buttons are left in the tins. I suspect that most homes harbour a tin of odd brown and beige buttons….

flying buttons

the Apotheosis of the Beige Buttons – Janet Haigh, silk hand embroidery

I got to thinking “Ideally, what would happen to the beige buttons that no-one wants, or the teeny scraps of ragged fabric and threads? Where would they go, what would they become”? 

flying  fabrics

the Apotheosis of the Fabric Scraps – janet Haigh, silk applique and patchwork

So now we get to the things out of the frames – I feel that out of the frame is perhaps a better way to develop work like this – so we had  a flight of dragonflies from Susi Bancroft, rather difficult to photograph, so here is just one; he looks kind of menacing – but as Susi says……


One imaginary winged creature – Susi Bancroft. wire and beads

 “ inspired by my delight in watching dragonflies in flight whilst walking by the river. From pale green delicate ethereal things, to flashes of bright iridescent colours skimming the water, I caught my breath watching them. These creatures are an interpretation, a play on ideas. My mind wandered around the real as well as imaginary – the beauty of nature and the fantasy of invented things with wings – from fairies to surreal stinging insects! These may hang indoors or outdoors – catching light and breeze and hopefully raising a smile!

Made on the sewing machine from wire wrapped in glittery metallic thread with seed beads I pre-threaded on the wire – a somewhat exciting technique which requires some nerve!

But where are the things without wings? Well for a start there are lovey simple feathered heart shaped hangings form Jane- Marie Mahy, our display manager.


Feathered Beaded Heart – Jane-Marie Mahy

” I was inspired by the work I have done in the past for Heart Space Studios simply decorating willow hearts which are rustic in texture against different found objects lovely old beads, buttons and lately clock faces. Feathers were the obvious things to add to the hearts for this project and making them into these angelic hearts”.And unusual beaded necklaces made by Ilsa Fatt, who teaches beaded jewellry making and often using her own lamp- worked beads as inspiration..


black and white necklace _ Ilsa Fatt


Re Necklace – Ilsa Fatt

 “The seed for the idea of Spirit-Bird necklaces came not from a bird, but a beetle.  I was thinking about the sacred Egyptian scarab beetle, which led me to thoughts on the strange Egyptian bird-headed gods.  These were in my mind when I first started making glass beads for the Heart Space exhibition.

As I worked, I became more and more drawn to the idea of the bird totems of the Pacific North West coast, such as the thunderbird that can shape-shift into human form.  The little glass birds that finally emerged are things-without-wings, but for me they embody the idea of wings, and of the power of imagination’s flight.


And now for both things with and without wings from Kirsten Hill-Nixon, who works with us teaching felt-making but has many other skills to be developed. she really took flight (sorry) with her imagination for this project.

 The image below does not do justice to this piece – it lives under a vintage glass dome so is very hard to see with reflections everywhere – It is made up from some dyed and embellished real chrysalis –  and the strange beings that have escaped from them…the twig is felted wool but everything else is metal and glass, with found objects like large beads and parts of domestic plumbing as well.


Curious Chrysalis – Kirsten Hill-Nixon

 “What a Great Title ‘Wings and Things’ ‘Things’ could be literally anything! And with winged shoes, aeroplanes, sycamore seeds and half the animal kingdom to choose from what should I do?
I spread out all my shiny objects, threads and fabrics on a large table, things I have been hoarding for years waiting for an opportunity to use them – and here it is.  


detail – Dragonfly, embellished chrysalis, tin foil, wire and beads – Kirsten Hill Nixon

 There is always a moment of great excitement finding a shiny beetle in the garden; that unexpected flash of sparkling wing on the dragonfly so Bugs it had to be. Small and precious like jewels, my winged things would need the protection of a glass dome just like the exotic specimens in a Victorian museum collection


butterfly detail – copper, chrysalis, wire and beads – Kirsten Hill-Nixon

I spread out all my shiny objects, threads and fabrics on a large table, things I have been hoarding for years waiting for an opportunity to use them – and here it is. 


sheer invention – Bugs  – Kirsten hill-Nixon

and just one more from this set of Things with Wings


copper, wire and washers – Kirsten hill-Nixon.