Janet Haigh : Her Work

Textiles: ideas, drawing, design, stitching….


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Kantha Club

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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!

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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 ”

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closed hand with thumb kept into palm = the narrow band

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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”

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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

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samples of natural dyed fabrics by Kay Swancutt

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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..

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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.

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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,

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choosing coloured threads to mend the fragile silk sheet

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

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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

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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…

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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

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starting the squares of painting patchwork

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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

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

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

 


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Crazy Fan Class

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My Crazy Patchwork fan design on the cover of this season’s events catalogue at the American Museum.

I have been getting out and about recently and have been taking a workshop at the American Museum in Britain, which is situated just outside Bath. I have been asked to deliver 2 day long workshops by their education officer, Zoe Dennington (who found me via this blog). Zoe asked me to use Crazy Patchwork techniques for classes to run at the same time as the current vibrant Kaffe Fassett exhibition being held at the museum for several months.The second class is in October to make a crazy patched and beaded heart.

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the range of fabrics that I took for use in the workshop

Luckily I was given a batch of cotton samples of fabrics  designed by Kaffe Fassett to use in my workshop by a friend, Susan Berry ( who produces his very popular patchwork and knitting books) and they certainly livened up my Heart Space Studios fabric stash….I had designed a special project for this session, a simple design of a fan and one of the most popular motifs used in traditional of Crazy Patchworks.

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the original crazy fan design used for the programme cover

I reasoned that if I provided patterns for the patches then things might go quickly and everyone would finish – well that was the idea! We started off by choosing the fabrics for each fan – there are 7 sections in the design that I had created for the class, which means less embroidery than my sample.

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this range was chosen from the fabrics brought by me to the workshop

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subtle and softly coloured fabrics brought by a student to the class

I had also asked people to bring whatever they liked of their own materials as well. The fabrics chosen were quickly organised into many different striped bands – I explained about balance of pattern to plain fabrics and crucially for a small colour scheme, to separate a few colours from the patterned fabrics and use them as plains or solids to show up the patterns. And not to worry too much about getting the colours perfect at this point as later the coloured stitching over the seams would help with the colour co-ordination of the whole piece.

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vibrant fabrics for chosen for the fan design

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Red white and blue – always a good clean colour combination

organising the fan sections is much easier and quicker than for usual odd shapes of crazy patches. The sections were laid over one another and then pinned and using running stitches held section by section till the fan was complete. The complete arrangement was then pressed onto the special heat activated fabric backing

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Brilliant colour for the start of stitching the fan into its finished position

.GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA                 Once the fan had been pressed and trimmed the next task was to  find the coloured ground to applique it onto…I find that this is quite a good way to get people to appreciate the difference that different coloured grounds can make to the overall piece.

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a rare shot of me teaching – explaining how to deal with coloured ground fabrics using a soft and subtle piece of patchwork.

Sometimes soft colours can be made bolder if placed on very dark grounds and brilliant colours more muted if placed on a toning ground. It is also a chance to reassess the colours prior to embroidering the seams which also fix the fan to the background

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the fan shape against a black ground

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same fan against a brilliant blue ground – note a new patch on the left hand side to make a more balanced fan

Now to start embroidering – I had chosen to demonstrate 1 basic row of herringbone stitch and then show how to add extra stitches or I should say decorations…it is my favourite decorative embroidery stitch as it can be developed  so that it looks almost like a braid. But to begin just a couple of well spaced rows…and then the extra colours can be added.

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this vibrant fan design is made even more brilliant by contrasting colours

I like to use contrasting coloured stitches on the seams – they are very obvious but then I do not think it worth doing any decorative hand embroidery if it isn’t to be noticed!

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the brighter the contrasts the richer the decoration here the colours sing out

although up close and personal the colours are very vibrant the more colours added to each row of stitching the softer the colours will appear more subtle

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the addition of yellow running stitch to the bright pink herringbone stitch makes it less vibrant

when soft colours are used to not much affect then the herringbone variations allow for extra emphasis – this is why I really like this particular stitch – it gives a lot of opportunity for invention

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the addition of French knots and detached chain stitches enliven this row of muted herringbone

At the end of the session we put all the unfinished patchworks together on a table to assess them for further additions…. you can now see the affect that the Kaffe Fassett fabrics had on the works – but you would not think by looking at this picture of some of the group around the table that they actually liked what they are looking at !

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Crazy critical assessment!

. Everyone faithfully promised me that they would finish the fans and send me photographed results – watch this space…….


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Crazy Barcelona

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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.

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undulating crazy seating on the terrace

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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.

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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…

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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.

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circle of crazy within white surround

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diamond of crazy with mixed white surround

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

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

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amorphous paisley shapes

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commas placed in a line around the base of a column

I also really enjoyed seeing patterns within patterns,

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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

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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

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broken plates in a sea of blue

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typical Spanish hand painted blue tiles

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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,

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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.

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poorly fired glazed plate has been put to good use.

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

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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.

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the Crazy cafe floor

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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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Ribbon Felted Flowers

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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.

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

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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…..

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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….

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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.

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cut strips of sleeve being curled to start roses

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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……


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Crazy Stitch Sampler

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Crazy stitching on a Crazy Patchwork by Naomi Clarke from a recent workshop at Heart Space Studios

Crazy Patchwork classes have always been popular at Heart Space Studios and several people asked me to teach them more hand embroidery stitches, so I started a course called Crazy Patchwork Sampler. The course is built around the sampler that I made for my book, Crazy Patchwork, published in 1998 by Collins and Brown – it seems what goes around comes around……

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my book of Crazy Patchwork ideas and designs.

For the FIRST WORKSHOP I started off with the absolute basics, first we chose the colour scheme – I supplied various ribbons and fabrics for people to choose a small group of their favourite colours: this takes longer than anyone imagines it can and causes a lot of negative ideas to flow as people are usually very nervous about using colour, but I have learnt  that this choosing is really important as eventually by using the same set of colours in various patterns and proportions the finished piece can be made harmonious.

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strips of ribbon ironed on to backing fabric

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first chosen coloured ribbons

Most people, to their own surprise, choose colours similar to what they are wearing. The next choice to be made is the threads – I ask them to choose similar colours  to the fabrics but to stitch  in complementary coloured threads – so that the stitching will show up.

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choosing complementary coloured threads

The first sampled stitches are the straight ones – running, back and all the variations, easy does it….but it also includes writing a name…very simple but very effective for the first workshop. There are various methods of writing onto fabric so that it can be embroidered and we start with the simplest by using a water-soluble pen or the old-fashioned transfer paper still used by dressmakers.

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the maker’s name worked in back-stitch over water-soluble pen.

The SECOND WORKSHOPsession was cross stitch, counted and herringbone – which is the main stitch I use for joining the patches together. The group was still concerned about colours, but I assured everyone that we had a long way to go and plenty of opportunity to make the whole sampler work in harmony –  I was delighted that they had all done ‘homework’ and had finished the first workshop’s ‘patch’ and found  more variations to add to the straight stitches.

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finished patch from first week being decorated with herringbone stitch

Counted cross stitch is another way of embroidering letters and numerals……

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my working chart of cross stitch motifs for the accompanying sampler

There is a whole world of cross stitch motifs and I like using the traditional ones – to illustrate the technique of  charting for cross stitch I showed them some old work of mine that was designed from vintage needlework manuals. I still work as a freelance designer for a canvas embroidery company, Ehrman Tapestry, where I sometimes use similar charting for some of my designs, even though the stitch for tapestry is tent or half crass stitch. So I have lots of reference material and the group spent an hour of the 3 hour session looking at all my  books and notes before they began charting their own designs.

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Jo and Helen choosing cross stitch motifs and alphabets from my reference book

The task for this second session was to chart a name and date as well as a small multi-coloured motif and to stitch it onto the counted thread fabrics.

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Jo decides to chart and stitch HOPE – she s going for an aspirational crazy sampler.

choosing the colours from a limited range of counted thread fabrics involves creative use of colour

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Helen uses a shaded red thread creatively to harmonise her cross stitch samples with her first straight stitch patch

it is interesting how the maker’s character soon emerges from their choice of colour and letter forms, above Helen’s looks strong and directional while Sophie has chosen elegant letter forms and motifs ; the colour combinations are similar but the proportions are very different

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cross stitched bands being cross stitched together

By the THIRD WORKSHOP the patchworks are starting to look very rich and there is less uncertainty about colour choices, everyone seems to be enthralled by this process and are bringing in finished pieces that they have developed at home alone….everyone comments on how good it is to just stop for a time and concentrate on their stitching.

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2 finished ribbon patches with 3rd ready to be embroidered

The third week is supposed to be looped stitches – chains and lazy daisies and feather, but we have to spend some time catching up on herringbone as the counted cross stitch took up most of the last class at the studio.

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looped stitch patch of chain, lazy – daisies with feather variation being worked in beads

The patches are now starting to harmonise together by careful use of colour; everyone really enjoys the frivolity of stitching with multi-coloured threads to make up the herringbone variations

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herringbone stitch variations plus feather stitch rows that are beaded

By the LAST WORKSHOP we have got a small range of patches ready to be worked into a whole square.

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Anne’s collection of patches ready to stitch together.

The piecing together of the patches for the last class was easier because of the colour co-ordination of the embroideries, but the strict oblong patches made for geometric patterns for the final piece. Maybe for the next session of this class I will give each person a triangle as well as oblongs and squares of fabrics to apply the embroidered ribbons on.

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geometric patterned patchwork for final piecing

I just didn’t have the heart to ask them to cut up their embroideries to look like a more authentic crazy, even so each person had completely different patchworks –

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the inspirational crazy patchwork sampler is pinned together

This group of students want to learn more stitches and techniques so I am running an advanced course for them – and other more experienced embroiderers can drop in for single sessions. Considering that this group had only 5 classes for 3 hours each they have really advanced their practice in many ways  and not just by learning how to stitch. I think that they have caught my bug – the embroidery bug – and are now developing their own libraries and stashes of materials ready to try out new techniques and new ways of expressing themselves.

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vintage DMC book of counted cross stitches bought by Jo after seeing my old battered version with her almost completed Crazy Sampler