As much as I enjoy felting and working with natural fibres I also love mixed media work and getting creative with heat manipulative, man made fabrics. It’s all the more enjoyable when you ask at the start of a class if anyone hasn’t worked with a heat tool or a soldering iron and you see the hands go up. You just know there are going to be some “ooohs and ahhhs” and huge smiles coming from excited students once they get melting their fabrics!
Last week I was invited to teach a group at Stainfield Village Hall, just a half hour from home. The groups organiser, Clare, had attended my Layer, Stitch & Burn workshop a few months previous in Sleaford and had so much fun creating this sea shell inspired piece she asked me to repeat the class with her group.
This technique was developed by the Canadian mixed media textile artist Susan Lenz. It involves layering synthetic fabrics on a background of acrylic felt before adding free motion stitch using cotton, viscose or rayon threads. The last stage involves “melting” the background fabric with a heat gun to create a lace like effect as seen in Susan’s In Box and Stained Glass Series
You would imagine all acrylic felt would melt and therefore be suitable for this process but I’ve discovered the hard way that’s not the case! If you’re going to try this technique I would suggest testing your background felt before stitching as some simply discolours and singes rather than melting! Having been caught out once I now order a sample before purchasing by the metre. My latest supply came from Empress Mills and melts a treat!
In the workshop, although everyone is given the option of working with simple geometric shapes, I like to encourage students to think outside the box (pun intended!) and create a piece that’s unique to them. In the past I’ve had ladies using fossils, gum nuts leaves and all sorts of other motifs as their starting point for a design as you can see from these three examples…..
Working with a more organic design is also great for those who haven’t done free motion before, or maybe are not as confident with it, as your stitching doesn’t have to be precise. In fact a “sketchy” approach, similar to the leaf design, looks great!
At Stainfield not everyone got finished on the day but I’ve been told that, at the groups meeting this week, not only did they finish off what they had started with me but most of the ladies also began working on a second piece! The size we worked to was approximately 23cm square so it fits the square IKEA box frame.
Another heat manipulative workshop I teach is the Lutradur Leaves. This Wednesday evening I loaded the car and drove up to East Ayton near Scarborough, a really beautiful part of the country, ahead of Wednesdays class for Anita Cassidy and the Textile Experimental Group. I knew we were going to get on like a house on fire when I heard the name of the group!
The village hall was very light, airy and spacious, perfect for this type of class.
The group were encouraged to bring some leaves to use as inspiration and I supplied sketches for those that wanted them. Everyone worked with a medium weight 70gsm Lutradur and once again the ladies produced some fabulous work which sits nicely with their current theme of “decay”.
Between my last post and classes starting up again after the Summer I’ve done a bit of dressmaking, or “top” making to be precise. I’ve got a very simple linen, sleeveless, dart-less, top that I really like and I decided to clone it, adding darts to make it more fitted. Not having made anything with darts before I figured YouTube would be a good move….and it was!
I tried the pattern out with a very cheap floral fabric from Boyes. I think it’s viscose, it’s not silky but it shifted constantly while I was working with it so I’m amazed it turned out wearable!
The “palm tree” fabric is 100% cotton and was so easy to use, it’s definitely the better of the two.
The following week I had to create a wet felted shoulder bag to promote a forthcoming workshop. In the past I’ve sometimes deliberately used colours that I’m not that keen on to ensure I keep a piece as a sample and not be tempted to use the item myself! This time I did the opposite and carded Dream and Granite Corriedale slivers from World of Wool’s Hefty Hues range to make a bag that won’t be living in a box until the workshop in the new year!