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The making of ‘Barnie’ – part 2

The making of ‘Barnie’ – part 2

Following a workshop I did with Helen Walsh, I left you all hanging….with an acetate tracing over Barnie’s face to ensure perfect placement of his eyes.

Barnie with his Acetate overlay

Now, I will explain how he got his distinctive features….

Having decided at the very outset on a cropped image, Barnie’s face was going to be the most important element in the overall picture. Um-ing, ah-ing and generally ruminating, I finally decided that to achieve the measure of importance he deserved, his face needed to be 3D. Then came more ruminating, and a good sprinkle of cogitating, to work out the best way to achieve said 3D effect.

I finally settled on padding out his nose using some cotton quilt wadding. Placement, particularly vertically, was critical and took various trial & error attempts….

The wadding (marked with heat-reactive pen) ‘opened out’ to show the final shape

Completely covering the wadding with the same fabric as his head gave the correct amount of ‘lift’ – tiny dabs from a glue stick worked perfectly as it was very fiddly!  This was then stitched and blended into place with more fly stitches.

 

We all know the eyes are the window to the soul and importantly what makes a crafted being come alive. Sadly, you may recall, the original photo was not ideal in terms of eyes or beak.

Fortunately, October owl was blessed with great ‘wide open’ eyes, so I simply interpreted them in stitch and fluffed out the fabric to create his nostril feathers.

Highlights still to be added

So far, so good – with everything relatively easy and going according to my new plan, which I must admit had now moved very significantly away from first intentions of the workshop….Stop thinking 🤔….Yep, you are now getting ahead of me in my story 😜

Since his face was now 3D, his beak could no longer be the fabric I’d first trialled for use.

This is where suddenly something very simple became very difficult and very time consuming….trying to find the right beak material and how to achieve the right colour. Barnie was no longer a flat appliqué piece having become more representational, so it all had to be ‘right’.

Easy….plastic!

But try curving plastic in 2 directions especially when it is so small!!! Think….coiled spring! ’Ping’….’Where has the blooming thing (or similar 😜) gone this time?’ Hair dryer = no, heat gun = no (total distortion) etc, etc. Hours, of ruminating, later….maybe cutting the piece from the corner of the plastic container would help?….Taadaa.

In the meantime, attempting to get the right colour match to October owl beak, using supplies available in the house, were unsuccessful….even nail varnish was tried! Problem – whilst I was easily able to mix the colour with paint, it just wouldn’t stick permanently to the plastic, neither on the outside nor the inside, and it always looked streaky and way too shiny….totally wrong!

Finally (a couple of weeks have elapsed by this point, with way too much ruminating having gone on….just for….a BEAK!!!) I hit on 2 simple ideas – chocolate and sandpaper. The sandpaper I carefully used to roughen both the inner and outer surfaces….Barnie has certainly lived and been scratching around for his food!

Chocolate?….it was the image from a cardboard box – yes, I did happily enjoy the Chocolate eclairs (shared of course)! Soaking the back, I carefully finger-rubbed all the cardboard away (a great way to hide one’s identity as it stripped my fingerprints away for days) leaving only the very thin printed paper image, which I then successfully glued to the inside of Barnie’s beak. All this time and trouble….I can already hear your cries, echoing mine earlier…. for just a……..BEAK!

It was then onto stitching the very distinctive barn owl feather ‘spots’ (open chain & seed) before auditioning supplies for the snow.

I finally settled on two very different materials, crystal organza and viscose staple fibres which I needle-felted into the linen edge. The organza was too shiny and the colour just wasn’t right. I much preferred the subtle sheen of the viscose which also allowed me to make full use of the interesting ‘matted’ bits. Some might argue that if I wanted to be more authentic my white colours should be swapped – the snow to be more blue and the owl more off white! I’ll just content myself by saying that it is a trick of the lighting.

You can just see the subtle sheen

Finally – mounting time….

After ironing/steaming out the circles left by the embroidery hoop which was an ‘oh boy!’ nightmare….any advice is welcome here!….I did not lace the picture as would be traditional but adopted a newer stretching technique I have learned.

The linen picture was laid, in its exact position for the mount aperture, onto some thin cotton wadding suitably cut to my 37x37cm (14.5×14.5in) frame size. I wanted the finished picture to feel softer rather than tautly stretched, hence the wadding.

Together this was laid onto thin cardboard (again cut to frame size), through which I had machine stitched (largest stitch length, no thread) a square. The sandwich of cardboard, wadding and linen were then hand stitched together. I even pencilled a line on the linen warp & weft to ensure accuracy….ooops perfectionism struck again!

I hope you have enjoyed Barnie’s journey into being. He is now quietly bemused watching my activities, and he won’t be leaving my side any time soon!

Have you had small niggly details that just needed to be right? Or are you more ‘Laissez faire’?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barnie – part 1

Barnie – part 1

In May, our textile group held a workshop to create a bird portrait using either machine or hand embroidery. Our tutor was the talented artist, Helen Walsh who creates bird pictures using applique and free motion stitching.

These days, I like to be prepared or might that be….‘forewarned!’ So, having researched her website I set about choosing a suitable bird….but, I love Barn owls….therefore, no decision required on that front! The only choosing needed was simply one of finding the right pose, particularly as I only wanted a part of the bird (I’d already realised that for me to complete the entire bird would be extremely time consuming)….Pinterest, Google & Flickr to the rescue.

 

I loved the curious owl on the right with his tilted head

 

The background snowy grass scene caught my attention

I created many photomontages of owls at rest, paying particular attention to the details of feathers and face. Two images stood out. One that I felt I could crop but still give me some simple background interest, the second was the angle of head. Some computer fiddling and….Taadaa

Cropped image is on the left
The cropped image now has a tilted head!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once at the workshop, Helen showed us many samples taking us through the process and gave us many hints, tips & tricks to bring our birds to life.

Our first task was to create a tracing of our bird so that we could cut out suitable fabric pieces and commence our applique/stitching work.

I was so absorbed throughout the day that I totally forgot to take any production photos!

 

You will notice that the original photo owl’s face was a bit sad looking and his beak somewhat indeterminate. However, luck was totally on my side….literally. My friend, village neighbour and sewing buddy, sitting right next to me, had brought last year’s calendar of wild birds with her – October offered the most beautiful barn owl face. Just perfect.

By the time I remembered to take photos I was well underway having machine stitched all my Bondaweb-backed fabric in place onto a subtle fawn/grey linen, using sheers for the distant pieces of grass, overlapped with more substantive fabric for the foreground. I had already started hand stitching (fly) on top of the FME feather details (with rows of blanket stitch around the head) and was attempting to apply Barnie’s face….Yes, he had now been named!

 

 

The end of a busy workshop, but I wasn’t happy with Barnie’s face.  It was all too symmetrical with his wing feathers and just didn’t have the correct all-important inquisitive tilt I wanted, so I had to pull off his beak and one of his eyes….ouch!

At home I was able to reassess the whole face and consider how I could make it more alive. Conclusion – sorry, but Barnie lost his other eye too….ouch, again! This did however allow me to add more feathery details (fly stitch) unhindered.

Aren’t heat-reactive pens wonderful – his face now mostly clean!

From the October owl I traced the face then manipulated it size-wise to fit, finally drawing it onto OHP acetate to ensure the ‘perfect’ placement of Barnie’s new wide eyes.

I hope I have left you sufficiently intrigued as to how he acquires his remaining features….

Conjuring up a tale from the past

Conjuring up a tale from the past

Thinking I would share with you something from my past – I went to search for various elements that I knew I had not thrown away and had just seen in the last few months. Suddenly, I was thrown into the midst of a magic trick….pooooof….they had completely vanished!

Much searching and wand waving resulted, some days later, with the completion of the magic trick….the big reveal….of that which was lost.

In deciding to share this ‘something’ from my past, I gave myself a shock….it was from 1997! Although off-piste re wool fibre, I think it might still hold some interest, so please ignore the date and 24 year gap.

To briefly explain the background – I had enjoyed upholstery and soft furnishing as a hobby for many years, then an opportunity presented itself for me to teach these skills. To demonstrate competence, I was ‘very-encouraged’ to get some ‘official’ qualifications, so set about studying upholstery. I managed to complete the two-year course in one year and won a significant award. Following this a few interesting opportunities came my way including an invite to be part of a calendar production, I agreed, and was then commissioned to make an upholstered item.

I was to be ‘April’….you can wipe away all images you might have conjured up of flower bouquets, artists’ palettes, extra-large buns or samples of fabric strategically placed. This was not to be a repeat of the Calendar Girls!

April….mmmm!

Upholstery……..April….mmmm!

A few ideas floated around, but fairly quickly I had the….Tadaa moment….an upholstered screen!

I then pontificated (this word really does describe the process I went through) over how to represent the month of April in the screen. The big dilemma here, was that I normally used purchased commercial fabrics, so I was in a quandary as to how I could manipulate them.

Much of my early thinking revolved around the months, year and particularly the seasons and the continuum or seasonal cycle. There are four seasons so the screen could have four parts. Colours could blend from spring through summer and autumn to typical wintery colours. This also implied an organic quality. Another factor I had to bear in mind was that once finished with, the screen would be mine to keep, so I also needed to create something that would ‘fit’ into my life.

I then started to think more specifically about April and the first thing that came to mind was the phrase built into our British psyche – ‘April showers’ (in the UK April was always a month dominated by showers although global warming seems to be changing things a bit since). Then came the idea of which flowers bloomed in April – Forget-me-not, viola, wallflower, honesty, iris, primula, grape hyacinth etc. From this list I distilled the colours – yellow, purple, rose and blue. Then of course April is the fourth month….decision made – the screen must definitely have four parts!

So far so good.

Research & idea gathering

More research (there was no Google or Pinterest back in the day!) and thinking (my thinking, even to this day, involves doodles on scraps of paper, lots of them) followed, particularly in terms of how I could translate water/rain into an upholstered work. The only way I was going to achieve any of my ideas was to create my own fabric. So then started another direction of thinking and decision making. Fortunately, I had dabbled previously with painting on silk, so this seemed the natural path forward.

By this time I had also honed my thoughts as to the construction, made complicated by the fact that a screen can be viewed from two sides which meant attaching the fabric would be fiddly. With most of my main thoughts galvanised I produced a detailed drawing (the easiest task as an architect) that I sent off for approval from the relevant calendar committee.

I couldn’t quite get the organic element I wanted then I struck lucky and saw an image in a National Geographic magazine that set the ball rolling for the final layout. Sadly, I cannot find that image today, but from memory it was one showing the broken circular rim of a volcano protruding through an ocean.

I often trace lines from magazine images, but these just didn’t cut the mustard.

A carpenter made 3 sets of frames – the main screen frame which I then dyed to the right colour and finished, the inner mounting frames for the fabrics and the frames for me to stretch and paint the silk.

I had the ironsmith create the post finials (normally found on iron railings) which I kept deliberately removable from the posts so that I would be able to transport the screen without injury either to person or vehicle!

Meanwhile I concentrated on getting the silk panels painted for which I trialled some coloured pencil alternatives. Missing ‘something’ I stamped a golden design over the top to create more texture using carved/scored pizza bases.

The photocopied enlarged design. The outline was traced with a clear gutta resist before applying heat-set silk paints

The silk was laid onto a strong supporting cotton fabric and bits of masking tape were used to plot where the raindrops should be. After some practice, these were then machine stitched using lustrous shiny threads. This was quite a nerve-wracking point as you can imagine. Realising that from a distance, the raindrops would need more impact against the colour, out came a variety of beads from yet another of my stashes!

Developing the raindrops idea.

My then seven-year-old son giving me a helping hand.

The silk panels were combined with the commercial fabric and the screen completed in sufficient time for the photo shoot.

Designed to fit into my ‘then’ house (floor to top of iron finial the screen measures 1.65m (5ft 5in)and taller than me!) which had 3m high ceilings. In my ‘now’ house I have just 28cm (11in) clearance above the screen!!!
24 years later!

The flip side

Continuing another side to the story….I’ll make it short!

The venue was set and to take place at the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway Museum in West Yorkshire. All the equipment was set up and my screen placed in position – complete with a free standing shower head!….April shower anyone? – Someone had some fun-thinking in the planning….all of which took hours as you can imagine.

Organised chaos and smoke screens!

Finally, after they had tested and rehearsed everything including a smoke bomb to represent the steam train, ‘the’ photo was captured.

The final museum photo with a museum railway guard doing the honors – I love how the colours echoed each other.

The published 1998 Calendar photo

Throughout the morning the crew and I had been laughing and joking….then came an unexpected question….would I be prepared to be tied up, and lie on the tracks in front of the train?….WHAT?!?!

Thus far the whole experience had been quite magical, and as I have a reasonably adventurous spirit….I agreed.

I won’t show you the photo where I was asked to ‘pretend’ to scream as if I was about to be run over by the train….I totally and utterly failed….it came out as a very real, loud, blood chilling, scream (definitely not a good photo)!

Waiting for them setting the camera up – thinking….“Did I really agree to this, it is soooo uncomfortable!”

What I haven’t mentioned is that all this took place on a Saturday and this popular museum was fully open to the general public….you might now be ahead of me….yes, we had built up quite an audience with our general activity behind the barriers….the ‘scream’ was the finale!

I will simply finish by saying – there was so much laughter all around, with folk bent over, much stomach holding and tears just rolling down.

Caught on camera, ages later, wiping away yet another round of laughter tears!

A long distant memory that continues to make me smile as I recount the tale 😊

Gaudi – part 2 – Definitely a challenge

Gaudi – part 2 – Definitely a challenge

So, I finished my last post having admitted to a rooky mistake (I had laid and worked the cord at 90 deg to the vertical! Opening out the wet structure gave me a distorted shape with 2 sides longer….oops I should have placed the cord on a curve. With my former career I have no excuses for (and nowhere to hide from) this mistake.) – the implication of that mistake went further….right to the base.

In perfect 20-20 hindsight, I should have stuck with my very original idea of a book resist, but in reality it was just so enormous….far beyond my comfort zone!

Putting that to one side, as the upper part of my structure (not the base) was the most important I decided to concentrate on getting that right.

After three days rest, while my brain was quietly whirring away in the background, ‘Gaudi’ was brought back into the action….

As I wasn’t happy with the previously stitched-in ‘cord’ that had created a fold on the inside, I cut it out – from the outside, as it would be covered later – it took a bit of tugging. The cut was then stitched closed and fibre stitches placed over to heal the long slit.

Still pondering the correct radius line – the arch was now measured and then finally, the appropriate curve drawn….this should all have been so simple for me!!!

After which I re-made and re-laid the cord.

Then it was onto the previously pre-felted ‘skirt’ – I cut triangles out to shape the ‘skirt’ onto the base, stitching the edges together (with thread & fibre) before felting the entire piece.

It was at this point inspiration hit (read that as drastic thoughts). As the mediaeval crowds might roar ‘Off with his head’….I simply shouted ‘off with it’s bottom’! In fact it proved the silver lining as it gave me the opportunity to get inside (without trying to do it through the resist removal hole) to felt the fibres and also to turn it inside out.

Ooooooh boy – my hands were just continually covered in stray fibres….the result of using-up un-named supplies!

Wet damp, but not dripping, it weighed 1.2 Kg and was a monster to work.

After drying it was off to the groomers with the hairy monster! There was so much surplus.

I don’t know how many razors (or lighters) I used

Several weeks have elapsed, and I’m feeling sufficiently energised to tackle it again….mentally & physically! I think we can all get to the point of being disillusioned and I had reached it. Although I didn’t go as far as a friend who, when she reaches this point, throws her work on the fire!

I have since wet felted a bottom using the various pieces of the leftover (from creating the ‘skirt’) pre-felted quilter’s wadding which I stitched together.

I love the surface texture of the piece and how the edge sits and will use it elsewhere. I’m wondering if it will take dye well?  

I’ve started applying decorative stitching, how much to do is an unknown. So too, I am undecided whether to apply its bottom (which I would attach with more decorative stitches) and create its ‘turret stopper’ or simply leave it all as it is….the little grey cells – they need to start working!

In the meantime, I have participated in 2 online felting courses – Paper & Felt with Fiona Duthie (I’ve yet to finish this in my own time) and the Milkweed seed with Judit Pócs which I successfully completed and have explored further adding a 3D resist into the mix. If you want to add to your repertoire of felting techniques, I can definitely recommend these courses.

Jan’s last post was about needle felting a tulip, a stunning framed piece for which a lovely tulip in her garden was the inspiration. I too adore tulips although our current beastly weather (frequent hail showers – some with 1cm stones!) has taken its toll. However, in amongst them there have been some surprises.….

….and some unusual seed pods have emerged too!

Just thought I’d share them with you.

Quite a first quarter challenge – Gaudi – part 1

Quite a first quarter challenge – Gaudi – part 1

Having decided to take part in the first challenge for 2021, which asked for us to take inspiration from the years 1900-1909, I immediately thought of Louis Comfort Tiffany with his beautiful glass and Antoni Gaudi the Barcelona architect. As I have been fans of their work forever, it wasn’t a problem to take the relevant books from my shelves and start researching. Thereafter I was still undecided.

I mentioned my dilemma on a Zoom meeting with felting fellows….Gaudi won.

I knew I wanted to challenge myself even further with different techniques in a 3D structure. Just how much of a challenge….I am still finding out!

Using my book and pictures from the internet I set about sketching and drawing various interesting elements from Gaudi’s vast repertoire of buildings, just to get a feel for shapes and get my brain into gear, thinking about the structure.

I haven’t done any serious sketching for years so the ‘pen and thinking’ took several weeks. Finally, decided on Güell Park 1900-1914, and set to.

I also decided on a few other things too – to go big (or bigger than recent artefacts) and to start using up ‘stuff’ in a bid to reduce my stash. This included using some pure wool quilt wadding, which I have posted on before ‘A yarn and preparation experiments’ and have now used a few times. The reverse side, where the ‘Vilene’ type fabric is still attached, had the perfect cracked tile effect for an homage to Gaudi. 

Those decisions made it was on to creating the shape and template. Having made a quick sample I knew that the shrinkage co-efficient was around 1.3….yep, you have read this right….I did make a small sample! It was then onto creating a typical Gaudi arch to the approximate size (the first arch was too thin, bearing in mind it would be opened up) – plate and bottle put to good use.

Also put to good use were vintage tools of my former trade!

Cutting out the resist and designing the remainder of the template/resist elements, another very very quick decision was made….measuring 62 x 39 cm (24 x 15 in)….this was NOT going to be a book template as I had originally sketched!

Note to self – permanent marker pen is permanent on fingers but not on a resist!

Finally it was onto fibre and materials, cutting the quilt wadding (my drift wood bricks from a bay in west Scotland are very useful) and repurposing a waistband from a deconstructed jumper.

Gaudi admired the writings of John Ruskin particularly ‘Ornament is the origin of architecture’ (Ruskin 1853) and he adhered to the thinking that an architect had to be both painter and sculptor. This is perfectly demonstrated in Güell Park where he let his imagination run fantastical in terms of shapes, structures and with everything decorated with colourful mosaics of ceramic tile fragments (ceramics being very popular internationally at that time).

Auditioning the fabrics to evoke the decorative mosaics, I found it interesting that Eusebi Güell, Gaudi’s greatest sponsor, lifelong friend and associate, was a businessman mainly in – textiles.

I started on the ‘collar’ by creating small patches of nuno pre-felt using scraps of fabric – I wasn’t worried that some didn’t overlap as it would add to the effect. Then cut these into the sketched shapes and pre-felted them to some wool wadding.

As I mentioned I was using up supplies, wool I had bought oh so many years ago….mmmm….I should have tried a sample first!  Suffice to say, I will be single handedly keeping the razor manufacturers in production!

Then it was onto the main event laying down a fine herringbone layer of wool, wadding, resist, wadding and wool, taking care to enclose the edges well, the whole was pre-felted. Following which the ‘cord was laid in place and the second layer of wadding added to each side – stitched at the edges for added insurance! The whole was worked to an early pre-felt stage.

Adding the viscose – the viscose I have is in circular bundles which needs to be cut, thereafter I need to peel a quantity off. If I don’t want a knotted mass, this last is achieved by wrapping it around my legs as a counterweight and gently pulling….thankfully you can’t see me demonstrating this technique.

Recently I came across a Russian felter, who immerses her similar viscose in fabric softener, then dries it ready for use. I am still experimenting with this trick – thus far it does seem to stop the viscose ‘snagging’ (just like silk) on my reasonably smooth hands.

I then cut it into smaller lengths (as it won’t draft off like wool fibre) and going for the ‘cloud’ effect I place it horizontally on my carders. Vertical placement, as for wool fibres, doesn’t work….it just slides off the carder, especially the softener treated viscose!

The screen is a good resting post for the viscose! The peach coloured hank has been treated with fabric softener.

Viscose applied in mixed colour ‘cloud’ layers up to the cord.

An off-centre cut made in the base it was time to remove the resist. If by this point you are scratching your head wondering why….my thinking is….holes have a habit of growing larger, so simply slicing off the top would create too big an opening in the top. If I felt the structure almost fully then cut off the top it might be better. I can easily stitch up and conceal the base slit….time will tell if my thinking was on solid foundations!

With the resist out I could concentrate on the stitched seams.

It was now time to try the ‘collar’ which fitted as planned….pheu….but it was at this point I realised I had made a fundamental rooky mistake….I had laid and worked the cord at 90 deg to the vertical! Opening out the wet structure gave me a distorted shape with 2 sides longer….oops I should have placed the cord on a curve. With my former career I have no excuses for (and nowhere to hide from) this mistake 🙁

My solution….thus far….has been (with enough felt in the base) to pull, push and stitch the cord inside to achieve the curve. The downside of this action is that I now have a fold on the inside….mmmm!

The base has been tucked inside to check the curve, the ‘collar’ will hide the ‘dropped’ viscose. No, the section diagram is not a diagram of a demented mole….although….

I have come to a temporary halt whilst I re-think my next move. I don’t feel too bad thus far….unintentionally – I’m simply emulating Gaudi who being a pragmatist did not spend his life at the drawing board preferring to be on site, thinking things over, experimenting with and rejecting ideas to get to a solution.

I’ll get there……..

Challenge, Corona, and Christmas

Challenge, Corona, and Christmas

All the ‘Cs’….

Challenge and Corona have been best bed buddies since the end of February, but I will ignore that pairing and concentrate on Challenge and Christmas.

Christmas has always been my best time of year. As a child I was surrounded by the twinkle of white lights, the smell of pine trees everywhere, the wondrous spectacle of the original Christmas markets and the delicious variety of Christmas baking, particularly my favourites – Stollen and Lebkuchen (gingerbread), ohh and not to forget – Printen. I’m so pleased Albert married Victoria and brought many of the traditions with him.

Over the years I too have continued the traditions….Christmas lights must be warm white, presents are kept secret until Christmas eve and then opened in sparkling candlelight, with each person having a special Weihnacht’s teller – a ‘Christmas plate’ filled with nuts, fruit, special biscuits and fine/fun chocolates.  So you see the Christmas magic has never left me….although some might say that now has something to do with the glühwein! 😇 😊

It used to be when the children were younger and at home that every November, we created cards, ornaments, and goodies such as sweets, biscuits, jam or chutney, as giveaways to our friends and neighbours. I miss those special hours and look forward to a time when the world shrinks a little more so that I’m close enough to my grandchildren to repeat similar fun creative activities.

Made by my daughter 20 years ago, aged 12, and still a treasured ornament.

Left to my own devices over recent years, each November I set to ‘making’, being creative in a variety of mediums and I present a few of them below. Although this Christmas has been more difficult I have managed to meet two set challenges….our village Advent calendar window and the Fourth Quarter challenge which you will have read about already. Getting this post written has been another – albeit skidding in at the last moment!

Currently awaiting the opening.

The Frӧbel stars (left) are made with 45cm long paper ribbons and I used these as my theme for one November village craft group meeting. Fingers and thumbs somehow didn’t co-ordinate with the brain for some of our group – resulting in so much hilarity we had to contend with a pile of wet tissues too. Too be fair they are fiddly!

Wire beaded snowflakes and angels. The skirt of the angels is created using quilting pins and are great fun to make.

Fabric fir cones – another craft group activity and one which I’ve also taught at a conference workshop – uses pieces of fabric, or lengths of ribbon, folded and pinned (using short 12mm pins) to polystyrene eggs. They don’t have to be seasonal and can be made with fun colourful, or muted sophisticated, fabrics/ribbons on other polystyrene shapes such as balls.

The 3 tiny ones (finished 2.5 x 1.5cm) were extremely fiddly!

Each point of the paper stars was made using a sheet of square tracing paper and then interlocked into the next point – the translucence of the paper is very effective hung in a window.

Just simple folding of square paper and a few cuts are needed to make these trees. A few years ago I made a forest of different sizes which combined with lights made a lovely table decoration. I love the design looking down onto them.

Yesterday evening I actually managed to run a workshop on these trees as part of a Zoom meeting with a non-craft group….heads were bowed, comments were continuously made (some = ***!!!***), laughter was shared, all I could do was listen and repeat my stage demos. I couldn’t see what anyone’s fingers were doing to help, although I did see some wine glasses being raised! Taadaa, despite several misplaced misgivings everyone produced a duplicate of the original.

(An aside….I still prefer in-person workshops both for learning and teaching.)

Last year I was super productive making many sock snowmen, gnomes and Ferrero Rocher ‘hats’. I only have 2 figures remaining in my possession (the 3rd is borrowed from my mum), the others I managed to sell at a craft fair.

In addition to these I also experimented with tinsel and felt.

Tinsel was de-constructed and ironed before being incorporated into coloured or white felt.

Once dry, I used a variety of decorative machine stitches to finish the felt. I enjoyed creating these cards and at some point hope to make more.

As I sent one of these for the Holiday card exchange this year, I’m feeling extremely guilty – I have forgotten to let my exchange partner know that I received her beautiful card with her warm greeting inside….so Ann in Canada here it is, for all to see! Thank you.

This November I decided to make tiny elf boot ornaments, with my grandchildren in mind, to meet the Fourth Quarter challenge….a challenge it certainly was!

They are tiny (as you can see against the coin) so getting my fingers in and around the point was oh so very fiddly! (Karen – now you know why I made my comment and have sympathy!). Each pair took quite a while to make including the embroidery. One poor elf was in need of a new pair of boots, but I did darn the holes in his old pair (centre) 😂

Over the decades there have been many cards made in our family, and this post has given me the opportunity to dig out a few and reminisce.

They have become more sophisticated over time and no longer use the red corrugated paper that wrapped around biscuits, complete with lick and stick stars – ooh so many memories. For close family and friends, EPH too continues his cartoon renditions of our 4 year old Raffles.

As I write this post the 13th has not yet arrived, but here is a sneak peek of the window display (complete with a ‘spot the difference puzzle for you!’). It will look more distinctive as day turns to night.

As this year comes to a close, I wish everyone – a creative, adventurous, and importantly, a healthy 2021 to come.

 

Cute distractions and stashes

Cute distractions and stashes

I am writing and scheduling this post ahead of the imminent new regulations to be announced in two days time by BJ….so typing with fingers crossed, is a little like patting one’s head and rubbing one’s tummy!

The reason for my contortions is that we are expecting to meet our newest member of the family, now 8 weeks old. The visit was not originally on our calendar as they live out of the country, but circumstances have intervened – our daughter has fractured the head of her femur and if it shears off, she will need a joint replacement. C-19 totally prevented me from getting to them (Arrrrgh 😤😭) so with doctor’s certificates they are coming with wheelchair and baby et al for some much-needed help and TLC.

The imminent visit is having an effect here in the house….a grand clear-up! Whilst my garden archaeology (finding what once was 4 years ago) is on hold, I have been tackling large sewing projects put to one side ‘for when I have time’ – the ones that have piled up for way, way, too long.

In addition to this activity, I wanted to create a personal little welcome for our Grandson. Thinking of a friend’s story with her grandchildren whereby on their visits she always has a little something tucked into their pillows I decided to make a ‘pocket’. It is a work in progress….

 

Drawing out the letters and reversing them ready to draw onto Bondaweb. If I’m making one it makes sense to make one for our next youngest grandchild too (sadly, also an out of country resident!)

Fabric for little boys….denim of course! I took an already de-constructed and very worn pair of jeans from my stash.

I fiddled with the fabric to work out the construction….as many of you will have read previously – I often work things out as I go along, my thought process being like filtered coffee. Thankfully and necessarily, the filtered result came quickly!

I much preferred the back of the fabric (rather than the old, worn, almost see through, bleached front) so joined the pieces of leg fabric to allow for my construction.

Left overs bits….some for my stash box, threads from painstakingly pulling out threads to find the grain edges (for possible use in felt pieces etc) and some ‘fiddled with’ pieces for future sewing activities!

Then it was into my stash box to find appropriately colourful bits of fabric. It is here that I have to admit to having several stashes, all ironed and tidy – for large, medium and small pieces of fabric and another box for tiny bits….a ‘neat-nic’….guilty as charged!

Sadly, no photos, but I cut out the fabric letters and ironed them onto the base to start my appliqué stitching. Deciding to use Perlé thread, it was a dive into yet another stash to find the right colours.

In the meantime, my vast stash of ribbons, edgings and bias tape let me down – I just couldn’t find what I needed.

You will have now realised that I have many ‘stashes’ (hence the title of this post) and like so many of you I’m sure – all my stashes have been collected over many years (read that as decades!). Where would we be without them? But I digress….

I can count on one hand how many trips I’ve made into the high street since March, but this was totally an ‘essential’ trip! Strangely I can’t remember shopping for decorative haberdashery items for sooooo long that the prices took me totally by surprise – ‘how much for a metre?’ In the second shop I finally found my ‘ah-ha, that’s the one’.

Stitching then commenced. The back shows the faded jeans and my attempts to keep the stitching neat.

Tadaa….thus far!

Once all the hand stitching is complete, I’ll add interfacing and lining then tape the edges – I’ll post the finished ‘pocket’ next time.

I hope, by the time you read this, that I will be a less frustrated mum finally able to care for her offspring (with no more crossed fingers) and also a proudly doting Grandmother too….definitely a cute distraction!

‘Seeing’ – Nature

‘Seeing’ – Nature

In a previous post (A yarn & preparation experiments https://wordpress.com/post/feltingandfiberstudio.com/34915) I told you of painstakingly unpicking 2 items of commercial knitwear in a bid to gain some interesting sequin yarn. Strangely I haven’t yet used that yarn but rather the waste!

Somehow, I couldn’t face throwing away the manmade yarn and, as shown in the previous post, I had crocheted some waste into large ‘mats’ (also, as yet unused), the remaining yarn languished in bags until I had a vague idea. I wound the various lengths 10 times around two fingers to make little 2-3cm bundles….hundreds of them, or so it seemed. I spent many, many, evenings making them.

Using two bundles together I crocheted through the middles to make 2 large mats (yes, more mats!) approx. 45 and 50 cm diameters.

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I’ve mentioned before that I have a Coloured Ryeland fleece, bought years ago in naivety, having been seduced by its colour. Not wanting to throw it out, I have found it is useful as a ‘stuffing’ wool. I have to say here that I’m not a needle felter, so I just use one type of basic needle to prod and poke the fibres as required.

For the 2nd quarter challenge I had thought to make a cushion (possibly, a purpose made cushion to fit my mother’s wheelchair to give her a soft seat?), so my vague idea was to use the waste yarn and Ryeland to create the internal pad – prod them together, throw into the washing machine and taadaa!

I hand carded batches of the fleece then set to needle felting these to the ‘mats’. The mats were then sandwiched together with 3 layers of wool between – laid concentric, radiating and concentric.

I laid radiating batches to the outside to which I’m now adding a concentric layer. You are up to date!

As I write this post it now has 6 ⅞ wool layers and is about 2cm squishy firm (if that is not an oxymoron). This is an evening activity which seems to take up an inordinate amount of space on my sofa, more so because surprisingly the ‘pad’ is increasing in size and is now 55cm (22 in) and firm right to the edge.

But now comes a dilemma….I actually like the pad and my thoughts are drifting….more later!

Over recent weeks I have been working, when time permits, on our textile group’s challenge for 2020 – to use a plain paper book to practice our drawing, sketching, creating etc to produce a journal. I’ve chosen to title mine ‘nature’ and have thus far been exploring flora which I love. Fortunately, parts of my garden (and my neighbour’s) offers some wonderful opportunities.

An update – I am gradually resurrecting my garden when time and weather permit.

Recently though, living in the countryside at harvest time, I have been plagued by the thrips (or thunder flies – 2mm long and about the thickness of a hair!). They tend to fly within 3m of the ground and 1m into an open doorway, particularly if it is sunny. They get everywhere – unscrew a container and they are actually in the thread and even into supposedly sealed boxes! Having very sensitive skin, I can feel each and every one and for a week/10 days end up running around the garden like a mad woman, as if my hair is on fire under my hat – they use my blond hair as a landing strip and keep taxi-ing!!!

But I digress….

Rather than concentrating on simply sketching I’ve been exploring patterns. I always doodled in school and can remember one time being asked an unexpected question from the teacher who had come up behind me – as I got the answer right I was never stopped from doodling again. Zentangling is however new to me (some ideas I have borrowed from the internet) so I’ve had a play.

All of this has led me to do more detailed studies, thus far on poppies and sunflowers (having enjoyed my vase of sunflowers, bought by my EPH, I couldn’t just throw the spent flowers away!) – so I’ve been pulling them apart, hammering them or slicing them up, recording my findings along the way.

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One of our members has been doing basketry….so Kim, my discovery is for you – the stem, emerging after only a week in the vase, revealed very strong fibres!

The results have been very interesting, offering a wealth of pattern opportunities.

Back to my dilemma….

I’m now seeing an oversized sunflower to complement my oversized felted seeds that are all in shades of grey!    Mmmm!  🤔 Possibilities!   Sorry mum, you’ll have to continue with the other cushion!

Creativity old and new

Creativity old and new

Imagine if you will Inspector Clouseau with a huge magnifying glass….that’s me looking everywhere for my felting mojo! Nada. But I did find some ‘energy’ – woohoo! So with the recent good weather and this found bit of energy I have been in the garden….but still as Inspector Clouseau!

In my defence I have sewn a batch of 18 then a batch of 15 masks for our village (whoah, the folded version is fiddly, you just get going and then have to keep stopping the sewing machine, and particularly as at one point I’ve been sewing through 13 layers of fabric – in hindsight I wish I’d chosen the shaped masks!). I’ve also finally made lining covers for two large upholstered sofa cushions. A three year out-standing project now ticked off my to do list. The stuffing had expanded and was taking up so much room. Also, in my defence I’m mulling over how best to create the cushions I mentioned in my previous post (https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/2020/05/12/a-yarn-and-preparation-experiments/), to make use of the waste yarn, (which I have rolled into hundreds of circles and now crocheted together). Sometimes my thought process has to filter through many layers!!! Although, even with my magnifying glass, I haven’t found my mojo, I haven’t really been idle.

So, I will briefly show you my recent endeavours – to find what once was….my former creative garden – hence Inspector Clouseau. Due to illness 4 years ago my ‘arty’ garden became lost and is only just emerging. Some plants that should only have been a metre high have been 4 metres high. Mother nature has had a field day, with green thugs smothering and killing so many beautiful ‘specialist’ plants. But I am determined to stay positive and see the bare soil as an opportunity for me to source new plants when we finally emerge from our lockdown.

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Somewhere in here is a path, you can just see a watering can in the middle of the picture below. I’m about halfway into this corner of the garden (we have 7 corners!), having already macheted my through to this point several weeks ago.

Tadaa. A path, complete with the watering can! The rain we had weeks ago was welcomed by the weed seeds and the part area I had previously weeded is covered in weeds….again, shin high (by the watering can). It is true what they say about one years seeding = seven years weeding, because if you look closely these weeds are giving way to a fine carpet of yet more, over the very bare surface!

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This corner is still a work in progress but the last two days of my heavy manual labour (good for removing bat-wings!) has seen the chest-high nettlesagainst the far wall and other thugs dug out and some creativity brought back.  Before anyone inquires of the brown plant in the pot – it is dead!

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This has all been current activity and not of the fibre kind, so I thought I would go back to some old creativity.

Many years ago I had a function to attend and I wanted to ‘jazz’ up a black dress. At that time burning through layers of organza/voile was popular.

I’m an avid collector of interesting images, whether from a magazine or my own photos and often reference and use these images to inform various pieces of work. The process is simple – trace the dominant lines. If the image is too small, or the colour confusing, enlarge it to a black and white copy. This can then be flipped, rotated, mirror imaged, cut and random pieced etc etc.

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Thankyou Tesco – part of your magazine lives on as your photos will become more design inspiration!

For my dress embellishment I recorded inspiration from various places and finally traced the lines from 2 landscape pictures.

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Using leaves and autumn leaf colour as further inspiration I selected appropriate pieces of organza/voile and cut some into snippets.

The above tracing for my sleeve embellisments is a portion of the Chinese terraced rice field picture.

A base layer of organza was laid down (there are no photos as this was done long before I ever thought to take ‘stage’ shots), the various coloured snippets were scattered over in sufficient number to build up about 3 or 4 layers, then another continuous piece of organza was laid over to ‘trap’ the loose pieces. On top of this sandwich a piece of clear, water dissolvable fabric was laid, onto which I had drawn the design. If any snippets were extremely out of place they were adjusted before everything was pinned in place.

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Following the design, I machine stitched over the lines using a simple running stitch, ensuring that I also stitched the edges. The collar and sleeve leaves were all undertaken as one piece.

At this point I have to tell you I was creating this piece in my talented sewing buddy’s (SB) house who was also using the same method to create her own piece.

After completing all the running stitching, the dissolvable fabric was washed away and the piece was dried – easy with a hair dryer.

Then it was onto the fun element….using a soldering iron to burn away successive layers of the organza. On my traced design you can see the shaded areas that I used as a guide for the full cut-outs (the tracing is handed to the finished piece). This is delicate work, requiring concentration and a delicate hand….SB was not quite so delicate handed and gradually she ended up with a smaller and smaller main body of work until all that she was left with was a piece the size of a small mobile phone and lots of pieces. She kept burning through all the layers! We have recounted this memory many times and each time it produces fits of giggles.09b

Having decided I’d burned enough away I then reinforced the edges of the cut-outs and added decorative satin stitching over the running stitches.

The final flourish was to add beads to the collar and sleeve leaves.

The collar is still intact (some of the photos here were taken today), in fact I actually wore it this last festive season. I mention this because the model is sooooo much younger. It wasn’t until I checked the properties of the old photos that I realised I was 14 years younger!!!

I’m sure many of you tackled this technique – oh so many years ago – what did you produce?

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