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Author: Karen Lane

Recycled Coffee Capsules

Recycled Coffee Capsules

It doesn’t seem all that long ago when life was simple and the only decisions we needed to make regarding our daily fix of caffeine were “instant or percolated”, “black or white”, “with or without sugar”?

How times have changed! Nowadays we have a dazzling array of flavours and styles to chose from when visiting our favourite Barista. I did once try a cinnamon and syrup latte in M&S and have never forgotten how vile that was…..give me a straight forward, simple latte every time! On the other hand, if you like your coffee more exotic, there are plenty of rather weird (and probably not so wonderful?) tastes to explore. The Farm Girl Cafe in Portobello Road could be the place to visit if you fancy a black charcoal latte made with activated charcoal, date syrup and cashew milk. Or how about their blue Butterfly Matcha made with organic blue matcha powder (now there’s an interesting ingredient to look up) with almond milk or their most famous creation, the rose latte (a double shot with rose water infused milk and petals)….there is obviously a market for it but personally I think I’ll pass!

Of course we no longer have to go out to get our fix of posh coffee thanks to the popularity of the domestic barista machines and the single use coffee capsule. Although many of these are said to be recyclable, according to Nestle, only around one third of their capsules (Nespresso, Dolce Gusto, Tassimo) were being returned to the manufacturer for recycling in 2020. The rest were ending up in landfill where it’s predicted they will take 500 years to breakdown!

Photo source: http://www.johnlewis.com

A “not for profit” organisation in the UK called Podback are now working with local councils and other organisations to make it easier and more convenient to recycle our capsules with roadside collections alongside other household recycling. Consumers also have the option of leaving them at over 6,500 Yodel drop off points and we should soon (if it’s not happening already) have them collected by supermarkets when they drop off our online shopping.

That’s all sounding good but many of us are finding more creative ways to recycle our coffee pods, albeit on a far smaller scale. One use is to add them as interesting, textural ‘inclusions’ to a felting project. The first time I saw this done was in 2018 when I attended a Felted jewellery workshop with the wonderful German tutor Ricarda Assmann. Although we were working with fabrics, not capsules, three of the necklaces Ricarda brought as workshop samples had the aluminium crushed pods in them. At that time I didn’t have any capsules but the contrast between the hard texture of the metal and the soft feel of the fibres really appealed to me.

Another fabulous feltmaker, Judit Pocs, created this enormous “Gate” wallhanging in response to a commission from the Feltmakers Association. It is something like 2mtrs tall and studded with crushed capsules in a multitude of colours. Judit also makes beautiful rings with them and teaches the technique for making these in her online workshop.

The Gate by Judit Pocs
The Gate detail showing the capsules
Felted capsule rings by Judit Pocs

The year before I attended Ricarda’s jewellery workshop I had the idea to recycle my collection of Tektura acrylic wallpaper samples as inclusions in my pendants (I never throw away anything that might have a use in the future!) It’s a simple process but very effective, wet felting the “waterproof” paper discs between pieces of prefelt. Four years on, and with those papers almost depleted, I’m now starting to use coffee capsules instead. Being thin aluminium they can be crushed by hand (that’s how I did the gold one in the ring) or they will flatten more easily with a little persuasion from a hammer, in which case I find it best to cover them with fabric first to avoid the hammer scratching off the colour. I’ve also started using them in some of my brooches.

I’m sure some of our readers will have tried Felting with capsules and I know Ann did some experimenting with them which you can see here, has anyone else tried this? They could look great in 3D pieces such as bags, sculptures, etc. I did a google search and didn’t find any other images of felt with capsules but I’m sure there’s lots out there somewhere. I did find zillions of “non felted” ideas for recycling on Pinterest, Etsy, YouTube, etc and websites including ecogreenlove.com, these are just a few…..

Nespresso Pendant and Earrings
Necklace
Floral Arrangement

There are so many inventive ways to create with coffee capsules and with Christmas fast approaching they could be used for decorations or even nativity scenes like these found on Pinterest…….

I will leave you with one of the most impressive uses I came across which was the stunning 2017 catwalk collection by Birmingham designer Rhys Ellis. Rhys studied Fashion Design at Birmingham University and, as part of his course, he spent a year in Italy studying at the Politecnico di Milano design school alongside world-renowned tailor, Guiltiero Fornetti.

“It was while I was in one of the markets that I saw a lady making very simple jewellery from these coffee pods and something just clicked and I knew that I could create dresses this way.“ “I also liked the idea of using material that would otherwise be thrown away.”

Photo source: http://www.comunicaffe.com

I won’t be making anything that dramatic but I am planning to make lots more pendants and brooches. I might just add some capsules to my next felted bag too. If you’ve done anything with them we would love to hear about your projects in the “comments” and you could always post them on the Forum.

Gelli Printing

Gelli Printing

I’ve recently discovered another creative distraction…..the Gelli Plate and I’m finding myself wishing there were more hours in the day! I remember a friend purchasing one of these several years ago when they first came out and saying how great they were. Back then I couldn’t see what the fuss was and I suppose I was busy doing other things and so didn’t bother trying it out.

Fast forward to last month and Carole, one of the Waltham Textile ladies, brought her Gelli Plate (and what looked like half her garden!) to our monthly meeting. She spent the day printing with acrylic paint and foliage onto paper and fabric and got some very interesting, and some very beautiful results. I didn’t think to take photos of what she was doing that day but needless to say she inspired the rest of us to get straight online and order our plates. They are widely available but I found the best price at Buddly Crafts near Spalding.

Because acrylic paint dries far quicker than printing ink it’s advisable to add an extender to keep the paint workable. I didn’t have any Matt medium to hand so tried adding a little aloe vera to my paint and found that works really well for a fraction of the price!

Unfortunately Carole couldn’t make our meeting last week but Anita, Jacky and myself turned up to christen our gelli plates.

My first attempts at foliage weren’t really me but were quickly followed by an abstract piece which I did like. For this I printed a background onto fabric using the gelli plate and then stamped it with torn textured wallpaper. The torn paper was then stitched down and more texture and colour was added with free motion stitch to create the look of rusting metal with peeling paint…..in my head at least!

I soon settled back into my usual colour palette!
This turned out to be my favourite, using black acrylic on cream cotton velvet
Adding a mount to your print makes a huge difference to how they look!

So far we’ve created very simple prints by inking up (painting up?) our plate using a brayer and then laying on leaves, etc. The first pull produces a “negative” area where the objects on the plate have been used as a resist to the paint. When you then remove the leaves you are left with a beautiful, delicate pattern which can either be printed in the resulting space or onto a different piece of fabric/paper.

This really is the tip of the iceberg because there are so many possibilities once you start printing, including the “one pull” technique. This involves layering up several colours and on each layer using a different material to push into the paint. This is all allowed to dry thoroughly before a final coat of paint is added which lifts off all the previous layers in one pull to (hopefully) produce a fabulous print with lots of depth……I will be trying this out and reporting back but for now you can see it done here. Another interesting video is this one from American mixed media artist Kathy Leader who achieves beautiful painterly effects with her gelli plate

It’s funny how things happen…..Caroles timing, in introducing me to the Gelli Plate, couldn’t have been better. The reason being that two weeks ago I rented a space in the new Art Gallery which has just opened in Alford. Out of the twenty-odd artists stocking the gallery I was surprised to discover that I am one of only two textile artists in there, the other being my friend Evelyn who creates exquisite hand embroidered pieces on silk fabric.

I’ve left the majority of my felted pieces in the Craft Shop, next door but one, and have wall art and some larger 3D pieces on display in the gallery. Thanks to Caroles inspiration I was able to call in last weekend with sufficient work, in the form of unframed gelli prints, to also stock a browser. I just hope the visitors like them enough to purchase, otherwise our walls at home are going to be covered!

This is just some of the work currently in Alford Arts.

You might remember the hexagon samples I made for one of the challenges. I removed the glass from a pair of oval frames, sanded and painted them white and adapted the hexagons to fit.

I’m guessing a lot of you reading this will already be familiar with the gelli plate but for those who haven’t yet tried it, be warned…..it’s another of those wonderful distractions that make you wish there were more hours in your day!

EYE’s Residential Weekend.

EYE’s Residential Weekend.

It’s been a long time coming but last weekend I taught my first face to face workshop of 2021 at Cober Hill near Scarborough. Originally booked for summer 2020, this residential workshop for the East Yorkshire Embroiderers had to be carried over to this year due to the Covid lockdown restrictions.

I did wonder if it was too soon for some and if numbers would be depleted but it turned out the ladies were very keen to get back to normal! Nineteen of the twenty ladies booked for the weekend retreat turned up, sixteen came to do the workshop and three came simply to chill.

Cober Hill was built in 1890 and was purchased by Arnold Rowntree, former Liberal Member of Parliament for York, and nephew of the chocolate manufacturer Joseph Rowntree, in March 1920. Rowntree had a vision for it “to be a place of joy and beauty, …a centre of refreshment and inspiration for many of those engaged in difficult public services… I hope experiments in Weekend Schools, Winter and Summer Schools of various kinds and of longer or shorter duration may also be tried there…” The venue, with its gardens, tennis court, croquet lawn, theatre and numerous other communal spaces, has an annual programme of craft workshops as well as hosting private groups, businesses and schools.

The theme for our weekend was “trees” and the aim was for the students to combine layers of fabric and paint with machine and hand stitching. The finished work could then either be backed as a quilt or mounted in a frame.

After dinner on the Friday evening the group were shown examples of my “tree themed” work and I talked through the techniques I had used to create them. The ladies then started to plan their designs based on images they had brought for inspiration. Not everyone wanted to do trees, one lady chose to use the techniques discussed to do a moon gazing hare while another went completely “off piste” with her abstract take on an owl!

Maggie went her own way with an Owl.
Dorothy and Debra painting their backgrounds.
Ann laying down the background for her tree silhouettes.
Melanie painting her background layer.
Rachel’s background is painted and now she’s working on her foreground layers.
Sandra adding detail to her foreground trees.

With the bulk of the painting completed and dried on Friday evening the ladies could concentrate on layering and stitching their fabrics on the Saturday.

Hilary’s background has been painted and now she is starting to layer fabrics to create her forest.
Rhona’s moon gazing hare is taking shape.
Dorothy’s forest is pinned and ready for stitching.
Evelyn’s work in progress.

I think the surprise of the weekend was Melanie who only came to Cober Hill to keep Ann, her grandma, company. This young lady doesn’t have the use of a sewing machine and had never done any free motion stitching before…..she borrowed Ann’s machine and took to it like a duck to water!

Melanie’s lone tree is starting to take form.
Rachel adding her gate and railings.
Ruth is beginning to add hand embroidery to her tree.
Debra used lots of free motion stitch on her version of a tree canopy.
Using the same image as Debra for inspiration, Carol chose to give her tree canopy autumnal colouring.
Judy’s version of my Walk in the Forest.
Hilary made good use of zig zag free motion stitch for trees in the distance.
Margaret’s version of my Three Tall Trees.
Dorothy added hand embroidery for foreground grasses and flowers.
Melanie’s finished work…..fantastic to think this was her first attempt at machine sewing and hand embroidery!
Rhona’s moon gazing hare…..what this image doesn’t show clearly is the addition of black beads which adds texture and sparkle when you see it close up.
Close up of Sandra’s finished trees.

What I hadn’t realised at the outset was that none of these lady’s had done anything like this before, so for some it had been a steep learning curve! It was great to see everyone throwing themselves into the task of painting, layering and stitching and the results speak for themselves! By the time we left Cober Hill on the Sunday there had been some terrific work created. I hope some of my students will continue to develop these techniques alongside their more traditional skills. At least one of them has since bought herself a soldering iron for doing more of this kind of work which was music to my ears!

I just want to say a huge thank you to the EYE’s group for inviting me back to teach their 2021 residential and for being such willing students and wonderful company. I shall look forward to working with you again at some point in the future.

The EYE’s class of 2021.
Inspired by the Northumbrian Countryside

Inspired by the Northumbrian Countryside

Two weeks ago I took advantage of Covid restrictions being lifted for self catering holidays in England and took off for a weeks holiday in one of my favourite UK destinations. Rothbury in Northumberland is a small, picturesque town nestled in the Coquet Valley.

Looking towards the town centre from south of the river
Heading downhill from my apartment into town

Unfortunately the weather forecast was looking bleak but I was going to make the most of it. I set off with my car packed with as much crafting gear as I could fit in i.e. fibre and felting equipment, fabric, sewing machine, etc, etc the plan being to have a relaxing break, do a little walking and create a piece of work inspired by the Northumbrian countryside. I would return home feeling refreshed, fit and with a finished piece of work…..if I only managed two out of those three (and I did) I wouldn’t have guessed which would have fallen by the wayside!

The view from the patio was pretty good.

Although there were occasional (very) heavy showers and lots of cloud the weather turned out be a bit better than I had expected so it made sense to pack a rucksack and walk during the day and leave the creative stuff to do in the evenings.

Rothbury is a great base for anyone who likes walking with beautiful scenery and lots of trails in the surrounding hills, forests and along the riverbank. Plus it’s only a forty-ish minute scenic drive to Beadnell on the coast, another favourite haunt, with almost deserted beach walks to Dunstanburgh castle heading south or Seahouses and Bamburgh Castle heading north.

Climbing the hill behind my accommodation gave stunning views of the Simonside Hills on the opposite side of the valley.
Crossing the river and heading for the Simonside Hills
A terrific downpour has just passed over!
One of my favourite lunch stops on the riverbank
Harbour at Seahouses
Pace Hill is a tiny spit of land jutting out into the sea just to the east of Seahouses Harbour.
After clambering over the rocks I reached the curious stone construction which turned out to be a Grade II listed building dating back to 1886. It was built to store gunpowder used in blasting when the Long Pier and New Harbour were being built. On the horizon to the left you can just make out one of the Farne Islands.
Lunch stop on the Harbour Wall on my way to Bamburgh Castle
Approaching the imposing Bamburgh Castle from the south on an almost deserted beach.
This is one of my favourite images of the castle and will definitely inspire a textile piece. I’m seeing the background and castle painted and the foreground grasses stitched.

I also came home with lots of dry stone wall images…..as if I don’t have enough already!!

Although I had every intention of being productive in the evenings the combination of loads of exercise, beautiful clean air, wine and a well stocked book shelf in my apartment, meant I didn’t get much creative work done at all while I was there! Who cares!! I had a terrific time and came home with a few of what I refer to as my ‘bacon rashers’ (lengths of abstract felted pieces, often with fabric included) in colours and textures inspired by my walks. Plus all the inspiration I needed to produce a large abstract mixed media piece based on the Northumbrian countryside including those beautiful rolling hills.

‘Bacon rashers’ formed from a variety of fibres and silk fabrics drying in the sun
Pinning together with sheer fabrics to try different layouts.

Since getting home the rashers, plus various other slivers of sheers and painted Lutradur, have been assembled onto a background of painted Lutradur measuring 110cm x 60cm and are now being stitched in position.

So far so good but the top left corner needs some thought.
A few extra pieces of felt have been made to fill gaps while a fine tip soldering iron is used to cut the slivers of painted Lutradur.

Now I’m happy with the placement of all the pieces it’s just a matter of adding more free motion stitching until it tells me it’s done. Lastly I will make a wooden framework to mount it on and then it’s ready to include in the ”Final Show” (of the now defunct CCN group) Exhibition at the Sam Scorer Gallery in Lincoln from the 8th June.

It’s still a work in progress but the end is in sight!
Hexagons and Holes

Hexagons and Holes

OK, I have to hold my hands up yet again….I hadn’t looked at my diary yet this month and so completely forgot about today’s blog post!! It’s funny how it’s so easy to forget what you should be doing when you really don’t have anything much to remember anymore, thanks to Covid!

Thank goodness for our quarterly challenges….always a handy blog subject when you’re caught out last minute! I’ve really enjoyed the first one of 2021 which was to make something inspired by the decade 1900-1909. Lyn gave us lots of examples of people, events, etc from that era which could be used as a starting point to fire our imagination and get us thinking about what we were going to create. As soon as I read the dates I knew instantly that I would be using the book Art Forms in Nature as my main source of inspiration. The book is a compilation of illustrations by the German botanist and zoologist Ernst Haeckel.

I’d bought the book about a year ago having accidentally come across Haeckel’s illustrations during an online search. Although based on reality they are very stylised and have an instantly recognisable quality which has led to them being used as inspiration by artists and designers from the Art Nouveau period through to the present day.

A recurring shape seen throughout this book is the hexagon, hardly surprising as it’s everywhere we look in nature……from the basalt pillars of the Giants Causeway to honeycomb, it’s also found in the eyes of insects, tortoise shells, fish scales and as a cloud formation around the North Pole of Saturn…..the list goes on and on!

There are lots of fascinating facts about hexagons in nature which I hadn’t ever given a thought to in the past, but that’s a great thing about doing these challenges…..you never know where they might lead you or what you might discover.

I like working in 3D so decided to use the hexagon as a raised surface decoration for two wet felted samples. They were both made with the same size resists using Bergschaf fibres and each piece is approximately 32cm across and about 5cm high.

The first was a very simple form which can be open or closed. The second was created using exactly the same template but what was negative space on the top layer in the first sample became positive space in the second, creating a totally different look.

The domed shapes were created using differential shrinkage so didn’t need padding but I’ve added it anyway so I could get a little more height in the centres. I’ve also added a few Colonial Knots to one of them.

I don’t do enough sampling so I’m now working on some more designs of this size but, rather than keeping the backgrounds circular, I’m thinking of cutting them into hexagons so I can join them together without gaps as one large “sampler” Wallhanging.

Another challenge I’m currently making for is titled “Filled Holes” and this is one I’ve set for my local Belchford group. It came about during a Zoom meeting when Lucy showed us a project she had done for her college course. As you can see from this image Lucys is very small, the holes have been made from magazine pages and some contain found objects.

I set off with the intention of making circular holes in fabric and using a soluble backing to fill them with free motion stitch. As often happens before I knew it I’d veered off and ended up with something completely different! I found some fabric I had stamped with leaves and acrylics and another piece that I’d rust dyed ages ago and done nothing with. The one painted with acrylic was quite stiff and so perfect for creating raised domes (this must have been at the back of my mind since the hexagon samples). The other had small rust marks from washers and bolts which could be framed by allowing them to peep through the holes.

I’m really happy with how these three pieces turned out, and each little hole does have a rust print “filling”, but are they “Filled Holes”? I’m not totally convinced I’ve met my own brief so next time I will show you what I did when I returned to my original idea of using the soluble fabric and the free motion stitch.

Source of images.

Giants Causeway: https://discovernorthernireland.com/things-to-do/giants-causeway-p696331

Insect eye: https://nautil.us/issue/35/boundaries/why-nature-prefers-hexagons

Tortoise shell: https://www.tortoiseowner.com/can-tortoises-turtles-live-without-their-shell/

Honeycomb Cowfish: https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/discover-fish/species-profiles/acanthostracion-polygonius/

Saturn: https://www.countrylife.co.uk/nature/hexagon-abounds-in-the-natural-world-153183

ReConnect

ReConnect

Happy New Year!

I have my fingers, legs and toes crossed that, at some point later this year, we might actually be in the position of being able to safely congregate once more in large groups. Zoom has been, and continues to be, a great way of keeping in touch with family and friends but it’s also proving invaluable for many creative groups allowing us to carry on meeting, have our regular show and tell, exchange ideas and generally stay together.

Another creative positive from last year was online shows and exhibitions. Ok it’s certainly not the same as actually being there but it has allowed artists an outlet for their creativity and, in turn, provided inspiration for those of us who have visited, albeit virtually. In some cases it may be that, having seen a body of work online, we might be all the more likely to make the effort to travel to see it in the flesh once things return to normal. For me, the most inspiring work I saw online last year was the Hinterland collection created in 2017 by Gladys Paulus and featured in the 2020 video Hinterland by Gladys Paulus – a film by Chris Chapman. Gladys’s work is incredibly skilful in its design and execution and I’ve been in awe of this body of work since it was first made public but not had the chance to see it on display. With this film we are privileged to not only see but also hear the story behind this collection, as narrated by the artist. This takes the viewers experience to another level. Its a very personal and very moving story, if you haven’t already seen this film please take a look.

Another “positive” that some of us were able to take from last year was a “reconnect” with nature. Prior to lockdown my morning routine with Maddie was a short walk to the local park where I would throw her ball for half an hour while chatting to other dog walkers. On days when I was working this would sometimes feel rushed and I would be constantly clock watching to ensure I wasn’t making myself late.

Lockdown meant my days had no time constraints, it was also no longer socially acceptable to stand around in groups in the park chatting, and the government were encouraging us all to get fit……Maddie was about to discover doggy heaven! The lengthy weekend walks, anything from one to two hours across the fields and through the woods, now became our daily routine. When we return to work I’m going to have to set my alarm a lot earlier as this is one routine I’m not prepared to give up!

Country walks are always a great source of creative inspiration and, if you’re like me, you’ve got hundreds of photos saved “just incase”! Someday you might get around to starting that felted/textile project on weeds, lichen, frozen puddles, frozen leaves, dried leaves, tree bark, tree skeletons, fungi, seaweed, stones, bracken, insects……..the list goes on!

One thing I hadn’t particularly noticed, and hadn’t deliberately photographed, prior to last April was shadows. I’d not given them a thought in the past but with time on my hands, and what seemed like never ending sunshine, I found myself noticing them. The most interesting were on a tree lined stretch of the Viking Way. I’d walked this path hundreds of times before but only now was I seeing these wonderful lacy patterns and thinking they could be the starting point for an abstract wet felted Wallhanging.

I didn’t sketch or design my layout or colour scheme, it simply started out as a white Merino background with clouds of pale Viscose. Several layers of “shadows” were built up randomly on top, the first was green Viscose, the others Merino. After felting I added detail with free motion stitch and lots of Colonial Knots – my favourite hand stitch! The addition of texture started to move the piece away from “shadows” more towards bark/fungi but I was happy with that as it was keeping the tree connection. The finished piece is approx 42cm x 58cm.

Due to ongoing restrictions the International Feltmakers are holding a virtual AGM on 27th March and to coincide with that they will be launching their second online exhibition of members work. This years exhibition title is ReConnect and any work submitted has to be less than a year old. I’ve chosen this piece as my submission as its creation back in June was sparked at a time when a lot of us were reconnecting with the natural world, taking the time to notice things that have always been there but which we may have previously overlooked. It’s world’s away from the imagination and expertise of Gladys but we all need someone or something to aspire to…..fingers crossed it gets selected!

I wonder which feltmaker/textile artist you find particularly inspiring?

Fourth Quarter Challenge

Fourth Quarter Challenge

Although I don’t normally make a big deal out of Christmas the one thing I’ve always enjoyed, and can’t imagine not doing, is decorating my tree. The bigger the tree the better….in fact if it doesn’t touch the ceiling it isn’t up to the job! At this point I will come clean and admit that, as the trees got bigger and bigger, I made the shift from real trees to an 8 foot artificial one. I can hear the groans from those who wouldn’t dream of buying artificial, that used to be me, but it is what it is!

Most of my tree decorations have been homemade or received as gifts with some of the quirkiest, and most meaningful, coming from my Aunty Das who sadly isn’t with us any more. These lovely wooden decorations were gifted from Das to my partner who’s hobby is flying.

And these are a few I’ve made in the past…..

These rosette paper baubles took hours to make and won’t be repeated! The dark one is 17cm diameter and was made from black and white photos cut from magazines, the other two are 11cm and made from an old book.

With a big tree there’s always room for more baubles and with the fourth quarter challenge being Christmas Decorations it was the perfect excuse to make more. I found some 10cm and 8cm polystyrene balls locally and covered the large ones with four coordinating cream/black fabrics and the small ones with four green/red fabrics.

Some of the balls have been cut into eight segments and others have had extra horizontal cuts to create a patchwork effect.
I’ve found a stash of old baubles in the loft and these are getting a makeover this year, drawing on them with the hot glue gun and then covering them with Matt emulsion.

One of the first wet felting workshops I attended was run by Robyn Smith who taught how to make these gorgeous fairy boots…..I’ve made them as gifts every Christmas since then. With more time on my hands this year, and prompted by the Challenge, I’ve made myself some plus a few extras to sell.

As it’s the season to be jolly, and gnomes have always made me smile, I’ve had a go at making some of those too. The Scandinavian gnome is typically associated with the Winer Solstice and Christmas season so I thought I’d have a go at making my version of a Scandi gnome.

The gnomes came about by accident really. Spurred on by the challenge I’d ordered some 14cm high polystyrene cones online (by this time we were in lockdown) with the intention of making Christmas Tree shaped table decorations. When they arrived every one of the ten cones was damaged.

Rather than send them back, the challenge now was, what could I make with them that didn’t need to be a perfect cone shape? That’s when the gnomes came to mind….the wonky cones would make the perfect base!

Originally I thought about making flat felt for their clothes but then decided to use the same cream/black fabrics I had used for the large baubles, plus a few others. Being in lockdown and wanting to get straight on with them I searched around for something to make the beards out of and found an old cardigan at the back of my wardrobe that had a faux fur collar…..needless to say it doesn’t any more! The first beard I cut didn’t look right. With trial and error I’ve discovered that the way to cut faux fur is by working from the back and only cutting the backing fabric, not the fur itself, using a scalpel blade. That way you get a nice shaggy beard.

The females have Merino wool plaits and both sexes have felted button noses. I’ve machine sewn their outfits but if you were making these with children they could be made just with the glue gun for a quicker finish.

The clothes are simply a triangle for the hat, a semicircle for the jacket and a circle for the dress and/or gents undergarment.

The dress circle is simply hand stitched around the circumference, put on the cone and then pulled tight and the thread knotted. The front of the dress is then pulled up to approx 10cm from the base and hot glued in position.

I decided to use a belt and braces method to attach the nose as I was afraid it might get knocked off (really??) It’s been hand stitched to a strip of white fabric and that in turn is glued onto the cone. Thinking about it now, was this over engineered? Definitely!

The waistcoat was finished with a metal bead and the Merino fibre plaits attached either side of the nose using hot glue. The oversized hat has been glued in several places to create the sloppy look. To finish them off I’ve stood each gnome on a slice of wood.

I’ve had fun making these and I’m keeping a male and female on a shelf in my studio because I can’t look at them without smiling! Besides, a gnome isn’t just for Christmas!

Whatever you get up to over the Christmas period have fun and stay safe!

Where did the sun go?

Where did the sun go?

By the time you are reading this I will be back home in Lincolnshire but, right now, I’m tucked away in a lovely holiday cottage a few minutes from the beach at Beadnell in Northumberland wondering….. where did the sun go? This is one of my favourite parts of the UK, come rain or shine, and this week has certainly been a mix of both! One day I needed sunscreen and the next it was a full set of waterproofs!

As you can see, social distancing wasn’t a problem walking from Beadnell to Seahouses via the beach.
Got a good drenching walking south towards Dunstanburgh earlier today!

The beaches up here are a mix of fine golden sand, pebbles and wonderful layers of colourful rock – I can see a few of these images coming in useful as inspiration for future textile work.

But I digress……what I was wanting to share with you this time is my first attempt at sun printing. My friend Jacky has been doing a lot of this over the summer inspired by Micky Lawler’s “Skydyes”. A few weeks ago she suggested we get together in her garden, following social distancing guidelines, and she would show me how it’s done.

The first task was to roam around Jacky’s garden selecting leaves and flower heads for our prints. With eco printing certain leaves give better results (due to their chemical make up?) but with sun printing you can get sharpe prints from any leaf as long as you can make a good contact with your fabric. Some of the leaves we picked were hammered a little to flatten them out prior to use.

It was a very windy day so we used masking tape to hold down our cotton fabric before spritzing it with water.

Once we had wetted out we used a wide paintbrush and watered down (1:1) Pebeo Setacolor transparent paint to completely cover the fabric. You can buy paint specifically for sun printing but I’ve also read that any transparent acrylic paint will do the job.

Whilst the paint was still wet leaves and petals were then laid on and pinned, or weighted down using small pebbles, to ensure a good contact. We worked in the shade as fast as possible to avoid the paint drying out. As it was such a hot day the fabric was spritzed occasionally as we worked. Anything placed on the painted fabric acts as a resist for the sun, resulting in bleached out areas.

Small pebbles and rice were used create additional marks

The work was left in the sun for an hour or so while we ate lunch and once it had done its job the fabrics were ironed and this was the result…..

We had a lot of fun and varying degrees of success but it’s surprising how much more interesting certain areas can appear when you use a view finder.

This final image is a beautiful quilt that Jacky went on to make using a piece of her sun printed fabric and silhouette appliqué. The effect is pretty striking!

Cuffs and Stuff

Cuffs and Stuff

A couple of years ago a friend alerted me to the wonderful Australian magazine simply called “Felt”. It’s only published twice a year but I look forward to it eagerly as it’s always crammed with interesting photographs and articles including artist profiles and project tutorials.

One of the artists featured in the latest edition is the Canadian born feltmaker Christianna Ferguson. Christianna’s work is very colourful and textural and, as well as teaching and exhibiting, she also creates what she calls “more functional art: scarves, purses, cuffs, tea-cosies and wearables.”

Examples of the colourful and textural work of Christianna Ferguson

So, having read about her work, when I turned the page and saw the tutorial for making her fabulous little Nuno felted and hand embroidered cuffs I had to have a go!

The fasteners are particularly cute and make an interesting feature but I struggled to get them as firm as I would have liked. For an added twist I’ve included some hand stitching and a bead to my fasteners. I added some hand embroidery to my green cuff but wasn’t happy with it…..looking back at Christianna’s examples I can see that my stitching wasn’t subtle enough! I much prefer the grey one which I left plain.

The good thing to come out of this exercise, having made two in this style, is that I’ve been reminded how much fun cuffs are to make. I designed several Nuno felted & free motion stitched cuffs for my sales tables last year and this has encouraged me to get on and make more.

Some of my earlier cuffs – can’t help but think of bacon rashers when I look at this photo!
Nuno felted and free motion stitched cuffs

I also got thinking about other possibilities and how much more sculptural I could make my cuffs. The next set are based on the design of one of my bangles, using a felt ball as the fastener and keeping the little beaded element.

The bangle that inspired the cuffs
The slits have been filled with half balls and metal buttons

They were all fun to make but I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer the irregular shaped, Nuno style with the stitched edging (from last year) so I’ve come full circle! These are two I started this morning…..

Pre-felts laid out and wetted prior to felting
Using differential shrinkage creates an undulating surface

And this is them finished. Christianna said that when she makes hers “each cuff feels like a little piece of abstract art” and I couldn’t agree more. Although I love creating larger pieces of work there is something very satisfying about making these little cuffs and ending up with a totally unique, wearable item.

Time for a new hobby

Time for a new hobby

For many of us going into lockdown meant we suddenly found ourselves with lots of free time. For the first month I carried on felting and stitching, working on a few projects I had planned for Summer exhibitions. By the time we got to the end of April reality had hit home and it was looking less and less likely that those exhibitions would be happening before the Autumn, if at all this year! For ages I’ve been wanting to take up dressmaking and it suddenly dawned on me that I’d now got the time for a new hobby.

I’d only tried this once before when I made my “duvet dress”, a tunic made from an old Ikea duvet cover. It was a very simple pattern, bought because I liked the style but also because it said “Yes, It’s easy” on the front of the packet! I was pleased with the result but never got around to doing any more.

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What I really wanted to do this time around was to make a pattern taking inspiration  from a Masai dress I particularly liked that was well worn, and accidentally splashed with bleach. I took it apart, laid each section onto lining paper and traced around, adding half an inch all round for seams. I found some 3/4″ elastic for the sides of the hem but didn’t know how to create the elasticated band across the back of the dress. In the end I figured, as it was such a loose fit, an elasticated back wasn’t really necessary. Instead I cut a pattern for a plain band, the same width and depth as the elastic panel, and gathered the excess fabric onto it. I didn’t have any dress fabric, and besides I wasn’t sure if the pattern would work, so used the old left over Ikea duvet cover to make a toile, or muslin.  

This was quickly followed by a couple of camisoles. The pattern was created by tracing over the top section of the See & Sew tunic pattern.  I took the bottom of the armhole and the centre fold as my base.  It didn’t want to be as loose as the tunic so the side seam was narrowed, the neckline lowered and the shoulders were shortened and narrowed. A quick search on YouTube provided techniques for adding facings and for making and inserting thin straps. Once I knew the pattern worked a Principles skirt was cut up and used for the second cami…..nothing will be safe in my wardrobe any more!

The next item was based on a favourite jacket. It’s had a lot of wear and become very pilled and bobbly but I was determined not to throw it out until I’d found a replacement. This was a bit trickier to trace around as it’s stretchy and I couldn’t bring myself to take it apart! There are lots of Youtube videos showing how to fold items to trace around them…..it’s easy enough as long as there are no darts involved…..nothing I’ve traced so far has had darts! One thing I learnt from drawing around the jacket sleeves though is that it isn’t enough to simply mark the fold line…..you need to allow a little more width when dealing with thicker, folded fabric. My first attempt resulted in the sleeve being a little too narrow. The other thing to bear in mind is your choice of fabric. It was quite a challenge searching the house for a fabric with similar properties to the original to make the toile. It needed to be thickish, stretchy and ideally something that wouldn’t need hemming. The nearest match I could find was an old fleece blanket with a pattern of enormous spots! I’d no intention of this being a finished item, it was just meant as a trial, but since the weathers cooled off I’ve worn it twice already!!

Another project has been this midi length dress, recycled from a charity shop buy. It was four sizes too large for me but I loved the fabric and knew it would come in useful sometime! After taking it apart the sleeves were used to made saddle bag pockets, the side seams were taken in and the hemline scalloped. I’m not normally a flowery type but it’s worn with a pair of wide leg linen trousers and I absolutely love it! 

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I’m loving my new hobby and getting a bit obsessive with it….these items are just a few of what’s been made so far from recycled fabrics.  Although our shops are not fully open yet, last weekend I did manage to pick up a couple of new dress fabrics, neither are quite right for the Masai dress but it will be fun making something from them! 

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