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Community Art Installation

Community Art Installation

I was asked by my local community arts centre to run a felting workshop to contribute ‘something’ to a community art installation to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s forthcoming platinum jubilee.  The wonderful Horsebridge Community Arts Centre in Whitstable is creating a ‘tea party with a twist’: everything will be hand-made and not necessarily from the usual materials.  Think papier mâché teacups and crocheted sandwiches.  The Horsebridge received a grant from Arts Council England to create their installation which meant participation was free but I would get paid to run the workshop – a win-win!

I mulled over what the ‘something’ might be and decided to run a workshop making wet felted flowers as table centre pieces.

I decided early on to take my colour inspiration from the Commonwealth flag – royal blue and golden yellow. This would reduce the choices people would have to make (which often take a long time!) and would be a change from the red, white and blue of our national flag.

I’ve not made flowers before so set about designing something that was as simple as possible to make. The creators were unlikely to have any felting experience and we were going to do this in 2½ hours – both demonstrate and make.

By now my friend Sue (a ceramicist) had agreed to run another workshop making slab pot vases for the flowers to sit in, so they needed to stand in a vase. I took some wool away on a trip with me and started trying out designs.

Prototype One: a loopy sort of flower made by laying out 5 separate petal shapes of wool (herring-bone style layout) then felting them together with a little wool in the middle.

I thought it was OK but getting the petals even was a little challenging and we’d have to use wire for the stems. I wasn’t sure they’d sit very well in vases and I generally thought I could do better, so moved on to my second design.

Prototype Two: I liked this a little better. It was laid out in a flat circle and the petals were cut part-way though fulling. It seemed pleasingly tulip-shaped. I wasn’t content to settle quite yet, though, as I had a few other ideas to try out.

Prototype Three: a more complex design laying out one larger circle of wool then covering it with a circular resist with a hole in the middle and laying out a smaller circle of wool on top of the resist, ensuring the two layers joined together through the hole.  Not surprisingly, I realised that this was going to be way too complicated to create in the time available. The fulling took a long time. I did like the blue edging on the petals though so carried this through to the next sample.

Prototype Four: I wanted to try adding a felt rope stem so it would sit nicely in a vase without using wire so needed a fairly simple flower shape if there was going to be time to add the stem to the design.  I made a felt rope in blue, keeping one end dry and fluffy to attach to the flower head.  The head was laid out in a single yellow layer, radiating out from the centre, in a similar way to prototype 2. I joined the stem as I wetted down the wool and covered it with a piece of bubble wrap with a hole in the middle for the stem to poke through.  This would prevent the body of the stem felting to the flower.

Once the flower and stem were at prefelt stage and the stem was securely attached, I picked up the flower by the stem and rolled it closed, mostly between my palms, to shape it into a 3D rather than flat flower.

Yes, this seemed just about do-able within the time and was reasonably simple for inexperienced felters to make.  If anyone ran out of time they could skip the petal-cutting stage and make a cone-shape flower so they wouldn’t have to heal all the edges and shape every individual petal.

By the time I got back to my studio the right coloured wool had arrived, along with some yellow tussah silk.  I already had blue and yellow nepps so I could set about refining my prototype.  A few design changes: I decided we’d run a second layer of wool just around the outside of the flower head circle as this would give the petals a bit more body.  Second, I’d add add nepps to the centre and a few strands of silk to the petals. Here’s the new layout.

And here’s the finished flower: advanced prototype 4!

Yes, I was pleased with the improvements and fairly confident the flowers would sit comfortably in their vases. I parcelled out the wool, nepps and silk and gathered together all the equipment ready for the workshop. It took a while!

Normally I teach a maximum of 8 people at a time but as this was a small make I rather recklessly committed to 16 – thinking I could have 2 people per table. Not a problem until I started to seek out 16 towels and 16 mats…..but it seems my hoarding tendencies came good! Cutting out 32 pieces of bubble wrap (16 of which needed a hole cutting in the middle) and 16 pieces of net started to feel like I was on a production line. Happily, though, I got everything together just in time for the day of the workshop.

Here’s the teaching room at the Horsebridge with everyone setting to work – a lovely light, airy and spacious room with people well spaced-out.

A couple of work in progress shots

And lots of happy felters with their beautiful creations.

The workshop seemed to go well and we produced plenty of flowers to add to the installation. I made sure people took photos of their own flowers as they can collect them after the event, if they want to.

Here’s most of them gathered at the end of the workshop.

Lessons: we needed more time! It’s hard to estimate how long it will take to demonstrate something and for people then to make it.  I’d opted for 2½ hours but with hindsight should have gone for 3.  I’ve left myself quite a lot of ‘finishing off’ to do – to make sure stems are firm enough for example – before the flowers go into the installation in early June. I could wrap the floppier stems in florists wire but I’d prefer them to be fully felted. It also took me way longer than I’d realised both to develop the prototypes and prep all the materials. Happily I was able to put the time in and I’m now fully ready for any future flower felting opportunities!

The installation is from 2 June and I’m really excited to see how it all comes together and how the flowers fit in. I took part in a couple of the other workshops: making slab pot vases and monoprint doilies. There’s something really joyous for me in taking part in a community art project and the Horsebridge have done a wonderful job in involving lots of people in the installation. As well as a series of workshops, they’ve sent out lots of making kits for people who can’t get to the centre to make things and worked really hard to involve lots of different members of the community. If you’re interested in the end result I’m sure the Horsebridge Arts Centre will post photos so here’s a link to their website. https://thehorsebridge.org.uk/ and a big thanks too to Arts Council England for providing the project funding. https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/.

Quilt & Stitch Village

Quilt & Stitch Village

I’ve just taken part in my first show after two years of Covid restrictions and it felt great to be back to normal! The event was the British Quilt & Stitch Village, an annual 3 day textile show held at Uttoxeter Racecourse in Staffordshire.

It was my first time exhibiting at Uttoxeter and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would visitor numbers be low? Most ladies attending shows like this are of a certain age (me included!) and I know some still have concerns about mixing in large groups. This is predominantly a quilt show, would there be enough interest in feltmaking or would the majority walk straight passed? I was manning my stall alone…. would the neighbouring stall holders be too busy to relieve me when I needed a loo break? I needn’t have worried, when the doors opened at 10am the visitors flooded in and it turned out to be three very “full on” days! These are a few of the items I had on show……

I’ve recently made these collars, narrower than previous designs, with a roll edge trimmed in a contrasting colour.
For me the main aim of being at the show was to advertise my workshops and this is a new workshop sample for a Wallhanging class exploring different 3D techniques.

My pitch was next to Project Linus, a charitable organisation that provides quilts and blankets for children in need. Their aims are to “Provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need through the gifts of new handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer “blanketeers.” And to “provide a rewarding and fun service opportunity for interested individuals and groups in local communities, for the benefit of children.”

Project Linus always attracts a lot of interest and the two lovely ladies on that stand were swamped with visitors for the three days! Somehow they still managed to cover for me when I needed a comfort break which was really appreciated!

I didn’t get much chance to visit other stands but when Jane (Wylde Oak Artistry) came over to say hello and told me she was working with Spun-bond fabrics I had to go see her work. I loved her masks and corsets, made on the theme of body dysmorphia, and came away feeling that there is so much more I could be doing with Lutradur!

Another stand I particularly enjoyed was “Traverse”, a group of exhibiting textile and mixed media artists. Apologies for not getting close ups of their work…….it’s worth following the link and taking a look at their website.

It’s a great show, spread over three large halls as well as various other smaller buildings. Most of the photos I took were prior to opening but as you will see from the last three, we really did get visitors! Roll on Quilt & Stitch Village 2023!

New Community Pages

New Community Pages

I’m excited to announce that we have developed some new community pages for all of our readers and followers. We have had loads of requests from interested readers who wanted to submit photos after reading a post or being inspired by a challenge. We now have a place that anyone can submit a photo. Our Community Photo Submissions page is now ready for you to submit a photo. It’s under the Community tab on the menu.

We only ask that you resize your photo before submitting it to something smaller than 1MB. This allows more space for the photos and quicker loading of the site. Please include a description of what you are submitting as well as why you are submitting the photo. Once the submission is complete, we will review the photo and put it in the gallery under the community pages. This may take a bit of time (up to a week) but soon your submission will be available for everyone to see.

We have also included our Links/Resources page under the Community menu tab. There is some great information there if you haven’t checked it out before.

The other page in the Community menu is Links to Blog Posts. The page gives you a list of the last forty blog posts by name. It automatically updates whenever a new post is published. You might wonder what the purpose of this page is or how you would use it. If you read a post in the last several months, and you want to find it again, you can look on this page to find the post easily. That way, you aren’t scrolling endlessly through long posts trying to find a particular post. It’s also a place where Instagram visitors will land so that they can find the post they would like to read easily. Thanks Helene for setting this page up!

These changes have made this site much more interactive and we’d like to encourage all of you to submit some photos of your work. Have you created samples or a finished piece with repurposed or recycled items? The First Quarter Challenge is coming to an end but we’d love to see what you have created. It doesn’t matter if you created it recently or in the past, we would love to see how you are repurposing items into something new. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a finished piece or a small sample, show us your creations. You can upload photos here.

Or do you have some felt samples that you have from different breeds? Ann posted about her felt sample class recently and showed a sample of white welsh mountain sheep. Perhaps you have some samples of some wool breeds that aren’t commonly used in felting? We would love to see the samples with information about how the sample was made, about the breed, how the felting process went and the end result.

Also, don’t forget that registration is still open for the Hanging Felted Spiral with Helene. Class begins on April 8th.

 

 

Monstera

Monstera

Happy New Year to all!

At the Waltham Textile group we normally have a biannual exhibition of our work but, due to Covid, it was cancelled in 2020 rescheduled for 2021 and then had to be cancelled again. It’s now been confirmed for August but in the meantime I’ve sold my main “Leaf” themed piece so recently made this mixed media “Monstera” to replace it.

I’m also thinking of submitting this piece for the 2022 IFA online exhibition which has the theme of Flora & Fauna. I’m waiting to hear if a mixed media piece will be accepted. I can’t imagine it being a problem but, if it is, I can simply crop one of the images to show the felted leaf.

I bought a 40cm x 80cm canvas with the intention of painting Monstera leaves on it and then adding a 3D Felted leaf. After drawing a template onto paper and offering it up to plan the layout I changed my mind about painting onto the canvas. It’s not something I’ve done before and the surface appeared to be a bit too textured for the look I wanted to create. Instead I sketched the leaves onto a piece of white cotton fabric, outlined them with an Inktense pencil and added a little shading. The aim was for very simple, very smooth, perfectly formed leaves looking more like curved metal than the foliage on my cheese plant. I think this was influenced by the very smooth metallic looking Tyvek seed pods I’ve been making lately. The Monstera in our lounge has been a bit neglected, to the point that I couldn’t bring myself to photograph it for this post!

I don’t consider myself a painter but I do like painting on to fabric. If you need to paint precise lines a good tip is to use aloe vera (by far the cheapest) or acrylic medium instead of water when applying acrylics on fabric. This keeps the paint where you want it to be and avoids it bleeding into other areas. I managed to get a tiny bit of black paint on the lower section of the fabric but stopped short of starting all over again when I realised the felted leaf would cover it up!

My paper template for the painted leaves was 13” x 18” so to make the felted leaf I multiplied by 1.4 enlarging it to 18.5” x 24” to allow for shrinkage. Layer one was a very yellowish green Merino (might have been lichen but not certain). Layer two was a combination of various shades of grey with the yellowish green running down the centre. This was topped with a layer of dark green Merino and Ireland Viscose all around the edge and snippets of gold Viscose down the centre. These images don’t give a true representation of colours but you get the gist.

After wetting out I measured the fibres and found they had spread to approx 20” x 27”. At the fulling stage, every now and then, I put the original template on top to check for size and ensure I was keeping to the right shape.

Once it had shrunk to the correct size it was left to dry. The next stage was to add wires to the back of the leaf so it could be shaped. This could possibly have been done with directional laying of the fibres and lots of fulling but I wanted the option of posing the leaf once it was attached to the canvas and wires are a good way of doing this.

The wires were spaced out and attached on the reverse using a zigzag stitch which also formed the veins on the front side. You can see that bright yellowish green colour on the reverse of the leaf. Once that was done it was just a matter of cutting into the felt to form the individual leaves and the characteristic little holes of the cheese plant.

After attaching to the canvas with a few strategic stitches the leaf was given its final shaping. It’s now hanging in the lounge above my cheese plant where it will stay until the exhibition…..although if I do get the chance to sell it I suppose there is still time to make another!!

A Wool and Felting Study Group

A Wool and Felting Study Group

My weavers’ and spinners’ (and felters) guild has had to move online during the pandemic. One way we have been interacting is with Study Groups. For those who don’t know a study group is a bit like a workshop but not. There is a leader, and they facilitate the learning and do the organizing. It is an interactive learning experience with everyone participating and sharing information.

To that end, I will be running a Wool and Felting Study Group. It is open to anyone anywhere around the world, but be aware of the time difference.  Here’s the link. https://www.ovwsg.com/events/event/2200-wet-felted-fibre-study-group/

 

The group runs for 5 Zoom sessions over 10 weeks and has a dedicated space to share pictures, information and ask questions between sessions. The space will be available for 3 weeks after the last session.

Dates:

  • Wednesday, January 12, 2022, 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm(EST)
  • Wednesday, January 26, 2022, 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm(EST)
  • Wednesday, February 9, 2022, 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm(EST)
  • Wednesday, February 23, 2022, 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm(EST)
  • Wednesday, March 9, 2022, 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm(EST)

Time Zone: North American Eastern Standard Time(EST)= GMT-5

We will be sampling wool and how it felts. We will sample as many kinds of wool as possible and share results online and using a standard form and pictures, so we are all getting the information the same way. We will discuss possible uses for the different wools and outcomes.

We will share pictures (taking and sharing pictures is a requirement) and if everyone agrees to the extra work and expense(fibre and shipping), I will collect and distribute real samples to everyone in the group. If time and resources permit, we will try some non-wool fibres and possibly how adding non-felting fibre affects the felting outcome

The prerequisite for the study group is to be able to layout a simple 10×10 square and feel it and take and share pictures. We will discuss techniques and how they affect the outcome. This study group requires you to participate so everyone can learn and grow, it is all about sharing.

 

I hope some of you can join us for this fun way to find out about different wools and share with a group of like-minded people.

It would be a great Christmas or whatever you may or may not be celebrating (Happy Friday works for me) present for yourself or a friend. And no shipping fee.  Adding some unusual wool would make it even better.  

 

An International Project by Line Dufour

An International Project by Line Dufour

Line Dufour has been a practicing textile artist and tapestry weaver for the last 35 years. She is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art in Toronto Ontario and has always had her own studio. She taught weaving to adults for about twenty years, while at the same time doing art/craft shows and exhibitions. She is currently retired from teaching but continues her studio practice. At the moment, Line does not have a gallery that represents her, and if someone wants to purchase one of her pieces they contact her through her website or social media or other channels. Line’s website www.linedufour.com. You can find her cv on there as well. She is currently enrolled at the University of Gloucestershire in the UK and working on obtaining her Master’s in Creative Writing and Critical Thinking.

And now the project

 

Fundacion Pablo Achtugarry, Punta del Este, Uruguay 2017

 

Fate, Destiny and Self Determination [] Le Sort, Destin, et l’auto-determination [] Suerte, Destino y Auto-determinación [] Los, Przeznaczenie i Wola [] Das Schicksal, das Geschick und das Selbstbestimmungsrecht

[] 운명, 숙명 그리고 자기가 결정한 팔자. 팔자  []  Usud, sudbina i samoodređenje [] Sorte,Destino,Auto Determinação [] Öde, mål och självbestämmande [] Fato, Destino e Autodeterminazione

 

Written by Line Dufour.

Fate is defined as a force, energy, principle, element or power that prescribes to each person a set of limits, boundaries and confines. In Islam it is called Kismet. The Greeks called Fate, Moira. Greek Mythology speaks of the three Fates: Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos who supposedly controlled each person’s fate. The youngest, Clotho,  is a spinner and she determines the time of birth and spins the thread of life on her distaff. Lachesis measures the length of the thread to determine the length of one’s life; the time of death is decided by Atropos, who cuts the thread. Inherent in the idea of Fate, is that one has no influence over events and outcomes. Mythology and psychology distinguish between Fate and Destiny. Destiny is considered an expanding field of possibilities alluding to our potential to influence our Fate. This makes Destiny kinetic. “The lives we construct are an inextricably woven fabric of influences, possibilities and accumulated consequences of choices made.” (James Hollis)

The development of the COVID-19 has made all of us more aware of the impact of isolation on our well being. This sense of isolation forms the underpinnings of this installation launched in 2016.  Fate, Destiny and Self Determination was created as social media driven initiative to reduce the isolation artists experienced in their artistic process through co-creating the installation, providing planned hands-on events and gathering them together to exhibit their collective efforts. Inclusiveness is the weft that weaves the installation together.

Fate, Destiny and Self-Determination is composed of three sections. The main tapestry woven panel (on the left) was created by Line Dufour, referencing the contemporary practice of tapestry where artist and weaver are one. The second panel on the right, was woven by visiting participants ranging from the inexperienced and amateur to the professional. This referenced traditional tapestry conventions in that many weavers work(ed) on the tapestry at the same time or at various stages and did not contribute to creating the tapestry designs.

The final section is composed of irregular shapes positioned at varying heights, between the 2 main panels, floating freely in space, as though the tapestry is pulling apart or coming together.  As each shape arrives, Dufour photographs/documents it, posts it to the Facebook page for the project https://www.facebook.com/Fate-Destiny-and-Self-Determination-An-international-tapestry-project-194385150700425 as well as on Instagram@tapestryline and Twitter@tapestry_line. She also includes information about the participants such as their website if they have one, and other comments they have made about the project or about their work and/or life. Thus far, 864  shapes have been received from 43 countries, and a total of about 519 people have participated. The installation continues to expand as it accepts shapes on an ongoing basis. Part of the exhibition includes a list of all participant names. If a label cannot be displayed in the gallery, a QR code label is available so that the gallery viewer can access the web page with the names of all participants.

Each time Fate, Destiny and Self-Determination is installed the shapes are never placed in the same positions, making it interactive and spontaneous, and permits the curator(s) to be part of its creation. Conversely, the curator could also invite the gallery guest to position shapes on the wall between the two panels, having them re-create the installation.

The installation welcomes invitations to be exhibited around the world, and to that effect has been exhibited in the following venues:

  • Craft Ontario in Toronto, Canada
  • The Montreal Centre for Contemporary Textiles, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • The Doyle and Margaret Hartman Gallery, Regis University, Denver, Colorado USA
  • Craft Council of British Columbia, Canada
  • The San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles as part of the American Tapestry Alliance Biennial 11
  • Guan Shan Yue Art Museum, Shenzen, China. 9th From Lausanne To Beijing
  • The Centre D’Action Culturelle de la MLC de Papineau in Québec
  • World Textile Art Biennial at the Fundacion Pablo Achtugarry in Punta del Este Uruguay
  • World of Threads, Oakville, Ontario, Canada
  • Rosccommon County Council, Roscommon Ireland
  • Tuchmacher Museum, Bramsche, Germany
  • Tuch & Technik Textilmuseum, Neumunster, Germany

 

Anyone who wishes to do so, can create a shape using a textile/fibre related technique (tapestry, rug, weaving, felt, basketry, etc) or create a piece that references textiles with whatever materials they like. Any hue from the colour wheel is suggested. You can use more than one colour. There is no minimum or maximum size, but the average size is 10cm (4”) . There is no maximum on the number of pieces you can submit. A person can also weave (create) a shape of their country, state or province or any shape except not a square or rectangle.  You can look at the Instagram @tapestryline page for the project to see how other people have created their shapes.

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.

When things don’t go as planned, improvise

When things don’t go as planned, improvise

Imagine this: you’ve planned that project in your head. You’ve gone through all the steps and know what needs doing. You have all the materials, and you’re getting ready to work on it. It’s going to be epic!

Except… something goes terribly wrong and the end result is nothing like what you expected.

Sound familiar?

Hand dyed yarn by Eleanor Shadow
This hand dyed yarn looks great at first glance, but in reality it’s “muddy” – the colours have somehow blended into each other in a not-so flattering way.

I’m sure we’ve all been there. Craft long enough and, be it due to bad luck or simple statistics, something will go wrong.

The problem: The yarn above is a colourway of mine called Love Heart Meow. At first glance, it looks exactly as it should, except something went wrong during the dyeing process and the end result is “muddy.” You can’t really tell in the photo, but in real life I can definitely see it and it’s driving me mad.

The solution: I’m going to overdye it. I find that when things don’t go as planned, a blue overdye can save things around. Who knows, maybe I’ll create a new colourway?

(Shameless plugin moment: I’m getting back to blogging in my own website and I’ll be sharing the over dyeing process over there very soon! I’ll of course still be working on new content for our lovely blog here.)

 


 

Silk cocoons

 

A while back I was doing an exchange with a dyer friend of mine and decided to send her some hand dyed silk cocoons. Silk comes at a price for the poor silk worm, so I was very keen to “make it count” (yes, I’m the soppy type).

I carefully dyed each cocoon, making it so that the exterior and the interior were slightly different and adding variation in shade/colour. I was rather chuffed with the result.

Of course, I then proceeded to ruin things beautifully. I don’t know what happened in my brain but I decided to set the colours with more acid… by dunking the cocoons in hot water.
If you’ve ever dyed these precious things, you’ll know they need to be steam set if you want them to retain their shape. Hot water is most emphatically not the right thing to do, as I remembered even as I was dunking them in the H2O.

The problem: I had a hot mess in my hands, the cocoons all melted into each other, were soft and (to me, at the time) completely useless.

The temporary solution: Remove from water and back away from the project! Make some tea. Curse out loud. Come back later.

The real solution: After keeping whole thing away from sight a while, I looked at it again. It was a mess, but I could make it into something different. The colours were pretty. Then it hit me…

Fibre wall artwork by Eleanor Shadow

Tah-dah, wall art to the rescue. The colours are actually brighter in real life.

I sewed the Cocoon Combo to some black felt, added some beads and shiny embroidered stars in gold and silver. The shape of the thing was asking for an oval embroidery hoop, so I bought one in a suitable size and Bob’s your uncle.

It looks like something done on purpose, doesn’t it? It’ll be our secret.

 


 

Now, this wouldn’t be a post by yours truly if I didn’t add a little sewing, would it?

While perusing one of my usual fabric supply sites I stumbled upon the most fun cat fabric. As with most things in the crafty brain, I had the “button” sorted but not the “suit,” so to speak. I had to come up with something to create with that fabric!

I decided on the Metamorphic Dress by Sew Liberated because it looked comfy and, best of all, asked for two complementary fabrics (the cat fabric had a “friend” that I thought made the cats look even cuter. Aaand, I’ll stop using metaphors now.)

Metamorphic Dress by Sew Liberated, sewn by Eleanor Shadow

I love this dress. It works great on its own or as a top layer, making it good for more seasons. It’s meant to be reversible, but this one isn’t (there are reasons but I shan’t go into them).

One great thing about being short is, I never need as much fabric to make something as the pattern says I do. After careful calculations, I knew exactly how much to buy and order it I did.

The bad thing is, if you don’t have extra and make a mistake… well.
I was on the phone with my other half and got distracted. Instead of cutting the top layer a specific way, I did it wrongly. I immediately noticed the disaster, but it was too late. My soul hurt. I didn’t want to order more fabric because of this!

The problem: No extra fabric and the huge unwillingness to buy more. I was doomed.

The temporary solution: The same as with the cocoons! Back away from the project. Make some tea. Curse out loud. Come back later.

The real solution: I had a little extra of the gingham fabric. Patchwork to the saving.

Detail of Metamorphic Dress by Sew Liberated as sewn by Eleanor Shadow

I had only made a mistake with one half of the fabric, so that became the back. I cut that piece in two and added a strip of the under layer fabric to the middle. It almost looks like it’s a proper feature, at least to my eyes.

I’ll have to confess I felt rather smug after this. My solution worked, I didn’t have to buy extra fabric and my dress is perfectly wearable.

My smugness was somewhat abated after my mum saw the dress and said it looked like a maid’s apron, but that’s another story…

 


 

That’s it, three examples of things that didn’t go as planned but had a solution. If you let your brain think about it for a while in the background, I bet you’ll come up with alternative endings for your “mistakes.” Like the cliché goes, mistakes can be opportunities to do better later. Beats giving up, right?

 

Finally, the random photo of the day:

Sheep from the Shetland Islands

My lovely osteopath Jane went on holiday to the Shetland Islands and I asked her to send me some sheep pics. She obliged and I thought I’d share them with you.

Enjoy your weekend!

Playing with my new toy: English wool combs

Playing with my new toy: English wool combs

A couple of weeks ago, I ordered a pair of English wool combs. They were sold out at the time but the people in the shop were kind enough to allow me to backorder. Now all I had to do was wait a few days and let the spiky goodness arrive at my doorstep!

Finally, they were here.

 

Leonor of Eleanor Shadow holds a pair of English combs and looks chuffed

 

It occurs to me that these would make great Wolverine claws for Halloween, were I in the mood to risk self-injury… Seriously, despite knowing these are pointy, sharp objects, it still surprised me to find out exactly how sharp they were in a slight moment of distraction. Note to self: don’t daydream when handling wool combs.

If you’re not sure what wool combs are for, these brilliant tools are used to process fleeces for spinning. They work by separating, aligning and combing the wool locks, whilst also getting rid of any vegetable matter (VM). The end result is a fluffy and lovely cloud that you’re supposed to carefully diz off the combs, ending up with a longish sort of roving.

 

Texel cross wool locks on English combs, ready for processing

 

Ideally, you’ll place the locks facing the same direction, which in my case was cut side nearest the tines, ends on the outside.
These are lovely locks from a Texel cross lamb’s first shear’s fleece. I washed it myself. They’re so soft and all I want to do is bury my face in them.. (which I definitely have. Don’t judge.)

 

Eleanor Shadow uses English wool combs to process some wool locks

 

Next, you carefully start teasing the tips of the locks apart with the other comb, which will transfer a bit of fibre to said comb at each pass. As you keep doing this, the longer staples of wool will move and the shortest bits will remain on the clamped comb. You’re meant to discard these short bits, but I keep them to make dryer balls.

 

English wool combs processing wool on a table

A hand showing wool waste after using English wool combs

 

You can see above that the fibre left behind retains some VM. I don’t mind it because it’s clean, and won’t be seen once the dryer balls are covered in commercially processed wool top. Waste not, want not.

You will do this transferring of fibre from one comb to the other until you’re happy with how the wool looks. The one below was on the third pass.

 

Side view of wool on English wool combs, after processing

 

There was still a tiny bit of VM but I don’t mind.

Since I wasn’t planning on spinning this wool, I didn’t diz it off the comb, I simply pulled it all off  together very gently, so it all came off at the same time.
After 30 minutes I had a few clouds.

 

A few soft clouds of processed wool on a table

 

I’ll be gathering a lot of this fluff into a bag and, once I have enough, I’ll card it on my drum carder and make batts to sell to spinners and felters. Lamb wool really is like a cloud and I’m loving playing with it.

To end this post in my usual tradition, here’s a completely unrelated photo I took a few days ago that I find amusing. This was on a building I happened to pass by here in Edinburgh.

Plaque on a wall saying On This Site in 1897 Nothing Happened

So, what’s your current favourite fibre utensil?

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.
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