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Stitching Some Trees

Stitching Some Trees

I am continuing with my slow(very slow) stitching. I have accidentally done part of the first-quarter challenge. Last time I showed you my tree trunk. Next, I got some of my handspun to make the evergreen part.

I pulled a lighter green first. it was much too light. I switched to t a much darker green that works much better. it is a thicker yarn too, which I think works better.

stitching an evergreen tree light green yarn test. stitching an evergreen, tree dark green yarn test

 

The practice one worked out well so onto the good ones.

 

stitched tree trunk stitched evergreen tree

The trunk on this one ended up a bit fat but I don’t mind

brown stitched tree trunk 2 stitched evergreen 2

2 stitched evergreen trees

 

And the third one

third stitched tree trunk  third stitched tevergreen tree

And this is how it looks now

3 stitched snow flakes and 3 stitched evergreen tree.

 

I like it so far but I am not sure what to put in the blank corner. I thought maybe a branch so I did a test one. I may try to add some cones or snow. I am not sure what kind of tree it looks like. What do you think? what would you put there?

stitched evergreen branch, half done evergreen branch finished

 

 

Adding Lichen to the Mossy Driftwood

Adding Lichen to the Mossy Driftwood

My next step in finishing the driftwood piece was to create lichen. I had made lichen before from Tyvek but alas, I had none in my stash. So I looked for other materials that could be shaped with a wood burning tool and that would shrink and make interesting shapes with a heat gun.

What I found was a fusible lightweight Pellon interfacing and nylon organza. The interfacing does not need to be fusible to work, it’s just what I had on hand. I can’t remember why I bought it but hopefully, it would work so I wouldn’t have to buy anything else.

Painted pastel blue green interfacing and nylon organza on white background

I painted the small pieces of interfacing and organza with a light layer of acrylic paint. As you can see here, the paint was not heavy and the shade of blue green was very light in value.

wood burning tool burning lichen shapes into painted interfacing

Next, I got out my wood burning tool and a piece of glass to burn on. I made random lichen shapes in the interfacing. I also did the same with the nylon organza. Once they were cut out, I held the small pieces with a pair of tweezers and used the heat gun to make them shrink up and get curly. I also added a bit of brown marker to the edges of the lichen as there are definitely brown bits on the real stuff.

Here’s the result. Yay, it looks like I wanted it to. Success. Now to add it and the dead teabag leaves to the mossy driftwood. I glued the lichen in place as it was mainly on the wood itself. I stitched the leaves down to the felt in a couple of places.

Textile Art Piece - driftwood covered with felt, stitched moss, stitched tea bag leaves and lichen from interfacing and organza

Here’s the result. You can click on the photo to enlarge it.

And the close up views. I’m happy with how it turned out and it was a really fun project.

Adding Dried Leaves to Mossy Driftwood

Adding Dried Leaves to Mossy Driftwood

I have been continuing to add more stitching and other bits to my mossy driftwood. You can see the progression from just felt to adding stitch in these two posts:

Moss on a Piece of Driftwood

Mossy Driftwood Continued

Driftwood covered with green felt and hand and machine stitched areas of moss.

The moss has been getting filled in by hand stitching and adding the machine stitched moss I created. I am trying to decide how much more hand stitched moss to add. I think it needs more “trailing” knots in the “bare” felted areas. But I also need to add lichen in places but I haven’t created the lichen yet. I’m thinking I will try Tyvek lichen.

Leaf shapes created out of tea bags and machine stitching.

The next step was to create dead, desiccated leaves. I found a tutorial for making them out of tea leaves on Youtube.  I had made them out of Lutradur before but not tea bags so I thought I would give it a go. I drink tea every morning so I started saving the old tea bags for this project. In the video, she used some type of stabilizer but I decided to try without one. I layered two flattened tea bags together and just started free motion machine stitching the veins. As you can see, you don’t want to stitch the outer edge of the leaf as it looks more natural without it. Then I cut them to shape with scissors.

Tea bag leaves, machine stitched veins and burned holes/edges.

The next step was to burn the edges and the holes. I found it was easier to get a more natural look when I was looking at photos of dead leaves. That way the leaves don’t all turn out the same. I used a wood burning tool for this operation (the video uses an incense stick). Obviously, you need to be careful when you’re burning things and it is pretty stinky too, you need ventilation. So I took mine to the stove and turned on the overhead fan to draw away the fumes. Plus the stove top is heat proof and won’t be burned or damaged.

Fiber art moss on piece of driftwood with three tea bag dead leaves.

So here’s the full piece with the leaves just placed on it. I will be stitching them down at some point to hold them in place.

Here’s a couple of close ups. You can click on the photos for a bigger view. I am happy with the progress and it is definitely looking very “forest floor”.

 

Mossy Driftwood Continued

Mossy Driftwood Continued

Last time I posted, I showed you a piece of driftwood that I had covered in green felt to represent moss. It definitely needed more work to achieve the natural look that I desired.

I took a small pair of sharp scissors and cut out some holes as well as making the ends not so uniform and straight. I then decided to use the left over cut out pieces as padding for stitching. I added the left over pieces in a couple of places and hand stitched them down.

I then decided to try adding more texture with needle felting. I had a pile of little wet felted scraps which you can see on the left and I needle felted those down. Then I added some wool from my carded batts that I had left over after wet felting. I needled those down but not too firmly. I still wanted the texture of moss, which you can see in the right photo.

Driftwood covered with green felt, stitched layers of felt added, needle felted layers added

Here’s what it looked like after I finished the lower layered bits. I left hanging threads as this will be the “grassy” looking bits sticking up between the moss.

Work bench covered with variety of green thread and driftwood covered with felt.

Next was looking for different green threads. Here’s what I came up with. You can also just see on the left side that I found some of my photos of moss and printed those out for reference.

Close up of French Knots stitched on green felt covering driftwood.

I then started adding some hand stitching. These are “wonky” French knots with hand dyed lace weight wool thread. This is going to take a while. I have another “slow” stitch project on my hands.

Next up was to try some machine stitching. I made a sandwich of the threads on the left between two layers of water soluble fabric. I then machine stitched a random branching pattern. The photo on the right shows the result after washing out the soluble fabric.

Close up of machine stitched threads on top of felted driftwood.

Here’s a small piece of the machine stitched moss by the French knot section. I haven’t stitched it in place as I think I will do more of the hand stitching first. I’m loving all the different greens as that is definitely what you find in nature. I will keep you updated on my progress.

A patchwork repair for a friend.

A patchwork repair for a friend.

Thankfully, the before and after experience of the abdominal surgery I had in July was not as bad as I thought it would be. But, there were some surprises with the things that we all take for granted, for example, it can be a big surprise to discover that sneezing, coughing, laughing, or even the thought of these things, will remind you to hold onto your belly for dear life, for fear of it splitting open. Similarly, turning over in bed, or getting in and out of bed will have you puzzling about the safest position to do these manoeuvres without your belly once again splitting open. Now, several weeks later, the anxiety of a split belly following a sneeze has gone thank goodness, and only the odd twinge remains to remind me.

 I needed some stitching to keep my mind occupied while recovering, and I had some simple meditative stitching to keep worries at bay. My friend helped me a lot with the usual distractions. She also had a bed coverlet – given to her by ?, but now forgotten relative – and it needed to be repaired. It was a handmade hexagon top stitched onto a background fabric, that was folded over (top, bottom and sides), to the front and the corners mitred. There was no wadding or batting in the middle. She thought this would be a good project to keep me occupied, no time scale, just to do something if I could.

I laid the coverlet on the  floor, there were quite a few missing hexagons, and some torn fragile ones. I was most struck by the variety of fabrics used to make the hexagons, how small they were, and what on earth had I agreed to do anyway? It is difficult to see any missing hexies from this photo above, you just have to believe me. I have placed a 50p coin to show the size of the hexagons.

                     

I separated the hexagon top from the background fabric and set about replacing to torn, missing and damaged hexagons. I found one complete ‘paper’ and that measured 3/4 inch, measured against one of my 1 inch hexies. I replaced about 30 hexagons, and probably restitched that many again where the stitching had come undone. The hexagon top measured 84 inches x 45 inches, and the whole coverlet measured 104 inches x 65 inches when back together; it covers a single bed easily. The green background fabric is 2 pieces joined in the middle, and I think the width of each length is about ?40 inches.

Photos of some of the damaged areas, and fabrics in the coverlet.

                 

 

When I finished the repair, the coverlet needed stabilising somehow, otherwise it was at risk of further damage. I decided to stitch the hexagon top to a piece of cotton – actually, part of an old duvet cover. This worked well, and then I stitched the top back onto the background fabric, this was probably the most difficult part of the job, trying to keep it straight, and prevent any tucks happening on the back. I wanted to do a sympathetic repair, the fabrics I chose from my bag of scraps fitted in very well, and I really had to look very closely to spot them when I had finished.

I used a few stitches to secure the top to the back in random areas. The above photo – on the right – is from my friend showing the coverlet on the bed in her spare room. I am really pleased with my efforts. I think this must have been started in the 50s or 60s, or even earlier? Maybe some of you can recognise some of the fabrics. I dread to think how long it took to stitch, but I am full of admiration for whoever did spend the time making this beautiful item. I am calling it a ‘coverlet’ because there is no middle layer, as there is with a quilt. However, if any of you know differently do let me know, I would love to have a definitive answer.

 

The First Leaf – Nuno Felt Landscape

The First Leaf – Nuno Felt Landscape

Before I get started on my new nuno felted landscape, I wanted to share the changes that I made to First Light, which I posted about several weeks ago.

This is what it looked like on the last post. I had a comment from Ann B. that it lacked shadows. I had hemmed and hawed about adding shadows. I had convinced myself that the marks on the background could serve as shadows as it was a bit abstract. But the more I thought about it, the more I agreed with Ann that it was lacking something. So I decided I would audition shadows with sheer fabric. And once I saw it, I knew the shadows were necessary. How could I call it First Light if I ignored the shadows?

And here it is after adding shadows. What do you think? Better or worse? I would suggest that you don’t rush whether a piece is finished or not. It was a bit of a challenge stitching the shadows down after the piece was already laced to backing board 😉

Now on to this piece. It definitely had beautiful autumn colors, so I decided I would add some silver birch trees with their fall leaf color. You will notice that I turned this around so the darker area was closer to the top of the piece.

I cut out some tree trunks from silk paper that I had made a while ago in preparation for trees. I hand stitched these in place.

Then I added some branches so the leaves would have somewhere to live.

Next up, I needed some background foliage. I didn’t want it to be too dominant but just needed some texture. I decided to use nylon organza and then burn it back with a wood burning tool to give it a leafy feel. Then I stitched it in place. You can click on the photo to enlarge it so you can see the details better.

Next up was to cut out a bunch of leaf shapes in two colors of silk organza. I hand stitched these in place but the leaves were still too transparent and weren’t giving the effect I wanted to achieve.

I looked through my stash and had this bright yellow in silk habotai. That would perfect from a more opaque leaf. Once cut out, these leaves were stitched down. The photos above show the progression from left to right. Then, I put the piece up on the wall and studied it. That leaning tree trunk on the far left was bugging me. I didn’t like that it took your eye off the edge and it matched the same lean as the tree towards the middle. So I did a bit of unstitching and removed it.

So here is The First Leaf. I haven’t found the correct background fabric for it yet so I will have to go shopping for that. But that gives me a bit more time for it to hang in the studio and make sure that it is really finished!

 

GLORIOUS DEVON Part 3

GLORIOUS DEVON Part 3

Back in June last year, at the end of my 2nd post on this felt painting, having remixed the fibres for my palette and removed the fibres I had already needled into the far background of the picture, I redid that bit of work and left you with this picture of where I had got to then:

Starting work

I am pleased to say that I have made considerable progress since then and here I’ll take you along for the ride!

On my next visit to the Hideaway Workshop – my friend’s place where I tend to do most of my work on my pictures – I set to to blend fibres for the palette for the main part of the picture.

Blending Fibres for Palette

I worked on the picture for about 4 – 5 hours once a month, until I was able to take this photo of the results on 26th February 2022.

This was still work in progress and I carried on and in May I was able to take further pictures of details – Red Devon cattle in one of the far off fields; sheep moving on the hill in the middle distance; the beginnings of trees and shrubs in the near distance; and the river in the foot of the valley with woods behind.

Red Devon cattle in one of the far off fields
sheep moving on the hill in the middle distance
the beginnings of trees and shrubs in the near distance
the river in the foot of the valley with woods behind

By then I had done pretty much all I was going to do for the landscape until the final details just at the end, and I needed to get on with the horse.

Now, I was toying with a new idea about how to do this. For some time I have been considering experimenting with the type of scenery often seen in simple stage sets like our typical panto village scene with shops and other buildings. Almost all of which were flat with one side showing a village shop and the other some other building for a different scene. These would be set about the stage facing square on to the audience so that they could see only the side applicable to the current scene, with further buildings painted on the backdrop. Cast members would appear from behind these and various other scenery flats like rocks, or bushes. I don’t have any suitable photos that would illustrate this, but I do have a couple of photos of children’s toy paper theatres which also demonstrate what I mean.

Toy Paper Theatres

I thought I might be able to do something along these lines for the horse in my picture.  By affixing a fairly stiff piece of felt in the shape of the horse to the picture but leaving it’s head and the top of the body unattached and slightly proud.  I was hoping that this would give even more depth to the whole.

Knowing that if I was to needle felt a “flat-ish” horse to the required size, I would actually have to start off with a slightly bigger image – as the more it was needled, the more it would shrink and become out of scale.  So using my copier I enlarged the image of the horse by 10% and then made a tracing of the image.  As I did with the actual landscape picture, I then stitched the outlines of the horse through the tracing onto a piece of thick white felt.  This was a piece of the felt that I used for the background of the landscape, but folded into three.  I needled it and then wet felted it so that it was a solid piece of felt which would if necessary stand up on its own.

starting to stitch over the tracing
ready to colour in

I blended some fibres to make the palette I would use, having decided that the picture I had taken would be a guide to shape only and I’d have a slightly different coloured horse in my picture.

Horse palette

I had by this time removed all the guide stitches from the landscape picture, except the lower part of the Golden Mean lines to guide me where to place the horse when completed.

Here is the horse, substantially finished, about to be cut out of his background.

And here he is having been cut out. 

I have left the top part of the body with the original depth of the backing felt and have shaved down the backs of the legs, the belly and nose so that they will be more part of the picture as opposed to appearing to stand proud of it.  I have also added coloured fibres to the sides and the rear edges for the whole horse so that no white background will be visible when the horse is attached to the landscape.  The final shape of the legs and neck will be refined at that stage, and more grass added around the muzzle and hooves.  I have left the tail and the forelock un-needled to emulate a slight breeze blowing some hairs around. I have also attached some linen threads to the back which I will use to secure the body to the picture. If I don’t do this it is possible that the horse might fall off the picture if he’s only attached by his hooves and his muzzle.

back view

And this is where I have come to a (“shuddering”) halt.

I was hoping that this would be the last post in this series; that I would have finished my picture of the horse on the Devon hillside. However the recent very hot (to us) weather we have been experiencing here in the UK has meant that I’ve had to stop work. So I was getting very behind. In addition, I seem to have acquired an RSI (repetitive strain injury) to the shoulder of my dominant right arm – to be exact “rotator cuff related shoulder pain”. Although I don’t think it was as a result solely of needle felting, I suspect that the action of frequently stabbing fibres for several hours at a time may have contributed to it. It certainly hasn’t helped it. Whatever, it has resulted in my having to put aside my needle felting for the moment. I will post again as soon as I can get back to work and finish this, which has fast become a labour of love. In the meantime this where I have got to.

Back into the Project bag
Level 3 Advanced Studies in Experimental Stitch Exhibition

Level 3 Advanced Studies in Experimental Stitch Exhibition

The ‘Bachelor Buttons’ in the midst of setting up the exhibition. (Maureen couldn’t be there, but her beautiful work was.)

I recently completed Level 3 Advanced Studies in Experimental Stitch at the Gail Harker Creative Studies Center and we held an in-person and online exhibition. Gail’s courses are similar to City and Guilds in the UK. If you’re close to the Seattle area, there is a new session of Level 3 Stitch beginning in September. Just click on the link above for more information. (And you really don’t have to be that close, I live almost 600 miles away.)

We had a busy few days setting up the exhibition and I thought you might like to see a few set up photos.

And then it was the day of the exhibition. We had around 80 people attend over the two days in early July. It was wonderful to be able to see all the hard work accomplished by my fellow students and to share our work with other interested people.

I asked my fellow students if I could share their work and I’m happy that everyone agreed so that you can see some amazing fiber art. These are just a very few examples of their work produced in class.

Maureen Goldsmith

Maureen Goldsmith wasn’t able to come to the in-person exhibition but was able to send her wonderful work.

Covid Birds © Maureen Goldsmith

Covid Birds by Maureen is a framed wall hanging, you can see it in the first photo behind the group photo on the wall, to understand the size of the piece.

Covid Birds – Detail © Maureen Goldsmith

Here’s a detail view so you can see the stitching more closely.

Val Gleeson

Val has an interest in historical embroidery and needlework.

Pleasurable Pursuits © Val Gleeson

Her piece “Pleasurable Pursuits” is based on historical needlework studies that she pursued during the class.

Pleasurable Pursuits – Detail © Val Gleeson

Here’s a detail shot so that you can see the amount of hand stitching in this piece.

Acer Macrophyllum Book and Samples © Sheila Asdal

Sheila Asdal created a machine and hand stitched book about the Big Leaf Maple and the creatures that find shelter and sustenance in the tree.

Acer Macrophyllum Book © Sheila Asdal

Here’s a side view and front cover of the book.

Acer Macrophyllum Book – Detail of Moth © Sheila Asdal

And a detail view of the stumpwork moth she created.

Catherine Sloan

Catherine’s interests are from nature, including rocks, plants, seed heads and the winter garden.

The Winter Garden Series © Catherine Sloan

She used her original photos of her winter garden to create this handstitched series.

The Winter Garden Series © Catherine Sloan

Each of the individual pieces are about 6″ x 6″.

The Hanging Garden © Bobbie Herrick

Bobbie Herrick is also inspired by her garden. She took on a tremendous project in creating The Hanging Garden light.

The Hanging Garden © Bobbie Herrick

Bobbie’s lamp was created with machine and hand stitching and cut back applique. She found it interesting to work with light during this process as it changed the colors immensely when the light was turned on behind the fabric.

Ethereal Bottles © Alana Koehler

Alana Koehler was inspired by a row of bottles on her windowsill. As she worked through the process, she became intrigued with the difference between the hardness of glass and the translucent fabric that she ended up using in Ethereal Bottles.

Ethereal Bottles © Alana Koehler

The sheer fabric in Ethereal Bottles float away from the wall and the bottles are created with machine stitching. It is definitely ethereal in person.

Ruth Lane with The Language of Trees © Ruth Lane

And lastly, there is me. The Language of Trees is based on the concept that trees and other forest plants, have a vast communication network underground.

The Language of Trees © Ruth Lane

This wall hanging is mostly machine stitched on a dyed and painted background. The little bits of orange are words that I selected from tree poems to express the trees communicating with each other.

And because I have had a few people asking, I have also included my book about my dog Edgar. Here is “The Book of Edgar”.

Thanks to all my classmates for their camaraderie and support. Thanks to Gail and Penny for all your expert guidance and perseverance through a challenging three years of class.

Another Historical Sample

Another Historical Sample

I showed you a historical felt pattern sample recently where I used a water soluble stabilizer to create the pattern. Obviously, in ancient times, this product would not have been available. So I needed to try a more traditional method.

I decided to try a different design based on wings. The pattern was printed twice and put one over top of the other in a mirrored pattern. The paper design was covered with plastic so I could lay wet wool down on top of the pattern. This is the method that Ildi uses, thanks again Ildi!

Next, wool yarn was wet down and applied over the pattern. Pre yarn would work better, but this is what I have in my stash.

The colors chosen were two shades of blue, one leaning towards blue green and the other leaning towards the violet side of blue. The fiber was wet down and laid in place. Layout definitely takes time with this method.

Then another layer of the dark blue was laid out on top of the wet wool pattern. I didn’t need to add any water to this wool as there was plenty already available. Next on to felting. The piece was kept in between plastic for the entire felting process but then with fulling, the piece was rolled against itself. Big mistake as this caused the yarn to fragment and pull free in some areas. Sigh.

Here’s the piece after felting and the black was not a clean line. Again, this is partly from using a twisted yarn instead of a pre yarn but also due to the fulling method.

I shaved the black but it is still not as clear as I would like. The design also had very sharp points where I cut the yarn and the ends didn’t felt in as well.

This is the sharpness that I would prefer. These two pieces were made quite a while ago. I made all the felt, then cut out the shapes and appliqued (hand stitched) them down. I then couched a green yarn around the shapes. This is a traditional ram’s horn design that is seen frequently in the Central Asian areas.

Have you tried any traditional felt patterns? I would love to see your results. You can upload photos here.  Or you can show us over on the forum.

Second Quarter Challenge 2022 – I can’t do that

Second Quarter Challenge 2022 – I can’t do that

As soon as I saw what Lyn was setting as our next Challenge I thought “but I can’t do that”.  I have always stumbled when trying to understand Design because, although I can see pattern in a lot of things, I fail entirely in translating what I see into my work.  I am very literal in my thinking, and when I see abstract pieces (usually “modern” embroidery pieces) based on images of say, a broken brick, or the reflection in a window, or a rusty piece of metal, or a “fractal”, I think to myself “yes, very clever, but why?” and “what would I do with it?” and “I can’t see that on my wall” (and just occasionally “I wouldn’t give that house room!”).   This is why I tend to make my pictures or 3D sculptures as realistic as I can.

I was going to just not bother with this Challenge, and then I remembered that some years ago I had attended a course on Design – I had forgotten all about it and it is relevant to this Challenge.

In August 2015 the Association of Guilds of Weavers Spinners & Dyers included in it’s week long residential Summer School syllabus a course by Alison Daykin – “Design for the Terrified” and I was lucky enough to be allocated a place – most courses were usually over-subscribed.  Here is the introductory list of available courses from the brochure for you to drool over!

The course was described as offering “help to ‘painting and drawing challenged’ weavers, spinners, dyers, or other textile practitioners, in understanding Design and using this in their chosen medium”.  The brochure went on to say: “This course will provide simple, but effective guidelines in design, without the student feeling overwhelmed by theory. The tutor will also leave plenty of room for participants to express themselves in their chosen medium.

“By the course end students will have at least one sketchbook and understand the basics of: colour studies; textural studies; shape; line/stripes.

“Students are encouraged to make samples appropriate to their own textile skills. They may choose to bring their loom or wheel with them, or to develop further sketchbooks if they prefer.”

Frankly this description of the course frightened the life out of me and I nearly didn’t apply, not least because I would be foregoing the chance to take the offered very interesting felt making course. (It’s headline description was “… an ‘adventure with fibres and fabrics’, combining colour, texture and layering to produce felted fabrics for decorative purposes or garments” and that was what I was most interested in at the time.) However after exchanging a few emails with Alison, and reading the three blogs which she sent out about the course I decided to bite the bullet.
The first blog post puts emphasis on your “Inspiration” and resulted in a further flurry of emails with Alison, since I had no idea what it meant or what my “Inspiration” should be in this context. She basically said that I should pick a subject which I found really interesting. I was undecided whether to plump for trees, which seemed a very big subject, or sea shells – almost as big but of which I had recently started a collection. In the end I went with sea shells.

Sea Shell collection with Sea Urchin “
skeletons”

The second and third blog posts and a “round robin” email from Alison encouraged us to bring along as many different types of art media as we might be able to lay our hands on, including different types and colours of paper and “mark making” equipment. In addition we were asked to only bring one image of our inspiration, but as many copies of it as possible. (As I hadn’t been able to choose just one shell my image consisted of most of my collection, which also included sea urchin “skeletons”.) We would also need to take a notice board (if we hadn’t already made a mood board – “Er …. what’s one of them?”) so that we could pin up various bits and pieces as we went through the course. We would also need the equipment and materials required to make samples in our chosen technique. As I didn’t know which shell would be my inspiration the “materials” consisted of most of my stashes of fibres, fabric & yarns!
I’m sure you’ve all heard of the saying “everything but the kitchen sink” – very apt, my poor car was groaning when I set off with all this stuff plus clothes etc., and I had yet to fit in the friend I was giving a lift to, plus all her stuff and her walking aid. (She was still a bit frail after an illness.)

The Summer School was based at Moreton Morrell Agricultural College in Warwickshire, where (after we got lost twice on the way) I met Alison and the rest of the class members. There were weavers, spinners, an embroiderer and a felt maker – me.
Alison showed us her own work, and took us through her process for designing woven fabrics for specific purposes, showing us her mood boards and pictures of finished fabrics “in situ”. Here is a much abbreviated view of how she followed one inspiration from an image of ancient ruins to cloth samples.

She then started us off on our own design journey. Alison suggested to me that I should pick my favourite shell from the picture of my collection and make an enlarged drawing of the shell, both in monochrome and in colour and using different media. I had a go at this, although my drawing skills are minimal. This was before she had found that we would be able to have access to the college’s print facilities, where we could get photographs printed, and colour and monochrome photocopies made on a copier, which was capable of enlarging. We all made great use of this facility – zeroing in on just part of our inspiration image and having multiple copies made on different colour papers as well as plain white – which enabled us to speed up our progress through the stages of the design processes that Alison had mapped out for us.

One of the “tricks” which Alison showed us was to take two images, cut (or tear) them into strips (leaving one side of the paper still intact, and then to weave the two images.  This did produce some interesting results.

We also cut strips across an image and used this to reference yarn (in my case fibre) wraps. Using this method enabled us to achieve a colour swatch giving combinations, quantities and placement of harmonious colours.

Showing the progress from picture strip to felted swatch

Once we had all played around with these ideas for a day, we were encouraged to get on and start creating samples in our chosen techniques, keeping in mind how we might use the finished work. As I was interested in making felt for clothing and accessories, I had brought with me copies of designs from specific sewing patterns and tried to pick the patterns that would best suit. I had by this time branched out to using as inspiration two different Sea Urchin skeletons, one Cone shell (and when no-one was looking I did a bit of crochet based on the end of a Conch type shell).

As you can see, I’m still leaning towards the literal/representational side of designing.

Alison also encouraged us to take our cameras and go out around the college grounds and look for more inspirations for design. At this stage we had all got used to looking beyond the obvious and came up with some unusual images. This was the one I chose to do something with – don’t ask me why – it’s just a picture of the wood surround (and my toes) to a raised flower bed outside the portacabin which was our workshop, where we all congregated for coffee, snacks and chat.

Being full of enthusiasm for the project, I cut down the photograph to a corner and then cut out the image of part of the surround.

which I then had enlarged and with several copies started to develop the design

This is the design I finally ended up with.

There are five versions in this picture, the basic design on top with four colour changes of the small “pops” of colour.  And here is the jacket pattern and a tracing of the design.

The last day of the course was mainly taken up with visiting the rooms where the other courses had been taking place for a grand Show & Tell. To this end, we had packed up all our equipment and materials and set up our notice boards and work tables as displays of what we had been doing. Here are mine

And here are some of the displays of other class members’ work.  Not all of them I’m afraid, I had camera shake by then so I’ve only included the less blurred ones.

The whole Summer School experience was great, with evening entertainments, a fashion show, a display of entries for the Certificate of Achievement “exams”, a traders’ market (I spent too much money as usual) and a trip to Stratford Upon Avon for a tour of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Theatre with a chance to see some of their costumes “up close and personal”. 

We inhabited a bubble, with little contact with the outside world.  (There wasn’t even a signal for our mobile phones, short of climbing a hill and standing in the middle of the road.)  A wonderful experience and I’ve enjoyed revisiting it.

I am afraid that by the time I got home again I reverted to type and have not made any fabrics, felted or woven, from any of the designs. I just did what I usually end up doing after returning from a workshop – I put everything away and forgot about it! So I still don’t have a 2nd Quarter Challenge piece to show you; though as a result of writing this post and after seeing some of the pieces which FFS members have posted, I do feel better about the possibility of designing from random observations and images.

I am looking forward to seeing what the next quarter’s Challenge will be.

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