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Knitting & Stitching Show 2019

Knitting & Stitching Show 2019

One of the highlights of my calendar in November is always the Knitting & Stitching Show at Harrogate. I’ve never thought that the title does this show any justice as it’s so much more than knitting and stitching!

The event, held over several halls in the Harrogate Convention Centre, features a wide range of exhibitions, most of which have the artist in attendance so you get to meet and chat to them about their work. There are also a number of artists in action (literally), workshops, lectures, demonstrations and a huge variety of craft retailers as well as artists selling their handcrafted items.

I’m guessing there will be a lot of our readers who didn’t attend this event due to location so I thought I would show what to me were some of the highlights.

Marian Jazmik “Beyond the Surface”

Marian Jazmik is a mixed media textile artist who uses a wide variety of materials, often heat distressed, to create stunning highly textural pieces of art. I was particularly drawn to her work by the wonderful neutral colour pallet. Depending on which piece you are looking at, close inspection might reveal sisal, plastic straws, packaging, cotton buds, scrim, beads and free motion stitching. She often uses heat treated Dipryl, a spun-bond fabric similar to Lutradur.

Marian Jazmik “Beyond the Surface”

Catherine Kaufman aka the “Woolly Queen” is a Feltmaker working with locally sourced fleece which she needle felts to create life size sculptures celebrating the female form. It was the scale, and again the colour scheme, that made this exhibit stand out for me. Also hearing how the figures are worked on at home on her kitchen table! Catherine begins by making a wire armature which she then covers with fleece. I felt the most powerful figure was Rapunzel and, learning that the hair for this figure was Catherines first attempt at spinning, I’ve been inspired to have a go myself!

Rapunzel by Catherine Kaufman
Catherine Kaufman

Daisy Collingridge explores the potential of the human body and celebrates its physicality through her textile sculptures. The human form is so unbelievably varied, despite us all being built from the same components. Daisy has a strong fascination with human endeavour and the extremes the human form can take, dictated through genetics and choice.  These soft sculptures came from a desire to push the traditional craft of quilting to the extreme. The technique used is no longer recognisable as quilting in the traditional sense but the fundamental idea of sandwiching fabric is the same.

Daisy Collingridge

The figurative work has a grotesque element and body image and body transformation are obvious narratives through which to view her work. Each piece is a “body suit” and as part of the installation viewers can watch a film of the figures in action.

The Artists in Action area is always an interesting space with Textile artists and Feltmakers creating their work and demonstrating to the public. It was nice to meet Lizzie Houghton and watch how she creates her beautiful hats.

Artists in Action – Lizzie Houghton

Angie Hughes, one of my favourite Textile Artists, was also there demonstrating surrounded by samples of her beautiful work.

Artists in Action – Angie Huges
Vivienne Morpeth

In a different part of the hall I came across Vivienne Morpeth, a fellow Lincolnshire Feltmaker who specialises in fabulous Nuno felted garments.

Vivienne Morpeth – Nuno detail

CQ London, a subgroup of The Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles, have been meeting since 2017 in Camden Town, London. It is an eclectic group, whose members possess a wide range of skills and interests. This was their debut exhibition and it consisted of two themes, London and Notan, a Japanese design technique featuring positive and negative shapes in a harmonious balance of light and dark. The following two quilts were standout pieces for me. The Southbank building was instantly recognisable and very dramatic in its simplicity. The fabric was painted with acrylics before bonding and stitching.

Southbank 14 by Sabi Westoby

City Textures by Connie Gilham was another favourite. Depicting St Paul’s, Roman walls and the Thames it was created using painted and dyed silks, cottons and sheers, again a very striking image.

City Textures by Connie Gilham

On a smaller scale, but equally beautiful, were these exhibits in the Embroiderers Guild area. Out on Tiles won the Beryl Dean Award for best hand stitching.

“Out on the tiles with a crumb of comfort” by Patricia Blinco

Alyssa Robinson won the Val Campbell-Harding prize for best machine stitching.

Alyssa Robinson

This piece by Jane Dexter titles Wood Grains was also one of my favourites.

“Wood Grains” by Jane Dexter

This is just a tiny snapshot of the show, there was so much more and I came away with my head full of inspiration and my bag full of goodies! If you live in the UK and haven’t been it’s well worth a visit if you get the chance.

Making a raven (and the mistakes in the process)

Making a raven (and the mistakes in the process)

Around December of last year, I was asked by a friend and customer to make a life size sculpture of a raven. I’d never done one before, so it was an exciting challenge to accept.

My husband, a professional painter and sculptor, helped me create a template. I then created the core with needle felting foam rectangles, which I cut and glued to size. I then covered the foam with wool.

Feathers were another challenge for me, I researched quite a bit online to see how other people were making them and tried a technique whereby you add wool top to fusible interfacing, add a wire in the middle and steam iron everything together, but the interfacing was just too white and showed through. Sorry I don’t have any pictures of these, they would have looked very nice in a differently coloured bird. This part stumped me and took ages to resolve.

I left the feathers conundrum to simmer in the back of my head and moved to raven feet. I made mine out of wire that I covered with pipe cleaners and then wool.

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Although the feet looked nice enough, they were not too lifelike. As it turns out, the wire was also not too sturdy for something this big, since it became clear it was too soft to hold the raven’s body at the angle I wanted. The poor thing stood too much like a duck!

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It became clear I needed to replace the feet, so I did some surgery: I cut the original wire out, then added a sturdier one and repaired the cut site with more wool and felting. I had an idea to use polymer clay on the feet at first because I thought it would look more lifelike but it was an absolute fail: clay, once hardened, has obviously no yield and therefore can’t be posed, which can be a problem depending on the surface you’re placing your sculpted animal on. Back to wool it was.

Enter a magic technique I had never tried before: wax.
Adding wax to wool makes it look less like fibre and more like a proper part of animal anatomy. See below:

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You can see by one of the pictures above that I got the feathers to work eventually. After much musing I cut felt sheets to size and put the sewing machine to work to add the central stem you normally see in real feathers. Some of them still had wire in them for structure.

Because I really love how the feet looked after adding the wax, I couldn’t wait to play with this new-to-me material on another part of the corvid: the eyelids.

Here’s an image of my raven without eyelids. The poor thing looks too startled and weird to be real.

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Now behold, with eyelids!

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What a difference. I wonder how I made it without using wax on sculptures this long.

After making more longer feathers for the tail, my corvid was ready to be unveiled. Photographing black wool is notoriously difficult so I apologise for not having more professional-looking pictures to show, but I believe these show you the end result well enough.

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This chap has been named Huginn (old Norwegian for “thought”) after one of Odin’s ravens. I think it suits him.

I felt sorry to send Huginn to his forever home. After spending so much time (5 months!) working on him on and off, I really built a connection with this character. I’m glad he’s receiving much love and will even have a custom-built dome to keep him protected against the elements…

Let me know what you think of him in the comments, and if you’ve any questions about the making process I’ll do my best to answer them. Thanks for reading.

I’ve got rainbows on my mind

I’ve got rainbows on my mind

First of all, happy Thanksgiving to everyone reading this in the US! I hope you had a nice celebration.

Today I’m sharing some rainbow-y fibre I created, plus a “throwback” item that I hope you’ll like.

Being an indie dyer means I get to play with dyes fairly regularly, but it had been some time since I adventured into the world of saturated rainbows. I think it was the grey London Autumn that got me inspired, I just needed to get a colour fix. Off to the dye pot I went.

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One of the things I’ve been a little obsessed with lately is how yarns look when they’re in skein format – I love it when colours look cohesive and have a certain progression to them when displayed, so I went for a red “bottom” that would change as the eyes look up. Hopefully you’ll see that this was done consciously.

I knit this into a hat (complete with a pompom) that I think looks very cheery. It’s going to be a Christmas present so I hope the recipient likes it.

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I hope you’re not fed up with bright colours yet…

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Although not technically a rainbow, this wool top came out super bright and happy (to my eyes at least). If you’ve ever dyed wool top or roving you’ll know it can be an adventure to control where the colours go. This is superwash wool (it doesn’t felt) so it wasn’t as difficult to get “right” as non-superwash fibres, but I’m still perfecting my methods. Suggestions are welcome!

This being the Felting and Fiber Studio, there should be some felting, so here is a little Piglet I made a couple of years ago and gifted to a friend. I really loved creating this little guy and think he came out really well. I got to see the sculpture again a few days ago at a friend’s house.

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Have you done any hand dyeing or needle felting lately? Share your experiences with me in the comment sections.

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