Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Applique with Janet

In yesterday's workshop Janet suggested needle turning onto a stabiliser backing. This way I can make several items and decide on placing later on, which is a good way of working for me.
It's also the first time I've experimented with needle writing, which I found very difficult but rewarding. Earlier this year I saw Rosalind Wyatt demonstrating at Art in Action and, as I watched her stitching old letters onto cloth, I was struck by how she managed to retain the character of the original handwriting...I think I'm going to be stuck at the printing stage for a while!

Monday, 20 September 2010

Finding Inspiration in "Pleasing Decay"*

*A term John Piper Used to describe ancient crumbling buildings.
I like the patched ghost arches in these walls... 
And the way the last of the delicate tracery on this church door is valiantly clinging on...
But I don't think Piper would have approved of the bright plastic alarm warning sign nailed to it:
Is it ok to compromise the aesthetic integrity of something in order to help preserve it?

More Experiments with Free-Machine Embroidery

This was an experiment in directly translating elements of my moodboard. The top portion is from a Kurt Schwitters collage, the left greens and yellows are from a Judy Buxton seascape and the white outline of the arches are inspired by John Piper. I quite like the effect of the fancy stitches  in free-motion mode - they add energy.
With this one I had fun playing with colour and density.
A fantasy archscape...or a row of tombstones?

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Lacey Arches

I'm having fun playing with different materials and techniques just to see what happens.
I free machine stitched onto transparent soluble stabiliser, trapping some bits of old silk scarf.
After dissolving the backing I sandwiched the 'lace' between two layers of sheer polyester and machine stitched the flower design over that.
 A seam ripper was a great tool for cutting through the polyester layer and tearing the lace apart, as scissors created too neat an edge.
The result was a bit flat and insipid, so the next stage was to add some hand stitching to all three layers:
Mmmm... More needed...a splash of colour, maybe some burning...

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Regular Pattern vs Random Marks

We experimented with different printing methods in the last class with Janet. One of my more effective efforts was the potato print above, using ordinary printing ink onto an onion-skin-dyed hanky. But... It hasn't inspired me to add any stitching.
I used another piece of onion-dyed calico to clean the potato block between colours and mop up any mess with the result that it inspired lots of machine stitching: 
I added a couple of squares of potato printed linen on the bottom right to add texture, used a piece of old blouse for stability and really enjoyed letting my machine wander at will. I then applied it to the old table cloth, with a further layer of very fine tea-dyed hanky, fusing it all down kantha style. I like the contrast between the rough feel of the machine stitching and the softer, more flowing hand stitching.
I had another go at printing in a regular pattern with better stitching success:
Shop bought stamp on the last remnant of an old linen skirt, free-machine stitched. I still prefer the more chaotic effect though...

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Holiday Makes

We stayed with my parents during the holidays and in amongst all the cycling and eating that we get up to when we're there, I did some 'proper' sewing too. My Mum wanted a cushion to finish off her newly re-decorated study, so, using Janet's tutorial, I made this one out of the left over curtain material. 
My daughter was inspired by Mum's old peg pinny that she always wears there... make a lovely new one:
And I used a software program to design this embroidery. I stitched it out on a sheer net so my Dad can see to position it on his work:
And now I'm ready to get back to experimenting with cloth and fibre. While I've enjoyed making these things, I've confirmed to myself that what I most relish is creating the surface design in the first place...

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Embroidering on Porcelain

Porcelain tea light made by my Father. 
An experiment using a computer generated embroidery that I stitched onto a sheer net curtain. Dad pressed it into a soft porcelian slab and then rolled the slab around a tube before firing. The bright eye is where the stitching pierced the clay. I like this combination of modern and traditional techniques - the precise and the obviously hand-made.

Saturday, 24 July 2010


Earlier this year I found myself without wrapping paper for a friend's birthday. Being in the middle of studying for exams at the time, and needing a creative break, I gave myself 3 hours to make a basic wrapping cloth.
We decided to turn it into a friendship cloth, each of us adding bits over time. Debra recently returned it with washers sewn on to secure the ties...
...and this beautifully stitched quote on the back.
Much more enriching than disposable wrapping paper!

Friday, 23 July 2010

Burning Down

Janet suggested burning a house as well as the archway for a better effect. Now the arch needs to be burnt more...
I like how it looks on the table cloth -

 - not sure I'm ready to burn into that yet!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Pulling it Together

Had an inspirational day at the Journey workshop this week. Janet helped us think about how to use our samples as a route to a finished piece. She gently encouraged me not to get too attached to what I have done so far, but to incorporate the techniques from the pieces I like into a new design.
Due to Janet's vast store of ideas, I've changed direction slightly and have now got 2 paths to follow: a sort of family-story-cloth starting with some gifted linen...
...which will be gradually added to over time.
I've made a start by dipping it in coffee and sewing an archway...
...and may put this in the middle
 - stitched by my daughter -
cut out but kept ragged edged.

The second idea stays with the 'Garden of Forking Paths' but involves making a series of holey stacking bowls or vessels that can be turned and swapped around. So the challenge now is to make something that has a drapey feel while being stiff enough to hold its shape...

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Indigo Dyeing

A group of us spent a lovely day yesterday stitching, dyeing and chatting.
Stitching on sheer white linen 

Pole wrapping and stitching on an old indian cotton pink sarong 

Wednesday, 14 July 2010


Mostly more defined houses. Keep them together or rip them apart?

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Layered Printing

Lots of monoprints on top of each other. Pleased with this - so far...


Mmmm... Bit too much definition on the roof of this house, pleased with the steps and door though. Need to stitch the arch now.
I've been exploring the theme of archways. I like the nurturing curve they have, encouraging me to go through and explore beyond my immediate space. Unlike circles, arches do not confine me, but gently lead me further on. Without a door, they provide a glimpse to their other side, imagination filling in the gaps so that before I go through it there is a sense of another reality lying beyond, something different to my current world.
Arches feature in much of John Piper's work. His style appeals to me because his buildings are often blurred and indistinct, but the arches are highlighted, a moment of clarity but also movement, giving the sense of there being something beyond the canvas.
The word arch came from the Latin arcus meaning arch or bow. 'Arc' has the same root and was used in Middle English to mean the passing of the sun from east to west, forming the 'days arc'.* This led me back to the idea of arches as a symbol of movement and development. There is a proscribed frame of time and space, but within that the day is full of possibility.
John Piper's painting of St George Church in Ivychurch, was the starting point for my decaying archway. Finding these photographs of the inside of the church reminded me that the arch is used in buildings because of its strength. Go through it in search of another world, but build on top of it and around it and you will make a solid, immutable structure that will last over a thousand years...

* Chambers Dictionary of Etymology, 2000

Friday, 9 July 2010


I'm enjoying this process - working out just how much stitching is needed to enhance the houses without spoiling them. I like working outside the edges but need the occasional defining marks to provide 'a momentary stay against confusion'.*

*Robert Frost, The Figure a Poem Makes, 1939

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Looking, Looking, Looking

Inspired by the simplicity of Alfred Wallis, and going back to the colours and painted effects in my moodboard. Acrylic monoprint on calico, stitched onto layers of linen with a calico backing.
I like the physical layering of this as well as the layering of techniques - both add interest to the simplicity.
As Hussein Chalayan said on Grayson Perry's programme Creativity and Imagination: "the process gives it the layers".

Friday, 2 July 2010

Playing with Print

I wanted to represent the human figure in a way that wasn't too obvious. I printed two photographs of my silhouette onto linen (using a freezer paper backing through an inkjet printer), put a sheer linen over the top and stitched over one image. I think it can still just about be seen...
The original photo is on the top right of my moodboard

Thursday, 1 July 2010

V & A Visit - "Architects Build Small Spaces"

A lovely day out
This was the view from inside "Ratatosk" - apparently named after the Norse legend of a squirrel living in a huge ash tree at the centre of the universe.
There's more about the structure at the bottom of this page.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Garden Structure

Weaving with silk on the bias proved a lot less stable than the previous cloth. I decided to machine it all together to stop it falling apart, and found that this gave it structural strength, holding its shape when rolled.
The first cloth is fairly robust, with only hand-tacked stitches in one direction, so doesn't roll so much as fold at the strips.
And here they are side by side. I like the neatness of the one on the right. I find the splitting off of the stripes on the left-hand cloth slightly disconcerting, while being pleased at the sense of shifting ground this creates. I'm still thinking about how to embellish them...
Together, these will form the first lined bag-within-a-bag. For the second one I am going to use linen (much more friendly to work with), and some kind of piecing method.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Dyeing a Tree

At the last workshop with Janet we experimented with dye powder, discharge, resist and bleaching techniques. One of my more interesting results was achieved purely by accident however, when wiping up the mess!

Monday, 28 June 2010

Fantasy Elm Road

An experiment in machine embroidery on linen - a good technique for this children's picture book style. Maybe a bit too fussy. I like the simplicity and muted colours of Alfred Wallis.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Textile Poets

I can't make any further posts about fabric weaving without acknowledging the work of textile story teller, and to my mind poet, Jude Hill.
William Wordsworth considered a poet to be someone able to present the world to people in a way that they would not ordinarily be able to see, but can get 'immediate pleasure' from. Jude's spirit cloths are like this, drawing the viewer to connect with the story as well as admire the craftsmanship.  
The Lakeland poet, however, thought himself "endued with more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness, [having] a greater knowledge of human nature, and a more comprehensive soul, than are supposed to be common among mankind"*.
Jude's work demonstrates some of these qualities, but she has a much more inclusive attitude, akin to William Carlos Williams. He thought "the poet is he who walks through life, listening, being involved, participating more than watching"** and that poetry exists in everyone's life.
Jude has the same democratic approach. She creates beautiful work while encouraging others that they can too.

*William Wordsworth, Preface to Lyrical Ballads, 1802
**Interviews with William Carlos Williams “Speaking Straight Ahead”, Linda Wagner (ed.), New Directions, New York, 1976, p.xiv

Second Garden

I tried changing perspective by cutting the warp material on the bias and making the strips wider. I'm not really happy with this yet - a bit too chunky and possibly some more sheer layers needed to soften it down.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Woven Garden

The starting point for The Garden of Forking Paths.
I like the layered depth and complexity of the woven structure.
 I'm not sure if the finished piece will be flat or three dimensional. I've been thinking about making a bag within a bag where the paths lead to different windows through to the next world, something like this:

Monday, 21 June 2010

Occasional Cards - Abstract...

...With landscape tendencies.
Wool tops, linen and oddments needle-punched onto thick upholstery fabric with handstitching. A kind friend gave me lots of fabric samples, which means I'm able to experiment with lots of different weights, types and textures that I wouldn't normally use.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Transfer Dying, Ripping and Stitching

Experimenting with transfer paints, dyes and crayons.
The colours come out very bright on poly-cotton and more muted on a net-curtain-like sheer, so I put four layers together with the poly cotton as the base, stitched freehand over the top and cut through to expose the colour beneath.
Allowing for the colour mismatch and wonkiness of my hasty design and execution, I like the bursting flower effect of this piece with the glimpse through to another world. Something to develop...

Friday, 18 June 2010

Occasional Cards - Hearts

I find the small scale of making cards useful for experimenting with different techniques and focusing ideas. Having something useful at the end of the process is satisfying too!
This one was made by weaving an embroidered sheer, some linen and upholstery fabric onto a backing and machine-sewing heart shapes on top. I cut them out and needle-punched them onto layers of frayed linen and fine calico.