Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Put a Cork in It!

Well 112 bottles of wine later, here is the corkboard I made out of the recycled corks and let me tell you it was worth every drop.

However, I did have a few contributions from other thirsty friends.

So the easiest part was drinking the wine, the hardest part was cutting the corks in half with good old Mr Stanley Knife (good workout for the triceps) and I used an old box canvas as the base. 

Such a pity that these days most bottles of wine have screw tops which it has to be said are much less hassle to open. No more rumaging among the kitchen utensils for that elusive corkscrew but there is something quite ceremonious and thrilling about drilling down into the cork, then the welcome sound of the cork popping to announce the arrival of the most tastiest of beverages. Am loving my new corkboard so much it seems a pity to cover it up with notices, appointments, calendars and invitations.  It deserves to be displayed unhindered like an artwork which means I will just have to get on and make another one. Cheers to the next 112 bottles!    

Sunday, 3 April 2016

My £10 Stash of Fabrics

So this is the £10 'stuff sack' of fabrics I mentioned before which I got from the Fashion, Embroidery & Stitch Show. Some really fantastic oddments of soft furnishing fabrics which look like they came from a curtain making factory as some bits seemed to be cut off curtains. Anyway the money raised from the sale of the fabrics was being donated to an animal sanctuary.   

A great pity this Mulberry fabric was only a piece out of a sample book.

So you might well ask what am I going to do with it all?  

Well I have been looking on Pinterest for inspiration and came across these fantastic patchwork curtains. If all the bits were sewn together I definitely have anough to make a pair of curtains. 

And then I saw these patchwork covers which would be great for my old sofa but I have to say I feel a patchwork throw coming on so watch this space! 

Monday, 21 March 2016

Fashion, Embroidery & Stitch Show 2016

So there was lots to see at the Fashion, Embroidery & Stitch Show this year at the NEC.  My first visit to a show this year. I always go looking for inspiration and of course to add to my stash. Here are some of the best bits:

This quilt was part of an exhibition of 6 artists working to a chosen theme of  '6 Shades of Grey.' Artist Susan Chapman's piece is part of a series of works called Not Invisible  and asks the question do grey haired over 60s become invisible? The work celebrates women of a certain age who are certainly not invisible.

This stand caught my eye as it really has a message behind the work.  The village congregation of Laghmani lies about 60km north of Kabul within the Shomali-Plain of Afghanistan. The inhabitants of this region are peasants and many of the women living here are highly skilled embroiderers. There are around 200 embroiderers between 12 and 50 years old living in the village. Although embroidery has a long tradition in this area, the cultivation decreased after the 30-year war.  Now the women have picked up the tradition again and the younger generation are also learning the technique of hand embroidery.  To complete an 8cm square, between 4 and 8 hours are necessary depending on the quality and detail of the work. 

The Guldusi Project (gul means flower and dusi means embroidery) ensures that the women are paid for their work by collecting the completed embroideries which are then purchased by artists in Europe who then proceed to turn them into a patchwork, a piece of larger embroidery, clothing or ornament. The money generated ensures the women a wage to aid the upkeep of their families.  These are two beautifully stitched squares I bought which I will turn into a larger embroidery project of my own.

For this project the women were asked to embroider leaves which were then purchased by artists to make into their own artworks.

This piece called Springtime by Claire Louise Mather was part of the Embroiderers' Guild exhibition celebrating 300 years of the landscape gardener Lancelot 'Capability' Brown.

With Scandi so popular at the moment it made an appearance at the show in the shape of Linladan which means The Flax Barn in Swedish.  All the threads here are made of flax and were discovered hidden away in a factory which had closed down in the 1960s when it was at the heart of Sweden's textile industrial area. 

Also on display were the original costumes from the 2015 film Far from the Madding Crowd. The above costumes here were worn by Carey Mulligan as 'Bathsheba Everdene' and Michael Sheen as 'Mr Boldwood'. 

My favourite children's book of all time was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and as I love knitting too I was delighted to come across Yarnia, a knitted Narnia.

It took a team of five Canadian designers, thirty knitters and several months to create Yarnia, the land where it is always Winter but never Christmas. Here are Lucy and Mr Tumnus with the wicked Snow Queen.  Even the lamp-post was knitted.  

So finally the Snow Queen has been vanquished by Aslan the Lion (see his tail poking out of the  tent), the snow has all melted and it is summer once again. Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy are crowned Kings and Queens of Yarnia.  

So after a long weary day I was just on my way out when I was side tracked by a stand where you could fill a plastic bag with as much fabric as you could possibly stuff into it for £10. It reminded me of the old salad bar technique where you cram as much salad into the pot as you can, finding nooks and crannies for the odd olive or cherry tomato then try and get the lid on somewhow.  The proviso here was the bag had to close at the top. I just about did it.  Now that's what I call a stash!  Another project waiting to happen but more about that later.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Travelling Sketchbooks - Splendiferous Blousy Hydrangeas

I love hydrangeas so thought I would include them in my Travelling Sketchbook.   I got this effect by using Markel Sticks through a stencil of hydrangea petals combined with free-machine embroidery  and the line from a poem.

Watercolour and sequins.

This page was a combination of strips of my own hand-printed fabric stitched together with ziz-zag and running stitch. 

And finally a page so called because whenever I attend a workshop I always come home so fired up with enthusiasm to try out the techniques I have just learnt, that I just have to get right on and make something there and then and this I like to call my 'Consolidate my Learning' phase. This was a piece I made immediately after a dry needle felting workshop with the very talented Michala Gyetvai and it's rather higgledy piggledy in design but consolidating your learning is more about practicing your new technique rather than making a considered piece of work. Time enough for that later on when the inspiration starts to flow.  

Michala 'paints with fibres' on hand-dyed old Witney blankets, like the off white to cream scratchy blankets I used to have on my bed when I was little and which my mum chucked out to be replaced by the new continental quilts.  No more hospital corners and tucking in of sheets and blankets for her. Now I spend my time searching for those old blankets in charity shops and on Ebay so I can hand-dye them, cut them up then needle felt designs and pictures on them.  Now that is what I call consolidating my learning!

Thursday, 10 March 2016

An Old Jumper Won't Ever Let You Down

In the words of the great Rod Stewart (well almost), as is my wont I have transformed a favourite jumper of mine into a cushion. Now as many of you know, I love my jumpers and cardies - they somehow make winter that little bit more bearable and worthwhile but I decided to call time on this one because although I am extremely careful when washing my knitwear it had somehow over the years become a little bit tired and past its best (like many of us I suppose).

After giving it a good flogging in the washing machine to get it to a felted stage I then cut it down to size. 

And here it is in-situ on my favourite chair. 

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

7 Days of Embroidery

I first took up embroidery in 2010 whilst studying for a degree in Fine Art when quite by chance I was introduced to the Solihull branch of The Embroiderers' Guild. Now although I had always shown an interest in sewing and textiles I was put off embroidery after having to painstakingly sew my name on my gym bag at school when I almosted ended up attaching it to my skirt. So how would I fit in going to a meeting where everyone was an expert embroiderer? Was it not a very elitest group? Well I could not have been more wrong.

"The Guild welcomes everyone with an interest in any area of embroidery and we are proud to be recognised as a voice for raising the profile of textile and stitched art.  No longer just the domain of fabric and thread, textile art now embraces (amongst other things) the world of mixed media, dyeing with rust and plants, print and videos. We hold a historical collection, aid research, support students of all ages, and publish “Stitch” and “Embroidery” magazines. Members around the country are involved at whatever level they choose in meeting regularly to listen to speakers, often in their local Branch, attend workshops, learn new skills or build on existing ones, and participate in local, regional and national projects."  

So I became a member of Solihull Embroiderers and the more I learnt about embroidery techniques the more I came to realise that stitch and textile art would play an important part in my art practice.  

I was recently challenged by a friend to post a picture of an embroidery on Facebook every day for 7 days. I really enjoyed the challenge as it gave me a chance to delve back into my work and revisit pieces I had not seen for quite a while, to re-evaluate them and to pick out some old favourites.  So for the benefit of my non-Facebook friends here are the 7 embroideries I chose:

Embroidery Challenge Day 1
So this was my first ever art quilt having taken inspiration from the many I have seen at the Festival of Quilts at the NEC in recent years. It is of my daughter Emily from a photograph taken on holiday in Cornwall when she was about 8. We were in the Porthminster Beach Cafe in St Ives and I couldn't resist taking this photo of her sat next to a mirror looking extremely bored, tired and hungry after a long day on the beach waiting for her favourite Spaghetti Bolognese to arrive. 



I made the quilt using a combination of dense machine quilting and acrylic paint for the hair and face.  The first thing Emily always wanted to do when on holiday was to go down to the sea front to have hair wraps so I decided to put those in too using couched threads.

Embroidery Challenge Day 2
I love embroidering words and these words just about sum up what I feel about washing. The work was from Year 2 of my degree when I was focussing on the role of women in every day life and I felt I just had to comment on how doing the laundry takes up a major part of every woman's life

Embroidery Challenge Day 3
This is also from 2nd year of my degree relating to the role of women in everyday life. Embroidered on an Ikea tea towel. Its all about those plastic storage boxes like Lock & Lock and similar which seem to multiply then fall on your head when you open a cupboard door.

Embroidery Challenge Day 4
The ring cushion I embroidered for my niece's wedding back in 2012 with some vintage lace. I embroidered the words using free machine stitching.

Embroidery Challenge Day 5
An embroidery from my degree show work. It was of a Woman's Realm sewing pattern I found in a vintage shop probably dating back to the 1970s when smock dresses were fashionable. I remember when I was about 13 my mum taught me how to make dresses using a commercial pattern like this one. It was a Simplicity pattern and I made a little flowery smock to go with my bell-bottom jeans and platform shoes. I felt the bees knees in that outfit.

Embroidery Challenge Day 6
More embroidery from my degree show work and embroidered onto one of my vintage tray-cloths.   Based on the diary of Nella Last - Nella Last's War: The Second World War Diaries of 'Housewife 49' I embroidered quotes of Nella's from the book which just about summed up what life was like for a housewife during the Second World War - rationing, sewing, darning, mending, knitting and  worrying about her son Cliff away fighting in the war. 

Embroidery Challenge Day 7
As a blonde who loves good beer I thought this a fitting end to the challenge. What more can I say. Slainte!  

And for anyone who is interested in joining Solihull Embroiderers, please don't be shy or think you won't be good enough. We welcome anyone at any level who has got an interest in stitch, craft, textile art, quilting, sewing and knitting alike. Please visit our Facebook page for details. 

Saturday, 20 February 2016

A Pleasant Surprise through the Letterbox

 Had a really pleasant surprise this morning when this book arrived in the post. 

I had won a prize for a competition I had entered in Autumn of last year in The Embroiderers' Guild's Contact Magazine.  I never win anything so was really excited to receive it especially as the book had been on my Amazon wish list. 

Wendy Dolan is a well known textile artist who uses fabrics and threads to create textured designs.  These are just some of the projects in her book and I just can't wait to get started on them.