Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Sewn Words...No 3

Sewn as a response to all of those blessed Tupperware-esque plastic food storage containers that seem to multiply and clog up my kitchen cupboards.  It turns into a bit of a Krypton Factor challenge to try to stack them, catalogue them, nest them and store them in such a way that they are not just a perishing nuisance every time you open the cupboard door.  Talking of Tupperware can anyone remember back to the 1970s when the highlight in a woman's social calendar was going to a Tupperware Party. My mum seemed to get invited to one at least two or three times a month  (much to my dad's annoyance as it wasn't cheap - "Well you have to buy something" she would tell him) and would always come back with a 'must have' item such as the Party Susan or the Cruet set on a stand which after a while would get relegated to the back of the cupboard never to be seen or heard of again.  She would also teach us how important it was to 'burp' the air out by pressing the (dare I say nipple) in the centre. .  Such an exciting time for housewives back then.

And today we have good old Lakeland which I hate to admit can be just as exciting!

Friday, 11 April 2014

Fashion, Embroidery & Stitch 2014

 A bit late now as it was back in March that I went to the Fashion, Embroidery & Stitch Show at the NEC (combined with Sewing for Pleasure & Hobbicrafts) but I am always so impressed by what textile art is out there that it's always worth sharing. Here are just a few of my favourites: 

There is always something spectacular that stands out at the show attracting lots of attention and this year it was this incredible 'Knitted Lady' made up completely of course of knitting.

 Even down to her mug of tea and biscuits.

On show were some of the original costumes from the film of  Les Miserables. These are just two as worn by The Thenardiers played by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham.

Knitting always features strongly at the show and Toft Alpaca were here again with something slightly different this year to their usual knitwear garments and bags.  Their stand had been taken over by these cute little crocheted animals. You can go and see the lovely Alpacas on their farm and visit the workshop and studios not far from here in Dunchurch, Warwickshire.

Loved Blake the orang-utan.

Bark Cloth was something I had become familiar with at an exhibition last year at IKON Gallery, Birmingham featuring The Tapa Bark Cloths of the South Pacific.  Bark Cloth is literally a cloth made from the bark of trees and textile artist Bobby Britnell in collaboration with shoemaker Janet Middleton have produced this stunning exhibition 'BarkCloth to ArtCloth' as a way of promoting the charity 'Hands up for Uganda'.  A number of textile artists were encouraged to decorate bark cloth from the Matuba tree in Southern Uganda which would then be made up into shoes by Janet. Here are some of the results:

This amazing portrait by textile artist Kerry Moseley is actually knitted wire and machine embroidery.  

One of the prizewinning entries on the Madeira Threads Stand - This piece is all about tea.

Who should we bump into while walking round but non other than 3 of the lovely ladies from The Great British Sewing Bee. Had a great stop and chat with them and spoke to one of my favourites Heather (2nd from right) about her wonderful Pin Dog and she told us the pattern for him would be available in the autumn from Muji.  It was great too to see Heather win GBSB 2014 on Tuesday with her stunningly elegant couture ball gown creation.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Sewn Words... No 2

Hardly any time to blog lately because.....


.....need I say more?

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Sewn Words... No 1

Wise words indeed and I have often thought the same when I am ensconced in my sewing room racing like the clappers on my Janome, foot hard down on the pedal, thrashing it to within an inch of its life and its next new needle.

As a practitioner of free-machine embroidery and keen Sewn Wordsmith myself, I came across this little nugget of wisdom on Pinterest and could not resist sharing it.  Now if ever there was an internet site that sucks you in and evaporates your precious time (much more so than Facebook in my opinion and far more interesting than looking at other people's holiday snaps) then it's Pinterest. To the uninitiated Pinterest is a kind of virtual noticeboard where you can pin just about anything that interests you in order to collect ideas and inspiration for different projects many of which are craft and art based. 

I have decided therefore to start a new series of quick posts on my blog entitled Sewn Words which may be words I come across on my internet travels or words that spring to mind and which I have sewn myself so hopefully, this will be the first of many wise words.  

Monday, 10 March 2014

The Great British Sewing Bee 2014

Well at long last The Great British Sewing Bee is back on our screens again, as popular as ever and has done for sewing what The Great British Bake Off has done for baking. I blogged about TGBSB last year as it's helped to create a whole new generation of sewing enthusiasts and encouraged people who haven't picked up a neeedle in a very long time to get sewing again and start making their own clothes. I also know of a group of delightful young ladies in Moseley who started their own sewing circle after watching the show last year and now meet up regularly in their local pub to sew, knit, chat, take the waters etc.

Haberdashery (what a fantastic word that is) has never been so popular with haberdashery shops popping up everywhere, indeed Lauren Guthrie who was a runner up in last years GBSB has opened her very own haberdashery shop with her husband in Moseley, Birmingham called Guthrie & Ghani  stocking the most gorgeous fabrics, yarns and just about anything you might need in the way of sewing notions.   Over the shop there is a specially created studio space where Lauren holds creative workshops such as lampshade making, machine embroidery, felt making and all aspects of learning how to sew.

Ashamed to say that although I live not far from Moseley I was a G&G virgin and had been desperate to go for such a long time so it was with much glee and anticipation that my Moseley sewing friends took me along to an event there to celebrate G&G becoming the only place in Birmingham to stock Liberty Art Fabrics.  I have to say that for me going to somewhere like G&G  was akin to a child running amok in a sweet shop, a kind of a Jacqui and the Sewing Factory. What a fabulous place to buy fabric, and just generally be inspired to sew and you can even get a coffee and a cake there too.

Liberty art prints fat quarters 

Great fabrics for cushions and quilts.

Rita perusing the knitting patterns.

Kerry, Emma and Rita eyeing up the Liberty prints.

Lauren on the right with her team and she was just as lovely and friendly off screen as on.

Here is my wonderful fabric stash bought from G&G.  I just had to have the retro dial telephone fabric to remind me of my formative years at BT (as if I could ever forget!).  It's destined to cover an ottoman and the woodland fabric will be ideal for a quilt. Lots of projects then hopefully heading my sewing machine's way. Heaven really is a place on earth called Guthrie & Garni and don't forget The Great British Sewing Bee, Tuesday evenings @ 8pm on BBC2.Go Chinello!

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

What Do Artists Do All Day? - Little Cakes and Pastels

Well that's a very good question which I am frequently asked.  If you have been watching the fascinating occasional series What Do Artists Do All Day? on BBC Four you will probably have some idea by now.  Some of the artists featured in this brilliant (almost fly on the wall) series so far, where they are filmed during a typical day's work have been Cornelia ParkerPolly Morgan, Jack Vettriano and Norman Ackroyd.  I finally got round to watching the Norman Ackroyd episode last night after having recorded it months ago and on a typical day we see him enter his studio around 6.30 where he brews up a large pot of coffee. He lives 'over the shop' in his London studio so he only has to go downstairs where he works all morning on a landscape etching then breaks for lunch and has a mosey on over to Jose's, a sherry and tapas bar very conveniently situated opposite his Bermondsey studio where he is served a delicious looking plate of Iberico ham. He tells us he would normally also have a glass of wine but he doesn't want to risk being drunk in charge of his printing press in the afternoon. He returns to his studio for more etching, engraving and printing, more coffee and finally a very satisfactory first run print of Stac an Armin, in the St Kilda archipeligo in Scotland. 

Well that sounds like an excellent and very civilised way for an artist to spend a day.  So as an artist what do I do all day?  Well I certainly don't spend all day 'doing art' that's for sure.  I do live 'over the shop' so to speak as my studio/work room/sewing room is actually my spare bedroom but I find I am frequently making trips to the kitchen to carry out various mundane tasks such as doing battle with the never ending laundry mountain.  Laundry is my nemesis after all. 

Also, disappointingly there is no tapas bar opposite for me to go and have a quick fino and patatas bravas. However, there is an Ember Inn round the corner which I could always nip to I suppose for a ham sandwich but it doesn't really have the same appeal. Kind of lost in translation a bit. 

Anyway, today I have been experimenting with soft pastels. They come in stick form similar to chalk so can be very messy but give amazing results. The softer the pastel the more pigment they contain thus laying a better coverage of colour down on to the paper.  I have been using Daler Rowney  Ingres pastel paper which is a paper that comes in several colours and is specially for the use of pastels as it provides a 'tooth' for the pastel to grip onto, much better than ordinary paper. 

I work at the IKON gallery in Birmingham and coincidentally the current exhibition 3 Drawing Rooms by David Tremlett is a site specific installation where the artist along with many assistants and volunteers applied chalk pastel pigment directly to the walls of the gallery in geometric shapes using small pastel sticks similar to mine.  A real labour of  love, it took 15 days to install.  Click here to see a time lapse video of how the whole installation took place.


So on a break from my pastel drawing and on one of my frequent trips to the kitchen for a coffee refill and emptying/loading washing machine I got a bit sidetracked as I often do but it was Nigel Slater who caught my attention this morning.  He has been my constant companion in the kitchen for quite a few years now, long before his TV fame, back in the day when he was cookery editor for Marie-Claire magazine. I am currently reading his epic Kitchen Diaries II day by day so I will have the pleasure of his company for the coming year.  I just love the way he writes about food with such a passion and a feel for every ingredient. His cookery books have always been much more than just another recipe book by yet another TV chef. 

I don't normally make a habit of cooking his recipes on the actual day nor am I attempting to cook every single recipe in the book. It was just that I saw today it was Little Apricot and Oat Cakes which sounded quick, easy, delicious and for once I had got all the ingredients in the store cupboard. Except when I came to bake it I didn't have the dried apricots after all so I had to use dried mixed fruit instead.

So despite the lack of apricots in the Little Apricot & Oat Cakes they still tasted pretty good to me.  Ran out of muffin cases though and then had trouble getting them out of the supposedly non-stick muffin tin.  I need one of those silicone muffin tins that turn inside out and then the cakes just pop out as if by magic.  Oooohh I feel a trip to Lakeland coming on. 

Friday, 14 February 2014

Women in Stitches

I always say that there is nothing more annoying than visiting a blog where the blogger has not blogged for ages and I felt embarassed to discover today that I haven't posted a blog for over 2 months.  Shame on me. So I am now going to put that right.

Last week I had the pleasure of giving a talk to the Worcester Branch of the Embroiderers' Guild. The subject of my talk was Women in Stitches, a talk focusing on the quilt I made for my degree show in the final year of my Fine Art degree at Solihull College.

My quilt entitled The Hours is made up of lots of embroidered vintage tray-cloths.  The idea to do the quilt started when I bought a tray-cloth from a charity shop for 50p.  I liked the idea that I had rescued it and started imagining who the lady was that had stitched it and felt sad that all her hardwork had been abandoned.  It became a kind of crusade and I rescued more and more tray-cloths from Ebay and charity shops. Decades ago women must have spent hours embroidering these intricate pieces, only for them to be forgotten about years later.  That's when I decided I would join them all together to make one huge heirloom quilt.  I would call it The Hours which would be testament to the countless hours women had spent stitching them and a celebration of the skills and crafts traditionally associated with women.  Below is the centre panel of the quilt and the inscription reads:

'I dedicate this quilt to all those women who devoted hour after hour to the art of embroidery and stitch'.

Each of the tray-cloths (or panels) that make up the quilt is dedicated to a woman who for them, stitching was important either as a pastime, a necessity or their livelihood.  My intention was that for each of the panels I would combine my own contemporary stitching and ideas with the existing embroidery; to marry the old with the new.  Some of my ladies were real women I had known like my mum Frances who knitted for England, sewed all my summer 'frocks' (what an old-fashioned word for dress but she always referred to dresses as frocks) and took in mending to earn a few bob.  Others are based on women I discovered during my research into the history of embroidery and stitch like 'Florrie' who had knitted ever since she could remember and would make her grandaughter wind her hanks of wool into balls.  This is her panel where I have recreated a traditional Emu wool pattern using an old felted jumper of mine.  

Doris was my mum's best friend and next door neighbour and very much a dressmaker.  In fact they both were. They could both run up a 'frock' in an evening although my mum was the more proficient of the two especially when it came to cutting out.  Doris would get a bit flustered with laying on the pattern pieces so more often than not my mum would end up having to go round next door to help her cut it out. My dad would get a bit annoyed over this as she usually then ended up spending the whole evening round there as of course they would end up having a good old natter accompanied by endless cups of tea, and maybe a whisky or two as a treat for a job well done and to bolster her against the cold night air and in preparation for the arduous journey back to her own house next door, just a few short paces away.   

Iris was an embroiderer who was taught to cross-stitch samplers at school with letters of the alphabet and numbers along with the name of the school and the name of her needlework teacher Mrs Ollerenshaw.  Unfortunately it took her nearly all of the school year to sew it though as she kept mispelling her teacher's name and had to keep unpicking it all.  It's a wonder she ever touched a needle again after that.

Gracie was also a dressmaker who I found in a book called Women and Craft and I loosely based her on many women of her generation who during the 1950s and 60s made all their own clothes and those of their families.

Margaret was taught to knit and sew by her mother and was typical of girls growing up in the 1950s and 60s who would enjoy making all their own clothes in a bid to try and copy the fashions they saw in the trendy boutiques which had just started appearing on every high street.

I have included above just a few of the panels that make up The Hours quilt but you can see more on The Hours page on my blog. 

Anyway here are just a few pics taken on the afternoon before, during and after my talk.

I spent a really lovely afternoon with the Worcester Embroiderers Guild and was made to feel really welcome.  Thanks especially to Chairman, Sylvia Thistle for putting me at my ease. 
Their meetings are held on the first Tuesday afternoon of each month at Perdiswell Young People's Leisure Club, Worcester WR3 7SN @ 2.00 pm.   I will certainly be back to visit you all again. Good job my visit was last week as I see Worcester is now a town of two halves almost cut off and submerged by the awful floods. Hope you are all OK and surviving.