I got the blues (of an indigo variety)

May 18, 2017

I’ve just spent a fantastic few days in beautiful West Wales, playing with lots of fabric and buckets of blue! The course was shibori techniques and indigo dyeing, which involved using lots of different ways of tying the fabric in order to create a resist. We used elastic bands, clamps, blocks of wood, marbles – all sorts of things that you might not associate with working with textiles.

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The venue was beautiful (a working farm) and we got to make as much mess as we wanted in an old barn with swifts nesting above us. Unfortunately the weather was only like this for 1 day and it poured with rain for the rest of the time.

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There was a little bit of maths and chemistry but we got to make jars of magical greeny-blue murk!

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Very soon the barn was covered in glorious pieces of indigo fabric that gleamed in the sunlight.

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And we created washing lines wherever we could.

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We also used some plants and rust to create interesting backgrounds to our indigo dyeing. The results are now drying and I will soon be able to show you the wonders that I have made.

Crafters’ Clearout

April 3, 2017

We had another fantastic Crafters’ Clearout on Sunday. I love these events as it’s such a great community and we have a lovely time swapping things and chatting with each other – just as much as we do selling materials on to other crafters!

The weather was beautiful over the weekend so we were a bit worried how many customers we would have, but thankfully the footfall was reasonable so we all did well enough. A cloudy day tends to be the best for things like this but we can’t book the weather!


Of course, I managed to spend just as much as I made but that’s pretty usual for me! Here are some of the things that I bought:

 

There are some beautiful ribbons and some gorgeous scraps of leather as well as the fat quarters and felt. I haven’t got plans for everything yet but a few of the items are allocated to specific projects. I also bought some books and a few quilting magazines.


Towards the end Elvie came to give me a hand and very much enjoyed the busy atmosphere.

Dyeing Day

March 28, 2017

A sewing group that I belong to recently organised a day of fabric dyeing (something always better when done in groups). We decided to create a batch of neutrals using dilution dyeing. It’s like a production line with a series of bags or tubs into which you add all the relevant ingredients. The dye starts off very concentrated then slowly diluted as it’s added to each bag. The result is a range of greys from almost black to very pale. I chose not to agitate the bags so that the fabric ended up mottled and patterned.

As well as the egyptian cotton that I cut into equal pieces I also threw in some random pieces of cotton fabrics such as sheeting and broderie anglaise. The results look really useful, particularly for stormy skies or walls in my stitched and fabric pictures.

After we’d completed the neutral dyeing it was time to do some playing. Most people continued with the dilution dyeing using a different colour or did exchange dyeing (1 pure colour at 1 end, a 2nd pure colour at the other end and a gradation of shades in between). Of course, I didn’t stay so safe. After doing some blue pieces of fabric I went a bit wild. I splodged, dribbed and splashed multiple colours into the pots and ended up with some rather interesting results.

I have no idea what I will do with these but I certainly had fun creating them!

Banner unveiled!

March 5, 2017

The banner that I’ve been working on with a group of participants in Pontypridd Museum has been hung and unveiled this weekend.

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It sits alongside some industrial banners and pieces made by local groups to celebrate specific occasions, hanging from the balcony of the ex-Welsh chapel. It’s funny how such a large piece can look so tiny when up so high!

Here’s zoomed image so that you can see a little more of the detail:

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The shape of the banner is based on a miner’s lamp and all the detail is in the area that the flame would be in. These images include Pontypridd old bridge, St Catherine’s church steeple and the two rivers that combine in Pontypridd. It reflects what the group thought of when they were discussing their memories of the town.

Thankfully the banner will be displayed lower down for a while during a 2 month stint at Rhondda Heritage Park so I’ll be able to get a better photograph of it but I’m so pleased that it’s permanent place is alongside other banners that belong to the town and the museum.

Journal Quilts – February

March 2, 2017

I just scraped in, getting the February Journal Quilt finished and posted online on the last day of the month! It’s not that they take me a long time to make, but just that they fall down the to-do list as higher priority items creep on. My main focus recently has been finishing a large banner that has been created in a commuity group and is due to be shown in a couple of local museums – more about that soon 🙂

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Anyway, here is the piece that I created for this month. If you remember, my theme is “Small Journeys” and it’s based on a collection of images that I’ve taken of paths, doors, gates, etc. When I’m walking my dogs I often walk past this Right of Way sign and it makes me laugh. It is so old and rusted that the top has broken and the sign now points down towards the ground. I thought it made on interesting image to experiment with. First of all I printed a copy of the image in black and white high contrast. I used this to show me where to stitch the black outlines of each section (using the stitching through method) then I coloured it in with Inktense pencils. I washed over each section of colouring with plain water to blend the colour and make it more intense.

I’m pretty happy with this month’s work although it doesn’t quite feel finished. It was an experiment, though, and some of the things I did were new to me. I was very pleased to try out this method of creating an image and I think it could look really amazing with some practice and altering of the way things are done.

Now I need to decide what image I’m going to work on for the next month…

Journal Quilts – January

February 4, 2017

I’m a member of the Contemporary Quilters sub-section of the Quilters’ Guild and each year they work on a series of small quilts to a theme – 1 per month. I’ve never taken part in the challenge before but this year I volunteered to give it a go. There’s always some requirements that you need to meet and this year the size is 11″ x 11″ with a self-defined theme.

I chose to look at pictures I’d taken of doors, gates, pathways etc. and gave the series the title of “Small Journeys”. I have never intentionally looked at this subject but I do seem to have collected images over the years, from a small track through a local copse to ornate gates and Tunisian doors.

For my first quilt I printed an image of a worn door from Tunisia onto pre-prepared fabric then used free-machine embroidery to highlight and enhance the features. As my printer can only create print outs up to nearly A4 I had to piece some fabrics around the outside to reach the requisite 11″. After sewing on some Greek key fabric down the sides I attached brown pieces at an angle on the bottom and top. I then used a subtly printed fabric to create a binding.

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Now, there are imperfections in this small quilt, but I’m not going to point them out as if they matter to you you’ll be able to see them already. I know we all have the habit of being too modest, even critical of our own work, so I will force the criticisms down and just say “here is something that I’ve done”!

Next, using Inktense pencils to colour a picture that I’ve already drawn out in stitch…

Flapper fashion, mental hospitals and Medieval objects!

January 14, 2017

Not realising how much was going on that could disrupt the trains, I took a trip to London last Sunday. Despite having a delay on the way there due to overrunning engineering works, having to be back at Paddington before the underground was closed due to strikes, AND 2 hour cancellations on the trip home, I had a fantastic time.

Two exhibitions that I really wanted to see were closing  and this was my last chance to see them. This first was The Jazz Age: Fashion &Photography at the Fashion and Textile Museum. I have always loved the clothes of the 20s and 30s and I was really pleased to see that it wasn’t just the glamorous flapper dresses but also the sportswear, and the pretty daywear that was represented.

As always there was great narration and explanation throughout the exhibition. It also helps that the clothes are hardly ever behind glass in this museum so you can properly see the material and the seam lines.

After this it was a quick dash across Central London to the Welcome Collection. I had never been here before and I expected that it would be a quiet, studious place. Boy was I wrong! It was buzzing! A fantastic cafe, a busy exhibition and a wonderful bookshop. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take any photographs in the exhibition, which was a shame because they had some interesting textile pieces from old mental hospitals that I would have liked to have studied further. It’s hard to find books and exhibitions that display these items and I wish I’d seen these when I was doing my MA.

Finally I had time to nip into the V&A before getting back to Paddington before my 6pm deadline. In the summer I will be showing work in a group exhibition, part of which needs to be based on the battle of Agincourt. Not knowing much about Agincourt and the medieval period I headed straight for the Medieval artefacts section where I did lots of research and finally got inspired. I didn’t have much in mind before this but the synapses started firing on Sunday!

I guess it’s the ‘new year’ post, then!

January 3, 2017

Although I enjoy reading people’s end of year posts I always find it difficult to write my own. For me it’s just the changing of a number. A new year doesn’t mean that everything has changed or even that I have changed. Everything works more gradually than that.

I do like to think about what I want for the next 12 months, though. What changes do I want to make in my personal life? How would I like my career to develop? As I’ve mentioned before, I prefer to work to a focus word instead of making resolutions that could be rather rigid and hard to keep. That allows me ‘wriggle room’ and that impossibility of failure but it does guide me in some decisions and help me to understand what goals I have. So, this year I am going to focus on ‘growth’, particularly in my business. I want to spend more time in my new studio creating new pieces of work and meeting with more potential customers. I want to develop my business into something that will earn me a reasonable wage and allow me to spend time on my passions. What that will entail isn’t yet clear but the idea will ‘grow’ as the year goes on!

Studio a-go-go (sort of)

December 11, 2016

It’s taken a long time but I’ve finally moved into my new studio at Model House. The whole thing was more difficult than I expected but when you’re working a freelance life in the run up to Christmas there isn’t always the time to paint and furnish a new space!

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There’s still a lot that I want to do – bringing in more storage, tidying up some of the areas of the studio – but it really feels like it’s coming together. As you can see the kettle has been plugged in and on the do!

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Even without the space being perfect I enjoyed working there last weekend. It was rather nice to have an uncluttered room to work in with few distractions.

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I’ve got a little bit of space outside the studio to display my work with colourful, hand-dyed scarves at the front…

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…and a few artworks and cards towards the back.

Update on my hectic life

November 13, 2016

The last few weeks have been rather hectic and it’s hard to be sure exactly what I need to update you all on!

I have 4 pieces of work in the Made in the Valleys exhibition at Giles Gallery, Pontyclun. The exhibition is on until 5th November and includes paintings, textiles, paperwork, woodwork etc. My contribution is 4 machine embroidered portraits of individual flowers. Something new from me but that I’ve been wanting to do for ages.

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I also have work in a group exhibition at the Workers’ Gallery, Ynyshir. The starting point was a poem and I wasn’t really sure where to begin, but I had an idea in the back of my mind that I thought could fit with one of the lines. I painted a sunrise fabric and appliqued over a silhouette of my local town, Llantrisant. This exhibition will be running right up to Christmas.

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I’ve also just taken on the tenancy of a studio at Model House, Llantrisant. I’ve worked in the gallery on the ground floor for years and the building is walkable from my home – where better to have a workplace? At the moment I’m busy cleaning and decorating but hopefully I can open it to the public soon and start selling more of the things that I make.

And finally (I think) I took a day out yesterday to visit the West of England Quilt and Textile Show. I wasn’t expecting much because I’m used to going to the Festival of Quilts at the NEC, but it was much bigger and better than I expected. There were some fantastic galleries, plenty of sellers, competition quilts, and lots of friendly faces. I definitely plan to go back next year and maybe I’ll be able to enter a quilt or too as well.