Saturday, 27 February 2016

Textile Course

I signed up recently for a textile course at my local adult education centre but unfortunately the course was cancelled. I was disappointed as I really want to do some 'proper studying' of textiles. I looked on line but all I could find was City and Guilds courses and I didn't want anything of that depth. Eventually I decided to buy a book and I bought 'How to be Creative in Textile Design' by Julia Triston and Rachel Lombard.

It's turned out to be exactly what I wanted. It actually takes a sort of 'City and Guilds' approach and anyone who's done any art course at all might find it too basic but it's perfect for me as it deals with how to design, rather than the technical aspect of how to actually do and it's always the designing that I struggle with.

So far, I've only got as far as chapter two but I am having a great time putting together a sketch book and trying out different things as I work towards designing my own textile piece. Here are a few pages from my sketch book.

At the moment I am exploring buildings, particularly ruined ones and ones with tiles. This led to a whole exploration of textiles depicting tiles which I've really only just begun. I produced a very quick, rough mosaic practice piece using reverse appliqué here:

Then I decided to make a small patchwork mosaic square. This isn't at all what I want for my final peice but I became interested in all the mosaic patchworks I kept finding on the internet and I though it wouldn't hurt to improve my machine sewing skills as well as my design skills. I knew I was going to find it really hard to match up different materials so I spent a lot of time analysing other people's work. Then I produced 20 different mosaic designs on in pairs, with just one variation in each pair. The pair below, for example, shows the difference between straight or 'wonky' lines
After that I chose my favourite one and analysed the 'fabrics' in terms of whether they were plain, printed, geometric, big print, small print, pale background etc etc. Then I went through my stash of material and chose four prints and some background material. I thought I could start sewing then but I still couldn't get it quite right so I photographed the materials and went back to to play with some designs. In the end I didn't quite stick to the design but I followed the main principles. This is the final result.

Now, it may look very simple but I am really, really pleased with it. I find it very hard to combine different materials successfully and I think this works well. I also quilted it properly too.

So far then, my experiments with the textiles book are going really well. Can't wait for chapter three!

Monday, 15 February 2016

Robin's cross bead quilt

As I've said before, I'm a great fan of bead artist Robin Atkins whose free ebook, One Bead at a Time got me started on this hobby. I've named my latest bead quilt after her as it's practically a direct copy of work Robin made in 2011 for the Bead Journal Project.

Here is my piece:

And here's one of the 12 she made which inspired me. It appears on her blog here.

bead embroidery on quilt block by Robin Atkins, bead journal project 2011

Robin made twelve in all, one for each month, and although the colours vary the layout is the same in all of them. 

Even though mine is a very close copy of Robin's work I'm pleased with it for a number of reasons. Firstly, I like the balance between the fabric and the beading. I quite often use so many beads that you can't see the fabric and although this is sometimes what I want, in this case I wanted the batik to be part of the design. The orange batik is bought material but the blue round the edge is a batik material that I made back in August. It's always satisfying when I find a use for my own dyed material. 

Secondly, I'm pleased with the colour choices. I usually struggle putting contrasting colours together and I spent a lot of time trying out different pairings till I settled on the turquoise/orange, pink/green combination. I think they work nicely together. 

Finally, I just like the overall texture of the piece. There's enough variety to make it interesting but enough common elements to tie it together nicely.

I'm a great believer in learning from others and I'm thankful that people like Robin are prepared to share their work through blogs as an inspiration to folk like me. 

And the obligatory close up.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Indian Strata bead quilt

This is my latest bead quilt. It's a different shape than previous ones measuring about 12" by  9".

I've got my daughter to thank for this because she stopped me from over-beading it. It's made from silk which I previously dyed with natural dyes, including avocado, rosemary, walnut and some others. I also wanted to use some of my best buttons. Here's a few close ups.

The starting piece for this was the gold discs which I bought at a bead fair and which I thought went really well with the feel of the orange and brown silks. There's something Indian about the feel of it somehow.

Left to my own devices I would probably have added far too many beads but luckily my daughter stopped me and I'm really pleased with the final result.

February 2016 Bead Journal Project

Here is my February bead journal piece.

It took me a long time to find inspiration for this. I don’t really like February; it’s cold and wet here in the UK and spring feels a long way off. All I could think of was hibernation and things asleep under the earth. Then a few days ago I was picking my daughter up in the evening and we saw the most amazing moon. It was a tiny sliver of a new moon but instead of being ‘C’ shaped it was lying on its back in a ‘U’ shape and you could just faintly see the outline of the whole circle like this:

The next day I read some information about February being the month of the Celtic festival of Imbolc, which is all about celebrating the transition between winter and spring. This linked to a page on the Rowan tree which is apparently, among other things, a symbol of transition. It said that rowan is used for divining (although I always thought that was hazel??) and suggested that this could be linked with finding one’s own spiritual path. So then everything took a bit of a New Age turn and suddenly my February piece was born!

The moon in my piece is fairly obvious, and I think the two white curly lines must be symbolic moon beams seeking out my spiritual path(!). The section at the bottom represents all the bulbs and seeds under the earth waiting to grow.

I’ve used a piece of silk which I dyed using a natural dye. It's either the laurel berry, the walnut or the cherry leaf as they came out almost the same colour! The crescent moon is made from silk dyed with rosemary but you can hardly see it as there are lots of beads on top. These beads came from a necklace which I think belonged to my mum and in my head they are some kind of fresh water pearl but I might have imagined that and they might be synthetic.

Although I had prepared three pieces ready for the bead journal project I ended up using the piece I’d planned for February in January and the other two didn’t feel quite right for February so I’ve saved them for later. I couldn’t be bothered to get my sewing machine out so I made this square by hand which was a mistake as it’s rather out of shape and I didn’t get the padding right but never mind. It’s all about the process after all and the finished piece is not so important.  

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Rust Dyeing

I came across a post on rust dyeing the other day so obviously had to give it a go. Basically, you wrap or fold cotton round iron objects, make them damp then leave them to rust. Most websites suggest using vinegar. I'm not sure if this is because it speeds the rust process or if it fixes the colour more firmly. Either's good so I used vinegar.

Here's my first attempt.

I used nails, screws and some old washers for this. Although it came out quite well, I'm not particularly keen on the pattern.

There happens to be an estuary near me which I often walk along - in fact my cover photo was taken there. I was walking there this weekend when I found these lying on the sand:

Two of them were quite long and I had to break them up to fit them in my pocket. Just above where I found these are some beach huts.

There are reinforced concrete blocks at the bottom to protect the hut from the waves, but these have eroded and I think the pieces of iron I collected had broken off from these at some stage.

You can see some still in place here.

I used exactly the same method, rolling the metal in cotton, soaking it in white vinegar and water, and leaving it in a plastic bag for two days. You can see how it changed colour over the two days.

These long pieces made a much better pattern. The fabric is only about 10" by 7" but I really like it.

I shall probably use it for one of my bead journal project pieces at some stage.

A word of warning though. Apparently the rust damages the fabric and although I rinsed it in salty water as recommended there's a chance that the material will rot more quickly than usual. I don't mind that too much as most of my work ends up sitting in a box anyway.