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I’ll be taking part in this exhibition and Sale at the very beautiful Marchant’s Hardy Plants.  In addition to all the arts and crafts there will be high quality plants for sale and delicious organic lunches.  Why not have a day out in Sussex and enjoy a feast for the senses?  Hope to see you 🌺🌼🌸☀️🥗

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Chelsea Fringe, the alternative garden festival

Each year amidst the hubbub created by the Chelsea Flower Show in London, a whole host of alternative garden-related events are taking place, some in little known places, others in more well known spots.  The event is known as Chelsea Fringe and this year I will be taking part with Kim Winter of @flextiles in our other guise as Women of the Cloth.

On 30th May, for just £10, from 10.00 a.m. until 2.00 p.m. you can come along and make either a needlefelted bird with me, or a wet-felted bird pod with Kim.  Minimum age is 8 years and you will need to book directly with the venue South London Botanical Institute – places are limited, so don’t delay!  Founded in 1910 in Tulse Hill, the Institute has a beautiful botanical garden and runs a wide range of courses, workshops and events for all ages. It’s a bit of a hidden gem.  There will also be a Chelsea Fringe fair on 17th May at the Institute when a smaller taster session, needlefelting a ladybird, will be on offer in the afternoon.

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Workshops Galore!

Before getting on to the pressing business of setting dates for my own Spring workshops (see below) I thought some of you might be interested in the feltmaking and embroidery workshops I have attended myself in the past few months.  I’ve had a great time extending existing skills, learning new ones and, of course, getting together with lots of textile enthusiasts from around the world.

Last Autumn I travelled up to Big Cat Textiles in Newburgh, Scotland to take two feltmaking courses with Inge Bauer who set up Wollknoll, a centre for feltmaking in Germany.  During a 5-day period we did LOADS of feltmaking, starting with ultra fine nuno-felt (felting onto fabric) to make neckwear with beautiful draping qualities.  We used hand-dyed silk ponge fabric along with 19-micron merino wool tops, some of which were also hand-dyed by Inge using her own scientifically developed slow heatup/cooldown dyeing techniques.  Using such gorgeous materials is always a treat in itself.

These are some sample pieces made using different layouts to test shrinkage factors.  Everyone creates a different shrinkage factor according to how much fleece they use, how much they work into it, how hot their hands are, etc., so it’s important to find out what your own factor is before embarking on a larger piece of work which needs to be a certain size.  I went on to felt a number of lovely pieces of neck and wristwear using the measuring techniques learnt at the start of the week, and I have since gone on to develop the techniques further and complete a number of commissions from people who’ve seen me wear my own, and I am itching to find the time to make some new waistcoats to perfect my shrinkage knowhow.  We also made felt bags with multiple interior and exterior pockets which involved lots of layers and resists to stop each section felting to another.  Very complicated and time-consuming!

On to California – my eldest daughter moved to San Francisco last September and I went to visit her in Jan/Feb this year.  Not only did we have a great time exploring the city, driving down the the coast along Big Sur, meandering through central coast wine country and perusing the arty shops in Paso Robles, we also attended a couple of stitching workshops with my friend Meryl, a San Francisco resident whom I met on an Indian textile trip across Rajasthan and Gujarat in 2012.  Firstly, we joined a Hungarian Folk Embroidery workshop led by Sarah of Threadwritten Textiles.  Always fun to learn a new stitch – this technique is largely Open Chain stitch worked very closely together to form solid shapes.  Very similar to the use of the same stitch in Indian embroidery, where it is used in a more ‘open’ way to form ladder-like lines rather than shapes such as these.  It takes time and patience but the result can form beautiful shapes as you’ll see from some of the designs here.  My completed piece is used as an example on Sarah’s blog, so I must have done something right!

Next we took part in a workshop at A Verb for keeping Warm in Berkeley – a wonderful yarn & workshop emporium – based on Alabama Chanin’s reverse applique technique using stretch jersey fabric.  Although applique & reverse applique are not new to me, it was a chance to practise the technique on a different type of fabric which doesn’t fray, so edges don’t have to be turned under which is a huge timesaver!  First we cut out a stencil using a soldering iron on mylar film, then sponged fabric paint onto one layer of the fabric, stitched it onto the second layer, then cut away pieces of the pattern to expose the bottom layer of fabric.  Some really nice effects can be achieved, plus beads and extra stitching added for decorative effect.  Chanin makes whole garments using the technique, which are comfy and snug to wear. What a nice day spent with my daughter and friend in lovely surroundings using tactile materials.

Lastly, my fellow Woman of the Cloth Kim Winter and I took part in a Couture Nuno Felting course led by Liz Clay in the beautiful setting of West Dean College.    Liz experiments with creating new surfaces using British wools and largely natural materials.  She has produced felt fabrics for well-known fashion houses and has her own collections, as well as developing work for exhibitions.  Kim and I are used to making felt structures without seams, but Liz leans towards making sheets of pre-felted material, cutting out particular shapes to encourage interesting drape and shapes, then completing the felting process when the pieces are assembled.

We learnt a lot in a few days and everyone produced some interesting results.  You can see here Kim working on sizing for her neckpiece inspired by Bracket Fungus, with a toadstool clasp.  We can always count on Kim to come up with something to set our imaginations whirring!  Certainly my little brain has been humming with ideas for using all these new techniques for different projects, but also feeling ready to get back to my own workshop schedule and enjoy the thrill of gathering a bunch of women (mostly!) around the table to enjoy a few hours of making together.  See new dates being added to the sidebar list, but do feel free to contact me via the booking & contact page if there is something I have missed out that you’d like to learn.

A contented group chatting and working together

Community Feltmaking

I’ve had a wonderful time lately making felt with various community groups around south London.  Feltmaking is  such an ideal communal activity because it enables just about anyone to take part in a productive, creative session and go home with something colourful and beautiful made with their own hands.  No particular artistic ability is required for success, and it’s great fun watching everyone around you produce such different creations, starting off with the same tactile materials at their disposal.  Conversation and laughter flow freely as people experiment with skills they didn’t know they had!  In some cases SONG too …

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I made my way to Plumstead in south London last week to make felt balls and cords for necklaces and bracelets with a group of women from Nepal and Brazil as part of the Cultivating Communities project run by Groundwork London.  This project forms part of Groundwork’s Women in Migration Oral Histories initiative aimed at improving social cohesion, with the workshops providing participation in a communal activity of making whilst singing traditional songs as we worked.  Pretty much all cultures have a bank of historical songs associated with textile activity, from the Ikat weavers of India to the wool spinners of Yorkshire and Lancashire.  Before reading and writing became widespread abilities, knitting and weaving patterns were conveyed through rythmic songs which helped the counting process so that traditional patterns could be reproduced accurately, and people just generally sang songs as they worked.  Keeping these traditions alive is important to our cultural heritage, and we had a great afternoon of spontaneous singing and feltmaking together in Plumstead.  Next workshop will incorporate knitting & crochet too.

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At the London Wildlife Trust’s Centre for Wildlife Gardening in Peckham I have had the pleasure of offering feltmaking workshops to visitors at their spring Open Day, as well as working with Alzheimers sufferers as part of the centre’s Potted History project which makes use of reminiscence and horticultural therapy to improve the self-confidence and wellbeing of socially isolated older people in the London boroughs of Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark.  My morning of feltmaking with the group, who attend weekly sessions, was a great success as everyone was enticed by the tactile materials and all were able to focus on a pleasurable, creative activity using colours inspired by the wildlife garden.  Everyone produced a beautiful, complete piece of felt – one man incorporated some deceased beetles in his piece to remind him of where he had made the felt.  He had to be discouraged from felting around his glasses and his bus pass, he got so carried away!

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At Brockwell Park Community Greenhouses in Lambeth I spent a day in the school holidays sloshing about with soap and water making sheeps’ fleece into felt with a range of families as part of their education programme which provides seasonally-themed sessions designed to broaden understanding of the natural world through play. What fun we had playing with colour in the beautiful setting of the greenhouse and its gardens, with food and flowers growing all around us.  It was a hot, sunny day and being in the greenhouse might be better for the plants than we humans after a few hours …

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Lambeth’s Lady Margaret Settlement charity hosts the All Sewn Up Project which provides local women with marketable skills in textile techniques through City & Guilds accredited courses, which rely on the ongoing fundraising initiatives of the wonderful Project Manager Pascaline Lambert for support.  I have run two feltmaking workshops at the project now and what a range of enthusiastic motivated women I’ve had the pleasure of working with!  We started by making flat pieces of felt to use as table mats, or to be sewn into useful items such as spectacle or phone cases, then in the afternoons we made decorative bowls or felt beads & cords.  Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the sessions and were keen to learn more techniques.

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Next stop will be Southmead Primary School in the London borough of Wandsworth, where I’ll be joining art teacher Lucy Ruxton for a day of textile activity – felting, weaving, dyeing, stitching, glueing – with kids working around a medieval theme,  then back to Brockwell Park Greenhouses for some needlefelting of snails, ladybirds, beetles and other bugs, outside in the garden if the weather allows us.  If not, in the hothouse conditions of the greenhouse!! Fans at the ready …

Yan Tan Tethera (one, two, three)

One evening last week, as part of the Museums at Night season,  I went along with some friends to Cecil Sharp House in Camden, London – home of the English Folk Dance & Song Society to see this event exploring the connection between the making of textiles and song.  Yan Tan Tethera (one, two, three) – a traditional method used by shepherds in the north of England to count sheep, as well as a method used by knitters to count stitches.

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Tables were set out around the edge of the great hall, adorned with baskets of yarn, knitting needles and crochet hooks,  so that everyone could take part in the event by knitting charms and keepsakes to be added to the Mandala made by textile collective & gallery Prick Your Finger, celebrating the communal activity of making.

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Meanwhile the floor was filled with folk singers and dancers.  One of my old schoolfriends sings with the Dulwich Folk Choir so a little group of we ‘girls’ went along to enjoy seeing her take part in the song and dance.  We had a bit of a lark with our knitted ‘charms’ one of which was a short strip of cable stitch, which one bawdy onlooker thought resembled a certain bit of the female anatomy!  Not sure I’d agree ….

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T’ sang was — “‘Sally an’ I, Sally an’ I, For a good pudding pye, Taa hoaf wheat, an’ tudder hoaf rye, Sally an’ I, for a good pudding pye.’ ” We sang this (altering t’ neams) at every needle : and when we com at t’ end cried ’ off,’ an’ began again, an’ sae we strave on o’ t’ day through.”  This extract gives a good idea of what is meant by ” a Knitting Song.”

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Here’s a glimpse of friend Alison, and all her singing buddies, getting stuck into one of a number of songs, such as the Cotton Breeches song

“Oh father, father I am married
Oh that I had longer tarried
For the women they do swear
That the breeches they will wear”
(from the song, Will the Weaver, collected from John Burton, Clacton-on-Sea, Essex), and

the Cotton Breeches dance. Danced by a woman on a table with skirts tucked in
(Dance collected by Clive Carey from Alfred Bishop, Thaxted, Essex)

Other delights of the evening were Dancing of the Bobbin, partaking of the ale, admiring the textile artworks by Freddie Robins,  Basket weaver Shane Waltener, Folk artist Stewart Easton, and the East London Textiles  McGrath Makers Group and just generally being in amongst a huge session of good-natured communal making.   Knitting along at the next table was  Julie Arkell – a well-known textile folk artist who runs her quirky creatures workshops in knitting shop Loop, in Islington, London.

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An interesting event forming part of an exhibition running in and around Cecil Sharp House until 25th September.

Dulwich Festival Artists Open House

 

Avent Gallery 2014 015 I will be with Women of the Cloth’s Kim Winter at Dulwich Artists Open House during the weekend of 10th & 11th May at 28 Worlingham Road, London SE22 9HD.

We will be exhibiting as ‘Cloth and Camera‘, alongside members of the South London Photography Group in the home of one of our guest artists Dianne Brown, whose colourful upcycled t-shirt rag-rugs were much admired at our recent Avent Gallery residency.

Do come along and have a look at Kim’s beautiful shibori-tied, Indigo-dyed scarves, my nuno-felt scarves, cushions, small tactile gift items, felt wall panels and Dianne’s gorgeous rugs!

There will be plenty more Open Houses in the surrounding streets, so you can have a lovely day wandering around popping into different houses to see an array of artworks, with coffee or pub breaks in between.  What could be nicer!

      raw silk shiboriDianne rug 3

Unleash your creativity through Feltmaking

When I’m in the midst of running a feltmaking workshop I am always amazed at the wide variety of colour schemes emerging on the table.  I always have a full range of colours to choose from, as well as some beautiful silks and yarns for embellishment – it’s like an adventure playground of colour!  I love it every time.

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Feltmaking allows us to explore our creativity with freedom and does not require particular skills in the way that drawing or painting do.  So,  those familiar feelings of uncertainty, anxiety & lack of confidence are replaced by curiosity about the process, enjoyment of the colourful materials and a general feeling of wellbeing.

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It’s fun and expressive – everybody goes home with one or two pieces of beautiful material, made with three simple ingredients – dyed sheeps fleece, olive oil soap and water – oh, and a bit of rubbing and rolling!

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We start with flat pieces of felt, which make lovely table mats or even framed artworks.

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Then we move on to learn 3D feltmaking processes using resist templates.  Start by making a decorative bowl, a beret, a hotwater bottle or tablet cover, a tea cosy.  Whatever you fancy.  Again the fascination is in the process and the creativity in the choice of fibre/colour/shape & form.

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One of my most popular feltmaking workshops involves making a pair of slippers which hug your feet.  This is achieved by putting the slippers on when they are almost finished, and rubbing them into the actual shape of your own feet.  A workshop in the summer saw 8 pairs of slippers made in a day, and this picture is a good illustration of what I mean when I say I’m amazed at the range of colourschemes people choose!

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So, come on, unleash YOUR creativity in 2014 by learning feltmaking – a wonderfully expressive, tactile medium which is so versatile you can keep on learning new things forever!

If you don’t see the workshop you want in my listings, do email or ring me and I’ll see if I can set a date either at a weekend or during the week.