Feltmaking, stitching, weaving, needlefelting – workshops galore

What a busy workshop season it’s been this Autumn!  I’ve just finished a two-week residency at Sprout Community Arts in the thriving community of Furzedown in Streatham, London SW16 with my fellow textilers Women of the Cloth

Our workshops proved very popular this year and we had the pleasure of teaching new craft skills to many newcomers, all of whom went home with gorgeous colourful items to adorn their homes or to give as gifts to friends and family.  Slipper workshops are always a sellout.  I just love all the different designs and colourschemes people come up with

My textiles Autumn 2013 033           New this year was our Needlefelted dogs workshop, run by Janet Thompson.  She had envisaged that everyone would make a little Jack Russell as a first piece, but participants had other ideas and whole array of little dogs trotted out at the end of the workshop!

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My favourite newcomer was 12 year-old Tatum who wanted to learn Indian Shisha mirror embroidery so that she could add a Bindi to the forehead of a beautiful portrait she is stitching for a competition.  Sadly, I didn’t get a picture of the piece she is working on, but here are her mirrors at the first stage of stitching.  She picked it up in no time and came back to show me the completed Bindi and learn some additional stitches.  Great stuff.  If you see this post Tatum, let me know when the whole embroidery is finished – I’d love to see it.

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I had 6 round the table for an abstract feltmaking day – a bit of a squeeze at Sprout’s table, but some beautiful designs were created by beginners and some who’d been to previous workshops of mine.

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The next day we had Joan showing people her very popular figure weaving techniques – the colourful, happy figures make great tree decorations.

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No sooner had I finished at Sprout, than it was Crafty Pint Christmas workshop time, at The Railway pub!  We had 40 keen crafters doing a mix of Felt Baubles, Willow Woven stars, wreaths & Christmas trees plus lino cutting and printing a set of cotton napkins.  What a feast of activities to delve into.  It was great fun – mulled wine a welcome addition thanks to The Railway.

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One more workshop to go before Christmas – Felt baubles, stars & hearts for the tree at Serendipity Tea Rooms on Monday night, 16th December – 6.15-9.00 pm £25.00 including tea and CAKE!! 

Do come and join in.

Workshops dates for 2014 being added slowly but surely … see the sidebar to the right of the page.

Cloth & Memory

Cloth and fibre hold all sorts of memories for me, having a Scottish mother who knitted and stitched all my clothes during childhood, including a matching summer dress for my precious doll, Mary, every time she made one for me.  Favourite quilts from various stages of life will never be ousted when clutter-clearing as they act as visual triggers of past events, and I have kept particularly treasured articles of my childrens’ clothing which will always remind me of significant moments in their childhoods.  I was, of course, drawn to the title of this exhibition immediately and made sure I got to visit soon after it opened at Saltsmill in Yorkshire.

It is set in the disused Spinning Room up in the roof of the immense building, which is unrestored and still has the original flaking wall finishes and rusting steel fittings.  The room is longer than a football pitch and originally contained 16,380 cap spindles for spinning yarn.  Raw alpaca fleece, imported by Titus Salt from Peru, arrived at the top of the building and was processed down through each floor to emerge as finished cloth at the bottom.  The space is incredibly atmospheric and holds the feeling that the the workers have just left, but are still there in spirit.

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23 textile artists from the UK, Germany, Norway and Japan have installed works in the eerie space, capturing the memories of the former toil which took place there for so many years.  Jeanette Appleton, one of my former tutors at West Dean, uses the ‘silencing’ context of felt as a metaphor for the absorption of sound and memory.  She has made feltworks based on the mill’s ledgers and sample books and placed them in the wall recesesses which originally held bobbins.

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Caren Garfen’s installation uses vintage wooden reels , each with its own ‘memory plaque’ to commemorate women who worked in the mill and lived in the neighbouring workers’ cottages built by Titus Salt to house his workforce.  Caren has attached hand-embroidered names and addresses on tape drawn from the 1891 census, along with familiar cloth-related sayings such as ‘Tied to her Apron Strings’.  Seeing this installation makes a walk around the surrounding streets all the more poignant.

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Yoriko Yoneyama has suspended from the ceiling a web of fine cotton threads onto which are pressed thousands of individual grains of rice  representing the elements which are essential to our survival and cultural heritage :  food & clothing – rice & fibre.  Kari Steihaug’s unravelling knitted jumper represents a dialogue between the body and the room, stretching from floor to ceiling.  Reminded me of all the jumpers I have knitted for loved-ones over the years, as well as the ones which are waiting to be finished in my work room!

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Koji Takaki has made a diptych which brings together memory of past textile works in Japan and Manchester with the beauty of the passage of time (wabi sabi) and a materialisation of cloth and memory.  This work particularly highlighted the beauty of the setting, with the play of light on its different elements throwing haunting shadows across the space.

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I loved Masae Bamba’s large-scale ‘sea’ of cloth dyed with indigo and printed with the first attempts at writing made by her daughter as a means of capturing the moment before it becomes memory for both mother and daughter.  This work was influenced by the recent tsunami in which so many mothers, daughters and others became just memories.  Incredibly moving piece of work.

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I can’t do justice to all 23 artists’ work here, although I could just go on and on with my memories of Cloth and Memory

Such a moving and inspiring exhbition – You’ll just have to go and visit yourselves – it’s on until early November and a MUST see for textile lovers everywhere.

Needlefelting is flavour of the workshop month!

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This week the needlefelting needles have been prodding away at a furious pace.  People seem to love it – it can get quite addictive when you begin to see the possibilities for adding detail to your creations.   Between 10 am and 4 pm on Saturday, 24th August with Makerhood at the Southbankcentre’s Village Fair by the River Thames in central London some 40 people (could have been more as I lost count) sat down at my table to make needlefelted ladybirds.  They all had great fun and couldn’t believe that a little barbed needle could turn a pile of dyed sheeps’ fleece into a solid object.  It just takes a bit of patience and concentration – anyone can do it, even those who feel they have no creative ability.  You do have to watch your fingers though, as the needles are very sharp!  8 year-old Lewis found this to his cost, but he carried on bravely and happily completed his beautiful Ladybird.  It was a moment to savour as he was so proud of his creation.

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Another workshop this week involved local craft group Crafternoon at Serendipity Tea Room in Streatham, who make a flock of needlefelted robins, all with their own individual quirky characters!

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Finally, not technically a workshop, but at a large Bank Holiday family gathering at the home of keen kitchen gardener Penny, I found myself teaching the family’s youngsters needlefelting and not only was a Ladybird and a fieldmouse produced, but also some needlefelted carrots!!

Next needelfelting workshop will take place on 6th October at my Lambeth Open House weekend with Women of the Cloth.  Details of all Open House weekend workshops to come.

A summer of Workshop Fun!

This summer has been full of workshops – Indian embroidery, in my home studio and at Serendipity Tea Rooms , always sets people a challenge.  We have concluded that it takes an average of three tries before the technique of sewing on a shisha mirror actually sinks in, then the fun can begin.  Embellishing with beads, coloured threads, buttons and sequins – it’s all very absorbing.  Time flies …

Choosing colours & eating biscuits!

Choosing colours & eating biscuits!

Then there was a felt fish workshop at Streatham Festival’s Make your own Fete at the Railway Pub, with Crafty Pint and Flaming Nora  organising such a brilliantly creative day for what seemed like millions of local kids on a hot sunny day!

Kids' felt fish drying in the trees, Make yr own Fete @TheRailwaySW16

Kids’ felt fish drying in the trees, Make yr own Fete @TheRailwaySW16

Needlefelted garden birds is always a popular workshop and this summer has been no exception with workshops at the Railway Pub and another two coming up NEXT WEEK at Serendipity Tea Rooms on 22nd August and then with Makerhood at the Southbank Centre’s Village Fair on 24th Aug

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A flock of happy needlefelters and their birds

I even got to take part in a workshop myself learning Willow Weaving with Crafty Pint tutor Geraldine.  I absolutely loved it and took home four different finished items, all set to experiment with incorporating willow weaving into my feltmaking or vice-versa.  Can’t wait to have some time to do that- I think my needlefelted birds are going to like the willow bird feeder!

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Willow bird feeder

In between workshops, Kim Winter of WordPress blog Flextiles and I joined forces as Women of the Cloth for the Lambeth Garden Museum Summer Tumblr, which was a treat of a day spend in the knot garden in brilliant sunshine with lots of other artists/makers demonstrating our crafts and selling our wares.  What a relaxing day we had in a beautiful place chatting with like-minded souls and interested visitors.

Women of the Cloth, Kim & Carol, @GardenMuseumLDN Summer Tumblr

Women of the Cloth, Kim & Carol, @GardenMuseumLDN Summer Tumblr

When the summer of workshop fun is over, we Women of the Cloth will be taking part in the Lambeth Open studios weekend on 5th’6th October when we’ll be joined by several other textile makers for a housefull of colourful cloth activity.  Watch this space for more details to come.

Lambeth Garden Museum Summer Tumblr 21/7/13

Come and see Carol, along with Kim Winter of flextiles.wordpress.com, both members of Women of the Cloth and Makerhood, taking part in the

Lambeth Garden Museum Summer Tumblr on Sunday, 21st July 2013.

It will be a lovely event, making the most of the gorgeous weather by having activities in the gardens as well as inside this interesting building.  Carol will be demonstrating  needlefelting, making some familiar garden birds, with a chance to have a go yourself.   Kim will be showing us how she marks out and ties the designs for her beautiful Shibori dyed textiles.

I’d better not forget to mention the award-winning cafe where you can enjoy coffee/tea and cake, or lunch!  Well worth the trip to Lambeth Bridge by the river.

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Needlefelted Garden Birds

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Shibori dyeing techniqes

Shetland, a knitters’ paradise!

Last week I was lucky enough to visit the Shetland islands with some of my regular knitting group.  We loved every minute and were very lucky with the weather – only one day of blustery rain and wind while we hung over the edge of a cliff watching mating Puffins!  We really enjoyed the Shetland Textile Museum in its lovely old building  (Bod of Gremista) full of Fair-isle and knitted lace, watched a very fast and efficient demonstration of fair-isle knitting with colours worked from both hands at once and discovered the stockings presented to Queen Victoria which ignited a renewed interest in Shetland knitwear.  We visited the fastest knitter in the world Hazel Tindall with whom we talked for ages about developing the right rhythm to make this possible!  Hazel’s workshops fill up the minute they are posted, so we’ll have to be super quick if we want some tuition.  Maybe Wool Week 2014 if we’re fast enough!

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Shetland lace shawls at Unst Heritage Centre

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A corner of lovely fleece at Textile Museum

On the most northerly isle,Unst, we saw more  beautiful lace-knitted shawls and a bus stop full of wool-related artefacts, had lunch at the last pit-stop before the vast expanse of sea begins, & saw a large male otter swimming through the shallows & diving for fish.  We had a beautiful day for our walk around St Ninian’s Isle and collected bags full of fleece shed by the roaming herds of sheep which we will later attempt to spin into a useable yarn.   There are so many fabulous white, sandy beaches around the islands, but we found our feet almost froze after 2 minutes of paddling, so definitely no swimming took place!  One of our favourite places was the Croft House Museum, housed in a Croft which was inhabited in it’s present state until the late 1960s.

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Needlefelting sheeps fleece from St Ninian’s
keeping warm in new Fair-isle gloves!

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Mini-knitting table inset @ Shetland museum

Following a fabulous lunch of seafood chowder and locally baked bread at the Shetland Museum & Archive in Lerwick, where we enjoyed more vintage fair-isle knitwear and lovely textile-related table insets in the restaurant,  we took in an evening of fiddle music & dancing at the Mareel arts centre before heading back off home to the Big Smoke.  We will definitely visit the Shetlands again, most definitely during Wool Week which is a must for knitters & wool lovers everywhere.

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Croft House Museum

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Rolling mist on St Ninian’s Isle