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 …

Textile heaven in East Dulwich with Women of the Cloth

 

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Well, we’ve come to the end of another enjoyable textile event – our second Spring show at the Jeannie Avent Gallery in London SE22.   It was a riot of colour, chatter & textile activity with lots of new visitors as well as old friends who had visited us here last year. Workshops were well attended & people went home with an amazing array of gorgeous tactile textiles, made with skills they didn’t know they had! Shibori scarf by Flextiles

Kim’s beautiful shibori tied, indigo dyed scarves flew out of the gallery, destined to be gifts for friends, mothers, daughters & aunts.

Janet’s beloved needlefelted dogs were gathered up by those who just can’t resist their imploring little faces and quirky characters, to be cherished by dog-lovers everywhere.

Needle felted dogs by Janet ThompsonWe said goodbye to our favourite of Dianne’s colourful rag-rugs made with recycled t-shirts, which was bought for someone’s toddler daughter to step out onto when she leaves her bed in the mornings – soft, deep pile underfoot.  Gorgeous!

Rag rug by Dianne Brown

 

 

 

 

Women of the Cloth 2012 098And goodbye to Joan’s orange weaving which had given such a zing of gorgeous colour to the wall.

 

Carol’s workshops attracted a wide range of participants as always.  A day of feltmaking resulted in these accomplished pieces of work by first-time felters and by one who has been twice before.

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Beginners’ embroidery introduced Mary Thomas to a different way of producing abstract art, and 9-year-old Christopher embroidered a little garden for us all to enjoy.

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Shisha mirrorwork embroidery class presented a challenge to some, but by the end of the evening all had managed to get the basic stitching techniques into their fingers, and took home their practise pieces ready to do more.  Lara and Emma enjoyed it so much they want to come back , and they are most welcome.  We had a good laugh at some of the hiccups along the way, such as someone sewing her embroidery to her dress!

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Mustn’t forget our needlefelted birds and dogs workshops – as popular as always.  Robins are always favoured by first timers at the birds workshops as they are an easy shape to work on to start with, and 13 year-old Marielle made a lovely little dachsund for her first try!

dachsund needlefelt

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Avent Gallery 2014 041A big THANKYOU to all our supporters and friends, and to all our new visitors.  We had a great time sharing our textiles and our making skills with you all – until the next time ….

Kim, Carol and Joan – Women of the Cloth

 

And our wonderful guest artists

Janet Thompson

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Robyn Archer 

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Mary Rodriguez Thomas

Stitched textile by Mary RodriguezDianne Brown

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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.

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.

Autumn/Winter Textile Workshops

Winter workshops will take place at Sprout Community Arts in Streatham, as part of my two-week residency with Women of the Cloth from 27th November.  Workshop dates are contained in the following WOTC newsletter

 

Christmas Sale and Workshops

Sprout Community Arts

74 Moyser Road, London SW16 6SQ

27 November to 10 December 2013
9.00am to 6.00pm daily
Late openings until 9.00 pm
PRIVATE VIEW Wednesday 27 November 6.30-9.00 pm

We are all busy making gorgeous tactile textile items for our second pre-Christmas sale at Sprout.  Come & join us and our guests for a cuppa/glass of wine and boost your Christmas shopping with some unique, locally handmade gifts including Loren’s handknit scarves & sparkly snowflakes

Carol and Joan will be running workshops as always, but this time we’ll be joined by guest needlefelting tutor Janet Thompson!
Workshops most days £20 to £40 for half or full day  incl  materials – see below for dates

WORKSHOPS
Thursday 28th November  –  Felt Slippers 09.30-3.30
Friday 29th November – Indian Applique  6.00-9.00 pm
Saturday 30th November  –  Shisha Mirrorwork Embroidery 2.00-4.30
Sunday 1st December  –  Loom Weaving Workshop 10.30-4.00
Monday 2nd December  –  Needlefelted Dogs with Janet 11.00 – 4.00
Wednesday 4th December –  Felt Christmas decorations 6.00-9.00pm
Thursday 5th December  – Crochet Workshop 10.30-4.00
Saturday 7th December  –  Figure weaving with Joan am or pm
Sunday 8th December – Feltmaking day with Carol 10.30-4.00
Mon 9th Dec – Felt/stitch/weave Xmas decorations 6.00-9.00pm

Louise Jackson

We’re delighted to be joined by guest Louise, whose textile work includes techniques such as batik and screen printing whilst hand and machine embroidery are a particular passion for her. She paints and draws in inks and gouache, adding touches of metallic. She has recently been exploring the early photographic technique of cyanotypes both on fabric and paper to great effect and loves all things connected to nature. She is currently working her way through Cassells Book of Birds as inspiration for the latest pieces.

Joan & Carol

Artist Georgia O’Keefe said “I found I could say things with colours and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I found I had no words for”.  Joan and Carol would wholeheartedly agree!  Making things with our hands is essential to our wellbeing and we aim to pass on that feelgood factor to all who join our workshops through working with colour and texture – feltmaking, weaving, stitching, crocheting. These techniques allow everyone to enjoy the creative process, even those who feel they have little practical or artistic ability.

Janet Thompson

Janet creates these lovely dogs using simply sheeps’ fleece and a needlefelting needle.  For Christmas she will also have angels to hang on  your tree and other quirky woollen creatures for sale.  We are very pleased to announce that Janet will be running a daytime needlefelting workshop at Sprout on Monday, 2nd December.  If you’d like to make your own needlefelted creature, book early to avoid disappointment!

Kim Winter

Kim has extended her range of scarves to include upcycled wool, linen, silk and cashmere. She says, “I love finding something that is no longer wanted and turning it into a unique, desirable object. It’s more interesting for me to work with a range of materials and colours, and it keeps my prices reasonable. These are perfect Christmas gifts that are stylish and sustainable!”  Kim’s scarves sell like hot cakes, so don’t delay … She will also have a few felted and knitted surprises.

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It’s been a busy few weeks for workshops, and great fun as always.  At the end of September I was in Brighton with some of the wonderful women I met in Jan 2011 at Anokhi in Jaipur, Rajasthan.  We have kept in touch, as textile enthusiasts tend to, and they all wanted to learn to make felt slippers.   It was a glorious day of colour and laughter, and delicious food too …

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After choosing colours (not easy) we all layered up our fibres around slipper-shaped templates and began wetting them through and adding soap before beginning the agitating and rolling processes.  A delicious pot luck lunch half way through gave everyone the energy for a last burst of effort before removing the templates and beginning to rub the slippers into shape on their own feet, so that they fit perfectly.  When dry we will stitch on leather soles and hey presto – feet-hugging slippers in a range of beautiful colours!

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Next slipper-making workshops:

Saturday 26th October in my studio,  and Thursday 5th December at Sprout Community Arts

Then, during the first weekend of October I opened my house to the visiting public for Lambeth Open weekend where I was joined by fellow Women of the Cloth Joan, Kim, Janet and Virginia for two energising days of showing our work, talking textiles, sitting making things and YES more workshops!  Wetfelting on Saturday morning, needlefelting Saturday afternoon and embroidery on Sunday.

workshops October 2013 028Shisha mirrorwork embroidery is proving very popular, with some finding that once they start they can’t stop!!  The possiblities for doodling with thread around your mirrors is endless, so it’s very easy to just carry on, and on, and on …

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If you enjoy stitching with colour my next two workshops at Serendipity Tea Rooms in Streatham will suit you perfectly.

On Monday evening, 14th October from 6.15 to 8.45 pm we’ll be making embellished pincushions using some of my handmade felt pieces and blingy trimmings brought back from India.  Simple stitching is used to make the pincushions, but if you want to get fancy why not add some of your own embroidery too?!

Then on Monday 28th October at the same time at Serendipity, we’ll be stitching some gorgeous colourful flowers using Indian Applique techniques.  Make yours into a needlecase, a small picture, or sew it onto a skirt, shirt or dress pocket.

Beautiful colours

Beautiful colours

Pincushions made with felt & Indian trimmings

Pincushions made with felt & Indian trimmings