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.