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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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 …

The year starts with a Wedding!

An exciting start to 2014 in my household is eldest daughter’s wedding!  Needless to say the planning and making involved in this has replaced quite a lot of my own textile making time over the Christmas hols, but for a good cause.  We have all been busy making garlands and bunting with paper hearts cut out of old books, searching for fabrics for wedding outfit, going out suit shopping with the men, thinking about champagne.  Great fun!

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It’s a winter wedding, so we’ll all have to wrap up warm in cosy cardis and gloves – champagne and canapes on a Routemaster bus picking us up from Brixton registry office – Virginia spent her teens coming home from nights out on the 159 night bus, which was a Routemaster at the time, so it’ll be very familiar.

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Over Christmas I did manage to make one needlefelted Woodpecker, who matches the colours in this picture.  Maybe he should be attached to the bus in some way!!  New workshop dates to be added very soon for Spring 2014.

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HAPPY NEW YEAR  to all my loyal workshop participants, and welcome to new ones.

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

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.