Hand in Hand: From Vine to Wine

Hand in Hand: From Vine to Wine 120cm x 50 cm

I am delighted that my embroidered wall hanging, mentioned in an earlier post, has been selected to tour with Guldusi‘s Hand in Hand exhibition. This is my second piece to have been selected, the first, Colours of Flotsam and Jetsam, is still on tour. With the terrible situation in Afghanistan, sadly, the future of the organization is uncertain.

Hand stitched throughout onto cotton drill fabric. The background and some leaves and grapes are coloured with water-soluble oil pastels. Leaf shapes and amphora are applied using Bondaweb and stitch. Hands, grapes and some leaves are made using canvaswork techniques. Large vines are handwrapped cords, couched to the surface. Small vines are hand stitched.

I love working on this scale, but I need a goal to spur me on. Guldusi provides that, and plenty of advanced notice to complete the work, so it feels achievable.

Tapestry weaving

I decided to join the British Tapestry Group, mainly to find inspiration and learn more about this enjoyable technique. A well organised and communicative group, I am indeed feeling inspired and eager to learn more. As an Associate Member, you don’t usually get to exhibit but the current exhibition, Threads in Sheds at Whitchurch Silk Mill, encouraged small works from all of its members. Just what I needed, something to work towards. It was quite a challenge as works were supposed to incorporate silk and be no more than 10cm x 10cm. I decided to use a couple of sketches from a recent trip to Cornwall, as inspiration. Chopping them up into approx. the right size helped me to select the interesting colour blocks.

I decided to incorporate recycled sari silk into my designs as I already had some. After a bit of trial and error these are the 4 pieces I submitted.

Dabbling with spinning

As life begins to return to a bit more normal, I thought I would spend some time just reconnecting with my creativity. The last 18 months has seen me dabbling with lots of things, but they are all wool/thread based, so probably worth recording here.

I decided to delve into my box of tools and found my drop spindle, together with a fleece batt – one of those show purchases that seemed like a good idea at the time. Well it proved to be a nice activity and I created a skein of wool to weave with.

The weave included the wool I had spun and it created an undulating pattern which I filled in with some recycled rug wool in perfectly matching colours. Very tactile and very satisfying.

Adventures in Goldwork

This 4 week online course led by Hanny Newton at Ardington School of Crafts was the most enjoyable thing that I did during lockdown. It was the first time I had encountered the venue and they looked after us so well throughout and even following the event. A lovely touch was sending participants recipes for the cakes and biscuits we would usually be welcomed with on campus. I’ve never really fancied the precision of goldwork although I enjoy using gold in my work. However, Hanny’s approach was much more experimental and her teaching style was just so encouraging it made me want to experiment a bit more. She was generous with her own ideas, inspirations and motivations and was keen to encourage participants to share their work each week. I decided to try and incorporate some techniques into my work, rather than totally develop something new. This piece, Tate St.Ives, incorporates couched gold, silver and bronze passing threads. We were encouraged to apply the techniques to other materials so there’s a bit of couched chiffon in there too. We also experimented with padding and, although not covered in gold, I have included it and couched around the edge. The patched and pieced frame works well with the gold fabric and I’m pleased with the result. I think the learning point for me is that this is an expensive hobby if you’re going to work it on a large scale but the techniques can be applied and maybe its good to work on a small scale sometimes!

Tate St.Ives
Starting out
Patching & piecing

Other things

I write this blog for myself to record what I’m doing and right now I need to focus; I’ve been dabbling in too many things. Or, perhaps I’ve just been learning new skills. Here they are! A proud moment – I followed a knitting pattern – hooray – to make this lovely coat for Gwen, our Greyhound. Maybe a bit big underneath, but you need to get her legs in somehow and its easily adjusted by fixing to the inside of the rib instead of the outside. Excuse the peg tin balancing on her head!

Then I’ve been weaving diamonds with Alice @humelooms. This was an online workshop and completed with Alice telling us when to go under and over – Not sure I’d be able to do it again!

Then I decided that I would use some of the money I had placed with West Dean College for a course that didn’t happen last year and signed up to a Small Twined Baskets Zoom day with Mary Crabb. It was a really nice day making 2 “big toe” sized baskets out of paper string, using basketry techniques. Something nice to do with your hands. I like the little round bottomed basket.

Last year I purchased some Indian woodblocks from the Arty Crafty Place. They work with artisans in India to commission the blocks and then show you what you can do with them in a series of videos. Well worth visiting the website to take a look. I decided that I was going to make some gifts for friends but hadn’t got much beyond stamping a few cards, until now. I made this t-towel for a friend – she is probably wondering what’s wrong with me – I didn’t tell her it was hand printed!

I also attended a 4 week workshop, Adventures in Goldwork with Hanny Newton at Ardington College but I’ll save that for another day!

Adgestone 2

The second piece in my Adgestone series. A quiet, summer walk from Brading Down to Adgestone, along pathways full of wild flowers, past old farm buildings and even a Roman Villa. A snippet of remembered scenes and inner colour-scapes. Worked on Aida cloth with found embroidery silks, framed with cotton. The finished piece is just 17.5cm x 17.5cm. There is something very satisfying about working small. I’m not sure that the colours look their best in the photo – too much sunshine – now there’s a nice problem to have!

Adgestone 1

This little piece is the result of one of my chopped up inspiration drawings. Back in the summer I had a beautiful walk along the lanes and fields of Adgestone on the Isle of Wight. I came home and recalled the walk and my feelings and drew an A3 colour work in water soluble oil pastels. Cutting up the picture into 12 small squares, I have plenty of sources of inspiration when I need them. Worked during webinars whilst working from home, it was ready in time to post to my parents as a small Christmas gift, in lieu of things we were supposed to be taking home to them. As working from home and webinars continue, Adgestone 2 is on the way.

The centre is worked on single thread needlepoint canvas using 6 strands of embroidery thread – just bits from my thread bag. I love how the canvas moves in the direction you work. However, it does make it tricky to frame. Cotton fabric scraps make up the border which is handstitched to ensure there are no canvas gaps. It’s backed in felt, to cover up the workings, and finished with a little hanging thread – 3 short rows covered in blanket stitch. So much easier than trying to afix a ribbon.

From MRes to kits

Before anyone had heard of Covid this year, I was about to sign up to a Creative Industries MRes at the University of Portsmouth where I was planning on exploring something along the lines of information seeking behaviours articulated through stitch. I’d spoken to course leaders, started reading books on material research methods and then the pandemic hit. Everything turned on its head and worst of all, my sewing room turned into my office. I knew I had a lot of work to do this year and so the MRes was cast aside. My sewing mojo dwindled drastically, although I kept on with a bit of knitting – something to do in front of the TV and a bit of sneaky webinar sewing to help keep me calm. By the end of the year, I was doing kits! I hate following rules, but anyway. My dad sent me a seagull kit for Easter and I felt obliged to do it. The scary thing is I enjoyed it!

Then there were all of those online craft shows… I attended a Punch Needle Workshop for Beginners by Lucy Rowan. I had all of the kit, just hadn’t ever really got around to doing it properly. A simple task where this time, I actually made the wool stay in the fabric! I also learnt how to bind a hoop and made this piece of wall art.

I can see that this will be useful for incorporating into sewing projects and maybe some weavings too, so I must remember to try it out in the new year.

Knitted shawl

Much as I like working from home, it has really interrupted my creative flow. My sewing room is now my office. I’m so lucky to have all of this space at home, but I don’t want to spend all day and all evening sat at the same desk. And I’d have to clear away the debris of work. So knitting has been the answer.

I love wool; yes it makes me sneeze, but its nourishing, if you know what I mean. Back in March I went to Unravel: A festival of yarns at Farnham Maltings and had to find an excuse to buy some wool. I was very disciplined and circled the whole show before making purchasing decisions. “Wool of the show” for me was a beautiful 2 ply woollen yarn from Ullcentrum, Sweden, called Rock Lichen. It reminded me very much of the colours of Cornwall. Rather than just buy a skein, I decided to buy an easy project – Linus on the Line – a triangular shawl featuring stripes in alternating gradient colours.

Linus on the Line

I learnt some new skills including rotating the work 90 degrees to get it started off. I’d need to look at the instructions again, it has to be said. I learnt how to use a circular needle – once mastered, much enjoyed – make stitches, use stitch markers, as well as how to cast off neatly. I also followed instructions to wash and block the piece. Undecided on what colour tassels to include, I did one of each!

The temperature dropped at the beginning of the week and so its already been used. For an easy to follow pattern and lovely wool visit Midwinter Yarns.