Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The End of a Dress

Crikey... where did that week go? I seem to have gone from one Wednesday to another with just a flash in between. To be fair I have been away teaching at the weekend (my lovely C & G students at Missenden Abbey) but even so, the weeks seem to be flying by. But I'm not here to bemoan the passage of time but rather the passage of a dress...
Remember this? A dress constructed entirely from Sainsbury's plastic carrier bags. It was part of one of my degree modules looking at dress as a sculptural form. I was inspired by the fabulous creations of Junya Watanabe and found that plastic bags made a good cheap alternative to silk organza.

I spent many furtive trips to Sainsburys to collect enough bags and then hours and hours stitching them together to create the skirt. The bodice was knitted from strips of bags. I loved that dress!

It was beautifully modelled by my friend's daughter Sophie on the catwalk at the Cambridge University fashion show, where it was picked out for a prize... and then didn't win a prize!

It had a stint in a shop window, it came with me around the country where I gave talks about its origin (and some people even tried it on) and for much of the time it has resided on a dummy in my hallway... a feature of my Open Studio events.

But sadly, the dress has become a faded, crumpled version of its former self

And the plastic is gradually distintegrating... which is probably a good thing in the long term.

But very sad for me as I've had to say goodbye and bin it... time to move on!
I leave you with a scary image

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

End of Term

I've made two or three of these festive garlands over the past couple of years so when my regular machine embroidery class wanted a project to finish off this term it seemed a fun thing to make. We're only a small class this term but each class member worked on their own garland and as ever, despite starting with the same instructions and templates each one is subtly different and absolutely stunning.
This is Di's... which is very luxurious

Ann's which has a beautiful delicate feel about it...




and last but not least, Linda's which is especially impressive as until the beginning of this term Linda had never ever tried machine embroidery before, yet she has mastered every project we've attempted this term with aplomb. What I love most about each and every one of them are the individual touches that make them unique.

The fabulous little Robin sitting at the top of a garland.

A special cluster of berries...

the subtle addition of gold stitching in the stamens - Di was cursing the decision to add this touch but it really lifts the Christmas roses.

Little pearl beads to high light the holly berries

Gold fabric leaves and a sprig or two of mistletoe

Gold stitching on the leaves and tiny black beads on the stamens.
Each individual touch is just fabulous and has given me so many new ideas I want to add them to my own garlands this year... always one of the benefits of teaching!

And it wouldn't be the end of the autumn term without a plate of mince pies... the first I've made this season. It's still a bit early in my book to be blogging about Christmas stuff but term finished early so what could I do?
Many thanks to Diane for finding a link to the mince pie recipe (see comments) and although this is a recipe I have used it is not the one I've used this time which you can find here:
This one is my all time fail safe favourite!

Monday, 18 November 2013

Fabulous Fashion

It is weeks, if not months since I last had a day out in London and then last week I went in twice.
On Monday I had a day at the V & A with my friend Jude to catch a couple of their latest exhibitions. First of all we saw "Pearls" which not only had a stunning display of over 200 exquisite jewels but also gave an insight into the history of pearls and pearl fishing. I'm sure that I'm not alone in always believing that a pearl forms around a grain of sand in the oyster shell... but that never actually happens. It is a small worm or parasite entering the shell that causes a pearl to form. It was a lovely exhibition but a little disappointing in that whilst I can accept that there is no photography there is also no drawing allowed either. This meant that I have no image of some of my favourite pieces and I wasn't prepared to buy the book!

After lunch we had a whizz around the "Club to Catwalk" (which runs until February). My own memory of fashion in the 1980's is pretty much limited to maternity clothes and track suits as three of my boys were born from 1982 to 1989 so fashion was not really a priority but it was great fun to see some of the outlandish club fashions that were around at the time... and to realise that customising or altering clothes is not a new fad.
Then on Wednesday Gill and I were back in London to the Fashion and Textile museum to see the latest exhibition on show "The Glamour of Belville Sassoon"
Although it is only a small museum I have never yet seen a disappointing exhibition here. The staging is always excellent, reminiscent of theatre sets. To be truthful most of the dresses were not to my taste, but that didn't matter. We joined a guided tour which I can thoroughly recommend, and even though we may not have liked all the dresses, it was fascinating to hear their history and who they were made for.

There were one or two I really loved, such as this pastel rose covered gown.

And others that I thought were revolting, like this light brown taffeta number.

But the workmanship and detail were wonderful...

especially the gorgeous embroidery... which we could photograph or draw to our heart's content!

The red dress is one that is made up from one of the Belville Sassoon Vogue patterns (not a Very Easy pattern!) and I remembered that I bought a Belville Sassoon pattern many years ago but it never ever got made into a dress.

Perhaps the highlight of the exhibition was an entire room full of the most amazing fashion drawings dating from the 1960s and 1970s...

right through every decade...

to the current one.

And my conclusion after two fabulous days out is that it is still fashion and costume that excites me the most about textiles and given the choice I would be working in those fields not teaching machine embroidery techniques! Ah well... I can dream!  Good job I still quite enjoy machine embroidery too I suppose.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Barkcloth to Artcloth

I always love the idea of artists collaborating on projects and so  couldn't resist joining in with the collaboration between Janet Middleton of Star-Child Shoes and Bobby Britnell, especially as it is also raising funds for Bobby's wonderful charity Hands up for Uganda.
The idea was to start with a piece of barkcloth which is a traditional material from Uganda, available from Bobby for £3. We were then instructed to decorate this barkcloth in anyway we liked and to be as "funky and whacky" as we liked. My piece of cloth already had quite a few holes over the surface so I decided to use these holes and back the cloth with another fabric making a feature of reverse applique.

Taking inspiration from the name "Star-child shoes" I used stars as my theme and started by cutting a cardboard stencil and stencilling stars in textile paint over the surface of my barkcloth

I then very carefully cut out the stars, keeping them to use later, and backed my barkcloth with a gold fabric... nothing subtle going on here.

I stitched the two pieces of cloth together with gold machine stitching, hand stitched around each star shaped hole and then machine stitched the cut out stars onto the surface. I supposed I could have stopped there but decided to throw all good taste out of the window and covered the surface with more gold stitching and sequins. By this point it was getting dark and there was no chance of a good photo...

But I was so desperate to get the cloth into the post and off to Janet at Star-Child shoes that I took a picture of my finished cloth anyway so you will have to squint your eyes and imagine the true colour of my end result.

Janet will then make up all the decorated pieces of barkcloth artcloth into gorgeous little Art Shoes like these pictured, which will be exhibited next year at two ICHF exhibitions in Birmingham and London. Can't wait to see them all together!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Order or Chaos

I'm sure that anyone who works with textiles will understand the magpie tendency to hoard masses of fabrics, threads, yarns, buttons, books etc... not to mention the numerous half finished items. Some recents events have prompted me into thinking I really should have a massive clear out and whilst going through my yarn stash I found the beginnings of this blanket.
I have no idea when I started it (I've just looked back on my blog... almost 5 years ago!), nor what I have done with the pattern but I do recall it was started to use up all those odd balls of coloured yarn that were knocking about.(and if you follow the link you'll see my recollection is rather faulty... I actually bought new yarn!)

I think I quite like the chaotic mismatch of colours but they disturb me too. I decided I should finish it but found I was agonising over which colours I should put together... which of course doesn't really matter as it is totally random.

Although I recall reading that even in a randon scheme such as this there need to be some linking component and for my hexagons it is the orange centres to each patch.
I know what will happen though... all the little odd balls that are left will get used up and I'll still need to buy more to finish it!

And as I was adding hexagons to my blanket I got thinking about another blanket I wanted to try...

The "Starburst" blanket from Jane Brocket's knitting book... except for a while I've fancied making it on a black back ground which reminds me of the bright colours of fireworks against the dark sky.

Of course it did involve buying more yarn so instead of clearing out I've gained more adding to my "Stuffocation" but I did limit myself to only eight colours plus the black.

And of course this means I can instill order to my colour choices and the mathematician in me has worked out there are 336 different permutations of my eight colours using three for each square as opposed to only 56 combinations. (A permutation is where the order of the choices matters as opposed to a combination where the order is irrelevant). The squares above are the six permutations for the pink, turquoise and mauve yarn...

And I can't tell you how excited that makes me being able to work out which colours I should use next and in which order... and wondering if I'll be able to make all 336 different squares!

Sad I know! But it does make me wonder why I crave such order when my textile stash remains in such chaos. I'll tidy up and sort out when I've finished this blanket... promise!

How about you... order or chaos?

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Satisfying Saturday

Following with my theme of trying to make more "me" time and taking care of my mental well being, we decided that we would make an effort to do some fun things for us at the weekends rather than just work. So we started today putting this new resolution into practise by joining friends at a local pub for a cooked breakfast (served with tea not beer!) which we justified by walking the mile there and back... an excellent start!
I then spent some time wrapping up a present and a commission, which is something else I really enjoy. So often I end up throwing things into a bag or hastily wrapping something up in any old scrap of paper so it was a pleasure to take time to do it properly. The present was these tiny little socks that I knitted for my friend's new grandaughter which were also really fun... and quick to knit.

The commission was this apron - very similar to one I made for myself but less frilly. I think I prefer this less frilly version!

But the applique and the text were the same. I think of all the embroidery I do this type of applique with free machine embroidery and text is  probably my favourite.

And of course there was more fun wrapping it up to look pretty.

Then this afternoon we ventured out again to Art Van Go for the opening of this exhibition:
Taking Textiles Further
2nd - 30th November
It is a collective works exhibition from a group of artists tutored by Janet Edmonds and is well worth a visit with lots of lovely work on display. In addition there was tea and rather scrummy cake on offer this afternoon so I was glad I only had the child sized breakfast this morning!

My friend Marian has several stunning pieces of work in the exhibition - this is one of hers above and the photo below is a piece of work by her friend Buffy, who also had some fabulous work on display.

Then we came home and I spent a happy hour in the kitchen where I used up some of my pumpkins to make a curry for our supper after which we are heading up to our village hall to help behind the bar at our local AmDram performance.
All in all a pretty good Saturday I think!