Sunday, 22 March 2015

A Peachy Avocado

Our Silva Populi creatures are usually made from naturally dyed fabric which we dye ourselves. After seeing some beautiful dusky pink dye results from avocado skins at the hands of Ruth Singer, we decided to have a go at making our own for the plumage of the next family of Populi. 
 After a week or so of asking family & friends to save their skins & pits, we finally had enough plant matter to make our first batch of avocado dye (resulting from 7 large & 2 small avocados). After removing any last traces of pulp, the avocado skins were added to cold water & brought to the boil. 
Silk, wool & cotton fabrics ready for the dye pot
While the skins & pits were simmering away, the fabric to be dyed was given a good soak in warm water. Pre-soaking makes the fabric more willing to take up the dye and helps to give an even spread of colour.  A collection of natural fibre fabrics had been picked for dying - half of which had been mordanted using alum some time ago. Natural fibre fabrics such as cotton, wool & silk are more ready to absorb natural dyes than manmade fabrics are. However, both the dye and the fabric can be made even more amenable to this process by mordanting it first. Here's a definition from about what a mordant is: 
"A mordant is a chemical binding agent that adheres well to both the fibres and the dye. The word comes from the Latin mordere, which means to bite."

Within 15-20 minutes of boiling the skins the water began to show some colour
The skins were boiled for over an hour before the pre-soaked fabric was added to the dye pot and allowed to boil for a further 70 minutes. The great thing about this pot of dye was that it didn't smell too badly - unlike onion skin dye! Bleugh!
Both the fabric and avocado matter were left to cool in the pot overnight making sure, as far as possible, that all of the fabric was covered by the dye water.
The following morning the fabric was rinsed twice in cold water before being allowed to dry outdoors. It was interesting to note that the mordanted and non-mordanted fabrics achieved very similar results, however, over time the non-mordanted fabric may prove to be less colourfast. Here are the results...
A pale peachy-pink colour was achieved on a vintage hankie & child's vest
The colour range spans from peachy pink to pale toffee - like vintage silk stockings. Beautiful muted tones.
We're really pleased with the results. Definitely worth trying again. Now to get on with some making...

Saturday, 14 March 2015

The Manifestation of Nothingness

Sample by Kathleen Murphy

In preparation for a forthcoming Summer exhibition we've been exploring an ongoing interest in the imperfections one finds in domestic textiles - frays, marks & mothholes. In particular, a notion that a hole or rent in fabric is in fact a void presenting further design possibilities. 
A void can be described in many ways; as an empty space, blankness, a vacuum, a cavity, an abyss, nothingess. It's definition and meaning has caused much debate in both science, religion and as the basis for fictional writing. In terms of it's practical use in textiles, it can be a powerful space, for example, a point of calm on an otherwise busy surface or an area of concentrated focus on a blank canvas.
Prepare your void...
Pondering these thoughts, the theme for this month's Sewcial followed suit - a chance to explore stains & holes as design considerations on small sample pieces. To get the creative juices flowing, yesterday's workshop began by looking at the work of contemporary artists who have made use of imperfection, stains & holes in their stitched work, such as Anne Wilson, Nava Lubelski and Elvis Robertson. Along the way we touched upon embroidery techniques such as drawn thread work, needleweaving, darning and Twisted Blanket stitch as methods to create or fill voids and enhance imperfections. Each student was given a piece of stained calico as a basis for their sampling. 
The following photo's will give you an idea of their exploration. 
We'll keep you posted about ours!
Picot stitch variation in variegated thread

Red wine rings
Glass stain
Stains trapped in opaque layers
Vibrant base layer...
...With top layer of stitched sheer fabric added

An abundance of seed stitch enhanced by the opacity of the muslin

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Wild About the Eyes

'Wild About the Eyes' mask by Kathleen Murphy
When we say wild, we mean beastly. 
Beasties with horns, with great tufted ears, with bulbous noses or pointy beaks and plenty of colour, such was the nature of last weekend's mask making workshop at Trumpet Corner Arts Studios & Tearoom. 
Nunu Theatre Company performing Billie Killer 2014
Based on the masks Kathleen (the Human) made for Nunu Theatre Company's production of Billie Killer last year, workshop participants were shown how to make a bold, handstitched half-face mask inspired by European folklore & fairytales. Drawing inspiration from the Kulkeri of Bulgaria, the Busojaras of Hungary and the startling traditional folk masks of Romania. Those gathered were encouraged to be bold in their choice of colour & embellishment, to think fantasy rather than reality. 
By jingo, did they go for it! 
Here's what happened when the group delved into the bags & boxes of fabric, trim and thread.
 Ruffles being teased & ears taking shape
  Buoyant use of texture & colour
 Organza ruffled cheeks & ear tufts
 Beak decorated with Feathered Chain stitch giving it a distinct 
folk feel

Carnival-bright colour. The eyebrows & buns you can see forming were inspired by Frida Kahlo

The long-eared mask above left was transformed into the splendid number, above right...

  And this pom-pom adorned mask became the handsome specimen below. 
 Look at all of that detailing on the nose!
A great set of results indeed.  Now all we need is a masked woodland ball to attend!
If you're reading this and kicking yourself that you didn't come along, kick no more. This is a workshop which we will offer again, so please keep an eye out for further details. The next all-day workshop on offer will be 'The Storyteller's Stool' on Saturday 28th March 2015. Limited places available. More details can be found HERE.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

The Early Bird Meets the Jar Dweller

Waiting for a new resident
The early bird catches the worm, or, in this instance, get's themself a place on this forthcoming workshop...
This Summer Blue Ginger Gallery, near Malvern in Worcestershire, will be holding a 'make-fest'; access to 10 days of creative workshops in the Gallery's garden marquee being tutored by artists from across the Midlands. As part of this we will be running a special one-off workshop involving textiles, found objects & handstitch to create a small, jam-jar dwelling creature, 'Woodland Creatures in a Jar', based on our Silva Populi tribe. 
There will only be EIGHT places available so we're giving you warning now before the details go onto the Gallery's website.
Date: Sunday 5th July 2015, 10am - 4pm
Cost: £50 per person - materials included (but please bring along any small treasures, fabric scraps, feathers, shells etc, to make your character uniquely yours).
Please email: to book. Payment will be required once your place is confirmed.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Tie Politics

The 2015 workshop season was kicked off last Friday, 9th January, with a Sewcial at Trumpet Corner Art Studios & Tearoom. As regular readers will recall, these are sessions where the participating stitchers turn up not knowing what they'll be asked to do. 2015 is a general election year in the UK, and as you rarely see a male politician without a tie when they're 'on duty', the humble tie was the object of our focus.

Certainly in the West, ties are traditionally a male item of clothing, often worn with a suit. This combination is a popular uniform for those in positions of authority or power such as business & politics, or those who wish to give a sober impression or show respect. It's interesting to note that as opportunities began to emerge in the late nineteenth century for women in education, employment and their legal rights to land & property (although not yet the vote), Edwardian women's fashion adopted a more tailored look which included tie wearing reflecting new responsibilites and the desire to fight for more. 
With the tie having such a strong male association, the workshop members were tasked with 'feminising the masculine'; from their female perspective, consider a message or impression they'd like to portray using a tie and embroidery (traditionally upheld as a female activity...). 

Each person was given a vintage, woven wool tie and carte blanche to chop, stitch & transform it. Although free to cut & reform the ties into less recognisable tie shapes, all of the group members decided to stick with the original form and transform the surface instead, thus keeping them as wearable pieces. Several of the stitchers carefully split the back seam of the tie so that it could be laid flat ('spatchcocked') in a hoop for easier sewing.
Here's where their thinking (& stitching) led them... 

 The piece being created above depicts a male politician in a suit jacket & tutu (complete with knobbley knees on show). Taking inspiration from the character ties popular in the 1990's, the stitcher imagined a politican wearing this tie when canvassing, perhaps taking the sting out of political pomposity.

This tie with it's bold & colourful stitches offers words of warning, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions". The Suffrage colours of purple (amethyst) & green (peridot) were deliberately choosen to drive the message home.  

'Loosen the Noose' accompanied by a strangulation of vines...
"Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see".  Some sage advice for life for a teenage nephew couched in perle thread & embroidery floss. 
Some sterling results, now we will wait to see who's going to be brave enough to wear them! 

If you'd like to join in the next handstitch challenge it will take place on Friday 13th February, 10am-1pm, at Trumpet Corner Art Studios & Tearoom. More details HERE

Friday, 2 January 2015

A Shiny New Year

Happy New Year Fraingels
Although there's a little more plotting to do, plans for 2015 are coming together nicely. We will kick off with the first workshop of 2015 on Friday 9th January: The Sewcial at Trumpet Corner Arts Studios & Tearoom (places available). Further news of exhibitions, fairs & new workshops will follow shortly. 

A bright, shiny New Year - use it wisely folks & may all good things come your way! 

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Christmas Wishes

 Thank you for following our adventures - there will be new tales to unfold in 2015

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