keeping the blogging habit

I always seem to find it much easier to get out of a habit of doing something than to get into one, and even harder to get back into one after the habitualness has slipped away.  I don’t really know why it should be nearly two months since I last posted, only that as each silent week goes by there’s more inertia to overcome; and more has happened – so what to write about becomes a bigger decision (decisive is not my middle name).

I’ve been doing a little of this and that, focusing on fabric manipulation as I get back into OCA Textiles 1, some stitched resists, some felt. One exercise was to develop a manipulated sample from a previous design, and I went back to these block prints that were inspired by a tulip and then scanned to try out designs on the computer.

sketchbook work from tulip image

I simplified the shapes and stitched a repeating pattern based on circles and the spaces between. I was thinking about bands of colour and bands of resist. It’s a 30cm square.

stitched circles

Pulling the stitches up was a bit fiddly, and then I’m always tempted to leave them gathered, loving the structures they  make.

stitched circles gathered

I dyed this with some other pieces (of which more in another post) and this was the end result.

stitched circles dyed

I would have liked a bit more contrast – for some reason this calico didn’t take the dye as well as some of the other cottons in the same dyebath, but apart from that I was quite pleased with the overall effect.

I’d like to try other variations with colour, width of the stitching, etc. And I noticed that last time I dyed some stitched resist (when I soaked the bundles in the soda solution beforehand) the whites were very white, whereas here the ‘white’ is actually a very pale purple. These were soaked in water, then added to a dye bucket and the soda added after 30 minutes, and I used some urea, so either or both of those could have had an effect on the resist. The stitching itself was pulled up just as tightly as the earlier samples, more tightly if anything – I’ve been watching Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada‘s Arimatsu Narumi Shibori DVD, and learning how to use the needle to knot the pulled up thread without letting the stitches loosen. Not that I have mastered it – the Japanese artists make it look so easy – but I’m practising!

the latest felting adventures

A series of before and after pics from a felting session last week…

The first two pieces, focusing on working with colour, are flat felt in merino with a little silk floss on the surface. The first is more about the colours outside my window; the second, the colours inside my head.

outside colours
outside colours felt
inside colours
inside colours felt

The next sample is nuno felt using sari ribbon with a cobwebby layer of fleece, in this one the top layer is the ‘back’.

sari ribbon nuno felt
sari ribbon nuno felt

I really like the scribbly texture where the frayed edges of the ribbon are felted in, it looks almost like machine embroidery.

sari ribbon nuno felt

The next experiment was to follow up a thought I’d had when making this scarf, ‘what if I felt a cord tied with sari ribbon?’

felt cord before
felt cord

Finally, I made a nuno felt ‘sandwich’ of two layers of thinly laid fleece trapping a layer of fabric scraps between. Sorry about the blurry ‘before’ image!

trapped fabric before
trapped  fabric nuno felt

The next colour pieces I do are going to be bigger! I want to make some seat covers for a set of dining chairs we have that are in rags. I’m going to try the felted cord again, with a variety of ribbons and yarns; and the nuno pieces are quite soft and stretchy and would need to be stronger for actual use – more experiments definitely needed there!

I’ve applied to end the deferment of my OCA Textiles 1 course at the beginning of March – exciting and a bit daunting as I’ve got so out of the habit. I’ve already ascertained that I can focus on nuno felt and shibori for the fabric manipulation module I’ll be going back to, so I can continue to build on what I’ve been doing recently.

I had some other bits of news but I think I’ll save them for another post as this one seems to have grown very long already. 🙂

time to do the ironing

About 20 years ago I bought a big bag of silk cocoon strippings from a lovely fibrecraft shop in a barn in Elterwater in the Lake District, sadly long closed, and for a while played happily with this magical stuff that needs only an iron and water to turn it into a papery textile. I used to add scraps of fabric and paper, silk fibres and sequin waste and embedded lace, bits torn out of magazines and coloured tissue – the sericin left in the cocoon strippings is strong enough to hold all kinds of things, though it works best if they’re light and flat. Mostly I used this for cards and made a couple of wall pieces and then I ran out of steam and other things took over, but the silk stayed in a box on the shelf.

I hadn’t thought about it for ages till Alan reminded me how much I used to enjoy it, so last weekend I got out the ironing board and spent a couple of hours ironing away – I have to admit that creative ironing is almost the only kind I ever do.

I tried incorporating a few different materials and some were more successful than others. These samples include bits of felt, merino fibres, thowsters’ waste, bamboo fibres, sari yarn and a lacy fabric.

silk paper

I like the way the sari yarn bleeds dye into the surface (at the bottom of the biggest piece, and the little piece on the left in the middle). The felt and merino fibres were the only things I tried that didn’t bond so well; at least, they need a high ratio of cocoon strippings to stick to, and you get loose bits and ‘floating’ layers. That could be a feature, but it makes the textile more fragile.

silk paper

In the next sample I carded about equal quantities of silk and merino for a while to mix them. I like this effect.

silk paper

Bamboo fibre and synthetic lace fabric both bond very well.

silk paper

I like the fact that you can do a lot of experiments in a relatively short time, which is good when you’re not feeling very creative, and a little silk goes a long way. There are lots of lovely possibilities.

I unwrapped my rusty calico soon after the new year, not a finished piece of fabric really – I don’t think it stayed wet enough, but a start for some overdyeing, anyway. I like the marks on the left. I’m ordering some silk so I can try pole-wrapping that now I’m here to keep an eye on it.

rusted calico

seaweed bundles

First of all I hope it’s not too late to say Happy New Year, I can’t believe that was a week ago already.

The kinds of seaweed lying around on the beach here at Crossapol when the tides goes out seem to vary from day to day. I’ve been thinking about gathering some for making cold-dyed fabric bundles as shown in India Flint’s book Eco-Colour, but most of it is in large and heavy bunches and would require the kind of forethought that seems to be beyond me at the moment, such as taking a carrier bag along. However, yesterday there were some kinds of thin string-like weed, easy to carry and great, I thought, for wrapping bundles. I collected a small assortment and brought it home.

kinds of seaweed

I laid out most of the branched pieces with bladders on a piece of damp habotai silk …

ready to bundle 

… then rolled it up and wrapped it with the long flat pieces. There were a couple of little bits of the flat stuff left and one that is like string with just the odd bladder along its length – not branched, so I concertina-folded another small piece of silk, laid the flat weed inside the folds and wrapped this with the stringy piece.

seaweed wrappings

I sprayed the bundles with a mister, put them into a glass jar, covered it with a bit of plastic, and have put the jar outside for a while. India says at least a week and a month isn’t too long. I will check them daily in case they start to go mouldy but hope I can resist opening them up for a fortnight or more. My hands were a bit orange after I’d done this but as this is new to me I don’t know if that indicates anything about the final outcome.

ready to cure

Nothing to do with seaweed, but I couldn’t resist sharing these lovely fibres, merino and bamboo, in the colours of the winter machair with some sunset thrown in, which I got in my Christmas stocking, complete with bog myrtle soap bought at the Farmhouse Café here on Tiree. I’m told it’s good for eczema so I’m hoping it will be kind on the hands if I use it for felting.

fibres and soap

mmmmm, rust

Saturday morning on the beach yielded a rusty treasure – a pole, the size of an axle, perfect for shibori wrapping. My wonderful husband lugged it home for me – though it’s not far to go, it was quite heavy! I’ve collected a few other little rusty odds and ends on our walks as well.

rusty things

In the new year I’ll try some silk wrapping, but as it’s going to be outside in the salty air anyway and it’s bound to rain quite a bit I’m just leaving it covered in a strip of calico and will see what’s happened in two weeks’ time.

wrapped pole

I had a bug last week, still recovering from it in fact, and so I got behind with work and that left very little time for making. Just a couple of small felt samples, trying to capture some of the colours of the sea and sky, and the winter machair. The top one is nuno felt – merino and silk tops on silk georgette, and the bottom one is merino – it looks the same size but is really just a scrap, much smaller – how hard it is to get a sense of scale on-screen. I actually remembered to measure shrinkage on the nuno sample, which started with a piece of silk 35 x 26 cm and is now 23 x 13cm.

nuno sample

merino sample