more felt

I’m not sure about either of the pieces of felt I made today but at least I made them 🙂 One is an experiment stitching into prefelt before felting – more play with a piece of fleece. The images show before and after the felting was completed:

embroidered prefelt
embroidered felt

I want to explore this effect some more, but would prefer finer wools for the stitching, I think.  Then, rather than getting all wet and soapy for one little piece, I also made another piece of felt based on thoughts of the sea at sunset. It didn’t really turn out as I wanted, but it’s all experience.

felt

Mechanical Drawing – the Schiffli Project

That’s the title of an exhibition I’ve just been to see at Farfield Mill. The last working Schiffli embroidery machine in the UK is at Manchester School of Art, and for this exhibition fifteen artists worked with the machine, creating pieces that are both hand drawn and machine embroidered.

While I’d heard of the Schiffli machine, I had only a vague idea of the process – it’s actually a pantograph principle where the artist draws the line large using a hand-held device, moving across their design and clicking wherever they want the needle to enter the fabric; and the machine, which has 86 needles, reproduces the line in miniature many times across the fabric.

Each small movement of the artist’s hand is there in the stitched line, so it has a very human quality, a feeling of directness and immediacy. As each needle can hold a different coloured thread, or variations on one colour, or every thread can be the same, or some needles can be left unthreaded, there is potential for exploitation of tone, colour and pattern on a grand scale.

I was very impressed both by the impact and scale of the work, and by the quality of the exhibition. The textiles were well displayed with plenty of light and space; there were samples available to touch; and in the background there was the constant rhythmic sound of the machine at work (the sound was an element of one of the works – Kate Egan’s installation ‘Stack’), which added another sensory layer to the experience. It was a really engaging celebration of a fascinating machine that’s clearly cherished and enjoyed by those who work with it.

It’s difficult to pick out just a few pieces for a special mention… I loved the colour and movement of Rowena Ardern’s ‘Endangered’, which used the repeats created by the machine very effectively; I enjoyed Jill Boyes’ careful exploration of effects made possible by the Schiffli; I was moved by Jane McKeating’s poignant and humorous rag books, drawing on her sketchbooks from a period after she suddenly became single; and I would have loved to go home with Stephen Dixon and Alison Welsh’s ‘Armchair Politico’, which was both beautiful and thought-provoking.

The catalogue is excellent, with several essays, plenty of images and detailed text, and a DVD about the technical processes (which was also on show at the exhibition).

exhibition catalogue

Mechanical Drawing is at Farfield till 29 June and is also travelling to the Macclesfield Silk Museum and the Knitting and Stitching Show. Really worth seeing if you can; if not, all the pieces are represented online, along with excerpts from the catalogue, and a short video, at
http://www.miriad.mmu.ac.uk/craftdesign/schiffli/.

well, it’s done…

… the ‘when will this ever be finished’ wall hanging for City & Guilds Patchwork & Quilting is now finished!

This was my first experiment using felt as the batting so it became an integral part of the design. The assessment was to make a piece using appliqu̩ techniques. It has three layers Рpainted silk organza, handmade felt, and painted silk pongee. The shadow appliqu̩ shapes are hand dyed cotton and hand painted silk, and the machine and hand quilting are in cotton.

I cut back the top layer of some of the shadow appliqué and machine quilted areas after quilting them. I finished the edges with buttonhole stitch and then needlefelted them to break down the stitches into the felt. The support is a piece of driftwood I found on the beach, and the work is 53cm x 78cm (or 76cm x 78cm if you include the wood).

applique hanging

applique detail

applique detail

applique detail

applique detail

TIF Challenge February 2

I’ve been overtaken by life for the last couple of weeks – this weekend was the first chance I had to get back to the TIF Challenge for February, and February is nearly over! I was thinking about joining fragments of fabric like fragments of memory, so I got out a pile of fabric saved from clothes I’ve worn to pieces over the last 30 years or so and tore a small square of each. Then I looked at several kinds of insertion stitches from Mrs Christie’s Samplers and Stitches, the book my grandmother used. Laced, twisted, knotted – how I struggled! Learning stitches from diagrams doesn’t come easily to me. I double checked the moves in one of the first embroidery books I ever got, back in 1984 (Needlework School by the Practical Study Group), but still I struggled.

In the end, I worked out how to do one stitch – buttonhole insertion stitch using a Tailor’s buttonhole – which is the same as buttonhole stitch but with an extra knot in the formation. I was jubilant when I got the hang of this!

buttonoholeinsertion.jpg
tailorsbuttonhole.jpg

I stitched the pieces together on a background fabric that was also an old shirt of mine, then cut away the background. It was something like shot viscose – another time I would use a natural fabric that would fray well. I managed to cut through one or two of the insertion stitches as I cut it away as well 🙁

stitched sample

I’m not sure if this sample will be the final piece or not – I’ll tell you on the 29th! I’d like to do another version on a different background, maybe a dark silk. I’d like to try a variation on vanishing fabric with machine insertion stitching. And I would love to master some more of those tricky hand stitches…