The definition of good morning: a cup of hot black coffee, a cloth in progress, and a little collection of fabrics ready for their auditions.
These are non-competitive auditions because they will all win in the end. I really like just looking at fabrics – although it’s never just looking, is it, because I have to pick them all up and touch them as well. It’s just seeing with hands, I suppose.
The Traveller’s Blanket is turning into a short story collection. I’ve found it quite challenging to adopt someone else’s technique while making it look like my own work. Dijanne makes these cloths so beautifully and I didn’t want to produce an imitation. I imagine it’s a bit like doing a cover version of a very well-known song.
It’s a good opportunity to include some treasure, like this silk velvet, eco-dyed by Arlee
And then a few vignettes are happening here and there:
Now that a few fabrics have been applied, the cloth is stable enough to work on without support from the table. Eventually there will be some kind of quilting or seeding in between the motifs, but I think that point is still some way off. In the meantime it can carry on keeping my knees warm while I stitch in the evenings.
I’ve finally made a start on my traveller’s blanket for the last ever class with Dijanne Cevaal. It took a while to think about the right foundation for this quilt, and in the end I decided on a piece of tea-dyed silk noil. Soft but textured, lightweight but warm. The back is hand-dyed silk noil, and the middle layer is brushed cotton (also known as cotton flannel).
A slight stumbling block in the thinking process for this quilt has been that traditionally these quilts have been all about travel and recording experiences, and I’m probably the world’s worst traveller. I’ve never ventured beyond the UK, never been on an aeroplane, and have never had a passport. I don’t even drive. I get seasick just watching boats on TV. What could I possibly have to say about travel?
And then I thought of course we’re all travelling constantly – through time, through life, through experiences. And so my blanket has ended up being about a journey through winter, my favourite season, which will be with us very soon. I’m thinking greys, dark blues, sludgy/grey greens, browns, whites.
I’m starting in the centre with this beautiful piece of antique embroidered cutwork, a mystery object. Does anyone know what this would have been, originally? It seems to be a discrete piece, and doesn’t look as if it’s ever been part of anything else – at first I thought cuff, but it’s not long enough, and there is no evidence of unpicked seams. It’s about 2.25” x 6”. Dressing table mat? Answers on a postcard please.
I’m using a few fabrics expertly eco-printed by Jane Hunter together with some vintage and antique pieces that I’ve been saving for something special.
I had a few days off from the day job this week so at last had time to dye some fabric and thread. This has been on the to-do list for months.
Some for me, and some for you, eventually. There will be a shop update when I can get round to sorting these into groups.
While I was waiting for everything to dry, I made a cover for the little notebook I use for dye notes. I made the book many years ago, when I first started having a go at dyeing. I don’t record everything in it, as most of my dyeing is quite intuitive so colours are often not repeatable. There are other dyers out there producing set lines but I prefer the more individual approach.
I really like the colour test card. Accidental abstract art in action, I’m calling it.
The Covid Chronicle, founded by Wendy Bliss, is a community textile art installation, currently touring in the UK. It comprises about 140 panels worked in a range of textile art techniques and records contributors’ experiences of the pandemic since the first UK lockdown. You can see the work here from today until 19th June, and from July it will be on display at Riverside Studios, near Hammersmith Bridge.
The Hammersmith venue has a huge window space that isn’t suitable for the textile art because it gets too much light, so contributors have been invited to make hearts that can be displayed there a bit like the Wall of Hearts.
I already had a couple of patchwork hearts lying around in a drawer so it was quite easy to put these together.
I really like layered sheers. I like the way they reveal as well as conceal, the way they cover the background but you can still see through them if you look closely. And of course we are all like that too. Very few people get to see through all our layers.
The other two are slightly smaller, about 6” x 8”, and are made with eco-dyed fabrics from Jane Hunter.
The white heart is just strips of cotton fabrics pieced together into a heart shape, with some decorative stitching over the seams.
I really like the scrap of eco-dyed felted wool – it’s quite thick and substantial, I’m guessing from an old wool blanket, and perfect for this. It always amazes me how these orphans and scraps find their home eventually.
These will be travelling to Wendy very soon, and if you’re in London in July maybe you could go and visit.
The scraps build up alarmingly. I have no idea where they all come from. I find it difficult to concentrate on a large piece of work when there are so many tiny bits shouting for attention and I have a couple of large pieces waiting to begin, so I’ve been trying to get the scraps under control first.
The way I usually handle the tiny bits is to arrange them on a base of very lightweight fusible interfacing, iron them down and then cover the whole thing with a sheer of some kind (usually chiffon or organza) and then stitch onto the surface. I think of these as backgrounds for later, but some of them turn out to be quite attractive in themselves.
Sometimes I dispense with the sheer covering and just layer the various bits.
I have quite a big pile of these waiting, which makes for a nice relaxing evening job – something of a manageable size and scale that can be pieced and stitched while watching (in my case, listening to) TV.
Some of these little backgrounds are destined for studies of ancient rocks and monoliths, as an extension of the sketchbook I’m currently working on. This piece is very small, made from tiny layered scraps and a piece of decorative lace that I’ve had for many years:
In the quest for zero waste, I think we’re doing ok so far.
I need to do something with the scraps box, which fills up all on its own. This is mainly because of my zero waste policy, where no scrap is too small to be discarded. Fabric takes time and resources for its manufacture and isn’t supposed to be disposable.
The only new fabric I buy these days is silk, because old silk is often too fragile to be useful. Decorative, yes, but not useable in a meaningful way. I only buy a small amount, less than a metre, once a year. The rest of my fabrics are cut up from clothes or sheets, or they are bits of vintage linens that I dye myself. I genuinely don’t know where all the scraps come from. I don’t even like calling them scraps, because they are all treasure really.
What tends to happen when I notice the scraps box overflowing is that I stop what I’m doing and try to ‘do something’ with the scraps. If I reflect on that, I can see that I end up making something because I need to use ‘X’, which distracts me from making the thing I really want to make. There’s nothing wrong with thinking ‘what can I make with X’ but if it’s not the thing I need to make, then it becomes a source of mental clutter because I fret about having something and not using it. It’s also a source of anxiety because it prevents me getting near the thing I really need to do. If the stitch journal has taught me anything so far, it is only reinforcing how quickly time passes, and how little of it there seems to be.
I am collecting and layering treasures from the scraps box, and in itself that is quite enjoyable, but this isn’t really what I want to be doing right now. I’ve been working on a series I’m calling ‘Survivors’, made from layered bits of ragged, frayed antique fabrics and lace. For various reasons (and the sampler book was a major distraction that lasted a few months) I can’t get to it without climbing over about a million other things in progress. It is getting to the point where I can’t think straight. I also have a lot of fabric that is waiting to be dyed, and nowhere to put it because all the space is full.
At some point I want to give up the day job altogether and see if I can support myself as a maker. Even writing the sentence sends my cautious brain into terrified meltdown. I remember what it was like to have no regular income, and it wasn’t fun.
I guess the obvious answer is to go through my collection and let go of the things I am unlikely to use. I am hanging on to various types of fabric that I don’t or probably won’t use, because it’s possible that one day I might run workshops and some of these bits would be interesting in a mixed media or experimental setting. I’m starting to feel that ‘one day’ and ‘might’ aren’t that helpful and I just need to live in the present and do what I need to do now, because there is only one of me and I only have one pair of hands. I don’t have the storage space for everything, and I need a lot less than I think I do.
What with the day job taking up most of my working week, this will take a while to work through. But I think there may be a shop update looming in a couple of weeks or so.