Saturday 20 July 2024

Interconnected - City Lit, London

Lindy Dumas - Aged 15, A work in progress - Jacket

On a recent trip to London I went to see Interconnected at City Lit.  It was the end of course exhibition for their Advanced Textiles 2022-2024 Course.  You can see their work on instagram - @textile24group.  Ten textile artists were exhibiting and you can see the work of four of them here...

Lindy Dumas - Aged 15, A work in progress - Jacket

I loved Lindy Dumas' work.  Recalling her school days in rural Wales in the 1960s, Lindy's teenage mind wandered from her lessons to outfits for the weekend, messages to friends and other distractions.  Her stitched and collaged blazer and stitched cuffs, referencing this time, were great!

Lindy Dumas - Aged 15, A work in progress - Stitched cuffs (I wish it was summer)

Mei Lock's parents came to Britain in the early 1970s and eventually started their own Chinese take-away and later ran a fish and chip shop.  Being British born and growing up Chinese, put migration and identity at the centre of Mei's work...

Mei Lock - Made it in the UK

Mei Lock - Made it in the UK (detail - But where are you REALLY from?)

Mei Lock - Made it in the UK (detail- CHIPS)

Mei Lock - Made it in the UK (detail - TAKE AW...)

Mei used rice sacks as the fabric for her stitching, and exploited the use of positive and negative space to spell out her messages, stitched mostly in rice sized, white stitching.  I thought her work was very thought provoking and cleverly done.

Julie Yogasundram - Large & Medium Vessel & Jug

Julie Yogasundram's work uses the discarded work of skilled embroiderers of the past.  These traycoths and tablecloths can often be found cheaply in charity shops. Adding her own hand and machine stitching, Julie turns them into something more contemporary that can, again, have value and is more suited to the modern home.  These looked great.

Julie Yogasundram - Fruits of our labours

Myra Bloomfield does not want her textile pieces to be categorised.  Using handstitch, print and applique on naturally dyed and repurposed cloth she creates contemporary assemblages. The dense stitching is meant to refer to the traditional use of stitch as a means of joining, making, repair and embellishment.

Myra Bloomfield - Conversation Pieces (detail)

Her work brought to my mind visible mending, patchwork and boro...

Myra Bloomfield - Conversation Pieces 

This exhibition finished on 18 July 2024 but you can check out the group's work over on instagram.

Thursday 4 July 2024

New Liberty Print Fabric Necklaces by Hippystitch

New Hippystitch Liberty Print Fabric Necklaces

I am rather fond of Liberty fabrics so it's always a pleasure to go and choose some for my fabric necklaces.  Recently I bought a particularly nice selection and have enjoyed making them up.  Geography was always my favourite subject so I particularly like the map fabrics...

Liberty Prints - Cary's Patchwork & Big Smoke

But then there's some super flower prints...

Liberty Prints - Wandering Meadow (pink), Poppy Wonder, Wandering Meadow (blue), Hazy Days

and also a rather nice Althea McNish print of onions...

Liberty Print - Cebollas Garden


Liberty Print - Sonny James (parrots)

and a sort of undersea garden...

Liberty Print - Midnight

You can see from the top photo that they are all now made up into necklaces.  You can wear them choker length or longer depending on how you tie them.  They are all made from Tana Lawn cotton so they're lovely and soft against your skin.  You can even carefully handwash them when you need to...

Hippystitch Fabric Necklaces made from Cary's Patchwork Liberty Print

Now they're all available to buy in my Folksy shop.  You can find them here along with others.  Go take a look!

Sunday 30 June 2024

Liverpool Central Library & Audubon's Birds of America

Liverpool Central Library


As a regular but infrequent visitor to Liverpool, I thought I was familar with most of the sights.  However I have recently come across Liverpool Central Library which is quite a gem!  It has a very modern part and a more historic part, both of which are rather amazing in their own right.  You could easily miss the Library as it is sandwiched between the Walker Art Gallery and the World Museum on William Brown Street, Liverpool.

Modern Atrium at Liverpool Central Library

The modern atrium, which opened in 2013, is light and airy and a lovely place to sit and study but there is also the Picton Room (opened 1879) if your preference is for something more traditional...

Picton Room - Liverpool Central Library - Outside

Picton Room - Liverpool Central Library - Inside

Picton Room - Liverpool Central Library - Inside

Check out the Hornby Library, opened in 1906, which housed an exhibition about Thomas Stamford Raffles and his plant and animal collections when we visited...

Hornby Library - Liverpool Central Library

However the reason I was there was to see the rare books in the Oak Room, which was built in 1914/15 to house the Library's 4000ish rare, valuable and important books.  My quest was to see John James Audubon's "Birds of America" book. This book comes in 4 volumes, is massive (a metre high!) and contains 435 hand coloured, copper plate etchings of life sized birds. 

John James Audubon's "Birds of America" Book

Each picture depicts both the male and female of the species, sometimes with their chicks or eggs, in their natural habitat and may even include their predators.  The book is so heavy it has to be supported so that the weight of the book doesn't break the spine and, if carried, needs 2 people to lift it!  Only one of the volumes is on the display which happens to be the volume that is in the best condition.  Every week, the Library's conservator, who is specially insured, turns a page to reveal a new bird.  When we were there the Willow Ptarmigan was on show...

The Willow Ptarmigan from "Birds of America"

It was possible to see some watermarks on the pages.  During the Liverpool Blitz in 1941 the Library took a direct hit and the volumes were rescued by the librarian from the strongroom, which was being flooded by water from the firemen's hoses as they tried to put out the blaze.

The book is kept in a bullet proof case with specially treated glass to prevent the watercolours from fading.  There are 4 copies of this book known in England - King Charles has one & the Bodleian in Oxford and Birmingham City Library each have one.   It is known as a double elephant folio.  "Double elephant" refers to the size of paper and was the largest paper available at the time (39.5 inches x 26.5 inches). Apparently, a complete first edition sold in 2010 at Sotheby's in London for over £7.3 million - a record auction price for a printed book!

Going back to John James Audubon - he was born in 1785, in what is now Haiti, was brought up by his stepmother in Nantes, France and was sent to the USA in 1803.  Because of the length of time it took him to complete his drwings, the birds he drew were dead, having been shot.  They were wired into lifelike poses for him to draw. In 1826, he arrived in Liverpool, cutting quite a dash in his fringed jacket and hair slicked down with bear grease.  His aim was to raise funds to print his book.  About 175 copies were sold - 100 in England and 75 in the USA, and about 120 copies still exist.

So next time you're in Liverpool, go take a look.  It's quite a story! 

Wednesday 12 June 2024

Jesmonite Workshop at Rural Arts, Thirsk with Laura Docherty

My Jesmonite Tray and Bobbins

Recently, I attended a Jesmonite workshop at Rural Arts in Thirsk, run by Laura Docherty (@ottomezzaluna on Instagram).  I've been wanting to try out using Jesmonite for some time so a short course at Rural Arts seemed ideal. 

Wikipedia tells us that "Jesmonite is a composite material used in fine arts, crafts, and construction. It consists of a gypsum-based material in an acrylic resin. It was invented in the United Kingdom in 1984 by Peter Hawkins." Initial experiments acually began in 1978 in Jesmond, Newcastle which is where the product's name comes from. It was conceived as a safe alternative to fibreglass and as a lightweight alternative to cast concrete. In fact, on our course, Peter's daughter, Laura (not our course leader), was with us and was also trying it out for the first time!

Laura Docherty's Jesmonite Examples

Jesmonite, like concrete, involves a powder and a liquid that have to be mixed together.  Both can be poured into moulds and become solid.  However, Jesmonite is more ecological.  Known as an eco resin, the water based acrylic liquid and mineral base have to be mixed in a specific ratio.  It solidifies quite quickly and there is very little waste...

Moulds & Mixing Equipment

Jesmonite - Powder & Liquid

You can add pigment to the liquid element before mixing in the powder to colour the Jesmonite.  The pigments can be combined to create the colour you want.  Not much pigment is needed...

Jesmonite Pigment

Terrazzo chips can be made which you can then use as inclusions in your mix and result in a finished product speckled with the colours of terrazzo chips that you have added.  They are made by making thin sheets of Jesmonite and breaking them up into small chips once the Jesmonite has solidified...

Making Terrazzo Chips

Tubs of Terrazzo Chips

I enjoyed making a dark grey tray with multi-coloured terrazzo chips...

Mould filled with my mix of Jesmonite and terrazzo chips

The tray had to be sanded with wet and dry sandpaper once it had set to reveal the colourful terrazzo...

Sanding my dish to reveal the terrazzo chips

Finished dish

I am keeping some bobbins on my terrazzo dish at the moment (see first image).

I also made a pot with a black colour-blocked rim and a mint green body. You do this by pouring the black Jesmonite into the mould first and because there were streaks of black on the mould this made an interesting pattern when the green was poured in...

Pouring Jesmonite into a pot mould

Pot mould after pouring

Finished pot

It's not always possible to completely control the outcome so you can get some really interesting results.  I'm not sure how I expected my pot to come out but I like it and am currently using it to store my crochet hooks...

Finished Pot & Crochet Hooks

I thoroughly enjoyed the session and look forward to experimenting more at home.  Thanks Laura!

The Courthouse, which is where Rural Arts is based, has a great cafe, an artisan shop and has exhibitions, workshops and performances - worth a visit for the cafe and shop alone!  The next Jesmonite workshops is on Wednesday 17 July 2024. Check it out here.

Friday 31 May 2024

Stumpwork or Raised Embroidery - A First Attempt

My finished stumpwork pincushion

I am a member of the York Embroiderers & Stitchers, who are a friendly group of stitch and textile enthusiasts of all levels of ability and experience. Recently, Annie Smith has led a series of stitch clubs to teach some of us how to do stumpwork.  

Stumpwork is a type of raised embroidery that was popular in England in the 17th Century.  At the time it was called raised embroidery or embossed work.  The term stumpwork has only been used since the end of the 19th century.  Typical scenes might include a castle, stag, lion, birds, butterflies, fruit, flowers, and a number of figures sometimes positioned beneath a canopy.  Kings, queens and mythical or biblical figures were often depicted. The technique can use wire, threads of various sorts, padding, beads, needlelace and other materials. Much of the detail is applied to a base fabric.

We were going to make a small pin cushion using our chosen design which meant we needed both a back and a front that would eventually be stitched together.  Annie had brought lots of examples of her work to show us...

Annie Smith's Stumpwork examples

First, we began by tracing some design elements onto our top fabric.  We used pens that were heat or water erasable, so that the lines could be removed when required. Annie had provided plenty of designs to choose from.  I chose oak leaves and acorns.  We then hooped up double layers of fabric into our embroidery hoops.  I used a fine cotton for the top and calico for the underneath layer.  Annie showed us how to attach some wire to the fabric to outline our design and how to fill the shapes in.  My first two oak leaves were wired and then filled in with long and short stitch.  I also stitched three acorns using French knots for the acorn cup and long and short stitch for the acorn itself.  These would be cut out and applied to our overall design once they were finished...

Acorns and wired leaves in progress

Once the wired leaves were completed they were cut out very close to the stitching being careful not to cut into the stitching.  The cream edges could be colored in with a felt tip to stop them being noticeable when they were added to the design...

Acorns and wired leaves finished and ready to cut out

Next, it was necessary to stitch three more oak leaves that would form the basis of the design. The outline and leaf centre line were backstitched and then the leaf was filled in with long and short stitch like the wired leaves had been...

Oak leaves form the basis of this design

Time to add the acorns!  These were cut out with some excess fabric round the edge which was stitched round and drawn up like a Suffolk puff before stitching the acorns in place...

Oak leaves and acorns in approximate finished location

Once I had added my acorns and the two wired leaves to the design, I took inspiration from Annie's acorn pieces and added some beads and some twigs and berries using French knots and stem stitch...

Front of my pin cushion

I decorated the back of my pin cushion with different sizes of star stitch using a variegated thread...

Rear of my stumpwork pin cushion

Once the two sides were stitched together it was time to add some decorative fly stitch to the edge...

Decorated pincushion edge

Front of my stumpwork pin cushion 

Now it's all ready to add my pins! (see first image)