Tuesday 24 January 2017

Here and Now - National Centre for Craft & Design, Sleaford

Red Scenery - Misao Watanabe - Japan

Recently I took a trip to the National Centre for Craft & Design (NCCD) in Sleaford (which, btw, is in Lincolnshire) to see Here and Now, an international exhibition of contemporary tapestry.  There were some amazing pieces.  Here's a whistlestop tour round some of my favourites.

Fabulous landscapes...

Deep Forest with Old Green Band - Sara Brennan - UK
Hallaig 2 - Joan Baxter - UK

Great variety... 

Diary of 52 - Using every last thread of time - Jilly Edwards - UK

Unusual construction...

Let's Pretend (detail) - Saori Sakai - Japan
Tide (detail) - Fiona Hutchison - UK

Fantastic rich colours and texture...

A Visitor from the Future (whole piece + details)- Ieva Krumina - Latvia

Sci-fi in tapestry...
New Territory - Kristin Saeterdal - Norway

Here and Now has finished at the NCCD but some of the tapestries will be in Birmingham later this year and all are going to Bath in the summer.  Check out the touring programme here.

NCCD, Sleaford

The NCCD is definitely worth a visit, if you're in the area, and it's not too far off the A1.  It has more than one exhibition space so there's usually plenty to see.  (Click here for what's on at the moment.)  It's free to go round, has a lovely shop selling contemporary crafts and cards plus a fab cafe.  There is plenty of car parking nearby.  I was in a bit of a rush so I didn't have time to look round Sleaford itself but I will be going back so, next time.... 

Tuesday 17 January 2017

Avocado Dyeing

Avocado peel & seeds

I recently tried dyeing some calico using the waste from my current addiction to avocado on toast.  I saved the skin and seeds (pits) of the avocados I had eaten for a few days in a plastic bag.  When I had about 4 avocados worth I put them in a stainless steel pan, covered them with water & brought it all to the boil.

Washed, undyed calico

Once the mixture had been simmering for a while I added some undyed calico that I had washed.  The calico had been washed to remove any fabric treatment that might prevent the dye from being absorbed.

Calico added to the mix and left to simmer

The damp calico was added to the mix and simmered for a couple of hours.  Afterwards I washed the calico in soapy water to remove any yucky bits of avocado stuck to the fabric and left it to dry naturally.

Damp avocado dyed fabric

Once dry the fabric had turned a very pale shade of pink/brown.

Dyed fabric above, undyed fabric below

I have to admit I had hoped to get a stronger colour.  Next time I could use more avocado pits and skin and less fabric to make a more concentrated solution.  Also I could soak the fabric overnight or machine wash it to make extra sure there is no fabric treatment left on the undyed fabric.  Another top tip I read about is that coating the fabric in soya milk aids dye absorption.  You can read about how to do that here on Rebecca Desnos's Made in Home blog.  An aluminium pan might also give a different result.

If you eat lots of avocados you could have a go yourself.  Let me know how you get on.

Thursday 12 January 2017

Battle of Stamford Bridge Tapestry

First Story Panel from the Battle of Stamford Bridge Tapestry

The Battle of Stamford Bridge was one of the three battles that took place in 1066 that were key in determining Britain's history as we know it.  The others were the Battle of Fulford and the more famous Battle of Hastings.  The Battle of Fulford is commemorated in a tapestry, finished in 2012 and you can read about that here.  The Battle of Hastings is immortalised in the Bayeux Tapestry and now the Battle of Stamford Bridge Tapestry is underway.  It is hoped that the Battle of Stamford Bridge Tapestry will become a national heirloom for Britain in the same way that the Bayeux tapestry is for France.  Heather Cawte came along to the City of York Embroiderers' Guild to tell us all about it.

Second Story Panel from the Battle of Stamford Bridge Tapestry

Quick history lesson - the Battle of Fulford was followed by the Battle of Stamford Bridge & then the Battle of Hastings which resulted in the end of Anglo-Saxon rule in England and William the Conqueror becoming the first Norman King of England.  Harald Hardrada, Viking King of Norway was the victor in the Battle of Fulford. He was later defeated and killed at the Battle of Stamford Bridge by Harold Godwinson, who was the Saxon King of England at the time.  It was a great battle.  The Vikings who came from Norway in 300 ships returned in only 24.  After a long march south, Harold Godwinson was defeated at the Battle of Hastings by William the Conqueror, from France.  Had Harold not had to march north for the battle at Stamford Bridge and then south shortly after he may have been victorious at the Battle of Hastings and British history would be very different.
Unfinished panel from the Battle of Stamford Bridge Tapestry

Like the Bayeux & Fulford Tapestries, the Stamford Bridge Tapestry is in fact an embroidery, stitched in wool on linen.  The design for each panel has been done by Chris Rock, Chairman of the Battle of Stamford Bridge Heritage Society.  Using a lightbox and an ordinary pen, the design is transferred onto calico.  The linen and calico backing are then stretched onto a wooden frame and the outline of the design is stitched through to the linen using ordinary sewing thread.  This allows the design to be transferred to the linen without marking the front of the linen.

Reverse side of the above panel

All figures are then outlined in wool in one colour in stem stitch or outline stitch and filled in with Bayeux stitch in a different colour. Only 9 colours of wool are used as well as red (for banners), grey (for chain mail) and purple (for the king).  The wool used is Appletons Crewel Wool and the colours are matched to those used in the Bayeux tapestry.

Panel from the Battle of Stamford Bridge Tapestry

There will be 15 panels in the finished tapestry and Heather thought it might take a couple more years to finish.  Work began in 2015 and the volunteer stitchers are being led by Shirley Smith, textile artist, Minster Broderer & City of York Embroiderers' Guild Co-chair.

Items for sale

Fundraising is also part of the project.  The linen alone, is £100 per metre.  You can purchase items to support the project here.

The tapestry is a tremendous undertaking and it was very interesting to hear all about the background & history and to see the panels at different stages of completion.  Thanks to Heather and the other volunteer stitchers who came along to let us see their work!