Thursday, 9 May 2013

Research Point - Why Do Craft-Produced Textiles Maintain a Place In Our Society

I love to crochet.  I taught myself, from a book, when I was about 11 and, at the age of 17, I made my first granny square blanket and have made lots of them since then.  My eldest daughter (late 30’s) does not like them at all - won’t even have the brightly coloured cot or pram versions - she thinks they are old fashioned and “granny-ish”; but my younger daughter (early 20’s) can’t get enough of them.  When she recently moved into her first home, she requested a turquoise/brown/cream retro style one for her sofa and then a purple/red/cream one for her bed.  Having just had a baby, she is now on the receiving end of pram/cot/mini versions and she loves them all.  She doesn’t think they are “grannyish”; just retro, funky, fashionable and unique.

I crochet because it is very relaxing.  It also grows very quickly and is very portable.  If the project is granny squares then it is the perfect project for the long winter evenings – because you can snuggle up under the developing blanket whilst you are crocheting it – FAB!

The interest in crochet is definitely on the increase and it does seem to be quite fashionable at the moment - although this could probably be because of the popularity of vintage/retro designs.  In the current economic climate our spending has been squeezed to be almost non-existent, so people are turning to do-it-yourself and taking up traditional crafts to create unique items for themselves and their homes. 

In recent years crochet has been seen on the catwalks of Missoni, Paul Smith, Kenzo and Dolce & Gabbana, to name but a few and looking on the internet produces a vast array of crochet items for sale, or patterns to buy, or free patterns to make your own in any possible choice you could wish for; but really, unless you are at the top of the market - with a Dolce & Gabbana crochet handbag retailing for around $2900! - the intense work involved in producing a crochet item (and the cost of the yarn) doesn’t make it very profitable.  The best idea probably is to write a book.

I think there will always be a place in the market for hand crafted products of any description.  People will always want individual, unique items – whether clothing or items for the home – and certainly hand-made for babies cannot be bettered.  For my grandson I make all kinds of cardigans (both knitted and crocheted) – that aren't found in the shops – little granddad cardi’s with shawl collars and vintage leather buttons.  I don’t think they would be particularly profitable, but I am convinced there would be a market for them. 

I think in this day and age of instant, disposable excess the need to get back to a much simpler past appeals to a lot of people.

Assignment 3 - Reflective Commentary

It is again time to reflective on my progress so far.  I have enjoyed working on this assignment, but once again life seems to encroach on my time and it has taken me far longer than I anticipated.

I have worked on samples using techniques that I have never tried before - smoking and furrowing.  I preferred doing the smoking on the check fabric so that I didn't have to mark the grid on the reverse of the fabric.  

I have decided that I am not a very neat person, but am definitely a colour and texture person.  I love creating texture and colour - with layers of sheer fabric and with lots of stitching.  I think the running stitch background on both of the final sample pieces has worked really well.  This is something I will be using again.

I have found drawing in a sketchbook very difficult this time and I am really going to have to concentrate on doing more drawing for the next assignment.  

I am really looking forward to starting Project 7.  It has been difficult to settle on a final topic, but I think now that I have decided to use my garden as inspiration.

Project 7


This has been going around in my head for a long time now.  I have had lots of ideas - but didn't seem to be able to decide what to choose.  I had a look back through some old exam papers at night-school and noted down any starting point ideas that appealed to me.

I sat down and wrote down everything in my life and did a brain-storm with ideas - but I just kept coming back to the idea of my garden.  I live in a beautiful rural part of mid-Wales and my garden is not necessarily full of flowers but it is full of inspiration, so I have chosen that as subject for my theme book.

I have recently purchased two book by Frances Pickering and found her work very inspirational.  I am going to experiment with some of her techniques and see where it leads.

Lots and lots of inspiration - through the seasons - shapes - seed heads - textures - forms - colours - line - endless ideas - can't wait to get started.

I also created a Pinterest Board to collect ideas for Assignment 5.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Research Point - Gillian Bates

My tutor suggested I look at the work of Gillian Bates and I'm glad I did.

Gillian is a textile artist based in Eastbourne, East Sussex.  She takes her inspiration from the surrounding seaside towns (the residents and architecture), holiday advertising, old postcodes and vintage footage of seaside holidays - producing quirky images of bandstands, helter-skelter, beach huts, 99's, carousels and deck-chairs.  

She produces lovely, nostalgic textile images; very intricate black machine embroidered glimpses of everyday seaside life - highlighted with bright coloured pieces of fabric.  On a background of plain cotton drill, she draws her images, freehand with needle and thread, creating pops of colour with fabric - a mix of recycled, vintage and new - to create beautiful art canvases.

I really like these textiles pictures.  They look fairly simple, but when you examine them closely they are really quite detailed.  I love the sudden pops of colour.

Link to website:

Research Point - Alice Kettle

I saw on Facebook that the UK textile artist Alice Kettle was looking for members of the public to help her with a new installation.  After emailing her, I received a pack of materials and instructions through the post – very exciting!

Alice explained that she was making 3 installations for the Queens House, National Maritime Museum - due to be installed during the second week in March 2013.  
  1. A portrait of Queen Henrietta Maria
  2. Garden of England flower installation which takes floral motifs from the clothing in the portraits of Queens and courtiers
  3. A hanging approx 10m high in the centre of the Tulip stairs, using the lace work from the collars and cuffs of the lacework in the displayed portraits
The Tulip staircase installation was the one she was asking for help with, the others she was creating herself.  The installation uses the starting point of the tulip motif echoed in the metal banister which is a cross between a tulip and a fleur-de-lys.  Also the motif of Queen Anne’s lace; which is a lacework based on the flower (which is like cow parsley).  Alice explained that she needed lots of flowers to make a floating cascade in the centre of the tulip stairs.

Instructions on what to make:
  • Use your initiative and be as creative and inventive as possible
  • As the work is so big I can use everything and anything
  • Stick carefully to a design or
  • Develop and elaborate 
The only things to bear in mind are:
  • The main references as described
  • Lace is the starting point, light airy and open, no cloth
  • Don’t use too much wire as I am concerned with the overall weight
  • The whole work must be white, can include little bits of black and silver
  • No wool or silk to be used

Alice said that she was basing the installation on the collars, and by asking for flowers and shape contributions from everyone, she could connect and make everything into a huge piece.  She intended to make the structure to which all your parts/flowers/motifs will be attached.

She enclosed pictures of how they made the lace collars. These had wire shapes which then had fabric or needle lace worked around them.

This was fairly open and included any or all of the following:
  • Use the wire to make individual flowers which can then be worked into with needle lace.  The fleur-de-lys will echo the banisters and the other flowers are like cow parsley
  • Use the design drawings attached to copy, or draw your own -  each flower head up to 6cm across or smaller
  • As above but make something that combines floral motifs from the various enclosed references of motifs into a bigger combined shapes - develop and let this grow 
  • Use the design drawings attached to copy, or draw your own each flower head not more than 6cm across
  • Either draw it out or just let it grow organically
  • If you don’t want to use wire, just make some floral motifs in threads - size as above.
I had never done needle-lace before, so had to Google the instructions.  I found it quite fiddly, and mine wasn't very neat, but as Alice had said that anything goes I thought it would probably be OK.  I only made as many pieces as I had wire for – which was 5 and then I made loom flowers with the rest of the yarn. These were very simple but I think they turned out very well.  It was a bit boring doing the same thing over and over again but having seen the finished piece it was worth it.

This was a very enjoyable project to work and gave me a small insight into the work of a professional textile artist.  I looked at the installation of the internet and it looks brilliant.  It is a massive installation and to think it is made up of very small parts – all posted to Alice from all over the country – I think I can see some of my flowers in there!

Art Class Wednesday #3

I decided to try some collograph printing at nightschool.  I tried four different plates to see what would work best.

This one is just strips of thin card from a biscuit wrapper with some scraps of thread that I found on the table and some wool stretched across.

Next I tried just slicing a layer off the cardboard base and peeling back some of the top so that the corrugated piece showed through.  Then I stabbed holes with a pencil.

I found a piece of crochet and used that as another plate.

And finally I used pieces of fabric and a selvedge I found in the scrap box and some crumpled tissue paper.

All the pieces were glued to the card board plate and then sealed with a 50:50 mix of pva and water.  When they were dry I inked up the plate by covering my finger in fabric and dipping it into the printing ink and rubbing it over the plate.  I had dampened the paper in a bowl of water and I layered up the printing blanket, scrap paper, inked plate, dampened paper and another layer of blanket and rolled it all through the printing press.  I also tried printing onto fabric.

The results were pretty mixed, but as an experiment it was very informative. Some of the materials used were more successful than others.  The selvedge with the row or stitching worked really well, so did the little piece of sequinned fabric, the lines gouged with pen lid, the fancy square fabric and the heavy net.  The crumpled tissue paper and the woven plastic were not as successful and were very dependent on the correct amount of ink to produce any kind of successful image.

The crochet doilly was too thick really.  I wasn't very pleased with the image printed from this plate.

The plain cardboard was ok - a bit boring - didn't have a lot of variety.

The plate made with the scrap thread though produced a lovely print, and the net behind was also successful.

If I try this again I hope I will be able to make a more informed choice of base materials to create the plate from.

I also tried rubbings from the plates.  I used a fabric crayon onto poly-cotton.  Again this produced some interesting results.  Definitely worth considering for future projects.