Felting in France

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Apologies for the long silence – I had a sudden rush of website work before I headed off to Acheres, just outside Paris, for a five-day felting workshop with Maria Friese and Ariane Mariane. Both these felters are German, living in France, and the students were mostly French, but also included one Swiss, one Belgian, one American (who had lived in Acheres for 20 years) and two Brits – Abigail Thomas of Felt meets Cloth and me.

The five days was split up into two sessions of two days and three days, and students could mix and match, working with one tutor for all the days or spending two days with one and three days with the other. I elected to stay with Maria for all five days, as her work has a really organic feel that appealed to me. As we got talking we discovered other mutual interests in origami and pitcher plants, so I think I made the right choice!

We spent the first two days making a sampler to practise techniques – attaching spikes, and using resists and prefelts to create surface designs.

Maria's sample

Maria’s sample

Maria suggested making a rectangular sample, but I opted for a circle, which was a bit challenging when it came to squeezing in as many elements as possible!

No - it's not a blue pizza, it's my sample!

No – it’s not a blue pizza, it’s my sample!

As usual, it was fascinating to see the different interpretations of the same techniques.

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The other group working with Ariane Mariane made sample pieces of jewellery in the first two days, and then we all got together to admire each other’s work and compare results.

Image copyright Ariane Mariane

Image copyright Ariane Mariane

Image copyright Ariane Mariane

Image copyright Ariane Mariane

For the next three days we worked on a project incorporating those techniques. Those of us with Maria made a vessel; those who worked with Ariane could choose to make a hat or a bag. Maria and Ariane had brought in lots of samples to inspire us!

Vessel by Maria

Vessel by Maria

Vessel by Maria

Vessel by Maria

Vessel by Maria

Vessel by Maria

Hat by Ariane, modelled by Monique (image copyright Ariane Mariane)

Hat by Ariane, modelled by Monique (image copyright Ariane Mariane)

Again, we started by making samples to calculate shrinkage, before moving on to the main piece. I got a bit obsessed by the flaps, so decided to try making a Chinese-style vessel adorned with these.

Sample to calculate shrinkage

Sample to calculate shrinkage

Work in progress

Work in progress

Finished vessel (with Maria in the background)

Finished vessel (with Maria in the background)

I also had a little time at the end to make another sample using one of the other resist techniques.

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Ours was a relatively sedate class – next door, we could hear the sound of bags and hats being thrown on the floor to help the shrinking process!

Finally, on the Friday evening, we held a small exhibition for friends, family and other visitors to come and see the fruits of our labours.

Student work

Student work

Student work

Student work

Student work

Student work

Student work

Student work

Maria's work - what we are aiming for!

Maria’s work – what we are aiming for!

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All in all, it was a fabulous five days of learning a lot from thoughtful tutors and making new friends. Highly recommended.

ESP amused himself by going into Paris every day and visiting as many museums as possible(19 plus Versailles in total!). He did so much walking that I think he must have strained a ligament in his ankle – he’s currently walking with a limp. :-(

We then headed down to the Dordogne to visit Joan, one of my sister Women of the Cloth, and her husband Anthony, who have a house there. We talked about the possibility of us running some workshops there next year – very exciting!

As the weather finally cleared up, we went back north for a couple of days in the Loire valley. We stayed in the extraordinary Chateau de Chemery, with a loom and spinning wheels in our room, and visited the stunning gardens of Villandry and  Chaumont.

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A felt planter at Chaumont!

A felt planter at Chaumont!

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Sadly, we were one day late getting home due to a faulty brake caliper, a long wait for the AA and a stupendous thunderstorm. But that doesn’t spoil a trip full of inspiration and excitement – can’t wait to get felting again!

The Point of the Needle at Hall Place

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It hasn’t been a very creative time for me over the past couple of weeks. Too busy with my day job, earning money towards my next felting workshop – five whole days with Maria Friese and Ariane Mariane just outside Paris in a couple of weeks’ time. ESP is going to wander the streets of Paris (and no doubt stuff himself in fine restaurants at lunchtime) while I enjoy some fibre fun with a group of like-minded enthusiasts. I’m really looking forward to it!

So it was a relief to escape for half a day with my sister Women of the Cloth, Carol and Joan, to go back to Hall Place in Bexley for an exhibition by the New Embroidery Group (their website is currently being redesigned).

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Contradicting its name, the group was actually established more than 40 years ago. Its president for many years was Constance Howard, famous- among other things-  for her green hair, for establishing the embroidery department at Goldsmiths College, and for producing The Country Wife textile mural for the Festival of Britain in 1951.

The Country Wife by Constance Howard

The Country Wife by Constance Howard

The exhibition in the Stables Gallery was small but beautifully hung, with lovely views onto the lavender in the gardens beyond.

I particularly liked the works by Buffy Fieldhouse, who used a mixture of paint, stitch, paper and fabric – and rusty nails! – in her pieces.

Be What You Are I by Buffy Fieldhouse

Be What You Are I by Buffy Fieldhouse

Nailed It by Buffy Fieldhouse

Nailed It by Buffy Fieldhouse

I also liked the rhythms and movement of Liz Holliday’s contours and earthworks against the regular outlines of fields.

Past Present: Maiden Castle by Liz Holliday

Past Present: Maiden Castle by Liz Holliday

Past Present: Cissbury Ring by Liz Holliday

Past Present: Cissbury Ring by Liz Holliday

And the delicacy of Kathie Small’s herringbone stitch on paper was appealing.

Neurons by Kathie Small

Neurons by Kathie Small

Afterwards we strolled around the beautiful gardens and greenhouses, where I couldn’t resist the sculptural symmetry of the gorgeous succulents.

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I also have a bit of a current obsession with pitcher plants: one of the things that fascinates me is the way the stalk curls up from underneath – how does it keep the pitcher stable when it is full of liquid?

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Another spiralling plant that I’ve never seen before.

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And some wonderful woven hanging baskets where the furry roots of the ferns seem to form part of the structure.

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The Point of the Needle runs at Hall Place until Sunday 29 June (yes, I know, I know!). It then moves to the Oxmarket Centre for the Arts in Chichester, where it runs from 8 to 20 July.

Eco printing samples part 2

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In my previous post on eco printing I wondered whether the faintness of the prints, especially on felt, was due to the fact that the steam couldn’t penetrate the felt very easily when it was rolled up.

simmer sample group

So I performed a similar experiment but this time I immersed the bundles in hot water and onion skins and simmered them for an hour. Then I left them to cool overnight and opened them up the next day.

The results were definitely better, particularly on felt.

simmer sample felt eucalyptus

Interestingly, the eucalyptus on felt (above) printed orange, no matter what the mordant, while the rose leaf and petal dipped in iron mordant (below) came out best.
simmer sample rose felt

The iron mordant also worked best for sycamore leaves on felt (below).
simmer sample sycamore felt

Oak leaves on cotton mordanted with aluminium acetate (below) gave a  lovely clear print, regardless of which mordant was used on the leaves (or even when none was used at all).

simmer sample oak cotton

Sycamore and rose leaves also printed quite well on cotton, but those dipped in the iron mordant were clearest.

simmer sample rose cotton simmer sample sycamore cotton

On silk, iron-mordanted sycamore and oak leaves did best, while eucalyptus and rose leaves were pretty similar for all mordants.

simmer sample sycamore silksimmer sample oak silksimmer sample eucalyptus silk simmer sample rose silk

Conclusion? It looks as if full immersion rather than steaming is the best way to go, unless I can get a large pressure cooker or find some other way of forcing steam through the fabric more efficiently.

Shibori rust dyeing pt 2

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To give you a break from yet another eco printing experiment, I thought I’d share another shibori rust-dyed scarf with you.

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This scarf is made of a double layer of heavier silk (it’s actually a man’s evening scarf), so I thought it would be more robust than the very lightweight silk ponge scarf that I used last time.

I bound it with rusty screws, slightly more loosely than last time. Because the silk was thicker and double layered, the rust colour didn’t spread as far or as fast as last time. By the time I had finished binding the screws on the silk ponge, the scarf was already a rusty colour all over, whereas with this scarf there were only faint traces of colour.

I was also concerned that although there would be good colour on the side of the silk that touched the screws, the other side of the scarf would be too pale.

So after binding it I put the scarf into the pot containing the onion skins left over from dyeing the eggs, heated it up and left it for a few hours. Then I removed it and left it to cool overnight.

When I untied the scarf the next day, it looked very dark at first.

rust onion scarf1

But as it dried it became paler, and there was an obvious difference between the two sides of the scarf.

After drying, ironing, soaking in bicarbonate of soda, rinsing, drying, and ironing again, this was the final result.

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You can that the presence of the iron screws darkened the colour quite significantly – it’s much less golden than the eggs were.

And the kumo shibori pattern on the side of the scarf that was in contact with the screws is paler with darker rust marks compared with the other side.

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Which side do you prefer? I’m not sure. But I have a reversible rust-dyed scarf with no holes, so that’s a result. ;-)

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Eco printing samples

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My eco printing so far has been a bit hit and miss, so I thought it was time to be a bit more systematic. From the reading I’ve done on the subject, there are so many variables – from the pH of your water to the time of year you pick the leaves or flowers – but I thought it would at least be useful to have a few reference samples to work from.

I used four different types of fabric:

  • white merino felt
  • white cotton (pre-mordanted with aluminium acetate)
  • lightweight cream silk from an old wedding sari
  • some sort of synthetic open-weave fabric from an old curtain.

Only the cotton was pre-mordanted – the other fabrics weren’t treated in any way.

Then I prepared four different mordants:

  • vinegar
  • milk
  • alum solution
  • iron solution (well, not really! I’d bought some ferrous sulphate but couldn’t find it anywhere, so I ended up shaking some rust flakes in water in the hope that the effect would be similar. Of course, rust doesn’t dissolve in water, so this was pretty pointless really).

And the vegetable matter I was testing:

  • eucalyptus leaves
  • rose leaves
  • oak leaves
  • Japanese knotweed leaves
  • onion skins.

I laid out a strip of felt and put five eucalyptus leaves on it. The first one had no mordant; the other four were each dipped in a different mordant. I then laid five rose leaves next to them, treated in the same way. I put the strip of synthetic fabric on top, and rolled the bundle around a piece of bamboo, and tied it up. This was bundle 1.

I repeated this three more times with different combinations:

  • Bundle 2: cotton and silk with eucalyptus and rose leaves
  • Bundle 3: felt and silk with oak leaves, Japanese knotweed and onion skins
  • Bundle 4: cotton and synthetic with oak leaves, Japanese knotweed and onion skins.

eco sample bundles

I colour coded them with different bits of yarn, although it was pretty obvious which was which. Then I steamed all the bundles for 1.5 hours and left them to cool overnight.

The results were mixed, to say the least.

Bundle 1 - eucalyptus and rose leaves on felt (above) and synthetic (below)

Bundle 1 – eucalyptus and rose leaves on felt (above) and synthetic (below)

Bundle 2 - eucalyptus and rose leaves on cotton (above) and silk (below)

Bundle 2 – eucalyptus and rose leaves on cotton (above) and silk (below)

Bundle 3 - oak leaves, Japanese knotweed and onion skins on felt (above) and silk (below)

Bundle 3 – oak leaves, Japanese knotweed and onion skins on felt (above) and silk (below)

Bundle 4 - oak leaves, Japanese knotweed and onion skins on cotton (above) and synthetic (below)

Bundle 4 – oak leaves, Japanese knotweed and onion skins on cotton (above) and synthetic (below)

The onion skins were by far the strongest on all fabrics except the felt, whichever mordant was used.

Onion skin with alum mordant on silk

Onion skin with alum mordant on silk

Onion skin with milk mordant on silk

Onion skin with milk mordant on silk

The cotton gave the strongest prints overall, in rather an acid yellow (presumably due to the aluminium acetate mordant).

Eucalyptus prints on cotton

Eucalyptus prints on cotton

Japanese knotweed and onion skins on cotton

Japanese knotweed and onion skins on cotton

Onion skin with milk mordant on cotton

Onion skin with milk mordant on cotton

Rose leaves with no mordant and vinegar on cotton

Rose leaves with no mordant and vinegar on cotton

I was most disappointed with the felt – the best prints were the eucalyptus and the Japanese knotweed, but they were very faint.

Eucalyptus on felt

Eucalyptus on felt

Japanese knotweed on felt

Japanese knotweed on felt

Very little printed on the synthetic fabric at all, as far as I could see.

Why were these prints so faint? I’ve seen amazing prints produced by textile artists like Irit Dulman, especially on felt. I wondered whether steam alone can penetrate right into the bundle of felt, which is fairly thick. So I did another experiment where I submerged the bundles in a pot of onion skin dye – this will be the subject of a future post! :-)

In the meantime, to try to darken the prints, I put all the samples above into a post-mordant of ferrous sulphate.

The iron worked wonders on the silk. It really brought out the Japanese knotweed prints, turning them a dark khaki. And the eucalyptus and rose leaves became much more distinct.

Silk eco print with iron post-mordant

Silk eco print with iron post-mordant

Silk eco print with iron post-mordant

Silk eco print with iron post-mordant

The prints on the cotton that were previously strong yellow turned much darker, and two of the oak leaf prints that were previously very faint came to the fore beautifully.

Cotton eco print with iron post-mordant

Cotton eco print with iron post-mordant

Cotton eco print with iron post-mordant

Cotton eco print with iron post-mordant

Even on the synthetic fabric the prints were now faintly visible, whereas before they were practically non-existent.

Synthetic eco print with iron post-mordant

Synthetic eco print with iron post-mordant

Synthetic eco print with iron post-mordant

Synthetic eco print with iron post-mordant

The felt remained disappointing, however.

Felt eco print with iron post-mordant

Felt eco print with iron post-mordant

So maybe if I’d used a proper ferrous sulphate mordant on the leaves before steaming, the results would have been different – who knows?

 

 

 

Marbling paper workshop

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A lovely new gift shop, Turpentine, has just opened up in Brixton, and also runs workshops. They advertised one for yesterday on marbled paper, and as I am an enormous fan of the gorgeous Falkiner papers, I couldn’t resist the chance to have a go myself.

marbling workshop

The space is quite small, but they managed to get 12 people, plus a demo table and drying racks in there. I thought they were very brave to have people doing quite a messy activity just a couple of feet from the shelves holding their wares! Hence no photos of the process, as there was very little room to put anything down, let alone take photos. :-) But this was their first workshop, and they said afterwards that they realised they had been a bit ambitious with the numbers!

We each had a large plastic tray filled with the size, made with carrageen, or Irish moss. Because it is quite thick, it helps prevent the paint sinking to the bottom.

On top of the size we dropped blobs of acrylic paint mixed with water and washing up liquid, and then “combed” the surface with an implement improvised from cardboard and toothpicks, or swirled it with a paintbrush.

The paper had been treated with alum on one side to help the paint stick to the paper (like a mordant on fabric, I guess). We placed this side on top of the paint, pulled it off, washed off excess size, then hung it to dry. After making a huge mess, we left owners Jude, Amber and Alice to clear up and iron our dried paper before picking it up today! :-)

Although the colours looked quite dark on the size, quite a lot got lost when we washed the paper, and it’s even lighter when it’s dry. Between each piece we tried to scrape remaining paint off the size with a piece of cardboard before applying more paint. But inevitably some gets left, and after three or four pieces it’s tricky to judge exactly how much paint is on the surface. It’s a bit of an art to get the right ratio of paint to water, too.

But the results were endlessly fascinating – and addictive, as we each tried to squeeze in just one more piece before the end of the workshop!

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I was wondering whether this would work on fabric, given that it’s floppier, but discovered there are lots of sites giving advice on marbling fabric – there are some links here.

Something else to be added to my ever-expanding list of things to try! :-)

Eco printing on eggs

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A quick Friday afternoon project, following the instructions in India Flint’s book Eco Colour. She says it’s a Latvian tradition, but my friend Magdalen says they do it in Ireland as well.

I pressed some small leaves against the shell, then wrapped the egg in onion skins and put it in an old popsock. Put the eggs in a pan with water and more onion skins, and boil for 10 minutes. Let it cool, then unwrap the eggs – voilà!

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Tuna niçoise for supper tonight. ;-)