Basketry puzzle ball

I’ve always been intrigued by puzzle balls. There used to be one on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum, but I think it’s currently in storage. These days the use of ivory is quite rightly frowned on, but I still have to admire the skill required to carve one ball inside another.

I’ve previously tried making puzzle balls out of net, but it wasn’t really firm enough. So on the random weave basketry course with Polly Pollock, I had the idea to make one out of paper yarn.

I started with the innermost ball, and then put that inside another mould and wove another ball around that.

Then I repeated the process, so I had three balls in total.

Some of the ivory puzzle balls had as many as 20 balls, but as I wasn’t sure how this would work I thought that three would do to start with. 😉

Removing the moulds from the outer layers was reasonably straightforward, but it was tricky getting – and keeping – the holes in the balls lined up to get the mould out of the innermost ball. However, with a bit of persistence and a pair of needle nose pliers I finally managed it.

I was really pleased that the principle worked! However, there were a few problems, which I will work on next time.

  • On the middle layer I used a red Sharpie pen to mark where the holes should be. But the red rubbed off on the paper yarn, as you can see in some of the pictures. So on the outermost layer I just used masking tape to mark the position of the holes. But this wasn’t very exact, and some of the holes were too large and the size was inconsistent. I think I shall use some sticky labels cut to shape next time.
  • The outer balls are too large – I need to make the outer moulds smaller so that the balls nest inside each other more snugly.

Onward and upward!

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Loewe Craft Prize 2018

The exhibition by 30 artists shortlisted for the Loewe Craft Prize 2018 includes some great textile pieces. Some of the work I have seen before at the Craft Council’s Collect shows in the past couple of years, but it’s no hardship seeing them again.

My favourite is Simone Pheulpin’s ‘Croissance XL’ (XL Growth), which looks from the distance like a cracked geological sample.

Up close you can see that it’s actually made up of densely pleated strips of cotton – quite amazing.

In a similar vein, Scalaria Bifurca by Mercedes Vicente is a coiled shell-like structure made of canvas spirals.

And on a smaller scale, Rita Soto’s banded horsehair brooches twist sinuously, like distorted snails.

Richard McVetis’s 60 stitched felt cubes represent the passing of time, as he stitched one cube every hour.

Yeonsoon Chang’s  three panels of indigo-dyed abaca fabric (dipped more than 30 times) doesn’t look much in the photograph, but gazing on the fabric is quite a meditative Zen-like experience.

ARKO, a self-described “straw artist”, weaves and stitches rice straw into beautiful undulating forms, bringing together traditional techniques and contemporary life.

I also liked the shingled room divider, made from three different types of wood by Wycliffe Stutchbury – light on one side and dark on the other.

Ashley YK Yeo’s hand cut paper cube is delicately exquisite, beautifully lit to enhance the shadows.

And Sam Tho Duong’s jewellery, made from gold-plated silver and freshwater pearls, seems to glow from within.

Finally, a special mention to Steffen Dam, whose cabinet of glass curiosities call to mind the glass sea creatures made by Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka.

The Loewe Craft Prize exhibition runs at the Design Museum in London until 17 June 2018.

More on random weaving basketry

Sadly, the short course on random weaving basketry with Polly Pollock that I started four weeks ago at City Lit has come to an end. I loved every minute and think I’ve found a new obsession.

After the first basket made with cane, we moved on to working with paper yarn. Here are some samples made by Polly to inspire us.

First we dyed some of the yarn using Rit liquid dyes, which were new to me but are pretty simple to use – just add to water and vinegar, put in the yarn and leave until you’re happy with the colour, rinse and dry.

As before, we made a mould with rice, clingfilm and sticky tape, and created a base layer with some thicker paper yarn. Then we used the thinner dyed yarn to weave into the base layer, using soumak stitch – essentially looping it round a base strand – going in random directions.

You can build this up in the same or different colours. Here’s my piece in progress.

And here’s the finished piece. I didn’t leave the yarn in the Rit dye long enough to get a really dark blue, so I dyed some in indigo. 🙂

indigo paper vessel

I also started on a more ambitious piece but didn’t manage to finish it. Here’s a sneak preview of the beginning – watch this space for a progress report!

At the end of the class we had a display of all the work created over the four weeks – there were some really lovely pieces in paper, cane and wire, as well as some wrapped glass.

 

Corsage workshop and felt swap

Yesterday I ran my second felt workshop at the lovely venue of Know How You in Beckenham. This time we were making felt corsages. Two of the participants had attended my first workshop for beginners at the same venue, so that was an encouraging sign that I was doing something right!

felt corsage workshop

It was a lovely group, very enthusiastic and creative. After choosing their colours, everyone set to work making a spike and laying out three layers of colour before felting them all together.

Then came the decision about cutting – how many petals and how many edges to finish?

corsage workshop corsage workshop corsage workshop

The end result: a very impressive array of exotic felt blooms!

felt corsages

Special mention must go to Amanda’s lemon drizzle and poppyseed cake – it certainly helped the afternoon go with a swing!

Last week was also the deadline for the latest felt swap. The theme this time was “connections”, and my partner was Agnes van der Tier in the Netherlands.

Agnes made me a very clever bracelet, with intertwined cords and pretty hand stitching in lovely shades of blue.

felt bracelet

For Agnes I enclosed three small slate paddlestones with felt and joined them together.

Agnes said that her house has a slate roof so it fits in well!

Hand dyed ribbons

A friend of mine, Ruth Eaton, who designs beautiful contemporary embroidery, had an idea a couple of months ago about producing naturally dyed ribbons.

So we looked at what was available online, and I ordered some silk to start doing some samples.

These three were dyed with, left to right, avocado, nettles and dried hibiscus flowers, with an alum mordant.

ribbons natural dyes

With the avocado and hibiscus I strained the dye to remove the vegetation before adding the ribbon, but I left the nettles in with the ribbon, which left interesting mottled marks on the silk.

ribbons nettle dye

During my research I noticed that although there are quite a few people already selling naturally dyed ribbons, there are not many selling indigo shibori ribbons.

Always preferring the path less trod, I tried some marbled indigo and arashi indigo designs. 🙂

marbled indigo ribbon arashi indigo ribbon

These are now available in my Etsy shop. Thanks Ruth!

indigo marbled ribbon

indigo arashi ribbon

 

Random weave basketry with Polly Pollock

After the talk I went to on Japanese baskets I became interested in what I now know is called the random style of weaving. So I jumped at the chance to attend a short course on random weave basketry with Polly Pollock at City Lit.

The course runs for one evening a week over four weeks, so it’s a fairly speedy canter. But Polly provides good handouts of techniques, plus sources of suppliers and further sources of inspiration.

We started by making a cane basket – Polly brought some samples to show us what we were aiming for.

polly pollock cane samples

First we made moulds around which the pieces are woven. Obviously they need to be removable once the weaving is finished! We made ours by putting rice into thin plastic bags, moulding them with clingfilm and then firming up with sellotape. The mould needs to be very solid to keep the weave firm.

mould for random weave basket

Then it was on to the weaving. The cane was soaked in hot water for a couple of minutes to make it flexible, and we had to keep it moist with a damp sponge while working with it.

We marked the opening on the sellotape to remind us not to weave over it. Then we started on the first layer, keeping it in place with bits of masking tape, which were peeled off later.

random weave first layer

Polly explained the importance of interlocking triangles to ensure that the piece didn’t unravel when we removed the mould. Reassuringly, she said that this had never happened yet in her class!

We didn’t manage to finish the pieces in class, so we took them home and then brought them back the following week to remove the moulds.

This was done by jabbing a metal fid (you can also use a potato peeler or scissors) through the plastic to create a hole through which we poured out the rice. Then we cut up the plastic with scissors and pulled it out with tweezers.

removing mould

And here’s my first finished piece.

cane random weave

Because we finally had nice weather at the weekend we did a lot of work in the garden. We trimmed back a lot of ivy, so I decided to try making another piece using the ivy stems – waste not want not! 🙂

I had more difficulty removing the mould from this one, as I didn’t leave an opening. But with persistence and some nifty tweezer work I finally succeeded!

Here’s the result:

ivy random weave ivy random weave

You can see from the photos that bend at angles rather than curving smoothly – maybe I should have soaked the stems first to try to increase flexibility. But I like the irregularity of the different thicknesses of the stems.

Felt corsage workshop at KHY in Beckenham

After the success of my last felting workshop for beginners at Know How You in Beckenham, I’m delighted to be returning there to run a workshop on felt corsages on 29 April.

This is a perfect opportunity to get in the mood for the new Frida Kahlo exhibition opening at the Victoria and Albert Museum in June!

After choosing from a wonderful range of coloured fleece you will learn how to create layers of felt using a plastic resist. You will also learn how to make a felt spike or a felt ball and attach it to other layers of fibre. You will then felt, shrink and shape the flower before cutting the petals and finishing the edges.

No experience is required for this workshop. If you have previous felting experience you may have time to make more than one corsage.

 All materials are provided, including one brooch back per person. If you  make more than one corsage you can buy extra brooch backs. Please bring an old towel and a plastic bag to take your work home with you.

The workshop is on Sunday 29 April, 10am-4pm and costs £55. You can bring your own lunch or there is a cafe in the building. You can book here or call 020 3326 1160.

New Flextiles website

Since the start of this year I’ve been taking part in the Dream Plan Do scheme run by the Design Trust to help give my business a bit of a boost.

And it’s been a real help, by making me think more strategically, setting goals, and teaming me up with a local accountability partner, Becky Bird. Becky designs some very funky prints, stationery and textiles, and we meet up once a month with emails in between to listen and give feedback on our ideas and progress, as well as giving the occasional dig in the ribs to encourage each other to get on with things. 🙂

As part of this process I decided I needed a new website – and here it is!

The idea is to showcase more clearly what I do, so I hope it does that. Undoubtedly it will develop and change as my business develops – but I would be very happy to get any feedback from you on whether the message is clear and what you think could be improved!

You will notice that this blog has been incorporated into the site just as it is – I’m not intending to change it for the time being. So I will still be posting on various textile-related topics, from arashi shibori to Zoroastrian trouser panels, and if you’ve signed up to receive updates they will still come into your inbox – you can choose to unfollow at any time.

Thank you for putting up with the trumpet blowing – normal service will now resume. 🙂