Textiles in Turin

The main point of my visit to Turin was to attend the Slow Food Convention (Terra Madre Salone del Gusto) – mainly an excuse to gorge on so many delicious things! However, I encountered a surprising number of textiles on my trip so thought I’d share some of them with you. 🙂

Disappearing dye

The Japanese stand at Salone del Gusto offered several workshops, including the chance to dye a T-shirt with Commelina communis, aka Asiatic dayflower.

Well, I’d never heard of this flower so of course I had to sign up!

Fumiko Fujii, the dyer running the workshop, explained that the flowers are collected and then pressed flat on to paper, which is soaked in water to extract the blue colour. However, it is not fast when washed! For this reason it is used to paint the initial designs on kimono and washed out later.

So Fumiko had added some indian ink to the dye so that it wouldn’t wash out, and I used this to draw my practice design on paper – the snail logo of the Slow Food organisation.

However, when it came to painting the design on the T-shirt, I decided to use the pure Asiatic dayflower extract – and not wash it! 🙂 I added some red highlights with dye made by soaking hibiscus flowers for three days. It was much trickier painting the T-shirt because the absorbent fabric caused the dye to spread.

But it was lovely to meet Fumiko and learn about another Japanese dye.

Egyptian dresses

The best-known textile in Turin is of course the Turin Shroud. But in the city’s wonderful Egyptian Museum are some garments that are far older and definitely authentic. These pleated linen dresses, for example, are in amazing condition for fabric that is around 4,000 years old.

There were also some great examples of Coptic weaving and embroidery from the 3rd to 11th centuries AD.

And this is the remains of a design for weavers to follow, drawn on papyrus.

I also loved the patterns created by the bandages on mummified animals.

There was some great weaving too.

And the patterns caused by some of the displays turned them into mini installations.

Fabulous felt

Finally, we made a trip out to the suburbs to the Leumann Village. Rather like Saltaire and Port Sunlight in the UK, Leumann Village was built by enlightened entrepreneur Napoleon Leumann to house workers in his cotton mill. The village included a church, a school, public baths and a railway station.

Today the factory is home to various factory shopping outlets, but there is a small museum where you can see how the workers lived.

The day we visited there was also a textile fair and exhibition, which included some fabulous sculptural felt work by Esther Weber.

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Felting workshop with Charlotte Sehmisch

Around five years ago I first came across the work of felter Charlotte Sehmisch, who makes amazing “cellular” felt structures.  But it wasn’t until last month that I managed to attend a workshop with Charlotte herself in Belgium, organised by Vrouw Wolle.

charlotte sehmisch

I wasn’t sure about the wool I had taken with me, as the materials list, which I received very late, specified “500g of merino or mountain sheep (both fleece)”. “Fleece” in this context means batting, but I didn’t have 500g of merino batting to hand, so I took some rather coarse mystery batts that I’d picked up at a stash sale. I did find time to do a quick sample square and found that it felted quite quickly, but that was all I knew about it!

charlotte sehmisch samples

Charlotte had brought both 2D and 3D samples with her – we started on the 3D pieces. You can probably guess that the layout involves multiple resists. Because I was using coarser wool, I made my resists larger than everyone else’s, so my piece was by far the largest in the room.

After laying out and felting comes the tricky cutting part – where, how far and in what direction! There were some rather nerve wracking moments, as I’d miscalculated the width of some of the “ribs”. But after firming up, shaping, and hardening with gelatine, I was quite pleased with the final result.

charlotte sehmisch workshop piece charlotte sehmisch workshop piece

This was another excellent workshop organised by Vrouw Wolle, although the weather was unseasonally hot and humid so not ideal for felting. And although I’ve previously experimented a bit by myself with cellular felting (you can read about it here and here), I learnt a lot from Charlotte.

The workshop was part of a veritable felt jamboree over the whole weekend, with several other renowned tutors including Judit Pócs, Andrea Noeske Parada and Leiko Uchiyama running other workshops. There was also an inspiring exhibition of work by students from the Felt Academy, along with an excellent textile market.

Annemie Tibos
Henny van Tussenbroek
Keetje van de Koogh
Ann Mariën
Marleen Piron
Textile market

Last week I finally had a go at making a sample starfish using the technique I learnt with Charlotte. At least, it was going to be a starfish, but I decided to make it with just three legs to test out the principle, in case it didn’t work. And then during the fulling it seemed to be more interested in developing into some kind of alien creature!

charlotte sehmisch sample piece

As you can see, there is lots of potential for experimenting with this technique! 🙂

 

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!

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.

More felting with old sweaters

Now I realise that those of you who live in parts of the world where you have to live underground for six months of the year because it gets so cold may regard the recent UK weather incident as a bit of a non-event, but we’ve been able to talk about nothing else for the past week.

Living in London, it’s rare that I get to witness the meteorological messes that get dumped on other parts of these islands. But even in the city we had six inches of snow, and now a burst water main in our street has led to our cellar (and that of our neighbour) being flooded. ESP spent the weekend lugging buckets of water out into the street, and we wait in vain to hear from Thames Water about when they might send an engineer out.

But life goes on. I’ve been doing some more felting experiments with old sweaters (though frankly I needed every layer I could get my hands on last week!).

Here’s a flat piece mounted on a small canvas.

Here’s a felt cushion.

And here’s a felt vase (with a jar of water inside). I forgot to take a photo of this before felting.

I’m planning to display these on my stand at the Contemporary Textiles Fair in Teddington in a couple of weeks. The theme of the fair this year is ecotextiles, so hopefully this will encourage people to upcycle their old sweaters (and maybe I will get some commissions 😉 ). Come and say hello if you’re planning to visit!

 

Felting workshop for beginners at KHY

I spent yesterday in the gorgeous working space of Know How You (KHY) in Beckenham, with 10 enthusiastic students who had never felted before.

I’d brought along lots of felt samples and books to show the versatility of the medium and get people inspired, highlighted in this great photo from KHY’s Instagram feed.

khy beginners workshop 5

We spent the morning working on a flat piece of felt to learn the principles of pulling wool tops, layering, wetting down and adding adornments.

khy beginners workshop 4

It was tricky to get some of the bamboo and silk fibres to stick, but persistence paid off!

khy beginners workshop 2

In the afternoon we worked with resists to make a 3D object. Most people made pots, but a couple tried their hand at a phone cover. Helped by the splendid Bakewell slices provided by Amanda, founder of KHY, time passed very quickly. Just managed to get a quick photo of the happy group!

khy beginners workshop 1

And here’s Amanda with her lovely work (also from Instagram).

khy beginners workshop 3

I’m hoping to run another workshop on felt corsages at KHY in a few weeks – watch this space for more details!

Felting with old sweaters — feltingandfiberstudio

This is a guest post I wrote for the Felting and Fibre Studio blog. There’s a lot of interesting content on the site and associated forums – worth checking out!

I’m a great recycler, as I suspect many textile lovers are. Much of my business is based on scouring charity shops and jumble sales for items that other people have discarded and transforming them back into desirable objects. Some old scarves get used for nuno felt; others are overdyed with indigo or overprinted. Recently I […]

via Felting with old sweaters — feltingandfiberstudio

Galapagos-inspired tablet cover

When we were on holiday in the Galapagos, S, one of the other passengers on the boat admired the felt tablet cover I had made for Ever Supportive Partner (ESP). So I agreed to make her one when I got back.

I was delayed working on this because of all the Christmas markets and other activities on my return, but while ESP went back to work between Christmas and new year I finally had the time and headspace to think about it.

S hadn’t expressed any preference about colours, leaving it up to me, so I thought it would be good to make a piece inspired by the Galapagos. Looking back through the hundreds(!) of photos of the trip prompted various ideas, but I finally went for the landscape around Lake Darwin, on the largest island of Isabela.

Lake Darwin is a seawater lake in the caldera of an old volcano. The surrounding lava folds and ridges are covered in incense (palo santa) trees, with ghostly silver bark (in the wet season, a few weeks after we visited, they would burst into leaf, transforming the landscape).

Other trees were covered with beautiful lichens of grey, bright orange and pale mint green.

And here is the tablet cover inspired by this scenery.

I started with two layers of orange merino (to represent the volcanic interior). Then came two layers of grey Norwegian wool, to provide robustness, then two layers of Finnish wool (blue at the bottom for water and brown at the top for the lava). I laid pieces of darker brown yarn on top of this to represent the lava folds. There is also a faint strip of yellow between the brown and the blue.

The tree is made up of two layers of prefelt (white on top of grey), plus prefelt lichen in orange and very pale green. Using prefelt also gives a more textured effect more like bark. Let’s hope S likes it!

Felting get together

Every few months my partner Woman of the Cloth, Carol, organises a felting day with a few friends where we all bring a pot luck dish for lunch and catch up with news and gossip (and occasionally manage to make a bit of felt in between!).

I used the opportunity to make myself a new phone case, as my last one was wearing through. You can see it here in the centre, along with a nuno felt case made by Carol (above).

felt phone case

Happy new year to everyone!