Summer school report

The full summer school ran for five days, but I could only attend three, as I had to get back to London to pack up my Morley exhibition on Friday morning. So it was pretty intensive, and I ended up stitching frantically at my godmother’s house in the evenings as well!

The first day we made up the vat in the greenhouse and then returned to the studio, where we were introduced to the infamous Cally knot, which is very quick to do and a great way to avoid your thread slipping through the fabric when you pull up! We worked on binding, using mung beans and bits of tubing, and stitching. Cally’s stencils came in very handy here. As I’ve previously stitched circles, I had a go at the chain pattern.

We didn’t actually start dipping until the second day. Cally leaves pieces to oxidise much longer between dips than I have been used to – ideally until they dry out completely, or at least for several hours, turning them regularly. However, in a workshop this is clearly not possible, so we usually left them for 15-30 minutes, or overnight. Then after several dips, she leaves the work to dry completely before washing out. Then it dries again before you untie or unbind. Of course, it can be frustrating when you just want to see the final results, but she says that this process makes the indigo more fast and gives a better depth and evenness of colour.

On the second day we moved onto itajime and I also wrapped a stitched piece I’d done on an arashi pole. So it wasn’t until the third day that we started actually seeing the results of our labours. It was a real shame I had to leave early, as I felt I was just getting into my stride – but I certainly left buzzing with ideas for combining different techniques and fabrics!

It also meant that my godmother never got to see any of the finished pieces, as I returned to London directly after the course on Thursday! So Maria – this post is specially for you. 🙂

This is my attempt at a stitched chain pattern – not a patch on the beautiful version that Cally had on display (see last post).

I also made a piece by stitching straight lines, pulling up, then wrapping it around an arashi pole:


On the third day I experimented with pleating the fabric before wrapping it on the arashi pole. The results from this were probably my favourites, and this is something I want to explore further at home, possibly in combination with stitching. However, I will need a deeper vat!

As the day went on, the washing line gradually filled with more and more interesting pieces – here are some lovely stitched pieces by Isabelle (centre) and Marilyn (right), and a clamped piece by Jennifer (left) that she described as “a kitchen floor”!

And a great piece by Marilyn (below) combining itajime and stitch on silk muslin:

Marilyn makes wedding dresses for her day job and brought with her a whole box of silk offcuts. Some of these were in different colours, and it was very interesting to see how the indigo dyed these. By using different resists, such as plastic, and dipping into the different strength vats, she achieved some interesting effects. You can see a piece of fuschia silk that she dyed using binding and stitch in the photo below:

I also have to mention the food, which was plentiful and tasty, especially the afternoon cakes. And of course, it was served on a shibori tablecloth – even the plates fit the colour scheme!

Finally – my godmother’s front garden. It’s not blue and white, but it does contain some beautiful forms and colour combinations!

Jane Callender

Phew! Back in London after an intensive three days in Norfolk with Jane Callender (“Cally”) at her shibori summer school. I couldn’t get a phone signal at her house, and even at my godmother’s there was no Wi-Fi or 3G – only ve-e-e-r-y slow 2G, so I’m afraid I couldn’t post any progress reports on location.

There were four of us on the course. Two – Isabelle from Berlin and local Norfolk resident Jennifer – had never done any shibori. By contrast, Marilyn from Warwick had been to the summer school twice before.

Cally specialises in stitched shibori, and there were plenty inspiring examples of her work hanging around her studio – some of them are below. You can also see some in her gallery. The previous weekend she had taken part in the Harleston and Waveney Art Trail, so it was a very busy time for her!

As well as explaining the history of indigo and the different techniques, Cally was very good at emphasising the importance of planning the design. She says that the difference between the hippie reputation of tie dye and the modern practice of shibori is in the placing and planning of the design. She has also made this much easier by producing stencils in various forms to simplify the planning stage!

Because Cally does a lot of stitch resist shibori, she prefers to use a darker vat so that the patterns are crisper and you get a range of mid blues when the fabric is pulled up. I found that this also works well for arashi, especially when pleats are involved (more of this in a later post). However, we had three vats of different concentrations to choose from if we wanted some paler shades of blue.

Cally also works with other natural dyes, such as iron rust, but we didn’t really have time to experiment with these while I was there.

Next post I’ll talk about some of the work that we did ourselves during the summer school.

Shibori summer school

After an intensive couple of weeks focusing on felting for the Morley exhibition, I’m returning to my other love – shibori. I’m heading off to Norfolk for a few days to do a shibori summer school with Jane Callender of Callishibori, which I’m very excited about.

Handily, Cally lives in Norfolk not far from my godmother and god- daughter, so I will also have the opportunity to catch up with them. I’m taking camera and laptop, but not sure about Wi-Fi access (or energy after long workshop days) – so you may have to rely on Twitter for more regular updates.