Textiles Fair at American Museum in Bath

Last week was a blue fingernail week as I charged up the indigo vat to make some new stock for the Textiles Fair at the American Museum in Britain, which is on Saturday 19 August in Bath.

I do wear gloves when dyeing with indigo and when rinsing the work, but it’s impossible to remove stitches and bindings when wearing gloves, so I always end up with blue hands! The indigo washes off my skin fairly easily, but my fingernails remain blue for a couple of days.

Removing the stitches from this machine stitched shibori jacket was particularly time consuming. The main threads rip out very easily, but then I’m left with lots of tiny bits of thread that have to be picked out with tweezers! Still, I think the result was worth it.

machine shibori jacket

At least this ombre dyed linen cutwork dress didn’t need unstitching. The issue here was trying to match the ombre dye on the separate silk slip that goes underneath to retain modesty. 🙂

ombre linen cutwork dress

In fact I have a bit of an ombre thing going on at the moment.

And of course there are always scarves to overdye.

indigo shibori scarves

And more blue fingernails from unstitching these silk cushion covers.

ori nui cushion covers

The Textiles Fair is on Saturday 19 August, 11am-5pm, at the American Museum in Britain, Claverton Manor, Bath BA2 7BD. Entry requires a garden ticket (£7 for adults, £5.50 for over-60s).

And if you’re around East Sussex this weekend, some friends of mine are taking part in an exhibition at Marchants Hardy Plants – so you can stock up on some fabulous perennials and ornamental grasses as well as seeing some lovely textiles!

Expect fabulous felt from Carol Grantham, elegant embroidery from Lucy Goffin and Barbara Kennington, superb stitched portraits from Chrissie Messenger, and more!

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SLWA My Place exhibition

I’m very excited to be taking part in the My Place exhibition organised by the South London Women Artists. The work of 30 artists will be on show, each exploring their sense of place and belonging.

My piece combines ombre-dyed cotton scrim and felt, because my place – where I feel most at home – is by the indigo vat.

ombre dyed felt

The colour indigo is traditionally thought to stimulate right brain or creative activity, but for me it is more of a meditative experience, disrupting the coppery sheen of the surface as I dip the fabric, and watching the magical alchemy as it turns from green to blue before my eyes. The white clouds in the sky above are mirrored by the clumps of foam, or indigo “flower”, floating on the surface of the vat.

My Place runs from 7 to 12 July at Brixton East 1871, 100 Barrington Road, London SW9 7JF, 11am-6pm daily.

The private view is on Friday 7 July, 6-9pm – everyone welcome!

Inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe

There’s a wonderful exhibition of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work at Tate Modern at the moment. She is best known for her flower paintings, which are indeed wonderful – you can almost feel the blossoms unfurling before your eyes, the strong lines offset by gorgeously subtle colour gradations.

Georgia O'Keeffe, Jimson Weed No 1, 1932
Jimson Weed No 1, 1932

(Interestingly, O’Keeffe always denied the interpretation that her flowers were representations of the female body. This idea came from her husband, photographer and gallerist Alfred Stieglitz, who tellingly wrote: “Woman feels the World differently than Man feels it….The Woman receives the World through her Womb. That is her deepest feeling. Mind comes second.” OK, this was written in 1919, but some might say that attitudes towards women artists (or indeed women in general) haven’t changed much since then. 🙂  )

But I digress. One of the new discoveries for me in this exhibition was her charcoal work. Two early pieces, Special No 9 (1915) and No 15 Special (1916-17) seemed to glow on the wall, while her Eagle Claw and Bean Necklace from 1934 just blew me away with its precision.

Georgia O'Keeffe, Special No 9, 1915
Special No 9, 1915
Georgia O'Keeffe, No 15 Special, 1916-17
No 15 Special, 1916-17
georgia-okeeffe-eagle-claw-and-bean-necklace
Eagle Claw and Bean Necklace, 1934

There are lots of other great works, but in the last room Sky Above the Clouds III (1963) made me think of ombre indigo, which inspired me to try making a nuno felt piece.

Georgia O'Keeffe, Sky Above the Clouds III, 1963
Sky Above the Clouds III, 1963

I started by making a small sample using ombre indigo dyed cotton scrim topped with natural merino. After making this I wondered how it would look in reverse, so I made another sample with the scrim on top.

blue and white nuno felt ombre samples

I then did a small straw poll on Twitter and Instagram, asking people which version they preferred. As so often happens, opinion was divided! There was probably a small majority in favour of scrim on top – but then one person said that they liked them both and couldn’t I join them together?

So after a bit of re-engineering, here is the final work in progress.

ombre-hanging-3

On a larger scale in a portrait format I didn’t think the elliptical shapes would work, so I went for a repeating grid of circles instead, despite misgivings about being able to make them regular enough.

blue and white nuno felt ombre wallhanging

I also added some white tussah silk to the plain white circles for a bit of extra texture, which you can just about see in the detail shot below.

blue and white nuno felt ombre wallhanging detail

Georgia O’Keeffe runs at Tate Modern until 30 October.

Valais Blacknose sheep

When I received the materials list for the workshop with Violette Amendola, it included “200g of Walliser Schwarznasenschaf”. So first I had to translate it – and Google came up with “Valais Blacknose sheep”.

Image: Noblesse Stud
Image: Noblesse Stud

Well, this has to be a strong contender for cutest sheep on the planet! 🙂 I’d never heard of the breed and my usual wool suppliers didn’t stock any.

Vrou Wolle said that they we could buy the wool at the workshop, but I decided to see if it was available in the UK. The Valais Blacknose Sheep Society UK had links to breeders in the UK, few of which seemed to have websites or fleece (as opposed to sheep) for sale.

Whitehall Valais did have an online shop that included fleece but said it had sold out. So I messaged them and and Valais Blacknose Sheep Oxfordshire via Facebook to ask if they had any available.

Whitehall then put some up on their website so I was able to buy some. Renee in Oxfordshire very kindly sent me a sample with a request that I send her a photo of what I made. She makes beautiful rugs with the fleece – you can see some photos on her Facebook page – but had not felted with it otherwise.

Both sets of fleece arrived in the raw state, unwashed, but surprisingly clean compared with other raw fleece I’ve worked with. It had a lovely long crimp.

valais fleece

So I scoured it and carded it with my dog brushes and used it to make the husks in Violette’s class.

valais sample1

It’s fantastic for the type of structural felting I enjoy – it felts quickly and requires only a couple of layers to create a firm yet airy felt, perfect for these seed husks.

Since coming home I’ve experimented a bit more with making small vessels, in this case combined with merino.

blacknose and merino

With the weather warming up, I’ve also revitalised the indigo vat and done some ombre dyeing on these pieces.

valais indigo 1 valais indigo 2

Talking of ombre dyeing, I’m really excited that some of my work is to appear in a new book coming out next month.

worldwide colours of felt cover

It’s called Worldwide Colours of Felt and is published by Textile-link, a German publisher that has published several beautiful and inspiring books on felt.

It probably comes as little surprise that my work appears in the blue section! It’s the set of felt vessels dyed with indigo that I made several years ago. Here’s a sneak preview of my entry.

worldwide colours of felt

There are some world class felters included in this publication, so I’m very proud to have my work featured among them!

Ombre indigo-dyed nuno felt

It’s been a busy couple of weeks – I’ve been trying to build up my stock of indigo-dyed scarves for Christmas, and also preparing for the big Makerhood event Making Uncovered, where I was showing people how to dye eggs with onion skins.

While I had the indigo vat out I did some ombre dyeing (dip dyeing) with unbleached cotton muslin, with the vague idea that I might felt with it. A couple of years ago I made a lot of indigo nuno-felted vessels, but this time I wanted to try something different.

So I made a simple flat panel or hanging, incorporating some flat beach pebbles. The bottom layers were made using white merino batting from World of Wool, which has just started stocking wool batts, though their merino is 23 micron compared with Norwegian Wool‘s 21 micron (short fibre merino).  It does make laying out so much quicker!

blue stones 1 blue stones 2 blue stones 4

Even ESP liked this, which is saying something given that a) he’s usually pretty sniffy about my felt and b) he always moans about having to lug home all the pebbles and shells I pick up on beaches when on holiday. Result! 😉