Drum roll please – our first workshop

Design for a seaside wreath

 

Well, I have finally pressed the go live button on Pomegranate Studio’s very first day school.  This is on Maying: wreaths, garlands and Green Men.

Here’s the blurb:

Information about the workshop

Around Christmas there are any number of lovely workshops on creating wreaths to decorate the festive home.  It forms part of our Christmas tradition.  We bring evergreen holly and ivy into our homes when the days are shortest and most of nature seems to have gone into decline.  We love the natural world and want to hang onto it even in our darkest days.  We do this by twisting lengths of holly into decorative wreaths and using other plants and flowers and shiny things into wreaths for our doors.

There is something about this tradition, which seems to get more widespread every year in my part of the world, which acknowledges a silent promise: spring will return, nature will be rejuventated, and the plants and flowers will flourish again.  What we don’t seem to do is celebrate the keeping of that promise.  We love it when spring begins to roll round, but we no longer celebrate Maying by bringing the new greenery into our homes.

In this workshop we will look at a selection of ways of bringing in the May through textiles and stitchery.  I will demonstrate all of the following and you can decide which to develop yourself.

What we will cover

  • Wreath makingWe will look at making wreaths from fabric and possibly yarn and paper.  These can be wall-hangings or made on hoops like door wreaths.  We will take a little inspiration from Polish pajanki – paper chandeliers – which are hot in design shops like Anthropologie right now.It’s worth noting that the trend for wreaths is really big but sparse and elegant.  The really trendy ones are broken – a bit like a crescent moon.  Think minimal not showy.

 

  • Garlands

    Bunting is so over. We will be making garlands which can be used to decorate depending on the time of the year.  Scope here for making pompoms which are really having a moment.  We can also use unloved fabric to make tassels, or work with beads and bits of broken necklaces.

  • Green MenSpring and May includes the wild side of nature, sap rising and blood rushing to the head.  The Green Man, The Wild Man of The Woods reflects this.  We will make fabric Green Men.  These look difficult but are really easy to make when you break the design down.  You can turn your Green Man into a cushion cover, wall hanging or decorative panel.

 

To book a place you need to click onMaying: wreaths, garlands and Green Men link on the home page and then the button on the right hand corner.

Exciting times

Patchwork and quilting for the fashion forward, Part II

In this post, I return to the trends for interiors  identified in Elle Decoration for 2018, and have a look at how we might adapt them to add a bit of an update to our textile work.

Plates on the wall

I have to admit that I found this one quietly hilarious, having been brought up in an age when old ladies had plates on the wall, but the difference here is that the plates are either solid colours or very sophisticated patterns.  I have adapted this for my garden and have collected and painted plates for the fences.  With regard to textiles, many of the craft magazines such as Mollie Makes, which I really like, by the way, run features on mounting work in embroidery frames/hoops and putting those on the wall.  I am not sure how many of us actually do that in ‘real life’.  On the other hand, the porthole quilt could be an adaptation of the circular theme.  This is a form of a reverse appliqué with a large cut out circle on top revealing the feature fabric underneath.  I have made one block of this just to try it out, and it is a nice effect and so I might make more.  It is one way of working with large circles.

The plates in the article certainly were too beautiful to eat off, and I think that is analogous to some fabric being too beautiful to cut.  This would be a way round having to slice into very lovely fabric and also a way to use difficult fabric like woven metallics as the feature cloth can remain a square under the circular aperture.

Colour trends

The colour trends this spring and summer include grey.  This is a bit of a disappointment given that in the UK at the moment pretty much all the weather we have is grey.  There is one element of inspiration here, though, which is the notion of using different textures of grey including metal, metallic mesh, concrete, stained wood and so on.  I like taking one colour and using a lot of shades of it, particularly red, which I think really benefits from this treatment.  I certainly know a lot of fabric and textile artists who work extensively with different neutral textures to great effect and it would make an interesting project to use some different textures in a large piece.

Other colour trends include monochrome and there are lots of black and white graphic patterns in interior design magazines at the moment.  The twist is that the monotone is pared with terracotta.  I am not a big fan of terracotta; it reminds me too much of the 1980s and really quite nasty furnishing fabrics and paint charts.  I think I could just about cope with it as a highlight colour or a sparkle fabric in a monotone quilt.  Burgundy is also singled out.  This is another of my least favourite colours, so it looks like I am doomed this season.

Fairly monotone table runner in my studio,

Reflective surfaces

In interior design terms this means lots of mirrors and shiny paint.  In textiles I don’t think we can go as far as reflective surfaces, unless we use really massive sequins or pieces of acrylic, but we could try putting in a bit of metallic fabric into our work occasionally,  The odd patch of gold or silver always perks things up in my view.

Bristol Blue Bubbles Anita

Bristol Blue Bubbles Anita

This panel from a quilt of mine was stitched and then painted with my very favourite Golden Fluid acrylics.  I like them because they are liquid but with a lot of pigment so the colour stays true even if you put it over brightly coloured fabric like this yellow silk.

Bengal tiger rugs – not real

This is a bit of a if you only take away one thing let it be this moment.  It seems that the Bengal tiger is a super trendy motif.

I suppose we could use this as a colour scheme inspiration: black, white and orange which would make a zingy type of quilt, or think about making an appliqué piece which would be an alternative to a tiger rug.  I would love to have a go at this if I had time.

 

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Patchwork and quilting for the fashion forward, Part I

This post is going to be a bit tough to illustrate because it’s about future trends rather than stuff I have done in the past.  It’s a copyright nightmare, and I might be fighting court cases next time you hear from me.  So with that caveat…

This is one of those things that I do so that you don’t have to.  I have had a look at Elle Decoration’s Spring/Summer Trends for 2018 and made a note of how these might translate into textiles with a little bit of a contemporary edge.  So here goes.

The new neutrals

According to Elle D, the new neutrals are very gentle chalky shades of pale rose pink, minty green, amethyst, grey and blue.  They are pretty much ice-cream colours, really.  This is not my palette at all, but it is right in there with a lot of patchwork fabric designers.  These sorts of shades would fit the bill:

  

There isn’t that much trouble using these in patchwork and quilting as they adapt easily to traditional piecing and appliqué.

Printed velvet

This is one I can get behind.  It seems to be in direct contradiction to the previous trend and to be a continuation of last year’s luxe trend.  I love velvet and I really love the new printed velvets with their wonderful baroque patterns or gorgeous florals.  They are a bit eye-wateringly expense, though, and I think the best hope is to find them at a remaindered, end of roll-type fabric shop.  They are tricky to work with in patchwork and appliqué, but they could work well in a panel in a medallion or modern strippy quilt.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the example in Elle D is £135 per metre, so it would have to be a feature fabric and not a sumptuous backing for the majority of us.

Hanging rugs on the wall

This one is far more doable as lots of us already live with our textiles on the wall, but it might be worth thinking about the sorts of rugs under consideration here.  They tend to be fairly muted colours and geometrical shapes.  Or, they almost relish being textiles and attempt to have that weathered and antique-d look which is so popular in a lot of contemporary textile work.  If that is what you like making, maybe you could think about doing it on a much bigger scale

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This is a piece of my work, which is probably 12″x10″ which could scale up.

3D wallpaper

This is a bit of an oddity because it looks like an updated anaglypta wallpaper to me, but I suspect it looks a lot more impressive on the wall than in a photo.  I rather hope so, as it retails for £372 per square metre.  It relies on texture for its effect, though, and the fall of light and shade over the surface.  I think it could provide some inspiration for contemporary whole cloth quilters:

I can also see that it could be an inspiration for quilting stitches, or using candlewicking, or sewing white beads on white cloth and so on.

Kintsuge

This is the latest Japanese influence after wabi sabi and boro.  This is the technique where a piece of smashed porcelain is put back together with gold, thus emphasising and not hiding the damage.

There are lots of kits available on the web if you want to try it on porcelain rather than fabric.  I can see that it could make some nice couched work, although trying to get it to fit gaps in fabric which moves constantly in my experience would be rather difficult.  I can also see how you could use it in crazy quilting with a gold braid round some or all of the pieces.  It might be possible to use it in stained glass appliqué, although I am not sure that that would have enough irregular organic shapes to make it work well.  Apparently it became so popular in Japan that people started smashing pottery just so they could repair it, so I suppose you could slash up a block and put it back together with gold fabric.

Verre églomisé

This is a thin layer of gold on the back of a piece of glass so it sparkles through whatever colour or design in on the front.

The above examples are from Cuppeboard and look really lovely.  This is a an old technique rediscovered.  I am sure that I have seen a lot of it in the Stately Homes of England and passed by without remarking that it was verre égolmisé that I was looking at.  There is mileage here to think about putting a sheer fabric over a gold backing and then doing some embroidery or burning or cutting away, or just leaving the piece intact with a hint of the gilt sparkling through.  It is also an excuse, of course, to get the gold paint out, as not all of it is subtle.  So, it gives an opportunity for foiling, which always looks great with machine stitching on top, or printing or stamping and using the ultra thick stamping powder with a heat gun.  And it’s another opportunity to channel the quilter’s standby, Gustav Klimt.  Again, it might be nice in the occasional block rather than all over, but it makes all those metallic prints in the stash bang up to date again.

This is a piece of my appliqué work with the beak picked out in gold.

 

Plenty more to come in part two, but as the research shows people don’t read long posts, I will take a break here.

 

 

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Yellow Ribbons I

This is the first of  pair of small quilts I have made for a talk I am preparing about frugal quilts.  It uses a bag of very narrow scraps that I bought for about a pound at The Festival of Quilts from – I think – the Cotton Patch stall.  They are clearly the trimmings for kits they put together or from fat quarters as they are very narrow and cover a full range of Kaffe Fassett prints.  This is why I couldn’t resist them, even though they are a bonkers buy.  The widest strip is probably about 3/4 inch or 1 cm but a tiny strip of loveliness.  The bag is stuffed with strips.  I saw it while I was paying for something else and it just winked at me.  And this was a chance to have a whole range of Kaffe Fassett prints at one time.  I particularly love the Philip Jacobs prints, and use them a lot, and here was a chance to mix them up with the Kaffe Fassett collective designers.

I have made two quilts: one is entirely hand-stitched (above) and the other is machine-stitched.  I started off hand-stitching the tiny strips together on a piece of cotton domette interlining, which is what I had to hand.  I stitched them with Madeira lana thread, firstly because I like it and had a wide variety as a Christmas present, and secondly because it makes a good definite stitch.

I did a lot of straightforward quilting stitching but also added in some embroidery stitches for variety:

This approach was based a bit on Japanese boro textiles which I will describe in a future post.  Briefly it is a textile technique in which pieces of indigo cloth are used to patch worn clothing.  They are attached with lots of close running stitch.  You can see my version of this in the above illustration.  This is great stitching to do while watching the television or listening to the radio.  The problem is what to do with it then.  I remembered that ages ago I bought some Kaffe Fassett panels which I never used, and, amazingly, I managed to find them:

I finished the top with some Kaffe Fassett ribbon I had bought at the NEC with the scrap strips.

These ribbons are really gorgeous, but very expensive and so I only have half a metre at the most of any of them, which isn’t enough to do much with.  It was enough to stretch across this little quilt.  This one with geranium/pelargonium leaves picks up the Philip Jackson print below it.  I have used these strips a lot because they feel like such a small investment.  I think that can be important.  The ribbons are an investment and need to handled with care and great respect.  The cheap slicings off a bolt are much more expendable and so it is liberating to work with them.

As the grand finale to part one, of a two-part series, this is my beloved dog, Hedy, who is no respecter of textiles:

Pomegranate Studio – because making is good for you

 

This is my first post on my blog on my lovely new website for Pomegranate Studio.  I have started the studio as part of my post-academic teaching career.  I am now a portfolio worker, which really seems to mean that I have more than one part-time money-making (fingers crossed) activity.  The other main part of the portfolio is that I have trained to be a humanist celebrant specialising in non-religious naming ceremonies.  This is not a blog about that work, so if you are interested please look at my Humanist UK site

https://humanist.org.uk/annrippin/naming-ceremonies/

This blog and site are for Pomegranate Studio.  This is my textile work.  I am going to pursue my own work and run small workshops for people who are interested in developing their work.  So I will not be teaching basic patchwork (go to someone who does perfect points for that) or showing you how to make a particular bag or quilt, but rather, I hope, inspiring you to take an idea or a technique and run with it yourself.

The studio is lovely, the garden will be lovely in a couple of months, and there are loads of books and objects to inspire you.  My dry runs have been great days and people have had lots of fun – as you can see in the photo at the top of the website.

 

I managed to get the square original to fit the box on the website pretty much on my own.  So proud.  Anyway, a few more photos of the studio for you to inspect, and then normal service will be resumed in the next post:

The best laid plans

Full Cora heavy shadow

I mentioned on the last blog post that I am training to be a human celebrant.  Essentially this means that I am training to do secular christenings or namings, as we call them.  You could also call them welcomings.  Children are named and welcomed into their families and the equivalent of godparents are appointed.  They are good if parents aren’t religious, or if they come from different faith traditions, or they want the child to be able to choose for themselves later on.  I asked my mentor why people would choose to have a ceremony at all if they don’t believe, expecting her to come up with a philosophical answer about the need for ritual and marking life stages and so on, but she said that essentially it is a day for celebration and basically for having a party.  Fair enough.  Anyway, that it is what I am hoping to do next year.  I am 7/8ths of my way through my training which I have loved.

Now, I don’t want to spend much time on this because this is a textile blog, and not a humanist one, but I do have a problem.  Because I am starting out, I don’t have much to put on my website or facebook page or all the other media things you have to do these days to advertise your services.  So, I thought that I could have pictures of toys, particularly as people are rightly reluctant to let you put photos of their children on the web without express and detailed permission.  I thought it would be good to make some of these toys to photograph and so sat down to make some.  The results have been rather startling in several cases which I will post as I get round to it, but this one has been particularly interesting.  Meet Cora:

Cora without shadows

Cora here is so called because the stitches on her chest turned into a heart:

Cora chest

She is meant to be a nice plushie for a small child.  The only problem is that she has this fantastic snout, like a wolf:

Cora heavy shadow

And those beautifully embroidered (if I say so myself) eyes which a baby cannot chew off, but which are beady and rather sinister.  She does like to dance in the sunshine:

Cora dancing in a funny light

But even the Medieval Historian, my staunchest supporter, thought she was a bit sinister.

On the positive side, she is made from a remnant of something I bought in Stof and Stil’s sale, which is a brilliant fabric, pure wool, I think, which does not fray and is tougher and nicer than felt.  I have no idea what it is.  Would it be Melton?

More to come, particularly pigs.

 

In case you thought I had disappeared

Leaves

I am very sorry that I have not been posting much recently.  Life has rather got the better of me from domestic disasters to family ill health, to starting a whole new life.  I have now retired from the University of Bristol and am starting what I grandly call a portfolio career.  This will consist of running Pomegranate Studio, starting to sell my textiles and being a humanist celebrant taking non-religious naming ceremonies.

That’s quite a lot to take in and also quite a lot to work on.  I have also managed to set-up on-line banking, which I consider to be one of my achievements of this year.

There will be more about this as the portfolio is properly opened, but for now, I wanted to show you an image of one of the things that I am hoping to sell through my Etsy shop.  There isn’t much in the shop at the moment as I just wanted to bag the name PomegranateAnn, but I will be adding more.  I have decided to sell some small pieces.  I have always found it extremely difficult to sell my work as it is a part of me, but needs must at the moment.  The problem is that making to sell, rather than making because I want to make is difficult because it always feels very different.

This is in the Etsy shop:

Full piece

It’s really very pretty and quite a wintery piece.  Unusually for me is that the fabrics used are all my hand-dyes.  This second piece did not behave quite so well.  It came out as a trapezium.  I quite like that because it makes it look particularly handmade, but I can see that it won’t appeal to everyone.  It is made from samples of neutral pale fabric, mainly linen and silk.   I also used some very chi-chi Japanese organic embroidery thread for the leaves and stem:

leaves detail

This is a really interesting venture for me – to see if I can make a living outside the university, and to see if I can reinvent myself.

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Sources of Inspiration

I have been teaching various creativity techniques for years, and am interested in where we get our ideas from.  It seems to be a difficult process to map.  For me it really does feel like a spark in the brain: I could do that.  Then it’s followed by: well, what if we did it this way?

One thing that lots of us do to find that initial inspiration is to look through magazines.  In my case, I like some of the quilting magazines, I love Uppercase and Selvedge.  I am getting to the point, though, where, lovely as they are, magazines about stitching fabric together in geometrical designs are just getting flicked through rather than poured over.  I have started to like the very glossy house magazines such as World of Interiors and House and Garden.  In my last post about my pheasant/phoenix piece I described working from this photo in House and Garden:

Pheasant2

An advertisement for the coming month’s issue led me to buy it as it promised a feature around a man holding a massive stuffed fish.  Imagine my delight when it had a whole run of beautiful photographs of the new season’s fabrics made up into outfits for sailors and several fabric sea creatures including this chap with some lovely lobsters:

Fabric lobsters

All the photos are glorious, and here are a couple of fish:

Two fabric fish

I really liked the feature because the other pieces are so brilliantly done using the fabric, but also the tongue-in-cheek of the photographs.  The Penzance Sailing Club, it seems, were persuaded to wear ludicrous outfits and to play it absolutely straight for the camera.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a credit for whomever made the glorious fabric artefacts.

In World of Interiors, there was a feature using the new fabric ranges photographed in Portugal.  This one also had some wonderful sea creatures including this moody and misty shot of a giant fish:

Big fabric fish

Again, sadly, no credit is given to the maker.

The upshot of this is that I think I will be changing my reading habits a bit, and sinking more often into the fantasy world of the glossies.

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Pheasant/Phoenix

Pheasnt phoenix

I am hardly ever proud of what I have done.  I follow a curve of getting very excited about something and then thinking it’s a pile of rubbish.  I am with all those artists who say that there is massive frustration in what is in your imagination or mind’s eye and what you are actually able to achieve.  But, for once, I am absolutely delighted with this piece, an embroidered fabric collage of some sort of bird.

I started this piece on a lovely weekend at the wonderful Shore Cottage Studios on the Wirral.  I have written a lot about this magical place on my blog before.  This time I went with my Grate Frend, Mike, who is a brilliant maker of fabric collage, and who I thought would like the studio and Sue, who was our tutor, and fabric dyeing (all of which he did).  We went for a walk on the beach and gathered some inspirational stuff: stones, feathers, crab shell, seaweed and so on.  Then we did some drawing and in the afternoon some microwave and rust dyeing.  The following day we started to make our pieces.

I found all this so exciting that I couldn’t sleep on the first night, so I did some sketchbook work and got prepared for the following day.  This is my sketch of what I intended to make:

Wreath sketch

It’s a pretty wreath with all those elements we found on the beach.  I went on to work out all the stitches I would use, and was ready to go.

In my hotel room, however, was a copy of House and Garden, which I very seldom read as the houses really are grand, and my house is not.  But it had a picture from an exhibition at Waddeston Manor:

Pheasant original photo

I thought he was rather magnificent, although rather more striking than pheasants I have encountered.  Anyway, I ummed and ahhed, but finally decided to make a pheasant rather than a wreath.  I used the fabric that I had dyed the previous day and supplemented it with a bit from Sue’s stash, and in the bottom right hand corner a pale turquoise piece that Mike had dyed.  I very carefully hand-appliquéd a rosy red piece for the body using the needle-turning technique.  Bit of a daft mistake.  No-one can now see my exquisite (!!!!!) hand appliqué and it meant another layer to stitch through, and it was thick by the end as much of what I used was weighty furnishing fabric.

It is one of my new-found pleasures of retirement that I was able to take it home and work on it the following day.  Here are some details of the feathers:

Wing feather details

I hope you can see from this photo that I over-dyed some printed fabric – you can see the white lines of the botanical design.  I stitched into that with some of the hand-dyed threads we produced.

Feather stitch detail two

This shows the next layer of feathers which were stitched with a variety of threads, some commercial and some from the workshop.  This was the first stitching and really brought the piece to life and convinced me to keep working into it.

Phoenix feather stitch detail

These are the same feathers showing how the embroidery secures them but also allows them a 3D effect.  It also shows some of the fraying I did on the feathers’ edges.  My fingernails did not thank me for it.

Back of head feathers

These are the back of the neck detail feathers.  The stitching here is with a very fine variegated silk thread produced commercially.

Feathers three

This shows the beads I put on his chest.  I bought them for the project and astonished the woman in the bead shop by my speed of choice.  The darker faceted beads really catch the light.  I wanted to use the turquoise ones to try and capture his brilliant flashes of jewel colours in the photograph source material.

The other things that I knew were going to be really important in this piece were the beak and the eye.  I wanted him to look very proud and fierce and defiant.  I left the features until last because I knew that they could easily ruin the whole thing which is a bit silly when you think about it, but I knew if I got it right they would bring him to life.  So, I deliberately exaggerated his beak and make him much more raptor-like:

Pheasant beak detail

I used the Anna Scholz gold fabric I described in my last post, and then I stitched over it with fine cotton perlé to knock the gold back a bit, and also to give it the 3D curve of a beak.  I tried very hard to integrate the gold into the face, as it can jump out, but I think it sits okay here.

Then I went onto the eye and thought about several ways of approaching it, including painting it, but in the end I went with a simple satin stitch in black perlé cotton and a small pearl bead:

Eye detail

I really wanted that evil glint in his eye, and I think it more or less worked.

I am really pleased with him, but as I was stitching it, I thought, it’s not a pheasant at all, it’s a phoenix, and not to come all over poetic and wacky woo woo, I think he is symbolic of my new life after being a university teacher for so long.

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A joyful piece from leftovers

Leftovers hanging

If you have read previous posts on this blog, you will know that I hate throwing things away.  I also like to make other projects with the leftovers of previous pieces.  This little wallhanging is a good example of this.  It is made with leftovers from a much bigger piece which I showed at the last Bristol Quilters exhibition:

IMG_0521

I started the piece with this tiny leftover square:

Leftovers centre

Those half triangles in the centre are about 1 cm-1/3″ square and are the trimmings from a block where you sew a small square to a big square and then press it back to give you another shape:

images-1

I also included more leftover strips using Kaffe Fassett and Philip Jackson fabric which I had stitched together to form one long random strip which you can see on the outer rows of the small piece.  I was really pleased to be able to use this gold fabric:

Leftovers gold

I got this in an Anna Scholz sale.  Whenever people compliment on a frock or coat, it is always by Anna Scholz.  Occasionally she sells off really luxurious fabric off the roll at ridiculously cheap prices for fashion students.  Somehow I got an invite and then to meet Anna, who was lovely.  I had to stagger back to the tube with all this stuff, but the bargains were stupendous.  The gold would not have cost more than a fiver a metre, but it takes hand stitching really beautifully.  Pulled the stitches quite tightly to give that rippled effect.  I had intended to do more stitching on the piece, but the fabrics were too ‘shouty’ and didn’t need more detail.  You can just see some fly stitch in the top left hand corner of the above picture.  I more or less left it at that.

I now have to decide what to do with it.  It is cushion-sized, but I think I would prefer it as a small wallhanging.  For that I will need to do the binding.

The thing I thought was interesting, though, is what a happy piece it is.  I can’t help but wonder if this is because it was the first piece of patchwork I did after I got my retirement options sorted out.  The piece came together in an afternoon, and I think expresses my delight at being able to get on with the next phase of my life.