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Henry Moore Helmet Heads 1

This photo is of the preparation stage for the series of pieces inspired by the Henry Moore heads.  I decided on three things:

  1. That I would make some small collages to get me into the flow of the appliques.
  2. I would make monoprints using my gelli plate to use in the fabric pieces.
  3. I would use the Sanderson prints that I had got from Bristol Children’s Scrapstore as the backgrounds

I had a lot of fun doing the prints:

I made a lot on paper and then on fabric, which was also from a variety of furnishing fabric samplebooks I have collected over the years.  The time has come to use them.

Because we are in lockdown it is hard to get things quickly.  I really could have done with some textile medium to keep the fabric soft as I was using acrylic paint which is nasty to hand stitch through.  As it was, I decided that I would just have to put a jeans needle in the sewing machine and do a lot of machine embroidery.  I thought I had some textile medium somewhere, but it seems to have gone to ground.  I love gelli printing and have piles of the prints.  It is good finally to be using them.

I decided to use the Sanderson prints because they epitomise the English country house, gentleman’s home is his castle look to me.  They are traditional.  They never date.  They have gorgeous botanical prints on them, and they are very high quality fabric.  These pieces have been through the washing machine at least three times to soften them up a bit, and they have not faded a bit.  They haven’t really softened much either, but I did get a lot of the paper backing off the,m as they had been mounted on mood board pages in the swanky sample book.

I wanted something that said home, tradition, stability, safety and protection and the Sanderson brand has all these associations for me.  That’s why I decided on them as the substrate.  I mounted them with spray glue onto some eco-friendly recycled wadding.  I think I should possibly have tried this out first given the size of the project – getting on for 25 pieces, but patience has never been my strong point.  The wadding is okay to work with, by the way.  The Sanderson fabric stitches like what it is: high quality furnishing fabric rather than quilting weight or dress weight cotton.  This means that the hand sewing on it is necessarily pretty basic:

There is a lot of simple stitching like this, mainly straight stitches but a bit of stem stitch which you can see on the left.  I might go mad with some colonial knots on some of them and possibly some bullion stitches.

I used some of the more textured fabric to print from by inking the gelli plate, pressing the fabric into iy and then lifting that off, and putting a lighter smoother fabric onto the gelli to pick up the paint left on the plate.  I got some nice prints, which I will point ou,t using this technique.  I know that gelli plates are expensive and that you can make your own, but I have found that the proprietary ones are surprisingly robust and highly reliable.

One interesting thing was that in lockdown I used some acrylic paint which I would not normally use.  I usually use Golden Fluid Acrylic, which is the best in my book, but I had found a lot of paint in my stash as I had been clearing stuff out.  There have been a lot of cupboards cleared out during our isolation period, I think.  I found some really cheap stuff in big tubes that an ex-Brownie leader gave me, and some that we have had in our house for at least twenty years.  This paint is all thin and as luck would have it, acted much like ink so the prints worked well.  I stuck to black, white, red, a pinky red, yellow, dark green, ultramarine, dark grey, peach and burnt umber.  Mainly I used the black and grey.  Unusually for me there were no metallics to jazz it up a bit.

The next blog will be about the process of putting the pieces together so far.

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Ring pillows for the wrinklies

This post is about more work for my other role in life, that of humanist celebrant doing weddings and namings.

I was thinking about older brides in particular after leafing through another wedding magazine.  There really are only fresh-faced, porcelain-skinned young women in them.  You would be excused for thinking that no older women ever get married – or remarried.   I think it’s the equivalent of thinking women over 55 only ever want to dress in navy blue or beige artificial fibre tents.

I was wondering what sort of thing would suit older women.  I wanted to make some hearts that could be easily converted into ring pillows for weddings, and could be keepsakes thereafter.  Thinking about myself and my own tastes, these are hand-embroidered hearts worked on recycled fabrics.  Some are on the reverse of a very nice linen furnishing fabric:

You can see the front on the back, ironically, of this small heart:

The print is of these gorgeous, overblown tulips, but it would have fought against any lettering.  The fabric is leftover from some upmarket curtains.

The other is a printed commercial king-sized quilt which I bought in a charity shop and have been cutting up and using for a couple of years now:

The embroidery is largely stem stitch.  I learned how to do it a couple of years ago when a wonderful teacher explained to me that it is basically back stitch done on the back rather than the front of the fabric.  The scales fell from my eyes and I have been using it ever since after years of frustration not having any success and having to unpick it every time.  You can teach old dogs new tricks.

The little heart with LOVE on it is worked in two rows of chain stitch.  They are all done in variegated embroidery floss which is my current favourite thread.  They are all partly stuffed with the leftover fabric from when I cut them out.  All part of my drive for more sustainability.

You may have noticed that these all have quotations from Beatles songs on them.  These take me right back to being a little girl and being given Beatles singles for Christmas.  I would love to do a Beatles-themed wedding.  A couple coming into the ceremony to ‘Here comes the sun’ would be lovely.  I’m not sure what they would go out to.  The chorus of ‘All you need is love’ maybe.  Might be nice for a sing-song half-way through as well.

Just in case you are thinking of getting married and would like to use one of these as a ring pillow, they will be going in my Etsy shop which you can find by putting PomegranateByAnn in the search box on Etsy.com.  I can convert them to proper ring pillows by embroidering a little loop to thread ribbons through.  I am also happy to stitch any other song lyrics that have special meanings.

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Baby shoes

Now that I have retired from the university, like lots of the retired, I find myself in straitened circumstances.  One of the things that I do to support myself is to work as a Humanist celebrant.  I create Wedding and Naming ceremonies.

Humanists do not believe in supernatural forces, including God, fate, destiny, and so on.  This means that we all have to think about living a good life for its own sake and not because we can expect some ultimate judgement in an afterlife.  We are highly discouraged from describing Humanism in these negative terms, according to what we don’t believe in, but I think it is by far and away the most interesting thing about it.  When I write what we are for you can see that it is not that different from the Christianity that I was brought up with: kindness, tolerance, openness, inclusivity and a desire for human flourishing.  If you want to know more about this, you can have a look at www.humanism.org.uk where luminaries such as Stephen Fry, Alice Roberts and Sandi Toksvig explain the principles extremely well.

All that out of the way, I can turn to the  point of this post, which is that in order to do anything at all these days, it seems that you have to have a web presence.  So, I put up quite a bit on instragram (@AnnRippin if you want to have a look).  Finding things to photograph and put up about Naming ceremonies is quite difficult, especially if you don’t want to put the child’s photo on the web.  So, I have been thinking about what I can include instead.

I have decided to make a series of baby shoes and put a poem that people planning a naming might like to consider.  The shoes are designed as decorative items, although theoretically they could be worn.  Maybe only for photographs, though, as they are very likely to fall off.

This pair is my prototype.  I made up a piece of patched together cotton fabric and quilted it roughly onto some purple felt.  Then I cut out the shapes from the ‘yardage’.  I stitched them together very roughly with variegated thread.

I really enjoy making them.  The pattern is by Simplicity and I got it in a pattern sale for a fiver.  I will blog more about that later.  Suffice to say they went together really easily and with only the tiniest bit of easing around the heel.

This pair also has pieced soles which I like.

The fabric for this pair comes from Aldi and/or Lidl.  They sell packs of fat quarters really cheaply and it looks a bit poor quality until you wash it, when, once the fierce dressing is out of it, it becomes delightfully soft.  Their cotton is from Pakistan, which is a change from the gorgeous US cottons we often use.   A lot of the designs, as you will see in later posts look a bit like vintage Laura Ashley which I also like.

Lots more to post on this project later.

 

 

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Improvised doll à la Ann Wood

Some of you may know the work of the mighty Ann Wood who makes lovely fabric dolls and other creatures as well as a range of galleons and little boats and so on.  She has a variety of free patterns on her website and an Etsy shop which is worth a look.   She has a whole range of tiny dolls with clothes and accessories.

One of her blog posts which caught my eye was about improvised dolls.  She describes her process of just starting off making a doll and not knowing where you will end up.  So you use what you have around you and just make a doll, trusting that the process will come up with something worthwhile.  I thought that this would be a really good holiday project while we were in a cottage in Pembrokeshire, particularly as it has been known to rain in this part of the world and you do need something to do when it pours.

I started to make my doll and I only had fabric and no stuffing with me, so I knew that it was going to have to be a rolled rather than sewn and stuffed doll.  So I made some fabric rolls from a beautiful soft cotton from the Cloth House in Soho.

These dolls are rough and ready and folky so they are not supposed to look highly polished, hence the wonky seams.  I stitched the legs onto the back of the torso so that the doll could sit on a shelf.  It was all going well until it came to the head:

Trying to fix a little roll to a large roll was tricky.  I could have stitched and then rolled more cloth round for a neck, but in the end, I decided to wrap it in a circle of linen and stitch the circle down:

This took a surprising number of attempts and was really ugly, but linen is linen even if it was a cheap end of roll bargain and I wasn’t going to throw it away.  The only thing then was disguising the very unlovely graft, which I don’t seem to have a photo of.  I was intending to make a nice girl doll, but the neck fiasco meant that a beard was called for:

I suppose I could have made a circus bearded lady, but I rather liked his shaggy look.  I had stitched a long nose, and had used black beads for his eyes from a variety pack from Tiger, and I used the coloured pencils in the photo above for his eyebrows and mouth and cheeks.

I found him really appealing, like a gentle hippy character.  I made him some Dad jeans and then really enjoyed knitting him a little sweater with gorgeous hand-dyed Welsh wool yarn I had bought in a woollen mill in Solva in Pembrokeshire.   The roll neck also helped to camouflage the weird neck situation:

I left the hands and feet free to fray.  I could have tidied them up, but I liked the messiness of them in an improvised piece:

So here he is complete:

The happy end to his story is that he has gone off to a new home in the USA.  He caught someone’s eye and we did a barter, although I would have been happy just for him to go off to someone who wanted him.  He would just have gathered dust here because the important part of the project was the process, which absolutely worked.

 

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New Year’s Doll 2019

 

Bethan Bear at the only service station she will deign to visit: Gloucester Gateway

Every year I make a doll on New Year’s Day.  I have a few rules.  It must be made from scratch and it must be completed in a single day.  It also has to say something about the year that I have had or the year I want.  This year I broke the rules a bit, because they are my rules for me and I can’t see much point in giving myself a hard time in our current climate.  The doll was finished in one day, but the clothes took me a lot longer.

This year I have been making bears for sale in my Etsy shop so I decided to make one for myself.  I also wanted to make a doll based on a photograph I saw in House and Garden of Bethan Laura Wood who is a textile designer.  She is a walking work of art and I particularly love the way she does her make-up with two spots of rouge and then two extra dots on top:

This was my starting point.  I made the bear out of wool felt with boiled wool features.  Once I put the eyeliner on like Ms Wood, though, the bear suddenly looked like a lioness or a puma, which was a bit of a surprise.

I really enjoyed doing the stem stitch round her eyes, which was done with three strands of embroidery thread.  I made her with long legs in order to make it possible to dress her.  The little squat bears are lovely but their bandy legs are hard to get into trousers.

I took the decision to stitch the clothes by hand which was a debatable choice, but does give them an artisan feel.  I started with trousers and a tunic:

The fabrics are by Amy Butler because I love her joyful use of colour.  The little cotton scarf, however, is a piece of IKEA furnishing fabric which I had dyed for another project.  Then I made the duster coat to go over the top, and started on the accessories.  I made her a shawl from mustard yellow yarn which is pure acrylic but produced a lovely drapey texture.  The colour is also apparently one of the hot looks for 2019.  I appliquéd a felt artichoke on it.  I don’t think it particularly looks like an artichoke but I do like it as an appliqué piece:

For her hat, I used the rather ropey knitting I did on four needles.  It was my first ever piece of tubular knitting.  I crocheted an edging to try and make it a bit more appealing as a wrist warmer or something.  It remained stunningly unattractive, but came into its own as a hat from Bethan.  I added two tassels and appliquéd a rose in a finer wool and acrylic mix felt:

I made her some jewellery and finally, I made sure to add some pompoms on her shoes to echo the fantastic ones on Bethan Laura Wood’s pumps.

I absolutely love her and she is definitely not for sale.

 

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What can we learn from Tyger?

I have been blogging for a while now and so I don’t quite remember if I have blogged before about taking joy in our work.  Joy in work has been a big thing for me for years.  I have long been interested in William Morris.  I am fascinated by his contradictions.  He was a life-long socialist dedicated to the production of exquisite craft which he believed would lead to the improvement of the masses.  Beauty will save the world by making people more civilised and so on.  But the craft he produced was so exquisite and so labour-intensive that the working classes could not possibly afford it.  I do admire him, though, for his insight at the height of industrialisation that the world of work is a much better place if people experience joy in what they are doing.  We need to find meaning in what we do, and if we enjoy the physicality of doing it, so much the better.  This is a real challenge today when so much work is virtual and an endless stream, so there is little prospect of a tangible end product.

This is a long preamble to the point I want to make about end products.  In my culture with my upbringing celebrating the work of my own hands is really frowned up.  It is labelled showing off, showing pride, being big-headed and full of oneself, and yet, to have finished something that pleases you is a brilliant sensation.  We do not allow ourselves that phase in the work process where we sit back and admire what we have done.  I have taught creativity for years and I don’t recall coming across a single creativity process in which the final phase wasn’t along the lines of going back and seeing what you could have done better.  Constantly finding fault in your work, in effect.

I think we need to allow ourselves time and opportunity to say, and please pardon the coarseness of this: I MADE THIS AND I BLOODY LOVE IT.  It’s brilliant.  Look at the skill that went into it.  Look how it adds to the joy of nations.  Look how it makes us see the world slightly differently.  Look how it fills me up with delight to think I knew how to do this and now I have done it.  Look at this thing I made which came as a surprise to me as it resolved itself, but now I am overjoyed to have it in my hand.

I mention all this because I recently experienced it myself when I made Tyger here.  I have been making bears recently as you will see from other posts, and they have been from fabric I used to make some party decorations and wanted to recycle.  When I came to a batch of orange fabric I knew I wanted to make a tiger – so this is Tyger, the bear who wanted to be a tiger.

I start the pieces by making a piece of cloth, boro style, from which I then cut the shapes for the bear.

I have been collecting fabric to make a tiger rug quilt for a while now.  So off I went and it soon became clear that this one was not destined for my etsy shop.  There is just too much work in it.  All the stripes are appliquéd on and then strengthened with hand stitching.

 

You can see from the photo below how much work there is in this by how much the worked side has shrunk:

Charging for time is impossible.  And so I realised that I was going to be keeping Tyger.  This is a bit liberating because it meant that I could do what I wanted.  I experimented with the stitching on his tummy:

This is a lovely white wool felt, because why spoil something you love with the tacky nylon stuff?  It was sheer delight to work with, and the experiment was in stitching it with a pale yellow-y cream thread rather than white.  I think it worked really well.  It gave texture which was tactile and visual.

The final element was the face.  I had some reference material, but one big inspiration is the fabulous markings around my dog’s eyes.  We joke at home about how early she must get up to get her eye makeup on:

We are looking at the foxy one at the front.  I was probably also channelling Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra a bit.

This is Tyger:

These Trimmit cat’s eyes are perfect.  Now I know that tigers are big cats and bears are more or less big dogs and so Tyger wouldn’t have eyes like this, but if we can believe a bear would dress up as a tiger we can believe he would buy some special effect contact lenses.

Once the eyes were in he was irresistible to me;

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His eyes are really widely spaced and big rather than small and placed low down so that he is cute like Belle:

And this makes him slightly more menacing.  I also think he has an illustrative quality, and I can see him starring in a children’s book.

I think he is gorgeous.  He is solidly stuffed so he feels good as well as looks good.  I am in love with him, and am going to find him a great spot in the studio so he can be inspirational in the coming year.

Endnote; the photos in this post are not brilliant.  Hold tight.  I am hoping that Santa will bring a technology update.

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Brave Bear Belle

My bear making exploits continue.  This Belle.  She has a guilty secret which is that her body is not made of old patchwork too tatty to do anything with other to be cut up.  It is actually a printed, commercially produced quilt which I bought for a fiver in a charity shop.  Now, I, in common with most quilters, disapprove of women in sweatshops making cheap quilts for sale in big department stores and the like, so I have qualms here.  But the quilt is fantastic.  It looks old and faded and pre-loved and all that.  Plus it is soft to stitch through.  And there is a lot of it.

Otherwise the bit tummy and muzzle and ears are made with considerably more expensive and ‘luxe’ fabric, a boiled wool from a very classy knitting wool shop.

Belle was one of those projects which just fell together.  I was musing on where the variegated ribbon was in my stash (= oddments shoved in a plastic bag inside another plastic bag) and dreading the excavation to find it when a card of fancy stuff I had bought on a whim in Liberty literally fell on my foot as I moved the first plastic bag.  The button also floated to the top of my button box, along with two black buttons which I used for the eyes having risen to the top of my mother’s.  She is a very sweet bear, and this is her story:

Brave Bear Belle

The other day Belle was sitting quietly in her well-appointed cave when she heard a hiker in the woods crying out,’Help, stop thief’.  She dropped what she was doing (sudoko), and rushed out to help.  She couldn’t see what was happening at first, but it soon became clear that someone had stolen the hiker’s rucksack and made their escape through the forest.  Quick as a flash, Belle climbed the nearest, tallest tree and spotted the robber.  She leapt to the ground, and following secret ursine paths through the trees, she caught up with the robber and came to a halt right in front of him.  ‘Put that down,’ she roared, ‘and put it down now’.  The terrified robber dropped the bag and the park ranger soon arrived to congratulate Belle and apprehend the villain.  Belle received the Ursine Valour Medal, first class, which she proudly wears here.  She keeps it in a box on a very high shelf well above the reach of burglars in her bijoux dwelling.

She’s about to go into my Etsy shop which you can find under PomegranateByAnn.

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Inspired by boro

This is not the best picture in the world, but it gives an idea of my latest boro-inspired experiment. I used a convenient pomeranian dog to prop it up against for the photograph and I don’t think it really worked.

This piece, which is about the size of an A4 piece of paper, is made from strips of silk, mainly slubbed dupion, which I tore ages ago to make a scarf.  I had made about a foot of the scarf before I realised it looks fantastic in the book but would look ridiculous on me.  So, I was left with a bag of bits, and, as regular readers will know, I can’t bear to throw anything away.  I found them recently when looking for something else of course.   I rather like them as a variation on the boro idea of making up a cloth using tiny scraps, and I particularly like the rich colours of the shot dupion:

The strips were hand sewn with perlé cotton onto a piece of linen from a charity shop skirt, and the whole thing was a delight to sew.

I am doing quit a bit of hand sewing at the moment as it is too hot for machining in my studio and the fan blows all my stuff about.  Plus, I am still learning how to use my behemoth of a new machine.  Watch this space, though, for when it cools down and I start to become more machine confident.

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Little blue baskets quilt

I am giving a talk next week about frugal quilts and am making samples to demonstrate my points.  This little quilt, which is about 20×20 inches is made from really small offcuts of a traditional hexagon patchwork, which is in turn made from the leftovers of a bed-sized quilt which will eventually feature on this blog.  These are the scraps from the scraps.

I decided to use them because I saw a photo in my mother’s copy of Quiltmania.

I don’t usually do straight copies of things, but these little pieces by a Japanese quilter, whose name, shamefully, I forgot to write down, really appealed to me.  I had a happy half hour doing sketches and making rough templates:

I am not sure if the photos are of a high enough resolution, but you might be able to see the messiness and roughness of these pages.  I love neat, photo-ready sketchbooks, but mine are very much design notes.  They are not meant to be a work of art.  I am often working things out on paper.  And I often make mistakes, particularly with proportion.

The next stage was to quilt the square(ish) backgrounds.  I pieced the main bits of the baskets and applied them using needle-turned appliqué.  I find hand appliqué really relaxing and very good to do in front of the television.

The background is a bit of a very old, very laundered, very well-loved linen shirt kindly donated by the medieval historian.  I quilted it with Madeira lana thread because it makes a good, slightly distressed mark and some of the variegated colours are lovely and subtle.  I stitched it together with a perle cotton:

One of the design techniques featured in this piece is stitching in different scales.  There is big stitch quilting on the background with the wooly thread, and small over-stitching with the perle, and as invisible as possible stitching with ordinary dark grey sewing thread on the appliqué.  There is also a bit of decorative stitching with the perle:

I like the wonkiness of this quilt, and the unusual shape of the baskets.  They look a bit like the sort of bag you can construct by folding cloth to make a shopper.  I can never work out how to use them so that the contents don’t spill out on the floor, so I don’t make them, but I do admire the look.

I made this quilt for fun and for the soothing quality of the hand appliqué and it was quick and delightful to make.  All the fabric, except one ancient Jinny Beyer print comes from old shirts, and the wadding and backing come from the trimmings of a much larger piece, so it cost nothing to make.  File under craft as therapy.

 

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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: