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Little Boro Bear and Big Boro Bear

I haven’t posted much recently because I am so busy trying to get my business ideas off the ground or preparing to give talks to groups.  I really don’t want this blog to turn into one of those thinly disguised sales pitches, so I am trying to avoid writing too much about upcoming events and workshops.  However, I have really loved making my boro-inspired pieces and wanted to share a bit of the work which is delighting me.

I have made a couple of boro bears, following on from the popularity of the boro dog.  I tend to make these stuffed toys in the same way.  I start by making a piece of fabric and then cut out the shapes.  Where possible I draw round a template and stitch and then cutting them out as this is much less fiddly than trying to machine stitch round little pieces.  Here, though I drew round my template with chunky felt tip pen and then cut inside the thick ink line.  I have used all sorts of things to mark with, but I get really irritated if I cannot see the fine pencil line I drew thirty seconds ago, and that is not good way to feel if you are stitching.  So, this was my big piece for the big bear in the photo:

There was plenty left over after cutting the bear out to make other things such as little brooches or key rings.  Then I sewed him together.  He is all hand stitched, whereas the little bear was the result of an experiment to see if I could do some approximation of boro on the sewing machine.

I added the red tassels on little bear’s ears and a bit of hand embroidery just to finish him off.  Big bear got a ruff:

If I were making them again, I think that I would make the body a bit longer and remember to slant the cut at the top of the arms so they point down more (little bear is better in this respect).

This is a leftover.  I like it because I think the blue crosses with the bit of yellow capture the spirit of boro a bit more than some of my work.

One thing that helped here, I think, was putting a layer of wadding on top of the cardboard template and under the face fabric before drawing up the thread around the cardboard.

Picture pinched from the internet

This is the easiest way I know to appliqué a circle, although I would need a considerably larger turning than the one shown in the photograph above.  I like the slightly raised and padded feel the addition of the wadding gives.  Another idea worth considering would be reverse appliqué as no bear’s face is slapped on top of its coat; it should come from underneath.  I might try this if I make another.

I was making a sample playing with the cross shape which is very common in boro, and found that it made a perfect-sized blanket for little bear:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lots of fun just trying things out and experimenting.

 

 

 

 

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Red-eared Celtic dog

One of my morning rituals is to listen in In Our Time on Thursdays on BBC radio 4.  I start out full of optimism that I will understand the science-y ones, but really I prefer the history and culture subjects.  Last week it was about the collection of Welsh folk stories, The Mabinogion.  I knew a little bit about this, but not much, and I know a lot more now.  I recommend a visit to the podcast, as it was a brilliantly clear exposition of the the collecting and content of the stories, and made me want to read them.

The point of this preamble is that I learned from the programme that in Welsh mythology there is an Other World, Annwn, which is a sort of parallel world to this one.  In the Other World you lose your memories which only come back when you return to the everyday.  I discovered that there are very subtle signs that you are in Annwn which are a bit puzzling to the modern reader, but were well-known to the contemporary audience.  One of these sign is that dogs have red ears.  I couldn’t resist making one.

So here is my boro version with red ears:

I made the boro fabric up in a piece and the cut the dog out of it:

Boro is a Japanese technique for mending work garments, usually indigo dyed, and often with white thread.  My version is a very westernised version, and I love to make it because I like the way that it textures the fabric so well.

I couldn’t stop his head bending to one side which I think was a combination of my stuffing technique and the way the grain was running over so many fabrics in so many directions.  I think it gives him a bit of character, so I didn’t try to fix it.

One note is that I decided to use safety eyes rather than beads.  Went up to Hobbycraft to buy some and discovered that they only sell them in packs of 25.  Interesting challenge to find something to do with that spare eye.

Advance notice: there will be a boro workshop coming up at Pomegranate Studio very soon.

 

 

 

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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.