Sunday, 7 December 2014

Stitch Retreat Workshop

Following so closely on the heels of my Susan Denton workshop you will think I am always doing workshops.  This weekend I have had a tiring but fabulous time at a workshop with Angie Hughes organised by Nichola Keeble who runs the new(ish) company Stitch Retreats.  The Retreat was held at Stoke Rochford Hall which used to be my old stomping ground 40 years ago when it was a teacher training college.

Hard to believe this beautiful building had been almost destroyed by fire about 10 years ago.

 This beautiful Christmas tree in what used to be called the Crush Hall smelt beautiful.

We were so lucky with the weather all weekend and this was the distracting view from our seminar room.

Stoke Rochford sits in a beautiful parkland adjacent to a golf course and it was this rural location that attracted me when I was looking for a college in the 70's.

A lunchtime walk in the gardens revealed sculptural teasels and beautiful leaf shapes.

This fascinating glass fireplace dates to the early 20th century and must be beautiful with firelight flickering through the glass plates.

There were two classes running at the Retreat, our group with Angie Hughes and a second group with Mandy Pattullo.  Our group was 7 strong including Angie so we were very select, compact and bijou as they say.  It was lovely to have plenty of room to work and also to have lots of support from Angie who is a very relaxed and generous tutor.  

Our workshop centred on exploring velvet and that proved to be in an exciting and interesting way.  We worked with light coloured velvet and applied dyes, ink, bleach and stamps to it to gradually build up a base on which to work.

I explored several techniques that I havn't worked with much before and it was fascinating to see how different everyone's pieces were by the end of the weekend.

You can see that I was the rebel of the group, working in a landscape format instead of portrait and I chose to interpret an underwater theme rather than a garden.  By this time we had added machine embroidery and I had cut back some of my sheer top layer as I wanted to see where I needed to add more stitch and maybe some more stamps.  Just by coincidence, and probably because this venue was local to me, I had met 4 of the participants before, such is the small world of textile arts.  It was fun to spend time with new people and to receive tuition from a lovely lady.  I am going to do my best to finish my piece this week. Angie's piece is top left and was unfinished.

All of the work is beautiful and I loved seeing the way people combined the stencilled designs, stamps and colourways.  You can see the fabulous and exotic flower forms and colours that were used.  I hope I get to see some of the finished pieces some time.

You can see a short video of Angie's technique on Youtube and hear her beautiful singing voice.

We worked really hard over the weekend and enjoyed every minute of it.  The other group with Mandy Pattullo worked equally hard, maybe even harder, and produced some fabulous work.  We were invited to view their handiwork this afternoon.

Aren't these all fabulous?  They must have worked very hard as this was all collaged tiny scraps of old clothing and was all worked by hand.  If you know Mandy Pattullo's work you will recognise some of the creatures depicted.  I particularly liked the fox (by Liz Hands, fancy her being there :-)  ), the kingfisher and the blue hare. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the whole weekend and it was wonderful to share this creative time with friendly people.  Many thanks to Angie for all the information and techniques she shared with us and for making it a hardworking but relaxing and rewarding time.  Thank you too to Nichola for all her hard work and her great sense of fun throughout the weekend.  She worked really hard to ensure the hotel did everything to keep us happy and comfortable, not to mention well fed and watered.  Keep your eye on Stitch Retreats, Nichola has not been trading long but she is working hard to provide satisfying stitchy breaks with excellent tutors.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Susan Denton Workshop

A couple of weekends ago I had a long anticipated workshop with Susan Denton.  The workshop was part of a weekend organised by Region 10 of the Quilters Guild .

The meeting and workshop were held just south of Lincoln in a village on the edge of the Lincolnshire fens.  I had forgotten just how big Lincolnshire skies can be

Susan's workshop was titled 'Irregular But Not Completely Crazy' and focussed on foundation crazy piecing and the use of grids.   I had heard from friends what an amazing teacher Susan is and they were not wrong.  Despite the fact that the workshop was only one day we learned an enormous amount and inspiration was at an all time high!

Although I have been making quilts for a long time now I have never had much experience of foundation piecing and as I worked and Susan talked it became a revelation for me.  

My first attempt was a bit rocky and was a steep learning curve.

The second attempt was much better.  I know it all seems very simple but combined with the talk Susan gave the day before and thoughts about combining tessalated shapes I had a light bulb moment.


The work above doesn't include mine as I seemed to spend most of the afternoon working on paper.
Since coming home I have made one small piece using Susan's methods and am very excited to try more.

I have been playing with the square block that I made on the workshop and have flipped it around on the computer to explore potential designs.

My favourite is the third pattern down.  I'm not actually going to make any of these up but I had fun making the arrangements.  What I am far more interested in is exploring the making of landscape quilts using the principles we started to explore with Susan.

These three quilts by Susan show just how far you can take foundation piecing and working with grids of one sort or another to achieve the look you want.  I have long admired Susan Denton's work since I saw a gallery of her work at Festival of Quilts 4 years ago.

Susan often uses fabrics other than cotton and I do like the added texture this gives the works.  I have to make a quilt inspired by David Hockney for an exhibition next year and I am thinking I will explore what I've learned further for that piece of work.  I just need to clear the decks a bit first!

I'll leave you with a little bauble we made at the Regional meeting the day before the workshop:
I may now also have found a slight liking for hexagons!

Oooh!  I nearly forgot, I've also made a multi-textured table runner.  My inspiration was my dear Australian friend Dot Christian who loves to combine all sorts of colours and textures in her work.  I have made this runner once before and used an article which also explored the combination of various fabrics and textures but, do you think I can find it?

The materials include Donegal tweed, cotton, wool, Scottish tweed, beautiful hand-dyed velvet and curtaining fabric.  The backing is linen which wriggled all over!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red'

Today, like many other people over the past several weeks, we have been on a special trip to London to see what is most likely a once in a lifetime event.  This year marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War and the Tower of London has been chosen to stage a huge installation commemorating and remembering all of the British and Colonial lives lost in the Great War.  888,246 ceramic poppies have been made and are being planted in the moat at the Tower, one poppy for every life lost. 

The poppies are the inspiration of Paul Cummins, a Derbyshire ceramicist, and he drew his inspiration from a line in the will of a Derbyshire man who died in Flanders. "The blood swept lands and seas of red, where angels fear to tread".  These poppies have all been made by hand by potters at Paul Cummings studio using techniques in use at the timeof the Frist World War.  Some might say ironically that Paul has become a casualty too as he has lost a finger and damaged another while making the poppies.  Tom Piper has worked in collaboration with Paul to bring his inspiration to life.

Our visit today was sadly a little marred by a wet day but the impact of the poppies was nonetheless huge.  They are indeed like a huge red sea swirling all around the moat of the Tower of London.  The crowds vying for a view of the scene were huge but happily all were calm and patient in their jostling for a good view.  

 These little sparrows have soon found a new perch in amongst the poppy stems.  I wonder if sparrows ventured into the horror that was the trenches?

 Despite the rain there was a huge group of volunteers planting poppies.  I had not appreciated that  the poppies are actually constructed on site and it would appear it involves quite a lot of effort.

You should be able to see that even the Chelsea Pensioners are getting involved. 

The last poppy will be planted on Armistice Day, 11 November, and after that the poppies will be taken up and sent out to everyone who has requested one.  A percentage of the monies from the sale of the poppies will be shared among 6 Forces charities.  I'm happy and moved to say that one will be taking a special place in our garden later in the year. 

There are a lot of videos on Youtube about the poppies and I have included one here about their manufacture.

Each day at sunset the names of 180 Commonwealth troops who died during the war are read out and the Last Post is sounded.  

I abhor all forms of war and conflict and it is doubtful that this unique commemoration will change anything in the tide of man's brutality, but it is a formidable and very visual statement about the sheer numbers of individual lives obliterated in a war, and all around us today we could hear parents explaining to their children the significance of each flower.  Paul Cummins and Tom Piper and all the individuals involved are to be commended for their vision and effort.   The visual and emotional impact of the sea of red is both immediate and lasting.