Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Corpus Clock

Carrying on the theme of machinery - I heard about the Corpus Clock today on the radio and just found the video on YouTube showing it in action, narrated by the designer - click here to see it. I think this is the most beautiful piece of engineering and I like the way it is slightly frightening; it makes you very aware of the passing of the seconds that will never return, Death's bony hand on your shoulder like those mediaeval woodcuts. I will have to try and see it in real life one day.

Hmm - Could this be the inspiration I need?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Starting Module 3

Chapter one of module 3 is all about Tudor embroidery - I am collecting notes and images about strapwork at the moment and trying out the stitches. Here are my first attempts with a nice thick thread and the help of my trusty Mary Thomas book of stitches and a mirror (don't you just love being left-handed).

Still thinking vague thoughts about the metallic effects piece. I would like to tie in with my industrial theme and wondered about Tudor technology - some connection with printing presses maybe? I came across the expression 'steampunk' recently for the first time - it refers to the aesthetic of making modern technology look as if it comes from another era, eg a laptop with lots of brass and leather that could have been designed for a Victorian gentleman. One of those trends you have seen without realising it had a name. I think it came from fantasy novels in which technology appears before its time. When I did a search, the first article I found was a piece saying how 'over' and unfashionable it is now, but who cares - it may still work for me as a starting point.

Art Competition and a Soggy Catalogue

Saw this in the Sunday papers so I thought I would share it - a competition sponsored by Ford to advertise their new Fiesta cars. They are looking for an artwork to represent the essence of "now". According to the blurb, they will welcome different media - wouldn't it be great if a textile piece won? Click here for details.

I wandered outside yesterday to see how the catalogue I planted under the grapevines is doing as there hasn't been much rain since it went out. It hasn't grown me a new laptop tree yet but is getting nicely damp underneath as you can see (If you are reading this thinking I have lost it completely, take a look at this post in Maggie Grey's blog. and all will be explained).

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Knitting and Stitching Show, NEC Birmingham

Last Saturday was my annual treat - a trip to the Knitting and Stitching Show. My favourite because it combines excellent exhibitions with shopping. I have been going to Alexandra Palace for years but this was my first try of the NEC show. At first I thought I had come on the wrong day - getting off the train at Birmingham International, it was a 10 minute walk through endless corridors and escalators to reach the room, and in that time I only saw one other person (also looking for the K&S). To be honest, seeing that huge place deserted in the middle of the day was a bit spooky; presumably there were no other halls in use. If I had found that out beforehand, I would have taken the car and saved myself a couple of hours travelling time (and about half the train fare). Still, it was well worth it once I found the hall. No photos to share, I'm afraid, as there were 'no photography' signs all over the place but I have added to my postcard collection.

I always enjoy going around the graduates showcases - my absolute favourite this year was "The System's Erupting" by Felicity Clarke. She has used cables and wires and plugs inside knitted tubes or wrapped with vivid yarns to create an installation in which all the electrical 'gubbins' are literally bursting out of the wall and rising up in a giant tangle.

Another personal choice was "Memories Are Made of This" by Carol Quarini, part of the Divergence Exhibition by the Westhope Group. This is 3 long narrow panels suspended from perspex rods which represent the degeneration of memory. The first is a complete length of large scale lace, the shapes representing nerve cells in the brain. The second is begining to break with clouds of silk paper replacing the shapes. Finally, there is just the cloudy background with a few last threads of memory. I found this a very poignant visualisaton of gradual memory loss.

Now, I always like a bit of audience participation, so I had to join in with Alfreda Mc Hale's interactive installation "Seeking Pearls". She has collected thousands of old and unloved buttons, spools of thread and skeins from old collections, and preserved them by bottling them into jam jars, preserving jars and even the tiny glass jars that herbs are sold in. There are dozens of these stacked on shelves like an old-fashioned sweetshop, and visitors are invited to take one, empty the contents into a large bowl of buttons and refill it with their selection from the bowl. You could then mark it with a sticky star, so no-one else will touch it, and replace it on the shelf. So the collection is gradually rearranged and the buttons have been appreciated and chosen once more. It brought back old memories of spending wet Sundays tipping out my mother's big bag of beads and sorting through them, loving the colours and the feel of them and the different shapes and sizes.

Finally, it was good to see one of my favourite charities at the show. The Sailors Society exists to combat the isolation of seafarers and give practical support through a network of centres and chaplains. They regularly distribute woolly hats knitted by volunteers (about 20,000 each year) and were holding a wonderful display of entries to their recent competition to make an outrageous hat that no self-respecting sailor would want to wear. I like to occasionally knit hats for them to keep my hands busy while my daughter is in gym class (or swimming, or dancing or whatever) so I handed one in while I was there.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Meggiecat's Purse

A little while ago, there was a post on Meggiecat about making a little fabric purse from a template she had designed for a paper purse. Click here to see the original purse and download the template. I thought I would have a go to see how it would turn out in fabric, and while I was at it I wrote down the instructions - so here we go.

You will need two fabrics - a main one for the outside and a lining. I used some scraps of patchwork cotton for this trial. You will also need a piece of pelmet/craft vilene and some Bondaweb.

Print two copies of the purse template and one of the handle/tab. I increased the size to 140% to make it easier to handle - it still fits onto an A4 sheet.

Cut out one copy of the purse omitting the gusset. Draw around this onto the paper backing of some Bondaweb. Iron onto pelmet/craft vilene and cut out, leaving the paper in place.

Cut out the second copy of the purse template - the whole thing this time. Draw around it onto Bondaweb as before and iron onto the wrong side of your main fabric. Cut out leaving the paper in place.

Pin the second (complete) copy of the purse template to your lining fabric and cut out.

Pieces cut out. Left to right - vilene, main fabric, lining

Remove the paper backing from the vilene and lay it, Bondaweb side down, onto the wrong side of the lining. Iron to fix.

Vilene on top of lining fabric, ready for ironing.

Remove the paper backing from your main fabric and lay it on top of the vilene/lining, wrong sides together. Iron to fix. You now have a single piece consisting of the main fabric and lining, right sides out, with the vilene sandwiched inbetween. The Bondaweb will help prevent fraying but the raw edges need to be neatened, this could be done by hand or machine. I used a machine satin stitch, width 4.0 and length 0.4, with a satin stitch foot.

Above - stitching the edges; below the edges finished.

Cut out the template for the tab. Draw two copies of the tab onto Bondaweb as before. Iron onto the wrong side of main fabric and cut out. Remove the paper backing and place the pieces wrong sides together. Iron to fix. Neaten the edges - I reduced the stitch width to 2.5.

Now the handles - I found the curved shapes very fiddly in fabric, so I cut a template 20cms long by 1cm wide with pointed ends. Make two handles using the same method as for the tab. Attach the handles to the purse using a bead to cover the stitches.

I like the folded gusset in the original so I kept them in this version. To make the folds, lay the purse on a table, lining side up, and place the template on top. Mark the ends of the fold lines around the edge of the gusset with dots - you do not need to draw the whole line.

Fold the purse sides up, creasing the vilene to make a flat base. Now pleat the sides using the dots to show you where to place the folds. The Bondaweb gives body to the fabric allowing it to stay upright. Press each fold with the edge of an iron as you go. Refer to the photo below to see the result, it is slightly different from the paper model.

Use paper clips to hold the pleats in place and let them settle. To finish, add the tab using beads again over the stitches. Finger crease the edges of the base to make the purse stand upright.

Finished purse with a cotton reel for scale.

I think the handles look a little thin and floppy - you could make them wider and stiffen with interfacing. As this was a trial piece, I did not decorate the fabric. To make another one I would add lots of stitching or applique on the main fabric piece before bonding it to the vilene and lining, or perhaps print/dye/paint the fabric before cutting out.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Young Embroiderers

My two girls are members of Young Embroiderers - part of the Embroiderers' Guild - and over the holidays the youngest (9) made this piece as her entry to the annual national competition, which was on the theme of "carnival - colour and movement". She designed and made it by herself (with me acting as chief needle-threader and fabric supplier). It doesn't show very well on the photo, but she used the lettering on my sewing machine to write on the banner - it represents a dance school float. It was the first time she had used my machine so we are both very proud of her. I sent it off this week and promised I would show a picture of it to all my friends, so here it is.