Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Experimental Textiles - session 6 Colouring natural and synthetic fabrics

A cake and flowers for my birthday.

. . . and then another cake . . . !!!

We are now over halfway through Experimental Textiles, this session was the sixth of nine. I have only ever taught one group at a time before, this year we are running two groups - a Thursday/Friday and a Saturday/Sunday. We will be doing the same next year.
It is very interesting teaching the two groups side by side - they are both strong and are producing some excellent work. One thing that I hadn't considered was the air of competition creeping in between the groups. It is light hearted - but very definitely there!!!
One of the benefits of having two groups - when the tutor has a birthday - you get two cakes!!! 

When we are all settled with coffee (and cake) first thing on day one of the session - we look at what has been done for home work produced to reinforce what did on the session before. On the previous session we had looked at constructed textiles - felt, knit and weave, and how you can make your work 3D.
This is a just a small selection of what the groups brought in . . . .

 Rachael experimented further with felt . . .

and then stitched into it. Beautiful.

Mary felted this lovely bowl . . . . 

and played around with combining stitched paper with felt.

Jane created this fabulous little vessel . . .

and this one. Lots of fabulous hand stitch.

Kate stitched into one of the bowls she made on session five. Very delicate.

Once we have looked at and discussed all the homework, we have more tea and coffee and then set up for the task of the day - which was dyeing natural fabrics with procion dye. I use the the dyeing in a plastic bag technique. It is a great way to see how several different types, weights and weaves of fabric absorb dye. We dyed cotton, silk and viscose.

The fabrics were cut up up and placed in the plastic bags and wet the fabric, giving it a good squidge about to make sure the fabrics are thoroughly soaked.

The dyes . . . 

The students then play with colour, using pipettes to add dye to the bags of fabric.


The bags of dyed fabric are then put into plastic trays and left over night and washed out the next day.
This process only take up the morning so we had the afternoon to prepare the papers for transfer printing on the second day of the session.

The girls painting disperse dye onto copy paper.

I think it is very important for students to be able to colour and print their own fabrics, it helps make their work distinctive, more original. This is why we spend a whole session on colouring fabrics.
Synthetic fabrics are coloured with different dyes to natural fabrics. Synthetic fabrics are coloured with disperse dyes. These dyes usually come on powder form and you mix them with water - it's as simple as that. The dyes are then painted onto a non absorbent paper and left to dry. 

 Ironing the papers onto fabric between baking parchment.

Once dry, the papers are laid, paint side down, onto your synthetic fabric - placed between baking parchment, and then ironed, slowly, for a couple of minutes to transfer the dye from the paper onto the fabric. This is how the dyes have become known as 'transfer paints'.
The iron needs to be as hot as your fabric can stand and off steam. The dyes look very dull until you iron them off . . .

Kate using the heat press.

If you have access to a heat press - this can really speed up the process. We have one in the IDC studio at The Old Needle Works.

The painted paper is on the right - the print is on the left. You can see how much brighter the colours are when applied with heat.

Again, the painted paper is on the right and the printed fabric is on the left.

The painted paper is on the left - this was then ironed onto a satin and a fine crepe. You can usually get at least three prints from one painted paper.

Disperse dye is translucent, layering the prints will create beautiful shadowy effects.

Using resists is great fun when you transfer print - you simply lay your resist between the fabric and the painted paper and then iron or heat press to transfer the colour. 

Stalks of wheat used as a resist.

Using stencils and leaves as resists then turning the leaves over and printing off the dye they have collected.

Another resist print with a leaf - which was then turn over and printed.

A detail of a print using a doily as a resist.

The groups have printed a large amount of fabric - I am excited to see what hey will be doing with them.

Because we were working with synthetic fabrics - it meant we could cut them with a soldering iron and zap them with a heat gun.

Marilyn cutting her applique shapes with a soldering iron.

A print is ironed onto Bondaweb, the backing paper is left on. Shapes are cut  and lifted off the backing paper and ironed onto another printed background.
This is basically applique, just cut with a soldering iron as opposed to scissors. You can achieve more intricate shapes with a soldering iron.

Several layers of applique.

Because the layers of applique are all printed, the applied shapes merge in and out creating an interesting surface on which to stitch.

A more contrasting sample of the applied layers.

We had a great two sessions, I am just about getting used to teaching the same session to two groups. It's a bit like groundhog day!!!
I can't wait to see what they all get up to for home work.

Rachael, who is on the weekend course, writes a blog about the trials and tribulations of being an 'ExTex' student. You might like to have a look at it - do look at the previous posts, particularly the one on collage.

I am continually and happily surprised at the effect the course has on students and how dedicated they become. Two of last years students are re-doing the course this year. When this was first suggested to me my first response was -"ooh!!! Didn't I teach the course right the first time?". But what has happened is that students want to continue with their studies, they realise that if they are on a course, there is more likelihood they will get some work done. I didn't have the time free with my other teaching to offer a continuation course. Until now!
We already have five students enrolled for Experimental Textiles 4 which starts next June.

 Layers of applique cut from transfer prints.

I have cleared five weekends for a continuation course only for the past students of my Experimental Textiles course at The Old Needle Works. It will run from July 2015 - February 2016 and I expect it to roll on from there. As I will be living in Redditch by then it will make it easier. The course will be more concept based with me taking more of a mentoring role. The group will be supported through their further development and it is my hope they will be an exhibiting group.
The name of the group will be ExTeXtra!!!


I am writing this in the room of my hotel. I am in Harrogate ready to set up the Vilene stand at The Knitting and Stitching Show at the Harrogate International Centre. We are on stand number TG540. Laura arrived by train last night and I drove up from Brighton. The show opens tomorrow - it will be great to see all our friends again, particularly Viv and Kevin from Art Van Go who Laura and I shared a house with in Dublin when we did the show there and then I taught at Art Van Go last week. 

So - watch this space. . . .  I will post about the show . . .  later!!! I'm looking forward to seeing many of you at the show.

x x x

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Reclaimed Papers at Art Van Go November 11th & 12th

 A very sensitive and subtle piece. This would make a beautiful cover for a tall night light/candle holder. You would just need to stitch a back seam to create a tube. 
(Decovil 1 iron on interfacing, colourwashed with paper additions.)

So, a busy week this week . . . . 
Tuesday and Wednesday I was teaching a 2 day workshop at Art Van Go - Reclaimed Papers. It is great fun - you don't have to make anything that looks like anything - it is a great process. Just tearing and layering.

 The group all cracking on.

I love teaching at Art Van Go It's a great space to teach in, plus I get to see Viv, Kevin and the team.
This was my last workshop this year - and is was fabulous. The group worked really hard, and Viv and Kevin were on great form.

Torn, painted newspapers torn and layered up with painted Bondaweb.

This process is featured in my book Reclaimed Textiles - it's called 'Pretties and Background'.
Once the papers have been layered up they are then ironed onto an interfacing. The thickness of the interfacing depends on what you want to do with your piece. If you want to stitch into the layered papers it can be stabilised with a lightweight iron-on such as Vilene F220 or H250. For firmer projects like book covers, then Decovil 1 or Decovil 1 light would be splendid - they feel like leather, gorgeous. If you want something even firmer - to make brooches and earrings - the S133 is what you need. Decovil and S133 can be found here -

More papers ironed onto Decovil 1.

Torn layered newspaper - just beautiful - who'd have thought newspaper could look sooooo good.

This book cover was acrylic waxed then stitched into - beautifully.

A detail of the book cover.

One of the students has an art based background and produced some very interesting work  . . . .

Playing about.

More considered play . . .

And more . . . .

 . .  and more!

There were several great book covers made -

All with some very splendid stitch.

I will be teaching three workshops at Art Van Go next year - starting with my annual design workshop in June.

The current exhibition at Art Van Go is a collection of work by Margaret Nicholson. Her work consists of Or Nue, beading and metal threadwork. The exhibition is on until November 23rd. If you haven't seen this collection yet, I highly recommend it.
All the work was done AFTER Margaret was 65!!!!

Once this exhibition comes down, 'Made at Art Van Go' will be going up. As it's name suggests, the work show will have been made on one of the many workshops that Art Van Go run through out the year. it is a great idea and the work will be wonderful. While I was there this week, Janis showed the work that one of the students on my Transforming Transfer course had created. It is always good to see what students have done with work created on your course.

These divine purses have been made by Sharon Davis - aren't they delicious?

 . . . and these cuffs . . . . 

If you get a chance to see either or both of these exhibitions - you will not have had a wasted journey.


I am now up in Redditch teaching my two ExTex 3 groups, I will post about what we are up to after the weekend. I was told today that we already have 4 students enrolled on our next courses that start next June.
I have decided to move up here - I need to be able to offer more support to my current and ex students up here. I will be starting a new continuation course for past Experimental Textiles students next year - as well as timetabled courses.

I will be putting my house on the market when I come back from New Zealand in January  . . .  new beginnings . . . .

x x x

Sunday, 9 November 2014

The Knitting and Stitiching Show Dublin - 30 October - 2 November

Viv and Kevin.
Starting our time in Dublin with a full Irish breakfast.

Apologies for the delay in writing this post life has been a tad - hectic!

I had a lovely time in Ireland. Laura and I shared a house in Donnybrook with Viv and Kevin from Art Van Go. We were there to do The Knitting and Stitching Show in Dublin. This is the second time that Vilene have a stand at this show, and after having such a good time last year we knew what we were in for . . .

Laura on the stand, halfway through setting up the stand.
 It is great fun working with Laura at the shows - we do have a laugh together, we work hard too, of course!!!

The Dublin show is not as busy as the other two in the UK, but it has a fabulous atmosphere and great charm. Some of the stand holders are the same but there are many more from Ireland. There was lots to see and many friends to catch up with.
I always enjoy looking at the graduates showcase. There is always interesting and intriguing work to discover. I particularly liked the work by Helen Sill.
Her work is about herself and the changes she is experiencing through the simple medium of cloth, stitch and print.


Have a look at her site/blog, its a great read.

Amy Brannigan was exhibiting again - I do love her work. Laser cut leather. The designs are based on old, deteriorating cast iron gates and railings that can found be found all over Ireland.

This is Amy's website

There was a lot of fabulous work on show, these were two artists that caught my eye.

When we are in Dublin our 'boss' in Vilene comes over and takes Laura and I out for the evening along with the Vilene Dublin rep. We always have a great time out to together - we go to The Bank, an old bank turned into a fabulous bar and restaurant. I do love it there.

You can see the fabulous ceiling in this shot.

Of course a little drink is taken . . . it would be very rude not to . . . .

Guess which one is mine?

We will be going again next year - it will be fabulous. 

Art Van Go run the Artists in Action stands at all the Twisted Thread shows. It takes a lot of organisation and is a great chance for artists to play and develop ideas while they chat to visitors at the show. 
I got a chance to play one day at the show - I didn't have a lot of time to plan what I was doing - but thoroughly enjoyed myself - I worked with Decovil 1 iron-on interfacing. I love the way it feels like leather and its soft, but firm drape. I painted one side of the work with metallic paint and the other side I sprayed colour through stencils. I will show you more of it when I have developed my ideas further  . . . . 
This is a sneak peek . . . needless to say, it is 3D and about 6ft tall.

 After the show finished I had a couple of days break in County Leitrim - at Lough Rynn Castle. My goodness, it is soooo beautiful. A beautiful country house with excellent staff, service and food.

I have never stayed anywhere sooooo beautiful. The weather was showery and sunny but it didn't matter as there were cosy sofas to snuggle into and roaring log fires to stare into. 

 The wood panelled entrance hall.

 Beautiful stained glass in the entrance hall.

 My room - blimey - just gorgeous.

The view from my window divine.

It was great to have a short break before getting back to my crazy world.
I shall be off to teach at Art Van Go tomorrow - I am teaching a two day workshop, Reclaimed Papers, on Tuesday and Wednesday in the studio at Art Van Go. Then I go straight up to Redditch to teach the two groups of ExTex 3 Thursday to Sunday. Then it's Harrogate and The Knitting and Stitching Show.


I have two new products that I am launching this week on The first is SoluLuxe - a heavy weight water soluble embroidery stabiliser. It is thicker than any other similar product on the market. When using two layers of SoluLuxe you will not need to use an embroidery hoop for free motion embroidery so it is easier to work on a larger scale unrestricted.

 Solufix - cut to A4 and run through an ink jet printer then backed with SoluLuxe to create firm fabric on which to stitch without a hoop.

I have begun to stitch the image, I hope to finish it when I am on the stand at Harrogate.

SoluLuxe can be combined with Solufix to free machine printed images and then wash away both products to just reveal the stitch. Solufix is a self adhesive water soluble that is on a firm carrier paper, making it firm enough to safely print through an ink jet printer. 
Once the Solufix has been printed, remove the carrier paper and stick the Solufix onto the SoluLuxe. You will then have a firm surface on which to stitch.

Pre cut A4 sheets of Solufix and SoluLuxe can be found in Fix/Luxe packs and Fix/Luxe printed packs which can be found here -

More on the second product in the next post . . . . . .

x x x