Emotional Repair Exhibition Masterclass

I’ve got a one-day workshop alongside my exhibition at Gawthorpe Hall Textile Collection on Friday 18th May. There are only a handful of tickets left!

Make a Precious Objects sampler using vintage fabrics and tiny treasures. All materials are provided but you might want to bring your own pieces to personalise your work.

You might also be interested in the Makers in Museums symposium for makers and curators in June.

 

 

Festival of Quilts 2017 workshops and talks

Festival of Quilts

10-13th August 2017
 This year’s Festival of Quilts will be a celebration of my winning the Fine Art Quilt Masters prize last year. I am giving a talk about the Criminal Quilts series past and present and the stories behind the emotive and engaging photographs which inspired my work. Bookings open in April here.
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Talk: Criminal Quilts: The story behind the Fine Art Quilt Masters winner 2016. 

Friday 11th August 13.30-14.15. £8.

Ruth Singer will discuss the complex story behind her winning ‘Criminal Quilt’, inspired by archive photographs of women criminals. In this talk she will explore the background to this work and how it fits into her other research-led art textiles work and ongoing projects exploring heritage, personal stories and textiles with a narrative. Ruth will also discuss the techniques and materials used to create this and other work.

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I am also running a half day workshop exploring the techniques I used to create this work.

 In the Shadows.  Reverse appliqué with transparent fabrics.

Afternoon workshop
Thursday 10th August 13.30. £41

Take applique and layering to the next level with this exciting technique of using transparent fabrics layered and cut away. Using delicate silk organza, you will learn how to prepare and hand stitch a design by hand and create the subtle shadow effects by removing layers of fabric. We will also cover embellishing with shadow embroidery stitch and trapping fragments between the layers. You will create a small sampler during this workshop which can be incorporated into larger project if desired. This technique was used by Ruth Singer to create her Fine Art Quilt Masters winning piece in 2016. Materials will be supplied, cost £7 to be collected by the tutor on the day. Suitable for all levels. Book here

Ruth Singer. Criminal Quilts: Hanging. Winner of the 2016 Fine Art Quilt Masters competition

As usual I will also be running one hour introduction to trapunto quilting quick and easy workshops.
Thursday 10th 10.30am, Friday 11th 10.30am & Sunday 13th 10.30am. £13 per workshop. Book here

Antique Textile Inspiration course

In June I will be running an exciting new 4-day course for West Dean College. In this course I will be sharing my own way of working taking inspiration from antique textiles and creating sketchbooks and samplers to develop into new textile pieces. Find out more about West Dean from my previous blog posts.

My original career plan was to work as a costume and textile curator in museums and I specialised for some years in medieval textiles. It didn’t quite work out like that and textile history became my hobby as my day job in museums was focussed on exhibitions and other projects covering a wide range of social and design history. I spent my days off researching medieval textiles in the V&A and other collections and developing a series of talks and workshops investigating textile and fashion history. When I started out making textile pieces in 2005 I chose to work with techniques drawn from my research, in particular 18th & 19th century dress trimmings.

These days my textile research is purely for inspiration as I work in a much broader way but is still key to forming my ideas and ways of working. I am excited to be able to share my textile collections and research through this course. I am also building up a lovely Pinterest board of ideas related to this course, so you can get a flavour of the colours, textures and patterns we will be enjoying throughout the week.

 

This intensive and exploratory workshop is designed for others with a love of antique textiles, those who love to explore museums and antique shops and want to make work inspired by what they find.  I aim to share the skills to research and explore old textiles, develop your understanding of design and technique as well as learn ways of translating what you love about old textiles into your own original contemporary work. Tuition will concentrate on sparking and developing your ideas, growing your confidence in working from inspiration material and selecting the best techniques to use to take your design ideas forward.

During the course you will have time to study my large personal collection of historic embroidered, embellished and quilted textiles and you are welcome to bring your own and explore the many textile treasures to be found in West Dean College buildings.  I will share my experience and knowledge of textile techniques and design and you will develop a sketchbook of shapes, colours, patterns, materials and textures drawn directly from the textile sources, then spend time exploring and experimenting with how to translate the feel of the historic pieces into your own contemporary work. I will demonstrate a wide variety of techniques which you can use for your own designs including hand and machine embroidery, fabric manipulation, painting and stencil printing, appliqué and other methods of embellishment to create exciting surface textures and pattern to develop ideas, designs and stitched samples.

For further information please see the course details on West Dean website.

You might also enjoy my textile history posts about smocking and trapunto quilting, two of my favourite obsessions.

Stitched textiles inspired by historic textile sources

12 to 16 June 2017
£426.00

Fabric Manipulation workshop at West Dean College

This time five years ago I started work on my third book Fabric Manipulation which was published a year or so later. It gives me real pleasure to see these exciting techniques being enjoyed and re-invented.

 

It is always a pleasure to go back through my boxes of samples from the book and share them anew. Last week’s students at West Dean College produced some amazing pieces, variations and interpretations of the techniques. Shibori work is by Romor Designs.

I hope this course will be repeated at West Dean in a couple of years. In the meantime I have a smocking workshop in London in June and a couple of dates of manipulation techniques with Gillian Cooper Studio in Scotland in August. Next year I hope to launch some online courses exploring manipulation techniques in more detail. There are lots of links and resources on the Fabric Manipulation page too including extensive Pinterest boards and blog posts.

Smocking

Smocking Past & Present

One-day workshop with Selvedge. Saturday 24th June, 2017. Selvedge Shop, London. £120. Book here SOLD OUT

Traditional English smocking has a very fine history from farming smocks of the mid-19th century to to Aesthetic Liberty gowns of the late 19th century as well as a revival in the 1970s. In this workshop we will learn the basics of traditional English smocking using variety of classic stitch patterns and try out some contemporary, experimental variations in unusual materials and new stitches to create highly original textile art.

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A short history of smocking

Smocking, like so many textile techniques, has a rather secretive history. From what I can find out, the technique of smocking is often confused with the garment called a smock. For centuries, women’s main undergarment was a nightdress-like linen smock, which could be decorated, were she wealthy enough, but often was not, and there’s not much evidence of this garment being decorated with actual smocking. There are a number of Tudor portraits which appear to show smocking on smocks necks and cuffs but it is impossible to say for sure if they really are made by smocking – which is a decorative stitching on top of previously pleated or gathered fabric.

This Spanish child’s smock, dating somewhere between 1700-1800 has what looks like proto-smocking; gathers overstitched with black thread for decorative effect. The garment most commonly called a smock nowadays used to be called a smock frock, which sort-of helps distinguish it. This practical, although decorated, garment developed during the 18thcentury as a protective, enveloping apron-like shirt worn by manual and agricultural workers to keep their clothes clean. It may well have developed from the voluminous, washable, linen undergarments that men and women continued to wear to keep their outer clothes clean from body odour and sweat.

Smock-frocks as we know them now, are made from rectangular pieces of cloth (no curves so no fabric waste) with gathering to create shape. Gathering pulls in the fabric which is then released below, to create an easy-to-wear and practical smock. Smocking itself allows the fabric to stretch a little which would also increase wearing comfort. In addition, smocking creates a thick, dense fabric full of small air pockets which act as insulation – a welcome benefit in outdoor work, as well as the protection of thicker layers.

As with many other practical garments, they could be embellished and embroidered. When smocks first began to have decorative stitching is unknown, but those that survive from the early 19th century can be stunning. Of course, the finest ones that were looked after are the ones that survive, and the every day ones, worn out and threadbare, would have been recycled rather than preserved, so we tend to see only the best examples.

By the end of the 19th century, the smock was out of favour – many agricultural workers having had to move to cities and work in factories, for which a flowing garment was impractical. Just as the farmers’ smock goes out of style, the technique of decorative smocking starts to come intostyle in fashionable circles.

The women of the aesthetic movement (closely associated with the Pre-Raphaelites) took to wearing loose-fitting, ‘healthy’ garments which didn’t require the wearing of a corset. The style of flowing and comfortable garments were heavily-influenced by smocks, along with other styles of dress, and it was unsurprising that smocking was also used to create shaping and decorative effects. This velvet example at FIT is stunning.

Smocking from dressmaking book

Smocking from dressmaking book

Smocks were also popular for aesthetic children’s wear, judging by this Liberty of London child’s smock, a fancy silk version of the traditional rural garment. Patterns using the techniques appear in women’s magazines too, such as this smocked bag from a 19th century magazine.

In the early 20th century, smocking appears in women’s magazines and sewing manuals on garments, domestic textiles and children’s wear, such as this example from the Women’s Home Companion, 1916. The 1930s and 1940s were the heyday of patterns and innovative stitch development along with some stunning uses of the simplest honeycomb stitch pattern such as this velvet dress by Maggie Rouff. As with many crafts, smocking was revived in the 1970s when such delights as the smocked plunge-neckline swimming costume was created….alongside Victorian-esque party dresses for women and girls, made popular by Laura Ashley. It is also sometimes seen on folk or traditional costume from Europe. This 19th century Russian blouse makes beautiful use of shaped smocking on the cuff.

True smocking is hand stitched, and incredibly time-consuming to prepare. The reverse fabric is marked with regular dots (for which embroidery transfers were produced) or marked with a grid, then regular stitches are made right across the piece to create completely even rows of gathers. The decorative stitches are worked from the front side and can be as simple as honeycomb stitch (my personal favourite) or covered with complex and varied designs.

Faux smocking using shirring elastic came in during the smocking craze in the 1970s, and it is this much-faster technique that became most commonly used for women’s and girl’s dresses, including many of the Laura Ashley classics.

American or Canadian smocking is a different technique altogether. This type of smocking is all worked from the back, with the gathering and decorative pattern-making all rolled up into one. The earliest example of this technique that I have ever seen is on an 18th century French dress, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Ruth Singer smockingSewing manuals of the 19th and 20th century don’t seem to include reverse / American smocking, so it may be that it was fairly unknown to the amateur sewer, and only occasionally used by the professional. It became very fashionable in the 1930s and 40s and had a renaissance in the 70s.  The most popular use of this technique was on cushions square, bolster and round cushions in synthetic velvet from the 60s and 70s.  There’s no shortage of brilliant patterns for products using American smocking, some of which I have gathered on my Smocking Pinterest board, along with other historic and contemporary forms of smocking.

The acknowledged expert at making this American smocking fashionable today is Nitin Goyal, a London-based designer who creates stunning silk cushions, bedspreads and scarves using some amazing variations on the technique. I believe the work is made in India. His work is now thoroughly copied and new American-smocked cushions can be picked up in many high street shops.

Smocked pendant by Tinctory

Smocked pendant by Tinctory

As far as English smocking goes, perhaps the best use of the technique is Tinctory, who makes stunning textile jewellery using circular English smocking. I am lucky enough to own this piece.

As smocking is such a time-consuming technique, it doesn’t seem to be used that much in clothing, but it does sometimes still appear in couture, like this Versace piece, which is glorious at odds with agricultural smocks! If you are intrigued by these gorgeous techniques, please have a look at my book Fabric Manipulation.

This article first appeared on Mr X Stitch.

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Surface Pattern exhibition at Unit Twelve

Criminal Quilts: Patchwork

This piece will be exhibited in Unit Twelve’s new exhibition (Surface) Pattern 27th April- 26th August 2017.

 

I’m also running a natural dye workshop at the gallery on Saturday 29th July where you can create lovely patterns on cloth using foraged plant materials.

Creative Workshop With Helen Hallows

I treated myself to another creative experimentation day this weekend, trying new materials, techniques and ideas. I spent the day on a Mark Making workshop with artist friend Helen Hallows whose work and philosophy I have long admired.

helen-hallows

Helen Hallows

When you teach a lot of workshops you really appreciate all the hard work which goes into making a workshop really special for the participants, and it’s also a reminder of what it is like on the other side of the teaching table.

Helen made the day very lovely and it was extra special to find my friend Alys there, also having a birthday treat workshop day!

We made mood boards, splashed paint around, printed, stamped and got thoroughly messy, covering paper in colour and pattern. I loved trying mono print again but in totally different ways to the workshop last week and covering papers in bold, strong colour, layering, marking and scraping away. I have created a huge stash of beautiful papers which I think I will use for stitching into, creating collage and more experimental work and I have also stretched my imagination, tried different colour palettes and lots of new ideas for creating colour and pattern which will seep their way into my work in lots of different ways. I left the workshop invigorated and excited and I’ve now got my dining room floor papered in drying painty sheets of paper!

 

 

 

Fabric Manipulation course at West Dean College

I’m teaching a Fabric Manipulation long weekend workshop at West Dean College 16-19 March 2017. If you love texture and structure in textiles this is a perfect course for you to get really absorbed into exciting techniques and develop your own style with three days of teaching with loads of studio time and inspiration.

 

Over the weekend you will have chance to try out a wide range of fabric manipulation techniques, taking inspiration from historic textiles and contemporary fashion. Techniques include formal and organic pleating and folding, stitching and gathering to create interesting textures and 3D appliqué to create bold, exciting fabrics from scratch. You can make samples or work towards a finished textile piece. Fabric manipulation techniques can be combined with embroidery and quilting to make really unique and exciting projects, or learn skills to add into fashion and dressmaking.

West Dean is a spectacularly lovely place to study (and indeed teach) which makes it a perfect place to recharge, learn new things and absorb inspiration. The workshop starts on Thursday evening with dinner with the students and tutor, followed by three intensive but relaxed days of tuition. Students can choose a full-board residential option and stay on site and have access to studios in the evenings, with all meals and equipment provided. You will need to bring some of your own materials to get the best of this course but there is nothing expensive required.

I’ll be returning to West Dean in the summer to teach Stitched Textiles from Historical Inspiration. 

 

 

Spring Blossom Workshop

In the depths of winter is hard to imagine Spring and early Summer blooms but I am happily thinking about the abundance of blossom to come in May & June and planning a new workshop for Made on Holiday. Over a long weekend in May (12th-14th) in gorgeous Devon I will be working with lucky residential retreat students to create floral garlands, hangings, brooches and decorations from vintage, embroidered and delicate natural fabrics inspired by meadows and gardens.

 

As well as exploring local wildlife and enjoying beautiful, luxurious accommodation and food, we will be using very special fabrics to create delicate and intricate fabric flowers which can be made into garlands, hangings, bouquets (for weddings or decoration) and wearables including brooches, hat trimmings and hair clips, perfect for a celebration of summer.

I will bring a stunning selection of vintage and reclaimed fabrics in delicate, natural hues along with hand woven, embroidered and other special cloth from my extensive stash. We will use embroidery stitches in silk and linen to create subtle pattern and texture and build up petals to create a mass of floral delights. This will be a very enjoyable, no-pressure workshop weekend where you can soak up inspiration and ideas and spend plenty of time playing and experimenting to create pieces which bring you delight. You can make one flower or 50, there’s not fixed outcome so you can work at your leisure, at your own pace and with no demands!

 

The workshop includes all materials and tools so you only have to bring yourself. The fee includes two full days of tuition, two nights accommodation, full board including dinners and a promise of a really relaxed, creative retreat. I almost wish I was a student not the teacher!

The workshop costs £599. Full details can be found on Made on Holiday website. 

Craft Cultures: Making a Living From Craft

I’m pleased to be taking part in a week of research, discussion and academic debate about the contemporary significance of craft at Leicester University and sharing my story about making a living. The event is free and open to all so please come along if you are interested.

 

Making a Living from Craft

Workshop
Tuesday 8 November 2016, 3-4pm, University of Leicester Fielding Johnson Building First Floor, LR L67, University of Leicester, LE1 7RH

Aimed at students and staff, this workshop explores aspects of employability in the creative sector and includes a hands-on engagement activity. The workshop draws on Ruth’s experience of crafting a varied portfolio career whilst also developing one’s own creativity. It includes challenges and activities to get your creative brain thinking too.

Ruth Singer is a local textile artist, sewing writer, tutor and arts and heritage consultant. She began her working life in the museum and gallery sector and set up her creative business in 2005. She has exhibited widely including a solo exhibition at the National Centre for Craft & Design in 2015 and in 2016 won the Fine Art Quilt Masters prize. She has run arts projects with museums and schools, written three books and co-ordinates support and development projects for artists and makers.

There is no registration for this free event.