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In recent months I have completed a couple of commissions.
The large panel is worked onto blue linen with scraps of antique fabrics including 18th century tapestry, 19th century embroidery and 17th century brocade. I’ve added lots of hand embroidery details and several found objects embellished with hand stitch and silk threads. The objects include medieval metal detector finds including belt ends and buckles. I love these little details and the historical stories in the textiles, all of which are meaningful to the customers.
Another commission made last year.
This piece is more focussed around textiles and sewing, with thread winders, tape measure, thimble and some of the customers’ own handmade buttons and reflects their love of colour! This one is mounted on cream wool felt.
Commissions like these cost £350-£500 depending on size, complexity and materials (plus framing, I use bespoke, solid wood frames without glass). Smaller pieces are also an option with just one or two elements.
If you would like to discuss a commission please get in touch for a free discussion.
My memorial pincushions are part of my new solo exhibition, Textile Traces, opening at Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre 25th May -7th July 2019. I am running a workshop alongside the exhibition to make your own precious pincushion using antique fabrics, hand stitch and decorated with pins. The workshop is £45 including lunch.
These pincushions are made in remembrance of my aunt, Ann Goodstein, who died in 1992. 46 pincushions represent the 46 years of her short life and celebrate the joy she brought to so many. They celebrate her vibrancy, her love of history. Some include antique textiles, pieces of her own cloth and details which I think she would have appreciated like medieval pins from the River Thames. Her son, Ben, also made one of the pincushions. Pincushions are personal and every day items and were once given as gifts or in remembrance. Many are inspired by pincushions in Gawthorpe Textile Collection. 2015-2018.
I am currently working on a new exhibition at Gawthorpe Hall Textile Collection which is in an amazing National Trust building in Lancashire. The textiles there are a private collection assembled by Rachel Kay Shuttleworth (1886- 1967) who lived in the house and opened it up to share her collections and her knowledge.
I first visited the Gawthorpe in 2015 to look at their pincushion collection as inspiration for Memorial Pincushions, which celebrate the life of my beloved aunt. The first half of collection were included in my Narrative Threads exhibition in 2015 and some in Salisbury Textiles Open in 2016. Emotional Repair will be the first time all 46 (each one representing a year of her life) will be displayed together and alongside the original inspiration pieces from Miss Rachel’s own collection.
Late in 2016 I began talking to Jenny Waterson, curator of contemporary exhibitions and learning at Gawthorpe Textile Collection about showing this piece and others in a solo exhibition which is now confirmed for 28 March – 24 June 2018. Over the last year I have been developing new pieces of work and groups which will form this exhibition. I also returned to Gawthorpe in the autumn to look at more textiles, this time selecting pieces about mourning and remembrance, as well as unfinished pieces which I consider very poignant and full of potential stories of loss.
Emotional Repair covers a wide range of personal and emotive subjects focused around loss and remembering and includes work made over the last two years as well as brand new pieces currently in development. Much of this work is deeply personal and touches on subjects which are hard to talk about so it may seem strange that I want to share them in this very public way, but we all know just how healing and cathartic it can be to make things when having a tough time. Textiles have such strong associations with domesticity, personal lives and family memory that they are the perfect means to express emotional stories. For me this works so well with the Gawthorpe Textile Collection, although Miss Rachel didn’t collect with this emotional response in mind, it is still one woman’s personal selection and it is displayed and preserved in her family home which brings an intimacy and personality beyond most museum collections.
The exhibition opens 28th March and continues until 24th June 2018.
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.
Alongside my own original creative work I occasionally get the pleasure of a repair job on an antique textile. I love being able to explore the insides, the seams, the reverse and the construction of the stitches. This is an ecclesiastical stole, still in active church use despite being about 100 years old.
The silk was shredded in the most vulnerable areas which I have covered in fine nylon tulle. Working from the back I repaired the damaged embroidery by tacking it down using matching threads. The back of the embroidery is joyfully colourful and messy and a glorious art work in its own right.
There’s so much to learn and to enjoy in close observation of skilled (and sometimes not-so-skilled) making. I started my working life aiming towards working with antique textiles in museum and had the pleasure of working with some really special textile and fashion collections before I diverted into other directions. Later, when I was no longer paid to work with textiles I spent my days off researching medieval textiles and still often yearn for those days of quiet study in museum store rooms. I make sure that in my own contemporary work I do get to work with museum collections and have my own small, growing museum of interesting textiles which inspire.
I’ve repaired some pieces of my own extensive antique textiles collection and plenty of vintage clothing and am happy to take commissions for interesting repairs.
A trapunto wall panel project I designed for Today’s Quilter is now published in Issue Twenty.
Trapunto or stuffed / corded quilting is semi-forgotten technique these days and it’s my mission to bring it back to life with new contemporary designs. I have been researching and practicing trapunto for about 10 years, inspired by the oldest surviving example, the 14th century Tristan Quilt in the V&A. It was popular in the 17th century and had a brief resurgence between the wars in the UK although it has a more continuous tradition in France where it is called Boutis. I love trees – both naturalistic and stylised versions and a branch makes a design for a sampler where you can try cording and lots of stuffed variations.
My love of trapunto continues unabated and I am always looking out for interesting pieces in museum collections and antique textile sales. It’s been a delight to be asked to produce designs for books and magazines (another one due out this autumn) and to teach this technique as much as possible. I am teaching trapunto this year in various places including one hour tasters at the Festival of Quilts and a full weekend intensive stitching (details TBC) in October. My short history of trapunto is here. I am working on a short online course for beginners trapunto too which will be available later in the year.
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.
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.
People often tell me how patient I am to hand stitch my work. I often counter that I am only patient with sewing, not with anything else (although that’s not really true*). We can all be patient doing something we love. It doesn’t require patience to get to the end of a good book as you are enjoying the act of reading. In the same way, I enjoy the act of sewing:
It isn’t about patience, it is about enjoying the process.
I was asked last week about why I sew by hand rather than by machine. I find this an odd question as my work wouldn’t be my work if I made it by machine. I couldn’t make it by machine. It would be completely different work. It wouldn’t be me.
Today, out walking, I figured out the perfect way to explain this:
It is like choosing to walk on a footpath rather than to drive on a road through the countryside.
Just because there are sewing machines, and faster techniques, doesn’t mean I have to use them. Life isn’t about doing the most in the time available, it is about enjoying the process. I am not a machine. I refuse to confine my creativity within bounds of commercial productivity and speed. I like slow.
*mostly my lack of patience occurs when people make statements about my personality or lifestyle based on the needle in my hand. I am actually a pretty patient person. Maybe that’s because I love slow sewing.