the last lap: the table runner

While I was looking at napkin rings and cuffs on Flickr, I saw this beautiful forest poetry cuff by Cathy Cullis, and it gave me the clue I needed for the final element in my hospitality piece. I loved the combination of fabric and text, and the frayed ‘wabi sabi’ quality, which echoes with my ‘imperfect’ theme. A cuff, writ large, could be a table runner. With that thought my objects suddenly turned into an installation.

I had the fabrics (and had already used most of them in the woven napkin rings).

indigo collection

I had the words, collected in my theme book. And I had – just – the time.

Piece, piece, piece and stitch, stitch, stitch.

work in progress

A day later – much later – and I had a table runner. The fabrics are all my own hand dyed indigo shibori pieces from various workshops long past. (Now I need to dye some more!). The text includes words from the Bible and quotations from Christine D Pohl’s Making Room and Jennifer Kavanagh’s The O of Home. I had puzzled about how to attribute these if I’d stitched them on a napkin; in this format it was easy, with a label on the back of the work.

So this is it, the culmination of all the work and experimenting and agonising and learning. The photos were taken in a bit of a hurry and a bad light before it all went into the package to catch the post (you have to get to the sorting office by mid-morning here, as the mail goes on the plane to Glasgow at lunchtime). When it comes back from my tutor I’ll take some better pictures and put them on Flickr.

table runner

table runner detail

There isn’t really anything I would change about it, a few small technical things maybe. I don’t think I’m really cut out for distance learning but I’m glad I stuck with the course and managed to finish with something I like. I couldn’t have got through this last week without the large amounts of encouragement and coffee provided by Alan, he was wonderful. I’m off for a walk by the sea now, and the next big thing is Woolfest – I can’t wait. I’ll be there both days and would love to say hello to any blogging friends who are going.

finally felted

It’s taken me since early November when I last posted to get these pieces felted. I cut the silk painted sample I had made in two, and added a thin layer of white fleece – around the circles only, in one piece, and on the circles only, in the other.

painted silk with layer of wool

This lay for a month on my table. Then we needed the table for Christmas so I rolled the not-yet-felt up in the bubblewrap and put it on the shelf where it lay till last weekend, when I got it out and felted it.

painted silk, felted to gather the fabric in different ways

This image is of the side that wasn’t visible in my ‘before felting’ photo. I think that side is much more interesting but I will take some pics of the other side tomorrow, if there’s light enough, and put them on my Flickr.

I haven’t quite decided where to take this for my assessment piece. I like the effect around the felted circles very much, both the gathering and the distortion of the resist outlines; and I like the way the circles are connected; but I also like the textured background on the other piece, and the contrast between that and the billowing circles. I’m leaning towards using elements of both; and I think it will be a cushion cover, not a scarf. I may use one of my photos of the summer sea around the island to inspire the colours. Maybe this one.

waves at Balevullin, Tiree

I just wanted to thank you all for your encouraging comments about this process, and especially Trisha for taking the time to email me as well. I’m sorry I haven’t replied to you all. I struggled a bit through the period leading up to Christmas when Alan was away for three months but I’m feeling more positive now. And I’m really looking forward to the next module, which is ‘textile structures’, and focuses on yarn and tapestry weaving. (I’m just a little obsessed with yarn at the moment after all.) Alongside that, I must choose a personal theme around which to collect visual information into a book, to use in the final design project of the course. Like Emily Dickinson, I “dwell in possibility”…


a little bit of weaving

keeping the blogging habit

I always seem to find it much easier to get out of a habit of doing something than to get into one, and even harder to get back into one after the habitualness has slipped away.  I don’t really know why it should be nearly two months since I last posted, only that as each silent week goes by there’s more inertia to overcome; and more has happened – so what to write about becomes a bigger decision (decisive is not my middle name).

I’ve been doing a little of this and that, focusing on fabric manipulation as I get back into OCA Textiles 1, some stitched resists, some felt. One exercise was to develop a manipulated sample from a previous design, and I went back to these block prints that were inspired by a tulip and then scanned to try out designs on the computer.

sketchbook work from tulip image

I simplified the shapes and stitched a repeating pattern based on circles and the spaces between. I was thinking about bands of colour and bands of resist. It’s a 30cm square.

stitched circles

Pulling the stitches up was a bit fiddly, and then I’m always tempted to leave them gathered, loving the structures they  make.

stitched circles gathered

I dyed this with some other pieces (of which more in another post) and this was the end result.

stitched circles dyed

I would have liked a bit more contrast – for some reason this calico didn’t take the dye as well as some of the other cottons in the same dyebath, but apart from that I was quite pleased with the overall effect.

I’d like to try other variations with colour, width of the stitching, etc. And I noticed that last time I dyed some stitched resist (when I soaked the bundles in the soda solution beforehand) the whites were very white, whereas here the ‘white’ is actually a very pale purple. These were soaked in water, then added to a dye bucket and the soda added after 30 minutes, and I used some urea, so either or both of those could have had an effect on the resist. The stitching itself was pulled up just as tightly as the earlier samples, more tightly if anything – I’ve been watching Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada‘s Arimatsu Narumi Shibori DVD, and learning how to use the needle to knot the pulled up thread without letting the stitches loosen. Not that I have mastered it – the Japanese artists make it look so easy – but I’m practising!

time to do the ironing

About 20 years ago I bought a big bag of silk cocoon strippings from a lovely fibrecraft shop in a barn in Elterwater in the Lake District, sadly long closed, and for a while played happily with this magical stuff that needs only an iron and water to turn it into a papery textile. I used to add scraps of fabric and paper, silk fibres and sequin waste and embedded lace, bits torn out of magazines and coloured tissue – the sericin left in the cocoon strippings is strong enough to hold all kinds of things, though it works best if they’re light and flat. Mostly I used this for cards and made a couple of wall pieces and then I ran out of steam and other things took over, but the silk stayed in a box on the shelf.

I hadn’t thought about it for ages till Alan reminded me how much I used to enjoy it, so last weekend I got out the ironing board and spent a couple of hours ironing away – I have to admit that creative ironing is almost the only kind I ever do.

I tried incorporating a few different materials and some were more successful than others. These samples include bits of felt, merino fibres, thowsters’ waste, bamboo fibres, sari yarn and a lacy fabric.

silk paper

I like the way the sari yarn bleeds dye into the surface (at the bottom of the biggest piece, and the little piece on the left in the middle). The felt and merino fibres were the only things I tried that didn’t bond so well; at least, they need a high ratio of cocoon strippings to stick to, and you get loose bits and ‘floating’ layers. That could be a feature, but it makes the textile more fragile.

silk paper

In the next sample I carded about equal quantities of silk and merino for a while to mix them. I like this effect.

silk paper

Bamboo fibre and synthetic lace fabric both bond very well.

silk paper

I like the fact that you can do a lot of experiments in a relatively short time, which is good when you’re not feeling very creative, and a little silk goes a long way. There are lots of lovely possibilities.

I unwrapped my rusty calico soon after the new year, not a finished piece of fabric really – I don’t think it stayed wet enough, but a start for some overdyeing, anyway. I like the marks on the left. I’m ordering some silk so I can try pole-wrapping that now I’m here to keep an eye on it.

rusted calico

seaweed bundles

First of all I hope it’s not too late to say Happy New Year, I can’t believe that was a week ago already.

The kinds of seaweed lying around on the beach here at Crossapol when the tides goes out seem to vary from day to day. I’ve been thinking about gathering some for making cold-dyed fabric bundles as shown in India Flint’s book Eco-Colour, but most of it is in large and heavy bunches and would require the kind of forethought that seems to be beyond me at the moment, such as taking a carrier bag along. However, yesterday there were some kinds of thin string-like weed, easy to carry and great, I thought, for wrapping bundles. I collected a small assortment and brought it home.

kinds of seaweed

I laid out most of the branched pieces with bladders on a piece of damp habotai silk …

ready to bundle 

… then rolled it up and wrapped it with the long flat pieces. There were a couple of little bits of the flat stuff left and one that is like string with just the odd bladder along its length – not branched, so I concertina-folded another small piece of silk, laid the flat weed inside the folds and wrapped this with the stringy piece.

seaweed wrappings

I sprayed the bundles with a mister, put them into a glass jar, covered it with a bit of plastic, and have put the jar outside for a while. India says at least a week and a month isn’t too long. I will check them daily in case they start to go mouldy but hope I can resist opening them up for a fortnight or more. My hands were a bit orange after I’d done this but as this is new to me I don’t know if that indicates anything about the final outcome.

ready to cure

Nothing to do with seaweed, but I couldn’t resist sharing these lovely fibres, merino and bamboo, in the colours of the winter machair with some sunset thrown in, which I got in my Christmas stocking, complete with bog myrtle soap bought at the Farmhouse Café here on Tiree. I’m told it’s good for eczema so I’m hoping it will be kind on the hands if I use it for felting.

fibres and soap