Woolfest 2008

Although I’ve already posted today, I wanted to write about the Woolfest before I go away or the memory will have faded. It’s a wonderful show – a combination of all the elements of fibre arts – from the animals who provide the wool to the rainbows of fleece and yarn on sale, from tools and books and dyes to so much exciting felt, knitting, crochet and weaving that you hardly know where to look next. It’s small enough to wander round twice or three times in a day, discovering new things each time – and big enough to provide a very satisfying variety of experiences. I met up with my Mum and my friend Julie and we had a lovely day.

I’ve just picked out a few things to share that were highlights for me…

Helen Melvin of Fiery Felts had curtained her stand with beautiful lengths of cloth, dyed by mordanting and then rolling up with bits of earth and flowers and leaves. This view is of the back – some of these were nuno-felted on the other side.

cloth by Helen Melvin

The Hebridean sheep (these are from Heathland Hebridean in Kent). I bought some of their lovely dark fleece to try dyeing it for felting.


These graceful alpacas from WhyNot Alpacas of Sedbergh – I love their just-shorn textures and the range of colours.


These amazing clothes, modelled by young women from Estonia, Slovakia and Cumbria, in a youth project called "From Sheep to Dress" – clothes made by hand, from Estonian Native Sheep wool, by girls from Saaremaa Island. There’s a bit about this (and some of the other exhibitions) at knitonthenet, and I found an image gallery on the web as well.

From Sheep to Dress

Finally, the gorgeous display of dyed hemp yarns from the House of Hemp.

dyed hemp yarns

I tried to be restrained but I did add a few lovely things to my stash as well as the Hebridean fleece: some beautiful undyed alpaca rovings in four different shades, a tiny skein of purple hemp yarn, some space-dyed knitting ribbon in rusts and pinks and bronzey greys, Liz Clay’s book on Nuno Felt, and a small felt-rolling mat from Jenny Pepper’s stand.

Provisional dates for next year’s Woolfest are 26th-27th June 2009 – it’s in my diary already 🙂

And now I really must go and think about what to pack!

visiting Scotland

I only live about 60 miles from the Scottish border but I don’t often cross it. Last week, however, I went twice! Tuesday was a visit to the Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries to review Ruth Lee‘s exhibition, Reading Between the Lines, for the next issue of Workshop on the Web. It’s an excellent show of Ruth’s work and well worth seeing, if you are anywhere nearby before 3 November. There was also a preview copy of Ruth’s new book Contemporary Knitting for Textile Artists, which has gone on my wish list! I’ll post a link to the exhibition review when it’s published in December.

Then on Saturday I caught the train up to Edinburgh to visit my friend Lee and her husband Andy. Lee is a fibre artist who creates wonderfully vivid images in felt, like this "Sheep Number 12".

sheep by Lee Fitton

Lee took me on an eclectic tour of the city. First to the Elephant House – not the zoo, but the coffee house where JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books. I have a passion for elephants so I was overwhelmed by the sight of so many in one place – models, photos, books, hangings, furniture… this one was given to the Elephant House by “Linda Greer, on behalf of her brothers and sisters, in memory of her father Jimmy Ferguson”.


After delicious coffee and cake we took a circuitous route through the city, via the delightful Dean Village and along the Water of Leith to the Museum of Modern Art. In front of the museum is the stunning ‘Landform‘ by Charles Jencks – a landscape of banks and curved pools that you can walk on and around.

(The tall slender shadow is Lee and the small round one is me.)
landform steps

We ended up sitting in Lee and Andy’s pretty garden, drinking more coffee and enjoying the late afternoon sunshine. A beautiful day in a beautiful city.


time out

The last week has been mad, work-wise, so not much happening, art-wise. I worked in my sketchbook a little, and got round to watching a very interesting ITV1 programme – Harry Potter: The Costume Drama. Ben Shephard was talking to a range of people in the wardrobe department about the way they created the costumes for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. They even have a ‘breakdown department’ where people spend their whole working day distressing the garments after they’ve been made or bought. Why did no-one ever tell you about that kind of job at school?

I was particularly struck by the head of the wardrobe department, Jany Temime, and her approach – how the costumes themselves contribute to the acting – fascinating. She also said – never let your ideas be constrained by what’s practical – you can always find a way to do it. Though I’m not quite sure this can be extended to everyday wearable art (the really wearable kind, I mean) since she also said later on that many of the costumes can’t be washed (they make several of each instead)!

[Here I edited this post to delete a link relating to the programme, for copyright reasons.]

Part of my work week was setting up a gallery for all the entries to a competition run annually by the UK Embroiderers’ Guild for its members. The 2007 theme was Water, and the brief was to create an original design, primarily hand stitched, though the work could include any technique. Working with all those lovely watery images was very soothing… If you’d like to immerse yourself – the gallery’s on the Embroiderers’ Guild web site.

exhibition report: Jo Budd – Beyond Surface

Yesterday I went to Farfield Mill to see the Jo Budd exhibition that’s showing there as part of the Women’s International Arts Festival. It was well displayed in a light airy room, walking in was like walking into a song of colour, a first impression of acid greens, rust, greys and shining yellows, sky shade blues, ochres and earth tones. Very visually stimulating. The work is an exploration of the colours and layers of landscape, seen through painted surfaces and layers and depths of translucent colour.

From the artist’s statement:

“A new studio in a new location, looking over river marshes, and a new dyeing technique using rust and water, have given me a fresh set of colours and marks to play with.”

“Focusing on surface but refocusing on the layers, in land, water and sky – these are the qualities which fascinate me.”

The work shown dates from 1998 – 2007, some glazed pieces and some hangings. Jo Budd collages and quilts dyed and painted fabrics, on a large scale. Lines of stitches create shadows and depths. Fabrics are sheers, cottons, silks, juxtaposed and layered to create wonderful plays of colour, light and atmosphere.

Corrugated Iron (1998) is a large piece maybe 8 foot by 6 foot. It’s pieced and layered appliqué, with the painted marks very evident, both paint and stitch expressing the lines of corrugation. There’s an image of this striking piece with an essay and some other examples of her work, on Celia Eddy’s QuiltStory web site.

Rust Series (2007). This is another large piece about 6ft square, one of a series of pieces using rust-dyeing. The effects create a dramatic texture. Lines of long yet fine stitching that define some areas. The colours are cool browns and greens, blues and greys, exploring shape and movement. Colours change subtly where the fabrics overlap.

Fields of Green (1999) – I think this was the piece I was most drawn to. Strong horizontal bands of greens, stitched and dyed, lustre of silk and flatness of cotton. A smaller piece,about 3ft by 4ft, but it drew the eye from the moment I entered the room with the intensity of the colours and the stitched textures.

All the work gives me a strong sense of celebration of the incredible beauty of landscape, and the expanses of land and sky that characterise a flat country. Driving home, I was seeing the colours of my own Cumbrian landscape, different though it is, in a new way. I found the exhibition very inspiring. I love the effects of paint and dye on fabric and the depths that build up. I love the intense and subtle colours Jo Budd creates. I especially like the intrinsic connection between the rusty marks and the subject material of her work.

I hope I’ll get to see this work again at the Festival of Quilts.