For several months, since March, I have been working on a new stitched sky – an image combining 2 photographs, the first of a wonderful brooding grey sky with different shades either side of the bow, and another of Denney Island in leaf in the middle of the Severn Estuary, they were made during different spring-times and are rare sights so I wanted to capture them.
As usual I got going quickly and decided to work by drawing onto photographs of the emerging work using photoshop…well it partly worked – but really it is always better for me to work directly from my drawn ideas. Nevertheless I quickly layered fine silk chiffons onto the sky and sea areas adding several layers of shot cottons and a brilliant green silk georgette for the salt marsh – to enhance the curious green foliage on Denney Island
I worked on the piece for several weeks, well 2 months an and off, putting in and pulling out the rainbow – it proved hard to get it to glow but not become a garish boring band of colours: I wanted this rainbow to be part of the sky, not sit on top of it.
I was working at the same time on my patchwork room so needed some distraction from the finishing -off chores. BUT I was getting no-where with this rainbow , so put it away and started reading instead.
my favourite read was “My Name is Red” by Orhan Pamuk, as it is at heart a treatise on how “Persian” book illustrations where developed by different studios of specialised artists, and how trade with the West, notably Venice, brought in the whole notion of realistic images using perspective and observation of the real people and landscapes. I found several books in my shelves and spent hours just enjoying the exuberance of the work: I was definitely on the side of the symbolic flat pattern making of the illustrators – I realised that I was too hung up showing what I saw in the natural world not what I see in my head. I decided to add some decorative fabrics to my work and searched for some symbolic
I stated to realise that I could rekindle the rainbow embroidery with extra patterned fabrics – my old silk fabrics were dragged out and I found my drawings of Iris for the Flora Embroideries, she was the messenger of the Greek gods and of course the rainbow……things started to feel interesting again.
During my break from the stitched sky, I also bought a book about the wonderful paintings by Winifred Nicholson, “Liberation of Colour” – initially because of her interest in painting colour prisms, but it was the flowers and the looseness fo the paint that I admired most
and then it was so obvious what I had to do with the rainbow sky – embroider the posy and applique it onto the Kantha stitched sky….easy peasy – not!
above the initial embroidery coloured ground is painted onto a fine cotton fabric, checked for size before continuing to be stitched into position onto the stitched sky.
And here it is – the finished work ” After Winifred” stretched and about to be bound with velvet ribbon and off to the printers to make an edition of giclee prints for sale in time for Court House Farm’s open garden event, Art in the Garden where I am exhibiting and talking about the making of the Kantha Stitched Skies for The Portishead Art Festival. www.portisheadartsfestival.co.uk.
Here is the open door into my completed ( well just a few more pictures to put up) patch-work room, using fabrics from the Kaffe Fassett Collective. It has taken 6 months to achieve. I started 2020 during the last Covid 19 lockdown in England and we are still not entirely unlocked mid way through 2021.
I aim to take you around the room to see how it all has come together, here the door from the porch has a vitreous enamelled finger plate – now I want to make more of these for inside the room…the enamelled fireplace can be seen with our old furniture and carpets safely back into place.
turning left is the view into the small panelled room, our 2 Irish Terriers and the enamelled fire surround – see previous post for making this….luckily my much loved vintage Deco glass shade tones perfectly…now how did that happen?
Above are 3 views of the chimney corner with 2 different totally different Flag representations. the row of flags at the sea side is an old painting by Stephen Jacobson next to a ghostly silk organza flag by Nigel Hurlstone. this piece of work proved pivotal for me to see how the room could hang together using cooler colours
Once we had started to put the room back together our 2 Irish terriers, Maeve and Murphy took a particular if very relaxed interest in it.
I found on Ebay a beautiful discounted Zoffany silk striped fabric and bought enough to make 4 very large padded curtains for the big Victorian windows in the room. The fabric cost me about 4 times the amount I had spent on the rest of the room…but they work well once I had trimmed them with some vintage woven ribbon that I over – dyed to suit the colour of the paintwork – as you do! And then I found these mazing brass tie backs on-line at my favourite store for just about everything decorative, Anthropology.
Continuing around the room…
In the the corner between the windows hangs an old (and much loved by me) painting by my husband, Stephen Jacobson, of my father’s greenhouse that he built in my family’s garden on the Wirral in north west of England.
From the photographs I have posted so far it is hard to see that the patchworks are all padded and quilted, but it is evident that my ‘in the ditch’ sewing notbetter placed than my hammering in the copper tacks that fasten the fabric to the battens. On the tiled table is a flowery flower vase by Tean Kirby.
the opposite end of the room to the fireplace with the bay window looking out on the overgrown garden
one of a pair of window seats with an old canvas work cushion sample and the luxurious silk curtains and brass tie backs. Then to the other new thing I bought for the room – the glamorous mauve velvet mini chaise – from a TK Maxx sale!!!!!! Well I had to balance the spend on the curtains.
Coming Into Port – Stephen Jacobson
Above is ‘ Coming Into Port’ – I leapt on this for the room when it came back early from a “closed for Covid” exhibition and it fitted perfectly. Basically our house serves as a venue for our joint work. I made the large cushion especially – it uses all the major colours of the room, and in fact the whole house, in my wonky version of Flame Stitch; and I have been commissioned to make a design from this by Ehrman Tapestry so look out for it next year if you stitch canvas cushions.
So here we are at the porch door again – and the gingers are waiting for us – well actually for Stephen with the biscuits to get them to pose….
and that is it – at last after so long – finished enough for people to see it – with the doors and windows open and only 4 visitors at a time!
The patchwork walls are almost completed, just some finessing needed so time to think of the fire grate. We measure carefully and then cut 20 copper tiles ready to be decorated – using my favourite Drawn Threadwork stencils. I started to scribble lots of ‘back of the envelope’ ideas as to design layouts – but decided to just make the stencils and then see how they best worked together.
An assortment of design, scribbled ideas for the enamelled copper tiles ideas
I found a small table cloth ( in my stash) with very large scaled drawn thread-work embroidery that would be suitable for this making many variations from just 2 basic designs. I needed 2 stencils one square for the corners of the grate and a striped version for the longer lengths. Initially I thought it needed to be made larger to fit the cut copper tiles so I had to extend the stencil. I appliqued extra pieces of embroidery, using a machine for strength (for when it is stretched on a frame) then cut away the linen beneath it.
meanwhile the rest of the copper tiles have been cut and checked for how they fit together – like everything else in this very old house nothing it straight or even.
i had wanted to verdigris the tiles but decided to stick with what I knew, so I started sampling the enamelling colours. It is a few years sinceI have enamelled anything but remember the colours that will best look like verdigris – I match the pale greens and blues to a naturally verdigris copper strip I found in the studio
samples of copper enamel colours to make a similar effect to the real verdigris copper strip, the first set of hearth tiles placed in position for deciding the final design
after the gas stove had been replaced in its original position, I continued to adhere the top set of tiles in their allotted places. They make a very uneven but harmonic set of colours…so then I needed to re-paint the surrounding columns and wooden skirting to blend in with the rest of the room.
finally I ran around the house searching for the pieces I could put on the new mantlepiece – my old mirrored glass candle holders fit in very well. The small separate enamelled strips of copper are leftovers from cutting the tiles, plus anything else I could find in the studio that could be fired with the remains of the vitreous enamel colours – real make do and mend patch-working.
My next post will show the whole room complete with art works, cushions and flowers!
So, by the beginning of March I had at last finished stitching all the patchwork panels, and between long bouts of quilting them, I managed to paint all the woodwork and window reveals in the sitting room.
I had decided to make a strippy quilt for the chimney wall, partly to save time but really to overcome the problem of awkward door frames and lots of corners. I calculated the width of the strips on each wall, even taking into account my inexact machine sewing I managed to get them fairly evenly spaced. Well 4 cans of spray starch and a hot iron helped.
I seem to be a lot better at stretching the panels than I am at machine sewing them. We decided to work around the room from the least visible area. I wanted the walls to look like a total piece of fabric or a massive quilt that is just wrapped around the walls like a cocoon – but I had to make some adjustments to the finishing as things progressed….we sort of started with a vague plan trusting to nouse to see us through…..Things were beginning to take shape but I soon hit a construction problem, my errant stitching had made some of the panels far too big and they needed to be trimmed after stretching and folding, securing them neatly was difficult now that they were padded.
Above, the edges of the panels are secured with iron-on fusible web tape and staples to vertical battens before stretching across the entire wall. Then the diamond corners are further secured to horizontal battens with copper tacks.
The large window wall panel was joined to the alcove panel to assist tight and neat stretching into the corner- making it up as we go along!
Having negotiated the large wall panel I now assessed the look of what we had covered so far but was still concerned about the strength of pattern overwhelming everything else in the room ( we have very faded vintage furniture, carpets and fabrics in the house and I did not want to start making new covers and buying more carpets). I tried to think of ways to make the patterns less brilliant… I remembered a patchwork organza flag made by my old colleague and friend, Nigel Hurlstone. It was in a massive pale oak frame, sadly too wide for this alcove, I removed the flag and held it in front of the bright wall, the central stripe was the same size as the strips – it was meant to be.
I asked his permission for showing this de-framed (but as he gave this to me as a present for helping him decorate his first flat about 15 years ago) I thought he may agree and he did. The thing is that the addition of this piece of work suddenly changed the atmosphere of the room, it became more relaxed and so did I!
Over the next 2 weeks we worked our way around the whole room stretching, stapling, tapping copper tacks, while dealing with light switches and plugs using a combination of glues, bondaweb strips, an iron and spray starch.
finally the room is covered, just one last strip to join it all together – under the window. Now to start finishing, covering the staples with wooden picture rails and skirting boards and quadrant in the corners. BUT before we finally put the mirror back into position I write this dedication on the chimney breast -I am hoping it will be many many years before this house is sold and some one else uncovers it!
and here I am again before sorting out the rest of the room – flag in place and now to make tiles for the fireplace and then there are the curtains……possibly one more post ?
It is the last day of February and have been working for 2 months making my patchwork wall coverings. When I started this blog I vowed to show the journey of the work that I design and make – to explain the problems and possibly the solutions……but this latest project has been keeping me awake and I am still not certain that I will get it sorted and onto the sitting room walls. I am suffering a severe case of Cold Feet!
After I had stitched a wall full of the original design I kept feeling that there was just too much going on – all those colours and stripes and collisions of patterns (all the things I normally love) just looked like porridge – multi coloured porridge – something had to go….What went was the yellow stripes – leaving me with Mauve, Blue and Green strips – this took quite a lot of grief and several days ( and nights) to decide to change things – somehow the well-honed critical faculty I use for all projects, professional as well as personal, has deserted me during lockdown. But once I had pulled apart the original piece and made another wall-full, things started to look possible. I made another design chart this time with repeating patterns built in – once a textile designer…….
Things get back on track by mid January – the first panel is on the studio wall padded and quilted using the new walking-foot on my favourite old Bernina sewing machine.
By February the work gets properly underway – a whole stitched wall – full – but still very uncertain about this entire idea.
I try these first panels around the room seeing how the whole thing will look – trying to imagine it without those brilliant pink walls is hard…and how will it look behind all our pictures – yikes – it really needs to accommodate paintings and other art works that cover every other wall of this house…I start to realise that what it needs is more GREEN.
Trying the panels on other sitting room walls – it needs more GREEN to reflect the garden
back to photoshop to play with a version of favourite “Green Blue” or is it Blue Green” by Farrow and Ball which is used throughout the house
I decide that if all else fails the patchworks will look lovely in one of the bedrooms. But this still leaves us the problem of the damp disfigured walls and meanwhile the rest of room is being demolished …. did I mention we are cutting and making verdigris copper tiles for the fireplace?
Determined to make the most of the new year 2021 winter lockdown in the UK, I decided to cover my damp (although supposedly cured) and now ruined sitting room walls…….with patchwork!
And with real fabric. the left-overs from my work organising quilt making in the UK for Kaffe Fassett‘s books of patchwork and quilting designs. Below are 2 of my favourite quilts from previous books that I have worked on and which I referenced for both colour and patten.
Patchwork is part of my professional textile practice and I have always used it for all types of furnishings, from wall papers for Heart Space Studios to my old but still glamorous dining room curtains.
Now I chose fabrics that reflected the colours in the rest of the house: basically turquoisey blues, buttery yellows, mauves and greens – I like colours to blend through the rooms. I had painted the hot pink walls for a New Year’s Day party 2 years ago….as you do!
I really loved the first fat version on my studio quilt wall above, but seeing it in situ was another thing. I wanted to cover the whole room and suddenly I felt totally overwhelmed by colour and pattern – the photoshopped version confirmed my misgivings…..it just hit me in the face and made me feel hot and sticky!!!!!
The larger size of the fabric pieces, 21inches in length, made the patterns fight one another; in the smaller pieces used for quilts the patterns meld together as the eye sees so many at once AND there is only 1 quilt per room. Here there will be at least 6 large quilt sized pieces from floor to ceiling on all walls. Back to the studio.
And back to the oldest and simplest way of softening and unifying coloured fabrics – dip them in brewed tea. Above see the different shades to be had using: top = 1 bag, middle = 2 bags, lower = 2 bags boiled. It is a shame to kill the brilliant singing colours of the Kaffe Fassett Collective’s fabrics but hey ho! These wall coverings will take months to make and mount on the walls and then we have to live with them for ever…….I am not doing this again!
Back in my studio sorting out newer softer colours. Meanwhile the Kaffe Fassett Studios had kindly sent me lots more fabric strips based on my original sample….dipping a few of them in week tea I placed them on top of the quilt wall – wow this looks like a mad Japanese kimono design! Should I introduce stripes?
I am now 3 weeks into this sampling phase, I am still uncertain about the design on the wall. My Christmas star light reigns over chaos.
Time to get a grip! sort out the separately coloured triangles and tidy up
I set them all out on the table ready to start work – tomorrow. Looking at the fabrics the next day they appeared to look so calm totally unlike the design on the wall. Maybe it is the Covid experience of the last 10 months but now I seem to want calm from my colours. I looked at the table and my eyes just glided over the strips of colours – back to the quilt wall again – to organise the diamonds into stripes.
Now my eyes tend to glide up and down rather than dotting about to see other diamond combinations. But that is as far as I can take this designing phase: there comes a time to every project when you just have to commit, and we are now into the first week of the new year. So I am simply sewing one single coloured strip at a time, and when I have finished them I can start to play with the design again – it should see me through until I get vaccinated.
I want to show how my stitched work progresses; here is a very heavily edited set of images taken over the last 2 months – from July through to the end of August 2022. Not shown is the unpicking, pulling apart already stitched fabrics and rearranging that leads to frustration and doubt but mixed with delight, calm contemplation and my eventual recognition that, having captured my original vision of this ominous sky, I can stop working on it. The drawing above took less than 1 hour, the piece shown below, more than 8 weeks…..
The first stages were quite tricky to lay out using strips of silk georgette onto a pale cotton ground, that had to be kept scrupulously clear of stray threads while building the applique ground.
By the end of the second week I had managed to cut the clouds and baste them all into position, then I checked them against my original drawing. The tiny sample of energetic Kantha quilting inspired the way I attempted to stitch the cloud.
I started the running stitches in rows of single silk threads to create an undulating rippled surface. After a few unhappy days I stopped stitching, undid as little as i could get away with and inserted more pieces of rust coloured silk organza to give the cloud ‘depth’. The chalk drawing, above right, shows the paths I need to stitch along; I think stitching rhythms into cloth by using the Kantha technique is a bit like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time – tricky!
Weeks 4 & 5
I was determined to use this piece of work to try to find a way of controlling the outer edges of the appliqued fabrics; usually when I make very large drifting Kantha Stitched Skies I leave them to be contained and wrapped out of sight when stretching the finished work. But here the view is much smaller as this black cloud did not extend the whole length of the estuary – it faded out just beyond my window frame. I looked at Georges Seurat (who is a great influence on the way I have developed the colour mixing within my stitched work) and adapted his painted canvas frames – his dots are my stitches ). And eventually the marsh starts to emerge, using large straight slanting stitches
Weeks 6 & 7
However as the stitching progresses the different tensions start to exert itself onto the fabric – where the stitches are close together the fabric width starts to shrink, which is to be encouraged as this gives the curious patterns that I feel are so like air currents…. So the side borders are unpicked and the the whole embroidery is squared up. When I had almost finished stitching I outlined the whole piece using a machine stitch to give me a better guide for the dozens of running stitched lines for the frame.
Here is a set of drawings that have lain in a research book for more than 10 years, the reason that I did them was in a university research project workshop – making our own brushes with the amazingly inventive American maker Bob Ebendorf. I made several brushes out of grasses, leaves and branches, picked on my morning dog walk. None survived the drawing session, shown below, in any state to be used again.
But these are the drawings that I made and they are completely unlike any of my other drawings – ever. the colour is Red ink and the single pages measure roughly A2 (26x36cms.) There are other maker’s brushes used as well, and in some I have drawn the brush with itself, then taken it for a ride over the whole page. I still find them exhilarating and teasingly inspirational.