Designing Stitched Cushions

the very elegant cover of the new Ehrman Tapestry catalogue,

Another commission has just been published, yippee! I have something new to write about. I first started the designs for this catalogue last year when Hugh Ehrman asked me to make some new designs using affirmative sayings. The mottoes and sayings come directly from the handkerchiefs in my ongoing if intermittent work ‘Make it Though the Night’ https://janethaighherwork.com/gallery/gallery/heart-mending-mottoes/. I have a great stock of them in my research folders. I offered several different mottoes, Hugh wanted 4 cushion designs, but asked me to make 2 to start with, he chose ” Always be Kinder than is Necessary “ and I chose my old favourite ” Choose Your Attitude”.

I looked at a copy of one of my go-to magazines for current graphic ideas, FLOW, it is clean, colourful, fresh and very of the moment. I really liked this hot pastel colour mix on the cover and the sense of energy in the design. I started with Hugh’s choice and started to chart several alphabets from various sources. I already had a layout in mind inspired by the strips of words with the abstract shapes as background…

The first scribbled designs were dependant on the different types of lettering I could find to stitch to the right scale (I have tried to find the wonderful curly alphabet, above, that I downloaded, but sadly now can’t locate , and I snipped out the necessary contact information along with the letters I cut out for charting. As it is used in both the designs – a big thank you if anyone out there recognises it and can give me a source).

Slowly through sample stitching various letter forms and different gauges of canvas, the design emerged and the colour developed into something softer and kinder. When designing for this company I am directed to use particular range of wools Appletons they come in 2 versions, Crewels ( 2 ply yarns) and Tapestry( 4 ply yarns). I keep a separate section of my studio cupboards just for them.

the studio drawers full of colour co-ordinated Appletons’ Yarns.

When I have sorted the basic graphic layout I develop the designs using colour, co-ordinating the yarns to my drawings. This is always tricky getting the colour balance and many designers sensibly just stitch the entire design – but I don’t work like this as I am more used to envisioning the designs by painting them full scale so that the original art work can be printed on the canvas for the cushion to be stitched. the art work has to be the same scale as the eventual embroidery.

I make many drawn and coloured versions of the idea and finally choose one to work up as the final piece but even so things can change at this point as well. Having chosen the design I then put it aside, partly to leave a few days to see it afresh, but usually to start on any other designs before committing myself to the task of painting them both – together.

choice of letters echoes the choice of attitude – the beginning of the next cushion

The next cushion was an easier design to construct and I had already sorted out lots of different alphabets to use, I wanted to express different ‘attitudes ‘ by using various typefaces – now all I had to do was choose and re-size them to fit together…ha ha! here you see cut and paste in it’s literal sense.

above are several versions of different letters words and colours and the stitching sampler for the 2 cushions with the start of the third one ……I always love the energy contained in the stitching samplers…so much enquiry, curiosity and abandoned ideas – all ready for future use if my ideas run dry.

looking at a beautiful source of overall colour, what better than these spring flowers – I brought them up to my studio and selected the yarns to match them.

so far so good – but now having decided the brilliant colours of the letters I wanted to make a very strong overall design, I liked the striped ground ..but it was difficult for the dancing letters of ATTITUDE to be read against it – I tried many many stripes – here are just a few.

Whatever I did, the stripes just dominated and were inspiring migraine in me. Whilst there was no major deadline for this work, as the Ehrman website is the major source for publishing now and things can be uploaded at any given time, I needed to get on and finish the first half of this commission.

the 2 final designs (more or less) on my studio wall ready to be painted for the art work that I eventually send to the company

I decided to just start to paint. Painting art work is a slow and precise process, mixing the Gouache to the colour of each yarn is fascinating work, and takes time and I have to make enough paint for a whole design, it takes a lot of paint to cover the ground evenly – I do not want to run out of a colour before I finish .

when I eventually start painting , I have pans of each colour mixed for each yarn used and I keep them fresh for a few days by wrapping them up in polythene to keep the gouache from drying out.

When I had finished painting the letters I now had to decide on the stripes to use…but it looked so fresh and spring like that I decided, much against my designer instinct, as I love pattern on pattern, to keep it neutral. Part of this decision was the thought of the customer who may eventually buy this design – they will surely buy it for the message – so keeping the letters clear was the most important aspect.

the 2 finished art works with accompanying colour notations and threads. And below the finished pieces ( which I never get to see!) taken from the latest paper based catalogue.

the next 2 designs will hopefully appear in time for the new on- line website that Ehrman have been developing and I will post them as a celebration of its birth next month – or whenever they are published – so watch this space……

Appliqué Flowers Workshop

hand hem stitched sample of Broderie Perse as sewn on the original quilt

As part of the activities developed for the current Kaffe Fassett exhibition at  the American Museum in Britain I am giving 2 separate day workshops to make a small panel of hand appliqué flowers. I am supplying the same fabrics used for the large scale appliquéd quilt that I made for Kaffe to celebrate his 80th birthday.

Kaffe visits his present in the quilt room at the American Museum

I started the day by taking all the participants to the museum’s Quilt Room to see the original quilt and explained some of the techniques we would cover. I explained my technique of hand stitching over the raw edges of the bonded motifs, which is easier than the original way of turning a small hem and stitching onto the panel. They were asked to design their own version of the appliquéd flower and shell panels – but not the central Kaffe portrait.

Kaffe Fassett Collective fabrics bonded with heat transfer papers

I had prepared a whole sheaf of flowered fabric by pressing heat transfer paper onto the backs of them so they were ready to cut out. I also took the remaining motifs I had cut, but not used, from my quilt. Plus a selection of different coloured squares of Shot Cotton for the backgrounds, these I backed with a woven cotton interlining to strengthen them for appliqué to be sewn without a stretcher or hoop.

Everyone had to choose their own back ground fabric first, this makes finding colours for the individual flowers easier; I know how daunting it is to have so much choice. But they soon got going on the cutting and placing….

The first thing I noticed was that most people put far too many flowers onto the fabric squares with odd gaps between. I had to keep reminding them that this was to be a hand- stitched appliqué and to think about the work involved to finish the stitching later at home….. but even so most people favoured lots and lots of flowers, below shows some work in progress.

After the basic shapes were developed extra flowers could be found in the spare fabrics I had brought, and people could bond and press motifs individually to balance or fill up their basic design. Several people worked as I do and changed their designs a great deal during the design process until they were about satisfied.

Other people had very organised workspaces (very unlike me) and I enjoyed seeing their beautifully laid out tables with all necessary equipment to hand. They seemed to progress steadily and surely, with only a small tweak or suggestion of a different fabric from me

a work table set out with cut motifs and a camera ready to record a successful design

eventually all the designs were organised; some really interesting designs were arrived at by chopping and changing until the last minute…

but eventually everyone had to commit to trimming,

very very carefully trimmed stalks and petals ready to be bonded

then tracing around places with a water soluble pen, before pressing the whole design into position.

and then after a quick demonstration from me – start to stitch it.

a range of embroidery cottons chosen to tone in with the fabric colours are ready to appliqué

They all were very skilled at this very precise stitching, a relief as poor work at this point can ruin all the meticulous care taken after this really intense design stage.

At the end of the afternoon session there was a lovely and varied set of designs and some were already being stitched – with promises from the rest that they would definitely finish them.

the whole ten class participants with their own ready-to stitch appliqué designs.

And for anyone who is interested in joining the next workshop – it is on Saturday September 21st 2019.

LIVE a LITTLE: embroidering a book cover.

I make no apologies that for this long and detailed post of my most recently published commission, the nature of the commissioning aspect of my work makes for total secrecy until the publishing dates, in this case July 4th 2019. As I am now working on several more commissioned projects of different types of work it is a relief to actually show the work behind ‘Her Work’. I started this particular commission in June 2018, here is the story so far…

A phone call for my brother-in law, Howard Jacobson, in the spring of 2018: Was I interested in stitching an illustration or possibly (who knows) a book cover for his next novel? This sounded an unlikely combination, an embroidered cover for one of his irreverent and caustic novels?

He quickly explained that the book was about a very old woman, Beryl, with a very selective memory, much married, cantankerous and given to expressing herself in expletives; an obsessive stitcher of morbid samplers and scenes from her life. But this story was about her late flowering love affair with a just slightly younger bachelor, Shimi, who forgets nothing; they are both in their 90’s. I was immediately intrigued, not least by the choice of embroideries within the novel, they sounded familiar – I said yes.

I read the novel on my computer and immediately started to research hearts, skulls, playing cards and typefaces for name and title.
The lettering used for the author’s name came very quickly, I took the negative/positive block idea straight from a 1960’s American needlepoint alphabet book.

Next Howard and I met with the publishers at Jonathan Cape Vintage, who having accessed images from this blog, were ready to discuss their ideas for a cover. Basically they wanted a traditional sampler with the author’s name at the top of the page, the title beneath and some of my broken & mended heart imagery and the regular sampler border. They gave me the dimensions of the actual book wrapper and a month to come up with samples and ideas.

Later that day Howard and I discussed what he might want me to focus on, death, blood, destruction, worms, spiders, cobwebs, skulls and decay….

samples following conversation with author

I started to experiment with different letter forms; cursive italics for the title set against the simple strong text for the author’s name. I particularly liked an alphabet that used positive and negative forms for the name. The use of different alphabets is a major a feature of traditional samplers. For the “LIVE” I wanted cursive, italics written in capitals, these ideas that were important to me as I saw this forward bold energetic word as a symbol for whole message of the book. Then ‘a little” obviously needed be lower case and static. Finding and fitting the larger letter forms into the small space available was tricky, so I decided to stagger them – I liked the ‘dance’ they made.

My first cover designs below, featured skulls and broken hearts for Beryl. My second used playing cards and suits, for Shimi.

Both designs had to work to scale for my chosen gauge of counted thread linen, and both had to be incorporated into the 2 wrapper design ideas that I eventually sent to the publishers. Regardless of which design the publishers eventually chose, I had fastened on my colour scheme, red and black, stitched on neutral linen. I set to work on the back cover…using the boneless Buddhist hand used in many of my earlier embroidered mending mottoes.

At the publisher’s meeting everyone had liked my idea of the thread wrapping around the entire cover to incorporate the ‘blurb’ on front and back covers. Here with original boneless stitching hand is the ‘skulls’ cover.

and the ‘cards’ cover

Above are the 2 working ideas drawn to scale and up for discussion, that I sent in July to the publishers. I also sent these images to Howard to keep him in the loop, and for his comments…he replied with “Where are all her rings? She wore lots of rings, they were important to her”

Back to the drawing board and if he wanted such characterful detail then I needed to age the hands as well and introduce and ‘old gold’ thread.

my drawings showing the original Buddhist hands and eventually the jewellery placed onto a drawing of my own hand, with fabulous false nails!
drawing I used to trace for the embroidery

Meanwhile the publishing team had their own comments – and while really liking the entire concept, choosing the skulls (yippee) and approving the writing for the author’s name (which meant I could make a start on the actual piece of work) they and the marketing team thought the title was illegible and did not like the title block…not at all.

I was able to start work on the cover with the approved alphabet

They countered with their own version of my design…

I really liked the way they had translated the meandering thread around the whole cover but was disheartened and disappointed with their new design of the same blocked alphabet for the title and the ‘dancing skulls’. BUT the stitching goddess was at hand – it just could not be stitched in this technique at this scale.

Counted thread embroidery relies on mathematically calculated 1 square per stitch for any design. Anything at an odd angle is difficult, as are curves on such a small scale. There were only 2 sizes of stitch available on this linen for my design. I sent sample images to illustrate the point.

A long and detailed set of emails, more images of sample stitching and new lettering bounced back and forth for some time….

Above are the last 2 versions of the new one line of LIVE lettering, I was not happy to lose the italic version of leaning forward letters in order to show energy and I particularly mourned the loss of the energetic capital ‘A’ in the final cover, but by now it looked defunct – hey ho – a successful design is almost always a successful compromise

So I completed the embroidery, placed a real needle in the stitched hand leaving the red thread loose for the photographer’s placement, starched and stretched it and sent it off . Several weeks later it came back, they wanted the title stitched on the spine….remember the problem of the size of the linen count? Keep up!

the computer generated version of the spine form publisher – sadly not possible on this gauge linen

back to the calculations, I had only one option, one stitch per thread…….

re-spaced and counted spine text, 1 stitch per thread.

I must admit that the people I dealt with at the publishers, Suzanne Dean and Rosie Palmer were really helpful to work with but throwing this at me this was quite a challenge….after much more re-calculation and manoeuvring between Rosie and me, we finally achieved the finished design for the spine .

front and back cover of finished embroidery.

The finished back of the book cover has an extra border, making it very rich and even more ornate. I really like the effect of the shadows for the loose thread.

And in an early and very favourable review of the book in the Jewish Chronicle, says on the very last line:

The novel’s brilliant cover tells it all: hearts and skulls, love and death“.

and now an image for once of current work – new title for the Italian edition of the novel – I have yet to stitch the spine….

To see how the author tells this tale please go to https://youtu.be/hHJwjynPY9U 

And here is the Italian version of the book cover published by La nave di Teseo

Flower show quilt

garden illo leaflet

The following post explains why I have been silent for several months since completing the quilt for Kaffe…I have been working on the bedding for Sleep Well (a garden that was designed by Julie Dunn for the RHS summer flower show at Tatton Hall in Cheshire) since early in the year..it was quite a challenge.

daybed trial

Early April and I had my first glimpse of the bed and canopy so now I had the precise (I thought) measurements, I needed to proceed with sorting out the bedding and the patchworks….

Pinning the illustration to the quilt wall I started to make the quilt – it was very big, appox. 2 metres square and all colour co-ordinated to the chosen plants.

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the finished quilt top ready for the borders

by early May and I was getting on well with the quilt, the top was finished, I had designed a large border as a sort of valance to cover the unsightly drop-down bed legs of the day bed. However I realised that this would  not now work as the arms of the bed stopped the  border being  attached to the quilt. I drew some versions of how I could design my way forward and sent the sketches to Julie…

bed1

It sounds absolutely mad but Velcro became the solution to this first of my many design dilemmas.

However the next dilemma was although more simply sorted out it was  time consuming. Julie could not find a plant that was a major lynch-pin of her planting design, Sanguisora that is a brilliant pinky purple colour …..and  we had perfectly matched a fabric in the centre of the quilt to it….so back to the un-picker and sewing machine,

By mid-May the valance/border desperately needed to be designed and made – this took a lot of thought as I was now designing by the seat of my pants, working with Julie as she was getting news of her specially grown plants from the nursery and seeing the reality of how they all looked together. My colours needed to be softened considerably..not easy using when using the Kaffe Fassett Collective ranges!!!

valance

I was still undecided as to what the valance should be applied to, even if it was with Velcro, it was either to the quilt or the fitted sheet and I had to decide now as our dress rehearsal was looming in late June and I still had to organise the mattress covers, the pillows and the canopy – why oh why did I imagine this would just be a simply made and straightforward project ?

But she was correct, her choice worked best! but not everything fitted – the mattresses  were a tad wide after my oh so careful measuring- so we had to cut them down and recover them. Hey ho!

matress

when I got home it was all systems go, 3 weeks to the show and I had lots to do. BUT first the small patchwork cushion that would help pull all the different bedding and quilt  fabrics together – and such a pleasure in the face of all the work ahead

cushion

and so eventually to the show…Julie had already spent 2 hot and humid weeks with the help of her family planting the garden

The champagne tent beckoned but sadly we dared not visit it

julie bed
end of the day before judging

The judging day arrives

judges
the judges checking under the bed – yikes

Relief all round, the girls all pile on the bed for photographs and Julie models the perfect dress chosen for the garden!

tatton garden silver

And our award?

medalnot bad for  her company Trug’s first garden design at any show, let alone the RHS.

Edit

Quilt for Kaffe

dedication
My final stitches on the back of quilt appropriately backed with fabric designed by Brandon Mably

This major project started life in 2017 through sheer frustration. For Kaffe Fassett’s 2018 quilt book, based on traditional quilts housed in the American Museum in Britain he had asked that, as a hand embroiderer, I make his revised version of an ‘Broderie Perse’ in their collection. I was delighted.

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I immediately started to sample some simple ways to make such a large hand stitched quilt nowadays, plus information notes for others to follow the instructions. However, due to lack of time due to publishing deadlines this quilt was dropped….Rats!

behind the scenes of the American Museum

Later in the year I organised with the museum’s curator, Kate Hebert, to visit the archives with the UK making and publishing team. I asked to see ‘the one that got away’ and on hearing the story, Kate said that if I ever re-considered making the quilt she would show it in the quilt gallery alongside the original. Well of course I jumped at the chance to show work at this museum, and I did want to make the quilt.

I decided that I would make it as a present for Kaffe, it was his 80th birthday in December and I had enjoyed the last 3 years working with him on his books and my contract was at an end. I reasoned I would soon have plenty of time on my hands to complete the project in time for his birthday.

Kaffe Fassett studies new work on the quilt wall in my studio

As I now had ‘carte blanche’ to interpret the design as I liked I decided to make his portrait as one of the panels. Using a recent photograph from his last visit to the studios I set about drawing and scaling the head.

the original drawings scaled up from the photograph

I made carefully measured sketches, and then 2 masks – one to the size of the hexagonal block and the other of the head. My initial idea was to garland the head with flowers – well why not?

first attempt to design the head using some of my favourite fabrics

This looked miserable, and the garland didn’t fit into the hexagon very well – and then I would have to embroider the features; I remembered my ‘Flora’ embroideries influenced by Archimboldo – the artist who made faces from flowers. I tried various flowery fabrics from the Kaffe Fassett Collective.

This selection took several days and I was still not convinced I could make it work well enough, then into my studio stepped an old university colleague from my teaching and researching days, Dr Dawn Mason, with the perfect bunch of flowers to match the work  – I believe that chance happenings are not always random

dawn

serendipitous flowers – I am on the right track

I  persevered. Eventually I chose the fabric placement, cut it out with a tiny seam allowance and hand slip stitched it to a spotty fabric, adjusting the chin to become a tad larger proved successful. Very carefully I placed a blue bud for the eye. Suddenly Kaffe appeared in front to me.

Now for the hair: I found the white petals of Japanese Chrysanthemum by Phillip Jacobs perfect for my purpose, and so it appears does everyone else; the hair is the thing that gets the attention. In fact most of the fabrics that I used Summer  Bouquet and Shell Bouquet and Tulip Extravaganza are designed Phillip Jacobs, his fabrics are so elegantly drawn and painted and the perfect replacement of the original chintzes.

The next stage was to decide the rest of the portrait. For the shirt I had a smidgeon of an old version of Kaffe’s Roman Glass in blue, I had bought years ago – and after many trials chose the fresh Spot fabric in the colour ‘Pond’ for the background.

Archimboldo Kaffe
the finished head

Now for the rest of the patchwork, So far this  has taken me about 3 weeks of drawing and stitching – but it is still only June.

3 SAMPLES
the original samples for the American Museum book

I dug out the abandoned samples I had made for the book – I needed to make more other panels to add to the portrait.

To make the bouquets, the fabric has to be backed with a bonding paper, carefully cut out, placed into position by re-arranging the various elements to fit harmoniously, pressed,  then hand stitched around each raw edge, the stitching is quicker than the arranging and my idea of blissful work.

The quilt slowly started to grow; but trying to control the overall colour was the most difficult thing – colours that work on their own or in a sketch suddenly look drab or take on another shade when placed next to one another – obviously. But the colours of the flowers changed the balance every time I added a new panel. It was my major ongoing and fascinating struggle to get these balances to work.

september studio
my textile studio September 2017

By September I had eventually made my fabric decisions, I had to make multiple versions of some of the panels – all in different colour-ways, but this gave cohesion to the  busy design. I also added 4 shell corners, this was possibly the easiest panel to apply as the size was perfect and the shape fitted – just a few additions to balance colour.

Below shows development of the Brassica panels, they needed to be made larger by adding extra rows of leaves before hand sewing them onto the grounds.

The next stage was to add the diamond shaped patches at the intersections of the squares.

squares add
the added diamonds start to assert themselves

And this is when the panic started – suddenly this massive work, that had grown over months took off in another direction, these diamonds dominated the entire design – already busy, this was manic

The only thing was to keep going – too late to stop now – the samples below looked fine

I started to applique the tiny cut squares from Kaffe’s fabrics, Sunburst onto Shot Cotton dozens of them, all hand stitched in 2 colours and I slowly added them to the quilt on the wall ….and the result below doesn’t have all the dividing ribbon strips yet!

half cooked
without the addition of all the ribbons – hells’teeth!

This was beginning to look overloaded,  so I called in my 2 trusted quilt makers, Julie Harvey and Ilaria Padovani – they have very sound taste in all things quilt, and I knew they would tell me the truth. They just laughed and said “well it is for Kaffe and ‘more is more’ with him – why are you worried’?

It was the addition of the ribbons, kindly donated to me by both Edith Minne, owner of Renaissance Ribbons and Brandon Mably (who was in on the secret) that tipped the balance of the work  and I suddenly understood that the work had ceased to be mine  – it was now Kaffe’s. This happens when you are commissioned to design and make stuff for people – you need to work with their ideas/tastes/preferences – otherwise they don’t pay you! But this wasn’t a commission this was a present, and it was  all my own work – I realised now just how much I have been influenced by working alongside him.

So I machined in place all the ribbons – a mammoth task for a hand embroider! they were very tricky to manipulate especially as I had to split  many yards of a wider ribbon to get the correct proportion, both Edith and Brandon were out of stock of the narrow version. Hey ho! Thankfully  Julie machine stitched it all into position first and then I started to hand quilt  all around  my stitched applique – another mammoth task, but so rewarding, the quilt looks suitable wonky – in a good way – it looks very hand made.

finished not
March 2018,  finally finished – I thought!

It was completed in March 2018 but I had not time to deliver it; then Kaffe was awarded an MBE and I know I have to include this – so back again to the finished quilt

I made a sample first and then the real thing and appliqued it to the ‘finished’ portrait

mbe
portrait complete with medal

In Bath, where Kaffe and Candace Behouth, have an exhibition together based on Flowers , I delivered another set of 5 quilts for the next book and my “surprise”

And Kaffe’s reaction when he was shown it?

Worth every moment..  I made the sample into a badge for Brandon – this says it all!

brooch for brandon

Serendipity – Lillian Delavoryas

LD magnolias copy
Magnolias – Lillian Delavoryas

My recent meeting with Lillian Delavoryas is, in her words “serendipitous” and in mine “bizarre”. During October 2017 I was visiting various friends who were  taking part in the annual West Bristol Arts Trail . The artist, Anna Christy, recommended that I visit the studio of another friend of hers who, “used to design textiles”; she was sure that we had a lot in common. I recognised the name immediately, but it was late in the day and the studios were all closing, so with 10 minutes to spare I rushed into the signed doorway, and felt that my working life had come full circle.

Paintings hung on the bookshelves – all for sale

I walked into a sitting room full of people and hung with small jewel-like paintings of people, landscapes and flowers. lovely work  but this wasn’t what I was expecting!

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wool tambour work wall hanging

but in an adjoining room I saw a large blue and mauve flowered embroidery, this looked more familiar. then delving further into the exhibition I found a piece of work I recognised, Nicotianas.

LDblog2
Nicotianas – Lilian Delavoryas

I had just a little time before she closed, and although I had never met her, I realised who she was, sitting on a settee amidst cushions that I also knew were her designs. Thanking her for the opportunity of seeing the exhibition, I introduced myself and explained that I often worked with Kaffe Fassett, organising the production of his patchwork quilts for publication and exhibition. Also that I had worked on the original  “Good Housekeeping Encyclopaedia of Needlecraft, first published in 1979 by Ebury Press and was now delighted to see some of her original work.GHE

2 days later, she emailed me asking that I visit her with the idea of helping to find a home for her collection of textile based books and various pieces of her old work , some half-finished canvases, needle work samples and painted design drawings. She thought it could all go to a school as an aid to design education!

Lillian Delavoryas  and Kaffe Fassett and were leading textile designers in the late 1970’s, when I first left college and became a freelance designer and illustrator in the Fashion industry. Influenced, no doubt, by their work I taught myself to hand embroider onto canvas as a way of the easing the frustration of my hectic working life. But my early works were tiny, so when I saw the scale of these pieces I was deeply impressed. Kaffe and Lillian knew one another when they both lived in America and  he is responsible for bringing her to the UK, in order for her work to be recognised here.

Good Housekeeping page Lillian and Kaffe
page of Kaffe Fassett’s and Lillian Delavorayas’ work Good Housekeeping encyclopedia of Needle Work

GH pages Lillian and me
Good Housekeeping pages with my tiny work blown out of proportion next to Lillian’s

For the past 3 years I have been working directly with Kaffe Fassett, organising the making of his patchwork quilt designs as well as other stitching projects. I was recommended to him by Susan Berry, the publishing consultant of  his major series of patchwork books. Susan was the first person to commission me in publishing, and I have worked with her on many projects over the intervening years. So now you see the complete circle!

Lillian Delavoryas
needlepoint hanging – vase of flowers, the corner of which can be seen on the page above

When I visited, Lillian had organised a whole lot of different books, copies of articles featuring her past textiles and the promised samples.

working samples LD
various cushion cover designs

stitched bird
sample stitched bid on large drawn canvas

Also, and this I did not expect, samples and books of fabric and wall paper designs from Designers Guild circa 1980’s , all looking very familiar to me. Lillian assured me that she had ceramics to match somewhere in her flat, and a lot more besides – if I was interested….  designer guild wp

wrapLD
2 wrapping papers

Designers Guild fabrics
Designers Guild fabric samples

working design painting
beautiful water-colour and pencil design drawing

Assessing what I was looking at – a part-archive of an innovative and influential designer of 20th century textiles, I suggested that she collect as much of her work as she could locate and that we try to tell her textile design ‘story’.  I thought that it would eventually become of interest either for a  museum to keep as an archive and a  work-in-progress exhibit, or to students undertaking higher degrees,  to research and catalogue it  all, enabling her to be set within the context of 20th century design.

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Lillian Delavoryas October 2017

This is an ongoing story. My next contact was Hugh Ehrman of “Ehrman Tapestry” for whom Lillian, Kaffe and I have worked. Explaining to him of my serendipitous meeting he at once visited me, bringing  a folder of painted paper designs that his company had held on her behalf…but that will be covered in the next post on this saga.

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Kantha Club

although I was not aware of it at the time I wrote this blog this is the very last post for Heart Space Studios…we conducted many more parties, clubs and classes , we have now ceased trading as a class based studio – however I continue to make my work and explain many different ways of constructing and thinking about the making of ‘Her Work‘ in my ongoing blog http://www.janethaighherwork.com.

IMG_2366
Susi Bancroft stitching her suspended large Kantha piece in Heart Space Studios

Autumn is here and the new term started for Kantha Club – run by Susi Bancroft for Heart Space Studios. We all wanted to swap summer experiences and stories and show what we had been up to – or not!

IMG_2343
Kay at the back of the Kantha sheet – the light shining though the colour was lovely, showing up the rows of stitches.

Susi had embarked on a very large piece ( I meanwhile had put my first attempt at a large piece aside). She had dyed the fabric in Turmeric and Tea to get this very subtle yellow. She finds it easier to hold the needle at the eye end to keep the cloth steady – so each stitch requires 2 hands on the needle, standing to work on such a large-scale fabric she says ” I am surrounded by beautiful colour with the light behind you, like being cocooned in colour “

hand3
closed hand with thumb kept into palm = the narrow band
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wide open hand = the wide band of stitches

Explaining how she made decisions for spacing the stitching bands by using simple hand measurements she said “I used the fact that I couldn’t see the whole cloth working so close up so the hand spans were the measurement I adopted”

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hand spans for the gaps between stitching lines

to enable her to keep stitching rhythmically while standing up, she threaded several needles at a time in different colours, using each as she felt that she wanted them – relying on her instinct for the colour striations, she enjoyed  the feeling of  the fabric being “just being out of my reach’ whilst she worked.

Kay Swancutt showed us some dying samples that she had stitched , she had exhibited these recently at Nature in Art and used many natural materials to make the different patterns and colours

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samples of natural dyed fabrics by Kay Swancutt
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more of Kay’s experimental samples

Steph Wooster brought several examples of her earlier drawn textile work that she has now worked with a kantha stitched ground…these were  also exhibited at Nature in Art and I feel that they could lead to even more intricate background stitched patterns – I am thinking animal skin patterns, leaves, grass..

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Steph Wooster’s Biro drawing of animals from the Bristol Museum, augmented with ripples of stitching

I particularly like the combination of the stark elegant drawings and the tone on tone rippled grounds.

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Biro drawing of animals and kantha stitched ground – Steph Wooster

she also brought a new piece fabric that she wanted some feedback from us – it was a parachute silk sheet, very old and damaged,

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choosing coloured threads to mend the fragile silk sheet

she wanted to mend it – we suggested she start with the weakest area.

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carefully searching for the weakest points ot start to mend using Kantha as a technique

Meanwhile Naomi Clarke has been having fun just using Kantha technique to stitch the patterned cloth and also appliqueing it to the tie- dyed ground – as a technique this could really be developed to make lively fabrics

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Naomi Clarke’s Kantha applique

I had started another project in the break – a quilt based on a painting by Alfred Stockham, an old friend and ex colleague, it is a small painting that had always called to me to be made as a patchwork…

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oil painting by Alfred Stockham

starting in the top right hand corner I ripped some pieces of shot cottons into squares and strips and stitched them down onto a red cotton ground…the coours of the threads made for the nuance of his dragged brush marks

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starting the squares of painting patchwork
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completed square of kantha stitched patchwork

during the last few hectic weeks of launching my book it has been a relief to get back to simply stitching these square transitions from paint to cloth

I am interested to see how each square is in itself a small complete composition

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JH6b

I am fascinated by this work but it may take some time to get finished

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the start of the first row of patches for the painting quilt.

Best in Show – Ally Pally

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Alexander Palace – the Knitting & Stitching Show entrance

And so to Ally Pally for the annual Knitting & Stitching show, attentive readers of this blog will realise that this is where Heart Space Studios headed to advertise our new book at the invitation of The Cotton Patch, the home of all things patchwork and quilting in Birmingham. For a week I worked at this amazing show – and looking at textiles for so long, I now feel well able to select my personal ‘ Best in Show’ awards to several outstanding exhibitions and commercial stands.

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Kate’s Place blackboard

In no particular order – ” Kate’s Plaice the Stitchmongers’ ” was by far the most amusing, the concept or rather – to use a literary term – “the conceit” was completely thought through, it was highly technically proficient  and the most entertaining piece of textile work that I have ever seen at this event.

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the fish stall

The installation was designed specially for the Knitting and Stitching show by Kate Jenkins, Everything on the stand was completely in keeping with the joke…from the dressed shop assistants that like all good fishmongers knew their subject inside out and wanted to share their delight and knowledge with you, to the stunning array of ‘ seafood’ on offer…

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detail of the central fish counter

below are the details of the counter of fish, the use of material and the shapes and colour are perfectly chosen – you really did want to order and eat what was on offer…..

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For those, like me, who prefer their fish cooked and served, rather than making the dish themselves, the fish platters definitely looked good enough to eat.

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fish and seafood supper

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tabasco and oysters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the hand written sign below, perfectly in keeping with the whole fish shop ethic, was written to deter a fellow exhibitor, an embroiderer, who pawed the little sequined morsels as they were being arranged, and was extremely rude when he was asked to stop! This is such an unusual occurance  – stall holders being rude to anyone, let alone one another that I feel it deserves reporting.

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thee sparkly lobster and the necessary notice!

Among the exhibition, chosen from recent graduates by the Embroiderer’s Guild, was this enigmatic large photographic  hand embroidered panel by Susana Borobia, part of an small body of work called ” Awaken Threads…this spoke ro me on lots of levels – it reminds me of my own work developed through a fascination with White Work techniques and the difficult transition from cloth or fibre to other materials…here is it managed elegantly and artlessly.

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stitched photographic print by Susana Borobia

 

 

 

 

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Detail of the stitched white work on the photograph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ihave to admit that I chose to ignore  the notice not to take photographs; it was early in the morning, I couldn’t find the student to ask and thought that she may prefer it to appear on this blog than me to ignore her work.  I have had this problem of no photography before …but it is a odd embargo now in the age of instant imagery and social media and who can possibly copy this ??????…that’s my excuse anyway.

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Robert G Ely, the perfect example of ‘ if you’ve got it flaunt it ‘  wearing his woven silk braces and bow tie

It is difficult to show a range of different work in such a small space as a booth in the fair – but here Robert Ely has managed to do exactly that – he shows his woven ribbon design work, such as braces and book marks  with his more art based weavings of sea and landscapes – the ribbon dimensions are shared but the colour depth and small scale pointilism is also evident in both sets of work – seen below are the 2 types of work on display

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woven ribbon seascape – by Robert G Elybelow are the 2 types of woven work that Robert was exhibiting

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braces, book marks and other finely woven sauciness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the seascapes exhibited made me think that he must live near me on the Severn Estuary, in fact these images are taken from much further down the estuary at Devon, Start Point.

god's river RE
this image I mistook for my local headland and lighthouse, Battery Point in Portishead, Somerset in fact it is form further down the estuary in Devon

what everyone goes to these fairs of is to stock up their stash! So 2 specialists who always show wonderful collection of the real things…first my old favourite importer of real Japanese fabrics, Euro Japan Links, a Japanese husband and English wife team who have been in business for years- long before their was a fashion in Japanese fabrics; their pieces of fabric neatly folded into colour co-ordinated  ranges never fail to fascinate me.

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Japanese patchwork cottons

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Japanese kimono prints

My other favourite company exhibiting and selling mainly tribal Chinese fabrics and clothing is Slow Loris. I  have written about this marvelous collection for sale before but do so again as Martin Conlon the owner is a fund of knowledge and is really enthusiastic to tell you the stories behind the garments. There always new things to see – well old new things.

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The Slow Loris stand of ethnic Chinese /Tibetan textiles

The other exhibition I liked for its sense of space and calm and truly sumptuous colour was ‘The Other’ coloured work by Vivienne Prideaux paired with the white and neutral work of Amanda J Clayton. They made a handsome area of beautiful controlled textile hangings and panels. I thought that these these glowing panels by Vivienne Prideaux were just so desirable, the depth of texture and range of nuanced colour that this artist builds up with her various tie dyed and gilded grounds is so inspiring – makes me yearn to return to my own studio again.

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small dyed panel by Vivien Prodeaux

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shibori dyed and gilded panel – Vivienne Prideaux

 

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the neutral and range of white fabrics shown by Amanda J Clayton were perfect partners

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Shifting sheets of fabrics installation in “The Other” exhibition.

 

So enough of what I like – what about my exhibit…i was given a space on The Cotton Patch stand, to show and sell my new book, Little Ribbon Patchwork and Applique – comprising designs based on Kaffe Fassett’s ribbon collection for Renaissance Ribbons

several people helped me to set up and run the stand during the week …

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Setting up the stand with Cotton Patch ‘s Nik Sewell sorting out the Kaffe Fassett books and Jane- Matie Mahy organising the Heart Space section

several people helped to run the stand with me for the 5 days of the show….

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Ilaria Padovani form Heart Space Studios demonstrating how to make a ribbon yo yo on the stand

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Susan Berry who had the idea of the book in the first place

The Ribbon beads have proved to be most popular things we show how to make in the book, see the next post down!

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Stuart from the Sewing Bee programme and Jane- Marie Mahy  with the ribbon beads – sort of says it all really!

 

Making Ribbon Beads

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One wonderful wrapped ribbon beaded bead by Debbie Cripps

And so to Bath, to launch the Heart Space Studio book, ‘Little Ribbon Patchwork and Applique’ at the American Museum, with a workshop in the morning to show how to make ribbon beads. I made these originally as a way of using up all the small ends of Jaquard ribbons made by the American company Renaissance Ribbons left over from the other projects in the book – but  also to show off the wonderful floating threads that form on the backs of the ribbons.

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contents of a ribbon pack given to each student for the workshop

As the workshop was conducted for just the morning before the launch, we had only 3 hours to make beads, and knowing that choosing the ribbons and felts takes a long time, decision decisions….we had made packs of small pieces of ribbon and the felt strips – enough for 12 beads, added tiny glass beads for embellishing and some gold thread for wrapping and stitching, plus a small wooden skewer on which to assemble the beads. Each student was first asked to choose a package.

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wrapping the scrap of Jaquard Ribbon wrong side outermost around the felt.

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wrapping the felt to make the bead base

 

 

 

 

 

 

constructing the beads is easy peasy – if you can stitch neatly, I showed how to make 3 simple beads with variations.

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three beads wrapped and stitched in gold thread and different ribbons

everyone  quickly got wrapping and sewing and inventing different colours and patterns, fascinating to watch so many variations happen at the first ever class I have given in this technique.

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colour co-ordinating beads with clothes

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stitching the ribbons to the felted bead – a blur of activity!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

just simple plain coloured thread cross stitch when repeated looks lovely..

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embroidered bead by Naomi Clarke

when all the ribbon beads are strung together with glass beads onto an elastic cord the effect is simply lovely.

 

Naomi's bracelet
the finished necklace by Naomi Clarke

After this came the launch party,  so we all made our way to the Gallery.

Earlier in the week, we had designed and re-packaged the basic Renaissance Ribbon packs that the gallery had in stock to sell with the books,

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in the heart space studio making fresh sets of ribbon packs

we were really pleased with the effect….

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our packs of ribbons displayed next to the new book in the gallery shop

lots of other people joined us for the launch…the heart Space tutors and friends all enjoyed a good time together

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rare picture of me with my friends – I’m the one with the ribbon bead necklace

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colourful Heart Space gals busy chatting together

 

 

 

 

 

All in all it was a good day, and lots of other guests have blogged it as well, most notably, Rosemary Murphy on  one of her blogs for September 2015  http://storiesinwood.blogspot.co.uk/

 

So that’s the Launch sorted,  what next?

new ribbonsNIK
new ribbon version of front cover embroidery for Knitting and Stitching Show

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new design for Cotton Patch stand F27, at Knitting & Stitching show at the Ally Pally, London

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have been invited to the Knitting and Stitching show in London by Nik Sewell the owner of The Cotton Patch to demonstrate how to make several  simple projects from the book on their stand, F27.  And to sell the books as well as lots of Renaissance Ribbons and Kaffe Fassett’s lovely shot cottons that are used throughout the book. So I am now busy developing new combinations as shown above.