Following on from the successful Drawing Day in June at Court House Farm The RWA ( Royal West of England Academy) Drawing School organised another Autumn Flowers day. But due to the ultra dry summer the flowers were not so abundant as the spring crop…my solution: select just 3 big bunches of different flowers in vintage vases with a toning striped runner and everyone would be able to draw all 3 during the day
In at the deep end. I asked the class to choose a table to sit at and draw the whole display in front of them…in 20 minutes!
Tall and elegant autumnal shades…and in contrast below – hot clashing colours!
and then massive and majestic….
only 2 people attempted this vase and were somewhat overwhelmed by the abundance! So we started again by choosing another section of the bouquets and making some rather more detailed drawings – now things were starting to develop.
BUT so far no-one had even attempted the fabric specially chosen to be drawn with the colours already used in the flowers……so after lunch I changed things over and added another arrangement – now we start drawing with the fabric!!!!
And in the process we even got vases.
For the last session I relented and asked them to choose just 1 flower/branch/leaf from all the masses of materials and to place it next to their drawing boards and make a study – I usually start my drawing sessions like this – and I may return to this method for my next drawing flowers session in November….
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!
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.
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!
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 “
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”
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
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..
I particularly like the combination of the stark elegant drawings and the tone on tone rippled grounds.
she also brought a new piece fabric that she wanted some feedback from us – it was a parachute silk sheet, very old and damaged,
she wanted to mend it – we suggested she start with the weakest area.
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
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…
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
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
I am fascinated by this work but it may take some time to get finished
I have been getting out and about recently and have been taking a workshop at the American Museum in Britain, which is situated just outside Bath. I have been asked to deliver 2 day long workshops by their education officer, Zoe Dennington (who found me via this blog). Zoe asked me to use Crazy Patchwork techniques for classes to run at the same time as the current vibrant Kaffe Fassett exhibition being held at the museum for several months.The second class is in October to make a crazy patched and beaded heart.
Luckily I was given a batch of cotton samples of fabrics designed by Kaffe Fassett to use in my workshop by a friend, Susan Berry ( who produces his very popular patchwork and knitting books) and they certainly livened up my Heart Space Studios fabric stash….I had designed a special project for this session, a simple design of a fan and one of the most popular motifs used in traditional of Crazy Patchworks.
I reasoned that if I provided patterns for the patches then things might go quickly and everyone would finish – well that was the idea! We started off by choosing the fabrics for each fan – there are 7 sections in the design that I had created for the class, which means less embroidery than my sample.
I had also asked people to bring whatever they liked of their own materials as well. The fabrics chosen were quickly organised into many different striped bands – I explained about balance of pattern to plain fabrics and crucially for a small colour scheme, to separate a few colours from the patterned fabrics and use them as plains or solids to show up the patterns. And not to worry too much about getting the colours perfect at this point as later the coloured stitching over the seams would help with the colour co-ordination of the whole piece.
organising the fan sections is much easier and quicker than for usual odd shapes of crazy patches. The sections were laid over one another and then pinned and using running stitches held section by section till the fan was complete. The complete arrangement was then pressed onto the special heat activated fabric backing
. Once the fan had been pressed and trimmed the next task was to find the coloured ground to applique it onto…I find that this is quite a good way to get people to appreciate the difference that different coloured grounds can make to the overall piece.
Sometimes soft colours can be made bolder if placed on very dark grounds and brilliant colours more muted if placed on a toning ground. It is also a chance to reassess the colours prior to embroidering the seams which also fix the fan to the background
Now to start embroidering – I had chosen to demonstrate 1 basic row of herringbone stitch and then show how to add extra stitches or I should say decorations…it is my favourite decorative embroidery stitch as it can be developed so that it looks almost like a braid. But to begin just a couple of well spaced rows…and then the extra colours can be added.
I like to use contrasting coloured stitches on the seams – they are very obvious but then I do not think it worth doing any decorative hand embroidery if it isn’t to be noticed!
although up close and personal the colours are very vibrant the more colours added to each row of stitching the softer the colours will appear more subtle
when soft colours are used to not much affect then the herringbone variations allow for extra emphasis – this is why I really like this particular stitch – it gives a lot of opportunity for invention
At the end of the session we put all the unfinished patchworks together on a table to assess them for further additions…. you can now see the affect that the Kaffe Fassett fabrics had on the works – but you would not think by looking at this picture of some of the group around the table that they actually liked what they are looking at !
. Everyone faithfully promised me that they would finish the fans and send me photographed results – watch this space…….
Crazy Barcelona – crazy patchworks everywhere, but not in fabric – in ceramic, stone and marble. OK then, crazy mosaics, but whatever you call them there is no better place to appreciate them than at Parc Geull, designed and built by Antoni Gaudi in the first 14 years of the 19th century. I have seen images of these mosaics before but never appreciated the size and the sheer exuberance of the patterns.
I was delighted to see broken plates, tiles, and rounded roof ridge tiles put together in a myriad of ways, some where just pretty with sections with large flowers that had been broken but kept intact when cemented together and then surrounded by all shades of one background colour. Here is inspiration indeed, but immediately I thought of the Crazy Embroidery classes that I teach at Heart Space Studios, lots of new ideas to create crazy samplers.
I started to see how the sustained patterning of the whole site didn’t just merge into one long visual porridge; there were sections of patterns with plain areas between them and the way that the patterns started to drift into plain areas was really brilliantly handled…
Sometimes the crazy patches were confined to simple shapes and surrounded by a sea of broken ceramics in a wide range of whites, the use of white ceramics when fired and glazed to produce many different variations is a major feature in this garden.
there were other more fluid shapes contained by the white ground….
I also really enjoyed seeing patterns within patterns,
I really like these wonky squares set in a sea of crazy patterns; the makers must have had such a good time doing this work. Transitions from patterns to solid colours was just masterful in places
in fact the single coloured sections were simply beautiful – here is a range of crazy blue patterns
while most of the ceramic patterns are traditional in flavour there were also some more abstract patterning to be found,
but this whole set of designs is made from re-cycled materials, apart from the abundance of beautiful old and broken patterned tiles from the Spanish ceramic factories, I was happy to see this poorly fired plate used to good effect.
After an hour of my visit I started to see evidence of Crazy everywhere..
looking down at the sandy pathways I saw crazy patterns impressed by the soles of many different shoes, and once out of the park, everywhere I looked was Crazy Heaven.
So now I have decided to try to develop some of these ideas into new Crazy Patchwork designs for cushion cover designs to show Hugh Ehrman at Ehrman Tapestry company for their future collections.
This is a sad story with a happy ending. My favourite cardigan that was included in my first ever post, Make Do and Mend, where I proudly showed the careful darning that I wore with pride, sadly, got lost. When I eventually found it pushed to the bottom of my laundry basket (don’t ask) it was totally ruined even beyond my restorative darning powers.
I decided to felt it by boiling it twice. The colours are so vibrant that I just had to try to find a use for it and I found the perfect solution when designing with some lovely felted woolen blanket flowers that Kirsten Hill-Nixon had brought along as a new idea for a class at Heart Space Studios.
Kirsten will make the flowers in the morning class and I will develop the design and make session with them in the afternoon…but first I had to design something with what she had brought me, and she had brought me a whole selection of disparate flower heads – just as I has asked her to.
I made 2 colour sets of flowers. the neutrals were really soft and wooly, very tactile and I thought first to just make a heart out of them – well I would wouldn’t I? and in fact this is a really nice idea I may go back to…..
But then I imagined them as adorning a woolly winter jumper or cardigan, they aren’t heavy but they are bulky and a brooch seemed better than stitching them to a piece of clothing. But I had been given so many flowers that I soon decided on a necklace….
I set to work but when stitching them together without a backing fabric, soon realized that I needed just a few more roses….then I remembered my old ruined cardigan. I cut the sleeves into ribbons of different coloured stripes and stared to stitch the rose buds by simply rolling and folding the strips to suggest overlapping rose petals.
I had used this system many times as it is so easy – you just need to stitch as you go and control the folded edge, I found the way to do it in a vintage dressmaking manual from the 1930’s; the natural affinity to roll for cut knitting really helps the rose petal effect. I was starting to see a new life for all my old felted woolens.
I inserted my knitted roses between Kirsten’s more substantial felt blanket ones, ( I really like her use of the blanket stitched edge for a fat rolled rose). She had provided leaves as well so they helped make the reds even stronger. Then I simply stitched 2 suede strips for ties onto the last roses and there it is – now for the neutral necklace.
this time I added wooden beads by threading them onto the leather strips to make a more decorative finish. Kirsten had filled some of the centres of the flowers with soft glowing beads so I added some wooden ones as well, the soft tones and texture of the wood feels just right for this sort of fabric.
I was really getting into my stride, and now I just want to make more of these simple flowers pieces and I didn’t use the lively red tartan rose – so now I need to pluck up courage to felt my tartans and paisley scraps to use with my old washed out jumpers……
Crazy Patchwork classes have always been popular at Heart Space Studios and several people asked me to teach them more hand embroidery stitches, so I started a course called Crazy Patchwork Sampler. The course is built around the sampler that I made for my book, Crazy Patchwork, published in 1998 by Collins and Brown – it seems what goes around comes around……
For the FIRST WORKSHOP I started off with the absolute basics, first we chose the colour scheme – I supplied various ribbons and fabrics for people to choose a small group of their favourite colours: this takes longer than anyone imagines it can and causes a lot of negative ideas to flow as people are usually very nervous about using colour, but I have learnt that this choosing is really important as eventually by using the same set of colours in various patterns and proportions the finished piece can be made harmonious.
Most people, to their own surprise, choose colours similar to what they are wearing. The next choice to be made is the threads – I ask them to choose similar colours to the fabrics but to stitch in complementary coloured threads – so that the stitching will show up.
The first sampled stitches are the straight ones – running, back and all the variations, easy does it….but it also includes writing a name…very simple but very effective for the first workshop. There are various methods of writing onto fabric so that it can be embroidered and we start with the simplest by using a water-soluble pen or the old-fashioned transfer paper still used by dressmakers.
The SECOND WORKSHOPsession was cross stitch, counted and herringbone – which is the main stitch I use for joining the patches together. The group was still concerned about colours, but I assured everyone that we had a long way to go and plenty of opportunity to make the whole sampler work in harmony – I was delighted that they had all done ‘homework’ and had finished the first workshop’s ‘patch’ and found more variations to add to the straight stitches.
Counted cross stitch is another way of embroidering letters and numerals……
There is a whole world of cross stitch motifs and I like using the traditional ones – to illustrate the technique of charting for cross stitch I showed them some old work of mine that was designed from vintage needlework manuals. I still work as a freelance designer for a canvas embroidery company, Ehrman Tapestry, where I sometimes use similar charting for some of my designs, even though the stitch for tapestry is tent or half crass stitch. So I have lots of reference material and the group spent an hour of the 3 hour session looking at all my books and notes before they began charting their own designs.
The task for this second session was to chart a name and date as well as a small multi-coloured motif and to stitch it onto the counted thread fabrics.
choosing the colours from a limited range of counted thread fabrics involves creative use of colour
it is interesting how the maker’s character soon emerges from their choice of colour and letter forms, above Helen’s looks strong and directional while Sophie has chosen elegant letter forms and motifs ; the colour combinations are similar but the proportions are very different
By the THIRD WORKSHOP the patchworks are starting to look very rich and there is less uncertainty about colour choices, everyone seems to be enthralled by this process and are bringing in finished pieces that they have developed at home alone….everyone comments on how good it is to just stop for a time and concentrate on their stitching.
The third week is supposed to be looped stitches – chains and lazy daisies and feather, but we have to spend some time catching up on herringbone as the counted cross stitch took up most of the last class at the studio.
The patches are now starting to harmonise together by careful use of colour; everyone really enjoys the frivolity of stitching with multi-coloured threads to make up the herringbone variations
By the LAST WORKSHOP we have got a small range of patches ready to be worked into a whole square.
The piecing together of the patches for the last class was easier because of the colour co-ordination of the embroideries, but the strict oblong patches made for geometric patterns for the final piece. Maybe for the next session of this class I will give each person a triangle as well as oblongs and squares of fabrics to apply the embroidered ribbons on.
I just didn’t have the heart to ask them to cut up their embroideries to look like a more authentic crazy, even so each person had completely different patchworks –
This group of students want to learn more stitches and techniques so I am running an advanced course for them – and other more experienced embroiderers can drop in for single sessions. Considering that this group had only 5 classes for 3 hours each they have really advanced their practice in many ways and not just by learning how to stitch. I think that they have caught my bug – the embroidery bug – and are now developing their own libraries and stashes of materials ready to try out new techniques and new ways of expressing themselves.