Textiles in Focus is on annual exhibition I haven’t visited before; it’s quite a long way from me but on the route to my daughter’s home. This year it coincided with a family visit so we diverted to it off the A14. The college provided an excellent venue with plenty of light-filled space for the exhibition and the all-important traders’ rooms.
Two textile groups had their work on display, New Horizons and Material Girls, so there was plenty to see. I liked the Material Girls’ theme of basing work on different cultures and they presented a fascinating range of techniques and design approaches.
The photograph (taken by Val Harrowven) is of one of my favourite pieces but my apologies to the maker as I didn’t make a note of her name.
As usual the traders’ hall had plenty of opportunity to give in to temptation. Slow Loris offers wonderful embroidered and appliqué work from Chinese tribal minorities collected by Martin Conlan. I could not resist a truly beautiful piece of cloth; repeatedly indigo dyed, then with other natural dyes, then beaten and burnished. The depth of dark coppery loveliness was irresistible. I don’t know what I will do with it yet, it deserves careful thought to make the most of its lustrous surface.
A book by Bobby Britnell was another purchase. ‘Stitched Textiles: Flowers’ is a very practical introduction to surface decoration of fabric, with clear instructions on various techniques. I have liked her work very much for years and she has a clear, graphic style, a sure use of colour and the techniques don’t overwhelm, they enhance, the design. I shall be experimenting with some of the printing method in the coming weeks.
On Friday I set off for a weekend of stitching arranged by the Eastern Region of the Embroiderers’ Guild. Our tutor was Brenda Scarman and she led us in exploring the potential of new and familiar stitches, creating a piece with texture and colour variation.
Inspiration came from looking at Brenda’s own exciting work based on fairly simple linear designs and then enriched with textural variation both in thread and stitch. The technique worked well for monochromatic, fairly neutral colour schemes as well as more vibrant combinations. Brenda is a great tutor, very supportive, lively and perceptive, I can thoroughly recommend her.
We were encouraged to use the design she provided or develop our own variations and then, when a few structural lines had been tacked in place, to densely stitch and embellish with beads, lace and couching whilst still taking care to have interesting negative spaces to balance the design.
For those of you interested the stitches in this section include interlaced back stitch, couching with detached chain, knotted cable chain, chevron and Portuguese knotted stem stitch worked with two colours of thread.
On Sunday afternoon we set out our work and personal styles and preferences meant there was an individuality to each piece despite a common starting point. I chose to work with the paisley, or boteh, shape which I have been researching, and there is much work to be done (I’m a fairly slow stitcher!) and I know I will get great enjoyment from carrying on and using even more stitches. I had a wonderful time spending hours stitching in the company of a great group – what could be better?
Working on some stitched examples of Mountmellick embroidery for a workshop I thought I’d use a coloured background. Traditionally of course this is a form of whitework, white on white, but as I wanted to take clear photos as teaching aids, a darker colour would show the stitching more clearly.
I had some hand-dyed cotton satin so worked on that and was delighted with the results. Not traditionally accurate by any means but very light and attractive – and does photograph well!