Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Heather and Sheep

I'm finally doing some work! Everybody cheer!

I had an idea a few days ago of a miniature piece I wanted to create in heather colours, with green hills and purple sky, but as ever with me I found some reason to cast a negative eye on it, and was 100% certain that it would look silly. But then I reasoned that it would be little enough to not worry about if it didn't work, so I gave it a go...and I'm pleasantly surprised!

And how cute are the little sheepies? I love French knots and the effects that can be created using them, especially when you build them up to create depth and texture, which is what I'm doing round the edges in more greens and purples to make a pretty heather design.

I did take a photo of it with the beginnings of the embroidery, but it came out blurry, so until I get chance to photograph it properly, enjoy this tiny sheep.


Have a great day, folks!
Amy x

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Woolfest 2014!

Hello all!

What's going on with the weather right now? Yesterday we were lazing in the garden and catching the sun, today I'm sat at the desk at work feeling chilly. Come on July, sort it out! Hopefully the sun will make an appearance later on.

But if not, then I have plenty of things to occupy me inside the house, thanks to a visit to the amazing Woolfest in Cockermouth last week. Woolfest is a definite go-to event for anyone who loves felting, knitting, spinning, or any other kind of fibre art! We had a lovely day, starting off with the drive over and breakfast in the awesome Llama Karma Kafe, followed by a day wandering around Woolfest, enjoying the stalls, trying some new techniques, chatting with stallholders, watching demonstrations, eating ice cream, cooing over the cute sheep, and above all, spending lots of money! We then headed down to Ambleside, where my family used to go twice a year. We had a wander in the village and then had food in the hotel where we used to stay, it was lovely to see everyone again and was a perfect end to a lovely day.

So here's what I bought! (Some might say too much, I say not enough...)

First off, basic necessities! Now, onto the more interesting stuff...

Buttons galore! I got the gorgeous little brown ones to use in my landscape pieces, and the blue and white ones just because I thought they'd look nice on one of the many skirts/dresses which I'm going to make, eventually. And I had a go at spinning for the first time! And I can tell you, it's 100% harder than it looks... Even though I drive and am usually quite good at using my hands and feet at the same time, I was taken by surprise at how easy it is to lose control of the wool, or to forget to keep your feet moving! Safe to say I don't feel that spinning is going to be a particular skill of mine, but you never know... I'm definitely thinking of investing in a drop spindle, though. Just for fun and to give it a go, because I do rather like the idea of spinning my own threads to use in my work.

I raided Oliver Twists and could easily have bought everything they had, but I settled with this gorgeous bag of silk throwsters waste - I tend to buy things without a specific project in mind, I just purchase things which strike/inspire me and I loved this range of colours and textures. I also bought these little variety packs of threads in these fabulous colours, all of which will be used in my landscape pieces. As I see it we have ocean, moor/forest, sunset, and forest/fields. Can't wait to incorporate them into a design!

Then we have these gorgeous little threads from the Wool Clip section, which I'll use to hand embroider my landscape pieces. They're so delicate and pretty! And I bought this wool fibre from amazing Louise Player of Spin City. I just spotted it hanging on the edge of her stall and knew that I couldn't walk away from it. The photo here doesn't do justice to how beautiful it is, and I'm so excited to use it. We had a lovely chat with Louise, she is such a sweet and talented lady, do go and check her out!

Then of course, the felt. All of the loose felt came from a pick and mix type stall, and I was so pleasantly shocked by how reasonable it was! All of this for less than £5! Amazing, I wish I'd bought three times as much! But we'll see how we go, there's always next year... 

I couldn't resist this beautiful collection of fibres, they're subtly blended to create these vibrant colour combinations, and packaged like this they almost look like a landscape already! 

And how fab are these blended fibres? I love the candy look of the pink one, and the ocean colours of the blues. Can't wait to use them! I also bought four packs of Angelina fibres in bright turquoise, pink, gold and bronze, but they didn't photograph well, sadly.

That's it from me for today. It's been a busy week so all I've had chance to do is make a little sampler with a few of my new fibres, which makes me all the more excited to use them! I've plenty of ideas, I just need to get sampling and put them into practice! I'm going to try making some miniature landscapes to start with I think - then if it goes wrong, they're too little to worry about!

Have a lovely Sunday,
Amy x

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Natural Dyeing Results!

Hello! So, since my last post I've done very little as far as making is concerned, mostly due to having little time...I've started sewing something for another collaboration with Daisy over at Jackerdemalion Design, but more on those later. In the meanwhile, take a look at her work! She's supremely talented and if you're into anything to do with costume/steampunk/larp type things, then you'll definitely be into her work.

As for me, the only thing I have to report is that I finally have the results of my dyeing adventure! I left it a little too late, if I'm being totally honest, and I'm a tiny bit sheepish about that. Most of it was fine, but I think if I'd have left it any longer than the raspberry cup might've come to life...I thought I'd spare you all photos of that particular stage of the experiment. Sorting out the good bits of fabric from the mould encrusted bits wasn't an experience I wish to repeat, so I'll be keeping a closer eye on the cups next time! But all the same, I got some brilliant results.

First off I'll talk about the ones using moss/leaves, because there's very little to tell, really. Hardly any colour came out of the plant material at all, which is a shame! I did, however, end up with these subtly tinted lace pieces, which look beautifully vintage to me, and I'm sure I'll be able to make good use of them.

Then we have the raspberry dye, which while it gathered an unpleasant amount of mould on it, gave me some lovely results in these gorgeous soft pinks.

So pretty! I'm especially pleased with how well the lace took the dye, I'm really looking forward to using it. But by far my favourite results are from the onion skins. I got a beautiful mixture of oranges and yellows, with some really interesting effects too! 

How awesome is that? I love the mottled effect of the orange and yellow, it looks almost deliberate! And the laces turned out just as nicely.

I'm really excited to try this again, and to create some more lovely dyed fabrics for my stash. There's something really rewarding about dyeing with plants/fruit, and it's definitely exciting, knowing that you'll never know exactly how it's going to turn out!

Maybe I'll not leave them for over a week next time though, oops. 

I'll leave you with this lovely picture of the fabric fluttering happily in the breeze!

Have a lovely weekend all,
Amy x

Friday, 16 May 2014

Today I'm Inspired By...

Hi all! It's a beautiful day outside today, the sun is shining, the sky is blue...and I'm stuck at work. But it's a quiet day and I have the information desk to myself for a while, so what better thing to do than to browse for some crafting inspiration? I've decided that to keep up some routine of regular posting, I'm going to try and do a post every week, and if inspiration is failing me or I don't have my camera to hand to upload images, I'll post a round up of some people/things that are inspiring me at the moment!

Right now summer is tantalising us, and with some really warm days appearing, it does feel like it's around the corner. Currently I'm training for a charity trek (23 miles in one day across Hadrian's Wall to raise money for the Alzheimer's Society), and with the beautiful countryside near my house, I'm really getting some lovely walks in. The woodland is in full bloom at the minute, with leafy trees, bluebells and wildlife aplenty. I've been particularly struck by the butterflies I'm seeing out there, and have managed to get some really lovely photos of them (I'll upload them soon...), which will hopefully inspire some work in days to come! So today I'm inspired by people who use flowers and insects in their artwork, to create small, detailed, and beautiful pieces. Here's a few of my favourites!

Anyone who knows me well will know that I'm addicted to machine embroidery. And one artist who creates the most beautiful pieces using this technique is Corinne Young. She is inspired by flowers and insects, but also by historical artifacts, something which I can relate to as a bit of a heritage enthusiast! She creates lovely textile and interior pieces.

Papiollio et Libris

I love this piece, it really does look like a real showcase of butterflies - except here they're faithfully recreated with stitch! Amazing.

Plant Pots

This is less realistic, but I think it's super cute. I love buying flowers for my mum, but stitching some everlasting ones seems like an fantastic idea to me, and these ones in their little pots are just lovely.


I love this, the detail and choice of colour is simply beautiful. The attention to detail even covers a background too, which I think is particularly nice. Beautiful work!

Next up is the incredible Abigail Brown. A textile designer based in London, Abigail uses her skills with fabric to create the most amazing sculpture, mostly of birds. I think her work is beautiful, and a gorgeously original use of textile art.

I adore these butterfly brooches - there's something beautifully natural about about them, and I love the careful composition of colours and shapes, with just some simple machine stitching to hold it together. 

I know I was meant to be focusing on flowers and insects, but these birds are just astounding - I love how true to life they are while still having this beautiful handmade look about them. The peacock is especially amazing, and I just wanted to include the jay because I had the pleasure of seeing two on my walk this week - very lucky considering how shy they are!

Finally, I'm going to look at Lindsay Taylor, a textile artist who creates embroidered sculpture and accessories, inspired by beautiful natural forms from the rural landscape of Britain, especially from the Isle of Wight where her studio is located. Her work also has something of a fantasy element, which I really love. 

I love this necklace and headpiece. The forms seem so natural, despite the fact that they don't represent any real butterfly, and you can tell it was created with love. The colours are also gorgeous - they remind me of summer and autumn, respectively, which is lovely. 

I love her necklaces, the detail on them is just wonderful and I can really relate to how inspired she feels by nature. I also love her range of techniques - a great example of how one artist can still specialise in a multitude of methods! 

I'm feeling pretty inspired now, and if I was at home I'd be setting up the sewing machine right now, or preparing to do some felting...we'll have to see if I can find the energy when I get home from work! My next day off is Tuesday...not sure I can wait till then...

Hope you all have an amazing weekend in the sunshine!

Amy x

Sunday, 13 April 2014

The Sketchbook Project: Part I


So, a new project has begun. I've been wanting to start sketchbooking for a while, just for personal development and enjoyment more than anything else, but I'm the sort of person who finds it difficult to do something without a real reason, and I work far better when I have a focus, and even better, a deadline. I had only considered it in passing, but then when I found The Sketchbook Project on the wonderful Carolyn Saxby's blog. Her work inspires me so much, and I was delighted when browsing her blog led me to this project. So without further ado, here it is!

Basically, the purpose of the project is to pick one of the themes they give you, and then go and fill a sketchbook in any way you feel like. I'm going to use it to explore some ideas and techniques I've been wanting to try for ages, and I'm so excited! Then when the book is complete, I wrap it up and post it back to New York, where they send it off in their mobile library with all the other sketchbooks from around the world, before it gets archived in their main library in Brooklyn, where anyone can go and browse the sketchbooks. They also 'digitize' it and upload it to their online library. Neat, huh? Not only is it a great chance for me to do something I've been wanting to do for ages, but it also means my work will fall into the hands of people who would never have seen it otherwise! I think that's pretty cool.

The theme I chose is 'Wanderer', and I'm going to incorporate my own photography, as well as found objects, text and textile art to create pieces based around this theme. I've wanted to do something like this for a while, and it's really exciting to have a focus for it! 

So me being me, instead of sleeping last night when I got home at around 2am, I sat up and started planning. 

And today, me and my little sister took my grandma out to Tynemouth for the afternoon, where we had a walk and a scone in a nice little tea house, and then went into The Land of Green Ginger (a cool little indoor market), and I wasn't expecting to find a treasure in there, but I did! Outside the little vintage shop was a shelf of books, and on it were these two lovely books - Junior Modern Poetry (1930), and English Verse Old and New (1922), both owned by an N. Brodie. They're full to the brim of lovely poems, some of which fit the theme of Wanderer perfectly, as they reference travelling and nature and all sorts. I can't wait to use it in my work! Has anyone else found any gems in vintage shops/fairs which they've used in their work?

So I'll leave you for today with the first poem which caught my eye...next time you see this, it'll have a beautiful embroidered frame, I think! Watch this space!

Happy Sunday!

Amy x

Friday, 11 April 2014

Vanishing Fabric and Fairy Wings

First blog post! Exciting! I'm really looking forward to starting my blogging adventures, and what better way to do so than to share something I'm working on?

Something I've found about most creative practitioners is that while we all love to try new things and experiment with different materials/techniques, most people will have one or two beloved materials/techniques which they absolutely swear by. For me, that material is vanishing muslin/Aquafilm. I first came across it when I was studying textiles at AS Level, and it's been a staple of my textile kit ever since. I didn't use it much over the first two years of uni, but it became a major embellishment tool during my final year, and my love was rekindled.

So, what is it? Basically it looks like really thick cling film, but can be stitched into as it is, or used to sandwich fabric, bits of yarn, felt fibres, threads...anything you can sew over! Then after sewing into it, you run it under a hot tap, and the plastic melts away, and you have a whole new piece of fabric to play with! The possibilities are pretty much endless with this stuff, and I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to give something new a try. I might do a proper tutorial on it at some point, with some examples! There's some great artist out there who use this material beautifully.

As for me, I'm always trying to think of new ways to use it. When I was at uni, I used it to make some sweet little butterflies to embellish a tutu with, and to make the scales pictured below! I had a lot of fun doing those.

So, I've been struggling a little bit to come up with things I can make relatively quickly to sell at Whitby Goth Weekend at the end of the month - which is difficult since the sort of work I do is very time consuming! But I wasn't even trying to think of anything at the time - I was at work when the idea to make little fairy wing necklaces suddenly hit me.

I started sketching immediately - at work we have iPads now to aid with visitor interaction, but also for us to use for research when the galleries are quiet, so I started looking at wing shape and sketching out ideas. The top right and bottom middle are my favourites! 

Then of course, I had to try it out. I used a plain white organza and black thread - something simple just to test it. And I couldn't believe how effective it was! And it looks so sweet and delicate, like a real pair of wings. A very successful first attempt!

So then it was time to get creative. I have lots of floaty and light materials which will make beautiful wings, but first I had to have a go with Angelina fibres. This is another material I swear by - the fibres are what is known as 'hot fix', meaning that when heat is applied, they will bind together beautifully. Angelina fibres are beautiful when teased out and ironed into a flat sheet, which can then be cut, sewn into, sewn to things, and used to embellish as desired. It's gorgeous stuff! (Can you tell I like sparkles?) So, I ironed out a sheet with every colour I have (nearly twenty I think...), and then drew out the swing shapes onto a sheet of vanishing muslin. Drawing and organising which colours to use for each wing and which thread to use took as long as the sewing did! 

And this is the (still not quite finished) result! Aren't they lovely?

I still have a few more to do, but this is almost the full set. They just need to be put in hot water to dissolve the plastic, and then I can turn them into necklaces. I knew the fibres would make beautiful wings, and I'm really pleased with how they turned out! I might try to do some larger, more embellished ones too, as well as ones with regular fabric and fine glitter (which sticks really well to something which has just had vanishing muslin rinsed off it), and ones with eyes made from Swarovski hot fix gems...so much fun! After Whitby Goth Weekend some of these will be appearing on my Etsy shop, so keep an eye out!

I'll post later on with the finished results and the remaining colours, and any more experiments.

Thanks for reading, have a wonderful weekend!

Amy x