Friday, 6 January 2012

2011 Memories, Giant Knits, New Textile Books, Print & Dye Experiments

I may not have posted since November but I've not been completely creatively idle!  Fitted between two birthdays, helping out at school, making outfits for Christmas shows, many a party, hosting a family Christmas and so much more, I have managed to complete some learning and coursework.

The last few weeks have been really happy and good fun and I was a bit reluctant to see the end of 2011 as it's been such a lovely year for me.  I've recently enjoyed looking back on the years photographs and reflecting.  Certainly the highlight was my honeymoon to Lindos in May.  It was the first time I had been to Greece and the first time my husband and I had been away on our own for more than a couple of nights.  On the beautiful island of Rhodes with it's incredible scenery and architecture, we had a completely relaxing week of leisurely exploring.  It was just perfect.  I've being doing one of the exercises suggested in the 'Constructions, Buildings and Structures' booklet by Jan Beaney & Jean Littlejohn that I bought in Jersey this summer. The idea is good for when you are inspired but haven't the time, space or materials to stop and sketch.  To get an essence of the experience, you select photographs that best describe the holiday, randomly arrange them without overlaps and stick them down when you're happy.  Viewing frames focus in and you can find potential new design starting points. 

Lindos photo exercise

Jersey was another wonderful week, this time with the family.  Again the photographs brought back happy memories.  I realised I had quite a few balls of Sirdar Denim Ultra yarn in shades that reminded me of the beach our hotel overlooked.  I thought I'd try it out with the giant 24mm knitting needles I'd bought at Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show.  However I didn't have enough yarn to use lots of strands together.  I could have mixed it with some other yarn (something to try another time) but I didn't fancy dealing with tangles or sewing in lots of ends as the yarn frays quite a bit.  Instead I decided to finger knit it first - one of the simpler techniques learnt on the braids workshop - then simply knot the ends together. My 9 year old is brilliant at finger knitting and it looks so much better when made on little fingers. However, using four fingers and thumb, the super chunky yarn makes nice dense tubes on adult hands.  It's time consuming but I can do it at night watching TV when I'm tired and don't have to think. It's takes over an hour to finger knit a 100g ball and when I've finished it's the fun part.  I knit a row in 5 minutes and it really grows.  It took an entire ball just to cast on 30 stitches and that is all will fit on the 700mm long needles!

Inspired by St Brelade's Bay, Jersey

I've enjoyed selecting the shades of yarn as it grows, deciding when to go variegated or block.  As the rrp is around £5 and the original shade I had that ties the others together is discontinued, I've bought yarn on Ebay paying about £1/ball and now have a good stash to choose from.  I've no ideas how big it will end up.  It's rather heavy already, though it keeps my knees warm and not at all portable, unlike this little make! 

Needed something more portable to knit while the girls have their swimmming lessons!

I got a little distracted on Ebay and also ended up with some interesting vintage fabric, a small collection of hand weaving looms and two captains chairs that my Dad helped me to sand and varnish!  I now have a new comfier chair to sit on and work at the kitchen table.  Just need to make a cushion.

Ebay bargain - during

After - Just needing a cushion for working at kitchen table

My new book 'The Left-Handed Embroiderers Companion' arrived and it's been a revelation. Ideally, I'd have preferred the stitches grouped by type rather than alphabetically but having diagrams the right way round is wonderful and has removed so many frustrations.  I've been trying out some thread and stitch combinations during Project 2.  I also have been dipping into another four new books courtesy of the Amazon voucher Mum and Dad bought me for Christmas.  It was so difficult to choose and there's quite a few more on my wish list now.  Can't get enough of books!                

Trying out new stitches the left handed way

New winter reads

Also for Project 2 preparation I've had a go at dying some fabric to add to what I have for colour bags.  I had a little stash of dye already that I bought when Woolworths closed so I dug it out and spent a few days preparing and dying fabric and recording the results.  I used Dylon machine dye which was really easy - just weigh and wash fabric, leave damp and put in machine with dye + 500g salt.  I got a good range of shades depending on the original fabric.  The colour was very even, except for some speckles on the fabric that was directly on top of the dye as it went in. It was hard to completely cover the dye with salt as per the instructions.  One of the thicker fabrics came out with some lovely streaks when I used the green but I couldn't recreate this with the other two colours.  I liked the craft felt which felted further, bobbled and picked up bits of fluff when washed.  The fluff that attached itself dyed to a different shade. I got quite excited opening the washing machine wondering what I'd find!

Of everything I dyed, this was the only piece that came out with streaks and I've no idea why!

Craft felt bobbled and picked up fluff from other fabrics in preparatory wash.
When used wiith orange dye, fluff dyed to a differed shade.

I tried Dylon Cold Dye too but instead of using the fabric I'd cut out and weighed, I put the remainder of the fabric in by mistake.  As the fabric weight was now more than recommended, Mexican Red came out more salmon pink - which was rather nice anyhow!  I wasn't so keen on cold dye.  Although it's cheaper, you do need fixative as well as salt and you have to agitate it constantly for the 1st 10 minutes.  This was hard to do without everything splashing out of the bowl.  I bid for a huge pan on Ebay after this to keep as a dye bath but just missed out so still on the look out for a massive receptacle for next time.  I still have some other cold dye shades left to try.


Recording results.  Good variety of shades resulted from each dye.

Preparing colour bags.

Since my last post, I also checked out the West Yorkshire Print Workshops, WYPWsomething I'd been meaning to do for a while as it's only a 10 minute drive from home.  When the tax man sent me a little surprise cheque for overpayment, mindful of the printing experiments coming up in Assignment 2, I decided to sign up for a 6-week Introduction to Printmaking Workshop as this gives a taster of different techniques.  I didn't feel like going out on cold, wet Monday nights but I really enjoyed meeting some new people and it was a good chance to try a number of different techniques without buying specialist equipment to decide what you might like to try more of.

I'll write up all the different techniques I tried later but one of my favourites was the simplest.  I used tools and sandpaper to scratch marks into the surface of some shiny cardboard and stuck shiny and paper stickers on top. Ink was applied then wiped off and the piece put through the press. The different areas take up ink at different rates, I particularly like the way the edge of the stickers leave a dark border and love the effect of the overlapping rectangles.  The star shapes were scored, then the shiny surface lifted off to reveal the matt paper underneath that soaked up the ink and left a dark area.  By cutting shapes completely out you are left with just the background paper.  I also like that you can wipe off as much ink as you like depending on the effect you want and like the circular marks left by the rag.  
Print from mark making, cutting and applying stickers to shiny card 

Project 2 is also well under way.  Hope to have that completed in next few weeks......

Stitching lines - Project 2