Sunday, 24 March 2013

The Art of Dy(e)ing

I've always envied people who produce beautifully hand dyed fabrics, and although I've had all sorts of dyes, bought from past Knitting and Stitching shows, and inspite of going on wonderfully inspiring workshops with various tutors - notably Ruth Issett - I've still not really got to grips with it.  I think it's always seemed a bit too complicated, and messy and scarey.  However, when I said this at one of our Spectrum meetings, Jenny said "Oh it's easy, come to my house for a 'dyeing day' and I'll show you.  So that's exactly what I did.
Jenny favours the plastic bag method, so I turned up with rubber gloves, plastic bags, a washing up bowl and piles of pre-washed natural fabrics.  Jenny kindly supplied the dyes (she has every colour known to man, and then some).
As well as the plastic bag dyeing, we did a bit of tray dyeing, which gives even less predictable results - and  I came home with lots of fabrics ready for their final wash in the machine.  So, not that complicated, and not at all messy.  Or at least it's not if you do it in someone else's kitchen - thanks Jenny.
And, having ironed them, I spent some considerable time arranging them on the clothes horse so they looked 'pretty'.  I need to get out more.

The small burgundy piece on top of the limey green on the bottom rail, is a dye catcher that I put in the machine 'to be on the safe side' - so they DO work.
Whilst I was ironing the fabrics after taking them out of the machine, the loose threads had got in quite a tangle, so I unravelled and snipped them off, and threw them on the worktop.  Believe it or not, when I'd finished they looked like this - without any re-organising!
 They looked so lovely, they have remained on the kitchen worktop for several days, because I couldn't bring myself to throw them away.
So I haven't - this morning I got the Embellisher out, and have needle felted them onto a bit of recycled white cotton duvet cover, backed with felt
I don't know what I'm going to do with it, if anything, but I quite like it.

Incidentally, while we were waiting for the dyes to 'cook' we popped out to Priory House to see an exhibition of textile work by Jenny herself, and her two fellow artists, Ann Hankins and Annie Rogers.  I did take some photos, but unfortunately, due to the lighting and my lack of photography skill, they really don't do the work justice, so if you are in the area, I recommend that you go along and visit for yourself.

We've also had a little celebration breakfast at Gina's for Val's birthday - (sorry about the photo girls, but my Mum still likes to see the sort of friends I keep)
I actually cooked something for the occasion - home-made Granola - which tasted ok, but was a bit more chewy than crunchy, but everyone was very polite about it.  In fact, it turned into a feast of a breakfast, including Buzz's Fizz, and of course cake.
Gina baked a delicious and beautiful 'knitted cake' - 
They really should have her on the Great British Bake Off. 

The Art of Dying - George Harrison

Friday, 15 March 2013

Little Red Shoes

On Tuesday of last week, we were all suddenly called in to a meeting at work to tell us that, with immediate effect, the team that I've been proud to work on since 2002, was being 'restructured' (their word)/disbanded (my word).
It's too soon yet to know exactly what's going to happen, or whether all of us will still have jobs in a few months time, so I guess I'll just have to wait and see.  I'm always one for looking on the bright side, so if it happens that I don't have a job in the new set up, well, although I'll miss it - and the money, obviously - I'll have more time to be creative/go to the gym/practice the guitar.  Or maybe not.
Faced with the threat of imminent redundancy, I did what any normal person woman would do in the same circumstances, and I bought myself a pair of shiny red shoes.
My friend and colleague Anne, who was with me, said "You know what they say about women who wear red shoes, don't you?" to which I replied "God help us, Annie, let's hope it doesn't come to THAT!!"
Anyway, these particular red shoes are more suitable for playing hopscotch in the playground than hanging around street corners, and they remind me of the shoes I used to have for school when I was (very much!) younger.  
My sister and I were extremely lucky, in that our Mum would always buy us red school shoes: I always felt sorry for the girls who were destined to wear the more sensible brown or black option.
Our shoes were always from Clarks, and the winter ones would be very similar to the pair above, although less shiny and without heels.  In the summer we had shoes that were called sandals, although I don't know why, because there were no toes showing, but they had criss-cross straps over the front, with soles that I always thought looked like a thick slice of white bread.  But most importantly, they were always red.

Anyway, my new shoes were the perfect thing to wear for Red Nose Day, to Gina's Comic Relief Bake Off today.  
There was cake....
and more cakes .............
and shortbread,  and macaroons .....
and home made Jammy dodgers and custard creams (who else MAKES custard creams????)
It was all delicious,and beautifully laid out, so well done Gina, and I hope you've raised lots of money. 

PS - Handy Household Tip No.1. 
Re. the photo of the shoes - You'll find it's much easier and quicker to 'Photoshop' dirty marks off the kitchen floor, than it is to clean the real thing.

LITTLE RED SHOES  - Loretta Lynn

Sunday, 3 March 2013

A Beard of Stars

I've done quite a lot in the past couple of weeks - went to the Valentino exhibition at Somerset House - I loved the exhibition, but actually, (don't tell anyone) I wouldn't have wanted to wear very many of the dresses.  Just a bit TOO over-embellished for my liking.  For a more constructive view of the exhibition, see Gina's review HERE
I've been to two gigs - Richard Hawley last Saturday, (absolutely brilliant) and Ethan Johns on Monday - ok, but probably a bit too laid back and gentle for me.  And, talking of being over-embellished -  I have to agree with my Mum on this one - what is it with men and ridiculous bushy beards?  Ethan actually apologised for the state of his Grizzly Adams-style face fuzz,  claiming to have forgotten to pack his beard trimmer.  You're in London matey, and you can't possibly be short of a few bob - so go and pay for a shave!
I have also been to two sessions of 'guitar club' in our local pub.  It's a kind of group, mixed-ability, lesson  - with beer.  And as long as there are a few good guitarists playing, and provided I don't plug my amplifier in, I can convince myself I sound quite reasonable!
I have finished a few more textile-y projects too.
My first pair of socks ........ (several years in the making)
A piece for the North Herts and Beds Embroiderers Guild exhibition in May, for the theme 'Arboreal'
(in case you're as uneducated as me, it means 'relating to trees'

The inspiration partly came to me in a dream (no, really, it did) and partly from a card I saw in a bookshop at Kings Cross Station.  The background is one of my monoprints that I did with Spectrum, with machine embroidery on top, the birds are little snippets of Liberty fabric left over from the quilt project, and the trees are made of transfer dyed Suedefx, also free machined.  Probably a bit more 'twee' than 'tree', but I like it.  
Then yesterday, with the Young Embroiderers, we made one of these ....
Can you spot the plant that isn't real?  Oh, of course you can, you're not daft.
A felt African Violet.  I didn't actually get to make it at the meeting, because although I was stitching leaves and flowers as if my life depended on it, the youngsters kept swapping my completed bits for theirs that weren't, so I had to make mine when I got home.  Oh, I know how to spend a fun-packed Saturday night, me.

A Beard Of Stars - Tyrannosaurus Rex