For as long as I can remember, I have always loved doing crafty things with my hands. I was always drawing when I was little, my fave tv programmes were Tony Hart and Why Don't You? and afterwards, I'd try to recreate the projects they'd shown in the programmes. I wasn't brilliant at art, but I could draw, which meant I really enjoyed art lessons at school. I can remember the art room in my Victorian junior school, a place I loved to be. And art rooms always had a special smell, didn't they?
The first time I really remember doing much sewing, I would guess I was around eleven or twelve, just started senior school. My mum had always been able to knit and sew and make clothes as had my nan, who was also an avid crocheter, so for me, it was something I grew up just expecting to be able to do. We did basic embroidery and sewing at school which I can remember not being that brilliant at! After school, I used to go to a fabric/curtaining shop which was up by Chester market, and outside, they had a wire basket which contained cheap little remnant bundles. I used to spend my pocket money on these and go home and make very basic handsewn clothes for my Sindy dolls. I also remember inheriting my Dad's 1960s-'70s ties, which were made of the most fabulous brocades, I remember loving a shiny textured pink brocade one, which made a fabulous gathered cocktail skirt for Sindy!
I continued with art in senior school, I even took Art GCSE, my Dad took some persuading that it was a "sensible" thing to do. In retrospect, it probably wasn't as I was a swot really, and arty stuff always took a backseat to my more academic subjects. I remember my two art teachers discussing which module I should take for GCSE; to me there was no question it would be drawing and painting, but one of my teachers thought I should go for textiles. I didn't think it was really my thing but I recall one project where I "altered" a shirt, painting it and patching on other textiles and looking back, I realise I probably would have been much better going down that route. I wonder if I still have that piece? I think it's probably best left in the attic if it's there!
So recently, textiles have been on my mind. When aren't they?! Now may I ask you a personal question? Do you Pinterest? Well, I love a bit of Pinterest (except when I see my images and they aren't properly credited), and last week, it struck me that I was very good at repinning things and looking at others' boards, but I never really go back and look at my own boards. So that's just what I did. I had a bit of time and was able to start something new. Of all the images I looked at, I decided to pull out those which were really speaking to me at that time, limiting myself to two pages.
They were all of the sort of thing I love, what I personally would call altered textile art. To me, that means playing with bits of fabric and stitches, maybe paper too, and making pretty things. If you've followed my blog a while, you'll know I am a big fan of Julie Arkell who to me, is the original mistress of this medium. Many have now sprung up creating work similar to hers but she remains for me, the best. I have however, found some new names to add to that list; Jessie Chorley, Mandy Pattullo and Jone Hallmark to name a few. It's the intricate faffiness inherent in this work which appeals to me. The fact you can use all sorts of fabrics and bits and pieces together is another. Why choose?!
Something I hadn't done since my course at West Dean with Julie Arkell, I gathered together my wallpaper paste and newspapers and decided on a little papier mache. Ooh, sticky, messy stuff, this time on a small scale. Quite fun, though!
In between, while my "creations" were drying, I decided to have a little fabric fun. I looked at my collection of cutters, (of the vintage embroidered cloths variety), and then took up a pile of small vintage fabric patches, being feedsacks and pretty dress cottons. A spot of folding and pinning, (some spiced chai latte, my new obsession), and I was happily whiling away the hours with some soothing hand stitching.
I had help. Of course, I did.
I make myself a little pile of cut and pinned bits when I can, ready for a spot of stitching in the odd spare hour, here and there. I've used a portion from a vintage embroidered cloth as the background for each and then embellished it with trims and fabric patches.
It's the perfect little job for in front of the fire in the evening.
And the papier mache? After an initial coat of newspaper, I put on the finer top layer taken from an old book. The thinner the paper the better. It's also a bonus if it happens to have interesting text on it. I have no trouble picking these damaged books up for pence at boot sales and flea markets. After that, I fussy cut some pretty images from my vintage fabrics. Since then, I've added paint, varnish, more fabric and thread. They're still mainly unfinished, though, but the whole point of little projects like these is not to rush them. Just enjoy the soothing unhurried stitching when you can.
I've been pretty addicted to making these embroidered fabric patches. I think it's time to call it a day after the current bunch I have prepared, though, and turn them into the finished article. My hand quilting is calling to me.
Working with your hands? You just can't beat it. Xxx