Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Embroidered Portraits at the Excel Centre, London with Jan Messent

From 3-5th April 2014 ICHF organised the Creative stitches with fashion and embroidery and hobby crafts exhibition at this first class venue in the Docklands. 

Jan Messent was invited to display her work that she produced for her latest book, Embroidered Portraits, published by Search Press.

In total about 25 different heads are shown in the book. Each one is a masterpiece. Some are full faced, some three-quarter profile and, some profile.

Since the book was published she has added to the portraits with extra necklaces, more shoulder, and detail in the background and so on. Then she had them framed by Fleet Framers choosing frames to suit each picture.

The exhibition shown here when the stall was closed and Jan had finished a very busy day there, was cleverly organised and included some enlarged pages from her book and samples of the way she made each head.

In addition to Jan’s stall there were many other well-known stitches such as Bobby Britnell, Lorna Bateman, Richard Box, Gilda Baron and Jeudis. I believe that Consuelo Simpson was also giving a workshop but I did not see her making a beautiful box. And of course there were marvellous stalls tempting us to buy more threads, materials, wool and clothes.

If you have not been to the ExCel centre it is easy to find. From Waterloo go by Jubilee line to Canning Street and then take the DLR to Prince Regent. Then it is straight into the centre and have a coffee!

Rachel Haver

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

From Sketch to Stitch – Jenny Cadman – 27 Mar 2014

Jenni Cadman is a graduate in Printed Textile design and has worked in a variety of techniques including stained glass and decorative paint finishes. In 2000 and 2001 she received the Drafts Award from the Arts Council SW and is now an established textile artist and teacher, exhibiting widely in the south-west and all over the UK. Her work has appeared in the international journal Textiles Arts and, as a resident of Devon, she is also a member of the Devon Guild of Craftsmen.

Understandably Jenny’s work is based almost exclusively on the countryside and vernacular architecture of Devon and Cornwall, although the first slides we were shown dated from 1995; recognisable images of the Scottish coastline. Her chosen techniques are fabric applique and collage with machine embroidery worked on a calico base using frayed silks, velvet, suede, old re-used fabrics and hessian, with Bondaweb as a stabiliser. As an advocate of spontaneity (Jenni admits to not being an artist) she enjoys the freedom of sketching without looking at the paper, resulting in a series of meandering lines on a white background intended to capture the essence of the scene better than a more considered sketch might have done. From these sketches she works the design in machine embroidery on the reverse of the fabric over a ragged ‘patchwork’ of coloured pieces which are often softened by layers of organza. Black lines predominate to outline shapes and to create shadows, a method Jenni also uses to create a line-drawing effect of interiors, doors, windows and stonework with the outer edges often left raw and uneven.

Jenni often uses two L-shaped viewfinders to isolate portions of her sketches which are then enlarged from small details to about twenty inches. She uses a computer to help select a colour palette and she always works from the reverse side because of the surprise element it produces. Recently, after an exhibition she collaborated with a picture-framer selling to the USA, who asked her for pieces of a certain size, colour-scheme and subject matter, thus ensuring an established market for her work until the financial crisis of 2008.

As well as showing slides of her work, Jenni brought a collection of framed pieces for us to examine, almost all of which were of an abstract nature, offering a more detailed analysis of her techniques and ideas. An appreciative and interested audience asked many questions at the conclusion of the talk which was enjoyed for a variety of reasons, not least of which was a close-up view of how an established embroiderer works

Jan Messent

Website: www.jennicadman.co.uk/

Make It – Farnborough Feb 2014

A number of members had work displayed, and had volunteered to help. The show itself was busy and this year did have a larger number of needlecraft exhibitors including ‘Beaker Buttons’ who some of you will remember.

It’s a Plastic Carrier Bag – Judith Hammond – 27 Feb 2014

Well, I will never be able to look at plastic carrier bags, shopping lists, or till receipts again without thinking of Judith Hammond and her amazing designs.

Judith was our February speaker.  It was the first talk she had ever given in public and she certainly has a natural talent for it, as she was relaxed, informative, and happy to share her ideas and methods for making the most creative designs imaginable out of every - day things that most of us would shred, or re-cycle. Considering Judith started her working life as a civil servant one wonders how she discovered her passion for design. It all started rather innocently and I am sure Judith never realised how events would take her over when; feeling the need to make new friends she started a six week sewing course after moving to Banbury many years ago.

The sewing group threw up many challenges, and amongst them was a project to select one item from a box loaded up with an assortment of all sorts of every - day things. For some reason unbeknown to herself Judith selected an ice cube bag. As she set to wondering what to do with it the ideas started to roll in thick and fast. She stuffed the bags with oddments, stitched into them and added adornments. However, once she had started she couldn’t stop and ended up with a whole cupboard full of samples. The creativity was by now flowing and Judith found the need to travel further on her journey of discovery. This led to her signing up for a degree course which stretched on for six years until she finally graduated two years ago.

From ice cube bags Judith graduated onto carrier bags and discovered the delight of shrinking them down with the aid of a hot iron and parchment paper. All sorts of intricate patterns emerged to be transformed with stitch into wonderful evening dresses. She added leather, as well as other fabrics including lace, and thanks to her enthusiastic mother who kept sending her table cloths she had plenty of material to use as base fabric to give her designs stability. Lovely ideas were added such as Suffolk Puffs set into opaque sheers and stitched on to turn her designs into something worthy of being worn by stars at the Oscars. Hand painted patterned silk melted into coloured fragments with her plastics gave a whole new slant to recycling.

As often happens when trying to think up ideas one brainwave leads to another. Judith decided to use her carrier bags as a shopping theme. After all that is where most of them came from – either collected on her frequent shopping trips or by friends and family who wanted to join in the fun – It became a competition to find the most unusual, or colourful bags. Judith then added some print by using her handwritten shopping lists, as well as her till receipts thus creating a little bit of history for future generations to wonder about when they see the fabrics and compare prices from today with what they have to pay for their shopping in the future. It was amazing to see these items transformed into clothing. For instance one of Judith’s designs - an evening dress - had a long flowing train made out of shopping lists and till receipts.

Judith’s work from ice cube bags, to carrier bags and beyond is so unusual that it has led her to being mentioned in an architectural magazine as a student to watch. She has taken part in many exhibitions and shows including Prism. She has also been mentioned in several other publications as well. The beautiful gown she created for her display at Prism was what she called a tea – bag dress. This was made from fabrics rust dyed; tea infused, and with a splash of white vinegar added, as well of course her intricately melted carrier bags. The final design in muted shades of gold, green and bronze took pride of place at the exhibition.

Judith’s talk showed us some wonderful ideas, and ways that we too could re-cycle things we all take for granted. From now on I am sure that we will look forward to our weekly shop with more enthusiasm, and make it much more fun by keeping an eye open for colourful carrier bags, and of course till receipts.

Pauline Norris.

Bags Galore! - Jennie Rayment Workshop - Thurs 30th January 2014

Jennie Rayment was fab! She had us working away all day making a total of four different bags, I felt like I was in some sort of  bag-making sweat shop, yet having fun at the same time!



The Bags Galore workshop kicked off in the morning with us all quickly running up three different basic bags. Jennie showed us a different technique for each. We had been given a requirement list specifying dimensions of material to cut in preparation for the class, this saved time on the day and enabled us to concentrate on the techniques.

It was amazing how quick and simple the first two tote bags were, both demonstrating a different way of achieving a bag with a bottom – ideal for shopping bags or made-to-measure bags for storing and transporting specific items, like the precious mounted embroidery pieces many members make. A simple pair of handles produced two really useful items.

The third bag was quite a different technique. It was made by creating a rectangle three times as long as it was wide, then folding over into three and sewing along alternate sides; once opened out we had a unique and interesting bag. It’s impossible to explain how to construct it in one sentence but the end result was lovely. I managed to mess up my dimensions, but once trimmed appropriately I was able to construct a smaller version.

The afternoon was spent making our final bag, selected from a choice of three different designs; Big Sling Bag, Script bag or Hexagon bag. I had chosen the Big Sling bag, which I think was the simplest so I was glad I’d picked it. Four rectangles were sewn together to produce the outside of the bag, another four for the inside; they were then all put together, with two long handles, to create a really useful reversible bag. I use mine all the time now, it fits a great amount of stuff in, has a square base that it sits nicely on and is light to carry – I have great plans to make quite a few more!







The script bag had an elasticated, gathered, front section with a flap over it and one long handle. The script bags that I saw being made looked like they would be beautiful when they were finished.

I found the hexagon bag most intriguing, it had a hexagonal front and back, with an opening at the top and one long handle. The interesting part was the way the centre was folded – origami-style – and stitched in place to form a spiral-looking effect. Jennie tried to convince us all that, after sewing some critical seams along the sides, you ‘simply pinch the centre up and twist and it falls into place’. Probably in a similar way to ‘simply putting some folds into a square of paper and you have an elegant origami swan’. I have since had a go at this bag at home; I managed to sew the six simple seams easily enough then sat over it scratching my head as I tried to work out how to twist it into shape. I think I pondered over it for about an hour and a half, then a further hour and a half at the Stitcher’s Parlour, only to be finally saved from my dilemma by Denise Luker, who confirmed I’d completed the first pinch and twist correctly and that next I needed to draw up the points with a thread in order to complete the second part. I could finally sleep at night. I have still to complete the bag, but I now know how to do the ‘simple’ folded part.

All in all the workshop was really enjoyable, with four finished products at the end and loads of ideas on how to use the techniques later. Thank you Jennie!

Mandie Bowman
Website: www.jennierayment.com

Fibres from flax to plastic by Jan Blight - January 2014

Jan treated us to delightful talk which took us through the history of spinning to the range of fibres that are now available.

Jan fell in love with textiles and the texture of natural fibres through experimenting with a knitting machine. She joined a group at Church Cottage followed by a class in Tadley where she learnt to spin. She followed this with City and Guilds at Urchfont College where she studied textiles followed by her Teacher’s Certificate. She now designs garments and machine knits them with her own spun fibres.

The History of Spinning

Some archaeologists believe they have found evidence of weaving as far as 27,000 years ago based on imprints in clay or stone of possibly a woven fabric. It is more likely that spinning and weaving originated some 8,500 to 9,000 years ago. Originally, our ancestors would have spun using a spindle which involves being twisted and pulled. A wheel was in use in China from 11th century and in Europe by 13th century followed by the spinning wheel developed through a series of stages. By 1788, there were 20,000 spinning jennies in 143 mills in the UK. 

Spinning almost died out between World War 1 and 2 but the skill was kept alive in a few places such as the Shetlands and other Scottish Islands. 

Fibres used today

Jan talked about fibres that are used by spinners today. All yarn is produced by twisting two or more spun fibres together.

The fibres described by Jan are shown below:-

Natural Fibres Description

Common Wool - The fibres come in different shapes and sizes and the lustre depends on the type of sheep. Wensleydale wool is mainly used for suiting, Rough Fell, Devon and Cornwall wools for carpets and Merino wool for knitting.

Flax - This comes from the flax plant which has blue flowers in May. Today, in the UK, it is mainly grown for its seed. For spinning, the plants are grown much closer together to produce a much taller plant which is spun to produce linen. These plants are no longer grown in the UK but are mainly grown in Russia.

Fibre Description

Cotton - Cotton is mainly grown in America and India, the fibres of which form a boll around a central cotton seed

Buffalo - From the North American buffalo (Bison bison). The fibre is very fine and costs as much as £15 for 10 grams

Camelid - The 2 humped Dromedary camel’s down produces a soft fibre. The Guanaco, a native camelid from South America produces an extremely soft fibre.

Alpaca - There are 2 types of fibre producing alpacas. Huacaya, well-suited for spinning and knitting and Suri which has far less crimp and is better for woven goods. There is an Alpaca farm just outside Basingstoke, Pennybridge Alpacas

Goat - Angora goats provide mohair. Cashmere goats have fibres of 15 microns or less

Rabbit - Angora rabbits are plucked twice a year

Yak - Fibres from this animal are combed out

Silk - The silkworm is the larvae or caterpillar of the white Bombyx mori moth which only feeds on the mulberry bush. The moths live for approximately 1 day only. Reeled silk is made by immersing the cocoon in hot water to kill the caterpillar inside. Each cocoon has approximately 6 miles of silk. Eleven cocoons make one denier yarn. Once the fibre has been reeled off the cocoon, it is known as cut silk. The Tussah silk moth also produces silk. This moth lives on oak trees and the fibre is a honey colour.

Manufactured fibres

Soy silk - A by-product of soy beans

Milk - Known as latte, this fibre is made from dried milk powder

Bamboo - Used for clothing

Merino - Optimum fibre made by stretching the normal merino wool fibre to produce a much finer fibre

Viscose - Viscose comes from wood pulp

Tencel – can be mixed with merino. Tencel is a brand of viscose

Plastic - Recycled plastic bottles can be processed into flakes which can be turned into fibres. These are used for making garments such as fleeces

At the end of the talk Jan circulated some examples of her garments. Her orange jumper took approximately 400 hours to produce.


 Denise Luker

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Basingstoke Young Embroiderers

In December and January we had an average attendance of 10 members. Some of our older members are currently inundated with GCSE coursework and homework but are still in regular contact with us so we will hopefully see them again when they can.

December 2013

In December we made Christmas Decorations. The members selected their template, drew it onto paper, pinned it onto felt and cut it out.

 They then all drew their own snowflake and stitched the snowflake using their chosen thread with Fly Stitch. All the members completed their Christmas Decorations and were discussing where they would hang them.
We gave out Christmas cards and also gave them a little gift of homemade cookies

 January 2014

In January, the members all made tassels in a variety of yarns, threads and fabric strips. Once made, the tassels were attached to their bits bags using couching, tying them onto the handles or sewing them through a seam and securing with a large bead on the inside. Once the tassels were attached, they continued to use the fabric markers to add their designs to their bits bags. We discussed the upcoming February session as fabric painting and launch of our group project in celebration of the Young Embroiderer's being 40 years old. I also asked them to keep an eye on the YE website as many new and exciting things are being launched as part of the 40th Birthday celebrations.

We had previously made Tina a thank you gift - each of the members signed a piece of calico with water soluble pen, this was then stitched using back stitch and variegated thread and made into a patched needle case. It was presented to Tina in January's session to thank her on behalf of the girls for leading the group up to October last year.

 Upcoming news 

We are planning to make a 3D Tree and hang various Tree related items from it over the next  4 months (leaves, birds, bugs & insects as well as a session for dressing/finalising the tree) as a tribute to the 40th Birthday of Young Embroiderers and to promote our group. 

We are intending on launching a Sewing Machine Drivers Licence course for those interested in learning how to use the Sewing Machine - Sheena Archer has volunteered to organise this course for us. 

We are also looking into providing an Embroidery Certificate Scheme (bronze, silver and gold awards) - this is yet to be organised. 

We are also looking to hold an external workshop but this too is in its very early stages of planning.


 Emma Brinton