My idea of Textile Heaven: the London Knitting and Stitching Show. I never cease to be amazed at the versatility of the current cohort of textile artist and students whose work is being exhibited. Their work is so imaginative and creative. How do they come up with their ideas? My sister and I both use “Suffolk Puffs “ to embellish our work so when I spotted a hanging entitled “Essex Puffs” I stopped and chatted to the artist, Ann Small. She explained that her puffs had “open backs” and showed me the page in her book. “The Textile Artist: Layered Cloth: The Art of Fabric Manipulation”. (click here) I shall put the book on my Christmas Wish List. Ann’s layered textile work using the “chenille technique” was impressive. I wish that my Mother were still alive so that I could share with her the scope of this technique which she taught me.
This year I noticed the popularity of “felt”, especially ‘needle felting’. I am not inspired by sitting for hours stabbing at a ball of fluffy wool with a barbed needle until it turns into the required sculptured shape. Perhaps that is because repetitive actions may send me to sleep and I am nervous of impaling my hand on the barbed needle. However that does not prevent me from admiring the work of others. The penguins are by Fi Oberon – for a link to her book click here.
There are always parties of school students at the Knitting and Stitching Show, which is a perfect place to glean ideas and gather inspiration for textile projects. I sat and stitched my name to add to the “Campaign for Creativity” (click here) which is protesting against the changes in the National Curriculum. What IS this Government about, with its emphasis on academic core subjects? Quite apart from anything else, pupils need a balanced curriculum with space to develop creatively and a respite from the rigour of strictly academic subjects. I sat and listened to the other stitchers. It was so sad to hear a young textile student explain how her previous school had abandoned textiles as a subject and ‘mothballed’ all the sewing machines. I inherited my maternal Grandmother’s sewing machine when she died and it saved me when I returned to the UK with husband and young baby and very little money. Not only was I able to sew my dresses, his shirts and the baby’s clothes but also I was able to “upcycle” as it is now called. My young sons wore grey shorts made from their father’s grey trousers lined with the fabric from my full-skirted dresses. I was given two Harris Tweed coats which I painstakingly unpicked and re-made into a coat each for my young sons. And I still stitch and tinker: right now I am making an embroidered cover for my notebook while in my head I am working on the design of a tie-and-dyed caftan for next month’s Women’s Institute 1960’s themed party.