Fibre+Needlework

Guest series 2012: I asked fellow bloggers, makers and creators to write on their creativity and focus their essay on one of four topics: creativity and health, creativity and business, creativity and parenting or creativity and process. I am very excited to have a wonderful lot of fellow creative folk guest posting here at whipup.net over the next couple of months. Please welcome…

Environmental fiber artist and writer, Abigail Doan, divides her time between NYC, Eastern Europe, and rural Italy. Her work as a fiber artist offers a unique view into the materials, methods, and the life cycle of contemporary textiles, slow fashion garments, and related environmental issues. Abigail started her blog,Ecco*Eco as a forum for sharing ideas and projects related to ‘fashioning self and the environment’. She also keeps a visual journal at Lost in Fiber and recommends reading: BROODWORK Creative Practice and Family Life.

Fiber Flotsam 01 made out of recycled fiber and hand-dyed wool by Abigail Doan (2012)

As a mother of four year old twin boys and the next year mapped out for living in Eastern Europe, my studio practice is all about twining together materials and methods that make the most sense for my nomadic lifestyle and the complex textures of life on the road. As artists and makers we are often nostalgic for chapters in our lives when we might have had more time to create in silence and with total cohesiveness. Having children, particularly preschoolers, is both humbling and uplifting as one attempts to find a new path into studio practice and the focus required for crafting something meaningful and of genuine value.

I grew up on a small family farm in New York State’s Hudson River Valley, and I did not travel to Europe for the first time until after graduation from high school. I never would have guessed that I would marry a European, or rather an American with roots in a far off land like Bulgaria, but true love coupled with true adventure, was ultimately the destiny that was charted out for me. As an environmental fiber artist, all of these things make perfect sense to me now – particularly since my day-to-day life in Eastern Europe feels a lot more like my rural upbringing than life in bustling NYC does. I love that my children are currently immersed in a culture that celebrates local handcraft, village communities, as well as the foods and customs of a vibrant place. Even though we live in Bulgaria’s capital city of Sofia, it is very easy for us to be up on the mountain hiking within thirty minutes or driving to neighboring countries like Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, etc. within the span of just a few hours.

Photo of a color study drawn by my twin boys – based on regional textiles in my home studio

Several years ago I decided that I might be more effective (at peace) as an artist if I let go of the idea of working in a designated studio day in and day out, and instead set up an annual calendar of site-specific projects and outreach initiatives that allowed me to work organically with my surroundings. As part of this new strategy, I began working more with fiber, as it is a material that allows considerable flexibility in terms of transport and rather packable options for site-specific installations. Fiber, as a medium, also provides low-impact design solutions, particularly when paired with recycled materials and local landscape elements. I also love that my work, as someone who also writes about eco-textiles, artisan-based initiatives, and the slow fashion movement, allows me to create a home environment that is constantly evolving with the displayed objects that I am currently researching or interpreting.

‘Femme Maison’ collage with knotted wool, paper cut-out and pins by Abigail Doan (after Louise Bourgeois)

My home in Sofia, Bulgaria, is pretty much arranged in an open plan where constant interaction with my family and friends is encouraged. It is a common phenomenon for homes in Eastern Europe to have rooms that are multi-purpose, that is, a dining room, living room, or personal study easily and efficiently transforms into a bedroom for several people come nightfall.

My view in Sofia with fiber forms for Vogue Knitting Live in progress (January, 2012)

I also try to make good use of terrace space for growing small plants, herbs, and outdoor projects that overlap with evolving fiber projects that I need to “aerate” a bit before finalizing. Every day includes time spent gazing at Sofia’s Mount Vitosha while I hang clothes out to dry adjacent to neighboring porches draped with woven kilims basking in the sun and vines creeping over garden trellises.

Collaborative work space at the end of the day includes fiber forms in progress and drawings by the twins

My sculptural fiber forms and still life arrangements often migrate from room to room in a dialogue with my children’s play activities as they, too, draw and create objects with materials that we collectively recycle in the home or find on the streets. I generally make a point of documenting my work process and their creative expressions on a regular basis, as I feel that this informs my own work in dynamic and unexpected ways. Early mornings or late evenings are reserved for writing and more delicate assemblage projects – at least until my boys begin kindergarten full-time.

The beauty of all of this integrated home/art/parenting is the fact that my process has become so much more resourceful in the process. Life with children has taught me a lot about what it truly means to be fresh and creative with both materials and time management. Editing is now a big part of my day, my night, and my hands-on work. There is a certain clarity that comes from making things work in the time and space that one has available. Every parent feels as if they are perhaps re-inventing the wheel, but this a good thing when it comes to crafting a purposeful and believable genius of place.

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November: Month of books at Whipup.net

Stitch Magic: A Compendium of Sewing Techniques for Sculpting Fabric into Exciting New Forms and Fashions By Alison Reid, published by STC Craft/A Melanie Falick Book (April 1, 2011).

Stitch magic is as the title says a compendium of techniques. There are a few projects showing off the techniques, but primarily the techniques are stand alone for you to use as you will.

For example cut fabric shapes, can be used in a variety of ways to enhance and decorate a simple design. Different methods of cutting and attaching are discussed, as well as which fabrics will work best with this technique – then you can make a belt and a place mat using what you have just learned. Next you learn about folded shapes and can decorate a bed throw (pictured above) using this striking yet simple technique. Pleating, pintucking, quilting, cording, and smocking all are designed to take you from simple sewing to more detailed and complex sewing. It’s time to move up to the next level.

Drawn to Stitch: Line, Drawing, and Mark-Making in Textile Art by Gwen Hedley, Interweave Press (USA) (October 12, 2010), Batsford (UK) and distributed in Australia through Capricorn link.

Textile artist Gwen Hedley, takes the most basic of drawing concepts – the line – and explores it with stitching. The first two chapters of Drawn to stitch, discuss materials and techniques (collage, weaving, sewing, printing, and drawing), and this then leads in to Chapter three which Gwen Hadley describes as “the kernel of the book”. This third chapter is visually stunning. Gwen uses examples of textile art and deconstructs the techniques used. This chapter showcases sketches, inspiration images and samples of work when discussing how a certain piece of work came into being. The final chapter – my personal favourite section – takes line drawings and sketches and shows how they can be interpreted in stitch.

This book is not only visually stunning and an essential manual for fibre and textile artists but also for others looking for a different perspective on drawing – it is part instructional manual, part workshop and part inspirational journal.

Examples of Gwen Hedley’s work – from her sketchbooks

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November (and a little bit into December) is book month at Whipup.net

The Art-Full Tree; ornaments to make.  Jan Gilliam and Christina Westenberger.  The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2011.

If your thoughts are turning to decorating your tree this year, you might like to have a look at The Art-Full Tree, which is inspired by objects in the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum.

The book begins with a quick history of the museum, that was started by Abby Aldrich Rockerfeller who started collecting and exhibiting folk art in the 1920’s, at a time when common crafts and amateur arts were not highly valued.  She left her collection to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and this collection forms the core of the current Folk Art Museum in Willamsburg, Virginia.

The museum has had a long and treasured tradition of decorating a holiday tree every year with ornaments made by staff, volunteers and guests of the museum.  Some of these ornaments are inspired by items in the collection, and others are based on the skills of each contributor.

The Art-Full Tree presents 33 ornament projects that have been inspired by some of the most popular items in the museum collection.  The book is an interesting combination of museum catalogue, inspiration notebook, project instructions and stitch guide and template sections.

Each project features the original artwork, with a short history of the item and some information on the artist or style of art.  There is a very detailed materials list, and step by step instructions and photographs on making each ornament.

There is a wide range of crafting techniques used in the creation of the ornament projects, including needlepoint, paper craft, punch needle embroidery, foil work, metal punching, painting and collage.  My favourite ornaments are Recycled-Card star (inspired by a compass design quilt), Scherenscnitte Birds (inspired by a cutwork picture), and Aluminium Butterfly (inspired by a metal weathervane).

I really like the process of taking a formal artwork in a formal setting, that is meaningful to the people around it, and appropriating all or part of the work to inspire the creation of anther objet, in this case tree ornaments.  I feel that readers of The Art-Full Tree will be inspired to look around them, in their local museums, public spaces, or around their own treasured and meaningful objects, and to create ornaments for their own family trees that are small and perfect reminders of things that they love.

To win a copy of The Art-Full Tree, please leave a comment on this review.  The comments will be open for 72 hours, and a winner will be selected at random.  Good luck!  Congratulations to Becky!

About the reviewer: Kate is a busy mother of four with many craft projects on the go, including, but not limited to, crochet, knitting, sewing, dyeing, paper making, spinning, felting and bookbinding. Kate has challenges in the areas of finishing things, saying no and craft supplies storage. She also has a very very patient and tolerant husband.

DISCLOSURE: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation PROVIDED WHIPUP.NET REVIEWER KATE WITH A FREE REVIEW COPY.

 

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Guest blogger: Devon from Miss Make blog.

Hello! I’m Devon, an avid maker, baker and nature lover currently navigating through my 20’s in Los Angeles. I originally started my blog Miss Make when I started working at the Urban Craft Center just to show friends and family all the cool stuff I was learning how to do. I now teach sewing and quilting there, and I’m admittedly a little obsessed with using my blog to spread the love and knowledge of making stuff to any and all remotely receptive audiences.

Hidden message glow in the dark embroidery

It is a plain and simple truth that if something glows in the dark, it’s inherently cooler.

Whether it’s an action figure, stars on a bedroom ceiling or the little hands on your watch face, there’s something extra captivating about that magic green glow from within. [Mini science lesson: It’s actually not magic, it’s compounds known as phosphors that ‘trap’ electrons from light beams and slowly release them in the minutes and hours after exposure.]

The last time I was visiting the Urban Craft Center, my crafty happy place, I saw that they had added some glow in the dark embroidery floss to their shelves.

I obviously bought some immediately. I mean, it glows in the dark.

Because it looks so much like regular white floss – you only see that telling greenish aura if you’re really looking – I thought it would be fun to mix it in with white and create a secret message that you can only see in the dark.

This little embroidery project is quick, super easy and has lots of squeal appeal [that “ooh!” when people see the hidden message]. I’m by no means an embroidery expert. My skills basically end at being able to thread a needle and tie a knot. But when this was done, in about an hour no less, I wanted to show everyone I knew. [“No seriously, go hold this and stand in the closet, trust me!”] It would be the cutest thing to leave under the bedside lamp of a loved one so that they see it when they turn out the light.

I made a pattern that you can download here for free. You can find glow in the dark floss online, just do a search. I used DMC Mouline E940. The rest of the supplies you can easily find at your local craft / fabric store.

Directions:

  • Trace pattern onto desired fabric with transfer paper, chalk pencil or disappearing pen.
  • *Tip: If you want to transfer the pattern to dark fabric, tape the fabric to a bright sunny window with the pattern behind it and you’ll be able to see and trace. Or, see my blog post about making a light box with a few standard household items and trace it that way!*
  • Put the fabric in a 6” embroidery hoop. Using the glow in the dark floss, embroider all the lines that are red on the pattern. One long stitch per line is enough.
  • Switch to regular white floss. Embroider all remaining lines.

Charge your project under a lamp for a few minutes, find a dark space and marvel.

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A crafty type and a lover of mischief, a whim, a ‘Why Not?’. Tania is also a mum of three, a wife, a graphic designer, a juggler extraordinaire (in training). You’ll find her over at Myrtle & Eunice, celebrating her crafty hits, confessing the misses and always bewildered by the pile of dirty washing.

It Ain’t Only About The Flies

It’s not that I’m obsessed with flies, cos I’m not. Certainly, if you happened to refer to the November page of this year’s Whipup calendar,  you’d turn to look at me all sideways and squinty and doubtful-like. But THAT fly – the one composed of a bazillion stitches, was really all about the obsessive joy in (finally!) mastering the french knot. THIS fly, the one above, was all about the sudden fascination with the crafty potential of fly screen.

I almost did my eyeballs in. Crafting with fly screen is like crafting blind. The grids of tiny squares appear to move and intersect, creating a moiré effect. Half the time you can’t tell which is shadow, or which is the surface you’re working on. And it’s a SHOCKER to photograph. Navigate the light, the shade, the shadows cast, the greying effect of the mesh, the disappearing into-backgrounds, then give up in a huff. Put away your camera, live it in real time.

In real time – and you’ll probably have to trust me on this – it is possible to appreciate the delicate intricacies of embroidered fly body hair.

As a crafty type who never knows when to leave well enough alone, I couldn’t help but try my hand at cross-stitching a flying fly…

…which in one fell swat, becomes a cross-stitched, well past-his-prime fly.

It struck me that flies were not the only obvious subject matter. Too busy losing focus to fly screen, to notice teetering laundry piles, a disaster kitchen, and an impressive spider web population inhabiting window frames, it finally dawned upon me. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

While the bug lovin’ middle kid is chuffed to bits with his fly-eating, window-inhabiting spider,

I have been forced to concede to the Mr’s long-held theory: not one part of this house is safe from the craft.

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