Cossacks for Christmas

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I can’t imagine that many of you  are interested in my Christmas decorations, but just in case you are, here we go.  This year they are minimalist to say the least.  I have had a lot going on and putting up trimmings seemed way down the list of priorities.  But I did get round to making and putting up these gentlemen.  They are dancing cossacks.  I would like to tell you that they are my design, but they came from a book called Homemade Christmas, (which is very cheap on Amazon):

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It doesn’t seem to have an author, but it does have a number of surprisingly nice looking things to make.  The author, whoever it is, as no author is credited, made their cossacks out of old book covers, but I thought it would be a good way of using up gelli-printed papers that I had done myself:

 

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I rather like the way that the printed paper for his face makes him look like he is rather keen on the vodka, or doesn’t use a good enough moisturiser in all that cold weather.

I also used some painted paper:

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This one has jewelled brads or paper fasteners on his joints.  Finding paper fasteners, which are those split pin things with the round heads that you push through papers and then open out, turned out to be one of the hardest parts of the project.  I had to go to the internet to find them.  Clearly the paperless office is becoming a reality.

After I had made a couple of cossacks, it occurred to me that this might be a really good use for some notecards the Medieval Historian gave me a couple of years ago.

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So I had quite good fun fussy cutting bodies to get a good cover image on the chest:

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I also liked picking the most un-Christmas-y titles such as this:

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Nothing like a nice Ballardian dystopia to set you up the festive season.  We also have Lady Chatterley’s Lover as a nod to my home town.

Then I remembered that I had bought some Marimekko notecards as I love the graphic designs and clear colours:

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Both of these worked brilliantly which makes me thing that you could do it with any postcard:

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This one is decorated with washi tape.  This one is fussy cut:

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In the book they are strung to work as jumping jacks, but I like them just as posable figures.

In the end I made twenty-five of them and they dance around the room suspended from the picture rail.  So quite a lot of cutting, punching, sticking and stringing, but I think that they make quite a smart decoration, even for people, mentioning no names, Medieval Historian, who claim not to like Christmas.

 

 

A good read

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I haven’t done much in the way of recommending quilting books, but this is one worth looking at, not because I particularly want to make three fabric quilts, but because it has a really good introduction on how to make a quilt.  There is a lot of good advice in this one.   At least a third of it is about sewing.   Also if you want to make a small quilt in a weekend, I think that this would be an excellent place to start.

I bought it in one of those bargain bookshops at the weekend.  I saw it full price and passed it by some time ago, but for £6 it was a real bargain.

Brunel Broderers’ Exhibition at Newark Park

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On my recent visit to Newark Park I was lucky enough to see the Brunel Broderer’s exhibition, which was of work made in response to the house and gardens.  I really hate singling people out in exhibitions, because often it is just a matter of taste as to whose work you prefer, but there was some glorious embroidery on display.  I particularly liked seeing the sketchbooks accompanying the work, and I liked the way that it was spread throughout the house and not just in the gallery.  For example, my good friend Liz Hewitt had this rather lovely piece in a little ground-floor reception room:

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This is a little taster of the rest of the show:

The combination of this very high quality contemporary needlework, and the older pieces I mentioned in an early blogpost make this a really good day out for sewers of all sorts.

 

 

 

Mr Finch

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Finally, finally, finally my copy of Mr Finch’s book has arrived.  I made a cup of good coffee and sat down to read it.  That isn’t my hand, by the way, the picture is from his Facebook gallery.

Mr Finch is a textile artist/man who sews/sculptor.  He makes wonderful creatures from old and recycled textiles.  I was made aware of him by the wonderful Jemima Lumley and started following him on Facebook.  I love the way that his work is unnerving – Unheimlich, as sociologists and psychologists might say, and very beautiful at the same time.  He seems very happy to make images available so here are some pictures:

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I would love one of his foxes in masks or butterflies made from old embroidered tray cloths.  His work with its detail and delicacy makes everything I do look clunky and gauche, but it is still really inspirational.  It’s worth looking at his website: www.mr-finch.com, and his facebook page.

He currently has an exhibition in Anthropologie on the King’s Road, which I hope to get to see before Christmas.

The book is a great treat, beautifully produced, glorious photos and clearly made with love.  Mr Finch: Living in a Fairy Tale World, 2014, published by Glitterati.  Exquisite.

 

 

 

 

Latest additions to my Laura Ashley project

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First of all, I am very sorry about the long gap between this post and the last one.  I know a high proportion of people like to read the blog on Sunday afternoons, and I haven’t been providing you with your reading lately.  This has been due to the pressures of the day job – the start of term is always a lot of hard work, and various everyday life things which have required a lot of time and energy.  But I am back.

One of the things that I have been working on is the Laura Ashley project, particularly the gift element, which I will post on later.  I have also been working on ideas about taking the idea of art as research seriously.  What would it mean if we did produce pieces of art rather than written academic papers?  What would happen to the field of study, and to our careers?  John Dewey, one of the great authorities on education, said that communities which do not produce art are deficient.  But what happens if we try to address this?  And, on the other hand, what happens if we reduce the art to mere decoration or illustration?

Well, a small element of my Laura Ashley project has been to produce some illustrations for some of the stories I have collected while doing my research – often when speaking to quilting groups.  These are pictures taken with my swanky new camera, which are great, but could have done with better light.  I am still experimenting with it, so please bear with me.

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This was my trial piece.  I often make a dry run sample to get my self sorted out if there is machine stitching to be done.  That’s why this one has no legs – she was just made with an offcut which suggested the shape of the dress.  It is a really bright piece of probably 80s fabric so I reversed it to give a more vintage look.  Her hair is another of my beloved furnishing fabric samples.  The are probably about 2×3 inches:

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The faces are all made of curtain lining, and once again, just about everything here is made from fabric which would have gone into landfill.

So here are the illustrations.

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I wore a dark Laura Ashley dress for a family New Year’s Eve party and it was the only time my brother-in-law ever told me I looked beautiful.

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Every time we have a big family party for a birthday or an event I add another flag to the bunting and it’s almost always Laura Ashley fabric.

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I went on a really romantic walk on the Downs with a new boyfriend.  I was wearing a really full Laura Ashley skirt and a bee flew up it.

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I made a Laura Ashley dress to go to college dance, and I made a matching tie for my then boyfriend who is now my husband.

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I made tablecloths and napkins for all the big family events and celebrations.

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My daughter wanted a very simple wedding.  The bridesmaids wore purple Laura Ashley dresses.  Years later we discovered the marriage had not been legal.

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I got married in a Laura Ashley sailor dress.

One of the things I really like about this technique is that as Janet Clare, whose workshop gave me the idea, says, you just don’t know who will turn up.  When you start to stitch the faces all sorts of people appear:

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This one has a slight look of Lady Diana.

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This one looks like someone in my office who is on maternity leave.

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The woman in this one looks like a local historian of note.  And I am pleased that I got just a hint of smugness.

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This one doesn’t look like anyone, but does look like she is in danger of growing a moustache.

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This one has a look of those 70s folk singers like Grace Slick.

 

I really liked the tie story.  It reminded me of an old American practice I read about somewhere in which the women going to a dance would make a tie in the fabric of their ballgowns and the men would pull out a tie blindfolded.  They then had to partner the woman who matched their tie, as it were:

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So, I had lots of fun making these, and I think the illustrations suit the subject very well.  I am thinking of putting together a self-published picture book with longer versions of the stories.  I will be interested to see if they are accepted as legitimate research.  I think I know the answer.

 

War collar number two

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The second collar in my series of wearable armour for corporate women is this blue neckpiece.  The idea here is to make a protective piece.  So, according to the sort of folklore I was brought up with, blue wards off evil spirits, which is  apparently why we dress baby boys in blue, and thus the piece is largely blue.  In other traditions shiny things dazzle the devil and keep him away from you, so it has lots of golden coins.  The piece is also clearly a nod to the lovely tribal embroideries that are inspirational for so many of us.  The best example for me is probably, as I have said before on the blog, The Shining Cloth:

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This is a book that I think everyone should have, as it is packed with glorious photos of amazing decorated cloths.

My piece has been hanging about for some time waiting to be made into something.  I got into a good habit a couple of years ago of using the leftovers at the end of a project to make up a block, and eventually you have enough to make a quilt.  This piece was leftover from a series of small quilts about Walter Benjamin which I made last year:

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I had this very pretty little piece made up of bits of hand-dyed fabric:

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It had some machine stitching on it:

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And I decided to do some hand-stitching with the lovely Madeira lana thread:

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Then I squared it up a bit and sewed on the coin charms which I think I got very cheaply at a Hobbycraft sale:

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Finally I made the cord:

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This one is very light, and I think it could be worn.  Being a major fan of the kaftan, I have several things it might go with.  But it will be interesting to see which ones people do want to wear when I go to the next stage of the project.

Revisiting a classic

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I have been working on a new project, which I will blog about shortly, and I thought that I would get out my copy of The Shining Cloth by Victoria Z. Rivers.  It is a great book, a bit of a classic now, published in 1999.  Every page has something gorgeous on it, and the photographs are stunning.   It’s a study of ornamented clothes from a wide variety of countries, but mainly Asia and Africa.  Most of it is tribal costumes.  I pick the book up from time to time when I want some ideas about beading.  I have used it so often that the cover came away from mine as I was using it, which gives it a battered field guide quality which I really like.  I was looking for neckpieces to study, and I find drawing is the very best way of studying something and seeing how it fits together.  Here are the drawings I made from various pages:

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I am making a series of neckpieces which I will share in my next blog posts.