Wednesday, 27 May 2020

3D bobbin lace sculptures


I’ve been experimenting with three-dimensional bobbin lace sculptures. This has involved cutting out lots of paper shapes and then manipulating them to form three-dimensional shapes. My aim is to make flat pieces of lace and then twist them to form mini sculptures. I’ve found they work best if the shapes have a mixture of wide and narrow areas and that half stitch works well in following the contours of the shapes, as you can see from the one in the image. I’ve also tried to keep one colour around the edge to give definition to the main shape, but I feel the mixture of colours in the central area works well and gives it some shading. The piece in the image was made with fairly thick thread which stands up well but I’m not sure whether the final pieces will need stiffening. I don’t want them collapsing half way through an exhibition!

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

‘Marriage lines’ lace table mats


More progress has been made on my lace mats based on research into early twentieth century women who had to leave work on marriage. In the end I decided to embroider the text using couching so the four mats each have a phrase from the marriage ceremony: ‘for better; for worse; for richer; for poorer’ embroidered across them. I bottled out of using a marker pen for the writing because although it seemed to disappear quite effectively when I ironed it on my sample I was worried, probably unjustly, that it might not work properly on the final mat so I wrote the text on paper in indelible ink and used that as a pattern under the fabric. I also had to make some decisions about attaching the lace to the mat.
The lace represents the creative work of Amy Atkin and women like her and I wanted to show how easy it was to strip that work and life away. My initial thought was to use pins. I like the sharp piercing nature of pins and their hint of veiled aggression, which seemed to match with the subject, but I decided that it would be difficult to send the pieces to exhibitions like that as they might come loose or even injure someone! I therefore decided to tack the lace in place instead. I wanted the tacking to be obvious though, so I decided to use a red thread, which is often used to symbolise women. I think the red thread works well and I can always add a line of pins as well if I’m exhibiting the work myself.

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Amy Atkin lace table mat project


I’ve been making decisions about my lace table mats inspired by the life of Amy Atkin. If you follow this blog you’ll know I had some decisions to make about the appearance of the mats. Well, I’ve decided to insert the lace into the fabric of the mats rather than attach it at the side. I’m using ready made mats and I think if I cut them in half I can use half a mat, then my lace, then a section slightly less than a quarter of the mat. I came to that decision by folding the mats in different arrangements and adding the lace then photographing the result and comparing all the variations. The mats will also have the words of the marriage service ‘for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer’ embroidered on them in a reference to Amy, and other women of her generation, having to give up work when they married. I’ve been experimenting with fonts for the text. I want something cursive and old fashioned so I’ve been seeing what’s on the computer and trying a bit of writing. I’ve also been experimenting with some embroidery stitches for the text. I’m favouring couching at the moment having tried stem stitch, running stitch and chain stitch. Progress is being made – watch this space!


Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Amy Atkin lace project


I’m getting on well with my Amy Atkin project – you’ll remember that she was the first female machine lace designer in Nottingham. The final piece will be four table mats with lace insertions in a reference to the theme of The dinner party by Judy Chicago which celebrates the lives of influential women. I’ve now made the lace for all four place mats using a needle run technique, which is basically embroidery on machine net, similar to Limerick lace. Although I don’t think Amy designed for needle run lace (her designs are all for machine lace), the early Nottingham laces were based on fine embroidery on machine net so I feel it is a suitable technique for the project. It also means that although I’ve been inspired by her designs my four designs have been specifically made for a different technique. One of the interesting things about Amy’s career, and that of other women of her time, was that she had to give up work when she married so my work will reflect that. The lace will only be temporarily attached to the fabric of the mat so that it can be removed at a moments notice, rather like her career, and the mats will each be embroidered with the words of the marriage ceremony ‘for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer’. My current preoccupation is deciding how big the mats should be, whether the lace should be inserted or attached to the side, what font to use for the text, and which stitch to embroider it in. A work in progress!

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Block printing in India


Block printing was another one of the interesting crafts we saw being made in India. Block printed fabrics were on sale in many outlets in varying colours and degrees of complexity. Some places also had the blocks for sale and they made a lovely display. We saw several demonstrations of printing and in the Amber Fort we also watched a craftsman making blocks using a thread operated drill.
The same exhibition also included a printer making a small printed square. We saw him using three blocks with different colours, first a blue to outline the border and the central motifs, then a turquoise to fill in some of the areas and finally a block with a red dye to add flower shapes.
Later on in our tour we visited a workshop near Bhuj where we printed our own fabric. It was interesting to choose complementary blocks to print on to the cotton and try to envisage what they would look like in the final version.
We first used a brown resist paste with one large block for our main design motif, then used a smaller block to print highlights in black dye that roughly fitted into the main design. There is a definite knack to block printing! It’s important to make sure you have a thin, yet even, spread of resist or dye on the block and then you have to apply it to the fabric with a sharp tap.
Once the printing was dry the fabric was dyed in indigo and the resist removed. I have to say that the final result ended up looking far better than I hoped and I’ve now hemmed my piece of fabric and will use it as a scarf.

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Handmade buttons Indian style


We saw some interesting variations on handmade buttons during our travels in India. The blue ones in the picture above were made from small circles of fabric. The material is then gathered round its edge, the centre is filled with scraps of fabric and then pulled up to form a ball. These ones are decorative and quite soft, but with a firmer centre they could be used as functional buttons.
The other type of handmade buttons we saw were fashioned from simple wrapping. During a workshop at one of the women’s cooperatives we visited we were shown this technique for button making. Our teacher there produced a beautifully neat button by rolling a small amount of thread into a ball and then wrapping the remaining thread round and round the outside in a circular motion. She finished it off by passing the thread through the centre of the ball with a needle. The buttons in the image here were made using the same technique but less skilfully as they look a bit lumpy!

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Parents celebrated on lace bobbins

Many lace bobbins celebrate relationships and these include parents. In some cases the bobbins were gifts from parents such as the bobbin on the left made by Jesse Compton which is inscribed ‘A present from my father 1836’. The date on this one is hard to read I wasn’t sure whether it was 1886 or 1836 but as Jesse Compton died in 1857 I’m assuming it’s the earlier date. Others, like the two following bobbins, are simpler and just say ‘Dear father’ or ‘Dear mother’. The next bobbin, which I think was made by Bobbin Brown of Cranfield, is inscribed ‘My dear father’. These would have been stock bobbins held by the bobbin makers but, the last bobbin, ‘Sarah Ions my d[ear] mother’ is a more personal message and would have been made specially for the lacemaker who ordered it. I love these old bobbins and the messages they convey. Do they commemorate special events such as birthdays or were they bought as thank you gifts? I wish I knew more about their history.