24th June 2020 – Time for an Update

I can’t quite believe that I’ve neglected updating my blog for 10 months. I hate to be boring and cliched… But… Where on earth does time go to? I suppose it isn’t terribly surprising that I lost several months.

In September 2019 I spent two weeks with my Mum, to be with her for both of our birthdays. It was the first birthday for each of us since my Dad passed away in May 2019. At the same time our house renovations started, with a complete bathroom remodel, and there was no way I was going to be in a house with no shower or toilet for a week.

A couple of weeks later and work started on our kitchen. This was another complete remodel, which included knocking down a wall to incorporate the dining room with the kitchen. Much dust and dirt was created in the process. Thankfully it was all done, and all appliances functioning, in plenty of time for Christmas.

Once the kitchen was installed it was time for the hall to have a make over. With the help of Steve from SW Joinery in Amble I designed a bespoke staircase

Oak Staircase with Acorn Cutouts

My Dad loved natural wood, and took up wood turning when he retired from teaching precision engineering. Wrought iron work was one of his specialities, so the staircase I designed is a tribute to my Dad. It combines the wood with the metal, and it makes me smile everyday. The hallway was redecorated by Steve and his assistant Reece, two of the most professional workers I’ve ever had the pleasure of dealing with, and I highly recommend them.

The last thing to be done was a full replacement of our flat roofed areas. We had a leak in the bedroom, and issues with a roofer who didn’t turn up when he said he would. Thankfully I managed to find another super professional tradesman Peter Philip of Endura Flat Roofing Ltd. Someone else I highly recommend.

Christmas and New Year came and went. I hosted a couple of embroidery demonstrations, one at the Amble Pin Cushion and one at Morpeth Parish Church Advent Market.

We were all hoping for 2020 to be an improvement on 2018/19. My son was in his final year of reading English Language at Edge Hill University. The Other Half and I went to visit for a few days in February to meet his girlfriend for the first time. Everything seemed to be on track…. then Corona virus arrived, and with it the lockdown.

I must admit that I haven’t been too badly affected by lockdown. As a disabled person much of my time is spent alone, at home, and in bed. For me, apart from desperation for a haircut, it has given me time to gradually organise my studio spaces, and return to making garments for the first time in over 12 years.

The sewing room is now much more user-friendly, with space to move around.

My new overlocker

I invested in a new overlocker. This one has a free arm function, the main reason for my choice, at an affordable price.

The view looking from front to back

As you can see, I can move between my overlocker and my standard sewing machine with ease using my chair on wheels, provided I keep that floor clear of clutter. So far I’m doing pretty well.

Recent makes including a couple of upcycles.

There has also been art going on in lockdown. I’ll save that for my next post!

Almost September…

…. yet again time has flown past, with yet more family life problems slowing my progress. I have plans, lots of plans in fact, but every time I get my head above water something has conspired to thwart me. Right now I have a nasty summer cold and I’ve lost my voice. Undeterred I’m continuing to plan for better times ahead.

I did manage to attend another workshop with Laura Edgar on 24th August. This time the theme was Inspired by Constable – Cloudy Skies.

It was great to have a few hours of happy creativity away from all the stress and anxiety of the last few months.

On 30th September I’m doing a little hand embroidery demonstration at the Amble Pin Cushion. I will be showing everyone who comes how to make one of these:

and there will be kits available for purchase on the day.

Other things I’m planning include ice dyeing, cyanotype printing, and nuno felting.

I’m collaborating with Kathryn Brown, the Community Development Worker at St Aidan’s C of E Church, to start a craft group. The first event is a De-Stash Sale in aid of the Morpeth Parish Youth Botswana Mission 2020. It is being held at St Aidan’s on Monday 2nd September from 2.00pm to 5.00pm. If you use Facebook you can find the event details by clicking on this link:

https://m.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10156389656740906&set=a.10150404499425906&type=3&eid=ARB8QGtuIz0k-EpERyB2IsadljuDXhAqr_1rO6L1kH91XUclfVD_SGuCKYOlgLfswqISxVgzb6q2Zbjd

The craft group will start on Monday 9th September in St Aidan’s Church and run from 1.30pm to 4.00pm. We intend it to be an informal group that people can attend as and when they wish, and there’s no charge. Refreshments will be provided and a small donation for those would be appreciated. We want to make the group as accessible as possible so if you would like to try a craft activity but have financial constraints, or you aren’t sure where to begin, or have any issues stopping you, there will be all sorts of donated materials to play with. Come and join in the fun.

Mary Quant Exhibition at the V&A

The Mary Quant exhibition has been running at the same time as, and been rather overshadowed by, the Dior exhibition. My favourite part of the Quant exhibition was not the clothes but the carrier bags. I just loved the patterns, some of which were probably influenced by art nouveau as you can see here:

Amongst the garments were several that could easily be brought up-to-date with a change of colour:

My favourite piece is the one at bottom right of the photo. The colour really didn’t appeal to me but I could see this being recreated in something brighter, or even in black, and being absolutely wearable today. Unfortunately my figure wouldn’t suit that shape now, but someone with the know how could probably make the necessary design changes for a 5’3″ apple shape like me. In my opinion that checked coat is timeless, and needs no modifications.

What really amused me was this:

Mary Quant, it seems, invented the onesie! Not only that, but she also appears to be responsible for the hoodie:

It was a fun exhibition to view after lunch and rounded off an enjoyable trip to the V&A.

Indian Woodblock Printing Workshop at Gallery 45

I love teaching. When the MS forced me to retire from my job with the charity Victim Support in 2013 the thing I missed most was interacting with the groups of volunteers to whom I delivered the training. Unfortunately the MS means I can’t teach workshops as often as I would like. I was so happy to be well enough to teach this one on 6th July. I had 5 lovely women keen to learn a new skill, and they enjoyed themselves so much that they want to do the workshop again. Here is some of the work they produced on the day.

Dior at the V&A Part 3

Here are some more photos from my visit to the Dior exhibition at the V&A. I’m so glad I made the effort to go to this exhibition, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see so many gorgeous couture Dior garments, bags, and shoes in one place. So many of these pieces are a testament to the skill of the artisan embroiderers.

Dior at the V&A Part 2

Here are some more photos from my trip to the V&A.

I learned a lot from my recent trip to London about being in wheelchair. Using a wheelchair was the only way for me to be able to see the exhibition; having MS for me means I get tired rapidly if I have to stand and I can’t walk more than 20 metres without pain and fatigue. When I’m travelling by car I have my mobility scooter and am independent but as we were using the train to get to London I had to use the wheelchair which is not self propelling – it requires a carer to push me where I want to go. I must admit to feeling incredibly vulnerable because I had no control over my movements. Conversations mean getting a sore neck because people don’t think to come down to my seated level. As for public transport … let’s just say our attempts proved fruitless and we resorted to an Uber!

All of the photos are taken from wheelchair level so the perspective is different from any you might see taken by someone who was walking around the exhibition and whose pictures will have been taken at standing height.

I was particularly drawn to the garments which have lots of beading and fabric manipulation. Yes, there are more to come – definitely a Dior part 3, and probably a 4 and 5.

Dior at the V&A Part One

I knew I wanted to see this exhibition from the moment it was announced, the problem was knowing when I visit. By the time I knew for sure I’d be able to attend in mid-June the tickets were sold out. Not to be deterred, after all this was the opportunity of a lifetime, I discovered that members of the V&A could visit any exhibition, even the most popular sold out ones. The whole thing, including getting to and from the V&A from our hotel and lunch, cost a small fortune… Let’s just say that’s what credit cards were invented for, those once in a lifetime and not to be missed experiences. I made the most of my membership by visiting the Mary Quant exhibition while I was there, and we had lunch in the members room. I must thank my long suffering 21 year old son for being kind enough to accompany me as my carer and wheelchair pusher in chief. I couldn’t have done it without him, and it’s fair to say that fashion is absolutely not his thing.

Despite all of the challenges we faced, especially getting back to the hotel, it was worth every penny.

I shall let the photos speak for themselves.

If you would like more information on any of the garments pictured please leave me comment. I bought the book so I can check the details.

There are lots more photos to come, but I thought it would be good to spread them out over several posts.

Much and more

One of my favourite phrases from the Game of Thrones books is “much and more”. It seemed an appropriate title for this blog post because it is so long since I posted here that I have much and more to tell you.

I successfully completed the HND in Fashion and Textiles at Northumberland College in June 2018, and achieved a Distinction. Here I am at the end-of-year exhibition with my final major project:

My FMP was called “Be More Wabi Sabi Savvy”. I was inspired by the issues of fast fashion and textile waste, and the Japanese tradition of wabi sabi which is in direct contrast to our culture of throwing things away when they get damaged. After much research and sampling I finally chose to give this make over to a denim jacket I got in a charity shop for £3.00. I was delighted with how well it turned out, and by the feedback I received. By the time I graduated I was exhausted and needed to take a break – my MS fatigue caught up with me!

Just as I was beginning to feel better and about to tackle a long overdue clear out of my workspaces things in my extended family took a turn for the worst. My father-in-law died on 19th November 2018, my parents became ill and both required hospital treatment for an extended period, and my father died on 16th May this year. All of this took a toll on my mental and physical health. MS and stress do not make a good combination, and it has been a struggle to regain my creative mojo.

My father was 78 years old and had smoked for 64 of those years. His death was due to lung cancer which had gone undetected due to COPD. By the time the mass in his right lung was discovered it was too late to treat the disease. My heartfelt plea to anyone reading this who smoke: please stop, lung cancer is an awful way to die.

The only good thing that happened, once the cancer had been discovered, was his transfer to the local hospice unit. I cannot commend them highly enough and I’ve set up a Just Giving crowdfunding page to raise money for the Macmillan Unit at Antrim Area Hospital. If you would like to help me raise my goal of £500 here is the link to give a donation: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/michele-rickitt

I’m also selling some beaded embroidery pieces created especially to raise some money. They are my in my signature abstract beaded style

This is the largest one and costs £45 plus P&P.

These two are smaller and cost £25 plus P&P each. If you are interested in buying any of them please let me know.

When I say “signature abstract beaded style” I mean the style I developed while working on my FMP. I adore working with beads and sequins, and layering them to create texture.

These photos show what I mean.

The one piece of embroidery I did manage to get excited about during the whole crisis period was this appliqué I created for my friend’s mother of the groom coat:

The coat is a gorgeous vintage tailored men’s dress coat so I chose to trace off the shape of the lapel onto two layers of fine black tulle and do the beadwork onto that, then I cut it out and carefully hand stitched the beadwork to the coat. It worked perfectly and my friend was delighted with the outcome.

Next week I’m finally going to achieve my dream of teaching a workshop at a local gallery. I love using hand carved Indian woodblocks to transform fabric, and I believe it is a super simple way to upcycle textiles, both garments and household linens like napkins. Here are some examples

If you would like to book a place contact Gallery 45, Felton, Northumberland. This is the link to their website:

http://feltongallery45.co.uk

Coming up next, I’ll post about my visit to the Dior exhibition at the V&A last week.

Hello again

Hello again, it’s been a while since I last posted, almost a whole year.  What a year it has been!  Last time I posted here it was to share what we’d been doing for the Tall Ships Regatta with community groups in Blyth.  The Regatta was a huge success, and our exhibition attracted over 600 visitors.

IMG_1749.JPG

These are the three sails which were made to represent Blyth’s past, present, and future.

Following on from the exhibition in August I enrolled on the Fashion and Textiles HND course at Northumberland College.  It’s now almost the end of the first year so I should get my life back for a couple of months, until Year 2 kicks off in September.

Here are some of the things I’ve done

 

 

Marvellously Messy

The community art activities for our Voyage Through Blyth project have been going well, and we’ve had a lot of fun with all the groups.  I’ve worked with the Bright Beginnings in Northumberland toddler group, the St Cuthbert’s Church toddler group, and making Portholes with adults at Weave in Lynemouth.  We had a fantastic response from all the parents who were so enthusiastic about doing something for the Tall Ships.  The Portholes workshop was well attended, and everyone had a go at doing something they hadn’t tried before.

Our session at Bright Beginnings was incorporated into their regular session where babies and toddlers get to experience the joy of getting messy.  They absolutely love it.

 

We we printed the babies feet onto paper, and then the mums and grandmas painted in masts and sails to create sailboat pictures.  These are going to be printed onto fabric and stitched into the sail to represent “The Future”.

At St Cuthbert’s we created a huge collaged seascape, with tissue paper waves and paper boats stuck onto a painted paper background.  The finished collage will be exhibited in the Church during the Tall Ships Regatta.

We held the Porthole workshop on Sunday.  I love it when everyone at a workshop starts with the same prompts and each creates something totally different.

You’ll be able to see the completed works of art at the exhibition which will be held in St Cuthbert’s C of E Church during the Tall Ships Regatta at the end of August.