Yet again, time has slipped away from me. It’s been almost a month since I last posted anything here, and I could have sworn it was only a couple of weeks! Since my last post I’ve had a birthday, found a small rigid heddle loom for £10 in a charity shop, started on the Future Creatives Enterprise Programme, and had an idea.
I don’t know about you, but when I say the words “I’ve had an idea” to my other half I can hear his anxiety levels rise. This time he liked the idea, and so I’m working on taking it from idea to reality, and I’m going to share it with you. It was inspired by something that was mentioned during the initial information session about the Future Creatives workshops. In August 2016 the Tall Ships Race is visiting Blyth, a small town in South East Northumberland. This is a real coup for the town, and the county. One of the other programme participants wants to do a yarn bombing project in Blyth to coincide with the Tall Ships visit, and this set the cogs in my brain turning. The Future Creatives Programme is about giving emerging textile artists commercial skills, with help towards developing creative practice. One of the aims of the project is to give participants the skills to take art into communities, particularly communities which wouldn’t normally engage with the arts. So, I came up with the idea of working with community groups in Blyth to produce an exhibition coinciding with the Tall Ships Race, by making sails. These sails will be stitched together from fabric which has has words and images, created by members of the community, printed onto it.
In in order to get this idea off the ground I’m working with Jean Bell who manages the Briardale Community Centre in Cowpen, Blyth. Lots of different groups of all ages use Briardale, including a pre-school, Girl Guides, woodworkers, and a craft group. I want to collect the memories of older residents into stories, get small children to paint brightly coloured pictures, teach the Guides some embroidery, get the woodworkers to build masts, and generally get everyone involved in an aspect of the project that interests them.
We are holding a drop in session at the Briardale Community Centre on Saturday 3rd October from 11.00am until 1.00pm. I’m hoping to get lots of people interested in getting involved.
I love weaving, I think it’s in my genes given that my maternal grandmother was a linen weaver in Northern Ireland. I bought a Brinkley loom last year after doing a workshop with Eve Studd of Cornhill crafts, but I haven’t used it as often as I’d intended. This year at Woolfest I came across Get Weaving. They have produced a book, and a set of patterns, specifically for hand woven fabric. I bought the book at Woolfest, then later I went on to their Etsy shop and bought a pattern. I decided that I really needed some practice before I attempt to weave fabric to use in a garment. I also had some hand dyed fleece, and some mixed fibre batts that I had created on my drum carder, which I wanted to try out on the loom. One of the great things about the Brinkley loom is the range of materials that can be used in the weft. I have posted about it on my old blog, and you can find those posts in the Archive. This is the first piece I wove on my own loom using double knitting yarn in the warp, and chunky self patterning yarn in the weft.
When I decided to do some practising my son asked me what I was making, and it raised that question of things having to have a purpose. In fact the piece I’ve just made doesn’t have a purpose, it is pure experimentation. This reminded me of something I heard someone say, I can’t remember who unfortunately, but the gist of it was: don’t get hung up on “wasting” fabric, yarn, fibre, etc, as the only way to learn and become proficient is to try things. So here is a series of photos of my experimental piece. I’d love to know how many of you have the same issue about making things purely to learn from, and feeling guilty about wasting money, materials, etc.
It’s now possible to buy my designs on a range of products, by clicking the links in the side bar, to my virtual shops. I have designs on Spoonflower, Redbubble, and Spreadshirt.
On Spoonflower I have grouped designs into 4 coordinating collections; collection 5 are a set of individual stand alone designs. I do intend to develop coordinates for each of them to sell in the shop, but that has to wait for the moment. Collections 1 to 4 each have their own colour palette, so all of the fabrics in one collection match as they all use the same five colours.
There are a range of products on Redbubble and Spreadshirt, including phone cases, mugs, cushions, and even flip flops. I’d love it if you could visit my shops and give me feedback on the designs.
I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts that I would love to develop my digital design skills, and it is my ambition to get funding for a decent computer with Adobe creative software. In the mean time my personal challenge is to create commercially viable digital designs using the tools available free on the Colourlovers.com website. I’m working on building a portfolio of designs that will prove I’m worth investing in.
In July the American print on demand company Spoonflower had an international free shipping day. I’d been waiting for it, as I knew they have at least one per year. Spoonflower enables designers to create a shop on their website selling fabric, gift wrap and wallpaper, but in order to sell my designs I had to order swatches. Shipping costs from America to the UK are high, which is why I was waiting for the free offer. I had 30 design swatches printed, which is the cheapest option. I created 5 sets of designs, with 6 patterns in each set. I chose 4 colour palettes and created 6 patterns in each. Customers can buy each of the designs from one collection knowing that they will match. The 5th set doesn’t have a unified palette, however I can now create more designs using the various colours in those patterns knowing what they look like in print. You can find my shop by clicking on this link: The Thread Shed Studio on Spoonflower
I’m hoping to find a UK based print on demand service that works like Spoonflower to make my designs more accessible here. There is a direct link from Colourlovers.com to Spoonflower which makes it really simple to upload my designs. As yet there isn’t a similar arrangement with a UK printer company. Hopefully that will come.
Spoonflower also do weekly design challenges. My entries haven’t won yet, however I will keep entering as I’d love to win one. The most recent one I’ve entered is called Butterfly Coordinates, and calls for 4 coordinating designs based, obviously, on butterflies. I’ve created my designs, and also uploaded them to my Redbubble shop, where they can be purchased on over 20 different products. One of those products is a cushion (or pillow as it is known in the USA). This is what my butterfly pattern would look like on 4 cushions. I’d love your feedback on the design. I will post details on how to vote in the Spoonflower challenge when voting opens later this month.
A few more photographs from our trip down to the south coast.
Firstly, the grounds of the ruined Battle Abbey – another glorious sunny day:
The last day of our holiday was dull and wet, but that didn’t stop us exploring. We went up the hill to Winchelsea and found the most beautiful little church. It has incredible stone work inside, and really is a little gem – well worth a visit. If you happen to be a fan of the late Spike Milligan this is where he’s buried. For any Methodists amongst you, John Wesley preached his last outdoor sermon in front of the church here.