Sunday, 30 July 2017

New Beginnings: Certificate Module 5 - get ready ...set ...

Very excited to be starting a new module and a woodland walk last week gave the perfect opportunity to take lots of textural photographs.  Now I can hardly wait to get stuck in!

However, in this, the penultimate module of the Certificate, I'm determined to learn from my experiences.  I will try to curb my enthusiasm (temporarily) and get organised with the equipment and materials I will need.  It is not ideal to have to search the house (not to mention the garden shed/summertime studio) while in the middle  of a piece of work and so I have taken time to gather what I will need and keep it in one handy place.  It also gives me the opportunity to make a shopping list of anything I am lacking.

I worked my way through the requirements list and put together everything I could find from the list.  First the design materials:

Next the embroidery materials, first of all threads:

And then fabrics and sewing equipment:

Next, tools and equipment:

Now where to keep it all?  The sewing machine lives on a shelf underneath the table on which I use it.  The rest, in plastic boxes, can sit on top of my sewing trolley.

Finally, a shopping list of things that might be useful, but I don't have them.  One online shop should do it.

  • matte medium (I prefer it to any other kind of glue, but I'm running short)
  • Markal oil bar in white
  • more black ink (I have only a small amount)
  • quilting wool
  • pipe cleaners

OK, now I'm ready for action.  Watch this space ...

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Certificate Module 4: Health and Safety Rules observed

The main opportunity for accidents in my studio is the lack of space and congestion and muddle that can result when I am on a roll and working flat out, not pausing to tidy things away.  I have to be careful that this doesn't cause:

  • spillage of potentially damaging paints, chemicals etc
  • tripping over  boxes, bags and trailing electrical wires
  • accidental damage (to objects or self!) from hot or sharp tools caused by putting things on top of them
In order to avoid this I have tried hard to:
  • tidy as I go along (a place for everything and everything in its place
  • be careful of where I use electrical things to avoid trailing wires
  • make sure I have plenty of power points in my studio to avoid using multi-adaptors where possible
  • use a heat proof mat when using hot tools
  • letting heat tools cool completely before storing them away
  • keeping sharp objects in a box while they are not in use
  • taking frequent breaks so that tiredness doesn't cause carelessness
For this particular module, other safety actions I've observed are:
  • Using a self-healing cutting mat while punching holes in acetate
  • Keeping bleach in a sealed container, upright in a secure place
  • Using a mask and working in a well ventilated area while using bleach
  • In bookbinding, always keeping the awl covered when not in use
  • wearing a mask when mixing up powdered pigments
  • making sure that mouse and keyboard are in a good position when working on computer and taking frequent breaks to stretch arms and shoulders and rest eyes by looking out at the garden
  • when machine embroidering, always using a darning foot to guard the needle and avoid sewing through fingers!  (I've learned this some time ago through bitter experience!  Not something I'd repeat again.)
  • This is one that I didn't observe yesterday but will in future and that is not to work on something absorbing while in the garden, scantily clad in midgie weather (hot and humid).  Scottish midgies are awful and I'm still scratching! I was so intent on what I was doing that I didn't notice until it was too late.

Certificate Module 4: Storage of Work, Materials, Tools and Equipment


(Whilst my storage is not perhaps ideal, I think I have made best use of the very limited space at my disposal.  It has taken a lot of thought and trial and error to fit so much into so little space!)

Design work in progress
In a folder on top of a chest of drawers
Completed embroidery
Wrapped in acid free tissue paper and stored in a large lidded plastic box
Completed design work
In an A2 portfolio case.  Ideally this would be kept flat but in our tiny cottage this is not an option, so it stands against a wall behind the sofa
Papers for design work
Large sheets in A2 portfolio case, smaller pieces in a folder in the bookcase.  In between size (A3 approx) on top of a chest of drawers.
Ink and paint for design work
Upright, lids secure, in a trolley that can be wheeled to where needed (no children or pets around to worry about)
Other items, glue, bleach, sprays
Some in a drawer, some in a cupboard, some on the art trolley.
Embroidery work in progress
Plastic box with a lid and handle to carry around easily to where I am working
Frequently used fabrics in a storage unit with three deep drawers.  Less often used ones in a large deep lidded plastic box under the bed
Machine sewing threads in custom storage boxes, frequently used hand sewing threads on rings hung on wall, less frequently used in a drawer
Beads, metal threads etc
In custom storage boxes
Dyes, paints etc
In large lidded plastic boxes in a storage unit
Sewing machines
Upright on floor under work table.  Ideally I’d have an extra table so the machine could be set up at all times, but not enough space.
Other electrical equipment
In a lidded plastic box in storage unit

Certificate Module 4: Costing Materials and Recording Time


5  A4 sheets of acetate          £1.84
Printing four A4 sheets         £0.39
0.25m jute scrim                   £0.50
Thread                                   £1.70
Glue sticks for glue gun        £0.34
Matte medium                       £0.60

Total cost of materials          £5.37


Date when design work was started              29.03.2017
                                        completed              14.06.2017

Date when embroidered item was started     29.03.2017
                                                 completed     14.03 2017

Total number of hours spent working on the design work 18 hours

Total number of hours spent working on the embroidery   34 hours

Certificate Module 4: Evaluation


The completed embroidered assessment piece for Module Four is a concertina book based on the design topic of the North East of Scotland herring industry.

How do you feel about the resultant conclusion?

This has not been the easiest of projects for me, with an abortive false start and difficulties in motivating myself as well as a crisis of self-confidence.  It has raised, and shone a light on, the shortcomings in my approach to design.  I have, in almost every creative project I have undertaken, had difficulty in progressing from the initial, exciting ideas stage, through a gradual process of simplifying and selecting, to reach the final conclusion.  

My tutor's kindly and tactful, if firm, advice made me realise the mistake that I had been making - that I had been so anxious about whether the assessed conclusion would be good enough, that I was rushing from the initial ideas stage to the conclusion without giving enough time and energy to the development and selection stage - my work was end-led and I just wanted to finish it quickly.  

When I realised that I was missing out the most important part of the design process, and managed to change my thinking to consider it a chance to play with my initial ideas, honing them gradually until the conclusion happened naturally, in an unrushed way, I felt an immediate feeling of relaxation - a letting go of the stress that my rushing to the conclusion had produced in me.  When I adopted this new approach, I found that I was really happy with my finished book.  I found that it said what I wanted to say in a way that expressed my personality.  

I am extremely happy with the resultant conclusion to this piece, both because I like how it looks and because it has enabled me to solve a problem which has dogged me for years.  Although I have never had children, the experience: emotional, sometimes difficult and often painful, makes me think of a pregnancy, with the resulting birth of my own artistic voice.  My task now is to nurture and care for it.

Is it fit for purpose?  Give reasons.

The purpose of this book was to illustrate, in an attractive way, some features of a now-vanished way of life and to pay tribute to all the people, including my husband's late grandfather, who were involved in the herring industry.  I am satisfied that it does this and so is thus fit for purpose.

If you were asked to make  it again, what changes would you make to the way you designed it and the way you made it?

I would not make any changes in how I designed and made it, since during both processes I felt a feeling of utter certainty - almost as though the resulting conclusion already existed and I was merely uncovering it.

Where I would make changes, in the light of my experience during this module, is in my working method, taking time for the crucial development and selection process.  I would also try to worry less!!

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Certificate Module 4 Chapter 11 Finally

4.11.C1  Finished book

Here is the finished book.  I took as my theme the now-vanished herring industry of the North East of Scotland, an industry that played a large part in my husband's family history.  He is the last in a long line of fishermen and herring curers and has a wealth of old photos of the industry.  Since herring was caught all round the coast of the UK at different times of year, fishermen, coopers, gutters and packers travelled all around the country following "the silver darlings".

I tried to find one symbol which, for me, encapsulated the romance and fascination of that vanished world and at length found it in the circle - the shape of the tops of the barrels in which the fish were packed, the shape of the scales on the herring and the portholes in the boats.

I worked nine samples of drawn thread work on hessian, using the natural colour of the fabric, white for the spray on the waves and the salt used in the curing, grey and blue for the skies and seas and silver for the flash of sparkle from the fish.  I chose my favourite nine photographs, all taken from my husband's grandfather's herring curing yard in Great Yarmouth around the turn of the 19th/20th century.  I cropped and resized them using Photoshop before printing them out on acetate.  I experimented with which sample to place on which background and it was quite fun deciding which tantalising glimpses of the photos were visible through the stitching.

Finally I attached each stitch sample to its acetate backing, using a hot glue gun to attach them invisibly.  I punched holes in the edges of each page and used insertion stitches using silver thread to join them together to make a concertina book.

Here following are the individual pages of the book.

4.11.C2  page 1 of the book

 I like how in page 1 the pulled thread work focuses in on the hard-working hands of the herring gutters.  They had to wrap their fingers in strips of cloth to protect their skin from the wet and salty conditions and to give them a firmer grip on the slippery fish.  A line of "The Herring Gutters Song" is "Yer han's are sair and chappit and they look an unco sicht"  (Your hands are sore and chapped and they look an ugly sight).

4.11.C3  page 2 of the book

 In page 2 I have three circles.  On the top threads are withdrawn leaving horizontal bars over which herringbone stitch is worked.  The centre circle is worked in Hedebo style with lines of concentric chain stitch worked before the entire circle is cut out, revealing the arms of two herring girls.  In the bottom circle, I cut a circle from an extra photo and attached it using Indian shisha stitch.  It shows the head and shoulders of a herring girl.

4.11.C4  page 3 of the book

 In page three, I used a Dorset button technique, wrapping a charity shop bangle in silver buttonhole stitch before throwing stitches across the circle to make a grid.  I then wove some ribbon through the grid.

4.11.C5   page 4 of the book

In page 4, I used pulled thread work to pull the threads back to make a circular space.  To keep the space from closing up, I painted on a thin coat of acrylic matt medium before leaving it overnight with a small bottle inside the hole.   The next day, keeping with the Dorset button them, I stitched across the diameter of the hole using mohair yarn and then worked spider's web filling.  The misty effect of the yarn represents to me the misty weather and the sea spray.

4.11.C6   page 5 of the book

In page 5, I couched a group of stiffish dark blue linen thread in a circle.  I then withdrew threads horizontally and vertically to make a grid.  I worked Russian Drawn Thread ground in a matching thread and then wove strips of shot sheer polyester and glittery blue thread through the resulting grid.

4.11.C7   page 6 of the book
In page 6, I outlined the circle in dark blue, removed four thread and left four vertically and horizontally and then worked  spider's web stitch in a glittery blue thread.

4.11.C8   page 7 of the book
In page 7, I worked concentric circles of chain stitch with various threads, then withdrew two threads and left two both horizontally and vertically before working a diagonal filling stitch in a thread which closely matched the colour of the fabric.

4.11.C9  page 8 of the book
In page 8 I formed a pulled thread circle in the same manner as in page 1.  I then outlined it in buttonhole stitch using a silver thread and worked a technique I found in a lucky charity shop book: "The New Lace Embroidery (Punto Tagliato)" by L.A.Tebbs, published by Chapman and Hall, Ltd, of London in 1905.  I found it particularly satisfactory that the book was published only a few years before these photographs were taken.

4.11.C10  page 9 of the book
In page 9 I tried something different.  I cut a circle from a spare printed acetate and cut out a grid from it.I threaded pieces of fabric (a strip of hessian, strips of recycled sari fabric and a narrow piece of worked drawn thread work) through the grid.  I then attached that circle onto a page of printed acetate.

To join the pages together, I punched holes in the edges of the printed acetate and then worked a simple insertion stitch to join them.  I was intrigued to find that the resulting stitches looked somewhat like fish bones!

The transparency of the acetate with the openness of the drawn thread work made some interesting layering effects when the book was folded in certain ways.  Here are some examples below.



Finally, here are some different views of the book.




This chapter has filled me with mixed emotions, with several  false starts, stress, frustration and many sleepless nights.  However, I am pleased with the results, which expresses in my own way what I want to say about a now-vanished industry.  There are only a few people left now who remember the days of the herring boom, when processing ships were known as "klondikers" because of the fortunes to be made.  The fact that only tantalising glimpses of the photos can be seen represents to me the fact that only a little information is now available about what was a whole way of life for so many people in my part of the world.  Soon those memories too will fade and be forgotten.

My heart and soul is in this humble piece of work.

Catherine Slater
14th June 2017.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Certificate Module 4, Chapter 11 - Moving On

When I received Sian's feedback on my last post, as usual, she got right to the heart of my difficulties.  She thought that I could narrow down the elements still further and, more importantly, that I had jumped to a bit of a premature conclusion.  Of course she was right and I realised my motives had been just to get shot of this module as soon as possible.  She suggested that I explore various ways of making rings using stitching and fabric.

When I thought about it, I was able to set aside my urge to finish quickly and to just relax, enjoy playing with various samples and let it take its own time to reach a conclusion.  Sian reassured me by saying I should have faith that it would all come together to thrill me with the results.

This was just the advice I needed and I've had fun over the past few weeks.  I did simplify the elements  into circles (from the barrels and the fish scales) and grids (from the fishing nets).  The grids were ideally symbolised by drawn thread work.

Here below are the samples I've done:

4.11.Sample 1

Sample 1 was cheating just a little as it was pulled thread work rather than drawn thread.  The hessian was so loosely woven that I could just push my hand through to distort the threads.  I painted the back with acrylic matt medium to hold the circle open and stabilise the threads.  After drying overnight I worked buttonhole stitch around the circle.

4.11.Sample 2
Sample 2 was made by working stem stitch in a circle and then withdrawing 4 threads and leaving 4 in both directions.  A shiny thread was then used to work around each square of remaining fabric going over 1 group of threads and under two.

4.11.Sample 3
Sample 3 was worked in the same way as Sample 1 and then a white mohair thread was used to throw across 4 threads before working around as in a Dorset Button to fill the circle.

4.11.Sample 4
Sample 4 was made from a charity shop bangle.  I worked buttonhole stitch around the outside with silver thread, as in Dorset Buttons and then turned the edge to the inside.  I then laid down some more silver threads, this time in a grid rather than like the spokes of a wheel.  I then wove some narrow ribbon through the threads.

4.11.Sample 5
In Sample 5, I worked three circles.  The top one was worked as Hedebo work, with the circle outlined with rows of chain stitch before threads were removed horizontally.  Herringbone stitch was worked over the remaining bars and then strips of acetate, printed with the old photographs (which were the initial inspiration for this topic) woven between the bars.  In the second circle, the rows of chain stitch were worked and then the whole centre of the circle removed.  In the bottom circle, shisha stitch was worked to secure a circle cut from the printed acetate.  I like that the weave of the fabric can be seen under the acetate.

4.11.Sample 6

In sample 6, I worked a circle with rows of chain stitch using different threads.  I then withdrew two threads and left two within the circle and worked Russian drawn thread ground over the grid using a thread similar in colour to the hessian.

4.11. Sample 7
In Sample 7, a bunch of dark blue threads were couched down in a circle before threads were withdrawn from the inside of the circle in the ratio withdraw two, leave two in both directions.  Russian Drawn Thread ground was then worked before strips of irridescent shot  sheer fabric and some shiny threads were woven through the grid.

4.11. Sample 8

Sample 8 was worked in the same way as Sample 1 but in silver thread.  A grid of threads was then laid down before needlelace was worked over them, weaving a small circle around each intersection.  I found the technique for this technique in another lucky charity shop find: a book by L.A. Tebbs, entitled "The New Lace Embroidery (Punto Tagliato)" published by Chapman & Hall, Ltd in London in 1905!

4.11. Sample 9

In Sample 9, I turned the technique used in Sample 5 on its head - instead of replacing drawn threads in fabric with strips of printed acetate, I cut a grid of holes in an overall circular shape from a piece of printed acetate and wove through strips of fabric, one of which had been worked with drawn thread work.

I liked all these little samples so much that, while I was working on them, I wondered if I could join them together to make a little book, perhaps a concertina one.  They would need some sort of support or stiffening in order to stand up.  Could I perhaps mount them on perspex or acetate.  I had been keen to incorporate the old photographs in some way, perhaps I could print the old photos onto acetate and mount each sample on a photograph.

I had a little try with two photos and used sellotape to temporarily mount the work on them, using a simple insertion stitch to join them.  You can see the results below in Sample 10.

4.11. Sample 10

Here below are all 9 of my samples each laid on a printed photo.  I've laid them out on a white table to make them easier to see.

Drawn thread work samples laid over photos printed on acetate

I think I might be onto something here . . .