Saturday, August 31, 2013

More fungus

How time flies!  I can't believe it is so late in August. Nearly spring. The blossom is out on our apricot and nectarine trees already.
I haven't been doing much in the way of textiles lately, just thinking about upcoming deadlines and how I might approach the briefs.
I have also been working on my felting skills, trying to keep ahead of the lessons I have been taking.  That is all working out ok, we will all be doing the same activity this week - I hope!  It may turn out that one or two children have missed a class and will need to be brought up to speed. I think the rest of the children will be making felt balls and we will try to string them into necklaces.  We had thought to do some embroidery on the dried felt but that may not happen as time is running out. Still, it is better to be overprepared than underprepared.
The art teacher and I have also been talking about working with groups of children on the theme of decomposition.  So my recent pictures of fungus have come in handy.  I found another sort on a walk in Kew recently, quite different from the others I have photographed.
The fungus is well camouflaged in the tree. 
It was in the tree at the front.
Good date today - 31/8/13.

Friday, August 30, 2013


Someone commented to our gardener family member  that the yellow flowers in our garden were looking lovely. They are - they are also a weed! And they spread out more and more each year.
Oxalis growing along the Eastern Freeway
I have dyed fabric with the flowers and can feel the urge coming over me to help with the eradication of the plant by cutting off the flowers and not allowing pollination but I have discovered that it spreads by bulbs, not seeds. So that won't be useful. So much for that urge.

I got good results last time by using frozen flowers. My family is not keen for me to do that again as I still have a biggish bag of hollyhock flowers in the freezer - and we don't have a big one. However, it is flowering season and I need to get them while they are around.  Maybe I should bite the bullet and just use them fresh. Get myself organised and use the frozen hollyhocks and the fresh oxalis.
Our glasshouse is being repaired, so I will have to find a new place to work for the time being. But if I leave it long enough, the glasshouse will be all beautiful and inviting and I might even feel enthusiastic about the dyeing.
We had to remove the hollyhock that was STILL FLOWERING last week, ready for the builders to trample all over the garden bed. Would you believe that it had buds?!

We went walking at Yarra Bend recently and saw a pink flower that looked a lot like oxalis, and had similarly shaped leaves, only flower and leaves were much bigger.
The picture was taken with my phone and I have great difficulty focussing it, apologies.

Then I noticed a slightly pinkish-white flower in our garden. It looks like oxalis too, only not yellow. That one has been got rid of, I can't imagine getting a good dye from such a pale flower.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Teaching wet felting to grade 3 and 4 students - part 3

I am remembering real teaching - how the best laid plans go awry.  Things to be dealt with: what to do with the few children who have finished the felting process; how to restart the felting process with the others, what to do with them when their work is felted as I think (hope!) that will happen fairly quickly; how to start off the children who have only done the laying out - yes, there are still some at that stage.
The plan had been to sew onto the felt, to emphasise the edges of the shapes and add highlights.  But they won't be able to do that if the felt is still damp, so we will have to do something else. Maybe I can revisit how I made felt beads and we can do that, then do the sewing the following week.  Or we might make some little 3D shapes, I'll have to experiment this week.  Thank goodness I am only doing it once a week and have time to remember how to do things - and how to manage a classroom.  I am enjoying it immensely but I am also getting a much greater appreciation of how hard it is for art teachers, so little time between one class and the next arriving, room needed to store works in progress, planning for students who finish early (or very slowly) and what they can do in such a limited space.

Yet another practice of felt balls and the cord.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Teaching wet felting to grade 3 and 4 students - part 2

Then for lesson two.
The work had to be redistributed, the demonstration done, the children who were absent last week given a very brief rundown of what they would do (this was a useful revision of last week) and the children set to work.
Much more running around this week!  The very thick pieces took ages to make really wet. In fact, I did things I would not have dreamt of showing the children normally. I picked up their work and flipped it over to see the back, to show them that it wasn't wet. We had the work sandwiched between the bubble wrap and the netting, so it stayed together well.

Things that I discovered: too much detergent will make the felting very slippery and hard to roll. You need to make the bubble wrap quite a bit larger than the paper we drew on - or make sure that the laying out of felt didn't go over the edge of the paper. Why? Because it was hard to roll bubble wrap around the stick before it got onto the wool. Both of these problems combined to make the bubble wrap and felt unravel, and wrinkle in some cases, and be quite hard to roll.  So, thinking on the run, I used the netting to wrap around the outside of the roll and it held it together much better. (I had decided not to use elastic bands around the ends of the sticks but may have to rethink that decision.)
Some of the designs were laid out close to the edge of the paper we used as our template. This meant that the design went over the edge a bit. We had different sorts of wool, in different microns.  I had meant to note that and get the children to see that the wool used makes a difference to the felting but that got lost in all the activity. However, we can pass them around when they are dry and see and feel the difference.  It will not be a controlled experiment because the children did not all lay out the same thicknesses of wool but it will let them see that felting is not an exact science - at least, not at our stage of development. We have samples that have shrunk much more than others and that are much thicker than others. So we will discuss this, and the uses each might be better for - mats, scarves, bags, coasters, etc.
Very different sizes from the same sized template.

The wool moved around before the felting, or early in the process.  And the folding-in of the edges wasn't entirely successful, that will be cut off.

The wool moved a little during the felting process and so the image is very close to the edge.

Because I had asked them not to start rolling till I had checked if the water had penetrated all layers, and they listened, there was a bit of a delay in getting some children to that point. But eventually everyone started rolling.
I had intended to rinse the soapy felt out in warm and then cold water but time got away from us.  So we just used the water we had and didn't change temperatures.  Not to worry, the felting was happening.
The children really enjoyed the part where you throw the felt down on the table.  Only a few got that far, so we will have to wet a lot of the pieces again next week and keep felting.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Teaching wet felting to grade 3 and 4 students - part 1

I thought I had it all under control - I had made lots of samples, worked out how I would do the felting and manage 25 - 30 children all at once.

The first week went ok - one grade was quite small as several children were absent.  This made is easier to get around to all the children and make sure they were going ok.  Of course, it also meant that there were 6 or so children there today who hadn't done the laying out of felt, while the rest were doing the felting.  Hmm.  Thank goodness I was only the visiting textile artist and the teacher could take that small group.
In the first lesson I gave the children a square piece of paper (A4 cut to be square), bubble wrap slightly larger and a piece of netting a similar size to the bubble wrap.
The children drew an outline of the fruit they were making.  Then they placed the bubble wrap on top and laid out the wispy bits of colour inside the lines of the image.

After that, they laid out the background colour.  It was a little tricky to explain that they had actually laid out their image from the back, that any highlights and special markings, would have to be done first, then the fruit shape laid on top.  But they managed it.

I demonstrated how to do the pulling out of the wispy bits of wool and how it needed three layers, at least, each at 90 degrees to each other (some maths thrown in there!).  But getting around a large group of children to make sure that they are not using too much wool (which was a much bigger problem than not enough) was an effort and, inevitably, some children have quite thick, and not that evenly distributed, wool.

We then laid some netting over the wool and gently rubbed it with our hands, to make the fibres cling together a bit. To keep it all together, we had a layer of bubble wrap, the wool, the netting and then their picture WITH THEIR NAMES ON on top.
It was then put carefully into a tub, ready for next week.
End of lesson one.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Making a forest floor machine embroidery piece - part four

Once I had the background, the fallen branch and the fungus, I had to audition where they would all go together. The brach was quite malleable and I had a bit of fun trying out various ways to place it. Some of them suggested to me that the branch had rotted quite a lot, it was quite good to be able to make it loosely branch-shaped and not have to make it too cylindrical.

Part of the assignment was to include some hand embroidery. This caused quite a bit of effort!  I had made a lovely background that was stiff and sewn down rather thoroughly.  It was extremely difficult to get a needle through it!!!!
I even managed to break a hand embroidery needle and get the end of a self-threading needle down my fingernail - not very far fortunately.  Two needles broken when hand sewing, in one day.

The resultant hand embroidery was subtle - to say the least.  I limited it to some moss/fungus (I am not really sure which it is) and a couple of tiny spider webs. 
I ended up doing the french knots on some silk paper I had made and then attaching that with a very fine running stitch.
One spider web was sewn on flat.  The other was a messy, 3D in the air, piece of sewing.  It looked realistic enough compared to some of the photos I had taken. Spider webs get damaged in the open. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I don't seem to have taken any really clear pictures of the finished piece, I have a close-up and one from above.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Making a forest floor machine embroidery piece - part three

The fallen branch was a bit floppy, so I couched some wire along the lines of the sari ribbon to give it a bit more strength.  I used reasonably soft wire (copper and stuff I got at the hardware store for tying up plants) and it was still quite malleable.
It looked a bit strange just lying there so I decided to make a base for it.  As I have already said, I have taken quite a few pictures of leaf litter and they were my inspiration for the next part.
I used the technique I learnt at the Olga Walters workshop.  I wanted it to be fairly firm, so I used a piece of adhesive interfacing, some wool wadding and fabric on the back and on top of the wadding.
The four layers with Vliesofix exposed on the top layer.
I used Vliesofix on the top layer of fabric and then cut up vaguely leaf-shaped pieces of fabric and ironed them on.  I also had some novelty yarns that I included, just a tiny amount.

It turned out that I hadn't covered all the Vliesofix and some of the baking paper stuck to the background.  You would think I would learn!  Luckily, most the the paper that I just couldn't get off was around the edges.  I had intended to have little leaf-shapes sticking out, so I just cut off all the bits with paper too. As it turns out, I could have cut more off as I think my base is a bit too big for the branch. But so far I have not cut more off. I may when I get it back from being marked for the assignment. Or I may not.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Wintry weather

Well, after commenting that we didn't seem to be having winter, it came yesterday.  It was strange, it was officially 11C degrees but apparently the humidity and strong winds lowered the temperatures to below zero.  It sure felt cold when we took the dog for her daily walk.
But today it was back to warmer weather.  Clear skies, no wind and a simply beautiful day.
We went to a different local park and I took yet more photos of leaf litter, trees, fungus and some plants growing in a billabong.
Here's Penny, helping me find mosses.

Normally I'd be annoyed that the seat back was dirty, today I enjoyed the beautiful design.

It seems as if we are gradually getting Melbourne's four seasons in one day back.  We really didn't have much change today but it will be cold overnight as the sky is clear, so two seasons today.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Making a forest floor machine embroidery piece - part two

We were asked to make a 3D piece for the assignment.  I had thought about Art Dolls, not my thing at all.  Vessels were a possibility but I found myself making things very similar to bowls I had already made and I couldn't see any real use for the piece I had modelled on a vase.
I ended up deciding to make a 'sculpture' of the forest floor.  I went back to some work I had done a year or so ago, making free motion machine lace and rolling it up to resemble a tree trunk.

This is where I was so happy to have blogged about it in the past, I found it easily online rather than having to search through various hardcopy visual diaries and not being sure where I had put that work. I just had to put in a term in the search box and there it was!

I used the same technique I had used previously and laid out some sari silk and some pieces of sinamay that I had.  I used them as part of the design and because the work seems to shrink less when I have a base such as this to hold the shape better.
I then hooped it up and sewed between the pieces, using them as good anchor points for the lacy part.

After that, I rolled it up loosely, to resemble a fallen branch,

and auditioned the fungus.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Making a forest floor machine embroidery piece - part one

After all my taking photos and thinking, I finally started making some distorted machine sewing based on the images.
I also used ideas from Exploring Dimensional Quilt Art by C June Barnes.  I didn't do the quilted shapes but used an idea for one piece. She explains her designs and the maths involved and they can be adapted to free motion sewing.
The idea was to make two identical circles, cut a slit in each one, then join them together.  I didn't quite follow the instructions but came up with something that could possibly be found on a forest floor.

I played around with ideas from the samples we had done, trying to use colours that might suggest a more muted fungus - despite the fact that I was finding orange fungus on my walks.

I wasn't sure how the non circular piece would come out once off the hoop but it turned out ok.
I chose a base fabric that was in the colour range I was using, so that it didn't matter if you could see a little bit of the fabric through the sewing.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Hugely disappointed!!!

This is nothing to do with textiles but I must comment and hope that people who read my blog will contact the Victorian Government.
The RSPCA has alerted us to the fact that the Victorian Government is proposing legislation for puppy breeding that is not acceptable. We only have till August 14th to send in our submissions about our response to the proposal. Go to this link to hear an interview with the minister responsible.
I find it exceptionally disappointing that the leader of the party making these proposals is a qualified vet. You can go to Oscar's Law to read more about this issue. (Facebook link to Oscars Law)
If you live in Victoria, Australia, please contact your local member and express your dismay at the proposed cruel treatment of dogs and cats.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Beneath the Southern Sky still travelling

I received an email recently about the travelling exhibition of banner quilts for Beneath the Southern Sky. I was lucky enough to have my work accepted for this and am always excited to hear about its travels around the world.  I would LOVE  to go to the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, in the UK and see it in August but, alas, will not be able to.  Here are a couple of links to some of the showings of the works. (Smilebox, American Quilters Society)
It is even going to South Africa - oh to be able to go and see them in another country.  I saw them twice in Australia, at the AQC and the Craft and Sewing Show last year but it would be even more special to be able to see them internationally.
I am so grateful to Brenda Gael Smith for organising the exhibition and putting in all the hard work to have it shown in so many venues. I am still amazed at the fact that I am in an exhibition with so many wonderful textile artists.

My piece in the exhibition was inspired by eucalyptus trees and their wonderful trunks.  I am still taking pictures of trees and branches, fallen or on the trees!  (Just look at my last couple of posts.) There seems to be a theme here.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Stump work, nothing to do with trees!

I have just been to the Embroiderers Guild for the monthly machine embroidery interest group meeting.  We don't do any actual sewing, we sit around and share ideas and tell of interesting exhibitions we have been to.  People are very sharing and pass on all sorts of information.
I showed some of my work from the SWTAFE class and also from the Olga Walters workshop. I seem to post my latest work off for assessment just before each meeting.

However, today I was blown away by the exhibition in the rooms - it was of the Stumpwork Masterclass work. It took two years to do the course and the work is amazing!!!!
We weren't allowed to take photos so I can only recommend going to the Guild rooms to see it.  It is well worth the trip.  The exhibition is on from August 3 to 31.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Fungus walk

As I have been experimenting with the samples for our assignment, some of them have made me think of fungus (or flowers).
To get this effect, you draw a circle on your fabric and then sew in straight lines from the centre.
It wrinkles as you sew, giving dimension. It has to be hooped to be manageable. The one nearest the camera was done by going around and around the circle, rather than straight stitching.
I did the samples with  a colour that I don't often use, to get rid of some of it.

I had to take the camera out again and get more photos, while walking the dog. This time I was looking at various fungi that is in the park. As I have said, it has not been very wintry (although it is today!!) and the park is reasonably dry. I did find a few dampish spots though and there were some interesting sights - if I looked carefully.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Texture walk

I have been working on my latest assignment for the SWTAFE machine embroidery course this week - after a bit of a slump in the last couple of weeks. We were asked to come up with a 3D object.  We had to do samples using a few different techniques and I found a lot of my work tending towards organic shapes - what a surprise!  Not.
I have plenty of pictures of trees and tree trunks, logs, etc. but just had to take more.  Some of the older ones were lost when I deleted all my photos (I will recover from this eventually) but I still have a rather good collection.
However, I took my camera with me on the last couple of walks with the dog and it was my turn to get distracted and wander off into the bushes.  The walks have been an absolute bonus, given how my back reacts to hours of sitting and sewing.
Here are some of the images that I have been using - my theme has been fallen branches and leaf litter, which might explain some of the otherwise not very interesting photos.

It is funny how having a particular theme makes you look at things differently.  I will have walked past these branches and stumps many times without taking much notice but this time I could see wonderful patterns and designs.