Tuesday, 30 September 2014

My First Masterboard–Circles and Swirls

Long post, picture rich!

For some time now I have been fascinated by Angela’s masterboards. At first I had no idea what they were, but reading her posts, I learnt that a masterboard is a large sheet of paper or card covered with layers of inking, stamping, stencilling, etc. etc., forming a background sheet that can then be cut up and used for projects. I think this is a totally brilliant idea – why buy expensive papers when you can create your own? You can tailor the design to suit your particular projects, and all the while, practise different techniques and explore different colour combinations. It doesn’t matter if “mistakes” occur (is there such a thing as a mistake in this sort of work? I’ve read that in mixed media, there are no mistakes, only more layers!!) – they can be covered up with more embellishment, or strategically placed on the project where they are going to be covered up with something else.

I have a large pack of A3 paper – not brilliant quality, just your basic office paper. Since I am going to be using mostly distress inks to start with, and the work isn’t going to get terribly wet, I thought this would be good enough at least for now.

My first masterboard was made with my recycled mini-album in view, and I hoped to make a nice dark grungey brown one, but it took a great deal of work to get there, and on the way, a lot of the effects I added were obliterated by subsequent layers. However, this was a learning curve for me; looking back, I think I would have done well to stop about half way through as I’d got a really nice masterboard, which could have been used for other purposes! For the album, I would have done better to use darker paper to start with, but you live and learn.

Here are some of the materials I used. I also used clear embossing powder as a resist.

01 Materials

Nearly out of shot to the right is my sepia archival ink which should have been in the photo. At the back you can see some of the distress inks used, and a roll of baking parchment for ironing off the embossing resist. At the end of the project I also used distress stains.

Unfortunately I didn’t remember to take any photos until I’d got fairly well on with it, and have grabbed a few frames from the video I made of the first half of the project.

I began by inking all over the sheet with a mixture of Old Paper and Antique Linen distress inks, blending them well with my Inkylicious Ink Dusters.

03 Inking with Old Paper

At this point, I stamped with a text stamp from Creative Expressions (Umount “Textures” set):

Umount Textures Stamps

using Pumice Stone distress ink, but as the project progressed, this stamping was obliterated. I did not use an acrylic block with this stamp as I wanted a rough, less than perfect result. This is a great technique I learnt fairly recently on Youtube.

04 Text Stamping

After this, I added further distress ink in Dried Marigold.

05 Inking with Dried Marigold

06 Inked and Stamped

I then used a small swirl stamp (CFLR 0211 from The Stamp Barn) to apply Versamark, and added clear embossing powder.Once this had been heated, it acted as a resist to further inking.

06 Swirls Resist Stamping

Once this was done, I inked over the swirls resist with Aged Mahogany distress ink, and wiped the ink off the resist with some kitchen paper.

07 Aged Mahogany Over Swirls Resist

Then I inked through some sequin waste with Tea Dye distress ink, but again, most of this subsequently got obliterated by further layers being added.

08 Tea Dye Through Sequin Waste

09 Tea Dye Through Sequin Waste Detail

It was at this stage that I think I could have stopped, but I was determined to get it good and grungey for my album. Further inking and clear embossing resist followed, the latter being done with my large bubble wrap stamping block – I made this from a wooden stamp block that I’d removed the rubber stamp from, in order to use it unmounted, and I glued a piece of bubble wrap onto the block.

10 Large Bubble Wrap Stamp

Unfortunately the circles it generated were larger than I really wanted – I would have done better to use my small bubble wrap block.

11 Heat Embossing with Large Bubble Wrap

I emphasised the circles with more distress ink, this time in Vintage Photo.

12 Inking with Vintage Photo

Because the circles were so big, the sheet ended up with a very plasticky feel with all the clear embossing on it, and if I was going to add any further interest to the lighter-coloured circles, this would have to go.

It took me quite a while, but I managed to iron off most of the embossing, by placing the sheet face-down onto another sheet and sandwiching the whole thing between non-stick baking parchment and applying a hot iron.

I tried to keep the blotting-off sheet lined up with the masterboard as much as possible and avoided moving it, so that the transferred embossing might make a useable pattern on the second sheet. I have done this before – the definition is not as clear, but the results can be quite interesting, and it acts as a resist as before.

15 Paper Used for Blotting Off Embossing

I had to use a second sheet just to mop up any remaining embossing, and while this did not leave such a clear pattern, it has made some interesting marks that may respond well to further inking. I wasn’t so careful about keeping it in one place so the effect is more random, especially as much of the embossing had already been removed onto the first sheet.

17 Second Blotting Off Paper

Here is the masterboard at this stage, just after the removal of the embossing.

02 After Removing Clear Embossing

The paper has a soft, slightly waxy feel to it. I hoped I had removed sufficient embossing to allow further inking. Like waxed paper, it behaves differently when viewed with a light behind, and this is what it looks like:

03 After Removing Clear Embossing, Held to the Light

The colour has completely disappeared from the embossed parts!

The blotting off sheets appear very different when viewed with a light behind, too.

05 Paper Used for Blotting Off Embossing, Held to the Light

You can see that whereas the circles appear dark on the normal view, and the untreated paper appears white, in the second picture this is reversed.

As far as the main sheet is concerned, I re-stamped the script background, but it didn’t show up sufficiently, and nor did an attempt at stencilling with first Black Soot Distress Ink and then black archival ink – not a great success! The masterboard still wasn’t dark and grungey enough to be used in my mini-album so I had to get drastic with it.

First of all, I inked it all over with Dusty Concord Distress Ink, using an Inkylicious Ink Duster. Sometimes purple will dull down whatever’s underneath, and while this did have that effect to a slight degree, it wasn’t enough. Time to unleash the Distress Stains. I went over the whole thing with Pumice Stone but again, although it dulled it down a little, it was still not dark enough, so I used Gathered Twigs all over, and blotted it with a piece of kitchen paper to reduce the streaks, and then added Dusty Concord on the large circles. I blotted them a bit, and then did a splat on the circles with the Dusty Concord and dried it with my heat gun (it took ages). I then re-splatted most of the circles and left it to dry. This is the final result.

18 Finished Masterboard

19 Finished Masterboard Detail

It is now really quite dark and grungey, and definitely useable for the mini-album. What a sweat, though, getting it to this stage!!

I am having great success with the blotting off sheets, and shall do a blog post about those in due course.

Video to follow.

Friday, 26 September 2014

House Move Card and New Envelope Board

Last weekend, my aunt moved into a residential home near my cousin in Somerset, so I made her a “welcome to your new home” card. While Mum was away, my sister took her to see my aunt once she had settled in, and she said the place was very nice, and was on the high street in a country market town. When Mum saw the card I’d made, she said it looked very much like the real thing, which I was pleased about, not having seen it!

01 Finished Card

I sketched the outline of the houses onto a piece of scrap office printing paper and then went round the outline with a black zig permanent pen. After drawing in the details (roof tiles, chimneys, windows etc.), I accentuated the edges with a thicker Zig pen to create some shadows.

Using Distress Inks as watercolours (smooshing the ink pad on my craft sheet and then picking up the ink on a wet brush), I painted most of the houses with Tea Dye, and used Black Soot for the shadows and for the roof tiles, to create a monochrome effect. I picked out one of the houses in colour (Spiced Marmalade for the roof, and Barn Door for the house itself) to make it pop.

I matted and layered this drawing onto a piece of scrap gold card that was part of a face cream box. To create the background on the base card, I applied circular shapes with an Inkylicious Ink Duster in Tea Dye and Aged Mahogany Distress Inks, and after assembling the card, I wrote the sentiment by hand.

02 Card Inside

On the inside, I used the same Distress Inks to add a bit of interest to the white card, and again hand-wrote the text.

WeR Memory Keepers Envelope Punch Board

I recently saw this online and was impressed by its ease of use, and the fact that you can use it to create other objects besides envelopes – boxes, gift pouches, etc. I have never had any success with envelope boards in the past and this looked so easy, I decided to give it a try.

WeRMemory Keepers Envelope Punch Board

I was certainly not disappointed! The board comes with a chart printed on it (inches) and with a separate sheet with metric numbers. It comes with its own bone folder which slots into the semi-circular recess on the right hand side. You can see that there is a scoring line running diagonally from the top on the right, and a central button, from which projects a small pointer. To the left of the button is a ruler, in inches and centimetres.

What you do is to choose the size on the chart which is nearest to your card size, and it tells you how big to cut the paper. It is very clever because the measurements it gives you for cutting and scoring make allowances for the need for there to be a bit of “play” so that the card is not too tight a fit in the envelope.

You line the paper up with edge of the board at the top. The chart also tells you the measurement to line the paper up to, against the ruler. Once you have done this, you press the blue button, which punches out a notch. Without moving the paper, you score down the diagonal groove. You then remove the paper, and turn it counter-clockwise through 90 degrees. There is no longer any need to measure, because all you have to do is line up the scored line to the pointer, and then punch and score again. You repeat this for the other two sides.

The final step is to insert each corner in turn into the back of the button, and punch. This rounds the corners.

Here is how my envelope came out.

03 Envelope Outside

You can see that I have lightly inked it in the manner as before, and in the same colours, but keeping it very light.

I turned it over and inked one of the flaps, which will be the opening of the envelope, again using the same colours.

04 Envelope Inside

I extended the inking down into the centre of the envelope – this inking would then become the “lining” of the envelope.

Here is the envelope made up.

05 Envelope Made Up

I folded the envelope along all of the score lines, and ran my ATG gun along the edges of the flap opposite to the opening, and stuck them down, thus holding the envelope secure. If you wanted to, you could run a little envelope glue along the edges of the top flap, but I didn’t bother – I just slipped the flap into the back of the envelope.

Here is the card with its matching envelope.

06 Envelope and Card

If you make a long thin envelope, the bottom flap will project upwards in a point. You can always cut this off if you don’t like it. You can also change which flaps go on front and which behind, when making it up, so that you can have a long thin envelope opening at one end, if you so desire.

I suddenly find that I am able to make cards of any size or shape! Before the board, I tended to restrict myself to either A5 or A6 (finished size) cards, because these were the sizes for which I had envelopes. Today I really pushed the boat out, and made a square card! This is such a totally cool tool and it’s so easy to use, to get a good result every time. I can see this becoming a very useful tool indeed, and I’d recommend it to anyone to add to their equipment arsenal.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

First Felt-Making Class

Last night was my first felt-making class. We were instructed to bring along an eclectic group of objects ranging from large sheets of bubble wrap, a rolling pin and a bar of soap (preferably olive oil) to a plastic milk bottle with two lids! This last one intrigued me no end and I couldn’t wait to find out the purpose of the second lid!

Looking at the pieces of roving that I had dyed:

01 Orange, Pink and Browns for Felt Class

I realised that the dyeing process had started to felt the fibres; not seriously as they could still be pulled apart, but it was noticeable. This happens very easily, however careful one is with minimum handling and manipulation of the fibres. I decided the only answer was to card them, which I then proceeded to do, and this separated the fibres again, but turned the rovings (with the fibres running parallel to the length of the roving) into rolags (short lengths with the fibres running around at right angles to the length) – these latter are what are produced from the carding process, and are used by spinners. It completely dealt with the felting problem and the wool ended up incredibly soft and aerated.

03 Dyed Wool, Carded

Here is my box, all packed up and ready to go for the class.

02 Box Ready for Class

You can see the bubble wrap on the left, then my apron, some dyed wool, a piece of foam (for needle felting, which we didn’t do tonight), a glimpse of the rolling pin, and finally the famous milk bottle! Everything else is underneath.

My hubby drove me over, and it was really quite near where we live – a beautiful modern school with lots of fantastic facilities. Our class was held in a room fitted out as a woodworking workshop with lots of benches with vices on them, but there were also lots of tables and chairs, and a sink for water, so it was ideal, as we each had a table to work at.

There were nine of us in the class – a very nice number – enough to make a good class but not so many that you didn’t get individual attention.

Our teacher is a very nice lady who told us that she also teaches mosaics, candle making and soap making, and was very delighted that she had been asked to teach the felt-making class because she loves it so much.

Tonight’s assignment, as stated in the instruction sheet for the course, was to make a scarf in autumn colours, but as it turned out, we were allowed to be a lot more flexible than this. We had been told to bring along some Merino rovings in various colours, but the teacher set up a large sale table and there was plenty of wool to buy if anyone had not managed to get any.

I decided early on that I didn’t really want to make a scarf, mainly because it is quite a long piece of felt and I wasn’t sure how well my arms would hold out, and also I’m not really a scarf person, unless it’s very cold weather! Also, I realised pretty soon on that I didn’t have enough of any one colour to give cohesion to the design, so I opted for a smaller, rectangular piece which could end up as a small hanging, or be used for other purposes. Anyway, tonight’s class was an introductory session just to give us a feel for the medium, and to experience the technique of wet felt making for ourselves. As for the autumn colours, only a few people followed this guideline and there was plenty of variety besides!

The first 40 minutes of the class was taken up with the teacher showing us the various pieces of felt that she’d made, ranging from scarves to 3-D flowers, and little pictures to bags. She then explained the basic principles of felt making, and what makes wool felt, and then she did a demonstration so that we would know what to do.

It immediately became clear what the second milk bottle lid was for! We had to mix up some flakes of the olive oil soap in water as hot as we could bear it, in the milk bottle. One lid was left intact, so that one could shake up the contents, or take it home without spilling it, and the second had holes pierced in it. The bottle was then used to sprinkle the hot soapy water all over the felt.

I took my camera, but until the end, forgot all about using it, as we were so engrossed, and so busy for the entire time!

The first stage was to lay out one piece of bubble wrap (bubble side up) and then to arrange overlapping pieces of wool pulled off the roving, so that all the fibres ran parallel, in the same direction. For the second layer, the fibres were laid at right angles, and then a final layer was laid down, the fibres being as in the first layer. This would give strength to the felt. We were told not to do more than three layers of fairly thinly spread wool fibres, because if it was too thick, it wouldn’t be very pleasant to wear as a scarf.

The final layer was where we could introduce some pattern, with different colours being laid down, and we were told that you could add different fibres for texture at this stage, but anything non-wool (and non-felting) would have to be trapped under a thin layer of wool to anchor it in place.

Once all the fibres were laid down, the whole thing was wetted with the hot soapy water from the milk bottle. The second layer of bubble wrap was then laid on top, bubble side down, and then the surface was wetted with more soap solution from the milk bottle, and with the bar of soap being rubbed over the surface – this made a nice slippery surface, to make the next stage easier.

Now was where the hard work began. At first, the rubbing had to be gentle, so that the pieces of fibre underneath wouldn’t shift. This is not an exact science, of course, and there is always some movement, but that’s the joy of any hand-made project! As the felting process started to take hold (after about 5 mins) one could get more vigorous, and eventually quite aggressive, until about ten minutes had elapsed.

We were then told to peel back the bubble wrap and examine the work. The “pinch test,” whereby you pinch a little from the surface of the work and see how well stuck down it is – if it lifts too much, then more rubbing is required, but if you couldn’t pull it out very far and were able to lift the piece with it, it was felting well. We were told to expect shrinkage of about a third.

The bubble wrap sandwich with the felt in between, was then transferred onto a towel, and this was rolled up with the felt in the middle like a Swiss roll. We then had to do what the teacher called “rock and roll” – rolling the Swiss roll back and forth a hundred times, then unrolling it and turning it round, and repeating the process. Depending on the result after the second time of rolling, one either advanced to the next stage or did some more rocking and rolling. When this process was complete, the Swiss roll could be unrolled and the felt taken out.

If insufficient felting and shrinking had taken place by this stage, we were told to bunch up the piece and throw it as violently as possible onto the table top to increase more shrinking. Once we were satisfied with the result, the felt had to be rinsed to get the soap out, and then we all laid out our work on the table for teacher/group critique.

Here are some photos of the work. Bear in mind that this is still wet, and the samples don’t look as good as they will when fully dry.

04 First Class - Students' Work

05 First Class - Students' Work

06 First Class - Students' Work

07 First Class - Students' Work

As you can see, there’s quite a bit of variety! The teacher said that considering that this was our first attempt, we had done very well.

I realised after I took these pictures that I didn’t include my own piece! Here it is, after it had dried.

08 My First Piece of Felt

I began it by laying down the first layer of avocado-dyed wool. The second layer was a mostly undyed wool – you can see a bit of this at the bottom where I didn’t cover it up adequately. The third layer was mostly greens and browns, and I tried to pull them out into thin strands, overlapping them and keeping them at different lengths. Finally, I laid down circles of orange and added small rolled-up pieces of brown and orange. Things do move around a bit once you start the felting process, but that’s part of the attraction of the whole thing – you never know quite what you are going to end up with!

I am surprised just how quickly the felting process takes place, and how fast one can make a small project. I had thought it would take a lot longer and a lot more effort to get the fibres to felt together but it is fast enough to be alarming if one isn’t careful – the teacher warned us to keep all supplies of dry wool well out of the way once we started, because if it accidentally got wet, especially with hot water, and was then agitated and moved, felting would take place immediately.

This was so much fun to do. I love how the fibres blend together and form quite a firm, soft fabric – there’s so much potential in this! I am looking forward to being able to make three-dimensional pieces, and adding texture to the surface, incorporating different fibres, adding embellishments (made from felt or other materials), hand and machine embroidery, and using resist to prevent two surfaces from felting together… the possibilities are endless! You can make virtually anything out of felt and I have found thousands of pictures online (Pinterest is a great source) – people even make delightful little cat beds out of it!

This morning I was very tired indeed when I woke up, probably as a result of all the physical work I did last night! I had a lie-in and rested this morning. Felting is probably not an activity I will be able to do every day but I have proved myself well able to do it, so I am feeling very encouraged. It’s another string to my bow!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

WOYWW 277

For information on how to join in this most fun of blog hops, please click on the WOYWW logo in my sidebar, which will take you to our hostess Julia’s page, where all will be explained.

What’s On My Workdesk this Wednesday? Just about everything!! My poor ARTHaven is a tip. Again.

WOYWW 277

We have had a very busy week. Today is the last day of our holiday at home, as Mum is returning today after spending 10 days with my sister, giving my hubby and me a most welcome break. We have had several trips out, the highlight being our visit to the Kaffe Fassett exhibition at the American Museum in Bath, which is running till November, I think. (You can see all 99 photos I took, here in my Flickr album.) I am still basking in the experience of being totally immersed in a riot of colour! I have been a fan of Kaffe Fassett’s for years. If you get the chance, do go – it’s really worth seeing.

I also had a shopping day on my own – a rare event these days and I had Such Fun! I had a good old rummage in the charity shops and came home with some lovely stash for altering and upcycling – a project that will have to wait for the New Year at this rate.

Last night we had a friend round for dinner – I did a roast chicken and lots of vegetables, and my famous apple lasagne for pudding – nobody felt like any cheese after that lot! So I have been busy cooking and preparing. To celebrate this extremely rare event (Shoshi doing any entertaining!) I got out the best china and we had a candle on the table. The works. I even managed to clear everything up afterwards!

Tonight I begin my felt making classes, and I have been busy preparing for that. We have to take a certain amount of stuff with us (rolling pin, bubble wrap, Merino rovings etc. – in the photo above, you can see the green box full of all this stuff, ready to take for the class) and since the theme of the 5-week course is Autumn, I decided to dye a few pieces of Merino to go with this theme. Here is my dyeing table by the sink in my ARTHaven, with the pieces I dyed yesterday.

WOYWW 277 - Dyeing

Last week I also dyed some Merino roving with avocado skins and pits and it came out a gorgeous dusky pink colour, and I shall be taking that too. I have got some commercially dyed rovings. I have experienced some problems with the wool tending to felt during the dyeing process so I’ve decided to card it before taking it to the class.

A few days ago my parcel of new stash arrived, and most of that is dumped on my desk. I made some moulds from some of the metal embellishments and these are now put away (about the only thing that is!!). I am hoping to have a chance in the next few days to sort out the chaos and try and tidy up a bit, so that I can get down to some work again!

Have a great creative week, everybody, and happy WOYWW.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Charity Shop Stash

Last week my hubby finally agreed to take me shopping in town – this was long overdue but he has been very busy. I had to have my eyes tested and went to the bank and other boring stuff, but I thoroughly enjoyed being left to my own devices for the whole day until I ran out of steam mid-afternoon and called him to pick me up!

One of the things I wanted to do was have a good trawl through the charity shops for any useful fabrics for the T-shirt upcycling I have planned for the New Year. I managed to pick up several really cheap T-shirts, and found some real bargains in other clothes, and household fabrics which can be cut up and repurposed.

I got a couple of men’s shirts in that gorgeous striped and checked fabric – the checked shirt is actually pure linen and feels fabulous; the other is cotton.

Men's Shirts

Plenty of fabric to create panels to let into the t-shirts.

One of the T-shirts will be a shabby chic makeover with pink and cream, and I found this stunning pink pashmina-type scarf which, if you look closely, you can see has a delicate woven pattern which is in reverse on the back. For pennies I got several crocheted doilies, all in a nice cream colour. If I don’t use all these straight away, they can be used for pressing into texture paste to get some interesting results.

Scarf and Doilies

I wanted more lace, and managed to find what looked like a brand new petticoat made of nylon satin (quite nice) with lots of deep lace on it in pink.

Lace Table Runner and Petticoat

I also found a small blue table runner with a deep lace border all around.

For another project (not sure yet how I shall use this) I found a cross stitch tablecloth with lots of motifs on it – this is a repeating geometric shape:

Cross Stitch Table Cloth Square Motif

and there were also some narrow motifs suitable for borders.

Cross Stitch Table Cloth Border Motif

At village fetes and charity shops, I’m always on the lookout for old jewellery which can be taken apart, and the beads etc. used for embellishments. On this occasion I found a charm bracelet with lots of useable stuff on it, and some chain which can also be repurposed. Some of the charms are suitable for making moulds from. I bought a couple of cheap necklaces with lots of components – shell discs, sequins, small beads.

Jewellery

My best find of the day, though, was a gorgeous pink and white satin counterpane quilt with an embroidered panel down the centre, consisting of three separate motifs.

Satin Quilt Embroidered Panel

There is loads of material in this as it’s double (if not king) sized, and if I unpick it carefully, there is plenty of pink ribbon and I should be able to use the wadding again, too. Here is what it looks like along the sides:

Satin Quilt Side Panels

The back is plain pink.

When I got it home, I had second thoughts about cutting it up at all because it’s so pretty as it is, but I don’t need it as a quilt, and I have to be firm with myself and do what I originally intended! I will get a huge amount out of this, which can be used for all sorts of projects, not just an upcycled T-shirt.

When I go into a charity shop, I feel like my hubby when he goes metal detecting – that sense of anticipation, and never knowing what you will find!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Kaffe Fassett Exhibition

Picture rich post!

Yesterday my hubby and I drove up to Bath to see the Kaffe Fassett exhibition taking place this autumn at the American Museum. I am very grateful to Diana of Velvet Moth Studios for alerting me to this – she posted recently about her visit, and I would not have missed it for the world – I have been a great fan of Kaffe’s for many years.

In case you don’t know, Kaffe (pronounced “Kafe” to rhyme with “safe”) is an artist who came to England from the USA in the 1960s. Originally he was a painter, but on his arrival here, he fell in love with textiles, and so began the adventure which has lasted his whole life long. He revolutionised the knitting world in the 70s and 80s with his riotous use of colour, and branched out into needlepoint, patchwork, fabric design and mosaic as time went on. He is a complete pattern junkie and has combined this with his passion for colour.

My hubby gave me my first Kaffe Fassett book, “Glorious Knitting” for my first birthday after we were married – on our honeymoon, in fact. He subsequently gave me “Glorious Colour” and “Kaffe Fassett at the V&A” – along with his love of flea markets for inspiration and the purchase of many eclectic objects, Kaffe has found much inspiration at London’s famous Victoria and Albert Museum. All these books are large format, and lavishly illustrated, and have been a source of inspiration for me for many years, but yesterday was the first opportunity I had had to see his work in the flesh, and it was a mind-blowing total immersion in colour!

I took nearly 100 photos, including some of the location. I will not be able to put them all in this blog post, but will select as many as I can, and will upload the whole collection to my Flickr album. Now uploaded: click here.

When we arrived, I was delighted to see my very first examples of “yarn bombing” – I have read about this and seen pictures, but so lovely to see the real thing – and how appropriate for the occasion!

04 Yarn Bombing on Decorated Tree

The foyer of the exhibition centre, which doubled as a shop, was decorated for the exhibition.

09 Floral Swags in Foyer

The letters forming the “Kaffe Fassett” title over the door into the exhibition proper were solid and wrapped with blue fabric.

We were led along a short tunnel made from distorting mirrors on both sides and the ceiling, into the wonderland beyond. Throughout, the floor was adorned twith a covering printed with Kaffe’s designs.

12 Mirrored Entrance

The first thing to meet my eye was Kaffe’s famous knitted coat which featured in the books, and also on his 6-part TV series several years ago. This was inspired by the costume worn by Rudolf Nureyev in the ballet “Romeo and Juliet.”

15 Coat Back

Surrounding the foot of this magnificent coat was a series of crochet hats embellished with buttons and beads. I loved how the heads were first wrapped with rich lurex fabric to reflect the colours of the hats.

18 Embellished Crochet Hats

His jewel stripe shawl – actually more of a blanket!

21 Jewel Stripe Shawl

In the centre of the main exhibition hall was a mock-up of part of Kaffe’s studio, showing work in progress, and an eclectic collection of colourful and patterned fabrics and objects.

25 Studio Mock-Up

A very pretty little antique nursing chair, covered with Kaffe’s needlepoint in a crazy patchwork design, with a piece of knitting in progress.

26 Detail of Knitting on Chair

Kaffe’s palette and a wonderfully paint-stained jug containing more brushes, in front of a painting standing on an easel.

34 Palette and Brushes

During the 80s, when Kaffe broadcast his TV series, he visited the beautiful town of Arundel, which so inspired him with its walls and buildings constructed of brick and knapped flint, and the lichen growing in the churchyard. From this sample of lichen you can see how he interpreted this inspiration, in pattern, and uncharacteristically subtle shades.

36 Lichen

37 Arundel Inspired Samples

38 Arundel Inspired Knitting

When we visited Arundel, I was equally inspired, and my camera was never idle!

In one display case, along with many beautiful needlepoint pieces and other objects, was a collection of Indian metal embellishments. They were all embossed from thin sheet metal and coloured – how easy it would be to make something like this from embossed drink cans and alcohol inks!

41 Indian Embellishments

Kaffe has been heavily influenced by the beautiful Islamic art of North Africa, and several of his pieces reflected this – the geometric tile patterns and the rich jewel colours of blue, purple and green, in knitting and patchwork.

49 Islamic Stars Knitwear

80 Islamic Blue Stars Quilt

There were many examples of his knitwear adoring the walls, displayed on wooden poles to show them to their best advantage.

50 Knitwear

Some of his pieces feature bold, simple designs in squares and rectangles. This glorious shawl boasts a full, rich fringe, and a contrasting border along the top edge.

51 Fringed Shawl

A favourite pattern. While true Fair Isle knitting traditionally has only two colours going at once in any row, Kaffe’s method of knitting using manageable short lengths, enables many colours to be used at once – you simply pull out the colour you want, and weave in the ends as you go. Many of the pattern repeats are relatively simple; the elaborate effect is created by the abundance of colour – to quote Kaffe, “When in doubt, add forty more colours!”

53 Diamond Knitwear

The next picture shows an intriguing design. The yellows, with a touch of lavender, appear to be overlaid with a lighter shade, which, from a distance, looks almost like lace. In this picture you can see how the background colour of the wall matches the knitwear. This was a common feature of the display; you might think that it would have the effect of reducing the impact of the pieces, but it actually enhanced them in a stunning way.

57 Yellow Knitwear

Moving on now from knitting to needlepoint, although the medium is different, there is no departure from the rich use of colour and pattern. Unlike traditional canvaswork designs, in Kaffe’s pieces, the background is as important as the focal motif.

58 Shells Needlepoint Panel

More shells.

59 Spiral Shells Needlepoint Panel

I can see great potential for developing basic Zentangle patterns with the use of vibrant colour to create designs such as these.

There was an additional room beyond, which contained mostly needlepoint pieces, with a green colour theme, mostly based on designs of leaves, flowers and vegetables. I love Kaffe’s designs of humble vegetables like cabbages, leeks and beetroot, and his use of subtle shading brings them to life.

62 Printed Floor from Vegetables Needlepoint Panel

Again, the floor covering was printed with Kaffe’s designs. This is the original needlepoint panel from which the floor print was taken.

61 Vegetables Needlepoint Panel

On the table were many pieces, inspired by teapots in the shape of vegetables, etc. Many of these items were collected by Kaffe from flea markets in London and elsewhere.

63 Green Needlepoint

This tiny tea set in the shape of bunches of asparagus is one such object.

64 Asparagus Tea Set

Also in this room was a beautifully distressed and vintage bench with needlepoint cushions in the design of vegetables.

65 Bench with Vegetable Cushions

This floral panel was an unusual piece because the background included some lurex yarn that caught the light and sparkled.

66 Floral Needlepoint Panel with Lurex Background

At the far end of the room was Kaffe’s magnificent hollyhocks needlepoint hanging. From this picture you can see that on entering the room, one felt one was stepping into a garden!

68 Hollyhocks Needlepoint Panel

Here is a detail of the hollyhocks hanging.

69 Detail of Hollyhocks Needlepoint Panel

You can see that he has used a long-and-short stitch, with several strands in the needle. This gives great coverage at high speed, but it is not very hard-wearing and is really suitable only for hangings – most of the cushions are worked in traditional tent stitch which will stand much more wear and tear, but it does take much longer to do. You can see the amazing life-like effect he has achieved with the subtle shading – painting with the needle!

Another needlepoint panel, this time depicting various fruits.

70 Fruits Needlepoint Panel

Back in the main exhibition hall, a collection of cushions worked in needlepoint and patchwork.

72 Needlepoint and Patchwork Cushions

The bottom-left cushion, depicting blue and white china. Kaffe has used this motif frequently, both in needlepoint and knitting. Some years ago I embroidered some miniature blue and white pots in cross stitch, which was inspired by this design.

73 Blue and White Pots Cushion

Another beautiful needlepoint cushion, this time in a more subtle shade. The beautiful two-tone background shows off the intricately patterned moth to perfection.

74 Needlepoint Moth Cushion

Moving on to quilting, this beautiful quilt is worked in a sunray pattern.

76 Sunray Quilt

Here is a detail.

77 Detail of Sunray Quilt

Kaffe works in both plain, brightly coloured fabrics, and prints. He has designed many fabric patterns. The following quilt shows some examples of these.

79 Diamond Quilt

This particular quilt was the design chosen for most of the merchandising for the exhibition – mugs, place mats, book marks, etc.

Some of Kaffe’s fabrics and trims.

82 Fabrics and Trims

An unusual example of Kaffe’s mosaic work. He loves to piece together fragments of broken china and glass, and has covered pots and other objects, and was commissioned to produce some mosaic work for the Chelsea Flower Show.

81 Mosaic Shoe

Some fabric fans in a display case. Beyond, you can see a beautiful glass vase with a circular pattern.

83 Fabric Fans

I took a close-up of this, but unfortunately it is rather out of focus. This design of concentric circles is a favourite of Kaffe’s and frequently features in his knitting.

85 Glass Vessel Detail

The view from the exhibition hall back along the mirrored tunnel into the foyer.

89 Back Out to the Foyer

One of the sales tables, displaying some of Kaffe’s books.

90 Sales Table

When we came out, we went into the Orangery Tea Room for a well-earned cup of tea, and were entranced by the beautiful stencilling on the walls.

95 Stencilling in Orangery Tea Room

Finally, the outside of the Tea Rooms, built from the beautifully warm and mellow golden Bath stone.

99 Outside Orangery Tea Rooms

Today I had more comments about my wheelchair with its mixed media spoke guards than ever before – I suppose I should have expected this, as the exhibition was going to attract creative people! Everybody loved them, and unlike the usual casual commenters, they all wanted to know exactly how I’d done them!

To finish this virtual tour of the Kaffe Fassett exhibition, I would like to share a piece that I made, inspired by this incredible artist. I’m afraid I haven’t got any photos of the other pieces, and I can’t find them at the moment, as they have got temporarily mislaid during our house move!

Yellow and Purple Knitting 1

If you look carefully at my blog header, you can see this incorporated into the digital collage.