Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Grand days out

The past few weeks have gone past in a blur. I have been so busy that I haven't had time to update this blog. Work is hectic as always, with lots of teaching to plan and deliver. However I have been busy with fun things too. On 4th October I attended a 'Vibrant Velvet' workshop run at Walford Mill by Jane Venables, a very talented textile artist. I have experimented with dyeing cloth in the past but sadly don't have the space at the moment to do it. As soon as I saw the course advertised I knew that I wanted to attend. I have read several of Jane's books so jumped at the chance to be taught by her.

Getting to the venue in Wimborne meant that I had to get up quite early. I woke up at 6:00 am with butterflies in my stomach - excitement and nerves combined. When I arrived I was welcomed by Jane who then proceeded to show us some of her stunning work. Her technique involves painting dye directly onto the back of the velvet using a large brush - very similar to painting in watercolours. Because the velvet is dry, and the dyes are very runny it starts to spread and the trick is to paint quickly so that you have some control over it. I couldn't wait to get started.

I was the only complete beginner there. Everyone else immediately set to work and produced stunning works of art. To my embarrassment mine resembled the daubings of a three year old. Jane was very supportive and gave me lots of encouraging advice. So, undaunted I embarked on my first scarf length. Part of the joy of this technique is that you really are not sure how it will look until you are finished and can turn it over. To my immense relief the design of red tulips on a dark background looked quite nice. My next attempt was going really well until I accidentally dropped dye where I shouldn't have. I then had a go at creating my own devore using fibre-etch fluid. This was a bit of a disaster and will probably be relegated to the back of a drawer. I have one length of velvet which can be made into a scarf and one piece which will be used for my beadwork. I also ended up walking around with blue hands for a couple of days after picking up a piece of velvet which wasn't completely dry. The next day I got some very strange looks from the woman on the supermarket checkout. I wonder what she thought I had been up to! Despite my lack of artistic talent I thoroughly enjoyed my day and have signed up for the next one day workshop in June.

My feeble attempts at painting silk velvet

Last Saturday I went to the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace with my long suffering OH and three friends - M, P & K. I have been to the show before but none of the girls had so I was interested to see their reaction. It involved a very early start. I am used to getting up at 6:00 am but even I struggled to get out of bed before 5:00!! Once on the coach my OH discovered that, apart from the driver he was the only man amongst 35 women. Brave soul! I think that everyone had a good time. M gives a very funny account of the day on her blog 'Knitting Keeps Me Sane'. The highlights of my day were meeting Nicky Epstein, seeing the work of Takako Sako and the looks of complete wonder on my friends' faces when they entered the Great Hall for the first time. I bought a copy of Nicky's new book 'Knitting On Top of the World'. She was there at the show that afternoon and signed my copy. It was a real privilege to meet such a talented person. I rounded off the day by buying some gorgeous hand dyed sock yarn and a scarf pin. Then it was home again on the coach, happy but very exhausted.

Alexandra Palace (affectionately known as 'Ally Pally') in North London

Full sized kimono by Takako Sako - it contains over 180 colours and more than 2,000,000 beads

Scarf pin from Purlescence

Cherry Tree Hill 'Supersock' and Hand Maiden 'Casbah'.

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