Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Busy Bees Patchwork

Your centre for City and Guilds Textiles and Patchwork
in South Wales

 Week 15 City and Guilds Level 1 Certificate in Textiles 7161

January 17th 2018

The second week of weaving is going pretty well, not everyone's cup of tea but you can't please all the people all of the time. There are so many disciplines to learn on the City and Guilds course, so many methods and techniques to challenge your artistic minds so don't give up on the first attempt. When you try something new for the first time and it doesn't quite give you that buzz or every thing you do seems to go wrong, the colours aren't right, the things you have chosen don't seem to match. In fact it all looks like one big mess, well, then you have learned the most valuable lesson of all, how to evaluate your work.
It wasn't that you didn't like it, it's just because the choices you made weren't well planned. Planning your work through sketching, collaging, painting and drawing can help you make good decisions and choices instead of uncalculated ones which leaves you with disappointment and a dislike for that particular method. 
Allow your mind to evaluate, always in the back of your mind say to yourself what if ? what would happen if I did this, how can I make this work for me. Jot down ideas, colours and sketches, it doesn't have to be a masterpiece just something to jog your imagination.
There are obviously techniques that will really inspire you and those that you will excel at and those that don't hit the spot and that's okay! to me that's what City and Guilds teaches the best, finding the methods and techniques that suit you and the way you want to interpret the things that inspire you most through fabric and stitch.

Below is a picture of my piece of weaving, we all agreed that using a proper frame would be far more suitable than using a cake rack but hey! when needs must why not use items you can find around the house instead of purchasing something you may never use again. It was a little awkward to remove from the cake rack but with a little gentle pursuasion it served it's purpose quite well I thought. In the abscence of very strong card or a proper frame I was very pleased with the result.
I am now in the process of turning it into a baskety type receptacle thingy! to hold my embroidery in. Picture to follow when I get around to finishing it along with all the other projects You know what I'm talking about.........

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I took my weaving to another level then by using a method called needle weaving, quite the other end of the scale where size is concerned. Below my lines or rows of straight stitches will be interwoven with different embroidery and knitting yarns to create wave shapes on this sea scape. I first printed the background with a home made stamp in different colours overlapping the layers onto a background that was painted with Kohinoor dye based paint. I have outlined some of the waves with  a half feather stitch and then used the needle weaving to highlight some of the waves, another work in progress towards some pieces I am stitching towards this years Swansea Festival of stitch.

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A close up of the needle weaving
The colours in this did't transfer too well from camera for some unknown annoying reason they are much more blue, but I haven't had time to mess around with them.
I have really enjoyed this piece and the needle weaving, I will experiment more with this particular method of stitching, there seems to be great potential for other projects
and manipulating the basic technique.

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This weaving belongs to Ann, my camera behaved this time Gorgeous colours, Ann's is going to live with this for a while, which means she hasn't quite decided how to resolve this piece whether it looks good enough in it's own right or to add something to it.
She thought may be a sea gull or two?

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Our new student Mel wasn't sure about this method at all, but I think this is a very strong piece with that amazing splash of vivid pink amongst the darker browns and blues. It has an African feel to it and could easily be a beautiful hanging.

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Below Kay has chosen Blues and slate greys to wondrous effect, the strong turquoise of the warp thread really plays it's part in the weaving and is no shrinking violet. Kay is yet to complete her weaving and I hope she doesn't have too much trouble removing it from the confines of the cake rack.

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Celia's weaving is going to make a real statement! We decided that the gorgeous piece of wood Celia aquirred from a nice wood man, looks like part of shipwreck and that the piece when finished should hang horizontally rather than vertically as below. She has a bit of a way to go to finish but Wowee it's going to be amazing!

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Some samples of today's needle weaving workshop

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And last but certainly not least Sonia has finished over Christmas and New Year her embroidery on a a 1930's holiday poster for Kent. A remarkable piece of work which has been carefully thought about and planned to maximum effect. You really get the sense of holiday with the gorgeous strong colours and the simplicity of the original poster's painting lends itself very well to applique.
Sonia has further embellished with hand and machine stitching.
Just wonderful.

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Fab week all in all.
If your following us don't forget to leave us a comment we would really appreciate your feedback!
See you next week with some more inspirational work!
Best stitches

And don't forget make some time to be creative!!!

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Happy New Year from Busy Bees Patchwork!

Your centre for City and Guilds Textiles and Patchwork
in South Wales

 Week 14 City and Guilds Level 1 Certificate in Textiles 7161

January 10th 2018

Hope you all had a Merry Christmas and good start to the new year. I hear all to often how people dislike the New Year and over the years I would have probably agreed but this year I have tried to change my mantra, this year I'm looking forward and hoping for good times. I am not going to dread what the days ahead will bring but I am going to try and make every day count. I am not going to make any resolutions I am just going to be more resolute. There are so many things I could do better but even if I can improve on some of my worst points then that will be good enough for me!

I am very lucky that my job is my hobby and my thirst for learning never tires, trying new techniques,
building on them and creating new ideas is what it's all about. Just wish there was more time to fit in all the experimenting I'd like to do, but then I need to make more time and not waste it, looking for stuff in my untidy sewing room, now there's a resolution I should stick to. Keep my room clean and put things away instead of letting it all build up in a huge creative mess.

My big son is buying his first house so guess who's getting a new sewing room ! Well to say I'm excited is a bit of an understatement, I am feeling quite guilty though... really 
should I be feeling so excited when I am going to be losing my big son.  Well as much as I love my big lad to pieces he is not the tidiest of people he loves to play with oil and cars of an evening which usually means when he comes home covered in oily t shirts and trousers which somehow transfers to the walls and banister, light switches, tea towels and anything else he comes into contact with. He is a creative soul like me, and I suppose there are times when I am wiping up paint and such from kitchen surfaces and dining room chairs,  I can't be too cross with him.... but now his girlfriend can put up with his creative finger prints and grime. They are only moving 5 miles away so I'll probably see him more than I do now considering his garage is nearer me than it is to his so I guess I am not going to be free of greasy oily light switches after all...... you gotta love em!

This means now  that I can have a painterly room and a sewing room! how greedy is that. You may ask what my husband thinks of all this, well, bless he doesn't have much say at all, I think he's all too happy to let me carry on..... anything to keep me quiet really. 

Well enough of my meanderings, although I'll keep you up to date on the new room!

Over Christmas and the New Year celebrations the ladies have been completing work and my goodness they have created some beautiful pieces.........

 Celia was inspired by a sea groyne encrusted with barnacles at a beach near Lindisfarne.
With the addition of shells, driftwood, starfish and the fishing net it all sets the scene. I love
all the barnacles she has made individually by making rings from finger stitching. (I did try to make 
a video of this for you, but least said about that the better. I am going to try again soon.)
At the end of the year we are going to have an exhibition of all the students work so you will be able to see this in the flesh as it were, photo graphs never show how much work is involved.  
This is Kay's interpretation of a beautiful flower she took a photo of on one of her travels. Difficult to tell apart really.  The original photo at the top was recreated below by painting the background fabric and then over printed in layers. The white flowers were appliqued and the stamens satin stitched on the machine. I think Kay has really the captured the fine elements of this quite difficult picture. Not an easy subject to turn into a work of textile art. Amazing!  

Ann has machine stitched her interpretation of a silver birch tree bark, the background was painted and printed with home made stamps. She has used free motion stitching for the lichen and gathered and used a decorative stitch on the machine for the fungi and raw edge appliqued the birch bark onto the background. The over all effect is fabulous with lots of machine techniques used to create the whole piece. 
Woven Threads, fabrics and yarns!

In this weeks workshop we have been making a piece of cloth from fabric scraps, ribbons, yarns and anything that goes really. Weaving is yonks old going back in depths of time we have woven cloth to keep us warm and the techniques have not changed. They may have become more elaborate and complicated as looms became more fandangled but essentially the process is the same.

A set of warp threads have to laid first and then the weft threads added horizontally by means of placing the weft thread/yarn/fabric strips interwoven with the warp. 
We used a cake rack as our loom because I had plenty of them for everyone to borrow but we could have equally have used a piece of hard card board. We wrapped the warp thread around the rack, making sure not to make it too tight or too loose.

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Now for the weft threads, ribbons, fabric strips, yarns and if you were so inclined string, wire cables, carrier bags, paper twine, lace..... anything really! To aid the passing of the weft thread through the warp I made them all a plastic shuttle which is a strip of plastic cut from a pop bottle rounded at one end and slit in the other to hold the thread. You could also use a large blunt needle or bodkin.

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Below Linda had a little practice before making a larger piece and I absolutely love it, the colours are super! She has used some sari waste ribbon, a funky yarn, an open mesh ribbon and lace. Being a narrow piece of weaving she could use this for the top of a bag or as the bag handles. 
Of course the pieces of fabric could be embellished further with machine stitching, needle felted or hand stitching. Food for thought!

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I have asked the ladies to make up their fabrics over the next couple of weeks so we'll see how they get on. I am working on a bag at the moment so with that extra time I'm going to find, it should be finished fairly soon. Nothing like a bit of pressure to get things done.

Next week we are scaling it down a tad and we will be learning needle weaving. There are several ways to do this and it has an abundance of uses when using embroidery stitches for texture and filling large areas.

If are joining us on our journey through this blog and may be you would like to take part in the City and Guilds, I have only 10 spaces available starting in September 2018. Please get in touch and register your interest with me Beccy at Busy Bees Patchwork. 01633 810801 or email me

Thank you for reading our blog and please leave us a comment we love to know what you do and how you use your creative time.

Best stitches
Beccy xxx

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

 Week 12 City and Guilds Level 1 Certificate in Textiles 7161

Layer upon layer upon layer!

 Our second week of printing and the results are amazing!

Rosie is working on a graffiti piece, and she won't mind me saying that her approach is quite different to everyone else's. 

Here she is printing a brick wall from a stamp she made herself, upon which she is going to applique the beautiful graffiti girl with some printed words as well. A style all her own Rosie is keen on figurative work, can't wait to see the finished piece.

Celia is working on a groyne that you find at the seaside, the picture that inspired her was a groyne covered in barnacles and seaweed. Today we discussed how we might make the groyne more life like by giving it dimension and making it stand out from the background. We also discussed that a free form arrangement would be more suited to this piece rather than putting it into a frame. Celia plans to add machine and hand stitching to create actual texture as well as the visual texture created by stamping with cork that has been cut into to create the random pattern. Again I get the feeling this is going to look amazing when it's finished.

A mushroom walk into the bar and the bar man says hey! you look like a fungi.
Enough of the bad jokes, let's be serious here. Ann has been researching some fabulous pictures of fungi and lichen and her inspirational picture is of an old tree trunk covered in lichen. She has made some great stamps to replicate the textures of these strange looking fungus and plant forms.

Some made from a textured wall paper, funky foam and string to name but a few. I find it really amazing how peoples imagination work, truly inspirational! When I got home today all I wanted to do was play in the sewing room but all I managed was two painted pages after putting out the washing, tidying around and making tea, never mind! at least I did something.

The picture below shows the tree stump printed and hopefully by next week there will be some stitching on it too. We also had a chat about how to apply some of the painted textures Anne has made, we went for raw edge applique rather than satin stitch, we felt it would give a more natural effect. Another superb piece in the making. My word! people ask me if I'm enjoying teaching this course, when I see everyone developing and enjoying their work how can you not!


Kay has printed this fantastic background to her Peruvian Daffodils, well that's what we think they are. She took a photo of them while on holiday and has made it her inspirational picture. She has made an amazing start by printing the leaves in different tones and shades of green and then today we came up with several suggestions of how to apply the flowers and the type of stitching we could use to embellish the print.  

Kay is in the process here of making a  stamp for the flowers. Again I just can't wait to see how this will develop.

I'll bring you more next week from the other girls. It's our last one before Christmas and i had better come up with some homework for the two week break. Just because it's Christmas doesn't mean there will be any slacking:)
As ever make some time stitch, paint, stamp or sew it's great therapy for the mind!
Hope you have a good week.
Best stitches
Beccy x

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Week 11 Making Printing Blocks

  Week 11 City and Guilds Level 1 Certificate in Textiles 7161

Making Printing Blocks

Yesterday came and went in a flash, no sooner had I arrived in work the next thing I know it's 9 o'clock and I'm arriving back at home for tea after meeting up with my compatriots of the Naturally Sew textile group. Our group formed after finishing 4 years of City and Guilds and our very talented tutor Virginia Hole decided to retire and join us. We have exhibited at Craft Renaissance Gallery near Usk and next year we are very proud to be exhibiting at the Swansea Festival of Stitch in August 2018. I will post more details of this at a later date.

So i'm a day late in writing this blog due to yesterday's shinanagins, sometimes I wish there were eight days in a week not seven.

We had a very productive morning in the studio yesterday, the students are progressing with their chosen pictures of inspiration although over a week some had changed their minds.
So easy done, I think if I were to say I had one weakness that really irritated me it would be that I can't make my mind up. Sticking to a subject or technique is so difficult for me, I am constantly changing my mind and wasting time thinking about how I should approach a certain subject and then end up putting it to one side and starting again.
Life would be so much simpler if I just stuck to my original thoughts and got on with the job in hand, I would be so much more productive!
Any how enough about me, making print blocks. Why bother, well a print can be made by so many different objects, as long a it has a texture you can print from it and the more random the object the more random the print. Here are a few I made up on Monday this week.

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Now here's a random group if ever you saw them. From top to bottom Lentils - empty tablet packets - string. The lentils make tiny sporadic dots and when over printed and over printed make great foliage prints. The tablet packets being a larger surface area make great little backgrounds for flowers or pebbles on a beach. The string again over printed in tonal colours gives the texture of shrubbery or trees. Learning to play and to allow your imagination to see things in a different way is so freeing and therapeutic a day can be lost quite easily!

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From top to bottom - scrunched up foil producing a very subtle print of random grains - the centre block is coffee stirrers snapped up and this gave a really pleasing print for all sorts of purposes - the bottom one which is sugar stars for cupcakes didn't really work because they dissolved and became very sticky, not my best idea but hey ho!

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Over printing in different shades of green with the tablet packet. Looks a bit like the skin of a frog?
As time allows I will be playing with these print blocks and seeing how I can apply them to my own work for next years exhibition at Swansea.
Layering is a difficult concept to grasp for many, adding one layer on top of another produces depth and interest to your embroidery. Making one single print, certainly from blocks such as this would be futile and quite boring. Over printing brings texture and life to the background, nothing is one single flat colour. Even a building or a piece of sheet metal has texture, all be it subtle.
Learn to open your eyes and look further in, look how colour changes in the shadows and the direction of texture which all helps our eyes to understand the picture of view in front of us.

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Celia's been having fun here creating blocks from polystyrene, corks and string wrapped around a tube. Her picture of inspiration is a groin on the beach that is covered in barnacles and sea weed. I think she is on her way to making some great textures with these home made blocks.
Blocks that you buy generally don't give you that truly random effect which suits this sort of technique.

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May be you remember from last week's blog Claire's picture of inspiration was a cottage garden. Claire has painted her background and is now making blocks to lay down the texture of the foliage and flowers. Perhaps next week if she has been able to work on this some more we will see how this background progresses. Clare I believe has use Kohinoor dye based colours to paint the background and then added rock salt to create some subtle texture, I am hoping next week she will have added more layers with her home made blocks to create even more texture before the exciting bit of stitching commences and then we will really see the effects that layering brings to the piece.

Next week we are continuing with our pictures of inspiration and the following week we are going to have a go at finger stitching. This will be our last week before the Christmas break and my how that time has flown! The students have already produced a large amount of superb work and there is still much to cover. 
If you are enjoying our blog or have any questions to ask them please feel free to leave a comment in the box below we would appreciate your encouragement and if I can help you on your creative journey in any way just let me know.
Best stitches and take care!
Make some time to stitch or to be creative it's the best therapy in the world"
Beccy xxx 

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

  Week 10 City and Guilds Level 1 Certificate in Textiles 7161

Paint techniques with water colour and acrylics.

It often surprises new students how much painting and drawing features in the syllabus of City and Guilds.  Preparing to design begins with drawing or sketching ideas, making notes on how you might approach an embroidered piece and then recording those thoughts in a sketch book makes good practice for any one who wants to design there own work instead of following a kit or some one else's work.  Creating sketch books helps to develop a style all your own, you can collect pictures that inspire you and develop them into pieces of work through exploring colour, texture, line, shape and form.
Painting and drawing is part of that process, and therefore learning different techniques is key to creating and observing your inspiration, be it your favourite view, some one who is close to you, a piece of music or even an emotion.
Colour can definitely evoke emotions, advertisers use colour very successfully to make us feel excited, thoughtful or safe. Red is associated with excitement, danger and passion. Blue is a colour which is calming and rest full and so on. Colour can certainly change the way you think about a subject and there for learning simple paint techniques and even just the process of mixing paint will help you understand colour theory in more depth.

When designing an embroidery from scratch, finding the right background fabric could take time and may not always be what you want. If you can colour your own fabrics this gives you so much freedom to explore other fabric types such as spun bound fibres, plastics, man made fibres etc.

I asked the students to bring in a picture that inspired them, a picture that depicted colour, line and texture. These key elements are part and parcel of the criteria for level 1 City and Guilds. Having a picture helps to concentrate the mind on the task in hand and that is, to learn to appreciate those elements in their chosen image.  

Linda chose a beautiful sunset, with a wonderful silhouette mountains and trees in the fore ground. Not an easy image to replicate as a piece of embroidery but we are trying various techniques to see what we can come up with. A work in progress.

Claire brought in these two images, very different subjects but she eventually went with the gorgeous colours of the cottage garden. This picture suited some of the techniques we tried today and again being a work in process we'll see how this image becomes represented into a piece of textile art.

Today we covered sponging, using salt to remove pigment which creates beautiful random patterns, using clingfilm to create fractured lines and colour blending.

These two samples show the 
effect of adding rock salt to
wet paint. The salt removes
the pigment from the paper 
and leaves these stunning
patterns that could replicate
lichen, snow flakes or ice.

This sample shows clingfilm placed over wet paint. For best
results leave over night to dry, but you can see already the
type of pattern that will made. 
It's always exciting removing the clingfilm and seeing for
the first time the random patterns that are made.

Using cling film could replicate cobwebs, cracks in old
paint or dragon fly wings.

A small selection of painted papers that can be 
used as backgrounds for sketchbooks. 

Making these papers can become addictive so 
if you decide to have a go beware!
Next week we will be making our own printing
blocks designed from the students pictures.
Their home work is to experiment further so that
when we use their unique printing blocks to
 overprint already painted papers to 
layer and create depth to the paintings.
In my opinion one layer is never enough and
learning layering is not as easy as it sounds.
There is always that fear you may spoil what's
already there but my advice is just keep going
it's only a piece of paper and it can always 
be made again.

Next week, as I have said, we will
be printing using print blocks
that have been made by the 
students. Of course you could
purchase printing blocks
but it is much more satisfying to
make your own and cheaper!

Hopefully these painted pages
will be the beginnings of some
stunning textile art works.
We've made a start let's see
what happens in the coming weeks.

Thank you for reading our blog, leave us a comment at the bottom and tell
us what you think.
Make some time to stitch or paint this week - create something to be proud of!
Best stitches
Beccy x

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Week 9 Machine Couching Oh no !!!!!!!

  Week 9 City and Guilds Level 1 Certificate in Textiles 7161

Machine Couching oh no !!!!

Last week's session was fairly calm and relaxing! hardly a sound or swear word to be heard, completely and utterly in stitching heaven, needle, thread and fabric working in unison ahh Bliss!

This week there were mutterings, outbursts of "why is it doing that", "what's it doing now"
aaargghhhhh!!!!!!! bleep bleep
for some the sewing machine seems to have a personality all it's own and it ain't friendly.
I do hope as the weeks go by the girls will learn to love their machines and think upon it
as a good friend rather than a irritant.
I am sure as they use them more and become more familiar with their ways they will see what wonderful pieces of machinery they are.
Watch this space "as they say" I will keep you updated on the newly found friendships or not as the case may be:)

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This weeks class was all about machine couching. A very useful and versatile technique for many applications in textile decoration. It can be formal and structured or loose and textural to depict a wide range of subjects. In the picture above Claire used narrow ribbons recycled from those pesky loops found on new garments that constantly annoy you, until you chop them off, only to realise you have cut a hole in the garment too! So it was nice to see them put good use.
We discussed different types of feet for the sewing machine that can be used and how to adjust the built in decorative stitches to suit the yarn or thread being couched.

More to come next week, as long as the sewing machines stay in one piece.

I promised you a treat last week of the ladies embroidered colour wheels, how each of them have interpreted the subject is absolutely Fab!!!
I apologise for the photography I really will have to be more thoughtful when snapping away, but usually I am trying to take as much as I can before I forget completely and everyone's gone home. 

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A few of the finished colour wheels and I think they speak for themselves!
Well done !!!

Coming up in next weeks class we will be wielding our brushes and paints to make gorgeous painted papers to use in sketchbooks and the like. We will be making textures with cling film, salt and sponges and seeing if we can apply the same techniques to fabric.
Sploshing, spattering and generally having fun with colour, paint and paper.
Can't wait!!!!
See you next week then, don't forget to leave us a comment and if your inspired don't put if off till you have the time, Make time to stitch, make a start and see what you can do when you put your mind to it.
Take care and Best stitches
Beccy xxx