Our Christmas “bring and share” lunch is always an enjoyable event and this year joint chair Clare Russell and Ann Smith started by presenting Kay Francis with some flowers as a thank you for her many years of service on the committee.
After lunch our surprise speaker was Lt Col Neil Stace who was a runner up in the 2015 series of the BBC Great British Sewing Bee.
As a bit of fun, Neil and a friend joined the sewing group at Primary School and his interest in stitch developed from there. He talked about various tours of duty in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Northern Ireland and explained that there was always down time which had to be filled which is why he included a sewing machine along with his kit. Neil sees himself as a soldier who sews and an engineer who does not need a pattern which is why he designed and made a wedding dress for his female driver in Bosnia. Another story that I particularly found interesting was during his second round of duty in Afghanistan in 2010 he had the challenge of re-introducing cottage industries to the local ladies which had to be done discretely through an interpreter. It was so successful that after a couple of months the ladies had set up stalls in the market selling their crafts.
It was Neil’s wife who completed the application form for the Great British Sewing Bee and he had to go through a number of interviews and challenges before being accepted onto the reality TV programme. He showed us a little girl’s smocked dress, a boys waistcoat (made during children’s week), a ladies corset and a wonderful kilt which he often wears.
Several of our members contributed to the Flags of Thanks challenge which Neil organised recently. People were asked to make a 12 inch square of gratitude to the Armed Force Community. About 1000 flags were made and displayed St Thomas Church in Salisbury in June 2019. Eventually Neil wants to stitch these squares together to make in quilts, sleeping bags and ponchos for war veterans and he had a number of the squares and quilts on display.
Whether it be modifying backpacks in Afghanistan, repairing cuddly animals during tours of duty, making costumes for musicals, modifying clothes for Skiing for the Disabled or making bags with local primary school children, Neil’s sewing skills were there for all to see. All through his talk Neil emphasised the importance he finds in relaxing and de-stressing through stitching and knitting and he talked about sharing his skills with others both in the military and on civvy-street. He reminded us that soldiers during the Crimea, the First and Second Wars had done the same.
Thank you Neil for sharing these amazing stories and opening our eyes to a side of our craft that most of us knew nothing about.
Thank you to Vernice for sharing the photo she took of Neil in Salisbury earlier this year and to Lindsay for her "Salvador Dali" photo of our Christmas lunch table!
Report and photos by Ros
Liz explained that many years ago she chose rocks and stones as her topic for a City and Guilds course. During this time she also became interested in lichens and, although she has diversified considerably, Liz is well known for her circle in square designs using lichens as inspiration. Liz handed round a wonderful selection of her work and it was interesting to see her lichen design created using different techniques and materials. They included applique and reverse applique, free machine embroidery, hand stitched French knots, hand dyed fabrics, varying colour combinations and multi media.
Liz enjoys poetry and regularly includes text in her work. She loves experimenting with fonts and her son has created a font for her in the shape of a leaf.
In 2006 Liz was awarded the Charles Henry Foyle award for Stitched Textiles. Her work was entitled “On to the Eastward” and was her interpretation of a maelstrom.
Liz gives talks, has had articles printed in various publications, has been an artist in residence at Nature in Art and has exhibited her work at the Festival of Quilts and around the country. She is a member of the Contemporary Quilters Guild and showed us examples of a monthly challenge to create a journal quilt.
Thank you Liz for a wonderfully enthusiastic talk and for generously sharing your techniques.
Report and photos by Ros
Nikki is a talented artist in so many disciplines and the Guild is fortunate to have her as a member. We could not be anything but inspired by the breadth of her passions and skills, she in turn is inspired by artists such as Van Gogh, Klimt, Monet, Gaudi, Lautrec, the pre Raphaelites, and nature, history, birds and colour. Nikki showed us an amazing array of her work of embroidery, enamelling, silver-smithing, stained glass, furniture painting, upholstery and needle felting.
In amongst all this Nikki's uses recycled materials to dazzling effect in her multi media works such as her crown made for this year’s entry to the Madeira Competition. Last year she was competition winner with her beautifully imagined 'Mary Poppins' carpet bag. She is rightly proud of her ability to recycle and reuse.
Nikki seems to be able to turn her artistic talent to almost anything as well as doing her bit to save the planet. Thank you from the members of the Guild for giving us a glimpse into the amazing world of Nikki Vesey Williams.
Thank you Amanda R for your report and the photos.
I was so very sorry to have missed your talk Nikki, another time! Ros
After what seems a very long break Jennifer Hughes got our programme under way again with a very interesting talk entitled “Hats and bound feet”.
Jennifer brought with her a wonderful personal collection of costumes, hats and shoes which she displayed for members to enjoy. She explained that in the past Han Chinese women would stay at home and were respected for their embroidery. To start with it was the upper classes who stitched but in time the craft filtered down and women would buy silks and threads from pedlars.
Chinese girls had their feet bound from the age of 5 as women were not expected to do anything. The big toe was left and the remaining four were taped back. Nobody saw the foot bare and a sleeping sock would be worn at night times. It was considered a status symbol as well as a mark of beauty.
Jennifer then went on to show a variety of hats which were embroidered with a variety of animals, symbols and flowers. She explained that pom poms and tassels were added to children’s hats to keep spirits away and a tail at the back of a hat identified that the wearer wanted to be a scholar.
Report and photos by Ros
Victoria’s father worked in the oil industry and she was brought up in Houston and Jakata where she discovered her love of batik. She followed a course to learn the various techniques and showed us examples of her work.
Victoria explained that batik is a traditional dye resist technique popular in Indonesia using wax. The wax can be applied in a number of different ways, a metal or wooden stamp or tumblock, usually done by men due to the weight of the stamp or the tulis method which uses a canting containing liquid wax to draw the image on the material. To remove the wax the material is soaked in boiling water.
Traditional dyes are used, barks and indigo as well as chemical dyes. Different types of salt are used to produce different shades and colours. Various types of wax are used including paraffin wax and gum from trees and this wax must be the right temperature otherwise it will not adhere to the cloth.
It was interesting to discover that designs and colours differed depending on where they were made, the market they were targeting or sometimes the Sultan would decide. Muslim designs tended to be subdued whereas Hindus’ designs were more free. The Garuda, which is a mythical bird in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain religions, has always been a very popular design and small dots are a seen on most Indonesian batik. The designs are passed down from one generation to the next and it was very encouraging to hear that the technique is very much alive.
Report and photos by Ros
Alison Hulme discovered stitch after a challenging event in her life. She first tried cross stitch and then silk ribbon embroidery and stump work. Alison joined the Salisbury Embroiderers Guild and went on to take City & Guilds at Fareham College. She worked as a volunteer at Eastleigh College and then she was encouraged to take a Degree Course in Stitched Textiles. Alison choose feet as her design topic and showed us examples of her work.
Alison now prints her own fabrics and makes them into aprons and bags. She gives talks and workshops to share her printing techniques.
Last year Alison exhibited at the Knitting and Stitch Show and she has tutored in France at a craft retreat.
We hope you will return sometime Alison as we would love to learn to make these wonderful fabrics.
Report and photos by Ros
Our speaker this month was Val Toombes. She enjoyed drawing and needlework classes as a teenager and made her own clothes at the age of 12.
In the early days whilst working aboard, Val’s husband bought her a knitting machine and she went on to design patterns. In 1992 she did a machine embroidery course at Farnham College where she became a Bernina fan. She then graduated on to the City & Guilds course at Godalming.
Val’s main interest is silk and she uses it to make paper, scarves, dresses, jackets as well as 3D vessels. She explained that she learnt to dye 10 different colourways for use in her work and loves strong vibrant colours.
Val brought along a selection of her work on display mannequins and passed smaller items around the room for members to look at.
Val enjoys exhibiting her work enters competitions regularly all over the world. She talked about a recent exciting occasion when her work was chosen to be shown in the World of Wearable Art in Wellington, New Zealand. Val also mentioned exhibiting at Ramster Hall near Chiddingfold in Surrey.
A group of members will attend a workshop given by Val so watch out for the posting.
Report and photos by Ros
This month the branch enjoyed our annual Ploughman’s lunch, a lovely choice of cheeses and ham together with bowls of fresh fruit salad.
After lunch, member Vernice Church, continued her talk entitled “Textiles, the Taj Mahal and Tuk Tuks”. She picked up her journey showing us pictures of Udaipur, the amazing Jain Temple at Ranakpur, a step well and then Patan where they saw the double Ikat weavers. They visited the Calico Museum at Ahmedabad but unfortunately no photos were allowed so the images she showed us were taken from their website.
During Vernice's trip through Gujarat the group were given textile demonstrations, took part in workshops and had many opportunities for retail therapy. They were shown examples of Rabari work, saw Rogan painting by one of the only families who can still demonstrate this craft, attended a Kalamkari workshop and a block printing workshop.
Vernice brought along some of her purchases for members to see and we thank her for sharing her exciting experience with us.
Thank you for sharing some of your slides, Vernice.
Report and photos by Ros
Very few of our speakers have had such a prestigious CV as Karen Nicol. Karen’s mother was a keen flower arranger and she was brought up with flowers everywhere. Flowers, animals and birds can be seen in the majority of Karen’s work.
Karen gained a 1st class BA at the Manchester College of Art and then went on to the Royal College of Art where she studied textiles. For many years she taught at the Royal College of Art and has been visiting speaker and artist in residence all over the world.
Karen kindly bought a wonderful selection of her work for us to look at.
Karen then went on to show us images of her work. A large number of them included animals, birds or flowers and ranged from dresses to bedding, table linen and even large animal rugs. She mentioned working for designers like Alexander McQueen, Jasper Conran, Givenchy, Betty Jackson and John Rocha. In time Karen decided to expand her horizons and exhibit and accept commissions under her own name. She started with an exhibition in London and one in Italy with the theme of lace skirts but has subsequently exhibited all over the world. In 2015 Karen was awarded the Royal Designer for Industry.
To our amusement Karen told us that her favourite machine was a 47 year old Singer. She sources a lot of her materials from car boot sales and jumble sales and is always experimenting with unusual materials.
This was a truly inspirational talk which opened up a world I knew little about.
Apologies to Karen for the quality of some of these images which were taken from her presentation. I now know how to adjust the brightness on the projector!
Photos and report by Ros
David Birks from Trowbridge Museum started the new year off with his talk entitled “1000 years of Warp and Weft”. He is the Learning and Outreach Officer for the museum which is closed for redevelopment until August 2020.
David started his talk by asking why the area of West Wiltshire (Trowbridge, Westbury and Bradford on Avon) was so important to the wool trade. We had downland for the sheep, rivers to wash the wool and later to power the machinery, and a good supply of Fullers Earth clay which was important in the finishing of cloth. Initially it was a local trade whereby white woollen cloth was woven and dyed and also raw wool was exported to Europe.
We were shown a basic loom with the warp threads weighed down with blocks which was superseded by the horizontal loom in the 12thC - this had a 7 year apprenticeship to learn the skill. By the mid 15thC it became a regional trade with a wool mark of quality issued by an Aulnager and clothiers responsible for the complete process from raw wool to cloth. Merino wool was introduced from Spain and this was mixed with English wool to produce checks, stripes and patterns. In the 17thC cloth workers from the continent brought new techniques and equipment
By the mid 18thC Georgian money-saving inventions were introduced - the Spinning Jenny, Slubbing Billy, Carding machines and Scribbling Horse. This was a period of industrial unrest as workers worried about losing their jobs due to these new inventions. At the beginning of the 19thC clothiers became very wealthy and the Kennet & Avon Canal was constructed to enable coal to be brought economically from Somerset. In 1860 the wool industry was at its peak. During wartime military cloth was produced for all sides involved but the industry lost out eventually to Scotland, Yorkshire and the continent ending locally in 1982. One of the last orders was for Mary Quant in the 1970s.
David concluded his talk by reading us the fines which were administered to the workers in the factories. They were a high proportion of the workers wages and appeared most unjust by our modern day standards.
Information in this blog is provided by branch members who have attended the meeting, workshop or event.
Marlborough & District Branch is a member of the Embroiderers' Guild, the UK's leading crafts association
* The Embroiderers' Guild website -https://embroiderersguild.com/
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