Monday 2 April 2018

Blackbirds, Fabric Scraps and Vintage Textiles

Since my last blog, I've continued with the 'blackbird' theme and incorporating text into my work. 

I love words, and they can add another dimension to artwork, but it can be a bit of a challenge to make text sit comfortably within the piece, and really feel part of it.

Remember that other fabric scrap collage I had started?  The one that I turned 90 degrees?  Well, after all that, I ended up turning it right back around to how it started! 

 I had already made a list of little sentences I might like to include and settled on 'Sing a song of joy'.  I printed these onto some primed cotton using ink and alphabet stamps.

I had made a stencil from some freezer paper of my little blackbird, and used this to transfer my image onto some primed cotton with acrylic paint.

The flowers were carefully cut from an old table runner, and were originally quite a stark white so I soaked them in some tea for a while so that they blended in more nicely. 

Further hand stitching was added as well as a pretty edging, which I had snipped away from a 'vintage' pillowcase.  Finally a few shell buttons and beads finished off the corners and I backed the whole thing with some linen and blanket stitch.

I had the metal hanger already at home - it was one of those impulse buys from a craft store and has been languishing in a drawer for a few years!  This was the perfect size - by luck more than judgement I might add.

I really like my little wall hanging, and it's now in my kitchen.

Getting back to some Felting

In my last blog, I mentioned wanting to do a bit of felting, and to maybe try a felted version of my blackbird collages.

Well, I did get a chance to make some prefelts which I used to make a 'patchwork' background, and this was my starting point.

I rarely plan my work very much these days, and I'm enjoying creating in a more intuitive way and letting things evolve, and this was no exception.

I hadn't done any needlefelting for a long time, and my first decision was to needlefelt a blackbird onto the background - it turned out very nicely.

Next, I took to needle and thread, and started that lovely, rhythmic running stitch.  I used both quilting thread and tapestry wools, each giving it's own effect and textural quality to the surface.

I knew I wanted to include words again, but this time it took a while to decide just how to incorporate them.  I did spend rather a long time embroidering the words on, but ended up unpicking it all as it just didn't sit right!  

After much dithering, and trying different placements, I printed onto teabag paper and lightly glued the words into place.  They stood out a bit too much, so I covered them over with organza and stitched in place and this just knocked the wording back enough to blend in more with the piece as a whole.

More stitching was added, as well as a few dyed flower trims and I cropped it into a square format which seemed to suit the picture well.

I now can't quite decide how to present it - either with a mount in a frame, floating in a box frame or make it into a little wall hanging.  The latter would mean more work in edging it in a complementary way - perhaps I should have forward planned a little bit after all!

What do you think?  

Textiles Inspiration

I often include birds in my work - mostly because I am fascinated by them and love to watch them coming and going in our garden and squabbling over the feeders.  They all seem to have their own personalities!

I also find inspiration in song lyrics and books - for example, blackbirds have featured quite a bit lately after coming across an old Enid Blyton book which belonged to my father-in-law. It's got some lovely colour plates inside as well as short stories and poems about nature.

There's a nice little tale in the book about the blackbird, who I've always thought to be a rather handsome chap, and at the risk of making this a long blog post, I've typed up an excerpt below.

Basically, the blackbird felt very dull in the springtime compared to all the other birds with colourful feathers, and he went to see Dabble the elf (as you do) to see if she could dye or paint his feathers a brighter colour.  She couldn't, but she had another idea...

The blackbird looked so sad that Dabble wondered how she could possibly help him.

"What about your beak?" she said suddenly.  "That's an ordinary brown colour - but we could make that a lovely gold if you like.  That would help to brighten you up."

"Good idea!"  sang the blackbird in delight.  Dabble emptied out the blue dye in her pot and rinsed it out well.  Then she filled it again with fresh dew, put in a pinch of yellow powder and let it all come to the boil.  She took her pot off the fire again and went to a large yellow crocus growing in her garden.  It was almost as tall as herself!

She emptied the dye into it, and then beckoned to the blackbird.  "Here you are" she said "dip your beak into this and hold it there for five minutes.  I have another idea too.  Why shouldn't you make your black coat beautiful, even it is black and not brightly coloured:  I will get some polish and a duster and polish your feathers whilst you are dyeing your beak."

So the blackbird stood with his beak in the golden crocus cup and Dabble polished him from head to tail as hard as she could.  How he shone!  How glossy he looked!

When he took his beak out of the crocus, it was a bright orange-gold, most beautiful to see!  He sang loudly in delight!

"You are very lovely!" said Dabble admiringly "You are just as lovely as any bird with colours or speckles or bibs!  Fly off now and see what people say!"

(Enid Blyton)


I love that, so whimsy and reminiscent of all those lovely stories from my childhood - and now you know where the shiny blackbird got his beautiful orange-gold beak!

What's Next?

I have a couple of ideas up my sleeve that I'd like to explore, and they are much to do with the links between stitching (or indeed crafting of any kind) and mental health. If you have any thoughts or experiences on this topic, I'd love to hear from you.

Happy Easter...until next time

I hope you have all enjoyed the Easter Weekend - here in Cornwall we are still waiting for Spring to arrive!  Still a bit cold, wet and windy!  

Best wishes

Tanya x