“Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons.” (Jim Bishop).
Savouring those last warm days, enjoying the crisp coolness of early mornings and evenings, the beautiful colours of nature, sightings of squirrels and robins and the lighting of an open fire all add up to why autumn is by far my favourite season.
New items for autumn, like this squirrel brooch in mustard felt and little hanging artwork in sunflower yellow, have been inspired by the changing colours of nature. Endeavouring to be a little more adventurous with my mixed media style, I’m enjoying combining different colours and patterns of fabrics and embellishments to build a boho style piece, with a hint of vintage.
I was lucky enough to snap up a Dachshund printed fabric off-cut from a Sophie Allport shop last year and was itching to use it in a new artwork design. Finished and mounted before Christmas, I have only just found time to photograph and list in my online shops. I did however remember to take a few in progress shots and thought I’d share these with you to give you an insight into how the picture came together.
Having chosen the light turquoise blue/green felt as the background, initial colour scheme ideas came from the dark red of the Dachshund’s collar so I started by sourcing buttons in complementary colours.
My next stage was to play with fabrics and trims, building a balanced piece with interest from different patterns and textures.
Tiny embellishments are added last to give additional interest and prettiness to the artwork before being mounted on a white canvas and finished with my logo on the reverse.
As with most of my products, I try to use as many donated and recycled fabrics and decorations as possible to save materials ending up in landfill. For this particular picture, many of the additional fabrics, dark grey paper, buttons and sequins were all repurposed.
To finish, here’s a few interesting facts about these adorable hounds:
* with their German origins, the correct pronounciation of the word “Dachshund” is “Daks-hoont”, with the word “dachs” meaning “badger” and “hund” meaning “hound” or “dog”;
* they have quite a few nicknames, the most endearing to me are “sausage dog” and “doxie”;
* in 1972 Waldie the Dachshund was the colourful mascot for the Munich Olympic Games.
During GCSE years (or O’level as it was in my day), one of the subjects I took was Fine Art. I always remember feeling I wasn’t very good at it but did, on my third attempt, secure a grade B having previously received two grade Ds! I seem to remember we were taught to draw or paint in a particular way and could never quite master it. I have since realised that art isn’t about conforming, there is no right or wrong, it is your own personal interpretation, your way to express what you see and how you feel.
Texture has fascinated me since junior school, my first memories are of making paper collages and weaving materials by using a hand made cardboard loom.
I have finally rekindled this love by sewing tactile and colourful artwork for Ellie’s Treasures. I have to admit, it was daunting at first and actually quite frustrating, as I knew how I wanted things to look, but didn’t have the confidence to get there. All I can say is, if this sounds like you, whatever you long to do, keep practising, keep experimenting and you’ll be surprised how quickly you progress.
After initial fabric and charm framed pictures I moved on to sewing with material scraps, ribbon, trims and embellishments to “build” my first mini canvas. It took me an absolute age!
Now I love the planning stage and really get stuck in trying this and that until I begin to see something lovely develop. Although there are many times when work is put on the back-burner for a few weeks, I know I will return to it with fresh eyes and be able to finish and be happy with the end result.
When a piece comes together, the sense of achievement is wonderful. That feeling grows even more when someone else shows an interest in your hard work by way of comments and sales – it boosts your confidence no end and pushes you to keep doing what you love.
As felt is one of the textiles that I use to produce my items I thought I’d let you know a bit about this amazingly versatile fabric. I chose felt as my main medium because of its vast colour range and the fact it is a forgiving, easy to use fabric. I can gently pull it into shape should I need to (although it isn’t elastic, so over pulling means it can completely mis-shape), it’s easy to cut and needs no hemming making it the perfect base for layering fabrics and embellishments.
Felt is a man-made fabric which has been created from natural materials and is thought to be one of the oldest textiles around. Said to have been created in Asia, the Nomadic people are still using traditional methods to product felt for practical uses including tents and clothing. There are tales of St. Christopher and St. Clement, when fleeing from persecution, stuffing their sandals with wool to ease their feet and finding the wool had turned into felt socks due to the mix of continuous movement and sweat.
The traditional process of making felt is a combination of matting, condensing and pressing the fibres together. When I was home educating my two children, we went along to a workshop where we turned wool roving into felt using hot soapy water and rubbing the fibres in a circular motion with our fingers to eventually end up with a small pieces of felt (you can read my blog post about it here). It was a time consuming but worthwhile exercise with an end result of colourful artwork having combined felt and roving to make patterned pieces. An easier way is to pop an unwanted pure wool sweater or similar in the washing machine on a hot cycle – the heat and water will shrink and combine the fibres to produce felt.
Being a popular medium, felt is now manufactured to use in many areas of life, including the automotive industry, musical instruments, home construction and fashion, to name just a few, and there are different types of felt for different types of use.
100% synthetic is a man-made felt using mainly acrylic, polyester and viscose (rayon). As it is widely available and produced in an array of fabulous colours, including glittery and self-adhesive, it is ideal for general crafting. This felt is stiffer to the touch, strong and easier at keeping its shape.
A blended felt is a mix of pure wool and viscose making it softer than synthetic felt. Again, you can source a good selection of colours including “heathered”, an effect produced from wool fibres being interwoven. The majority of my items are sewn using this type of felt as it has the softness of wool felt combined with some strength of synthetic.
Eco-friendly 100% wool comes in a choice of thickness and has a lovely soft feel. The different thicknesses mean this natural textile can be used for different mediums with thicker felt being good for sturdier creations like wall coverings or art.
100% roving is wool that has been combed and twisted to hold the fibres together ready to be used for needle felting, a process where fibres are combined using a continuous stabbing with a very sharp needle to produce delightful ornaments, decorations and dolls.
I mainly use a blended felt (usually 30% wool, 70% vicose) with a good weight to create my items, occasionally using synthetic should I fall in love with the colour or need to make something sturdier. I will be adding 100% wool felt items in the near future and, if I am happy with how these work for me and able to find a good selection of colours, aim to move over to this eco-friendly felt in the long run.
Thought I’d give a little insight into how my items begin life and evolve to become a finished product. This journey can take several weeks, especially once I reach embellishment stage (my own quote, “an artist can’t art unless they feel artistic” rings true many times!).
Although I’m not a night bird, never have been and most probably never will be, I do find my brain gets a spurt of energy around 9:30 in the evening and it starts to fill with new ideas, colour schemes and what not. It’s a little annoying to be honest as there’s no way the rest of my body can start to put these thoughts into practise as I’m physically too tired. Before hitting the sack I’ll jot down any light bulb ideas and perhaps pull out a couple of fabric squares or embellishments to remind me to pick up the inspiration the next day.
Sometimes a new product will come from something I’ve seen or heard that day, or perhaps from a client with an idea for a commission. My first port of call is either the felt colour or the fabric choice, or perhaps the combination of both. I have a colourful selection of felts to choose from and an even bigger collection of fabric, many of which have been donated or ready to be repurposed.
Once the initial colour scheme has been decided and the charm or main feature has been picked, then it’s down to finding embellishments and having a good old play around to get a feel for how I’d like my new piece to look. This will include ribbons, lace, buttons and seed beads, perhaps with printed words too, but I’m toying with idea of including other media in my work in the near future – building up the confidence for this one.
Neatly sewing everything in its right place is the final stage, often with additional stitching or further decoration as I move things along. I love the process and how everything gradually comes together, producing a totally unique item with many hours of love and attention given to it.