I love learning new techniques and skills. There are a wealth of fabulous craft books, magazines and videos on the internet to show you how to do pretty much anything but often finding the time in a busy life of work and kids to sit down with an instruction manual, magazine or to follow a video on YouTube can be tough without getting distracted or feeling guilty that you should be doing something else. For this reason, I love attending workshops. Be it to learn a new skill or refresh an old one, the luxury of time to fully focus is well worth it. On top of time and expert instruction, there is also the access to tools and materials before shelling out yourself.
Recently, I attended a masterclass with Dionne Swift at Janome headquarters in Stockport. I have followed her on Facebook for a couple of years as I love her abstract combinations of muted tones and bold textures based on landscapes. I own a small piece of print and stitch by her that I bought in a Facebook sale and covet her lampshades which I hope to treat myself to when we finish doing up the house. She runs a few masterclasses for Janome plus other workshops internationally and online. This particular one was titled “Textural Collage” and promised that we would “explore a variety of joining/collaging techniques using an embellisher and a sewing machine”. The images of work created by students in previous workshops really appealed to me.
The morning was spent getting to grips with the machines on a test piece. As embellishers are nearly £300, the chance to learn how to use one was a great opportunity. Dionne provided a range of quality materials: wools, muslins, sari cottons, fleece; but not so many as to overwhelm us with choice (this indecisive lady thanks you). She even included tips on suppliers. She showed us how each reacted with the embellisher, how to colour-mix fleece to create bespoke felts and effects you could get collaging from the back as well as the front. We were given plenty of time and freedom to explore possibilities. As well as the embellishers, we were given an introduction to Free Embroidery using a standard machine. This was a great addition to the day as was something I had been meaning to try for a couple of years. I even bought a special foot for my machine over a year ago but as mentioned before…
After a lovely included lunch plus fabulous chocolate cake made by Dionne herself (a lady of many talents), we began to think about our main pieces. We looked at Fibonacci and golden ratio. Dione encouraged us to find key motifs to use at different scales. My piece developed quite organically out of a curved remnant of purple wool and a piece of patterned cotton fabric with a matching curve. I used the small motif in the pattern to tie my design together as it made me think of seaweed clinging to rocks or lichen/fungi on a tree – things I frequently photograph and use as inspiration. I built up some felt using a mix of colours to cut into this motif shape and embroidered even larger versions into the background. I continued the colours from the patterned cotton into the rest of the piece to give a feeling of harmony.
It was a fabulously inspiring day. Clear step by step instructions paired with creative freedom. We finished the day with a sharing. There was definitely a range of styles across the group and amusingly easy to pair people up with their work. Even though we all create a test piece and main piece, I think we would all agree that we left with two unique pieces of textile art.
A great introduction to the possibilities of an embellisher. I am itching to do more and definitely be purchasing one.