As the project I’ve been working on in South Charlton, Northumberland draws to a close, I am starting a new project in Chopwell, Gateshead.
There are similarities and differences with these projects.
In both cases the groups involved are women’s craft clubs. ‘Which Craft’ in South Charlton and the ‘Quick Crafters’ in Chopwell.
The aim of each project is to capture the essence of the location and to share textile skills that each group can use in this and future projects.
In South Charlton, funding came from an energy company that has built a wind farm on land nearby. The money has been used to refurbish the Village Hall and the two textile panels we have made will hang in the entrance. if you look closely you will see wind turbines in both pieces to reference the funding sources.
In Chopwell, funding comes from a project to improve health and wellbeing. With the additional aim of encouraging community engagement.
The panel will hang in a room in the Community Centre.
We have had our final group session in South Charlton, the last few blackberries were stitched on and edges have been neatened. Now the two panels are back on my work table to have their backing panels applied and then, in April the pieces will be hung in the entrance of the Village Hall for everyone to enjoy.
Meanwhile over in Chopwell, at our first practical session we were developing skills for the project. First of all, we dyed fabric that will be used to appliqué some sections of our design.
Then, after a pause for tea and cake (another similarity with the WhichCraft project!) I demonstrated the basics of needle felting. Lots of comments of ‘Oh, this is lovely’ as we learnt to make simple shapes, dots and lines. The merino fibres are so great to use and the colours blend beautifully.
We intend to use needle felting to add details to the wall hanging. I’ve left supplies with the group so they can continue to experiment- along with some ideas for other textile artists to have a look at.
Starting with a task that is new to most participants, dyeing fabrics, helps to encourage team spirit, as everyone is learning together. The method I use is accessible to most ages and abilities- and there’s something magical about transforming plain fabrics into a rainbow palette!
Using small pieces of fabric and working with squeezey bottles of dye keeps the risk of mess to a minimum. My next challenge will be to make this dye process as eco friendly as possible. Currently I use recycled materials and equipment where possible, and only make up enough dye for the project. Natural dye experiments coming up soon though!
Now that the design is finalised ( although the group is already talking about panels 2 & 3! Let’s finish this one first,team!) I will divide it into sections and make a traced pattern for each one so that the group can work on different parts and can also work on their sections in between sessions with me.