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The Last Shift – all done!

I have so enjoyed  this project, meeting and working with the children at the Primary School and using their designs to complete the banner.

Last Shift Finished

So now you can see how it has all fitted together, I’ll have to add a picture of the reverse but this is the front. There was a lovely ‘Oooh’ from the children and visitors when the banner was unveiled at school last Thursday.

It’s always nerve wracking to take in a finished piece – will they/ won’t they like it?? Its safe to say I was a bit anxious as I drove over to the school, luckily, I think this was a hit!

The central panel is created from those details I shared in my last post, making a stylised view of Greenside and it’s Colliery past. I wanted to use features of the traditional banners, so the children’s block prints form strong contrasting borders and the school name is on a scroll at the top. The panel that shows ‘Today’s Children’ reads ‘Tomorrow’s Future’ on the reverse – a phrase found on the reverse of the updated Greenside colliery banner.

The back is covered in the block prints made by Key Stage 3 classes, arranged in stripes that link to the striped brickwork in the Miners’ Cottages in the village.

All of the children’s prints have been included – if they are not on the main banner then they are stitched like prayer flags to the streamers that hang from the sides. This banner truly represents all of the children in school!

The banner will get its first official outing at The Last Shift Picnic next Saturday, 23rd July. I hope the rest of the village like it as much as the children and teachers!

Many thanks to the Banner Tales team and Greenside Primary School for giving me the opportunity to work on this lovely community project!


The Last Shift – embroidery challenge 

With the printing done and borders stitched, this week I’ve focused on  the central panel. The design is inspired by the print panels made by Y3-6. The base fabric collage is, again, made from the spiral dye fabrics made by the younger children. Because I work with strips of fabric I can isolate colours to build up the scene. 

Here’s the blue sky over Greenside. (Artistic license used for actual landscape features!)

The grey strips represent roads. There’s also going to be a detail of the underground mine working sat the base.

Features will be added by copying images from the printed postcards and turning them into appliqué and stitch- here’s some examples:

I love this image of the pit pony in the fields

Here he is in fabric and stitch

I think this pit pony deserves his time out in the fresh air! 

Here’s an iconic colliery image – one that features strongly on the original Greenside banner .

For the school building, I’ve combined details from two postcards- 

I’m deliberately not showing the whole design- that’s waiting for the grand unveiling at school on Thursday- but I’ll sneak you one more peek – I love this miner with his axe!

And now you’ll have to wait till the end of the week to see the whole banner- see you back here for the big reveal!!

The Last Shift

Construction begins…

All the workshops are done, so now it’s time to transform piles of print and spiral dyed fabric into a brilliant banner.

I’ve dyed the background fabric and the ribbon streamers.

All the scroll text is cut out. I cut the letters with bondaweb so they’ll stay in position when I stitch them.

The back panel has had its ‘first fix’ with postcard prints from years 3-6. I’ve used a brick wall pattern with stripes of different colours to echo the stripey brickwork in Greenside miners’ cottages.

This will make the back of the banner visually interesting as the children march along the street.

I’m off to do hospital workshops tomorrow – a silk painted sea, amongst other things …so more updates on Thursday 😊

Screen Printing from scratch

screen made from old frame and net curtain!

For the next stage of ‘The Last Shift’ banner project, I’m going to ask the children to screen print dates from the era that Greenside Colliery was open. 

Screen printing can be very technical and complex…or it can be an improvisation challenge- we’re going for the latter!

We’ll be using screens made from old picture frames and net curtain. I trialled two different nets that were in my fabric stash (people give me all sorts of things that will get used one day!)  I’ve stretched most of the frames with the finer net but will use the coarser fabric for the 1950’s design because I think it will work better with that text (B movie horror font!) 

  I’m using Speedball screen painting fluids to make the screens.

I tested out the nets using stencils made from kitchen paper- the plasticised surface makes it stick to the screen so it’s a great temporary stencil. You can cut or tear the kitchen paper to make stencils but they’ll only last for a couple of prints. 

With the speedball process – blue screen drawing fluid is used to draw the design onto the screen.

First I traced the design onto the screen. Then I painted it out with the blue drawing fluid. 

This needs to dry completely.

Then the screen filler is spread over the entire surface of the screen and left to dry. 

Block Printing …with a 1920’s vibe

Remember these lovely fabrics, dyed by toddlers, nursery and reception children?

pegged out

sky blue pink!

This week, the fabrics were handed onto Year 1 & 2 pupils for the next stage of the Last Shift Banner project.Last week, the little ones were doing Sixties style dyeing. This time we were looking back to the 1920’s and 30’s when artists Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher were reviving the craft of block printing on fabrics.

Barron n Larcher blocks                            jane-weir-book

Using hand carved wooden blocks, found objects like kitchen utensils and natural dyes, Barron & Larcher hand printed fabrics for fashion and interiors. There’s a beautiful book of poems about the pair combined with images of their work & inspiration Walking The Block by poet Jane Weir

Inspired by  these textiles, I  I brought along 2 sets of printing blocks carved in quick cut lino. Year 1 pupils worked with blocks inspired by the school logo and class tree symbols, whilst the key stage 1 trip to  Beamish Pit Village inspired a set of blocks featuring items used by miners or found in a pit village.

For each class, I set up a DIY printing table (blanket and plastic sheet taped over a folding table!) and worked with 8 children at a time to block print on the fabrics.

Year 1 children printed the tree symbols in green on to the dyed fabric and also onto plain white fabric.

These colour prints will form an outer  border around the banner, whilst the green on white prints will make small flags for the children.

Year 2 children printed their blocks in black. These will make an inner border around the banner.

Before each session, we listened to some music from the 1920’s and 30’s and looked at pictures of fashion from the time as well as talking about Barron & Larcher’s textiles.

At the print table,we talked about the print process and I demonstrated what to do. Then the children worked in pairs; taking turns to be the printer and the assistant. The printer chose a block, inked it up and placed it on the fabric, then asked the assistant (nicely!) for the clean roller to press down the block. The assistant’s job was to remind the printer of the process and make sure the clean roller didn’t end up in the ink (very important!). All the children did a fantastic job of inking up and printing the blocks.

I had planned the activity to be inclusive and manageable in a tight time scale, each class of 30 had just over an hour to print on the fabric. Working with 4 pairs of children at a time and demonstrating the activity to each group meant that the children took control of the process, supporting each other and letting me oversee and remind of instructions where necessary. Whilst printing, the children talked about the images and their visit to Beamish. We talked about the language miners used – words like Bait meaning food (taken down the pit) and Leet (light). We also talked about the miners’ cottages and how different they seemed to our homes now.


A bit of washing up to do after!

It was lovely to see the children get so involved with the activity. One for fabulous question from Y2 – ‘why does some of the block stay blue when you ink it up?’ helped us to understand how the process works.

(I then managed to ‘lose’ all these lovely fabrics for 24 hours – PANIC!                                        I had packed everything up, taken it downstairs from the classroom in three journeys, then out to the car, drove back to mine, took everything back up two flights of stairs to the attic and at some point didn’t notice that I’d put the bag of print fabrics down separately from the box of equipment when I switched on a light – AARGH! Frantic phone calls to school, hectic searching of car and finally, cool calm partner retraces my steps and finds the bag by the attic door! Sorry everyone! Crisis over…Ö must remember to get some sleep soon!) 

Now I’ll get on with setting out the borders and preparing the next workshops for Key Stage 2 classses!

Fabulous Funfair

I am so excited to be finally paying a visit to the fabulous Carters Steam Fair in June. Given my love of funfairs and vintage style how could i not be drawn to this! I’ll certainly have my sketchbook and camera prepared  as I experience rides like these.

Carters Chair o planeCarters galloper-picCarters Steam yachts-pic

I’ve already stitched some pieces inspired by funfairs, particularly the Hoppings here in Newcastle. I used to visit the funfairs at Scarborough and Blackpool as inspiration for my final degree show back in the day too!

I’m hoping I can put a new sketchbook full of ideas together from my trip to the wonderful Carters Steam Fair. Here’s hoping for sunny weather to capture all those beautiful colours and shining surfaces!


New Beginning and a Sculpture Garden

What to do on a cold, grey Bank Holiday? I know – Start preparing for a new community project!

I’ve been commissioned to produce a banner with the children of a primary school. The banner will be in the style of a Miners Banner as the village is celebrating 50 years since the closure of the village pit – the main mine having been open for 50 years from 1906 to 1966. The banner must be of a size that the children can manage to carry and the idea is to celebrate life in a pit village, rather than the work of the pit itself.

Measuring dyes

Measuring chemicals


Dye bottles

Measuring chemicals

So the dyes are ready, the fixing solutions are mixed and the fabric squares are prepared. The youngest children in the school are going to colour the fabrics that we’ll be using, then I’m aiming to use different print processes with the older children.

Each group will have a different decade as the theme for their work – 1906, 1916,1926,1936,1946,1956 and 1966. They’ll look at the culture of each decade and let that influence their ideas. So, I’m busy sourcing music, fashion and art from each era to get them thinking!

Its not all work though! Yesterday we took some time out to visit Cheeseburn Sculpture Garden. It is a beautiful place. Originally a farm linked to Hexham Priory it now has gorgeous gardens with sculpures placed throughout. Wandering through flower gardens, walled gardens and woodland gardens you come across stunning sculptures and sound installations.

These two can be found on the edge of the woodland garden. Some of our party found novel ways of viewing the sculptures…


I was overcome with Wisteria envy…

Maybe one day my wisteria will achieve such profusion!

Alongside the sculptures and beautiful gardens there are lots of curious and intriguing objects to discover in ancient outhouses and dusty corners…

Rusted metal and moss strewn surfaces all setting creative ideas going…just look at these rusty old bellows…

I love the colour and those strong circles contrasting with that crumbling wood. Think I may have to return with a sketchbook – do check the website though because the Sculpture Garden is only open for a few weekends each year – and yes they do a lovely cup of tea and slice of cake!