More lino cuts at the William Morris Society

On Wednesday I got round to the exciting activity of testing out the lino cuts Alice and I made last week for the William Morris Society. I keenly/ naively decided to test them out on my nice Belarusian linen, with which I’ve been learning quite a few things about fabric printing lately, and the extra challenges it throws in.

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Ink

I used pots of Dylon fabric here, because I happened to have some different colours at home. Permaset printing ink gives a clearer, easier print, I think because the consistency is thicker, but since I only have black – not very common in Morris’s designs – I opted for the Dylon today.

 

Roller

It took me a long time to realise that a hard roller is the wrong tool for the job when it comes to printing on fabric. A foam roller is best  – art shops supply dinky versions of the DIY ones.

 

Technique

Put a blob of ink on a flat tray, then lightly spread it out using the roller, lifting the roller up a few times to make sure it has a layer of ink all over. Then, and this is crucial, roll it very lightly over the surface of the print, trying to cover the surface evenly and avoiding the background. If you press the roller into the print, as you would with a hard roller, then the ink will just get pushed into the lines and negative space of the design, accumulating and causing a ‘bleeding’ effect. And swearing. Press the lino quite hard onto the fabric for about 30 seconds or so.

 

Re cutting

As you can see from the test strip, a lot of ink was picked up by incidental cutting lines in the background. I really liked the ‘radiating’ effect this gave, but, for our purposes, they had to go. So, I used the initial test print as a guide to tidying up the lino cuts.

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Admittedly, Morris probably would have thought these initial attempts pretty shoddy – the prints are inconsistent and have a few background marks. But then, I quite like the telltale signs that tell you something’s handmade.

IMG_1320By the way, I’ve written this post from Kiev, where I’m on a three-day holiday before I’m off to Donetsk. Pictures to follow!

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Herculaneum pillars

In an effort not to come across as bragging, I’ve failed to even mention an amazing family holiday in Naples last month. Better late than never.

It was wonderful to spend a week exploring a beautiful but gritty city (but not in the way London is, with more history and noise and round-the-clock street life), enjoying an espresso and fogliatella pastry for breakfast and pizza for lunch and dinner, and taking the train further out to the sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum. It was an odd sensation to wonder around the streets of these two frozen Roman cities, stepping from ancient cobble to ancient cobble, passing food stalls with their terracotta pots set into marble counters and occasionally wandering through a doorway into a villa or public baths. It felt like the locals had all just gone on holiday somewhere.

Here’s a picture of a courtyard in one of the grand villas of Herculaneum, the pillars of which struck me as good for a striped knitting pattern. I still find graph paper and felt pens the easiest and most satisfying way of designing patterns.pillar2

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vesuOn the train back from Pompeii, Sayed and I listened to PJ Harvey’s ‘This is Love’ on headphones, restraining ourselves from leaping around the carriage and nearly imploding in the process as we passed Vesuvius, which I was convinced was about to erupt. If any song could make a volcano erupt, it would be this one.

Lino printing adventures

Having bought some lovely white Belarusian linen in Ukraine, I’ve decided to try printing on it, this time using lino instead of potato. Here are my first, pleasing, if not entirely successful attempts. I’m using Dylon fabric paint and lino from an arts supply shop, but have a feeling one or both of them is causing the prints to come out too weak. The lino seems a little bit hard and brittle, and the paint doesn’t seem as sticky as it should be for printing.

In a recent post, I started to put my thoughts about the garment industry and its problems into words. It’s made me want to look more closely at clothing and fabric, so my first lino cut was inspired by this – literally looking closely at, or ‘zooming in’ on the fabric on which it’s printed.

My second print was borrowed from a blackwork embroidery design in Rosemary Drysdale’s The Art of Blackwork Embroidery. Blackwork is a type of embroidery used in England from the time of Henry VIII, often seen poking from collars and cuffs in Tudor portraits, as in this painting by Holbein, and sometimes for more largescale decoration, such as in this portrait of Elizabeth I. After I made the prints I came across other blackwork embroidery designs resembling fabric weave, so I’ll take the happy coincidence of the two designs being related as an encouraging sign!

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At the Cluny museum

Paris, day 2. Conversation over a breakfast of bread, jam, croissants, tea and espressos centers on visiting the Cluny Museum and especially seeing the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. On arrival, we discover that the tapestries are currently on tour in Japan while their room gets a make-over.

Flip.

As it happenened, this omittance turned out to be not such a bad thing; instead of sitting and staring in awe at the said tapestries before lunch cravings power us round the rest of the museum at high speed, we wander at a leisurely pace prudently admiring all the exhibits.

As you can see from my photos, my camera has a particular liking for uncanny/ headless statues, unconventional representations of Jesus (pulling his step-dad’s beard and riding a donkey on a skateboard) and tapestries depicting unusual gestures of love.

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Fragment de “nappe de Pérouse”: licornes / Fragment of a tablecloth “from Perugia”: unicorns
Italy (Pérouse?), 15th century
Linen and cotton dyed with indigo

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Retable / Altarpiece depicting the Visitation
Ile-de-France, 2nd part of the 14th century

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Groupe sculpté: la Sainte Famille / The Holy Family
Alsace(?), c. 1500. Wood, polychrome

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St Margaret
Master of Pacully (?), End of the 15th century

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The Virgin Mary and St John from a group of the descent from the cross.
Tuscany, 1220-1230, Wood, polychrome.

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The animals disdaining to eat St Stephen.
Brussels, c. 1500. Wool and silk tapestry.

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Church pews
Eastern France(?), 15th century (modern assembly), wood.

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Fox preaching to chickens

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Christ des Rameaux / Palm Sunday Statue of Christ
Southern Germany, last quarter of the 15th century. Wood, polychrome

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Le Retour de la Chasse / Return from the Hunt
Southern Netherlands, c. 1500-20. Wool and silk tapestry.

Dad and Harrietparis11Finally, here’s a picture of my Dad and sister, who made the beautiful dress she’s wearing – and when I say made I mean she made a lino cut, printed the fabric and sewed it together largely by hand. I hope it survives to be admired in a hundred, five hundred, a thousand years time.. but just in case it doesn’t, I’ve got it on camera.

Thursday’s Paradigm Knit

Sion relic purse

Here’s a page from Reverend Rutt’s A History of Knitting, a book mentioned previously in this post. Along with information on a fourteenth-century knitted purse found in a Swiss cathedral, Rutt has helpfully included a pattern of the purse’s design, so I tried it out in Rowan fine tweed. HoKtweed1tweed3tweed2

Tweed swiggle

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I’ve started another swiggle piece (here’s the original design, the first swiggle jumper and its progress – one, two, three), this time a birthday present for my mum, who will be sixty in September. I went for Rowan tweed yarn in a mossy green and cream. Since the yarn is a bit thicker than what was used for this design before, the design is bigger and I’m reworking my original ‘pattern’ (I say ‘pattern’ because it’s shamefully strewn between various notebooks and sheafs of paper, many of which have uncertain whereabouts).

This time I’m making sure to remember exactly what’s already been done by literally attaching notes to the knitting on luggage labels. It’s the only way.

Thursday’s paradigm knit

Having been a bit lax about posting lately, I’ve given myself a pinch this week. I started this blog and want to continue it because  a) I want to post things that I think others would find interesting/ inspiring/ helpful and give something back to the huge online pool of amazing talent and work that I dip into so much, b) I have a poor memory and need an easily accessible archive full of images to remind myself what I’ve been doing and making and c) my self-motivation varies hugely from obsessive and hyper about getting something done to chewing nails and staring into space – I wanted a long-term project that would keep both it and me going. However, being in that uninspired, flat state of mind makes it difficult to write or photograph or DO anything.

So.. the point of this particular post is to have a regular feature that I have to post every week because ..otherwise that bomb on the bus*/ milk float** will go BOOM!! and Bruce Willis*/ Father Ted** won’t be around to help this time.

Anyway.

Every Thursday I’ll post a new design with a little bit about its source of inspiration. The design might be taken directly from a historical piece of knitting, adapted from another medium e.g. ceramics or emerge from the jelly-like substance of the sea on the surface of the planet Solaris.

Here, like this:

Oak leaf design

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A new knitting pattern, taken from a piece of embroidery in Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire. The yarn is Jamiesons of Shetland spindrift in ‘moss’ and ‘scotch broom’.

Detail of a framed cushion cover of crimson silk worked in long-armed, cross or tent-stiches with various types of oak leaves. From the Paved Room, Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire.

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*popular culture reference for the general readership

**popular culture reference for Aunty Penny

Wool House II

After quite a busy week I’ve finally got round to uploading my pictures from a second visit to the Wool House, last Friday. I’ll try to be better in future, I promise.

The rooms of Wool House were put together by different artists and designers, with a bedroom, lounge and nursery, amongst others.

These were my two favourites, Natural Room by Josephine Ryan and Nursery by Donna Wilson. I liked the first for its fairytale-like sinister edge (Little Red Riding Hood’s Grandma’s woodland cottage), the second for it’s soporific dreaminess (the designer’s alternative to adding brandy to the baby’s bottle) and both for their all-encompassing warmth and imaginative design. Walking into them practically felt like being hugged by the fleecy walls.

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Even William Morris didn’t get it right the first time

William Morris (1834 – 1896), Philip Webb (1831 – 1915), Trellis wallpaper design (1862).
Pencil, ink and watercolour on paper, 66 x 61 cm.
© William Morris Gallery, London Borough of Waltham Forest

In this sketch for his first wallpaper design, Trellis, William Morris made light sketches, altered the position of leaves and tested out colours for the background before settling on the final piece. He even got his friend, the designer and architect Philip Webb, to draw the birds for him.

The drawing is on display in the delightful William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow!