May 2019 TALK by Bob Irwin from African Fabric Shop “Beauty of the Bead” (report by Mal Ralston)
Talk was about manufacture of beads in West Africa. This is hugely important as beads are used ceremonially,culturally and are a symbol of wealth.Trade beads started as glass beads produced in Italy or Bohemia. Beads are worn every day in Ghana and colours have special meaning, e.g. brown is protective in pregnancy. Dipo ceremony (a coming of age for women) is an occasion upon which waist beads are worn, tiny beads which are part of the Ntaka bead family.
Before Europeans brought trade beads,Ghana was a major producer of bauxite stone beads. Locals could chip out bits of rock from the hill to make the bauxite beads. Beads are made in the small villages in the hills,at least 1-2 hours walk from town.
There is an area in the bead market selling recycled glass, which then has to be carried miles back to the village. The glass is then ground down into a fine powder, dye added, then added to the mould. Plant stalks are added to the mould to make the hole in the bead as they burn away in the kiln. Beads are fused in a wood fired kiln, then decorated using a fine stick dipped in a mixture of dye and powdered glass. They can also be decorated using different colours of glass,applied as powders or chips.
Some makers use only recycled beer or gin bottles to make green or blue beads respectively and empty bottles are brought into the country to be shattered into small shards and used to make beads.
Brass beads are made in the Ashanti region. Beeswax spaghetti is wound around a clay core in a pattern to make a model for casting.
Recycled plastic beads come from Kumasi, where hard plastic waste is gathered from the streets and melted in a frying pan to begin the process, giving off fumes.
Big bead markets are held in Koforidua, and are a sight to behold!
Plymouth, Bloom ,Bombay sapphire gin, and some Portuguese white wine bottles are much in demand and empties welcomed by Bob and Magie!
May 2019 TALK with Magie Relph “Fabric Beadmaking” (report by Mal Ralston)
After a fascinating talk by Bob explaining all the different methods used in Ghana for bead making, 17 of us were keen to try our hand at making our own fabric beads. Magie described and demonstrated a number of interesting ways to do this depending on the type of fabric we were using.
Shwe- shwe, a starched cotton is stiff enough to roll into beads either from a rectangular or triangular piece of fabric. Other softer cottons can be wrapped around plastic straws to give them more strength. ( Magie pointed out that by using the straws to make beads we were keeping them out of the ocean!) Fine fabrics can be fused to a felt backing with bondaweb then folded and secured with a decorative stitch or bead. A final method was to make “puff ball” beads stuffed with wadding.
Magie had plenty of examples of finished projects to inspire us, from simple bracelets and cuffs, to longer necklaces and even small dolls. Then it was time for us to experiment with the different techniques. Magie provided a brilliant array of beautiful, colourful African prints for us to choose from and plenty of toning and softly coloured African beads as well as everything needed to finish our projects.
A very enjoyable afternoon’s work led to a great variety of interesting beads. Those who worked quickly finished their projects while others ,like myself, left determined to complete them at home.
April 2019 WORKSHOP with Ann Cornes “From Plain to Printed” (report by Liz Shelbourne)
On Saturday the 27th April the workshop was lead by Ann Cornes, a talented member from the Glossop branch of the guild.
To stimulate new ideas and different methods of print Ann gave a clear demonstration and shared examples of her own work. She showed us how to make printing blocks using funky foam, pizza polystyrene packaging as well as string and different found materials, which enabled us to transform plain fabrics into something decorative. There was also an opportunity to explore mono printing using a geli plate with some of the members creating exciting textured surfaces.
The different results created by the group was really refreshing, as each person produced something personal and individual.
The day was about playing and experimenting as new approaches to the techniques were discovered. Shapes were overlapped, patterns repeated, whilst negative space was explored. There was no end to the range of fabrics that were printed on. The workshop was well organised, with plenty of stimulating materials in the form of print examples and some excellent books. At the end of the day everyone left with a real sense of achievement, full of ideas that can be taken forward and explored further.
March 2019 TALK by Penny Vernon “The Quaker Tapestry” (report by Dilys Parry)
Penny Vernon, a Quaker from the local Heswall branch gave an interesting, informative talk on the Quaker Tapestry. She explained how the 77 crewel embroidery panels, now housed in Kendal, were designed, passed for production and embroidered by various meeting house members. The embroideries are on specially made material of a suitable colour to show hands, faces and buildings. Material subsequently resilient to bear unpicking any work without damage. Five basic stitches were chosen for each panel, plus the Quaker stitch for lettering. The design is placed at the back and is stitched through with stem stitch and then filled in from the front. Each panel is made up of three sections. The top one with the script, the middle with the main picture and quotations and the bottom section usually with children’s work.
Penny showed us slides of 24 panels. She explained that Quaker beliefs of Peace, Simplicity, Truth and Equality are seen in the tapestries through the quotations and subject matter. Some panels are about the early Quakers like George Fox and Elizabeth Fry. Pioneers of industry, engineering, railways, banking, scientists, plant collectors are shown on other panels. Another section depicts ways of Quakers wprking to help and relieve suffering when people have been imprisoned, enslaved or mistreated in various ways.
February 2019 WORKSHOP with Gill Roberts “The Art of Flowers” (report by Mal Ralston)
Today’s workshop was intended as an introduction to the techniques required to make fabric and ribbon flowers. It attracted 18 members and required only simple tools to make a variety of ornamental flowers which could be used to decorate hats, bags and clothes as well as many other items. The tutor brought along a variety of samples to whet our appetites, and these included a selection of decorated bags, an Easter/Summer hat and a lovely dress with several organza flowers along the hemline.
A generous material pack was available and this had sufficient fabric and ribbon to make a mixed bouquet of nine flowers, including several versions of roses, a carnation, a poinsettia and a poppy. Fabrics used were organza,and wired or unwired ribbon, though examples were shown of flowers made from hessian ribbon or fine lawn fabric.Techniques included zig-zag gathering , pulled wire ribbon rose,and pleated ribbon rose. The carnation was made in much the same way, just with the unwired edge of the ribbon frayed before use. A stitched rose was made using wired ribbon,artificial stamens , florist wire and florist stem tape and this was particularly successful. The organza rose was made from a wide strip of organza cut on the bias to provide bulk, then gathered and wound into a spiral shape. Leaves and poinsettia petals were made by removing the wire from one edge of the ribbon, folding it over, and sewing into shape. Instructions and material were provided for the poppy, but most people didn’t get that far, having too much fun and chatter along the way!
All in , a very successful workshop, an interesting and patient tutor and a fun, productive time for all!
January 2019 TALK by Carolyn Richardson “Embroidery of a Jacobean Lady” (report by Brenda Muller)
Carolyn Richardson, who had spent much of her life re-enacting periods of history with the English Civil Society and the National Trust, was magnificently attired as a Jacobean lady. Immediately stunning was her hand embroidered jacket and coif worn with a fur trimmed velvet coat. Carolyn also brought a selection of embroidered men’s hats, purses and collars, which she had made over a long period of time. Carolyn showed us lots of images of embroidered jackets and caps, and paintings of people in a variety of clothing, and some women involved in domestic activities. Some of these pictures provided information and inspiration for jackets and caps that Carolyn had made and brought with her. She explained that upper class people displayed their wealth and status through their clothes, and could pay to have a portrait painted, while working people are less often portrayed, so we don’t know as much about their clothing. In the pictures of women doing domestic chores that we were shown, one woman appeared to be wearing a bodice that was 20 years out of fashion. This could well have been a hand me down, as clothes would often be reused, and remodelled as fabrics were expensive.
Carolyn has made some items for TV and film. She gave us a most interesting insight into the various requirements of stage, film, TV and re-enactment clothing. On stage, costumes need to permit movement, show up against scenery, be quick to change into, and be cleanable. Fabrics that would have been used in the past, silks, linen and wool, do not need to be adhered to where more modern fabrics will serve the purpose, and show up well under lighting. Details of costume may not be easily seen on stage. For film and TV, colours, shapes and materials need to look correct for the cameras. Close up shots may need correct details in clothing, but all must fit with the theme and design of the production. Clothing may need to be washable or dry cleanable.
The demands of re-enactment can be slightly different in that they portray clothes, not costume. People can get close to re-enactors, and examine details of their clothes. I certainly do whenever I see someone in historical dress! Carolyn hand stitches her outfits, as well as doing beautiful embroidery, so it’s real labour of love, and no one, on close inspection, can find a machine stitch.
The afternoon with a Jacobean lady was truly inspiring, and gave much thought for possible future projects.