One silk scarf, three linen shirts

Valeria-GP-Navy-shirt

The beauty and fun of chiffon is that it is translucent .  .  .  .  .

Linen-and-chiffon

and that means the colours of a chiffon scarf will vary depending on the colours beneath it.

Linen-and-silk

I have to admit when I began this little investigation I presumed that the colours of this particular pink and green scarf would look strongest with the lime green behind but, to my surprise, I think that the navy blue linen really makes these colours sing the most!

Here are all three different linen shirts with my hand painted long silk scarf, Valeria Pink Green, grouped together for a fairer comparison.

Three-shirts-one-chiffon-scarf.jpg

 

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Sheer – diaphanous yet elegant

Hand painted and steam fixed chiffon scarf Valeria lilac.
Hand painted and steam fixed chiffon scarf Valeria lilac.

Valeria lilac

Silk chiffon is a beautiful fabric to work with and a luxurious fabric to wear. The sheer, diaphanous quality allows a scarf to appear fluid subtly changing colour as it passes over your skin, your shirt or your dress.

Valeria black

A bright, eye-catching chiffon scarf can add an elegant, stylish accent too.

Soft lime and grey silk chiffon scarf Valeria lime.
Soft lime and grey silk chiffon scarf Valeria lime.

Valeria lime

My colourful and somewhat quirky Lorina Words chiffon scarf has just been uploaded to my shop. It was inspired by the long, long needlework pieces patiently embroidered by Lorina Bulwer see previous posts ‘Words, words, words’ Part 1 and Part 2 for further details about her life and work.

Lorina Words chiffon scarf inspired by the Victorian needleworker, Lorina Bulwer (1838-1912).
Lorina Words chiffon scarf inspired by the Victorian needleworker, Lorina Bulwer (1838-1912).

Lorina Words scarf

And, finally, I’d just like to thank the fashion blogger, Catherine Summers, from Not dressed as lamb and her Instagram link up which prompted me to revisit ‘Sheer’.

Not Dressed As Lamb

Going to the Prom – an English version

Prom-commission-topEarlier this year I was asked to paint some silk that was to be made up into a Prom dress. Now commissions are great, but I’m always slightly nervous about creating the look and feel that a client is expecting. Good communication is essential.

From the outset I endeavour to get a firm handle on what specific colours are required. The kind of tonal range, bright or muted, in a calm or busy design with small or large motifs, are all considered. And, to this end, and being the 21st century, the young client sent me a digital mood board.

lilac orange mood board
A 21st century mood board!

Before I started on the five metres of chiffon I painted a few sample pieces and finally a chiffon scarf as examples of my interpretations for the brief. And, this scarf design and colours, Valeria lilac, was chosen, but with the note – ‘I like it all except the green, please.’

When I’m painting several metres of silk I try to keep the motif sizes consistent but for this piece I still wanted them loose enough to give the impression of the design flowing across the surface.

There is no true repeat, but the finished five metres still has coherence.

Phew - five metres finished and now for the steamer.
Phew – five metres finished and now for the steamer.

Once the silk chiffon has been steamed the colours are fixed and now their actual slightly brighter colours can be seen. This is the point where the dress lining colour is chosen. I think the unique beauty of chiffon, is the way the colours change subtly as they float over different backgrounds.

The richness of the plum in the chiffon was brought out by the darkest burgundy silk lining. I dyed the white habotai lining using an acid dye in a hot dye bath with a vinegar mordant. The lining was rinsed, dried and along with the finished chiffon parcelled up and sent off to the dressmaker. My part done!

Agnes-Ashe-hand-painted-silk-prom-commission

 

Words, words, words – Inspired by Lorina’s letters (part 2)

Lorina-Bulwer-inspiredFollowing my visit to the exhibition ‘Frayed: Textiles on the Edge’ at the Time & Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth I was inspired (as I wrote in my previous post) to use words as part of a silk scarf design.

Lorina Bulwer’s work was embroidery wool on cotton. But I work with silk, and paint work that will be worn. I chose to use chiffon as the lightweight, translucent quality allows the words to be partially glimpsed as the scarf moves and slides across the different coloured backgrounds of the clothing underneath.

You can see when the chiffon is pulled flat over either a black background or a white background just how different the colours can appear and how the words stand out more or less.

I used bold, capital letters in the manner of Lorina Bulwer’s embroidered work and painted naive, simplistic figures similar to those punctuating the original long samplers. The words are places in East Anglia and lines of text from the poetry of William Blake. Of course, gathered up and worn the text becomes even more fragmented and less obvious.

Words, words, words – Lorina Bulwer’s inspirational embroidered letters (part 1)

Lorina-Bulwer-red-manEarlier this year I went to the exhibition ‘Frayed: Textiles on the Edge’ at the Time & Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth. The aim of the exhibition was to highlight examples of embroidered work that had been created by people at times of mental distress. Perhaps the most eye-catching works were two long embroidered ‘letters’ sewn by Lorina Bulwer.

These two pieces are 12ft and 14ft long by about 14 inches wide.  Each ‘letter’ has been worked in coloured wools on pieced cotton grounds using various colours to ensure the text is clear and readable on every different ground.

Lorina (born in Beccles, Suffolk in 1838) made her letters whilst residing in the lunatic wing of Great Yarmouth Workhouse between 1900 and 1910. Many of the words are underlined as she angrily relates her story including writing about her family, neighbours and her troubled life.

Been-to-Sandringham

When I saw Lorina’s work I remembered Tracy Emin’s provocative textile creations. Maybe the soft pliable quality of embroidered cloth and the frequent prettiness of embroidery magnifies the power of angry text. It was an inspiring exhibition and has led me to work a design for a scarf using text. My words are places in Suffolk and Norfolk surrounded by a few lines of verse from various poems by William Blake. I chose Blake as his words were also the words of an angry outsider.

 

Pinning, painting, steaming

Agnes-Ashe-hand-painted-silk-chiffon-scarf-clupI have just finished and uploaded five painted chiffon scarves to my shop. Pink, navy, orange and turquoise, it all flits by so quickly as you click around the images, but altogether it is a month’s worth of work!


And, for all those folks reading this in the UK, tomorrow,
Friday 3rd October is ‘Buy British Day‘.

An Artisan’s Perennial Issue – Quality Raw Materials

painted silk twill scarf 18 mmYesterday I was reading a post and accompanying comments from Juliet Macleod’s blog, the Cloud Pottery discussing the choices of different clays for pottery. One of the contributors mentioned ‘extra white stoneware’, and said, “it’s definitely not as white as it used to be”. How timely, I thought to myself, as I have just been notified that my supplier of square, silk twill blanks are no longer stocking my preferred 90 x 90 cm size. And, the option to go direct to the Chinese supplier in Shanghai is not viable as a minimum order of 1000 pieces is required. More change, things are definitely not like they used to be.

Silk is similar to any raw material as it comes in different grades, weights and weaves and that is before you start to consider colour. I am not sure how often people read the textile labels when buying clothes and accessories, but if you do, you will see percentage fibre contents and for a silk item it normally just says 100% silk. Of course you can find specialist woven textiles where silk is woven with wool or cotton, or there are more complex, multiple fibre mixes that add some silk threads to the weave to add lustre to the finished textile.

But, most usually silk as clothing is sold as pure silk, 100% silk. Pure silk is the epitome of luxury textiles with a long and fascinating history including the establishment of one of the greatest trade routes the world has ever known – the Silk Road. And, with my Art Historian’s hat on, over the centuries silk has been the medium for the transmission of many Chinese and Eastern designs and motifs from the East to Europe and the West.

Silk is available in many different weaves and patterns from the simplest tabby/plain weave to complex figured fabrics such as damask. It is sold in mommes (mm), pronounced mummies. This is a measure of density as opposed to purely weight. That is kilograms per metre square. Originally it was equal to the weight in pounds of a bolt of silk that was 45 inches wide by 100 yards long regardless of the weave. Nowadays, silk is sold between 3 mm for a light gauze right the way through to 40 mm for a heavy, raw silk cloth that looks like a coarse linen.

As a silk painter for most of my designs I like to use a silk that is woven to give a clean surface and I particularly like to work on twills or crepe de chines that are between 10 mm to 14 mm giving the finished scarves a good weight that falls well. Also, as a matter of personal choice although I think satins and charmeuse look beautiful for evening wear, I prefer the gentler lustre of twill or crepe de chine for normal everyday scarves. Despite my last declaration, I do have to admit to owning a couple of showy silk chiffon scarves that I’ve been known to wear in the daytime to the accompanying remark, “Oo, we see Agnes is glammed up today – what’s the occasion?” Actually, there was no special occasion, but sometimes you just need to brighten yourself up a bit – and why not?

painted red silk chiffon 8 mm scarf
Painted silk chiffon scarf.