Constance Howard samplers online

Constance Howard, was a inspiring teacher and author who pioneered embroidery in textile design and made a colossal impact on contemporary embroidery. Her books were published in the 60’s and 70’s and you spot them I am sure a contemporary embroiderer would still learn from them.

Make a cuppa and browse the Constance Howard Resource and Research Centre in Textiles which is hosted by Goldsmiths College, University of London. This is one of those online resources which become more enjoyable the more you poke about. You need to use the search box however. I typed “samplers” into the image search box and discovered lots of interesting textiles to browse and learn from.

Constance Howard samplerConstance Howard worked this stitch sampler in black and white in the late 1970’s or early 1980s. It consists of rows of black and white stitching on a grey linen. Constance Howard is demonstrating working one stitch in 2 colours. Follow the link for close ups and details.

Constance Howard samplerIn this sample we can see Constance Howard experimenting with raised chain band.

Constance Howard samplerThis small sampler of multi-coloured, raised chain band is worked on red wool fabric by Constance Howard for one of her books

Constance Howard samplerThis sample worked by Constance Howard to illustrate the design process explained in her book ‘Inspiration for Embroidery’. The design is based on the two halves of a circle and realised in stiffened appliqué fabric.

Constance Howard samplerThis experimental sampler of free surface stitches is described as ‘Nets made with stitches, spots made with stitches‘ written on the mount by Constance Howard.

As I said all of these samples were worked between the 60’s to the 80’s and contemporary embroiderers owe her much as her creativity and emphasis on design pushed embroidery into a direction that many today do not venture! She was the first to say “it’s Ok to explore a stitch” and saw stitches as making graphic  marks.

The Constance Howard sampler Resource and Research Centre in Textiles collection held by the  University of London at Goldsmiths, pay the site a visit and learn a bit about contemporary embroidery too!

Print your own fabric on demand services compared.

screenshot of websiteThere are a number of services online that will take a digital design and print small lengths of fabric. Unlike the big print houses they provide a service for small runs and do not have expensive set up costs that make it prohibitive for a studio based textile practitioner to use.

Many people know of Spoonflower andKarma Kraft but did you know about Fabric on Demand?  Each service offers a slightly different product and it is sometimes hard to compare what is what.

Kim of True Up performed a Digital Fabric Printing Experiment and sent digital files to each and compared the printed results.

You will find a comprehensive illustrated comparison of print colour and quality on her blog alongside a very useful spreadsheet of the results of her research which Kim is giving away as  PDF file on her website

Friday Freebie: How to make fabric from scrap thread

full jar of threadsEarly in the year I posted photos of my empty Orts jar and said I had thought of a way of using them.  If you are not sure what Orts are, or want to track back and get the back story on this the conversation it is here 

After collecting these Orts for a year I thought I would share with you what I did to make orts fabric.

Dissolvable fabric looks like plastic and is sometimes called wash away stabilizer or Water-Soluble Vilene is used to make freeform non woven material. Some brand names are Dissolve, Solvy, Aqua Film, Rinseaway.

lay out threads

In this example I am using the wash away hospital bags as water soluble stabilizer.

With all these products the principal is the same. You stitch on the product then wash it away and are left with only the thread you stitched. Some really lovely work is created using this technique.

You can make little samples and join them together or do what I did which is to make a larger piece. With this technique you can not only use up your orts but you can use embroidery threads, wool, textured yarns, silk bbon ends and tiny scrap fabric.

Take a piece of dissolvable fabric and lay the threads evenly as possible but look for interesting combinations of colour and texture.

pin the threads well

Place the other piece of dissolvable fabric on top so that you have a sandwich with the threads in the middle. Pin it well.

make a pocket

I sew around the edge to create a pocket. This stopped bits falling out of the sandwich as you work!

sew with a sewing machine over the pocket

Sew over the top of the dissolvable fabric in a freeform net like pattern. This stitching will trap the threads. I used different coloured thread and added some metallic threads.

wash the fabric out well

Wash well under cold water and the dissolvable fabric will disappear, leaving just your sewn threads.  Iron this dry under baking paper. If it is a little stiff you have not washed out all the dissolvable fabric. Wash it again.

fabric made from orts

I could make a scarf from this. The photograph does not quite do it justice as there is metallic threads and silk ribbon scraps in it. It has far more life in it.

I think I will treat it like a fabric and feature small pieces of it in works that can be beaded and embroidered.

Anyway that is what I did with my Orts. I now have an empty jar ready and waiting for next year!


Collaborative textile project Hearts for Christchurch goes on show

More than 4000 hand crafted hearts have been sent from around the world as part of the Hearts for Christchurch collaborative textile project.

The project is the inspiration of Evie Harris, who started gathering the hearts via a blog, after the February earthquake. To quote her blog Hearts for Christchurch

“Two heart shapes sewn together, stuffed or not, embellished, embroidered, CQ’d, quilted, plain or fancy, anything goes. Add a loop for hanging. Choose your size. For ease of posting, envelope size is a good measurement. You can send them flat just add a note ‘To be stuffed’. Sign (or not), add a message and where the hearts are from. This is a small measure of something nice to give in this terrible time.”


The exhibit coincides with the reopening of the Canterbury Museum but visit Evie Harris’s 
blog Hearts for Christchurch for loads of pictures of the exhibit.