Hi there, I know I have been away for a while, but it is a busy time of year and my first pattern designing ideas are very time consuming. More about all that soon, but I wanted to write this week about my experiences of distance learning and the City & Guilds course that I have now completed. I started the course while we were living in Paris and continued to work on it, once we moved to Stockholm in Sweden.
Stockholm is a very beautiful city and we were priviledged to have had this opportunity, but as always on overseas postings - everyone else is busy - my husband with work, the kids with studying back in England and I had long, and in the winter, very dark days to fill. Undertaking this course was a lifesaver in way - it gave me a focus for the days with a goal to achieve. I chose to do this through the 'School of Stitched Textiles' and you can click on the SST link at the side of the blog, if you are interested to learn more from their website. City & Guilds certified courses are well recognised qualifications of long standing in the craft world and I suppose I felt it would be a way to consolidate all the different forms of needlework that I had been working on. It comprised of 12 modules, which were sent online and I had a tutor that I could email with any questions or problems that I might have. I knew from other people who had done Open University Courses or other forms of distance learning, that this type of study has it's own challenges, aside from the actual course itself. You need to be incredibly self motivated and resourceful to work on your own and I could see that this kind of course, would be a wholly different experience if I was attending classes, even once a month, to talk to fellow students and get some input, that what I was doing was on the right track. As it was, there were times when I did find it quite hard - not only to source all the necessary resources, materials and books needed from abroad, but also to find the confidence to put forward my portfolios of work when I wasn't completely sure they were at the level required. Of course the tutor is there to support your work and mostly, once I had formulated the plan for each module and been given the green flag, I was ok - but not having fellow classmates to bounce initial ideas off, was one of the most difficult elements to the process.
The modules were varied and challenging. I thought I knew about stitching....but.....this took all aspects of embroidery and quilting and working with textiles to a whole new level. As with all courses, some of the modules were easier than others...for example, the module on fine pulled thread work (which I imagine could be difficult for some students) was fairly straight forward to me, after my Russian embroidery classes, which were all based on this sort of work. Other modules, such as the one on Smocking, I found really difficult and there were other elements, such as heat treating man made fabrics to work with that I also found conceptually hard - always the traditionalist, sometimes it was hard to let go of the idea of precise stitching.
The thing about all of this, was that once I had done it...I not only felt a huge sense of achievement - but I realised that my knowledge of fabric and thread and how it can work together had been incredibly enriched. There were other things that I absolutely loved, like designing wall hangings, 3D items and working with silk.
I learnt an enormous amount about constructing presentations on the computer as each module had to be presented in a power point presentation, with sketches, research, notes and photographs. I did enjoy this element of the course and it helped me to keep things organised too. In the end, you find that you have your own comprehensive encyclopedia of stitching!!! The research element of this course, allowed me to discover some amazing designers working with interesting materials, to learn about the history of how so many genres of stitching came to be and to learn about putting together colours and textures to create original pieces. It is a bit commitment, but the day you get that email which says 'You did it' - it is quite something. This course helped me to fill long dark winter days in Sweden - but I took an enormous amount of inspiration from this beautiful country that we were exploring and based several of my modules on things I saw there, including for example, some 17th century wall paper at Skoloster Castle and the wonderful swedish style of folk art embroidery. I used other things from our travels too to inspire my work - including the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the beautiful wooden old dacha windows from the little russian countryside houses.
Inspired by the Pompidou Centre in Paris
Hand dyeing fabrics was one of my least favourite tasks... but the thing is that if you do this and then cut and stitch all the feathers individually, you can build up a picture that is totally unique and individual. In this particular exercise, I used Wool and cotton and silk and a whole range of wonderful variegated threads to make a wall hanging based on some of the folk embroideries of Russia.
The above are just a few samples of the work I did for the course. If you want to take a further look at some more pieces, click on this link to see a short video.
It was an experiment in all things with a needle and thread and a long, but interesting journey into the world of textile and design. There is no doubt in my mind that it has given me the confidence to try something new now and I look forward to showing you my new quilting patterns very soon.
Meanwhile, have a happy weekend,Ruby x