Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Gearing Up for a Freeform Crochet Workshop!

I am very excited to be preparing for an upcoming workshop that I will be teaching the members of the Kuwait Textile Arts Association!

It will span over 2 sessions of 2 hours each. I have a lot of activities planned, so I hope we can fit it all in!

Freeform Crochet is what first got me interested in learning how to crochet, and the International Freeform Guild got me started!

The idea of crocheting without a pattern is so thrilling to me. I love just seeing where the yarn takes me, creating interesting textures, and adding embroidery embellishment. The above photo is a close up of a handbag I made for the Crochet Guild of America's annual design competition. It is such fun to incorporate many different types of fibers, beads and found objects into crochet work!

I will report back after the first workshop on February 1st with some photos from the workshop. I hope many of the crocheters will fall in love with freeform as I have!

Some stitches to be learned in the workshop!

Monday, January 9, 2017

New Year's Resolution #1, Check!

The first thing on my list of things to do in 2017 is to join the Surface Design Association! I recently discovered its existence and the discovery was well timed as I found out that their bi-annual conference will be in Portland, Oregon this summer. I am thrilled that I can attend since I will be vacationing there!

They have many interesting opportunities to exhibit your work and they provide a platform for the exchange of ideas, methods, and materials pertaining to the fiber arts. Since I like to mix techniques and I have recently been getting more into embroidery and weaving, I thought thad the SDA would be very inspirational! I am looking forward to seeing where this new membership will take me!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Reflecting on 2016 and Hinting on my Stitching Future for 2017!

2016 was a year full of new challenges and experiences, with many highlights! I wore many different work hats last year: designer, project manager, textile collaborator, instructor, liason, and coordinator. All of these jobs have enhanced my creativity and how I work. 

Let me tell you about some of this year's highlights:

I was so excited for my work to be featured on the cover of Interweave Crochet, last fall. My work has appeared in 15 issues of Interweave Crochet over the years, and this was my first cover with them! Magazine work is really such fun. The thrill of seeing your work among the vibrant, glossy pages never gets old!

I got to teach my first workshop for eWoodStory at the Sadu House. We crocheted motifs, then painted them and stitched them into "Olive" shape pendants. I love how each one was so very different and beautiful!

Next month I will be teaching a session Freeform Crochet Workshop for the Kuwait Textile Arts Association at the Sadu House as well.

In addition to working in crochet this year, I also learned more about modern weaving, learned how to weave on a rigid heddle loom, and between me and my daughter, we now have 7 looms in the house!

I also started experimenting with weaving that incorporates my crochet work. This is a piece I have in progress with some of my hand painted crochet:

I can't wait to learn more about weaving and how I can put my own spin on it! I dream of making garments incorporating pieces of my weaving.

While working on the Weaving Stories project, I had the opportunity to be on the radio and television twice! Most recently with my daughter, Sara. We got to talk about our weaving, and I hope we got some of the viewers interested in the fiber arts as well!

I also got to meet so many amazing people through Weaving Stories. Some of the best moments were people discovering the joy of weaving and working with their hands on our specially designed interactive loom that was made by my husband who co-designed it with Professor of Textiles, Lesli Robertson. People who have never tried to weave before, sat down with the intention of weaving for a minute or two, and ended up weaving for an hour! We had tags made so people could attach their name or their thoughts about weaving to the sections that they created. We had to warp the loom three times during the exhibition. The more that was woven on the loom, the more people wanted to weave on it. The colorful yarns and fibers were attracting people like a magnet!

We created 7 new pendant shapes to add to our eWoodStory Modern Stitchable Pendant line, making it a total of 13 shapes in addition to our Mini Masterpiece Frames, for people to stitch their own creations into:

We also added several pendants to our Featured Artists Series, where we ask artists that we love on Instagram, to create special Mini Masterpiece Pendants. It is a way for us to showcase our pendants, and to connect artists to people interested in their work. We have met so many amazing people through this series!
Mini Masterpieces that have been created by the Artists

I have a great feeling about 2017 and have started lining up some fun projects involving the community, as well as some special commissions. I also hope to work on some new techniques that I haven't tried yet like tapestry crochet and macrame. I just want another few hours added to every day to have more time to create! I hope that this next year is happy, healthy, and wonderful for all of you!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Community Crochet- an Undersea Panel for Weaving Stories!

The next chapter in my series about the crochet in the Weaving Stories installation is about the freeform style crochet panel for the Sea themed part of the wall.

When the submissions came in for this part of the wall, most of the artists had chosen to concentrate on pieces relating to water. As the time came near for putting the wall together, I decided I needed a piece inspired by things found under the sea. I really wanted it to be crocheted because I wanted it to be 3 dimensional and there are so many effects you can achieve with the right stitches and yarn! 

I thought that it would be fun to do this panel as a group project, so I invited local crocheters to join me in a crochet morning at the Sadu House. I told them them just to come with their hooks and I gave them the color palette for this section in case they had any yarns in the colors we were going to use. I  also collected yarns from my stash to bring. My yarn exchanges with the International Freeform Crochet group were really beneficial to this project, as I have collected many bits of interesting yarn in beautiful colors over the years! 

Everyone arrived in the morning ready to get to work, and I gave them some patterns and ideas for possible shapes. Some people used patterns and some freeformed their creations. I wasn't too specific as I wanted their creativity to come out and I didn't have a picture in my head of exactly what I wanted it to look like.

I just knew that it would be like putting together a puzzle with no exact solution. I also knew that I  probably wouldn't use all of the pieces, and that I would need a lot to choose from to find the best arrangement. It was exciting not knowing exactly what the finished panel would look like! Some people were skeptical that the pieces would look good sewn together and overlapping, but I persevered. 

We crocheted for 3 hours and were able to produce a nice collection. I didn't feel that it was enough to make a meter long panel, so we got more crocheters together the same week in the evening and some people agreed to work at home and bring the pieces in by the end of the week. 

Written patterns were used by some, and diagrams by others, depending on the way they like to work most. 

The time passed very quickly with periods of silence as they became part of their stitches.

Nawal Al Baker, Afifa Behbehani, and Tammy Asad hard at work!
 As the pieces were completed, we collected them on a table for inspiration. 

Once all of the pieces had been collected, I got my cutting board out and began to lay out the pieces. I had all of the pieces in front of me and just kept arranging and rearranging them until I was happy with the arrangement. I kept them on the board and put some pins in to hold the main pieces together. I stitched everything together with invisible thread first. It was challenging to stitch while everything was on the board, as I had to be careful not to upset the pieces! I took a photo of the arrangement first, just in case the pieces moved for any reason. After the initial stitching with invisible thread, the panel was easier to work with. I was able to stitch on my lap since everything was secured in its place. To make the panel really strong, I stitched the pieces together with coordinating yarns wherever there was any weakness. 

When I had all of the pieces together I took the panel to try in the frame with the panels that we had already received. As with all of the panels, it took us a while to decide the best location for it! We finally decided to put it below the sea shell panel, and after I got home and looked at my photos from the day's work, I realized that it would look even better if I made it wider. Fortunately I had more pieces at home to add, thanks to the hard work of the group! I spent another evening adding pieces to the panel to almost double its width!
Photos by Nawal Al Baker
The panel was carefully woven in, so as not to cover too much of the crochet work.

Voila! The completed Sea Section!
Photo by Tammy Asad

Monday, December 5, 2016

Layered Crochet Motifs!

The next in my series of Weaving Stories Panels, is inspired by Islamic motifs.  I found a crochet motif that looked similar to many motifs that I had come across in my research for the project, so I knew that I wanted to include it in my panel. We required all panels to be 110 cm wide since our standing looms were 1 meter wide on each side, and we needed the extra 10 cm to wrap around the loom for securing.  I was happy to find a coordinating variegated yarn for the background. My first order was to crochet enough motifs to span 1 meter, which I did, and then I blocked them while I worked on the background. My original thought was to stitch the motifs directly onto the background so that the variegated yarn colors would show through. I got to work knitting the background, as I liked the look of this yarn in a garter stitch, and I thought it would be nice to have a combination knit/crochet panel! When I finished knitting the background, I laid the crocheted motifs on top of the knitted background and found that the colors didn't show through as much as I thought they would. I then switched to plan B, which was to create multi-colored striped circles to go underneath the motifs. The solid colors underneath made a bolder statement that I was really happy with! Finally, I stitched the circles to the motifs, then the layered motifs to the knitted panel. I wanted to leave space between the motifs for the warp thread to show. 

Each panel was woven into the standing looms with the design of the panel in mind. Skipping warp threads where we wanted design features to show! So for this panel the warp was only between the motifs, and this was enough to hold the panel in place. I love the layered effect and plan to explore the technique more in the future!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Letting Your Yarn Write the Pattern Part 2: Embroidery Embellishment!

We had some wonderful crochet panels in the Weaving Stories Installation, due to the fact that crochet is very popular in Kuwait. I thought it might be fun to show you some of them up close!

I am starting off with one of the panels I made for the wall. In a previous post, I introduced this panel by talking about how I let the yarn write the pattern by changing the stitch type every time the variegated yarn changed color.

I was inspired by the Desert theme and I wanted to show that there actually is some green in the desert! I was so happy to find a variegated yarn that had the exact shades I was looking for. Since the wall tells stories of Kuwait, I decided to include the National Flower of Kuwait, Al Arfaj. It is like the dandelion of the desert and it is a cheerful reminder that there is color in the desert!

I crocheted the panel background before I knew where to place the flowers or how I would stitch them. I just let the yarn do the talking first!

I wanted them to look as much like they do in nature as I could so I went searching for photos of Al Arfaj, and I found the perfect image:

I printed it in the size I needed it to be for the panel and traced the main lines on to some thin paper and pinned it into place on the panel.

Then, I used some regular sewing thread to stitch all of the stems through the paper.

After it was all stitched, I tore off the paper so I could follow the thread stitching lines to stitch with the yarn.

The stitching lines appear very faint in the photo, but they were visible enough to stitch easily.

I chose the shades of green from the variegated yarn so they would show up well on the background, cutting the yarn and changing colors wherever necessary.

Once the stems were embroidered, I pulled out all of the sewing thread.

I used the photo as inspiration for where and how to stitch the flowers. I tried a few techniques for stitching the flowers, and decided on one that would give the most realistic look. It involved stitching a rather thick base of petals, then cutting some of the stitches and separating the strands of yarn to give a fuzzy appearance in the center of the flowers.

This method was a great way to stitch the flowers as realistically as possible!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Weaving Stories Art Installation: "Honoring Textile Traditions, Creating New Interpretations"

I have talked a little bit about the Weaving Stories exhibition, but I haven't shown you the focal point of the exhibition! We put together a 12 meter long panoramic woven wall installation that took us 425 collective hours to arrange and stitch, not to mention the 5 months of work to make all of the panels!]
Photo by Lesli Robertson
We began planning the exhibition last December, and we sent out a call for submissions last May, asking for panels in these six themes: Modern Interpretations of Sadu Weaving, Desert, Sea, Islamic Motifs, Traditional Kuwait, and Modern Kuwait. I made storyboards for each theme to inspire artists and makers. These storyboards were great conversation starters and led to many great creations! You will see many of these images translated in the wall.

The wall is made up of a total of 72 panels made by over 30 different artists and makers, and 10 of the panels were made by Fibers program students from the University of North Texas as part of a cultural exchange. They are students of our consultant to Weaving Stories, artist and professor Lesli Robertson. The wall took the team a little over a month to put together and was exhibited for one week at Al Shaheed Park.

We invited people to submit all types of techniques and we have a beautiful variety represented: crocheting, knitting, quilting, applique, macrame, fabric painting, and 3D printing.13 of the panels are crocheted! You can see each individual panel and its story on the blog for the Weaving Stories Project.

We spent a lot of time arranging and rearranging the panels to make the most harmonious array and deciding what should be woven in between the panels. I even printed out miniature paper mock ups of the panels to help decide the best arrangement! Once we had everything decided, we set to work stitching the panels to the frames and weaving in twill tape and roving. Each end of these had to be hand stitched to the back of the frame. We had a team of volunteer stitchers helping us with this job to get it done in time for the exhibition! 

Photo by Tammy Asad
We start off the tour of the wall with the Sadu section. We reserved the left for more traditional Sadu pieces, some with a modern twist, woven by Master Sadu Weaver Laila Yasser. For fun we also put the traditional old Kuwaiti Flag by Aiesha Khalid in this section to kick off this story of Kuwait! In the other half of the Sadu section, we included modern interpretations of Sadu weaving and designs. You will notice at the top right of each double frame, there is a macrame panel at the top right. We have a very talented macrame artist here in Kuwait, Marly Kamal Youssef, who created macrame interpretations of each theme! In the Modern Sadu section we also have 4 hand woven panels, 2 of which were created by University of North Texas students, and 1 that was created by a student of a Sadu Master Weaver. The panel of traditional tassels was a group collaboration!.We got together one Saturday morning at the Sadu House, and we were taught by a Master Weaver how to make the traditional tassels, then we set to work making as many as we could in the 3 hour session.

Now I will take you on a mini tour of the wall. Can you spot which pieces are crocheted?

Photo by Tammy Asad

Next we move onto the desert, with 3 crocheted, 2 quilted, 1 knitted, 1 needlepoint & cross stitch, 1 applique, 1 hand painted with natural dyes, 1 tapestry weaving, and 1 macrame panel. I created the green panel with the national flower of Kuwait, Arfaj, embroidered on it. I am planning a future blog post with more details about this panel. 

Photo by Tammy Asad
This frame tells the story of the Kuwaiti Sea, with textural pieces representing water, sea life, a traditional boat (a dhow), and a macrame fish net. There are 3 crocheted, 2 knitted, 5 quilted, 1 woven, and 1 macrame panel. The freeform crochet sea life panel was also a group project! We gathered in 2 sessions to crochet shells and things under the sea, and then I assembled them all into one panel. The texture is wonderful, and I love that so many people worked on it together!

Photo by Tammy Asad
The Islamic panel was interesting to put together as we had many different interpretations of the them. We started out asking for motifs, but some artists wanted the theme to extend into architecture, and phases of the moon. In this section we have 3 quilted, 2 applique, 4 crocheted, 1 Sashiko embroidery, 2 woven, and 1 macrame panel.

I think this panel a lot of fun! It illustrates traditional dress, architecture, music, dishes, camel trappings, baskets and henna. There are 3 quilted, 3 crochet, 2 knitted, 2 applique, 1 henna painting with embroidery, one leather work with buttons, and 1 macrame panel.

Photo by Tammy Asad

The Modern Kuwait wall makes bold statements about the landmarks and architecture in Kuwait, with many tributes to our beloved Kuwait Towers as well as the Constitution Monument at Al Shaheed Park, and a piece depicting the precious oil underground! In this frame there are 2 crocheted, 4 quilted, 1 woven, 1 applique, 1 3D printed, and 1 macrame panel.

I love how the entire woven story looks from afar as well! I am so proud to have been in charge of this project, and can't wait until it finds its permanent home so that it can be enjoyed by visitors for years to come!

Read the Full Article here