Speaker Report: Crinoline Ladies to Soldering Irons – Ann Pocklington

This report from Cath Snape, photos by John Tavender.

Organised, self-possessed, creative, and an inveterate story teller, Ann entertained us about her life, creative journey and the story behind the title.

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Anne’s interest in thread goes back to when, as a three year old, she unravelled a woollen dress until all that was left was a bodice. Encouragement from her mother and grandmother and ‘Women’s Weekly’ crinoline lady iron on transfers fuelled her interest in embroidery.   Later a friend encouraged her to design her own patterns. When like many of us she said ‘but I can’t draw’ she was told you can draw a straight line so just do it.

Starting with building and straight lines her confidence grew and soon crinoline ladies were a thing of the past.

As a biology teacher she understood natural forms and has a particular affinity for lichen. We saw stones, and tree bark and even bracket fungi embroidered with ‘lichen’, some realistic, some fantasy.

When Ann retired she signed up for a City and Guilds embroidery course and loved it. They were encouraged to ‘do what they knew then push outside the comfort zone’. Ann followed this with enthusiasm and we learnt about so many interesting techniques, imaginative uses of natural and unnatural fibre that I covered 5 pages in notes and left with a head full of ideas.

Ann feels strongly that things should be used so made no apology that some of her items were a little battered. She decided that using things was important when she cleared her grandmother’s house and found precious hand-embroidered table linen in drawers, never used, never admired.

Some of her work has been inspired by trips to the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and the Navajo reservation.

Ann told a wonderful story of meeting a Navajo spinner and weaver, Suzie Yassie. The tour guide had said that photos were not allowed. After Ann has chatted to Suzie alone she was encouraged to take her photograph  “I will not be photographed by tourists BUT I WILL be photographed by a traveller”

Ann recently attended a course and learnt that soldering irons are great for ‘cutting out’ organza and sealing the edge as you go. At the ironmongers the next day the very polite young assistant didn’t wish to be rude but ‘it is uncommon to sell soldering irons to ladies of a certain age but I’ve sold 7 this week, is something going on?’

Others writing this report would pick out many other ideas and pieces of work Ann shared but these are a few that appealed to me.

To dye small amount of yarn wrap it round a whisky bottle, you can then see from inside if the dye has penetrated through the yarn. Hot water in the bottle speeds up the drying time

Mulberry bark is the waste from silk processing; by the time it is stretched, embroidered and has had heat distressed fabrics added it becomes a work of art.

Heat distressing fabric gives interesting effects as they crinkle in the heat – fabrics that distress well are protective clothing, nappy liners, synthetic organza. You need to use a craft gun NOT a blow torch– too hot, or a hair dryer – too cool.

A great activity with children is to take a piece of wide spaced plastic canvas, stitch a simple pattern with string, then cover it in tissue paper and PVA glue, squidge it in place to highlight the pattern, allow to dry then paint.   Kids love it and it looks effective.


July bag: Create a piece of material by sewing together different fabrics; loose weave, tight weave and different fibres, then dye with lemon and blue blobs of colour on the wet fabric, creating a beautiful pattern as the dye runs into the fabrics at different rates. This fabric was then sewn onto a canvas bag. Such a simple but imaginative idea; it looked stunning and featured as the July image on a calendar.

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Printing onto fabric: Many printers will accept paper with fabric attached. Stick the front edge of fabric to printer paper with masking tape. Make sure that the tape goes over the leading edge and is well scored. All fabric must be inside the paper size, print as normal (Ann declined to accept responsibility if our printers disliked this procedure!)

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Machine embroider onto fine sheets of metal, the finer the needle the better. Discolour the copper with candle flame. Lay the sheets on soluble fabric and sew together, once finished the fabric is washed away and the metal shapes are held together with stitching in ‘space’

Haberdashers boxes: Haberdashers puzzle is a puzzle where a triangle is cut into 4 and rearranged to form a square.   Anne created a set of boxes that did this. The extra clever part was having a pattern that joined up across all 4 boxes in both configurations.

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Thanks Anne for the inspiration

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