resources for the textile arts community
The School Of Stitched Textiles are running a summer school from Tuesday the 2nd to Friday the 5th September 2008 called "Fannying Around" which is tutored by Gail Cowley and will be enabling students to design and make their own fan. Each student will receive a copy of the Val Campbell-Harding and Maggie Grey book "Layers of Stitch" which will be used as a starting point for the techniques on which to base their fan.
The use of wireform to create 3-D pieces, painted bondaweb, decorative finishes and edges, tassels, machine embroidery and automatic stitches will be among the techniques covered. The finished fan would make a lovely assessment piece for those already embarked on a City & Guilds Creative Studies course (either patchwork or embroidery) with SST or elsewhere. Alternatively it could be undertaken for personal pleasure, with the added bonus of extending knowledge and use of different techniques - not to mention the pleasure of being able to concentrate solely on textiles for 4 days with someone else getting lunch and drinks throughout!
SST provides a light lunch and refreshments throughout the day, which is 10-4. They also supply a list of nearby accommodation in partnership with the local Tourist Board so that students can choose for themselves where they'd be most comfortable staying. There are some really good B&Bs from £25 per night nearby, but 4 star hotels are available for those who would like a little extra luxury.
SST is situated in 2 converted barns in the heart of the Lancashire countryside and there are plenty of golf courses nearby, as well as Martin Mere bird sanctuary and other attractions to keep a non-sewing partner busy. The course costs just £195 for the four days tuition and lunch - but places are limited to just 12 so early booking is recommended. A sewing machine is needed and its best to use your own, as you know this best - but for those without one or travelling from abroad we do have a number of new Berninas at the centre, kindly supplied by Bambers of Manchester for our students to use - don't forget to mention this when booking.
Full details and a booking form can be obtained by download from their site at www.sofst.org, by emailing them on or by post by phoning their leaflet number on 0845 0559462. If you want details of their other online and distance courses, including City & Guilds or any other help or info, you should phone 01257 463163.
Throughout their history fans have had many uses. A fan can be functional, used in ceremonies, a fashion statement or even a means for advertising.
Fans were used in many ancient cultures, including Roman, Greek, Egyptian and Chinese. Some of the earliest examples include two fans discovered in 1922, inside Tutankhamen's tomb. These were quite simplistic in design, really just single shapes with a fixed handle and were often made from feathers, with the peacock feather being especially popular.
In Europe, Italy became the first fan users in about 1500. This came about because of the trade they conducted with the Orient. As the trade increased, so did the use of fans and in the 17th century the Guild of Fan Makers was established, marking the making of fans as a professional undertaking. Until the mid-17th century fans remained very much a luxury item, made from expensive materials and often bejewelled. The French Revolution provided a source for printed fans, sometimes produced to make a political statement.
The range and diversity of fans increased over the next hundred years and by the 18th century most countries were making fans of some kind, whilst the painting of them had become a recognised art form. By this stage they were very much linked to fashion and changed their design and decoration along with the couture of the day. In the 1920s it was fashionable to use a single ostrich plume and have it dyed to the same colour as your dress.
Fan use began to decline in the early 20th century and those still produced were often used as advertising mediums, with the notable exception of Spain where they became engrained within Spanish culture and were still used for their original purpose of keeping cool.
The most common styles of fan are folding, brisé (made from separate sticks, linked together top and bottom), cockade (opens into a full circle) or a simple rigid shape on a handle. The two outer sticks are described as guards and they are frequently decorated. Tortoiseshell, ivory, bone, mother of pearl, metal and wood have all been used as guards and sticks.
The fan shape still seems to hold a real fascination for needleworkers, even today, as fan shapes are recreated in quilting patterns and sewn together as patchwork pieces. They are often the subject of cross stitch and surface embroidery patterns, although the actual making of the three dimensional item itself is not often undertaken, possibly because of the perceived difficulty that many embroiderers or patchworkers imagine may be involved in its construction.
It's debatable why the fan shape holds such a fond place in our hearts - perhaps it's because of the images of the past it conjures up. Ladies sitting at a tea-dance, beautiful dresses, and a time when life appeared to be easier and more decorative than it is today (if you had servants at any rate!). Whatever the reason, fan have remained an enduring and constantly recurring image in needlework, still beloved today, even though the actual item is rarely used in our rushed and air-conditioned society, evoking memories of a more leisurely and decorative past.
Gail Cowley offers a range of day workshops and talks on different aspects of textiles and design throughout the UK and abroad.