Thursday, 28 July 2011

strange marks

There are some glorious clashes of colour going on at the end of my garden; lots of reds (poppies, crocosmia, runner bean flowers) and lilacs (opium poppies and chard stems) and much of it completely random with self sewn things growing where the hell they like. I love that accidental aspect of gardening, that mix of the controlled and uncontrolled. I was reminded today of visiting Great Dixter at this time last year - they really know how to make the most of the accidental there.

I found these strange marks on the glass of my Mum's greenhouse. They've been made by some sort of animal scraping off the algae. They are very curious and beautiful and look just like the kind of mark I might have made stitching something.

Monday, 25 July 2011

inspired to bundle

As soon as I'd finished writing my review of Second Skin last week I was itching to do some dyeing. I had a couple of bags of eucalyptus leaves that I'd had sitting waiting for quite a while. One was from a tree in my parents' garden, that I'd brought back from a visit ages ago and hadn't got round to doing anything with. The other were a little bundle from South Africa.

When I visited there 18 months ago I'd painted these leaves and had a little stash waiting for something. When I painted them they were fairly freshly fallen and the colours were more varied and vivid. Now they're older and brittle and much more dull but still with variation in their pinks and browns.

I took a piece of wool felt, some silk habotai, silk gauze chiffon and a piece of silk/viscose velvet I found left over from various college projects. I made up a series of bundles, bound with wool and made a last little wrapping of more of the wool round a few leaves.

These all got the steaming and sitting treatment and as they sat the colours really developed. I undid them yesterday as I noticed there were patches of mold forming on the surface of the damp parcels. I unwrapped them, rinsed and hung them to dry in the sunshine.

The African leaves have made beautiful impressions on the felt and the silk pieces have taken on a generally uniform orange with patches of more intense colour.

It felt so good to be doing this again.

Friday, 22 July 2011


I've been accepted for Licentiate membership of the Society of Designer Craftsmen. The society "promotes and supports the work of creative thinkers, designers and makers who continue to innovate in the crafts through their exploration of materials and skills". My work was assessed at New Designers and was awarded a merit, which means I will be invited to exhibit at Designer Crafts at The Mall at the Mall Gallery next January.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011


splashes of yellow were in abundance today...

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Saturday, 16 July 2011

second skin

When I wrote about India Flint's first book Eco Colour here I was asked if I'd like to review the follow up. Great, I thought, then forgot all about it. So when a rather exciting package arrived on my doorstep with this inside I got very excited.

India Flint’s new book Second Skin is a beautiful follow up to her first. It has the same luscious feel, packed with gorgeous photographs and illustrations and has a pleasing mix of practical information, snippets from different cultural traditions and more general anecdotal writing that gives an insight in to India’s colourful life.

Despite its visual appeal some of the content doesn’t make for comfortable reading. India reminds the reader of how poorly informed most of us are about where our clothing is derived from: the fibres and the processes that have gone into the garments that we wrap around our bodies for the majority of our lives. Of course, even if we care about such things it can often be very difficult to find out the history of what we buy and this book highlights the real facts about the systems that our clothes pass through.

There are no straightforward answers and an element of guilt is inevitable in reading parts of chapters 1 to 4. For example, even the fairly well informed may feel they are doing a good thing by buying an organic cotton t-shirt, unaware of the parts of production of that garment that are far from sustainable. Chapter 2, Provenance, is full of cautionary tales and the complicated nature of trying to live in a sustainable way is set out well.

It strikes me that the difficulty of breaking out of the system, stepping off the treadmill, going against the tide means that, even for the well intentioned, practicality means we can’t all do as much as we might hope to. But small changes make a big difference and if this book changes one aspect of behavior in the way each reader sources their clothing those small changes will add up to much more. The all important “have less stuff” is something we all know of as a positive move in living mindfully but how many of us really have the discipline and commitment to live that way? It is always good to be reminded of issues you are already vaguely aware of and have your resolve strengthened periodically.

Chapter 7 gives a short run down of various artists and makers whose work shares principles of sustainability and re-use of materials. This is useful but is almost a starting point for a book in itself.

Chapters 5, 6, 8 and 9 are full of tips and suggestions that I would imagine will give the eco-conscious fashion student much mileage. Chapter 8 on re-purposing is where things got pretty mouth watering for me. All sorts of ideas are given for creating new garments from old and there is scope within these to be really playful. Just like in Eco Colour, there is an undercurrent of useful information that is intended to be used with individuality and in the exploration of personal style. India’s generosity with her experience and skill is huge but she is not prescriptive and it really makes you want to try it all out yourself.

Chapter 10, on dyeing, re-visits the ground covered in Eco Colour but expands on it and, as ever, is a wonderful mix of practical instruction and encouragement to be experimental. The myriad of tips and ideas are ever-useful.

Like the natural dyes that India’s life and work are so wrapped up in, the effect of this book will grow stronger with time: repeated dipping, short periods of immersion, time for absorption are all part of imbuing your life with the sentiments and skills within its pages. It’s certainly re-ignited some slow-burning flames of mine: I’m off to get a few bundles steaming now…

Second Skin, published by Murdoch Books, is available from 1st August.


I'm thrilled to announce that I have been awarded a first class degree. No detail yet on breakdown of marks but the hard work was worth it!

Friday, 15 July 2011


I've just delivered two pieces of work to this gallery in Clitheroe for their Lancashire and Yorkshire Craft Open Exhibition. They are two of my stitch-embossed paper with paper yarn stitches.

When I collected them from the framers earlier this week I was
a little unsure about how they work in frames and behind glass. It has certainly changed them. The barrier of the glass makes them harder work to view but it also encases them in a way that, on reflection, I like.

It has given them a kind of museum piece quality, like they are some sort of artifact that needs careful protection. They are delicate and subtle and so somehow this encasing is appropriate.

The Craft Open is on from 23rd July until 1st October.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

stitched folds

Before I was selected for the graduate showcase at the Festival of Quilts I had already committed to entering the mini quilt section of the open exhibition. My entry is slowly taking shape.

I'm using a piece of silk that was printed with my sketched bui
lding site screen at college. Using these dots to help me...

I'm bringing four points together to make these little corners with walls in between.

I have a vague idea of how I want it to look but I'm pretty much making it up as I go along. I've tried stitching along the bottom of the little 'walls' to give them more definition but am not convinced that it is right.

I've also been toying with the idea of having 'windows' inserted in some of the compartments...

but I don't think they work. The combination of the print and the structure of the manipulated fabric is enough, windows are a step too far, but sometimes you have to try things out to find what works and what doesn't.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

peeling back the layers

It is always interesting peeling off old wallpaper and seeing what other layers of paper and paint are underneath. I've been stripping off the old brittle paper from a room in my attic and underneath is the most beautiful turquoise colour. It actually looks quite toxic - arsenic green springs to mind! I'm having to be careful with all the dust from this and from the black coal dust in the plaster of this old house.

Once some old shelves were removed there was a strip of a different paper with delicate flowers. It all has to come off but I'm enjoying the discovery in the process.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011


I missed my garden while I was away last week. It such a lovely time of year and everything has filled out beautifully with the heat and rain.

The day before I went away the first buds on my sweet peas were tantalisingly showing a little colour, ready to burst open as soon as I closed the front door to go for my train. On my return there were enough flowers for the first posy to go on the dining table.

For me that is the point at which summer has truly arrived. The smell drifting around the house takes me right back to my childhood and picking great bunches of the multi-coloured blooms for the dining room at my grandparents' house.

I've been picking salad leaves for a while but the beans have finally started producing and I picked the fat golden balls off the gooseberry bush yesterday.

The plant itself looks very worse for wear as it has been ravaged by saw fly larvae again. It happens every year: they completely decimate the leaves, but it doesn't seem to stop it producing the lovely fruit.

Current listening: Michael Nyman, The Piano (dreaming of distant shores)