Wednesday 26 February 2020


Inspiration for creative activities can come from anywhere and in this post I will talk about where the idea for the pieces of fabric, shown below, came from.

Recently we have been clearing out our garage as everything in there became unfit for use due to a leaky roof but one day last week my husband brought a box in containing fabrics which he thought might be usable.  Having looked through it I decided that, apart from smelling a bit damp, the fabrics seemed okay so I started giving them a wash and this was when I came upon the piece of fabric which became my inspiration.

Batik fabrics tend to be quite expensive and so I thought I might see if I could create my own.  I had previously random dyed some cotton fabrics and some pieces of silk velvet so I already had fabric with a base colour.  Now for the fun!

I have a slow cooker which I use for melting wax ( and not for food!) so I switched this on and, whilst the wax was melting, chose some fabrics to experiment on, and these were two pieces of cotton fabric, one piece of silk velvet as well as a piece of heavier cotton which had been handpainted rather than dyed.

Using a reasonably thick brush I dripped spots of wax  randomly all over the fabrics and then random dyed them again in different colours in a kilner jar for about 2/3 hours. Having rinsed and dried them I then ironed the wax off and gave them a further wash.

Of the different types of material used I think the most successful ones are the two pieces of cotton, one of which my husband describes as "a map of the galaxy".  I feel the pile of the silk velvet means the area where the wax was applied is not so obvious and the handpainted fabric seems to have resisted the dye.

My next experiments will include re waxing and adding a further colour.

Original piece of batik fabric
Pink/Purple cotton fabric
Multi coloured cotton fabric

Silk Velvet

Back of silk velvet
Hand painted fabric
Would love to hear any stories of similar experiments anyone has tried, whether successful or not.

Monday 25 February 2019

Experiments in natural dyeing in a slow cooker

So a few weeks ago I decided to try some natural dyeing with some onion skins I had been saving but having asked my husband to go through the shed to find my dye pot and discovering it wasn't there I had to come up with a Plan B.  So Plan B involved a slow cooker which I had bought several months ago specifically for fabric dyeing.  I placed the onion skins, first batch were red, into the ceramic pot in the slow cooker and covered them with water and switched it onto high and left it for about an hour or so until the liquid gained a good colour.

 I strained off the liquid, putting the onion skins into the compost bin and returned the liquid to the slow cooker.  I then added some damp cotton, silk velvet, silk chiffon, muslin and a small skein of perle cotton and a small skein of wool, without any mordant.  I switched the slow cooker onto high and left them in there for about another hour, then switched the slow cooker off and left the fabrics in until the liquid was cold.  I then repeated the same experiment using yellow onion skins and a similar range of fabrics and threads.

So, having had some success with the onion skins I looked at the vase of daffodils which were just starting to go over and decided to see if I could get any colour from them.  Having cut the heads off I placed them in the slow cooker and repeated the process used for the onion skins and once they had released enough colour the flowers went into the compost bin.  I then selected a similar range of fabrics and threads but this time added a couple of teaspoons of alum as I happened to have some in my stash.  I left the fabrics in with the slow cooker on high for about a couple of hours and then turned it off and left the fabrics in there until the liquid went cold.

The daffodils gave a very delicate, almost Springlike shade of yellow.

Well, considering I do not usually use natural dyes I am pleased with the results and will be trying other natural products to dye more fabrics.

Monday 28 January 2019

St Ives In Stitches

In September 2017 a group of people met with me to discuss an idea I had for a community project.  This was based on a project called High Street Stitch, lead by Lisa Hellier and was a stitched banner showing all the buildings on the high street in Crickhowell, Wales.

I thought we could do something similar with the buildings around the harbour here in St Ives, Cornwall and so the St Ives in Stitches banner began.

Each person taking part chose the building they wanted to represent and they were given a 10" square of calico as the backing fabric, the idea being that each piece would be exactly the same (but as is often the case the size of each piece tended to vary!).  The group met once a month in the Salvation Army Hall to collect material, look at each others work, get help when needed, but mostly to drink tea or coffee, eat cake and chat!  

This project seemed to appeal to people from all parts of St Ives, of different generations and St Ives Guides became involved and worked on Smeaton's Pier.

It soon became clear that there was  real interest in this way of showing the current use of buildings along Wharf Road and around the harbour, and it also showed how quickly the use of buildings can change, as some of the buildings changed during the course of the project.  It could therefore be seen as a moment in time in the history of the buildings represented.

Over the course of the year the group grew and included two sisters who had been born and brought up in St Ives whose family boat building business had been in one of the buildings shown along Wharf Road.  Some of the other people also had family connections to the building they chose, some because of a work connection and some simply because they liked the look of the building.

Every piece made and handed in was included in the banner as I know how important it was to each person who took part to see their piece in the completed banner.

We had decided to exhibit the banner during the 2018 St Ives September Festival and so began to put it together in August 2018, when it became apparent that this was going be larger than any of us realised as it turned into two banners, each about 25ft long!

When it came time to assemble the pieces onto the backing sheet we realised that they were going to have to be handstitched together and handstitched onto the backing sheet!  Thanks to a group of people willing to give up their time, and St Ives Library allowing us to use a room, free of charge. to lay the banners out, we got the banners ready for the September Festival.

The response we got from people viewing the banners during the Festival was better than I expected and showed seemed to inspire some people to create something similar where they live.

Thanks to Tony Mason of St Ives Videos and Leo Walker from LWalker Photography you can see a video called A Stitch in Time - Wharf Road Tapestry which shows some of the sessions putting the banner together and the banner on exhibition plus some of the buildings represented.

This project was completed without any funding apart from a donation by one of the members and being allowed to use the Salvation Army Hall each month free of charge.

We will be starting on Fore Street next month - on Wednesday 6th February at 10.30 am - and I know some changes I need to make as a result of completing the first banner and we are looking for funding for this project.  Andrew Mitchell, a local Councillor, has agreed to fund the cost of the Salvation Army Hall as this will not be free this time.

Never having undertaken anything like this before I have learned a lot and been delighted by the enthusiasm of all the people taking part.  St Ives Archive have provided a large number of photographs showing the changing use of the buildings in the past, which accompany the banners when they are on display.

You can learn more about St Ives In Stitches and future meetings - on our Facebook page:

Wednesday 22 March 2017

Creative Textile Course - First Session

Before we look at the first session I thought I would give you some information about what my 10 week Creative Textile course covers. Firstly, this is not a course to teach you how to make things, it is a course where you will learn a range of textile techniques and the course programme is as follows:

Yarn Wrapping and Weaving
Rag Rug
Knitting with more than wool
Fabric Dyeing
Silk Painting
Hand Stitching
Machine Stitching

At the end of course you will have samples and handouts for all these techniques.

So the first session of the course will be looking at a technique that I learned from Sue Dove, which is designed to help people find some inspiration to begin a piece of work.  I give students some magazines to look at for them to find a picture which they like the look of and then show them how to make a small viewfinder from two L shaped pieces of card.  The students move the viewfinder over the picture until they find an area which is pleasing to them, when they fasten the viewfinder down with masking tape and create a collage of this area so they have an image to work from during the course.

So this is the end result of the first session and can be the basis for future pieces of work.  The next blog post will be about the second session on Yarn Wrapping and Weaving.

I will be running this course at Penwith College, St. Clare Street, Penzance for 10 weeks on a Wednesday evening from 7 - 9 p.m. starting on Wednesday 19th April and it will be repeated in the autumn from Wednesday 13th September.
For more information and to book a place - go to:
Penwith College - Creative Textiles Course

It may also be running in St. Ives Library for 10 weeks on a Wednesday afternoon, from 1 - 3 p.m., after Easter, through the  Workers Education Association (WEA) - dates to be confirmed.

For the latest news about my courses and workshops you can follow me on:
Knit One Weave One - Facebook

Thursday 16 March 2017

Adventures with Printing

Once a month some friends and I get together to try out techniques and materials (as well as drink tea/coffee and eat biscuits!) and this month we explored screenprinting with embroidery hoops and organza fabric rather than the traditional screens which can be quite expensive to buy if you are not going to do a lot of screenprinting. As I also have a Thermofax screen I decided to have a play with this as well.  Thermofax screens come in a range of sizes and you can either buy them with the images already on the screen (as mine is, yellow flower) or you can send your image and they will create a screen for you.  Simple to use with screenprinting paints.  Also looked at the difference between a screenprinted image using a stencil (pink mermaid) and a stencilled image (mermaid on blue fabric) as well as printing with stamps made from craft foam (fishes and bird).  I have also included the photo of my embroidery hoop with organza fabric.