Contemporary Textiles Fair 2018

Sadly, a mini Beast from the East swept in again at the weekend, with biting winds and snow flurries keeping footfall down at the Contemporary Textiles Fair at the Landmark Arts Centre in Teddington.

One very unfortunate casualty was the installation “Journey” by Ross Belton, half of the Modern Eccentrics duo. Ross had naturally dyed and rusted 120 metres of fabric made from recycled hotel sheets that meandered through the woodland outside the Landmark.

However, due to the Siberian blasts and heavy snow it had to be taken down on Saturday for health and safety reasons. 😦  Here’s one of Ross’s photos before this happened so you can see it in all its glory.

Luckily, the exhibition by featured artist Debbie Lyddon was well under wraps indoors – although, ironically, exposure to the elements often plays a part in the making of her work! In “Moments of Being”, seven Sluice Creek Cloths (named after a local tidal inlet) were pierced with holes, bound with iron wire and then placed in the sea to speed the change and degeneration of the cloth and rust the iron. They thus represent the movement and change of natural processes over time.

Debbie also creates structures covered in salt crystals – intriguingly beautiful and strange.

Image: Landmark Arts Centre

Despite the lower visitor numbers I made some good sales and some new friends – roll on next year!

flextiles stall at contemporary textiles fair 2018


More felting with old sweaters

Now I realise that those of you who live in parts of the world where you have to live underground for six months of the year because it gets so cold may regard the recent UK weather incident as a bit of a non-event, but we’ve been able to talk about nothing else for the past week.

Living in London, it’s rare that I get to witness the meteorological messes that get dumped on other parts of these islands. But even in the city we had six inches of snow, and now a burst water main in our street has led to our cellar (and that of our neighbour) being flooded. ESP spent the weekend lugging buckets of water out into the street, and we wait in vain to hear from Thames Water about when they might send an engineer out.

But life goes on. I’ve been doing some more felting experiments with old sweaters (though frankly I needed every layer I could get my hands on last week!).

Here’s a flat piece mounted on a small canvas.

Here’s a felt cushion.

And here’s a felt vase (with a jar of water inside). I forgot to take a photo of this before felting.

I’m planning to display these on my stand at the Contemporary Textiles Fair in Teddington in a couple of weeks. The theme of the fair this year is ecotextiles, so hopefully this will encourage people to upcycle their old sweaters (and maybe I will get some commissions 😉 ). Come and say hello if you’re planning to visit!


Felting workshop for beginners at KHY

I spent yesterday in the gorgeous working space of Know How You (KHY) in Beckenham, with 10 enthusiastic students who had never felted before.

I’d brought along lots of felt samples and books to show the versatility of the medium and get people inspired, highlighted in this great photo from KHY’s Instagram feed.

khy beginners workshop 5

We spent the morning working on a flat piece of felt to learn the principles of pulling wool tops, layering, wetting down and adding adornments.

khy beginners workshop 4

It was tricky to get some of the bamboo and silk fibres to stick, but persistence paid off!

khy beginners workshop 2

In the afternoon we worked with resists to make a 3D object. Most people made pots, but a couple tried their hand at a phone cover. Helped by the splendid Bakewell slices provided by Amanda, founder of KHY, time passed very quickly. Just managed to get a quick photo of the happy group!

khy beginners workshop 1

And here’s Amanda with her lovely work (also from Instagram).

khy beginners workshop 3

I’m hoping to run another workshop on felt corsages at KHY in a few weeks – watch this space for more details!

Felting with old sweaters — feltingandfiberstudio

This is a guest post I wrote for the Felting and Fibre Studio blog. There’s a lot of interesting content on the site and associated forums – worth checking out!

I’m a great recycler, as I suspect many textile lovers are. Much of my business is based on scouring charity shops and jumble sales for items that other people have discarded and transforming them back into desirable objects. Some old scarves get used for nuno felt; others are overdyed with indigo or overprinted. Recently I […]

via Felting with old sweaters — feltingandfiberstudio

Plant dyes with Nature’s Rainbow part 2

For an account of the first day of this workshop, see Plant dyes with Nature’s Rainbow part 1.

On day 2 we turned to red, looking at madder. Madder is very invasive, so Susan advised growing it in an enclosed area, like a tractor tyre. It also takes around three years before you can start harvesting the root, where the colour resides, and then after digging it up, washing it, drying it and snapping it into pieces she leaves it for another year in paper bags.

The root contains around over 15 different pigments, ranging from yellow and orange to coral, scarlet and brown. Some of these pigments emerge more quickly than others – for example, yellow and coral come out first, but alizarin, which gives the red colour, is not very soluble and is the last to emerge.

Coral colour coming out of madder root at lower temperature

For this reason, despite traditional instructions that say madder should not be heated above 60°C, Susan and Ashley have found that working the bath quite hard for at least a week, cooling it and reheating it, produces the best reds. You can also add an alkali modifier to shift the colour from orange towards red.

For the workshop we compared two madder recipes, one from Jim  Liles’ The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing and the other from Ethel Mairet, the author of a seminal book on vegetable dyes written in 1916.

The Liles recipe involves over three days of heating and straining to extract the best red pigments from the madder. The Ethel Mairet recipe by contrast is a very low effort method where the dye is extracted in the dyebath (no preparation required).  They gave very different results.

Ashley and Susan had prepared the Liles method in advance and brought a madder dyebath which combined three days of extract. The Ethel Mairet bath was created by adding dry madder root to the dyebath (contained in an old paid of tights to prevent pieces getting caught in the wool and silk fibre).

In both recipes the wool was added to the dyebath at room temperature and heated to 82°C (simmering temperature) for 1.5 hours (Liles) or 1 hour (Mairet). Liles then instructed us to remove the wool, cool it and rinse it before putting it back in the bath at 70°C for 10-15 minutes. Then it was drained, cooled and gently rinsed. By contrast, after simmering the wool for an hour Mairet recommended boiling for the final five minutes before removing the wool, cooling it and rinsing.

In both dyebaths we resisted the temptation to agitate the fibre lest we felt it. We carefully turned the fibre over once in the Mairet bath.

We also used a dyebath created by vigorous boiling of the madder root left over after 3 days of the Liles madder extraction process. Ashley called this his surprise “4th extract”.

The results were interesting. The Liles recipe, extracted over days 1-3, gave the strongest colour (seen in the two samples on the right), followed by the Liles fourth extraction (sample bottom left). The Mairet recipe resulted in a very patchy sample that was much paler (top left).

Contrasting shades of madder from different baths

Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, overdyeing with indigo some of the yellow samples dyed the previous day continued, and soon there was a splendid range of greens hanging outside.

The buttery mid yellows gave the brightest greens when overdyed; more orangey yellows gave a more olive green.

Ashley also demonstrated how multiple dips in woad helped get a deeper colour. The wool on the left has been dipped in woad five times while the wool on the right has been dipped only once.

Susan showed us a sample card of how acid and alkali modifiers after dyeing can change the colour, depending on the fibre and the mordant.

Unfortunately we didn’t have time to overdye the madder samples with indigo to see if we could get purple shades, but we had quite a lot to take home already! We spent the last hour of the workshop splitting up all the samples so that everyone had a good collection to take home.

Suan and Ashley were very generous, offering us more weld, madder roots and all the leftover dye baths to take home. Many of us also bought seeds to start our own dye gardens!

There was just time to take a final photo of the beautiful rainbow of samples before heading back out into a grey January evening.

Brian photographing the woven rainbow samples

And here is the collection of plant-dyed wool and silk that I ended up with.

plant dyed woolplant dyed silk

Huge thanks to Sally for her organisation and to Susan, Ashley and Brian for such a wonderful colourful weekend!

Useful links

Nature’s Rainbow
International Feltmakers Association