Catching up

So sorry for the radio silence – the past few weeks have been filled with doing rather than writing! Here’s a round up. (Warning – lots of pics!)

Kent workshops

I had a wonderful time at the two workshops I ran in Kent on felting and ecoprinting. Two very enthusiastic groups of ladies made some beautiful work. Hopefully we will be able to arrange some more workshops in the future.


I went to a surprisingly interesting exhibition about teeth at the Wellcome Collection (closes on Sunday).

Artistic window display featuring dentures and dental implements:

More (and more!) dental implements:

And a cute Italian poster for toothpaste:

I also went to the Chelsea College MA Textiles exhibition (finishes today). I loved these beautiful ethereal garments made from discarded fishing nets by Jialu Ma:

Hongyangzi Sun’s knitted magnetic building blocks were lots of fun:

I also liked Anum Rasul’s architectural textile constructions, combining hard and soft elements:

And Miles Visman constructed a fascinating colour exercise showing how embroidered panels change under different lighting:

Inspired by nature

I spent a lovely weekend in Deal in the gorgeous cottage of a friend, going for walks on the beach and in the countryside and sitting in the garden.

Dead hollyhock:

I thought this was a giant dandelion but I’m told it’s meadow salsify:

Spot the crab (or ex-crab):

Work in progress

I’ve been experimenting with coloured backgrounds in ecoprinting:

And I’ve also been trying some weaving with palm fronds. In my back garden is some kind of palm. I don’t know what it is or how it got there – I didn’t plant it! The lower part has lots of dead fronds so as I was tidying it up a bit I thought I would try a bit of weaving with them. They are surprisingly easy to work with and I like the frayed ends where they were removed from the trunk.



Galapagos holiday

Those of you who follow me on Facebook or Instagram will know that I’ve been on holiday (yes, again!). But this was a rather special trip, somewhere I’ve always wanted to go – to the Galapagos islands.

All I can say is that the holiday certainly lived up to expectations. I’m always slightly anxious about so-called “trips of a lifetime”: expectations are so high that it seems almost inevitable that they won’t be met.

But visiting the Galapagos was exactly like walking into a David Attenborough documentary, where the wildlife is so unaccustomed to predators that you could get amazingly close (if you were allowed). For there are strict controls on what you can do, which islands and landing sites boats can visit and how close you can get to the wildlife (2 metres max). Our guide made sure that we obeyed all the rules!

Nor is anyone allowed to take anything from the islands. As you can imagine, this was extremely difficult for me, an inveterate shell and pebble collector, but I completely understand the reasons behind the rule.

Instead, when I had time, I used some of the materials I found to create some temporary artworks that would eventually be dispersed by the tide, the wind, or the animals.

This one was made using mangrove leaves on Tortuga Beach on the inhabited island of Santa Cruz. We spent a couple of days on this island before and after the  eight-day cruise.

This second one was made from the legs of pencil sea urchins on the uninhabited island of Fernandina. The beach was awash with thousands of these bead-like objects, so it didn’t take long to create this arrangement. During our snorkelling trips I also saw many live sea urchins with their legs intact!

This is a curve of dead guava leaves on the edge of the caldera of Sierra Negra volcano, on Isabela island. After a drizzly climb to the top, we were greeted by a rainbow in the caldera below us. I really wanted to make seven of these curves to represent the rainbow, but I didn’t have time.

The fourth one was back on Tortuga Beach, at the end of the trip. I had a bit more time here, so was able to record the leaves being washed away as the tide came in!

The last one was in mainland Ecuador, in the beautiful Intag Valley, where farmers try to eke a living growing bananas and sugarcane on virtually vertical slopes.

Now it’s back to dark afternoons and the pre-Christmas rush of fairs and markets, starting this weekend, when I’m back at the fabulous American Museum in Bath for their Christmas Craft Fair.

Ecoprinting with mordants and natural dyes

Feast or famine: I haven’t posted for a while, so today you’re getting a long photo-heavy post! All the garments featured are upcycled, bought from charity shops or auctions.

With most of the previous ecoprinting I’ve done I have not mordanted the fabric. I’ve used mostly silk and wool, which are protein fibres and tend to print OK if I bundle them with a piece of cloth soaked in iron. The vintage cream silk dress below, for example, was not mordanted in advance – I just used maple leaves and an iron “blanket”.

maple dress

So I extended this method to other silk garments that were already dyed different colours. The scarf below was a strong lime yellow, and I printed it with different geranium (cranesbill) leaves. I picked the leaves from the garden of lovely embroiderer Lucy Goffin, who makes beautiful bespoke structured garments and also runs the fantastic Marchants nursery with her husband Graham.

ecoprint geranium scarf

This is an orange silk skirt printed with maple leaves. The orange was quite dark, so the print is quite subtle.

ecoprint maple skirt orange 2 ecoprint maple skirt orange

And this was a pale pink silk blouse printed with larger maple leaves.

ecoprint maple pink blouseecoprint maple pink blouse 2

Just as experiment, I also printed an unmordanted yellow cotton T-shirt with sycamore leaves. As well as the shape of the leaves, I love the shapes produced by the long stalks – so you will see quite a few sycamores featuring below!

ecoprint yellow sycamore tshirtecoprint yellow sycamore tshirt 2

I then mordanted a batch of garments with alum, and dyed them with natural dyes before ecoprinting on top.

This is a cotton apron dyed with oak leaves and printed with sycamore leaves.

ecoprint apron

This T-shirt was dyed in the oak leaves after the apron, so it was a paler brown, before printing with maple leaves. The maple leaves were quite thick and waxy, so they seem to have acted more like resists than printing themselves. You can also see very clearly the effect of using an iron blanket, as I mistakenly forgot to include it in one part of the bundle! I may have to overprint this with something else.

ecoprint maple tshirt ecoprint maple tshirt2

Finally, it was back to silk. Here’s a silk top dyed with onion skins and printed with sycamore leaves.

ecoprint onion sycamore ecoprint onion sycamore2

Another silk top dyed with pomegranate and printed with sycamore leaves. Both the onion skins and the pomegranate gave very similar golden yellows after dyeing (sorry – forgot to take any photos), but I simmered the pomegranate bundle with the sycamore leaves for less time, so it’s brighter.

ecoprint pomegranate sycamore ecoprint pomegranate sycamore2

The cotton apron picked up more details from the leaves than the cotton T-shirts, and the silk was even better, perhaps due to the relative thickness of the fabric?So many combinations and permutations to try!


More success with eco printing

You may remember that my last experiment with eco printing was not a huge success. Since then I’ve acquired a copy of India Flint’s book Eco Colour, so I thought I’d have another go.

I found a beautiful rusted pipe on the street – perfect for bundling up a scarf. So I soaked a silk scarf in vinegar, dipped yellow and red onion skins and eucalyptus leaves into vinegar and laid them on top. Then I rolled the whole lot around the pipe, tied it with string and left it in a plastic bag on the windowsill outside for 10 days.

I was intending to leave it for a month, but suffered from the usual problem – impatientitis. 🙂 There seemed to be a lot of dark colour developing, so this morning I could wait no longer and unwrapped it.

ecoprint pipeecoprint pipe end

Here is the whole scarf, with the pipe to one side. You can clearly see the rust patterns at the ends (these were on the inside, closest to the pipe). The pink bits were actually from the yellow onion skins rather than the red ones, which went black. The orange shapes that are not rust were the eucalyptus leaves.

eco print scarf

Here are some close up shots.

ecoprint close1 ecoprint close2 ecoprint rust1 ecoprint rust2

The scarf is now drying in the airing cupboard – I’ll leave it for a few days before washing it and keep my fingers crossed that I don’t lose too much colour!

Crab art

After all these earnest posts about textiles, time for a bit of fun!

While in India we stayed for three nights at the Beach at Mandvi Palace, a luxury camp with a private beach. The beach was fascinating for the different textures left on the sand by the waves and tides.

But even more fascinating were the patterns made by tiny spheres of sand which are left behind by crabs after they have extracted any useful organic material. I’ve seen small piles of sand balls from crabs on other beaches, but never in patterns like this. I know – what a sheltered life I’ve led – but remember I am a city gal. 😉

crab art 3 crab art1 crab art 2crab art 4

And here’s a pic of some of the possible creators – or maybe their larger cousins.