June 2021 roundup

A bit of a rush

June has been a bit of a rush – literally, for we started our rush module at City Lit. It’s an interesting material, quite spongy to work with, but surprisingly strong. And when it’s fresh it comes in all sorts of lovely shades of mottled green, brown, and yellow, but apparently over time it all fades to a straw colour.

We started by making a mat with a classic rush construction: a square checkweave centre surrounded by twining, which makes it circular. The stakes are threaded away at the border, which can be a bit of struggle if the rush is thick, but it is surprisingly manoeuvrable with a rush threader (like a giant needle). At first I thought I would leave loops around the border, but then I changed my mind and pulled them all the way through!

rush mat 1rush mat 2

We then progressed on to making a bowl, using the same technique but shaped around a mould (another bowl). This is very important to create a regular shape, as you will find out later!

After that I spent some time experimenting with rush. There is a book called Textiles and Weaving Structures by Peter Collingwood, a weaver who analysed various woven textiles to see how they were constructed.

peter collingwood book

There are lots of fascinating insights into textiles from around the globe, including some that I thought could be adapted for rush.

They included this fan from India. The plaiting was fairly straightforward, but I found it tricky to keep the wrapping tight on the handle.

rush fan

I also tried this intriguing sieve, which is woven flat and then opens out into a cone. It looks as if it will never work – but it does!

rush sieve

Finally, I had a go at weaving a spiral base, inspired by a Greek wastepaper basket. I never got any further because I ran out of time, but the concept has been proved!

rush spiral base

The Commons: Re-enchanting the World

Last month, Catherine Morland, an artist and former basketry student, contacted John Page, one of our City Lit tutors, about The Commons: Re-enchanting the World project. This highlights the complex histories of land ownership, gender rights, labour, and the wage economy as well the decline in communal life and subsistence living. She was looking for basketmakers to make bread baskets  for the launch meal in September. The baskets will be displayed in the Museum of English Rural Life for a month and feature in a publication about the project.

Jo, another City Lit student, and I, along with John, decided to make bread baskets for the project. Because the project was about common land and shared resources, I decided to use foraged materials, including cordyline leaves for the stakes, and cordage made from day lily leaves, daffodil leaves, and crocosmia leaves.

However, this was before we started the rush module and before I knew about the importance of using a mould to get a regular shape. As a result, the first one I made was terribly wonky. I couldn’t decide whether it was just charmingly rustic or simply crap – but after I made a second one around a mould I decided it was the latter!

The photo below shows the  one made around a mould on the left and the one made without a mould on the right.

bread baskets

And here are all three bowls – John’s rush bowl is at the top, and Jo’s straw bowl is bottom left.

bread bowls x 3

Talking of foraging, it’s peak bindweed season at the moment, so I’ve been harvesting like mad, turning tangles of foliage into coils, ready to weave with.

Working with willow

After a long break, private workshops have started to resume, and I spent another very enjoyable day with Nicki Rowling of Willow and Yoga, making a tiffin bag. Because it has a wooden base, it’s quicker than if you have to make the base as well, and it’s very sturdy. It’s the perfect size for a phone, purse, sunglasses and bottle of water, and I love it!

tiffin bag

Nicki’s woodland studio is all off grid, with no electricity or running water, and compost toilets. It’s difficult to believe you’re just outside Dorking! 🙂

I’ve also signed up for a short four-week course on contemporary willow basketry now that the first year of my City Lit creative basketry course has finished (having taken two years!). I’ll report back on that next month.

Holiday in Scotland

After months of being confined to barracks, ESP was climbing the walls, so we decided to sneak in a quick six days in Scotland between basketry classes. The weather was glorious, as was the scenery, and we even spotted seals off the coast.

I’m not going to bore you with all my holiday snaps, but I must just tell you about the Highland Folk Museum outside Kingussie. This open air living history museum features a collection of relocated buildings, including “Baile Gean”, a unique reconstruction of an early 1700s Highland township. These buildings were particularly fascinating, with foundations of stones supporting turf walls, thatched with heather. The texture of the lichen and heather was rather lovely.

highland folk museum thatch

There were also a few baskets around, including coiled straw baskets (now critically endangered) and a mudag, a rugby-ball-shaped basket for holding carded wool.

highland folk museum coiled straw basketshighland folk museum mudag

And of course there were also some highland cattle – what’s not to like?

highland folk museum highland cow


Microbasketry workshop with Rita Soto

On Saturday I took part in an online microbasketry workshop with Rita Soto as part of the Selvedge World Fair.

Rita Soto is a Chilean artist who makes jewellery using basketry techniques. She works mainly with horsehair and agave fibre, producing wonderfully organic wearable forms.

Rita Soto brooch
Brooch by Rita Soto

These materials are traditionally used by the Rari community in southern Chile, where the technique has been passed on through generations, mostly via women.

But ecause horsehair is not particularly common here, we used different thicknesses and colours of fishing line (before this workshop I never knew that fishing line comes in different colours, so that’s another thing I’ve learnt!).

As you can imagine, the tiny scale of this technique makes it a bit tricky to demonstrate on a videoconference platform, but we did our best, with a cameraphone focused on Rita’s hands as she worked. We were also immensely helped by some clear written instructions distributed in advance.

In the two-hour workshop we learned how to start, how to weave a flat disc, and two ways of finishing off, as well as how and when to add “stakes” and join weavers. You definitely need good light and eyesight to tackle something like this!

Here’s what I managed to make during the workshop – a piece smaller than my thumbnail!

After the workshop I decided to experiment with using paper yarn for the stakes, or warp, with fishing line as the weaver, or weft. I also curved it into more of a basket shape. This piece was a bit bigger!

I like the delicate reflectiveness of this technique and material. The light plays beautifully across the surface as you move it in your hands, but this is difficult to capture in photos – it looks more like wire.

I’m not sure at the moment whether I will take this any further, but it’s another material to add to my armoury!

Casting baskets in glass

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while will know that Ever Supportive Partner (ESP) has accompanied me on many jaunts and tried his hand at a few textile ventures, such as dyeing with safflowers at the World Shibori Network conference in Oaxaca in 2016.

So now it was payback time. ESP has done a couple of glass courses recently and was keen to go to a four-day masterclass at the International Festival of Glass. He suggested I accompany him.

I was a bit concerned at first, as the term “masterclass” usually implies that you need some experience to be able to attend. However, I found a class with Georgia Redpath that looked right up my street, making beautiful geometric moulds for cast glass. So after checking with the organisers that complete beginners were welcome, I booked.

Unsurprisingly, I was the only person in the class with no previous experience of working with glass. But Georgia made me feel very welcome. And her work was as stunning in real life as it was on her website.

georgia redpath cast glass georgia redpath cast glass

When casting glass, it takes time to heat up the glass and then let it cool gradually. This meant that our glass would not be ready to collect until a few days after the end of the class.

So we started with a group exercise, where we each made a couple of small moulds from card. These were then cast together as two group moulds so that we could see the process and the end result during the class.

We each made one mould with a star-shaped base and one with a circular base.

card moulds for glass casting card moulds for glass casting

These were grouped together and silicone moulds were made.

silicon mould for glass casting silicon mould for glass casting

Then another mould of investment plaster was cast from the silicone mould.

plaster mould for glass casting plaster mould for glass casting

These plaster moulds are then filled with glass and put in the kiln.

group exercise glass cast group exercise glass cast

I love the clean geometric lines of Georgia’s work, so I made a small geometric mould as one of my samples.

geometric glass mould

However, I also wanted to incorporate the work that I do as a fibre artist, so I made a couple of small coiled bowls from some dead lily leaves I found in the hotel garden(!) and a 3D stitched kantha piece. These were cast in Gelflex rubber rather than silicone, as it is more viscous and less likely to seep through holes in the fibres.

bowls for glass casts gelflex moulds of bowls

Here are the plaster casts of the rubber moulds. It was amazing to see the amount of detail picked up, right down to individual stitches.

plaster moulds of bowls moulds for glass casts

We then calculated how much glass was needed to fill the plaster moulds and left them for a couple of days with Georgia to be put in the kiln.

It was very exciting to return a couple of days later to pick up the glass casts. Unfortunately, on one of the bowls I had underestimated how much glass was needed, so there was a small hole in it.

glass cast bowl with hole

But I’m still pleased with the detail picked up in the glass. And the others were equally detailed – on the stitched piece you can even see the weave of the cotton muslin as well as the individual stitches.

cast glass embroidery cast glass bowl geometric cast glass

I have limited facilities for coldworking (finishing them off by rubbing down and polishing) but I’m extremely happy with them even as they are.

It was a great workshop, and Georgia is a very enthusiastic and encouraging tutor. It’s made me think more about moulds and negative space and how I might develop this in my work. So thanks to ESP too for pushing me out of my comfort zone!

Georgia’s studio is at the Ruskin Glass Centre in Stourbridge, where you can see lots of other stunning examples of studio glass in the British Glass Biennale, which runs until 28 September 2019.

Willow bark basketry with Maggie Smith

I’ve just returned from a three-day workshop on willow bark basketry with the wonderful Maggie Smith. Having worked with neither willow nor bark before, I was slightly worried, but Maggie’s work is fabulous so I couldn’t pass up the chance.

baskets by maggie smith baskets by maggie smith baskets by maggie smith

We started by learning how to strip the bark from willow, with a knife, willow brake or by pounding. Easing the bark off around joints or knots without tearing it can be tricky!

maggie smith stripping willow

But by lunchtime on the first day we had all started to pile up little rolls of bark. The colour of the interior was amazing, ranging from pale yellow to chartreuse green to deep orange. However, this colour does tend to fade as the bark dries.

willow bark stripping willow bark rolls

Maggie told us to discard any preconceived ideas about what we wanted to make and study the bark very carefully to see what was suggested by the marks and texture.

willow bark exterior willow bark interior

I liked the arrangement of holes on one of my pieces of bark so decided to make a pouch consisting of a random weave container wrapped in a whole piece of bark.

The next day we learnt how to cut the bark into even strips, and I started making my random weave piece around a sawdust mould.

willow bark random weave willow bark random weave

Then I cut the whole piece of bark to length, punched holes in it and wrapped the container, stitching on a handle to keep it in position.

willow bark random weave

I left it to dry overnight and the next day managed the tricky task of removing the mould without damaging the bark!

As I had a bit of time left, I also made another coiled piece, using different widths of willow bark strips.

willow bark coiling

Here are the two final finished pieces.

willow bark baskets by Kim Winter

And here are some of the wonderfully diverse and inspiring pieces produced by other students in the class.

willow bark baskets willow bark baskets

Even better, I managed to add willow bark to my cordage collection!

willow bark cordage


Cyanotype workshop

Cyanotype is a photographic printing process made without a camera. Objects are placed on a light-sensitive surface and then exposed to ultraviolet light. The result is a cyan (blue) silhouette – hence the name.

The process was discovered by Sir John Herschel in 1842, but the most famous user was probably the botanist Anna Atkins, who published a series of books of cyanotype prints of algae.

I was intrigued, then, to attend a cyanotype workshop at the weekend with Helen Dixon at Bainbridge Studios, to find out how the process is being used by modern day artists.

We started by preparing our own light-sensitive paper by coating it with a mixture of potassium ferricyanide and ferric ammonium citrate and leaving it to dry in the dark.

coating cyanotype paper

Helen had prepared some paper before the workshop, so we used this to experiment with photos we had sent in advance. The photos had been converted to negatives, and we made a few prints changing the UV light source and the exposure times.

After exposing the negative, the parts of the paper that were exposed to light look much darker. When we washed the paper with water, it turned blue.

rinsing cyanotype

The colour will continue to intensify by itself (rather like indigo oxidising!), but you can speed up the process by spraying with hydrogen peroxide.

spraying cyanotype with hydrogen peroxide

This is the original photo I sent, of a hazelnut cluster. Below it is the negative that was produced.

hazelnut clusterphotographic negative

And here are the results of playing around with resolution, exposure times and light source.

cyanotypes of hazelnut cluster

Unexpectedly, you sometimes get a better image with a lower resolution photo.

We also made marks with pencil and ink on acetates and exposed those.

acetates for cyanotype cyanotypes from acetates

After lunch, we continued experimenting with different objects, but this time we put a sheet of glass on top and put them in the sun to expose them. Even though it was overcast, this worked very well.

exposing cyanotypes

Here are a couple of pieces I made using plant material – on the left are gingko leaves and ferns, on the right is grass.

cyanotype plants

And here are a couple of pieces I made using torn strips of tracing paper.

cyanotype tracing paper

It was a great workshop – and gives me another blue technique to add to my repertoire! 🙂


Indigo shibori workshop for felters

Last weekend I ran a workshop on indigo shibori dyeing for the London branch of the International Feltmakers Association, of which I am a member. I’ve attended previous IFA workshops on felting and natural dyeing, and the participants are always enthusiastic and engaged, so I knew I was in good hands!

I wanted participants to experience the difference between synthetic and natural indigo, so we began on Saturday by setting up three vats. The first was what is known as a 123 vat, popularised by natural dye guru Michel Garcia – this was made up of 1 part indigo, 2 parts lime and 3 parts fructose. The other two vats were made of synthetic indigo in different concentrations.

To start with we focused on clamping and binding shibori techniques, and soon everyone was having fun with pegs, marbles and lolly sticks, while the more adventurous grappled with some plastic pipes and string to produce arashi shibori.

In the afternoon we moved on to stitching. Because this is more time consuming, it meant that keen students could take their pieces home to finish stitching in the evening so it was ready to dye the next day.

stitching shibori

There was time at the end of the afternoon to undo the first bound and clamped pieces and the makeshift washing line outside soon began to fill up!

shibori washing line

On Sunday the we continued to experiment with different techniques (sometimes combining more than one) or fabrics, learning how the same technique can look very different on different fabrics.

pole wrapped shibori unpicking shibori

We also found a more photogenic place to hang our work. 😉

indigo shibori indigo shibori indigo shibori indigo shibori indigo shibori

At the end of the day everyone had a good collection of samples to take home and seemed very happy!

ifa shibori samplesIFA shibori workshop

Workshops and American Museum Textiles Fair

I thought I’d already posted about these events but it was actually on my website and newsletter, so sorry about the short notice!


Next week I’m running a couple of workshops for beginners on felting and ecoprinting. The venue is The Old School, School Lane, West Kingsdown, Sevenoaks, Kent TN15 6JN, just off the M20. For more information and to book, please contact Judith Yarnold, judithyarnold@gmail.com, 01474 852669.

Introduction to felting

Tuesday 21 August, 10am-4pm

Felt is one of the oldest known fabrics in the world. It’s made by wetting layers of wool roving and rubbing and rolling with soap until the fibres interlock to form a robust fabric. This one-day workshop introduces you to the basic felting technique.

In the morning you will start by making a flat piece of felt to learn the basic technique. You can decorate it with yarn, silk and other embellishments.

In the afternoon you will make a 3D object (a small bowl) by felting around a resist. Again, you can decorate this in various ways.

We provide: All materials, but please bring an old towel and a plastic bag to take your work home with you

Numbers: Min 5, max 10 in class

Cost: £60 to be paid up front + £6 for materials to be paid in cash to the tutor on the day

When: Tuesday 21 August, 10am-4pm. There will be an hour’s break for lunch. There is a small shop that sells food about 5 minutes’ drive from the venue or you can bring your own.

Introduction to ecoprinting workshop

Wednesday 22 August 2018

Ecoprinting is also known as botanical contact printing or bundling. It involves making a bundle of leaves in fabric and steaming or simmering in water or dye. In these conditions, certain plants leave their imprint on the fabric.

We will be working with silk in this workshop, as it is one of the easiest fabrics to use with this technique. In the morning we will go on a foraging walk to look for leaves and other foliage to use for ecoprinting. Then we will come back and make a couple of small samples using iron as a mordant. They will steam or simmer during our lunch break.

In the afternoon we will unbundle the samples to see the results and then lay out a larger piece (a silk scarf). While this is steaming we will experiment with hapazome (flower pounding), another method of using plants to make marks on fabric.

We provide: All materials, but please wear old clothes and bring an apron

Numbers: Min 5, max 10 in class

Cost: £60 to be paid up front + £15 for materials to be paid in cash to the tutor on the day

When: Wednesday 22 August, 10am-4pm. There will be an hour’s break for lunch. There is a small shop that sells food about 5 minutes’ drive from the venue or you can bring your own.

American Museum Textiles Fair

Claverton Manor, Bath BA2 7BD
Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 August, 10am-4pm

Spend the weekend browsing antique, vintage and world textiles as well as yarns, and makers’ suppliers at the ‘home of quilts’ in the South West. I will be bringing my latest batch of upcycled indigo shibori and ecoprinted garments and accessories.


RHS Plant and Art Fair and hapazome workshop

I was hard at work last week replenishing my stock of ecoprinted scarves for the RHS Plant and Art Fair this week.

With botanical art and photography competitions, talks and demonstrations on ikebana and Japanese garden design and of course some wonderful plants, this should be a great show.

And with this heatwave we’ve been having, I’m getting some great prints.

The RHS Plant and Art Fair is at RHS Lawrence Hall, London SW1P 2QD. There’s a late event tomorrow evening 5-9pm, then it’s open on Wednesday 11am-8pm and Thursday 11am-6pm.

Then on Sunday I’m running a hapazome workshop at Brixton Windmill’s Art in the Park. Hapazome is the technique of leaf (and flower) pounding, where you pound vegetation on fabric or paper to leave an imprint.

Here are some samples I’ve made for the workshop.

Let’s hope that people aren’t too busy watching the World Cup final and/or the Wimbledon men’s final to turn out!