Thursday, 29 August 2019

Experiments with INDIGO #2 Process

The weather’s changed, the wind has calmed down and I’ve been able to 
continue with the indigo experiments over the past few days… 
The vat’s up and ready, with everything assembled in the garden…

I began by dyeing the soaked fabrics, prepared with different
 shibori techniques - folded, stitched, tied and gathered with 
threads, elastic bands and clamps… 

Carefully submerging them into the vat, without introducing too much oxygen

soon the bundles were coming out of the dye,  
at first bright turquoise, quickly changing to deeper intense blues
as the indigo oxidised in the air…

The linen, silk and cotton fabrics all reacted so differently,
with varying shades of colour  

I did dip some a second and third time, here rinsed and left to dry….

The FELT pods and pebbles were always going to prove interesting!

I carefully siphoned small quantities of dye into shallow bowls using a pipette, 
(so the indigo didn't come into contact with too much oxygen) 
and allowed the wetted felt to soak up dye. 
I wanted random effects with some areas deliberately left white and paler…

After 10 -15 mins they were removed, left to oxidise, then rinsed.

Next came the Khadi sketchbook with all the prepared pages…  

The cotton rag pages had been soaking in water for about half an hour, 
to make them more receptive to the indigo once in the vat
BUT I was unaware that this had also weakened the glue binding…

Unfortunately, after about 10 mins in the vat, disaster struck...
The book was heavy, all the pages gave way and had to be quickly retrieved... 
Lots of lovely blue pages, but NOW loose leaf… 

And an unexpected re-binding challenge!!!!  

All the various pieces of fabric, felt and papers have now been left to 
thoroughly dry out. 

As is often the case the experiences and benefits of the practical 
PROCESS far outweigh any of the resulting PRODUCTS…

It's been extremely experimental, and enlightening!
I’ve learnt a lot and had great fun in the process, 
and I shall be sharing more results in the next blog post, 
coming up soon….

And don't forget you can click on any photo to see more details!

Thursday, 8 August 2019

EXPERIMENTS with INDIGO #1 Preparation

The long hot summer continues...
 with temperatures breaking records all across Europe. 
Traditionally indigo dyeing has taken place in locations much warmer than 
the Isle of Wight, so the unusually hot conditions here are perfect for my
 indigo experiments!

Preparations have been ongoing over the past weeks.
I'm using many fabrics -  cottons, linens and silks - left over from 
my Rust Dyeing in 2017, however this time my main focus is to experiment 
with indigo dyeing FELT…

I’ve felted a series of 3-D natural forms - pods, shells and pebbles shapes.

 They're all ready for dyeing and I’m keen to see how these felted shapes will 
react in the dye vat - I’m hoping for some totally random-dyed effects…

I’ve also prepared some pieces of felt which are tied, pleated and stitched with 
shibori techniques. I’ve tried this before with coloured prefelts 
and you can follow this link to Shibori Workshops.

 These latest felt pieces are pure white and ready to dye… 
along with the other cottons, silks and linen fabrics…

As with the rust experiments I also want to try dyeing paper.
 I've used a Khadi sketchbook, preparing the pages for dyeing with different 
‘shibori’ style pleats and folds, pegged and stitched into place

 Folding the hand-made 100% cotton rag paper has certain similarities to
the more traditional folds with fabric, but it also displays very different qualities...

I’ve been able to tear and cut the paper, wrap it around sticks, use wax and
 origami-type folds secured in place to form areas that act as resists,
 which prevent the dye colour from penetrating the paper, 
creating white patches + a range of lighter blue tones...

Indigo dyeing is a totally new adventure for me!
I’ve read as much as I can find in books and on-line. 

BUT this is extremely experimental and I’m really excited to see 
whether or not any of it works…

It’s been just as challenging to create all the different 3-D felt shapes

 AND the ‘pre-dyed’ paper book

So now all the fabric materials, utensils and equipment are assembled, 
prepared and ready to go to the next stage…  

BUT we have some very severe weather warnings ahead 
so I’m having to wait for the winds to drop and calmer, warmer days,
 when hopefully the indigo will be able to do it’s magic…..

Monday, 1 July 2019

FINISHING FELT, with stitching...

I recently held a ‘Finishing’Felt’ workshop with some of my experienced feltmakers…
 It was a very relaxed day, sharing ideas and solving problems… 
We learned so much from each other, with plenty of tea and cake 
to help the day along!

We all put so much energy and creativity into our feltwork but sometimes 
it just doesn’t work out as planned, so what to do…? 
Maybe it needs further finishing and embellishment, stitching and beading, 
or rethinking an area that hasn’t felted properly. 
Sometimes we’re just not sure what to do and promising pieces of work are put away, 
and forgotten for the sake of a few finishing touches…
Hopefully this workshop helped to rescue a few of them!

I get asked all the time about stitching onto felt and how to get started, 
even by the most skilled feltmakers…
 I made a sample book of different stitch types, worked on felt.and took it along 
to the 'Finishing Felt' day hoping it might encourage 
the most reluctant stitchers to get going
It’s a simple idea and having a end purpose for stitch samples is good motivation—
inspiring you to try out more and more examples to fill up the pages. 

It's also a perfect way to use up those precious felt scraps.

The leaf shape is a great favourite, I use it all the time in my work, 
and as in nature, no two leaves are ever the same…

Presenting them in a book keeps them altogether and creates a useful 
reference that’s easy to look back on and to add to...

As with most things—it’s best to keep it simple… 
You only need a few choice threads—the bolder the better as fine 
threads do get lost amongst felt fibres

Choose strong colours, thicker threads, a large needle and bold stitches… 
It’s difficult at first if you have a fine touch but it comes down to practice, 
and that’s where small samples are an ideal way to get started.

I love variegated threads as the colours have already been carefully selected or 
better still hand-dyed. I prefer the perles which come in different thicknesses..

My absolute favourite stitch is running stitch, sometimes whipped through 
with a contrasting thread… 

and feather stitch, which is perfect for creating feathery textures on birds 
and seaweedy growth on pebbles

. It’s easy to vary the stitch size and direction and the stitches soon take on an 
organic quality… They can be adapted to whatever scale you're working, 
from a tiny felted pebble to a larger picture...

The next step is to add small beads and buttons. The right choice of colour
 and size can compliment stitching and highlight aspects of the design. 
I like using tiny round beads but you need a very fine beading needle 
and thread for these. Larger buttons and beads with flat shapes are easier to sew 
into a felt surface, they don't sit too proud and don't snag!

The great advantage with creating felt is the relatively small step from working in 
2-dimensions to 3-D, and these forms can be enhanced, stitched and 
beaded in exactly the same way, with endless possibilities! 

 I’ve recently discovered 21st Century Yarns, a supplier of wonderful hand-dyed threads, including some amazing variegated silks in different thicknesses - 

just perfect for felt embroidery and a pleasure to use 

This is just a small selection,  there’s plenty more online at 

If you would like to see more examples of 
stitching on Small 3-D projects try this link...

to see my embellished Autumn Bag click here 

and you can click on any photo to see more detail.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019


Books have played such an important part in my life!
I worked in childrens' publishing for many years, and wrote and illustrated a book called ’Making Books’. We took the ideas into schools and libraries holding practical workshops for children, showing them how to make their own books.

Now I’m a feltmaker and in my sketchbook workshops I show how to design felt covers specifically for notebooks and journals. The felt can be decorated with
threads and beads, and then attached to the book cover with hand stitching…

 Spiral bound notebooks make perfect workbooks, especially for textile samples. 
The pages have room to expand and accommodate the extra thickness of inserts, 
surplus pages can be removed easily and pages of different materials can be added. 

I’ve always made books, journals and anthologies for myself and friends,
 often themed around a particular subject .. 
It's impossible to throw beautiful cards away - greetings cards with personal 
messages, hand-written envelopes and postcards with foreign stamps 
are all very special. 
Some of my cards are over 50 years old, sent by friends and family that are 
no longer with me, making them even more precious.

Recently I put this little collection of bird cards together,
the A6 format is the exact size for postcards and 
the felt bird cover makes it complete... 

Putting cards into books makes them more accessible and gives them a new life... 
The Bird Book is too valuable to be tucked away and sits on my desk, 
it’s cut-out pages fanning open like wings.

The large A3 book with the embroidered ‘Honesty’ felt cover is a workbook 
containing felt projects in different stages of development

It’s a practical way of presenting ideas, sketches and reference pictures 
altogether during a workshop. It’s easy to transport & easy for students to look at...
(So much simpler than trying to show photos on a phone or ipad...)  

On a much smaller scale this tiny sketchbook is barely 4” square 
covered with a scrap of felt...

and sometimes you’re fortunate to be given an interesting item or 
piece of jewellery which makes the perfect clasp....

My library of hand-made books includes many notebooks and 
collections of reference materials, photos + cards … 
Like the ‘Rust & Indigo’ book — full of additional notes and findings from my 
rust dyeing experiments, documented on this blog in 2017

Some years ago I made a ‘Beach Book for my illustrator friend Wendy Bramall
 - we met at Art School and have been friends ever since… 
She provided me with the front cover painting and all the beach treasures.
I constructed the book, binding together a selection of water colour papers
which she has filled over time…

It's been a wonderful collaboration….

As I wrote at the start, 
making, writing and illustrating books have played a major part in my life 
and remain such an integral part of my thinking.

I aim to pass on some of my knowledge and enthusiasm
 in my sketchbook workshops. 

The next is planned for the autumn so watch out for dates and details...

(And don't forget you can enlarge any of the photos by clicking them!) 

Friday, 1 March 2019

A pair of BLACK BIRDS...

Over the past 10 years of teaching feltmaking 'Painting with Fibres' has become 
my most popular workshop... And I can understand why...
It is a marvellous introduction to making felt! 

Beginners feel they have achieved a great deal in a day, not only learning a new skill
 but coming away with a substantial piece of work.

Then in the hands of more experienced feltmakers the combinations of 
colour, fibre and texture are endless...

For this new season of workshops I wanted to felt a pair of pictures that illustrate
what can be achieved in just a few hours of "painting with fibres" 
using a simple design and lots of interesting fibre & texture.. 

Although it can be a broad, bold medium, felt pictures can also be 
planned and executed in a controlled way.
I suggest everyone brings along a small sketch or photo to the class as a 
starting point. You can see mine in the photo below,
click on the photos to enlarge...

The first panel demonstrates the felting process,
laying out wool fibres...

adding textures and a simple bird shape cut from prefelt.

The finished felted picture below has no further embellishment

The second panel shows the same laying out process,
with a different choice of coloured fibres + textured threads

 After felting, this picture is taken to the next stage with embellishment

using machine and hand stitch, with beading
 to create extra detail and interest

The contrasting colour schemes completely change the mood 
from a fresh cool early morning scene 
 to a warm glowing evening sunset, 

with the shape of the black bird identical in both!

When people handle the fibres for the first time they are drawn to
 the tactile softness and the colours... 

Those who would never dream of boldly mixing paint onto a canvas seem 
to have less inhibitions when it comes to using fibres. 
They discover the joys of using colour! 
It's not threatening, it's a very gentle process! 

Bright colours merge as in the second panel - orange/cerise/purples/magenta - 
blended together with your hands...  

This workshop demonstrates that you can create pictures in felt, 
using fibres and textures as if you were painting a landscape and
 'Painting with Fibres' describes the process perfectly.

The first 'Painting with Fibres' workshop in March is now fully booked 
so I've added an extra date on Sat 1st June 
and you can find all the Spring workshop details here...


Friday, 1 February 2019

FELT Open Day #2

It’s the beginning of February, and although the bulbs are trying to push through
as I write this the temperatures are sub-zero and we're snowed in... 
It’s bitter out there…

But what better way to create a warming glow than making FELT with friends...

 and following on from the success of the first FELT OPEN DAY last year 
another day has been arranged, taking place at Seely Hall Brook on 
Saturday 23rd February 10am - 4pm.
 A definite date for your diary if you are interested in FELT and 
would like to find out more about the activities & workshops
taking place at Seely Hall this Spring.

A wonderful creative day is planned! 
FREE admission - open to EVERYONE... 
Feltmakers and visitors are all welcome to come along and 
join in this informal get-together… 

Come and make felt, stitch, embellish, or just socialise, chat and
exchange ideas with fellow feltmakers, 
and hopefully get inspired… 

There will be a limited number of large work tables available on the day 
for wet felting, plus smaller tables for sewing activities.
If you would like to make use of these let me know and I can reserve you a place.

Although there will be no formal tuition on the day I will be on hand to give advice
and help with any new projects.


There will be feltwork on display from my workshops, plus students' work
and feltmaking in progress throughout the day, so if you are new to the craft 
or just curious to see what FELT is all about then
 this is a perfect opportunity!

All the felt featured in this post is students' work

I will have details of the NEW Spring programme of workshops 
coming up in March, April & May and will be taking bookings.

There’s NO charge for the day and everyone is welcome!

Hot drinks, tea, coffee + home-made cakes will be available. 
I suggest a small contribution for refreshments with donations 
going to the Seely Hall Fund.

This will be the second FELT DAY I've organised and if it's anything
 like last year it will be an amazing day 
and a perfect start to the feltmaking year!

I’m really looking forward to catching up with 
all my old felting friends and hopefully 
lots of new faces too… 

So please spread the word !

And if you want to contact me for further details
call Gill on 01983 752872

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