Friday, 8 September 2017


As the long hot summer days continue into September, 
so does my fascination with the rust dyeing…

More rusty objects and interesting shapes have turned up on my doorstep, 
including lots more tools, and even a rusted sculpture... 

 Previously I’d been using vinegar + water to wet cloth, but on-line research
led me to discover alternatives such as teas, fruit drinks and even red wine!  
They are all organic + acidic, but the dyed results are more subtle compared with 
the rich orange/brown tones achieved with vinegar. 

All these liquids not only wet fabric but their mild acidity reacts with iron 
and helps speed up the rusting process.

Salt can also be used as a wetting agent and living a stone’s throw 
from the sea I thought I’d try sea water. 

Up to now I’ve been dyeing fabric so I decided to experiment with paper, 
taking a range of qualities (some thick water colour paper + fine tissue)
down to the Bay to soak in the sea…

Instead of wrapping & binding the rusty pieces I placed them directly 
on top of this damp paper, hoping they would leave impressions…   

Keeping everything damp with sea water these 
dramatic results were produced in a day

In complete contrast 
these soft ‘ghostly’ prints were made in exactly the 
same way but using tea as the wetting agent...

I was curious to see whether the rusted metal sculpture would give up any colour?
It was made by our dear friend & neighbour Eric Geddes
and had been sitting in his studio for many years.

I draped it with damp cloth + tissue paper wetted with vinegar,

 left it for just a day, and this amazing colour developed...

I was careful not to disturb the process, letting 
 the cloth + paper completely dry out

... before slowly peeling them apart…

The rusting not only dyed the cloth with this wonderful patterning 
but it produced a brilliant new patina on the surface of the sculpture 
which I hope will remain...  I think Eric would approve!

At times during these past weeks I could have done 
with a “printers’ devil”...
A term remembered from art school days - used to describe a 
long-suffering friend with clean hands, who manipulated paper for you 
during a print-run when your hands were covered with ink… 
thus avoiding all those inky finger prints!

No such luck here in the shed—hence grubby finger marks everywhere!!!

But now I do have a fantastic collection of rust prints 

both on paper and fabric

to stitch, and make into books and collage...

And how does all of this fit in with my felt making…

Well the next posting will show how, as the rust experiments continue...

PS. Don't forget you can click on the photos for more details 

Monday, 21 August 2017


RUST dyeing has fascinated me for a long time, and although I have experimented with natural dyes over the years I haven’t been brave enough to try rust,
 so with plenty of long hot summer days ahead now seemed a perfect time.

All the basic materials were easily found around the house & garden. 
Old rusty tools, files & rasps, bolts & nails, iron filings, wire wool, even an old 
horse shoe. Anything made of iron that has seen better days - 
the older, the rustier, the better…

I also found lots of fabric scraps to dye, different weights of natural materials,
cotton, canvas & linen, cotton thread and wool…

Wrapping the rusty pieces with strips of damp cloth, then tying with strong thread 
was similar to the Shibori techniques I’ve been using recently when felting textures.

The tight binding secures the damp fabric around the rusted shapes and this 
close contact allows the rust to permanently dye the cloth with colour & pattern. 

Spraying with a mix of 50% water + vinegar keeps things 
moist and speeds up the process.

Oxidation soon sets in and I was surprised to find really strong colour
 had stained some pieces after just 24 hours,

 but not all... 

and these were left for another day.
 Unwrapping the bundles was really exciting -  
as with all dyeing, alchemy (or just chemistry) was at work here…

By the way I would recommend wearing rubber gloves, 
but it does make snipping threads & unravelling cloth tricky, 
especially when trying to photograph 
these amazing colours... 

(And you can click on the photos to enlarge) 

The rusting process can be stopped by neutralising the fabric. 
Soaking in a mild saline solution of 1 tbs salt/1 gallon water 
will help to set the colour.

 But rust does damage fabric. 
The minute particles remain on the fibre surface and continue to 
react and oxidize with moisture in the atmosphere, 
so fabric will disintegrate, often in a short space of time... 

It’s early days with these tests, but I have been warned!
Some of the results are SO dramatic that it would be a shame to lose them

Rust on iron tools and implements marks the passage of time. 

Many of my ’found’ objects had been left un-used for years... 

I experimented with lots of different rusty shapes...
the old hand tools found inside sheds + cupboards gave really strong
 intense colour quickly, whereas outside objects exposed to 
daily weathering, like this garden roller 
and drain gratings although rusty, didn’t work as well…

So this is just the start of my rust dyeing this summer … 

Word has got around and more rusty bits & pieces keep turning up… 

It’s been good fun so far, there will be more to follow...

Monday, 10 July 2017


The recent SHIBORI TEXTURES workshops have been a great success!
Thanks to everyone who came along, well-prepared with piles of wonderful 
pre-felts AND lots of energy & enthusiasm to experiment with
all the different techniques and possibilities…

As explained in previous posts the SHIBORI stages involve folding, pleating, stitching 
and binding lots of different shapes and textures into the pre-felts. 
This could include buttons, beads and felt balls which all give different effects...

Here are some photos from the workshops of pre-felts, 
prepared and ready for further felting…

And here are some of the results after felting...

Lots of amazing felted textures,and organic shapes
  -  some quite random and unexpected - 
all extremely unique!

When these techniques are applied to pieces of feltwork, 
whether a flat 2-D picture or a 3-D vessel, they create textures and provide an
 extra dimension that can be further embellished 
with stitching and beading..

At the end of the workshops everyone went home with lots of 
wonderful samples
and plenty of ideas for future projects...

And so did I...!    

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Summer SHIBORI workshops...

Having taking time away from felt making to prepare for my exhibition 
in April things are slowly getting back to normal again… 
A very big THANK YOU to everyone who came along to Quarr Abbey.
It was wonderful to have so many visitors - lots of friends & holiday makers. 
Don’t worry if you were unable to make it, there is another chance to see 
the exhibition in July and there’s more photos + info at 

Now it’s back to feltmaking with two SHIBORI workshops coming up this summer. 
There was a great response to the first workshop in March so I’ve arranged two 
new dates and there’s more details if you follow the link at the end of this post.

SHIBORI is a Japanese term used to describe the various techniques 
of knotting and binding cloth before dyeing, which results in wonderful
patterns and effects. 
3-D textures can also be created by twisting, folding, gathering 
and stitching into the fabric.

If SHIBORI techniques are applied to felt making at the pre-felt stage, 
then you continue to felt the material, the shaping remains 
permanent giving some unexpected results!

It adds another dimension to feltwork.  
Areas of texture can be introduced into flat felted pictures 
and 3-D work.enhancing and emphasising detail,
 which can be worked further with stitches and beads. 

The folds, ridges, bumps and pointy tendrils create some 
wonderful organic shapes!

The SHIBORI workshops are aimed at feltmakers with some experience and 
offer a chance to spend a day experimenting with these unusual techniques.
No pressure to achieve a finished piece, just trying out different fibres and effects,
felting lots of samples and enjoying the day with like-minded people… 

 I’m suggesting everyone comes along well-prepared with plenty of pre-felts so 
we can start immediately with the shibori stages. I will be demonstrating and
bringing along plenty of examples as you can see here…

And there are more details of the new workshop dates 
at Seely Hall in Brook if you follow this link...

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

NOW for something completely different!

The felting workshops are over for a while and I'm busy preparing for my first 
solo exhibition to be held at Quarr Abbey Art Gallery, near Ryde on the
 Isle of Wight, just after Easter.

The exhibition is called STRICTLY COMMERCIAL and features illustrations, 
collage and craftwork from my published books... 
So not a piece of felt in sight!

I worked in children's publishing for over 30 years, free-lancing as an illustrator 
and writer, and worked on many publications - non-fiction and fiction, craft books, 
pop-ups, puzzles, magazines. There will be lots of original artwork on show 
and for sale, plus recently published books and cards. 

The exhibition is from Thursday 20th to Tuesday 25th April, open daily from 
10.30 am to 4.30pm with FREE admission and I will be at the gallery everyday. 
There's another chance to see it again in the summer from the 
27th July to 1st August.

I've held a number of feltmaking workshops at Quarr Abbey. 
It's an amazing place to visit with wonderful buildings and gardens, 
that create a unique peaceful atmosphere. 
I'm thrilled to be holding the exhibition at this very special place. 

There's lots more pictures and information on my other blog...

And normal felt making will resume after the show when I'll be posting 
up new workshop dates for June & July...

Sunday, 22 January 2017


The start of a new year and a new season of FELTED GARDEN workshops ahead....Including some exciting NEW topics which I hope will inspire both seasoned feltmakers and those of you keen to learn a new craft! 

Last year I came across a brilliant little book FILZ EXPERIMENT, written by a German couple, which really excited me and got me thinking about experimenting with shape and texture in my work. By using simple 'shibori' techniques - gathering, stitching and binding - before the final stages of felting you can coax the felt into amazing contortions... And once felted in they remain permanent, giving some totally unexpected results!!

It literally opens up another dimension to feltwork. Areas of texture can be introduced into flat felted pictures—possibly enhancing a foreground or emphasising details which can be worked further with stitches and beads…

In 3-D work patches of texture on vessels and bags add so much interest and are also reversible—giving a different effect to either side — convex one way, concave the other! The folds, ridges, bumps and pointy tendrils create some wonderful organic shapes.

The SHIBORI TEXTURES workshop on Saturday 18th March is a chance for everyone to spend a day experimenting with these unusual  techniques, sharing ideas and results. It’s aimed at felt makers with some experience and I’m suggesting everyone comes along well-prepared with plenty of pre-felts so we can start immediately with the shibori stages, make the most of the time and go home armed with lots of amazing samples and inspiration!

Sometimes it’s good to take a day out and allow yourself time to play and experiment with something new. No pressure to achieve a finished piece, just trying out different materials and effects and enjoying the day with like-minded people… It should be fun!

I'd really like to thank Annette Quentin-Stoll & Robert Quentin the authors of 
FILZ EXPERIMENT for sharing their work in this inspiring book. Although the text is in German, which I don't read, the brilliant photography is self-explanatory 
and speaks wonders!  

There are more details about all the new workshop dates coming up in March 
at Seely Hall, Brook Village, IOW if you follow this link...

Saturday, 10 December 2016

AUTUMN WORKSHOPS - looking back!

As another season of the FELTED GARDEN workshops draws to a close 
here's a chance to look back at some of the amazing work 
produced over the past months...
The FELT BIRDS were a brand new theme and I wasn't sure how they would 
work out - I needn't have worried! As with most felting techniques, once understood everyone quickly got to work and the variety of birds produced was 
 spectacular - way beyond my expectations... 

Not just garden birds, blue tits, robins, finches, even a Cornish chough, 
but also some fantastic parrots, owls and a penguin! 

Here's a rather damp flock at the end of the day, 
felted, ready to be stitched and decorated when completely dry! 

The 'Painting with Fibres' workshop also produced 
some wonderful work and
here are just a few examples of some pictures in progress
and don't forget to click on the photos to see more details... 

...by laying out a range of mixed fibres 
the designs are carefully built up
 using sketches and photos as reference.

At the end of the '3-D' workshop...
Lots of very interesting pods again still very wet after the days felting 
but firm enough to hold their shape. 
All felted around resists and then finished by hand...

and on a much smaller scale these beautiful seeds and
 berries were all wet felted using similar techniques.
Fantastic examples of how felt can be moulded and worked
 by hand to make almost anything 

And finally 
stunning work by some of my more experienced felters...
Truly inspirational!

The perfect end to another busy year!

Just remains for me to say a very big 
to all my students who keep coming along to the workshops.
You make it such fun and keep me on my toes!!!

A very HAPPY CHRISTMAS to you all!

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