Themed school workshops

I love collaboration; I find it exciting and engaging both creatively and practically. Sharing skills, knowledge and expertise is vital to creating a good outcome and I always find it pushes my own creative boundaries and helps me work better and learn all the time. Whether it is working with schools, community groups or other makers, I always find it invigorating coming up with new ideas to show them as well as seeing how they take my ideas and techniques into new an exciting directions.

The school workshop shown below covered 3D fabric manipulation and appliqué techniques, following the students’ own inspiration and research, including projects as varied as fungus & lichen, decayed building, peacock feathers and jellyfish.

The images below show a session I ran for GCSE students to create weather-inspired samples using shadow trapunto techniques.

I loved this school’s textile classroom with inspiration walls and a great display of dried fruit and vegetable skins.


Find out more about workshops for school groups here.

Natural Dye: local plant bundles

After a year or so of experimenting with natural dyes, I’ve had plenty of disappointments alongside a lot of happy accidents, although very few ‘turned out just how I planned’. I am not a precise, measuring, recording, repeating kind of dyer. I read a lot about dyes and then I experiment, break the rules, mess around…. I am the same with cooking; I love cookery books but I don’t follow recipes. In many ways I work similarly with textiles.  I don’t design on paper, I work straight into fabric, from an idea in my head, allowing things to grow, adapt and develop.

mixed dyes

Alice recently asked me what kind of dyeing I liked best; what was working for me. Without hesitation I replied that dye bundles are what I find the most exciting. Much as I love dyeing beautiful, simple colours with weld, walnut, avocado skins or tea, I have found that wrapping leaves, rusty metal, flowers or twigs up in fabric and leaving it to do magical things is by far my favourite way to colour cloth. It connects me to the plants in my garden, my local parks and the scrubby wasteland around my city-centre-edgelands home.


Fabrics dyed with locally-foraged weld

Hannah Lamb collects plants on walks to create cloth imbued with meaning and significance and I can’t think of a better way to mark the seasons and honour the land than to preserve tiny aspects of them in cloth. Hunting for dye plants has encouraged me to explore my local landscape in increasing depth. I have found weld growing in a local spot of city centre wasteland, due to be built on. I have discovered wild pear trees whilst looking for goldenrod in the park and found walnuts in a city centre church yard.  Dye foraging is a perfect partner to my established habits of fruit-foraging and tree-spotting. The wildflower identification book I’ve had since 1980 has new page markers for dye plants. Dyeing has brought me closer still to my local landscape and for that I am thankful and joyful.



I like abstract patterned fabric, I like mottled, discoloured and stained effects. I like actual stains too. Bundling fabric produces some – many – truly stunning watercolour-esque swirls, pools, stains, splatters and spots of colour. Often subtle, sometimes anything but. The greatest joy is the unknown. Unwrapping a bundle is a moment of delight.

A couple of weeks ago, whilst holidaying on the Kennet & Avon canal, I took a (literal) leaf out of Hannah’s book and collected leaves, petals and rusty metal along the towpath and in canal-side parks to create boat bundles which record some of places and plants of my holiday. I made simple, unscientific dye pots using walnuts, marigolds, elderberries, tea and buddleia to dye the foraged bundles and created some magical colours and patterns on scraps of silk. Bundling with stranded embroidery cotton leaves me with masses of space-dyed threads too. My next challenge is to stop being so precious and actually start using my dyed fabrics.

I recently completed a small community commission using natural bundle dyes to create a small display – more on this soon. If you want to join me in this wonderful plant dye journey I have a couple of workshops coming up:

Wild Dyes at Ruth Singer Studio, Sat 20th September. 10am-4pm. £45. Including steamed bundles and other dye techniques

Wild Dyes at Black Country Living Museum Sat 18th October

The Business of Embroidery ecourse

I’ve just started Mastered ecourse on the Business of Embroidery taught by the amazing Karen Nicol. I’ve been looking for a while for an ecourse to take as research towards developing my own ecourses and had been pondering one of the Mastered embroidery courses, though I knew they weren’t quite right for me. It has been at the back of my mind for a while that I want to explore designing embroidery and embellishment commercially, so this course was just the right thing at the right time.

I’m really just getting started with the course, although I’ve read through all the course materials and watched most of the videos already. One of the first exercises is to choose a theme from one of five suggested and create a sketchbook. I don’t often work in this way and it is good discipline for me to try it, so the course is definitely working already! The themes suggested were:

  • The city at night
  • Myths, legends and fairytales
  • Vibrant florals
  • Extraordinary texture mixes
  • Reimagined lace

My first instinct was to go with extraordinary texture mixes because that immediately sounds like my kind of thing, but of course the point is to explore new ideas, so I opted for myths, legends and fairytales. Since my own work is very narrative-based, this is hardly a massive departure, though I haven’t done any work on myths before. Ideas were sparked immediately, running off in many different directions, many of them wildly ambitious or just plain weird. Of course, I am having to think around this topic in terms of commercial design rather than my own art textiles practice, which is a very different thing indeed. I’ve already had to park the idea of sewing dried mushrooms onto fabric – I don’t see that going down well in John Lewis cushion department…

I’ve chosen to work around the theme of fairytale forests, the dark, dark woods full of faeries, goblins, monsters, witches and my beloved trees. The first image that came to mind was one of Ivan Bilibin’s illustrations of Russian fairy tales which I remember from my childhood. My mum recently gave me her copy and it is in my pile of prints to frame.



As usual these ideas came to me while I was out walking, fortuitously, in the woods. I often walk to gather my thoughts. As I walked around and around the woods, various ideas floated in and out, including the idea of dried mushrooms (see above) and then feathers. A moment later I found this…



Magical fairytale forest in action.

I’m gathering images on Pinterest and have started my sketchbook, although as yet it is a little sparse. I am enjoying forcing myself to do the research properly  and not start putting needle to fabric just yet. I’ll post more images as the work develops.


Museum purchase

I’m delighted to announce that Shire Hall Gallery, part of Staffordshire Museums Service, are buying my whole collection of Criminal Quilts. The six textile pieces will become part of the museum service collection and will be displayed in the historic court room at Shire Hall.

Amelia May's Quilt

As an ex-museum person, having my work preserved forever in a museum collection makes me ridiculously happy!

Julia Bate

The pieces are on show now until 10th March and then they will re-appear sometime later in the year after being framed, in the court room.

Fading From History-2

Photographs used in the work are courtesy of Staffordshire Record Office.

Wrapping and covering

I usually tweet or Pin when I’ve seen something interesting online, but I’ve decided it is time to start sharing things on the blog again as it gives things more status and it makes stuff easier to find again. So I’m planning a series on other artists’ work as I come across things I like and other blogs that .
The Textile Arts Center blog is full of amazing stuff. I particularly liked the work of Lin Tianmiao probably because I am very attracted to the idea of wrapping. I also like the monochrome.

I recently discovered Diane Savona who embeds found objects in fabric. I particularly love this piece, again the simplicity of the colour works beautifully.
Domestic Markings
A few years ago I made a small group of wrapped pieces for Figures of Africa, referencing museum collections, preservation and protection. I keep thinking about doing more wrapping but I wonder if it has been done too much already and I wouldn’t be saying anything new. Something to ponder.


New work in progress

If you are sharp-eyed on Pinterest, you will have noticed some new work popping up on this board. I’m working in collaboration with jeweller Alys Power  to create a new collection of work for an exhibition opening in March at NCCD.



We’ve been working on collaborative pieces to create a Cabinet of Curiosities inspired by Calke Abbey. We’re making small objects out of textile, metal and found objects, some of which will be wearable jewellery and some just simply objects. Follow the  board to keep an eye on what we are doing and I’ll put full details of the exhibition on later. Read Alys’ post here.






Exhibitions at the Knitting & Stitching Show

I fully intended to write a blog post praising a number of exhibitions at the Knitting & Stitching Show, and urging those in striking distance of London to GET THERE TODAY (and/ or tomorrow) and illustrate the blog with marvellous pictures of the work, gathered from the websites of the organisers of the shows, or even from Flickr or elsewhere on the web. But alas, this doesn’t seem to be possible and I now wish I had battled with the millions of people and taken my own photos, where this was allowed. A little frustrating! I will have to wait until Harrogate in November to blog most of it properly.
As always, the 62 Group produced a show of fascinating textiles, some of which blew me away. The group’s website doesn’t even mention the exhibition which makes me feel like I have invented the whole thing. There is a preview of their new book online which gives some flavour of the works on show but doesn’t really cover it in detail.
I’ve also started to get confused about what work was in the 62 Group show and what was in Hand Stitch Perspectives, which was a really wonderful exhibition, put together by Alice Kettle and Jane McKeating, featuring works from their new, amazing, book.  Again, no images of this show to be found online, or even a list.
Ho hum. 
At least I managed to take some pictures (although not many) at the excellent Push Stitchery / Mr X Stitch exhibition.
I loved these pieces by Erin Endicott.
Embroidery on organza on porcelain by Diem Chau. I’ve seen & admired these before. 
Same goes for  Severija Inčirauskaitė-Kriaunevičienė whose work I saw in Cloth & Culture Now in 2008 and has become one of the international stars of the internet stitching world. It was great to see her work in the flesh again.
And all the rest of it was great too. I bought the fantastic book and had obligatory fan photo with Mr X himself!
Me & Mr X Stitch having a big fan moment
It was a mutual geeky fan moment – he wrote possibly the nicest book review ever of Sew Eco. What a sweetie. 
Talking of Sew Eco, I also did a little book signing and brooch making demo over on the Bloomsbury Books stand. 
Book signing and brooch-making with Bloomsbury Books
Not doing well on the photo colours on this post… first yellow then blue… 

I also got to have a good browse of the Hand Stitch Perspectives book I mentioned earlier, as well as Embellished by the amazing Karen Nicols, both of which are on my list to buy (but I was on the train so I wasn’t going to carry them – both are mighty hardbacks). 
I also ran a couple of workshops in the Learning Zone at the show, both of which will be repeated at Harrogate along with a new one. And I chatted to lots of lovely people, saw loads of amazing stuff, but, because of the aforementioned train-travel, bought very little. Just as well seeing as the fabric stash is going to have to be moved & stored *again* later this month… .