Surface Pattern exhibition at Unit Twelve

Criminal Quilts: Patchwork

This piece will be exhibited in Unit Twelve’s new exhibition (Surface) Pattern 27th April- 26th August 2017.

 

I’m also running a natural dye workshop at the gallery on Saturday 29th July where you can create lovely patterns on cloth using foraged plant materials.

Art Textiles course at West Dean College

This summer I am running a three day course at the lovely West Dean College, 30 May 2016 to 2 June 2016. Find out more here.

The Beauty of Stains. Ruth Singer

Ruth Singer. The Beauty of Stains

Art Textiles: Creating Cloth with Meaning

Explore a range of slow, thoughtful textile practices to create cloth with meaning. Experiment with local plants and simple rust dyeing to create eco prints on natural and vintage cloth. Introduce hand stitch with fabric manipulation and trapunto quilting to add texture and structure.

Narrative Threads Masterclass January 2016

Alongside my Narrative Threads exhibition  at the National Centre for Craft & Design, I am running a weekend masterclass on 9th & 10th January 2016 (rescheduled from December). Spend the weekend immersed in creative, slow, experimental techniques inspired by my work. The workshops include simple, experimental natural dye techniques, embroidery and using found objects. You can create a series of samples, pieces to incorporate into other work or art textile pieces to frame.

 

Day 1

Our first task of the weekend will be to manipulate and colour cloth using natural dyes, plants, food, rust and inks. We will experiment with shibori dye, hand painting colour and creating patterns from rusty metal to create original and exciting patterns and marks on cloth. We will also dye threads and other materials to use on day 2.

Day 2

Using the cloth we have created in day one (or purchased on the day if you have not attended day 1) we will look at using simple embroidery stitches to create marks and patterns on the dyed cloth. We will experiment with layering and cutting away the fabrics to create new textures. We will also explore ways of incorporating found objects into our work to add depth and narrative to the pieces.

£50 per day or £95 for the weekend, including basic materials, with additional materials available to purchase at the workshop. Book with NCCD on 01529 308710 info@nationalcraftanddesign.org.uk.

 

 

Community sustainable textiles project

I recently completed a short project for Sustainable Harborough using natural dyes and local plants to create a textile wall hanging for the local library. They asked me to propose a workshop for a town centre activity day which local people could join in with and result in something attractive and informative for display at the end.

 

I devised a simple natural dye workshop using easy, non-toxic natural dyes and local plants to create eco-prints on reclaimed silk from an old wedding dress. Each person taking part chose their own flowers and leaves to create bundles with and then added their tied bundle to either turmeric or beetroot / tea dye pot. Participants came back an hour or more later to unwrap and reveal their bundles. We got some really stunning patterns and details in the prints, which amazed and fascinated everyone who took part – including my assistant Erica!

 

Above all, this simple project showed how easy it can be to engage all ages in sustainability issues through simple, creative activities. All ages took part in the workshop and all were equally fascinated to discover that you can create such wonderful colours using (mainly) what grows in your garden. A drop-in activity like this is an easy way to talk to people about the environmental issues around textiles and dyes and to encourage a closer appreciation and exploration of what is growing in our local parks, wastelands or gardens.

sustainble harborough sign

 

Find out more about commissioning a project or activity here. I love the challenge of creating events and activities tailored to specific venues, themes or projects.

 

 

 

Postcard from Chateau Dumas 1

I’m not long back from a glorious week teaching at Chateau Dumas. It is as wonderful as it looks. I’ve never had such a luxurious teaching experience!

The Art of Textiles course covered masses of creative techniques over the course of 6 days and we started with my experimental and freestyle approach to natural dyes. The students loved this! We made solar dye jars with onion skins, walnut leaves, red cabbage, alder cones and saffron and left them to cook for the week, adding some iron when they got exhausted (colour running out) to bring out darker shades.

 

 

We made simple dye pots of local plants including walnut (which grows everywhere in the area including in the chateau grounds), and a mysterious yellow plant, red grapes, tea, turmeric, red onion skins and much more. Rust dyeing was also popular, after we collected piles of rusty metal from the Sunday morning flea market. Lots of the students used their gorgeous vintage linens from the market too, as did I, but most of my samples are still winging their way back from France in a very heavy box. We also made dye bundles from flowers, fruit, dyestuffs (like saffron) and boiled them in plain water or dye. Later in the week we got a steamer working and then were able to make the stunning leaf prints shown above. We all spent the week with stained fingernails from poking around in walnut dye vats! But no one cared and everyone loved it, even those who said they weren’t interested in natural dye. I couldn’t ask for a better response!

My next dye workshop in the UK will be covering most of these techniques, at the Black Country Museum in October. We won’t, alas, be doing solar dyeing as I suspect there won’t be as much sun as in the South of France – although I will be grateful for the lack of mosquitos!

 

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.

Weld

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.

Bundle

Bundle

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

Petal Dye

Dyeing fabric with petals (and some leaves) has to be one of the easiest and most satisfying way of putting natural colour onto cloth. It is ridiculously simple & effective, particularly on silk. I first tried it last year, after reading about it online, seeing what Hannah Lamb was doing with plant bundle  (and in India Flint’s Eco Colour) and fully intended to do more over the winter, with petals I collected & froze in the autumn. But then my freezer packed up and the bags of petals soon turned to mush so I’ve had to wait until summer for some new petals to try.

My first attempt was with giant African marigolds. I happened to be walking through the park at just the point that the municipal gardeners were pulling up beds and beds of bright gold marigolds, so I filled a huge carrier bag with the heads. Most of them went into a dye bath, which produced a glorious orange-gold on the silk test sample (I have yet to use the rest of it).

The rest of the petals were wrapped in a piece of silk and put into a steamer for an hour, along with other bundles of cloth with leaves, petals and bits and pieces. The marigold was the most successful. There are a few pink petals (geraniums I think) in there for good measure and the dark spots seem to be from the ends of the petals – I just pulled the flower heads apart, rather than cutting off the dark root area.

I steamed the bundles for an hour & then left them for a few days. I didn’t bother leaving the new batch as I am not sure it makes much difference.

The hydrangea one didn’t do very much so I re-used the cloth in some more leaf-based dye experiments later in the year.This year’s first experiments have been with mainly rose petals, again collected in Abbey Park, collected under the rose bushes just as they fell. I also added some apothecary’s rose petals from my garden, a few eucalyptus leaves, also from the park and oddments of other leaves and petals.

This time I soaked each piece of cloth in some pale Hypericum dye from last year, then scattered the leaves and petals around. I also added some splashes of iron mordant to the fabrics which you can see as brown or darker purple spots. The dark red rose petal colour seeped out onto everything, staining pink / purple. The yellow petals created some very subtle colours along with the reds. I was most impressed with the hemp fabric which took the purple dye really well. Folds, crumples and creases in the fabric act as a resist, as did some cherry leaves which imparted no colour but protected the cloth from the petal dye. Splotchy, patterned and irregular dye is exactly what I want. It couldn’t be more perfect for me.

Process:

Wet fabric (pre-mordanted if required, I did not) with water, tea, dye etc

Sprinkle or arranged petals as desired. You can place them carefully in patterns and fold the fabric over so you get symmetrical prints. I did this with one piece of silk, but it wasn’t particularly effective.

Drip or splash some iron mordant over the wet fabrics before or after adding petals

Roll up. Tie with thread (I used stranded cotton which took very little dye but I have nice subtle colours)

Place in steamer (I used an electric steamer bought from the car boot sale for £2) and cook for an hour

Leave overnight. Unwrap and compost the petals. Leave fabrics to dry in the shade. Iron (with an old iron as there is some plant residue stuck on) before washing.

 

I’ll be teaching natural dye techniques at the following events:

I Love Market Harborough event, Sat 19th July (drop-in event where you can see some basic dyes in action)

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 (not yet on their website).