In the depths of winter is hard to imagine Spring and early Summer blooms but I am happily thinking about the abundance of blossom to come in May & June and planning a new workshop for Made on Holiday. Over a long weekend in May (12th-14th) in gorgeous Devon I will be working with lucky residential retreat students to create floral garlands, hangings, brooches and decorations from vintage, embroidered and delicate natural fabrics inspired by meadows and gardens.
As well as exploring local wildlife and enjoying beautiful, luxurious accommodation and food, we will be using very special fabrics to create delicate and intricate fabric flowers which can be made into garlands, hangings, bouquets (for weddings or decoration) and wearables including brooches, hat trimmings and hair clips, perfect for a celebration of summer.
I will bring a stunning selection of vintage and reclaimed fabrics in delicate, natural hues along with hand woven, embroidered and other special cloth from my extensive stash. We will use embroidery stitches in silk and linen to create subtle pattern and texture and build up petals to create a mass of floral delights. This will be a very enjoyable, no-pressure workshop weekend where you can soak up inspiration and ideas and spend plenty of time playing and experimenting to create pieces which bring you delight. You can make one flower or 50, there’s not fixed outcome so you can work at your leisure, at your own pace and with no demands!
The scent of summer
The workshop includes all materials and tools so you only have to bring yourself. The fee includes two full days of tuition, two nights accommodation, full board including dinners and a promise of a really relaxed, creative retreat. I almost wish I was a student not the teacher!
The workshop costs £599. Full details can be found on Made on Holiday website.
I’ve recently been having a great time experimenting with screen printing, which I’ve not done since school! I’ve been printing on fabrics to make into more petals for Interlace, my collaboration with Bethany Walker. Our exhibition opens in less than 4 weeks time so there is lots to do….
Along with grey petals, I’m also celebrating the nicer shades of grey on Instagram with the hashtag #50niceshadesofgrey. I’m posting pictures of lovely grey things, when I remember.
There have also been some blues. Made on Monday, when I was really feeling blue. It didn’t last.
Week 7 has mostly involved visiting exhibitions, taking down exhibitions and preparing exhibitions, which isn’t so bad. But there *must* be more needle and thread in the next few weeks.
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.
Plants and flowers ready for printing
Bundles in the dye pot
More drying at the studio
Working out the layout
Finished wall hanging
Wall hanging detail
Wall hanging detail showing information labels
Handover in Harborough Library
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.
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.
One of the holy grail natural dyes seems to be St John’s Wort, capable of producing reds, pinks, yellows and greens from the same flowers. Investigating this, I deduce that this ideal plant is Hypericum Perforatum, which is a small plant, quite distinct from the hypericum shrubs that appear to be beloved of municipal planting schemes, at least in Leicester. Before I worked this out, I picked 5 flowers of the ordinary kind from a park shrub and brewed them up in a tiny bit of water, following (ish) India Flint’s multiple extraction process to see if I could get different colours. The first was golden yellow but the second and third brews didn’t produce much. As it cooled, the dye started to turn pinky-orange and after an hour or so, was rich madder pink! Is this some kind of oxidisation? I’ve no idea.
I soaked a few pieces of unmordanted silk in the tiny dyebath and produced a lovely peachy pink, not dissimilar to avocado but with a more orangey tint. Gorgeous!
A couple of weeks ago I found another patch of the shrubs still in flower and picked a huge bag full.
I tried the same dye extraction method but this time it took many, many repeated boilings. I got a lot of very pale yellow dye which didn’t turn pink-red so I kept going. Eventually the orangey-pink colour started to come out so I strained off into a different dye bath and after 20 or so repeated extractions, the orange kept coming but I gave up, exhausted with it!
The colour changed dramatically again; yellow is the first series of extractions, then the lighter orange was where I stopped. After a couple of hours it changed to the darker colour. I’ve not dyed with this vat yet.
left; first extraction of dye, top; after it started turning orange, right; after cooling an hour or so
Yesterday I spent a wonderful day on Clarabella’s A Muted Palette natural dye workshop, experimenting with subtle colours, modified with iron, called saddening. I learned a huge amount and am now very keen to experiment more to create the kind of muted and mottled fabrics and threads that I love to use. I’ll add photos of them soon.
I’ve been working on a new style of work using negative space and dense stitching. The piece on the left, Grandad’s Tool Shed, is part of a new body of work for an exhibition at Llantarnam Grange later this year.
The piece on the right uses Jan’s garlands as the design detail, part of the collaboration I did with her earlier in the year. Both of these pieces are pretty tiny and very time-consuming, but I have plans for a larger piece one day.