Earlier this year I was asked to make a project for DHG (Dyeing House Gallery), an Italian supplier for felting, dye and textile art supplies and I opted for a trapunto quilting project. Exploring their exciting catalogue of wool products was very inspiring and I chose the giant yarn with the idea of making HUGE corded trapunto along with beautiful wool gauze (called Etamine) to create a shadow quilting effect. The free tutorial is here. There’s also an interview with me on their site. There are lots of great tutorials and ideas on their site, it’s well worth exploring.
I have recently started a new collaboration with artist friend Gillian McFarland exploring stains and marks. It is incredibly liberating to just experiment and play, swapping ideas and techniques and to see where it takes us creatively, without a fixed goal or deadline. For me it is great to feel able to explore process and concepts in a variety of different media rather than feeling confined to a material or technique.
I’ve really cut back on the amount of workshops I am teaching in 2016 so these are very exclusive dates! Details on my workshops page.
West Dean College – Creating Cloth with Meaning 30th May – 2nd June
Black Country Living Museum – Wild Dyes 18th June
Indigo Moon, Montgomery, Wales. Precious Object Samplers 2nd July
Black Country Living Museum – Textile Stories: using text and image in textile work. 5th November
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.
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.
My weekend of creative experimentation workshops at NCCD has been rescheduled for 9th & 10th January, the final weekend of the exhibition
Spend a weekend immersed in creative, slow, experimental techniques inspired by Ruth Singer’s 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.
Full details of the workshop can be found here.
This week I’ve started a new commission for Harefield Hospital
and made some dye bundles at the first community workshop
The patchwork continues to grow (on the cat, as usual!)
I rarely get a day just stitching, so attending a workshop on Indian embroidery was a real treat this week.
Some preparation for my artist residency day
and some stitching stains during the residency day
I’m very excited that I’ll be teaching a week-long textiles retreat in Tuscany, Italy this September with Made on Holiday.
The week includes exploring antiques markets and museums for inspiration and four days of tuition, covering design development, embroidery, natural dye and fabric manipulation techniques. All of this will take place in a beautiful setting with lovely food, wine and sunshine!
The Art of Textiles is an exciting and experimental week designed to give you lots of creative ideas to use in the future. During the week you will work in the same way Ruth does in her own studio. Dyeing fabric, exploring themes, stories and narratives to inspire your work, then using hand embroidery and fine embellishment techniques to create textile pieces with a story and a sense of history. We will take Italian history as our theme, explore the local landscape and visit flea markets and museums to generate ideas to create art textile pieces, embroideries and embellished garments.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.