As time goes by

I think this is week ten of the new normal for our household. We isolated earlier than most due to concerns for our son who has Down Syndrome. I have not been to the shops at all during this time, and become quite good at online ordering. ???? I rarely leave my house, other than for my morning walk. I spend quite a lot of time at home working in the studio, and that hasn’t changed, however due to the cancellation and doubt in my 2020 exhibition calendar, my enthusiasm took a dive. Like many people, my emotions were all over the place for the first month or so. Gradually we have set new routines in place and weekly events to look forward to. We now have a weekly movie night among other things, and as I write this my son is having a cooking session with his support worker via zoom.

On my Groundhog Day morning walk each day (a walk for the hills and exercise, not the view) I have time to think and I have started to notice the gradual changes over the past few months, the weather (cooler), the smells (more fragrant), the increased number of birds and various plants blooming and then fading. This beautiful Banksia flower slowly blooming got me inspired.As I work in the studio, I’ve been listening to the fabulous The Great Women Artists podcast.I’ve enjoyed reading Threads of Life by Clare Hunter, The Birdman’s Wife by Melissa Ashley and most recently The Diary of a Bookseller by  Shaun  Bythell (if  you’re a fan of Blackbooks…)This one below reminds me of the state of my Covid 19 hair 🙂 


More Dyeing

During the Christmas break we watched lots of cricket, read books and generally lazed about. My husband had a long overdue shirt purge. 20 + shirts, wrong size, outdated style, loved but worn out (for business wear) and a few “what was I thinking”! 12 went straight to the studio. The fabrics are quite lovely, subtle weaves, stripes and pattern.

ShirtsThe sleeves have gone through a “Velvet Black” Dylon dye bath. I am really pleased with resulting silver/grey/black variations due to the fibre content mix and time left in the dye bath.

Dyed ShirtsI threw in a few pieces of silk too.

Dyed SilkIt’s back to the studio full steam now. Common Threads Wearable Art submission is due before the end of January. I am very pleased relieved my garment is ready to be photographed!
The WAFTA juried exhibition twentyONE+ deadline is the end of February. I have 1.5 of 3 works ready for this. I’m on the committee so have a commitment to ongoing admin work during this time and well into the year. I am looking forward to the entries arriving!

Twin Needles

Colour Project – Black, Part 7

Twin needle stitching on Linen (left) and Satin (right)


Varying widths and direction on cotton.







Twin needle sample on Georgette.

Stitching black on black this month has confirmed for me what a difficult colour it is to work with other than in bright day light. An exhibition piece I am about to start was planned to have a black top layer stitched in black. This colour project has helped me decide otherwise…





Colour Project – Black, Part 6

Tucks are slender folds lifted from the fabric and sewn at their base from end to end…Tucks vary in width from broad to tiny and pattern the fabric allover or in isolated bands. (Source – The Art of Manipulating Fabric by Colette Wollf)

(left) Grid based tied tucks, 2 variations. (right) Pattern Tucking – hand stitched tucking,   designs can include straight, curved and angular lines.

Seamless hand stitched double tucks (left). Blind-tucked fabric (right), consistently 3 layers thick. Machine stitched.


Centred tucks cross seamed at regular intervals with bow tied tucks in every other segment.

Fabric Manipulation

Colour Project – Black, Part 5

An attempt to stitch on Romeo (a soluble fabric stabiliser for machine embroidery) using the flower stitcher attachment on my sewing machine. Free stitching was all the machine would do – so badly in need of a service…I feel like my arm is cut off when my sewing machine is at the repair shop…

Fortunately, the copy of The Art of Manipulating Fabric by Colette Wolff  I ordered has just arrived.  I googled smocking techniques when I was making some samples on white and found this fantastic book. You could easily spend a year just working through the techniques and ideas in this book. Here are a few…

Yo Yos or Suffolk Puffs. Smaller stitches gather to create a larger hole, larger stitches, a smaller hole. These are 4.5cm diameter and were rather fiddly to make.

The gorgeous scarf (right) which every time I wear I hear  “I love your scarf, did you make it?”  I bought in Thailand. It has 235 x 2cm pieces! I’ve been told Suffolk puffs were created in the 1930s to use up fabric scraps.

My samples above right are ruffled puffs.


The sewing machine is back and sewing beautifully!

Here are a few samples of using shirring elastic in the bobbin case. (left) straight rows, (right) crazy stitching. Must remember to over-stitch at the beginning and end or the elastic pulls out!

These two samples are North American Smocking – a grid-regulated system of pulled stitches alternating with slack stitches that invisibly reshapes the fabric into an intricate composition of folds. Lattice pattern (left) and Flower pattern (right). This is quite difficult to see well enough to do on black fabric. I will try these again in a different colour.

Simple hand smocking, (left) straight and loosely gathered. This is in a cotton lawn and looks best with light coming through. (right) wavy horizontal and vertical stitching and gathered.

Machine shirring, stitched both horizontally and vertically. (left) a heavy satin, (right) light loose weave iron on fabric stabilizer.

Black on Black Print

Colour Project – Black, Part 4

This series of samples are all simple block prints with super cover fabric printing ink. I used this idea on my black and white InTension exhibition piece Now it’s just a memory. These are the samples that ‘worked’ – the print is visible through texture, dull/shininess, sheer/opaque, variation in ‘blackness’.     Above are in felt.

Polyester Satin

left – Linen                                                       right – Tissue silk, Organza

Black dispersal dyes transfer print with a crayon rubbing. Not very black…dyes may be a bit old.


Trying to find the colour in Black

Colour Project – Black, Part 3

I thought it might be interesting to see if I could make some black colour ‘splits”.  I’ve very basically tested all the pens, paints, dyes etc I have at hand by spraying with water. Most didn’t change, a few have a purple halo (interestingly one was a permanent marker), a Artline Fineliner became blue with a pink, green and blue bleed. The Dispersal powder dye right, bled deep blue and red. I am sure that tests with appropriate solvents on some of these art supplies I could get some interesting results, although I think I will leave this idea here…


This is the first sample of black on black. Using the flower stitcher attachment on my sewing machine.

First thought – I’m remembering that it is really hard to work with black at night.


A few more discharged samples. Applying chlorine bleach with a paint brush.


Layers of black fabrics – satin, chiffon, linen, cotton. Cut through varying layers.  I can see this in a larger piece.



Some of these fabric layers have a black on black print. The ‘shiny/dotty’ fabric is an iron on vilene.




The last set of the discharging theme – Using resists and dipping the fabric in a container of chlorine bleach. The bleach should be neutralized to prevent the fabric perishing long term.

Clothes pegs on linen.



Clothes pegs on cotton.



Cotton fabric tied with elastic bands.

Below left on linen, right below, folded and clamped.


Colour Project – Black, Part 2

Above are the best two of a really uninspiring batch of attempts to  bleach (Discharge) black fabric.

So I read the instructions – Chlorine bleach works on natural plant based fibres (cotton, linen, hemp, rayon etc) Stronger, fresher bleach works best. Some commercially dyed fabrics won’t discharge as they are treated with a chemical to prevent fading.


These fabrics ‘worked’ although were very slow to discharge. The liquid bled a lot giving fuzzy images.



Top two are cotton, next two are linen.


The next two are from a workshop last year. Left, a primitive stencil with gel bleach sponged over it.




Right, a perspex sheet with bleach sponge rolled onto it and stamped onto the fabric.





February – Black

Colour Project – Black Part 1

Without black, no colour has any depth. But if you mix black with everything, suddenly there’s shadow – no, not just shadow, but fullness. You’ve got to be willing to mix black into your palette if you want to create something that’s real”  – Amy Grant

“People can have the Model T in any colour as long as it’s black”  – Henry Ford

Jet, Charcoal, Blackberry, Blackwork, Silhouette, Darkness, Burnt, Long Black, Black Death, Onyx, Carbon, Dark, Shadows, Morning, Ebony, Blackout, Black Tie, Pitch black, Black Sheep, Black Comedy, Blacksmith, Little Black Book, Soot, Blackcurrant, Ink, Kohl, Black Holes, Black Pepper, Black Adder, Black & Blue, Dark Arts, Black Pudding, Black Magic, Black Forrest Cake, Black Dog, Black Belt, night,

Black does not emit or reflect light in any part of the visible spectrum. It absorbs all such light frequencies. It symbolizes authority, seriousness, formality, elegance, rarity, but also depression, crisis, tragedy, underground, mystery, evil, secrecy, morning and death (in Western Culture)

Pigments or dyes that absorb light rather than reflect it back “look black” to the eye. Black paints and inks have been made from dead bodies, soot mixed with gum, oil or lacquer resin, oak galls, coal, bones… (source Colour:Travels through the Paintbox by Victoria Finlay)

“Black is real sensation, even if it is produced by entire absence of light. The sensation of black is distinctly different from the lack of all sensations” – Hermann Von Helmhoz