Tuesday, 26 October 2010


I have been itching to try using natural dyes for ages, ever since I bought a woad plant, on a whim, from the National Herb Centre back in May. Said woad plant is still languishing in a very small pot on my mum's patio- I will try and plant it this weekend. I want to mention two very special blogs that have inspired this new endeavour; Carolyn Saxby's Love Stitching Red and Cathy Cullis.

To me, the best thing about this new project is that the results are quite unpredictable and the process feels very experimental. There is no great long list of equipment needed to get started; you just have a go and see what happens. This appeals greatly to the way I create work as I'm not very patient and not very good at planning. I won't write out a long "how to" article because, frankly, I don't feel qualified (I am very much a beginner) and there is plenty of good advice on the two blogs mentioned above as well as a lot of books out there on the subject.

These two jars are filled with blueberry and turmeric dye so they're not exactly plant dyes made from bits and pieces I've gathered myself wearing a peasantish dress made of roughly woven linen whilst the sun hangs low in the sky casting a Hardyesque tinge to the scene. No. They are what-I-could-find-on-the-shelves-of-Marks-and-Spencers dyes hastily acquired on the way home from work, in the rain. I'm fairly certain that if my landlord stumbled across my little experiment he might think I have Wiccan tendencies. And it does feel very witchy in much the same way using a pestle and mortar makes me feel like some 14th century wise woman. I plan to leave them where they are until the weekend when I will admit to either failure or success. Contained in the jars are a selection of fabric scraps; bits of lace, crocheted doilies, muslin, silk. I have no idea what I will do with them once they are dry and ironed, they will probably join my ever expanding pile of handmade papers and collages, ready to use once inspiration strikes.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Getting my mojo back

I have a few new ideas and some projects waiting to get started but for now I'm just happy painting hydrangeas.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Mushrooms, more mushrooms and ghostly children

So, can you guess what we were doing in class last week? That's right. Mushrooms. I'm having so much fun with the watercolour students right now, just painting things you find in the fridge. For the next session I have asked them all to bring along two objects from home to paint. The only stipulation is that it needs to be non perishable as we will be painting these objects over two weeks. I wonder what they will bring...

Below is what I have been making with the ton of mushrooms I had left after the class: mushrooms stuffed with Danish blue and goats cheese, toasted walnuts and thyme served with rocket salad and toasted date and walnut bread finished with a drizzle of garlic oil. I've had this three times since Wednesday and I'm not even beginning to get tired of it.

In other news I'm still reading Wolf Hall (loving it) but did take a brief break to read The Small Hand, Susan Hill's new ghost story, mainly because the library had a queue forming of people waiting to read it after me. The Woman in Black remains one of my all time favourite winter reads and I hear Hammer Studios are filming it with Daniel Radcliffe in the lead role. The Small Hand is only a little book but thoroughly creepy and great for a rainy afternoon, under the duvet, with chocolate.

I also have a lot of new ideas for art projects, like making some mini stitched concertina sketchbooks using up all of the layered, painted wallpapers I made as class samples last term. I also want to try a Citrasolve image transfer- I read about this recently (I'm afraid I can't remember whose blog it was) and it seems to be quite a good technique for transferring images to fabric without the mess of using a gel medium. They seem to look quite distressed and vintage too, I will post the results when I've tried it which will be after I've figured out how to get Citrasolve in England as it's an American cleaning product.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Season of mists and mellow melancholy

Sorry I have been away a while. Since starting this blog I have had a couple of unscheduled breaks from it because sometimes I find I have very little to say. Or I stop thinking that what I have to say is very interesting. One or the other.

Since the show went up (and came down again, yesterday, very sad) I have found that I don't want to start anything else just yet. There are a few projects and ideas bubbling away under the surface but I have given myself permission to not do anything this autumn other than go to work, teach my classes (apples and onions this week), nest, enjoy being around my lovely family and maybe bake a few things. I made rye bread on Wednesday. Hilarious. Lobbed deftly it could kill someone.

I'm sat here at the moment staring at the rain and feeling a bit sad about being single. I'm not one of those Bridget Jones types (really) who constantly whinge about not having a boyfriend but at this time of year I seem to miss the ex the most. Right about now we would be getting excited because the pub in our village has just lit its first fire of the season, praying for a good frost so we could legitimately light ours, snuggling up to watch telly on a Sunday night and planning crisp smokey walks to pick up leaves and conkers and spot animal tracks. Of course I need to remember that there is also a real possibility we would instead be having an argument of epic proportions about money and his lack of commitment etc. Rose tinted glasses and all that.