Tag Archives: workshop


I had a delightful day this week, teaching a textile art workshop to the West Sussex-based Tamarisk Textiles group. What a lovely group to work with – experienced and enthusiastic, and very focussed. The day was based on applique cut-away quilting technique, combined with Procion dyeing (see green sample here). This colour range seemed to catch people’s interest, and about six people chose to work with the combination of very acidic lemon yellow and turquoise, giving a range of greens. I’ll probably add some contrasting stitching to this sample later – maybe in a really different colour like orange or fuschia, or maybe in the darker shades of green already in the piece.

Cut-away applique is as old as the hills, and has been used in many different ways by so many different cultures and embroidery traditions ranging from India to Panama. On the left is a photo of a piece I made donkeys years ago, using cut-away applique (I’ve shown it here before, I forget why). The padded top layer is dyed viscose velvet and the bottom layer is a ‘sandwich’ of different fabrics and threads. Stitching goes through all the layers and is then cut away leaving the top one standing proud of the background. The difference with this one is that I dyed the fabric first, which is why the greens and reds haven’t bled into each other. I did it that way because I didn’t want to blend them and end up with brown. For the blending approach, it’s important to like the colour that you get when your chosen colours bleed into each other.

At this week’s workshop everything was stitched in white on white, and then dyed at the end. The idea is that the dyes will ‘bleed’ across the different fabrics and react differently with each one. The background is built up with pieced and patched bits of un-dyed fabrics with different textures, which is held in place with decorative stitching in undyed thread. It is all dyed at the end.

I think I’ll re-dye this yellow and turquoise one, as the turquoise would be better darker – I think it looks abit ‘weak’. The other issue with this one is that a slight bondaweb sheen can be seen through the strip of dyed lace, so I think that would be better hand-stitched into place instead.

This purple one was made in a slightly different way. Rather than applying bits of fabric, I layered lots of snippets of thread across a backing fabric, on a layer of bondaweb, and then stitched them down with machine vermicelli free-stitching. I’m not entirely convinced by this one because there’s a slight sheen coming through from the bondaweb (it doesn’t show in the photo and other people say it’s OK, but it annoys me). Deeper layers of threads would solve that, but then they slither around while you stitch over them. This was dyed with turquise and fuschia pink. I haven’t photographed the orange and fuschia pink piece that I made as a demonstration in class as I haven’t rinsed it out yet.

Some hand-stitching gives a good contrast to the machine vermicelli stitch (student’s work).

The group produced some lovely work. It was quite a tall order to create the backgrounds, stitch them, apply the padded and raised motifs and get it dyed, all in one day. It could only be done with an experienced group. Some people used my Indian motifs and others created their own. I’m really annoyed with myself for not taking photos of work in progress, and I only remembered to take photos after most of the pieces were packed away. As a result I’ve only got pictures of six pieces of work from the day instead of all 15, but they give an idea of the range of work. I’d be pleased to see some photos of some of the finished pieces when they’re dried and rinsed out. Scroll down for some of the work produced in the workshop.

Nice use of the repeated motif, and some surface couching that took the dye well (student’s work)

Some nice colour bleeding in the bottom half, where the red has been given freedom to find it’s own way into the yellow. (student’s work).

I like the way the colours blend and bleed across the motifs in this one (student’s work)

Some subtle colour mixing in this one (student’s work).



There’s something about the sparkle of metal thread that keeps drawing me back to it. Perhaps I was a magpie in a former life? Here’s an update on the piece that I was working on some time ago, based on motifs from Indian textiles. I’ll just show you some details rather than the whole finished piece, because it will be going into our exhibition in May – but once it is up on the wall then I’ll post pictures of the finished thing. I’m working on several other pieces alongside it, but this particular one has been quite time-consuming so it’s good to see it finally coming together. I really wanted to do something that was purely decorative and not ‘conceptual’ in any way. I prefer not to use an embroidery hoop where I can avoid it, so working on thick felt makes that easier as it isn’t too floppy. Unfortunately it makes it hard to photograph. Something about the way felt absorbs light seems to drain the colour out of the photo, so it either looks dull or harsh. The colours are better in real life, honest! I’ll post some of the other pieces that I’m working on in another post quite soon.

On the subject of bling, I ran a day workshop on goldwork last week for the West Sussex Federation of Women’s Institutes. They have regular craft days that are open to all the different local branches. It’s an opportunity to get together and learn something – and yes, some stitching did go on in between the chatting! I enjoyed teaching such a friendly and welcoming group, and their enthusiasm was lovely. I offered the choice of working from my design, or ‘going off-piste’ and working more spontaneously. Three people chose to work from the design and nine chose to work spontaneously. I have seen people getting quite stressed with goldwork because of the emphasis on ‘perfection’ and the difficulty of achieving that in the early stages. It’s hard to try to produce something perfect when you’re learning the techniques, and the traditional plain silk backing really emphasises any little mistakes. The idea of doing it more ‘free-form’ is to let the materials dictate the shapes, so that there is no ‘right or wrong’ place to position each piece. As I explained, the design did not need to be any more challenging than starting with a zig-zag or a wiggle, then letting those develop to complement the first lines, and then filling in spaces. Several people produced pieces that looked quite ‘art nouveau’ in their shapes, because they let the materials ‘flow’ quite naturally.

Working like that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and I did explain that it was abit of an experiment, but I was impressed that so many were willing to give it a go. The people who worked from a design also produced some pleasing results.

Now I must focus on finishing off the half-done pieces for the exhibition in May. Just to remind you, it’s from Fri 6th May to Sat 21st May (Tuesday to Saturday) 10.00 to 5.00, at The Studio Gallery at Worthing Museum and Art Gallery. See the ‘FIVE’ page on this website for more details.