a life of fibre

Armley Mills – Part 8 February 22nd, 2018

The final reveal. Do I like it? Yes and no. I’m very pleased with the number of processes that it incorporates and the learning journey I experienced to create it. The design is unsophisticated but given this was all about the process  that shouldn’t be a surprise.

To sum up:

Wool used – Blue Faced Leicester, Dorset Horn, Jacob, Whitefaced Woodland.

Processes used – spinning, weaving, felt making, printing and stitching.

Unsurprisingly my title for this piece is ‘Wool’ and you’ll be able to see it on display at Armley Mills  from 14/4 to 22/10. The exhibition is called “Wool Stories – The Felted Mill” and will feature work from more than twenty felt makers.  Remember the printed wallpaper block? I’ll tell you next what happened to that.



Felted vessels workshop February 21st, 2018

I ran a felt pot workshop last Saturday, it was a good day in many respects. the sun shone all day and warmed the room we were working in, the people on the workshop were friendly, eager to work and have a laugh and they made some fabulous pots, especially the newbie felters.

We began by forming felt around a small vase and went on to free form a second vessel afterwards. Both were made from British wool and adorned by various silks, all available from Adelaide Walker (of which I’m a partner). People were encouraged to try a different wool each time. The results were stunning as I’m sure you’ll agree.

You can see bits of hand dyed Swaledale and Blue Faced Leicester adding more colour to the pots. Sadly the silk doesn’t shine too well when wet. Thanks for a great day everyone and for the help in clearing away, I was home in record time!

The next pot workshop is on Tuesday 15th May where we progress to adding lots and lots of texture. I’d love to see you there.

Armley Mills – Part 7 February 19th, 2018

Finally a finished piece of felt but I didn’t leave it there, I went on to stitch the words of the processes e.g. spun, woven onto the felt with the handspun yarn.

You can see how much the weaving has closed up during the felting process even though I’d been careful not to overwork it. I didn’t want the weaving to lose all definition but I did completely full some sections to use on the top as hanging mechanisms.

At the bottom is my washed Blue Faced Leicester fleece. It starts with fleece at the bottom up to woven and fulled wool at the top. It’s 100% British wool.

Armley Mills – Part 6 February 17th, 2018

I have the spun yarn, the weaving and the printing so it’s time for felting.

Silk down first then two layers of wool over the top. I sandwiched the edge of the weaving between the layers of wool to hold it in place and make it part of the final picece.

My chosen shape for the wallhanging was triangular with the fringed weaving on one side.

You can see the printing worked out well on the silk paj. Paj is a smooth, closely woven silk, ideal for printing. Next … the finished piece.

Armley Mills – Part 5 February 14th, 2018

Words weren’t the only items I wanted to print. On our visit to the archives I’d spotted some wallpaper blocks and with agreement from the museum we rummaged through to find one that might be used for printing.

Many of them weren’t suitable because they had felt on the wood which would have been stained by the oil based ink I was using. Eventually we found a felt free candidate.

Those of you who know me well know I can’t resist a curve.

The plan was to print this onto silk chiffon to create a new piece of felt,  this was for a second piece I intended to create.

The floor was the only flat space large enough to work on. Paper down first and then the silk, all taped into position.

It was quite nerve racking inking it up for the first time, I wonder how many years since it was last used? Of course, when this was in use it would have been one of a set, with each block printing a different section of the pattern.

Each time I printed with the block I tried to change the orientation so that there would be areas of overlap in the print. It was such fun to do, one day I intend to do more printing in this manner, one day. More of what happened to this later.

Photography by Charlie Battersby

Armley Mills – Part 4 February 11th, 2018

Last May I shared with you my experimentation using the museum press to print onto fabric which I then later felted to gauge how usable it would be in my final piece. The experiments worked very well and thanks to our IFA co-ordinator,  Linda Hulme, and museum curator, Chris Sharp, I was amongst a group that returned to the mill for a printing session.

I notified Chris in advance that I wanted to print the word wool in as many fonts and sizes of lettering as was possible from the equipment in the archives.

There was a great selection to choose from.

I wanted to mix up the sizes and the fonts as much as possible.

The trick with printing of course is to have the word back to front, NOT like I’ve set them out above. Once they were the correct way round I was ready to ink and position them for printing.

On with silk, followed by a sheet of paper, a felt cover and then ready to go.

This took far more force then I expected and was a real workout. So, feet sliding on the floor, I managed to do one or two before Chris came to my rescue and printed the rest. Either the men using these in the heyday were well muscled or the machines ran more eaily. Perhaps it was a combination of the two.

Photography by Charlie Battersby


Be Creative with Workbox magazine February 9th, 2018

You’ll have heard me mention Metaphor Textile Group of which I’m a member and that we exhibit our work from time to time but this month, we’re featured in Be Creative with Workbox magazine Issue 166.

There are five members – Rosie Jackson, Linda Gumery, Heather Randall, Moraig Hewitt and yours truly creating pieces using embroidery in a wide range of styles and techniques, quilting, felt making and mixed media.

Armley Mills – Part 3 February 8th, 2018

Having spun my wool for the Armley Mills project I next needed to weave it. I really wanted to undertake this on a loom at the mill but the only one available was in pieces and was too complicated for me.

I retreated to home and my Ashford knitters loom. the concern I had was if my yarn would stand up to the tension of the warping but I needn’t have worried. The bad news was that I warped it wrong, had to cut it off and start again. I saved all the cut pieces for the weft as I’d only spun a limited amount and couldn’t afford to waste anything.

The fact that this wasn’t the best spun yarn didn’t help with the weaving plus it was the first time I’d woven with handspun yarn. It kept sticking, it was thick and thin, I couldn’t seem to get my edges right but I didn’t worry overmuch as I knew at least one edge would be hidden by the felt.

I ensured all the ends of the cut pieces I’d used for the weft were all on the right hand side and instead of weaving them in at the end I left them hanging like a fringe. It’s not the best weaving I’ve done but I knew it would work for the final piece. Now onto printing.

Armley Mills – Part 2 February 5th, 2018

I wanted not only to follow the wool processes but to do as much of the activity as possible at Armley Mills. Although I can spin I had noticed a great wheel at the museum and wondered about using it to spin up my wool.

Unfortunately the wheel wasn’t in a condition to be used but I was saved by Carl of the Spinners of Aire, a spinning group which meets weekly at Armley Mills on Wednesdays.

Carl Denton had built his own great wheel and readily agreed to teach me how to use it.

You spin from the point, walking backwards whilst drawing out the wool and spinning, then walking forwards to wind on.

Keeping the wheel spinning whilst I walked and drafted was quite hard.

Carl had to help me redraft sections until I got the hang of it and could walk, draft and spin the wheel all at once, not forgetting to breathe.

You can see above why it’s called spinning off the point.

Cracked it! Look how delighted I am. All of my yarn for the weaving was spun on this wheel.

Photography by Charlie Battersby.

Armley Mills – Part 1 February 2nd, 2018

My local region of the International Feltmakers Association (IFA) is working on a collaboration with Amley Mills, Leeds Industrial Museum. In spring last year we visited the museum and I came away inspired to create a piece which incorporated the processes of a wool mill with use of as many museum resources as possible.

I wanted to follow the wool through washing, spinning, weaving and felting and to record the journey on a camera from the museum archives. My daughter Charlie was inveigled into wielding the cameras. I say cameras because she used both the Kershaw analog ( it was a Leeds company) and a digital camera for the job.

This was only possible because the museum staff were so co-operative. The cameras on show in the museum couldn’t be used for fear of damaging them but one was found in the archives. Charlie was quite excited to be allowed to handle it especially as we’d never before heard of this local brand.

There isn’t room in these few posts to share all the photos that were taken but as a thank you to Charlie for all her work we did buy her a Kershaw King Penguin of her own.