a life of fibre

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.





WSD Workshop January 23rd, 2018

On Saturday I was lucky enough to run a workshop for the Bradford Guild of Handweavers, Spinners and Dyers who meet at the Bradford Industrial Museum. It’s a really nice light space and the guild are so welcoming. If you fancy popping along and meeting them their meetings are held on the 3rd Saturday in the month and I highly recommend it as a great way to spend a day.

Anyway, my task was to teach a nuno scarf workshop and it was ace! Looking at my pictures afterwards I’m not sure I captured them all (the end of workshops always seems hectic) but most are here for your delight.

We were working on silk chiffon and using Blue Faced Leicester wool with Wensleydale fleece plus various silk and plant fibres for shine and interest.

There are so many options for laying out the design/wool e.g. extending beyond the silk, covering part or all of it that I thought it would be helpful to take away some of the angst by working solely in white. Plus, of course, there’s expertise in the guild should anyone decide to dye theirs afterwards!

It was a good decision as people did indeed have a lot to think about and some stunning designs and ideas came our of the workshop. Working in white helped to focus attention on the process and I’m sure everyone could now go away and repeat the nuno felting at home.

As you can see, there was also quite a variety of shapes for the ends of the scarves as some trimmed away silk and / or extended beyond it.

How lucky was it to have a black towel to show off this snowflake and icile fringe design scraf?

I can see I’ll have to recommend people bring dark towels in future as they’re such a good backdrop. On Friday 13th April I’m running a nuno scarf workshop in Otley, West Yorkshire and you can book direct here.

A little bit of weaving January 18th, 2018

I’m managing to do a bit of weaving now and then, not as much as I’d like but then I am busy with felt making for an exhibition coming up at Armley in April. Below are my latest woven scarves.

Woven on my rigid heddle loom with a 7.5 reed. The orange scarf has the same warp and weft but the blue one has 2 shades of a denim colourway yarn with the paler being used for the warp. I was quite pleased with the blue one and my edges are definitely improving, the orange one however, I was bored and just wanted to finish it so I rushed. It’s perfectly serviceable but I’m really not keen. At least I learnt from it and made the next scarf more intesresting.

I’m ery pleased with this one. The warp is two colours of aran weight acrylic yarn from my stash and the weft is a fine yarn which I bought from a charity shop and have no idea what it is, just that I liked it.

I love the way it turned out and as I no longer beat the weft down so hard they’re even quite soft! The lesson learnt this time, to start chellenging myself more with colours and patterns and not just the plain weave. Wonder if I’ll do that?


Felt vessel workshop January 15th, 2018

There are a couple of places left on the felt pot workshop next month, Friday 16th February. We begin with the British wool fibres and finish with a seamless felt pot, so you’re making the fabric and the pot in one go.

Whether you’ve done no felt making or just 2D felt before, I know you’ll love this process as you feel the wool transform under your fingers from wet and slippery to a firm fabric that holds it’s shape. It really is magic.

The day runs from 11am to 4pm and costs £55 which includes all materials and use of equipment. It takes place at Clifton Village Hall, Otley.All you’ll need to bring is yourself, a packed lunch and a towel. You can book direct here.

New workshops December 14th, 2017

My list of workshops for 2018 is now available here. My apologies folks but due to the large number of wool shows later in the year I won’t be running any workshops in the Autumn so it’s all happening in winter and spring.

Friday 16th February – Felt pots.  We’ll be working with British wool, in natural white, with lots of silk and plant fibre embellishments to create a simple but stunning felt pot / vessel. Using a resist, your pot will be seamless, made from fluffy wool fibres yet able to stand alone. Wool is an amazing material

Friday 13th April – Nuno scarf and brooch.  Wool and silk nuno felt scarf and brooch. Nuno felt is beautiful and light for the coming summer months and is great at dressing up an outfit. We’ll be using silk chiffon with super soft Merino wool and silk embellishments.

Tuesday 15th May – Textured felt vessels.   Not only will you be making a seamless felted vessel but we’ll be loading on lots of texture with extra flaps and fabrics. Fabrics will include silk, organza, muslin, scrim and velvet

Friday 8th June – Felt pods.  Beautiful and seamless hanging pods to grace any space.indoors or out. We’ll be working with British wool, Merino wool and lots of texture including silks and plant fibres.

Tuesday 3rd July – Small felt rug.  Using British wool fibres we’ll make a small bedside rug in a day including a design using prefelts and roving

You can book online, or to pay by cheque contact me by email or on 07745 160090.


The finished peacock!!! December 6th, 2017

I’m so pleased to be able to show you the finished peacock at last. It’s such a shame really as 80% of the work was done in the first two weeks but life has been so terribly busy that it’s taken weeks longer to complete the last 20%.

How do I feel about it? I’m thrilled, it’s worked out very well, not perfect but I so enjoyed the making of it that I don’t mind. After all, it is going to a good home too, our daughter Charlotte’s new digs at uni.

Quite a modern interpretation. It was tempting to try and depict it accurately so I began by searching peacock images on the the internet and made my choices from there.

The simplicity of the head and body is a good contrast with the rather much busier tail. I began by fusing crystal organza shapes onto the linen background. For the body I free machined over it working down in the direction that feathers would lay and then went over the whole thing again with holographic thread for the shine. That nearly finished me off! It certainly finished my machine off which refused to sew anything afterwards and is why I chose to hand stitch the tail.

The only time previously that I’ve used shisha mirrors they came with the cotton surround already done. As I couldn’t find the sizes and colour I needed I had to learn to stitch around them myself. It’s not difficult, which was just as well as I decided to use a thread with metallic elements and they can be painful enough to use.

Using the fabric background made the tail look rather blocky but bringing the feathers off and breaking the outline worked well. I had intended to put more feather detailing around the shisha mirrors but decided to leave as is and looking at it now that was the right decision. Hand stitching the tail gave me great pleasure and I’m so pleased with it I might have to do more work without felt!