Felting for Embroidery

I have been attending my local Embroiderer’s Guild (Farnborough) for a year or so now, we meet monthly and our group is slightly unusual in that we focus on teaching each other practical skills rather than inviting speakers. Last month we made coiled bowls and before that temari balls.

Being a feltmaker it was no surprise when I was asked if I would teach the group to make a piece of felt that we could then embroider at the following meeting. It was quite a tall order, 13 ladies, 11 of whom had never handled wool tops before, let alone made felt and we only had 2.5 hours to complete our projects in…

Most embraced a landscape for their first piece of felt, rather fitting with the Q1 challenge although, of course they did not know about it 🙂


Others took a more abstract approach….



I can’t wait to see how they look after the addition of some embroidery next month, I have great plans for machine embroidery on mine, it is going to be a lot of fun!

If you are local and interested in the Farnborough (UK) Embroiderer’s Guild we would love to hear from you, please email Sue and Anne at farnborougheg@gmail.com for more information

Biophilia and Felting Friendships

It is almost a year to the day that I gave up my day job of setting up clinical trials of new drugs for hospital patients to pursue my dream of making felt full-time.

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A post on FB this week, prompted me to reflect on why I made that choice. One year in to my new adventure and the start of a new year, this seems like a good place to pause and take stock.

The post on FB asked us to choose the 3 main reasons why we chose to use our creative talents to go self-employed because lets face it, most of us don’t do it for the financial rewards, if economic security is top of your agenda, going self-employed in the creative arts is likely to be low on your list of employment choices.

This is the list of values to choose from but you are welcome to add your own, they came from Shannah Kennedy’s book: Simplify, Structure, Succeed.

Which 3 did you choose?

Mine were:

Freedom and Health: being self-employed means I can go for a 2 hour run or a long walk in the middle of the day if I want to, being able to down tools and go outside when the sun is shining has made me far more physically active and the psychological benefits of spending more time outside, in our beautiful British countryside, means I am far less stressed. This also relates to biophilia (see below) which is also supported by working with wool.

I also love that I don’t have to get up a silly o’clock in the morning to sit in traffic jams with thousands of other equally miserable people trying to get to the office before 9 am. There’s a lot to be said for home-working!

Order/stability : I found working in the corporate world could be incredibly stressful, every 2-3 years we would have a new VP, none of them could ever accept that the systems installed by their predecessor worked just fine and so felt they needed to restructure the entire company in an effort to leave their mark, like dogs peeing on a lamppost. We were constantly working in a state of flux, trying to navigate new processes but never being allowed to do the same thing long enough to get good at it before a new VP would come along and change everything again!

I wouldn’t describe my life as particularly ordered; Einstein summed it up well, “If a messy desk reflects a messy mind, of what does and empty desk reflect?”. I am messy and proud! 🙂 But compared to the corporate world my current work-life does feel a lot more stable, my processes only change when I need them to, not because someone else is peeing on my lamppost!

Of course, one downside to being a self-employed maker is that many of us feel we have to take the work when it comes, this can lead to working 18 hour days but that is my decision to work long hours (not due to some arbitrary deadline set by a faceless manager) and if I don’t want to work that many hours, I can always refuse a commission or only accept it with an extended delivery deadline. There’s nothing to say you have to take on every piece of work that is offered to you, in fact I think there are some things you should always say no to, but that is a whole other post!

Biophilia: Not on the list I know, but I think it is very relevant for most of us. Those of you who make felt on a regular basis will understand the deep connection with nature and the past that it brings, taking natural fibres and thousands-year-old techniques to create beautiful works guided only by your imagination and what the materials want to do.

I recently discovered this connection with nature and the desire to surround ourselves with natural materials has a name; biophilia. It seems to be something of a trend in textile studies at the moment but of course felt-makers have been familiar with the concept (if not the name) for centuries 🙂

Felting Friendships

One of the respondents on the FB page also talked about how isolating it can be to be a creative working from home, she described how she has changed from an assertive, confident woman to feeling like a timid mouse. I felt so sad reading that but I can easily relate to where she is coming from. Working on your own, 7 days a week can be tough, even for introverts who are comfortable with their own company, I can only imagine it must be an impossible challenge for extroverts.

For me, while designing and making are where I find the most fulfilment in my work, I realise that attending fairs and teaching are what keeps me sane. I need that social interaction, while Pickle (my cat) is very chatty, his conversation is hardly what anyone would think of as intelligent.

If you mostly work alone, how do you find it? Do you have strategies for coping with the isolation?

I think we are social animals (even the introverts!), we need to connect with other humans and for me, I am finding I need to collaborate and share with others, Open Studio events and craft fairs are great ways to connect but are quite sporadic so I was chuffed to bits to spend a day with Janine and Nancy making winged vessels in Janine’s studio (she has a studio to die for!). I am already looking forward to our next play-date and hope this will become a regular event in our diaries. I have long admired Ruth’s creative textile gatherings and hope we can develop something similar.

These are what we made on the day:

Janine – green vase, Teri – cloche hat with rosette, Nancy – large winged pod

My hat after it was dyed:


Alright, full disclosure…. the observant may have already guessed this is not going to be a textile-related post, if exercise is a dirty word and weight loss / getting fitter aren’t on your 2019 wish list, I completely understand but please come back next week, I promise to have something more woolly to offer 🙂 If you struggle with your weight or maintaining your good intentions for exercise I hope you will find my story of interest….

Last January my GP informed me that my BP was on the high side, nothing to be alarmed about but something that could be improved with exercise. If I chose to do nothing about I would likely end up on medication. That combined with the weighing scales groaning every time I gingerly stepped on them and a family history of diabetes was enough to make me take some action.

So what to do about it?

When I was at school they made us run multiple laps around the rugby/football/cricket pitches two or three times a year. To say I HATED IT would be a massive understatement. I was always the last to finish (walking most of the route) and so became quite convinced I could not run, I firmly believed that for decades (amazing what they teach in schools isn’t it?!)

A few years ago I decided to challenge the label my teenage self had adopted so I started following a couch to 5k (3 miles) program, half way through the program I got stuck and just could not seem to run for longer than 10 minutes so I gave up and and a few months later tried a different program, and then another and another. You get the picture, and of course every failure was another confirmation that my teenage self was right after all.

Fast forward 6 years, to January 2018, and I found the One You C25K app, I’m not sure what changed, was it Jo Wiley’s (a well known UK radio DJ) chatty commentary in my ear, encouraging me to keep going, the nagging anxiety that my health would suffer if I didn’t do this or the structure of this plan? It was probably a combination of all three, all I can say is I am so glad found it. Out of the 6 or 7 C25K programs I have tried, this is the only one I would recommend, and unlike some of the failed programs One You is free, I have posted the link to the iPhone version above but I believe there is an Android version too.

It took me a little longer than the predicted 9 weeks but by April I was jogging (very slowly) for 30 minutes without stopping or walking. That was a major achievement for me! 🙂

Soon after posting my progress on Facebook a friend suggested I try a ParkRun. These are weekly, 5km (3 mile) events, held in parks and public spaces all over the world. Very conscious that my 30 minutes of jogging only covered 3km I wondered if I could really do it and would the teenage humiliation of being the last one to finish be publicly re-enacted? Part of me was dreading it.

I needn’t have worried, yes I was tediously slow, and out of a field of more than 400 participants I was among the last 10 to cross the finish line, but I wasn’t last! I later found out there are always some people who walk the 5km and there is always a “tail-walker”, a ParkRun volunteer who makes sure they are last to cross the finish so no-one has to suffer that indignity, no matter how slow they are.

Through ParkRun I discovered there is a very friendly and relaxed running group in my village. My first outing with them was something else I worried needlessly about. I was having nightmares about drill-sergeants shouting at me to run faster! Don’t be so lazy! etc etc. But the reality could not have been more different, Normandy Running Group are a wonderfully supportive group of people who welcome and accommodate everyone, no matter how slow.

Once I was covering 5 km, three times a week I needed a new challenge, so found a bridge to 10 km (6 miles) plan, and boy was it a challenge! It took a few tries but once I accepted that I didn’t need to run continuously for the whole 10 km I did it, I am now in the middle of a Half Marathon training plan, currently covering about 30 km a week. The big event is in March, wish me luck!

It is hard to believe how far I have come in just 365 days but if an non-runner like me can do it anyone can! I have lost 10 kg (22 lb), my BP is on the lower end of normal for my age and I look and feel so much better.

What do I wish I had known a year ago?

  • take it slowly, there’s no need to run fast and try not to be bouncy when you run
  • don’t be afraid to repeat some of the C25K runs if you don’t manage to complete the assigned run times, you will get stronger and it will get easier each time you repeat it
  • the rest days between each run are just as important as the running days, your muscles need at least 24 hours to recover
  • be brave, try new things, even if they are really scary, you’ll never know what you can achieve until you try
  • give ParkRun a try, its free and everyone is so friendly and supportive they will make you feel like you are Mo Farrah!

I still find running hard but but have gone from hating it to loving it.

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions?

Happy New Year!

I hope you had a relaxing holiday spent with loved ones and 2019 has got off to a great start?

After a very busy December with almost too many commissions I allowed myself a well-earned week off between Christmas and New Year but yesterday was a fun reintroduction to the world of work; I was teaching 10, ten-year-olds at a birthday party for twins, Niamh and Hester. They were a very lively group of young ladies and they all did incredibly well (8 had never made felt before), these were the wonderful wool paintings they made:

Hester made great use of the nepps, I know some experienced feltmakers who struggle to get these to stay where you put them!
Can you see the sequins Niamh added to her tabby cat’s whiskers?
lovely use of dyed wool locks to create textured pebbles on a beach

Didn’t they all do fantastically well?

Sketchbook Challenge 2019

I was a little late getting started with this, but Magenta Sky started a new, 30-day sketchbook challenge on Jan 1st. I took part in one of these last year and it was a lot of fun and a good incentive to make me doodle in my sketchbook every day. It’s free and you can sign up at any time (the daily email prompts start whenever you sign up), if you would like to play along you can sign up here: http://www.magenta-sky.com/online-courses/30-day-sketchbook-challenge/

These are my interpretations of the first 3 prompts but there is also a FB page for those who have signed up to join in where you can see literally thousands of other images….

Day 1 – Something small
Day 2- Shells
Day 3 – Bags (I went a little obscure and chose some folded paper bags)


I am often asked what inspires the pieces I make, the truth is inspiration can strike anywhere, sometimes it is the materials themselves, the pattern on a piece of sari silk or the tassels on a charity-shop scarf for example. Nature is another great source, the textures of a patch of lichen or orange-crimson autumnal leaves against a bright blue sky. Memories from holidays or previous careers such as watching cells growing in a petri dish from my days as a “lab rat”.

As some of you may know, I used to SCUBA dive a lot and frequently draw inspiration for my felting from the underwater world, for my new collection I couldn’t resist the gloriously colourful world of nudiranchs (pronounced noo-dee-branks). I confess I have been slightly obsessed with these little sea slugs for more than 20 years but the usual response when I try to describe them to non-divers is, “noody-what?” Their name means naked gills in latin and refers to the fern-like gill structures you can often see sprouting from their backs.

I love them because they are so outrageously colourful  and don’t seem to care who sees them strutting their stuff in the magical aquatic world. I can’t think of a better muse to create a fabulously colourful set of wearable art, deep down, who wouldn’t want to be a nudibranch? 🙂 If you google “nudibranch photos” you will get a taste of their fantastically beautiful world and the colours will be much less washed out than those in my photos.


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The Pink Dorid nudibranch was my muse for this hat and gloves set.

Now I just need to find a human who is as exuberant and fun-loving as a nudibranch to wear them…. 😉

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