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:

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.


Related image

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…. 😉

Exploring Botanical Printing

A few weeks ago I spotted a last minute ecoprinting workshop that Kim Winter from Flextiles was running, this is a technique I have been curious about for some time so I jumped at the chance to go play with a lovely group of ladies. It turns out this is the perfect time of year (in the northern hemisphere) to be ecoprinting as most plants are at the end of their growing season and I don’t feel so bad about denuding my beautiful Acer knowing it will shed its leaves in the next few weeks anyway.

The workshop focussed on printing on silk, probably the easiest of fibres to print as it doesn’t need to be mordanted first. These are the pieces I made during the workshop, out of respect for Kim I am not going to share her methods here but I think most of what we learned is available on the net. All but the first piece were printed with an iron blanket:

Printed and simultaneously dyed with onion skin, note the repeat (ghost) prints as no barrier was used

Silk dyed with tanin and iron blanket

I also took a  few scraps of nunofelt along to the workshop just to see what would happen and was pleasantly surprised with the results:

Top piece was dyed with tanin before printing

Although I came away from the workshop with a good range of samples I wanted to test more of my local plants on both cotton and silk and with my notoriously hard local water. The cotton was mordanted with 10% Weight of Fabric (WOF) Alum (Aluminium Potassium Sulphate), rinsed and dried before use. Mordanting is a process that makes it possible for the dye to form a chemical bond with the fabric, therefore making the dye colours stronger and more light- and wash-fast.

For almost all the leaves I placed one leaf (on the left) with the veins facing the fabric and a second leaf with the veins facing up. In almost all cases the side with the veins gave the best print.

These are my results on silk, as you can see, some plants produce much better prints than others. Clicking on the photos should enlarge them enough to read my plant labels, I am ashamed to admit I don’t know names for all of the plants are, so some are just location labels for my own reference:

And these are my results on alum-mordanted cotton (the cotton is pink from a magenta coloured top included in the mordant bath, but had the unintended benefit of revealing which plants might discharge the dye):

In the next photo the leaves in the lower left corner clearly discharged the dye.

I also had a play with some natural dyes too, madder and logwood. My biggest learning is that madder loses its colour above 60ºC so printing with steam onto madder-dyed fabric causes the colour to fade. But how I love logwood! You can get anything from pale grey-purple through to the deepest indigo-purple colours depending on the strength of the bath and how long you steep your cloth.

Pre-dying cloth with logwood has opened up the option of discharge printing, a technique that relies on the ability of certain plants to remove the dye from the cloth. These are some of my test pieces, very few of the plants I tried removed any of the logwood dye:

Feeling brave I raided my local charity shops for pale coloured clothes with a high cotton content and these are the results of my first attempts, some I am really pleased with and have been wearing at every opportunity 🙂

This was my first attempt, I was a little disappointed that the large fern frond I placed on each side only left a pale smudge rather than a print but otherwise there were some nice geranium prints.

This was the offending magenta top that dyed my test cottons pink but I was really pleased with the subtle crimson prints it gave.

This one was initially shibori-dyed with logwood – that gave the barbed-wire effect across the top (best seen in the second photo) and then printed with sycamore and deutzia leaves.

This is my favourite print so far, it was predominantly sycamores and acer. The lovely orangey-yellows were from just one tree, it still amazes me how different trees from similar species give such different prints.

This shirt was dyed with logwood and then printed with sacred bamboo and sycamore leaves. Unfortunately you cannot see distinct leaf shapes from the bamboo, it looks more like I splattered the shirt with white paint, the sycamore leaves gave a nice crimson print though.

I tried reprinting over the white areas with some more sycamore leaves and some virginia creeper. I’m still not happy with it… perhaps I will dye it with logwood again and just print with sycamore leaves instead.

I found some very pale lilac jeans, they still had their original shop labels, clearly whoever bought them had second thoughts about them by the time they got them home. Initially I printed them with chestnut and geranium leaves but was really disappointed with the pale quality of the prints so over printed them with sycamore leaves, that added the yellows and greens you can see below. Some of the yellow patches were in some rather unfortunate places…

So back into the dye pot they went! This time I rolled the jeans up with more sycamore leaves and a few from my acer tree and put them in a logwood dye bath….

I was hoping the logwood would reach the groin area on the front as well as the back but I do like the way the purple plays against the yellow.

If you are interested in exploring ecoprinting, these are some resources that I have found useful:

Printing with Botanicals FB page – there are several FB pages dedicated to ecoprinting but this one insists that anyone posting their work shares the method they used – incredibly helpful for beginners.

Wild Colours  – a UK supplier of mordants and natural dyes but they also list methods and recipes on their website.

For natural dyeing I can recommend Jenny Dean’s book, Wild Colours, she provides recipes and methods as well as colour swatches to give you an idea of how alum and iron will impact the final colour.

If you are concerned about the toxitiy of mordants used in natural dyeing (that was my main reason for not attempting it sooner) you might find this post interesting:

Confused about the difference between mordants and chemical assists? Take a look at this:

Have you tried eco-printing? What results did you achieve?


Hat Fest

Bridport Hat Festival has crept up on me, I have quite a few hats but, they are like shoes, you can never have too many! So this month I have been spending every spare moment making more stock and trying out some new ideas and developing some old favourites with a new twist…

The pink unicorn:


is a variant of the horned viking:


Finishing up some hats started in a workshop with Zsofia Marx:


Experimenting with wire and other inclusions between the layers of felt:



Adding flaps to give a new dimension:

Do you think I should leave this one white / cream or dye it? It feels quite anaemic sat next to all the others but maybe it is good to offer some neutral options for sale?

“Haturday” starts at 10 am Saturday 1st September 2018 in Bridport, Hampshire, UK. Check out this link for more information. If you are in the area please pay us a visit, its a free event with lots of live music and entertainment and of course I can be found with the International Feltmakers Association in the Arts Centre behind the main stage. Why not pay us a visit, try on a few hats for fun and have a giggle? 🙂

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