Tag Archives: hand dyed fabric

Progress through process

New work is my focus, I’m applying for several, larger shows so I’ll need work to display (& sell!) I’ll let you know which shows if I get accepte!

I would like to make larger pieces but these are obviously time consuming, and more difficult to transport. So, I’ve decided to focus on 40×40 landscapes for a while- my plan is to get 4 done in the next 6 weeks šŸ˜± that’ll keep me out of mischief (but p’raps not too busy for school and national politics šŸ˜‰)

Our family week in Wales was fantastic- why did none of you tell me sooner how gorgeous West Wales is??

In between sea swimming and ice creams there were cliff walks on the beautiful Pembroke Coastal Path and visits to Tenby and St David’s. My sketchbook didn’t get quite as much use as I’d hoped but my mind is full of experiences and my photo album is full to bursting.

So this week I’m sketching out the four images that I’m hoping to develop. I’m drawing them to the chosen scale and taking a quick tracing of the main composition to help with building up the appliquĆ©.

Then I get the paints out. I’m using watercolour, water based dyes, inktense and some acrylic. When I paint, it is never the final stage- it is very definitely part of my process; painting allows me to assess how I am going to construct a piece. I can think about colour, texture and composition.

When I’m mark making with brush or pencil I’m thinking about how to transfer it to cloth and stitch. When I apply colour I’m thinking about what fabric and threads I’ll need (thanks Oliver Twists for the threads šŸ˜‰) The process of painting and drawing helps me to develop my composition ideas into textiles and work through any issues.

I’m pleased with the two images I’ve developed so far, now I’m deciding whether to crack on with these in fabric, or to focus on getting the other two designs developed to paint stage. I’m tempted to start the textiles but I think it would be interesting to get the 4 designs done and then work on the four pieces.

What would you do?

The Last Shift begins…

Safely back from the excitements of Essex and Carters Steam Fair (more to follow soon!) Monday was the first day of the ‘Last Shift Project’ to make a primary school banner – and what a busy day it was!

Working with toddlers (and their grown ups!), two nursery classes and a reception class, we ‘spiral dyed’ the fabric that will be used to make the banner. I wanted to use spiral dyeing as it produces similar results to Tie Dye -without the need for knots!

As the project is inspired by the time span of the Greenside Pit – from 1906 to 1966, the spiral dyeing linked to the Sixties. I’ll be linking print and design ideas to the other decades, with the help of older children in the school.

On arrival at school I quickly got set up in the hall and added the auxiliaries to the dye powders in the bottles. The dye Ā becomes ‘active’ onceĀ the chemical water and washing sodaĀ solutions are added. So for best results the dyes need to be used on the day they’re mixed. Trying to use them a day or two later results in faded colours.

Dye bottles

Ready to add the auxiliaries

Spiral dyeing is a great project to do with little ones as once the dye is mixed in sports cap bottles the children just have to choose colours and add a few drops to the fabric spirals.

I was kept busy ‘spiralling’ the pieces of white cotton throughout the day, I think there are over sixty of them! Ā But the hardest task was getting little hands into adult sized vinyl gloves! We managed it though, everyone wore gloves and aprons and, as far as I know (!) most of the children kept their hands, and uniforms, free of dye!

Once the children had finished adding the dye to their pieces of cloth, the spirals were carefully placed in clear plastic bags and kept in a plastic crate. The dye needs to ‘cure’ in the fabric for about 24 hours before washing off to ensure bright colours – its also a good idea to prewash the fabric to remove any industrial finish that might impede the uptake of the dye and then to soak the fabricĀ in chemical water before adding the dye. The chemical water helps the fabric stay damp for longer, so the dyes have more time to react with the fabric fibres.

I took all of the fabrics back to my workshop and rinsed them off the following day.

As you can see its important to wear rubber gloves as quite a lot of dye comes off when the fabrics are rinsed. It’s always nerve wracking – will there be any colour left?? Will the spirals look exciting??

Well, take a look…

On the line

lots of different colours

Lovely colours

beautiful colour mixes

pegged out

sky blue pink!

All the squares will be ironed and then I’ll take them back to school next week so the children can see what they made. Then it’ll be time for designing and printing…after a few more days of sketchbook work for me!


My Journey continues

Well, that was a busy month of workshops. There is now a huge stash of gorgeously coloured fabric in my work room, awaiting transformation into the triptych for the church.

The Lab Youth Group got to try fabric painting. The aim was the same as for the spiral dyeing workshops – using colour to represent ideas and emotions linked to each participant’s ‘Journey’ to and with the group. By working with thickened dye they could also use shapes and mark making to further explore their ideas.

All in one short session so there was time to make (and eat) pancakes too!


Young people from Heaton Manor also got to try their skills at fabric painting. Beautiful mark making and very thoughtful comments about how colour could show our moods and emotions. Such a wide variety of images emerging during the afternoon session.

Since the workshops finished I’ve been busy thinking about the writing from all the groups and the colours created in the fabric workshops. Now I’ve got ideas in my sketchbook so its time for me to get creating….

My Journey

A participatory community art project for the weekday users of theĀ Heaton Baptist Church Life Centre.

2016-01-25 09.17.28

And so it begins – with two trolley loads of materials!

This project aims to build stronger connections with the adults and young people who attend groups at the Centre on Mondays to Saturdays. My role will be to engage with some of the groups through art workshops and then to produce a large textile artwork from the source material, for display in the entrance to the building.

The theme for the project, My Journey, is intended to encourage participants to talk about how their own ‘life journey’ has led to them joining a group or groups at HBC.

This week, I have been running ‘Spiral Dyeing’ workshops with the Toddlers Groups that meet on Monday and Tuesday mornings. My preferred textile process is applique with free machine embroidery, and lately I have returned to dyeing fabrics to achieve a specific colour palette to work with. So, for this project, IĀ want to use fabrics that have been coloured by workshop participants. We talked about how colour can be symbolic – in the general and personal sense – for example, red can mean love, or anger – but it might also bring memories of a red dress worn on a specific occasion.

In preparation, I made colour boards that are being used at HBC to get participants thinking about colours that could represent stages in their life journey. At the workshops, IĀ also took along examples of colour in my own work and that of other artists.

Spiral dyeing is a quick and easy way to get gorgeous colour combinations on fabric. I use procion dyes on 100% cotton that has been pre soaked in a washing soda solution and is still damp.


With the dye already mixed and in squeezey bottles, all that’s needed is to twist a flat piece of cloth into a spiral, place it in a tray and add the colour! Its relatively mess free – but still best to wear gloves and aprons -just in case!


Here you can see the first splashes of yellow being added – colours can be made by pouring one dye over another..


where the red and yellow mix, orange will appear – definitely a ‘high energy toddler’ colour!


The greens here have been achieved by mixing yellow and turquoise or navy.


when everyone has added all their colours, the fabric spirals are placed in plastic bags and left to cure for 24 hours before washing off in cold water – I just need to make sure I keep tabs on whose is which!

I’ll be posting pictures of the finished pieces when they’re all rinsed and dried. Two more workshops for this next week and, I think, a slightly different fabric colouration method for the secondary school group on Tuesday.