Fair Comes to Town

Some good examples of retro kitsch.  I like the way a lot is the same since the 50’s.





Blue candy floss


Not sure what this was supposed to be………….but it had a lot of smoke coming out of it.


This one as tall as a crane not only swung round, but twirled the seat upside down.


Painting with Fabric Dyes, Embroidery Pictures

Just an update on recent crafts activity to show I’ve been doing something towards my market stall.  So a post about painting fabric pictures with dyes, machine embroidering them afterwards, and also the last three felted scarves I made with my hand dyed muslin.  I feel I could get quite a cottage industry going here if I could stick to a more structured routine, stopped going to bed late, and could somehow switch off the stress (that has crept back in since a few months ago).

I’m still experimenting with my Procion MX dye kit, and painting with dye, which is different from painting with fabric paint. I like the idea that it bonds with the fabric rather than just sitting on top of the fabric.  A small sachet of the thickener Manutex was included in the kit and is needed for the painting part, if not just dyeing cloth in a bowl.  It took a while to get used to what ingredient needed to be mixed in what quantity and where.  So much conflicting information on the internet too, some of it just copied from other blogs. I also didn’t get enough salt in the kit, presumably because they assume people already have this at home, so I was lucky to find some Himalayan pink salt in the cupboard and just hoped this would be ok. You don’t seem to need this for painting though, just for dye immersion of fabric.

I can see myself using dyes a lot in my textile pictures, when I feel like working with cotton rather than wool felt.   I had an old cream coloured curtain that I could experiment with, and cut it up into 9×7 inch squares to be soaked in soda ash fixer.   Adding it to the fabric instead of the dye means the diluted dye pots can be kept for longer, and used up to a week or two instead of only being effective for a few hours.

beach embroidery- P1030424

It’s great fun as it is easy to create a background picture for free style machine embroidery.  Future pictures will also include fabric strips as part of the background too,  but for now I just wanted to focus on the dyes themselves.  These are my thoughts on my first experiments.

I found that even with thickener added they can bleed a bit into the fabric but I rather liked the watercolour painting effect of this. Sometimes I forgot to add the thickener.  I’ve not tried using other cotton fabrics yet so I think I would get different results from each.  I also used the wrong side of the curtain fabric, which had a slight herringbone weave so I should have painted on the smoother side really.

In the above picture I used gold thread for some of the sand in the foreground.  A mix of white cotton and rayon for the waves.  I’m not keen on using rayon but have loads of it to use up.  It kept fraying and breaking and doesn’t appear to be particularly strong (despite changing my new needle from topstitch to universal and back again), so I’m switching to polyester thread once it’s all used up.

I’m sure there is a stitch that is perfect for the birds.

Birds - P1030418


I also dyed up some muslin, lace and cotton fabric scraps to use in larger pictures for texture, so have some green, blue and an interesting patchy rust.  The latter went wrong because, using shallow trays, it didn’t get enough fixer when I kept adding colours to make up a brown.

So what got me into dyeing and painting cloth, when I had more than enough crafts to be getting on with?   Well my first nuno felted scarves on muslin had a white background, which is fine if I want white.  Now, any muslin showing through is of the right colour for the scarf and as I make my scarves in different degrees of sheerness – some thick and some more floaty, some patterned on one side and some on both – it’s good to have a background fabric that complements or matches the wool.

I alternate my crafts between wet felting, dyeing cloth/dye painting, and machine embroidery at the moment.  Below are the first three scarves I felted.

For the pink one I tried making a fringe and used Shetland wool for the black instead of the usual merino.

pink scarf - P1030427

Mulberry and tussah silk strands are the red, black and white squiggles.

close up pink scarf-P1030428

And this is its sheerness factor, held up to the light.

pink scarf sheerness -P1030443

The green scarf is a bit thicker.  And has some kind of banana silk fibre,  can’t quite recall the name but bought the thread at the exhibition, and it’s a lot thicker than using the mulberry or tussah silk fibre.  I do like the effect, but it does require pinning down with many wisps of merino wool before felting in.

green nuno scarf- P1030429

I also put the pattern on one side to prevent the scarf from becoming too bulky, and the other side is stripes.

green scarf detail-P1030433

And this is its sheerness factor, held up to the light.

green sheer scarf2 - P1030440

And the thickest one is below, which has some pattern on each side.

greenand mauve scarf- P1030437

and some hidden skeleton leaves

greenand mauve  scarf detail- P1030436

green and mauve scarf- P1030434

Even this thickest one has some muslin showing through (these are not holes).

Thickest scarf sheerness factor- P1030439

I do find crafts to be such great therapy, but I also feel guilty playing when there is work to do.  Hopefully one day I’ll get paid to play. That’s the plan.

Following the local arts trail

As I mentioned in a previous post, it is Open Studios Week in my area of Devon where local artists open up their homes to the public, to view, discuss (and hopefully to buy) their art work.  I’ve been enjoying it so much that I decided to take the bus to the next village to continue with it before it ends on 8th September. It continues on for another week in other parts of the county but is too far for me to visit without a car.

I have managed to visit every artist in my own small town, except one, and it has been an interesting and enjoyable experience.  So different from viewing art in an impersonal space like a gallery, it was also good to talk to the artists about their work, and even their living spaces felt inspiring and creative.  Needless to say I didn’t take any photos inside their private homes.

The first two cottages I visited in my own area were textile artists, so I was really pleased about that because it included felt and machine embroidery.  These cottages are quite small so i was glad there were not too many other visitors there at the same time as it gave me an opportunity to chat about their art and anything else that came up in conversation.

After the two textile artists I visited a few other cottages displaying mixed media paintings, candles and sculptures, watercolours, photography and acrylic paintings.  It was a lovely sunny day and some of the exhibits extended to outside the back door.

The whole thing has added another dimension to the place where I live.  All this art and craft going on behind closed doors, with maybe an occasional appearance at the monthly arts market or works just left with a local gallery to sell on commission.  It felt like I was discovering a part of the local community that I didn’t know existed, despite occasional art exhibitions being held in the town hall.

Each house has a large number on a sign outside which corresponds to the numbers on the map of the Open Studios art trail.  Sometimes the signs are outside the open front door, some of them lead you through a back door to the kitchen, and one pointed down a side alley where I found myself in a wonderful secluded courtyard garden which was a work of art in itself.  The living spaces, whether indoor or outdoor, were often an extension of the creativity beyond the exhibits alone, and equally fascinating.


Today I took a bus to the next village about 4 miles away to see a few more.  The first cottage belonged to someone who dyed embroidery threads and fabric for a living, and her daughter is a potter.  I was the only one there at the time, and was treated to a demonstration of space dyeing thread, where three colours are used.  I’ve only recently discovered the joys of using Procion dyes myself so this was very useful to me.

It was also encouraging that she has been making a living from dyeing threads for the past 20 years as it made it seem possible to live off of ones craft.  Admittedly she has the experience to be able repeat her colours exactly, whereas I’m not sure if I’d even want to repeat some of my first attempts at mixing dye colours.

Then her daughter showed me how she makes her porcelain dishes, pouring the clay liquid into molds and embedding wildflowers in them, which are then burnt away in the kiln to leave an impression which forms the basis of the painted and glazed decoration.  She has recently started adding real gold around the rims, which looked fabulous against the translucence of the white porcelain.  Then I saw the tiny cardigan she had preserved in porcelain, the first one that her baby wore.  Her mother said that the stench of the burning wool and plastic buttons in the kiln was awful, so she is not allowed to repeat that in the house again, but the result was fascinating and well worth it.

Then I went on to the next place on my map which was a studio where craft workshops are held.  I forgot to take a photo of the outside.  There were paintings exhibited of the local area and other crafts, from three different artists.  The studio is only in the second year of business, and the woman who runs it told me she wanted somewhere local where people could attend craft workshops without having to travel miles by car or stay overnight in hotels.  This rural area certainly needs something like that so I definitely will make an effort to support this studio by attending a few classes myself.


I was really enjoying myself strolling down country lanes, although this area is quite hilly with many steep climbs.  It was the first place I started looking for property before relocating  from London.  I decided in the end there were not enough shops for someone who doesn’t drive (just one small general store/post office really), plus I was always out of breath walking those steeps hills.

I decided to visit one more artist before getting the bus back home, as the other 3 looked a fair walk on the map, uphill all the way.  The last cottage was down a rocky unsurfaced road, with a sign for car drivers.

Artstrail3- P1030374

There were loads of paintings at this cottage, mainly still life flowers in vases, which had an ‘other worldy’ feel to them, interesting use of colour and very little shadow, as if some of the elements were receding in a mist.  The painting exhibition continued in one of the upstairs bedrooms with another bedroom showing textile crafts by another artist (felt pots, notebook covers etc) who was borrowing the space to display her craft.

The outside of the cottage had some very colourful flowers growing, so I’m sure she was never lacking in flowers for her still life paintings.



Whether I’ll visit any more before it all finishes on Sunday I have no idea, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to meet some of the artists living locally without needing a car to get there.  I don’t know any of these people but for some reason it has made me feel a lot less isolated doing my crafts, having been inside other peoples’ houses who are doing their own creative work.

What’s blooming in my garden this Sunday

I may be in denial but I refuse to believe that summer is nearly over yet.  I’m just enjoying it too much to even want to talk about other seasons and spoil its fleeting presence.  As if to prolong it, i have been dead heading the rose hedge in my small front yard to keep the roses blooming for longer.

I’ve never really bothered with dead heading before, and this rose hedge, called Wild Edric, has a very long flowering season anyway, unlike the rose bushes in the back garden.


I haven’t been in my back garden as much this year, so I’m not sure if some of the roses there bloomed at all or whether I just missed them. The back garden is a bit of a trek up 3 steep flights of stone steps and then uphill all the way from there.

As I needed to put some tools away I decided to take my camera up there with me and see what, if anything, was in bloom. right now.

I was happy to see that the passionflower has finally produced a flower.  It is in its third year and had produced nothing but leaves until now.




I had a passionflower in a tub in the front garden, and that one bloomed in its first year and has never bloomed since.  So I suppose gardening is as unpredictable as the weather.  Talking of which, I heard on the radio today that the temperature was expected to rise again sometime next week.  I bet the plants are confused, some of which are already past their peak performance before their time, and others haven’t even started blooming yet and are at least a month late. My fuschia hasn’t bloomed at all this year.


The lavender looks as though it is finishing up already but is still appreciated by plenty of bees.  I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be dead heading lavender or not, but a bit more watering would probably help.

I have to carry water up all those steps and water it all by hand, so I never make too many journeys and just water the most desperate looking plants. A hose just wouldn’t reach my garden over two tall walls.

Blackberries are still putting out fruit but nobody is picking any, and it is all going to waste.


These are from my neighbours’ garden, and are hanging over mine. It is what grows best when gardens are neglected here on these slopes. My other neighbour has cut down his neglected garden completely as he is selling the house after renting it out for years to tenants, and that garden had nothing but brambles growing in it.

The land here used to be used for growing fruit to be transported by train to London’s Covent Garden fruit market (when it was still a fruit market), as spring arrives earlier in the south west.  Nowadays it is all flown in for the big chain supermarkets from other countries, -strawberries from Spain, tomatoes from the Netherlands etc.  I always try to buy locally grown produce whenever possible, and fortunately there is plenty of it here.

So these gardens easily revert back to what they were used for 100 or more years ago, – wooded slopes cleared for fruit growing.  Which is why my garden will probably always have a wild side to it.

The holly tree which I had felled last year to bring more light into the garden has started growing again at the base of the tree stump.


I’m sure this wasn’t even here a few weeks ago.

The small amount of extra light may have helped the passionflower to bloom, which is covered in quite a few buds.  But my neighbours trees have grown a lot since last year so the rest of the garden is even more shady than ever before.  They seem to grow in the direction of my garden for some reason, and some of the trunks of the holly trees are even at an angle of about 45 degrees.

But the tree that bothers me the most is the sycamore tree next door.  Not only does it create the most shade in my garden, right over my deck where I can’t sit out in the summer, but it also has black spots on all the leaves.  Each autumn I have to rake off so many when they fall on most of my flower beds, about 5 or 6 times.  I never thought I could resent a tree so much.    Which is why when the weather is bright and sunny, my back garden is the last place I want to be, unless I can find a sunny spot out there.

So I only intended to take the tools up there to be stored in the summerhouse, but ended up doing a lot of weeding before coming back to the house.  And I sprayed some of the plants with foliar feed, this new stuff I bought which is supposed to revive plants within 24 hours.  I raked the lawn, cleaned and oiled the tools, and went up and down those steps many times with a heavy watering can.  After which time I was too tired to do anything else but blog.

But at least if we get another hot spell the plants stand a better chance of surviving.  And if a pink sky at night is any indicator, tomorrow should be another fine day.


Embroidery Exhibition and Open Studios Week

Embroidery Exhib

my dyeing kit and other recent purchases

Today I went to a small embroidery exhibition in the hall by the canal.  It’s only on for 2 days and there were a few traders of hand dyed threads, which was handy as I forgot to order more thread embellishments for my upcoming felting projects.

My dye kit just arrived by post too, so I’ll be practising dyeing muslin using Procion MX dyes this weekend.  Once I get used to dyeing muslin I’ll try using the same dyes on silk, which a seller at the exhibition told me I could use on both.  I’ve ordered more merino wool fibre which is due to be delivered on Monday, so my dyed muslin will be ready for felting by then.

I tried not to spend much at the exhibition because it feels like I’ve been ordering a lot on the internet lately.  I bought two books on embroidery and some silk based threads for the scarves.  I also haven’t tried using cotton for embroidery yet, so just bought a small amount to see how I get on with it.  I couldn’t find all my silky hand embroidery threads  and recently replaced them, although I don’t know why because I found them annoying and tangly to work with.  So perhaps cotton is the answer.

There was an interesting display of some medieval influenced textile fabric and projects, and I really liked a small purse made out of scraps of fabric.  I didn’t take any photos of anything there because the venue was very small, it felt more like going to someones house for tea, although I’m sure nobody would have objected had I asked. I couldn’t buy the purse because it was for display and teaching purposes only, but even better than buying it the woman who made it told me exactly how she made it.  And I happen to already have the materials and supplies I need to experiment making one for myself.

Hall by canal- P1030324

Hall by the canal

She told me she teaches classes.  Where? I asked.  Here, in this hall.  I often wondered what that building was used for, as there were never any clues from the outside.  So I’m going along to the next meeting on Sept 10th, and can go to two as a guest before I need to join the Guild.

openstudiosI was also informed about the Open Studios week, which is a mix of various art and crafts, where the artists open their homes to members of the public.  It starts tomorrow and lasts for a week.  Many of them are within walking distance of my home, and some are just a short bus ride away.  I’m really looking forward to that as well because I’ve been wanting to meet others in my area who are already doing the kind of work I am interested in doing. It can feel very isolating at times, starting a home based business.

The woman who sold me the hand dyed cotton threads is one who i will be visiting, as dyeing fibre or cloth is all part of the fascination of textile crafts and I’m a complete beginner at that.  I may also pick up ideas on the best way to set up my cloth and fibre dyeing room.

I’m finding that I don’t necessarily have to travel all the way to London or to exhibitions in other big cities to get my creative inspiration.  There is creative talent everywhere, and seeing other peoples‘ work keeps my enthusiasm going for creating more of my own.

I love working and creating alone in my home, but I also love seeing what others are up to and sharing those interests with others, or creating in the same space occasionally (which is why I joined the first local embroidery group).  So it looks as though I may be joining yet another embroidery group, in addition to the monthly one I started attending not too long ago (although I missed the previous one).  It is not even my main craft, as felting is my primary focus, but anything that involves working with threads, fibres, colours, layers and textures is all part of it.  And I get the chance also of meeting others in my locality who have similar interests.

So the little exhibition by the canal has turned out to be a good start and inspiration for my new adventures into cloth dyeing this weekend.

Summer 2013 and Crafts Update

I’ve been really missing my blog and don’t know why I stopped blogging when the hot weather hit a while ago, as that should theoretically have translated into more photos as I’ve been outdoors more often.

I guess I’ve been absorbed in my own little creative world and don’t always feel like talking when I’m in that mode, as opposed to the more mental mode when I’m enjoying discussing the craft business side of things and anything I’ve finished or nearly finished.  I’ve certainly got a lot more clarity around where I’m heading, written business plans (yes, plural), and have fine tuned and pared down the kind of stock I will be offering for sale at market and online.  It was worth the time taken rather than just plunging in and making a whole bunch of stuff first, as I always need the overview or bigger picture before getting into too much detail.

That doesn’t mean I won’t be dabbling in all kinds of art and crafts as I don’t seem to be able to give any of them up.  It just means that I will be starting off with a more limited but easily repeatable product line that I can reproduce from one week to the next (if need be) especially for the wholesale side of things – well, you have to think ahead too.

Fortunately I find it all interesting anyway, not only the making side of things.  I’ve given myself a deadline to be ready to take advantage of the Xmas season, assuming I have enough stock to fill a whole table at the local market, and assuming there is a market table to be had when I’m ready.  If not then I’ll just concentrate on creating the website instead, in fact the website really needs to come first as I’m only doing the market for the fun of it and face to face interaction, useful feedback that I can use, and to promote my website.  If I sell anything there it would be a bonus, but my main intention for being there would be to promote my website and make people aware of what I do and where to find me.

So, there’s a huge amount to do between now and then, especially as I’m getting down to it all so late in the year, yet I have no guilt about being outside while summer is still here.  My sun starved body agrees with me, and I do feel a lot better when I’m out and about.

The other delay has been my tendency to want to dabble in all kinds of crafts and some of them I’m teaching myself for the first time.  I’m also pleased that I have rekindled my enthusiasm for making polymer clay and bead and wire jewellery, which I haven’t done any more with since I was living in London 3 years ago.   I’m going to be concentrating mainly on felting though and tried out nuno felting scarves on muslin.   Below are the first three scarves I made, which seem a bit too colourful (despite the dim indoor lighting), but I have since decided to start dyeing my own muslin and using less colours.

first nunofelt scarves-blogP1030308

firstnunifelted scarves2-blogP1030310

I’m excitedly awaiting my first order of a Procion dye kit so that I can venture into the world of dyeing cloth.   One of my jobs this week is to clear out the utility room (which also needs renovating) of all my garden tools so that I can use that as my cloth dyeing area.

I’ve been enjoying playing with colour and texture in wet felting and free style machine embroidery.  I often start off making one thing and it ends up being turned into something else. Below is an iPhone case that started off as something else as it shrank more than I anticipated.

I made it a bit bigger than the phone, which goes in horizontally rather than the usual vertical arrangement, so there is enough wriggle room for a lipstick beside it, although could be used for anything else.


For some reason I forgot to sew the button on before taking the photos, but it has press stud fasteners anyway for closing and the button was purely decorative anyway, although now I’m not sure it even needs it.

felt iPhone case- blog- P1030307

I sewed on a few sequins and beads sparsely, and did zig zag machine stitching around the edge in gold, green and red (because I couldn’t make up my mind which colour would look best).  This one is called ‘Summer’.

I’m finding that I prefer to make felted fabric, embellish it and then decide what I want to use it for afterwards.  The actual fabric is just as fascinating to me as the finished product.

I’m also in the middle of making felted beaded cuff bracelets and teaching myself seed bead embroidery.  They are not finished as I’m waiting for the backing fabric which is on order and I’m not sure if I have the patience for seed beads, having bought the smallest size possible by mistake and still having to go back to youtube for more tuition.  It would be good to have a range of products to see what sells best as this will be a business and not just a hobby or supplementing another income.  When my merino and dye supplies arrive I’ll be making 15 scarves (3 each of 5 different colours) and then when they are finished (along with the cuff bracelets) I can go back to experimenting with felt pictures, which I’ve barely scratched the surface of yet but am eager to return to soon.   I also plan to do some acrylic/mixed media canvases, and have 3 blank canvases on my kitchen table right now to remind me of what I can be getting on with while waiting for further necessary supplies to arrive by post.

When summer was in the mid-80s I went up on Dartmoor for the first time in ages and decided to do some product photography, taking with me a few items of my earlier attempts at jewellery making which I discovered in some small boxes which I’d previously thought were empty.   I should have remembered that glaring sunlight is not the best sort of light for doing product photography, but I had fun anyway.

I found a different part of Dartmoor on this occasion, where there was a stream and small waterfall, and a handful of people were having a picnic there or sunbathing.  Plus a few cows, ponies and sheep were wandering around too.

ponies drinking -blogP1030267

Sunlight on water-DSC_0130

I always love the way the sunlight plays upon the surface of the water, like so many diamonds glistening,  and the water was nice and cool as I waded through it although it felt a bit pebbly under my bare feet.

green oasis-blogDSC_0060

It was like finding an oasis in the  middle of a desert, although a very green one with nothing but nature for miles around.

Dartmoor summer 2013- blogDSC_0083

I always feel fortunate that I can walk here from my home (I don’t drive) even though on a hot day and uphill all the way it is not an easy walk.  When I reach the top and can see for miles all around me, feeling like I’m in the middle of nowhere, it is definitely worth it.

Anyway, the idea was to take photos of my jewellery with Dartmoor in the background.  But it didn’t really work out that way because if I took the landscape then my jewellery was too small in the photo, and if I took a close up of the jewellery then I missed out on the background.

So I took a few photos of my jewellery which could have been taken on a rock anywhere.

silver heart2 bog-DSC_0114

copper bracelet-blogP1030274

silver heart b:w- blogDSC_0107

But I was having fun, and know that I have to re-take everything again with a plain background.   Even the rocks were too ‘busy’ for a background.

goldfoil bangle2-blogDSC_0038

I adjusted the colour on this one to make the rocks look more blue to make the bracelet stand out a bit more.

I’ll definitely have to set up something indoors for all my photographic needs without spending a fortune on special lighting  I still don’t have macro yet, not even on my newer DSLR camera.  I had it on my very first cheap digital compact camera but that one is no longer functional, and I’ve bought two cameras since then without macro.

Still, I’d rather spend money on supplies right now to make my first range of products, or at least enough that I feel happy with, a few in each category.   So I need to just get on with it and I’ll eventually get to where I need to be.  I’m slow anyway, but summer slows me down even more.  Hopefully I’ll get back into the routine of more regular blogging too, but I have at least been keeping up with the wordpress reader and from what I’ve read it seems there were others who found their blogging habits changed once summer was in full swing.

Cothay Manor Gardens

Just got back from a day trip by coach to Cothay Manor in Somerset, which was organised by my local gardening club.  Although we were given a group tour of the house we were not allowed to take photos inside, so the following photos (best viewed large) are of the outside only.

Cothay Manor

This house is said to be the finest example of a small medieval manor in England, dating back to the 14th century. It used to have a moat.

roses around windowP1030253

Topiary P1030206

There was quite a bit of topiary about, both outside the main entrance and around the water.

Topiary around fountainP1030216

The yew hedges a short distance from the house had archways cut into them so that there were different garden ‘rooms’ with different colour schemes.

The one below had predominantly yellow flowers.

Garden room P1030212

I loved this stone bench and table with the foxgloves.

stone seat and foxgloves

I thought these lupins were very effective.  I’ve not had any luck with growing lupins in my own garden.

Lupins P1030210

The unicorn stone statue.

unicorn statue P1030226

These white daisy type plants were in abundance everywhere, although  I don’t know what they are called.

white daisy plants P1030220

This lovely cottage garden was outside a building that didn’t seem to be part of the main house.

cottage gardenP1030259

I had a thing about windows, and these are some older ones.  I’ve yet to learn how to train plants around windows so they stay flat against the wall.

window P1030262

old window P1030260



There were plenty of places to walk beyond the garden rooms as 12 acres surround the manor.  This bridge was on the riverside walk.

Bridge P1030239

And I sat for a while here on a seat by the water.

waters edge P1030245

Driving to Cothay Manor was a bit of a mystery tour in itself as the road is only wide enough for one coach and is surrounded by very high hedges, which brushed against both sides of the coach.  It must feel even stranger to be lower down in a car, a bit like driving through a maze.

After travelling like this for quite some time there was a large lorry approaching us in the opposite direction, so one of us had to reverse all the way back, which luckily for us was the other vehicle. I’m not sure how the coach would have managed it anyway as the driver was having to proceed carefully going in the right direction, and a car parked outside a house had the driver turn in her wing mirror as we slid carefully past with about 2 inches gap to spare.  I guess these country roads were really designed for horses rather than for coaches.