Weaving in France

I have just returned from a wonderful trip to France with weaving friends, spending time exploring the beautiful Lot valley before heading off to Stacey Harvey-Brown’s ‘Loom Room’ for an inspiring group workshop on textural weaves. Stacey is a textile artist renowned for her original work inspired by geology and nature, and her Gascony home is a perfect place to relax and explore new weave ideas.

The workshop focussed on 3 different weave structures – woven shibori, stitched double cloth and overshot – all chosen to exploit the structural potential of using yarns with different properties. Working as a group, we learned lots from each other, as well as benefitting from Stacey’s teaching and wealth of experience, not to mention her extensive weaving library and vast selection of samples to handle and examine. Plenty of new ideas to challenge and stimulate, and encouragement to look at familiar weave structures anew.

We were most grateful to Stacey and husband Graham for generously sharing their home with us for 5 days; great company, food and wine, and plenty of time to weave, unwind and share stories!

(From top: the group having lunch in the garden, some of Stacey’s woven ‘stalactite’ forms, some of our samples, and a coffee break in the sun)

Colours of Gujarat in Haddenham

Great news! From April 7th to May 4th, Haddenham Gallery and Arts Centre in Ely, Cambridgeshire, is hosting our ‘Colours of Gujarat’ exhibition. The free event will be opening on Sunday April 7th (12.00 – 17.00), and we are delighted to announce that the renowned world textile expert, John Gillow, will be giving an accompanying talk at 3pm. The event is free, but space is limited, so it is essential to book a place to hear John’s talk. He is an excellent speaker, and has written many highly acclaimed books including Indian Textiles, Arts and Crafts of India, Traditional Indonesiam Textiles, World textiles and African Textiles.

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On the opening Sunday, ther will also be a sale of braids and other items recently brought back from Gujarat. All profits go to a Gujarat artisans cooperative.

Lampshades for the Clover Mill retreat

I have just been making some lampshades for a commission from the Clover Mill Ayurvedic Spa and Retreat, near Malvern. Spectacularly set, nestling in the Malvern Hills, the Mill offers guests an idyllic wellbeing escape, with treatments, yoga classes, workshops and dining all founded on the ancient art and science of Ayurveda. The handwoven linen lampshades are designed for the eco-bedroom accommodation, and reflect the contours of the Malvern Hills. I hope the guests enjoy them!

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Herefordshire Art week – thank you!

Thank you to everyone for making our h.Art week such a success. As first time exhibitors, Simon, Eddie and I had not been sure what to expect, but we had a wonderful time. It was an absolute pleasure to meet so many interesting people, and of course to welcome our many supportive friends and family to our venue – we had almost 500 visitors over the 9 days. I am indebted to my fellow exhibitor, Simon Macdonald who so generously opened his home and garden to us, and gave me the use of his lovely light-filled sitting room as a temporary weaving studio – and also to Jenny Pearce, expert basket maker, and our regional h.Art organiser, who encouraged us to take part in the event.

Already thinking of doing it all again next year!

Herefordshire Art week opens!

What a great start to the week! Despite the sometimes threatening weather yesterday, we had over 80 visitors to our Art at the Lodge h.Art venue. It was such a pleasure to meet so many interesting people, some from as far afield as Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire, including an intrepid band of cyclists from Derbyshire who have made h.Art an annual event over the past 3 years. Being a newcomer to h.Art, I really appreciate receiving feedback on my work, especially as so many visitors are creative themselves. After all the hard work, I had thought it might be hard parting with some of my pieces, but instead I am so pleased that my favourites are going to such appreciative homes.

Just about to set off for our second day.. the sun is shining, and hopefully it will stay fine!

Using locally sourced yarns

It is always special to weave yarns from local spinners and dyers – even more special when you meet the animals from which the fleeces came. A recent visit to Apple Cross Farm in Worcestershire gave the opportunity to get up close to Julia Berry’s beautiful alpacas. Julia and her husband, Adam, started in 2014 with 4 pregnant females, and have since gradually built up their fine alpaca herd of coloured animals, providing the highest quality fleece. Julia is also an expert spinner, and produces beautifully fine yarn from her own fleeces. She sells her yarn, and also hand crocheted scarves and shawls in various natural colours. When you buy handspun yarn from Julia, you are told from which alpaca the fleece came from – my beautiful white yarn came from a handsome male called Cortez.

IMG_20180714_110428Julia with her beautiful coloured alpacas

I was really pleased with the results of weaving with this fine alpaca yarn, which produced a wonderfully soft, light scarf. Here Cortez’s white yarn is used with Danish Isager fine alpaca yarn sourced from the Oxford Yarn store.

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In July, I attended the Hanbury Agricultural Show – a showcase for local farmers and breeders of all sorts of farm animals. The Worcestershire Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers were given a place in the craft tent, and we were thrilled to meet so many people interested in spinning and weaving. We spent the whole day demonstrating, and enabling anyone keen to have a go themselves on our wheels and looms. Also in the craft tent, we met Alex from Spinney Winnie’s, a family run enterprise producing unique hand-spun, hand-dyed yarns, made in their workshop in the local Jinney Ring Craft Centre.

IMG_20180805_103637Scarves woven with handspun and dyed yarn from Spinney Winnie’s

I have long been an admirer of Juliet Brown’s lovely hand dyed yarns, and have used them in many weaving projects over the past few years. She has a wonderful eye for colour, and dyes a wide range of wools and silks of different weights. She produces yarn under the label Artists Palette Yarns, and sells from her Etsy shop and local suppliers. She is also an excellent teacher, and has run two workshops for our Worcestershire Guild.

IMG_20180324_140429Lampshade fabric woven using Juliet’s lace weight merino/silk hand painted yarn

Finally, travelling back home from London via Burford in Gloucestershire, I came across the Burford Needlecraft shop, selling a wide range of yarns, knitting and tapestry products. I was looking for some undyed yarn on which to try out my garden plant dyes – and bought a skein of Cotswold Lion Heritage yarn. It proved to be an excellent yarn to dye, and I am now looking forward to using it in my next project!

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Dyeing from my garden

The main inspiration for my weaving is the landscape in which I live, and so it seemed a natural progression to experiment with plant dyes from my own garden. I had been inspired last autumn by a visit to Jane Meredith’s lovely cottage and garden on the banks of the River Wye in neighbouring Herefordshire. Jane grows a wide range of dye plants, and runs summer weekend courses where participants forage for plants in the garden, set up dye baths and dye prepared fleeces, which can then be used for felting and weaving. Being too late for her 2017 courses, I promised myself a weekend the following year, and in the meantime set about creating a dyer’s garden in place of my old vegetable patch.

Jane generously had started me off with a weld (Dyer’s rocket – Reseda luteola) plant from her garden, and once spring arrived, I started sowing seeds for Dyers chamomile, Dyer’s greenweed, woad, Dyer’s coreopsis, yellow cosmos, madder, French marigold and more weld. I also realised I could use plants already growing in the garden – pear and walnut trees, hollyhocks and dahlia. Jenny Dean’s book ‘Wild Color’ gave clear instructions on how to use each plant, and Teresinha Robert’s website, ‘wild colours’ also provided invaluable information, as well as a source of seeds and mordanting materials.

(from top left: dahlias, coreopsis, weld and French marigolds in the dyer’s garden, Cosmos sulphureus infusing, and the end result!)

The following weekend, I attended one of Jane Meredith’s Plant Dyeing Workshops at Byford near Hereford. It was the only wet weekend after weeks of hot sunny weather, but our spirits were not dampened. Jane is an excellent tutor, describing the processes of dyeing, preparing and pre-mordanting materials to be dyed, and also the important health and safety considerations. After picking plant materials, an abundance of pre-prepared Cotswold fleece was available to us as we prepared 12 or so dye baths, and we could see the different effects of various pre-mordants. We also watched Jane prepare a woad bath, and then put materials ourselves into a pre-prepared indigo vat. The change from yellow to green as materials came out and were exposed to the air seemed nothing short of miraculous. An absolutely absorbing, inspirational day, with a delicious lunch as well!

(Dyers chamomile in the basket, and dyed fleeces laid out to dry)