Nuno Felting with Clare Bullock…..

What had looked like being a pretty normal week suddenly took a more interesting turn on Wednesday.  I received the Artvango newsletter which mentioned there was a spare place on Clare Bullock’s two day nuno felting workshop, starting the following day.  Hmmmm…that would have been nice I thought, as I finished my lunch and set off back to work for the afternoon.  Unfortunately Artvango isn’t exactly on my doorstep so it’s not somewhere I get to visit as often as I would like.  But two days felting, with Clare, starting tomorrow…’s got to be worth the long drive down to Knebworth, and it was!

Clare began by talking us through the process and showing us examples of her nuno felting using various different fabrics i.e. silk, gauze, muslin, Indian cotton, etc.  The following three photos are examples of Clare’s beautiful nuno work.

Then it was our turn.  Each sample was created with one layer of Merino wool tops and various scraps of lightweight fabric.  With Clare on hand to ensure we didn’t skint on the rubbing, we rubbed, rubbed, and then rubbed some more…..then time for a coffee and then back to rubbing……

In the next photo you can see nine different scraps of scarves in the early stage of felting.

And the finished sample which I was really pleased with.

My green and blue sample worked pretty well too and I can see this possibly becoming a base for a landscape piece.

Another of my samples which I will add stitching to at some point…..

…..and a close up.

Before the workshop Clare had prepared some rust printed fabrics which she cut up and shared with us.  The following photo shows how my rust sample, made from four pieces of different fabrics, worked out.

And another close up shot showing the textures.

Clare is a very good tutor and full of fun.  We learnt a lot and laughed a lot during the workshop, and I’m sure I can speak for the other ladies when I say that everyone came away really happy with what they had achieved.

Eco Dyeing at Artvango…..

Last Friday I spent a wonderful day at Artvango learning the basics of how to Eco Dye with Jenny Leslie.  Before the session we were sent a list of certain leaves which we were asked to bring with us as they are known to produce particularly good results with this type of technique.  That in itself was a learning curve for me.  Prior to this I had no idea what a Walnut tree looked like, and wouldn’t have known that there were so many in close proximity to our house.  I had never heard of “Dogwood”, although I did recognise the plant when it was pointed out to me by a member of staff in the garden of The Lincolnshire Wildlfe Trust.  Other leaves Jenny suggested included apple, blackberry and eucalyptus.

It was baking hot here last Thursday and by the time I had finished foraging some of the leaves were already beginning to wilt.  I did wonder if they would be shrivelled beyond recognition by the time I got to use them as I was travelling down by motorbike and staying overnight at a B&B before the class.  I needn’t have worried as it turns out the leaves don’t need to be freshly picked, in fact dried, pressed leaves also work well for Eco Printing.

Jenny, who has a background in gardening, began by showing us some of her wonderful work and explained how she got into Eco Dying.  Obviously there were references to India Flint, the pioneer of Eco Dyeing, and Jenny brought along her copy of India’s book “Eco Colour” for us to look at.

Jenny Leslie fabrics

A selection of Jenny’s work

There were twelve students in the class and I think I can speak for all when I say what a fabulous day we had.  I did a bit of research before travelling down and I have to admit I wasn’t expecting such good results from a first attempt!  We were like excited kids, selecting what we were going to use, dipping our leaves into the iron bath or the copper bath, and carefully wrapping our bundles around twigs, copper pipes or rusty old tins.  Once they had been tied securely with string they were dropped into the boiling water or placed in the steamer.  All the time we were busy Jenny was feeding us information regarding mordants and “baths” and the different ways we could alter the colours we had achieved, even once the bundles had been boiled.  My notes are a complete jumble as I only got back from my 550 mile journey last night (I came home via the Isle of Wight!) but I am looking forward to sorting them out and having a play this weekend, once I have been out and collected more greenary. 

Jenny explains how we will be using the murky looking liquids

Jenny recommended Soya Milk as a mordant for cotton while our silk fabrics were simply soaked in a 50/50 solution of water and white vinegar.  Apparently there are lots of different approaches to Eco Dyeing with some folk recommending mordants while others don’t bother.  The final effects can also vary depending on the type of fabric you use, the hardness of your water, humidity, etc, etc.  I think the key message I took away was that we need to “experiment” and find what works for us.


Laying out the leaves

Tying the bundles

Tying the bundles


Fabric wrapped around rusty tin cans

Fabric wrapped around rusty tin cans

Another students work revealed

Another students work revealed

Clive got a colourful result using onion skins

Clive got a colourful result using onion skins

The following photos show how my dyed fabrics turned out.

Linen and viscose

Linen and viscose

My linen and viscose sample started life as a pair of pale grey trousers. After soaking it in soya milk and wringing it out I layed on a selection of leaves including eucalyptus, walnut, sumac and an unknown vine that grows in my neighbours garden. The fabric was doubled over and wrapped around a short length of copper pipe and boiled for an hour. The result is subtle but I love it!

Walnut, sumac,blackberry and unknown wild flower

Walnut, sumac,blackberry and unknown wild flower

Eucalyptus, walnut, blackberry and unknown vine

Eucalyptus, walnut, blackberry and unknown vine

The two silk pieces were soaked for about 30 minutes in vinegar water, leaves laid out, wrapped, tied and boiled for an hour and then iron was added to the water and the fabric remained submerged until the water cooled. Again, I love the results!

I did as Jenny suggested and left my bundles until the next day before I unravelled them. They didn’t look too exciting while they were still wet but once they had dried they looked great! Some of the leaves can be seen while others left an area of colour rather than a distinct shape. I am really happy with results and keen to do more. I bought various fabrics from Artvango including a cotton/silk blend, a spun rayon and cotton Rossglen, all of which I have been told will take colour really well so fingers crossed! It’s not advisable to use your cooking pans for Eco Dyeing so I am nipping out now to see if I can find some old pots and pans in our local junk shop…….

Artvango & The Finished Vessel…..

Last weekend a friend and I drove down to Knebworth to see the “Artists in Residence” at Artvango.  It was my first visit and turned out to be a really worthwhile day.  The three textile artists demonstrating their skills were Clare Bullock (Feltmaker), Sharon Osbourne (Mixed Media) and Lynda Monk (Thermofax).  Not only was it interesting to watch these artists at work but it was wonderful how they were so enthusiastic to share their advice and tips so freely.

While I was there I had my grey/lemon vessel in mind and within the first two minutes of arriving Clare had given me the answer to a problem I was having using synthetic organza with Merino tops.  I wanted to include the organza as a another texture but I’d found that my fibres were not migrating through the fabric enough to bond the two together.  Clare explained that using a very thin layer of fibres and rubbing, not rolling, was the best way to approach it, and it worked.  Thanks for that Clare.

In another part of the studio Lynda Monk was demonstrating her use of Thermofax screens and expanding foam on leaf and hexagon shapes cut from Lutradur.  What I found interesting was the fact that the wire she was using to give the leaves their shape wasn’t silver or copper coloured like I had in my workroom, Lynda’s wire was covered with white cotton.  She explained that she uses this so it can be died to match whatever she is making.  Call me sad but I hadn’t seen this stuff before and I was so excited I had to buy some!  That was vessel problem two sorted.  How to hide the wire?  Colour it grey and lemon.

Opposite Lynda was Sharon Osbourne with the most wonderful collection of mixed media work on dispay.  Sharon was demonstrating the use of wax crayons with rubbing plates to create patterns on fabric, the crayon is then sealed with a medium.  I was standing next to another lady who, like me, works with LD students and we both agreed that having spoken to Sharon we were coming away with several ideas that we could use in future workshops.  A couple of days later I tried the wax crayon technique at one of the care homes where I do craft sessions with LD adults and they loved it!

Anyway, back to the 3d piece.  It’s now finished, compete with coloured wire, organza and felting.  I decided that using all 3 panels would result in a vessel too large for the space I wanted to put it so I only used two of them.  Once the machine stitching was finished the holes were burnt out using a soldering iron and hand stitching was added across the larger openings.  The cotton covered wire was coloured to match the panels and sewn in place using zigzag stitching.  I’m really happy with how this has turned out and it’s something I would definitely like to do more of, particularly incorporating felting into my work and continuing with a more abstract theme.

Finished vessel with the felted bowl which, along with the Flower Tower, provided the initial inspiration.


Detail showing the silver coloured organza.


Close up showing the burnt out sections which have been decorated with hand sewn threads.