Category Archives: stitching

Botanical Alchemy

We have been winding down after the workshop, playing Catan by the stove and keeping out of the rain. We are all reflecting on such a wonderful weekend with a lovely group of women who came from as far North as Saltburn in Yorkshire, East as London and West as Devon for this three day workshop.

Inspired by India Flint’s book Eco Colour this workshop took her bundling techniques and aimed to share her sustainable dye practice. We used locally sourced dye stuffs and simple mordants and modifiers. Silk, wool and cellulose fibres, were stitched, folded, wrapped, bundled, simmered and steeped over the three days.

table

Rain kept us inside for most of Saturday, stitching samples of various fabrics onto papers around the kitchen table. The wood burning stove keeping us all cosey and Dan made us plentiful cups of tea and coffee.

In between downpours, we managed a woodland walk. We gathered leaves and tree flowers left for us by the squirrels and had a surprise meeting with a Roe deer. We returned and put leaves, onion skins and discarded kitchen waste, including onion skins, cabbage and fallen petals in our folded paper and clamped them together and put into two baths.

The first paper bundles were opened that afternoon revealing wonderful colours. Two bundles were also prepared, simmered and left to steep overnight.

Sunday was glorious and was spent in the garden with much folding, wrapping and binding of silk and cotton around sticks, copper and iron. Claire brought some Eucalyptus and the rest of the dyestuffs came from the garden as well as the nearby woods.

tent and garden

Seven bundles were prepared and put into four pots of various brews. After simmering and steeping overnight, the bundles were laid out to drain, ready to be opened when everyone arrived. They all looked much the same from the outside.

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However, once opened, glorious colours, patterns and leaf shapes emerged. Wonderful!

Stitching  again together on the third day and one last bundle on fine cotton gauze and the workshop was over.

So soon these lovely generous and enthusiastic women left with a loaf of Dan’s home made bread and a couple of Persicaria tinctoria plants to start their indigo dye garden. I will hope to lure them back with more botanical alchemy. Next time it will be the quest for the perfect blue.

 

 

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A Stitch In The Night Time

Dyeing samples over the past few weeks has led to a pile of successful and less successful pieces, so I have started putting them together to make scarves. On visits to India I fell for the simple utilitarian stitching of the recycling poor. Like Japanese boro, which prolong the life of textiles through layering and mending, kantha work of Bengal, is a tradition, where stories are sewn into cloth, and running stitches embellish pieced together discarded saris. The results are beautiful quilts and shawls.

Boro textile

Boro textile

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kantha embroidery

kantha embroidery

kantha quilt

kantha quilt

I have always been impatient and so sewing has always been rushed by machine. Inspired by kantha and Japanese boro work, I decided to try stitching by hand. Very slow to start with, I thought I was doing rather well with my little stitches, until I picked up my favourite kantha stole.

I have found stitching quite therapeutic and could actually get quite addicted. My normally restless mind, usually only harnessed by gardening, has been quietened. Focusing on needle and cloth and simple lines of stitches, liberates my perfectionist mind, from over-thinking design and endless self criticism.  In my insomniac hours I can now be found stitching, distracted from the usual bombardment of unhelpful thoughts.