Friday, 6 January 2017

Sheep and Wool Conference

I am helping to organise the 7th North Atlantic Native Sheep and Wool Conference on the Isle of Man from the 12th to the 15th October this year. Participating countries and areas are Norway, Shetland, the Orkneys, Faroe Islands, Iceland, the Hebrides, the Isle of Man and Greenland.
I have previously attended conferences in Iceland, The Faroes and the Lofoten Islands in Norway.
The aim of them is to stimulate interest in the endangered native breeds of these regions, to network with farmers, wool workers, craft workers and anyone else who has an interest in helping to make the production of wool more sustainable. The landscape that these sheep are reared in is also of importance and methods to preserve such places is also discussed. Some of the ideas explored in previous conferences are better branding of wool and its products, practical lessons in grading wool, high value fashion garments and diversity of products.
The Isle of Man is home to the iconic Loaghtan Sheep and we will have local speakers and one from England talking about the sheep, landscape and products produced locally from the wool. The rest of the speakers will be from the other participating countries, some of whom will discuss the great improvements that they have made since they hosted the conference. This gives us a chance to learn not only of their successes but also the pitfalls they have come across and how they have overcome them. I have made great friends since going to the conferences. there are delegates who travel from Germany, U.S.A., Canada, South Africa and all the Nordic countries. There will also be workshops, exhibitions, trips to heritage sites and a fashion show.
There is already great interest in the one to be held on the Isle of Man and anyone who would like more information can e-mail me at

Monday, 28 March 2016

Upcycling jumpers

I have done 2 pieces of work with old jumpers as the base, one was a brown merino woollen and the other was a blue woollen one. I had a lot of sample lengths of threads in various thicknesses, colours and textures. Some of these threads were used to create the shape of the flower and were then embellished onto a piece cut from the jumper.
The first layer was white poster paint which I brushed over the surface including the threads so that some areas had the colour of the jumper and some of the threads showing through. When this was dry layers of acrylic inks in various colours were painted on, allowing the colours to blend with the result that secondary and tertiary colours were also produced.
Finally the image was stitched into using both free machining and hand embroidery.
I really liked the final outcomes which were unlike any work I had done previously. The top left image is called Dahlia-Inspired by Picasso and the one below it is called Echinacea-Inspired by Picasso. The photo on the right is a close up of Dahlia

Monday, 25 January 2016

Dionne Swift Developing sketchbooks course

I have just finished an online Developing Sketchbooks course run by Dionne Swift. I would highly recommend her courses as they are so inspirational. I hadn't created a colourful sketchbook since my City and Guild's days but instead concentrated on lifelike pencil drawings of plants. birds and butterflies. This course made me open my mind to lots of new possibilities regarding colour, form and flow, all done in a relaxed, experimental manner. It will now encourage me , not necessarily looking at the whole of something, but to look at the world in a different way, exploring its constituent parts. I am very much looking forward to my next course with her which is Drawing for Textiles. Below are some of the images from my new sketchbook.

The lower part of the pink image is coloured by painting beetroot juice on it and then rubbing a cut piece of beetroot on top to give it those lovely smudges.
The image with the pink circles had as it's base inked hand made paper, stitched with free machining and the circles are various fluffy threads embellished on top.
I have experimented in my sketchbook with torn shapes, printing, punching holes, overlaying media and many other techniques. The use of negative spaces was also explored.
My next sketchbook is going to be based on winged creatures so I will be looking carefully at all their various parts to extract design elements.
One of the big bonuses of doing an online course has been interacting on Facebook with the other participants, being inspired by their ingenuity and different ways of seeing.

Monday, 18 January 2016

The Butterfly effect

The second of my pieces in the "Air" competition is called The Butterfly Effect. .For this work I again did a background of hand made felt using pre dyed merino and Nepalese wool. The tornado shape was added to the base level with white merino wool,
I decided to hand stitch a large butterfly using a small needle and single stranded cottons with the template being a Peacock butterfly which are frequent visitors to my garden. It was quite tricky getting the patterns to match as I did it by eye, not having drawn all the internal shapes out as I felt this gave a more natural finish. There is a line of merino wool going from one wing to the tornado to mimic the effect of the butterfly flapping its wing and thus having a direct influence on the formation of the storm.
I visited London 2 weeks before Christmas and went to the Museum of Food near Southwark which was very small and only open for a few months but they are hoping to get funding for a large permanent museum on that theme.
One of the areas was a butterfly house with many exotic butterflies, the idea being to make a link between food and some of the vital pollinators. See one of those butterflies below.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Birds of Paradise

I have 2 entries in the annual Hodgson Loom Competition. This year the theme is air. I have taken the quote from the Gospel of Matthew which starts-All the birds of the air.
I did research on different types of Birds of Paradise and other exotic birds and did sketches of them, see one of them below. I made a felted background using bought merino and Nepalese wool in varying shades of blue to represent different layers of the atmosphere. I then hand stitched each bird with tiny stitches using a beading needle and stranded cotton. Finally I did Kantha stich all over the background to give a sense of movement. A photo of the finished work is shown below along with a few individual birds.


Sunday, 18 October 2015

Birds, bees, butterflies and other creatures.

Despite the wet summer there have been very many bumble bees in my garden this year of all sizes and colours. As I have large areas of brambles and rough grass there is always plenty of nesting areas for them. Unfortunately it has been a very poor year for the honey bees which is worrying and a disastrous summer for the butterflies. We have had 3 weeks of very fine autumn weather but even then there were only a few butterflies- small tortoiseshell, red admirals, peacocks, white and green veined whites and quite a few wall and meadow browns. The only butterflies to do well this year again are the speckled wood which have only recently appeared on the Isle of Man.
As I have such a huge variety of wild plants and herbs I always have great numbers of other flying creatures and spiders, too many to know what they all are and also there are quite a few small frogs hopping about the place.
I attended a wonderful event last nice held by Mother T's Community Cafe in Laxey. Great company, music, food , friends old and new and all very local. Wonderful! We need more events like this.
I had some of my small dragonfly hangings there for sale as well as a lot of other work of mine.
The photo on the left is an area of my garden that self seeds now with brassicas, broad beans, poppies, cornflowers, ribwort plantain and many other edibles and wild plants. It certainly is easier than sowing them. There are also goldenrod plants that I use as dyes and Euphorbia mellifera plants that are now enormous. The latter have very boring loooking flowering parts in early spring but they have a wonderful smell of honey which makes me want to run in and butter a piece of bread to go with some of our locally produced honey. By the way, the honey is now spun from our area only and since then my asthma has improved dramatically. the Euphorbia is a great attractant for insects in the spring, a welcome early feed.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Faroes sheep and wool conference

I have just returned from the wonderful North Atlantic Sheep and Wool Conference in the Faroe Islands.
It was great to renew friendships from last year and make new ones. We learned a great deal about the difficulties of wool producing in the Faroes, as always, the problem is obtaining a fair price for the fleeces. We visited sheep and wool producers and got a chance to purchase some of their products. The scenery was outstanding and we were given a very warm welcome from the Islanders.
We were very lucky in having warm, sunny weather so we didn't miss any of the spectacular views, the quality of both the air and the light were wonderful. Pictured on the right is Johanna who along with Karin originally set up the conferences and work hard to keep interest in sheep and their products, on which many Islanders depend, very much alive.