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Making Felted Boots from A to Z

Interested in participating in a masterclass suitable for beginners and experienced felt makers?  One of our members, Asta, has invited Natalya Brashovetska to Ireland in September to lead a workshop making felted boots with rubber soles – for further details see poster below:


Poppy Seed Heads used as print blocks

During the summer of 2017, my mother had the most magnificent Ladybird Poppies growing in her garden. Just the sight of them swaying in the summer breeze would give you a high.   Unfortunately, the beautiful blooms did not last very long.  Luckily she did not cut them back but let nature take its course.  So, come autumn, they had developed into giant seed heads which were truly as wonderful as the flowers.

So don’t be too keen with the shears, when the flowers have died, as there is still more beauty to burst out.

When it came to the big tidy up in the garden, I was given a few of the seed heads.

At that stage the seed heads had hardened so I used them just like wooden printing blocks.  Firstly, I colour washed some cotton fabric with water colour paint.  I then put some acrylic paint onto a sponge and pressed the top of the seed head into the sponge to take up some paint.  Pressing the painted seed head onto the fabric left an interesting print.

Poppy seed heads as print blocks


Embroidery thread stitching and poppy seeds were added for some texture.  The end result is a textile piece, which although it is far removed from the original Ladybird Poppies, encapsulates the harvested poppies, autumn, bonfires, fireworks and thanksgiving.


Printing with seed headsDee Kelly

Know your onions!

I have just noticed a bit of a vegetable theme in some recent work by Dee Kelly, Caroline Fitzgerald and Rina Whyte – and all of it yummy !!  Pungent and odorous, onions and their family members sometimes get an undeserved bad rap but our team are doing their best to elevate these humble vegetables to the place they deserve – on the kitchen wall and not in the pot!

Caroline and Dee produced some beautiful work using actual pieces of garlic.  Who would have thought that the papery, bleached texture of garlic skins and the intricate detail of the root, would produce such amazing works of art.

Dried garlic skins mounted on paper, stitched with linen and rayon threads
Garlic Whimsy I, Dee Kelly

Dried garlic skins mounted on paper, stitched with linen and rayon threads

Garlic root, herbal teabags, handmade paper, markings made with watercolour, cotton muslin, stitched and mounted on linen
Gorgeous Garlic, Caroline Fitzgerald

Garlic root, herbal teabags, handmade paper, markings made with watercolours, cotton muslin, stitched and mounted on linen


Rina has produced a series of three pieces exploring the beautiful shapes and colours of the onion

Blind drawing with stitch on brushed cotton, embellished with hand stitch, cotton net, ink dyed
Onion I, Rina Whyte

Blind drawing with stitch on brushed cotton, embellished with hand stitch, cotton net, ink dyed


Onions, free machine embroidery
Onion II and III, Rina Whyte

Dyed cotton, pen and ink drawing, free machine embroidery

Never has garlic and onions looked so good!  Who wouldn’t want to have one of these pieces on their kitchen or dining room wall?

Will it fade – only time will tell?

Dee Kelly is a powerhouse when it comes to stitch and lately she has been experimenting with stitch in organic and natural materials.   Her latest and very beautiful works are ‘Garlic Whimsy I and II’, which are exquisite pieces of stitch on dried garlic skins. The papery texture and bleached white of the garlic skins are very beautiful and look amazing mounted on white paper.

Dee has also been experimenting with Avocado pits as she has just shared with us :

” I recently dyed some Khadi paper using Avocado pits.  I just left them overnight in a plastic tray (no chemicals were used in the process).  The colour tones were amazing from peach to rust.

I also dried the skins of the Avocado, which became hard and brittle. Using embroidery cotton I stitched into the papers and the skins.  I was so excited with the results and mounted three pieces onto a painted artist canvas.  Just as I was deciding to bring the piece to be framed I got a terrible thought – WILL IT FADE?  Imagine in a few months’ time if the paper bleached and all that is left is the dried Avocado skin and stitching.  So I decided it will have to hang in my workroom, for a while, to see how the natural dyed colour of the Avocado pits hold up to daylight!

Has anyone else tried dying with Avocado pits…I would be interested to hear the results?”     Dee Kelly

Adventures in Ice Dyeing

Sometimes you just have to venture into the unknown and pray to a higher being that she will give you the result you want!  So it is with ice dyeing – the actual result is very unpredictable but there is one certainty, the dyed fabrics will be beautiful.  Our ‘creative stitch group’ had a lovely evening recently doing some ice dyeing together – sharing our dyes and equipment – and having a good natter!

Ice dyeing is a simple technique for creating a totally unique, water colour or tie dye effect on fabric.  There are lots of YouTube videos out there from people living in colder climates than Ireland who use their snowbound days to ‘snow dye’.  With ice dyeing you don’t need to wait for the snow, just grab some bags of ice. You also need a bucket, soda ash, a wire rack and a container that the wire rack can sit into to catch the melted ice.  Kathrina used a disposable bbq tray into which she punched holes, instead of a wire rack (see below)


One of Kathrina’s results where she folded the fabric before dying

Pre-wash your fabric to remove any fabric softeners, oils, dirt or finishes applied during manufacture. Get a bucket and mix up soda ash and water (2 cups per gallon of water).  Immerse the fabrics and let them soak for about 15 min. Some of our group find the smell of the soda ash quite overpowering so we do this bit outdoors and we wear a mask.  Wear rubber gloves when you pull the fabrics out of the water and squeeze out the excess solution.

Aprons, masks and rubber gloves – not a great look!!

Place the wire rack in the container.  Scrunch up your fabrics randomly and put them on the rack. If you want to, you can pleat them or tie them up more like tie-dye. When they are scrunched they have a more diffused, softer pattern.  Next, cover everything in ice.

Then sprinkle the dye powder randomly over the top of the ice – wear a mask to prevent inhaling any fine particles of dye.  You can use as many colours as you want but you probably don’t want more than three (or four – it is hard to stop!).  Remember, as the ice melts colors will mix and blend as they hit the fabric. So if you put yellow and blue together, you will get some greens. On the other hand, part of the fun is that “mix” colours will split up a bit into their component colours, giving you colours you were not expecting.

That is it – just leave overnight for the ice to melt and the dyes to hit the fabric in random patterns. Next day, start rinsing your items in cold running water. Rinse until the water is running mostly clear.  Then just put everything in the wash with hot water and dry and iron!

We used Procion dyes which are cold water dyes for natural fibres, but you can use any powder dye.  Midnight Blue, Fire Engine Red and a pinch of Ecru delivered these beautiful results for Dee:

Top:   White fabric which was stitched before dying with hap hazard smocking    

Below: Same white fabric scrunched into a ball 

Above: The only piece that took a deep colour – a heavy white canvas

Above: A cream linen look fabric, folded and stitched to hold. 

Procion Dyes: Brown Rose, Robin’s Egg Blue, a pinch of Raspberry and a tiny pinch of Olive Green (see above) produced these results

White Egyptian cotton pleated and clamped before dying (top) and white linen scrunched (below)  – more white in these pieces because they were at the bottom of the pile and didn’t get as much direct contact with the dye as some of Barbara’s other pieces.

Finally, these lovely results from Caroline’s dyeing basket (chicken wire held over a basin):

Both of these pieces were folded before dying. There is a lot less yellow and orange in these fabrics than the original photograph of the dye powders would lead you to expect.  As I said at the beginning this is an unpredictable technique but it creates beautiful results and is great fun!  Try it – there are many other websites and blogs out there with good instructions.