Washing Raw Fleece

So today I was asked if I could offer some advice on preparing some fleece ready for working with to make wet felt.  My customer had been collecting wool dropped from sheep during her dog walk and is keen to use in her textile art.  

dirty fleece

So here is the suspect fleece.  If you are lucky enough to have a whole fleece at your disposal then these would be the parts you would discard!  The bits that drop from a sheep tend to be mucky, dirty 'daggs' from the rear end, need I say more.  Or tangled low quality edges from the belly area.  With a whole fleece you can pick out the softest highest quality wool to work with.  That said this is an emotional reason for using collected fleece and no doubt will be used in a Covid-19 art endeavour so wool quality doesn't matter.


First job is to pick through and remove any visible organic matter - grass, sticks, dirt etc.  Then to wash.....  


You must be careful in washing fleece, you want to remove dirt, most of the lanolin but not to begin the felting process.  Therefore the key things to avoid are fluctuations in temperature and excessive movement of the fibres.


Prepare a couple of water baths, the temperature is not too important but must be consistent from one to the next.  Add some of the most gentle soap you have to the first bowl - I have heard that Eucalan is idea as it is formulated for washing wool and doesn't need to be rinsed.  

Eucalan non wash

Allow the fleece to gently absorb the soapy water, very carefully push the fleece into the water to ensure it is submerged.  Allow to sit for some time ideally an hour or so but it will depend on how dirty your fleece is.


Now carefully lift the wet soapy fleece into the clean bowl and again submerge to 'rinse'.  These actions must be done with the minimum possible movement of fibres against each other or felting will commence.


You might find you need to repeat this process so two more bowls of equal temperature water are needed.


Remove the far cleaner fleece and allow to drain and air dry.  A sunny day will make this easier - spread the wet fibres out on a flat free draining surface, perhaps a net curtain across a piece of chicken wire - or refrigerator shelf??  This is where you need to look around your home for a creative solution to this.    With time and gentle warmth and air flow the fleece will dry.


Now it will be ready for carding and combing to prepare for spinning or felting - or perhaps you can tease the fibres apart enough with your fingers to begin the felting process.  


Good luck - I hope it works!


Hannah x

Tactile Fusion

I finally made it to this exhibition, better late than never they say!  It was a lovely sunny day which means the light was just perfect to see the textiles, mixed media and ceramics in their full glory.  

Bev James oberon

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Threads of Change - Alice Kettle talk and Exhibition

imagesOh my we are almost at the end of January and a week has passed since my trip to The Said business school in Oxford to listen to a discussion / interview with Alice Kettle.  It took some organisation to get myself there in time but I managed to park and get the the Said Business school in time and had a great seat in the main lecture theatre. 

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A Sense of Place and Time

Art 2 Stitch present a major exhibition of contempory textiles at Milton Keynes Museum until 26th April 2020

New Building Old Building - Sheena Hughes

Today I did the usual Saturday morning guilty scroll though Facebook - but lucky for me I can accross a post about this exhibition, I had planned to get to Milton Keynes to do some shopping so rather than dash back I took the opportunty to allow myself some time to soak up some textile inspiration.  I am so pleased I did.  

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Journal Quilts - May to August

The four quilts for the second third of the year.

Journal Quilts May to August 2019

So yet again I have just made it! Phew. Four more journal quilts done and submitted to the organiser within the contemporary quilts group at the Quilters Guild of the British Isles. It turns out I really need a deadline to work too.

My next deadlines is for the South Northamptonshire Art Trail which runs from 5th to 13th October 2019. I will be exhibiting my textile art at home, some of which is for sale. I will also be running workshops and joining me will be my friend and local potter Judith Shaw. Make a date in your diary and do pop over to say hello.

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Tempest update - what we created last week

An update on what 'washed up' at Stitching Kitchen

raw materials

This wasn't what I had in mind when Fiona said the material for the quilt blocks was to be dropped off during the week! Lots of plastics - they type of materials which might find there way to be washed up on the shoreline. Ah, I see where this might be going - an island, make do and mend, recycle, keep plastics out of the ocean.... get my drift??

It also turned out that my pals at Oxford Embroiderers Guild were also involved with the project and at a loss as to what to do with this plastic fabric.

The lovely lady who dropped the goodies off let me know that the https://www.creationtheatre.co.uk interactive open air performance of The Tempest would include a visit to Prospero and Mirandas shack, which was to be furnished with these random fabrics - a quilt, perhaps some cushions, maybe a teddy bear - EEK!

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Tempest Quilt Blocks

A collaborative community project with the Creation Theatre Company


A week or two back while I was enjoying a pizza with the girls my phone rang, it was the lovely Fiona from the Creation Theatre Company - she wondered if I and some stitching kitchen regulars would be interested in helping out with community quilt project, she said something along the lines of.....

"The Creation Theatre Company are based in Oxford and specialise in putting on site-specific adaptations of classic texts. This summer we are producing The Tempest around the Osney Mead Industrial Estate, and we are lucky enough to have received some Arts Council funding to help us to do this. As part of the funding we are hoping to engage some local community groups in the show, and I would love for your social stitchers to be part of this.

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Journal Quilts - First Four for 2019

This year is my first doing the Journal Quilt challenge with the contemporary quilters of the Quilters Guild of the British Isles - the first instalment....


This quilt is inspired by an image I found of an American manor house for sale via Country Life magazine! The style of impressive house was just want I wanted to achieve in another project so I used my journal quilt to practice. This JQ is created using fabrics from my stash, the main technique is applique. The background is sheet painted with fabric paints, the trees and grass are snippets of cloth with organza overlaid and machine stitched into place. The Manor house is a textured upholstery fabric and I used reverse applique to create the windows. The bushes in front are created as Suffolk puffs with hand stitched details. The drive is some rust dyed fabric with one of my machines fancy stitches to create a block paved effect.

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Morsbags - doing our bit for the planet

Keeping fabric out of landfill and plastic out of the environment

moody seascape

During my trip to London to the Spring Knit and Stitch show at Olympia I saw a group of people making and promoting Morsbags. These bags are made from fabric which would end up in landfill. The idea is that sewing communities come together to create the bags and give them out - a friendly act of giving which helps the environment.

There is no charge made for a Morsbag, they are just given to those who need one, and who doesn't need a bag?

You can find out a whole lot more about Morsbags at the website www.morsbags.com

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Developing my creative practice

New creative plans for 2019


To begin a new year with new intention is always a good thing yes? I resolved to aim to enter the embroiderers guild members challenges and competitions and also to get more involved in the quilters guild. Both of these organisations are important to me as they fuel my creativity and give me the opportunity to exhibit both nationally and internationally.

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Knit and Stitch at Olympia 28 Feb to 3 Mar 2019

Volunteering at Quilters Guild gallery resulted in some more stitch inspiration for me


I was scheduled in on the quilters guild gallery for the afternoon session so I started by wandering around the exhibition which filled two halls at Olympia, it did feel smaller than the October knit and stitch show but just as much inspiration and ideas have resulted.
I spotted Elspeth from https://www.raggedlife.com unfortunately I didn't get a chance to speak to her, the stand was buzzing.
I was impressed by the riot of colour on the http://www.katiejonesknit.co.uk Katie Jonesstand, she is all for make it yourself sustainable knitwear. She has lots of free crochet patterns on her website do check it out.
The next display which had me memorised was the 'The Enchanted Wood' created by a group of knitters the impressive woodland scene complete with trolls and witches, trees, flowers and a massive backdrop complete with waterfall. It took the team 5 hours to assemble, I did take a photo but it doesn't do it justice...

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Wet Felting at Crafty Natters

A chance meeting resulting in a fun workshop not too far from Stitching Kitchen


I met with Sally at Sutton Stitchers - a group I visit when I can on a Saturday. Sally runs a crafting group in her village called Crafty Natters, there are some tallented stitchers who attend, including another couple of ladies who visit Sutton Stitchers. As this was my largest wet felting class to date i was filled with some intrepedation as running a class with complete strangers is always easier than with those you know!

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Needlefelting Birds in Bicester

Such a wonderful evening with great results, so kind of the Bicester Craft Club to invite me to lead this workshop.


Imagine my surprise as I enjoyed the tranquillity of the Scottish borders last august and received a phone call from the lovely Jill who organises the Bicester Craft Club - could I come and teach their group needle felting. I explained what my normal class is like and my usual 3 hours and limit to around 8 people, she wondered if I might be able to teach 20 of them to make something within a 2 hour period! Of course I am sure I can work something out I said!

I decided the best thing to do was to create a simple process to follow to allow all the the crafters to make a bird in the two hour period. My typical class is more free flowing and everyone learns the way to make a creature of their choice.

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Needle Felting

Stab your cares away - Needle felting for another day!


At Stitching Kitchen this year has been all about me developing skills in needle felting. It all started in January when one of my crafty contacts asked for some help for one of their customers, before I knew what had happened I had developed my needle felting skills beyond the 2D of embellishing and adding wispy texture to my textile art. It was needle felting in three dimensions which was required.

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Indian Block Printing – Hen Party….and quilting

Crafty Hen Party - you can now buy Indian Block Printed Fat Quarters

hen party printing

Well it happened in September, the very first Stitching Kitchen Hen Party. What a giggle we had too and what a delightful group of girlfriends. About a month before one of the party of 12 called me, could I run a craft session for mixed ability where the group could take away something useful. The obvious choice would be Indian Block Printing, little crafting skill is required and the guests can take away a tote bag and/or a tea towel.

Symmetry, Mirror Images, Silhouettes and Quilts

Learning more applique techniques for Quilting

As I am sure you know, I love to stitch and to express myself in fabric and thread but sometimes this can be a lonely craft. When I created Stitching Kitchen a year ago I knew I wanted to create income from my stitching but I was also very clear that I wouldn’t become a solitary being, shut up in my kitchen stitching away. That is the core reason behind the Friday morning social stitch and the workshops – and long may they continue, I love hosting both. But sometimes it is nice to stitch in company without having to worry about making sure my guests are OK!! My old embroiderers guild branch had occasional stitch days which I loved to attend because I had company and I learnt a lot from the fellow stitchers, that is why back in January of this year I attended “Sutton Stitchers”

The ladies in the group are friendly knowledgeable and happy to help, as most crafters are. The group meets on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of each month and you can simply turn up and pay for either the morning session or all day. The hall is filled with some very experienced quilters and talented embroiderers. There is also often the click of knitting needles to be heard. If you live anywhere near Kings Sutton [OX17] then you can find out more from Carole Hill on Tel: 01295 811 134. Every now and then the group also run workshops alongside the normal Saturday session. Recently I attended my first of these, a great workshop to enhance my growing quilting skills.

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Weaving workshop at Stitching Kitchen

New weaving workshops at Stitching Kitchen

loom close up

Recently at Stitching Kitchen I was very pleased to be able to run a weaving sampler workshop, simple and effective and fun!

I have been itching to run a weaving workshop at Stitching Kitchen since January when I visited the Hannah Ryggen exhibition.  But these things take a little planning and I needed to brush up my weaving knowledge. Not to mention that I have been busy with needle felting, Indian block printing, and producing my textile art for exhibitions! After creating a few samples and practising my techniques and also acquiring a range of textured yarns it was time to take the plunge!

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Taking Indian Block Printing to a new level 

Indian block printing on anything which stands still, skirts, tops, bags, tea towels and some fabric destined for a quilt too.

circular ibp

This week has been half term, so a great opportunity to run some daytime workshops while my lovely girls are away camping (poor things it is raining cats and dogs). I have recently acquired a summer skirt which after a few alterations will fit my little one – it is plain white so not idea for an active five year old but as she loves wearing her block printed t-shirt she has agreed that I can block print the skirt for her.

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Art Weeks in Oxfordshire

Textile Art is well represented at Oxfordshire Art Weeks this year. 

yellow tulips

Oxfordshire Art Weeks has started, I am so excited to be exhibiting for the first time and looking forward to seeing lots of art this month!

Last week I spent Monday in a state of panic and frustration as I put the finishing touches to three pieces of textile art – Torch, In want of a Wife and Tulips to exhibit at the Heseltine Gallery which is hosting an selected exhibition of work from artists who live and work in North Oxfordshire and South Northants.

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Needle Felting Fun

Little creatures surround me, each with their own character


It all started when I was asked if I could to help one of my favourite quilting shops https://www.nimble-thimble.co.uk/ with a customer enquiry about needle felting. 'Do do you know how to needlefelt?' they asked. 'Yes' I replied and I was all ready to give some advice to their customer. At this point I should mention that my needlefelting experience had been mainly 2D and also I had used the technique to add texture to my textile art embroideries. But then it transpired that actually they wanted me to help the lady with three dimensional felted animal creations.

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A new Betsy – welcoming Bernard to the Stitching Kitchen

A big decision, a big purchase, a big excitement


At the end of March I was frantically stitching, finishing my boundaries quilt for the 1st April deadline. Then I made my first visit to ……the Bramble Patch. https://www.bramblepatchonline.com/ That is kind of how this story starts.

I make this sound like it all happened by chance but this was a pre-meditated purchase. February and March have been tough emotionally for me, my depression was back, days with no energy, having to rest so I have enough left to look after the kids – not much left for me. The vicious cycle of not getting to the gym therefore lacking energy and increasing depression symptoms was well ingrained. I found some solace in chocolate (as usual) but also in spending money – not so usual.

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Christening Gown Commission

The ultimate up-cycle, wedding dress to christening gown


It was last autumn just after I decided to launch Stitching Kitchen that my youngest sister asked if I could create a christening gown for my nephew from her wedding dress. Of course I said yes! The idea of upcycling such an important garment to create a new heirloom to be passed on was just perfect for me.

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Quilting the next steps

Using special fabrics to quilt, Indonesian batik and memory quilt


After spending two days at Nimble Thimble and feeling much more confident in my 1/4 inch seams and nesting those seams it was time for me to fly solo, there are so many quilting patterns, the one I did at Nimble Thimble was a Nine Patch, and I have been watching plenty of you tube on half square triangles

I had some very beautiful Indonesian batik fabric which I bought at last year’s world textile event in Kings Sutton. A weekend free and it was time to make a start and see if I could improve on my last try at the half square triangle.

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Quilting and Patchwork haven

Nimble Thimble Buckingham my new crush


I am in awe of this wonderful haven of Quilting loveliness … such a wide range of quilting cottons, everywhere you look something will catch your eye. But that is not all, Nimble Thimble also stocks a wide range of yarns keeping knitters and crochet queens satisfied too. I popped by before Christmas and discovered that they have a visiting sewing machine repair and service guy who is more than happy to take on the challenge with older machines so I have somewhere to go if Betsy has a wobble! They also offer courses, workshops and social stitch sessions too!

Not having much experience in quilting and patchwork and with some rather off centre half square triangles on a recent cushion it was clear I needed to update my skills. The Nimble Thimble in Buckingham have a range of quilting workshops and courses, I chose a beginners 9 patch and booked on!

I raided my stash and came up with a range of cottons and poly-cottons which I felt offered a reasonable selection to make my quilt from, ½ meter of this, a meter of that and a fat quarter together with Wadding and a walking foot borrowed from mum and my requirements list was complete. I put the sewing machine in the car and I was off, getting there early and bagging a spot in the staff car park!!! I was nervous, accuracy and stitching straight lines is outside of my normal remit but I needn’t have worried. With a cup of tea and Val’s slow, clear instruction, and ongoing support we were off. I have to confess to being somewhat cavalier normally with my rotary cutter but having a safety briefing and instructions to cover the blade every time you stop to move fabric has made me more mindful of the very sharp blade.

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Party time, any excuse for some crafty fun!

Launching Block Print Parties.....


At several of my workshops my customers have asked do I do anything for children, with three of my own I have been reluctant to say the least BUT Block Printing is so accessible as a craft, young and old can create something so quickly and it is so sociable and fun I am excited to launch…..

Stitching Kitchen ‘Block Print Parties’.

My Indian Block Printing equipment is very portable, and I have travelled to groups in various locations so setting up for a craft activity as part of a birthday party, hen do, girly get together, corporate team building, slumber party etc. is no trouble at all. I can bring table covers and do all of the washing up too!

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Talented Textile Artists in Northamptonshire

A visit to Rugby leaves me feeling inspired to stitch and intrigued by wire....

ISE jan collage

Being good to myself – tick, done that this week by taking time out after the school run to pop over to Rugby, the gallery hadn’t even been unlocked on my arrival, how keen am I?? I had a wonderful time drinking in the varied techniques used by the ISE members to form a wide range of textile art pieces.

Once the door was unlocked I entered shortly after Dora Mack who was stewarding that morning. She was very pleasant and chatted to me about the group what they do, how the mentoring helps their progress as artists and how it interesting to see her own progress over time, she also mentioned an upcoming exhibition which should happen later in the year in Northamptons Delapre Abbey.

The range of skills in the group covered a wide variety of textile techniques, on show Sue Latimers use of natural dyes in stitched landscapes, Sandra Jenkins felting, Computer printed digital images on aida and stitched from Wendy Bates and linear fabric and stitched abstract collages in a range of colours from Wendy Davies were amongst the styles on show.

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Textiles at Bucks Art Weeks

A Sunday road trip in Buckinghamshire

I picked up a brochure for Bucks art weeks https://www.bucksartweeks.org.uk/ while I took a whistle stop tour of Oxfordshire with my dear friend Ann back in May. I did a quick flick and noticed there were plenty of textile artists exhibiting so definitely worth a trip over the boarder (I reach Bucks within 2 miles of my house so not so far to travel).

First stop was Milton Keynes to visit Mix3d Stitch [ https://www.facebook.com/mix3dstitch/ ] a collaborative partnership of three different styles of textiles by three very talented ladies…Yvonne Elliott, Jane Charles and Hilary Grayson. As it was the only place in Milton Keynes on my list I felt it only sensible to combine with a trip to IKEA (more plastic storage boxes) and Costco for more cake ingredients and coffee for my workshops and social stitchers!

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Inspiration, textile artist - Hannah Ryggen

A shopping trip to Oxford a good excuse to develop a new year intention, to do more textile art - that is a surprise! Hannah Ryggen, Woven Histories, Modern Art Oxford

HR Ethiopia occupation by Italy

I woke on 30th December and totally ignoring the state of the house post Christmas I knew I had to visit Modern Art Oxford, I had meant to visit a few weeks back when meeting friends for lunch but was delayed. My effort to get up and go was rewarded in spades.

I never enter galleries the right way, so I started exploring in the collaborative project space. In this room were a range of books on weaving, spinning and dyeing and also some large pieces where you were invited to make your creative contribution. I am now itching to weave a picture, I added some hair to a girl in one of the pictures forming a triptychand I couldn't resist weaving some jersey in and out of the huge den created with strings stretched from wall to floor where visitors have created a woven hide away suitable of little visitors to rest and read! I need one in my home!

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Farewell December 2017 - One door closes another opens

December 2017 was a mixture of emotions, isn't every month! It was a fond farewell to Banbury and District Embroiderers Guild and an excited hello to new collaborations in the Stitching Kitchen.

The very last meeting of the Banbury and District Embroiderers Guild was held on 19th December, I was so sad to say goodbye to the group. I know I will see many of the members as individuals again very soon I will be sorry not to have the regular monthly meetings and workshops to share ideas and for me - learn - a lot. I have been a regular with the group for a short time only two and a half years some of the members have been with the group since it started in the mid 70s and I guess that was part of the problem, one I know other branches have too. Loyal members, but most of whom have 'done their bit'. Ann Lowe our Chair had been in post over 5 years, no-one can cope with that much committee membership no matter how lovely the members are!

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Creating Unique Fabrics with Indian Block Printing

Creating fabrics using techniques including: masking, over-printing and mitred corners (all explained later).

It is still early days for Stitching Kitchen and so far the Indian Block printing sessions have proved very popular.

I am a bit addicted to a great podcast by Susan Weeks - 'Stitchery Stories' and recently loved listening to her speak to Jamie Malden from Colouricious - I recommend you have a listen and find out more about the history and future of Indian Wooden Block carving and printing. Colouricious import hand carved wooden printing blocks from artisans in Jaipur, they also provide all the necessary sundries to print both on fabric and paper and even into clay! Take time to browse the website www.colouricous.com for more info and lots and lots of inspiration.

You can check out this wonderful podcast for creative people who love textiles, stitching & quilting - wonderful inspirational stories aimed at the fabric world. http://www.stitcherystories.com

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