Tag Archives | colour

Pattern crazy

Apologies for the lack of blog posts.  I’ve been busy with the pattern course I talked about last month.  Module 1 has finished but I’m still enthused by it and busy creating patterns and coming to grips with Photoshop.  And observing patterns everywhere.  Such as this row of colourful wellies outside a shop in one of the arcades in Cardiff…


I dug out all the various sketchbooks I had accumulated over the last few years and was a bit horrified that they filled three plastic crates! Of course, they are not all full…. some of these are pretty empty…. There are quite a few handmade books and some little ones that I made from watercolour paper and bound with my little blue Bind it all machine.

sketchbook pile

One of the things we’ve been learning to do on the course are moodboards – this isn’t strictly a moodboard but a collage of the images that grab me, made quickly and roughly in Picasa.


I have also been trying to add more colour and pattern to my studio – this had unforeseen consequences last week!  I took down a pile of patterned fabric from the top shelves there and relocated them on to one of the lower shelves – which promptly fell off the wall!  Luckily my precious thermofax machine, which was on that shelf, didn’t end up on the floor in pieces….

Remember if you use Google Reader to read this blog, that it is being shut down on 1st July so you will need to export all your subscriptions and save them on your computer.  I like the look of Feedly as an alternative – if you log in with your Google account it pulls in your subscriptions automatically and it has now introduced its ‘cloud’ service so it will no longer be dependent on Google when it shuts down Google Reader but will pull in the feeds on its own servers.  If you would like to get updates to this blog by email, you can do that by filling in your details on the form in the right sidebar and then you won’t miss a post or have to keep checking back to see if I have updated it!  I use Mailchimp and as far as I can tell it works quite well and I promise not to send you any unrequested mail.

Pattern course and a bit of colour!

For the last few weeks I’ve been doing an online course called The Art and Business of Pattern Design. I decided to embark on this because I noticed that a lot of my artwork consists of lots of overall pattern and texture and I needed something to get me organised now that my boys are all flying the nest and I’ve got more time to set up a business in it!

I’m finding it really inspiring and you’ll probably see quite a lot of it popping up in the next few months but just now we’re doing colour and here are a few photos that I’ve dug out to get colour swatches from…. UPDATE: I added the swatches I got from them at the Color Palette Generator


A cliff in Cornwall (didn’t do one for this as both the colour generators I tried seemed to ignore that gorgeous red/orange and green and focus on the browns/blacks of the rocks).





A building in Bloomsbury in London



Some graffiti near Brick Lane in London



Rainy pavements in London!



More rain!



Yes, it rained a lot that time…



Colourful containers in Newport



The Paris metro

A couple of book reviews

Just before Christmas, Bloomsbury Publishing asked me if I would like to review a couple of their books.  As soon as I saw the titles, I jumped at the chance.

What the publishers say:

 The Vintage Pattern Selector by Jo Barnfield is a practical sewing book that arms the reader with all the techniques and information they need in order to mix and match clothing styles from the 20th century.

Accompanied by a CD with printable patterns for a range of dress sizes, this book is a comprehensive guide to creating contemporary outfits from vintage styles.

  book review    

The book is clearly and attractively set out with lots of pictures and diagrams.  It contains full instructions for printing the patterns, assembling them and making the dresses, with a section at the back covering the basic techniques of dressmaking.  

 book review  

It starts with a timeline of the main styles and trends for each decade between the 1920s and 1970s then goes into more detail about each decade.

 book review

I liked the way it shows the way modern fashions draw on vintage styles, giving examples from different shops.  It also suggests ways to combine particular details of different eras so they work together.

book review

I haven’t yet tried making up any of the patterns but I can envisage playing with a few of them, notably the 1920s flapper dress (pity I no longer have the shape for it!!).

The second book is quite different in style to the first.  The publisher’s introduction to The Story of Colour in Textiles by Susan Kay-Williams –

Colour and shade of dyed textiles were once as much an indicator of social class or position as the fabric itself, and for centuries the recipes used by dyers were closely guarded secrets.

The arrival of synthetic dyestuffs in the middle of the nineteenth century opened up a whole rainbow of options and within 50 years modern dyes had completely overturned the dyeing industry.

From pre-history to the current day, the story of dyed textiles in Western Europe brings together the worlds of politics, money, the church, law, taxation, international trade and exploration, fashion, serendipity and science.

The Story of Colour in Textiles is an introduction to a broad, diverse and fascinating subject of how and why people coloured textiles.

book review

Being a historian as well as a dyer, I loved reading this book.  Again, it is attractively set out with lots of gorgeous pictures, but much more factual information too.  I enjoyed reading Victoria Finlay’s book on the story of colour generally, but this book focuses specifically on colouring textiles in Europe.  It mentions other parts of the world but mostly only as they affected European dyeing.  The book starts with an introduction to the various types of fabrics that were being dyed, mostly natural ones such as wool, linen, silk and cotton.

 book review

Unlike Victoria Finlay’s book which goes through each colour in turn, the author of this book works her way through history with chapters on prehistory, the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages, then each century from the 15th to the present day. It was useful to read about them in their historical context, and she draws on contemporary paintings which illustrate various dyeing processes, such as Jan van Eyck’s painting of the Arnolfinis, and the Bleaching fields of Haarlem by Jan van Kessel the Elder.

book review

It is a good book to dip into or use as a reference, but also has a very readable style.  It was interesting to read about the secrecy around new discoveries and subterfuge used to obtain valuable information.  Did you know that a whole mile of coastline around Tyre and Sidon consists of ground up mollusc shells, waste from extracting purple from the shellfish?    Colour as a sign of wealth, power and intrigue….

 book review 

She also covers the use of mordants, the introduction of patents and the development of chemical dyes as well as bleaching and the removal of colour to make white. 

 book review

The book has an extensive list of footnotes at the end of each chapter and a large bibliography for further reading.  Definitely worth buying if you are interested in the development of dyeing and use of colour through the ages.

book review

Inspiration Packs galore! Buy them now!!

Phew!  Just got back from a long weekend in Somerset and am now raring to go! 

As I was saying last week, I am having a big clearout of fabrics because I want to concentrate on dyeing and painting wholecloth fabric rather than using small pieces of miscellaneous fabrics for patchwork.  So, if you want fabric and thread for embroidery, patchwork, collage, layering or whatever, here’s your chance! 

I have sorted them into bags of roughly 300-400 grams (12oz to 1lb) .  The fabrics are mostly in pieces which are fat quarter or fat eighth size, some more, some scraps, some with bits cut out but still plenty of good usable stuff.  I think all the bags have at least some hand dyed cotton and/or silk fabric; there are also pieces of organza, chiffon, silk, scrim, velvet, etc.  It’s all a mixture, sorted by colour.    A real lucky dip!!

I am selling them at £18 per bag plus postage – UK is £2 and you can use the Paypal button at the end of this post. 

Here are a few examples of what you will get in a bag:

inspiration pack for sale - blue

This one is mostly blues – 340gm.    There is some turquoise metallic organza, about 5”x19”, about a fat quarter (maybe more) of grey-blue hand dyed cotton, just over a fat quarter of turquoise stretch velvet, just under a fat quarter of pale blue cotton, a fat quarter of blue-green batik fabric with fish on, about a fat eighth of blue-turquoise mottled cotton fabric, approx fat quarter turquoise vintage Laura Ashley cotton fabric, same amount blue tulle,  about half a yard of Michael Miller zigzaggy fabric (the colourful one in the foreground), just under fat quarter of blue fabric with little ferns on, piece of navy blue cotton, some scraps of indigo dyed cotton, piece of nepalese hand dyed lokta paper, about 2 metres of blue satin ribbon, several lots of thread.UPDATE – SOLD NOW

green pack of fabric

This one is 330 grams and mostly greens (veering towards yellowy or browny greens).  Here we have some hand dyed yellow-green scrim or cheesecloth, about 12” by 30”, some green cotton fabric just under a fat quarter, green tulle about the same size, hand dyed green velvet roughly 12” square, acid dyed yellow-green silk dupion about 8” square, about half a yard of green rayon fabric with little diamond pattern, fat eighth or so of green cotton fabric with watermark effect, three pieces of various shades of green cotton, one with swirly pattern, hand dyed green-brown felt about 20” by 8”, strip of hand dyed cotton oranges, purples, turquoises, 4”x28”, hand dyed green silk rod, 4’ 1.5”wide green organza ribbon, various hanks of thread.

green fabric pack for sale

These are 330 grams, again, and more greeny purples.  There’s about a metre of green metallicy lace with daisies on it (very glittery!), some funny shimmery green/purple fabric, four different hand dyed green cotton fabrics (fat quarter to fat eighth size) … can you tell I’m getting bored with measuring things?!! – about a fat quarter of silk crepe which I bought in France, hand dyed with green and flecks of magenta and orange, some silk dupion, a very spectacular 9” square piece of silk habotai which I painted with pink and green silk paints using salt – it looks a bit fireworky, scraps of hand dyed silk rod and silk fibres, about a fat quarter of hand dyed green/purply-pink butter muslin, some very shimmery greeny polyester organza good for dragonfly wings, about a 9” square piece of hand felted fibres with silky threads trapped in it (green), some darkish green cotton fabric with a black overall swirly pattern on it.SORRY, SOLD!!

That’s all I’m going to describe because I can feel myself wanting to put it all back again and keep it for myself but I must clear it to get some space to create more!!! 

£18 plus £2 postage (UK) – if you are overseas, email me and I’ll send you a Paypal invoice with amended postage. Give me your colour preference in the ‘Message to seller’ box. Or leave a comment if you have any problems!

UPDATE: I have now put photos of all the bundles with Paypal buttons (postage to UK only) on this permanent blog page.

The colour combinations I’ve got are: yellows/greens; red-purples; blues/blue-greens; yellow/oranges; reds; golds/browns; purples; orange/blue; black/white; reds/dusky oranges; blues/browns; sea greens/blue; greens; and blue/turquoise. Ask me if you want to know more about them.

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