These are all woven with my handspun on a 12 inch Ashford Knitter’s rigid heddle loom.




I made them at the end of 2010. It’s high time to warp the loom again, since the New Year it’s been all spinning and no weaving.


Work is frenetic at the moment but I am making time to go to a weekly patchwork class on the island – two peaceful hours with likeminded people, and lovely log cabin to play with.

And out of this something very exciting is being born – the new Tiree Tapestry Group – tapestry in the sense of community tapestry, using a wide range of creative textile techniques. We’ll have a web site soon but there’s a little bit about us on our Facebook page. Our first meeting is on Friday – I can’t wait!

since June…

I needed a blogging break after finishing my course but it grew rather longer than I intended. If anyone is still here reading, this is what I’ve been doing since then.

In July, I was given a couple of Tiree fleeces, a Jacob and a Suffolk, by a very kind crofter friend, and spent some time learning how to turn this


into this,


and then to this.


August brought visitors and walks by the sea.


In September, we sadly said goodbye to Tansy, our darling companion of almost 17 years – this photo was taken in the spring. She loved to run on the beach and the machair right up to the week she died. I miss her so much.

Tibetan spaniel

In October I collected blues, yellows and greens together and made some little pieces of felt for the International Day of Felt. But I didn’t get myself organised in time to get other people involved as well – I will next year, I hope, when the colours will be Red-Purple-Blue.


While all my flat surfaces were filled up with blues and yellows and greens…

fibre and fabric

I spun some of it too.

handspun yarn

In fact, I’ve been spinning a lot in the last few months. I’ve woven scarves with some of these yarns now, but the basket keeps filling up again.

handspun yarns

I think my birthday visit to the mainland deserves a post of its own, for another day. I don’t quite know how this blog will evolve without the focus of the OCA course. Mostly textiles still, of course, but maybe a bit more of life as well. I’ve tried keeping a separate blog for ‘other stuff’ but since it’s a challenge to keep one blog alive, let alone two, a more eclectic mix may be the way to go from now on.

the last lap: the table runner

While I was looking at napkin rings and cuffs on Flickr, I saw this beautiful forest poetry cuff by Cathy Cullis, and it gave me the clue I needed for the final element in my hospitality piece. I loved the combination of fabric and text, and the frayed ‘wabi sabi’ quality, which echoes with my ‘imperfect’ theme. A cuff, writ large, could be a table runner. With that thought my objects suddenly turned into an installation.

I had the fabrics (and had already used most of them in the woven napkin rings).

indigo collection

I had the words, collected in my theme book. And I had – just – the time.

Piece, piece, piece and stitch, stitch, stitch.

work in progress

A day later – much later – and I had a table runner. The fabrics are all my own hand dyed indigo shibori pieces from various workshops long past. (Now I need to dye some more!). The text includes words from the Bible and quotations from Christine D Pohl’s Making Room and Jennifer Kavanagh’s The O of Home. I had puzzled about how to attribute these if I’d stitched them on a napkin; in this format it was easy, with a label on the back of the work.

So this is it, the culmination of all the work and experimenting and agonising and learning. The photos were taken in a bit of a hurry and a bad light before it all went into the package to catch the post (you have to get to the sorting office by mid-morning here, as the mail goes on the plane to Glasgow at lunchtime). When it comes back from my tutor I’ll take some better pictures and put them on Flickr.

table runner

table runner detail

There isn’t really anything I would change about it, a few small technical things maybe. I don’t think I’m really cut out for distance learning but I’m glad I stuck with the course and managed to finish with something I like. I couldn’t have got through this last week without the large amounts of encouragement and coffee provided by Alan, he was wonderful. I’m off for a walk by the sea now, and the next big thing is Woolfest – I can’t wait. I’ll be there both days and would love to say hello to any blogging friends who are going.

the last lap: developing the theme

I should warn that this post is going to be long – it’s the tale of my final assignment for OCA Textiles 1, “A Design Project”. I’ve posted the package, I’ve written the evaluation, I just need to record the process and – I’m done. Three years including my deferment and my extension – and I’m still working right up to the deadline (today). A sensible woman might have written several shorter posts as she went along… Actually, I think I will write several shorter posts, just all on the same day…

This is where I had got to by 24th May:

I have probably enough ideas now for a whole series but have finally settled on a set of felted placemats with a blue and white colour range. Blue and white is used in two iconic types of china: willow pattern and Cornishware; in textiles indigo resists immediately spring to mind. I am currently looking at uses of indigo and blue dyeing in various cultures, shibori of course, but also adire, and work from India, Java and Hungary and will be starting to make samples shortly. I want the mats to make a united set but each one will be different, expressing the idea of welcoming a diversity of people around a table.

I serendipitously came across a recently published book by Jennifer Kavanagh called The O of Home, and think her ideas about embracing circles and broken circles feed into my concept. I was already playing with circles when looking at plates and bowls, and they are a recurring theme in my work as well. I see each mat with a blue and white circle or radial on a white/cream background (from undyed fleece). I have a number of ideas for the circles and will sample to find out which ones work best or if something different emerges…

I was also struck by a sentence in Christine Pohl’s Making Room about hospitality offering people ‘a journey towards visibility’. I am thinking about each mat having words free machine embroidered round the edge in white/cream, merging into the background – maybe quotes from the women at Yarl’s Wood or other people who have needed refuge and sanctuary. However, I think I probably need permission to use other people’s words in my work so it might not be possible to obtain that from the people involved, some of who may now have been deported. Another option I am considering is religious quotations about hospitality. Either way I would want these to be very subtle so that from a distance they are just an embroidered border and only emerge as text on a closer look. Sampling will tell me if I can pull that off.

Based on this I started to play with design ideas in my theme book. Because I planned to use nuno felt techniques I had a dyeing day to lay in a good stock of sheer blue fabrics; and I gathered together all the blue and white fabric/yarn/fibre and paper I could find.

dyeing blues
blue fabrics

I then made some felt samples. I began by making a couple of plain mats using different fibres – Shetland, Blue-faced Leicester, and one that was a mix of those two with some Merino. I decided to go with the BFL, which has a lovely textured surface when felted.

I also bought some sample packs of African, Javanese and Indian fabrics online (from The African Fabric Shop, Textile Techniques, and the lovely Glitz and Pieces on Etsy). I looked at some beautiful indigo textiles from Japan and Hungary as well, but they only came in big pieces, way beyond my budget.

fabrics from Africa, Java and India

These are the ideas for circles on felt that I recorded in my theme book. I was thinking that they should all be open in some way, circles without edges, to symbolise that within this enclosing shape, no one is shut out.

sketchbook circles 1
sketchbook circles 2
sketchbook circles 3
sketchbook circles 4

Meanwhile, I wrote to the Yarl’s Wood Befrienders who kindly gave permission for me to use the words of detainees from their web site.

playing with colour

One final post about the ‘Textile Structures’ module – though actually it’s the first exercise – working from a visual source and analysing colour, texture and proportion. Choosing an image and first painting blocks of colour, then wrapping card with yarn, is intended to make you look closely at the colours and their qualities and proportions. I lost some of the lightness of the image in my painting and in the yarn wrapping but regained it, I think, in the fabric wrapping, which is much more visually textured.

analysing colour texture and proportion

I liked the result of wrapping with fabric a lot so I made another, this time just working with the colours in the fabrics. When it was done I realised that the sketch book page on which I’d used up my left-over paint would make just the right background for it!

colour wrapping

Wrapping is often used solely as a design exercise but an artist here on Tiree has made it into her own very distinctive art form. Susan Woodcock creates evocative seascapes and landscapes, full of colour and movement, combining paint and textiles in a way that perfectly captures the island atmosphere. Her husband Colin Woodcock, is also an artist, a painter whose work explores ‘the interplay of land, sea and sky’, and is filled with the beautiful light that is so special to Tiree. Together they run the Blue Beyond Gallery, where Colin also creates his dramatic raku pottery. Every week in summer you can go to watch the pots being fired – a fascinating process – and very hot!