Melancholy and Friends Reunited

I am not feeling particularly well at the moment with my dizziness and balance disorder.  Doctors are trialling different medication but it is taking a while to kick in and the side effects are not helping but I have to plod on and just take my time – that is the difficult bit when I am used to flying around at one hundred miles an hour.

Anyway I have come on here to tell you about how today I have been reunited with two long lost friends so to speak.

My old faithful Huskavana sewing machine was on deaths door and my mother in law took it away a couple of weeks ago and gave it to the sewing machine guy who is based in Ellington.  My father in law arrived at my house this morning with my old faithful 🙂 This has made my day.  So this morning I have tested it out.  I have joined strips – thats it – just strips!  One lot of purple and green and one of pink and turquoise but it was lovely to spend a bit of time again with my old friend. I now have a bit of free machine embroidery and quilting to do on this fabric…..

Yesterday I had to return to school one last time to collect my personal belongings. Today an air of melancholy has surrounded me as I started to look through some of my things.  I have not managed to sort out very much because I was reunited with the second friend of the day:

This is a book I wrote, or started to write about ten years ago and I did not do anything with it 🙁

This is a collaboration of my workshops that I deliver; there are quite a lot. It is a series of simple creative embroidery projects that include a range of techniques from trapping and bonding, french knots, textures and tucks, freely embroidered circles to weaving. Back then I did not have a platform to share this but now I have my blog and I can share some of these ideas on my web site – but there is nothing like a face to face workshop to learn new techniques so the best thing to do is to get in touch with me and arrange for me to deliver a workshop 🙂

Well I just wanted to share my two friends with you this afternoon.  

Oh and by the way the rust is working its magic – here is a quick update:

I will share the final results with you soon 🙂















Foraging – Beasties and Treasure

I have not posted for a while but I have been extremely busy, well that should really say I have been extremely dizzy 🙁 Unfortunately over the last few months I have struggled with my balance and this has been awfully debilitating however I am trying hard to push myself forward.

One thing I love to do is walk in the woods and look at the flowers so I decided to do a bit of foraging and have a go at natural dyeing – a bit of a change for me; but as they say a change is as good as a rest.  So off I set for my foraging walk, pockets bulging with poo bags and a rucksack to collect my findings.  Here is what I found.

Once I got back I unpacked my collections and added beasties. I have experimented with different mordants and different natural products.  The whole process is messy, smelly and unpredictable.

My thoughts about natural dyeing:

I had a lovely walk 🙂

I took some beautiful inspirational photographs for my embroidery.

I love nature but I love my procion dyes 🙂 I like to have control of the colours and blends that I am creating.

SO…… on reflection I decided that all was not lost. I went for another walk and contemplated what i was going to do next. I am currently working on a collection of work that is sepia in colour so I decided that I would try my hand at rust dyeing.

I was a bit blown away with what happened next.  I was standing by the edge of the lake throwing a stick for the dog when I looked down and saw this ……

Treasure – Rusty Key by the Lake

What!!!??? A piece of treasure. Well this definitely means I have to have a go at this.

My good old dad has been into his garage and found me a collection of rusty items and I have selected some of the paler natural dyed fabrics and some undyed fabrics.  Rusty parcels have been made and all I  have to do now is wait ….

Watch this space.  I will show you the results soon.



Bits and Bobs

How many of you have a cupboard full of fabric scraps and bits and bobs that ‘will come in handy one day’?  Well I have to admit that I have cupboards and boxes of fabric scraps.   Over the last couple of weeks I have challenged myself to incorporate these within my embroideries and I would like to share with you some of the results.  I have produced three miniature quilts using this method.

Background fabric created using free machine embroidery onto fabric scraps

Background fabric created using free machine embroidery onto fabric scraps


I have used a range of fabrics and textures to create a background fabric.  These have been layered and pieced together with free machine embroidery, these are worked on 3″ squares.

By using different fabrics, papers and lace you can create an interesting and textured background fabric.

Shabby chic inspired my first couple of quilts. Live, Laugh Love and Love, Life, Happiness were embroidered onto the background fabrics along with free machine appliquéd hearts.  The fabrics were further embellished with hand embroidery and buttons.



The first set of squares I created were Live, Laugh, Love.  I made a background by quilting a piece of hand dyed cotton using free machine squiggles and hearts.  The squares are hand sewn onto the quilted fabric; the back fabric is attached and the edges are finished using blanket stitch.

Close up - Live, Laugh Love Miniature Quilt

Close up – Live, Laugh Love Miniature Quilt

Live, Laugh Love Miniature Quilt

Live, Laugh Love Miniature Quilt
















For the Love, Life, Happiness quilt I made a background fabric from fabric scraps.  I have free machined strips of fabric together and then quilted them.  The three squares were then hand embroidered onto this background and finished with blanket stitch.

Close up - Love, Life, Happiness Miniature Quilt

Close up – Love, Life, Happiness Miniature Quilt

Love, Life, Happiness Miniature Quilt

Love, Life, Happiness Miniature Quilt
















I love the rugged finish on both of these miniature quilts and the most satisfying thing is that all materials were found treasures in my bits and bobs box.

As you will know by now I love flowers and at this time of year I am fascinated with the delicate structures of the seed heads.  My third quilt is inspired by these.  I have free machined seed heads onto my pieced background fabrics and then further embellished with hand embroidery. My backgrounds have been created using fabric scraps/strips and free machined together.


Close up - Seed Head Miniature Quilt

Close up – Seed Head Miniature Quilt

Seed Head Miniature Quilt

Seed Head Miniature Quilt
















I have loved making these.  They have provided me with the perfect opportunity to switch off and unwind for a while.  A good coffee and a relaxing playlist always help.


Rekindle the Passion

Unfortunately over the last couple of weeks I have struggled with my balance; as I have been unable to get around very much I have had time to rekindle my passion for textile art.  I have so many beautiful threads and fabrics that the first problem I have had to overcome is what to choose? I am not going to lie this did take me a couple of days 🙂

My favourite techniques are hand embroidery, free machine embroidery, layering fabrics and adding textures so I have initially concentrated on using these.

Yesterday was a struggle for me with regards to moving around so I sat myself down with a few scraps of organza and tulle, my hand dyed embroidery threads, a few beads and a piece of woven Jacquard cotton.  A couple of hours later I was relaxed and pleased with the end result.

Hand embroidery on Jacquard cotton

Hand embroidery on Jacquard cotton

Close up of couched boucle and French knots

Close up of couched boucle and French knots


I have used some of my favourite colours and stitches including French knots, couched boucle yarn and straight stitch.









Hand embroidered flowers

Hand embroidered flowers


I have started some layering and free machine embroidery so hopefully there will be a new post in the very near future ……


Last summer I started to write this blog primarily to share my love of embroidery and textile art.  I had many good intentions to continue writing and sharing however my job has proven to digest all of my time and I have been unable to find the time to commit to the blog and this has started to upset me.  I would like to review my live decisions and try to readdress my work life balance.

Ten years ago this summer I made the decision to go back to university to complete my teacher training course.  At this time I was running my own business dyeing threads and fabrics and running a small craft shop; within the business I ran a wide range of creative workshops and I found that I loved this part of the job.  I had completed my adult education qualifications however I still felt that I had more to give and in 1996 I made a massive career changing decision to complete my post-graduate qualification in education. I received so much support from my family throughout this year, without them I could not have continued to run my business and complete my studies but throughout this they had faith in me and also believed that I could succeed within education and continue to pass on my enthusiasm and passion for a subject I loved, Textiles.

In 1996 there was a national shortage of Design and Technology teachers and I was qualified to teach both Food Technology and Textiles, this appeared to be the perfect career change providing me with the opportunity to continue my love of teaching to a wider audience.

I loved it! It was very hard work however the time spent with the teenagers was so rewarding it made it al worthwhile.  I was able to watch them learn new skills and develop knowledge and understanding of this subject.  I am not going to lie, it was challenging and I worked long hours but initially I was able to teach and work with a wide range of children and work with a wide range of needs and I was able to work out ways of delivering interesting lessons to engage children and encourage them to experiment and find their own niche.

Today I find myself working all hours to meet the demands of the headship team, ofsted and government policies; what has happened to the needs of the children sitting in front of us? I have read countless articles in the press about the stresses and demands that teachers are under, how many are leaving teaching after many years, how the work life balance has become impossible to manage, how so many teachers are on medication for depression. I do not have to read any of these articles as I see this everyday in my working life and it is getting worse every day.  I am also aware of how the public perceive a teachers life; working Monday to Friday school hours and 13 weeks holiday a year yet we are constantly moaning, I am writing this blog to review this common belief as I would quite like to have this idyllic teaching career however it does not exist – can I make this work?

Here is a true scenario  – An eleven year child walks into my classroom for the first time.  They look around the walls, displays and equipment and are intrigued as they have not used a sewing machine or seen a heat press or embroidery machine before – at this point it could be easy to engage this child through practical activity.  This is a practical subject and as an eleven year old they just want to learn how to use the equipment and make a product however we need to provide evidence of progress; children must demonstrate that the are able to write the date and underline it and then they must write a title and underline it, as a teacher I must ensure that they have used a ruler and if they have not completed this I must indicate this error using a red pen and then they must correct it using a green pen to show that they can act upon my feedback and improve their work.  The eleven year old child really just wants to have a go of the sewing machine however before they can do this they must demonstrate their clear knowledge and understanding of this process in written text to enable the teacher to assess their level of understanding and provide written feedback on how to improve this written task, then the child is to act upon this feedback to demonstrate to the headship team and ofsted inspectors that as a teacher I am regularly marking pupils work and providing them with the opportunity to improve it. All the child wants to do is demonstrate their knowledge and understanding through practical work with the teacher regularly providing verbal feedback on how to improve and praise for excellent work.  There are children who can achieve excellent results through their practical skills and their grades may be dictated by their academic ability and this also works the other way, just because a child is in top sets for all academic subjects does not mean that they are creative or even have the ability to hold a pair of scissors correctly.

With work scrutinies occurring every few weeks to ensure that all books are marked and data being inputted and analysed every four weeks to ensure that pupils are making progress teachers do not have the time to embed skills and encourage creativeness within children and they have to constantly provide evidence and a professional opinion is no longer valid without a paper trail of evidence.   A constant plethora of emails issuing unrealistic deadlines and tasks has knocked the passion out of my bones and I feel resentful that I no longer have to time to sit with a child and really share my love of the subject to encourage them to explore, experiment and create as this is not always measurable.

The government have decided that they know what all children should study; that the schools performance should be measured against the English Baccalaureate. Within the EBacc proposal every pupil taking their GCSEs would have to study a minimum of seven, narrowly defined, GCSEs: English literature and English language, maths, double or triple science, a modern and/or ancient language, history and/or geography. The EBacc has had a massive impact on children as there is now little time left for pupils to study design and technology, art, dance, music, drama or any other creative industry relevant subjects such as hair and beauty, engineering, business, travel and tourism, food and catering. I am not a political person but I have seen the detrimental effect that this is having on schools and children’s choices.  Not all pupils want to follow this academic programme, this does not suit everyone, where are their choices?

Ten years! I began this journey ten years ago when there was a national shortage of Design and Technology  teachers, now there are redundancies looming in our school as this subject is no longer accessible to these children through their limited choices. I feel saddened by this situation – what does the future hold? More and more experienced teachers are leaving the profession and in most cases they are being forced out.  On the days when I can shut buy classroom door and teach the children sitting in front of me I love my job.  I wish I could do this every day without the justification, accountability and production of evidence, analysing data and explaining how I will ensure progress for each individual child – I am a professional and I endeavour to plan and teach every lesson to meet the needs of every child sitting in front of me, I provide an environment for learning and manage the behaviour effectively, I aim to provide pupils with praise and advice on how to progress further, every child is different and I intend to engage them and encourage their learning.  Why do I need to provide evidence of this after every lesson and justify the outcomes? Am I a professional person?

I began writing this to reflect upon my work life balance and I have had a bit of a rant – I apologise to anyone who has read this – I have had to write this to come to the conclusion that on the days that I can shut that classroom door and teach the children, share my love of textiles, encourage creativity and engage them I love my job.  Sadly these days are shadowed by other priorities that are cascaded down to teachers without consideration of how these are effecting their lives.  Unfortunately I see these effects every day with an unrealistic work life balance. I am currently on a school holiday with a mountain of marking staring me in the face and I have to go into school to work with pupils next week for two days and I must go in for another day to mark more work – so much for a break 🙁  All I want to do is walk by the lake and crochet a few random squares….. I am off for a walk