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Saturday, 14 March 2015

Threads of Moirai: 13-23 March Castlemaine State Festival 2015

Since moving to Castlemaine I've come together with a bunch of talented local textile artists and started a textile collective, check out the Cobolt Textile Collective here. Our first group exhibition has just opened as part of the Castlemaine State Festival 2015If you happen to be in the area, come to our opening party on the 17th March, invite below. 

For the exhibition I've been enjoying experimenting with finer-than-thread metallic yarns, degumming and spinning wild silk cocoons and getting Victorian silk spindles made for me as part of my piece. It's always amazing how much you learn from devising and executing any art project. This steep learning curve is the thrill of making art.

In response to our theme on the Greek Myth about the Three Fates: Namely Clotho, spinner of the thread of life, Lachesis the one who allots the length of that thread, and Atropos who severs the thread; I started to knit cocoons. I was inspired by the Urodid Moth Cocoon which is an amazing piece of natural architecture found in the Amazon - see it here.  My knitted cocoons attempt to take the form of this beautiful cocoon. They are knit on tiny double pointed needles in stainless steel and silk/wool yarns and linen/copper yarns. These fibres have a memory so that they will hold a 3D form, they are super fine and presented a few challenges in the knitting. 

This little one is knit in a superfine copper filament. It's almost invisible in some lighting. 

Enclosed within my knitted cocoons is the real spent cocoon of the Cricula Silk Moth, a wild silk moth cocoon from Indonesia. 
I eventually managed to de-gum these cocoons in order to spin them into silk which was quite a tricky process, not much information available online on degumming wild silk cocoons but I had success with a little tiny bit of caustic soda and washing soda in water.  I had a local Master turner make me these wonderful Victorian Silk Spindles which were a pleasure to whirl on. 

The cocoons hang from a flat handstitched circle of pressed Cricula silk cocoons.

Here I am ironing and stitching these together over the course of a day. The golden cocoons are a wonder to work with and the spun fibres shimmer with natural golden threads.
And if you're wondering how they take their shape after coming off the knitting needles, there's a little final magic with a balloon which is quite fun to do.
The show is on until the 23rd of March. Shed 5. Castlemaine Woollen Mills, 1 Walker Street, Castlemaine.
Check out the wonderful work of my fellow textilers in the
Cobolt Textile Collective at

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Knitted Farmyard, a labour of love

 I bought a book called "The Knitted Farmyard" when my first baby was born with the aim of making it for his 1st birthday and it’s only taken me 5 years to get around to making it! I need a deadline so I ended up making it for 2nd baby's 2nd birthday but it’s really for the whole family, including me! I’m not sure who loves playing with it most. 

I added a needlefelted hill with fox den and rabbit hole. The bridge is crochet for extra sturdiness. I also added a tree which i felt was too big so I cut it down and crochet the wood grains as a tree stump. I did this to the end of the tree that I cut down too because sadly my boys do love pretending to cut down trees! 

I was a great project to work on with friends and family too, my son and his friends all wanted to help and now we all miss making it. We may have to start on a beach scene next to give the farmers a well earned holiday.

If you're planning to make your own, my advice would be to use beautiful yarns because it’s a real labour of love. I found bags of wool tapestry yarns at carboot sales and then just spent a little on some beautiful quality malabrigo yarns which really made it come to life. 

Monday, 24 March 2014

How to photograph your work using your phone & the Lightcase

Things have been busy here, my partner (tile designer extraordinaire Dominic Crinson) and I have been developing something for designer-makers that is going to make photographing small things super easy. It's called the Lightcase and we think it is brilliant! We've been working our precious prototype taking it to makers' studios and it's working a treat. It's basically a pop up photo studio, it's portable and low tech but creates a beautifully well lit space for photographing smaller things. It folds down into a nifty A4 folder and comes with three photographic backdrops - frosted, white and black...

The Lightcase basically came out of a need we both had to take great photos of the things we make for selling and marketing online. We do have a really good Digital SLR but for photographing the little things, getting all that equipment out and setting up a makeshift white backdrop and good lighting all just seemed overkill. We wanted to find a simpler way and so the Lightcase was born! It's made from Polypropylene and it works so well and it's so durable. I just love the way it pops up into a mini photo studio so you can take it to where ever you have the best light available and quickly document your product from a few different angles and upload to Etsy, Folksy, Made-it or whatever e-marketplace you might be using to sell or promote your work.

Here I'm photographing my products from the front with the white backdrop that comes with the Lightcase.

You can also photograph objects from above by placing your phone on top and aligning the lens with the hole in the top of the Lightcase. That way the Lightcase acts as a sort of tripod and you can get really sharp pics of smaller things from above. For taking pics from above you'd place the backdrop in flat as shown below...

What is great is that you don't even need a huge amount of light, the white material kind of captures the available light and traps it there and your phone camera does the rest! Smartphone cameras are pretty amazing these days and this suits me as I'd rather not get too technical, I just want to get good pics and get back to doing what I love best and that's making.

We really believe this is going to be a great tool for other crafters & designer-makers out there. We've even had a few other unexpected Lightcase enthusiasts like Warhammer miniature model makers and teachers who need to document student coursework. There are so many people who could use the Lightcase.

We're going to launch the concept on Kickstarter on the 1st April 2014 and if we can get it funded we can get the tooling done for the first production run of the Lightcase and get it out there for you all. It's going to be really affordable at about 22 pounds or around 35 US/AUS dollars... So stay tuned and if you like the idea go onto Lightcase on facebook and please do share it with anyone you know who could use one too. If you have any feedback at this stage, we'd love to hear your thoughts so leave a comment below.

Kickstarter Campaign Launch Monday 31st March 2014

Like the Lightcase on Facebook to keep up with the campaign


Monday, 6 January 2014

Christmas orders

Happy New Year! Just a little eye candy for my first post for 2014, here are some of the guys I made up for Christmas orders, hopefully they made their way into the stockings of a few good children...

Monday, 2 December 2013

Foxy Samples

Just a quick post...working on some new patterns, here is my new fox design. This guy stands proud and he's on the run just like the foxes I've always spotted.

These are the first versions. I'm quite happy with him and his foxiness. Hopefully I'll be able to get some of these guys on Etsy soon although my haul of gorgeous wool blanket scraps is coming to an end...

I've also been making samples for a beautiful organic baby shop that I met with last week. These are two first versions of the polar bear and elephant using their gorgeous organic cotton and cashmere/wool blend fabrics... Filled with wool and embroidered with silk thread that I have dyed with rusty iron...

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Woven blankets and blanket stitches

A friend collects old woven woollen blankets and makes hot water bottle covers from them. I was lucky enough to receive a bag of the scraps. I'm often too precious with bigger pieces of textiles that I collect and find it difficult to settle on a worthy project for them. So I love finding little scraps because you can be sure whatever you do with them it's going to be more worthwhile than sending them to the tip!

The blanket scraps were just big enough to make into a skulk of foxes. There is something very foxy about plaid, maybe it's the story book illustrations of foxes dressed in tweed. Anyway I think these guys look pretty dashing...

The blanket stitched edging around these blankets is just too special to discard and thankfully my friend had not been able to bring herself to throw them away.  Rolling the edging into little scrolls makes gorgeous coloured rounds that I have been stitching together into interesting brooches. 

Christmas is just around the corner now and I have my work cut out if I'm to complete all the projects I've started in time. For a maker Christmas always brings with it a sense of urgency and pressure as if the world stops buying handmade for another year. But like this little scroll below the world still goes around and around, as does the desire to continue to make and mend.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Reclaiming the Nights

Gosh, this year has flown by. It's terrible, I haven't posted since my February wet felted chair fiasco for a number of reasons. One being that said chair is like a thorn in my side, sitting there unfinished, slowly un-felting itself and unravelling into a ball of fluff. This was an experiment that needed a little more time than I currently have what with a wild one year old in tow.


Said one-year-old is the other reason I haven't posted in a while. Above is a portrait of him by the 4 year old and that is the child himself. You can kind of see what I mean can't you.

So I have reclaimed the nights for creative expression and moved my studio into the living room where I currently work by night after baby is asleep. I'm loving my view from the window which I rarely get to enjoy since it's usually dark out by the time I get to my desk.

This is a little Christmas needle felted Angel that I've started working on. She hangs by the window and I love how the sunlight glows through the wool and mohair and catches in the gold beaded halo.

Because Christmas is approaching I've been working on more woolly polar bears. I've started tailoring clothes for the bears too.

This guy is listed on Etsy already and there will be more joining him soon

Now this is a curious device that I can't wait to try out. I found it on the shelves of a charity shop in one of my favourite English towns Hebden Bridge, North Yorkshire. It has the original post label on the box which reads "Scotia Wools Ltd, 158 New Bridge Street, Newcastle-on-Tyne, 1. Mrs Gardner, 32 Hodgkin Park Road, Newcastle upon Tyne. Date 10/11/1948. " It has a 9 pence stamp on the box.
I'll take more photos of the thing itself soon. I'm looking forward to trying it out. Who knows maybe I'll start making rugs next. Has anyone ever come across one of these? 

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