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Cheap acrylic paints from Lidl

Over the last few weeks I have been playing around with colour in various ways. Dyeing and painting fabric and paper with different media.

I started with painting some linen with acrylic paint for the ‘Beach in a box’ containers for the Debbie Lyddon workshop I did a few weeks ago.

A beautiful afternoon so I decided to paint outside. I didn’t want the fabric to be too stiff to stitch, but apparently the paint helps to stop it fraying. So a bit of a balance between the paint and the fabric. (It does seem to work pretty well). I wet the fabric first, to try and help keep it soft enough to stitch, still only beginning to stitch at that stage. Then mixed red and blue to try to get a colour that would tone with the grey stone. Added more watered paint in each colour directly on the fabric to get the right hue.

Red and blue

Then started the rusty coloured piece, bit more tricky to get the right colour. Started with the red, yellow and blue, a bit of peach and a bit of green, mixing as I went, then adding more of single colours directly to the wet fabric until I got it right. I didn’t want to match the stones and shell exactly, but wanted something that toned with them.

The three primaries – red, yellow and blue, peach, burnt sienna and green

This time to go with the shell, more obvious colours in it than the stones. I used the same tubes of paint as I wanted them to harmonise with one another, as well as pick out the object colours.

Again the same colours to mix with
I do like the palette – sad but true

I’d got some paint left over, and the paint on the plastic bag I was working on, so not to waste it I painted a few more bits of the linen.

Waste not, want not
Hung out to dry

I’ve only started to stitch one so far. The idea is for each container to have a grommet in, which in effect is a little window to peek at what is inside. I have used strands from the unpainted linen to stitch the grommet with and will do the other two grommets in the same way. I want the surface stitching to echo the surface texture of the treasure inside. I realised after starting that I should have done the plain one first and made it up to solve any issues with it before spending time on the surface stitching. The perfect reason / excuse for starting the other one. The surface stitching will take a while on the greyish one, and longer for the shell.

Painted fabric with stones and shell

I was filling up the turmeric jar last week and a bit got spilt, so I mopped it up with a bit of cotton fabric, knowing how it stains if you spill anything with turmeric in down your front. Lovely bright yellow, so washed the empty bag out into a large yogurt pot and added the fabric and left over night. A beautiful sunny yellow.

Turmeric powder.

I’m not sure what I’ll use the fabric for yet, but several photos I’ve taken in the last few weeks are this colour. Seems I need a fix of sunshine at the moment.

Water irises at a local wood.
Dandelion when out on a walk
Tulip in the garden
Bottom of the box, sand and all.

This week I signed up for the new Stitch Club. The first session was with Debbie Lyndon making containers for your treasures.

I was really struggling to choose three objects to use, the shells and pebbles I have gathered over the years although plentiful I couldn’t remember from where most of them came from and their story needed telling too. I wandered around the house looking at various pieces but nothing quite grabbed.

The next morning I remembered that there was a box of my Irish treasures, from a tour round Southern Ireland with some of our dear German friends in 2013. I’d barely even given it a cursory glance since, life overtook me when we got back. So although I’d intended to start a new body of work with it, I’d just finished my art degree, it never happened.

What a treat when I opened it, like Christmas surprises. I gradually picked them out, shells, pebbles, bits of drift wood, laying them out on the kitchen table while talking remotely to my old school friend. I’d said to her it was like having a beach in a box, hence my title. Even had a trickle of fine, silvery sand come out of a bivalve as I picked it up, managed to catch most of it in another shell.

I had a fun hour or so sorting them out, examining them and photographing them. I don’t know just where any of them came from, we travelled down from Dublin and basically followed the coast, with the odd foray into the centre. Achim had a plan and an itinerary, he’d done his research as always.

I had not had time to even look at a map , we left days after my degree show and final assessments, meeting them in Birmingham at my dad’s for his 80th birthday, where his garden became their campsite again for a couple of nights.

I like not knowing where we are going it feels more like an adventure, and as usual plans are made to be changed, largely as a couple of days in a lorry on the other side of the road took Achim’s wing mirror off.

Not good as he’s left hand drive, so it basically left him blind to what was behind. It took nearly 10 days for the right one to arrive and then be fitted. So things changed a little, but seeing as I didn’t know what the original plan was I don’t know what we missed.

Oh, happy days, three and a half weeks of exploring, mainly sunny weather, the only time it rained was from Skiboree and round The Ring of Kerry, the cloud so low we couldn’t see the sea a few metres away, so only one night at the first campsite, continued on round and the weather gradually improved throughout the day, and by the time we stopped for the night the heat wave had started which lasted for the rest of the summer.

I digress, still struggling to pick three treasures, too much choice. The idea is to make a vessel / container from fabric that relates to the treasure with a hole through which you can see a peek of it. I ended up putting some back in the box for various reasons, too fragile, too brittle, didn’t grab my imagination, too beautiful to hide. I started grouping them in threes, wanting something that related them to each other, colour, texture, shape, type, etc. But still had to many to choose from.

Again slept on it, also wanted to see them in better light and photograph them again in groups. I felt like Goldilocks as I started discarding again, too textured, too thick, too deep, too delicate. I finally settled on the three biggest ones.

Final choice

The main way they relate to one another is size. I decide that bigger was probably better as the stitching is only just starting up again, and as my arm gets tired my stitches may come a bit erratic which feels more acceptable on bigger, rougher and readier than something tiny or delicate.

This is one of the suitcases retrieved from my Dad’s loft a few weeks ago. It was originally his youngest sister’s who died of breast cancer more than 30 years ago. She also had Multiple Sclerosis for many years, but was a great advocate of positive thinking and looking on the bright side. She was very dependant on her siblings and friends for her basic needs towards the end, which must have been very frustrating for her, but remained cheerful and appreciative  of the support they willingly gave her. I often felt very humble in her company, and ashamed of moaning about the little things that ailed or irritated me. She was always more interested in what others were doing, rather than talking about herself.

So I will treasure this, along with the tiny passport photo of her and a gift card written by her in a very shaky hand a few weeks before she died. It would have taken her a huge amount of time and effort to write those few words.


cleaned up

The case was full of paper and plastic bags filled with fabric, a few dresses and many memories. The things on the top are not familiar to me, and I’m not sure where some of the things came from, but it does reinforce my “learnt” hoarding tendencies! Some of the things I have no idea why my mum kept them when they down-sized from a largish mainly Georgian house (one end was 400 hundred years old) to a small lodge.

top of case

top of case

heaps of things out of case

heaps of things out of case

final emptied and cleaned out

final emptied and cleaned out

Some of the fabric is like looking at old photographs, they evoke as many memories. The two pieces below were used to make my sister and I ponchos in the early to mid seventies. They had a high rolled collar fastened with two hooks and eyes, mine the pink fabric had a black fringe and the other a brown fringe. I can recall the impatience for it to be finished so I could wear it.


This red was made into capes, both the same this time, with a red, silky lining. There’s an old photo somewhere of us both sitting on the stone lions at the front of Blenheim place wearing them.


It seems that there was a theme with these four blue, flowery prints. The “Wee Willie Winkie” was a nightie-case I made for my little cousin, there was also a “Wee Wendy Winkie” I made in pink, but no sign of the scraps from that.

When I peeked in the case last week I spotted what I thought were the scraps from this “nightie” I made in  needlework at school in 1972. The teacher was “scary” and very strict. Only 4 out of 200 girls were brave or stupid enough  to take needlework “O” level, me being one of them. I was the worst in the class (somebody had to be), and often told that I would fail, in the end it was the best grade I got (B). She certainly knew her stuff  and taught us well, I still occasionally refer back to my books to find how to do a particular stitch or method of doing something, and feel her breathing down my neck when I take a short cut!

We were supposed to make nightwear and use french seams, having looked inside at them this afternoon, I would be happy to make such good seams now. I thought it was much too good to wear to sleep in and used to wear it with my jeans.

vintage 1970's top

vintage 1970s top

But the cherry on the top of the cake must be this beautiful tablecloth which is just the right green to go in our dining room. I don’t recall seeing it before and don’t think it was one my nanna made (the back is not as good as the front). It has a couple of signs of wear and tear, but nothing a strategically placed plate won’t hide.


I don’t know what I shall do with most of things but, for the moment I have put them all back in the case once I had cleaned out the bottom.


Woods near Berkswell, Warwickshire

I haven’t touched any sewing for what seems like weeks. By the time I’ve run out of daylight in the garden I’ve also run out of steam. I’ve taken loads of photos though; just to capture the moment, for later inspiration, and to look back at when I need a fix of green. I just love this time of year. The fresh green of the beech coming out just fills me with joy and energy somehow. I’ve walked loads too, several times with our son in woodland. He handed in his dissertation a couple of weeks ago (he’s studied forestry and woodland ecology) and it feels good to be able to walk and talk with him now he’s not totally preoccupied with that.

I’ve also had a few days out with friends. One to Quarry Bank at Styal, (National Trust), wonderful scented azaleas in the garden, too much to see in a day – anther visit sometime. A couple of embroidery exhibitions, loads of things I want to try. A great garden centre at Reighton (lots of plants to keep me busy, rained off today, hence time to write).

Loads of inspiration, just need to start some work.

Just a few photos for you to have a peep at my green obsession.


Eckington Woods, Derbyshire


Eckington Woods, Derbyshire


?, Quarry Bank, Styal


Underside of Gunnera, Quarry Bank, Styal