Category Archives: Dyeing

A Weekend of Dyeing and Weaving with Aviva Leigh

natural dyesLast weekend I went off to reboot my creative vibe, which has been languishing under a layer of brick dust for far too long!  I trotted along to the Norwich studio of Aviva Leigh to spend an inspirational day dyeing with natural dyes to transform a variety of yarns,  followed by a day of mastering a knitter’s loom to create a piece of woven cloth.

We were fortunate that it was a small group, just the three of us in our rubber gloves and pinnies, oohing and aahing as Aviva introduced us to the magic of dyeing with plant leaves, woodchips, pomegranate skins and even crushed beetles! yarn for dyeing - Aviva Leighdye baths - Aviva LeighAviva Leighcrushed beetles - natural dye - cochinealIn my mind natural dyes were soft and subtle, but it’s astonishing how vibrant some of the colours are.dyed wool - Aviva Leigh workshopIt’s also interesting to realise that the building in which  Aviva has her studio is in the heart of the historic textile area of Norwich where the river used to run red with the waste from the dyeing factories.

By the end of the first day our heads were spinning with information!  So much to take in about the history, the geography and chemistry of natural dyes.  Aviva assured us that the following day would be relaxing and mindful, leaving the steamy atmosphere of the dyeing studio to weave our wool samples into cloth.indigo and pomegranate - natural dyesThere were just two of us the next day and it’s a very small world because we discovered that my fellow student follows Planet Penny – so, Hello Tracy!! We had a wonderful day experimenting with colours and textures and different effects.weaving workshop with Aviva Leigh  So much so that we both headed home having bought our looms, despite both of us saying the last thing we need is yet another craft.  It’s just so addictive.weaving workshop with Aviva LeighAutumn weavingI’m itching to get my loom ready for some more experiments but I will have to wait until I have fewer builders in the house.  Today there are four, it feels a bit like DIY SOS! But we really are on the home straight now, despite the fact that we’ve just discovered the new back door fits the aperture, but won’t actually open…ho hum…

I’ll be back soon…x


Missing Mojo – Found!

You might remember me bemoaning the loss of my Mojo in this post, the debilitating feeling when inspiration disappears out of the window.

Well, I’m happy to relate that it’s back and I’m beavering away being creative and even the wind and rain whipping past the window and howling down the chimney hasn’t dampened my spirits today!

I realise that I’ve become bogged down, especially with Social Media.  When I started writing this blog I had no idea about SEO, I didn’t have a Facebook Page, a Twitter account, a featured board on Pinterest, an Instagram account, Flickr.  I wasn’t helping other people with their Facebook Pages, Twitter accounts, websites….

Add that to the Etsy shop, packing yarn, writing patterns, answering queries as well as family commitments and actually having a life… the part of me which I discovered and which grew when I was at Art School only a few years ago was in danger of withering away altogether.

Being part of Open Studios over the past few years has kept me hanging on by my fingernails though, and I’ve loved making the exhibition pieces…


Wool Gathering 2012

'How to Knit a Sheep' NNOS 2013

How to Knit a Sheep 2013

That time of year is coming round again (so quickly!) and I’ve been rummaging around in my mind for the perfect inspiration.  For ages after making the sheep’s head, I toyed with the idea of a stag’s head complete with antlers.  The perfect place to hang crochet garlands and pompoms!  But then I realised that every time I opened a catalogue or magazine, or watched a design programme on television there seemed to be some sort of variation of a stag’s head, a rhino, a zebra or similar and I knew the moment had passed.

There are also restrictions for the exhibition too.  I work in three dimensions but making something which needs a plinth, and finding the plinth too is an added complication, so the hanging format I’ve used so far works best.

Inspiration struck a couple of weeks ago because of our local pantomime.  The Am-Dram group in the village is full of creative people and we’re lucky to have someone to devise something beyond the usual Sleeping Beauty/Aladdin/Puss in Boots offerings.  This year it was The Green Man.

Green Man Panto

Aha! the Green Man! And with some research I find this quote

His name means the Green One or Verdant One, he is the voice of inspiration to the aspirant and committed artist.

He can come as a white light or the gleam on a blade of grass, but more often as an inner mood.

The sign of his presence is the ability to work or experience with tireless enthusiasm beyond one’s normal capacities. In this there may be a link across cultures,… one reason for the enthusiasm of the medieval sculptors for the Green Man may be that he was the source of inspiration.”


I’ve sorted through my stash of fleece and yarns, filled a bag with natural colours and ordered some more from Wingham Wool Work.  I also bought a sample pack of dyes and that’s what I’ve been doing most of today, dying natural fleece and yarn, and over-dyeing some bright shades to bring them into the right colour spectrum.

Landscape Dyes Wingham Wool Works

I’ve had such FUN! I’ve looked back in the archives and it was January 2011 when I last dyed yarn and I loved the results then.  This is a very different palette, but I’m so enjoying throwing caution to the winds, and mixing up different dyes, and different strengths and dribbling them over the wool to get soft natural effects.

Landscape Dyes

My Green Man has been inspired by the cherry trees in the garden with their grey trunks.  His face is bark coloured using natural Cheviot fleece, rougher and hairier than my usual Merino, and lovely to needlefelt.  This is the story so far…

The Green Man - work in progressJust waiting for the greenery to grow!

The greenery is too damp to use tonight so I will put my crochet ‘Hat’ on as I want to finally finish the bunting pattern which I’ve been editing.  It’s looking very pretty…Crochet Beaded Bunting - Planet Penny Yarn

 I’m off to clean up the dye splatters in the utility room, but I’ll be back soon!



Christmas Crochet for Handmade Monday

I sincerely apologise to those of you who find it hard to think about Christmas in September, but I’m afraid those of us who hand craft seasonal bits and pieces have to start early or we run out of time! I could really do with an extra pair of hands, as I haven’t yet worked out a way of crocheting whilst needlefelting! I’m back with the crochet hook at the moment because I have just had a new delivery of Planet Penny Cotton Club yarn, and this time I have just a few packs with Christmas crochet in mind, lovely Snowdrop.

Planet Penny Cotton Club yarn in Snowdrop

It’s perfect for the Crochet Christmas Bunting in the tutorial here, which is featured in a magazine published in a few days time,  Simply Crochet.

I’ve been experimenting with my own ball of ‘Snowdrop’ to come up with a couple more patterns to use this lovely yarn.  Would you like to see?  There are crochet snow flakes…

…and crochet Hearts…

crochet heart Christmas decorations

and Snowflakes and Hearts…

Crochet Christmas Garland hearts and snowflakes

Christmas Crochet Packs of yarn, crochet hook, buttons and patterns will be available in the next few days in the Etsy shop…

Re-assuming my needlefelting hat, I discovered a fragment of old lace in a box the other day (you see how I’ve benefited from all that boring tidying up I’ve been doing?) and combined it with a new twig heart.  I had been a little wary of it, because the wire shaping was so noticeable, (I presume it was made with florists in mind) but I’d raided my Mother-of-Pearl button box and it made all the difference…

needlefelt robin in a twig heart

And there was still that last dyed top to transform…Remember this?

A rather uninspiring blue/grey…  But then I remembered some beautiful binding I bought in France over two years ago…

(… it was lovely to revisit the occasion on Planet Penny via this post – blogging is a wonderful thing!)   and with some matching buttons came up with something which I am very happy to have in my wardrobe…

(The camera is lying about the blueness of the dye, BTW!)

There will be a short ‘break in transmission’ over the next week or so as I’m going to be away.  Excitingly, I’ve been invited to a book launch in London on Wednesday for Buttonbag’s new craft book, closely followed by a trip to the South Coast to visit the family so there will be lots to tell you about when I’m here again (note to self: charge the camera battery!) 

I’ll leave you now with the usual link to Handmade Monday over on Wendy’s Handmade Harbour.   Have a lovely week and I’ll be back before long…

Back in the Dye Bath…

D’you remember the fun I had couple of weeks customising  my bargain tunic top from Cotton Traders in this post?  Well I bought a couple more and I’ve been back in the dye bath with those packets of Dylon dye again.

I have to admit to initially being a teensy bit disappointed with the results, I rather thought I was going to get a deep lavender colour and a dark blue, and what I got was a pastel lavender and a rather grey blue…

dyed shirts

…and as you know I do like my saturated colours!  But rather than buying yet more dye and trying again I decided to go with the flow and see what I could do to make them more ‘me’.

Before I emptied my entire button collection out of the big (very!) box where they are stashed I remembered a little collection dating back several years from a little handmade dress shop in Norwich which unfortunately closed down.  I knew one day I’d have the project  which needed a selection of tiny fabric buttons and I only had to wait about 10 years for that moment to come!

I think I bought 300, well I’ve used 11 of them now, 289 to go!

As well as changing the original buttons, I’ve also stitch an extra one in between each of the functioning buttons and I really like the effect…

(looking at this next photo it’s actually just the colour I was hoping for…ho hum! )

The dark one?  Well I have a cunning plan, but haven’t quite executed it yet so watch this space!

It’s all been rather lovely here the past couple of days.  It always seems to happen when the children go back to school doesn’t it?

Norfolk field

I’m going to try and take Higgins out for a walk in few minutes.  It all went very wrong yesterday when we set out a good pace, got about 200 yards from the house and someone fired a gun several fields away.  Without flinching. or breaking stride Higgins wheeled round and headed back home at a brisk trot…and that was that!  Hopeless gun dog!

Back soon….x

Ocean Blue and Buttons…

Hello again…don’t the weeks come round quickly!  It’s been very busy on Planet Penny over the last few days as we’re in the process of turning a storage area into an office, so having moved everything out for Tim to work on it my studio is CHAOS!  It’ll be so good when it’s finished, I might be able to find things more easily (pause for hollow laughter!) but the main perk will be having the printer/scanner in the same room that I’m working in, instead of several rooms and a fight of stairs away.  I suppose the exercise is good for me, but it makes things take twice as long!  In the meantime I’ve been needlefelting and playing with Ocean Blue dye, and little flowery buttons…

Remember the little robins of last week?  I had a cunning plan for their use, and it worked out very well.  I found some pretty natural and red woven ribbon, just enough to make five of these…

needlefelt robin in a twig wreath

three needlefelt robins in twig rings

…and put them on the Planet Penny Facebook page to see what the reaction would be.  Despite several of you telling me off for mentioning the dreaded ‘C’ word (!!) I sold three before I even put them on Etsy, where there is now just one left!  Don’t despair however, there will be more, but they’ll be just a little different.  I don’t do mass production I’m afraid!

I have also completed a variation on the the Love Birds as I couldn’t source the straw wreath straight away, the latest ones have natural colour lambswool hearts…

needlefelt Love Bird in a lambswool heart

Blue needlefelt Love Bird in a lambswool heart

…and three of these have made it as far as the Etsy shop!

And my other creative project the week has involved a spot of dyeing!  I have such problems finding clothes I like, that fit, that are long enough, and I rarely find all that and in a colour I like.  So when I found a tunic top in Cotton Trader’s sale which ticked all the boxes bar the colour one I snapped it up and went off to the local supermarket for a packet of dye…

Take one shirt like this…

…in a cotton linen mix, and add a packet of this…

and a few pretty buttons..and you end up with this…

I’ve ordered two more!

(This might amuse you: Having decided to change the basic white buttons to something more original I carefully sorted an interesting selection of colours snipped off the white ones and replaced them with the pretty flower ones  – I hate sewing on buttons, don’t you?  I had just finished ironing it and had hung it on a hanger to admire when my beloved OH came in.  “Yes,” he said, “That looks really good.  Now all you have to do is change the buttons…”

I say nothing!) 

There was lots of interest last week about Higgins’ ‘Thundershirt’.  He’s actually wearing it at the moment as a storm has just passed by and it does seem to calm him down a lot.  He usually goes and sits on the back doormat and trembles but this time I wrapped him in the shirt and popped him into bed where he snuggled down and look reasonable relaxed.  It was only a small storm so more testing will need to be done, but so far the signs are good.

I must finish this and go and administer tea to the worker in my little ‘soon-to-be’ office, it’s not the weather to be sawing wood!  I’ll leave you with the usual link to ‘Handmade Monday’ over on Handmade Harbour.

Have a lovely week and I’ll be back soon…x


Yarn Projects Galore!

I hate to complain, but if we have all the worry and inconvenience of a drought and a hose pipe ban to look forward to, can’t we do it with a bit of sunshine?  It’s been sooo gloomy over the past few days, real ‘Tupperware box‘ weather.

Spring is trying hard though.  Driving over the weekend the sight of the Blackthorn blossom frothing in the sunnier roadside spots lifted my heart but it hasn’t quite got going in this part of Norfolk yet.  I took the camera out dog walking yesterday to capture the first opening buds…

…of course, it also brought the crop sprayer out, rather a worrying fluorescent green that spray!

I’m trying to keep it cheerful on Planet Penny though.  This week  the latest Mollie Makes landed on the door step with several useful projects for Cotton Club crocheters!

The free gift on the front was a crochet flower brooch, very pretty, but if you buy a copy be warned that the pattern has a mistake which Mollie Makes give a correction for here.  I spent a little while convinced I was losing the plot until I finished off on my own and was relieved the next day to find it was the pattern after all!  It was interesting to do a quality comparison between the cotton yarn supplied which seemed to be a standard quality and the Cotton Club yarn, can you tell the  difference?

I was amazed at how splitty and rough the ordinary cotton was by comparison.

The other bits of inspiration could be found here on page 35…

and also on page 61…

The new batch of Planet Penny Cotton Club yarn has arrived, with an extra shade not available last time, so it’s better than ever!

Planet Penny Cotton Yarn rainbow colours

it’s bridges a gap as you can see…

So there are now 14 balls in the pack, still priced at £2.50 a ball and at 125m a ball I think is longer than both Debbie Bliss and Rowan (but do correct me if I’m wrong)

I’ve been busy sorting and packing the yarn, but it’s not too much of a hardship because I’m getting a colour hit every time I open the box…

I’ve sent the first few packs off across the ‘pond’ , I hope they don’t take too long to arrive.  It was lovely to receive two emails one after the other yesterday from people on the waiting list whom I had contacted to say the yarn was ready.  One was from the U.S. and the other from about 10 miles away from Planet Penny, but they both started, ‘I’m SO excited!’  I’ve also had a link to Peas in a Pod the blog of another extremely happy person, you can pay her a visit here.  Isn’t it amazing, and wonderful that we can all join in the fun however far apart we are?  Do get in touch if you would like your own Rainbow Pack.

And I nearly forgot, I was asked if I could write up my version of the Rainbow Mouse pattern…

…from this post and I have!  You’ll find it here

And, as if there wasn’t enough going on, the time is fast approaching for Norfolk Open Studios.  The deadline for applications for the Taster Exhibition is this coming Monday, and although I know what I propose to make, and in my head it’s finished (and in my head it looks rather wonderful) I haven’t actually done anything at all!

So with that in mind, and knowing how little time I will have for dyeing my own fleece I sent off to Wingham Wool for their shade card so could get the supplies I need for the needlefelt project I have in mind.   They have an amazing colour chart,  which if you undertake to return within two weeks is free…

…and I have selected these colours to augment what I already have in my stash…

I’ll share my idea as it develops but in the meantime, if someone could arrange for an extra 12 hours a day, I’d be really grateful!

See you soon! x


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