Monday, 11 December 2017

I am ME. A book with a heart.

In February this year I was travelling to work. I was stuck in a traffic jam for over an hour listening to a radio phone in about the refugee crisis.

As the time passed the comments from some of the callers became more and more extreme. Some of the feelings expressed were so intolerant and lacking in any understanding of the plight of our fellow human beings, including children, who have seen and experienced things that we can't imagine in our worst nightmares.

By the time I got to work I was sobbing. I wondered what one person could possibly do to help with this tragedy.

When I got home there was an email waiting for me. Children's Author Sue Hampton had written a heart rending poem about a family arriving in a new country from the child's perspective. She asked if I would illustrate it so it could be made into a book. All the profits from the book would go to People Not Borders, a group of people who will make a real difference to the lives of the people they touch.

This is what one person could do to help! ME!

I asked if I could illustrate the book in textiles and stitch. The book will be given to children as well as to adults and will be seen in schools and churches so I wanted the images to be colourful and exciting as well as powerful in a way that was gentle enough for a child to see. 

I also wanted to introduce children to the beauty of textiles with lots of different techniques because, in the schools I visit, the children have no previous experience of the magic of working with textile art.

I asked my husband Paul Watkins, a most amazing photographer, to take the photographs for the book. I knew he would capture the textures and colours of the fabrics and each and every stitch.

This Summer the book was published by TSL Publishing and is on its second print run. We are all so happy with the book and to have been able to make a difference in our own little way.

If you have room for one more Christmas present for someone you love, please consider sending them one of these little books. They are available from: Sue Hampton. The price is £10 and all the profits will go towards making a real difference to people who really need us to care about their plight.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Letting Go!

Yesterday was the last day of a couple of 10 week Art Journalling Courses.  And nobody wanted it to end!

For most of the people who attended the sessions they have been a golden moment in a stressful week of caring for others much more than they have had time to care for themselves. Spending those golden moments being creative and learning ways to make beautiful art changes lives!

So when the courses ended, there were such mixed feelings: Joy for having been there and sadness that the weekly fix of making art in a safe, supportive cocoon has ended for the moment. It can be so difficult to let go.

But they are all ready to fly! Really firm friendships have been made that will last forever, skills have been learned and talents found that many of them couldn't have dreamed of. Their Journals are exquisite, and very, very precious.

So fly my friends! You haven't really had to let go. All the support is still there for you. And we will be making Art together again really soon.

This little sketch was made with Derwent Inktense pencil in Chinese Ink and a fine black pen. 

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Nuno Felt and Embroidery

I had a lovely few days off work last week. 

I love teaching families in the school holidays but just for a change I took a few days to chill out and catch up with stuff.

But I also had time to do some Nuno Felting and embroidery using some of the fabulous silk that I bought at the Knitting and Stitching Show last week.

Nuno Felt, for those who haven't come across it, is fine handmade felt that has silk or fine cotton embedded into it during the felting process.

The fine fabric allows the fibres to migrate through as the felt is agitated and allows the two fabrics to become one.

The fabric I had was a piece of fine recycled net, machine embroidered with pale purple flowers. It bonded easily with the fine grey felt.

It made a lovely starting point for the silk embroidery. Easy stitches that showed off the glow of the hand dyed threads.

I've added some hand beading to the centres of the flowers. These tiny glass neon beads give the embroidery such a burst of colour and I thought they'd make the perfect finishing touch.
What do you think?

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

A workshop update

This is a quick little update on the upcoming workshops at Workaid Chesham and St Joseph's Boxmoor. 
I'm sorry it has taken me so long to publicise these. I have been working on all kinds of  new things and will have some exciting news to reveal soon.

Firstly the Workaid Workshops for 2017 and 2018. There are photos of these workshops further down on this blog.

13th and 14th October 2017

Altered Books

10am -3.30

A 2 day workshop on making Altered Books.


25th November 2017

Fabric Books

10am -3.30

A 1 day workshop on painted and embroidered

 fabric books


27thJanuary 2018

The Art of Whimsical Illustration

10am -3.30

A 1 day workshop on drawing, colouring and

 layering illustrations


24th February 2018

A Mixed Media Canvas

10am -3.30

A 1 day workshop using a variety of specialist

 materials and mixed

 media techniques to make a textured and layered canvas picture.


24th March 2018

Folk Art Embroidered Hearts


A 1 day workshop of Folk Art inspired hand

 embroidery on vintage  wool blankets using

 vintage found objects


28th April 2018

Scrap Stitching and Embroidery

10am -3.30

A 1 day workshop using precious scraps of silk

 and vintage fabrics  with hand embroidery and

 found objects.


30th June 2018

A Folk Art Painted Chair


A one day workshop using hand painting and

 stencilling to 

decorate a small wooden chair. You will need to

 supply a chair or I  may be able to source a small 

 Ercol school chair  for you at an extra cost.


Workaid, 71 Townsend Road, Chesham, Bucks,

 HP5 2AA

The Boxmoor Art Journalling Workshops are at St

Joseph's Hall,

 Horsecroft Road, Hemel Hempstead HP1 1NR

A very short 5 minute walk from Hemel 

Hempstead Station on the line from Euston.

Each 3 hour workshop will build on the skills 

learned previously to 

make up a very varied and comprehensive mixed

media course.

The sessions will be relaxed and fun and the

 techniques will be simple to achieve.

You will be amazed at the beautiful pages you will

 make. You will need to bring an A5 or small 

6"x6"square journal to  use.

I can provide one for £4 if you let me know in


Session times may vary so please check the times

of each workshop.

£35 per session.

21st October 2017

12pm -3pm

Starting right at the beginning of this course on

Art Journalling, 

we will learn how to apply paint and decorate the

surface of our pages using stencils. 

We will be painting the pages for using at the next

session to make 'Waterfall Pages'

18th November 2017

2pm- 5pm

At this session we will be using the pages we

decorated at the last session to make 

'Waterfall Pages' We will learn to

use punches to enhance our pages and embellish

 them with drawing techniques.

9th December 2017


At this session we will explore the use of die

cutting, layering and painting to make a textured


Saturday, 2 September 2017

New Workshops at Workaid

I am starting to book dates for the new workshops for 2017 and 2018. There will be a whole new Art Journalling Club which will build into a comprehensive mixed media course. 
I will also be teaching Art Journalling for adults, for families and in schools.
On January 27th I will also be holding a workshop on Whimsical Illustration.
We will be making hand drawn illustrations and manipulating them to make exciting multi page art.

Also coming this academic year:
Lots more mixed media, hand stitch, book making, handmade felt and folk art and embroidery on vintage textiles.
Keep watching because I'd love you to join us.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

A Folk Art Swallow at the Festival of Quilts

In a couple of days the wonderful Festival of Quilts will open at the NEC in Birmingham.

It truly is a festival of creativity, not only for quilters but for visitors from around the world who love textiles of all kinds.

Next Sunday I will be teaching one of the 3 hour workshops using the most beautiful materials. A joy to stitch with.

We will be making an applique Folk Art inspired Swallow picture using Donegal Wool Tweed by Fabric Affair and Embroidering it with WonderFil Ellana wool threads.

I am so looking forward to the show and even more looking forward to teaching this lovely workshop.

I hope to see you there

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Folk Art Sailor Pincushions

July's workshop is coming up very soon and I thought you might like to see what we will be making.

This is an antique Sailor's sweetheart pincushion from the V&A museum collection.

Sailors made them on the long journeys at sea for their sweethearts back home. Often they were made with beautiful embroidery, motifs which reminded them of the subjects closest to their hearts, patriotic or religious themes.

They featured pins which were pushed into the cushions in decorative patterns. They are heirlooms and social history and things of wonderous beauty!

We will be using these as our inspiration to make an heirloom of our own. We will use embroidery, needle felting, beading and found objects to make an exquisite picture. 

If you fancy joining us for the day on the 8th July 2017, in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, there are a couple of spaces still available. The cost is £65 and includes all materials. Leave a comment and contact me through my website:

Birthday Shoes!

Sometimes when the big things are making us sad, the little things can make us so happy!

Like new Birthday shoes from people who love us! I think I will be happy every time I wear them.

Monday, 15 May 2017

A House of Secrets, waiting to be told...

There are some days in our lives that start in a very ordinary way and end with an experience which you know you will never forget.

Today was one of those days...

I was invited by my friend Jo to visit Di, her friend, and to see her house. She told me that Di has an amazing story to tell and a very unusual secret to show me.

Di is nearing her 70th birthday and lives alone in an ordinary council house in a part of town with lots of similar looking houses but as I stepped through the door, what I saw was certainly not like any other house I've seen! Every wall and every ceiling was decorated with paintings.

The paintings blend over the walls and ceilings seamlessly and are full of colour and detail.

These oil paintings have been many years in the making. The paint has mostly been applied with her fingers. Many of the scenes have been painted over and altered as the years have passed and will continue to be added to as time goes by.

Hardly anyone has seen them. They have remained her secret life's work and her solace. But now she would like to share them and to have her life story told.

The scenes are of subjects that give her comfort; Faith, Nature, Birds and Animals. All are done freehand and from memory. The more I looked, the more details I saw; the shadows on the horses bodies, the way the sun shines through the trees, the tiny animals and birds in the distance.

Di's life story is even more astonishing than her paintings. I only know very little. 

But she has a story to tell the world. Hopefully a world which is more enlightened than the one she has experienced almost since the day she was born. A story of tragedy but perhaps with its own kind of peace now.

And yet her spirit shines out through her lovely paintings. A peaceful world which she has created for herself at last, in her home, where she feels safe and can be her true self.

Jo is going to document Di's story and her artwork through photographs and try to make the world aware of this talented lady. I am going to help if I can.

Thank you for sharing a little bit with me. I know I will be thinking about it all for a very long time.

As an update to this story, Di's house will be shown at 6pm on the BBC London News on Wednesday 8th November 2017. I'm so looking forward to her story being seen.

This is the link. It starts at the 5 minute mark.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Calling All Superheroes!

Just recently I was asked to run a very special set of 2 workshops as one of the range of Family Learning courses that I often teach. This one was going to be especially for Dads and their children.


For many reasons, Dads can be very difficult to reach when we recruit for Family Learning.

They may find it difficult to take time off work, be less confident in taking part in this kind of activity or think they will be the only Dad present in a female dominated environment. There can also be more complex
social situations which make them hard to reach but for all of these reasons, Family Learning workshops for Dads are a bit of a special occasion.

The Dads arrived with their wonderful children, boys mostly but also one girl. The ages of the children ranged from 3 to 12. We could see their excitement at having their Dad to themselves for a whole day. It was evident how important Dads are to their children and how special this day was going to be.

One little boy had his 5th Birthday that day. Such a cool way to spend a special occasion.

Their task for the day was to make a Family Crest. I had large Shields cut from MDF and the Dads and Children had to design a Crest with their Superhero Family Values. We discussed what values were most important to us. LOVE being the centre of everything we do as a family and how it made us care for one another through good times and bad. I was so impressed and almost tearful at some of the responses from such young children, showing an understanding of bravery, support, courage, truth and love. 

There was no talk during the day about Superheroes fighting or killing their enemies. There was an extraordinary feeling about the strengths of humans to overcome!

It is summed up in this brilliant design by Martin and his little son Daniel. Martin's knowledge of Superheroes was supreme in that room. We all bowed to his superior knowledge of all things Super!

He knew that the HULK stood for strength, SUPERMAN for the Truth, SPIDERMAN for Responsibility and BATMAN for Bravery. I LOVED this! We all did. It made us look at those comic books stories in a different way altogether.

This is his Shield finished. Fabulous! isn't it!

Here are the others, close up, so you can see the details. 

Aren't they just amazing!

The workshop was 5 hours long. They all worked so hard and concentrated so well on fairly advanced mixed media techniques. They shared,encouraged and praised one another. A room full of Superheroes! Big and small. I'm so proud of them.

PS. The Birthday boy Alex had cake! His Mum, Tracey, had a day to herself. This is what she said when she got home:

'My 3 had a fantastic day and the birthday boy said he had the best day ever. Precious memories from my boys. Thank you so much for making the day so memorable.'

For myself and Tina, my fantastic assistant, the day will be memorable too for so many great reasons. We can't wait to have them all back again this week to make Superhero costumes and a Shoebox Cityscape Diorama. They are going to design a superhero to fly across the city to protect us all!

Day 2 Cityscape Dioramas and Costumes
We have had another wonderful day with the Superheroes today!

Here are a few of the amazing dioramas and costumes they made today. We cut and glued, stitched and shaped. We imagined and designed and had so much fun together. Such a great day!

Friday, 28 April 2017

May Workshop: Vintage Inspired Mini Quilts

The next workshop, coming up soon will be Vintage Inspired Mini Quilts on May 13th 2017. The venue is Workaid, Townsend Road, Chesham, Bucks.

We will be using lovely soft vintage fabrics, lace and cotton, layered together with hand embroidery and found objects to make tiny pieces of textile art that you can wear as a brooch, frame as a picture or use in a fabric or Altered book.

You can also choose to make a hand painted mini quilt for a brighter,  more contemporary artwork which would make a lovely little illustration to wear.

There are a couple of spaces left. The price is £65 for the day. 10-3.30 and includes all materials. Leave me a comment if you'd like to join us for a day of stitching and relaxation.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

A Steampunk Angel

Quite often, when I'm demonstrating or teaching at a workshop, my sample pieces stay partly made or just in the first stage of the process. This is good because they show the steps towards a finished piece or act as idea prompts. But it is so lovely to finish a project, and when I have a little time to myself that is so nice to do.

A couple of weeks ago I started a Fabric Book cover with a Steampunk Angel. We were going on holiday almost as soon as the workshop ended so I took it with me to stitch whilst I was away.

The fabric had been painted during the workshop but it still needed stitching. My favourite part!

I'm so happy I took it! I packed a little bag with a small needle and pre-cut pieces of thread so I could stitch on the plane. I also included some vintage metal washers for her hair.

I was prepared for someone to tell me 'No needles on a plane!' and I could have thrown the needle away but nobody seemed to mind just a tiny little embroidery needle. And I was so happy stitching away!

So after a lovely week of sewing here is how my Angel cover girl looks now. She has metal in her hair, embroidered wings and sewn details for the features on her face.

Now I need to make some page for her book. 

I loved sitting on the beach in the sunshine, lost in my thoughts, with my art to stitch. I feel all new now.

I will be repeating the Fabric Books workshop sometime soon if you'd like to come and make a book or pages with me. 

The next workshop, in May, is Vintage Mini Quilts. This workshop will include using the most lovely vintage and painted fabrics and found objects to make tiny quilted pictures which can be framed or used with other artwork such as handmade and Altered books. More details in the post below.

Contact me to book or leave a comment below.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Workshops with photos!

February 11th: Mixed Media Fabric Art books. £65

Using hand painted Calico and mixed media we will make a handmade fabric book cover and learn how to fill it with textile pages and some beautiful decorations and embellishments.
You will have the choice of making a simple concertina book or a bigger, more involved version with the opportunity to continue learning additional techniques throughout the year to add to your skills and the beauty of your book.

I forgot to take photos at this workshop because we were all so busy we forgot the time but Tina has just sent me the photos of her cover, front and inside. It is complete and just waiting for fabric pages. Have a look at the details on these covers.

The photo above is the front cover. I love that she chose a metal drawer handle as her closure for the book. There is so much detail to discover such as the hand drawn embellishment, stencilled and stitched areas and the hand made metallic butterflies.

Above is the inside of the book cover.She has divided and painted the squares and decorated them with lace, drawing and embroidery.
These are her signature colours and she has used them so well.

March 11th: Scrap Stitching £65

We will use hand embroidery with treasured scraps of textiles, silk and vintage embellishments to make a little picture with exquisite details. 

This will be a lovely chilled out day with slow stitching, lovely materials and learning new ways to create surfaces and decorate fabric. Good for the soul!

Later in the year, in June, there will be a another chance to learn these and a different set of techniques with rust dyed fabrics.

The photos above are just a couple of my little samples for inspiring my Scrap Stitchers. It must have worked!

The photos below are some of their finished pieces and their works in progress.

These are mostly beginners! I'm blown away by what they've done. 

I will add more photos soon, but for now Look! Aren't they FAB!


Ilana's: Texture, colour and a riot of beautiful details to keep us all looking.

Jackie's: A wonderful mixture of texture and colour made with snippets of precious scraps and lovely decorative stitches.

Jill's: A beautiful little landscape work in progress with details of silk fibre and delicate stitching with hand dyed threads.

Kim's: A stunning textured heart. Work in progress. Beautiful layering that shimmers with lovely depth of colour.

Prue's: A billowy sky and landscape work in progress. Soft and dreamy layering of hand dyed silks and cottons. With fabulous tiny stitching and layering.

Tina's: A highly textured work in progress with cut organza flowers and scraps of fragile hand dyed silks on a hand dyed background.

And more stitching on this one.

Below is Alli's finished piece. Lots of wonderful stitching and details to find.

Alli's work in progress: Lovely textures again with very experimental stitches and yarns and couched found objects.

Tracey's: An exquisite shimmering dragonfly and pond stitchery.

The delicate dragonfly detail on a hand dyed background with scraps of silk fibre, dyed scrim and hand dyed threads.

Oh my goodness! You have all made me so happy. I am in love!

April 8th: Blanket Books £65

We will use beautiful vintage wool blankets, wool fibre and hand embroidery to make Folk Art inspired treasure books. An heirloom to inspire all who see and touch this very special textile book.

May 13th: Vintage Inspired Mini Quilts £65

We will use some fantastic vintage resources like antique lace, pearl and linen buttons, precious found objects and vintage photos to learn how to make tiny  hand embroidered fabric 'Quilts'. You will be able to take these home finished, to be framed or use them in a future textile project. You could also use them as pages in your Fabric Books if you are working on one of these with me.

June 10th: Scrap Stitch 2. £65

We will use precious scraps of vintage fabrics, lace, rust and metal with hand embroidery to make an exquisite textile panel.

July 8th: Folk Art Needle felted and hand embroidered picture. £65

We will needle felt and embroider a Folk Art inspired picture onto vintage wool blanket using merino wool fibre and hand dyed, silk and wool threads.

October 13th and 14th: 2 Day workshop. Altered Books. £150

This is a 2 day workshop which will introduce the subject of Altered Books from scratch and advance into adding doors with real hinges, niches and decorative 3D elements and mixed media techniques. You will leave with lots of ideas to continue your adventures with Altered Books.