Grass doesn’t have to be green…

The hall was full for our talk this month by Wendy Dolan. Wendy is well known to many of our members; she is a go-to tutor for machine embroidery courses in our area, and there were many of her current and former students in the audience. There were quite a few new visitors who came along specifically to hear Wendy’s talk.

Before focussing on her inspirations and techniques, Wendy touched on some of the highlights of her textile journey. Starting as a child with cross-stitch and dressmaking, she was then taught traditional hand embroidery by a local embroiderer after school. This led her to a B.Ed. degree in art and textiles, where she was introduced to free-machine embroidery. One thing led to another, and she has had a varied and successful career in textile art and teaching ever since. She shared some highlights, including making two enormous curtains for cruise ships, exhibiting internationally, publishing articles and books, and showing her work and leading workshops at all the big textiles shows.

Wendy described some of her sources of inspiration, which include landscape, architecture (doors, windows, arches, tiles, columns, spires, domes etc. ), people, fashion, nature (flowers, trees, lichens etc.), museums, maps, travel and many more. Some are consciously recorded with photos and sketches, and others are absorbed more subconsciously. She spoke about looking more closely at the details and textures, and focussing on particular areas of a picture.

Wendy brought samples with her that show the different stages that her work goes through, starting with un-dyed fabrics, pinned into place and then stitched down in white. Then a rough colour experiment is done with collaged paper and paint, and this is used as a guide for adding colour to the fabric with water-based fabric paint.  Additional texture might be added with Xpandaprint (puff paint), fresco flakes, and horticultural fleece which irons onto the fabric and resists dyes (and makes good clouds). After that, more detail is added with the sewing machine.

Fragments of maps may be added by using an inkjet printer on fabric, ironing it temporarily onto freezer paper and taping the top with masking tape so that it will go through without wrinkling (Wendy recommends that if you share a printer with someone else, you wait until that person is out of the house so they don’t see what you are doing!) This method of printing is colour-fast if the fabric is first treated with Bubblejet 2000 solution, or you can buy ready-made fabric transfer sheets for the printer. All very useful information!


Wendy likes to play with colour: sometimes she makes a very natural-looking landscape, and at other times she likes to play around with the colour-range, encouraging people to move away from restrictions such as thinking that grass must always be green.

Wendy had just come back from leading a specialist textiles trip to India. She showed us some lovely samples that were inspired by those trips. If anyone is interested in trying these, or any other of Wendy’s techniques, you can find details of workshops on her website:


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