Eco-printing and eco-dyeing

Caroline Nixon, Textile Artist and Eco-dyer











We had a wonderful introduction to the magical and mysterious processes of eco-dyeing for our April Zoom meeting. Caroline Nixon, textile artist, told us about the art of producing plant-based images on fabric through the process of layering, binding and steaming.

Caroline spoke about the benefits of using natural processes, including the rich, subtle, harmonious colours and images that are produced; enjoying the element of surprise: preserving traditional arts: and the fact that it is so much better for the environment than using chemicals.

Surprisingly, the colour of the plant is no indication of how well it will dye or how long-lasting the dye will be. Caroline told us about the mordanting process that can make some plant dyes long-lasting by binding the colour to the fibre. One useful tip for plant variety; once you have exhausted your garden and if you don’t have easy access to the countryside, you can ask your local florist for the leaves that they have discarded in their bins!

We also heard about shibori, the art of producing patterns in dyed fabrics through tying, stitching or clamping the fabric to create areas that resist the dye. Indigo is a wonderful plant dye to use with this technique. (As an aside, the photo above was taken in India when my sister-in-law and I had an indigo-dyeing lesson. In a wonderful wardrobe malfunction, my sister-in-law turned up in white trousers. However, she did manage to end the day with the trousers still pristine white – what an achievement!). After Caroline’s talk, several of us were saying that it would be great to have an indigo-dyeing day when we can do some tie-dye/shibori – an idea for the future. It needs to be taught by someone who knows what they are doing, as there is quite an art to having the indigo vat ‘live’.

There are so many things that can be done with eco-dyed fabric. Caroline showed us images of her work where she has dyed, printed, over-dyed, stitched and quilted. The resulting cloth can be used for so many things – clothing, furnishings, or just to enjoy as a work of art.

One of the ‘Travelling Scrapbooks’ going round the group at the moment is Lindsey’s book on ‘Rust’. This has inspired some of us to have a go at rust dyeing. It would be lovely to have a day being shown how to do this properly, but it was fun to start with some experiments. Here are a few things that have been put in the book so far.

Sue Bush, rusty nails and hinges on calico
Linda Hoddy, rust on paper
Jane Robinson, rusty nails and found objects on paper

Recommended books:

Jenny Dean: ‘Wild Colour’.

Alice Fox: ’Natural Processes in Textile Art: From Rust Dyeing to Found Objects’.

Caroline Nixon’s website:




Sue Bush, Rust. Inspired by work for one of the Travelling Scrapbooks.













Welcome to the new website for ‘Southdowns Creative Stitchers’. We are really excited that the new group has been established, and you will be hearing from our Chair and Membership Secretary very soon with more information. We are very pleased to have got this far.

None of us expected the Embroiderers Guild to pull the plug on local branches so suddenly, especially during lockdown. We decided to approach it as an opportunity. Starting up a new group whilst ‘keeping the show on the road’ has been…well, let’s just say: ‘interesting’. It’s a bit like keeping the car driving along the motorway whilst some people replace the engine, some people change the wheels, and others operate the accelerator, brakes, clutch etc. At the same time, Rose (Chair) and Sue (Secretary) have managed to keep their hands on the steering wheel and their eyes on the road. Somehow, miraculously, we have managed not to career into a ditch!

After a month or so with our heads buried in legal matters, constitutions, finance, planning etc, we are now a fully constituted, officially existing new group. If you are interested in our new legal status, we opted to become an ‘Unincorporated Association’. This means we are answerable to our members and our constitution and no-one else. If you would like to read our new constitution it will be sent out, and will be put on the website soon.

Members of the former WTEG will be hearing from Rose our Chair soon with more information about what we have got planned, and from Betty our membership secretary about how to join.

We plan to keep our roots firmly in the traditions that have served us well for over 40 years. Don’t worry, we won’t be throwing the baby out with the bathwater! Having said that, alongside our traditional activities we also plan to introduce a new sub-group with a focus on contemporary textile art and mixed media. We feel that one of our strengths is the diversity of interests across the group, and we plan to build on that.

We’re looking forward to welcoming back old friends well as new members.

Subscribers list

If you receive an email link to this news post, this is because you were previously a ‘subscriber’ to the Worthing Tuesday Embroiderers Guild website.  We have now transferred to this new website: you don’t need to do anything to continue to subscribe, or you can unsubscribe at any time. We didn’t introduce automatic emails to subscribers on the old website, but we have introduced it on the new one. This means that you should automatically be sent an email to alert you whenever a news post is added.

If you haven’t subscribed but would like to, scroll down to the very bottom of the ‘Home’ page, add your name and email address and click ‘subscribe’. When you receive an initial email response, you will need to confirm for it to be activated.

‘From shoeboxes to bowls’

When Gill Denyer came to talk to the branch, she brought a very wide range of her work with her to illustrate her talk. Like many of us, Gill started her textile journey in the 70’s, when ‘home-made’ was the norm and was driven by thrift. Gill always enjoyed making things, and she showed us photos of her 70’s dyed sheets and home-made dungarees. The ‘shoeboxes’ in the title refer to the rooms she used to make out of decorated shoeboxes, complete with matchbox chests of drawers etc.

Textiles were part of the ‘background’ to Gill’s life for many years, alongside her training as a biologist, and her marriage and raising a family. Making children’s clothes was a pleasure. Her family always went in for fancy dress in a big way and she was called on to make wonderful fancy dress outfits. She worked for some years as a dinner lady and then a teaching assistant, while carrying on with her own textile work at home. She did some patchwork and quilting, but felt that hand-stitching was not her main interest. A change of job to textile technician introduced her to the work that A Level Texile Art students were doing, and she decided that she wanted to do something similar. Gill then signed up for a machine embroidery city and guilds course with Pam Watts. This started her on her new textile journey. She experimented with all sorts of materials and techniques, and particularly enjoyed using textured surfaces such as tyvek.  She also discovered stitching on dyed ‘silk caps’ which led her to creating machine-stitched bowls. She brought a big collection of bowls with her, a few of which are shown at the end of this post (click to enlarge).

The machine embroidery course closed before Gill could carry on from the Certificate to the Diploma, so she began to go on other workshops and to study the work of other textile artists so that she could carry on learning. One example is the work of Susan Lenz (whose permission was given for this work to be shown by Gill in her talks). Gill started making items to sell, for example brooches, sculptures and books. She joined the textile group ‘Totties’ which stands for ‘Textiles on Tuesdays’ in Guildford, and she developed more skills such as printing and dyeing. More recently she joined the well-known textile group ‘Wey Valley Workshop’ and will exhibit with them in June 2020. Below are some examples of her popular machine-embroidered bowls. 





Christmas meeting, and the ‘Take Two’ Challenge

There was a great turn-out for the Christmas meeting, and it was a lovely afternoon of chat, stitch and cake. Highlight of the afternoon was viewing the results of the ‘Take Two’ challenge (reminder: the challenge was to stitch a piece to be presented on a pre-set canvas size, using only two colours). There was a grand total of 43 entries, and everyone was impressed by the variety and quality of the work. Entries included a wide range of modern, traditional, hand-stitch, machine-stitch etc., and it really reminded us all what a varied group of stitchers we are. The £1 per vote charge raised £76 for the Air Ambulance.

Here are a few of the entries, with people studying them and trying to decide which to vote for. You can see the winning entries below that. At a later date, I’ll put up an  image of each entry – that will take a little longer, so I wanted to get the winning ones up sooner rather than later.

A few of the entries
Deciding which to vote for was hard!
Third place, by Daphne
Second place, by Cobi
First place, by Mary
Chairman’s Choice, by Sylvie