The Thread That Binds Us – Memories of Oban Artwork

Following on from my last post about our holiday in Oban and the Inner Hebrides, I wanted to make a reminder of our trip as this was a special holiday, we had our 40th wedding anniversary and my 60th while we were there, and also you already know how much we love the place.

While we were there, out on our walks I gathered some leaves, twigs, lichens, stones, shells etc as a reminder of our days out. I know the day I picked up the lichen from the woodland floor was the day the roe deer came to visit us on the beach. The seaweed and the piece of slate came from Luing, which was the day the otters didn’t show up. The limpets from Mull remind me we couldn’t get on the first ferry to Iona and had to wait….etc.

The challenge was finding a way to put the pieces together, and as I’m experimenting with eco dyeing at the moment that’s were I started. As always some things printed better than others, the oak leaves from the wood printed well, so did the berries and honeysuckle from the car park in Oban.

Once printed I wondered how to go next, I thought of a book but knew I would probably never open it.

I decided to make a picture; I was thinking of how myself and OH have become connected to this area over the years, both of us enjoying the outdoors, but also learning from each other. OH loves the geology and the topography, and my main interest are flora and fauna, also the beauty of the landscape. So he informs me the slate has iron pyrites crystals and I pointed out the sea eagle, we make a great team.

So knowing how we are connected to this place I had the idea of stitching to represent the ‘thread that binds us’.

Some of the found items were hand stitched to the paper.

Now all I need is a frame, it’s not mounted in this photo so the squares will be in straight lines when it is. 🙂
I intend making a ‘memory key’; a plan of the squares to attach to the back, with plant names, where they were found and memories of that day written in each square.

This piece is destined to become our of our treasures.


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Oban and the Inner Hebrides

We had a lovely break in Oban at the start of the month, the sun shone all week and fortunately there weren’t many midges about.

We stay in Oban quite often, then island hop, taking ferries of all shapes and sizes to different isles.

As you know I love wildlife, every time I come to this area I hope that I will see otters in the wild, but alas once again they evaded me. I did see quite a lot of wildlife though, including these very comical black guillemot, they were fun to watch in the harbour right outside our apartment.

black guillemotWhile we were having our picnic on a deserted beach this roe deer yearling came strolling right past us

IMG_1182As I said we go island hopping, the first trip was to Tobermory on Mull, which is the setting for the childrens TV show Balamory.
IMG_1259The next day was my 60th birthday, we didn’t go island hopping as I was gifted a trip on the Jacobite scenic railway. Unfortunately due to fire risk the steam engine was replaced with a diesel train, and sadly we didn’t have very good seats so I didn’t take any photos on the way there.

The journey starts at Fort William, which is famous as being the home of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Great Britain. When we’ve been here in the past it’s usually capped in cloud but not today.

IMG_1349The train winds its way through the mountains and along the coast to Arisaig, the line ends at Mallaig. They say it’s one of the most scenic railway journeys in the world.

We had our picnic at Mallaig gazing across to Rum and Eigg. 


IMG_1431On the return journey we had better seats, so I got some photos. You might recognise the viaduct from the Harry Potter films. We saw Dumbledore’s burial place but I didn’t have my camera ready. I’m not a HP fan but I was pleased to see Ben’s beach from the film Local Hero.


The next island hop was to Iona, this involved getting the ferry to Mull again, then a bus took us along the Ross of Mull, then another ferry to Iona.

This is the main road on Mull.

IMG_1578The cinema had come to the island.

IMG_1599Our ferry to Iona.


The mobile bank was on the island.

Iona is an important Christian site, the Abbey is built where St Columba’s monastery stood. People come here on pilgrimages from all over the world, we only had an hour before heading back to catch our ferry.IMG_1631One of my favourite, but probably less known islands in the Inner Hebrides is Luing. We went by car over the ‘bridge over the Atlantic’ to Seil island, then the very small 5 car ferry as foot passengers, to spend our day walking on my favourite isle.

I was hoping to see otters on the rocks here as a gamekeeper told me it was a good place to see them.


This walk involved a lot of rocky scrambles but we have done it before. My eyes were peeled scanning for otters all the way.

IMG_1811I love these little cottages in Cullipool.

This place always inspires me, I can see these scenes being used in my work soon.




Our observation did pay off as we had several seal sightings.

.Oyster catchers and herons.



As well as buzzards, golden eagle, male hen harrier and this truly wonderful white tailed sea eagle.

Happy days!

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Eco printing on fabric

The next step in my eco printing journey was to try printing on fabric. I collected some plant material from my garden


Laid it out on some cotton fabric.


Rolled it tightly around a piece of plastic pipe.


Then put it in the pot with my mordant solution.


After boiling for 45 minutes it was turned over and boiled for another 45 minutes.


I have to say I think I need a new mordant solution, this one was getting pretty yukky. It’s  just as well you can’t  smell it.

After rinsing off I hung it over the fence to dry.


I thought the results were a little disappointing, but after ironing some subtle marks revealed themselves.

I think it’s hard to get good contact between the foliage and the fabric in a roll.P1500429





P1500431This was the outside of the bundle, you can see the colours are different and you can clearly see where the string was. That’s something to remember in future.


Next I tried some flat fabric layered up between two tiles as I would do for paper. It’s the same mordant, which is definitely past it’s best.

Some very subtle leaf shapes.


You can just make out the fern frond.


Rose leaf halo effect, I quite like this.


The same rose leaves giving dark shapes on another piece in the same pot.


I must get some new mordants and explore further, but now I’m thinking what can do with these pieces of fabric, ideas welcome?

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Art Elements June Challenge – Sunflowers

I’m writing this post the day after the challenge was announced. I don’t have much free time this month so while England were playing a football match on TV I slipped off to my sewing room and made a start.

As much as you can’t help but smile at sunflowers there’s no denying that they are “in your face”. I’m not a bold sunflower person so my personal challenge is to make something related to sunflowers but in a subtle manner.

I headed off to Pinterest to find inspiration, there are some beautiful photos. I especially loved the fields of sunflowers in Tuscany. I love Tuscany, I was there exactly 10 years ago but I didn’t see the sunflowers although I do remember the rolling hills, the Cypress trees and the lovely villas dotted around the countryside.


I had a couple of ideas buzzing around in my head but as I needed to make something quick I decided to work small, this would also challenge my thread painting skills.

I did a very quick sketch keeping it simple as it was going to be small.


I cut a piece of felt, 5.5cm x 4.5 cm and placed it over soluble fabric in my hoop. I stitched it in place first as it was so small.


It didn’t take long to stitch, I used different shades to give some dimension. The building is tiny and was very hard to machine stitch. Looking now I think my trees are too evenly spaced but I was concerned they might end up growing together if I didn’t have enough space between them as I wasn’t too sure about my stitching control on something small.


I did a bit of work by hand on the roof and on the foreground sunflowers. Then it was cut out close to the stitching and run under the tap to dissolve the soluble fabric. I think it must be made from starch because as it dries out the piece firms up nicely.


I found some stiffening for making pencil pleat curtains ( it pays to be a hoarder) and cut a piece slightly smaller than the stitched piece, as well as a piece of felt for the back, onto which I stitched a safety pin. I could have positioned it better though, and why did I use a safety pin when I have loads of brooch backs??

That’s what happens when you rush things.


It was all sandwiched together and ironed, but it didn’t stick together. I thought the stiffening had lost it’s glue as it was old, but a bit of steam did the trick.


And here you have it, my Tuscan sunflower field in miniature.


I think I will pin it in my fleece jacket so when I’m out walking in the winter I will have a little bit of the Tuscan landscape to make me smile.


If you would like to see what everyone else has made head over to Art Elements, or click the links below.















AE Team








Thank you Susan for a lovely theme.

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Norway Cruise – Bergen

There wasn’t a lot of time in Bergen, it was our last port , and we sailed early afternoon. We took an open top bus tour so we could see everything but it wasn’t worth the expense.

5 things I liked about Bergen

  1. The old town of Bryggen.
  2.  The fish and flower market.
  3.  The little shops and galleries, there was some lovely silversmiths workshops.
  4. The yarn bombing
  5. The sail away party, which was a bit like Last Night of the Proms.











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Norway Cruise – Andalsnes

5 things I liked about Andalsnes

  1. The mountains, unfortunately the clouds were low so we didn’t see much of the Troll Wall.
  2. The museum building, it was contemporary and looked like it was inspired by the moutains.
  3. The train journey on the Rauma railway which zig zagged through the mountains, with lots of tunnels and bridges.
  4. Waffles!
  5. Waterfalls and the turquoise water of Slettafossen.










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Norway cruise – Olden

Olden was my favourite place that we visited, maybe a bit of sunshine helped but it looked like we were in The Sound Of Music.

5 things I liked about Olden

  1. Sailing up Nord Fjord
  2. The delightful village of Olden, and the buildings.
  3. The turquoise water of Lovnat Lake
  4. Kjenndalen Glacier
  5. The people of Olden and the amazing send off they gave the ship, playing Rod Stewart, I am Sailing, and flag waving from their houses, it made me feel very emotional. I have a video I will put on my Facebook page.













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Norway Cruise – Stavanger

As this is a year of celebrations we and 4 friends decided to go to Norway on a P&O cruise for our 60th birthdays. It was a lot of fun, although I averaged 4 to 5 hours sleep as I didn’t want to miss anything. Partying ’til the early hours then getting up sometimes at 4am so as not to miss out on sailing up the fjord each morning.

I’m now recovered, so it’s time to post some photos and 5 things I liked about each place that we visited.

5 things I liked about Stavanger

  1. The buildings especially in Gamle, the old town.
  2. The wild goats, they need to be sure footed.
  3. The waffles!
  4. Lysefjord and Pulpit rock, it just peeked through from the mist as we sailed past.
  5. The abundance of waterfalls.






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Eco Printing Progress – Part 2

Following on from my last post about my adventure with eco printing I said I’d show some of my finished work, those that I found most pleasing are going into my Etsy shop. I have so many to mount it … Continue reading

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Eco Printing Progress – Part 1

I’ve spent the past few weeks investigating eco printing,  from books and on Youtube.

These are my first batch being steamed.IMG_0998

Some colour on the paper so I thought they looked promising.


How wrong could I be, bluebells with virtually no colour at all.




IMG_1047I thought steaming flat in this old wok might be better.

IMG_1008The string is coloured so maybe it’s worked this time.

IMG_1009I painted the mordant on but unfortunately you can see the brush marks, but at least there is more colour.

.So I played around for a few days, using various rusty bits and solutions and finally I got a result that wowed me.

.I have torn some of the papers handling them.

.I have prints on both sides so I need to decide which ones I like best as I am going to put these in a triple frame , if I can find a wall to hang them on.

Also I’m having  these printed as cards to put in my Etsy shop.


.And so the experiments continued, each time the results differed, even using the same mordant and plant material, I found the process so gripping I cooked and dyed until I ran out of watercolour paper.

My house may smell like a pickle factory, ( or is it rotten cabbage? ), but I’m very pleased with some of my pieces, I’ll show you in another post soon.

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