Dyeing my Japanese crossover apron

While the sun was shining last weekend I started to prune my apple trees, the leaves were stripped off and put in my large catering pot to make some dye. According to my books they should yield a nice bright yellow green dye with an alum mordant.

The pot simmered away, giving an apple / cabbage smell to the house which wasn’t  unpleasant. The liquid turned a golden yellow colour.
UntitledAfter straining out the leaves the mordanted apron went into the pot and was boiled for over an hour. It was rinsed and hung out to dry.
UntitledThe colour was a nice golden yellow, not green at all, sorry I forgot to get a photo.

The next day I dyed the other apron with a turquoise dye, then I gathered my printing leaves choosing ones I know print well, geranium and cotinus, rose and wild strawberry. I used an iron dip on the leaves and some vinegar on the fabric. The fabric was just damp, as I have been told this helps in achieving clear prints.

I thought the best way to position the leaves would be to turn the apron inside out, lift the flaps, place the leaves then fold over the flap, then repeat on the other side. I added some onion skins too.
UntitledThe apron was folded and folded again, bundled and tied ready for steaming in the fish kettle. (Sorry no photo)


UntitledOnce my bundles were cold  they were untied and unrolled.

UntitledThe leaves were picked off , the aprons were washed. Sadly the turquoise dye washed out as it doesn’t work on cellulose fibres, but I had forgotten that as I’m used to working with silk. I have to say I was slightly underwhelmed by the leaf prints, and I may have gone overboard on the onion skins. One of the things you have to accept with eco printing is the serendipitous nature of the process, but I like surprises. Cotton is supposed to be the hardest fabric to eco print on, but I have had some great results on cotton blankets used when dyeing silk scarves so I had hoped for better results, more well defined leaf prints.
Once ironed I think I like them more.
Eco printing on Japanese cross back apronThe apricot colour is stronger than it’s showing on my monitor, it is a pretty colour.

Eco printing on Japanese cross back apronI had planned to hang them on the apple trees to photograph them, but the weather is so bad I had to photograph them indoors.

Eco printing on Japanese cross back apronWhat constantly amazes me with eco printing are the variations, these two had the same fabric, mordant, leaves, onion skins, and steamed together and yet some onion skins have printed green on this apron but not on the other one.
Eco printing on Japanese cross back apronThere are some areas that I really like on both aprons, and I love the apricot colour from the apple leaf dye, I think the onion skins modified the colour slightly.
Eco printing on Japanese cross back apronMy daughter loves them and thinks they would make great tops for festival going.

I dyed a couple of pieces of fabric that could be used for pockets, I was undecided whether to add a front pocket but I think it would be very useful on an apron, don’t you ?

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My Japanese crossover back apron

In readiness for pruning the apple trees today I have been sewing. I used another one of my cotton sheets that used to cover my craft fair tables to make a Japanese crossover back apron.

I didn’t have a pattern but I did have a PJ top that was similar in style so I cut a newspaper pattern from it, adapting the shape as I thought it should be, this was purely guesswork but it’s just an old sheet.

Cross over back apron
I made bias binding from the scraps, there was enough for the neck and armholes.

Cross over back apronThe shoulders were stitched with a french seam.

I did a double neatening seam around the edge.

Cross over back apronThe cross over was stitched to hold it in place

Cross over back apron

Then the bias binding was stitched around the neck and armholes.

Cross over back apron

Here it is waiting to be dyed. It’s a bit big but it’s a good cover up and there’s room for a big jumper underneath so no more paint getting on my clothes.


I’ll update you when I do the dyeing process, I  should get the apple trees pruned today and my dye pot going.

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New eco printed silk scarves

As part of my plan to work with the seasons I have been eco printing silk scarves in plenty time to stock my shop for Christmas.

I normally steam all my scarves but I’ve bought a huge aluminium pot for fabric dyeing so I thought I’d boil some scarves to see how they would turn out. I love the effect of the twine  from tying the bundles. I got some beautiful and unusual asymmetrical scarves, that  also have a mirror image effect from the folding.

Eco Printed Scarves

This is all one scarf, it has sweet chestnut leaves and geranium.

Close up of a sweet chestnut leaf.Eco Printed Scarves

This shows a print from the other side of a leaf, with twine marks.

Eco Printed Scarves

I love the way the pattern is graded along the length of the scarf, almost like 2 scarves in one, the other end is much lighter. Eco Printed Scarves

I think this scarf is my favourite out of this batch, I love the asymmetrical ends, the rose leaves and the twine marks. Can you see the ‘butterflies’?

Eco Printed Scarves

Eco Printed Scarves

The folding with leaves and onion skins create symmetry. Eco Printed Scarves

Eco Printed Scarves

Eco Printed ScarvesI steamed some scarves as well, these two have been dyed with a food based dye before placing the leaves.
Eco Printed Scarves
Eco Printed Scarves

This one was left the natural silk colour, this scarf has some gorgeous leaf prints showing the detailing from the veins.

Eco Printed Scarves


Eco Printed Scarves

There are more photos and more silk scarves over in my Etsy shop if you would like a look.

I love the eco dying process so much, working with foliage connects me with nature, and sometimes a memorable walk, but also I love not being totally in control and working with serendipity, but of course I don’t always win them all. I printed a cotton T shirt and it looked like someone had washed the floor with it. Not a good look.

I have to prune my apple trees  soon, I hope to make a dye from the shoots and leaves, then make a Japanese cross over back apron top, more to follow.

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Working with the seasons – trying to keep up

A lot of the work that I enjoy doing involves working with the seasons, using the leaves and foliage available at certain times of the year. Last year I only got a couple of hosta pots made before the leaves fell victim to the frosts. So this year I patiently waited for them to come into leaf. But then we had a couple of trips away so it’s only now that I have had the time to make some more pots. I made some small incense stick holders and tea light holders, or they could even be used as a ring tray.
UntitledI made some ‘fossil’ tiles too, but I missed the buttercups and late spring flowers that I wanted to use so I tried some new ideas like clematis and lavender as well as seed heads.

Working with the seasons

Working with the seasons
UntitledAnother thing about working with the seasons is the weather, it’s been quite hot so I’ve worked in the garden, playing mud pies and recycling some clay.
Working with the seasonsIt’s firming up nicely now.

I took some time in the shade to make some fish, hares, and soap dishes for my handmade soap. I think I need to make a few more for the shop. I had to work quickly in the heat and keep everything damp while I was working. Handling the clay kept me feeling cool, I love playing with mud on a hot day.


I’ve been out collecting leaves for eco printing too, more on that later.


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Making a boiled wool hat from leftover fabric

I made a hat with the leftover fabric from my boiled wool jacket.

I chose a plate that was about the size I wanted the crown and cut out a circle. Then I measured a length of fabric that went around my head, but I made it a bit deeper than I wanted the hat so I could add some tucks, and of course the seam allowance.
A jacket in a dayAfter joining the seam 3 rows of pin tucks were stitched , the bottom one became the hem because when I tried it around my head it looked right. My original plan was to add a band but I like it as it is.

A jacket in a dayThe crown was pinned, first dividing into quarters, then dividing again and again to deal with the ease, then stitched in place.

A jacket in a dayFinally a steam pressing for a good looking finish.
Boiled wool hatThis hat could easily  be dressed up with a flourish in the form of a felt flower, or leaves, a brooch or some feathers etc.

If you would like to see how it looks on then have a look on my facebook.

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Art Elements July Theme Challenge – Flowers.

I have missed not participating in the Art Elements challenges lately but life seems so busy these days. The theme this month is flowers.

Whilst sitting in the garden watching the bees on the lavender bushes I had an idea that I thought might suit the challenge but not take up too much time. It’s a little different to what you might think I would do for a flower challenge.

You may already know I like to make my own soaps, lip balms, lotion bars etc. One thing I find with soap is the scent doesn’t last as well as I would like. While I was sitting I was thinking if I could infuse my olive oil for soapmaking with lavender flowers, and would it last longer. Then I started thinking about the huge rosemary bush and some Corsican thyme that was flowering right by my seat. I love the way the smell wafts up when the breeze catches it.


I went to pick some lavender, which is not an easy task, the bushes are at the other side of a low fence, which I had to climb over. From here the ground slopes off to a wall and a 4 foot drop to the road. It’s a nightmare to garden, it’s south facing and dry so it has become a low maintenance rock garden, lavender thrives there.

I started cutting my flowers, I have 3 varieties of lavender but some looked past their best, I happily cut and smelled the flowers taking in their scent, then I felt my foot stinging, when I looked down I had ants crawling up my legs and biting my foot where they had gotten into my flip-flops. I made a hasty retreat with a meagre bunch of lavender flowers. It was so much easier picking the rosemary and thyme.


These were all left to dry for a couple of days before infusing in oil. The rosemary and thyme were put in a pan with oil and warmed up, then left to stand a while before straining.




The lavender flowers went in the slow cooker with the oil for a couple of hours, then it sat overnight to cool before straining.


The scent wasn’t as strong as I’d hoped but it was definitely there, maybe I needed more lavender, but I wasn’t going to pick more with those pesky ants about.

Next I set about making ‘crockpot’ castile soap (google to find tons of recipes) using my lavender infused oil. Here it is at the start of cooking, having blitzed it with the hand blender.


After about 40 minutes, (stirring every 10 minutes,) it becomes translucent, thick and jelly like, ready to go into a mould. I forgot to take the photo 🙂 but here it is cut into bars, it has a light lavender smell, I hope it lasts but only time will tell.

UntitledBack to the rosemary and thyme oil; my intention was to make some lip balm and use the rest for cooking but my family said they didn’t like it. So I could make more soap with it, or just use the oil on my hair and skin. My husband’s Aunt told me a long time ago rosemary was good for the memory, I believe the quote “Rosemary for remembrance”comes from William Shakespeare.

UntitledHaving looked on the internet it seems to be good for a lot of things, I’m going to try it as a tonic for my thinning hair, it’s also good for arthritis and Raynauds syndrome which affects me in the winter. I think it smells, and tastes lovely, I like it drizzled on bread.

I made some lip balm, it’s 1 part beeswax to 1 1/2 parts oil, melted in a double boiler. I used a lot of lip balm last winter, it’s great for the hands as well. If it’s too stiff when it sets just melt it down and add a few more drops of oil. The little jars get reused, and are so easy to slip into your pocket or handbag.


Now I’m off to see what everyone has made for this lovely floral theme, why not go and take a look?

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Making A Boiled Wool Jacket In A Day!

I have a bit of a thing for boiled wool, but don’t tell anyone 😊 I had a search on the internet for boiled wool jacket patterns and I was pleased to discover Tessuti Berlin jacket pattern, which you can download and print yourself.

So when I say it took me a day to make the jacket the sewing part actually took an afternoon, my morning was taken up putting the pattern pieces together. There wouldn’t have been any problems but for some reason half my pages were a slightly different size. But which pages were the wrong size? After printing some test pages I eventually worked it out and reprinted those pages.
A jacket in a day

A jacket in a dayI checked the measurements and decided to make the medium size, I thought the sleeves might be too long but as the jacket has a drop shoulder and  couldn’t  work out where the seam would be I decided to shorten the sleeves once I could try the jacket on.

A jacket in a dayI cut out my fabric, making sure I had nice neat edges, the raw edges are visible so you want a nice clean cut for a professional finish.

The pattern has really clear step by step instructions. They suggest a walking foot on your sewing machine but I don’t have one. Sewing with the ordinary foot was the most tricky part of making the jacket, the overlapped seams tended to slip so I decided to tack everything. It was a good decision as the stitching would be almost impossible to unpick.

A jacket in a dayFirst the cuffs were sewn onto the pockets and edges trimmed.

Pocket were sewn onto fronts.
A jacket in a dayBack neck was joined, then shoulders and neckband were stitched to the back.
A jacket in a dayThe facings were joined then stitched in place.

A jacket in a daySleeves were attached.
A jacket in a dayNext I tacked the side seams and tried on the jacket, I thought it was too big so I increased the seam allowance to an inch, and I shortened the sleeves by an inch. The seams were trimmed down and pressed open. A rolled up towel inserted into the sleeve makes pressing much easier.

You can see here the seam might be visible when wearing the jacket.
A jacket in a daySo I trimmed them as a slight angle, problem solved.
A jacket in a dayAll that was left to do was sew on the cuffs and give it a good steam pressing. My Mum always said a good finish is all about the pressing.

A jacket in a dayI love this jacket, it will be so versatile, and it’s very warm, cosy, and easy to wear. I might  make another bright coloured jacket. It seems the sewing bug has returned.

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Series Of Nine Painting Challenge

I discovered Wendy Solganik aka @willawatercolours over on Istagram having listened to a podcast interview with Laura Horn Art.

I decided to take up Willawatercolors Instagram art challange and make a series of nine paintings.

So where to begin?

I wanted to practice what I’d learnt from Laura’s classes, but I wanted to make these paintings my own.

I took inspiration from my photos of Northumberland, the cup and ring marks and rock carvings, rock formations, striations and carved channels in the rocks, boulders, foamy elderberry flowers and grassy tussocks, snaking lines, the sea. I made mental notes as I flicked through my photos.

I set my intention, to stick to the same simple colour palette and use my Northumberland photos as loose inspiration. Also I have a mantra when I paint this way which I learned from the artist Arnold Lowrey, it is “Repetition with variation”.

I knew if I was to keep this up without changing too much I would probably need to try different composition structures so I refreshed my memory.

I chose a simple colour scheme, Payne’s grey is my go to colour , the purple came from the heather in the landscape of Northumberland, a couple of inktense sticks and a few pens and inks were all I would need.

Number 1.

I thought I would keep things simple for the first one, circles with ring marks, but once I got into it my rings became spirals, which I love to use in my work.

Series of nine painting challenge

Number 2.

This time I went for a more in depth painting. I like the end result and I enjoyed the process. I  subconsciously called upon images in my mind that I wasn’t aware of until I stepped back from painting.

Series of nine challenge

Number 3.

Now I was having to think how to change things up, I chose a different composition. I struggled with this painting, my interest was starting to ebb, maybe series of 3 is more my thing.

Series of nine challenge

Number 4.

I wasn’t sure where to go next, should I add another colour? I decided not to, I went back to circles / blobby composition to give myself some breathing space.Series of nine painting challenge

Number 5.

I had another look at my photos, some of the carved rocks had channels , these reminded me of a technique from Laura Horn Art classes that I had taken not so long ago. I’m not sure if this painting hangs together, maybe a square mount would be better.

Series of nine painting challenge

Number 6.

I’m getting bored with the colour scheme now maybe it’s time to introduce a touch of yellow ochre, back to the circles to try it out.

Series of nine painting challenge

Number 7.

I chose a calming linear composition for this one.

Series of nine painting challengeNumber 8.

When we climbed Simonside there was a place where a rock was just hanging there between the huge boulders.

Series of nine painting challenge

Number 9.

I finally got there, to finish I couldn’t resist some stacked pebbles of Millstone grit.

Series of nine painting challenge

Here’s my series of nine all together, now I need some titles, if anyone has suggestions how to name a painting I would appreciate it .

Series of nine painting challenge

Which one is your favourite painting?



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Cup And Ring Marks In Northumberland

If you have visited Northumberland you will know it has some amazing beaches, rolling countryside, moors, hills, and lots of castles, more on those later.
IMG_5790If you delve deeper into the history of Northumberland there are Iron Age hill forts, Bronze Age burial sites, also quite a few rocks with Neolithic and Bronze Age cup and ring marks which I’ve read about but I’ve never actually seen them before, even though they are the most important collection of prehistoric art in Britain.

There are over a 1000 examples of ancient rock art in Northumberland, we visited two sites at Lordenshaw and Old Bewick.

Lordenshaw carvings are easily accessed by car, they are situated near Simonside, which we climbed to enjoy views of most of Northumberland, and found a rock carving which gave me the chills, it looks like it’s  designed to catch liquid which would then flow off the rock via a lip. Maybe I’ve just watched too much TV, a scene in “The Vikings” came to mind. There are also rocks with long carved channels which must have allowed something to flow along them.



IMG_5468And lots of cup and ring marks.

It was more difficult to find the carvings at Old Bewick, having to walk through heather and bracken, there’s a lot of history here, Bronze Age burial cists. IMG_5768Two Iron Age hillforts, as well as the rock carvings. There’s  also a WW2 pillbox, but it’s the cup and rings that interested me most.




IMG_6067We found a quite large rock cut into a round basin, which on research happens to be the biggest known cup mark in the world.
IMG_5815I hope the cup and ring marks will inspire some of my art in the near future, I certainly enjoyed seeing them for the first time. Hopefully I will go back and see some more next time we go home to Northumberland.

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Loosening up my watercolour style.

For a long time now I have wanted to ‘simplify’ my watercolour painting style, breaking away from the traditional methods I learnt so long ago, and maybe even venture into mixed media work.

When I saw Lesley Watt’s post on Art Elements about online watercolour classes with Laura Horn I thought this could be just what I needed, so I ordered some classes to take on holiday with me.
I enjoyed Laura’s classes very much and watched them several times over while I was away but I didn’t work through the videos as I was going as I prefer to watch several times, digest for a while then do my own thing. I tend to do this with books as well.

Inspired by what I had learnt from Laura and with my island trip fresh in my mind I jumped in and painted, and painted until my paper block ran out.

Zen Art by Jill EganZen Art by Jill Egan

Zen Art by Jill Egan

Zen Art by Jill EganIt took me a while to adjust to different ways of working, I’ve never been happy working on watercolour paper that wasn’t stretched but using a paper in block form suited me perfectly.  Also I was finally giving myself the freedom of allowing ‘cauliflowers’ or ‘blooms’ to form in my paintings, which was definitely a no no when I went to watercolour classes. I love those blooms in the paint.

Zen Art by Jill Egan

Zen Art by Jill Egan

Zen Art by Jill Egan

Zen Art by Jill EganI discovered Posca pens, which I now love, and I got to use acrylics and inks which I haven’t used very much in the past. I have always loved the flowing serendipitous qualities of watercolours, also texture and pattern are my ‘thing’.

I’ve been aware that I’m spending less time working these days , I’m slowing down, I think it’s an ‘age thing’ or just life happenings. I am relaxed, and deliberately taking more time to enjoy the ‘Zen’ aspects of life and connect with mother nature more.

Zen Art by Jill Egan

Zen Art by Jill Egan

Zen Art by Jill EganI have been thinking about how I will define my creative self as I get older, I’m planning on going back to my roots with watercolours and stitching, but seen through ‘new’ eyes, 20 (or for some things even 40+) years on. It’s a transition that I won’t rush. 🙂

Zen Art by Jill Egan

A new website is on it’s way, for my art which isn’t ‘kiln fired,’ more on that later when it’s up and running. I need to think up some titles for my new paintings, I find this very difficult indeed because when I paint I’m obviously influenced by something that has touched me, but I don’t articulate through words, I do it with my brush, words don’t come easy.

But now I need to decide………

do I make prints ………

or ………

sell the original paintings?

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