Living Threads Newsletter – July/August

Welcome to the Summer newsletter. This is a combined July & August newsletter, so you will get a rest from me next month! As I write we are on the cusp of another heatwave, this one promising to be more dramatic than before….

I went to London on the Monday that London hit 32degrees and that was hot enough! I was meeting an old schoolfriend I hadn’t seen for 40 years and I was crabby and sweaty with the heat, just from the train journey. We decided that Kew Gardens would be ideal. Plenty of cafes and ice cream stops and shady trees. Perfect. We tried the Palm House, but the heat was too much like outdoors so fled to the more temperate areas. There is a Food themed series of galleries and installations on at Kew at the moment, as Tony Toon advised me. I’m afraid we were rather uncultured and avoided the galleries as they were not air conditioned! I did go to see the enormous lily pads:

Taking advantage of the heatwave and sunny conditions I have been doing some ice dyeing. In the US this is most commonly done in midwinter with plenty of snow, but it does work well with ice cubes. The ice, as it melts with the dye, has a way of dispersing the colours in the dyes and creating interesting chromatic effects and fabulous, unrepeatable patterns.

Here I soaked my pfd (prepared for dyeing) plain cotton in a soda ash solution, then scrunched it on a cooling rack over a cat littler tray to catch the melted dye water. I then piled the fabric with ice cubes (a large bag of ice from the supermarket costs £1.25) until it was entirely covered. Using a mask(!!) I sprinkled powdered dye over the ice. You can use several colours and overlap areas if you wish. I used a mixed dye called Lavender and you can see that the blues, purples and even reds came out in different areas. Fascinating!  Rinse well, press and have a think how you will use your unique fabric!

Onwards, taking advantage of the sun! I then researched Sun Painting. Not Cyanotype, this is just painting fabric with fabric paints and scrunching, manipulating or laying objects on wet painted fabric. The sun performs magical transformations, removing the paint from all the shadowed areas.

Watch Lisa Walton, from ‘Dyed and Gone to Heaven’ in this You Tube video:

In my samples below I used pre-dyed fabric, rather than white, and painted a mix of Jacquard metallic purple and translucent grape onto my yellow fabric and bright pink fabric, very wetly, but with a fair amount of paint as I didn’t want a wishy-washy effect. I then laid on and pressed down flat leaves, flower heads, old stencils and a load of washers from my vast collection (not rusty ones though – I’ll do that another day)

Then I just left it in the sun…

Here are the results. As you can see, the fern and flower heads lifted too much to get good effects and the stencils that I laid on didn’t make close enough contact with the wet fabric, allowing light to get in. However, the washers were amazing! I’ve also shown the back of the fabric as that is interesting too. Now I shall iron them and the paint will be set.

I get my dyes and fabric paints from Empress Mills, where I also get lots of fabric and really good quilt wadding. They are having occasional blitz sales over the summer so do subscribe to their newsletters. We’ve just missed the most recent one, but the website is well worth an investigation.

Living Threads member Annie Nicols has been busy with a beautiful mosaic – just gorgeous!

I love mosaics and have made a few but not done anything with them. I have ambitions for tables, pathways, etc, but they are still in my head. No doubt influenced by the huge Mosaics page I have on Pinterest…

Anne Bruntlett has been fascinated by “Wee Folk”:

Big Stories Told With Little People

Do you remember seeing Viv’s submission in the Study Group section of the exhibition? It featured a birds nest surrounded by twitchers or guardians made from wrapped yarn.

Seeing it took me back to reading the Mary Norton series ‘The Borrowers’ as a child and then, many years later, seeing the film starring Ian Holm and Penelope Wilton.

Tiny people have always held a large place in my imagination – perhaps because I am the smallest in our family!

Over the years I have managed to build a tiny collection of small fabric people, many of which have their own special story to tell.

My Godmother Aunt gave me my first little person, an embroidered brooch of an Italian lady with a basket on her head. Other brooches followed from the Portuguese mainland and Madeira. Then there were the tiny dolls from a fair trade store in Leicester and a bag of worry dolls from my daughter.

Guatemala was the source of the original worry dolls. Made from scraps of fabric and enclosed in a tiny bag they have soothed many children over the years by taking away their troubles overnight.

Mexican worry dolls are slightly bigger and are sold to tourists as brooches, or on headbands and bags.


I suppose one of my real treasures is a Nativity arpillera that I bought many years ago. I had often admired the work of the women who made Arpillera to raise awareness of the Desaparecidos, or behind the simple beauty of the stitched panels.

Several years ago I purchased a copy of ‘Felt Wee Folk’ by Sally Mavor and worked with my local church group to make our own Nativity triptych, with one dear lady excelling the brief and making a wonderful camel. The triptych came out of its storage recently to be rescued from the big throw out and now resides in our spare room awaiting a decision on the best place to store it for future tiny eyes to find it and appreciate the little people.

A local Quilt and Stitch show to look out for:

Lutterworth Stitchers would like to announce their 2022 exhibition – “Scintillating Stitches”. The exhibition will be held Tuesday 16 August to Saturday 20 August, at Wycliffe Methodist Church, Bitteswell Road, Lutterworth, Leicestershire, LE17 4EZ (just opposite Morrisons supermarket), and is open 10:00 – 4:00 each day, with Friday evening opening till 9:00. The exhibition illustrates the various avenues of stitch explored by members, with lots of the work being for sale. There will also be Demonstrations, Refreshments, Homemade Cakes and a Sales Table Area with an eclectic mix of all thing’s “stitch”.

Lutterworth Stitchers, is an independent creative textile group in Leicestershire. At the monthly evening meetings invited speakers provide inspiration from the textile world. Day Workshops are held  or members to further their skills. Social ‘Stitch Days’ are also held each month, where ideas and  knowledge can be exchanged in a very convivial atmosphere. Non- members are welcomed to our ‘Stitch days’ or as visitors to our evening meetings.

For more information please contact Wendy Bates on 07851 048677, or Kate Clarke 01530 262412

I do love to hunt out clips about the making of clothes and costumes. Some of you may have seen

The recent Biopic of Elvis and recall the fabulous costumes:

 Just as much as he was defined by his music, Elvis Presley was just as recognizable for his wardrobe. In Baz Luhrmann’s brand new film on the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis, his wife and four-time Oscar-winning costume designer and set decorator Catherine Martin were tasked with the challenge to bring the King’s threads to life. Hear what she has to say about the design process and how she was inspired for the project.

Watch the video discussion with Catherine below.

As most of you will know by now, Living Threads has had a re-shuffle and we have a new Chair – Maggie Ready – to steer us through the next few years and help us transition and plan our future. Many thanks to Viv for her sterling work, and all the hard workers on the previous committee. I shall stay on as Newsletter Editor unless someone else wants the job?

Most of us will now be meeting monthly to try to make the group more cohesive and collaborative as we plan how and where to exhibit, etc. We will share practices, show work in progress, discuss and critique, possibly bicker and squabble…!!

General contact for Living Threads will be through the

Your enquiry will then be forwarded to the relevant member. Maggie’s details are on the members’ contacts list. Please note that this is being updated at the moment and will be circulated shortly by Hazel.

That’s all for now. I’d love to be able to include snippets, images and news from members and subscribers. I’d love to hear of any local exhibitions, book reviews or recent experiences for my next newsletters.

Please send any items to: or

On our website you can find a review of many of the pieces in the Living Threads Exhibition 2022

Have a lovely Summer, enjoy stitching in the sunshine

Gilli Theokritoff

Newsletter Editor

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