How to Dye Your Own Fabric

An exciting piece of news! My fourth and latest eBook ‘How to Dye Your Own Fabric’ has just gone live and is now available on Amazon. If, like me, you love fabrics and textile arts, you will have probably had trouble, at one time or another, finding just the colour you want.

Dye example

If you live on the South Coast of the UK, as I do, you will probably have had more trouble than most as we are not well-served with good fabric shops.


I solved this annoying dilemma by learning to dye my own fabrics and have bought very few commercial ones since. Dyeing at home is great fun and the wealth of colours you can produce with just three primaries is amazing.

dye close up

I’ve put all my experiences in my latest book ‘How to Dye Your Own Fabric’. I’ll be sharing some of my tips and recipes in future blogs but if you’d like to get the book for yourself, I’ve given you the link below.



Apologies for the lack of posts this week but my father was unexpectedly sectioned under the Mental Health act and I have been up in the frozen North making sure he is settling in to his new surroundings. He is slowly getting used to his new surroundings and is being well looked after.

Hope to get back to regular postings very soon!

A bobbin a bobbin…

Ahhh, the sewing machine, the sewing machine A girl’s best friend

If I didn’t having my sewing machine I’d a come to no good end

But a bobbin a bobbin and peddle a peddle

And wheel the wheel by day

So by night I feel so weary that I never get out to play

The first line of ‘The Sewing Machine Song as sung by Betty Hutton in the 40s movie ‘The Perils of Pauline’.

I have recently acquired a 1930s Singer treadle machine courtesy of eBay. It was quite a state when I got it, but after a thorough swabbing with WD40 and machine oil (sewing machine oil that is!) it’s looking pretty smart.

The Clean Machine

The leather drive belt was completely perished when I got it but all the spares are still available so a few more eBay sales and it’s all up and running!

But sewing in straight lines gets a little dull and, as a lover of free embroidery, I thought I’d give it a go.

If you’re a treadle machine owner – and I know from the number of YouTube videos that there’s a lot of you out there – below is a short run-through of how to set your machine up for embroidery.

Some people are even converting their electric Singers back to treadle. Why is another issue outside the scope of this post…

Free Embroidery on the Singer 201K Treadle Machine

First of all, you need to remove the straight stitch foot from the shank.

Straight Stitch Foot Removed

Then you need to release the drive belt from the wheel using the belt thrower.

Using the belt Thrower

Next you need to swing the machine body backwards exposing the underside – you will only be able to do this if the belt is completely free of the wheel.

Belt Released from Wheel

Locate the Feed Dog Adjuster. You may need your instruction manual for this.

Feed Dogs in the Up Position

Loosen the knurled nut, pull it out as far as it will go, and press down on the little brass tab.

Feed Dogs in the Down Position

Now relocate the knurled nut in the new hole and tighten!

Lower the machine body back into the table and replace the belt on the wheel.

Now the instruction manual says that you can darn/embroider without a presser foot fitted but I (wimp that I am) have never been too keen on sewing with a bare needle even if it is only being driven by my own muscle power. As luck would have it, I had a standard fit embroidery foot for my Husqvarna machines and it fitted perfectly.

You can buy these feet online for about a tenner.

Standard Embroidery Foot Fitted

Thread up the machine as per the manual and bring the bobbin thread to the top.

Machine Threaded

Prepare some fabric by ironing it onto a piece of cotton batting and, if you’re feeling adventurous, fuse a shape onto it using fusible web.

Place it under the needle and bring the bobbin thread through to the top of the fabric.

Bobbin thread on Top of Fabric

It is very important, with treadle machines, to have your feet in the right position on the treadle.

Getting your Feet Right

If you have your feet positioned correctly, sewing is like using one of those step machines at the gym. If you have your feet in the wrong position i.e. side by side on the treadle, it is like being on a step machine while wearing deep sea divers boots…

Now you’re ready for the off.

Put your left hand on the left edge of the fabric – as far from the needle as possible – put the presser foot down and swing the balance wheel towards you – then pedal like mad. Make sure that the balance wheel is always turning towards you.

These old machines are annoying similar to their whizzy modern counterparts in that, if you forget to put the presser foot down, before starting to embroider, this is what you will get…

Birds Nest

Once you have untangled everything, try again…

Using a treadle machine is not as easy as the modern plug-in-and-zoom machines but it is strangely satisfying – when you get the hang of it!

Natural Fashion?

Now the one thing I’ve never been accused of is being fashionable but when I saw these seaborne sights today, on my Saturday Worthing beach ramble, I just couldn’t resist sharing them.

The first made me think of a kind of Stone age fascinator- the sort of thing that Wilma Flintstone (showing my age here people…) might wear.


The second, a very soft and fluffy seaweed, was reminiscent of a feather boa…


… and the third – my favourite as a crocheter – one of those Astrakhan neck mufflers.


That’s all for today folks, embroidery temporarily stalled while I move my craft studio back home but hope to have more to show you soon.

The View from my Window

When I’m teaching in my Bursledon Brickworks sewing studio, here is the view from my window. Or rather here is an interpretation of the view from my window made in hand-dyed fabrics and lots of free-motion embroidery.

Bursledon Brickworks Industrial Museum

On Open Days there are steam traction engines in the yard and hundreds of people milling around, but on this particular day it was quiet. The little burger stand, insubstantial as it is, is a permanent feature and may indeed be holding up the rambling rose that is right behind it.

We will be having an open day on Sunday July the 15th, if you’re local. If you’re not, or you’d like more info, see my other blog ‘Bursledon Brickworks’.

Boats and Things

While waiting for my new grandson to arrive I have had all sorts of ideas for things I am going to make for him. Of course, like my own children (one of which was his mother!), he will probably spend the first few months of his new life in vests and babygros. But then, the possibilities…

I have been experimenting with hand-dyed and stripey yarns as you’ve probably seen on previous posts but then I thought ‘it needs more’, perhaps an appliqueed boat?

Applique boat on stripey yarn

I haven’t quite decided what to make yet. Cardigans would be popular but wouldn’t work with this yarn as the stripes on the sleeves and fronts would be a different size to those on the back. But I’ll keep thinking – I’m sure I’ll come up with something.