Lizzie Godden – Natural dyeing, eco printing and hand embroidery
We started year three of the Textile & Stitch Around Marlborough with a fantastic talk by Lizzie Godden. Travelling from the Forest of Dean Lizzie spent two days with us, the first talking about her work and showing us beautiful examples and the second was spent with a very privileged group of members showing them her techniques for natural dyeing and eco printing.
In the hall Lizzie displayed her dyed fabrics, dyed threads, beautiful hand embroidery, her very precious folders containing formula and recipes for her dye baths and books showing natural dyeing, eco printing and hand embroidery stitches. To support the talk, Lizzie had two buckets of leaves which she planned to use for the workshop the following day.
Lizzie started by explaining that she first starting experimenting with plant dyeing in the 1990’s and recommended Jenny Dean’s book, Wild Colours. She explained that almost all of her plants came from the garden apart from madder which she bought and she showed us examples of over dyeing where the fabric is dyed, tied and dyed for a second time using another plant. Buddleia and golden rod were important garden plants together with the skins from onions, plants from the hedgerows and leaves from trees. Lizzie’s folders contained samples to show the shade and colour obtained using various plants. I was particularly interested when she brought out a knife and sliced the bark off a mahonia stem. As you can see from the photo, the colour is a deep yellow.
Everything has been a matter of experimenting over the years and in talking about the materials used, Lizzie said she mainly uses silk material and thread, and woollen blanket as cotton tends to produce less vibrant colours. Members were particularly interested in the cord which Lizzie had made using dyed thread and lengths of cut dyed stockinette. In addition she had experimented making cords from plants and mentioned dandelion and bindweed.
Lizzie then went on to talk about eco-printing or printing with leaves. The leaves are positioned topside up and the natural inks are extracted when the fabric is rolled up and left in position for several days. You can find out more by reading the details of Lizzie’s workshop but she mentioned the best plants for eco-printing were currant leaves, brambles and her favourite was the smoke bush leaf.
Another process that Lizzie shared was the preserving of leaves using vegetable glycerine. Once this is done the leaf is protected, can be displayed and stitched into.
Last but not least having dyed her own fabrics and threads and eco-printed some, Lizzie hand stitches her own designs some reflecting the prints and some using stitch patterns. She loves using unusual stitches and had several interesting books on display. Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn’s book, Stitch Magic and the Batsford Encyclopaedia of Embroidery Stitches by Anne Butler. Another book that Lizzie recommended was Alice Fox’s Natural Processes in Textile Art: From rust dyeing to found objects.
The final pieces of work we were shown was Lizzie’s lockdown project which has certainly turned out to be a family heirloom displaying a wonderful selection of designs and stitches all using natural dyed threads.
Report and photos: Ros