Running a Textiles Business

During my weeks of work experience I have learnt a lot about running a textiles business. We have discussed pricing and working out how much to charge for things. This is a fine balance between getting enough money to over materials and the times you have spent making it however charge too much and people won’t buy it. For example the kanzashi flower brooches take about the hour to make so once you have included materials a good price to sell them at is £7.

For a viable business you have to move with the times and adapt your products. I have been able to help with this my making a new range of hair clips and bands in the local schools colours to match their summer dresses. Also knowing which ideas are worth developing and which aren’t is important so you don’t waste time on something that isn’t going to sell. Having a good location for you shop or studio is also important in making a profitable business.

I have learnt the importance of networking and connecting with as many different people. This can lead to new exhibitions or connections for future projects. It can also lead to potential advertising and help promote the business.

This month has been really useful in helping me decide if I want to set up my own studio or business and what is the best way to go about it. I have gained lots of knowledge in the area and feel in a much better position for my career after my degree.

Here is just a few images to summarise my month’s work experience.

Finished Shibori Samples

After leaving the dyes overnight to give a good effect it is time to rinse them. This is quite time consuming and the samples always end up lighter than before as some of the dye has been washed away. It is important to understand why this happens in order to be able to replicate any good results or what to change if you aren’t happy with the results. 

Many things can effect the amount the fabric changes and the intensity of colour gained; for example scouring the fabric before hand, soaking it in soda ash, the age of the dye and strength it is made to. This is just a few but there are many more, this is why it is so important to make a record what what you have done to each sample.

The next challenge is to undo all the knots and stitching making the fabric compress to see that amazing results.

Here are just a few pictures of before and after dyeing so you can see the effect created.

Fabric Dyeing

The next step in making our shibori samples is dyeing them. We used procion mx dyes (cold water dyes). We mixed up two types of each primary colour and one black this would give us to make lots of new colours from.

Mixing up the dyes is an exact process that needs to be done carefully, they contain harmful chemicals and protective clothing must be worn. There are many methods of missing dyes – the one we practised was using marbles in a small pot to create a smooth paste that doesn’t have any lumps of powder. This is vital in getting a consistent colour. I experimented with various ways of dyeing such as dip dyeing or using a pipette to do multiple colours. 

Here I was able to experiment as much as I wanted and be as creative as I could.

I also had a go at tray dyeing and using a storage jar. This involves compressing loads of fabric either into a tray or a jar. You then add the dye starting off with the lighter colours and a little at a time. After a whole the colours will start to mix and creates some wonderful tones and textures that are completely unpredictable.

Today I have learnt lots of new techniques and information about dyeing, I think it is really important to understand what the dye is doing and why in order to create the very best results again and again. It has made me really excited about continuing what I have learnt. I am now planning on doing some natural dyeing over Easter for my dissertation and can use all the skills and techniques I have learnt today. I feel that this workshop is really going to help me in developing my own textiles practice.

Lavender Bags For Mothers Day

With Mother’s Day fast approaching today was spent making heart shaped lavender bags to sell. I was tasked to create my own pattern and method. I started off my cutting out a rough pattern of the heart and made a sample out of calico to test it. I made a few tweaks to the template, then moved onto the nice fabric.

This task tested my construction skills as well as my imagination and hand embroidery skills.

After cutting out the fabric I then appliquéd a patch on the did some embroidery for detail. I kept this relevant to the theme of Mother’s Day. I then sewed the two sides together making sure to leave a gap in order to turn through. The lavender bag is made out of scrim and twine wound round. This as well as wading was used to stuff the hearts. Once stuffed the last challenge is to sew it up – making sure the stitches didn’t show.

I made five lavender bags and felt I had a really productive day. These will now go on to be sold in the gallery, which is really rewarding. I learnt new embroidery skills and was able to refine and improve them throughout the day.


Today we had to use all the information we had learnt yesterday and our own creativity to manipulate the fabric in the different ways. I was given a wide range of fabrics so a comparison could be made between them and to discover which technique was best suited to which fabric.

I also experimented with different tying media an as well – I tired elastic bands, thread, string and dental floss to see the different results they produce and which I prefer.

Fabrics often have chemical treatments on them which can affect the dyeing process. To get ride of this by have to be scoured overnight. I experimented with different ways of doing this – to some of the fabric I scoured it before it was bound, otherwise after it was bound and some I didn’t wash at all. This should give me three different effects.

I made sure to keep a record of what I had done to each fabric and take pictures as well – this means once they have been dyed I can work out what I did to each one. This is very important for the future, if I want to replicate anything I have made this week all I need to do is check my notes and pictures and I will know exactly what I did to it.

I have learnt many new techniques today such as various ways of stitching the fabric, binding it round object, compress into various shapes, folding and clamping the fabric in different ways, I can now take these new techniques back into my own personal and uni work. I had gained from Michelle’s great experience on this topic – she won a scholarship which involved a trip to Japan to watch the artisans at work. I will also have a large number of samples that will be made into a sample book to use for future reference.

Shibori Research

This week we focused on shibori – this is the Japanese method of tie dyeing. This is Michelle’s specialism so she has a lot of knowledge and expertise on the topic. It is a form of mechanical resist that involves using fabric manipulation to create areas where the dye won’t reach and therefore act as resist.

We started off with a brain storm to discuss different ideas about how the fabric can be manipulated. These included compressing, stitching, clamping, knotting and many more. We also discussed the fabric preparation and type of dyeing we would be using.

I was set the task to research more on the different types of shibori and ways in which they can be used and combined. I studied several books and watched a DVD on the Japanese artisans at work. I was able to gather a lot of information and knowledge on shibori, an art form I have always been interested in. I couldn’t wait to get started on the process.


National Woollen Mill – Wales

Michelle has two apprentices working for her – who are part of Coleg Sir Gar. As part of apprentice week this week we went to a networking event at the National Woollen Mill. This event was giving employers and apprentices the chance to talk and share ideas as well as bringing in new employies. It gave me another opportunity to talk to small business in Wales.

I spoke to many people including Anna from iSea Surfwear and Christine Anderson from Anderson Apparel Ltd who makes bispoke wedding dresses as well as people from Melin Tregwynt. This event have me the opportunity to network and make connections with companies that I can use later in my textiles career. I was particularly interested in the clothing of iSea Surfwear – Anna creates her own designs and transfers them to a screen print which is then used to make fabric. She then uses it to make t-shirts and hoodies. It was really beneficial to see how all the skills we are learning in Uni, such as screen printing, is being used in companies to make a successful business.

This event also gave me the opportunity to convey the new skills I had learnt on my work experience by demonstrating the construction of a kanzasi flower.

Attending these events has improved my self confidence and ability to go and talk to new people. I have gained a huge amount of knowledge by speaking to all these professionals. In furtive I shall definitely find networking events less daunting.

As well as the networking opportunity I also had a chance to look ground the museum and see all the machinery involved in turning sheeps fleece into wool and then being woven into fabric. This was highly insightful and fits in well with my dissertation research. Also on display was the Textiles Gallery – a wider range of woven blankets and clothing on display completing the  cycle of wool to the finished product.  The large amount of Welsh history and culture is caught up in the woollen trade and it was fascinating to learn about.


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

A key aspect of Michelle’s work is sustainability – she has a zero waste policy which means no fabric or tread is thrown away. It is all saved up to be used later. The production of textiles involves a large amount of machinery and produces a lot of greenhouse gases – therefore an effort must be made to reduce the amount we use. As well as this aspect the zero waste policy is also a great money saver – an important part for a student.

As part if my work experience I was tasked to make something new out of the scraps of fabric collected from previous projects – if good enough it could be sold in the gallery when finished.

I started off my picking my colour scheme and fabric. I then decided to use hand sewing and embroidery to create my piece, which was inspired by crazy patchwork. Michelle gave me help and guidance on learning new and different stitches as well as composition.

This activity allowed my to express my creativity and also expand my skill set in regards to hand sewing. As well as learning it was also great fun.

I was able to learn a lot from her expertise – I am really interested in the use of recycled fabric and making something new. As part of my dissertation I am researching rag rugs and how old, worn out fabrics are given a new lease of life.

Work Placement – Day 3 & 4

Wednesday and Thursday were spent in the studio/gallery at Model House in Llantrisant, on Wednesday there were several workshops open to members of the public to bring along their sewing projects and learn some new skills. I was able to help out with these, this meant I could interact with members of the public as well as learn some new skills. I bought in some of my own work for show and tell as well. This week one of the projects was to learn how to make a kanzashi flower; these workshops are adding new skills to my repertoire. I feel I am progressing as a textiles artist with the help of Michelle and her studio.

A key aspect of being a textile artist is advertisement and promotion – getting your name out there. I helped Michelle put together some postcard packs required for Creative Skillset Cymru, these would be handed out at a launch in relation to the new apprenticeship scheme. This work is vital for an artist wishing to get their work on exhibition and ultimately selling it.

We also went on a field trip to Craft in the Bay where they had several textiles artists on exhibitions including Ruth Harries. This was very helpful in gathering information and inspiration. Galleries and exhibitions are vital to a textiles artist and making good connections with Craft in the Bay could prove very useful later in my career.

Textiles Technology Project Launch

On Tuesday 24th of February I went to Coleg Sir Gar for the launch of the Textiles Technology Project phase 2, with Michelle and her two apprentices.

The project enables small businesses working within textiles to gain access to the technology and equipment available at the College and associated institutions. This included CAD software, Jacquard loom, Gerber Technology, laser cutting and much more.

The project is also supporting Research and Development into new textiles technologies and innovation. A talk was given by Alan Davies on the funding available from the Welsh Government for research and development for small businesses.

The keynote speaker was Prof. Chris Carr, Professor of Textile Technology at University of Leads. His talk was on whether textiles manufacture was viable in the UK and the factors that contribute to it. This was highly insightfully and I learnt more about the manufacturing process.

The launch was a great opportunity to network with other small textiles companies in Wales. I was able to talk to many people such as Andrew Davison from Furtech, Nicola Ridd-Davies from Toast and get to know the staff at the college.

Furtech website;