plastic waste, Louise Underwood, Northumberlandia,

Recent ‘Green Pledges’ made for Northumberlandia Residency

Over the Summer I have been busy working on making individual ‘Green Pledges’ to illustrate some of the environmental commitments visitors to Northumberlandia in June and July have made by making small lifestyle changes.

plastic waste, Louise Underwood, Northumberlandia,

‘We pledge to try and reduce the amount of plastic waste we are using’, Green Pledge.

In a couple of weeks, all of the ‘Green Pledges’ made by local school children, young visitors to Northumberlandia made onsite and those I have made to reflect visitors environmental commitments, will go on display within the woodlands at Northumberlandia.

Here are some photos of a few of the finished pieces, with brief information about the environmental commitment that inspired the piece.

reduce plastic waste, green pledge

‘Reduce plastic waste’ Green Pledge.

The ‘Green Pledge’ above, illustrates some quite shocking statistics:

  • Over the last 65 years, more than 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic has been produced.
  • Plastic can take over 500 years to fully decompose.
  • But only 9% of that plastic has been recycled (12% incinerated, the rest landfill/litter).
plastic folks, green pledge, Northumberlandia, Louise Underwood, textiles,

‘To use no more plastic folks’, Green Pledge.

recycle, green pledge, Louise Underwood, reduce, reuse, recycle,

‘To recycle more plastic items’, Green Pledge.

bee bombs, green pledge, flowers, Louise Underwood,

‘Planting bee bombs in our garden’, Green Pledge.

green pledge, nappy bags, Louise Underwood,

‘No more nappy bags’, Green Pledge.

The above piece reminds us that over 3796 disposable nappies are used by babies up to the age of 2 1/2 years old. I tried visualising that – not a nice vision, and all that to go to landfill. The materials used in disposable nappies are extremely slow to decompose. Many children will use more…

vegan, green pledge, Louise Underwood, Northumberlandia,

‘To follow a Vegan diet to help save the planet’, Green Pledge.

I admire all the people who have been involved with this project and set themselves a challenge to improve things for the their local environment and, often, themselves. There are many statistics about the positive benefit to the planet if more people have days where they follow a vegetarian/vegan diet instead of meat – a big reduction in carbon dioxide reduction would be one benefit and the use of land purely for food production would be another, to just name a couple of things.

green pledge, Louise Underwood, bees, flowers,

‘Planting flowers in our garden for the bees’, Green Pledge.

One thing I must highlight is that the majority of all the pieces of work made for the residency and the Green Pledges, are either made from recycled, vintage materials or from ‘found’ objects, which I have then further worked on – some in great detail. A great deal of my work is made this way. I collect vintage fabric from markets and charity shops, often I am given textiles that are still lovely but are of no use to the owner. I also ‘find’ things on my walks and recently, I have been bringing home plastic bottles etc that I have found littered whilst walking the dog in the park.

One piece I have made for this residency is made from just ‘found’ pieces like bottles from the park, cardboard dumped in our back lane, recycled wood and yogurt pots our council will not recycle. This piece is my ‘Gull’ which you can see below – I hope you like him!

gull, seagull, plastic, recyled, art, Louise Underwood, Northumberlandia,

‘To do a litter pick every time we go to the beach’, Green Pledge.



Artist Residency Day 13 at Bergby Konstcenter, Sweden.

In the last few days whilst my ‘Häxors Trosor’ exhibition has been open, many of my Swedish visitors have also been keen to make their ‘Green Pledge’. During this time I have also been busy making more from the list of pledges I brought from Newcastle.


Visitors to Bergby Konstcenter making green pledges.

I have been using local resources to make some of the pledges, including milk cartons, plastic bread and chocolate wrappers. Helen and John the artists who run Bergby Konstercenter have also made a pledge to be hung with the others.


‘I am making a compost in my garden’.


‘Here I write my solemn pledge to grow and eat organic veg.’

Visitors to the exhibition seemed to really enjoy looking at the craftsmanship in the environmental textile pennants, from the heavy embroidery to intensively worked beading and the sentiment in the poetry. It was extremely heartening to hear the very sincere feedback.


A local bee keeper and her daughter looking at the ‘ Life giving bee’ embroidery.

Talking to the visitors, asking them to also make a ‘green pledge’ has made me really think about taking this project so much further. The exhibition of the work produced during the residency is going to Gateshead Old Town Hall in September and October but I feel I would like to continue encouraging people to make pledges, so that the number of pledges made grows past the 50 we have so far.


‘I will eat less dairy and milk.’


‘I will recycle more’.


‘I will try to raise awareness with my friends about the issues of sea creatures’, by Rosie age 13.


Visitors to the exhibition.

If you would like to be a part of this project, please get in touch. You can just write a green pledge which I will make for you or you can make your own to form part of the growing numbers of green pledges made so far.

Residency Day 10

Tomorrow my exhibition is opening at Bergby Konstcenter and there was a few fun things I still wanted to make! Firstly, John had found an old shop sign at the local Loppis and we had chatted about using it to put out on the main road to show visitors we were open.

I spent a good part of the day collecting materials to decorate it, as I wanted it to reflect what the exhibition was about  and Helen found me some wool to create a ‘loom’.


Finished woven sign for the exhibition.


I also made a couple of mini hangings for the gallery using similar materials.




I have also been working on some pen and watercolour pictures of some of the birds I have seen locally. In the spirit of recycling, I have used an old Swedish copy of ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ I bought from the Loppis, torn the pages and rewoven them to draw on.


Black bird







Residency Day 5 – The Loppis

I’ve already mentioned how great the Swedish ‘ Loppis’ is – a second hand shop which you find on the side of the road. But Helen and John had told me about a really big one which is about 10 minutes away from Bergby Konstcenter. As I am now at the point of thinking about how to ‘ back’ my sea juggernaut picture – and there was only so much fabric I could bring – a place where I could pick up recycled fabric would be great!


A homage to the Loppis.

The Loppis we visited was inside a large barn – wish I had taken more photos – and an absolute treasure trove. For me, I got excited by the colourful fabrics, handmade lace, embroidered and crochet work. But if you needed any kind of household equipment, toys, clothes, furniture, books, etc, you were sorted and they were all good quality.


Today’s purchases from the Loppis.

Some of my finds are beginning to make their way into my work.


Tiny ship’s wheel that I found on the floor outside the Loppis in Bergby.


Anchor button bought as part of a collection of blue buttons. The anchor is the symbol of this area.

This idea of sensible thrift really works with the whole feel of my ‘Häxors Trosor’ project. Humanity generates so much waste. I found an interesting quote a couple of days ago when making a new ‘ Green Pledge’:

“Earth provides enough to satisfy everyman’s need, but not every man’s greed.”

Mahatma Gandhi.

How to: Yarn Bomb a chair!

WARNING!! -This is a really fun one and could possibly get addictive!

Finished yarnbombed chairs.

Finished yarn bombed chairs.

You will/may need:

Knitting wool – double knitting and above in thickness, and lots of colours!

Crochet hook or knitting needles,

Wool needles,

Foam/seat pad,

Fabric for patchworking,

Webbing and webbing stretcher if there is not ‘seat’,

Tacks/small nails,

Hessian or similar fabric for underside of seat.

This is a great way to recycle an old chair you/friend may have or that you’ve found down a charity shop. Firstly, you need to clean your chair and tighten up any nut and bolts. If your seat has wicker for the ‘seat’, strip this as close to the wood as possible.

Strip wicker or any fabric/wood from the seat.

Strip wicker or any fabric/wood from the seat.

If you have a wooden seat, check there’s no nails etc sticking out, which could be dangerous. If you have a seat which was a woven wicker, which you have now stripped, then you will need to ‘web’ a seat – YouTube has many sites explaining this method.

Finished 'webbed' seat.

Finished ‘webbed’ seat.

You are now ready for the fun stuff! Using either crochet or knitting, make narrow strips according to a rough estimate of the width and length of you chair. I started with the legs. I calculated roughly by first crocheting a chain which I wrapped around the base of the leg and worked in treble crochet, making brightly coloured stripes.

Striped lengths of crochet for chair sections.

Striped lengths of crochet for chair sections.

When I had reached a ‘joint’ in the chair, I would slightly decrease the number of stitches to work around the joint, then increase again after. (When two joints meet the crocheted sections will be sewn together to cover the join.)

Once, the crocheted length was the correct size, I would cast off, then sew the section to around the leg of the chair, pulling tight to ensure the wool stitching is discreetly disguised.

Continue working this way, making lengths of crochet to wrap around the different joints of the chair.

Stitching the 'joints' together.

Stitching the ‘joints’ together.

If you have webbed the seat, stitch the lengths of crochet through the webbing. If you have a wooden seat, using small tacks, nail the crochet length around the base of the seat, ensuring your tacks will be covered over with your seat pad later. Also, ensure all tacks are safely hammered in.

Wrapping the length of crochet around the webbed seat.

Wrapping the length of crochet around the webbed seat.

Once your chair is fully yarn bombed, you will now need a foam seat pad which you can either buy pre-cut from a shop. Then, you will need to decide how to cover it. I choose to cover my seats using my daughter’s skirts and trousers they had grown out of. These were in great fabrics – ideal for upholstery – such as cord, velvets and denims. I decided to cut them and sew them into ‘crazy patchwork’. This is a traditional technique, which uses up small pieces of fabric. But, you could choose to continue with the crochet/knitting and make a cover or use a full piece of fabric to cover the cushion pad.

Chair covered in crochet yarn bombing.

Chair covered in crochet yarn bombing.

The fabric, with the pad positioned underneath, was tacked around about 1cm from the top edge of the seat. I then, made a crochet binding to cover the tacked edge, by crocheting a long length in two rows of double crochet. This was then discreetly sewn onto the patchwork and the chair.

Crazy patchwork seat cover, with crochet binding.

Crazy patchwork seat cover, with crochet binding.

You’re now almost finished! To make your chair look neat and tidy, it’s always best to cover your working, so that there’s no little wool ‘tails’ dangling from your chair. I would, therefore, recommend to now cover the underside of the seat with hessian to hide your working. This can be done with a small square of hessian, or another fabric you have at hand, and tack that to the underside of the seat.

Underside of seat, with the 'working' of your chair hidden underneath.

Underside of seat, with the ‘working’ of your chair hidden underneath.

Now, you can enjoy your most gorgeous and fabulous seat – invite your friends round and maybe make another!

My finished chairs on display at Ouseburn Open Studios this weekend.

My finished chairs on display at Ouseburn Open Studios this weekend.

Finished chair.

Finished chair.

Portrait of a Green Man. Finished!

Portrait of a Green Man

Portrait of a Green Man

This has turned into a much more detailed project than I had originally planned. Started as a portrait of my husband and just to be a ‘bearded man’, he’s evolved into something else. On some of my previous blogs, you will find the portraits I did of my daughters ‘The Three Sisters’, which are lively, include torn papers from books and mainly machine embroidered. I think, as this was meant to be a ‘warm-up’ piece before I went into war poet Isaac Rosenberg‘s portrait, I just became carried away and used some of the techniques I am using on that series of portraits.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of Robin.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of Robin.

During the winter, my husband does have a beard – he hates shaving and it keeps him warm when cycling to work! In the ‘Green Man’s’ beard I have sewn Rosemary, Violets and small pretty pink flowers, these are to represent our daughters and it was his idea to turn him into a green man – traditional in areas of England, seen often on Churches and pubs (how appropriate!) The flowers are stitched with embroidery silks, as are the books and the robin.

The Robin, as a good friend of mine said, is like the spirit of a friend or family member popping by to check on you whilst you tend the garden. Robin is also one of my husbands middle names. It is also, the most heavily worked area of the portrait. A sort of mini project within the portrait.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of books and cap.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of books and cap.

The photo above shows the detail of the ‘tweed’ cap, embroidered using sewing machine thread as I wanted it to be finer and not as ‘heavy’ as the silks would have appeared. It took this picture into the framers this morning and cap was the area the framer was very excited about – he looked like a cap wearing kind of man, too.

I love the books. Books are one of our passions at home and we do have a lot of antique books with lovely decorated spines. Once the outline of the books were machine stitched, I painted them with acrylic, hoping to get the lovely vibrant colours old, bound books once had – acrylic is also used a little on the beard and eyes. I had great fun deciding which designs to sew onto the spines of the books, what colour silk to embroider it with etc.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of the words.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of the words.

Originally, I had planned to find some lines from a book, a song or a poem to sew across the shelves, to express a little bit more about the ‘Green Man’ but one afternoon, while walking the dog, I put together this which seemed to sum up the feeling:

Living in,

Once Industrial City,

Green pledges,

Charge your crown.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of the eyes.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of the eyes.

As I have done with my war poet portraits, this picture was initially coloured with tea. This has given it a lovely, all over subtle tone and stronger, more stewed tea was used for the beard, eyebrows and shadows behind the books. I am also very pleased with how the eyes look, they are very tricky and I’m not saying I’ve got them ‘right’ but there seems to be a vibrancy and life behind them. They were initially painted with acrylic but the very last touch I made to the portrait was to add the flecks of white which travel around the pupil.

This morning I took the portrait to the framers and last night I entered it for the Royal Academy Summer Show – fingers very tightly crossed as annually over 12,000 entries are made for around a 1,000 places…