Indigo Shibori-Style Dying

For Christmas this year I tried my hand at some Shibori-style dying. On previous Christmases I’ve made bracelets and necklaces, made chutneys and jams, and always made my own cards. I look forward to doing Christmas crafts, I like getting the most output possible for my money, and I feel like I can do a much better job of making a personalised and thoughtful gift on my current budget if I go handmade. I’m not here to preach that handmade is better than buying a perfect gift, in fact at times I’ve definitely felt like it was a bit of a cop-out, because I end up giving all my relatives similar things each year dependant on what I’m crafting, and while for some people it’s the perfect gift, I can’t help but feel that others would prefer something different. Anyway, I didn’t feel like making edible things this year, so  I racked my brain for inspiration.

I have no idea why I thought of Shibori, but I spend a lot of time on Pinterest, so I may well have just stumbled upon something that sparked the idea. Here are some things I pinned by people rather more experienced than me:


The plan then was to source my indigo dye – I made the choice to use natural pre-reduced indigo, rather than synthetic as my internet search told me it does weird and wonderful things. This proved to be true, but I wish the online sources had warned me how much it STINKS, lol. I advise anyone wishing to do this to do it outside, or at least, not in the winter when you have to make the choice between freezing with an open window, but smelling good, or staying warm but smelling like something vaguely sulfuric and vile…

The indigo kit I bought came with all the pieces I needed to tie dye (rubber bands, wooden blocks etc) and all the chemicals and bits that needed adding. I highly recommend this as it makes everything really easy. All you need is (if inside) something like a big plastic sheet to put on the floor, and a large container with a lid to put the dye in.


It’s messy but it’s fun!

As you can see in the picture above, I started with four different ties (BTW I decided to make pillow cases, the material was a good quality white sheet I bought from a charity shop for £2.99, I also did a few t-shirts and vest tops). The four starting ties were concertina triangle, concertina square, pole wrap (you wrap the fabric diagonally around the pole than scrunch it down hard and tie it there) and a more traditional tie-die. The undyed fabrics looked like this:


And when dyed and unwrapped they looked like this:


I should mention these are all still wet in the pictures, and the indigo dried quite a bit lighter than this. For all but the vest top I wasn’t completely happy with the amount of white space, so I retied and redyed all of them, making sure that for the concertinas a different part of the fabric was on the outside and for the stick roll, I simply made sure the dyed portion was closest to the stick and the whitest portion on the outside. For some reason the dye seemed to soak in even more the second time and I ended up with this:

I also did a cool spotty one by tying small pebbles into the fabric using elastic:

There was no need for double-dying with this one as the fabric was so exposed.

The final cushions looked like this:

dscf4886I almost didn’t want to give them away! So I consoled myself by dying my very boring white and grey bedcover and pillows!


I took some close-up pictures of the fabric for this as it really shows the randomness of natural indigo, it takes more strongly in some areas and oxidises differently giving a cool mottled effect:

This was definitely a tough project, one night I literally worked from 8pm till 1am tying and dying fabrics. Because the indigo dye oxidises and presumably eventually becomes unusable you’re working against time and with large fabrics the tying and folding can take ages. A word of warning also, I have a wash off fabric marker which is supposed to wash out in cold water. My mum swears by this thing, and it seemed to be working fine until I noticed that it was reacting with the indigo and leaving little brown marks which refused to be dyed or bleached out. I used in to mark out the spotty patterns, and each circle ended up with a little brown mark in the centre, which was quite upsetting, so perhaps use chalk to mark up fabrics, this might work better, but do a patch test first.

Good luck if you try this out x


Multilingual Business

Everyone who knows me I’m sure is aware of my love of language learning – my irritating joy at seeing a Chinese character I recognise, my dogged determination to decipher German board game rules, my truly dreadful French claim-to-fame of basically being able to order a cheese and ham sandwich…

But I don’t just love it because it’s interesting, I love it because it’s also useful. Learning another language means connecting with a culture directly. I have in the last two years acquired many native Arabic-speaking friends, and while they are wonderfully open about their home cultures, we inevitably hit a barrier explaining certain specific cultural concepts – things that just can’t be translated, or that don’t ‘ring true’ when expressed in another language.

I also have the experience of being in a PGR office where English is the Lingua Franca*, with colleagues from Libya, Indonesia, China, Kurdistan and the United Kingdom. What unites us linguistically (other than us all studying linguistics…) is English fluency. And while I think a lingua franca is a wonderful thing which allows communication across cultures and borders, it is inevitably a homogenising force which diminishes the richness of meaning available when using multiple languages.

For my PhD on inter-cultural business communication (in lingua franca English) via email, I’ve read a lot about how businesses operating in multiple countries choose to communicate both within and between those different regional offices and with their customers in different localities. Many make the decision to use a lingua franca for internal communications in order to maintain a company standard, and an internal company culture which unites offices in disparate locations, but crucially, for talking to customers, many will localise their service, and their online presence for the community they are serving. This is crucial for building strong ties of trust with consumers. Localising is not the same as translating – as cultural differences as well as linguistic ones need to be incorporated into website text. Even something as simple as getting offers and promotions properly in tune with local holidays can make a difference. Offering a lunchtime deal during Ramadan for example, would be culturally insensitive, and unlikely to boost revenue (during Ramadan, practising Muslims can only eat after the sun has set and before it rises again). Another example, certain numbers in China are considered unlucky and lucky – eight is lucky because ‘ba’ (八), the word for eight, sounds like ‘fa’ (发) the word for fortune; while four is unlucky, ‘si’ () meaning ‘4’ sounds almost exactly like ‘si’ () meaning ‘death’. One should use this knowledge wisely!

Localisation shows a certain sensitivity to cultural context – it will increase trust in an organisation if customers see that the company is making an effort to work with and for them. People like to deal with those they can empathise with, those who seem to share their values and ethics; this begins with culture. Our superstitions, our religious beliefs, taboos, rituals and traditions are all built into us in childhood, and it is reassuring to deal with someone who understands those and the impact they have on how we live and how we do business.


* a language that is adopted as a common language between speakers whose native languages are different.

Plants Update

I’ve written on this blog before about the avocado plant I grew from a seed. But I don’t think I’ve blogged about my two other awesome plants, my ivy that I’ve had since I was maybe 12 years old and my amaryllis that I’ve had for about 7 years. The ivy has been through a lot, it’s survived all my student houses, and once when it was quarantined in the garden because of an infestation, it was mown by my landlord! It also fell of a windowsill in my first student house and broke out of its pot. I love it because it’s part variagated part plain leaved and has lovely gnarly vine roots:

The amaryllis may not have been mown or fallen off a windowsill,  but it’s still totally badass; that pot used to be circular. Let me just let that sink in!


And it’s about to flower soon, which is exciting!

And the real news this week is that I’ve finally re-potted my avocado which had been making a valiant effort to escape is pot. It was crazy root bound to a degree which definitely has to be seen to be believed:

It was starting to look ridiculously top-heavy in its tiny pot and looks a lot better now! Check out how tall it’s got :



Nearly as tall as me! (excuse my nighty, didn’t really think this picture through…)

Video Capturing Lectures

A fairly heated debate is happening in my university at the moment around whether or not lectures should be video captured.

One of the SU’s executive officers has written this post. I commented, but stupidly overwrote my clipboard before I pasted it into this post (FML) so I’ll summarise:

The good:

  • People like Dash (dyspraxic, frequently ill) will have an aide memoire, and a way to access lectures when they are unavoidably absent from university.
  • Students will have an easier way to revise.
  • If implemented cleverly, and edited well, iterative improvements on lectures could be integrated, students would have later opportunities to ask questions (e.g. by comment forms, or via a Twitch-like service if live-streamed)

The bad:

  • Mistakes made by both students and lecturers would be preserved (unless videos underwent editing).
  • Editing would be time-consuming, lecturers would need appropriate compensation.
  • Students may choose not to attend in person, either because of laziness, or because of unwillingness to be filmed.
  • If attendance and/or participation dropped, the interaction between student and lecturer would be eroded – lecturers would not know what points to clarify as there would not be anyone to say they hadn’t understood. Group discussions would cease to be achievable.
  • Red tape would increase, and flexibility in teaching would decrease.

In my opinion, a distinction needs to be made about the kind of content to be recorded. Traditional lectures would benefit from recording. Seminars, discussions and practical tasks would not.

The Grey Hair Fairy

I found my first grey hair recently. I didn’t freak out, I was delighted. It’s so shiny and silvery. In my head I call it my ‘unicorn’ hair because it is unique. I worry for it though, I can imagine a well meaning friend, or my mum, telling me I have ‘something in my hair’ and pulling it out to destroy the evidence “before I notice it”. In a society obsessed with staying young I’ve enjoyed getting older, not having children yet does play on my mind, but as far as everything else goes, it’s all good. I wasn’t a very ‘typical’ teenager; I think I’ll fit much more comfortably into society as a 30-year-old. Hence my joy at my grey hair, now my mind and my body match.

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it’s unsurprisingly hard to get a good focus on a short pale hair when holding the camera yourself, but I think you can see it here.

Isn’t it odd how as we get older we stop celebrating physical development milestones and start fearing them? I’m not talking about cognitive/learnt milestones, these get due celebration whatever age you are, learning to speak and getting a promotion are celebrated, and rightly so, but not so the physical milestones, these are to be feared and evidence erased if possible. It seems to me like a continuum:

Baby’s first tooth – a cause for celebration and many photos

Child’s first lost tooth – celebration! Money! Tooth fairies!

Children getting taller – “look how much you’ve grown!”, marks on the wall, expressions of joy and admiration

Girl’s first period – becoming a woman, in many cultures a cause for a ceremony or celebration

Wisdom teeth – unless they have to be removed (cue sympathy), completely ignored

First wrinkle/grey hair – the world is ending, I’m old, I’m going to die

First evidence of memory loss – this is it, the end is nigh

I was hoping a search for ‘ageing’ on Google images would support my argument, actually the results are pretty heartening, apart from the fact that all these people are white (because we’re the only ones who age…), these are pretty factual, unjudgemental images:

agingI just feel like the proliferation of anti-aging treatments and lotions tells a different story… but perhaps not, what do you think?

Anyway, the whole thing made me think about the tooth fairy. Without explanations loosing teeth is scary, it’s a bit painful and without adults to tell you what will happen, you might be left wondering if they will ever grow back, but with money and fairies the process can be fun (and lucrative!).

And I was thinking, wouldn’t it be nice if we had a grey hair fairy, a sweet little old lady fairy who visited in the night and turned your hair to silver – wouldn’t that just make everything more friendly for those who value their youth? I think she’d look a bit like Flora from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.

So, to sum up. I have a grey hair. I’m happy, and like a kid loosing her first tooth, I’d quite like some congratulations, and perhaps some money please, if that’s all the same to you…

(Almost) No Shampoo Since February!

In February I went down the internet rabbit hole (as you do) and stumbled upon the ‘no-poo’ movement – I think I got there from Vegan bakery (my bf is allergic to eggs, so I look at Vegan cake/brownie etc. recipes quite often), Vegan blogs often lead me to unusual things… or perhaps it was a video I watched of a New Yorker who hadn’t created any trash in a year. Anyway. I digress.

shampoo search

The no-poo idea is that you can wash your hair without shampoo using just kitchen ingredients, it’s supposed to be more healthy and thrifty. The most popular ‘shampoo’ mix is a couple of tsp bicarbonate of soda, and you follow this up with ‘conditioner’ which is a mix of water and vinegar.

I just had to give it a go.

And it works.

I’m not convinced my hair is ‘thicker’ or ‘stronger’ (but it’s short so it’s hard to tell, but I do think my scalp is more healthy, I’ve had to use my medicated shampoo which stops my scalp itching way less (but have still needed it a few times).

So, here’s a pic of my hair, for the sake of proving yes, it still looks clean and shiny as ever:


this is the face I make when I catch Dad trying to take sneaky ‘natural’ pic of me 😛

There are a bunch of blogs that go into all the shampoos you can make, so I won’t rehash this here. However, I will add two things to the discussion:

  1. because the the ‘shampoo’ and ‘conditioner’ are VERY watery (unsurprising since they’re both about 99% liquid), it’s best to put them into a bottle with only a small hole, such as an old shampoo bottle or handcream bottle, not the sort of bottle you would drink out of or you end up putting way more than you mean to over your head.
  2. I found that in both Wales and Yorkshire, where the water is soft, this method works like magic, perfect, soft hair every time. But in the south of England, where the water is hard (you can tell if you have hard water by looking into your kettle, if there is a build up of white flakes, or you have to filter water to prevent these forming, that is limescale and you’re in a hard water area) I only got one good wash over the whole holiday – sadly I’m not sure what made that wash work as 1. I had just made a slightly stronger bicarb solution and 2. I rinsed my hair first in soapy bath water rather than under the shower. I don’t know which of these factors made the difference, but for the rest of the holiday my hair looked fine, no strands stuck together etc, but felt kind of like sheep’s wool, not really nasty or anything, just kind of lanolin-like. So if you’ve tried and had zero success, maybe it’s the water?

If you’ve tried this or want to comment below! Have a great day x

Love through the lens

I just got back from a family holiday and am now sorting through the hundreds of photos we took between us. My parents were there first for a week alone – the first holiday they’ve had without me or my brother since their honeymoon. I copied all the photos from Dad’s camera (I asked if there was “anything I wouldn’t want to see” first, he assured me no) and going through the photos from their week together, I really feel they are a couple who’s love will last a lifetime.


I wish I could share lots of pictures, but to protect their identities, I will only share ones where they cannot be identified.

Seeing my parents through the lense of each other’s love was a truly humbling, and at times hilarious experience. I love that photos like these show they can really have fun together:


I love you Mum and Dad, I hope you stay together forever.

Avocado Update

I occurred to me a few weeks ago that I never posted an update on my avocado plant that I grew from the stone. As a reminder, here’s what my plant-baby looked like in the last post it featured in:

picture my own

Aww, so cute and tiny!

And now look at its magnificent self!

DSCF2166That’s one hell of a change, the leaves are massive – bigger than my hand and the main stem is really think and strong – it actually feels like a sapling as opposed to a softer less woody stem.

A word of warning though to anyone who wants to grow one of these, they’re very thirst plants, and if you don’t manage to water them enough, or leave them alone for a week or so, you will come home to this distressing sight:


Poor little thing 😦 … at least it perks up again in a few hours if you give it some water 🙂

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Monkey Brain Moments

I was thinking about this yesterday after hearing a discussion on Heart Yorkshire radio about carwashes. DJ Rich was saying that he’s always irrationally scared of the ‘do not break, this will rise automatically’ sign:


The picture of the offending barrier, posted on Heart Yorkshire’s Facebook page is above.

I realised I’ve always had a theory about this kind of irrational fear, I call these moments of terror or confusion at technology ‘monkey brain’ moments. Let me explain

I theorise that we have developed technologies like car-washes and planes and traffic lights faster than we’ve evolved – we can learn to use them, but it’s not innately built in. Some fears we have are evolved fears of heights and spiders for example have been selected as those who possessed them historically had a higher chance of survival.

So, when we encounter something like a car-wash, though we’ve learnt to accept this technology as a safe part of the modern world, I think that on some innate in-built level we are distrustful – hence a ‘monkey brain’ moment (I realise this is disingenuous to monkeys, and I should probably call this a ‘homo erectus’ moment, monkeys are, after all, exactly as evolved as we are and when modern humans didn’t exist, neither did modern monkeys) –  a moment when an old intuitive part of your brain kicks in and says “I don’t trust this”.

I have these regularly myself, especially when handling this set of knives:

My monkey brain really objects to me holding the thin sheath in my hand and sliding in the knife, every single time, it’s like someone is screaming in my head “you’re going to slice straight into your palm!”.
The response to DJ Rich certainly confirmed that many people are scared of car-washes, but does anyone else have another example of a ‘suspicious monkey brain’ episode?

I have a Secret Identity

My friend has a superpower

What he doesn’t realise is that I have a super hero costume. I can walk straight past people wearing my normal clothes, people who I’ve seen many times, some even over a number of years and just like Peter Parker or Clark Kent, if I’m not in my super suit, they don’t recognise me, or they just give me this weird ‘have I maybe seen you somewhere before?!?’ look. It even works on my own boss!

Want to see my super hero outfit?

Wait for it…



That’s right, I don’t even have a face mask! Not even a skinny black one like The Incredibles wear!

But I did used to have a hat, interestingly, losing the hat has made me no more or less recognisable.


Of course I realise here that the trick is situatedness, my customers are used to seeing me at the cafe in uniform, seeing me outside the cafe in plain clothes is somehow incongruous – and it’s not that they don’t see me as a proper person I think, though thinking about it, it’s the people who take the time to talk to me who recognise me more often and more easily…

So I guess the moral of the story is if you meet Superman, chat to him, maybe he’s had a rough day, and then perhaps when you walk past that muscular vaguely-familiar man on the street you might be able to put two-and-two together!

…and also that making a mean cappuccino is a really shit super power.