Artist Residency - Week 1

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Artist Residency - Week 1
Sometimes you need a change of scenery to make things work, to get those creative juices flowing, to just start on a new upcycling / sewing project! Well, I got that opportunity courtesy of my artist friend,  Isabelle Desjeux. She very kindly allowed me to use her beautiful studio, L'ObservARToire, for the whole of October (in fact she has a line up of artists using her studio). I am really excited because it is nestled in a quiet part of Singapore, away from traffic, away from the crowd! 

What I Will Be Doing - Reimagining

I will be reimagining nature, reimagining food waste, and more importantly, reimagining textile waste.  Everyday, I will be foraging in my neighbourhood and around the studio for leaves, bark and even food scraps! It has started off well, and we have even managed to get the children from the Blue House International School to bring in some food scraps. So this month is all about upcycling, sewing and natural dyeing. 

Why food waste?
We throw out so much food from ugly vegetables, expired produce and waste from the kitchen. Some people use their kitchen waste to make compost, but why not see what they can offer in terms of colour? By the way, food waste is a huge problem in Singapore. According to National Environment Agency, it accounts for 10 percent of the total waste generated while only 14% of it gets recycled. 

Why nature?
Nature has a lot to offer to us - a relaxing environment, food, shade and services. But they also give us rich earthy colours.

Why textile waste?
We just have too much textile waste be it clothing, linens and furnishings. Just take a look at our thrift stores - we are just drowning in our own clothing.  According to a recent documentary by Channel News Asia, The Salvation Army in Singapore receives 10 tonnes of donations of which 60% is clothing. And this amount increases to 60% during peak periods such as festive seasons! Throughout this residency, I will be using old hotel bed linen purchased from Hock Siong and old bed linens from Raffles Hotel (I must thank Muriel Boutin-Becuwe for helping me reach out to the hotel and getting their management to agree with passing them onto me for upcycling).

Art Residency - upcycling, sewing and natural dyes

What's Happened During Week One

Week one was all about settling in, and can you believe that I forgot about my sewing machine during the move? I remembered my pots and pans, but the sewing machine got left at home. Anyway, it happens - I am getting old.

How do I feel?

  1. To say I feel ecstatic might be an understatement.  I am very happy to be in a work space without my family telling me to clear up my things after a project. Not to say I'm messy, but knowing that I have a wet and dry work space for my natural dye and sewing experiments is liberating.   
  2. I feel relaxed. The view is amazing so every time I need to take a rest, I just look at the view and take a deep breath - aaaaahhhh. 
  3. I feel inspired. We are so close to nature, so it's a great place to be foraging for my leaves, flowers and bark, but it's also an inspirational place too! We are also within the Blue House Nursery and International Preschool, and they have a great kampung (Malay for community) spirit, they have even agreed to contribute to the kitchen waste for the dyeing. 

Eucalyptus Bark and Blue Pea Flower (Clitoria ternatea)

I dyed the sheets using the eucalyptus bark from my neighbourhood park, and I started to collect the blue pea flower from the hedges surrounding the school grounds.  You might remember the last time I tried eucalyptus, and this time around I still get the rich earthy tones of the bark. I'm so glad I was able to replicate the results but important learning points this time around are:

Natural Dyeing with Eucalyptus Bark

  1. Not to be greedy and stuff too much fabric into the pot; this results in uneven pigments on the fabric. Ideally, I should have a huge vat that is as tall as me, but alas.....
  2. Keep stirring and watch the temperature... and time!
  3. It might be possible that bark (or even leaves) collected during different times of the year produce shade of brown? I will have to try this out.
  4. Always remember to label your samples and cloth prepared for natural dyeing. Preparing the cloth takes at least one and a half days so I take notes and label. I am still trying to figure out a good way to do the labeling. 

Natural Dyeing with Blue Pea Flowers

Here are the results of the eucalyptus with immersive dyeing and screen printing.
Next is mango leaves and rukum masam!
Stay tuned for week 2.
Oh, I think I should start some stitching.

Natural Dyeing with Eucalyptus Bark

Natural Dyeing with Eucalyptus Bark

Simple Living : Beeswax Wrap Workshop

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Beeswax Wrap Workshop Singapore

As a textile artist, I always look for ways to use up all my scraps whether it be the fabric or the threads.  I recently met up with nature lover and good friend, Olivia Choong, and discovered she had an amazing garden and kept bees too. We both share a passion for simple living and minimising our footprint in the home, and we realised that making your own beeswax wraps is a great way to taking the zero waste journey to the next level.

So, I'm happy to announce our little collaboration, Simple Living : Beeswax Wrap Workshop.  There will be no sewing, but I will be sharing what fabrics you can use and how you can prepare your fabric for beeswaxing!

Simple Living: Beeswax Wrap Workshop, 4 Nov, 430pm - 6pm

Looking for a safe, natural and reusable alternative to plastic wrap and aluminium foil? Learn how to make your own zero-waste beeswax food storage wraps for use at home - perfect for encasing freshly cut fruit and vegetables, and sealing a variety of cooked food, and sauces in containers.

During this 1.5 hour workshop, textile artist, Agatha "Agy" Lee, and self sufficiency advocate, Olivia Choong, will guide you step by step in preparing a delicately scented beeswax mixture for application on any natural fabric, and evenly setting the mixture to create a beautiful beeswax wrap, ready for you to take home for immediate use!

Join us for this fun, hands-on workshop! Once you learn how simple it is to make your own beeswax wraps, you will no longer wish to buy (and throw) plastic wrap and aluminium foil. With the festive season approaching, this also makes a wonderful gift for friends and family.

Price includes all materials.


Should you have an allergy to the materials mentioned below, we would strongly advise against using this to wrap your food.

What will I learn?

We will teach you how to make your own beeswax wraps.

Adequate preparation of beeswax mixture
Even application on cloth
Uniformly setting the mixture on cloth
How to choose and prepare cloth for beeswax application

All materials provided!
Pine rosin
Jojoba oil
2 sets pre-cut cloth per participant
(5" x 5" for a mug and 9" x 9" for a bowl)

What to expect?
In this 1.5 hour interactive session, expect a fun learning experience:
Hands-on learning with both facilitators
Relaxing, cosy and supportive environment
Light refreshments (coffee/ tea and snacks)
Intimately sized group of 16 participants

Min. 5 pax to conduct the workshop.

Sign up here 

About our Trainers

Agatha “Agy” is a textile artist who is passionate about building environmentally aware communities. Her goal is getting people to reconnect with their clothes through techniques such as repair and transforming them into creative wearables (aka upcycling). Currently she is exploring embroidery and natural dyeing techniques as a way of reconnecting with our clothes, and nature too. Agatha can be found at Agy Textile Artist, and is a founding member of Connected Threads Asia and Fashion Revolution Singapore.

Olivia is a gardener, nature lover and believer of a sustainable society. She writes about gardening and sustainable living on her blog – The Tender Gardener, and raises awareness of environment-related issues through a non-profit environmental society, Green Drinks (Singapore), where she is the President and Co-founder.

Very much a homebody, she likes to spend time in her garden, fussing over her chickens and watching bees in her apiary.


Payment via bank transfer before the workshop is required to confirm your slot. An email with details will be sent to you within 3 - 4 working days upon successful check-out.

Refund Policy

Cancellation one week before: Full refund
Cancellation 4 - 6 days before: 75% refund
Cancellation within 3 days: 50% refund
Cancellation on the day itself: No refund

Workshop Policies

Payment is required beforehand to secure your slot.

Should you be unable to make it, we would really appreciate it if you could inform us at least one week prior to the class so that we can free up your slot for some one else to come make art with us :)

You may find a replacement if you are unable to make it for the workshop.

A Week of Upcycling

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I managed to finish a series of upcycling and sewing workshops over the last week of September, and just before I set up the upcycled installation at Green is the New Black. Very hectic but extremely rewarding!

Repair Sewcial

Repair Sewcial was very special. There was a huge response to the workshop and it was sold out. I taught zippers, changing elastic, darning and even darning. The session went really well and very social too! Do keep a look out for the next session.

Upcycling workshop - Repair Sewcial

Off Cut Workshop with Matter

This upcycling workshop involved taking the off cuts (excess or waste fabric from production lines)  from Matter, and participants converted them into various items including a tissue box holder, tissue pouch, and even a bag! I enjoyed this a lot because we were dealing with such beautifully crafted textiles. Do pop over to Matter and read the story behind the fabrics.

Upcycling workshop

Introductory Sewing at Nanyang Polytechnic

This two day session was interesting as I was asked to incorporate innovative techniques such as electronics, and design as well.

Sewing workshop

Sewing with Children

Working with children is the best because unlike adults, they don't hold back. They explore and don't have the fear we do when trying out something new.  I will be having my last session with these children on Friday!

Sewing workshop

Upcycled Art Installation - Ocean

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Upcycled Art Installation - Ocean
I find it wonderful how people can reconnect after so many years. On a recent trip to Hong Kong, I was linked up with a secondary school classmate who also happens to be an artist. I think both of us were wondering whether there would be any connection because we hardly spoke to each other in school, except for the occasional hello. Well, life does have its twists and turns, and we realised we shared a passion for the arts, education and the environment. What was supposed to be an art jam, ended up being a 4 hour discussion, and we forgot to eat! 

Our chat ended off with a desire to collaborate, and soon I was texting Arana about upcycling bedsheets, rust dyes and free motion embroidery. Arana was off scouring her home by the beach for rust and using the seawater to create rust dyes with her old bed linens, while I was being inspired by Chasing Ocean.  

Rust Dye

I was very surprised by what you can find on a beach! Arana found this huge rusty chain that she then cut up and wrapped in her old bed linen. The colours that came out of the sea water soak were beautiful, and Arana added that it was fortunate (or rather, unfortunate) that at the same time, clumps of palm oil from a ship collision were washing onto the shoreline. 

Rust dye with sea water

Dying Corals

With this upcycled art installation, I wanted to depict the environmental pressures the corals are facing as their habitat is being eroded by warming sea temperatures, increasing water acidity and pollution.  I don't think many people realise that the health of our planet depends on these underwater 'rain forests':  Coral reefs support a quarter of all marine species (in terms of food and shelter) and half a billion people worldwide.

Although I was inspired by Chasing Coral, I focused on coral species that are found in Singapore's shores, the fan and plate corals.  Free motion embroidery was used and I confined the coral to within the embroidery hoop, thus illustrating the shrinking healthy habitat they are living in. 

Why Upcycled

We felt it was important to minimise the use of virgin materials as much as possible in this project. Human activity and consumption is the culprit of the demise of the coral reefs, and a lot of it is reflected in buying things, including clothing.  In fact, research at Coral Reef Studies, Arc Centre of Excellence, Australia, has shown that corals are ingesting the microplastics (plastics less than 5mm long) that we produce. And where does microplastics come from? Health and beauty products, synthetic clothing, among others

The base of the installation is old bed linens while the free motion embroidery was done with scrap materials from other projects. 

Free motion embroidery Upcycled Art Installation

Free motion embroidery Upcycled Art Installation

Free motion embroidery Upcycled Art Installation

Ocean is an upcycled art installation and will be on display at Green is the New Black, The Conscious Festival (1 October, 11am - 6pm, Park Royale Hotel on Pickering).  Working for the first time, artists Agy and Arana combined their ideas and passion towards art and the environment. This collaboration illustrates how the environment affects every single one of us, no matter where we are in the world.

Free Motion Embroidery - Fan Coral

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Free Motion Embroidery - Fan Coral
Free motion embroidery - Coral

Since my last post, I've been getting messages from readers about my video on stitching the gorgonian fan coral for my upcycled installation. Questions included:
a) why didn't I use a footer?
b) why didn't I use dissolvable stabiliser
c) what machine did I use for the free motion embroidery.

To answer these questions:

With or Without a Footer

I had intended to use my darning footer when I stitched the red fan coral. However, after initially trying it out on scraps without the footer, I just went ahead and continued with the piece.  There are a few artists (e.g. Karen Nicol) who do not use a footer.  I think it is personal preference, and I do believe that with a lot of practice, you will be able to have better control over your free motion embroidery.

Here I am sewing the blue fan coral but with the footer. I'm using a darning footer and during the process I did feel more confident with the footer than without.

My thoughts are:

  1. Sewing without a footer (and especially on something as flimsy as organza) is difficult as there is no footer to stop your project from bouncing up and down. There were quite a few moments during my sewing when the embroidery hoop jumped up and down. I had to stop, take a breath and start moving again, but slowly.  
  2. You need steady hands and slow movements. I was no longer to do long stitches, so all my stitching for the red fan coral were very short. 
  3. Sometimes you will forget to lower your footer shank. When that happens then you will get horrible bunched up thread at the bottom of your piece and possibly a cranky sewing machine. I jammed mine a few times because I forgot to do it.  So, always remember to keep the footer shank lowered and never lift it up during the project. 


When I sewed the coral pieces, I wanted to emulate the fan and so I didn't use any stabiliser except I sewed onto the organza. I think if I did it again, I might use the soluble stabiliser so that the fabric would be tighter around the hoop. Mind you, there were problems trying to get the organza nice and flat in the hoop.

Sewing machine

This is my sewing machine. It's a good old Singer basic sewing machine with nothing really fancy. I cover the reasons behind why I don't buy an embroidery sewing machine in this post.  But I would like to add a very important point and that is I do feel that a basic machine that allows you to lower the dog feeds gives you greater control than an embroidery one. This is my opinion, but if you beg differ, that is perfectly fine!

Free motion embroidery - stitching coral

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Starting My Next Upcycled Installation - Ocean

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Starting My Next Upcycled Installation - Ocean
Free motion embroidery and textile art - coral

Usually after an event I would feel very tired and gloomy. I think perhaps it's because the euphoria has passed and everyone involved has said their goodbyes. After the 2017 Singapore Eco Film Festival (where I had my upcycled installation), it felt slightly different for me. I was experiencing a desire to change things, and this was especially after I had watched Chasing Coral (it's on Netflix!) and then Landfill Harmonic

Chasing Coral

Chasing Coral is about how a team of scientists, photographers and filmakers who go on an adventure to document the disappearance of coral reefs around the world. While watching the documentary, I was dismayed at how rapidly things had taken a negative turn in the oceans - rising temperatures resulting in dying coral reefs and changing the ecosystem.  I think many people do not realise the repercussions once populations of organisms at the bottom of the foodchain change.  Basically, changes happening to our  Earth will affect OUR survival as well. Unfortunately, humans seem to think we are over and above everything else on the planet.

On the positive side of things, I was inspired by the action that came out of the project. I won't give it away, but the vanishing of the corals at an unprecedented rates spurred many to take things into their own hands.  I was also enamoured by the beauty of the coral reefs, and I thought it would be great to bring these to the public through my stitching and upcycling. 

Landfill Harmonic

This film left me on a very positive note at the end of the festival - upcycling can have a positive effect on lives.  The trailer below does a better job of explaining it than words, but it was pushed me to go further with my artwork and conveying messages.

Landfill Harmonic from Landfill Harmonic on Vimeo.


Inspired by Chasing Coral, I've just started a collaboration with artist friend, Arana Kennedy of Arana Art. Arana is based in Hong Kong and specialises in acrylic and ink design.

We've rust dyed an old bedsheet - Arana helped to do that, and being based in Hong Kong and living near the sea, the dye was affected by the palm oil spill that occurred in August.

Arana sent it over and I've now started to stitch it with coral. It's a work in progress but I am very excited how this will turn out. Stay tuned.

I will be showcasing this piece at THE conscious festival, Green is the New Black on 1 Oct, Royal Park Hotel on Pickering.

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Your contact details will be safe with me.

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