The beginning of a new tree, and feet.

P1160580Admission time – did some more quick textile sketches, several  pen and  ink sketches, finished off large trees,  and didn’t remember to photograph them!  They are now at the local gallery which has been displaying some of my things, and we are going to put together  a bit of a personal show –  when you all cry — final selection and pricing next Wednesday, hanging on the following Monday!

They only wanted to see some of the new stuff!  They’ve kept nearly all of it. Umm.

Not really complaining – have a bit of a dodgy wrist at the moment so doing as little as possible, except sketching, and a bit of hand stitching, and…….





field oak  Spring 2015






So the next task is the summer tree in the Field Oak series. The idea is to select a tree for each season, one that expresses the character of that time of year and  render it in stitch.  The  Winter Tree (wriggly tree)  and the Spring Tree (never do hand stitching) are already done.  Winter was fun – lots of machine work to create the twisting and writhing frame, the spring one is machined trunk and seed stitch canopy – took SO long.

The summer one I want to be heavy, bosomy, a celebration of sunshine. I went to the racecourse this morning – lots of mature chestnuts, beech and oaks, seeking inspiration but got side tracked ( of course) and ended up characterising them as 18thCentury dresses – giant polonaise skirts with furbelows and ribbons.

polonaise trees

polonaise trees? ( fantastic collection at the Met Museum)

Back to the field oaks – less regular and more battered.






This was this afternoon’s effort –


half an hour of concentrated scribbling later …. the proportions are not quite right – it looks young rather than mature. A  return trip will be needed to rebalance the whole. I think the height to the main branch on the right is too much – greater width  and more on top might be the answer.P1160583

In the meantime I can get started. I want to vary technique  and try  detached   trunk and branches again.  I’ve drawn the main pieces of the frame onto the ‘vanishing muslin’ but the next question is whether to link them into a tree skeleton or to leave them as separate bits. Bits will be fun, honest.

The worst thing about using this stuff is the need to hoop tightly, it makes working at any scale such a pain as every few inches the hoop gets in the way and has to be moved.  If I want to use the spring needle the hoop has to be smaller still…..  why is everything compromise?  Visibility v. frustrating hoop v. control.  Could always stabilise it to death. Or take up knitting.

These are my current options  – spring needle, the machine’s own embroidery foot, and a generic open toed machine quilting foot. The manuals all tell you to use these or a darning foot, twiddle the tensions a bit  and drop the feed dogs.P1160581


The idea is simple – the feed dogs are the teeth that move the fabric, with these out of play I can move the fabric in any direction or speed. The danger would be pulling the fabric while the needle is engaged and pulling it out of true. The springs on the foot  allow it to go up and down with the needle, clamping  the fabric still during each stitch.  The tensions? Slacken the top a fraction so that the bottom thread doesn’t show even when changing direction.  Simple!

Each of my options has been adored and cursed in equal measure –  the spring needle is great for fine small work as I can actually see where the needle strikes the fabric.  The problem is the tiny foot isn’t strong enough to push the fabric off the needle as it draws up, hence the need for small hoops to hold the fabric taut and flat.  The machine’s own is a closed loop foot in thick plastic, the spring can squeak like a ruptured guinea pig but it does work very effectively.  The real problem is the visibility-  clear plastic is good but not from an angle. There have been nose bruising incidents when I try to peer down the needle shaft and get swiped by the take up arm!  And as for the quilter’s foot – good visibility but the foot raises so far each stitch that it becomes a liability.  The prongs on the foot also take a devil’s delight in tangling with loose threads and scraps.  Revenge is mine though – breaking all the guidelines – I have taken off the bar that catches over the needle  (curled bit of metal lying by the foot)-  there is just enough give in the spring to allow me to move the fabric, I’ve  even started using it with the feed dogs up. With a lot of the heavier back ground fabrics I use there is no need to hoop at all with the foot like  this!  Hurrah!    It is of course possible to stitch with no foot at all, ( ‘ware fingers!) my ancient New Home doesn’t mind, but the tension can be erratic.

By the next blog the trunks should be done, proportions resolved and canopy being tackled- not decided how to do that yet…. Ummm.


Time to stop typing and start doing again – the sun should be high enough now, so it is on to the bike and out to the tree……. probably best to get dressed first.



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