It is the Little Things

I am still trying to organise the workroom so that I can sew with out having to mountaineer or crawl under the table! So until this is sorted I have been experimenting. With video. Very badly.

I couldn’t think of anything simpler and quicker to do. The sketch and each colour of stitch should be under 2 minutes each………..

I have concluded it is me, not the various technologies. I thought I would share my insights with you.

  1. Check you have enough battery, memory and sanity before starting.
  2. Don’t record directly into Instagram on my phone – the ‘record’ button has to held only leaving one hand to sew with.
  3. Enter a state of zen like calm in preparation – do you realise how much we move when breathing? and no one wants to hear you huffing and puffing in the background.
  4. Make sure you can see the object of the video clearly, in the centre of the screen, and make sure it is large enough- amputating fingers because they always get in the way should not be required.
  5. Sewing fast causes vibration, your camera will ‘walk’ out of line and then fall over unless it is secured, and the mini tripod too. Sometimes even gaffer tape is not enough. In fact, have them on an entirely separate surface/structure for safety. And remember not to knock them over.
  6. Do not have the tripod too close, it will be side swiped by the action.
  7. Avoid auto focus. It will be on the work, then the machine, then your hands, then the work, your hands, the work……..
  8. Lighting levels will never be right or consistent.
  9. Remember to ban every sound making device/creature from the room/ continent/hemisphere.
  10. When editing – oh dear. Read the instructions, if the software has any. Leave three or four times the amount of time you imagine it will take. And add an afternoon for luck. It does not get any quicker. You do become more familiar and competent but then start to play with more buttons and ideas.
  11. When uploading – remember Instagram only takes 60 secs. Beyond that your are into IGTV. It looks simple, and it is once you know your way round. Do remember to load a cover pic and a preview. Do read the instructions and triple check before publishing.
  12. Auto sharing from Instagram to your facebook page is good. Much easier than trying to do it manually. Trust me.
  13. Remember that the plan I am on with WordPress does not include posting videos.


Video clip 1 – quick sketching of a tree

Video clip 2 – quick stitched version of the quick draw tree

Video clip 3 – to be published tomorrow – adding a colour layer to the tree.

Video clip 4 – yet to be done, a top layer of light colour on the little tree. Recording will be tomorrow’s task. Deep breath.

This is not advice. It is hard won experience. I think you can guess at the kind of week it has been! You should also note that after so many attempts I have plenty of little tree studies to make a whole new stock of greeting cards!

And no, I shan’t include myself in these. After a week or so of video chatting I have seen far too much of me already!

York Open Studios – cancelled of course, but this was to be the taster exhibition weekend so have a look at the facebook page for artists’ sneak peeks of their work, including mine. On the actual weekends we will be sharing our work and studios on line and intend to join in with the ‘Art in the Window’ idea. Calling it an open window event may excite burglars.

Imaginery onto Fabric

Subtitle : best intentions.

Field patterning, Marston Moor, March 2020

We left it with sketches and some exploratory work. Teasing out responses is fun, messy , but I have to move quickly so it doesn’t become more important than the end goal. So this paper work led straight to textile ideas, samples and snippets exploring media, techniques and questioning just what I wanted to do.

Areas to explore – markmaking, colour, scale, textures and combinations. Then purpose, composition, focal points, structures and sequencing.

Plan – work through a list of questions in a clear and methodical manner.

Reality – put kettle on. Sample paint on fabric to check density and absorbency. Drink coffee. Next day – put kettle on. Heat fix paint, wash out and whizz some bits and pieces through sewing machine. Drink coffee. Read book. Go straight into painting larger piece. Play about with some thin bleach. Next day – put kettle on. Heat fix piece and add fuseable interfacing as a stabiliser. Little bit more whizzing.

By this time it was clear that working in the studio was not a good idea so everything I could stuff in the car came home, (including armchair (seriously bad idea)). I have been gradually unpacking but the creative work has been at a minimum, the mind set and focus is different. Being at home means that frustration can go into recreational violence known as gardening rather than being reused as creative drive. I am not a gardener by any stretch but as with sewing, give me sharp metal blades and power tools and I am happy!

This piece is going to evolve on the hoof, I like working with latitude and broad tolerances but this is completely cut loose, I have no clear vision. the sampling has left me woollier not clearer, the range of vocabulary is equally vague. I think it is going to be a get started and work it out as I go and rely on me to be able to sort problems as they emerge and also to identify and follow opportunities that occur. It is a ski slope approach but has the potential to be an exciting challenging ride but still may end up as a disaster. Oh well, what’s new?

A piece of textile work in its underwear!

This is the very first beginning, paint on a loose weave heavy fabric. How much of this will be seen at the end? Not a clue! Where and how to add raised textures? Foreground should be lumpiest. Is it going to be a picture? Time to get the pins and scissors out. At least I have the far too comfortable armchair in the workroom. Such a good/bad idea.

Keep safe folks.

Bits and Bobs

Smaller tasks with less investment of time and complexity have seemed appropriate this week. The future of some of the big events I’m due to do in the next few weeks are in doubt. But no matter what happens I have still nearly run out of the littler things so ….. greeting cards, small pieces for book covers or pot/vase sleeves and for some reason, a great big bit of hand stitched abstract have been the focus this week. How this ghost of a landscape pattern on muslin, over a metre long, managed to get on the agenda I have no idea.

The greeting cards are fun – working up samples and experiments into 3″ or 4″ squares is often quick and very productive. It lets me try out new threads, play with techniques , sequences and combinations, and to get ideas out of the head and on to fabric with minimal fuss. Very much like doing thumbnail sketches to test omposition when painting. There are limitations of course, because of the scale, but it tends to be time well spent.

And as for the larger bits… so good to working with a different colour palatte and to be playing. Don’t know how to use these yet, should they beome book covers, sleeves or the easiest option would be to leave them as they are for the buyer to make up as they wish. Answers on a postcard please.

And Now For….

Something completely different.

The Company of Merchant Taylors asked for a banner based on their coat of arms. I have been nibbling away at this and feel it is time to update on the progress made.

Size – 1.5 x 1m including background.

The Grand plan.

Dismantle the coat of arms into elements to be sewn and then reconstruct. The elements are to reflect my style of work, use texture and colour but still be recognisable. The parts to be stitched onto natural or coloured linen, put together onto a fine lawn and stitched to a heavier linen which will be quilted to resemble the contemporary stained glass window in the guild hall.

Progress – the bits.

The first pieces were too smooth, careful and graphic. Lion Mask 2 has much more vim and growl about him. And for some reason the crown was built in situ.

Plans change and the way that the image is building on the same cloth, rather than in prefab units, suits me better.

So, 1 smocked lamb and flag later…. The idea of leaving work left to be as the elements are put together is sound but also most annoying. The lamb eye, the ripping of the lamb’s coat and flagpole are all waiting. Nothing can be crossed off the list completely!

Even these little pieces take more time and effort than you would believe. The tent is Tent4, now a construction rather than an image and still not complete. The flaps are now ‘real’ and lined. The tent inner is a separate piece underneath, the canopy is separate and the trim will be applied last of all! Why such a small thing should cause such chaotic mess I have no idea……

Maybe hoovering in prep for Open Studios in April might have been a little premature.

Relocation, relocation, relocation….

We had Storm Ciara then Storm Dennis (named after a fire engine?) . The studio proved to be less than weather tight. While assessment and hopefully repair happens I have left my eyrie and relocated to the ground floor.

And this is where a fortnight of work time has gone – drying out fabrics, threads and even Colin the Sewing Machine so I have moved all my gear from the bright, open, private top floor to the bottom cave complex. Interesting to see if the light levels will affect my colour choices.

I have the run of a ground floor corner- there are 2 glass partitioned rooms for sewing in, and a big open area which is currently a drying and wafting about peering out of the windows room. ( The glass partitions have venetian blinds inside! oooh…. open ; ooooh, closed ; oooh…..)

I did manage one day of stitching – put a mid blue tone and lighter tone on the dry stone wall and more into the hills.. At last it is less pink. May need more but won’t tell until the surroundings and foreground are done. Last pictures from the eyrie!

And Again……

Can you see where the time has gone?….. this was Monday

and this is Sunday… under artificial light so the colour differences don’t count…

and what are the differences? Rather than list, I will just post photos- Can you guess the colour of the yarn used for the lines on the right hand hill?

Working in the foreground the colours are brighter and contrasts will be stronger. Textures are bolder and the stitch is increasingly coarse. I want volume and scale yet I think I want to leave space in the front – empty areas -but the desire to make it all lumpy and crunchy is compelling as well. The ripple in the fabric is getting more noticeable too, do I leave or try to control?

Once the hills are done (the over lay of organza and fine lawn need to be sewn in and cut back then more lines sketched in with lighter and brighter colours), and then the wall to complete, and the right bottom corner vegetated all over, then it will feel nearly done!

Reached the 1000m of spool thread used on Friday – not bad as this is officially the third most important project at the moment. Presenting pieces for the City Screen show has to be first, the Merchant Taylors commission is second ( more of this in the future). The problem with the City screen pieces is that they are nearly completely finished , therefore not a worry. The problem with the commission is that at the moment it is little pieces that will be assembled, so I do a couple then change task.

The fun of doing this big landscape piece is the whole commitment thing. By the time I am at the the studio I feel that I owe a couple of hours of work at least. The trouble is that when I get back home it is so easy to sit down and…. then it is tomorrow.

Let’s play Spot The Difference… again.

Well, here goes….picture one

picture 2

Answers – temporary lines showing the path in the foreground.

re shaped the right hand side of the wall to emphasise the dip into the valley beyond.

Tempraory lines on the right side hill

Broken up the orange fabric at the base of the trees

started building up the tree trunks.

Each of these is quite minor but the final shape of the whole composition is emerging, and, thank goodness, it is working!. Still lots to do – establish the path properly – I am not sure how much work I want to do on it? A solid surface like the road in Sprout, or suggestions of travel lines as in Winter Walks? And the hill side will need careful consideration ( in other words worry about it, then get fed up and just do it, but with a pair of scissors close to hand in case emergency surgery required.( normal approach)). There is a lot of texture to add in the foreground – or perhaps not- it may depend on how the path and hill work out – again compare Sprout and Winter Walks.

I had hoped to put a couple of hours in today but have been thwarted! So sulking at home writing this …. does it count as a silver lining?