Self – Distraction

Oh what to do….. so much happening but sat in the middle of it all. So rather than risk the nearly completed pieces for the Garden Series, it has been going back to an abandoned piece and doing some creative bullying.  It is now 2 pieces.  One done as planned, the other has been a victim of a good idea.

This is the start – the basics were already down so it was lots of quite intensive building up of colour, volume and textures.  As usual nothing special used,


just a range of motley threads, fished out of all sorts of corners and all sorts of finish and vintage. Yes the older threads can throw the tension off but they give a different character to the surface so I don’t mind the frustration.

The slide show is the evolution over the last few days- asnormal I forgot to take a pic before I started – the brighter colour fabrics in the foreground  are new as is the green stitching on the far hedge.   can you see the changes?

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And as for part two – the tree is a remnant of an earlier piece and a new addition. All kinds of subtle things have changed but the tree is the boldest!

Currently they are both placed into frames for me to decide whether they look right or not.  Already have a list of things to change but whether I do or not they will  both benefit from pressing out and stabilising!

Don’t forget I have workshops for freehand machining  on at the moment – the next one is the 25th and is getting to grips with working with colour.  I also will have some work at Helmsley Walled Garden  and then at the York Textile Artists Winter Exhibition  16/17th November.


Yes? No? Yes. Waiting.

Exciting times!  Group ( York Textile Artists) evnts both large and small are looming ever nearer, we are putting work up in Helmsley Walled Gardens in a couple of weeks and the big group exhibition in in November. Work is still up in a local hotel and 2 pieces are now awaiting selection for an Open Art Exhibition in a neighbouring town. Today is deadline for another big Open Art Exhibition ( online submission thank goodness!) in the other direction and I still have a contribition to do for an exhibition celebrating Anne Bronte.  And don’t forget the workshops to do. One is for the Hornsea Art Festival,  it was booked months ago when I thought October looked empty!

While it is exciting, trying to remember what is going where and for how long is a juggling act of the highest order. Every event wants things done in their way, from information on forms, the file size and resolution of images, labelling work , even down to hanging hardware.  Get it wrong and it will cost you. This is a competitive place,  refusals are commonplace and detailed critiques of why you aren’t selected are rare. It can be  whether you fit their idea of a theme, whether there are other similar pieces offered, if  textiles is “serious” enough, or perhaps they just don’t like it, or it is the wrong size, style or colour it fit in.

dappled2019well, we shall just have to see how this one gets on. After an age of pondering I have finally finished it – adding paint to the ground, adding some sharper contrasts and colouring in the “sky”.

Garden 8 into Autumn

September –  the ending of summer. The annuals are thinning out, there are seed pods, straggly bits , gaps. Some of the summer flowers are still going for it  yet the colours are changing, less rich and vivid,  the shadows longer and at the moment the light is greyer and less intense.  In fact the garden is looking a bit tired and tatty.

I want to show the change, but in my own way of course. And it is raining again- like the way the gathering drops create mini highlights, and how some colours glow.

This is a picture show of its progress, from a layered photograph, drawing, work in progress shots. The pale rings in the velvet are ‘bruises’ caused by the hoop.  I hope they will fade and disappear as the fabric is steamed and pressed.



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So black short velvet not the plush shiney  green/bronze.  There is less structure and ‘picture’ in this, it is layers of the plant and leaf shapes growing across each other. The colours are more subdued – though for someone who never likes pink why do I have pink sweet peas, lychnis , purpley asters and a new pink Japanese anemone. Just hope the new sedum breaks the mold and turns red!

still more to do….




The Great North Art Show Adventure

This was my Great North Art Show  2019.gnas


Ripon is a small cathedral city tucked away under the Yorkshire Dales. Fountains Abbey is a stone’s throw away, Harrogate and Leeds are to the South and York  a way to the East. The centre piece is the ancient cathedral church which gives up its nave,  transcepts and library for this exhibition. It is a beautiful setting.




Artists  are invited to send a digital submission through an open call. Those selected bring their work in on receiving  day-



The nave is lined with giant display boards and custom lighting  while the central spaces are left set  – very useful to temporarily hold the artworks while the mammoth hang and paperwork marathon gets started.

It looks fabulous.  And then today – they started at about 8am and by the time I arrived to collect my work mid morning, the boards were mostly bare, the lighting was being dismantled and it was definitely over and we were back to that feeling of organised, purposeful chaos.  By 11 o’clock this was all that was left of my Ripon adventure.img_20190923_105813059


September!    Ronald has gone public,  Staithes Festival has happened,  The Great North Art Show in Ripon Cathedral is in full swing,  York Textile Artists are on show. Time for a sit down, or perhaps not, October is soon and that is looking more and more busy.

Staithes was excellent. The idea is that artists show work in private cottages  all through the historic village and various  events / performances are laid on during the weekend. The old town gets very busy, “heaving” was the term used. Three of us,  Alison Spaven (wildlife felter), Bridget Karn, (felted landscapes) and me,  took a cottage at the top of the town out of the crush.

It was great to meet new people,  many  were new to the idea of  art textiles, but also to meet returnees and old friends. It was like a blast of fresh air.

Tuesday was img_20190910_191744076-1the opening of a mini gallery in the reception area at the York Marriott Hotel.  Organised through the Pyramid Gallery, work of the York Textile Artists is now on display.    10% of  sales is going to St Leonard’s Hospice, their representative did the honours and cut the official ribbon.  (recommend the hotel’s hospitality, Marco di Tullio- the manager- did us proud!) 

I have volunteered to help man The Great North Art Show this Monday. The cathedral is beautiful, and the art is spectacular in that setting, can’t wait. ripon4 Open for one more week….!

Unsurprisingly no new work is in progress at the moment but the fingers are twitching. I did a freemotion quilting course today and came out determined to get colour and texture. So  Garden #8 is pending……. darker and starker than exuberent high Summer. Black  velvet? Less greeny green, and turquoise? More skeletal shapes of seed heads and  structures of the dying annuals? Hmm……..

and  then little sewings to do replenishing card stock before the next venture  at Helmsley Walled Garden in October, and what to submit for the Harrogate Open Exhibition in a fortnight or so… . And starting a new run of day workshops week after next…..

Stitchy Days Workshops

10-3pm £35, includes basic materials. You will need your own machine and threads.

September 25 – Introduction to freehand embroidery. Come for the morning (£15) or a full day . Learn how to get set up, some basic problem solving, try drawing with line and working with texture.

October 9 – Layering- adding in fabrics for colour and texture. Cutting, ripping, creasing, folding. Create layers of colour and give volume and new surfaces to your freehand machine work. Create samples and then experiment with adding to a simple image.

23 October – Focus on Colour- doing more than just colouring in. Creating colour schemes to work with while considering theories & practice . Laying colours on top of each other, working with ‘grounds’, building effects.

November 6 – Confidence in Making Pictures – Finding images, modifying & copying on to fabric – basic methods. Selecting techniques and materials. OR- getting from an image to a stitchable design with or with out drawing -quality cheating from planning to creating.

Minimum number of students is 2, max 5.

Finalising the Ronald Tree.

So Ronald is done. He has spent most of the week just hanging around, getting pressed, and re-pressed. An occasional stitch or two just to tweak, but I have bought the curtain interlining which will give a bit of body, and the calico  to back it all with.  Since plucking most of the stitch-n-tear off it it hanging more naturally but my finger ends are still numb.


I am still suprised at how little was needed to make him. It was all immediate, decide and do. He is one of the quickest large scale pieces and the friendliest. This post is largely a pictorial record of him.


  1. Ronald context – the sketch, record photos and also past birching efforts in a variety of media. I think that Ronald  is a child of the painted scarves, all about direct markmaking and limited colour palette.






2. Early Ronald. Splash and dribble background, and stitch patterns. Can I convince you that the drawn plans happened before the stitching on the actual piece?





franbrammer-collage3. Mid Ronalds – the red is dressmaker’s chalk – on big pieces I find it easier to navigate my way around the image when it is folded or rolled to go through the machine. It will fade over time but I don’t mind Ronald’s history making showing. Again can you believe that the compositional sketch happened before starting.




Ronald – before final finishing. This still leaves me with a massive problem – what should he be called officially?  Do I want to have everyone on first name terms ? or to have to explain repeatedly why he is a Ronald – besides which he is pretty feminine –  should there be gender reassignment before his first public appearance?

My usual practice is to name after locations or just be very factual – ‘Birch, Skipwith Common’- lacks a certain charm or warmth.  ‘Squeaky Tree’?  ‘Summer Birch’,  ‘Sitting In The Woods Getting Rained On’?  or  ‘Oh Look! It’s A Tree!’ I just can not decide…… Any ideas?

Ronald Cribbins – the making

Ronald Cribbins is a large silver birch machine embroidery, a work in progress. His back story and beginnings were told last week , so he has history, he has context, just needs to be made.ronald augustwip1000

The Ronald is worked in only 2 colours, a fine dark petrol blue rayon thread on the trunk and dark olive green on the canopy, any other colour comes from the inclusions of a delicate knitting ribbon.

The trunk is short runs of angular hatching, overronald trunk1000 lapping and then sparse, trying to give the idea of the texture on the mature tree. It is at about 80% done, leaving space to add in the “silver” if needed. The stitch becomes almost regular at times, like a herringbone weave, but I have tried to keep  away from this by being deliberately scruffy and imprecise. Being neat is too easy, I don’t want it to look prettily refined, more rough and rugged.

As a contrast  the foliage is done in jerky scribble hatching. It is hard to keep the machine running just that little bit slower so the scribble comes out with uneven stitch lengths and disjointed curves! Out of step with the world again, I strive and slave to achieve imperfection! ( When the machine runs faster and the stitching and shapes are smooth  it looked like a tight  perm or a Persian lamb coat.)

The knitting ribbon isn’t that coloured but being the only colour on there it stands out far more than I expected. It again isn’t refined – I am expecting the scale to do a lot for me, just short lengths straight off the ball and trapped beneath the stitch. Nothing fancy or clever at all. The joy of working this big is the space, things have to be bold, direct and simple or they get swallowed whole.

Inspite of this robust approach Ronald is looking kind of wispy and a bit wimpy all on his own, apologetic about the space he is taking up.

The original Ronald was growing in a small wood, so there was a lot of trunk with a mad tufty hairdo of foliage at the top. Without that company he does look rather spindly, a bit mannered. The temptation was to fill him out a little, I have given in a little, but have comproronald treesmised and introduced a chorus line of background trees to keep him company. The stitching is deliberately rough and crude, and all in greys, the focus is on Ronald himself. It hasn’t worked yet, they are in the flamingo stage, but there is hope! and with a foreground sketched in it should balance out more…. still hope.

Other things – there is a couple of spaces on courses left in August- listed on the workshop page. Also dates for your diary – if I could remember them – Great North Art Show in Ripon Cathedral, on over the first half of September, and Staithes Festival the first full weekend in September, plus the York Textile Artists’ show in Novemberish. I write their newsletter, I really should know these things!!

Also contact me to join my own newsletter circulation list, or to discuss…well anything stitchy, arty, exhibitiony.