Tag Archive | colour

Cornish Cliffs

I fancied seeing how far these patterned and transparent collages on top of images could go. I had this elderly left over canvas from a Cornish holiday – elderly painting -Cornwall coast dodgy paint techniques, over thinned colour, uninspired composition.  Not an ideal choice, too big, cheap thin canvas. Nevermind….  Planning involved more dithering than doing, selecting pattern and colour, fabric types and threads.   Did remember to do one important cheat – traced the big tonal areas onto the back.- more later.

Cornish Cliffs -planning  The Cliffs are 2 different patterned silks – big bold patterned stripes and a coarser faded floral for the headland. The proposals for the sea were layers of sheers – to be decided later.

Back cliffs first- vertical patterning to mimic the rock formations, working from the back the first stitching anchored the fabric and then roughly blocked in the shadow areas. I would recommend working from the back – you just roughly place/pin the fabric on the front, flip over, stitch the lines drawn on the back, flip back and trim the excess away.  No worries about placement or accuracy.

The fabrics were build up block by block – already much more vivid than the paint. The stitching from the back worked well to establish the shapes and masses. The decision to use purple as a shade colour didn’t, it was to clean and strong against the fabric, it was removed or adapted immediately.

I got too excited by the sea to manage to record the sequence. (Lie – didn’t expect it to work so didn’t bother to photograph) It is strips and pieces of 2  tone organzas, purple orange, green red, blue orange, sari strips with frayed edges . Stitching was in one colour using a less regular utility stitch ( think its for sewing elastic) A sheer was over laid and  ripped into.  Was hoping the frays and uneven edges will create a sense of depth and movement.    Did remember to record the beach/surf!

And the sky happened. All as one piece of metallic sheer  with an offcut  underneath to ease the bland flatness. The front bit off cliff was the last piece to do – purple orange organza over the dark areas and a fine metallic green yellow as a wrinkly top dressing.  I ripped the green and stitched areas open  to reveal the purple to give shading.


bit of top stitching and…..


This felt like a rough and ready process. The stitching isn’t beautiful, even, or using exotic thread. The fabrics are recycled clothing, donations or synthetic, but it does seem to work. Where I had started doing more controlled stitch I have removed it. It drew attention to itself, too self conscious too fit in with the wrinkles and tears. The whole is very sketchy, but it has so much more life than the original. Perhaps the years of painting were just a way of getting over the need for technical perfection. The  patterned fabrics give so much into the mix. The way the patterns fall is  at best a happy compromise, it really makes me respond, to orchestrate rather than dictate what is happening. And as for colour theory – in practice it is best guess.Cornish Cliffs close ups

So what are the essentials for free hand machine work?  an obliging machine who doesn’t know any better, an appropriate foot that lets you see what you are doing, a seam ripper that doesn’t hide, and really sharp scissors. Only trouble is I now appear to have more scrap fabric than before!

Come and see my work , may be even see some others as well, April 22,23 & 29,30. Click on pic for link to the website.

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At Last!!!!

p1060412Inspiration Has Struck!

I stripped an old painting from its stretcher ages ago and stored it on the wall for lack of anything else to do with it..

Favourite Indian silk  skirt was no longer viable as a garment – the fabric was so thin it was unkind to take it out in public. So that had been stripped out and also hung on the other wall.

Ohhh, I wonder if……, what would happen when……. So, shut up and did it. Not really such an impossible mix – the painting was of Wharfedale  which had a long history of cotton and silk manufacturing,  even though most of the mills are demolished now, marrying the two  feels right.

p1060411There are no second chances stitching  on a painted canvas – those holes are permanent, get too many and they act as perforations and the whole thing  comes apart ( quite fun finding the point when then that happens). It also has the handling characteristics of adolescent cardboard. You bend it by thumping and never fold it completely. I feel I may now have biceps.


It is one way of clearing  the whole table ( cup of coffee, open box  of 500 business cards,  any passing small furry animals…..)


Process. Short version.

Layering  sheer and fine fabrics, stitching down, and then cutting away and shredding.

Process.  Long version.

p1060420The sky has non woven fibrous dark layer, stitched in horizontal bands to hold it and the areas of colour in the painting were sewn around. I am still working out how much to pull away, but I like the irregular mottled pattern that is emerging.

The patterned silk covered most of the middle ground with rather large blowsy red roses. Its  background matches the light on the hills  so somehow the roses work? Infallible logic!  The dark sky layer extended down across this. The stitching followed the rose pattern then areas were ripped or cut away, either the dark or both.  Some areas were just thinned out, tweezering  individual threads away to leave suggestions of colour and shapes .p1060417


The secondary patch of pattern is bright orange paisley ( ouch, but why not?) The  colour contrast was a bit much so out with the 2 tone organza as overlays. And the hideous ones – crimson/green,  purple/ orange…. This time stitching followed the paint shapes and colour shifts. Snip, snip, rip, and…. didn’t like it.  Lost the coherent structure, the story was compromised.   Back to the drawing and reinstate the idea of linear perspective with the tapering lines.  This is  randomly couched knitting ribbon with a wriggly approach to life,and of course, could use no pins. Quite a good game playing chase the  yarn  across the piece of work just spent far too many  hours on, but the end result is  fluid enough without looking staged.  Now I quite like it.p1060416

“Oh, how traditionally English…”

umm…     Asian  fabric with patterns of a  probably Chinese flower  and Indian symbols placed over a brutal post Industrial landscape….. ummm   romantic view of Englishness.

Like the colour shifts  due to light and viewing angle. Some of the stitching is fairly crude where I was fighting with  physically get the thing through the machine. The canvas has creased – normally this is ‘damage’ and devalues – I see it as a record of its history and as  such far more  relevant to the subject matter than happy perfection.

bsgfExhibition is still on – until the 15th March. I am there next Sunday doing a demo and trying to talk sense. (should be worth watching – but you must promise not to point and laugh)

Messy Day and Exhibition


Quite a busy week. Everything is ongoing. At least now the exhibition is up and running. Booked to do a demonstration event on the 5th of March, which is pages away in my diary. I’ll worry about that in a couple of weeks.


These photos were just as they were getting settled in, the installation was causing some concern as it is so open ended, the legs will disappear and some of the banners may dangp1060347le  and entangle the jacket or squirm around the plinth. Still haven’t got used to seeing the Big Beastie and wish that I had made it longer!


The other artist’s work is diverse and so individual that the whole exhibition has a great energy. Comments so far have been very positive!




That is the civilised side of the week. Since then I have made a distressing elephant  and hosted a Messy Day.  That at least was excellent fun, thank you to the ladies who came and were willing to try everything. This was a day spent playing with micro dyeing and kitchen top colouring techniques. p1060349 So also thank you to Mr Teabags, Mr Dylon, and Mr Red Cabbage. Some great results  with lots of ideas to develop further.

The next ‘at Home’ day course is a Stitchy Day exploring and experimenting with freehand machining techniques on the 15th.            Exciting!

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colour experiments II

Carrying on from last week’s experiments-  I really enjoy working in this way, almost an accumulation of colour rather than finding the one perfect match. It is more labour intensive and less predictable but it does add to the excitement.

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Perhaps it adds to the frustration.  The slideshow shows the layers, the different directions and densities of stitch.  The bottom image is the  end result. The shifting surface of the colours are quite intriguing , it does look different from different  angles, and depending on the context different colours become more dominant.

OK, so quite fun –  but how to use?  I usually select a group of colours to work with, picking them to match the overall feel of the final effect, whether light, bright, mute, sombre. There would be key colours, contrasts, shading tones, a  vibrant and a calm.  By balancing the amount and density different shadings of the main colour  can be built up. But having done these experiments I wanted something more direct. I wanted to achieve more while using less, so…..

task – to complete a sketch started last Winter and abandoned, experimented with and abandoned again. This relied on cross hatching with a deep purple brown thread  and was more about mass than colour. Odd choice.

The colours were laid on,  bright yellow for sharp notes, warm mid orange for  vibrancy ( less aggressive than the red) and blue on top to bind the whole together. Over that a layer or two of crosshatch scribble in the  purple/brown to do the drawing work and to tie this to the earlier style. The stitches are longer and less dense to imply a shift in scale and to try to create a sense of perspective.


Unfortunately I rather like it!  Now I’ll have to go back and sort the day-glo bush on the left.

A stitcher’s work is never done…….  well, coffee first perhaps.






Which colour is this then?

This is a very simple experiment layering the 3 primary colours,  very simplistic and pretty crude, no subtlety employed at all. The sequence of the layers is the same, cycling between blue, yellow and red, with  the amount of each roughly similar. I usually work intuitively, thinking from the bottom layer up to the achieve the tone and hue desired but thought it was time to try the basic mixing exercises I get my painting pupils to do.  Threads do not mix physically like paints,  the layering  means  it is a visual mixing a bit like pointillism, so it adds the extra complication of texture. Joy.

This first set is just 2 colours layered. img_20161024_0001

The first is yellow on blue, they have ‘blended’ so it is hard to tell which is on top and do give the idea of green quite well. The yellow even looks greenish, which is cheating. The second is red on yellow. It should be orange but perhaps there is too much tonal difference. The red has lost its brightness and the yellow its sharpness but I still see the colours as separate entities. As for the third…. blue on red. Where has the red gone? I expected it to dominate! Certainly the blue looks  darker but not really purple.

With paint mixing in the remaining primary should give varieties of  brown, usually ranging from mud to slimy-greeny brown.  Would anything like this happen with layered thread?



On the first the red thread does look brown but not because of blending with the colours underneath. Colours are never seen in isolation, they influence each other significantly, in this case the  colours are muddier and less distinct. The middle one I read as blue-with-bits-in. The red and blue have blended a little better.  And the end one? Again the joker in the pack, the blue and yellow have not blended as before and the flecks of red break it up further. By standing a long way away and squinting fit to get a headache the first did look slightly brown, the middle purple, and the last no known colour at all (okay maybe a mid beigey greeny grub).

So much for standard colour theory!

What it does illustrate is the vast range of colour  and effect that can be obtained from the most basic starting point. The next logical step is to stick to those 3 threads but play around with them more. Might be fun, may end up with lots of shades of beigey greeny grub. Watch this space!

If you are interested in trying, extending existing skills or just stitching with me, please check my facebook textiles page  for formal and informal dates.










it has been a MONTH since the last blog – just no excuses. Blog time became travel time and the head prioritised other things for a while. That particular urgency is fading so the blog is fighting back!p1050958

We left with the world being green. The world is now far more blue, may be with bits of orange. Yellow is being a pain, again. It is too obliging, far too social in its outlook and interaction with other colours and  a menace tonally. And as for purple!

Above is how the(mostly) hand stitched piece ended up.  strong colours against a darker base, lots of space between them in most areas so they glow like little jewels.


This is the current machined piece partially done. On the left are the underpinnings, initial working, to the right is more intensively worked.  There are equally intense colours but as they are layered and worked   in parallel lines or cross hatching  they  sink into each other! Clear hues become muddied, brights become dull, even the tonal values shift . There are many more colours now to the right, including violent orange, but the overall effect is duller. It seems that when sewing the directions of the stitching, the density, the order of the layers,  the thickness and surface quality of the thread are so important. As in painting, the colour in the tube or on the reel is rarely what you get on the canvas.

The impact of colours on each other is such a real problem/advantage (depending on the outcome!) but if anyone has a solution to how to get a clean, sharp yellow that can float above the background without resorting to eggyolk thick rayon thread or acid neon please let me know.


for something just about colour, why does it look more picture than ever?


I  like landscape. It does tend to rely heavily on green, green and/or  green.  Finding how to create the idea of land, growth and distance without being totally green is a bit of a poser.   Mixing just blue and yellow seems a bit simplistic, adding a third or fourth colour and you go off the map very quickly, to the land of paint charts with names like ‘Irish acres’ or ‘inchworm’, or just pantone numbers. Trying to create these subtleties with a limited palette of  thread is even more of a poser.

Get up early and light and colour have a different character, they are  richer and deeper. Shadows have a texture, they are not absence, a lack of, but an essential part, on a good morning they will glow.  Colour seems to reflect more strongly and contrasts sing. It may be the low angle of the sun, the moisture in the air as the dew burns off,  or the effect of the first coffee. I would rather not know, I just like being out and about then rather than at mid day or evening.

So how does this effect my textile practice? It doesn’t, it effects the whole of my artistic practice. It is all about seeing.  By working so much in one colour every nuance  becomes  important, yet it isn’t about single colours but about mixing them, using harmonies and contrasts to enhance or dampen overall.  I prefer building and layering to colouring in,  putting colours together  to create rather than have the one ‘perfect’ choice. By dropping in touches of bright colour the whole can be lifted, or by using small stitches of a  jumble of brights the whole can become more muted. The pictures above are of the current  experimental piece in its infancy. And yes most of it is hand stitched. The bright thread is nylon so when I dyed and coloured the fabrics they retain their colour. Other stitching gets darker and less distinct (tree trunk).   Fairly basic stuff so far, mixing tones of pink in to suggest distance,  working tones together to give richness.  As I added dye the relationships shift, some colours glow against the darker ground, others sink into it, the tone of the colour becomes more important. For instance the orange is more inclined to sulk and lurk now. I think every artist has their  own take on colour theory – I see it as a starting point, visual mixing and physical mixing can behave very differently in practice!

How this piece will end up I don’t know. So far it has been dyed, appliqued,  stitched in cotton, dyed,  attacked with dye sticks, bleached,  stitched with nylon, dyed.  Not even half way yet. And as for the tree canopy………

And never forget  that textures, quality of edge, hard or soft, shiny or matt surfaces,  are all part of it, that is the range of ‘tricks’ used to create or diffuse  depth and definition. When you put use of colour into the mix and it becomes ….joyous…..frustrating….. but always fascinating.