Tag Archive | drawing

Sketching for stitching

This isn’t about making pretty pics but about reducing the landscape into a manageable form and language ready to take to the sewing machine. I work in pen for these- it gives an even line, more like a sewn line than pencil does.

And just for fun I’ll put the process in reverse.


Spot the differences. OK some are sloppy draughtsmanship, but others are intentional modifications.  The foreground hedge is sharper to give more umph to the composition,  the spaces between the horizontal hedges are greater – I’ve given the Vale of York a new hill!  but I want these hedges to be seen separately so something had to give. The heavy dark of the foreground  is reduced – it shifts focus to the middle ground. The foreground shadows are omitted as clutter but some may make come back as colour. Some areas I don’t like (trees to the left) so they will be edited further when stitching. Doing the sketch highlights problem areas, lets me work out, or at least work towards, solutions. Beats taking photos.

Five minutes earlier –


All the main areas are there but the image is unbalanced. The background is more solid and clearer than it should be, where the hatching is lighter, has fewer directional changes, it is more successful.  Will add lines last to give definition and emphasis where needed.




5 minutes before


Established the middle ground. Using smaller marks to help sense of distance – just the major lines at the present, no outlines (they would  fix the shapes too soon) Mixing areas of diagonal hatching with the vertical to create shadings of tone and texture.



After the first 5 minutes.

P1060713I like strong bone structure  for my landscapes – single point perspectives,  bold masses and spaces  contrasting with lines.  Tiny detail will get lost in stitch, so I don’t bother. Let areas fade in and out, it isn’t a tracing.  The mark making is important, it is experimenting with creating the different textures and tone. Most are variations of cross hatching, tight, scribbly short blocks  on the tree in the foreground, looser and smoother in the middle distance or directional hatching, such as the vertical lines starting to describe the front face of the hedge.  These first layers set the  shape and form of the image so I  leave them incomplete. As the image builds more density and definition can be added. This is how the sewing will start, working onto a very loose frame and working lightly until the whole is established and then getting more intensive. I have already  filtered out fussy bits or annoying things. I don’t want the image to get congested,   as the image is built I will see where to simplify.

Preparation. – Clear the head. You can not go out worrying about the washing. This can be helped by the acquisition of jelly babies or fruit pastilles. I also like to walk or cycle even a little way, I guess it is part of that separation process. Take time to stand and stare, we are not cameras, it takes a time to absorb detail, understand  relationships, to get beyond mere recognition. ‘Ooo it’s a tree’ just won’t do.  Move about, see how slight shifts in angle or eye level give different emphasis. You have control, exaggerate or edit at will.

And yes, it did take 20 minutes. Didn’t even have time to open the pastilles.


The textile piece will happen next week. Will be interesting to see how alike they end up. Usually the same reduction and simplification process will happen again during stitching, especially in the distance,  but the basic ideas will remain true. Wonder how many trees will magically disappear?




New-ish Beginnings have begun.

Still arguing with myself about what I want from this, how should I approach it, what qualities do I want it to have.  The conclusion reached so far is  that I don’t know. Solution is to stop thinking and do.


1st option, scratchy, questing


couldn’t bear option2 so more of the 1st style!

The drawings come into 2 categories – 1, scribble until find a line,  2, find a line and stick to it.

I like the 1st option, it is about asking questions rather than knowing the answers. But how to translate this on to textiles?

Effort 1.reverse applique and lots of stitching. This is part way in.



Transferred the idea onto canvas and layered fabric on top with the intention of stitching and then cutting away areas to leave blocks of tone. Problem one – couldn’t see the design! P1160859 Reversed it and am now stitching on the back of the fabric so that what we see will actually be the bobbin thread.

Problem 2 – inconsistent tension – the side I’m stitching looks fine but there are snarls and snags underneath. I am still learning how to work with this machine but at present am convincing myself that this is TEXTURE, and leaving it will be a considered artistic decision, and perhaps I should do more of it to prove that it was a positive action……oh hum. See problem 3!


Problem 3 – the design is everything about drawing that I don’t like – all information and no life. I like the nodules and knots of the first style and need to let this happen as I machine. The design has to be guidance not gospel or it will end up sterile and flat.  Thank goodness for problem 2. (Problem 2 1/2 – difficult to sew accurately with these encrustations underneath)

P1160868 P1160870

I have begun making the first cuts and the idea is beginning to pull together more. Several more stitchings and snippings will be needed to build up the image and give it the density that I want.

Problem 3 – ran out of fruit pastilles so reverted to clock watching. Hard to avoid. See below.


Tree drawing 3, stepping out.

Okay, you’ve been carefully following the guidance and constructed wonderful trees. What next? Well, lots of trees.

garrowby (2)

Try varying the technique to give a range of tone and surfaces. It can go as light or dark as you like, or as rough. Use it to create shadows and let the  white page be sunlight.   Once you have got the idea then use it on all sorts, it is great for giving volume and weight, and once you get going you will wonder at all the fuss over drawing the perfect outline.  Take a look at some  of the great artists’ sketches – I didn’t invent this , it has very strong roots and provenance.


P1150334 This is with pencil = much softer. Try mixing it up with strong lines, empty spaces and defined detail.

So much to try, so much to do……… who needs sleep, or food?

Drawing time 2

Part 2 of the tree  drawing exercise Hope you are drawing too…..

Creative Scribbling  or how scruffy can be best.


This is how we left it,  a very stringy spider with an amazing hair do.


Now it needs to be more than an outline. The methods I use tend to be scruffy, adaptable and without anxiety. They also can translate directly into machine stitching which is where I go  after drawing.

First – the solid bits. Trunk and major branches. Do not try to be too careful – get the feel of the tree rather than try to count the branches. (no one will ever know). Handy hint and tip – don’t draw solid lines all the way along the edges.

P1160762I ‘ve just zigzagged along the lines, leaving the edges open and uneven. On the main trunks a bit more of an outline is added, but not heavily. Leave it rough and tidy up later if need be.P1160763

This will look bad close to, so set it at least twice arm’s length away from you before crying ‘Disaster!’


And then the canopy – I use  a rough cross hatching technique, sometimes with  scribbling or washes.  What is cross hatching ?  This is……

cross hatching

Layers of parallel(ish) lines set across each other. Scribble hatching at the end.

Benefits – simple idea, versatile, can be rough or very  controlled.

Second stage – Don’t bother being worried – you can add to it at any time. P1160764 Single layer done in blocks and not sticking within the outlines either!

Third stage –  Just keep going. Look for  denser and darker areas on your tree. All you do is put in more layers of hatching. Let the blocks overlap and merge.

You will end up with a  convincing tree – no outlines to make it look static and stuffy.  If it is too regular then add on more, or  if working in pencil then rub some away.



And here is my  finished beastie. Can you see that  the top has grown a bit to give a bit more height and some rough  grass has grown to suggest the ground level.  I’ve worked in pen  so that you can see clearly so the frame lines are still there. Usually I would just put dots at the key points, or  of course do the frame-work  in pencil and rub it out.


P1160766 P1160767

Easy?  A quick sketch that could be tidied up to make a more polished study,  scribbled over to change the textures, or left exactly as it is.. Most time is usually taken up by looking and worrying, just practice not worrying and practice looking more instead.

Handy hints and tips.

Work from real whenever possible – don’t rely on photos.

Relax about things –  don’t fret at things,  stages look really bad as you build them,  sort the whole image not focus on single bits.

Something like a tree is a mass not an outline. Get away from lines round things.

Do this for fun. Don’t torture yourself over minor errors. Every time the wind blows the tree will change.

In extreme cases, just blame the squirrels…..





Drawing time.

I have been asked repeatedly about my drawing – I will take you through some of my processes but it will be much more fun if you do it too!

How to do creative cheats 1.  Seeing.

“Oh woe!  I am sure I am creative but I can not draw….”  sound familiar? For those who lack confidence try out some of the ideas below – not everyone has to be able to draw like a great artist, not even every artist does, and certainly not all the time. It is about making decisions and then making it happen, learning tolerance and how to ignore.


Don’t think you know what a tree looks like – that is the quickest route to ‘argh, lollipop!’  Before making a mark on your page spend time looking and thinking.


lumpy round. bump on left. nibbled right. empty centre. stumpy trunk fan of branches.

Choose one tree,  one particular tree that you can see in front of you. Describe it. Is it short and wide, thin, bottom heavy, lopsided? How wide is the trunk compared to the canopy? Listen to the words you use. Still not sure? Try cupping your hands around the shape, you may feel silly but trust me, it helps.  You could shut one eye and trace around the tree with a finger – this fascinates dogs for some reason.  (And yes, I was doing this in public, on a busy pedestrian route into the city centre at a prime commuting time) ((nobody batted an eyelid but Albert the terrier ran off)

FirstP1050088 step-  not scary-imagine cutting the tree out and folding it in half – this will give you the centre line.  Draw this line faintly on the paper.

Second step – still not scary- draw a line lightly across the widest part of the tree.  Can you see how low this is on my tree?  Mine is just about as wide as it is tall so the width is very easy to work out.


Use a light , broken line. Suggest the shape don’t dictate. It will probably change as you work on it later.

Third step – easy –  work out where your trunk should go.  My tree is narrower on the right so I put my trunk to the right of the centre line and let it lean inwards. Also look for how tall the trunk should be – mine is short. My thumbs have completely covered it, – I reckon there is about 3 more thumbs-worth to the top of the tree so my trunk will only be 1/4  of the total height.

Fourth step – slightly scary- grown up dot to dot time. Think back to the tree shape.  On the paper try to recreate that shape using your hands. That is the shape you will draw. Don’t try yet for amazing detail, just get the general idea of your tree down. Done? Easy?

What you should have is a very simple outline of your own tree. Trust me. That is all it needs to be at this stage.  Look at how many mistakes I made –  and then forget about them – not important.  The proportions will be sound so all it needs is a bit of fleshing out and detail. That  will be next time. Not trusting me?  This is how mine looked a few minutes later –  perfectly acceptable sketch!P1160766