Tag Archive | freehand machine embroidery


YOS 2017 Logo bleed_CMYKLargeItisfinallynearlyhere…NotthatIamgettingexcited….ohno, all calm and immaculately organised……

I am opening 22 and 23rd and then 29 & 30th April.  (no. 38)

Please do come along for a chat or at least to point and laugh. I will be doing quick demos on demand through out – rough timings for these will be on my facebook textiles page by the end of the week and bookings available for ‘ I want to try that….’ opportunities.

My event happens in my workroom – the question is- how far from the usual chaos does it need to be? Yes it should be a workspace rather than a the perfect white gallery, but  stuff has to come out so that I fit people in, the walls

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

have to cleared so that work can be displayed. And having cleared stuff out – where do I put it?

No new work this week – just a quick taster/ teaser.

https://www.yorkopenstudios.co.uk/index.php –  Do check out the event website, there is so much going on and some fabulous makers around – who knows who is living down your road or just round the corner?




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.



far enough, or too far?


My camping stool has lost one of the structural screws and kept sinking at funny angles as I tried to sketch.P1050786 The result is a vagueness due to the multiple view points as I sank slowly ever lower and the desperate need for speed.  I was trying to keep that notion of  suggestion rather than fact in the textiles but it has ended up with greater clarity and detail!

The photo sequence shows the emergence of the silver birch tree- from crude blocks of fabric ( these were a real primrose yellow!), the breaking down of the blocks, adding more brighter green fabric, gold organza and of course layers of stitching, mostly in variegated green rayon but also in thicker acid green cotton.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


final piece, of course I want to moan. It’s bigger than intended. need to buyer a bigger stretcher.

The question I have is how to control the finish quality. I get to the composition and colour that I want before I get to the level of stitching. I feel the results are often left cruder than I would like but I don’t want the slickness that more layers would give. This section  conveys all that I want, the directional stitching tell the tale of the pathway, the flat grass either side and then the verticals under the trees,


the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel, they seek him here, they seek him there…….. It goes up and down, it goes side to side, it goes into the distance….. one of those has to be right!

but does it go far enough, or too far?  I like structure but I want surfaces and colour. Being ‘like a photograph’ rates very low. This is too photographic or am I just too familiar with it? More or less stitching?, more or less fabric peices? more or less picture?

Probably time for answers on a postcard please.

Stitching the Woods.

Bit of guess what happened next!  The initial stages of this were tentative and not really that convincing, but…….it was worth it. This is closer to what I am about.  Just why is it such a fight to get it out there!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The pics are a bit skimpy – got too involved in the making. This one really did push back, ended up varying techniques to create depth and definition rather than relying in tone. This  is a painting, not a drawing any more. Okay, there are areas I would set light too out of sheer frustration, but  it does give much more back than the last piece. Sad but true- explicit control bores me, dancing on the edge with Mr  Arrgh! is much more fun.


Done! The left is still asking questions Staring to feel like dribbling blue pigment through the yellow. Please stop me.

Or bleach? No, Down, Leave.

Do like the shadow frame though. Took this to an art event on Sunday, did get interest but folk preferred the drab and sombre Big Beastie colour palette!  Get told I work too cold, now too hot…….

Went back to the woods yesterday. Got a head full of sunlight and shade, of heat and sound and touch –  fabric is being abused in rust and dye at present. Wonder how it will happen this time.




Experiments Completed

Summer is here! It is official – I have the mosquito bites to prove it. And having big dose of bright sunlight has made such a difference.

The initial 4 ‘experiments’ are complete, even framed so I have to stop adding to them.

The start of the first was shown last week and has ended up very me apart from the yellowness, which I am starting to like (typical). The shift is in the focus, it isn’t about the trees so much as about the light/shade contrasts. As for the colour – not a single grey or black has been used. The density and richness of colour was as important as tone so the dark was created out of several nearly dark colours and left mostly as purple/ navy.

No. 2 is similar in subject matter with less fabric and lighter in feel. The stitching is fairly tight in places but there still quite a lot of space left in the composition so hopefully it doesn’t look crowded. Even with the initial wool and fabric sketch I find it quite flat, quite controlled. The mixing of colour is less bold, I tremble at the thought but ….perhaps it needed more violent pink?

Number 3 is from a garden sketch, much busier, more complicated layering with lots of fabric included. This is the least successful for me. It is lumpy in so many ways, some of the stitch is crude and awkward. This was done on my Memorycraft machine – before you say posh, it is old enough to have kids leaving school and is probably panicking about a pension plan. It is a sound machine, willing to try any type or thickness of thread, but runs quite slowly, hence the angular chances of direction. I tried to leave more of the wool and fabric from the ‘sketch’ showing but don’t think the balance is right even though the idea of sunlight seems to come across. I think it is caught trying to be too many things at once – detailed yet bold, simply complex, and spontaneously precise. It was never going to work out. Too yellow?

And the forth. This may be the bravest, certainly the hardest to get my head around. The underpinnings were blocks of fabric, browny pink, sparkly blue, patterned dull jade. Not the most promising selection but something to argue with. The dull jade now looks very blue – putting purple accents and then randomly stitching all over it with sky blue did wonders. Leaving it that bright was a struggle especially when putting in the flat acid yellow and lime for the field in front. The banks of vegetation making the fence line were not meant to be that colour at all. I do see blues by mid afternoon on a bright day but these are violet over pink! Umm, not really sure what was happening overall but it felt right so it stays, the vibrancy of the colour takes you to the fringe of the wood land and then out to the open field beyond. The direction of the stitching became more important – varying this created distinct areas without the need for heavy tone – something to explore next. The only green is in the foreground and a strip in the tree canopy – not bad for a landscape – might be why I like it!.

Current approval ratings – No. 1 = 60% No. 2 = 75% No.3 = 50% No. 4 = 85% ( this will probably change as I live with them)  Is this right?

As for the Memorycraft, back in its corner relaxing – Colin the Frister R came out to play to finish No.4. The silly whirring noise it makes still makes me smile, and the speed! The stitches went from long and rambling to tiny and dense in an instant.


Happy chaos  & nearly emptied all my prewound bobbins.


Apologies to Jenny’s cat and Lynn’s family, but this is definitely my favourite Colin!