Tag Archive | stitching


Well I have used the Wonderfil, and I have not used Wonderfil. Was there a real difference? Did the work suddenly shine seductively in the afternoon sunlight? Was the work enhanced?


June BarleyI took a selection to an art event at Sledmere House on Sunday, set it all out and waited. And waited. And waited. Lots of very flattering  comments, ego definitely swelled, lots of interest, some very knowledgeable visitors and plenty of enthusiasm.  But no one  rushed impetuously across the room crying ” ooooh what a lovely lustre! ”

Folk wanted to  understand how the images were  built, and insisted on telling me how long they must have taken, but most common was are they really stitched? Not actually asked  why? but…..

So  either they were so well used and integrated that they looked so right that comment was not necessary, or, they had sunk without trace.  I am finding this difficult to judge. I am still finding the degree of lustre stops me seeing the colours with clarity. See what I mean? thread painting lustreThis should be zinging with acidy greens, yellows, pale purple.  Spot the difference between this and the mostly cotton threads on this one-Moor Path thread painting I think I will have to find a different approach to using these threads.  Umm.

At the moment I am thinking of them as an indulgence, and a greedy one . I need them to be in the spool box, potential and limitations understood, waiting to be used.

So thought shift – how about this as a start point?  As part of the sunlight in the garden series? Use them for the light, contrast against the deeper colours of the matt threads working the shadows. Probably need a warm, strong ground colour to lift them. Oh er, that could be this week sorted then!


The Silver Birch fights back!

first sketch for the new silver birch embroideryJoy! From this to this!

I don’t feel any responsibility for it now. It can stand on its own and fight its own battles.hanging birch


Ok, so it may not be totally finished, as in finished, but I have been cutting those creative apron strings. In cycling terms it is off the stabilisers  and is pedalling away.

The last few stages are always the worst – there is more to lose with each decision,  but it is now in the last fester stage  of blocking, stretching and framing and the occasional tweak. One of the very worst is sorting the backing fabric – this stayed determinedly bright white so an attack of tea and dye took place!(Yep, an English Summer – outside in the rain) This can affect how the colours work against each other, I’d been judging and building against a white ground – and now it isn’t…….


7.30 this morning – want to get this done.

9/10s early there. Still WIP.


Things to consider – the “white” trunk. Too short, too white (it is pale blue and grey, but it was a rayon thread so shows up cleaner and brighter than the matt finishes around it). Have already extended the trunk into the canopy but more required upwards and downwards.  Did too many height extensions on the tree – looks like Mr Whippy (soft icecream  before you get too excited) .  Not sure how it starts and finishes – I had wanted to leave the margins emptier and build the complexity toward the centre, just plain got carried away. Do I deconstruct or leave – do the margins look   deliberate or not? Asking the question is enough of a warning.

And so this it….. at the moment, perched in the garden while I have breakfast…..

nearly there......current final birch

And sorted.  single line suggestions for the cow parsley foliage, more density on their heads, grew the tree trunk, added more rayon to the tree top and attacked the ground line with the dread tweezers.


Now the path looks stilted and “neat”. Tree looks like taking off,  cow parsley leaves have disappeared.

It will look different depending on the light. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

  May never win.

How about reducing the size? or switching to larger stretcher? or just having some more toast….

It is much denser than last year’s work, why?  There is much more  of the worked textures but without that cavalier attitude to colour – is it less or is it just refined and redirected?  This feels heavy?  heavy can be fine, lunpen or clumsy is not. Is this just because it was later in the day and also later in the year? I do find mid summer woods oppressive.

More fester required!

Inspector’s coat


Focus this week has been words and dress again. Thinking and presenting is happening on the landscape side as well as workshops, but that is creative background noise. In the foreground is a mini short frock coat and waistcoat.

I was reading around the early  Factory Acts but found the texts dry and eye watering in just about every respect, so went back to writing on clothing.



The combining of primary sources with items of dress seems right. Both seem to become more, that little bit of context adds a bit life to the understanding of both. I like the idea of using simple fabric, of ‘ghosting’ the garments rather than finishing them. This isn’t about making replicas or fancy dress. That they are only part there, that what is seen and read is incomplete and only part of the whole narrative feels appropriate.  This of course leads to many mini crises, how much HAS to be done, how much is choice, how much can be undone?

I have hand sewn these, there is no seam or hem finishing or linings, but why not? I could print these documents onto fabric and cut the garments out of that and make them up like good little article of clothing. Why not machine sew?  The text is machined…. and does it matter that the words can be very hard to read? Nope, try reading any hand written document!P1060491

Some of the reasoning I think I understand, it is a touch Romanticism, a touch pragmatic, and very contradictory, of course. I want to take time, to have to sit and think, I want to share not preach or shout, I want it to be as unfinished as I am, and as the original people were in these documents. I have seen a tiny part of them, their world continued without me.  I don’t want this to be subtext driven or a historical crusade.



In part, this is trying to get below the headlines only approach, behind the obsession with dates and facts which was  my own education. I like history but not museums, nor increasingly, history books, so this is my response. This is personal, it is not meant to be deeply meaningful or massively insightful.


Glad I have that out of my head, it can live on ‘paper’ and not clutter me up. In celebration I have just wandered up to the local shop for treats, and managed to do that with one leg of my jeans peppered with needles and pins…..not much changes.



Just tone

Over the last few weeks time and location have not been mine. Sewing machines are not known for their discretion and portability, so I have indulged in a hand stitched study of a tree.  I did not want to lug collections of threads around so it is done entirely in charcoal grey.  The aim was to try to mirror the  sketching  style.


5 minute biro sketch of fir tree, postcard size.

The current sketches  are very quick pen work, layers of rough crosshatching with the odd descriptive line twitching away.   I find this satisfactorily  active  and informal, allowing for variation and  modification, but tidy it isn’t. The sewing machine is too definite and organised, the lines are even and without  gaps and sudden aberrations, would the  hand stitching be any different?

The whole is worked in a small running stitch, quite uneven and even rather wobbly in places. The trunk has a layer of a diagonal stitch over the top to give greater density but this is not an exercise in perfection or is intended to excite  admiration for the technical expertise. This is about making the very simple work very hard.


And the over all effect?

There are one or areas are asking for another layer but in essence it is done.  Successful?p1050961


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.


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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.