I am using this blog to chart my journey as I get involved with stitched textiles again after a gap of twenty odd years. I've tried once or twice recently to get started, but time - the lack of it - got in my way. Now seems right though, and this online diary will be my reminder not to let it slip through my fingers again.
Wish me luck.

Wednesday 29 December 2010

New Year, New Ideas

We're almost into the New Year. Time to start digging out the canvas, threads, fabrics, wool, needles, books..... and put them in a prominent place to remind me that this is the creative time of year. I made it all the way through to June last year, finding time to work on embroidery just for myself, before the demands of the business took over.
This year I think I am one step ahead already - ready to dust off the cobwebs on this blog and make it a working diary again.
One new embroidery book for Christmas to inspire, and a magazine subscription.
Just a few more days to go... there is too much indulgence going on at the moment. You don't feel creative with a tummy full to bulging, and the house is full with family staying. I'm having a lovely time with them though, playing games and walking on the beach.
But it's also exciting to think ahead to when the Christmas decorations are all packed away and my workroom is not cluttered with everything that was taken out of the living room to make way for the tree, and I have peace to start a new project.
Happy New Year.

Sunday 28 November 2010


I haven't visited this blog for months because I didn't want to get depressed/disillusioned/frustrated by the fact that I have had to lay aside this aspect of my work while I concentrate on the business side of things over here.
Since June we've given up all spare time to business work, but once more the end is in sight. You see we have an unbalanced year - the first half is relatively quiet and the second half is manic.
Once Christmas is past things start to slow down and suddenly there are free evenings again, possibly even afternoons and I can start to think about doing some embroidery for myself.
This year I've decided to start thinking about it earlier, so that when the free time arrives I've done the thinking and can make a start right away. Don't want to waste precious time.
So tonight I've opened up this blog again and have reviewed the meagre amount of work I managed to do last year.
Roll on 2011 - hopefully I can take a few more steps on the journey....

Monday 12 July 2010

I Admit Defeat (I think)

I'm going to bow out gracefully for a while. Even the ten minute rule has had to be abandoned for the next few weeks because the business part of my life has become just too hectic.
It's not that I'm actually not doing any embroidery - it is in fact part of my business life. It's just that I'm not getting the chance to do anything just for myself. And that's what this blog is all about.
So I'll leave off posting until I have a chance to get time to myself again. Hopefully it won't be too long. But summer is always crazy.
All my threads, fabrics and bits and pieces are not far away though.
Bye for now.

Monday 7 June 2010

Now What?

Time, where does it go?
Not enough hours in the day. I ran on empty for a few days ( and nights) at the end of last week, but finally lack of sleep caught up, and I stopped functioning in a rational way, and had to go to bed early last night.
The problem is being self employed. It becomes almost impossible to create a sensible work/life balance, as they say.
Especially when it starts to get busy, like now.  I could probably work 24 hours a day, if my mind and body allowed, and I still would be running to catch up.
But some things have improved.
1.  The workshop is tidy for once, which allows a certain degree of control rather than the usual chaos.
2.  I am trying to keep to a simplified work plan. One order at a time, completed and dispatched before the next one is started.
3.  And still the ten minutes a day rule for my embroidery. I've been using those minutes to plan in my head rather than do anything definite as yet. But it's never far from my mind, which is good.
4.  And despite the lack of sleep, I seem to have an unusual amount of energy and stamina. I think it's because we have upped the production a level or so ( this is our business I'm talking about  - Embroidered Originals ). This usually happens around now. The first few months of the year are quiet in comparison the the second half, which we have now entered. Each year I say that we have to build up stocks in the early part to help us cope with the busy times, and each year we run headlong into pandemonium and the stockpile melts away.
5.  So if I can apply some of this new found energy to my own embroidery as well....
6.  I think the answer for now is to try to produce some small pieces, which can be finished in a realistic time, and use them as stepping stones. I don't imagine there will be any theme running through them as yet. I'm still at the experimenting stage, so each one might have a different direction. But that's how you learn and develop, isn't it?

Wednesday 2 June 2010

First Finished Piece

I saved up all my daily ten minutes' worth for the past couple of weeks and made a concerted effort over the past two nights ( and I mean nights) to get this piece finished. It's not exactly finished to the standard I think I'm used to - but I made a decision to add it as an extra present for my daughter's birthday on Sunday (ssh, don't tell her). Once I make a (rash, impulsive) decision like that, it just HAS to be done.
So here it is...

Sorry, the tacking stitches are still in the corners!
Now it's not a major work of textile art - it's not even a miniscule work of textile art, but  it has the distinction of being the first piece to be completed in this new journey of mine. That's satisfying.
Interesting to note that this is one of the few pieces I've made which has not been framed. I like the softness of this work and I don't really want Laura to have to hang it.
Already planning bigger and better, but time is against me again.
I think I'll set myself another deadline......

Friday 28 May 2010

Holidays over, back to work

This is where we were for a few days. It was an inspiring place  - for light, colour and texture. Work, as in making a living work, is demanding at the moment, but tomorrow I intend to DO MY OWN TEN MINUTES (see previous posts) and will post the results. It's a promise.
PS One picture tonight - a postcard, made and sent to Emma at A Little Bit of Everything for her 50th birthday. I was playing with techniques of fusing fabric with a soldering iron.

I've never done any swaps like this before, and she had sent me a lovely postcard in her own distinctive style - one of approx fifty she has made and sent out to blog friends all over the world - which must have been quite a challenge.
She is now receiving daily a whole host of gems of work in return. What a good idea to mark a special birthday. She is posting photos on her blog if you want to have a look.
Sorry Emma, I haven't photographed the postcard you sent me yet. I'll do that tomorrow.
PPS Here is Emma's postcard to me. A collage of paper, fabric and stitching with stamped details. Very reminiscent of sea and shore, I think, and apt because she lives on the beautiful Isle of Skye.

Sunday 23 May 2010

Just Marking Time

Progress this week has been slow - well non existent, due to the pressures of the business. It always follows the same pattern. The first few months of the year are quite calm and quiet, and then we hit May and it's as if the old machinery is whirring into life again. Our shop orders start to pile up and our own shop starts to get busy and on top of all that we are preparing for our summer and autumn of craft shows.
But I'm trying very hard to keep the thought in my head that ten minutes a day to do my own personal work is achievable.
Granted the past week or two has been unusual. We are going to have a small holiday, starting tomorrow, but that has meant working doubly hard to make sure every order currently on the books is made and shipped out before we go. It just means that I can go away with a clear head.
All jobs are now done and we're up to date.
I'm going off up north for a few days of walking and fresh air, and hopefully I'll come back with renewed energy and enthusiasm.

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Considering the next step

Today I've been thinking about how to incorporate this little bit of stitching into something bigger.
This book - Indian Textiles - has been inspiring me of late, especially the idea of strong colour on a dark background.
So I went back to it to see what I could  do to link small areas of intense colour and large areas of solid dark.
I'm still not sure about the eventual shape of the stitched area, but I quickly put together a border of squares in related colours which I think I might apply alongside in some way.
Hopefully this will lead on to another area of plain interspersed with some repeated motifs from the embroidery.
I should have planned all this from the start, but I'm still finding my feet again.

Monday 10 May 2010

And A Little Bit More

I managed a few more stitches today and tried a photo but still wasn't happy with the colour repro. So this is another scan.
Tempting though it is just to keep on stitching, I need to do a bit of drawing to plan the next stage.
I have a feeling that this wants to be just a part of a larger piece.

Sunday 9 May 2010

It's Growing

A few more stitches tonight.
I think I'll need to take some photos in daylight tomorrow. This is a scanned image and the colour isn't true - it's even brighter in real life.

Circles continued

Working from the circles sketch again. I had an hour or two free yesterday to make a few stitches and chose a piece of wool flannel cut from a pair of charity shop trousers to work on. It is a very dark charcoal grey, almost black, and I was simply drawing designs with stranded cotton and felt scraps.
I think this one will progress a bit further.

Wednesday 5 May 2010

Ten Minutes

It was actually nearer twenty minutes today ( see previous post for explanation).

Tuesday 4 May 2010

After the Holiday

Things have been different over the past couple of weeks. Normal routine was suspended while we were away at the Aviemore Trade Show for four days. And then we had a family weekend over the bank holiday to welcome home our daughter and son in law who had been travelling round the world for the past ten months.
So, no new developments as far as embroidery is concerned.
But I was reading a interview with Julia Caprara ( made a few years ago before her death) where she said that with her busy and full professional life she usually only had time to stitch for ten minutes a day. However if she made time for those precious ten minutes every day, she was surprised just how much she could achieve.
I think I could manage at least ten minutes every day. No excuse.
My goal is to have  a start made by the end of this week. Basing some ideas on Indian textiles as a starting point.
Ten minutes a day, starting tomorrow.

Saturday 17 April 2010

Painting or Pattern

Sample number 2 is in the sketchbook now, unfinished, but taken a little bit further and far enough.
So what next?
I've taken a little time to do some research, to see what other people are doing in the world of textiles.
It's pretty overwhelming, and threatening to present me with a crisis of confidence. So much variety. Where is my voice now after all this time?
There is some very challenging and interesting work being done, but there is also quite a lot of jumping on bandwagons too.
I admire so much and so many people - Jan Beaney, Jean Littlejohn, Maggie Grey the list is long.
But though I love their work, it's not me, I've decided.
There is so much "painterly" work being done in textiles - creating layers of texture and colour, with increasingly diverse techniques and materials.
 Maybe I would enjoy working that way, but really I think my roots are in pattern making. After all printed textile design was my main study.
I think that's why I feel at home working on canvas. It's not far removed from the graph paper I was accustomed to designing on.
I like the confines of the grid, but at the same time breaking out of it now and again.
I mentioned in an earlier post that I studied North African textiles in my final year at college, and I was drawn to search out more information on world textiles in general. Tonight I hit on a wonderful website selling Indian woven and embroidered textiles - and although I'm not in a position to buy anything, I found myself getting more and more excited at the complex patterns and colours.

These images above are some of the textiles on that particular website. Maybe not everyone's cup of tea, but I'm drooling.
The image below is an Albanian coat, which really encapsulates the type of embroidery I was studying at college. I loved the strong areas of pattern and colour against the large expanse of plain indigo.
And these other two images are taken from a book by John Gillow - African Textiles which I have just bought on Amazon, along with World Textiles and Indian Textiles. Pretty extravagant, but hey, I could get a pair of jeans for the same money and they wouldn't give me half as much enjoyment.
And while on the subject of pattern, I also came across an old friend, Raymond Honeyman, while trawling the internet the other day. Raymond was in the same course as me at college, and he had a very single minded approach to pattern, doggedly following his own path and ignoring his tutors. He has continued - very successfully - on that same path all this time, and I've come across his name from time to time. Anyway, I was pleased to find he has a book published , A Passion for Painted Pattern and I snapped it up. I've been dipping into it over the past couple of days and he has not lost any of his enthusiasm. It's a joy.
So now I've put my cards on the table. It's all about pattern. Handstitching, applique, canvaswork...drawing inspiration from world textiles.
PS As a footnote, I've just found this little piece of canvaswork I did a while ago called Three Cords. By coincidence,it bears some resemblance to the Albanian coat I think. Well very loosely.

Sunday 11 April 2010

So What's Going On Here?

Your guess is as good as mine.
A few hours' work today. Still very much a sample, still got circles appearing as a recurrent theme, still looking for a direction.
What I'm trying to with this is to explore working canvaswork stitches on an unlikely surface, in this case a piece of newspaper which has been bonded on to 18 count single canvas. To increase the durability of the newspaper, I've bonded a sheer chiffon on top.
I'd had a colour scheme running through my head of retro-ish greens and light red, but I've added a little black as a contrast. Nothing has been planned ahead, simply moving from one shape to another, and making small decisions along the way.
It's still be worked a bit more - I want to repeat the fan shape satin stitches at the top, somewhere else, and I need to work into the large white felt circle which is looking too stark.
So we'll see what develops.
It was supposed to have been a full day of embroidery today and I've been looking forward all week to this time to myself, but the fates were against me, and I didn't actually make a start until this evening.
Oh well, just glad to have had a couple of hours anyway.

Tuesday 6 April 2010

Nipping Eyes

I'm tired tonight so although I've just completed today's work (day job), I won't be embroidering or even planning. But I am looking forward to a whole day to myself soon with no interruptions.
My brain has been active even if my hands weren't and there are some starting points waiting to be explored.
The reason I'm tired was the ridiculously late night I had last night. Hours spent roving the internet researching old textiles. My final year study at college was into North African textiles and I didn't pursue it after I left. So now the internet trawl threw up a few interesting bits and pieces.
I also lost an hour (or three) figuring out how to make this a three column blog. It worked, I'm pleased to say.
Well it's goodnight from me, but first -
Shorelines  1989
Colours on Canvas  1987
Floating Fragments  1989

Sunday 4 April 2010

Some Thoughts

I've spent some time this evening going a little bit further with the white embroidery. I've stopped and laid it down, then started again, not sure about whether it's worthwhile putting more time into it. It should go into the sketchbook now, with the important label that it was the piece which rekindled the flame.

I'm ready to move away from monochrome, I think, but I don't want to rush into anything too quickly.

I think I'll take a little bit of time to think and then work on more samples.

Some observations from the past few weeks:

Firstly the physical. After a 20 year gap, my eyesight has got bad - no more taking for granted threading the needle in semi darkness. My varifocals mean I can't focus on a wide area at once - bummer.

My hands are also weary from years of repetitive work in our business, so there are aches and pains. (Work through the pain).

Then the mental. At first I was nervous to start again. I found my pulse racing a bit and quite a high level of stress ( yes really). So much depended on me getting over the first hurdle and keeping going, and then there was ( and is) the worry that I don't have anything left to say and do in embroidery. Also the concern that I've been left behind over the years. So much has happened in the world of textiles.

But after the frst couple of sessions, I began to feel more at ease. It became an enjoyable experience finding my way again. The feel of the needle in the fabric, the rhythm of the stitch, the constant decision making like a puzzle to solve. It became very absorbing and alternately peaceful and exciting. Maybe I have been left behind. But then it's my journey. I don't have to run to catch up. I can go at my own pace, off on my own tangent.

Memories have started to return. Like the feeling of excitement, the buzz when a good decision made pushes you on in a new direction, when things are working out the desire to keep looking, from all angles, to think hard, not to leave it.

The idea that there is so much more to come if you let it.

Other memories - remembering where I was actually going when I stopped to pursue another career. It has taken this white piece to make me realise that unwittingly I've gone right back to the start, and that I had actually progressed ten years from this point before I stopped. I wonder why I went right back to the start? To what I was doing when I left Art College? Anyway, I now remember that I had moved away from so much work on canvas. Some of it was still there, but only as accents and highlights . This only makes sense to me, I realise.

I am not a tidy worker. Threads very quickly become tangled piles. I lose needles all the time amongst piles of fabric. Mounds of stuff build up very quickly around me, and the yet the work I do is usually not at all messy. Odd.

Finally what I've learned about working today - Well, we are in a digital age now. I do a bit of work. I record on camera. I upload to the computer in seconds. I can crop, enlarge, manipulate and finally post on the blog. All while the needle is still warm from my hand.

And the internet. So many people posting images and thoughts about their work. Fascinating and absorbing. I can find articles on historic textiles at the click of a mouse. I can converse with a like minded individual on the other side of the world. I can follow the progress of other people's journeys in textiles. And of course I can waste hours of valuable time.

I also found this slow cloth ethos, just when I needed it most. So I don't like working on a machine - I don't need to feel obliged to. I like the feeling of simple stitching through fabric, and watching the slow progress.

Last but not least I have space to work now, if not as much time as I would like. Thanks to the business, I have a light and spacious workshop. I can lay things out and leave them to come back to. I can work in peace and isolation. That's good.

Saturday 3 April 2010

All Together?

A better image of yesterday's work.
And how about combining all three pieces?
I'll work some joining pieces to link it together. I've tried rotating the pieces and moving them around but this way seems to work best.
We'll see.
Nothing is cast in stone.

Friday 2 April 2010

Getting Somewhere

Here is the fruit of another few hours this afternoon.
It doesn't look like much as yet, but I do believe I'm going in the right direction.
This will most likely only get as far as the sketchbook, but there were one or two things I was wanting to try out which have been floating about in my head for a day or two.
It has been so tempting to ditch the monochrome theme, but I'm persevering for the time being if only to rein myself in from running before I walk, as it were.
There was no thought or planning beforehand here, just cut some squares of different white fabrics, bonded them on to the canvas and started stitching. Of  course the circles theme had to be present as well.
I think the afternoon's labours have been worthwhile if only to allow some healthy self criticism - I know what hasn't worked, but also some parts which are worth pursuing.
Anyway, I've found this little piece of vintage canvaswork ( circa 1980) which I never finished but has a circle of tufting stitch in the centre.
And a few other old bits.
Hopefully I'll have some time tomorrow as well - I'm on a roll here!

Sunday 28 March 2010

Just For The Hell Of It

Just for the hell of it - a quick digression from the monochrome theme. There were elements in this little piece that always appealed to me. The colour is one, the almost accidental use of greens and dark blue in an otherwise hot colour scheme. Also the three dimensional simple flower shapes which were held down in the centre only with one contrasting French knot.
The reason I've put it on here tonight is to remind myself of a colour combination I want to explore soon - the soft corally reds and minty green. That sounds pretty awful but I saw a tiny picture in a magazine with those colours and it struck a chord. So we'll see.
This week I aim to do more work on my white circles....

Saturday 27 March 2010

First Circle

It's Saturday. The orders were done this morning for the website, my other half has gone off to the football and I have allowed myself three hours to do something with my embroidery.
Last week I assembled a basket full of fabrics and threads in whites, off whites, black and just a tiny touch of mother of pearl type colour. A quick look round a charity shop this morning for more fabric and I found exactly what I wanted - a pure wool jumper in natural white and two cushion covers, one pure white linen and one fabulous old one in vintage white velvet with a good amount of beadwork. The jumper was boiled and tumble dried to felt it and the circle in the photo above was cut out and laid on the white linen background. Ready to start.

No plans, drawings or anything. Just launch straight in. I wanted to use some black and white chequerboard canvaswork and that was all I really had in mind.
Three hours are NOTHING. Time's up.
Not much to show, and this is definitely still sketchbook stuff, but I've loved the stitching. I made some bad decisions, but that's what practice is all about.
Next step...

Tuesday 23 March 2010


I've just been re visiting an old friend tonight - this piece I made, once upon a time. It came about because of a vintage ball of wool someone gave me. Pure wool in black, but with a multi coloured lurex thread running through it. It sounds pretty naff but it wasn't. It was circa 1950 and was quite magical. The dense black of the wool contrasted with the hints of light from the lurex.
I really wanted to use it in some way and constructed a colour scheme of predominantly black but with areas of intense colour like the yarn.
I wanted to contrast scale and texture so there were three different scales of canvas involved, as well as quilted satin and black wool fabric.

The said ball of wool appears throughout the piece, although in the photos it just looks like points of light. The reproduction is poor because it has been scanned from the page of a book. (Inspired to Stitch by Wendy Lees).

I'm thinking that I've been a bit mean to myself keeping to white for my first new piece. It's very tempting to work in some colour, but I'm going to stick by my decision and stay with monochrome.
Coming soon......This is just procrastination.

Saturday 20 March 2010

Next Lesson Learned

This is going to be a pictureless ramble tonight. I'm just saying in advance that you don't need to read through it if you have stumbled on this blog. I'm putting my thoughts down for my own benefit really, and I expect it to be pretty boring for anyone else. Hopefully as time goes on there will be something worth looking at.

The next lesson learned is that however much I want to get lost in this new work, I can only spare a small amount of time to it. In the past, that was enough to put me off, to give it up and stash it away out of sight and out of mind.
But I'm going to persevere and maybe I'll either get good at using the precious time fruitfully, or I'll manage to eke a little more time to myself.
Either way, I'm on the road now and intend to keep going.
This afternoon I put a very few more stitches into my practice piece but then decided quite quickly that it should be put in the sketchbook at this stage and labelled as the important first step. And leave it at that.
Keeping to the theme of circles, I'm going to make up a little piece to try out some ideas which have been going round in my head and keeping me from sleeping.
This will be the second step. I'm going to keep to monochrome for the time being - in fact I think this next piece will be almost all white, with just the tiniest touch of colour in a very muted way.
I've assembled a motley collection of fabrics, threads and bits and pieces. Much more than I will need, but I prefer to have plenty to work with. I still have a couple of fabrics I want to add, but that will have to wait until Monday and I'll go looking.
This will be Practice Piece No 2, but it will have an element of planning in it, whereas No1 was completely random.
Part of the creative process is knowing when to stop something and move on. I won't put No1 into the sketchbook just yet. It will probably stay at my side and I can test out ideas on it as I go along. but it has been worthwhile.
I'm keen to make a start on No2, but the fabrics I need will be a major element in the piece so I will just have to be patient until I find them. I'll use the next day or so to consolidate some ideas.

Thursday 18 March 2010

Needlepoint no, canvaswork yes

Not another stitch has been put in since Monday. The day job has got a bit more demanding.
But I've just taken a break and had a look around the web for blogs concerning working on canvas.
The result has been what I expected really, and seems to underline a slight concern I've had for working on my security blanket of canvas.
Needlepoint is really not what I'm about. Although I used to teach the serried rows of bargello type stitches and patterns, the geometric precision and the gaudy colours, it has never been of any interest to me artistically.
And yet I've always found that a canvaswork of some description appeared in my work. It could be a base of canvas with fabrics quilted and appliqued on top, or in contrast a patch of canvas appliqued on to cloth.
This allowed for highly textured stitchery on a smooth background, but not needlepoint.
Is anyone else doing work along these lines? I'd love to know.
Well, I'll continue for the time being. I think there is a lot to explore yet.

Monday 15 March 2010

First Lessons Learned

I said I was going to start with circles, and indeed I have - in a small way ( baby steps as I said). But I also said I was going to work in monochrome and that grey was one of my favourite colours. So first of all I've looked out a photo of one of the last pieces I made. It shows my trademark use of bullion knots and sprayed canvas, but the main reason for posting it here is to re-acquaint myself with the use of greys.
This was a little sampler I used in teaching, and again it is in monochrome.

And a quick digression into colour again, just to show another little stitch sampler. I wanted to keep this available for reference.

So... on to the first piece of new work since I started this blog. This was started this afternoon when I had two or three free hours. I felt it was important to get thread into the needle and put some stitches into the canvas before really giving much thought to the project.
I'm using the canvas as a kind of security blanket to start with - it's where I feel most at home. So for the time being I'll work on this little piece and see where it takes me. 
I like working with a tufting stitch but had forgotten just how much thread it uses up. It's also time consuming but very enjoyable. It was like riding a bike in that the first few rows I was completely lost as to how to make the stitch, then gradually it came back to me and eventually I got into the rhythm. I like the sound of the thread going through the canvas and the repetitive movements of my hand and arm.
It was therapeutic to sit alone with just my ipod on shuffle, and let my thoughts wander. Even the ipod was getting in on the act - believe it or not the first random track was Joni Mitchell's The Circle Game, followed by Carole King's Tapestry. And that's without a word of a lie.
All good things must come to an end, and I had to force myself to tidy the threads away and get back to finishing orders which are urgent.
The big development though is...... I believe I've got over the first hurdle. I've done slightly more than just play around for an hour or two, and have only temporarily put it to one side. Definite progression.