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.

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.

Wednesday 10 March 2010

Studio Journal

I've just been whiling away a few minutes having a look round textile blogs around the world - a few minutes can easily stretch - and I came across one which I immediately lost and don't know where or whose it is.
However I stopped long enough to note that it was labelled "a studio journal", which immediately struck a chord.
That is EXACTLY what I'd like this to be, and if the owner of the other blog doesn't mind, I'll append the label here too.
I didn't have time today to make any physical progress, but I have been giving some thought to developing the circles theme.
-  Bonding lame to canvas ( an old technique of mine), then embroidering some textured spots through both layers using velvet stitch and contrasting with satin stitch.

This is a scrap from an old piece where lame has been bonded on to canvas and a
chevron pattern stitched through in random places. It doesn't need to be lame of course. Any fine fabric would do.

And another detail from an old piece shows spots stitched on canvas which has been spray painted and left unstitched. I liked the spots here.

Tuesday 9 March 2010


Circles in pencil on paper. An evening's doodles. Next is doodling on fabric. I'm going to work in monochrome to start with as I don't want to get involved in colour yet. Anyway, grey is one of my favourite colours.


Today I bought a metre of 14 count white interlocking canvas....and a packet of tapestry needles.
I'm actually feeling quite nervous about the start. Will I have to learn to walk before I can run, even though I had reached the running stage a long time ago?
I'm nervous about the first few stitches, and if they will be an anti climax after so long. I'm also nervous about the time I'll be able to devote to it.
Will I get started only to find time running away with me again? Which is what stopped me before.
Well, to answer all these questions, I just have to start, don't I?
Baby steps, as they say.
I've decided to work on small experimental pieces. I usually like to have the comfort of a "theme" as a structure to work within and I've decided to keep it very, very simple.
The theme I'm starting with is...circles.
Why? Because circles are probably the most difficult shape to work with on the geometric grid of canvas.

Sunday 7 March 2010

This is where it begins again

I am an embroiderer. Although it hasn't been part of my life for 20 years, it now seems like a good time to get back to my roots.I've talked about this in another blog, I've dipped my toe in the water a couple of times over the past year or so, I've tried to go down a different path from the one I was on in 1989, I've attempted to turn my back on the type of embroidery I was working on - but I've come right back to the beginning.
I am a hand embroiderer. I 'll have a needle, thread, fabrics, canvas and no machine.
I will start on canvas - which is where it stopped.
Maybe the path will become clearer - I hope so.
I aim to start slowly, getting to grips again with the materials and the feel of the needle. Trying out small ideas. I want to work with more integrity than before. I'm not doing this for anyone apart from me.
I want the progress to be mine entirely, not taking anything from any other textile art or artists, consciously or subconsciously, which is why I'm going back to where I left off.
So let's see what happens.