Project Two – Progress So Far

I have done the things I set out in my last post and feel a lot happier with the work I have to send off for Project One. I have done some more drawing, and been spending quite a lot of time on researching classic artists and have done some painting to explore marks a little further. Finally I was ready to move on to the stitches…

I have decided not to explore dyeing fabrics and threads at this stage as there will be plenty of time for this and I want to concentrate on the main task of stitching. There was already potentially a huge amount that I could produce, so had to think carefully on how I would meet my deadline. I started by practising the suggested stitches on poplin cotton using various thickness embroidery threads. I really enjoyed working the filling stitches and have a new love for cretan stitch as it is really versatile in the effects that can be created by varying the thickness thread and the spacing between the stitches. The blanket stitch is also really useful as it can be used to draw a line and shading at the same time. I tried working french knots progressively more loosely with interesting effect. I moved on to stitching on a loosely woven hessian and a tulle curtain fabric. On  the tulle, I explored how the sheer quality could be used to create an extra layer of interest. I improvised a sort of reverse couching, where the yarn was couched on the reverse of the fabric leaving minimal stitches on the right side. I then worked chain stitch over the small securing stitches to mask them.

This piece was worked on a heavy cotton and explored various was of shading with running stitch in various threads, and by varying the thickness of the thread in chain stitch. I then worked a variety of threads in different directions to see how their appearance changes against other threads.

I spent a day practising free machine embroidery. I have bought  a darning foot and a second bobbin case, so that I know I have one with correct tension for regular stitching. I have a 40 year old Frister & Rossman Cub 4 which has proved to be really good for this as it is completely manual and I feel I have control of all the variables. Despite my love for my machine, this was a very frustrating day! I was OK on straight lines, but found that the bobbin thread would break as soon as I tried to sew a curve. The material also tends to pucker on circles, even in a frame, but this can be remedied to a certain extent by working the puckered area until it flattens out again. As you can see, I cracked it in the end, and just have to stitch much more slowly on the curves. I had a go at whip stitch, cable stitch and feather stitch with interesting results. The cabling wasn’t overly successful as the bobbin yarn would coil up and lock the machine. I much preferred laying the yarn on the fabric and free machining over the top.

I moved on at this stage to explore shading and texure by stitching some of my early mark making exercises. I then used other stitches I have learned to see how I could adapt them for shading. I love this resulting sampler and am pleased it has a loose free appearance rather than being regimented and stiff. The scribbles bottom left were worked particularly freely and remind me of a David Shrigley cartoon.

For my stage 2 sample, I chose a sketch I had done from a beautiful tree at the end of our road. I chose it for it’s linear qualities as per the brief, and it also had a lot of textural interest and evoked a lot of feelings and properties that I felt I could try to convey in stitch. The colour inspirations came from the tree as it is now, and colours that appear throughout the seasons. The main things I wanted to portray were – slow growth, majesty, ancient, seasonality, rough, peeling layers. I chose a natural colour base fabric as I felt I already had a lot going on with the threads and was aiming for dense stitching that would give good coverage of the fabric.

The finished sample was a mix of machined whip stitch, free machining as shading, couching, and french knots. I am pleased with it but think it may have been improved by using a darker base  fabric. I was a little surprised by the resulting piece as it seemed a bit flatter than I expected in places given the variety of threads and different stitches. I left the couched ends free as it suited the frayed qualities of the bark.

I have spent sme time twitsting different threads and yarns. My favourite with my next sample in mind is made by twisting up strips of plastic netting from fruit packaging. Having seen it at the Power of Making exhibition, I wanted to try making yarn from recycled audio tape but had cleared out my tape collection and have no luck finding unwanted tapes elsewhere!

For my second sample I am working from a photo I took in Ottawa last winter of a corroded wheelarch. I took just half of the area that I had originally focussed on  as I felt the wheel took the focus away from the more texturally interesting area of corrosion. Looking again it may have been better to use this picture for the first sample and the bark for the texture study, but I don’t think it really makes that much difference as I have paid attention to stitch selection, texture and colour in both. This is currently still a work in progress, so pictures next post.



3 comments on “Project Two – Progress So Far

  1. Sarah Bayly says:

    I love your work so far. You’ve got an amazing ability to look at a image and simplify it onto paper – then into stitches… something that still come so unnaturally to me!

    Have you used any books as inspiration, or are you self taught?


    • Holly Norris says:

      Wow – thank you! I can assure you it takes quite a bit of thought! I am self taught, but am lucky to have grown up with the influence of my mum, who was a graphic illustrator who studied textiles under Ruth Issett’s tutelage. I have found Drawn to Stitch an incredibly useful resource at this stage.

  2. Janet D says:


    I really enjoy reading your blog, and find the explantion in your posts of how you get your inspiration and then translate it into samples, very helpful. I am sure your assignment feedback will be very positive.


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