Project 2 Overview

I have finished the textural sample and am quite pleased with it, although I had a few problems uniting the various elements. Blue and grey cottons were appliqued onto black cotton. I used various threads and yarns, including yarn made by twisting up cut strips of plastic vegetable net bags. I felt the blanket stitching on he tyre worked really well in conveying the frosted ice with its sharp delineation.

Do you feel happy with the work?

I am happy with the pieces that I produced, and quite enjoyed how they evolved as I was working on them. They all look roughly as I had intended from the start, but I was surprised how many choices there were to make along the way despite careful planning.

Do you prefer working with stitch to drawing? Can you begin to see the relationship between the two?

I can see the relationship between the two, and the initial mark making exercises in particular were invaluable in stitch selection for these projects. I tried to translate the same principles in the stitch samples as I had done in Project one, thinking of the words that I wished to illustrate as well as looking at the original images themselves.

Having worked through Stage 2, were you then able to choose stitches which expressed the marks & lines of your drawings?

I think I was successful in this, although I was not too adventurous in using lots of different stitches in each piece as I didn’t think it was appropriate for the images I was working from. I have done a lot of couching as I enjoy being able to use the properties of the couched thread to enhance the piece as well as the stitches you make with them. Working the sampler of my mark making exercises was very useful in this.

Do you feel that you chose the right source material to work from?

Looking back, it would have made more sense to use the image of the wheel arch for stage 2, and the bark as a textural sample. I don’t think this mattered too much in the end though as I paid attention to similar principles in both. My only concern is in the wheel arch sample, I had problems uniting the contrasting elements of the image to hold the sample together visually. I did use the same grey thread across the whole piece, although it was a good example of the same thread looking very different on different ground fabrics. I think the radiating curves across the image go some way to bringing the piece together.

Do you think that your sample works well irrespective of the drawing? Or do you think your sample is just a good interpretation of your drawing & nothing more?

I think the bark sample works well on its own, but I am not so sure about the wheel arch piece. Of course a piece can stand as an abstract work without it being obvious what the source image is, but it may be confusing to the viewer to understand why there is such a contrast between the tyre and the car without relating it back to the image.

Which of the activities did you prefer – working with stitch to create textures or working with yarns to make textures? Which worked best for you & why?

I enjoy both equally and felt that combining the two to achieve the desired effects worked very well. The properties of the yarn can be used to set the tone for the piece, and the stitches can further illustrate and enhance that feeling. It was fun finding novel materials to spin as yarn, and I will spend more time doing this in the future.

Make some comments on individual techniques & sample pieces. Did you experiment enough? Did you feel inhibited in any way?

I feel I spent adequate time exploring different combinations of threads and fabrics, and exploring how stitches can look vastly different depending on how they are worked. With any of these tasks the possibilities are endless and it’s difficult to know when you have done ‘enough’. I felt confident to move on to the sample stage once doing my initial experimentation. I could have done more work on exploring different ground fabrics, but wanted to concentrate on stitch techniques as the choices were a little overwhelming otherwise. On reflection I feel that the bark piece could have been improved by using a different ground piece. I limited my yarn and thread choices to things I had at home as I am lucky enough to have a large and varied stash and felt that by limiting myself to what I had in the house I would be more inventive than buying to suit the piece.

How do you prefer to work? From a drawing or by playing with materials & yarns to create effects? Which method produced the most interesting work?

In the mixed media and paper based exercises, I definitely preferred playing with the media and creating different effects rather than using images. With materials and yarns, I preferred working from an image, whether it be a photograph or abstract piece based on work done on paper. With paint and drawing it is easier to be spontaneous and move quickly through ideas. Hand embroidery is a slower process, and for me a time to refine ideas with choices along the way rather than starting out with no ideas. Machine embroidery is more like drawing, and I was happy experimenting with this, although I am not a natural, and consider myself to be at a very basic level in this medium.

Are there other techniques you would like to try? Are there any samples you would like to do in a different way?

I would like to spend more time spinning and making yarns from found materials to incorporate into work, and I have many photos that could be developed into really interesting textile samples. I have been reading about altering fabrics and experimenting with using painted bonding web and foils.

Is there anything you would like to change in your work?

I am happy overall with the work for this stage, but as I have said, I think I would spend more time on selection of fabric rather than change any of the stitching.

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.


Confidence Crisis and Resolutions

Having read though the notes for Project  2 and reviewed my work on Project 1, I have had a bit of a confidence crisis this past few days. I think that my work has all been quite self referential and focussed on the possible techniques in each medium rather than using them to create representations of texture. I am going to do more work on the last exercise as I have made representations of abstract textures that I have created, rather than relating back to life or photos.

I recognise that I am more comfortable representing textures in life by creating more texture on the page, rather than flat representations of texture through marks. This is not a problem, and quite useful in selecting fabrics, but not so helpful when it comes to stitch selection. In reviewing well-known artists I have also realised that I have a strong leaning towards abstract rather than figurative pieces which isn’t overly useful in this project.

My plan from here is therefore to:

  • contact my tutor to discuss my progress so far, and for a bit of reassurance hopefully!
  • do more research of other artists, specifically on how they use marks to represent texture rather than technique in itself .
  • do some more work on the last exercise and make drawings of my textural pieces worked from photos.
  • use my sketchbook to practice using ‘flat marks’ to represent textures.

I think that this will help in being able to formulate the sample required in Project 2.

Working from your sketchbooks

I’m not entirely sure that I’ve interpreted this exercise in the right way, but I’m happy with the resulting work of the task I think is intended! I have used  a range of techniques rather than rely solely on dry marks. I am particularly pleased with the reworking of my blue gouache drips, this time done in coloured pencil marks and indigo ink brushpen outlines. All four examples appear to lend themselves to reinterpretation as stitched pieces.

Making Marks Overview

Have you thought about drawing this way before?

 Although I have experimented with painting before, I have not had a lot of experience with dry media and drawing. The approach was new for me, and I found the early exercises very useful as a starting point for approaching my sketchbook and the later pieces.

 Were you able to be inventive about the range of marks you made?

 I think I was quite inventive in my approach and made use of things around me to make marks with. I spent a lot of time on each of the techniques, and enjoyed not only varying the implement for mark making, but also varying the grip and way in which it was used. I discovered more about myself and how I am more comfortable working. For example, I have altered my pencil grip for sketching and have really enjoyed mark making with cocktail sticks and combing.

 Did you explore a wide range of media?

 I think I used a reasonable range of media, although there was much more I could have potentially done, especially in terms of different papers. I tried to stick with what I already have at hand and explore the range of effects possible with each medium before moving onto the next. In the first exercises I naturally wanted to mix media to produce different effects, and tried to be quite disciplined in restricting myself. This forced me to try things that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and I feel I have learnt a lot as a result. I was completely new to gouache and found it to be a very versatile medium.

 Are you pleased with what you have done? Will it help you to approach drawing more confidently?

 In general, I have surprised myself with how well some of my work has turned out. Some pages such as my experiments with acetate and wrapping paper haven’t really worked, but I feel I learnt as much from these as the ones that went very well. I have noticed already a change in the way that I approach drawing, and when I am struggling to find how to start, I have found thinking about quality of marks very useful. I was particularly pleased with my mixed media pieces in ‘Developing textures’.

 Which exercise did you most enjoy? Why?

 I really enjoyed exercise 4 of making marks, particularly the exercises that involved working and reworking marks such as scratching and combing. I enjoy making marks that have a raised and textural quality in themselves. Printing is something that I am also naturally attracted to, and enjoy making the stamps and stencils as much as creating the final prints.

Which media did you most enjoy working with? Why?

 I love inks. Although I shy away from media that leaves a definite mark that is tricky to rework, when it does work I love the clean crisp finishes. It dries to a fairly uniform almost plastic sheen, adding to the crispness of the marks. It is also well suited to drawing with novel implements, stencilling and printing, all of which I really enjoyed.

 What other forms of mark making could you try?

 I could do more work on experimenting with varied paper and collage, and I would at some point like to experiment with texture by applying sand, etc. I could also experiment with salt on watercolour, and scattering powdered pigments on a wet base. Finger painting. Wax resist work. Novel pigments and natural dyes. Lino cutting and printing, woodblock printing. Perforating to create texture. The list is endless!

 How will these exercises enrich your textiles work in the future?

 As I have been working at each stage, I have been trying to imagine how effects could be translated into stitch. The work on pencil marks will be very useful in stitch selection and how to use them to greatest effect. The later textural studies could inform choice in layering of fabrics. I have been encouraged to think more widely in terms of materials.

Using marks to develop surface textures

As a starting point for this project I have been researching a number of European artists as outlined in the coursebook. I was aware of some of Klee’s watercolours in the past, but I borrowed a book of his work and have been surprised by the huge variation of marks in his work. In the page here I worked from two very different paintings, although they both maintain his cubist forms. I explored the layering and rough blending of colour with oil pastels using ‘Lanscape Near E (Bavaria)’ as a reference. I then explored making marks with watercolour and demarcating them with ink marks, such as in ‘Untitled 1914/18’.  Although Klee used a pen and ink, I applied the ink with a cocktail stick as I felt it enabled me to better emulate his marks.

I then worked on multimedia textural representations of some photos I have taken at our allotment and on a day trip to the beach. I was particularly happy with the rhubarb leaves on a degraded plastic lining material, although if I did it again I would apply the collaged tissue slightly differently to leave the string more exposed at the top.

Working from life, I drew a wilting leaf from our tree fern, some scrunched up kitchen foil and a picnic hamper. The earlier mark making exercises were really helpful, and tried to choose a range of textures in the objects to try as many approaches as possible in capturing them.

This was in my sketchbook from last week, but I felt it fitted in well here  as I tried to capture the soft folds of leather and the hard metallic buckle with soft pastels and graphite.

Making Marks – Exercises 3 and 4

I’ve had a little look through some other students blogs, and am now worrying that I’ve got a bit carried away and produced a huge amount of work for each exercise. I feel I’m getting a lot out of it and following a timetable to meet the deadline agreed with my tutor, but am hoping that I have left enough time for the second project. Here is a sample of some of my favourite pages, mostly A3 size. The first couple are gouache drips and spatters on wet or dry paper. The linear drips were alternately wet with a water spray and dried with a hairdryer with gouache or masking fluid applied in between.


I have experimented with different papers, and particularly enjoyed the texture created with teabags.

With a lot of the mark making I have tended to get so involved with the process and textures, that I have not worked in a particularly expressive way (at least not consciously). With scraping of layered oil pastel, I had no trouble in this respect and loved the resulting samples.

I have tried a few relief methods such as wax resist with gouache (below), rubbing out pencil,  creating positive and negative images with chalk and oil pastels, and a wash off technique painting black waterproof ink over a white gouache design and running the dry work under water to lift out the design. This wax resist painting was inspired by an amazing sunset I watched on my way home from work.

Impasto and combing was a very effective way of creating texture. The green strip was repeatedly reworked whilst drying to get a rough surface finish.

I made some stamps with corrugated cardboard and string, glued with modpodge, and used with acrylic inks.

This was sponged, stippled and spattered with ink over a card stencil. As the stencil becomes more wet, it did tend to warp. This meant that early prints were cleaner. On the right of the page I used a stencil and it’s negative. At the bottom of the page I was playing with ink and a comb. I liked it so much I have done another couple of samples using this method. The stencil shape was improvised as I cut, and I was surprised how designed it appeared in retrospect!

Making Marks – Exercise 3

Now to the fun part! I am getting a bit carried away with each new medium and haven’t even touched any paint yet. I had never used watercolour pencils before and was really impressed with how hey transform when wet. The difference between wetting before and after applying the pencil marks are quite stark.  Moving onto soft pastels, my favourite square was created drawing with soft pastels on wet paper (bottom right in picture below). It was not as easy with soft pastels to get the same variation in marks as with pencils.


Since reading Drawn to Stitch, I have been itching to try making marks with inks and various drawing implements. Being Christmas, we had a lots of bottle tops, corks and christmas tree branches about to make marks with. The Christmas tree branch made the most interesting textural marks (centre bottom).

I next tried dripping and blowing drops of ink on wet and dry paper, allowing it to dry and dripping water droplets and blowing them to disperse the ink further. Stippling ink with sponges was quite successful. The scourer gave a more even but still textural finish.


When I first started experimenting with wax crayons they were my least favourite and I felt the results were quite flat and dull in their finish. The blending of colours was more interesting though. I was amazed how much the marks were altered by the addition of turps, and how the pigment could be moved around the page. I can see the potential in scraping and wax relief drawings and plan to explore this further.


The first three images here are soft pastels on wet and dry paper. I then tried drawing with oil pastels then soft pastels and water added after. I wondered how well the oil pastels would work as a relief. I think the effect would be better with ink or watercolour as the dry soft pastel tended to catch in the oil pastel marks.


I have collected a range of papers and tea bags for drawing, and also have gouache and watercolour paints to so some more exploratory work with. I am practicing sketching and researching other artists marks.