Adding to your skills

You all know that I love using the embellisher.  I love hand-stitching, and machine embroidery too.  I simply adore the feel of fabric between my fingers and like to see the needle create patterns and textures which constantly change.  I teach a variety of techniques, dyeing too, and dyed surfaces lend themselves to all the treatments mentioned above.  This post, however, isn’t to point you to any of my workshops, but to an online challenge that will begin in the New Year.

Sharon B has been running her TAST (Take a Stitch Tuesday) for a couple of years.  She has just announced a new and slightly different ‘take’ on the challenge and you can find information here.  I’m going to join in when I can, just to make sure that I have a little bit of creative time to myself each week, and I thought you might like to add your names.  If you decide to join in leave a comment below with your blog, flickr etc, and I’ll pop a page here on the blog with all your links.  If you can’t join, but know someone who might be interested give them the links, and send them here to link up too.  The best bit about the challenge is that there is no right or wrong way, and doesn’t need to include masses of stitching.  If you can only spare 30 mins a week to stitch, or even less, then that is just fine.  You see, stitching and NO PRESSURE!

Hope you decide to join in.  (For some reason it was difficult to get the page to link up, so if you have problems go straight to Sharon B’s link above.

Revisiting – 1

Yesterday I promised you  a peek at something I’ve been doing.  First I’ll give you a quick intro.

The recent frost came as a bit of a shock.  I know we’ve had some good weather since then, but the first one killed all the Basil that I had in pots in the garden.  I use it a lot, so that was a great disappointment.  However, a trip to the supermarket was a source for some to stand on the kitchen windowsill, and here is a photograph of part of it, taken this morning.
It is a luscious green colour, and, of course, smells lovely.  I’ve been taking bits from it and adding it to my cooking, but it continues to grow, as you can see above.  Seeing it in the sunlight one morning reminded me of a design technique I used to quite enjoy, so I thought I’d remind myself of the process.  It was such fun, and this is what I’m going to begin to share with you today.

Firstly a word of warning!  I’m going to mention a word, and you will probably groan!  It’s a word that fills most people with dread, but it doen’t have to!  So don’t be put off – read on, because it doesn’t need particular skills to do this exercise………

I have several sketchbooks, some are small, and some are larger.  I chose a small one to begin this exercise, a small page is less daunting, there doesn’t seem much space to fill.  I usually put a wash of colour over the pages when the book is new, using anything from water colour, dye or tea bags, and this latter is what I found I had used for the next few pages.  The one that I used is A6 in size (10 x 15 cm, 4 x 6 ins), the sort that fits easily into a handbag.  I had already decided that my design source was going to be the basil plant, so I began to get to know it by doing some sketches.  In other words drawing!  Now, I’m going to show you what I’ve done, so don’t panic and run away, you’ll see that anything that you can produce is more than adequate for the finished design.

Each sketch (none of them are detailed drawings) that I’m showing you took less than 10 minutes, they weren’t all done at the same time, they were done at different times of the day and night (one was even done at 3am) which meant that different parts of the leaves were apparent at different times.  Those made using natural light emphasised some of the veining, those done later in the day were more difficult to see in detail, so there is a wide variation.  The plant stands on the window sill, and, although I moved it to draw, the shape changed as it was attracted to the light.  Here are some of the variations

This is a pencil sketch, not very distinct, but good enough for you to see the rough lines.  It is definitely 2-dimensional.

Sometimes I drew without lifting the pencil from the paper, I just chose a place to start and marked over any lines that were needed.  Basically, I’m just getting to know the shape.  It’s worth going through this process.  No-one needs to see your marks, so don’t worry about it.

I drew over some of the pencil drawings with a pen, I’m still getting to know the shape as I said

Sometimes I just used a pen as that was all that was to hand.

Continuous lines drawn with a thicker pen pruduces a very different result.  (I always note the tool I’ve used in the corner – in case I want to make similar marks in the future)

Very occasionally I even drew it over the page. The rings don’t really get in the way for this, although they would if it was a detailed drawing.

Of course, I couldn’t resist doing it with my left (non-dominant) hand as this is one of my favourite warming up exercises.  This one was drawn with a contiuous line in the same manner as before.

After several days I felt that I had learnt enough about the image to be able to move on.  You could even do a little drawing each day over a period of a week, if you haven’t much time.  The important thing is to get to know your subject.  Some detail may be superfluous, you will learn this during the sketching time.

So, on to the next stage.

Next, I took a clean, and larger piece of paper.  I chose a square approx 21 x 21 cm (8 x 8 ins) and,using a pencil, drew several wavy lines across in one direction.

(I forgot to photograph this stage, so this isn’t the actual page I used)

Lastly, I drew a few images over these lines.  Don’t be tempted to leave the wavy lines until after you have done this, it will effect your placing.  Make sure you do it first.  The drawings can go anywhere, you can even overlap some of the sketches, and you will see that I have done just that in the centre.

This is the final stage of drawing, and the next step is to add some colour.  This has been a long post, so I’ll leave that until next time.  Come back in a day or so for the next steps.


It’s good to look back.

Sometimes we get so involved in current day to day activities that we forget about the things we did or learnt a long time ago.  For instance, a recent bereavement reminded me of a place where we used to walk when I was a child.  I had never taken my husband there, so we went for a visit.  It was so good to be back, and it evoked all sorts of memories that I have since shared with my family.  This all started me thinking about the techniques that I’ve learnt over the years.  In a similar vein, it’s easy to lose sight of the early ones, moving on to those that are apparently ‘new’ and more exciting.  However, some of those techniques are as relelvant today as they were then.

It is about 30 years since I first started ‘creative’ stitching.  I was very blessed to have some of the foremost teachers of the time including Constance Howard, Val Campbell-Harding, Jan Beaney, Jean Littlejohn, Vicky Lugg, and Pam Watts.  There were others too, but these are still ‘big’ names, even though some are sadly no longer with us.  Each had a different way of working, and this was an added blessing.  I have decided that, over the next few months I will revisit some of the techniques that I learnt, especially the design ideas, and hopefully move them on towards finished pieces.  This may not be as quick or as easy as it sounds as I have a very busy schedule, but I have actually started!!

Tomorrow I will show you the start of my latest project.  It may not seem earth-shattering, but I have so enjoyed doing it.  Pop back tomorrow, and hopefully you will be inspsired to ‘have a go’ too.

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