Do you feel happy with the work?

In short, yes I do.  Although I imagine the work I will do in the future will be centred around different subjects and ideas, but this stage has been a good place to start.  I struggled at times but enjoyed the process of the initial observation of textures – to the attempts at translation.

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

I like both.  I love drawing…….although I would say I have slightly rushed the drawing aspect as I was over eager to begin the process of stitching.  I have a very linear connection in my mind of the relationship between the two in that I would like to be an artist who draws with thread.

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

I did not really achieve this.  I hope to be able to do this in the future…… I have done classical drawing in the past at school so it is a new thing to create marks which would come to represent stitches.  The closest I have come to this is ‘scribbling’ with the sewing machine.  This gave me immense pleasure.  Again, I did not give enough attention to the drawing part of this exercise, not really understanding it.  Again this is something I will come back to I think and learn with time.

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

On my first 2 samples in stage 6 (bark and paintwork) – I feel happy with what I chose (from a beginner’s perspective).  My third sample did not really work…well it did and it didn’t.  I think the muslin was a good choice with the delicacy but I was unable to achieve the colours that I desired…so more thought needed on that one.

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

I would say that my samples work well irrespective of the drawings and have something on their own – I would also say that as they bear little resemblance to the drawings.  I think that drawing serves well to familiarise yourself with the texture you are trying to catch the essence of, it also helps you to really look and extract detail.  The sample can come out entirely different and that is okay too as surely the aim is not to reproduce 3 identical images.

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 and why ?

I think I preferred working with stitch to create textures…although the yarns themselves obviously play a part of that.  My work came out relatively flat and I guess that is a result of putting more time into the stitches themselves rather than varying depths and collages of yarn.  I like the speed and organised chaos you can create with machine stitching….I wish I could layer more without getting in such a tangle though.  I am also fairly limited with my knowledge of which threads can be used as an upper thread in the machine so I have been limited to fairly standard basic colours.  I do enjoy handstitching also – I would ideally like to use both in future work as they both have their own qualities.

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

As I said in my last post – I had highs and lows with these sample pieces.  I can only speak from my own perspective – but I found it easier the less I practiced (perhaps less expectation of good results?).  My first sample (tree bark) was the first work I did on this project as my practice stitching was going nowhere – I just had simple fun with hand embroidery using various yarns stitched into hessian.  Hessian is good as it has a large weave so there are no issues with bulkiness of thread etc.  I did quite a lot of experimentation – I went to my mental limit (frustration wise) with sample 3 (fountain water), and got nowhere really.  I did learn what not to do…which is helpful I suppose – although not very satisfying.  I did not feel inhibited.  I felt frustrated that I do not possess the experience to create the effects I want…  If anything I feel a little overwhelmed by all the possibilities and only trying a few in the time I have – certainly not ‘inhibited’.

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

Both, I like to draw to prepare myself and to get to know the aesthetic I want to assimilate – and playing with materials and yarns is essential to creating effects.  I can’t really answer this question… both ?…they are not separate ?  I’m not sure what to say.

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

At the risk of repeating myself, my vague answer is ‘there are easily a hundred techniques I would like to try’ – and my priorities would be to practice stitching and working with natural basic fabrics first before slowly diversifying.  I would like to try the peeling paint sample again once I have thought about it some more and have more experience…as yet I don’t know how I will do this.

Is there anything you would like to change in your work ?  If so, try to think out why and make notes for future reference.

I think it is a bit soon for me to answer this question…  I do not feel like I have produced any actual work as such.


Brief: Using thread and yarns to create textures

I found this stage the most enjoyable of all of the exercises in this project.  In fact, that is why I begun with this stage and finished with the stitch practice.

My first attempt at this was perhaps the most successful in my mind as it was more intuitive and fluid – whereas I seemed to struggle much more as I began to think about it.

Sample #1 : Tree bark (I guess everyone starts with this…).

I am not sure if the colours I reproduced remotely resemble the photographic image.   However when you continue to zoom into the photograph, a whole range of colours start to appear which are initially invisible.

tree bark

Brown paper always seems much more forgiving when doing initial colour sketches…also it is the only way I can process my junk mail.

sketch with watercolour pencils

I used hessian on my first stitched sample as it is a natural fibre which seems sympathetic to the subject.

Handstitching.  Knitting yarns and embroidery threads stitched on to hessian

My second version uses blue grey lining fabric – I think it either a little too fine or I am too aggressive with the sewing machine as the tension starts to show itself in creases of the fabric.

Machine stitching version

Sample #2 : Peeling paintwork on tower door at Torosay.

This was much harder than I thought it would be… I initally started burning fabrics to see if this would re-create the peeling effect on the doors.  It didn’t.  In fact what actually happened – was that I vowed to only use natural and naturally dyed fabrics from that point onwards.  The coloured samples I did have, sizzled as I burned them.  One yellow polyester produced a repulsive brown goo.. and there were also a couple of fabric fires that I had difficulty putting out.  Lesson learnt.

Leaving that experience behind me, I moved on to using the pages of a very old book I had on the shelf.. I did not achieve the peeling paintwork effect but I did have fun with it in other ways.

Peeling paint on door at Torosay. Detail

Using a view finder, I selected a small section of this image focusing around the largest break in the cracks with spider webs.

Scribble sketch in watercolour pencil

I did a couple of samples of this, both machine embroidered and one with a backing fabric.

Book print, machine/hand stitching, inks and nail varnish.

Red linen backing fabric, book print, machine embroidery and inks.

Sample #3 : Fountain.  Photo taken from Reflections, lines and textures post.

This was impossible…in fact I now realise that it is extremely difficult to imitate the delicacy of water.  I wanted to dye fabrics at this point but I just could not achieve quite the right colours..

Fountain at Torosay

My first sample was created by stretching and pulling apart delicate muslin.  I did attempt to add some coloured highlights with ink..but this did not work so well unfortunately.

Stretched and pulled muslin with ink.

My second version includes more stretched muslin with the addition of french knots – although these are hard to see.

Stretch and pulled muslin with embroidered french knots on cardboard.

My conclusion at this stage is that I would like to come back to some of these images and try again – especially the peeling paintwork as I know this could be achieved somehow…. I just don’t know how I personally will do it yet.

Brief:  Working with stitches and threads to make marks and create texture..

I have never really done any sewing…(this seems odd considering my desire to study textiles)..and for this reason it took me a considerable amount of time to ‘mentally’ warm up.  I did everything the wrong way round…finding it impossible to follow the simple instructions specified by the course literature.  In fact I started on Stage 6 and finished by completing stages 1 & 2.

I have tried to insert a few examples here for the learning log in as logical an order as possible.

Machine Embroidery

I bought my first sewing machine 2 months ago – it is quick and effective.  I confess to having snapped a few needles in the learning process…

I also find that, more often than not, the underside of the cloth with the tangle of bobbin threads is much more appealing.  I like it when there is a big loopy dense mess.  Unfortunately I think this will result in a short lifespan for my new machine.

Machine stitching: Testing and varying the tension of the bobbin and upper threads

I have also experimented with making a few different types of paper – after reading Drawn to Stitch by Gwen Hedley from the reading list.

In this example I layered cotton string and embroidery threads between newsprint and tracing paper – overlaying this with machine stitch in various parts.  The reason I have used this example is because I like the blurred effect that the tracing paper gives – it makes the picture look in and out of focus simultaneously.  The stitches are crisp and vivid and the threads below obscured.  This is something I would like to study more in the future.

Machine stitching on newsprint and tracing paper

Hand Embroidery

After initially feeling frustrated at the time constraints of hand embroidery – I returned again to it in the last week and found something infinitely satisfying in the slow controlled stitching.  I read an article called ‘Beauty Therapy’ in the most recent issue of Selvedge magazine (issue 46 May/June 2012) which discusses the brain’s responses to beauty from the perspective of aesthetic philosphers and psychologists alike.  Whilst it is undoubtedly a personal feeling as to what one likes/dislikes, the article suggests that the human brain likes visuals that make sense – drawing security from predictability.  At the same time however, it is drawn to interest in detail and exploration within that environment.  This is something I find infinitely fascinating and again would like to explore this in the future.  Hand embroidery would seem like a good medium for this.

Stage 1 of Project 2 suggests trying some stitches out.  I enjoyed this…simple but effective.

Straight Stitching

Chevrons (a)

Chevrons (b)

French Knots


A selection of textile artists I have recently discovered..


Shizuko Kimura is a Japanese artist who creates life drawings.  she uses no preliminary sketches or photographs but simply works directly from life using a needle and thread using speed itself as a medium to capture the ‘essence of the subject’.

I particularly like the detail she creates using the thread, she uses a huge variety of line creating subtlety and strength alternately in her drawings.  I aspire to this.

Edith Durham revisited (detail). 2001, hand embroidery. cotton, muslin, paper, linen.


I know very little about Caroline Bartlett but I enjoy these layered prints on silk crepeline in tensioned embroidery hoops.  I have tried to print on to fine translucent on to fabric with limited success..

Caroline Bartlett. Bodies of Knowledge, Volume 5: Arbiters of Taste
1934 encyclopaedia, embroidery hoops, printed silk crepeline, silk, wadding, pins; 34 x 84 x 5cm. Photo: Michael Wicks


Do-Ho Suh (b. 1962, Seoul, Korea) is a sculpture and installation artist.

“Interested in the malleability of space in both its physical and metaphorical manifestations, Suh constructs site-specific installations that question the boundaries of identity. His work explores the relation between individuality, collectivity, and anonymity”.  (Kwon, Miwon, “The Other Otherness: The Art of Do Ho Suh,” Serpentine Gallery and Seattle Art Museum, 2002).

For more information on Do-Ho Suh – see link to his New York gallery : Lehmann Maupin

Do-Ho Suh, Perfect Home II, 2003


Linda Hutchins is a textiles artist based in Portland, Oregan.  What I particularly love about her work is the evidence of engineering knowledge which runs through her work, due to having studied engineering prior to art school.  Using her textile work of objects (personal to her) constructed from organza, she has developed them further into photograms which have an incredibly delicate aesthetic quality – in opposition to their original form in life – i.e. a hammer head.  She has also created a body of work creating linear patters with a typewriter which are very cool.

Linda Hutchins, One Hammer, 2011, pigment print on paper


Timorous Beasties is a design led manufacturing company based in Glasgow, who specialise in fabrics and wallpapers. Timorous Beasties was founded in 1990 by Alistair McAuley and Paul Simmons.

Despite not being intrinsically drawn to the commercial interiors side of textiles, I am absolutely blown away by some of their designs.  I love the finite execution of their wallpapers, and the creativity that has gone into morphing existing objects and creatures into fantastical imagery.

Timorous Beasties, 2012, Iguana Wallpaper

Have you ever thought about drawing in this way before ?

Yes and no.  Whilst I have always been aware of other methods of making marks – I have been equally a little too conservative and constrained in any drawings to date. I imagine this stems from fear of making mistakes or creating something visually unappealing.  I would like to think I am on the way to managing this fear now.

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

I would say that whilst I have begun the process, I think I could spend a whole year on developing marks (as many others have done).  To be honest, I did not think too much about the the range of marks – I just did what seemed natural considering the materials.  So – yes and no again….

Did you explore a wide range of media ?

I explored a variety of materials to draw on – however I did stick to the media that I had available – e.g. wax crayons, coloured pencils, pastels,  graphite, paint etc.  I did not have any bleach or gouache …. I am aware that I am uncomfortable buying in too many new materials due to the costs involved and like the idea of using up what I have.  If anything I think I got more excited about the variety of paper I found in my kindling basket rather than the drawing media itself…if that makes sense.  I realise this is not necessarily the desired effect of the exercise.

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

Yes I am pleased with the work generally I would say – it has definitely helped me loosen up a bit.  I recognise there is much to be gained from experimentation but I would say I am eager to get on with creating my own work.

Which exercise did you most enjoy ?  Why ?

I enjoyed exercise 3 for the simplicity of using various materials and mediums of my own choice – I particularly enjoyed making burn marks.  I loved the colours and the slight lack of control you have with regard to the shapes.  I love the sepia colours created which takes me to another time – I also enjoyed using my typewriter to create imperfect repetition.  

What other forms of mark-making could you try ?

I am eager to experiment with more blind drawing as it like controlled scribbling.  I like the even weight you naturally apply to the pen/pencil with this method (a good strong line) – and I like the vaguely shaped chaos that ensues.

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

I imagine it has freed up my drawing style a little… I would also say that I am finding myself looking much more intricately at textures I see everywhere rather than just gliding over them with my eyes.  I do not look at everything and wonder how I can reproduce it as a piece of art – but I am looking at everything in a new way…in fact I can’t stop looking at the world around me – which in itself is a very exciting development.  



I have reservations in that I have only just begun and am worried I spend more time uploading work to my learning log – than actually creating the work itself.

I need a little help with self-motivation and creating a timetable to work against.  Sometimes I find it very hard to get started and work, equally sometimes it flows..

Exercise 1

I have only included 1 example of each texture…naturally the more successful of my attempts..

Trying to create the movement in water is tricky – but by twisting the cork on paper I started to achieve the circular movements which droplets of water create within a fountain…i think.   Fountain image.

Fountain. Acrylic paint applied by twisting cork on paper to create circular marks

Source was a shutterstock image of blue marble from the internet.  I like this one.

Blue marble. Inks on paper applied with a small paintbrush

I again used one of the photos I took at Torosay for the tiles.  I am not very pleased with this one – it looks messy and the colours are too twee and green for my liking.  Tile photo.  I feel like I have butchered the real image by trying to imitate life too much.

Torosay tiles. Acrylic paint on paper applied with cotton bud

Exercise 2

I enjoyed this more than exercise 1 – working from life seems more fun to me – a little more spontaneous and perhaps easier as a result.

I also tried pastel on newsprint…which was fine – until I added fixative and then it turned into a sopping semi-translucent blur.

Kitchen tiles. Acrylic on newsprint

I am absurdly pleased with the basket weave.. maybe that is because I sketched for half an hour with pens on newsprint and in my sketchbook with only very average results.  Then after simplifying the image by just scribbling the negative shapes I was able to achieve a simple pattern and texture that I liked.  I also used an old potato sack which was dirty and creased and somehow helps to create an element of old age  associated with a woven log basket.

Basket weave. Felt pen on potato sack.

I often laugh when adding titles to these samples I am posting…I really struggle with how lame they often sound.  ‘Raindrops on a windowpane’ just sounds ridiculous to me.. but that it what it is, and I cannot give arty or cryptic titles as this is reference material …Oh well.

The pallet paper I have was effective (I believe) in giving the impression of looking out to the grey sky as it has a blurred translucency.  I just added some pencil drawn spots to show the rain.

Rain on old windowpane. 3B pencil on crinkly acrylic pallet paper

In my recent post ‘Mark making research…work I like‘ – my final example of work was by a Canadian artist named Val Nelson who uses the ‘blind drawing’ technique in this example of her work.  When I emailed Val to request her permission in using her work as an example – she was very kind in her response, granting me full persmission and encouraging me to try it myself.

After finding an old red moleskin diary from 2011 (completely empty as per each preceding year) – I am using this as my mobile sketchbook instead of throwing it away.   Over the years I have collected many old scrappy books so this seems the perfect opportunity to start using them…recycling makes me feels good.

Learning to draw from the beginning again is frightening.  I read in the college guide that you should draw anything, anywhere and practice, practice and practice more… and so it begins.

One of the things I am trying to learn is to sketch quickly without hesitation or fear of making mistakes…so I take less and less time on each drawing..

Starting in the kitchen…


Kitchen at work. 5 minute sketch.

Craignure Pier. 5 min sketch.

As my blind drawings are a little chaotic, I often end up scribbling over them to create some kind of form.  I like the freedom of line that drawing without looking at the paper gives you – it becomes much more exciting visually.