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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.


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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.

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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..

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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

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Alongside my textiles course, I am also working part time on the other end of the island on a farm with a weaving mill called Ardalanish.

Ardalanish is a very special place… an incredibly picturesque well maintained farm right next to a beach on the Ross of Mull.  It is the only ‘organic’ weaving mill in Britain and by using mechanical ‘Dobby looms’ from the 1950’s (original design from 1826), they retain the look of a museum.  The farm keeps a herd of 200 Hebridean (small black sheep) and 25 highland cows, the spun fleeces of the sheep are used in the weaving studio along with other native breeds like the Manx Loaghtan and the Bluefaced Leicester.


Manx Loaghtan

Bluefaced Leicester

If you are ever in Mull – I would recommend you to visit.  If you are unable to, then see images below….

welcome room, office and shop

weaving mill

cotton loom used for bothy mats

The shafts of the loom

mechanical detail

warping wheel


pattern frames for the looms

bobbin winder

mechanical detail

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Exercise 1 & 2- Marking marks with pencils and creating tone

I found this exercise very difficult if I am honest…I found it frustrating and ended up just scribbling everywhere basically.  After chiding myself – I had another go … I realise that every exercise is important and it reflects badly on me that I had difficulty applying myself.  It did serve as a good warm up however.

I would normally describe myself as a careful ‘drawer?’ – but I found the most consolation in the hard fast scribbles with a soft 3B. This is unlike me – but I found it hard to fill the 8cm box with careful repetitive marks…

I enjoyed the tonal exercise much more – there being a kind of satisfaction in creating depth.

Exercise 3 – Alternative methods and materials for making marks

I love using scrap materials so I pulled out all the paper from the recycling and kindling basket by the fire.  I also found  my old typewriter to see what marks could be achieved with that…(not many as ribbon needs replaced it turns out).  Using twigs, slate, shell and stones that I found on the shore i persevered – the only issue with these was that they do not hold the paint like a brush- therefore you need to keep applying more and more as the lines fade out quickly.

Materials: Newsprint, tissue paper, black and white card, graph paper, parchment and tracing paper. Marks made with biro, pencils, graphite, pastels, tea, typewriter and flame.

With great reluctance (fear) I introduced some colour..using paintbrushes, slate, matchsticks, cork and shells to varying degrees of success.

I scribbled over an old postcard with the matchstick which was fun – I love the idea of recycling old images to make new less lifelike work.  I also used a pinecone on this page.

Exercise 4

Wax Crayons…..I hate wax crayons… so much that I couldn’t bring myself to buy any at the local Spar (I put them back prior to payment), and instead resorted to stealing a plastic pot of decaying fat crayons from my neices.  I have a new  technique for working with materials or on subject matter that does not appeal to me: – I keep doing it until it does… I find that with perserverence that one can learn to love any material or find some good qualities within it.  In the case of the wax crayons – I dislike getting really dirty or using very basic primary colours (fear of producing little more than a childish scribble?) .  However…after a bit of layering and quite a lot of pressure from my upper body to get the crayon to release its colour – I started to notice attractive qualities.  Although the inks painted on top (wax resist) did not really seem to work – I thought the layers of colour and the scratchy tones were impressive.  I would apply the same theory to the whole theme of ‘Making marks’ – at first it seemed just a warm exercise to loosen one up…but now after pondering it and researching it – I realise that it is an art movement in itself.  Although all categories of drawing and painting could technically be referred to as ‘mark making’ – the technique of creating work based’ around marks’, e.g. Cy Twombly, (rather than accurate reproduction of reality ‘using marks’ e.g. the English Romantic painter John Constable) is what the terminology actually means to me now.

I guess I also felt some hesitation in making rubbings… I remember going around the Edinburgh botanical gardens as a child and furiously rubbing away at the bark on the trees – and proudly presenting a crumbled, half torn piece of paper back to my teacher.  For this exercise I chose a red watercolour pencil which has a slightly softer tip than a regular colouring pencil.  I restricted myself to the house and 10metres around it so as not to get carried away.  Unsurprisingly, after approaching wood, rock and stone – I found myself inorexibly drawn to leaves.. there is a reason children are taught to take rubbings of leaves – they display a wonderful skeleton.

Rubbings with watercolour crayon, indoors and outdoors

Wax resist

Rubbing away and blanking out. Graphite, biro, eraser & tippex.

Acrylic paint applied with sponge, cotton bud, cork and paintbrush.

The last suggestion in exercise 4 is to make a collage using scraps of paper.  I was totally at a loss of what to do…short of copying the exercises by Gwen Hedley in ‘Drawn to Stitch’.  One thing I am attempting to do with these exercises – is to not buy anything new..(very hard) – so I just keep returning to the waste paper basket for materials.  This ‘collage’ (if it could be called that ?) took 5 minutes using an old envelope and a box of matches at the last minute to create the burns.  I think the burning could be my favourite discovery in making marks…

Cut up envelope and matches..

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