Thursday, 31 December 2015

Samples 2015: Week 51, Christmas Cactus

Pink felt and loose wool fibres embellished onto black felt. Hand embroidery – stem stitch, straight stitch and French knots using stranded cotton. About 5.5cm.

Source picture
From this article in the Saturday Guardian 19/12/15:
“Cactuses are for life, not just for Christmas. The cactus is not the pinnacle of environmental friendliness, but at least it will flower again for the next festive season.”

Christmas cactuses are very easy to please.’ Photograph: Getty Images
Sample design
Cropped section to include stamens and the dramatic contrast of bright pink petals against black.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Samples 2015: Week 50, Climate conference

Free machine embroidery worked from the design on the back with gold metallic thread on the bobbin (not on the spool as that never works for me). Numbers cut from Evolon and applied with Bondaweb. Background fabric black cotton drill.

Source picture
From this article in the Saturday Guardian 12/12/15:
“COP 21: UN climate change conference. Eiffel Tower lights up with 'no plan B' warning for Paris climate talks.”
Sample design
I took the general idea of the bright metal criss-cross tower structure, and improvised a section centred on the significant numbers.   

Monday, 14 December 2015

Samples 2015: Week 49, Lips

Blanket stitch in stranded cotton on hand dyed cotton over felt

Source picture
From this article in the Saturday Guardian 05/12/15:
“How Jane Austen’s Emma changed the face of fiction. The story of a self-deluded heroine in a small village, Jane Austen’s Emma hardly seems revolutionary. But, 200 years after it was first published, John Mullan argues that it belongs alongside the works of Flaubert, Joyce and Woolf as one of the great experimental novels.”

Illustration by Susie Hogarth.
Sample design
Not my kind of subject (I was desperate!) – but the lips looked very blanket stitch.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Samples 2015: Week 48, DNA

Scribbly free machine embroidery on soluble fabric. I used silver metallic thread on the bobbin and two shades of blue/mauve on top (not at once!). I like the way the silver just peeps through on the front.

Source picture
From this article in the Saturday Guardian 28/11/15:
“Future of human gene editing to be decided at landmark summit. Now that the ability to selectively insert or remove genes from DNA is widespread, a ‘global discussion’ is being convened to agree fresh safeguards.”
Should humans take control of their genetic fate, and rewrite the DNA of future generations? Photograph: nobeastsofierce Science/Alamy Stock Photo

Sample design
I simplified the lovely DNA helix to a flat pattern, but kept the bluey shades and twinkle of the photo. Funny how I ended up with kissing fishes!

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Samples 2015: Week 47, Dogwood

Hand embroidery - long straight stitches in single strands of stranded cotton. The base is black cotton over black felt.

Source picture
From this article in the Saturday Guardian 21/11/15:
“Gardens: Winning ways for winter. Gardens can bring delights in colder months. Here’s how.”
Photograph: National Trust Images/Mark Bolton
Sample design
This time I thought I could get away with simple straight stitches, no need for curves like last week’s fireworks. I didn’t try and copy the photo, I couldn’t do stitches that long for one thing! So I just layered three colours in random but vaguely upwards directions.   

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Samples 2015: Week 46, Fireworks

Spontaneous free machining in bright rayon threads. The fabric is white cotton backed with heavyweight iron on stabiliser (so I didn’t have to use a hoop).

Source picture
From this article in the Saturday Guardian 14/11/15:
“Bridget Christie: Want to avoid other people’s music? May the force be with you. I’m made to listen to other people’s music choices, against my will, on public transport, in restaurants and lifts, in shops, when I’m on hold, even when giving birth.”
Illustration: Nishant Choksi for the Guardian
Sample design
The image called for a quick, sketchy response, and hand stitching didn’t suit the long curving lines, so it had to be FME. I thought about using a black, night sky, background, but decided the white and bright was what drew me to this image so I stuck with that.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Samples 2015: Week 45, Poppy seed heads

Layered fabrics (felt, hand dyed cottons) free machine stitched with circles then cut back to reveal the mauve layer. Circles of handmade paper then hand stitched on. Shouldn't have used such a fraying top layer!

Source picture
From this article in the Saturday Guardian 07/10/15:
“Alys Fowler: restrain your urge to tidy the garden. Don’t clear away those tired and broken brown stems – they’re essential to the health of your patch next year.”
‘During the coming month the poppy seedheads will tumble.’ Photograph: Gap Photos
Sample design
So much potential here, so many possible techniques! But I had to choose and work fast so I used what I had to hand and lost the subtle colours. I simplified the tops too, using plain hand cut circles not frilly shapes.

Samples 2015: Week 44, Wires

There’s no background fabric here, just threads! White and shaded blue pearl cotton, hand stitched on soluble fabric.
Source picture
From this article in the Saturday Guardian 31/10/15:
“New law to tell internet service providers to retain browsing data. Lobbying by police ahead of investigatory powers bill suggests ISPs will be required to keep data for 12 months.”
GCHQ says it carries out bulk interception of online data only if a search warrant has been served. Photograph: MatthiolaC/Alamy
Sample design
Oh I do like embroidery without fabric, and that’s exactly what those tangled wires looked like to me! Though I did consider other techniques, the wires are actually striped. Common sense, and the usual need to catch up, prevailed and I allowed myself to do separate white and blue wires.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Samples 2015: Week 43, Hurricane

Green felt and white bamboo fibres embellished onto blue wool fabric.

Source picture
From this article in the Saturday Guardian 24/10/15:
“Hurricane Patricia makes landfall as Mexico braces for devastating storm. Hundreds of thousands of people are in the path of one of the strongest hurricanes ever recorded."
Hurricane Patricia in the eastern north Pacific. Photograph: Handout/Getty Images
Sample design
Fluffy clouds just had to be an embellisher sample! With a vague resemblance to the photo.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Samples 2015: Week 42, Tyre dump

Thousands of tiny circles (not just scribble, honest), free machined on two layers of black Lutradur. Burned out using soldering iron, and applied to rough textured creamy fabric.
Source picture
“Shredder sought for five million tyres dumped in Spain. The 90,000 tonnes of rubber, 400 metres from a housing development south of Madrid, pose a fire and environmental risk.”
Photograph: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty
Sample design
I wanted to capture the contrast between the mountains of tyres and the sandy “valley”. There was only one way to do so many little circles in a reasonable time – free machining. And using a synthetic fabric meant I could burn out the edges, a more suitable effect than cutting. The image suggests grey circles on black, but I had to reverse that because the Lutradur wasn’t dark enough. 

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Samples 2015: Week 41, Button Snakeroot

Blue-brown shaded fine cotton (from Oliver Twists), hand stitched on Somerset paper.

Source picture
From this article in the Saturday Guardian 10/10/15:
“Great plains: my prairie garden. Garden designer Tom Stuart-Smith raised his own prairie garden from seed and was delighted to find it requires a fraction of the maintenance of a conventional border.”
Photograph: Marianne Majerus/Garden Images
Sample design
Those spiky plants were irresistible, especially when I found they were called “Button Snakeroot”! I thought stitching on paper rather than fabric would give a good clean spiky effect.     

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Samples 2015: Week 40, VW

Aluminium, embossed and machine stitched onto black Kunin felt over craft Vilene.

Source picture
From this article in the Saturday Guardian 03/10/15:
“VW drivers in UK to escape higher emissions tax, government vows. Transport secretary calms fears that owners of cars caught cheating emissions tests might be forced to pay higher vehicle excise duty linked to pollution.”
Photograph: AFP/Getty
Sample design
That badge, shiny silver, but not a complete copy… At first  I thought I’d use metallic fabric, then remembered all the real metal leftover from when I made stitched copper and aluminium jewellery and clocks. Aluminium seemed perfect, and just this little bit was enough to remind me of all the snags in stitching metal! Can be quite effective though, maybe I’ll play a little more.    

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

After the Trail

We definitely earned this! Sunday night was a time to collapse in an untidy heap with a glass of something fizzy.
It was a bit nerve wracking opening our house to strangers, but we needn't have worried - the Art Trail went really well. Lots of visitors, especially at the weekend, lots of appreciative comments and fascinating conversations.
This week I'm hoping to get back to some stitching. But first... just one or two things to put away!     

Samples 2015: Week 39, Data Centre Emissions

Machined satin stitch framework on black cotton. Hand stitched loops of bright perle cotton.

Source picture
From this article in the Saturday Guardian 26/09/15:
“How viral cat videos are warming the planet. Datacentre web servers, such as those used by Google and Facebook, to blame for 2% of greenhouse gas emissions – about the same as air travel.”
Inside Google’s data centre in Mayes County, Oklahoma. The firm’s carbon footprint was equivalent to more than 1.7m tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2013. Photograph: Google/Rex
Sample design
Not the most obvious subject for embroidery! But the contrast of bright loopy wires against a rigid grid structure seemed ideal for combining auto machine stitching with free hand stitch.   

Friday, 9 October 2015

Ilkley Art Trail

I’m writing this on and off between visitors, as our home is open for five whole days (!) as part of the Ilkley Art Trail. Sort of a cross between an art trail and open studios, perhaps – with some artists and makers in town centre venues and others in their homes and work spaces.
This house usually looks a bit gallery-ish anyway – the walls are all white to show off the treasures we’ve collected over the years from other artists/makers. But it’s a bit strange living surrounded by our own efforts – not quite so relaxing, I find!
Week days in October were always going to be fairly quiet, but we’ve already had quite a few people round so we’re practised and ready for the weekend crowds (if only…).

I suppose we miss out on casual drop-ins, but the plus is that those who do come and see us tend to be really interested, they’ve often researched which artists appeal to them. And being outside the town centre does mean it's easy to park right outside.
The variety here is huge, because it’s not just my textile art. There’s also John’s stunning turned wood boxes with clever inlay patterns and surprise details inside and out.
As well as wall art (framed and unframed), I’ve got my range of thread bowls, bookmarks and lots of jewellery.
There’s Mistletoe neckpieces and pins ready for Christmas (sorry!) parties, delicate Bloom brooches, and my new linen crochet pendants on show for the first time.
I’ve even made cards for once, all with actual pieces of “embroidery” (in the loosest sense!) not prints.  

The poor tortured Bernina doesn’t get a break, just a change of scene. It’s down on the dining table stitching bookmarks and weird samples, and ready to demo FME if anyone’s interested (or baffled by my explanations).   

So if you’re free this weekend, and in reach of Ilkley, please come and see us! You can download the full Trail programme online (or pick up a paper one in town) and there’s even a cool interactive map.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Samples 2015: Week 38, Tridoku

Coloured felt squares applied to white felt using the embellisher. Each colour then hand stitched with a slightly darker shade of stranded cotton.

Source picture
From this article in the Saturday Guardian 19/09/15:
“Nested fish and golden triangles: adult colouring and the beauty of maths. These mathematical patterns, by Alex Bellos and illustrator Edmund Harriss, are intended to engage the brain as well as provide a moment of stress-free satisfaction.”
Alex Bellos and Edmund Harriss
Sample design
This week I really fancied some simple colourful hand stitching so I pinched a small section of this image. Felt is so lovely to stitch on! 

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Samples 2015: Week 37, Ai Weiwei

Machine embroidery using a Flower Stitcher attachment. Black and grey threads on hand dyed cotton bonded to heavy weight stabiliser.

Source picture
From this article in the Saturday Guardian 12/09/15:
“Ai Weiwei – from criminal to art-world superstar. The Chinese artist talks about how his incarceration helped his career, and why he’s embarrassed about his early work – ahead of his first major UK exhibition.”
Ai Weiwei: ‘I don’t go to church. I work seven days a week, I’m always the first one in the office.’ Photograph: Andy Wong/AP Photo
Sample design
I was drawn to the offset circles, so I decided to just doodle with those.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Samples 2015: Week 36, Stalactites

Free machine embroidery on dissolvable fabric, using a subtly shaded green-cream-pink rayon thread. Two strips of stalactites overlaid. No background fabric, I photographed it against black but the camera (sorry, I – I shouldn’t blame my tools) struggled to bring out the colours.
Source picture
“Going underground: the Jeita Grotto, Qornet El Hamra, Lebanon. Artists Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige lose all sense of time and space, marvelling at the shapes and formations in this cavernous underground world.”
The Jeita Grotto, Lebanon, is a a huge concentration of extraordinary shapes. Photograph: Tim Barker/Getty Images/Lonely Planet Image
Sample design
What appealed here was the idea of fringes of stalactites, I didn’t copy any actual section of the photo. I enjoyed this, and it might have some potential.   

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Samples 2015: Week 35, Harebells

Quick hand stitch, on pale green bandage scrim over felt. The flowers are teased tufts of crewel wool.

Source picture
From this article in the Saturday Guardian 29/08/15:
"Harebells at Bosley Cloud, Cheshire. As folklore has it, witches used juices squeezed from the flowers to turn themselves into hares; the Victorians believed fairies slept in the bells.”

Hare bells (Campanula rotundifolia): frail flowers flickering on wire-thin stems. Photograph: Gareth McCormack
Sample design
Flowers are an easy option, so I felt obliged not to be too realistic. And I wanted a bit of hand stitch to take on holiday, which cut down the options (though unexpectedly summery weather meant I didn’t actually touch it while away!).

So I chose to ignore the delicacy of the bells and went for quick and messy splashes of blue wool.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Samples 2015: Week 34, Cacti

Automatic embroidery pattern, chosen to look spiky. Plus French knots in stranded cotton. The fabric is calico over pelmet Vilene.

Source picture
From this article in the Saturday Guardian 22/08/15:
Lanzarote’s beautiful cactus garden. At the Jardín de Cactus, designed by César Manrique, over 1,100 species of cacti fill a disused quarry amid the island’s otherworldly, volcanic landscape.”
Jardín de Cactus, Lanzarote. Photograph: Frank Lukasseck/Corbis
Sample design
As always, my first thought is how to make it look just like the real thing! Colour, texture, everything.
Then, if I’m being good, I catch myself and consider how to make it different.
So I took a section with parts of four cacti and focused on the spiny ribs, with a ring of (dead?) flowers on one of them for contrast.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Samples 2015: Week 33, Treeconomics

Wool yarns embellished onto brown felt. Hand stitched sequins.
Source picture
"Introducing 'treeconomics': how street trees can save our cities. As a fight over 11 lime trees in Sheffield escalates, activists in cities all over the world are making the case for urban trees – to cut pollution, increase land value and even make you feel younger.”
Plane trees might be London’s most famous tree, but the city’s most common species is the apple tree, mainly hidden in gardens. Photograph: Robert Hardi/REX Shutterstock/Robert Hardi/REX Shutterstock
Sample design
A section to bring out the contrast between the tree foliage and the straight trunks interspersed with round lights.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Samples 2015: Week 32, Railways

Hand dyed wool-viscose felt backed with pelmet Vilene. Free machined lines in silver grey echoed in black, plus a few French knots in stranded cotton.

Source picture
From this article in the Saturday Guardian 08/08/15:
"Andy Burnham’s right: railway unity would get Britain back on track. The Labour leadership contender’s commitment to renationalising our railways is welcome, but hardly radical.”
Train tracks near Clapham Junction station in London. Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP
Sample design
I liked the curves here, but what a lot going on! I settled for simple free lines to capture the essence of all that movement. To jazz it up a bit I added the paired lights as amber French knots.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Samples 2015: Week 31, British Library

Pieced cotton and polycotton fabrics with automatic machine stitching and hand stitched buttons.

Source picture
From this article in the Saturday Guardian 1/08/15:
British Library awarded Grade I-listed building status. Structure once called ‘one of the ugliest buildings in the world’ in parliament and denounced by Prince Charles now ‘one of England’s finest modern buildings’.”
The British Library, the largest public building to be built in the UK in the 20th century. Photograph: DCMS/PA
Sample design
I chose a little square using the old L-shaped cards.
Then one thing led to another…
Having taken so little of the source picture I thought the colours at least should be fairly true.
So the materials and technique depended on what I could find in suitable colours. I’d have liked felt, but had nothing close – but I did have some cotton and polycotton. And then it became about sewing, not the embellisher.
And the three circles called for buttons, so the buttons I found then determined the scale!