Stitching On Paper – Samples 3

The stitch sample collection is building up quite nicely now, I’m sure I probably have enough but I’m finding it very beneficial to keep stitching more and more.

It’s taken a small stack of day sketchbooks and doodle books to build up my confidence at drawing and painting and I was not convinced I would be able to find a similar level of comfort using stitch to draw. And to start off with I didn’t. I’ve found the process frustrating, limiting and at times, plain horrible but I’m working through it. I’m getting better at expressing my ideas with needle and thread. It’s feeling more normal, my co-ordination is improving and I’m starting to see a style emerging that I am comfortable with.

I have always been very envious of the way stitchers like Gwen Hedley can interpret their drawing and mark making into stitch. The transition always looks so easy when you look at it in books and I was really doubting that I would be able to even make a good stab at it, let alone create something that I was pleased with.

As I said, it”s been a slow journey towards my goal of using stitch like a pen or a pencil and I’ve tried quite a few different ways to transfer or transform the images that I had selected into stitch samples.

Selecting some simple cotton thread and an interesting piece of paper, I worked on recreating the sketch I did at the museum of a seam that was coming loose and straining.I used the single long stitches to hold together the rips in the paper to replicate this motion and highlight the weave like fibres showing through on the damaged paper.

This felt easier than the earlier samples in part 2 and although it’s not an accurate copy, I don’t think that matters.

It was interesting to see how the stitching looked on the really damaged parts of the paper I had used for the seam sample and I went off plan to test how it would work if simple lines, almost darning stitches were built up and layered onto the paper. I was quite happy with the result but feel that it doesn’t have the depth and substance of the samples that are more closely representative of the marks and drawings I selected.

I then had a go at using simple back stitches to copy another quick sketch. This still felt quite difficult and clunky, nowhere near as smooth or as free as pen strokes. I felt constrained by the way the thread pulled and found it’s own route between the holes and over the surface of the folded paper.

This piece has gone onto the back burner for now and I moved onto experimenting with more couching, it’s still one of my favourite ways to apply thread and I’m determined to make the end result as appealing as the process of stitching is.

Following on from the couching I decided to go back to using stitch in a way that more closely resembled my drawings and using a piece of quite tough and distorted paper and similar coloured thread I set out to stitch in a way that would evoke a sense of the delicateness of the garment but not hide the fact that it was made to be tough and hardwearing.

This sample developed slowly and it taught be a valuable lesson: sometimes a complicated process, in this case the overstitching and whipping of the stitches, can create a simple image with small details that provide interest.

I want to build on this concept of more can equal less. I’ve always been guilt of trying to overwork my stitch pieces in the past and have tried to steer clear of adding too much thread. In doing so I have found myself feeling that my work has lacked depth and interest. Maybe this practise of looking for ways to add subtle detail to simple ideas is my holy grail

Stitching on Paper – Samples 2

 It’s been a while since I’ve done a blog, I’ve been having a blog ‘wobble’ and only really admitted it to myself today. I’ve also been away on my travels again and that doesn’t help, but this work was done before my hols and could easily have been blogged about before or during my trip.

I’m finding it difficult to make decisions about how much work is required on each exercise and I seem to be over committing myself and expecting to complete far too much in the time I have given myself and this is being complicated by the feeling that I am not exploring every idea/concept to its most innovative or adventurous point.  Grrhh! its all making me feel a little crazy, and along with thinking that my blogs are too short and not full of enough detail this has all combined to sent me into a mini freeze! 

I promised myself before I started this adventure that I wouldn’t overthink my every more or the instructions and just get on with things! Time to have a reset then and just get back to getting my head down and getting on with it. I now have a deadline of November 16th to get assignment 2 submitted and I’m going to do my utmost to get done by then.

So, back to the stitching on paper samples. It’s been a slightly strange eperience this; I’ve found that sometimes I really enjoy stitching a piece but then I don’t like the result. 

This flower bud was exactly like that, I love couching and I love these Colinette Yarn ribbons but for me the end result looked garish and the stitches looked poorly executed. I was pleased with it as an interpretation of the original but overall it didn’t work for me at all and don’t get me on to how the green stitches and the ribbon clashes! 

If I was to try to make it work I would probably chuck some bleach and maybe some gesso at it to tone down the colours but then it would start to become a mixed media piece and not a stitch sample so it will stay as it is. 


I had a little more success with this piece but I really, really don’t like the knots that have become bows, what is all that about? In the first set of samples I tried to make some knots and when they split they became quite attractive little splays of thread so I thought’d I’d try to replicate the action here. Far far too twee for me. 

The paper was very solid and difficult to stitch through but I didn’t mind that and I still like the effect of stitch over the really damaged piece of paper. 

After the first 2 disappointing trials I finally got into my grove with this sample. I love this bark paper, it’s strangly both very tough and very fragile at the same time. 

During the distressing/manipulation process I had bashed mulberry paper though the sheet of paper with the embellisher and some areas of the piece had become very thin and worn. The similarities to the wear and tear I’d seen in the linen smocks (my textile archive source material) made me happy  and I decided to continue with the close associations to the smocks and use some darning.

This really has to be the stitch that I wish to include in my 3 assignment pieces. I like to paint with broad brush strokes and darning lets me replicate this with stitch, I have tried in the past to use satin stitch but have found it too loose and difficult to execute, it always turns into couching for me as I try to hold it down with more little stitches. Actually, that gives me an idea to store away!

I decided to interprate the sunflower head prints and drew a few lines around the photocopied version to block out the areas that I wanted to individually darn. I chose a bright colourway; the flowers (my picking & portraying source material) had been bold and I wanted to prove to myself that I could use bold colours after the bud failure. 

For the last block I auditioned a number of different colours and decided on the cream, as a nod to the cream linen smocks and as a nice contrast, soothing influence to the other bright threads.

Then, Oh sweet jesus, what happened here?! A strange alien man eating plant in fishnet tights? This sample is beyond redemption and it’s only saving grace is that I like the bits where the thread has pulled at the tyvek and bound it down over the scrim. All in all, it’s far too busy, far too twee and well, just plain odd!   


Stitching on Paper – samples 1.

These days I’m quite comfortable with drawing, I’m no Leonardo Di Vinci but I’ve found a sort of style and I can enjoy putting pen and paint to paper.

But stitching is a different matter. I love to stitch but my spontaneous and slightly haphazard approach makes it difficult to be consistent and my love of fine lines and technical drawing/doodles doesn’t translate easily to stitch.

 I’m often caught in a world of seeding, knotting and hand quilting. Using stitch to extent my mark making and drawing has been a challenge.

I started with translating the little stitch motifs from the patch of darning on the smock shirt.

I soon became bored after completing the first row and a half but I’m glad I finished it. The tissue paper quickly became very fragile and I had to layer up the scrim on the back to make a more solid surface.


I continued with the idea of the motif and worked with a thinner thread on the Tyvek surface. The stitches were getting lost in the texture so I continued the motifs down into the plainer areas.



The splits and gaps in the Tyvek remind me of the rips and frayed areas on the linen garments. 

The colours I have chosen are influenced by the colours of the flowers I painted previously as the second design source.


I had been working with a basic motif that I was stitching randomly so I wanted to experiment with being more controlled. 

I made a collage, cut out an area and sellotaped it to the back of the paper surface. 

Using a thick thread I marked the corners with knots on the front and then wound a thinner thread around the knots to create the motifs.

It was clumsy to do and some of the knots came undone so had to be couched down.


The next sample started with the motifs (again!) but this little scrap of paper kept catching my eye so I pinned it to the paper and went for lunch.


When I got back, refreshed I decided to use the simplist influence and do some darning stitch. Obvious really. I really liked it and decided this was the way forward.  

I built up some layers and added more darning. I prefer the controlled darning from the photocopy but I do like the effect of using a thick and a thin thread. 


I’m was quite happy to leave the motifs behind and concentrate on darning. 

Stitching in this way feels very similar to cross hatching that is used to add tone to sketches.

When I had printed out the collage I’d left some acetate by mistake in the printer. This happy accident provided me with a lovely surface to stitch. 

I laid the printed acetate over a distressed paper surface which has two holes made by the rotary grinder.

I’m not sure everyone will like these explorations but I loved using the thread to highlight shapes and to run the lines from shape to shape. I find it very satisfying to use the printed shapes as anchors/pointers for linking/drawing the threads across the image.

If I had not controlled myself I would have kept adding more and more thread until every point had been joined or taken off the edge of the acetate and over the ruffled paper. 

I have a couple more prints so maybe I will. Is that the way I should be going? Exploring one idea, onwards and onwards? Or, stopping and picking up another idea to keep it fresh?

A Little Preparation 

Before I threw myself into the stitch sampling I decided to review what is needed for Assignment 2.

I like to have at least a little inkling of where I’m going next and for me reading the course materials is just not enough!

Usually I would write them out, almost, word for word but there are a lot of instructions this time. 

So I had to come up with a way to review and digest the guidance that could also make it easy for me to re-read, review, take notes, jot down ideas, research, keep pictures etc etc.

I had loads of paper left over from the previous exercise and I’ve used some of it to make a workbook. 

I’ve printed the instructions off on sticky backed acetate, cut them up into paragraphs so I could read them in small bites and fixed them onto different pages. 

And this will give me lots of space for mind maps, ideas, photos and photocopies etc.

The issue now is, do I want to mess up all this uncharacteristic organisation by actually doing something??


It’s Audition Time.

After putting together my manipulated paper surfaces for stitch, the next stage is to sift through all of the source material and start to decide what I am going to stitch.

Tonight I have the lounge to myself (almost, if you don’t include the pets!) so I started off by printing off pictures of my surfaces and the drawings I have selected to use as direct sources for the stitching. 

Then using my view finders I selected areas of the drawings that I felt had some link or similarly to the different surfaces.

I photographed and printed off these little duos, then I worked through the actual surfaces and put them together with the print offs.

At some point it had got to the stage where I had stuff everywhere so I decided to set up some admin style folders to organise the samples and ideas.

I’m not sure if it’s really very arty or creative to be this organised but it helps me! Not so sure Gem was that impressed though!!


There is still far too many examples to stitch so there is still more auditioning to do. 

Thank you to Anne Armes for sharing this concept of ‘auditioning’ items when selecting ideas to take forward. 

It’s been a busy evening and as you can see it’s all worn Leo the cat out!!


Selecting what to work on next.

Focus! Keep it simple. That has been my brief all through this course so far. No over thinking but informed rational decision making. This isn’t always easy when working in an atmosphere of assessment and judgement (peers and tutors). 

I try very hard to ignore this and to work as an artist would: using their own eye and judgement to decide which direction to go in next. But then at least I don’t have the haunting consideration of ‘will this sell’.

So my choices? What governs them? 

1. Putting something right – taking something I don’t really like and seeking out ways to make it a pleasure to view. 

2. Making something bigger – this is tricky, pretty lines and shapes are just that so how does extending and stitching something take it to a new level? 

The answer must be in the selection process. I am going to experiment with taking an area of a drawing that now transmutes the original source into something very different.

3. Turning flatness into texture – taking a mark making exercise that hints at depth and tone and experimenting with creating that texture with stitch.

4. Building and developing a feeling or idea – another tricky challenge, I like the dreamy quality of these seed heads and can I improve on this or will stitch just overwork the image and alter its original qualities?

5. Fixing an issue with colour – when the basic composition is sound but the colour is not pleasing I can remedy with different colour choices.


6. Working across several pieces to identify unusual and interesting compositions – where there are several sketches on one page and sometimes lines and textures created by the base paper(s) then I like to block a small area that covers different elements.

That should be enough to get me started. I’ve got my view finders and once I’ve started moving them round my actual picture selections may change but I shall endeavour to keep to the 6 guidelines above.