Monthly Archives: March 2014

9a: Paper Weaving

     a) To Make Coloured & Textured Papers
­This also needs to go into the sketch book properly, but I’m running out of time and decided it was more important to get work posted on the blog for Sian to see.
This was another of those activities where I had great fun, and got very messy – I don’t think I’ve done wax resist painting since the annual firework pictures I worked on with my daughters when they were small (a very long time ago!). I used oil pastels to make marks on photocopier paper, then painted watercolours over the top. I’d forgotten how thin and watery the paint needs to be, and hadn’t realised how small and close together the marks need to be if they are to be seen when the paper is torn into strips and woven.

I liked the paint effects I made on the paper I used to ‘blot’ the paintings – I got some wonderful shapes and shading, much better than some of my painted efforts! I kept to black, white, yellow and green for my colours, and mostly I’m quite pleased with them and feel they are a pretty fair representation of my wall. But I have to admit that whilst sap green was fine, viridian (that bright emerald green) was a mistake because it doesn’t look like any part of the wall. But it was there, in the box of paints, begging me to try it out… And it is a wonderful colour, even if it is wrong.

     b) Paper Weaving

Again, I’ve done this a very long time ago, with my daughters when they were young, and with infants when I was a mum helper in school for a couple of years, but what we created then was just random colours, textures and patterns. Trying to base a weaving on a photograph of a wall (or anything else come to that) is jolly difficult, and I take my hat off to weavers everywhere who produce pictures from strips of fabric, yarn, or any other material. Perhaps it is easier with a thinner warp thread, so you don’t get quite such a square, blockish effect, and you might blend the colours in more effectively.

I did bear the colours, shapes and patterns of the wall in mind when I marked and painted the paper, and tried very hard to follow it with the weaving, keeping the dark blackish grey, radiating shape at the bottom right of the weaving.

I’ve shown two attempts here: one a conventional square design, the other fanning out from that bottom right corner, and incorporating gaps and shorter pieces, as well as some folded paper and a piece looped over more than one strip. It wasn’t totally successful, but I tried! I think I prefer the more conventional approach.

I was going to remove emerald green strips (see previous comments under 9a) because they are too bright and dominant, and are the wrong green, in the wrong positions. But even so, I’ve left them, because I think they add a nice ‘lift’ and contrast. And I like them because viridians such a wonderful colour. And I have threads that colour… And strips of sari silk… And I want to use them…

8: Colour Stitchery Samples

I haven’t stuck this work into my sketchbook yet, and I’ve cropped off the edge of some pictures, but I wanted to get it up and posted.

 Using more than one colour in the needle: I used stranded embroidery threads, because you can combine different numbers of threads in different colours, and get the most wonderful gradations of colour to give gradual changes. I’ve used this technique on canvas in the past, but for patterns rather than portraying colour changes in something like a wall.
For this sample I worked in cushion stitches, producing geometric patterns.
I started on the top, with all white stitches, then worked with one thread of white, and five of black. I changed the balance of the colour as Is stitched down, using two threads of white and four of black, and so on, through to all black.
Then I tried a similar experiment, using black, white and green, before introducing yellow as a fourth colour.
Out of curiosity, I also tried blue and yellow, with a strand each of black and white, to see if gave an impression of being green, as paint does when you blend blue and yellow, but it didn’t!

Using variegated threads: I experimented with two different threads: grey, shading through to black, and grey shading through to white. I’ve used these in the past, and find the colour changes in commercial brands can sometimes be a bit tartling, creating stripy effects. Threads dyed by specialist companies are better (they’re much gentler) but I didn’t have any.
I used tent stitch, worked diagonally and horizontally, and also tried blending three threads with the light colour at the top with three threads with the dark colour at the top. This gives a completely different effect –-a kind of tweedy look I suppose, which I quite liked. It seems to overcome the stripy problem, but has less variation of colour tones.

Overstitching with a different colour: Please ignore the first two rows! I hadn’t tried this before, and decided to use long-legged cross stitch, but I got into a horrible muddle, and changed to cross stitch. When I’ve done overstitching previously I’ve been aiming for texture with things like French knots, or used contrasting threads, but the idea of blending colours this way was new to me, and I’m not sure I was all that successful with it.  I wasn’t sure whether to work complete stitches over the underlying ones, or whether to stitch over and under some stitches to emulate a criss-cross look, or just go over the top in random fashion, so I tried them all!

General Thoughts: This was an interesting exercise, because it made me think about the way we perceive colour, and how you can blend threads to make a transition from one colour to another. To be honest, until now it’s not something I would have thought of doing on a regular basis – I would have been more likely to search out lots of shades of a particular colour. But ‘blending’ is fascinating, and gives a much more individual interpretation to embroidery. It’s yet another thing to practice!


I wasn’t totally sure of the best way to proceed on this – trial and error was definitely the order of the day.  It is very different to working from a chart, and although I have created designs and decided which stitches to use, I have only ever done small-scale things, like trees on Christmas cards (I’ve used various stitches and techniques over the years, including canvas work). So I selected a rubbing…

… And ran a scan of it through the computer using Gimp (a free photo manipulation programme) to try and intensify the image and markings and get more definition between light and dark. I tried to reduce the white space, and  clicked on  engraving or embossing (under ‘distort’), and I worked from that.

I cropped around the right-hand corner, and my aim was to focus the centre of the embroidery on the bit with the squarish shapes in it, surrounded by what looked like three walls, because I felt those shapes lent themselves to stitches like Rhodes and Norwich. However, even though I marked my image into sections and stitched matching sections onto the canvas (10HPI because it’s better than 14HPI for thicker threads), the central point was somehow too high up, and  I started off stitching too small, so I worked a bigger area of the picture than I intended. Next time I might try marking the canvas in some way to help keep me on the straight and narrow and stick to the plan – perhaps a few painted lines on the canvas would help.

I did put in quite a bit of planning, and used photocopies of the rubbing to mark up stitch and thread suggestions for the different areas, and marked the thicker, darker areas  with a felt tip to make them stand out even more. But somehow, as I went along my design grew, like Topsy, and took on a bit of a life of its own, so the plans were abandoned, and I stitched, and unpicked, and stitched again.  This may not be the best way to do things, but it worked for me on this occasion. I could have been bolder in my use of stitch and thread (but I think that about everything). Overall I think more planning, and more attention to detail (especially in relation to placement) would give better results.

The central shapes, which I wanted to stand out from everything else should have been bigger and in a thicker thread.  Consequently, there didn’t seem to be as much texture and definition between high and low as I wanted, so I used a lot of tent stitch for the ‘background’ areas. I did try one or two other stitches to start with, but everything seemed to be on the same level, so I unpicked them. However, I did work the tent stitch in different threads in different areas, to give a much patchy, bumpy sort of effect, but it is not as apparent on a photograph or scan as it is in reality. And I ought to have remembered about leaving white space instead of trying to cover everything with stitching – I can’t think why I forgot this, because I was reporter, and then a sub-editor, for more years than I care to mention, and I know about the importance of white space as far as page layout/design is concerned!

But I loved stitching this. I had such fun doing it, and I learned a great deal in the process, especially about how essential careful planning is, and felt a real sense of achievement when I finished. It may not be perfect, and looking at the completed piece I feel there are lots of things I would do differently if I started again, but on the whole I rather like it, and it’s not too dissimilar to what I had in mind at the outset. 


I chose long-legged cross stitch to work samples of different thread types, on 10 holes per inch canvas. Perhaps I should have bolder – I felt I was playing safe and being a little imitative, because this is the stitch featured in the Module Booklet. However, it is a good stitch for trying things out, because it covers the canvas well, is easy to work, and makes the thread texture clear, while enabling you to see the stitch formation.
There are three samplers rather than one – I could have got more examples on the canvas, but I was a bit worried about not being able to see which was, so wasted a lot of space.
The colour choice had to be white/neutral, as I have lots of threads but, sadly, am unable to say what many of them are! There were various threads left from previous embroidery, crochet and knitting projects, as well as a bag of bits and pieces someone gave me, and a packet of mixed fibres I bought at an exhibition some years ago, and never used.
I stitched the samples on dark green paper, and stuck that into the sketch book. As with the stitch trials, I photocopied each piece, but with these I stuck them on light green paper, because I thought it made for better viewing and display. To try and keep track of the various threads,  I also threaded little price labels with yarns, to give some idea what they were like.

Originally I planned to write a few words on each thread (I did keep notes as I went along), but in the end I decided the samples speak for themselves, so I am making a few general comments.

Stitches which have a marked pattern of their own, like Rhodes or Norwich, are unsuitable for textured threads, because you lose the structure of the stitch itself .
Similarly, stitches which use a lot of thread to give denser covering are difficult to work in textured and thicker threads: They can look messy, and the canvas can become lumpy and distorted.
And anything crinkly, or bouclé-type yarns are a total nightmare to work with. They snagged and shredded, and one went fluffy. And to make matters worse, the knobbly knubbly textures didn’t show up at all, so I was really disappointed.
Rayon was vile to work with, as it slipped and slithered , and caught on the canvas, but it looked great. Pearlescent thread was just as nasty to work with, and I didn’t really like the effect. Perhaps it would be better blended with something else.
Tapestry wool , soft embroidery threads and crochet cotton all gave good effects, and were lovely to work with, and stranded embroidery thread is lovely, with different effects depending how many strands you use.
Beading threads, surprisingly, worked really well on canvas – they’re strong, and tightly twisted, easy to work with, and give nice effects. Beading wire wasn’t as difficult to work as I thought it might be, but I had to use jewellery pliers to pull it through as tightly as I could. I might try fine florists’ wire at some point, to see how that compares.
And torn strips of silk material are fantastic! I loved working with them, and I loved the effect, and you could use other threads and a sharp pointed needle to embroider over them (actually, you could do this with some of the thicker threads, especially the knitting tubing).
Thinner threads make interesting textures and patterns, because they don’t cover well, so you can see the pattern of the canvas behind them.

I abandoned some thicker threads, like string and suede strips, because they were too thick for the 10HPI canvas, but I would love to try them on something else – rug canvas maybe.



This was very enjoyable – only problem with it was when to stop! And I’ve always been a bit confused as to which stitches are ‘Strictly Canvas’! There does seem to be quite a lot of variation in different books and, since you can use all sorts of other stitches, I’m not absolutely sure that some of these really do count as canvas stitches.

I used oddments of thread, and bits  of canvas left from making Christmas cards, so most of them were worked on 10HPI, but I used 14HPI to try Rhodes stitch variations.

My samples were stitched on to black paper, which was then glued into the sketch book. And each piece was photocopied, so I could name them, without spoiling the samples. 

My choices were a bit haphazard. A more organised approach would have grouped different categories of stitch together – eg crossed stitches.

First Samples

Second Samples

Third Samples


Oh boy, was this irritating! Tissue paper is not the easiest thing to work with. In the end I drew the shapes on ordinary paper, cut them out, then used them as templates and tore the tissue around them – not sure if this is really permissible, but it gave better results than my free-hand attempts.
Then, I laid the pieces out on a piece of paper, looking carefully at a photograph, and everything looked OK. Then, I started glueing with Pritt Stick, and oh dear, what a mess!!! I swear I wasn’t breathing, and those pieces still moved around as I worked – and as soon as I applied the smallest spot of glue they adhered like concrete, at odd angles and peculiar distances, and couldn’t be buedged at all.

Spray glue may have given manoeuvrability, but I was reluctant to use it because I always manage to cover everything in sight (and even things that can’t be seen) with glue when I use it. Besides which I suspect the tissue paper would still have been difficult to place.

Anyway, here is my effort. Not perfect by any means, but I think it will do.


I found this colour study quite difficult, mainly I think because I don’t have a good enough grounding in artistic techniques. I’m still not happy with my final effort, which doesn’t really conveys the colours in the wall very realistically, and looks a little childish and unfinished. I couldn’t get the shades I wanted, or build up the gradations of colour, or show the kind of stippled effect very successfully. Eventually I reached the point where anything I did to try and improve my work made it worse, so I decided to leave it as it is.

When trying to translate an image like the wall into a textile, it might be easier to work from a photograph or photocopy, or to use other techniques, like printing, to portray an image – or perhaps to try sponging the colour on or something like that.

Painting is obviously something I need to work on, and I think it will be easier to follow if  someone shows me (rather than reading a book). My elder daughter and my mother both paint, but the artistic gene seems to have passed me by. Mum is 86, and does the most beautifully detailed watercolours of  flowers, like botanical paintings. Her colour and shading is brilliant – just like the real thing. So I’m going to ask her to give me some lessons next time I stay.

However, despite my lack f talent, I’ve had the most enormous fun, and really enjoyed playing around with paint. My experiments made me look more closely at the world around me, and I learned a lot about watercolours, and brush techniques – but I need to learn a whole lot more!

Anyway, here are some pictures f some f my experiments.

And finally, I couldn’t resist including a couple of Paul Klee’s paintings in my sketchbook: Uhne Titel, because that’s the kind of effect I wanted to achieve in  my painting, and Clarification, because I love it, and it’s a very different way of building colours. I treated myself to a trip to London a couple of weeks ago, so I could see the Klee exhibition at the Tate (and  I was able to meet up with my younger daughter, which was wonderful). I love Paul Klee’s work, and the exhibits on display were truly inspirational – the way he used colour is amazing.  I spent ages peering at the gradations of colour, and wandering how on earth he did it. Sadly, I can’t aspire to anything like that, but I’ve dne my best, and had a go.

2: OBSERVATIONS – Wall Rubbings


I did a number of rubbings, on black and white tissue, mainly using wax crayons and oil pastels, but I also tried soft chalky pastels, chalk, and charcoal. I stuck some of them into the sketch book (I folded them in half, with a bit of baking parchment inserted as protection to stop them smudging – another time I might invest in in a can of spray protection stuff). In addition to the ones in the notebook, I have some in a plastic wallet, but I’ve only reproduced one here. I think something with more texture might have been better to work from, but once I started embroidering I was much happier!

This was the bit of the wall I selected from my rubbing – I did try other bits, but I rather liked the way the lines radiated out on this one.

The two photos below show my thoughts on my observations of the wall. Mostly the pattern was made by the edges of the stones, rather than the texture of the surfaces, which is something I should have given more thought to initially. I thought the difference between the stones, and that grainy kind of filling between them was interesting, and the bits of lichen – I tried looking at them when I did the marks on paper for the paper weaving.

1: Choose a Wall to Study



I’m not sure if this is the best way to display my work, but I have made the photos ‘extra large’ so, hopefully, you can read my writing. Perhaps scanning into the computer would work better, because the pages would be straighter! Oh well, you live and learn, and learning is what this course is all about… and having fun!

Update on the Wall…

Sadly, I got all behind-hand, because the weather was so awful when I started the course, and I couldn’t do any rubbings for a couple of weeks, then we had a leak in the roof, and it rained into the attic and spare room, and things had to be shifted around, and that took time.
Once I got going I really enjoyed myself, and I’ve had great fun playing around, did get discouraged, because I was so slow, and felt nothing was quite working out as I planned. However, after meeting Sian at the NEC, and looking at all the exhibitions by such imaginative and talented stitchers, I got all enthused again, and came back with no money (because I bought too many bits and pieces!) but lots of ideas. I found the various sketchbooks on show with people’s work particularly interesting, and they made me realise there is no right or wrong way of doing things, so I’m doing it my way (I feel I should burst into song here!) and learning from my mistakes.
One mistake was hoarding samples, photos, paper etc in a box, because I was a bit scared of working directly into the sketchbook. It meant sticking in lots of things in one go! Additionally, if I’d been organised with the sketchbook, and kept it up to date as I went along, I could have put up regular posts, which would have been much more sensible.
Instead, I’m now posting all my work so far (I still need to finish the resolved samples). I’m trying to post photos of the pages in my sketchbook, section by section, so it may take a couple of days, and I have no idea how effective this may be. If it doesn’t work out I’ll post individual pictures and type in the text!  
So here goes… First up…