Time to stitch?

I designed a new needlepoint a week or so ago, but I think progress is going to be rather slow with this chap. One reason is because it’s quite large, about 65cm square, and another reason is because I haven’t yet finished the one below. That’s no problem as I like to work on two at the same time, as I find it more fun to alternate work with different colour ways.


The main reason I think it’s going to take ages to finish is that I have started to write a book for Search Press. This will be part of their Stitched Textiles Series, and will be about how I make my work and its close relationship to the natural world. So I will be making new pieces of work for it too; not needlepoint in this case.

The planning meeting was last week in their headquarters in Kent, and it was 4.5 hours of excellent enjoyment. So now it’s a lot of steady hard work for the next 9 months or so. Yes, there’s a timescale loaded with meaning…

So this blog may be slightly weird for a while, as I can’t post what I am making for the book, obviously. But there will be other things to talk about, undoubtedly.

So, back to the needlepoint- in- waiting, which is about winter and summer, and has a haiku.

A walk in winter

the dream mountains of summer

future memories.



It’s based in part on this image of Welsh mountains, which I have gazed at on many occasions.

It’s from one of my photographs, which I then altered in Photoshop using the cutout filter in the filter gallery. There are quite a few options with this filter; I like the way it simplifies colour into blocks, giving the image the look of one of those wonderful London Transport posters.

I will probably simplify it more when stitching. The other image I wanted to use in the piece is the one below, which I converted to monochrome, as these are the tones I want to use for this area of the needlepoint. It’s a piece of work I made a few years ago,¬†called Snow. It’s about 60 x 20 cm .



Shown below, the images laid down on the canvas.


Below, I cut the mountain image into sections to draw the shapes onto the canvas, as this canvas isn’t particularly see-through.


Below, all drawn out on the canvas, ready to go.


And a lovely selection of yarns to work with.




Little room.

There’s a White Stripes song, 50 seconds of genius, called Little Room; it’s on their album White Blood Cells, released in 2001. I’ve always liked this song, it resonated, and it’s been jumping in and out of my head for years. It seems to have totally influenced me at last. It’s about having great ideas in your little room and thinking you need a bigger room; it’s on YouTube.

I’ve recently relocated myself into what can accurately be called the box room. It would be a big box but it’s a very small room, being 2.5 x 3.5 metres. I have been happily working in the conservatory end of the kitchen for three plus years. This was a bigger space but I gradually stopped wanting to be there.

The ethos behind the song hasn’t always been accurate for me though. I was lucky enough to have a medium sized studio in the Custard Factory annexe in Birmingham for 2 years, and then an even bigger space was offered, so I was in that studio for another two years. And my work developed and changed through having these spaces just for work, with no home distractions.

I loved the big studio, even though ceiling tiles would occasionally fall to the floor. I was never hit, which is good, as they were quite chunky. Eventually I got lonely, so moved back home. I made a lot of large work there, because I could, and I was inspired . I also started lots of projects, put them under the very large table, and eventually, when I returned home to work, these projects kept me going for about two years. You can see a door to a safe in the image below; this was a very large safe, part of the offices of the company that owned the building previously, and was about the size of my box room.

Here are a couple of views of the big studio.



And here’s the old conservatory studio at home. I’ve decluttered a lot of materials since this was taken, and I’m happy to keep things more streamlined.


Now I’m in a little room, back with the White Stripes vibe, and love it. I find it totally wonderful to work in. I don’t make such large work any longer; that came to a natural end, which is a relief because the house is full of it.

So here’s a tour of the little room. It won’t take long, obviously.

I love to look at artists’ work spaces and studios, it’s fascinating to see how people work. You wouldn’t find my room in Interiors magazine, or Wallpaper*, but it’s a place to get the creative work done happily, and that’s all we need. I still have the plan chest downstairs, so I’ve included a tour of its drawers too. I couldn’t manage without this at the moment. It has to stay downstairs as it’s the size and possibly the weight of a small bungalow. We had to take the door and part of the door frame off to get it into the house; I can’t see it leaving in a hurry.

This hanging, Sea Lily, is over the radiator.

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All very tidy at the moment.





This is what’s in the little drawers.



This large basket holds all my bondawebbed fabric. It’s surprising how much you can pack in.


Then all this stuff goes on top.

My computer and printer are in the room too, very handy to catch up on missed radio programmes and so on. Not the Archers, I’ve given that one up.

Here are the plan chest drawers. There is a mix of work I want to keep, needlepoints waiting to be blocked, and some fabrics, as well as paper and threads. It’s a fluid environment. Yes, that’s a Clanger.







Of course this doesn’t include my rather too large collection of finished work, which is in three top of the wardrobe cupboards, a chest, and there’s a couple of folders of design sheets and finished smaller work too, at the back of the wardrobe. One day soon I’ll get a studio sale on the go, well, that’s what I keep promising myself.

Next time, a new piece of work, conceived in the little room!

Now you see it, now you don’t.

From previous ramblings on this blog, you may have noticed that I am making work for the Art Textiles: Made in Britain group gallery in this years Festival of Quilts here in sunny Birmingham. Well I hope it is sunny in August, when the show is on. Our exhibition is called Concealed.

Well, I’ve finished my pieces, how efficient is that then! I have however had the advantage of being able to use the piece below, which I did make a couple of years ago. I made it for just one class I taught, entitled Into the Wildwood, and then put it away, but happily it’s now ¬†found an exhibiting opportunity.


It’s called The Secrets of Forests, and is 70 x 60 cm in size, and it’s a mixed media piece, including fabric, mulberry bark, some pieces of my small collection of old Chinese newspaper, pebbles, paper, plastic and probably other materials I’ve forgotten. It’s also stitched with added beads.

From this piece I developed two other pieces for the show, using text I wrote especially, and images digitally printed onto Khadi paper. These works are both mounted onto 60 x 60 cm canvases; we are each making two such pieces of work, based upon the title Now you see it, now you don’t.

I used Photoshop to manipulate and layer images of this work and other images I had photographed, and stitched the pieces using machine and hand stitch.





So with my book Concealed Revealed, I think that’s that. I hope you can come to see us, I strongly suspect the range of work will be wonderful.

Concealed Revealed almost finished.

I’ve been posting about this artist’s book for some time now, and fortunately, for all of us, it’s nearly finished. I just have the binding to do, for which I am using the plaited string and holes method. This will suit the mood of the book, which is made using handmade Khadi paper, and is also all hand stitched. I wrote the haiku first, and built the book around them.

I have enjoyed using the very hand made methods in conjunction with the digital images which comprise the structure of the pages.

Here’s the cover.


The cover and all the pages, ready to be bound.

Below, the title page.


And the remainder of the finished pages.










I’ve also just finished a large canvas which is about to go to Minerva Arts Centre/Quilt Association in Llanidloes, Wales, as part of the Art Textiles: Made in Britain ‘Identity’ touring show. The show runs from April 30-May 30.

We each made a canvas to be displayed on the outside of the gallery at the Festival of Quilts where the show debuted in 2014, but my canvas was spotted by Lynette Anderson of Lynette Anderson Designs and now lives in Australia.

This is its replacement, Wildwood I, Into the Light.




Art Textiles: Made in Britain have a gallery at the Festival of Quilts again this year, at the NEC, Birmingham, England. We are working with the title ‘Concealed’, and the book will be on show there.

It was showtime, folks.

Well the Fashion, Embroidery and Stitch show at the NEC is over, and a very busy time it was. I always enjoy talking to people, many of whom I only see at these shows. It’s great to catch up with them.



There were some excellent stands at the show, including Nolitex, Tina Francis, Kim Thittichai, Susan Chapman, Tangent Textiles, Eclectica, Amanda Hislop, Angie Hughes, Helen McCook and indeed more. If you didn’t manage to visit, I would say try to go next year, it’s more than worth it.

This is the last show with my own stand that I will be doing for a while, as I have other projects which will take up my time for a while.

Here are a few images of the show being set up. It’s not something visitors usually see, hopefully, so I thought it may be fun to post them. The day before when all the stands are being constructed and the halls are full of fork lift trucks is also amazing, as it looks as if nothing is ever going to come together.

But it does, and when you walk in on the first day it’s open, all is ready.

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Thanks again to my pals Julie Ball, Bernice Hopper and Sue Bibby for their help and support.


I’ve been stitching away recently at the artist book I’m making at the moment, Concealed Revealed. I’ve kept the stitching as simple as possible, as the images are complex enough, and I like the space left on some of the pages. Also, hand stitching through the paper is not that easy, so I’m pleased I decided on the bold and simple route.

Here are a few images.












I’ve shown more of these as I like the burst of colour, and the background, which was a print taken from an experimental watercolour painting.

And below are a couple of images of the latest needlepoint, which is slow moving at the moment, due to the book. I must say I love that blunt needle and the ready made holes though, compared to fighting with paper and sharp needles!




Flowers and colour in February, and a couple of days drawing.

If you find yourself in need of a mood lifting dose of colour, light, flowers and gardens, go to the latest show at the Royal Academy in London. Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse is a joy. I went with a friend on Saturday, and we did two tours of the show, one before and one after lunch. It was a perfect contrast to the grey and damp February day outside, and is undoubtedly a well timed exhibition. Having accused the outdoors of dullness though, I must mention the huge and wonderful pink magnolia in bloom in a church courtyard just along Piccadilly. London is so much warmer, our magnolia is quite a few weeks from blossom time.

I had a fair amount show favourites, Kandinsky, Dufy, a lovely Matisse, beautiful paintings by Sorolla, and all the Pisarros too, please. I love to see the surfaces of paintings, the brush marks; printed and digital images never match up to the real thing.

It seems to be an incredibly popular show, which isn’t surprising considering the subject matter and its natural accessibility. It certainly made me want to come home and boldly go into the garden with a loaded paint box and easel. Unfortunately our garden is currently mostly greens and twigs, not a rose or lily in sight, and I certainly wouldn’t need a sun hat like Monet’s at the moment.

No photographs were allowed so here are a few pages from the RA Magazine to give you an idea. The show ends on April 20.

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To get my drawing muscles warmed up I went on a two day drawing workshop last week at the RBSA in Birmingham. We experimented with different media and discussed using an iPad to produce close up images to draw from. I didn’t actually do that as I did have some preparatory work for a project in mind. I would have liked to get more done, but we did enjoy a chat! All part of the workshop experience.

I don’t usually work in charcoal and graphite, mainly because I am a messy worker, as you can see. I actually now quite like that look; in the past I thought it was huge failure to have dirty paper. It was, however, good to experiment with those media, and I will use charcoal now for big, bold work.

I started with some warm-up drawings of a shell, and then went on to work with a photograph I took in Oxford Botanic Garden.





Above, a quick sketch on brown paper, and below, a drawing on canvas using graphite sticks and water, and a print from the drawing.


I wanted to start to work with a stripy plant, and this one decided it was to be the one, although it is a rather full and complex image.


I converted it to monochrome, as I wanted to use black, white and a strong colour.


I got this far, and it has a long way to go.

I think the black areas will be made blacker, they are unresolved. I am aiming for a pattern based rather than a natural piece here. At some point there will be collage, some digital printing and even more cutting up, I bet.