Oh where does the time go??!! I cannot believe how long it is since my last blog post…since then we have had Christmas, put the house on the market, taken it off again, started building work, I have stitched a lot of commissions and been blown away by how well my work has sold at Made in Bradford on Avon, and been accepted as a member of the Society for Embroidered Work!
Pet portrait commissions are great fun to do, and have been winging their way around the world – flatteringly, most have gone to other artists.
…Bradford on Avon scenes sell well at the gallery, and some don’t make it beyond Instagram!
Mice, it seems, sell like hot cakes!
Wildlife…and the not so wild life…are still popular…(really helped with a recent thread recommendation)
I have a sneaky suspicion there are a number of plump, older ladies with poodles around – have made and sold several each of these designs.
I still love designing and making greetings cards, and they always do well…pocket-friendly mini art!
Other free motion appliqué too.
There have also been miscellaneous creations, including Christmas tree decorations, fabric ‘paper’ boats, cushions (and chair painting) and felt chefs!
I have also had the privilege of spending some time with an incredibly talented 11 year old, as we made a toy turtle, a baby chair cover and plenty of free motion embroidery!
I am often asked how I go about a free motion machine embroidery. I am self-taught and my style has evolved over the last few years. I started using simple appliqué designs and as I became more confident using free motion machine embroidery techniques, the designs became more detailed.
I still love appliqué work – however, the focus is on the design more than the stitching itself. I think of the difference between pure free motion embroidery and appliqué being like the difference between an oil painting and a silk screen print.
Technically, to free motion embroider I just drop the feed dogs on my sewing machine (those metal teeth that pull the fabric under the presser foot), switch to a darning foot and away I go.
The fabric needs to be held taut to stop it gathering up as you sew and I use a mixture of ‘stitch and tear’ (which is ironed on to the back of the fabric and is ripped off once the piece is complete), a bamboo embroidery hoop and a printable, soluble stabiliser that sticks to the front of the fabric.
The composition takes a bit more work.
I start with a photo – where I can I use my own, but my range of subjects is limited. I hear owls every night, but I never see them! Wildlife reference books and websites are useful starting points. In order to get proportions and perspectives I will either draw or paint directly on to the fabric or print a photo on to the fabric stabiliser. When I draw I need to use a board to put the paper at an angle or everything ends up long and thin if I draw on a horizontal surface. Naturally I cannot put the sewing machine at an angle, so I need a starting image on the fabric.
As I sew I cover whatever image I start with, so I stitch the main lines to keep on track and fill in the detail by eye from my reference image(s). It may sound strange, but I have to stitch the eyes of an animal first, as soon as I have an outline. The eyes make it feel real and starting with them I am sure helps the realism of the final piece.
This type of detailed embroidery takes quite some time – even when using a sewing machine – so I try to change thread as little as possible. This means that flecks and spots and spines etc are best done early on. Each spot is joined by a line of thread that will be covered with subsequent layers of thread.
Whereas with paint you can mix colours to get just the shade you need, with thread you need to think impressionism. Layering colours of threads gives the impression of the shade you are looking for – and also adds texture (without having to wait for colours to dry!)
Once I feel the piece is finished I put it aside for a day or two. Looking at it with fresh eyes lets me see areas that need more work.
The final stage is to frame the piece. Sometimes I will use a traditional oak frame, but mainly I frame embroideries in woodgrain effect flexi hoops. It just highlights the fact that it is an embroidery rather than a painting. I also like circles. Squares are good too, but I am not so keen in rectangles. Odd, huh!
A couple of weeks back I started selling my work at Made in Bradford on Avon (1 Lamb Yard, Kingston Rd, Silver St, Bradford-on-Avon BA15 1FG – open 10 – 5 every day of the week) and I am now listed as one of the textile artists…so it must be true!
I started off on the showcase stand for new artists and have now moved to some lovely shelves by the steps between the two levels of the gallery – I think the grey shelves set off the embroideries really nicely.
I made some embroideries specifically for Made in Bradford in Avon and they are selling fast…keeping me busy re-stacking the shelves!
black and white cat
In particular the Bradford on Avon scenes are flying off the shelves – and I am doing some Bath scenes too.
Bradford on Avon
Bradford on Avon
Bridge Tea Rooms, Bradford on Avon
The Circus, Bath
Of course for artists and crafters Christmas starts in July and I have been busy building up my Christmas stock.
Christmas Craft Markets
I am not going to hold a Christmas ‘at home’ this year. My lovely friend Su isn’t able to run it with me and it doesn’t feel right without her – and our cat with the heart condition would also prefer not to have a load of people in the house. Instead I will be having a stall at Alice Park – just round the corner from where I live – on Sunday 26th November from 10am to 4pm. My stall is right by the cafe, so very convenient when you warm up with some festive food and drink.
Once again I will also be at King Edwards School Christmas fair on Saturday 2nd December (North Road, Bath 10am to 2pm). I love the KES fair and have customers who head to my stall year after year.
I may no longer be office manager for Demuths Cookery School (having handed over to the frankly quite wonderful Georgia), but it is still one of my favourite places to be. I jumped at the chance to attend the Food Photography Workshop on Sunday, run by Rob Wicks of Eat Pictures. I do sometimes Instagram my food and the celebration cakes I make, and I thought the principles would also apply to photographing my textile work…which turned out to be the case.
We started with introductions and Rob talked to us about light and then we were let loose in the Demuths kitchen with lots of fresh ingredients to photograph.
I was a little obsessive about the globe artichokes…
…but wanted to try everything.
I was a little disappointed that the only half way decent photo of asparagus I had was of the wrong end!
We then went back to the dining room to upload our photos, discuss the results and for Rob to talk to us a little about composition. I can’t begin to tell you the difference Rob’s talk made. Everyone agreed their second set of photos was better than their first. This time we got to photograph food prep, and I must praise the patience of Beth, who helped prep as well as doing all the washing up.
Rachel made vegetarian sushi rolls for us and we took turns to take close-ups (far more polite than your usual run of the mill paparazzi!).
We then went off to look at and discuss out photos while Rachel and Beth cooked the food, ready for us to scoff. It was delicious!!
We were given the opportunity to photograph our pudding – strawberries and dragonfruit – before it was washed and served up with yoghurt. I always thought coconut yoghurt was a poor substitute for dairy, but actually it’s totally yummy! I added a pot to our Ocado order there and then. For this part of the course we were encouraged to use our phones as well as our ‘proper’ cameras.
The watermelon wasn’t perfectly ripe (and Rachel will only ever serve up perfect food) but it still made a lovely photographic subject.
We talked about photo editing on Instagram before tucking in to the fruit and yoghurt – so that’s what ‘structure’ and ’tilt shift’ mean! I rather suspect we were all sitting there thinking we knew all there was to know about Instagram, but we were so wrong!
Between my day job, wedding and birthday cakes and general life, 2016 was not my most productive year…threadwise. However, it was a year in which I feel my freemotion embroidery skills took a step forward and I found my own style.
The year started with some seasonal appliqué.
Then there were the days I woke up with an idea in my head and couldn’t wait to put it on fabric.
Miniatures inspired by the Very Berry ATC (artist trading card) and mini hoop swaps.
free motion embroidery
Much of my time…and my heart…has been invested in portraits of pets and wild creatures.
owl in flight
commissioned pet portrait
I am still in love with the beautiful city of Bath, and want to many more cityscape and landscape embroideries in 2017.
I am a big fan of nature and wildlife. I do enjoy embroidering city scenes too, but free-motion embroidery works so well for fur and feathers I keep returning to wildlife.
Today was my last stock-making day before King Edward School Christmas fair on Saturday 26th November (North Rd, Bath 10 – 2) as I am in the office for my day job tomorrow. I embroidered a sleeping fox – a little bigger than the mini hoop I made earlier in the year…
…another owl, as the first one I made sold in less than an hour of posting a photo on Facebook – in a hoop rather than a frame this time.
…and a red squirrel.
I also made a couple of appliqué hare pictures, but it was too dark by the time I finished to take photos.
As Christmas approaches life becomes impossibly busy. I have cut right back on craft fairs because of the demands of my day job and life in general and have my first Christmas fair this Saturday – King Edwards School Bath 10 til 2. Here is some of my stock-making…