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!
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.
Oh my! Where has the time gone? My day job keeps me pretty busy, but I have managed a wee bit of creative stuff (even if I haven’t managed to reopen my online shop)
I am still in love with miniature work and have done a couple of Very Berry Handmade hoop and artist trading card swaps…as well as a gift of some really minute embroidered brooches.
I love embroidering animals – particularly birds and this kingfisher was one of my favourites.
There have been a few cards and pet portraits…
…and the days when I wake up with an image in my head and just want to give it a go!
A couple of my friends have had babies…which always calls for turning soft gloves in to cats and dogs!
However, the outstanding memory will be my ‘Summer of Cakes’. I only make cakes for friends and family – not a business – but there have been quite a few this Summer. I have been decorating cakes since I was a child; my first wedding cake being my sister’s wedding cake when I was 16.
This Summer’s wedding cakes called for modelling…both in fondant…
…and in paper.
And now? Well now it is full steam ahead towards Christmas!
The Winter is such a busy time with craft markets and Su and my ‘At home’ – not to mention a busy time in my day job and lots of Christmas baking…
I rather thought the New Year would be quieter all round, but actually all aspects have been decidedly busy – not least with commissions (and gifts) of appliqué and free motion embroidery portraits of pets…
Hampus the Swedish Vallhund
..and even horses!
Applique and embroidery landscapes and seed heads…
There are more commissions but I can’t share photos of them until I know they have been given to their final recipients.
I spoke to my mum today and she asked if I still have a website…erm…oops. Life has become very busy as I have moved from full time textile artist to part-time textile artist and part-time office manager at Demuths Cookery School. It’s quite tough fitting everything in to my week, but there are definite perks…like getting to take part in the Andalucian Spanish Tapas class to see it from the students’ point of view!
As well Demuths, the Bath WI is still taking up a lot of my free time…all very exciting though as Gardeners’ World came to film our garden in the Bath Botanical Gardens and our Kitty showed Rachel de Thame how to pickle runner beans!
Of course there is still time for sewing and the odd craft market. I went to Corsham Creative Market for the first time and had a lovely time – back there again on 7th November.
Still loving freemotion embroidery…with a miniature artist trading card and an embroidered washbag.
I so enjoyed the challenge of last year’s Hillary’s Blinds craft competition that when I was emailed about taking part again this year, I jumped at the chance! I was given the choice of a metre of any of these fabrics:
I think all four are lovely and was particularly tempted by Rayna Apple, but the lovely colour and foliage print of Safi Turquoise won me over. As anyone who reads my blog cannot have escaped noticing, I love bugs and bees and wildlife so I decided to use freemotion embroidery to add a few bugs to the fabric and then to use it to make a shoulder tote. I almost always make things for other people and decided this one is for me!
One of the nice things about upholstery or curtain fabric is that it is more substantial than a quilting cotton and is a good base for free-motion embroidery. Mind you, to be sure there would be no puckering, I added a stitch and tear stabiliser to the back of the fabric before I began stitching. Free-motion embroidery is rather like drawing by moving the paper instead of the pencil. I love it; totally addictive.
Once the free-motion embroidery bee, dragonfly and ladybird were complete I could tear away the stabilising fabric.
The other benefit of upholstery fabric is that it holds its shape and does not necessarily need lining. I am a big fan of French seams – stitched once with wrong sides together, trimmed, turned inside out and stitched again, so all the raw edges are enclosed within the seam.
Once the body of the bag was complete I turned over the top edge twice and machine stitched two neat rows of stitches. The bag is finished with long handles, so the bag can be worn on the shoulder. I used two narrow lengths of fabric for each handle, ironing the raw edges to the centre and sewing the two pieces together with the raw edges tucked neatly away in the middle of the fabric ‘sandwich’. The handles are sewn to the bag with two layers of stitching for strength…and ta da!
This is a really simple way to make a bag – if you have a sewing machine you haven’t really tried using, a big like this is a great way to start sewing. In fact this is a method I teach at Grownups Playgroup, as it is great for beginners to take home something they can use and be proud of. I am keeping this bag, but feel inspired to embroider more bugs and beasties on bags and zip pouches in the coming weeks.
I have loved seeing how differently everyone approaches this challenge; have a look for yourself on the competition’s Pinterest board: Hillary’s Craft Competition 2015
[Oh and I just realised, this is my 100th post since I switched to WordPress…may push the boat out with a celebratory alcohol free lager…all that’s in the fridge]