My embroidery and creative stitching experiences.

Archive for the ‘Distant Stitch Level 3’ Category

Time, costs, Health and Safety and Summary of work for Module 1.

This blog logs details of times, costs and other information relating to my progress through Module one

and some final comments on my development over the past year.

Distant Stitch 3. Module 1.

Started           28.10.12.

Completed    14.09.13.

Time (hrs) / chapter.

Ch.1  20

Ch2.  19

Ch3.  23

Ch4.  24

Ch5.    6

Ch6.  10

Ch7.  30

Ch8.  22

Ch9.  15.5

Ch10. 15

Ch11. 17

Ch12. 16

Total hrs:  217.5.

Cost of Materials, incurred during the work of this module.

Ch1.    £5.00     Sketch book.

Ch2.    £4.50     Craft foam, card, paper.

Ch3.    £5.00     Paper, pen, glue.

Ch4.    £10.00   Rotring Compasses.

Ch5.    £17.60   Material, Bondaweb.

Ch6.     £1.50    Material.

Ch7.     £8.00    Thread, material.

Ch8.     £3.60    Thread.

Ch9.     £7.60    Thread, material.

Ch10.   £19.00  Soldering iron, extension cable.

Ch11.   £20.00  Thread, material, scissors.

Ch12.   £00.00.

Total Cost: £101.80

Books referred to during the course of this module.

Jan Messent: Design Work Sheets., Design Sources for Pattern., Design Sources for Symbolism.

Deb Menz:  Colorworks.

Juliet Bawden: Art and Craft of Applique.

Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn:  Bonding and Beyond.

Margaret Beal:  Fusing Fabric.

Herta Puls: The Art of Cutwork and Applique., Textiles of the Kuna Indians of Panama.

Health and Safety

*Used well lit area for sewing, using sewing machine.

*Worked in a well ventilated area when using soldering Iron.

*Used an extension cable to allow for greater maneuverability of the soldering iron.

*Used appropriate heat-resistant surfaces when working with the soldering iron.

*Switched off, unplugged and stored in heat proof container when not in use.

Final comments and summary of Work on Module 1.

What a wonderful time I have had working my way through all the chapters in this module. They sometimes took more time to complete than I anticipated but often this was because I did more than the basic required or simply life got in the way. Very occasionally they did not take as long to complete as I had expected, I then thought I might have missed something! Normally I had not, but there were times when I missed bits or the blog was not working properly, and Sian was very good at gently directing me back to sort them out!

Sometimes I got very frustrated because I did not completely understand how to create a piece of work, especially in chapter 3!!  I did try like a bear, I knew it had to be easy so I did not want to admit defeat and look like an idiot!   It just took a bit more explaining and a visual aide to sort out my dilemma, another example of Sian’s helpfulness and taught me to ask for help, even if it is for something I perceive as silly!

As I moved on through the chapters I became less worried about doing the “right thing” and began to develop more confidence in exploring my own ideas. I think the way the chapters are written and the feedback from Sian was very helpful and encouraged me to do this. Also looking at other students blogs was a great help. What I saw was diversity and inspiration. I felt it was okay to pursue my own path and not feel that I could be doing the wrong thing!

I have learned more about using colours from this module than I did from a year at art school! Thank you Distant stitch!

I now know so much more about bonding and applique  than I did before. It was always a bit of a mystery to me.  I have learned about different techniques used by different cultures too which was fascinating. Not just about the Kuna Indians but also from looking at Juliet Bawden’s lovely book “The art and craft of Applique”. There are so many books out there and it is good to have some expert guidance on what to buy, I am glad I bought this one.

I have learned how to  make my own prints on fabric and alter materials in a variety of ways . But in learning to do these I have learned so many other things… making a stamp, using suitable inks and paints, how to use the right medium to keep fabric soft and flexible and how to emboss on fabric to name but a few.

I am much more confident using my sewing machine as this was a fairly new purchase at the beginning of this course. This module has given me reasons to use it and I have had to learn about various bits on it! I now really enjoy using it and love to hear it whizzing along and spilling out zigzags or other stitches and I can fill a bobbin and thread the needle in no time!  I have also been able to help others use their’s which was a great confidence boost!

I have also learned for future modules I need to…(Oh, I think the list is endless!)……Keep better records of  timings and costs, make more use of my sketch book and take more notes, and use my blog as I go along instead of doing it all at the end of a chapter and try to be more organised and manage my time better.

I have learned so much more than the few things I have mentioned above. There are too many to mention, but I will just mention one final thing.

I have learned there are lots of lovely, talented people working with Distant Stitch and it is really good being part of that!


D.S 3, Mod.1. The Resolved Sample.


The End!

I have finished module 1. I should be delighted but actually I feel a bit sad! I will miss my little stars!

Anyway sentiments over, I will get on with the important details of my final journey on module 1.

I had a few ideas floating about in my head  for what I might do for this final piece. I also made a list of the techniques I thought might work to show disintegration and growth and what I found was that many of them fitted in both categories.  Naturally Applique had to be a major part of the final design and I had enjoyed the ripple technique and melting using the soldering iron.

I used the motif which  developed  throughout this module and started when I was looking at asymmetrical shapes in chapter 4. It can be seen in the top right of the image bellow.

Black and white asymmetrical designs.

Black and white asymmetrical designs.

This was then used in several designs in following chapters including chapter 8 where padding was added to appliqued , stitched designs.

Applique using padding.

Applique using padding.


I made lots of copies of the above image in different sizes so that I could experiment with a variety of layouts.

IMG_4789 IMG_4784 IMG_4783

1.                                                2.                                3.

IMG_4781 - Version 2 IMG_4781 IMG_4778

4.                               5.                               6.

IMG_4773 IMG_4770 IMG_4768

7.                                               8.                                     9.

The permutations were just about endless so I had to put a stop to my madness! It was fun experimenting though! 2. above really appealed to me although it was nothing like my original plan which was more like number 4 or 5 (same images rotated).

I began by making a support material for the background out of bondaweb and snippets I had collected all through this module. I also wanted to make cords from threads I had gathered over time too.



I used the cord to create a grid for the stars which were still to come. This idea came from the yellow machine stitched lines on A. above.




DS3, Mod.1, Ch. 12. Three Study Artists.

1. Herta Puls (1915-2013)

Herta Puls introduced western society to reverse applique through her association with the Kuna Indian women.

The Kuna Indians of Panama make molas which are traditional blouses or tops worn by the women. Early molas were also worn as dresses by girls.(ref p 30, textiles of the Kuna Indians of Panama). These tops are traditionally hand sewn and designed using 3 – 5 layers of fine cotton fabric. They use a technique for applique which was studied by Herta Puls and is referred to in module one as reverse* applique. On her travels with her husband in the 1960’s Herta Puls visited the San Blas Islands off Panama, to study their work and was inspired to write about these people and their creations in the books The Art of cutwork and Applique andTextiles of the Kuna Indians of Panama. A mola is made up of a front and back panel of applique which is attached to a yoke and sleeves as well as band around the bottom and is vibrantly coloured. Early designs were of religious symbols which were believed to have originally been painted on the body. These developed into geometric shapes, stylised objects from their environment, and developing over time to include story telling scenes. Fish and birds regularly feature in designs as well as the sun. Fish is important to the Indians as it is a natural food source. Birds can signify good and bad omens and some are thought to ward off evil spirits. The work reminds me of naïve art because of the simplicity of the forms in the designs (that is not to imply the work is simple), and Aboriginal art which is also heavily symbolic and meaningful to the indigenous people. 


traditional mola

A 1970’s mola showing stars and moons.

Early Kuna Indians did not really welcome ‘outsiders’ and were able to hold on to their traditional techniques and designs without e.g. European influences. However over time this changed. Men had to travel further for work and families moved to cities. These places influenced changes to designs and they began to include numbers and televisions! Also sewing machines could be used on parts of the designs. These factors have influenced further changes in designs which now cater for the tourist trade as well as their own needs which I think is rather sad!

Independence day mola

‘Independence Day’

Learning how to do reverse applique was an eye-opener to me as it was not as easy as I thought it was going to be, in fact if I remember correctly I had a couple of false starts and I only did 2-3  relatively small pieces!  The women who design and create their own garments are to be admired and, as well as being interesting to learn about, were an inspiration to me to persevere, if they could make a whole blouse using this technique then I could make a small patch!  Although it is not a technique I would choose to use very much, learning about a variety of techniques helps to give variety to your work and opens up lots of possibilities for future designs.

*referred to as ‘reserved’ technique p59, Textiles of the Kuna Indians of Panama.

2. Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)

Wassily Kandinsky attended art school in 1896.  He was influenced by impressionist artists, especially Claude Monet who used colours and light to describe an image rather than doing fine detailed painting.

By 1913 Kandinsky was producing early abstract images using lines, colours and shapes. References to the real world can be interpreted in these early works but later on he was much more interested in these forms for their own sake and abstract art was truly born.

His love of music must have influenced his attempts to get away from painting real, physical things. Many of his paintings have titles relating to music, e.g. “Compositions” which are more planned and geometric or “Improvisations” which are more free-flowing with little conscious control over mark making. He refered to his paintings as ‘colour music’ before they were called ‘abstract’. Kandinsky used primary colours in a lot of his paintings, often against a white or light background with flashes of bold black lines. (Cossacks, 1910-11), or he would place irregular shapes inside regular shapes. (Colour study: Squares and circles, 1913).

landscape with rain 1913

Landscape with rain (1913)

the black square 1923

The Black Square (1923)

He liked to work with circles, semi-circles, lines, curves and triangles.


Merry Structure, (1926.)

Around the Circle 1940

Around the Circle, (1940.)

He was  a prolific artist and there are many interesting images which are  bold and colourful where others are quieter and delicate looking.

I was interested in “Merry Structure” because the inverted triangles and simple straight or curved black lines suggest movement like tops spinning . The lines also suggest solid supporting structures for the tops. The red squares give a sense of distance too which has cleverly been supported by the changing shade of the yellow -orange background colours. He has used colours to suggest objects receding , e.g. the darker ‘top’ and coming forward , e.g. the lighter ‘top’.

I was  ‘Around the Circle’ because it reminded me of the work I am doing at the moment. The small circles seem to be  falling away from the bold red circle in a swirling motion as if they are falling off and away from something . Things in this painting seem to be growing or disintegrating.Kandinsky has cleverly thought out his composition and the influence the colours would have on the viewer.

As a textile artist looking at the works of great artists and designers is important in understanding how colours and shapes can be used to give the impression of something else whether it is real, imagined or abstract.

3. Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

dance. II . 1910.

Dance II (1910)

 Henri Matisse was born in France in 1869. He studied law but found it boring. When he was ill he was given a painting set and this started a long artistic career.

His early paintings were similar in style to the Impressionists although he was not part of their movement at that time. Later he and some friends decided Impressionists were too slavish to nature and wanted to explore bright colours instead of light and shade in their art. This became known as Fauvism. (Fauvists = wild things!)

Matisse was a master with colour. He used it to draw before painting. He was very skilful at placing the right colours next to each other to create an object or scene. (‘Open Window’ 1905,’ L’escargot’ 1953)

He also felt that one should work instinctively, as a child might, and loved to use bright colours, simplified forms and flattened plains in his work.

He painted landscapes, still life, portraits and nudes. He was especially interested in the human form and he began to change this in his work to it’s simplest form until it was more abstract.

He used papier-decoupe (paper cut-outs) to help with the design of a large mural he had been commissioned to do. He continued to use this technique as part of his design process and in his art for the rest of his career. It started because removing the paper from it’s support was easier than removing marks made with pencil or charcoal.

He would generally hand cut using a small pair of scissors and use both positive and negative shapes.

Matisse whitetorso blue torso211

Forms, White Torso and Blue Torso. (1943)

He would then place the pieces on his walls to be altered and manipulated until he was happy with the compositions. He had not given up painting, he simply called it painting with scissors.

Matisse was not just a painter. He was also a sculptor, and worked in other areas of the decorative arts such as printing, tapestry, glass and set design for a ballet . He also illustrated books, his most famous being ‘Jazz’ where he used a series of brightly coloured screen-prints based on earlier work he had created using gouache and paper cut-outs. His cut-out technique was also used to create images for other goods such as scarves, wall hangings and rugs.

Matisse. The fall of Icarus 1943

The Fall of Icarus. (1943)

In Icarus (above,) he has used the near complimentary colours of blue and yellow while contrasting white against black and a splash of bright red (his heart) adding interest and balance to the composition. The yellow representing suns I would thin , shine brightly against the blue, and suggest closeness to the viewer and the black centre makes the body look as if it is falling into a void.

Matisse’s work relates to the techniques I have used in this module in many ways… His understanding and use of colours, his mixed media approach to his art, his early use of paper to aid his compositions, seeing the artfulness of both positive and negative shapes, printing and his progression from impressionistic art to more abstract and colourful forms. As well as this I would say his versatility and diverse artistic interests are also worthy of mentioning as this module has included a good variety of techniques used for making a multitude of craft and artistic items.

Mod. 1 Ch 11(ii)nResolved Sample Growth and disintegration.

Chapter 11 continued.

Fourth thoughts

I am now looking at using coloured fabric to continue with this chapter.


TOP: I started with the simpler shape and used my sewing machine to zig-zag stitch around the edges, gradually moving in to the centre.

BOTTOM: I basically did the same with the bottom sample but I used a looping machine stitch and covered more of the sample towards the end.





A and B used the same basic asymmetrical shape But I cut them up differently. A being less disintegrated than B. I thought the zig-zag machine stitching was very effective in giving them a fractured look. It was not the normal single long stitches used in zig-zags but a series of smaller ones. For A I concentrated on adding the stitching to the outside inwards. For B I worked from the central area to the outer edges.

I wanted to play around some more with my favourite motif so produced the next three pieces of work.


DS3 Mod. 1. Ch11(i) Resolved Sample – Growth and Disintegration

First Thoughts

Warming up to a resolved sample I enjoyed experimenting with paper and finding different ways to disintegrate  the surfaces.


I found the crumpled pieces more interesting than the smooth ones. Some techniques worked better than others  and some ideas came to me by accident, e.g. tearing apart glued surfaces which had stuck together  and grating cheese for a sandwich lead to wondering if paper would grate too!

I used double sheets of paper for this little experiment as I thought the paper might fall apart too much. I already had a small sample of stitched paper (c and j above) so I wanted to take this (s) a bit further. I threaded the machine and pulled the thread out. This pulled ridges in the paper and tore it in places. For (t) I found dampening the paper first made the paper disintegrate easily when it was rubbed. This time I left the stitching in too.

Second Thoughts.

Moving on to bigger and better shapes I used  a simple asymmetrical star shape developed in earlier chapters.


A second shape had developed as a result of playing with the above  star. I also disintegrated this shape over 4 samples as above.


I could have taken this further by tearing each section more but really it was time to move on to my third thoughts.

I then moved on to using coloured paper. I had some small pieces left over from the early chapters of module one which was really handy!


Third Thoughts

I have now progressed to disintegrating fabric shapes.

I used calico, scrim and cotton for the initial stages of this.


it was not easy manipulating the fabric into recognisable shapes whilst shredding them. I sometimes ended up with a heap of fibres with no shape at all. I thought this was taking disintegration a bit far! The last shapes (bottom right) were made from a combination of scrim and a cotton background, not the most successful combination for the purpose but I was able to experiment with my ideas better!


Ch. 10 cont. Melting.

This was optional but I was really looking forward to using my soldering iron so I had to give it a go!

I selected a few samples of materials in a variety of colours, gathered up my equipment and headed for my studio which is really a summer-house or affectionately called the shed!  It is far from being a shed, why is it some names just stick?


There are double doors and large windows at the front of the ‘shed’ allowing for plenty ventilation. There is a power supply too, very handy under the circumstances.

The soldering iron came with a little stand which I thought was a bit  flimsy so I used a terracotta pot instead.

This was the first time I had ever done anything like this and all the equipment was brand new, not even out of the packet.  I had plenty of room to work in but I found the cable was very short and restricted how well I could move the iron. I had to move the  work surface  as close to the power point as possible. A bit disappointing that something so useful has such a short cable, I did not think to check the length of the cable but do the manufacturers expect you to crouch beside the plug?  Anyway rant over! I did enjoy using it apart from this minor inconvenience!

Using Yellow and Gold

                                                        1                               2                                  3


4                               5                                  6

I layered the materials so that the meltable ones were backed by a contrasting or complimentary cotton fabric and sewed small squares of these onto a backing of calico.

I used a pointed tip and a low heat setting.

1) Painted organza

This material reacted quickly to the heat of the iron.

2)Gold Spiders Web

There was a nice reaction form the material and I was able to make quick squiggly marks.

3) Plain organza

This worked better than a) possibly because there was no paint on this one.

4)Shimmering cotton mixed material.

Marks were left on this material but the iron did not go right through.

5) Polyester

This material responded quickly to the iron. It was quite difficult to make small controlled marks because of this but I am still happy with the effect.

6)Polyester satin finish

I had to press the point firmly into this material to make deep marks. This worked quite well.

Using Blue and Purple


                                                         2                                 3                             4

IMG_4576                                                         5                                   6                                7

1) Silk

Slight scorch marks were made on the silk but  higher heat or more pressure would be needed to go right through the material.

2) Polyester

This melted very quickly and the intended design was hard to control.

3) Painted nylon

Both the fabric and paint melted quickly and easily. I used a lighter touch with this and was able to have some control over the design I was trying to make.

4) Organza

This melted quickly and scorched too.

5) Polyester Satin

I made nice even lines here, the material responded quickly to the heat.

6) Nylon mix.

There are marks on the fabric but the heat did not go right through the material. Perhaps some of the threads have cotton in them?

7) Synthetic felt

This material reacted quickly . I was able to make deep marks quickly and easily on this material.

Translating a design using a soldering iron.


I layered strips of the materials I liked from the above experiments in layers. I included 6) from the purple samples as the bottom layer and placed all this on top of calico. I added an orange organza which had been panted to the mix. I then tacked these into position and sewed the required pattern onto the stack using yellow cotton thread. I then made diagonal slashes into the centre motifs of the design. The tip of the iron sometimes went over the stitching. I tried really hard not to let this happen!  These marks looked okay but I felt the rest of the design had no life to it so I added less controlled marks. I think this really lifted the overall effect of the design. I tried to vary the depth of marks too to create a contrast here although the deeper slashes were easier to do!

Overall I like the results achieved from using the soldering iron. I would use it again but I would need to get an extension cable!

Farncombe Summer School

My Journey.

On hot, sunny Friday the 5th of July,  I set off from my front door at 9am to travel 350 miles to  a place I had no idea what part of England it was in. My geography and sense of direction are sadly lacking. Because of these little quirks I could tell my husband was a little anxious about me travelling so far on my own, as he waited for me to leave before going of f  to work himself. I was quite glad really as I could not remember where to plug the Tom -Tom in!

My next challenge was to navigate to Biggar without much help from Tom! Initially  I ignored it’s advice when it told me to head west towards Glasgow. Eventually after turning left when I should have turned right etc and going round in circles I decided I would listen to Tom and head west, however it must have ‘got’  what I was trying to do and we travelled in harmony to and through Biggar towards my destination.

After a couple of hours I had a quick toilet/coffee stop and headed off on my merry way again without any problems. (None that I will admit to except perhaps to say I should have been in a truck  to park where I did!).

Tom worked hard at keeping me on track although he had to shout at me a few times and kept repeating himself every few yards especially approaching roundabouts and slip roads. (is Tom a he or a she? A male name with a female voice? I will stick to he for the moment!)

I drove at a sedate 70 mph on the motorway for a while and watched others fly by. Some would applaud my sense but they don’t know me very well! I was getting a bit bored with this so decided to put the foot down. Hitting another speed, I’m not specifying what, I also hit a speed trap. I then hit the brakes. I have not had a notice through the door so perhaps I will hold on to my clean licence  for a little longer.

Returning to being a law-abiding driver, I continued on an uneventful journey.  It is hard work driving on unfamiliar roads even with a Tom-Tom for company  so I felt it was time for another pit stop and stretch my legs. I was many, many miles away from my destination and about ninety from Birmingham.


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