My embroidery and creative stitching experiences.

Dying fabrics.

First things First!

preparing for ch. 6.

It has taken a while to gather all the bits n bobs for this chapter but I think I am now ready. I purchased a very good quality pair of pure cotton sheets for £5 which was a real bargain. I have cut some A4 size samples and a few smaller ones for practising techniques on.  I don’t have much material which has a pattern except for the few pieces shown, however I think the hexagon one is exciting!

I am using Procion MX Dye (150 Jet Black) and mixing my own fixative using soda crystals and salt solution.

When I am mixing the solutions I will be wearing rubber gloves, and an apron. I thought about a face mask but the quantities are so small I don’t think this should be an issue. I will also be preparing these solutions in a well ventilated area.

Would you believe I have never dyed anything before! Not even tie-dyed a t-shirt…even my husband has done this! I have painted on fabric though so I am not completely inexperienced for this chapter, just a little bamboozled!

I have been looking for piping to use. In both books I have on dying and shibori a 10cm diameter one was used. However I could not get one that size and I suspect it would be too big for my samples anyway. Instead I bought a 4 cm tube which was easy to cut down to size , lighter and cost less!

A while ago my old plastic potting table got caught up in a stormy wind and I found it broken into pieces the following day. Naturally I threw it out but now I am wishing I had kept the legs! They would have made great pipes!

At the moment I am preparing samples for the various kinds of  Shibori.

 Manipulating fabric in different ways before dying is popular in many parts of the world but especially Japan, Africa and India. The universal term for this is Shibori. The word Shiboru means to wring, squeeze and press.  I hope am going to do some of this with cloth, not my hands!

Preparing some experimental samples


I used a quarter of an A4 cotton sheet for all the above samples. I made Number 1 using straight stitching across the width of the sample. I used single strands of cotton thread for this. When pulled together an accordion effect happened.

Sample 2 above shows what zigzags look like when the threads are pulled together. For this and the next two samples I used a thicker cotton which was labelled ‘Mercer crochet’. I bought this as part of a job lot years ago and have never used it. It seems a good thickness for this material and technique although none of the threads were coated in wax. I wonder what difference this will make? I need to get some thread waxing done.

Sample 2


This is what sample 2 looked like before I pulled all the threads together.

For sample 3 I marked wavy lines on the material and sewed over these with straight stitches. Sample 3 below shows what this looked like before I pulled all the threads together.

Sample 3


Sample 1 and 4 do not have ‘before’ pictures. Sample 4 started off as concentric circles. The larger circles only covered parts of the material. Drawing the threads together created four separate points.


Next I moved on to folding and clamping small samples in different ways. The diagrams bellow explains the folds I made .

IMG_0053 IMG_0055

tied samples

1. I found the centre of 1. and bound it from this point all the way down to the bottom in equal intervals using elastic bands.

2. I scrunched 2 into a ball and the raw edges were tucked in before holding everything in place with elastic bands.

3. I used twine here. The diagram shows how I folded this sample.

3. tie dye

Arashi samples

Sample 1 and 2 were worked on the same piece of A4 cloth.

Sample 1 was tied at 3cm intervals and pushed together.

Sample 2 is similar except I have used bands  this time and the fabric has been slightly twisted as I pushed together.

3 shows fabric held in place with cotton thread. I folded the fabric concertina style and wrapped it diagonally on the pipe. I tried to bunch it up too, but this was tricky as the fabric was already quite thick.

Ok, that’s my initial group of samples completed. I need to sort the dye now. This was fun, the next part will be really exciting!

How did they turn out?

As you would expect I had a variety of successes. A few were paler than others because I had removed them from the dye in groups at different times. Some of the stitching was very tight because the cloth was damp making  it a bit of a chore unpicking it all. However after all that dying, washing, unpicking, drying and ironing I was really happy with most of the results.

Tritik Samples.

1 .   Straight         2. Zigzag             3. Waves            4. Circles

 IMG_5484 IMG_5482  IMG_5490 IMG_5489

I think this was the least successful group of samples. They were also the first batch to be removed from the dye, making them the palest samples. Perhaps a thicker or waxed thread would have produced better results.

Tie & Dye Samples.

1.                         2.                          3.

Small Clamps.                  Clasps.

 IMG_5494 IMG_5492 IMG_5485

The clamped and clasped samples worked really well except for number 4. Where is number 4? Good question! It has disappeared. Normally I would include work which did not turn out well which was the case here, but unfortunately I don’t seem to be able to find it. Most annoying!

1. Centred          2. Scrunched   3. Twined       4. Buttoned

IMG_5501 IMG_5496  IMG_5498 IMG_5483

These are great! Number 1. is delightful, I was really pleased with this one. Number 2. was always going to be s surprise and turned out to be a really pleasant one. The 3rd sample was not at all what I imagined it would be and I was puzzled how this came about to begin with, however now I have looked at it for a while it makes more sense because essentially what I was doing was tying the points into circle shapes. Lastly the buttoned one was okay too although I think the other 3 are more exciting!

Arashi Samples

1. Pushed          3. Concertina’d

IMG_5478  IMG_5477

2. Twisted.

A wee reminder…1 and 2 are on the same piece of cloth. You can see the difference between the top half and the bottom part where the cloth was twisted as well as tied.

3. I think this is my favourite sample overall. I could not have predicted how wonderful the pattern and lines on this would be.

I am now thinking what animal markings do these remind me of? Lots spring to mind. Wrinkly elephant hide could be Arashi pushed and twisted. Birds feathers, zebra or turtle skin for Arashi Concetina’d and the random negative spaces in Tie & Dye Scrunched could be from a giraffe!

When I make larger samples I hope they work as well as these smaller ones. I need to leave the fabric in the dye for longer if I want the colour to be deeper and perhaps adding more dye powder to the solution would help.


When I taught art to primary children, I seemed to do a lot of mono printing! The children loved the surprise of seeing another image emerge and if things were not quite what they hoped for we had great discussions about the piece anyway, and went on to better things! This was always great fun for me too (although could get stressful with a class of 33!) and this is why I was looking forward to doing this part of chapter 5.

tools of the trade!The tools of the Trade!

 The images marked 1, 2, 3 etc, are made with black acrylic on white paper, a, b, c etc using white acrylic on black paper.

Bird marks

1.                            2.                           3.                           4.

bird 1 bird 2 IMG_5451 IMG_5452

1. was created by lightly running a toothbrush horizontally then making curved marks over this. Some areas have a 3D look.

2.I used the short end of a small piece of wood. (It is very small, you can see it on the pale blue card, l.h.s, in the image above). I layered the diagonal strokes which, I think has given it a latticed look.

3. A more controlled pattern here using a rubber tip. (I think this tool is really meant for blending pastels.)

4. Similar marks to 2, but using a palette knife. I call this the ruffled feather look!

a.                               b.

bird 2 bird 1

a. I made these marks using folded card. It was then printed onto tissue paper.

b. I used  white paper which had been painted with black ink from an earlier exercise here. I used folded card to make the marks. Read the rest of this entry »

Bleaching animal marks on black tissue paper.

Before starting this chapter I gathered all the materials I needed.

Black tissue paper




Metal container

Variety of applicators.

Cardboard and Plastic sheets to protect work surfaces.

I was working in a well ventilated area and used gloves and an apron to protect my hands and clothes.The cats were not allowed in the area I was working in despite Jasper’s objections!

I feel like an explorer ! I have never used bleach on black tissue paper before so this was a new venture for me. Like all things new I was not sure how well I would do here. The samples in the unit looked great, I felt a bit daunted which is silly, it’s only bleach and paper! Like all these things getting started is the big hurdle! I allowed myself a test piece which I thought had not worked until the bleach began to take effect and magic marks began to appear. I was hooked, it was like making your own magic painting book! ( I loved magic painting books! Do you still get them? I wish I had wee ones again!)

Gecko marks.

1.                            2.                             3.                            4.

Turtle 1 Turtle 2 Turtle 3 Gecko 3

1. I used a piece of card and pressed the bleach into the paper making short lines and at intervals used the end of a cotton reel to imprint circles. For this one I was still finding and experimenting with materials and objects. As you can see the spots at the top are different this is because I tried the end of a shaped rubber.

2. I continued using the edge of the card to imprint lines, I was trying to keep the lines as thin as I could but with enough bleach to make a positive mark. It needed a lighter touch.

3. This one was made with a narrow piece of card, dragged over the paper followed by making horizontal lines over the 1st marks. I did this until the bleach was all used up so the lines are fairly thin and faint. I then took the end of a stick with more bleach and made spots here and there. The incidental lines caused by the bleach trailing from the stick, add to the overall effect. I love unplanned marks!

4. This time I was trying to create a variation in the thickness and tone of the marks which is also reflected in the patterns on the gecko’s skin.

I was really getting into the swing of things now! Read the rest of this entry »

I have thought about this chapter for a long time. I have not looked inside my folder or sketchbook for months but I do look at their spines and sometimes I pick them up and shuffle them about. I know from experience that the hardest part is getting started and after that things start to flow and you enter a happy zone where you are focussed and absorbed in the work so much, time flies and you don’t want to stop but you have to because all those interfering little niggling guilt trips about everyday things seep back into your brain!

I have started and stopped the practical work for today but I promise I will continue with this work on a more regular basis. I have no excuses, I have the time, I want to do it and I can do it.

Ink Marks 

( If you see numbers on the images please ignore these as they went wrong round about no. 19!)

 Gordon Gecko. (image 1 – 6)

1                                            2                                        3

gecko 1gecko  6gecko 2

The gecko’s skin is covered in a variety of marks from dots and dashes to lines and stripes. His textured skin has bumps and ridges on it. I have tried to recreate similar marks here using a variety of card widths.  I used the cards in a variety of ways. Dragging using the edges, dotting, drawing rings and curves using the tip of the corner.

4                                         5                                       6

gecko 3IMG_5395gecko 4

Read the rest of this entry »

I have been looking at this chapter for far too long. I started it at  a time when life was going a bit pear shaped for me about a year ago. I had to leave it for a while then came back to it, but putting together a blog, uploading images etc felt like a task and a half. I left it again. After summer school I felt more energised and did a bit more work on this chapter. I had also signed up for summer courses with Edinburgh Uni’s art department. My first course was about stained glass art. I ended up making something about the size of an average window! Getting it home was no joke! I had to walk like a crab with a hump through the streets of Edinburgh and Waverley Station as I tried to carry it without damaging it or anyone else. I think I must have looked like a ‘fringe’ act!

I did a short course, entitled Stitched Fabrics, with Scottish weaver and textile designer Fiona Hutchison. I signed up for this course because it sounded like it would be useful for developing my D. Stitch work and I like to experience the design processes used by various artists.

The following images show some of the work I did with Fiona. We started off mark making in  a variety of media then looked at translating those marks onto fabrics and 3D images using paper. I always had animal patterns at the back of my mind but tried not to deliberately create these, rather let it happen.

IMG_5260 animal markings

more marks with inkclose up of marks

circles in ink and oils IMG_5301


A variety of media was used to make these marks. Ink, oil bars and pencil, graphite and charcoal were also used. We considered the tools used to make marks. I used pens, sticks and paint brushes. We were also encouraged to think about how to use these tools to change the quality of the marks. There was only about 6 of us in the class but the variety of marks was amazing! When I got home I looked seriously at what I had done and the marks above stood out to me as translatable into animal marks.

We then looked at translating marks on to other materials.

a                                                             b

graphite marks graphite marks

‘a’ shows the different qualities of line made by various pencils. ‘b’ Shows these marks (top)  in folded and twisted paper and (bottom) in cotton which has been machine sewn to create lines and yarn couched onto it to represent the thicker marks. This could work on a striped markings.

c.                                                                  d.

circles with various mediums circles

‘c’ was made with pencils. The roughness of the lines was created because of the surface of the table. (I must stop cleaning the tables!).  Next I recreated these circles by free sewing circles onto paper. The top picture shows sewing with black thread. This was then dampened and distressed to create holes. Under this the paper had been crumpled up before sewing in places, with grey thread and the centres cut out. The bottom image shows the circles recreated by manipulating fabric. I sewed large circles then pulled up the thread so that the circles were raised.



‘e’ shows at the top, charcoal used to make lines crossing over and being thick to thin from left to right  in both directions.

Underneath this image we can see white cotton was used and a variety of black threads yarns and ribbons sewn on to emulate the lines. I also weaved paper in this images likeness but this is not shown here.

I then made samplers of different ways to create textured marks with cloth and other fibres.

f.                                                             g.

IMG_5295 IMG_5296



I can see these experiments and experiences influencing my work in the future.

This was a 5 day course. Unfortunately on the Monday we received some sad news and I had to cut the course short to attend a funeral. The above images were made between Monday and Wednesday. I also made an A3 book filled with samples of work done using similar images to those above and with the sewing machine and hand stitching on lutradur, cotton and water soluble fabrics. The book was for an end of course exhibition. I am still hoping it will be returned as requested but I haven’t heard anything from Fiona yet!



Lutradur sewn and heated up. Watching the fabric change was great fun.

After doing this short course, I felt more able to make some strips of fabric sewn into animal prints.

J. gecko marks and bird marks.

k. Turtle marks.

l. Elephant.

m. Zebra.

j.                                                                           k.


l.                                                                           m.



I should have done more of these sewn samples but I have slogged away at this chapter for so long I need to move on so that I can stay sane. However I plan to add some more in the future.


For chapter 3 (part c) I am required to make strips of sewing based on animal patterns. This chapter is based on that request!

I have already gathered some owl images which I wanted to use but also spent some time researching other interesting animal ‘s patterns.

1-2 Great Grey Owl

3  Leopard Gecko

4  Giraffe

5  Map Turtle

6  Elephant

7  Zebra

(Some images are marked with ***. This indicates I have matched up stitch samples from chapter 3 to the animal patterns.

The Great Grey Owl

I looked mainly at the wings and how the pattern altered along the wingspan.

I made positive and negative sketches and tried to abstract the images too.

2a) reminded me of ballet shoes! I like the way these sketches have developed.


1a – 1f

Great Grey Owl patterns





2a – 2d

patterns on wings


The Leopard Gecko


stitching and animal patterns









3a – 3h

Gecko patterns

I liked this image because of the bands of stripes and spots.  From what I have read gecko’s have fairly smooth skin with nodules here and there.

The spots are made up from these and pigment marks so the spots could be flat pigment, a real ‘spot’ or a combination of both.

3h) shows the underside of a gecko’s foot. Scientists are fascinated how a gecko can walk over flat, smooth surfaces including ceilings and there is some interesting info out there if you are interested! The only fact that caught my attention was that they cannot walk over vertical sheets of aluminium!

Looking closer at their skin I could see hexagons gone crazy! 3g) shows an example of this. This was based on the edge of a gecko’s mouth where there  is a variety in size of shapes. Read the rest of this entry »


Stricktly speaking this is not a Distant Stitch Blog, but I thought some of it might be interesting to Distant Stitchers and any other crafters out there.

I have filled my summer holidays with courses as I was concerned I would be bored or spend all my ‘free’ time doing housework! I applied for these courses before I knew we were going to be able to take holidays too, so between Summer School, Stained glass week, creative stitch week, a trip to Orkney and another to Port Soy I have also been taking  evening classes (2/week) in  speaking Japanese and a one day course in Scottish textile history.

The history of Scottish textiles course was really interesting and I learned so much from it.

We covered the Industrial Revolution which in itself covered lots of different areas…Highland Clearances, cottage industries, inventions,  linen, cotton, jute and flax production and the impact they had on society at the time. We also looked at the Paisley Shawl, the myths behind tartan, knitting, the Victorian home’s decor and 19th – 21st century tapestry artists.

It was a very informative and interesting day which as you can see covered a lot of ground. Following the lectures we had a tour of the National Museum of Scotland where we could see real exhibits relating to the talks. I love visiting the museum and wandering around but it was great to be able to apply some knowledge to the objects we were looking at. Looking at the Tartan clothing was interesting. The suits worn by grown men looked tiny! There were a couple of very odd sporrans too! There were also purses sewn with intricate bead designs on them which were made by N A Indians and modelled on the Scottish sporran.

I was going to write in more detail about the day but it would take too long and may not be terribly interesting to everyone but I would recommend doing a one day course in the history of Scottish/ English (etc) Textiles to everyone interested in working with cloth.

Here are a few interesting facts I picked up on the day.

Industrial Revolution

The textile industry changed from being a cottage industry to a mechanised one with inventions like the spinning-jenny, flying shuttle and cloth gin. (not sure what the last one is!). These inventions meant that cloth could be made quickly and easily.

In 1733 the flying shuttle was invented by John Kay. This meant wider cloth could be produced. It needed two weavers to work this. This also meant 5 spinners were needed to cope with the output of the weavers.

The spinning Jenny was invented by James Hargreaves  in 1764. It meant that thread could be produced quickly. At first it had only 8 spindles but more were added later. This machine was hand cranked. It was followed by the spinning frame invented by Richard Arkwright  in 1775 which was water powered. It was also known as the Water Frame for obvious reasons!

The most amazing invention of the time, in my opinion, was the Jacquard Loom. It was basically  a prehistoric computer system! It was invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1801. It could make much more intricate designed cloths than had been previously possible. It worked on a punched card system. Each thread had to be tied into the correct hole in the correct card and there were a lot of holes on a lot of cards!


Everyone knows the workers in these factories were not well paid and had to work long hours so it is incredible to think they had to pay for the wear and tear on the machines they worked with. In the 18th C. wages were being cut which lead to a strike understandably!

In the 19th C cotton took up half of all imports to the UK. It was imported from India, amongst other countries. Gandhi used  the spinning wheel as a protest symbol as exporting to Europe meant a lack of work for Indians who could have spun and woven the cotton themselves. The Indian Flag has to be made of Indian cloth and the 24 spoke wheel derived from the spinning wheel.



We don’t truly know what most highland tartan looked like. Weavers noted patterns and colours* on wood. With the highland clearances and a ban on wearing tartan, the wood rotted and designs were lost. The colours would have varied according to the raw dying materials available.

It took 15 yards of material to make a Great Kilt. Smaller kilts took about 7 yards.

In 1782 the dress act was amended to allow women, Highland regiments and gentry to wear tartan.

George IV popularised tartan although he was not popular himself! He spent the equivalent of £100,000 on importing bright red tartan! If he threw a party guests had to wear tartan. This gave rise to ‘Original ‘ tartans being produced.


Today 14,000 tartans are associated with clans and family names.


It is said that the technique of knitting was imported to England with Queen Elizabeth’s  pair of knitted silk stockings  in the 16th C. It was a simple technique and caught on quickly with the more common people and by the 17 and 18 Centuries was wide-spread in Scotland.

Wool which still had the lanolin in it was used to knit jumpers for fishermen because it made their jumpers waterproof.

Fair Isle knitting was popular because the double layer of wool created by using two or more colours kept you warm.

fair isle pattern

Fair Isle was similar to Spanish designs at the time of the Spanish Armada. It is thought that shipwrecked sailors influenced this trend.

Edward VII popularised Fair isle jumpers in the 20’s.

Shetland yarn was finer than lace knitting yarn.

In 1952 a Shetland company created garments for the Everest Expedition because their yarns were very fine, lightweight and  had high heat retaining

qualities .

Rise and fall of Paisley Shawls

These shawls were first called Kashmir shawls because they were made from the under fleece of Himalayan Mountain goats which was very fine and silky.

One shawl needed the wool from 10 goats and took approx. 12 months to produce and were very expensive so only gentry could afford them. (£100)

In the 18th C silk and wool was used to make shawls. By the beginning of the 19th C Paisley was well established in the weaving industry and had well established and skilled weavers.

© The Kashmir Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The intro of the Jacquard loom meant production of a shawl took one day instead of two weeks! It also meant more intricate patterns were possible.

Shawls became much cheaper. £12 instead of £100 (in today’s money).

As fashion trends changed the popularity of the shawl declined, also as it became inexpensive no one wanted it anymore.


Victorian Homes.

This was a very interesting part of the lectures but it covered so much ground it would take forever to share it all but basically Victorian women used textile art to express themselves.

The ‘Glasgow Girls’ were taken seriously by their male peers and the design world. They radically changed home decor at the turn of the 20th Century which many Victorians found shocking!

Everyone knows about  Charles Rennie Macintosh and his designs. His wife, sister- in law and her husband were all designers who worked together. They introduced the idea that ‘Less is more”.

The last person we looked at was a lady called Phoebe Anna Traquair. She married a Scottish palaeontologist.  She did illustrations for her husband and worked with ‘socially acceptable’ watercolours but beyond this I don’t think she had any formal art training. She was a supremely, naturally artistic person . Bearing this in mind her work is incredible in its design and execution. We wandered down to the National Art Museum to see 4 panels of her work. She donated them to the museum before she died in 1936.


Each panel took 2 years to complete and is approx 180 x 75 cm in size.  The detail and craftsmanship is unbelievable. She used traditional stitches and modernised how to use them.

I must confess, I have walked past these pieces often and only gave them a passing attention. I actually thought they were paintings.

If you go to the gallery take the time to find them (not an easy task if you do not know the gallery!) as they are incredibly detailed and beautiful.

Ok end of dissertation on The History of Scottish Textiles. Hope you enjoyed some of it! Please remember I am not an expert and there may be points I have wrong! Please feel free to add a comment, question or correction!!






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