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I’m easily distracted

I'm easily distracted

I think when you like making ‘stuff’ you like to have lots of different things on the go at any one time so that you’re never bored. That’s how it is for me anyway. When I casually mentioned to my daughter, Laura, that I fancied knitting a cosy hat but I needed to get some yarn she took me to her stash and let me have my pick. These are all luxury blends of merino, cashmere and nylon that she hand dyed a while ago. All gorgeous but not huge quantities of the same colours as each skein was intended for making a pair of socks. Of course had I stuck to my plan of making a hat this would not have been an issue but somehow we were lured onto the free patterns on Ravelry.com and I found myself considering something a little more ambitious. Instead of a simple hat that might have kept me occupied for a couple of evenings in front of the TV I discovered a boxy sweater pattern I fancied. I don’t have the recommended yarn so I’ve knitted a test square – this is completely out of character, usually I just jump straight in accepting that whatever I make will fit somebody if it doesn’t fit me! I suspect this project is going to take me a while – I just hope it isn’t high summer by the time it’s finished.

Now I don’t want anyone to think I’ve just been sitting watching TV all over the holiday. I have been working into another handmade book. This latest one is a collection of plant printed papers that I asked Laura to bind for me. The papers are all shapes and sizes but I think that’s more interesting than a sketchbook with completely regular and uniform pages don’t you? As you can see from the photos, Laura’s attached the pages to folds of sturdy watercolour paper with rows of machine stitch. Some of the lines of stitch are functional and some purely decorative to add texture. When she presented the book to me the pristine white of the watercolour paper was really distracting so my first job has been to lose the white! I’ve got lots of little bottles of acrylic inks in golds, bronzes and transparent raw umber that I think are perfect to complement the colours of the prints. The inks may look a little bright right now but I’ll be working onto them with drawing, painting and text so that will tone them down a little.  The book doesn’t have its hard covers yet but I’ve found a piece of cotton fabric I printed at the same time I made the plant prints on paper. It should work really well but it’ll be the last thing I do – have to finish the pages first.

Do you see what I mean about being easily distracted? Why work on one thing when you can have several different ones on the go? Oh and I never even mentioned I’m returning to oil painting too – a medium I haven’t worked with for a long time. No time for boredom though!

Bye for now. Thanks for reading today! Linda x

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Starting Something New Today

Starting Something New Today

I always like to have a hand stitched project on the go – there’s nothing worse than twiddling your thumbs when you could be sewing or knitting is there? I had some time to kill recently and having enjoyed making the samples for our Running With Stitch online course so much I decided to start another piece but tweak it a bit. I stayed with the idea of a simple landscape (and being my work there had to be a moon up there too) but I choose fine cotton fabrics rather than the transparent and loosely woven fabrics I’d demonstrated with during the course.

I’m lucky that I have a stash of fine cotton threads that Laura and I have dyed over the years. You can see I’ve sorted out some colours that I think complement the fabrics but there are lots of lovely hand dyed threads available online if you don’t dye yourself and would like to achieve a similar effect. It can be unpredictable to know how the colours will appear if your threads are variegated like mine but when the thread and fabrics are high contrast I think it adds a spark to the finished piece.

I’ve included a photo of a detail of one of the landscapes I made for the course just so you can see how much stitch I like in my work and how those contrasting colours of stitch really sing. This new piece will be just as densely worked but I’m bringing in some herringbone and fly stitch alongside the running stitch. Fly stitch is a great option to represent grasses and leaves so I’ll be using that in the foreground to add colour and texture. If you look really closely at the left hand corner of the first image you’ll see I’ve made a start with the first row!

The red and gold image is a detail of an appliqué of mine that you might have spotted in the shop on my website. I’ve included it here to show how I created little spots of colour with French knots and scattered straight stitches – those might have a part to play in the new piece too. The final image you may remember from our Inspired by Banjara video workshop. I love the idea of weaving a thread through a grid of running stitches and am wondering how I might adapt that technique to my landscape without it looking too regular and formal. Maybe using a single colour of thread that matches the fabric might be the solution? This is only a small piece and I don’t want it to be too busy with many different elements – I shall proceed cautiously! So, lots of ideas floating around at the moment. I’ll get to work on some stitching and let you see how things evolve.

Hope you are all making time to be creative – if you need inspiration browse the www.designmatterstv.com website as there really is something for everyone. Running with Stitch is available in Online Courses for £25. You can watch as many times as you like and take as long as you like to make your own landscape piece. Get stitching and lose all sense of time in the process – or is that just me and my obsessive personality?

Talk again soon – Linda x

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New in my Shop

New in my Shop

I’ve been busy painting and stitching – nothing new there you might say. There comes a time though when everything starts piling up as I finish one thing and move onto the next project. I have begun to realise (again!) that unless I move some of my work on to new homes I risk being  buried alive. So, I’ve been sorting through some of the heaps of work I have and listing them here on my website. Several of the newest pieces have sold straight away and I’m very grateful to any of you who have supported me in this way. This little acrylic cat painting was really fun to paint and I’m glad someone else liked him as much as I did! I’ve also added a couple of the quilted and embroidered pieces that were featured in Quilting Arts Magazine a while ago – you can find them in the shop.

I’m happy to say the wren and the blue tit also found a new home last week. It’s quite liberating to work small sometimes – many of my quilts take weeks or months to create so it’s satisfying to tackle something that can be achieved a bit quicker than that. I do spend quite a few hours on my paintings because I love the fine detail but pincushions are a little less demanding. As well as being a useful object for anyone who loves to sew, they provide the opportunity to combine lots of colours, imagery and techniques and can be completed in less than a day. You can try things out just to see ‘what if’, without the stress of maybe making mistakes with a more important piece! I’ve got lots of pincushions and I’ve just listed these two in my shop today.

At the moment I am experimenting with oil painting after a gap of quite a few years. It’s a slow process and a steep learning curve so I appreciate being able to turn to a small project in-between waiting for layers of paint to dry! The smell of oil paint and turpentine is something I remember from my student days. I LOVED it and was immediately transported to another world as soon as I went into the studio!! Nowadays we are a lot more aware of the dangers of inhaling such heady substances so I’m substituting low odour mediums. Not so exciting but probably more sensible! If I can master the oils I’ll let you see what I’m painting – if it’s a disaster it will never be mentioned again!!

Hope you are all making time to be creative in these difficult days. I know from experience it does help.

Bye for now – Linda x

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Birds on the brain

Birds on the brain

No matter what I get up to in my creative life I always come back to nature as my inspiration and especially to the birds, plants and flowers I see every day in my garden. As autumn arrived this year I’ve been spending quite a lot of time recording the change of season with pen drawings and paint. I have a stack of papers that I recently boiled with leaves and iron water. I think they make lovely, organic backgrounds for my drawing and painting. These are just  single sheets at the moment but Laura has promised to bind them into  two lovely books for me when she has time. They’ve been waiting for a home but I think they’ll look great when they are combined with the papers I printed in the summer. I have been posting work in progress photos of my autumnal studies on Instagram so you may have already seen some of them.

Of course I don’t just work on paper, I also love to work on deep sided, stretched canvas, box panels. They are great because they don’t need framing. Just pop a picture tack in the wall and hang the canvas on it! The redwing is my latest bird painting.  We see them regularly in the garden once the weather turns cooler. We have lots of berries that attract birds during autumn and winter and redwings love red berries.

We’ve also had a really rare visitor  in the last few weeks. We know there are kingfishers on the river nearby but we’ve never seen one in the garden until now. Twice we’ve seen the kingfisher dive into the pond and then reappear with his catch of dragonfly larvae. I can’t tell you how exciting that was! Not so nice to watch him beat it on the rocks at the side of the pond but let’s face it, everything has to eat.

The redwing and the kingfisher are painted with acrylics onto canvas but the final image today is a great tit painted onto a canvas panel that has been prepared with a special ground that makes it accept watercolour paint. This was a first for me but I am happy with how it has turned out. I’ll be adding these to my online shop very soon. If you are interested to see more photos please take the time to check them out!

Bye for now – Linda x

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Have you taken a look in my shop lately?

Have you taken a look in my shop lately?

I’m always ricocheting between my love of painting and my passion for stitch. There are never enough hours in the day for it all, especially when the fabrics are slow stitched by hand or the paintings involve many layers of translucent glazes. Let’s just say, I’m never at a loss for something to occupy my time! We’ve recently added a short course about the potential of simple running stitch to our designmatterstv site and I thought if you hadn’t seen that you might like to see a landscape I worked with the techniques. It’s a lovely rhythmical way to sew and the subtle colour changes are so beautiful. I think it’s a perfect activity for stress busting!

I love to sit and sew in the garden whenever I can and often the plants and wildlife I see there become my inspiration. Today was a perfect  25C and sunny so I took advantage of the opportunity to mount two appliquéd and embroidered pieces onto box panels ready for display. They are really heavily stitched and I’ve loved combining the slow hand stitching with free motion machine quilting too. I’ve added them to my online shop if you’d like to see more images or think you might like to find them a new home!

Now, after all that stitching,  it might be time to get the paints out for a change. The green woodpecker is acrylic on a wooden panel but I’m in the mood for some lovely watercolour now – maybe a few of the lilies that are just opening today will feature – I’ll let you know how it goes!

Bye for now,
Linda x

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I’m featured in Quilting Arts Magazine!

I'm featured in Quilting Arts Magazine!

As you may remember, since I’ve had the loan of an embroidery machine from Husqvarna Viking, I’ve been experimenting with using both the built in designs and those in the library of My Sewnet. The rosebud design shown here provided a perfect opportunity to add fabric paint within the stitched outlines of the flower and its leaves. I worked this in a grey Madeira rayon thread onto hand dyed cotton fabric, layering the fabric with cotton batting and a cotton backing so the stitched design quilted the layers rather than just embroidering on a single layer of cloth.

Sometimes I’ve chosen filled designs instead of outlines. They showcase the lustre of the threads and create beautifully rich and detailed surfaces. I’ve extended the digital designs with more fabric painted rosehips, rosebuds and leaves.  Lots of my examples are stitched onto old quilts that I’ve recycled. Embroidering onto an existing pieced and quilted fabric adds interesting colour and texture don’t you think? Of course it does present some problems too but I’ve chosen to ignore the existing quilting and simply work over it with both stitch and paint.

Working onto a quilted surface does mean that my leaves and especially the pears in the final image have strange linear patterns but I rather like the serendipity of that layered effect. The additions are hand painted with either fabric paints or artists’ acrylic paints mixed with textile medium. I particularly like the gleam of metallic paints!

I haven’t heard of anyone taking commercially available digital designs and making them completely their own in this way but, you know me, the control freak rears its head again! If you are interested to see more the Summer Issue 2022 of Quilting Arts Magazine has a feature.

Bye for now,
Linda x

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Having fun with more painting!

Having fun with more painting

I tend towards the obsessive – once I discover something I like I have trouble resisting the urge to indulge completely. Watercolour ground is the latest obsession! The roses I’m showing here today were painted from photographs I took on a visit to David Austin Roses before lockdown. You’ve probably heard of the very famous garden centre I mean. If you visit in early summer the gardens are a treat for the senses with the perfume as heady as the sight of the flowers. The June day we were there was perfect – hot and sunny. I can’t wait to visit again but in the meantime I can enjoy the photos and use them to make a painting. The unconventional support I’m working on has an interesting origin itself – it was a panel taken from an old wardrobe we were getting rid of. When the wardrobe was broken up to be taken away it seemed a pity to waste the panels although, at the time, I had no idea what I’d use them for.

I mentioned watercolour ground in my previous post but then I’d only used it on canvas. When I spotted the wardrobe panels in a corner of my studio I thought they’d be ideal candidates to see how the ground would work with wood. The panel was very dark so the first thing I did was to give it a coat of white acrylic paint. Once that was dry I added a layer of the watercolour ground to the raised central section and put it aside overnight. It’s difficult to photograph anything that’s just white but the picture here shows the rough surface the coarse ground produces. That’s the effect after one application but you can add more or even create more texture if you prefer. Depends on the sort of painting you intend to make I think. I’ll let you know how I get on with a more textured landscape painting soon!

I often make a pale pencil sketch before I start painting with watercolour but the surface I had created was quite coarse and didn’t really lend itself to much of a drawing, so other than to mark vague outlines of where the flowers would sit, I didn’t spend much time on preliminary marks and just went straight in with the paint. This is still very much a work in progress but I am itching to get back to it and add more detail to the petals and more deep darks to the shadows between the leaves and buds. I’ll also be tidying up the border frame of the panel with another layer of acrylic paint.

It’s curious to discover how different it is to paint onto the surface prepared with the watercolour ground than it is on rough watercolour paper. I’m still learning how the paint reacts but  I’m loving it!

 

 

Bye for now,
Linda x

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Loving Painting!

Loving Painting!

At Designmatterstv we’ve been focussing on Laura’s 31 Days of Art Journalling course lately and I have loved working along with her prompts into a little sketchbook but it has meant that my other painting has been neglected. I’m not sure if it’s the return of spring and all that means in the garden but I have been inspired to get the canvases out and get stuck in! Our magnolia blossom has been gorgeous during the early warm, sunny weather but sadly, with the return of frosty nights, the delicate petals have suffered – not before I had time to try and capture their loveliness in watercolour though. That’s the beauty of a painting – the flowers will always be perfect! The still life shows a few of my favourite possessions with the orchid from Marks and Spencer that my mom gave me for my birthday nearly four years ago. It’s getting a bit unruly but flowers its heart out every year.

Part of the rekinding of my passion for painting has been the discovery of a watercolour ground that means almost any firm surface can be prepared to accept watercolour paint. I understand this product has been around for quite some time but it’s been a complete revelation to me and I’m always up for new experiences! The manufacturers say it can be used on wood, cardboard, plastic and even glass but I’ve applied it to canvas panels and I’ve loved experimenting to find out how similar or different it is to painting onto paper. We’ve added a little video about it over on Designmatterstv if you’re interested to hear more details but essentially, the ground is applied to the canvas and allowed to dry – the surface will then resemble the texture of watercolour paper. I’ve used the course ground made by Schmincke but lots of manufacturers have their own versions. One of the advantages of working this technique is that a canvas panel that has been primed for use with acrylic or oil becomes receptive to watercolour paint and of course, a deep edge box panel doesn’t involve the cost of framing. As long as the finished painting is sealed with cold wax it’s protected and ready to hang without the need of glass or frame. I’ll definitely be making more of these paintings on canvas but there is always room for traditional techniques and the two paintings of jugs of flowers sitting on lace cloths shown here are pure watercolour on watercolour paper. I’m not decided yet which I prefer as the paint reacts differently on the ground to how it works on paper – only way to decide is to keep painting I suppose. At the moment I love both!

Bye for now,
Linda x

PS If you fancy owning one of these original paintings all of the above are available to buy in my Shop!

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Totally Obsessed!

Totally Obsessed!

Since I last wrote about being loaned an embroidery machine by Husqvarna Viking scarcely a day has gone by when I haven’t embroidered something – no old quilt or scrap of hand dyed fabric is safe! You can see here a small hanging I’ve made where the branch and some of the leaves are digital embroidery and the lemons and extra leaves are fabric painting. The close up shows how I’ve free motion quilted the background fabric in angular lines of cream on cream and finally created dimpled texture in the lemons with tightly spaced circles or meanders.

I’ve done a similar thing with the olive branch but in this piece I hand worked tiny seed stitches around the motif where the raised surface of the digital embroidery meant I couldn’t get in close enough by machine. The leaves in this design are meant to be cut back to create the texture of velvet pile but I’ve decided to leave them uncut because I prefer the lustrous shine of the threads. (I’m using Madeira threads gifted to me as brand ambassador for all the embroidery). You can see, I’ve also made another  version of the lovely fern design I showed you last time but I’ve painted into this one with a coppery metallic fabric paint mixed in with a little of the olive gold. I think the copper complements the variegated colour of the embroidery thread and also contrasts well with the colour of the fabric. I’ve also painted bunches of grapes and extra leaves into a fourth piece that’s worked onto a digital print of flaking paint on a building. I really like to layer pattern on pattern. Most of these pieces are yet to be completed but I get so excited I have to start another embroidery while I’m still painting or quilting the last one! There’s great satisfaction in multi-tasking – picture me carefully painting as I sit next to the embroidery machine as it whizzes away on the next piece! The final photo here shows how I’m stitching out more leaves and branches ready for more painted fruit. I can’t imagine this obsession ending any time soon but I’ll let you see how I get on!

Bye for now,
Linda x

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New Year – New Machine

New Year - New Machine

First of all although a little belatedly, Happy New Year! I hope you are all rested and refreshed and raring to go in 2022! I don’t want to sound like a complete misery but I’m always pleased to get back to a normal life as soon as the decorations are down. This year particularly so because, as a Brand Ambassador for Husqvarna Viking I’ve been loaned a top of the range Epic 2 embroidery machine. It arrived 3 days ago and has hardly been idle since then. It’s so exciting getting to know what this beast is capable of and I am really impressed with what I’ve discovered so far. It’s early days and I’ve only tried the tip of the iceberg but I hoped you’d be interested to see my first forays.

One of the first designs I chose to try out was the lovely big fern ‘line drawing’ you can see details of above. It’s already built into the design library of the machine. I’ve worked it onto a digitally printed pastel drawing of mine which I had partially free motion quilted. I chose the outline fern because it gave me potential to add paint in the leaf shapes – you know how much I like to add a bit of paint! I’ve used Jacquard Lumiere paint in metallic olive gold for this.

The daffodil and tulip piece above and to the right is another of the built in designs which looked very sketchy and hand drawn – just like a pen drawing I might have made in my sketchbook. I stitched this onto a scrap of a quilt Laura had chopped up to make purses. It already had quite a lot of linear quilting and digital embroidery but I chose a dark thread that would show over the top of the initial layers of pattern. The design was worked in a single colour of Madeira rayon thread but once the embroidery was finished I added colour to the blooms with Inktense pencils and water.

The leafy embroidered branch on the right is looking very plain right now but my plan is to add painted lemons – I’ll let you see if that turns out as I imagine it. It’s looking great in my head but I just have to make it happen on the fabric now!

Thanks for reading this today – hope you’ve enjoyed seeing how I’m keeping busy in a cold and dark January.

Bye for now,
Linda x

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Where Does Inspiration Come From?

Where Does Inspiration Come From?

There are two questions we get asked all the time – “How long did it take” and “Where do you get your inspiration”. The answer to the first is simple – as long as it needs. The second is more complicated because inspiration can come from anywhere. Unless I am working to a brief, where the theme is provided, I find mine from the every day and familiar – from things I surround myself with and love. They aren’t necessarily valuable things but they are precious to me. My paintbox is a perfect example. I’ve had it for many years and it’s really well used. As the colours run out I top them up so it’s only the box itself and the china mixing palette that’s original. (Well apart from the horrible viridian green which I hate but can never bring myself to throw  away). A few years ago I made a digitally printed quilt from a photograph of the paintbox but when it sold at exhibition and wasn’t going to come home I decided to make a second version. I don’t like to repeat things exactly so this time I started by making a pastel and watercolour painting of my box rather than using a photograph. That’s a detail of my paintbox on the right and the painting I made of it is below. I had the painting printed onto cotton fabric using fibre reactive dyes and quilted the wholecloth design with free motion machine stitch. The finished quilt is shown here on the right.

I tried to be true to the luscious pools of colour with my thread choices and particularly wanted to capture the stains on the wood of the box and the white china tray. I rarely wash the palette and prefer my colours to flow from one project to the next. The stains also provided exciting shapes for the quilting as I stitched around their contours. It’s always good to have shapes for quilting inspiration and these organic splashes and drips contrasted effectively with the more geometric shapes of the half pans and the wells in the palette.
If you’d like to see close ups of the quilting visit the Portfolio page on my website where the quilt is now listed for sale.
Thanks for reading this today!
Bye for now – Linda

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Hard to Choose a Favourite thing!

Hard To Choose A Favourite Thing

I’m one of those people who think a day is wasted if I haven’t made something that didn’t exist the day before! It doesn’t really matter what that thing is as long as I create something! It may be as simple as a loaf of bread or a tasty cake but the most satisfying creations are always ‘arty’. I sew, quilt or knit almost every day but I get the most enjoyment from my drawing, printing and painting because they are so immediate. A quilt can take me weeks or even months but I can make a drawing whenever I have a few free minutes. There are always several sketchbooks on the go – usually because I’m too impatient to wait for pages to dry before I can turn to the next. This one is a tiny square format which is ideal for quick sketches. The little bird was drawn with water-soluble pencils and then I added washes of water to diffuse the pigments. We’re working on a ‘how to’ video showing this technique for designmatterstv – hopefully it’ll be available soon. The nuthatch in the book I’m holding was done in exactly the same way but I liked his shape and colouring so much I decided to make a second version using more traditional watercolour techniques. I’ve mounted the finished watercolour painting onto a wooden panel and sealed the surface with cold wax to protect it. He’s in my online shop now if you are tempted to own the original!

It’s a cold wintry day here and I’m about to make soup! While it’s bubbling away I can get back to that sketchbook. No time to squander!

Bye for now,
Linda