Thursday 22 December 2011

Textile response

I’ve just finished a piece of work and it’s packaged up and sent off for selection – hopefully – in the next 62 Group exhibition. I thought you might be interested to see my response to an item from the museum collection of Platt Hall, where the exhibition will open in January 2012.

This is the item I chose after a research visit last summer – it’s a child’s bonnet made of extremely fine silk net. The 3D form is barely visible except for the solid lines of the seams. I made some quick sketches a and took photos in the short time I had in their wonderful store room, filled with hundreds of boxes containing the most exquisite textiles. Platt Hall is only open to the public in the afternoons and 3 hours was just not enough!

P1040478 P1040453 P1040477 bonnet drawings

My newly discovered skills of working with willow seemed a good way of describing the lines of the seams so I soaked, tied, bent and coaxed my locally grown will into lovely curved shapes. I also broke and snapped more than I bent! I take my hat off to willow basket makers everywhere.


The ‘net’ was made from stitched paper, using pages from my old school sketchbooks, recently discovered in my loft. Many pages were machine stitched together making a long surface of about 3.5 metres. Many more lines were then stitched all over to form a connecting network. This stitching created the ‘net’ after being soaked and scrubbed in the sink – I didn’t risk the washing machine in case too much of the paper disappeared.

 WorkingStage2 lace

After lots of trials of how to attach the ‘net’ to the willow and how to form an interesting shape –


(no details here but to all who have deliberated and are currently deliberating with a ‘creation’, you will know the joys of anguish and indecision) this is what emerged – ‘The Empty Nest’.

It can be suspended or


placed on a surface.


Happy Christmas!

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Drawing Project–Christmas Competition–with prizes!

This is it – the finale to the Drawing Project – well at least for the time being!

I am inviting you to take part in the Distant Stitch Drawing Competition – with lovely prizes -

  • A £50 Voucher towards a Module of any Distant Stitch Course for you or a friend to be used in 2012.
  • A £25 voucher from Art Van Go (See Trusted Traders section on
  • A £25 voucher from Ario  (See Trusted Traders section on

This competition is open to any one who is a non-professional artist, whether you are a Distant Stitch student or not.

There will be three jurors – Jan Evans (Distant Summer School tutor), Viv White (Distant Stitch Creative Sketchbooks tutor) and myself, Sian Martin.

After judging, a selection of the submitted drawings will be posted on a special gallery on the Distant Stitch website along with links to your blog.

The title or theme is “Looking Into”.

A drawer containing ‘things’ could perhaps come under this title. I have a large cupboard of tiny drawers, rescued from a closing chemist’s shop. Peeling the tatty sticky labels off the outsides and scrubbing off years of grime revealed the original painted labels in gold. So now you can see what I keep in my ‘opium turc’ drawer! Any chemists out there who can tell me what ‘r:helleb:a:p’ is please?


What else could you ‘look into’? For all the details and hints on how to get started take a look at the Distant Stitch website.

Thursday 1 December 2011

Drawing Competition

Look out for a major Drawing Competition to be published here soon.

Visit my blog again to find out the details and the prizes!

Open to all.

Get your sketchbooks ready!

Saturday 12 November 2011

Poppies and vessels in Weston-super-mare

A full class of lovely students at Weston-super-mare, pulled threads from the coloured linen scrim replaced them with stitching and then moulded it into flower and vessel shapes. The day was a ‘Remove and Replace’ workshop which takes withdrawn threadwork to extremes. Many people chose to make poppies as tomorrow is Remembrance Day and what better than to wear ‘one you made yourself’.

Here is my demonstration sample and I will wear mine tomorrow.


A vessel was made by forming a flat piece of linen over a selection of large balls and adapted bowls– no flat bottoms please – these are art pieces!


My next workshop will be at Plas Tan y Bwlch in North Wales. This will be a two day Shibori workshop. Come and join in the fun of steam-setting weird shapes into your fabrics and being in this wonderful place in the middle of the Snowdonia National Park.

Saturday 5 November 2011

Autumn Colour

Carnage on the nearby motorway and the river bank collapses in the town centre of nearby Bridgwater last night. All this amidst the amazing spectacle of the famous Bridgwater Carnival and a colourful dyeing session for my next 'Remove and Replace' workshop.
Thinking of the ironing! 

Wednesday 2 November 2011

November Drawing Project – Still life with ’Pots and Pans’, your breakfast table or tea time.

This drawing project is a still life project. Make a collection of a few shapes from the kitchen – pots and pans or crockery. Perhaps your coffee cup or wine glass as you enjoy drinking from it! Perhaps a setting for dinner or the tea table; perhaps a bowl of fruit; perhaps dishes on the draining board or stacked for washing up.
Keeping up the tradition of taking a walk down ‘memory lane’ with the first image of each Drawing project, here is ‘one I did earlier’, in fact when I was at school, probably for my O’ Levels homework. It’s a painting of our fruit bowl – a brass one from my granny. I now have it in my own home, although with no fruit in it to hide the glorious patina of the brass. Although I can see that I didn’t quite get the right silhouette, I remember being very proud of the reflection of the base and the way the colour changed around the curved surface. Not bad for a 15 year old even though I say it myself!
bowl1 granny's bowl2

Now please follow this link to see this drawing project on the Distant Stitch website

I would be delighted to get your comments about the project on my blog and to add your blog to my list below, especially if you have posted some of your drawings.
Special news in December about another Drawing Project so keep watching. Happy drawing!

Monday 31 October 2011

‘Say something beautiful’

A day away from the computer for lunch near leafy Queen’s Square, kicking the leaves and looking at the graffiti art work on the walls of Nelson Street in Bristol. Thanks to Anne for reminding me about this ‘event’. It will probably be there for ages yet so if you have a chance to visit Bristol, take a walk from the Broadmead shopping area towards the open areas of the Horsefair towards the Waterside area of town. Nelson Street is normally a bit dingy but is now enlivened by these interesting artworks. A sunny Sunday afternoon brought lots of people out with their camera so we ‘queued’ to take our photos. I’ve posted some that are different to Anne’s blog




I was particularly fascinated by the ones that acknowledged the existing structure of the building with their work; a good lesson when considering a textile installation in a specific site – note to Embroidery Diploma students!




I’m sad I completely missed the ‘dust art’. Another excuse for lunch at ‘Graze’?

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Scary Halloween pairs!

double trouble

Beatrice and Amelie

Sian & Eira coronation day

My sister and I on coronation day 1952 – I’m the taller one, aged 2 and a half; Eira would be about 18 months, the same age as Beatrice - the little witch above! The page girl costumes were made by my mother so we could take part in the village fancy dress parade.


Brenda’s singing marionettes, Joan and Derby. They are part 2d and part 3D. Puzzled blog readers note that this image is nothing to do with the others except they are a pair of figures which I have posted for Sharon who is working on ideas for a 3D figure for her Diploma.

Monday 10 October 2011

October Drawing Project - Plants, flowers. foliage

Find your flower or leaf. Use the same one throughout your project. Let it wilt, change, age so you have interesting things to observe each day or each time you look at it.

My first recorded flower drawing, on looking back through my school books was of a daffodil to make a design for my schools St David’s Day celebrations. I thought I’d put it here for a giggle! It is cropped so you can’t see the date at the bottom of the sketchbook page, carefully recorded in neat calligraphy style letters. I can see that I was trying to convey that each petal was not just a flat shape but had an undulating form, a gently curved surface with slight ripples. The centre trumpet, looking like a cupcake, shows this in an exaggerated way making it look quite solid. All the devices I used in this drawing are ones which we will look at in this project – use of line, tone, colour and outline to indicate a 3D form.

Pop across to the Distant Stitch website to continue this project -

Sunday 9 October 2011

Ally Pally

Foot sore and exhilarated after three days at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Ally Pally, London. I was stewarding at the Textile Study Group’s exhibition space, seen here and teaching several one hour sessions in the ‘Learning Curve’ section of the show.

The whole show seemed to be heaving with people, looking, buying, asking questions. These photos were taken at the end of a day when the crowds had disappeared and Gwen was having a well-earned sit down – probably the first of the day!

It was great fun, particularly meeting all the Distant Stitch students, particularly Pascale who came specially from Luxembourg for the Show. It was lovely to meet you for the first time Pascale and everyone else who was able to pin me down to say hello.


Several of you wanted to know how I eventually decided to present my piece, ‘Family Ties’. You can see it hanging in here within the exhibition setting between a lovely hand stitched piece by Jenny Bullen on the left and an interesting strip of sprayed and stitched organdie and wrapped safety pins by Sarah Burgess on the right. The exhibition was pivoted around how each artist had been inspired by a postcard of our choice. Links made by each person were fascinating and thought-provoking. I chose a postcard by Bridget Riley as I love the way she defines a three dimensional surface  by clever use of a simple repeating pattern.


exhibition4   FamilyTies4

The support for the hanging is a 12"inch embroidery ring; the piece is draped over the ring as a cloak.

The image below shows it folded flat for packing.






My alternative ‘hat’ during the show was as a member of the 62 Group of Textile Artists, who had a small stand to advertise our big celebration plans for 2012. It is our 50 anniversary next year, as the Group was started in 1962 by Constance Howard and several other embroidery tutors and graduates at Goldsmiths College of Art. This prestigious event has the misfortune to coincide with the Olympics and the competition for funds to support the arts has been very difficult. In order to have funds to produce a book to celebrate these 50 years, we are offering the book at a reduced rate for advanced sales, thus being able to pay the printer!

This book will be a ‘limited edition’ and will be much ‘sought-after’ by the textile world, so take advantage now. I became a member in 1975, just a couple of years after leaving college! I do hope there will be no photos of us in the early days!

If you would like to order an advanced copy, you can use the form below or email me so I can send you one.62 Group A5 flyer front

62 Group A5 flyer back

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Swanning and Dyeing

These are the reasons why the next Drawing project will be a little late this month. Apologies if you are waiting with bated breath for the next instalment.

Swanning – along the the Llangollen Canal in north Wales with Susan, Frank and Eila. Here are Eila and Susan as we float on our narrow boat along the famous aqueduct over the River Dee - built by Telford in 1805. We sat in the ‘pointy’ end while Frank and my hubby Roy  steered at the back. Occasionally we girls did a stint with the tiller. Here’s how to make it look easy; the smile hides a grimace as the next tight spot loom ahead!


Sometimes we stitched and chatted and enjoyed the fabulous scenery. Thank you to Frank, Susan and Eila for inviting us to share this wonderful experience.

P1040750 P1040749P1040759



Dyeing – fabrics for my workshops at the Knitting and Stitch Show on 7th, 8th and 9th October. The workshop is called ‘Letting Your Stitches Flower’ so the cotton organdie fabrics had to reflect those in a colourful garden. You can pop along to the Learning Curve area to see what’s going on without enrolling for a class to see what everyone is doing. You might even be able to spot colourful stitched fabric flowers around the show!


I will be based at the Textile Study Group exhibition in TG I1, first area on your left as you enter the main West Hall by the centre doors. The short teaching sessions will be part of the Learning Curve; you can sign up for any class with vacancies when you arrive or book in advance via the website.It will be so good to meet up with you to say hello if you are able to catch me between teaching, stewarding, shopping – or and queuing for the loo!

THE NEXT DRAWING PROJECT will be based around flowers, or maybe foliage or grasses. I aim to post this next week when I have returned from the Knitting and Stitching Show. See you soon I hope.

Friday 16 September 2011

Postscript to drawing of a textile

I can’t resist showing you a few more ideas so here are some ways of developing your drawings based on your textile study which I’m sure you’ve been busy with over the last couple of weeks!

The first two ideas are only for the brave!

First idea – Take a rubbing or an area of your textile. Arrange a single layer (if possible) of the textile onto a hard surface. This not quite such a risky operation if you choose a strong paper such as tissuetex which is a reinforced tissue paper used in brass rubbings (available for Art Van Go). The rubbing below was made over the border area of my child’s dress, using a candle and then inking over with black ink – after the dress had been moved far away!


Second idea – take a print of a relief surface of your textile. This needs a lot of care and perhaps shouldn’t be attempted if the textile is precious. My print below was done by holding my breath and I’m pleased to say that I didn’t get any marks on the dress, only on the paper. C-dressprint

To see how this printing process was done, please continue over onto the Distant Stitch website.

This print was used on the inside cover of an exhibition brochure by the Textile Study Group called ‘Not What it Seams’. You can see this brochure on the TSG website.

not what_0002

Judith Aylett sent me this link of the work by Mandy Pattullo. She presses textiles into thick, damp paper – and this looks such an interesting idea, I must try it, but, oh for a proper printing press.

Another brilliant idea from Judith is the work of Ruth Lee. Take a look at the incredible knitted structures on this link. - You can see Ruth, some of her work and buy her super book at her stand at the Knitting and Stitching Shows. If you are reading this Ruth – “looking forward to seeing you soon at Ally Pally”.

I also remembered the work of Susie Needham, a Somerset artist whose work I admire and thought you might like to take a look at some examples here. She calls her process ‘photograms’. She doesn’t seem to have a website but is included in many other website so you should be able to find more of her work.Susie Needham

Just for fun, inspired by Susie’s images, I decided to change my dress print into a negative and created even more ideas for drawing from this!vestprintNEG

See you in October with a brand new drawing theme. In the meantime, continue enjoying your textile and be encouraged to try some of this less conventional drawing ideas. I’m looking forward to seeing exciting stuff on your blogs – please leave me a message there to let me know.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Come and have a chat

I shall be at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Ally Pally next month, so if you’re going to be there, please find me to introduce yourself and have a chat.

You will find me mainly at the Textile Study Group exhibition space. The show plan isn’t available yet so I can’t give you a reference number for the space, but it will be big, bright and called ‘Individual and Collective’. As well as stewarding at this exhibition, I shall be doing some teaching workshops in the ‘Learning Curve’. You can come and chat at either place so if I’m not at one I’ll be at the other.

You can book a place on one of my workshops, called ‘Letting Your Stitches Flower’ on the Knitting and Stitching Show website. This image might give you a clue as to what the workshop is about -----


Dates at Alexandra Palace, London

Thursday (6th October) from lunchtime onwards

All day Friday and Saturday (7th and 8th October)

Looking forward to seeing you if you can make it!

Saturday 10 September 2011

A pleasurable few days

Distant Stitch students who met Susan and Eila at Summer School last July will remember that they only just got to the UK from New Zealand in the nick of time to join us after a flight change due to ‘volcanoe dust’. They have been travelling throughout the UK, Eire, Germany and France during the summer and we met up for a few days when they passed through Somerset this week. We visited the spectacular gardens, designed by Edward Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll at Hestercombe and enjoyed a jolly steam train ride to Minehead.

Susan and Eila have now continued their journey with a walk around the south west coastal foot path, a canal boat trip over the famous viaduct at Llangollen and finally a few days at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Ali Pally. How many of us will have done so much or seen so much of the UK since Summer School!


Susan, Eila, Siân at Hestercombe Garden


A close-up of one of the wonderful clusters of Gladioli, placed at each angle of the formal border shapes – to send best wishes to from us all at the Distant Stitch Summer School to cheer Evelyne who is poorly at the moment.