Tools of the Trade

I’m often asked about the best kind of storage to use for your craft supplies so I thought I would share some storage from my newly refurbished studio. I have a lot of materials and equipment in the studio and I need to keep everything well organised so I can find it easily. I don’t want to waste my creative energy trying to find fabric and thread.

Good to Know…

If you take good care of your storage it will last for years. I regularly dust and wash my Really Useful Boxes to keep them looking great. You don’t have to spend lots of money on storage, you can repurpose old tins and boxes and give them a makeover with spray paint and paper to add personality to your workspace.

Workshop Materials and Equipment Storage

I have lots of materials and equipment for my online and face to face workshops and projects. Storing them can be tricky as they are sometimes bulky or oddly shaped. The bottom of my cupboard has solid doors so I can hide things that don’t look as nice like phone brackets and projectors.

I store things by type so I have boxes for scissors and embroidery hoops and I use a combination of Really Useful Boxes and craft storage boxes that usually come in standard paper sizes. They are great for keeping materials together and I can grab them easily when I need to pack my suitcase or make some kits. Even though they are clear I love to label them.

Fabric Storage

I’ve always organised my fabric by type, I find this works well for me as I know that I can grab the right materials for the job. I do also keep a mixed box of scraps that includes lots of different types of fabric for projects like Stitchscapes. My new studio has glass doored cupboards so I decided to show off my fabric collection as it’s not in direct sunlight so won’t fade easily or get too dusty. The folded fabric makes it easy to see what I need and get it from the stack.

Thread Storage

I decided to get some under desk drawers from Ikea for my reels of thread. This means I’m using the dead space under my long narrow desk and I can grab a drawer and select the right thread. I organise them by type and colour as I find this really helpful and satisfying.

For my six stranded embroidery threads, I use the traditional thread storage boxes and reusable plastic bobbins. I can spend hours winding thread and sorting them by colour. It’s my relaxation activity. I also label my drawers and boxes to make finding things really easy.

Label Maker

I love a label maker; I have a traditional Dymo machine that makes the embossed labels but I also have a Dymo Letratag electronic label maker. I use clear plastic labels and black text; it looks really sleek and professional on my shelves. I love labelling everything in my house from the kitchen to the garage.

Tip…

If you have sticky labels that are hard to peel off your boxes, use a piece of tissue or an old cloth and some Zippo lighter fluid. It gets sticky mess cleaned up easily from plastic and metal.

***Please note that this is just my personal observation on the products I use regularly, everyone has their favourites and I recommend trying lots of different types to find the best one for you. ***

Studio Refurbishment

As you know, for the last few months I’ve been getting my new home studio refurbished. The old space had lots of patterned wallpaper, a pretty useless gas fire and some very ugly carpet. I’m excited to say that all the work is done and I’m back in studio instead of working in the open plan kitchen, living room and dining room space.

The wallpaper and beige have been painted brilliant white to reflect as much light as possible. I’ve mixed contemporary white furniture with vintage pieces like my bureau and coat stand. I have a much larger work table where I can pack materials and record videos. I gave my vintage chairs a makeover with some fabric from the old sofa. The smaller chair was made for me when I was around six years old. Thankfully I was a tall child and my adult bum still fits on the seat, my grandad had the sense to know I would keep it forever. I’m also in the same space as my plant babies.

The cupboards house all my workshop materials, books and chachki’s and most importantly, my fabric stash. What you see on these shelves is hours of folding and organising. It was hard work but so much fun. I can see exactly what fabric I have behind the glass doors and solid doors at the bottom of the cupboard hide the ugly boxes of equipment. I’ve always been a very tidy and organised artist which people tell me isn’t usually the case! For regular updates about what I’m working on in my new studio you can follow me on Instagram or sign up to my monthly newsletter

Quilt Inspiration

Quilts are something I have made for community projects like 365 Leeds Stories, The Seacroft Tapestry Project and the Arts and Minds Hope Quilt but I’ve never tackled one for my own work. I use techniques like English paper piecing and applique in my practice but something I’m hoping to tackle next is a pictorial art quilt.

On a recent trip to Hayburn Wyke, I was inspired by a picture of the cliff edge and thought it would make an interesting art quilt. What is an art quilt?

An art quilt is an original exploration of a concept or idea rather than the handing down of a “pattern”. It experiments with textile manipulation, color, texture and/or a diversity of mixed media. An Art Quilt often pushes quilt world boundaries. An Art Quilt should consist predominately of fiber or a fiber-like material with one or multiple layers which are held together with stitches or piercing of the layers.

The Art Quilt Association

Here are some samples from my 2019 visit to The Festival of Quilts at the NEC. From left to right: Aina Muze – Eternal Thread – Interchange of Centuries, India Flint – Cailleach and Karina Thompson – The Leperous Skull.

I’m looking forward to exploring different processes like dyeing, painting and applique to create the quilt. I’ve treated myself to a book about pictorial art quilts which talks you through the different stages of a quilt, even professional artists need to brush up on their skills.

For regular updates about my work you can follow me on Instagram or sign up to my monthly newsletter.

Vintage Textiles

I received a lovely parcel this week from a former student, she’s been sorting through her mum’s house and wanted to pass on the textiles. I love working with vintage fabrics, they are usually a great quality and have interesting embroidered and printed features. This parcel didn’t disappoint!

There are lots of lovely white embroidered pieces including a pair of Mr and Mrs pillowcases and a set of bolster cases. I’d love to work into these using the existing embroidery and adding my own details. The back of the pillowcases is great for making my hand embroidered pincushions.

I don’t usually buy bright colours when I’m looking at vintage textiles, I have a box full of white and cream pieces like tray cloths and sheets. There was a lovely hand embroidered blue linen tray cloth in the parcel, the herring gull design seemed very appropriate for my new home. I’d love to use this for a coastal inspired piece of work.

Now the charity shops are open again I encourage you to have a look for some vintage textiles for your own stash. You can pick up some bargains and it’s more eco friendly than always buying new fabrics.

New Classes with Workshop

As we move away from COVID-19 restrictions I will still be offering some Zoom online classes with Workshop this July. These workshops include a kit which is posted to you before the class so you have the materials you will need to take part.

Stitchscapes Fabric Collage Workshop, Sunday 18 July 10am-12pm

In this two-hour fabric collage and hand embroidery workshop you will learn to create your own Stitchscape using different colours and textures of fabric and thread. With no previous experience required, this class is perfect for beginners and people with some embroidery experience.

Stitchsperiments Embroidery and Embellishments Workshop, Sunday 18 July 2pm-4pm

In this two-hour embellishment and hand embroidery workshop you will learn to create a hand stitched textured piece of embroidery. With no previous experience required, this class is perfect for beginners and people with some embroidery experience.

Stitched Succulents Hand Embroidery Workshop, Sunday 25 July 10am-12pm

In this two-hour hand embroidery workshop, you will learn to create a hand stitched succulent design. With no previous experience required, this class is perfect for beginners and people with some embroidery experience.

Stitched Portraits Hand Embroidery and Applique Workshop, Sunday 25 July 2pm-5pm

In this three-hour hand embroidery and applique workshop you will learn to create a stitched portrait using hand embroidery and applique. With no previous experience required, this class is perfect for beginners and people with some embroidery experience.

To find out more an book your place you can visit the Workshop website

Notes from the Studio

I’ve been busy in my temporary studio space for the few weeks. Renovations on my home studio are well underway, the fireplace has gone and new pale flooring has been fitted. Over the next couple of weeks, the wallpaper will be gone and I can start putting everything into the space, I can’t wait!

We’ve been continuing to explore our new surroundings and we went for an impromptu walk a couple of weeks ago after wondering what was down a road we pass regularly. We found ourselves in the woods by Falling Foss and the trees are inspiring a new set of Stitchscapes.

Stitchscapes started as something I could work on once in a while, an easy to pick up and put down project but they have become a popular workshop and great stash buster. I find them really relaxing and enjoyable to make and it’s great to be working on some inspired by my new surroundings.

I’ve also been working on some new workshop samples for Zoom and in person classes later in the year. I’ve stocked up on lots of materials for kits to send to people and for my own work. It was great to go to my local fabric shop when it reopened and actually colour match fabric and thread, I’ve missed that so much.

You can find out more about my practice and current projects by following me on Instagram and signing up to my monthly newsletter.

Tools of the Trade

I’m often asked about the best kind of embellishments to use in your projects, my work only uses a small amount of beads, buttons and sequins but they can really make a piece stand out so I thought I’d share some of my most commonly used products with you. There are so many suppliers locally and online that offer a brilliant range of embellishments.

Good to Know…

A high quality beading needle is essential for smaller seed and bugle beads, they are long and flexible to allow you to pick up beads easily. I use Prym bead needles which you can find in a good haberdashery or online.

Buttons

Like most makers and crafters, I have lots of buttons in my collection. They come from charity shops, Duttons for Buttons and donations from my students. There are so many shapes, colours and textures to choose from. I also love making covered buttons, using embroidery and different fabrics.

Don’t been afraid to think outside the box when sewing buttons on, you can go over the edge of the button and even add stitches like bullion knots to create a design on top of the button.

Seed Beads

I love adding a touch of sparkle and texture with seed beads, they come in so many colours and although they can be fiddly to work with the results are beautiful. I build up a mix of colours on my projects, combining these small beads with larger pearls to create interesting dimensions.

I use Bead Spider for lots of my beads, they have a great range of colours and types of bead.

Sequins

Sequins are a brilliant way to add larger areas of shimmer, I use them sparingly and I’m careful not to buy really cheap looking sequins as they can spoil the piece I’m working on. Cost isn’t always an indicator of quality; you can also pick up sequins in the craft section at the pound shop that look great.

Sequins can also be cut up, shaped and used in conjunction with beads. I like to layer them with small scraps of fabric and areas of stitch. You can also make your own sequins from materials like paper, they can be cut with a circle punch from a craft shop.

As sequins are a plastic, we need to think more responsibly about what we are buying, The Sustainable Sequin Company have a great shop which sells recycled plastic sequins in a range of colours and shapes.

Tip…

Remember, you can combine all these embellishments on your work, there are no rules so have fun and see what you can create.

***Please note that this is just my personal observation on the products I use regularly, everyone has their favourites and I recommend trying lots of different types to find the best one for you. ***

PRODUCT IMAGES COURTESY OF GIRL AND A GLUE GUN AND THE SUSTAINABLE SEQUIN COMPANY

Prism Virtual Collaboration

I’ve been getting more involved with Prism Textiles since becoming a member last year. It’s great to meet the other artists and become part of the marketing team, helping to share the work of our members and promote textile art.

One of our new projects is a virtual collaboration, working on two pieces of cloth and using a variety of techniques each month. For the first month we had to choose three techniques from couching, slashing, darning and stem stitch. I decided to give slashing a miss, I’m not good at deliberately making a mess so that didn’t seem right like right technique for me.

Alongside creating our pieces, we are meeting on Zoom to chat about the work and catch up about our work. As a new member this has been a great way to connect with people. I’ll be hosting our next meet up in May which I’m really excited about.

For month two we have to choose two techniques from foiling, printing, line drawing, grids, insertion stitch and layering. I’ve been inspired by some empty shop windows, the layers of tape and the reflections of the buildings across the street. They also match the neutral colour palette I’ve been using.

To find out more about Prism Textiles and see what the members have been working on you can follow them on Instagram.

Concept to Creation

I’m often asked about the inspiration behind my work and how I translate my photographs into textile pieces. There isn’t a simple answer because the inside of my mind is a strange place but I thought I would share some of my processes.

During my degree, we had a process to follow for each module. We would gather research materials for a visual diary, create drawings and mixed media pieces in a sketchbook, make samples and then use all this to work on a final piece. I know this process works for lots of people but I’ve discovered that my brain works differently.

I still love to research, this might be at a museum, gallery or archive and sometimes on a walk in the woods. My phone is my friend, I love taking pictures of the things I see like lichen and fungi, I can also edit the pictures on my phone and share them on social media. I’m not a sketcher so I go straight from images to fabric and thread.

When I’m looking at my research images, I go to my stash and pull out different fabrics and threads that have the same colour palette or texture. I look at the lines, shapes and textures in the image and think about how I will embroider them and what fabric will work best for that technique.

I’ve been stitching for over thirty years and I love to use different techniques from hand embroidery to patchwork. A newer addition to my skill library is digital embroidery, creating designs in Pfaff 6D software and stitching them out on my Pfaff Creative 3.0 embroidery machine.

I like to keep project books; they help me to gather images from my research and pieces I’ve made with some technical notes. This helps me to organise my thoughts and plan out the next stages of the project, especially when it’s for an exhibition.

Sometime a collection never gets past the development stage. I’m not a believer in mistakes but sometimes a piece doesn’t always say what I thought it would, especially when it’s around themes like mental health. It can be disappointing when something isn’t the way we’d hoped but each piece I make is a learning curve and teaches me something for next time.