Stitching News May 2020 (1)

Good day, from sunny Cornwall, where we have another beautiful cloudless blue sky.

During the last week I have been busy gardening, walking, baking and of course getting on with my machine embroidery course. Naturally there are always the basic household chores to get through as well…mostly I skim over them, just giving them more attention when necessity kicks in!
I am sure I am not alone in saying that my creative self is quite erratic at the moment. Some days I am full of enthusiasm, and others are quite different! No day is uninteresting but the creativity definitely comes and goes!

This newsletter is about;

  • Colour; the design element of the second unit in the course is all about colour.
  • A little about my work on the presentation of Unit one.
  • Creating an original patchwork block.
  • My favourite “easy access” tool box.

I have been really itching to get on with Unit 2, and have been reading around the subject, and also had great fun looking back at some work I did years ago. It is always fascinating to go back and review old work as it is almost always still relevant to today!

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For the course and the start of Unit 2 we had to start with colour basics; a colour wheel. We could choose our medium with which to paint white paper, and my first choice was acrylics. I know the colour wheel inside and out and back to front, as the majority of readers probably do! There are several different colour wheels, but this is the basic one, and we had to paint papers with the three primary and the three secondary colours. I was quite happy to repeat the exercise, and began to consider the different combinations!

I soon cut the relevant sections from my papers and glued them down onto a background. I cut elongated triangles from scraps putting the complementary colours together too. The latter sit opposite each other on the colour wheel. I followed this by playing with the left over secondary colours I had mixed. Combining these created even more colours, a different array of sludgy ones which always appeal to me. I made some small collages from these. Great fun!

For an alternative set of painted papers I decided to work with Brusho. These paints come in powder form and are mixed with water. I made up solutions of blue, red and yellow and painted papers as before. Using this totally different medium gave very different results! I should have made the colours stronger, which I cna still always do.  Pale colours are always essential and so, on reflection I am sort of pleased! There is equally nothing to stop me increasing the strength. The first six are acrylic paints, the second are Brusho.

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This is just the beginning of exploring colour… there are many more exercises to do, which will be fun too, but in the meantime, I have put the colour work in Unit 2 on hold! I had completed all the course content in Unit one, but at that time had not decided on my format for the presentation of the work. I have considered many options and a final decision made; a book.  So many book ideas, which is what has taken my time… I have had it OK’d, and have returned to work on it.

I find I am working through this course in regular but very small capsules of time. That has so often been the way I find my ideas can develop. I have worked like this for many years. I like to have some space and time to really think ideas through. Strangely this “thinking time” more often than not happens in either wakeful periods at night, or when I am hand stitching on other projects. It is never ever a conscious action on my part. It just happens and it is surprising how the germ of an idea expands quite quickly once it appeals to me! When I am happy about my thought processes, I can start working out the nitty gritty; size and techniques. I have already made samples of the techniques I am going to use for this constructionand have already made samples using scrap paper and scraps of fabric. Part will be hand stitched, and part on the machine. I had to do several samples just to get the proportions right. This is invaluable use of time, and well worth the effort.

I am actually deconstructing a book that I was given maybe as long as 15 or even 20 years ago. The paper is a high quality cartridge paper but it has been so tightly bound that the book will not lie flat when it is opened. This makes it impossible to even write in! It was never going to be used, so I am cutting out the pages very carefully with a craft knife so that they can be re-used now to create a workable book! Great to recycle!

I had a fascinating time recently looking through some of my past work. I found two pieced 16″ blocks along with the initial design work. It had all started with a simple 1″ square that I had cut from polystyrene packaging and used as a printing block.

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As you can see from the photo above, I have printed a straight square alternating with a square on point all over the paper. I then lightly outlined the printed squares with a fine black drawing pen to give a little definition and highlight the small irregularities the uneven printing had created. Next I trawled a 1 inch square “window” over the page, looking for possible areas that might be suitable for a patchwork block. I considered three areas, finally choosing one with part of the negative space as well as tiny sections of adjacent squares. Simple but effective!

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The newly identified area, has been slightly modified to give continuity and balance. The first of two additional lines runs from the top left corner until it comes to a stop at a right angle to another line. The second line creates a small triangle in the top right corner. These additions serve to break up what would have been two large spaces.




I tried various arrangements of this final block, then coloured in the one that I liked; as shown below.

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In this coloured version, have a look at the yellow corner; it is four of the original design blocks. Each original block has been rotated by 90 degrees in a clockwise rotation. This could be called a 4-patch, and four of these create the whole design, seen here on the left. Each of the coloured corners consists of four of the design blocks, all coloured identically.

The final design could be called a 16-patch.


The photo below shows the bottom left quarter of the design after piecing.

This finished patchwork block measures 16″ square. The finished design as in the coloured version above, would be 32″ square and could make a very nice wall hanging.

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Use of colour plays a huge part in any block, emphasising shapes as blocks are put together. Below is another way I created interest, by inclusion of a change of scale;

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Three of the corners in this red block are the size of the green blocks above. However the left top corner has a 1/4 size of the whole design. Here, the large corners measure 8″ square. But the top left corner consists of four x 4″ squares, creating the final 8″ sized corner. I like the way that the black individual striangular shapes, touch each other and create the distorted z shape. The use of black, really makes a sharp impact. All this came from a very simply printed paper!

Below is another block which I created in exactly the same process as above, but from a different source.

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Below you can see repeated blocks which have been assembled identically in the three versions, but I have painted them in different ways. The different use of colour illustrates that a range of final options are possible if you take the time to explore them. All the design lines are still in place, showing the way to construct the block.



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Finally, I was browsing in Coast and Country Crafts late summer last year, and saw these little storage units.

I thought they were fabulous, and would make great Christmas presents. Of course I had to try them out didn’t I, so that meant “one for me” too!

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Mine is packed with everyday tools which were previously in other pots, pencil cases, boxes etc, but here they are instantly visible, and accessible and tidy! Probably a bit of a luxury, but hey ho!

It is called a “stash ‘n store”

All of the items are used very regularly, and I find the little unit fantastically useful and organised! It sits on a table just to the right of my sewing machine.

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The silicone top surface has an interlinking circular grid, which can accommodate a wide variety of tools, as you can see. They are gripped by the silicone, so won’t “fall over”.


Take care and stay safe. Until next time, Happy stitching!


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