Monthly Archives: October 2014

Module 2 Chapter 6

Patterning of fabrics using cold water dyes and fabric paints

Collect patterned fabrics

Images 1  and 2 show commercially produced black and white patterned fabrics I collected for this module.  The first set are fairly standard cotton fabrics from Lincraft; the second set are more interesting, and came from the Kimono House in the Nicholas Building, in Melbourne.  I’m not sure whether some of the Japanese fabrics might be a bit too cream (rather than white), so will need to decide later whether to use them or not.






Shibori methods using dye

For this exercise I used white cotton homespun from Lincraft which I washed and ironed prior to preparing the shibori samples.  I used Jacquard Procion MX dye from The Thread Studio which I mixed at double the strength suggested in Jacquard’s downloadable instructions.  I used soda ash instead of washing soda and mixed the soda ash and salt in the ratio recommended in the instructions.  Images 3 to 8 show the shibori samples tied, wrapped or stitched, as relevant.  I used buttonhole thread for the machine stitched samples and No. 12 pearl cotton for hand-stitching, to ensure that threads would not break when I pulled them taut.  The descriptions of the various forms of shibori are from notes from a Kath Wilkinson workshop I attended a few years ago at the Embroiderers’ Guild, and from Shibori: The Art of Fabric Tying, Folding, Pleating and Dyeing, by Elfriede Moeller, as well as from my course notes.

Image 3 – Sample A: Mokume Shibori:  Straight parallel lines machine-stitched through a single fabric thickness with varying distance between rows

Shibori 1

Image 4 – Sample B: Diagonal parallel lines of three-step zigzag machine stitched through a single fabric thickness

Shibori 2

Image 5 – Samples C, D, E and F: Different forms of Tritik Shibori: hand-stitched resists

Shibori 3

Sample C is Karamatsu Shibori or Japanese Larch – concentric half-circles stitched in running stitch using a continuous thread, through two layers on a fold in the fabric.  Sample D is Maki-nui Shibori – folds are made along the length of the fabric and whipstitched.  Sample E is Katano Shibori – the fabric is folded in an accordion fold and a pattern is sinuous lines is stitched through the layers using a continuous thread.  Sample F is similar to Sample E, but with two parallel zigzag lines stitched in long running stitches using a continuous thread.

Image 6 – Samples G and H: Arashi shibori

Shibori 4

Sample G was accordion pleated along the length of the fabric, twisted then wrapped around a dowel and secured at both ends with rubber bands.  Sample H is similar but was pleated on the diagonal.

Image 7 – Samples I and J: Tatsumaki Arashi

Shibori 5

Sample I was wrapped around the pole on the diagonal, wound round tightly with string at intervals of about 2 cm and compressed.  Sample J was similar, but wrapped on the straight grain.

Image 8 – Samples K to T: A variety of other resists

Shibori 6

Samples K and L are Itajime Shibori, made by making a two-way accordion fold in the fabric (along first, then across) and sandwiching the squarish packet between two (in this case) 50 mm ceramic tiles.  Sample K has the tiles aligned with the straight grain; in Sample L the tiles are on the diagonal.  The packages are then wrapped tightly with rubber bands.  Samples M and N are similarly accordion-folded; bulldog clips are used as a resist (in Sample M, across the ends; in Sample N, diagonally across the four corners).  Sample O is described in Elfriede Moeller’s book as a Mandala.  The fabric is folded radially multiple times until there is an acute angle at the centre of the fabric.  The fabric is then folded in a ‘witch’s ladder’, the narrow end wrapped around and the whole package secured with rubber bands.  Sample P has a number of points drawn out and bound with string; Sample Q is a double accordion fold on the diagonal of the fabric, bound at the centre with string; Sample R used some out-of-date dried borlotti beans as a resist, tied closely into the fabric with rubber bands.  Sample S is Tesuji Shibori: regular accordion folds tied into the fabric with rubber bands, and Sample T is similar, but the folded fabric has been twisted and tied at intervals with string.

Images 9 to 28 show the results.  For most of these samples, I dabbed dye on with a sponge brush to avoid flooding the fabric.  Samples K, L, M, N, Q and R were dipped.

Image 9 – Sample A


Image 10 – Sample B


Image 11 – Sample C


Image 12 – Sample D


Image 13 – Sample E


Image 14 – Sample F


Image 15 – Sample G


Image 16 – Sample H


Image 17 – Sample I


Image 18 – Sample J


Image 19 – Sample K


Image 20 – Sample L


Image 21 – Sample M


Image 22 – Sample N


Image 23 – Sample O


Image 24 – Sample P


Image 25 – Sample Q


Image 26 – Sample R


Image 27 – Sample S


Image 28 – Sample T


These shibori samples are a bit bigger than A4 size.  I decided to make some up to about 45 cm long so I could cut some long strips to decorate with machine stitch.

Because I didn’t leave the shibori samples in contact with the dye bath for any length of time, the samples have come out as a darkish grey instead of black.  I also dyed a larger piece of white fabric plain black, and left the fabric in the dye bath for the rest of the day.  The plain fabric has come out a dense black.  I haven’t included an image because there is nothing much to see.

Monoprinting using fabric paints

As the course notes suggest, this is exactly the same as monoprinting on paper, and I used some of the same techniques as in Chapter 5.  I used my Gelli Plate again, but this time used Jacquard Fabric Paint, undiluted.  In accordance with the instructions, I allowed the prints to dry, then ironed them on the back to set the paint.  Images 29 to 37 show the prints.

Image 29 – net onion bag pressed into paint on plate – looks quite scaly


Image 30 – bubble wrap pressed into paint on plate and dragged slightly (I think at this point I’ll give up hope of bubble wrap ever looking like anything other than bubble wrap)


Image 31 – small, round wad of muslin daubed onto plate and dragged to imitate feather pattern


Image 32 – colour shaper used to form cone snail ‘mountains’ in paint; muslin dabbed on to imitate textile patter on shell


Image 33 – serrated cardboard ‘brush’ used to form stripes; colour shaper used to form round ‘pearls’ from guinea fowl feathers


Image 34 – end of square piece of sponge dragged through paint to form scale pattern


Image 35 – colour shaper used to draw edges of dragon scales; serrated cardboard brush used for shading on scales


Image 36 – my favourite: serrated cardboard brush used with a piece of cardboard edge on to produce chook feather pattern


Image 37 – serrated cardboard brush and cotton bud used to make a cone shell pattern.


A couple of other things I wanted to try …

I hadn’t had enough of this chapter so decided to try a couple of other techniques.  First, I was intrigued by the bleach drawings in Chapter 5, so decided to try bleach (both ordinary chlorine bleach and lavatory cleaner again) on fabric.  The lavatory cleaner was more successful than the dissolved bleach tablets.  I used commercially-dyed black cotton homespun fabric.  The results are shown in images 38 and 39.  I really like these; particularly the diffused shapes which remind me of city lights seen through half-closed eyes.

Image 38 – dots and lines of a cone shell pattern made with a cotton bud dipped in lavatory cleaner


Image 39 – feather markings using a serrated brush made from a butter container lid dipped in lavatory cleaner


Then, I wanted to try some heliographic dye I had bought from the Thread Studio.  The dye is Kraftkolour Sun Dye, and I mixed it in a 1:1 ratio with water, as the instructions recommend, and applied it with a foam brush.  I pinned the fabric to polystyrene foam broccoli boxes before painting on the dye, added resists (see below), then exposed the fabric in full sunlight for about two hours (see image 40 for set-up).

Image 40 – foam boxes set up to print

IMG_0026IMG_0028  IMG_0027

Image 41 – sun print of mesh onion bag


Image 42 – sun print of muslin


Image 43 – sun print of feathers (bits of the feathers stick to the paint and are difficult to remove, even after washing)


Image 44 – sun print of torn paper strips perforated with hole-punch, and hole-punch confetti.  This one is intended to represent stylised water dragon markings.


The results are quite subtle – there’s not a great deal of contrast in the patterns, but they could be useful if I want darker tone with pattern.


Module 2 Chapter 5

Making patterned papers

Ink marks

For this section, I used Art Spectrum acrylic ink in black on 150 gsm cartridge paper.  I used a variety of implements to make marks.  Images 1 to 15 show these papers.

Image 1 – python pattern using a piece of cardboard folded and curved as a stamp, and another piece of cardboard with pearl cotton wrapped around and around it with small gaps between the wraps, and stickytaped in place, used as a brush


Image 2 – the same stamp as in image 1, with daubs made with a wad of muslin dipped in ink, to make a textile cone pattern


Image 3 – a print made from bubble wrap with ink painted onto it using a foam brush – I thought it would look like scales (it does, a bit, but it looks more like bubble wrap)


Image 4 – cone snail markings using plain and serrated cardboard  ‘brushes’ to stamp the linear patterns, and muslin as a stamp to create the darker band


Image 5 – another cone snail pattern, this time using my pearl cotton and cardboard brush to draw the striated areas, a curved piece of cardboard used as a stamp to make the chain patterns, and a cotton bud to fill in the dark bits of the chain


Image 6 – guinea fowl tail feathers using a narrow piece of sponge as a stamp , and dragging it to get a feathered effect


Image 7 – chicken hackles using a shaped piece of sponge with varying amounts of ink to produce tonal variation


Image 8 – a piece of cardboard shaped into a curve at one end, snipped into to make a brush, then used to apply ink to produce chicken feathers


Image 9 – two widths of serrated cardboard brushes to make stylised guineafowl markings


Image 10 – mesh onion bag used as a resist, with ink applied on top using a piece of sponge, to make python scales


Image 11 – a guinea fowl feather.  For this one, I found some adhesive dots and stuck them to the paper in pattern, then applied ink with the cardboard and pearl cotton brush then, when the ink was dry, peeled off the dots.


Image 12 – ink applied with a serrated cardboard brush and a cotton bud to produce a cone snail pattern


Image 13 – water dragon face scales.  I used the edge of a piece of cardboard as a stamp to make the outlines, then shaded the scales with a serrated cardboard brush.


Image 14 – mallee fowl feathers, using two different cardboard brushes, and the edge of a piece of cardboard to make the quills


Image 15 – bubble wrap again, but this time cut into triangles and used as a stamp to imitate water dragon stripes.  The other areas have been stamped on using a wad of onion bag.


Bleach marks

I had two goes at this exercise.  The first time, I used commercially produced black bond paper (80 gsm).  I thought I might get better results if I used chlorine bleach-based lavatory cleaner, which is a bit thicker than ordinary bleach.  The effects of the lavatory cleaner and laundry bleach were much the same in bleaching the dye out of the paper.  I worked outdoors, and wore rubber gloves for this exercise.  The initial attempts using purchased black paper were only moderately successful – see images 16 to

Image 16 – bleach applied with a serrated cardboard brush, in feather patterns


Image 17 – rows of scales made with a piece of synthetic sponge


Image 18 – bubble-wrap bleach print


Image 19 – feather pattern using gloved finger dipped in bleach


Image 20 – scale patterns with a serrated cardboard brush.  The brush started to disintegrate partway through.


Image 21 – feather pattern using a round-ended cardboard brush


Image 22 – another serrated cardboard brush pattern


Image 23 – cone snail pattern made with a cotton bud


Image 24 – another feather pattern using a piece of synthetic sponge


Image 25 – cone snail pattern using finger to draw unbroken curves and cotton bud for dashed curves


One thing I find really interesting about these bleach patterns is the random marks made by bleach dripping accidentally from the applicators.  The images on the paper are pretty ghostly but the accidental marks make them look a bit like very old, scratched glass plate negatives.

After trying bleach on purchased black paper, I thought I would give black tissue paper a go.  These are better, I think.  The bleach makes the tissue paper wrinkle in interesting ways.  The next five images are of the tissue paper samples.

Image 26 – scale marks produced by dragging a serrated cardboard brush around in tight curves


Image 27 – cone snail pattern using a cotton bud


Image 28 – feather pattern using a finger dipped in bleach …


Image 29 – … and again, using a piece of synthetic sponge


Image 30 – the best one, I think – feathers drawn with a turkey feather dipped in bleach



After the discussion in Workshop on the Web, I couldn’t resist buying a Gelli Plate, so that is what I have used for my monoprints.  I used black acrylic paint, undiluted, which I applied to the plate with a brayer.  The prints are on cartridge paper.  Images 31 to 40 show the results.

Image 31 – feather patterns made using a piece of synthetic sponge and a colour shaper to remove paint from the plate


Image 32 – scale pattern using a serrated cardboard brush


Image 33 – cone snail pattern using colour shaper to outline and fill in ‘mountains’


Image 34 – guinea fowl feather using a Catalyst wedge (yes, another gadget) to make the linear patterns and a colour shaper for the pearls


Image 35 – guinea fowl tail feather pattern using different serrated cardboard brushes


Image 36 – the Catalyst wedge again, this time for a stylised feather pattern


Image 37 – dragon scales, using a colour shaper twirled around in tight circles to remove the paint


Image 38 – this probably looks more like bits of a dinosaur skeleton than anything living in the animal kingdom today.  I thought I’d try making cone snail mountain shapes using a Catalyst wedge.


Image 39 – onion bag pressed into paint on the plate, to make a scale pattern


Image 40 – bubble wrap pressed into paint on the plate and dragged, to make a vaguely scaly pattern (or a bubble wrap pattern)


These were tremendous fun to make.  I can see myself spending a bit of time with my Gelli Plate in the future.

Module 2 Chapter 4

Drawing patterns from animal markings

Linear Pen Drawings

To begin with,  I had great fun abstracting sections of pattern from my photographs and playing with them in Micrografx Picture Publisher to try different black and white effects.  Image 1 shows a few variations on mallee fowl feathers.

Image 1 – Computer graphics effects, mallee fowl feathers

mallee-fowl-plumage-001 mallee-fowl-plumage2carvedmallee-fowl-plumage night vision   plasma

In the end, I settled on an approach involving isolating more or less abstract sections of my animals and looking at them in pure black and white, greyscale or as a negative.  Most of the sketches in the images below are of positive markings; one of the cone snail sketches is negative.  The sketches have been drawn freehand on cartridge paper using Artline technical pens (sizes 1, 3, 5 and 8 mm) and a 6 mm Artline marker for areas of dense black.  I used a traced grid to set up the snake scales, to get the direction of the rows of scales more or less right before drawing the scales freehand.  Images 2, 3 and 4 show the sketches as I set them up on my sheets of cartridge paper; the images which follow show the individual sketches superimposed on the photographs.

Image 2 – fowls of various kinds


Image 3 – reptiles


Image 4 – cone snails


Image 5 – colour photograph of pencilled Wyandotte markings – sketch interprets variation in colour using different weights of pen.  These feather markings lend themselves very well to interpretation in pen and ink.


Image 6 – black and white image of laced Wyandotte markings.  These are denser than the markings on section of bird in image 5 so I have interpreted them with heavier linework, with the structure of the feathers shown in finer pen.


Image 7 – hackles from a Light Sussex chook.  Sketching this was more or less as Betty Edwards advises in Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: defining negative shapes by drawing around them.



Images 8, 9 and 10 – three abstractions from guinea fowl feathers.  The first is an interpretation of more or less linear markings on the tail feathers, at more or less natural scale.  Image 9 is an abstraction of the ‘pearls’, showing tonal variation around the white spaces, and image 10 shows the more abstract pattern created by a macro image of the ‘pearls’.







Image 11 shows coloured and black and white images of the mallee fowl feathers.  My sketch attempts to show the texture of the feathers with the markings delineated in a thicker pen.



Images 12 and 13 show pattern abstracted from carpet python markings.  These are quite literal interpretations, using different types of marks with differing pen thicknesses to show tonal variations.





Images 14, 15 and 16 illustrate different ways I have interpreted tone and texture from different parts of the Eastern Water Dragon.  The first focuses more on tone; images 15 and 16 on texture.  These dragons have areas of very varied pattern on different parts of their bodies.  I think the enlarged scales on their faces appear quite prismatic.






dragon 1

Images 17 to 21 are of sketches from cone snails.  The markings on these animals are probably the most abstract of all, and some of them are quite ‘stitchy’.  Images 17 and 18 are textile cone shell sketches.  I like the contrast between the mountain range shapes and the areas of woven texture.  Image 18 is an attempt at drawing an even more abstract pattern from a negative photograph of the cone.





Image 19 is of Conus arenatus – a pattern of dots, lines and lighter and darker areas of background.



Image 20 shows a sketch from Conus cedonulli – again, patches of varied background colour, with parallel lines which look to me like rows of chain stitch.


Image 21 – Conus imperialis.  All these cone snails seem to have bands of lighter and darker background colour.  This one has parallel solid, dashed and dotted lines which I rendered with different pen weights.


Module 2 Chapter 3

Tonal effects in machine stitchery

This was tremendous fun, and I’m quite amazed by the results.  My sewing machine (the main one, not the vintage model) is a fairly basic Husqvarna.  The range of stitches available is shown in image 1.  I don’t have a honeycomb stitch, or any fancy satin stitch variations.  I also don’t have the capacity to vary the width of the zigzag stitches continuously – there are three available widths, but I can stop and start mid-row of stitching to change these.

Image 1 – Sewing machine, showing stitches available


The samples, then, I have produced using variations of straight stitch, simple and three-step zigzag, blind hemming stitch and the overcasting stitch.  I tried black thread on white cotton homespun and a few samples with white thread on black cotton homespun to see how the results would differ, and worked 10 cm x 10 cm samples on a double layer of fabric, to try to prevent the fabric distorting too much.  Images 2 to 15 show this set of samples. 

Image 2 – Straight stitch: tone created by varying density of stitched lines

sample d

Image 3 – Zigzag stitch: varying stitch length across diagonal rows

sample k

Image 4 – Zigzag stitch: varying stitch length and spacing of diagonal rowssample i

Image 5 – three step zigzag stitch: varying stitch length and spacing of diagonal rowssample h

Image 6 – Three step zigzag stitch: varying stitch length along parallel diagonal rows so that tonal variation extends from two adjacent edges rather than from the corner.

sample g

Image 7 – Three step zigzag stitch varying stitch length and row spacing in two directions across orthogonal rows

sample a

Image 8 – Blind hemming stitch: varying length of parallel diagonal rows

sample b

Image 9 – Blind hemming stitch: rows of stitching in random directions, bouncing off edges of square, more densely stitched in one corner

sample e

Image 10 – Overcasting stitch: curved lines of stitching in random directions, bouncing off edges of square, more densely stitched in one corner

sample c

Image 11 – Zigzag stitch: varying stitch width and creating tone by working lines of stitch radiating from one corner (wide stitches densely stitched) to the other edges of the square (narrow stitches)

sample j

Image 12 – Zigzag stitch: variation on the sample in image 5 with stitch with increasing with distance from the densely stitched corner, and more abrupt changes in tone created by increasing density of stitching.  Not one of the more successful samples – looks more like and art deco sunburst than animal markings.sample l

Image 13 – Overcasting stitch: varying stitch length and row spacing in two directions across diagonal rows

sample f

Image 14 – Overcasting stitch: varying stitch length and row spacing in two directions across orthogonal rows, with density decreasing from centre of one side

sample n

Image 15 – Blind hemming stitch: rows of stitching in random directions, bouncing off edges of square, more densely stitched in the centresample m

Samples with ‘whip stitch’ effect

I have a spare bobbin case which I used for the whip stitch and cable stitch samples, for fear of never being able to adjust the bobbin case I use for normal sewing again.  I think my fears were probably unfounded, as it’s actually quite easy to tell if the tension is adjusted correctly just by pulling on the thread.  My whip stitch samples are in images 16 to 19.

Image 16 – Black thread on bobbin, white thread on top; parallel rows of straight stitch at approximately the same spacing, with tone created by varying stitch length across rows.  The most distorted of this set of samples – this probably would have been more effective had I stitched more rows with a very short stitch length.

sample w

Image 17 – Black thread on bobbin, white thread on top; parallel rows of zigzag stitch varying stitch length across rows.

sample v

Image 18 – Black thread top and bottom; parallel rows of zigzag stitch varying stitch length along rows so that tonal variation extends from two adjacent edges rather than from the corner.

sample u

Image 19 – Black thread on bobbin, white thread on top; overcasting stitch varying spacing of orthogonal rows in two directions.

sample o

Image 20 – Black thread on bobbin, white thread on top; rows of three step zigzag stitch in random directions, bouncing off edges of square, more densely stitched in one corner.  Tonal effect ‘reads’ as a pattern created by density of dots and other short marks.  I like this one.

sample x


Samples with ‘cable stitch’ effect

These are my favourites of this set of samples – I love the boldness of the patterns, and am amazed how happy my machine was to handle such thick threads.  For each of these samples, I used ordinary Metrosene machine thread on top, matching the fabric, and contrasting pearl cotton (no. 8 in the white and no. 5 in the black, as these were what I had in stock).  Images 21 to 25 show the results.

Image 21 – parallel diagonal lines of straight stitch, varying stitch length across the rows to vary the amount of white top thread showing.  I suspect I had the bobbin tension a bit too loose as I seem to have created a sort of ‘bouclé’ effect, but I don’t mind this – it does detract from the tonal variation a bit, though.

sample p

Image 22 – overcasting stitch varying spacing of orthogonal rows in two directions.

sample q

Image 23 – three stage zigzag stitch varying spacing of diagonal rows in two directions, with density of stitching decreasing from top left hand corner and from diagonal ‘spine’ out to the top right and bottom left corners – probably my favourite sample of all, and the one which seems to me to have the most animal quality.

sample r

Image 24 – straight stitch varying stitch length and creating tone by working lines of stitch radiating from one corner (long stitches) to the other edges of the square (short stitches) – probably the most effective of the radiating designs in creating tone.

sample t

Image 25 – blind hemming stitch: rows of stitching in random directions, bouncing off edges of square, more densely stitched in one corner (like image 9 but more interesting because of cable stitch texture).

sample s

Machine stitched strips

As the module notes suggest, I’ll make some more of these strips at Chapter 9, and will stitch some of these on my printed and dyed fabrics.  For this chapter, though, I’ve made just six, using a single layer of fabric backed with ‘stitch and tear’ Vilene.  Images 26 to 31 show the strips.  I’d never have imagined the old faithful Husqvarna could do all of this! 

Image 26 – lengthwise and crosswise intersecting rows of overcasting stitch with tonal variation created by varying row spacing along length of strip.

strip 2

Image 27 – Whip stitch, random row spacing, black thread in bobbin and white thread on top, three-step zigzag stitch – reads as a pattern of dots and short marks

strip 1

Image 28 – cable stitch with white machine thread on top, black pearl no. 5 thread on bobbin; parallel rows of zigzag stitch with stitch width randomly varied along individual rows – reminds me of snake tracks.

strip 3

Image 29 – interweaving sinuous lines of zigzag stitch – also rather reptilian.

Strip 6

Image 30 – parallel rows of blind hemming stitch with cable stitch effect; black machine thread on top with white pearl no. 8 thread on the bobbin; tonal variation created by varying row spacing and stitch length along the strip. A bit cone-snaily.

Strip 5

Image 31 – lengthwise and crosswise intersecting rows of three step zigzag stitch in cable stitch effect (threads as Image 30) with tonal variation created by varying row spacing and stitch length across width and along length of strip.  Very scaly, in a dragon kind of way.

strip 4

I’m very much looking forward to making more of these later, using some of printed and dyed fabrics.

Module 2 Chapter 2

A. Tonal Column in Stitchery

Image 1 shows my tonal column in stitchery on 10 count single interlock canvas.  For this, I used tapestry wool (so called), Appleton’s crewel wool and Metrosene machine threads in black and white.

Image 1 – Tonal column in stitchery


I decided (for no good reason) to see if I could work my tonal column with square cross-stitches of the same size, but to create tonal variation by overlaying stitches which overlapped by half a stitch horizontally, or vertically, or both.  In doing this, I probably made the exercise more difficult than it needed to be, but I’m reasonably happy with the result. I was trying to avoid having an obvious ‘equator’ – it more or less works.  I worked four rows of cross-stitch using tapestry wool at each end, then filled in the space between these with overlapping crosses in a strand of crewel wool, with more black or more white depending where in the column I was up to.  Then, I added (or subtracted) crosses until I had a reasonably consistent gradation.  It still wasn’t looking very well-graded, but the addition of strategically-placed machine thread crosses (offset by half a cross vertically) seems to have brought it all together.  I gave up after a while trying to get the corners of these right in the middle of the wool crosses (after having decided I was being too obsessive about it).   The back, also a tonal column, looks anything but obsessive – but I rather like this too.

Image 2 – Back of the tonal column


B. Tonal effects using the technique of blackwork

This really is my cup of tea!  I played around for a while with graph paper and pen working up a pattern complex enough to create tone once stitched.  Image 3 shows the design I decided to work with.

Image 3 – Blackwork design on graph paper

Bkwk chart

Sample 1, in Image 4, is this design worked in No. 25 Coton à Broder on 32 count Antique White Belfast linen.  I tried 25 count Dublin linen but couldn’t avoid black threads showing through from the back where I had carried them across the back of the design, so went for the harder-to-count product.  I also tried different weights of thread but liked the No. 25 best.  Sample 2 is a fairly simple design based on a double-ended Y which I though would work well overlapped to create tone through changing the spacing of the stitches.  Again, this is stitched in No. 25 Coton à Broder.  Sample 3 uses a simple, continuous design of repeating upright and inverted U shapes.  For this, I used ( in order) five, four, three, two then one strand of stranded cotton, then Metrosene machine thread for the last repeat.  I’ve included enlarged images of each of the three samples in images 5, 6 and 7.

Image 4 – Blackwork samples


Image 5 – Blackwork sample 1

Blackwork 1

Image 6 – Blackwork sample 2

Blackwork 2

Image 7 – Blackwork sample 3

Blackwork 3

Module 2 Chapter 1

Tonal columns

Once I started making these, I couldn’t stop!  The first batch (images 1 to 4) are made using dry media, image 5 is a collage, the next batch, wet media, and there are a couple of mixed media columns in image 11.  They’re two-up on an A4 sheet.

Image 1: textured watercolour paper with (L) black wax crayon, and (R) 0.6 mm black fibre-tip marker


Image 2: black pastel paper with (L) white oil pastel and (R) white gel ink rollerball pen


Image 3: white cartridge paper with charcoal – both the same, except the right hand column has been smudged with a piece of sponge



Image 4: (L) White photocopy paper with text, Arial 10 point, using Microsoft Word; (R) black bond paper with debris from the comb binding machine


Image 5: two collages on white cartridge paper – (L) pieces torn from newspaper photographs; (R) pieces torn from photocopies of images from books of Other People’s Blackwork


Image 6 – (L) rough water colour paper 300 gsm with black acrylic paint and white gouache, spread with a piece of card; (R) hot pressed water colour paper 300 gsm with black acrylic ink and white gouache, painted using a foam brush


Image 7 – hot pressed water colour paper 300 gsm with (L) black acrylic paint dabbed on with a piece of crumpled muslin; (R) black acrylic ink dribbled on at the top of an inclined piece of paper then allowed to run down – this one reminds me of Sydney Long’s trees:



Image 8: black pastel paper with white gouache (L) printed with my stamp from Module 1 and (R) painted with a foam brush


Image 9: (LHS) Hot pressed water colour paper 300 gsm with black acrylic paint applied with a foam brush the full width of the column.  I thought I might be able to pull a tonal column from top to bottom but it didn’t quite work.  I included this because I like the texture – it reminds me of black and white cat fur (“Jellicle Cats are black and white, Jellicle Cats are rather small …”).  (RHS) Rubbing with black 0.6 mm fibre tip pen on tissue paper over the back of a ceramic tile.  Not wildly successful – but see the black wax crayon version in image 10.


Image 10: rubbings on tissue paper of (L) back of a ceramic tile, using black wax crayon, and (R) a jute potato sack, with on the bias grain of the fabric, using a thick graphite stick


Image 11: (L) Rubbing on tissue paper painted with black acrylic ink of tree bark using (top to bottom) white oil pastel, white Neocolour II crayon, and white Inktense pencil; (R) mixed media collage on white cartridge paper with (top to bottom) black acrylic paint applied with a colour shaper; black permanent marker, torn pieces of black-painted tissue paper with white inktense pencil on top; hatching with black 0.6 mm artline pen; two rubbings on white tissue paper using graphite stick (jute sack, textured terra cotta pot); fineliner hatching; white tissue paper applied over fineliner hatching; white painted white tissue paper (for dense white texture).


Module 2 Introduction

Abstracting a design from animal markings

For this module I have chosen an idiosyncratic selection of animals (mainly just because I like them but also because they have markings I feel would translate well to black-and-white designs): cone snails (which already look quite ‘stitchy’ even before they’re interpreted), pythons (especially carpet and reticulated pythons), Eastern Water Dragons, guinea fowls, mallee fowls and the humble chicken.  Images 1 to 5 below are montages of photographs obtained from the web, with lists of word associations shown adjacent to or below them. 

Image 1 – Cone snails

cone snailsconewords

Image 2 – Pythons

pythons snakewords

Image 3 – Eastern Water Dragons

dragons dragonwords

Image 4 – Mallee Fowls and Guinea Fowls



Image 5 – Chickens


As well as fairly abstract word associations, some of these animals also have more personal, narrative associations for me which, at the risk of oversharing (as the young people say), I will briefly recount, as these may come in useful for design purposes too, later, and also help me to understand the things which influence me.

I remember learning about cone snails in primary school.  We were taught that, beautiful as they are, these molluscs are predatory and deadly venomous.  They stalk their prey and, when they come close enough, shoot a barbed harpoon into the unsuspecting victim through which they inject their venom.  I remember as a child looking at the shells in shops (she sells sea shells …) but being very reluctant to pick them up in case they still contained their creature.

Mallee fowls, too, were something we learned about in primary school.  They are quite fascinating – a mound-building bird of the Australian arid zone which lays eggs in a carefully constructed heap of soil and organic matter.  The birds’ beaks are temperature-sensitive.  Each day they will probe the mound, then add or remove material to keep the mound at the optimum temperature for hatching the chicks.  I was always rather taken by the fact that their marking are heart-shaped.

One of my favourite books when I was small was an Australian children’s book called Sharpur the Carpet Snake.  The eponymous hero lived in Paddy’s Market, then Sydney’s main covered produce market, and his job was to eat mice and rats.  Our parents took us to Paddy’s from time to time, and I always looked for Sharpur, but never once glimpsed him.  I have had a soft spot for carpet pythons ever since.

Occasionally, we find a baby Eastern Water Dragon in our garden.  They tend to stay around for a few months during summer, guarding the front door and keeping me company as I hang out the washing.  Then, they disappear.  We’ve never had a garden/guardian dragon get to more than about six inches before vanishing but the adults grow to about a metre.  I wish they’d stay.