Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Making a Fabric Animal Character come to life:Part1

I hope all of you who celebrate have had a very Happy Easter, or Spring festival break. We had a few spells of glorious sunshine here, but mainly, it rained. It's still quite warm though, and the birds don't seem to mind, they're still singing gloriously.  The fairy blue haze and scent of bluebells fills the wood and there's been much activity and digging at the badger sett.

This  inspired me to start thinking about bringing  a new character to life, and I thought  you might like to see the progression of a new creation.

First, I delve into my design sketchbook. This is full of very scruffy/scrappy sketches, notes, thoughts and ideas. Many of these are put in last thing at night or scribbled at odd times when I'm inspired!

When I've decided which animal/character I want to work on,  I begin to research  my subject more thoroughly. Then, I make some preliminary sketches, notes and doodles, to try and get a 'feel' for who I want to create.

Once a picture is forming in my mind of the final character, I start thinking about how I can simplify the form to create a 3D replica in fabric. This part of the process usually involves a lot of mind changing as things don't work evolve!

After I am clearer how I can make a three dimensional figure - and how it will work with costuming/accessories etc, I begin to work on ways to fit the shapes together. This is a very flexible process, I don't create a 'formal' pattern, (unless it's going to be used by other people) or use graph paper or computer software, as I find them too restrictive.

I start playing about with the pieces on scrap paper. Quite often I just cut into my pattern pieces and alter the shapes as I go!

Now I'm at the stage to start roughly piecing in fabric, and thinking about joints and stability. All  my characters are designed to be tactile, and usually positionable, so they must be robust.
I constantly think about fabrics, materials, and the personality of the final character. Often my ideas change as he/she 'grows',  but that is part of the fun! You've probably guessed by now what sort of animal this is going to be - but his/her character is still a mystery!

Just for a further tease - I found a number of things on my walk through the wood,  common cockle shells dropped by gulls,  a lovely, brick red coloured, brown lipped snail shell, and a fragment of a blackbird's egg. I decided to paint them in my journal, and I think some of them will become part of my mysterious  new friend!

I'd love to know how others work. Do you keep a sketchbook or journal? Or do you have other methods of recording and remembering your creative journey and putting projects together?x

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Welcome Hare

 This is my new hare, little Welcome!  He has a very important job.

Every morning he's up before the sun with his cleaning tools.
He carries a little crocheted cotton cloth in his pocket.

  In his right paw is his special, gentle brush, made of the softest reeds.

 In his left, he carries his rusty old pail, which is always full of sparkling dewdrops.
Welcome dusts and polishes the flowers as they wake, and freshens them up with a dewdrop jewel.

 He's been doing this for a very long time,  so his clothes are rather worn.  but he's very  proud of his stripy red dungarees and wouldn't change them for anything. They smell of morning coffee and spices too, which he likes very much!

He's very proud of his job,  but when he's finished he loves to take a long rest and a well deserved snooze!

 He's a thoughtful and loving little hare - but  he's also very friendly and sociable. When it comes to playtime he can be quite mischievous, and has  a lot of adventures!

For now though he's happy to sit and have his photo taken and say 'Hello' to everyone!

Welcome is made entirely with natural products and is hand painted with watercolour paints.  He will be in my on-line shop in June with his personal story scroll and carrying bag! 
Wish me luck please, I am finally taking the plunge to put my characters,  patterns and embroidery designs for sale!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Playing around - simple DIY printing

The last couple of weeks have been frantically busy,  both work and home/family-wise. I also succumbed to a sinus infection which put me out of action for a few days, after which, rushing to get everything done  I felt I was meeting myself coming  backwards. But - the mindfulness/gratitude strategy is slowly sinking in. Instead of panicking (my usual strategy) I realised I needed to take things a bit more steadily and further playtime was necessary! In place of stitching today I decided to have some fun with paint.

This is so good for me - I really don't do messy - and I find it hard to play and push back  my neat and tidy comfort zone! (Himself  says I  am Monica from 'Friends!') Sadly he's not wrong,  I do tend to work in a detailed and controlled way,  so loosening up play times aren't natural to  me, but I'm learning!

I was very impressed with my friend Alison's Gelli Plate for mono printing. I didn't think I'd really use one enough to warrant buying my own,  but  it did inspire me to try a few DIY printy things,  without spending a lot of money.

First I picked some leaves from the garden,  sloshed a mix of Artist's watercolour paints on the back and pressed them onto watercolour paper - using a kitchen towel.

This was really fun!  I tried a few more watercolour prints in my journal on cartridge paper. (These are St Petersburg White Nights watercolour paints which I love.)

Then I got out my fabric scrap bag and tried using acrylic paint onto calico. First I tried some Jacquard Textile paint. I really like how these buddleia leaf prints turned out.

 Flushed with success -  I made up a rough plate using a piece of mat board with some acetate stuck on it  - to see if it would work. I didn't have a brayer, so used a natural sponge to apply the paint (just cheap acrylic craft paint to which  I added some fabric painting medium.(All very high tech!)

Pretty rough and ready, but it worked ok!

I don't have any stamps, so I drew into the paint using a rubber tipped art tool,  then laid fabric scraps over the design and lightly rubbed. These are the results:


Not too bad for a first attempt,  and these are much more free and expressive than how I normally work.  I think I may try a thick silicon mat for a base,  as it will have more spring and flex - and get a proper brayer! Anyone got any tips or suggestions for other DIY/recycled tools and equipment to share -  or more fun ways to play with printing?

I'm going to take some of these prints and see how I can develop them a bit more too.x

Monday, 24 March 2014


Sometimes I know I need to loosen up and let go of things.
Here's an idea to get your embroidery Muse dancing and clapping - and  help use up all those bits of  leftover thread.

Take a small, simple shape.

Here's a bunny, 'cos it's spring! Transfer it to your fabric. (If you're a new stitcher, check out the hints tab to find how to do this.)

Gather together a range of threads- whatever colours you like. Mine were are a mix of Anchor and DMC stranded cottons from my odds and ends box -  I fancied very bright and cheery. 

Thread up some needles, (I used 2 strands of thread and size 7 or 8 needle in a 5" hoop) - and doodle away! Just  stitch as if you are scribbling on your phone pad,  make squiggles if you  like! It doesn't need to  be at all precise and the stitch length can vary -  just  have fun!

I started with back stitch,  making spiral 'roses' in  pinks and greens, literally splodged around the shape, and a few yellow lazy daisies. Then I filled in wherever I felt like it, with chain stitch, Chinese and bullion knots, and kept adding different colours. 
Use it as a 'pick up and put down' project.

You could do any stitches you know and enjoy; the idea is to just to free yourself up - no pressure.

I finally added a bit of text for fun. 

 I found this  exercise really theraputic - just like playing with art supplies. Hope some of you  find it useful too. Now - I need to  go and do the same thing for my painting:) x

Friday, 21 March 2014

Happy Friday!

How has your week been? Mine was busy and hectic, and we've had worrying family news. In today's world, it's so easy to forget to be grateful for all the things we do have.

In my quest to  be more mindful , I'm a member of Action for Happiness, So today I'm  unofficially linking up with Shell's regular Hoppy Friday  post because yesterday was  the UN's International Day of Happiness 2014

Pharrell Williams joined up  with the UN Foundation to ask people around the world to submit footage of them being happy: singing, dancing, playing or doing whatever makes them feel jolly.

One of the most popular and moving videos of the campaign is  from the Philippines. People are dancing amidst the rubble that still exists after 2013's Typhoon Haiyan, the deadliest recorded typhoon in that country.  It's a wonderful  reminder of how resilient human beings  can be.

So if you're not having the greatest week, I hope this makes you smile. If you  are, that's wonderful, please enjoy some more Happy right now!x