Bug Stops Play

Here I am, back again after almost a fortnight flat on my back with only that nasty little blighter, the Campylobacter bacteria for company. Picked up at a local eatery that griddles raw chicken and and makes cold sandwiches in way too small an area resulting in – food poisoning…

But I am back on my feet now – if still a little nauseous – and am keen to get back to making. As I’m not fit enough to start my classes again, I’ve been trying out a few little things at home.

The drawings of Ptolemy Dean, British Architect and erstwhile presenter of the BBC’s   Restoration programme, have long been an inspiration to me for their potential to be recreated in hand-dyed fabrics and machine embroidery. As most of my materials were at my brickworks studio, I had to make do with some watercolour paper and paints blagged off my other – painterly – half.

Here’s the result:

Not something I’d tried before – embroidering onto 140lb watercolour paper – but it was great fun – give it a go if you get the time.

Use a good polyester on the bobbin and a good quality rayon embroidery thread on top. Back off the top tension to between 1 and 1.5 (depending on machine – my Bernina 830 gets all sniffy if I try to take the tension any lower than 1.5 but you all know your own machines).

Mix up a few basic watercolours and daub (that’s the only term that can be applied to my painting skills!) a few loose blocks of colour over the areas you want to shade. Don’t worry about getting it all in, you can add more between stitchings.

Now if you’re impatient for results – like me – you will need to dry your painting with a hairdryer before stitching or the stitching will just disappear into the paper.

Now stitch, keeping the lines loose and wavy and just having a good time. The great thing about stitching on thick paper is it stays rigid and doesn’t buckle and get caught up underneath.

Add more painting and stitching as you need it – you’ll know when it’s done!


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