Ladies arrive at my workshops with all sorts of experiences and expectations. Sometimes, those with the most accomplished sewing skills wait to be given pattern pieces. Some want step by step guidance on which stitch or colour to use- others are happy to go along with the flow. My ultimate aim in all my workshops is that people are given enough encouragement to play. Play with choosing fabrics and threads, play with cutting and tearing, play with overlapping and fraying, play with stitches and play with creating and building up textures. It’s therapeutic, cathartic and deeply satisfying to create your own design. Nothing wrong with following a pattern, I love a pattern too on occasions, and I do totally understand how busy and all consuming people’s lives can be. So to follow a step by step instruction sheet is still rewarding. But it’s much easier to just do whatever feels right at the time. the more you experiment, the more confident you’ll become.
Most of my most pleasing pieces use the same techniques- layering- my favourite thing. I use snippets of floral poplins to give me my initial colour palette, then build on that- using see through organza’s, bunched up fabric flowers, torn dyed lace and threads. The saying “less is more” is often banded about at my workshops. I generally find that the more “stuff” I put out, the more “stuff” people want to use. The secret is to be selective.
There are plenty of successful textile artists out there who’s designs are popular due to their simplicity- Janet Bolton, Sharon Blackman, Mandy Patullo. I personally find it hard to keep the overall design simple. I delight in the balance between a naïve design in the background and a highly decorative, embellished foreground. I don’t worry too much about scale or perspective. The use of colour can make or break a design. My natural colour palette is neutrals and pastels but when I’m selling my work, the brighter bolder colours sell better so I’ve had to be flexible and adapt. Stitches come in all shapes and sizes, I use the same few- nothing hard about them, but sometimes the simplest of stitches can be the most effective.
I meet many folk who can’t cope with a fraying edge or straying thread. The overlapping frayed edges make it for me, as does the framing without glass. I start with an idea then let my imagination take over. I don’t keep a sketchbook (I can’t be a proper artist then can I?), but I have stitched samples of boats, seagulls, beach huts etc, which have become my visual dictionary. I do need to “play” more. To draw from observation, capture every detail, send it to brain, and hopefully retrieve it somewhere along the line, when my hands will instinctively know where to go. It’s all just practise. And I’m always learning- so much more to learn.