Research towards upgrading my watercolour paints

As I finish this first course I realise I am at the point where during 2017 I am wanting to upgrade my student quality paints to artist quality for at least resolved designs or pieces.  I feel this course has been such a steep learning curve what I found I was happy to work with originally is no longer the case now although my student grade paints will still be used for general sketchbook work or roughing out of ideas.

I have both half-pan watercolours and also tubes in the following colours in the Aquafine by Daler Rowney and also Cotman ranges:

Lemon yellow, Gamboge (hue) Yellow, Ochre

Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine and Indigo

Cadmium red (hue), Alizarin Crimson, Permanent Rose and Purple Lake

Burnt Umber and Burnt Sienna

Sepia (hue) and Payne’s grey

Viridian hue and Phtalo green

Chinese White

However I am aware my choices have been determined by I guess what I would term as ‘common usage’ or for the tubes what was in my Winsor and Newton half-pan palette box when I purchased it some years ago. I certainly have my confirmed favourites – Burnt Umber, Alizarin Crimson, Cobalt and Cerulean Blue or Ultramarine and prefer Ochre to Lemon Yellow now but I am getting more practiced in mixing colours I am looking for a more ‘refined’ palette or if you like more professional choices.

In the April 2015 edition of the Artists and Illustrators magazine  there was an article on Choosing a Palette which recommends a good basic selection of 3 cool colours such as Cobalt Blue, Lemon Yellow and Alizarin Crimson or Permanent Rose) and 3 warm colours such as French Ultramarine, Cadmium Yellow (deep) and Cadmium Red – certainly the Crimson and Rose were added after reading this article!  Other useful additions recommended included Burnt Sienna and Permanent Mauve along with Sap Green, Winsor Blue Green Shade and Green Gold – the latter colour I am definitely including in my new list of colours to get as I have seen it and it suits some of the landscapes I seem to enjoy working from.

The author of the article, Sian Dudley, suggests working with a restricted palette to obtain unity in the work you are doing and also to base colour selection on what mood or emotion or memory you wish to evoke and this ties in very much with the lessons I learnt during A Creative Approach.  Another consideration that was pointed out is the whether the colour of the painting is the subject or whether it is used to describe the subject – thinking of my previous theme book I used colour very much to evoke the emotion and therefore in a descriptive manner although it was also the focus of my final textile piece.

Ms Dudley also mentions the qualities of the watercolour – the bottom line is the cheaper paints are not of the same quality as the more expensive artist versions in terms of  granulation or staining.  These qualities can greatly effect the finished piece – granulating paints combined with say rough or Not watercolour papers can give great textural effects whilst a staining paint can be useful for glazing.

Going forward there is a question posed which relates to the colour exercises of ACA – whether you match every colour to your subject – some artists try to match closely and others use ‘close enough’ colours as the article suggests and I am definitely in the latter camp!  I am also happy to use different colours which the author classes as ‘arbitary colours’ which bear no relation to the actual colours and this moves away from a realistic approach to a more abstract approach which is becoming increasingly appealing as my personal voice starts to develop.

One lesson I am learning is not to use black as a colour – this is where Ms Dudley in her article suggests mixing your own version and this ties in with discussions I have seen in watercolour groups on Facebook social media whereby the artists state that a ready-made black tends to be flat in appearance as they do not reflect light.  I only use a ready-made black in my half-pan palette as an easy way of darkening existing colours – it is quick and easy in the same way I like to keep Chinese white in my tube collection as I find I can create different effects when it is used on its own or mixed with other colours e.g. I find Cerulean blue mixed with white is a favourite mix which cannot be created simply by diluting.

I ‘sat on’ this article for a period of time as I have worked through ACA adding some of the colours mentioned above in my list and also working with those in my palette box – sometimes the box was just more convenient for either course work or personal sketchbook work. My selection worked well and did what I required but I now feel I am moving forward due to increasing experience and I want to look again at what I am using and how.  I have also finished my History of Art module too and am fascinated by the different palettes of the Renaissance masters going forward to the Impressionists or Pop Artists and understand that different genres required different colours – obviously taking into account the difference between watercolours, oils and the newer, in historical terms, acrylics.

However from January – April 2016 in Artists & Illustrators magazine there was a series of articles by Grahame Booth, a watercolour artist, about his perfect palette.  Mr Booth went through why he used his original palette of 12 pigments and also the difference  between fugitive pigments and permanent – the fugitive ones being impermanent and lightening or darkening over time or changing appearance.  Mr Booth started off with the primary colours before moving on to secondary and earth pigments and with each article tested a variety of brands with their lightfastness and whether they could be lifted out easily or whether the paint had stained the paper – incredibly useful articles to keep for future reference!

Reading the series of 4 articles gave me a clear view of the differing brands and also just the difference in the hues between each brand – some are very similar and some are surprisingly different e.g. Schminke’s Cadmium Red Middle is darker and strikes in the photographs as more opaque than the translucency of M Graham & Co’s Cadmium Red and this is something to consider.

Grahame Booth recommends considering the pigments, granulation, lightfastness, transparency and staining when choosing new paints.  What I did not know was that all pigments had chemical numbers and names on the tubes e.g. on my Aquafine Yellow Ochre it is listed as Yellow Iron Oxide PY42 – the latter numbers are the colour index numbers (CI).  I am also learning that the Series numbers on the tubes refers to how expensive the paint and the lower the number the cheaper the paint  – all mine are Series 1! I also now understand that my Alizarin Crimson is a fugitive pigment and hence that is one that would benefit from being updated to the permanent version.  I also understand why Ultramarine tends to granulate when I use Not or rough watercolour papers as it is a suspension in water as opposed to a pigment that dissolves.  Regarding the transparency or staining qualities – these are both something I need to keep in mind without question but at this stage in my studies are lesser concerns to me although they could prove very useful.

So what is the palette which Grahame Booth decided on and could this prove a good new palette for me on which I can build?

The colours he chose are Phthalocyanine Green (yellow shade), Green Apatite Genuine, Titanium white, Modern Aureolin, Quinacridone Gold, Burnt Sienna, Quinacridone Magenta, Pyrrole Red, Neutral Tint, Ultramarine, Phthalocyanine Blue (green shade) and Cobalt Teal.

Some of these are colours I have seen recommended in watercolour groups on Facebook – particularly the Quinacridone Gold, Green Apatite Genuine and Cobalt Teal. The Quinacridone pigments only became available in 1958 although they were apparently discovered in 1896 and they are both very transparent and also staining colours so I can definitely understand their popularlity – Daniel Smith’s range is one of the most recommended in the Facebook groups I am in. The Pyrrole pigments (diketopyrrolo-pyrroles or DPPs) are also recent discoveries – literally 30 years ago and are deep, lightfast pure colours and hence the popularity of Pyrrole Red which for me seems more intense in hue than Cadmium Red.

The Green Apatite Genuine is a Daniel Smith colour and apparently you can create a mix of greens from yellow-green through to an olive green with this one colour – this is at the top of my list as although I find I can mix olive greens or yellow-greens relatively well this suits my love of landscapes as it apparently has a dark brown granulation which could prove really effective if I go out to Dovedale in Derbyshire next summer

The colours Grahame Booth has chosen are the ones I will build my new artist grade selection on although I may stick with Winsor & Newton’s Lemon Yellow as opposed to the Aureolin – it depends on the brand and the offers at the time! I also suspect I will add in colours such as Quincridone burnt orange, Moonglow (this is a granulating colour which seems to be a mix of an Indigo separating into a violet) and also Undersea Green which are all highly recommended by other watercolour artists – I copied and pasted a list of recommended Daniel Smith colours from one of the aforesaid Facebook groups for future reference).  There is also no doubt I will also look to upgrade my favoured Payne’s Grey, Burnt Umber and possibly Indigo as well as all 3 of these have been used extensively – relatively neutral darks that have become staples for me personally. One last colour I will look to upgrate is my Aquafine Sepia – another neutral that I want to experiment with using in a limited palette particularly considering my love of history and also of old movies.

I am becoming much more aware it is not just the paint to consider but the paper – if I want texture I look to Rough or Not but if I am looking for smoother washes or glazes then Hot-pressed is the one to go for and I am now using Fabriano 300 lbs or Bockingford 300 lbs which are good quality and considerably better than what I used at the start of the course!  My favoured general paper is a mixed media one as I am really enjoying mixing different types of paint including acrylic and watercolour and also pencils including my Inktense or Graphitint ones.  I also find the mixed media paper I can get as a sketchbook tends to be a little cheaper and I can work on ideas on this saving the Fabriano or Bockingford for the resulting more finished pieces or simply when I require the qualities of the paper.

I guess now to start saving for my new watercolour palette and seeing how the new colours really work during summer 2017!


Booth, G. 2016.  The Perfect Palette 1. Original Colours. Artists & Illustrators. January 2016.  Pages 58-61.

Booth, G. 2016.  The Perfect Palette 2. Primary Colours. Artists & Illustrators. February 2016.  Pages 48-53

Booth, G. 2016.  The Perfect Palette 3. Secondary Colours. Artists & Illustrators. March 2016.  Pages 57-61.

Booth, G. 2016.  The Perfect Palette 4. Earths, Darks and White. Artists & Illustrators. April 2016.  Pages 57-61

Dudley, Sian. 2015.  Choosing a Palette. Artists & Illustrators.  April 2015. Pages 74-76

Ryan, M. 2006-2016.  Understanding Paint Series Numbers and Pigments when Buying Artists Paint [online].  [Date Accessed:  December 2016].  Available from:



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Reflection on Part 5

Please note I have added in some thoughts and some additional notes in response to my tutor feedback and these are in italics.

This is the section of the course I most looked forward to but also was most nervous about as I was aware it was where all the lessons learnt throughout the course would either pay off or my mind would go totally blank!

I had jumped ahead a little prior to reading the course material thoroughly first and so made notes about making a bag of some nature.  When it came to reading through very thoroughly I make a concerted effort to put my ideas to one side and follow the processes through and see where my ideas lead me – if I had had a dressmakers mannequin at this point I have no doubt that a waistcoat or part of a coat would have been something I would have considered.

It was fascinating to get all my sketchbooks out along with the samples and spread them out as best as our tiny lounge would allow and look back through all my work and decide where my strengths and interests lay with colour being at the centre of my ideas.

My theme was Explorations of  Dovedale and Derbyshire which I has been wonderful to explore and work on sketches and paintings over the course of several months.  I realise one of my weaknesses is a tendency to still want to do completed sketches or paintings and then use viewing frames to section off areas and I realise I need  to work on  doing sketches relating to colour, textures and shapes which I had learnt in earlier parts of the course and this is something I need to go back to and revise again.  However one advantage of doing the larger pieces, which were mostly A3 in size, and worked largely from photographs was that I was able to use the aforesaid viewing frames over several different areas of the painting and choose whichever areas I felt had the best possibilities for productive design work.  I may have been working from my own photographs but I did have the knowledge of the colours I had seen through a series of small notes which never made it to my sketchbooks but was also prepared to adapt and interpret to create different moods or emotions.

img_3107Update in response to tutor feedback:  my tutor has asked me to add in notes concerning my thoughts on how the inspiration has led me and this is relatively simple.  I chose a theme that I knew I really loved although this took considerable deliberation – my original theme ideas were based on decaying flowers due to their incredible shapes and also the work of a photographer in Alaska but the lure of Dovedale and the surrounding area proved too irresistible.  I feel the land and the water itself inspired me due to my love of the area and this enabled me to work on designs and developments without ever feeling bogged down – some came more easily and some I would like to go back to in the future and take these sketchbooks in different directions as I go further through the courses.  

The developmental process my tutor also mentions was again a process of trial and error – many of my paintings I just did not feel translated into designs in the way I would have liked despite really liking the actual pieces.  I understood my tutors comments about specific pieces including the drip painted works but these I did not feel I was comfortable with for the final piece.  I am aware I produced a relatively safe style of design eventually although I felt excited about the way it developed and also the final result – this felt right for me at this moment in time although I am also now realising that I could still push this considerably further so it holds more possibilities in the future.  

img_3919This was my second choice design and I do feel this is something I want to try and translate into either a second bag or a wall hanging but possibly now with  differing colour palettes – muted or bright, calm or lively or even just based on the 4 seasons.  

I eventually worked on a series of 5 new paintings with one becoming the source of the final design but also using one earlier painting which provided an initial design that was very close to being the chosen – I had to decide which was the strongest and most appealing to take forward into textiles.

A second weakness is the fact I am not yet in the habit of doing textile samples developed from sketches and designs and this is something I really need to work on and make a part of my every day working practice and that will further improve the way that I approach projects.

As I worked through the different stages I was really unsure what the final end-product would be – I was veering towards a sewing machine cover but that would be site-specific for my sewing space and the colours in that room are very pale and I wanted to be able to use stronger colours if only for the background and hence finally did go back to my original idea of a carpet bag.

As part of the design process I knew I wanted to incorporate weaving into the final product but was also aware of the limitations caused by a troubling whiplash injury so knew I could not site at my home-made A-frame loom for a sufficient period for it to be the main part of the design.  Eventually I decided to use a woven panel as the background to the central section of the design and this worked really well with the appliqued photographic/felt sections and I was able to weave over a couple of nights using a simple cardboard loom – the packaging card that Amazon uses for books/cds etc is the perfect thickness as I discovered.

img_3920For the final design I chose a painting I had done of a bridge that is near the entrance to Dovedale and developed it into the work in this left-hand image – the strong lines and differing illusions of perspective really worked for me.  As I worked on this I also realised my love of architecture which I had studied through the art history course and also my studies concerning perspective were coming to the fore and I also have to take into account that my own grandfather was an engineer.

img_3974As I now look at the resulting textile piece which is the front of the carpet bag I am really surprised at how it worked out and how far removed it is from my original expectations of what I would do!  I really like the strong central panel with the woven background and the photographic applique – the photographs chosen were of trees in and around the Dovedale area which were sliced at different angles to show different textures which were further enhanced with stitching from the reverse.  I am also happy with the plaid chosen as the inner border and which would also be used to bind the top of the bag.  The background fabric to the border which was the starting point in terms of colours was ice-dyed a few weeks previously when our freezer had unexpectedly broken!!  Despite the fact that the applique has not continued correctly across the sides and bottom border I am relatively happy with the resulting effect as it gives a fractured and disjointed result that is almost in contrast with the side/top sections where the applique continues.

One thing I had learnt during this final project was that I am starting to become considerably happier and more confident in working with abstraction – this has taken time but studying the abstract artists of the early – mid 20th century in my art history module has helped considerably to understand the style of abstract and or indeed just the thought processes involved.

Finally the whole project was one in which I did not expect a voyage of discovery and expected the process to be much more logical – it was really fascinating to just let whatever developed develop with no pre-conceptions in mind.

Now I need to look at the assessment criteria points:

  • Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills – I felt I had been able to demonstrate these skills much more thoroughly than I had in previous assignments particularly in regards to techniques, observation and also design and composition.  I used a combination of techniques for this final project including dyeing of fabrics, some basic quilting which although this is my background using metallic thread has been my nemesis in the past, a new technique of using felt backed photographs for the applique and also using a woven panel as a background to the applique.  My design and compositional skills I really felt had developed and this was the first time I have been truly happy with.  My observational skills I feel have developed throughout the course as have my use of materials which I now feel are more experimental.
  • Quality of Outcome – I have without question  had to apply my knowledge gained throughout this course and play to my strengths to achieve the best outcome.  I have been able to gather my ideas and thoughts and through the use of my sketches and design development form them into a workable concept and also present it in a coherent and clear manner through my use of my sketchbooks and also this learning log.  The only issue I currently have is actual presentation in terms of using a series of story boards and samples which show the process through to end-product but this is something I need to work on prior to assessment.
  • Demonstration of Creativity – this is where I feel most confident as I have been prepared to be more experimental and look beyond what I had previously considered.  I was not happy with the techniques I had explored for the possible applique and it was an accidental reading of a book that helped me discover the photographic/felt technique that I eventually used which in turn gave a completely different appearance to what I had previously considered.  I now feel that I could have been more creative and explored other sketches/paintings more thoroughly in terms of development into designs although I am relatively happy with my end-product. My personal voice I feel is starting to develop slowly – I am aware of my love of using colour but am also wanting to experiment with textures and also line in different ways both in terms of sketching/painting and using stitch or fabrics and this is only starting to happen with increasing confidence in my own abilities.  I think as I start to ‘let-go’ and let my work develop without previous self-imposed hindrances my personal voice will develop naturally and freely.
  • Context – this is the area in which I feel I have had the greatest learning curve throughout the duration of the course.  I have researched 2 artists directly in relation to this final project although eventually I did not use the initial ideas that formed and have also had to reflect much more thoroughly than I had previously in order to consider what techniques I wanted to use or my personal strengths.  Regarding critical-thinking – this is something that the art history module has really helped with and the lessons learnt in that module I am starting to apply in my textile work and with my textile learning logs.  I feel now I am much more confident in terms of research, reflection and critical thinking and as I have said this has been the biggest learning curve of the course.

Overall this final assignment has been one of the most enjoyable to do but also one of the hardest as I explored various options and hitting a proverbial ‘artists block’ but the end result is one of which I am happy with at this point although whether it is creative enough or developed enough I can only wait and see.


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Reflection on the course as a whole

I confess to not being entirely sure where to start with this reflection as it seems very strange to be writing this considering it is my first completed textiles course!

The course has been a journey of discovery with renewing my love of some old techniques whilst also learning many new ones and I have loved every second of it!  It has been a steep learning curve particularly considering I haven’t studied on this level before and the support of fellow students who were always willing to critique or answer really daft questions in the initial stages was invaluable as has been the feedback from my tutors.

Looking back to Part One and the mark making exercises as well as looking at initial design development I remember finding it very frustrating despite the enjoyment as I did not know what was expected of me and felt very much the new student.   This first part was terrifying as it seemed there was a very long way to go until the final part and I did not dare look too far ahead!   However by Part Two I started to find my feet and also the fact that it involved colour helped tremendously as  I have always enjoyed working with colour in any media and am very much aware of the effect it has on emotions and moods.  The printing and painting aspects along with the further developments of design were really enjoyable and I remember loving the printing which is something I did not anticipate.  Part Three was again familiar territory with fabric manipulation and applique but I did not really push myself out of my comfort zone enough as it was all too easy and I now feel I could have used my skills in very different ways but that is part of the learning curve.  Part Four – oh yes trying to work out proportions of colour …. I dreaded this part! I have never been able to work out proportions accurately so I devised a simple grid system that will no doubt be used again but the textures, structures and finally the weaving I really loved doing despite having sustained a whiplash injury that created numerous problems as I could not bend over any hand-made loom – this meant the development of an A-frame loom which proved really useful and I have plans to use it again over the winter as well as exploring other types of small looms.  Weaving is something I now love and will no doubt be a part of my future textile practice.

So here I am having finished Part Five – did the course achieve what I had hoped?  Yes without question as I know it has given me a good solid foundation to build on with my future courses in the combination of techniques both in textile and design. Obviously if I could go back I would do things differently but that is with the hindsight of learning and that is part of the process.

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Project 10: Stage 4: Making your textile piece


UPDATE:  I have added the finished lining pieces and addition samples after feedback from my tutor and have added these to this blog.

Following on from Stage 3 as I have previously said I decided to make up only the front of my carpet bag with a view to completing it after tutor feedback.  I decided to allow for small changes to the design such as placement of the applique photographic/felt pieces which in turn allowed for how I cut and sliced them.  The design itself allows for the suggestions in the course material of changes in colour, texture and pattern particularly taking into consideration the different fabrics and yarns used.

img_3890The first stage was to decided on the woven central section and this is I decided to do 2 samples – one with a variegated yarn in shades of blue, pink, lilac and green and other using two different variegated yarns but in more muted blues and browns. This yarn was chosen specifically to reflect the colours of the water and also some of the gentle colours of the flowers on the banks of the river.

img_3888The second sample I loved the colours and I also managed to get the edges of the woven area even.

However the brighter first sample became the one I used for the final piece – I had some plaid fabric of unknown wood/acrylic mix, (due this being a skirt I made several years ago), in the same colours and these contrasted well but also harmoniously with some of the photographs I was intending to use for the applique.

img_3929The appliqued sections were made up by backing the chosen photographs with felt and then stitching from the felt side with chosen colours in the bobbin in a variety of different stitches to create texture.  At this point I sliced the images into the sections required but allowing for some variation.  The images I chose were of different trees as I bore in mind the fact that they would be representing the planks of wood of the bridge and the images themselves add an illusion of texture – I had really liked the process Maggie Grey’s book (pages 20-21) and felt that this technique used some of my literally hundreds of photographs I have taken for this theme for this project.

img_3936Before appliqueing the sections onto my chosen woven section I did two samples to see how this worked and to check whether I needed to adjust either my stitch setting or my needle.  I used a simple zig-zag stitch with width of 3 and length of 1 which worked well.  The only thing that was a slight issue was if I stitched horizontally across the rows as this could leave a slight hole – on the final woven section I backed this section after stitching with the ice-dyed calico both for strength and also so that any movement of the weft was disguised although fortunately I was able to prevent any such holes.  In retrospect I would add a stabiliser of some nature to the woven section before appliqueing the shapes – this could not obviously be an iron-on version but could be simply basted in large stitches.

img_3932To double check that the colours of the woven section did work I did the second sample on a small portion of the ice-dyed calico that I had chosen for the border and suffice to say am more than happy with the combination of colours which create harmony but also gentle movement.

My cartoon of the textile piece was clipped to a notice board in front of my sewing machine for the duration of the making up of the piece and was referred to constantly for positioning and also checking the size as each area was added.

img_3942The final woven centre was stitched with different coloured threads both to add a little additional definition to the appliqued photographic images and each section was made up of two slightly contrasting images – I wanted to define each section as if they were two sides of the lengths of wood that made up the bridge. My pins for the edge of the panel can be seen as I marked out the position to add the plaid strips for the inner border.

img_3944I took considerable time deciding on the positioning of the outer border appliqued sections as I was very much aware of trying to prevent too much bulk in the seams and this is where I referred to the cartoon in order to create the illusion of perspective on the textile piece.

img_3947I can honestly say after stitching the outer border on with the appliqued sections completed I stood back and realised this was totally different then my original ideas – when I read through my blogs written before I started Part 5 with just my ideas and thoughts I had something very different in mind with a Clarice Cliff inspired woven design at the forefront!



The original idea was based on this panel which I had not completed for Assignment 4 – again it was based on a photograph taken in Dovedale but the huge problem was the length of time it took and the effect on my whiplash injury so unfortunately it was not going to be possible irregardless to take this forward.  However the weaving does work on the whole and it is something to bear in mind for future projects.

img_3948Going back to the final piece I was unsure whether to add hand-stitched details or to free-motion quilt the front – I am very much aware the wadding and quilting adds strength to a bag and additional padding which can be of great benefit so decided on the latter.  I firstly chose to use a polyester wadding behind the central panel before adding a cotton wadding but leaving the back piece off as I feel it would be neater to do the lining as a separate piece for inserting into the bag once the back is completed and attached to the front – I would use small stitches to secure the lining and bag exterior as well as binding the tops together using bias cut strips of the plaid fabric.

img_3974For the actual quilting I chose a fine metallic thread with an iridescent sheen and free-motion quilted in an all over design – the intention of this thread was to give the impression of the sparkling water of the river in Dovedale as it gently flows over the rocks and underneath the bridge.



I did try out different quilting patterns before committing to the final piece and also this proved useful in order to get the correct needle, (for my machine a Red Tip Janome needle), and also to reduce the tension down to 2, (normally 5), and changing the foot to a free motion darning foot as well as dropping the feed dogs – the most crucial of those stages is the tension and the needle as this prevents breakage of a very fine metallic thread which I have never used until today without it breaking constantly!

The final result of the quilting enhances the background fabric with the ice-dyed patterns whilst also not detracting from the strong structural shapes – the quilting adds a feeling of movement reflecting the water of the River Dove and Manifold in Derbyshire as I state above.

The only issue I  have with the end result is the fact that the applique to the bottom left has not gone into the left hand border as I originally planned – this was an oversight on my part but on the other hand it is also not a ‘deal breaker’ for me as I feel the border is broken and disjointed whilst still having the depth of perspective that I required.   As I look at it further I do like the fact the bottom panel is defined clearly from the rest of the bag – it is as if it is the foundations for the structures above and that in itself is a design detail

As I have written up these notes I have added some of my samples to my theme book and some onto display cards – this will need to be altered for assessment to create a coherent displaying showing the stages of the project and how it has come together.

Before starting Part 5 I had spent some time dyeing different fabrics to see what qualities I could use but my final choice was the one caused by a broken freezer – the ice-dyed calico!

img_3928I also have different sketches in my theme book including one of an idea that was swiftly dropped – the design painted onto calico using acrylic paint, Inktense pencils and textile medium. I liked the fact that the design does work in this media but it was not suitable for the end result due to the fabric being too stiff for me to stitch in the way I would like to but it is worth bearing in mind too how this works.


I had decided to leave completion of the rest of my samples until after my tutor feedback and these samples primarily included the finished lining pieces, back panel and samples of the strap, zip placket and key fob.

img_4447I did one additional small sample of the woven central panel in order to show the ombre style shading of the wool I used clearly – the original version has been used for the actual central panel so this is purely for sample purposes and useful reference in the future.  One thing I forgot when working this sample is to use a simple dowel rod to keep the weaving from becoming pushed down the base of the cardboard as each row is gently tamped down.


The back panel I decided on just using the tweed fabric which I backed with the cotton batting and quilted using the same metallic thread and free motion stitching that I had for the background of the front panel.  I am aware that I had not got the fabric as straight as I would like but this is due to having to use what I had available – bearing in mind this is an old recycled skirt.  However I have discovered that the quilting does stabilise the fabric when it is not cut on the grain although I had to pin very carefully.  On thing I do regret a little is not stabilising the edges first – a simple straight stitch but with a longer length than usual would also prevent any fraying of the fabric.

Please note if this section was not the back of the bag the fact the lines are not completely straight would really bother me as I am aware it is in incorrect but as I state I am working with a recycled skirt and having to cut slightly off the grain purely for being able to cut this section as one whole piece.

The lining pieces were relatively simple to do – I decided on one tweed side and one ice-dyed cotton with the pieces being stitched so that the ice-dyed cotton is the lining for the tweed back outer piece and the tweed lining lies against the front outer piece.

img_4476For the lining for the back section I added a simply made pencil pocket which I placed to allow for the recessed zip.





For the front panel lining I made the pocket separately before top stitching it to the fabric.  I also stay-stitched around the exterior of the lining piece – this has pulled a little along the bottom seam but am aware that this will not be an issue when the lining is stitched together.



As I make up the bag I have to bear in mind and be very careful of the side edges particularly when adding the lining as there will be resulting sharp corners at the sides.  As the lining and outer pieces are stitched together the handle tabs will also be added at the side edges – when the lining is turned through to the inside and after pressing I will top stitch around the whole of the top edge which will add strength to the handle tabs.  I have added a sample of how I intend to work this top edge to my display mount board for assessment.

I have stated in my design that I wish to have  a recessed zip and this will be added about 1 inch down from the top edge of the bag – at this point I must confess to having realised I have made an error in my design and not allowed for the addition of this in the lining pieces.  However I feel I can still add this zip albeit in a different way by making the zipped placket section but neatly edging the pieces so that they can be top stitched directly to the lining pieces – it may not be conventional but it would be a problem solved.

The sides and bottom of the bag will be formed by boxing out the corners – simple but effective without having to be concerned about adding side or base panels which I have had some issues with adding to bags neatly in the past.

img_4485One final, but I feel personally essential, addition is the kumihimo braided key fob which will be stitched to an inner side of the bag – this is so that I can just clip my house or car keys onto the fob and not be having to always look for them in the bottom of my bag!!  I would be adding a small split ring to the cap at one end and this would then be attached to a D-ring on the inside of the bag.

From a practical point of view the bag will serve its purpose of being an art bag but will also be used as a practical hand bag – it is large enough (37 x 30 cm unstitched so approximately 35 x 28 cm finished as I use a 1 cm seam allowance).

As I now finish making up the textile piece or my section of it the course material asks the following questions:

  • Can you see a continuous thread of development from your original drawings and samples to the final designs?  If I go from the very beginning of my theme books then no as I have primarily finished sketches with some developed into textile ideas including using dissolvable fabric or weaving with some ideas developed into possibly applique designs at Stage 3.  However if I start at the point where Part 5 starts then yes I can see a thread of development very strongly from the beginning through to the end result – one of my first paintings in my larger sketchbook became one of the two designs that I had to choose from with the final choice resulting from a sketch at Stage 3 of this project.  It is this final sketch that became my final end design.
  • Do you feel you made the right decisions at each stage in the design process?  If not, what changes would you make?  Yes I do now feel that my decisions were correct – I was unable to do this final project concentrating on it totally until literally the past few days due to completing my fifth assignment on my art history module but this proved useful and beneficial as it forced me to step back some days and look again at what I was doing and how and that enabled me to make the decisions that I did.  I dismissed what I thought would not work and spent considerable time thinking about each stage and how the idea would work before moving on to the next.  It was only in the final stages of the textile piece that I realised fully that the design would work in a much better way than I had envisaged.
  • Were you able to interpret your ideas well within the techniques and materials you chose to work with?  Yes I felt I was able to do this but I confess to another chance incident at this point – the book Image to Stitch was a library book I had had out for about 3 months and forgotten about and it was on the day I was due to return it I discovered the photographic technique I ended up using for my applique and suffice to say the book was swiftly ordered from Amazon the same day!  I felt that my design was strong enough in its simplicity that the techniques I wanted to use would work but I had to keep in mind the perspective illusions that I wanted to create at all times – it was the perspective created by the photographs that enabled me to choose the dyed calico, the yarn for the centre woven section and the plaid to create a feeling of calm and harmony but with a gentle sense of movement.
  • How successful is your final design in terms of being inventive within the medium and coherent as a whole?  I am happy with it – I feel it has been far more successful than I anticipated and I have been more willing to step outside of my comfort zone than I have previously.  I did not anticipate doing an abstract piece or one that required the use of some of my photographs and that alone was  technique I had never used before but one I am now keen to explore further.  I feel my design has been inventive in the use of those photographs to create the design – they create a slightly stronger feel to the piece as the photographs mean it is not as flexible as fabric would be if appliqued but they also add an element to the bag front that I do not feel just plain fabric alone would have achieved.

So my final piece of my own I show again below – very different from what I had planned but stronger and more linear than I had expected it to be at any point when I sat painting the scenes of Derbyshire and when I expected my ideas to be more organically shaped with more hand stitched detail or reverse appliqued detail.  For this project I let the designs flow and develop in an almost evolutionary process without a set idea until the very end – it was literally as I started to make the piece I fully realised that yes this will be that carpet bag I had originally thought about.


As a point of note – the handles will be woven and fabric backed with a simple buckle or tie fastening above the recessed zip.  I will also put an additional D-ring inside the bag attached to either the front or the back with a small snap fastener to hook my keys onto as I am always loosing them at the bottom  – a small practical point that will be incredibly beneficial.


Grey, M. 2008.  Image to Stitch. London. Batsford



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Project 10: Stage 3: Developing your design

This is the stage I nearly scrapped my theme book – I hit a complete block and could not decide where to go with my ideas so put everything down for a few days and then came back to it with a fresh mind and clear head.

img_3835I re-read the course material which suggests looking back at Part Two for developing design ideas and looking for shapes and drawings and got out my two black viewing frames (I have two sets of l-shaped black card) and looked over my drawings and samples at different areas in my recent paintings and also previous pieces in my theme book.



The first painting that really appealed was one inspired by the work of Paul Corfield – I liked the combination of shapes and colours and I tried two different areas of the painting with differing media.  I initially tried a collage piece which I actually really like surprisingly considering I do not enjoy collage that much but now understand both the process and the technique – studying art history has again played a part here.

I also tried using different colours and marks representing textures to suggest the form whilst also thinking about some of the end-products suggested in the course material.  A selection of the sketches can be seen below:



img_3912Some of these I consider successful and others just ‘interesting’ …. I like the shapes and the ideas. These sketches have very organic shapes that with shapes within each other and dividing up and I could without question see these ideas having potential as a textile piece but again they were not exciting me enough – I can however see a future quilt as a personal project but not for this final design at this stage.

img_3917I did also try doing some ideas from some of my other sketches/drawings but these could easily have gone strait in the bin!  Nothing worked at all with these for this project.



Another look at my paintings and this one stood out with the bridge particularly when viewed using a viewing frame.  I liked the strong lines and colours of the bridge and felt I could really take this forward with design work – the contrast of the hard and the soft edges of the wood against the water and the trees or the colours that are harmonious but complementary (the orange family of the wood complementing the blue of the water) combine to inspire with distinct possibilities.

img_3918The first set of sketches focused on a singular area and immediately it was obvious there were strong design possibilities – I tried two different colour combinations with the lower adding in small ovals taken from the Paul Corfield inspired painting.

The top design the colours and strong lines/forms really stood out and I liked the possibilities of playing with perspective – this comes back to the art history studies again as I had studied the development of perspective in the Renaissance and Baroque period and its subsequent use throughout the centuries.


img_3919From this point I decided to try combining both the shapes from the Paul Corfield inspired paintings with the strong lines and architectural shapes of the bridge.  I did try two different colourways of this design which I really liked – this became one of two I had to choose from for my final end-product.

At this point I re-read the course material again to ensure I was going in the right direction – I was happy to let the ideas flow and see what developed naturally rather than force it.  One thing that was becoming obvious was the abstract nature of my designs which I really liked as this is new to me and very exciting too – as I have said previously abstraction does not come naturally but it is something that is clearly developing.

img_3920I decided to try the bridge idea but within a window as I have loved the vistas over the summer as I have peered through doorways or tree branches.  I wanted to change the colours but still keeping the central colours the greens and blues of Dovedale and Derbyshire. I also wanted to give an impression of the design going beyond the borders and with vanishing viewpoints but also broken up and disjointed in the way that branches or even rickety old bridges appear.

Having pinned this up overnight I realised I had done quite an architectural piece but one that had more meaning than just my art history and sketchbook studies – my paternal grandfather was an engineer (specialism in concrete in the 1950’s – 70’s) and my own son also has an engineering qualification plus I worked for a town planner and architect many years ago along with having a long term interest in historical architecture. This design represents my love of Dovedale but also represents a part of my personality that is very deep rooted.

img_3877Before I totally committed to the design I tried again the combination of the organic curved shapes combined with the bridge but with added ovals to add interest and movement but still was not entirely happy – this is the design that I feel could work as a quilt for the future with applique and extensive textural quilting on a much larger size (thinking lap quilt or bed quilt size) and may yet be my entry into a local quilt show in April!

img_3977I considered the suggested end-products including a cushion, bag, waistcoat plus also a sewing machine cover or wall-hanging and eventually came back to my initial idea of a carpet bag for use when going out with my art materials – I could not shake the fact that this could really work and inspiration was taken from the book Image to Stitch by Maggie Grey.  I really liked the idea of using actual photographs for the appliqued structures – the images are backed with felt and stitched from the wrong side with different stitches to create texture.

img_3969I drew the design up into a working design measuring 40.5 cm x 29.5 cm and in the photograph above the corners are folded over as I decided where to cut the corners for the bag design. The photograph to the left shows the actual carpet bag design in my sketchbook with markings for where I would add a recessed zip, the boxed corners and also attaching the handles using fabric tabs and D-rings. I decided on boxed corners as this negates having to do side panels and a bottom panel and I am aware of difficulties I have had in the past when I have made a bag previously and also there is the question of whether the panels are attached with seams externally which would need binding or on the interior which add further bulk.  Boxed corners also for me add a softer aspect to the bag and enable the design to naturally go around the sides and base too particularly if the bag is either done in a similar manner to the front or as a plain plaid background which is my preferred option.

img_3970The fabric to be used for the border is ice-dyed calico – dyed during late summer when our freezer broke (I used the resulting ice!) and the centre I wanted to do a woven panel as during Part 4 I had loved weaving but had to bear in mind the on-going effects of a whiplash injury so realised I could do this panel on cardboard (card that comes as the ‘wrapping’ for books from Amazon proved the perfect thickness and rigidity).   I also worked out any internal details such as a pocket with zip albeit without any specific sizes but would anticipate it being the same size as the woven exterior panel which is 23 cm x 14.5 cm.

The only thing at this stage that I was undecided upon was whether to add any additional hand stitching or machine quilting but I thought I would see how the front of the bag looked before making that final decision – please note due to my whiplash and time constraints I decided only to do the front panel at this stage with a view to making the whole bag up before assessment and after tutor feedback.


Grey, M. 2008.  Image to Stitch. London. Batsford

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Project 10: Stage 2: Focusing on your theme book


Please note this blog has been updated in accordance with my tutor report.

This is the stage where the mood boards I mentioned in Stage 1 really came to the fore as I looked carefully through my theme book seeing if any drawings, colours or magazine cuttings held my attention as directed by the course materials – magazine cuttings for me are non-existent as all my images are photographs I have taken myself over the course of the past 12 months.

img_3819Having looked through my theme book I have been happy with the sketches that I have done and some were developed in previous sections of this course such as for the applique at Part 3 but nothing was really grabbing my attention regarding colour, shape or just the composition – something just was not working properly although some of the sketches as whole pieces I have really liked when I looked to break them down or take them forward they just didn’t excite me.

I laid out my mood boards with fresh images and did a series of new sketches and paintings based on a few with some of the samples from previous sections nearby for inspiration.  The work that came from these was much freer and I realised I had loosened up in my style considerably and had finally got to grips with the fact the images needed to represent what I saw not necessarily an accurate copy – I could represent my emotions or the colours I saw in a looser form.

img_3833What has really helped is that as I have done this final section of the course I was also finishing my fifth assignment for the art history module and had read a considerable amount on the Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, Fauvism, Cubism and Abstract art movements.  As each new sketch was done I felt my painting moving towards abstraction – I liked working with acrylic and watercolour in the same piece to provide contrast in light, colour and tone.  Eventually there were 5 new paintings including this one purely using loose brush strokes and brighter colours – it was originally a stone moon gate looking through to a lake surrounded by fauna.

img_3834The other new paintings can be seen in this photograph.  I kept the works totally separate at this stage without combining separate images from different areas of source material and also on the whole doing a complete image which I felt could then be taken down further – this is the way I prefer to work as I have learnt as I feel I can even look back at a source image if I like one particular area on a sketch/painting and note further details or colours or textures in a larger ‘zoomed in’ work.

Looking through the work I can see how I have been inspired by the theme I have chosen  – the tranquility and peace of the area is evoked through the colours and gentle reflections on the water or as the water itself as it rushes under a bridge or over rocks.

img_3822The course material does suggest combining different areas of different images and I understand the point about discouraging any attempt to just copy the image – perhaps I still have done to an extent but I have also learnt to interpret the colours or change them to suit the mood that I am requiring e.g. in one image the colours were much more muted and I wanted stronger definition to really get across the differing light and feel of the area or in another the water was much calmer as it rippled over the rocks but I wanted the water to appear a little quicker and create a feeling of movement.

img_3821As I worked with these paintings I took note of the course material suggesting thinking about how to make marks when the image is scaled up so that say one small area of paint, a flick, may become a shape and this was a definite consideration particularly regarding leaves and the shape of any rocks.  However much to my surprise my resulting end-design concentrated on  architectural shapes rather than the organic of the trees and leaves and rocks.  The painting I thought at this stage I would take forward is this one as the copper colours of the river contrast with the leaves and greens of the bank – it is a harmonious calm scene accurately portraying the day the photograph was taken.

I did take note of contrast and harmony in my pieces – these I am increasingly finding are crucial to me as it dictates the resulting mood or emotion I am trying to portray.

img_3831As I worked through these paintings I kept reflecting back on to previous pieces and sketches and have been surprised at how my work has changed over the months and also at how my approach is beginning to really alter – I am looking for photographs or images that I can take forward compositionally rather than just ones I would like to paint/draw although those will still be done without a specific idea or end product/theme in mind and just for pure enjoyment as you never know what might develop.  I am aware I am looking for texture, form, line, colour or shape throughout the images and as I work looking at specific details that could work in a larger format – my visual awareness has changed considerably.

UPDATE AFTER TUTOR REPORT:  As I have looked through these images again I can see just how much my work has been led and inspired by them – it is difficult to express just what Dovedale means to me but suffice to say my heart was in this theme and as a consequence this is a very emotionally led final part of the course.  I am not sure whether it is the memories I have in Dovedale or whether it is the colours or just the overall feeling of peace and tranquility but something beyond the photographs inspired the paintings and the final design that was to come out of it but perhaps this goes back to the fact that Dovedale is as close as I can possibly get here in Derbyshire to Dartmoor – the area which the first house I clearly remember looked across the valley on to so I saw it every day for 4 years.

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Project 10: A design project: Stage 1: Reviewing your work so far

img_3794The course directs me to  get all my samples and sketchbooks out as well as assembling fabrics, threads and drawing materials …. eeek I only have a tiny house!!  Suffice to say this photo is just of my samples which were fascinating now to see as a whole – it makes me realise just how much I have done and also how far I have progressed in terms of technique and design.

img_3795I spent a considerable time looking at various samples and as the course directs cross-referencing between drawings and samples and making any new notes.  The samples I really felt I could work with are pictured – these included ones with texture, colour and stitch and I felt these could be incorporated with my work on Dovedale and Derbyshire.  At this stage I thought embroidery stitches would play a large part in my final design although as I was later to discover this would not be the case – a result of these stages meant my end result is as far removed as it could be from my initial thoughts and ideas.

img_3976Reading again the course material the suggestions are to consider which techniques I enjoyed using and whether ideas that emerge from fabric manipulation excite me or whether stitch could be used to translate an aspect of my sketches etc.  The directions also point me to consider whether different techniques could combine to create further development of ideas and to look for shape or form in my sketches which could create a larger more defined piece of work – it is the last point that proved the most crucial i.e. form.  I noted down what I felt were my strengths and what I liked – my biggest strength is use of colour so I wanted this to be a primary focus with secondary on form/shape and also texture.

img_3817I also decided at this stage it would be useful if I looked again at my VERY large collection of photographs taken over the summer and do a series of 5 boards – Trees, Tranquility, Doorways, Plant and Buildings with one word descriptions put against each image. This was a useful exercise at this stage as I spent a couple of days looking at each in order to try and decide from these images alone what appealed and whether there was one or or more areas I wanted to use in my final design – Doorways and Tranquility involving the photographs I took of the River Dove in Dovedale and the River Manifold at Ilam were my primary focus.  I loved the colours of the Plants too with the purples and blues.  These boards were effectively mood boards that I could develop further.

img_3926I also made up one board with the selection of my fabrics and yarns including some calico that I had ice-dyed and this enabled me to see exactly what I had gathered over a period of time with this theme in mind.

The mood or theme boards has proved to be an incredibly useful part of the design process for me and helps me to gather my thoughts and gain further ideas from and these boards were kept close to hand throughout the subsequent stages.


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