Category Archives: module 3

Memories of Istanbul – the completed piece

Finally it’s finished!

My evaluation of the piece

I kept to my inition vision of a hanging inspired bythe plaque I had seen hanging by a doorway in Istanbul.  The main difficulty was how to incorporate all the images I wanted to include, but this became easier once I had made horizontal divides rather than vertical ones – this was a huge improvement.  The project grew more and more complex in order to produce what I wanted.  The whole piece took me 104 hours to complete , starting in October 2012, finishing January 2013 and that did not include thinking time.  I spent around 50 hours in the planning, designing and sampling stage, and 50 hours making it, although I was still experimenting and sampling well into this stage as some elements could only be resolved once I had begun to put everything together.  I spent a further 5 – 6 hours on the blog and evaluation. It is difficult to evaluate costs as apart from buying a length of calico, I used materials I already had.  An estimate would be around £15.

This is definitely the most complex piece I have ever attempted.  It was interesting to note how many of the techniques I had learnt through the course came into their own – without my really searching for them.

I am very pleased with the results, though am probably still too close to the piece to really appreciate it yet.  I certainly learnt a huge amount in doing it.

Assessment piece – towards the light at the end of the tunnel!

I love this screen on a window looking out from the women’s quarters in Topkapi Palace and wondered how I might incorporate it into the piece.  I decided that, rather than stitch onto the piece itself, I would stitch onto soluble fabric and wash away.  The photo mockup had potential, but was maybe a bit complex.  Then, when I experimented with this, I couldn’t avoid the spider’s web effect rather than a solid round shape.  Experimenting with vanishing muslin wasn’t much better, so in the end I decided a simple grid pattern would look better – it gives the effect of looking out into the outside world of mosques, but is not so intricate that the eye is taken by the pattern rather than looking through.

The ends of the bars will be stitched down.

I have left the central pattern open, so as to be able to see through more clearly onto the mosque shapes (reflecting today’s more secular society) where I have done a lot more stitching, though felt I needed to extend the grid slightly into it.  I think I will get rid of thetwo dome lines that cross from the left panel to the central one.  I am still not sure whether there is enough stitching,  maybe in all three panels?  Does the stitching on the sides look bitty and does it matter that there is on open area of blue in the top right corner of the central panel?

I have done some experiments on the side border design.  I like the right hand one, though the stitch on this is very rough.  The correct design will be as per the tracing above, with the gold prints done first.

I think the top screened area and the tiles now balance each other quite well, but I am still uncertain how to proceed with the bottom part.  It obviously needs more stitching and I am still drawn to the idea of granite stitch. but I don’t want to totally cover the bondaweb colours or the shapes of the domes.

January 3rd 2013

The stitching is done on the top areas!

I’ve been working on the lower section.  This is a full size sketch.  I wanted the cobbles to recided into the distance so reduced their size from front to back, as well as narrowing the overall shapes.  I then felt the whole thing needed more stitching so I restitched the dome shapes with metallic thread and added roof lines in the same way as the domes in the top area.  I also added a little more colour to the some top areas of the bondaweb to reinforce the idea of horizon.

I am pleased with this border, I think the delicate stitching over the stencil prints is just right.






















I found another photo of a window screen in the Topkapi Palace with curved ironwork.

This traced design shows the effect it would have.  I can’t make up my mind which I prefer.  This one is more authentic  whereas the square grid echoes the shape of the tiles.

 January 9th 2013

Here are the completed screens, having decided the curved shapes work much better.  I have stitched only the ends down so that the body hangs loose and looks more 3-dimensional.

When I looked again at the images of the arches in the Palace,  you could see the blocks done in alternate colours, so I first stitched patterns onto the exisating shapes.  Then I added the appliquéd shapes so you can still see the patterns behind.

The final borders trimmed and ready to attach. I notice one of the beads has slipped slightly.  They are loose at present so i think I will add a hand stitch to secure them in place.

Assessment piece – further work

I’ve done a lot more playing around with the tiles.  I’ve moved the tiles down by removing the third tile on the far right, which gives a much better positioning.  this means the missing moulding paste tiles are no longer correctly placed but I can see where these will go and I will also put a little paste between each tile. I thought a stenciled tile (probably a little fainter than shown here) would work well in the missing spaces and make sense of the middle tile of stem and leaves.  I’ve also reduced the size of the top and bottom red tiles.  I moved the two border tiles on the left into the exterior border.  I then added some torn strips of tile print into the arched shapes at the bottom (second image below) to re-enforce the tile theme.  I haven’t yet decided the final placing of the strips – whether to have them in all three arches or not.  And because I will have a couple of strips extending into the border, I moved the two left hand tiles back to their original placings. The painted bondaweb will extend throughout the whole arch which I hope gives depth to the idea of looking through the arch and I thought to extend scraps of bondaweb into the lower border.  I will shorten the arches slightly so only the right hand border tile protrudes into it. The other tiles will be just above the top of the arches.

I tried out some more ideas on the fabric mockup.  I like the idea of tearing the paper closer to the actual minaret shapes so will do this more.  I inked and then stitched the dome and arch shapes.  The tiles are obviously not in the correct place, but I wanted to try hand stitching one with the edges turned in.  I don’t feel this works – the fabric is so heavy and loosely woven that I didn’t feel it was neat enough, so I have settled on the shape on the right which is machine stitched with a long zigzag in the same colour thread as the fabric so it hardly shows.  I tried the stencil on the border but don’t feel this works, so won’t use it. I’ve also enlarged the border from 3 to 4 cms on the fabric mockup below.  I’m not sure about this but I think the final decision will have to wait until I see the three panels stitched and placed together.

I’m having to rethink the top and bottom edgings.  Just stitching onto soluble will be too flimsy.  I thought of stitching onto scrim and soluble but again too flimsy, won’t look right.  My latest idea is to use felt and burn away the edges.  I want to make small paper beads to hang on the tassels.  I would also have to make holes in the felt through which to thread the tassels.

September 17th

Here is the work I have done so far on the finished piece, with detailed pics below.

I think I prefer the dark background betwen the panels. It is a piece of almost black indigo cloth.  I don’t have enought to do the entire backing with, so will use two pieces where the gaps are sown onto the red fabric which will form the backing ( I would have had to use two panels of red anyway to show the front of the fabric).  I’ve used a mix of gold and copper threads for the stitching on the domes and minaret.  I am undecided whether I need more stitching or whether this is enough.  I want suggestion rather than overstatement.

I only used one layer of felt behind the tiles, having used some iron-on interfacing to anchor the threads at the back.  Possibly I should have used two layers.  The print on to the moulding paste was done with an expanded foam tulip shape to give a faint undefined shape.  I have yet to add the tile images within the domes and I am thinking of adding some granite stitch in gold which will meander into the border.  I haven’t yet decided on the width of the borders, nor have I  experimented with the top and bottom borders.

December 20th

I have decided to have the red borders at 2 cms top and bottom, 5 at the sides.  With the additional top and bottom edge borders I think this will balance well.

I think the experiment below will work well for the top and bottom borders. The tassel needs to be a little longer and fuller.

I haven’t trimmed these borders yet.  They will actually end at the stitching and will be stitched or tacked in place on the main work before I add the backing, so as to get them in the correst place.   The lutradur has been burnt back in places.

This cord will be threaded through the eylets and looped round a pole.





I will use these threads to make the tassels hanging from the bottom border.





This is some paper I ahd left over from earlier work, layering and painting dye spotted kitchen paper and napkins.  I’ll add a bit of copper and gold paint as there is a bit too much pink in the paper.

Chapter 7 Design and composition

I used a motif from one of the tiles in my image bank for the assessment piece.

Foam print block

I don’t think my first attempt below works very well, the second is better.

Distorted images

I used a tulip petal to play around with, drawing on to a pair of tights.

Expanding a motif

This is maybe a little dark and monotone in colour but I like the overall distressed look of the background which could resemble an old tile.


In the stitched samples above, the fuschia, no 3, is too dark, the one belowis more like the buddlia flowers in the image.  I’ve left threads attached where I have used two in the needle so I can see what I used.


In the above piece I started off using white bobbinfill, but as this didn’t give a very good block of colour, I switched to using turquoise in the bobbin as well (halfway through sample 2).

Using these design ideas together

I took one section of the tulip petal and expanded it.  The horizontal lines seemed to break up the image too much so I extended them across the whole piece.

The Fibonacci sequence

Three designs for hangings, using Golden Section focal points



Assessment piece

Preliminary thoughts for the assessment piece

I think I have settled on the following format for my assessment piece.  Some further thoughts:

Pages from my Istanbul Journal March 2012:

More thoughts and experiments for the assessment piece.

The plaque below really took my fancy.  I think the borders could be interpreted by the wrapped cords and tassels.

More examples of tiles:

Enlargements of tulip and carnation:

Isolating possible patterns:

I like the idea of running patterns from one tile to another and will need to find ways of doing this.

Colour swatches taken from tiles:

Idea for background:

Rough experiment to see how stitching worked on paper backed with calico.

Further thoughts:


November 12th

Some more pages from my Istanbul journal which could have a\ part to play in the finished piece:  I loved these pebbles and the design they make; these and the mother of pearl shapes in the door could be expressed through granite stitch, using different coloured threads for the patterns.

My ideas so far for how the finished piece may look:  I know this needs more precise detail both with regard to the design and to how I am going to put it all together.

Possible fabrics:  That on the left ( whose colour echoes the surround of the plaque) is a heavy cotton with a slight pattern.  The other three are furnishing fabrics with a heavy velvet like weave which I think could work well for the appliquéd tiles.  I haven’t yet decided on the edging fabric.

These are threads to sample.

November 14th

I’ve been doing a few experiments  – callico with  gesso applied unevenly with a large brush, then painted.  The first uses a stencil – this wasn’t entirely successful as I’d made it too fine and had to use a fine brush to reach all areas – a stamp would probably work better.  In the second I applied torn strips of paper with gel medium to the base.  If the colours were less intense this might work as a background with stitching added.

I know these colours differ from the swatches of fabric above – I am still playing with ideas and actually did these experiments before I looked at fabrics, but just forgot to post them.

November 16th

Dividing the hanging vertically instead of horizontally.  I’ve broken the lines of tiles and added the motif from the pebbles through the arches.

Another background experiment.  Gesso, paint, moulding paste, paint with glazing medium. The image was originally a monoprint which didn’t work very well so I drew over the lines with an Inktense crayon.

 November 18th

I did a mockup on a piece of board to see how dimensions would work.  I’ve settled on a 5 cm square tile so as to give a bit of room for spacing and stitching down.  Otherwise the work would be huge.  It is big enough with the following dimensions!  I’ve rewritten my notes on the sheet below as my writing is so tiny I think you might struggle.

Blue background behind mosque but not too intense so it doesn’t dominate.  Torn strips of photo (using several so I can place images exactly where I want them.  Then use stitching and maybe crayon to complete shapes of the domes.  Important to have 6 minarets as the Blue Mosque is the only one to have so many.  I’m having to lose the mirror image of the mosque as it doesn’t fit into the design anymore.

Two tiles protrude into next panel which feels like a  counterbalance to more minarets on the left.  I’ve also lowered the position of the tiles slightly so as to take them away from the mid level.

In the arches maybe tulip images combined with pebbles done with stitch, or miniature domes to echo those above.  I think the second idea is better – I can still use granite stitch for the pebbles idea.

One idea I have for background colour is to start with blue at the top behind the mosque and take it down to green at the bottom (symbolism – heaven to earth).  I still want to use the furnishing fabrics for the tiles which behind the stitching will give some lighter contrast to the background.  I see the stitching on the tiles as being mainly reds, blues and some metalic gold.  I’m not sure yet about the background behind the tiles and in the ‘grouting’, but I feel it should enhance the idea of age and the way some tiles are missing, so maybe I could use a stencil in the shape of the tiles onto wet moulding paste with added stitch to bring out the shapes. I’ve carefully positioned the tiles so that there could be lost tiles in the gaps.

So the dimensions are: each panel 12 X 50 cms, space between each panel 1 cm, border 3 cms.  I haven’t worked out the top and bottom edging yet, but I imagine they will be around 5 cms at their greatest depth.  The dimensions of the piece excluding the top and bottom edgings are 44 X 56 cms.  The border may need to be slightly wider, I’ll have to see once the panels are completed.

November 21st

This is a very rough mock-up on A4 paper to test how it could look with regard to colour and composition.  I’ve just stuck down the strips of paper for now rather than transfer them with gel medium.  I want the minaret in the centre piece to go onto the border.  I think that using some painted bondaweb inside the arches before stitching could be good.  I haven’t quite got clear the design for this yet.


I’ve traced some rough ideas for the tile patterns below.  The scanner hasn’t quite caught the top and bottom areas.  The three edging tiles (2 on the left and the bottom one on the right) will be in the dark red furnishing fabric, the others beige/off-white.


November 27th Full size Mockups

This is a full size mockup on paper.  I’ve decided to have a gentle haphazard move from blue to green, so as to avoid a line across.  Rather than using long strips of photo, as I did in the original experiment (shown below), I’ve used fewer amd more randomly shaped pieces, mainly because I was worried about losing too much of the blue background, but I’m not sure it works as well.  Apart from the stenciled tulip on the right (which I am not 100% sure about either), I’ve used the same design across the tiles and because most tiles are symmetrical in design I’ve placed them facing towards the centre.  I’ve drawn a continuation of the tulip onto the missing tile area over the moulding paste though I haven’t tried stitching onto the paste(?)  I’ve also changed the three red surround tiles to all have the same pattern.

Full size mockup of one panel on callico

Here I have experimented with various techniques:  The small minaret on the far left is the phot glued down with matte gel medium,  the two others were laid down using the transfer method with the medium.  I’m not sure which is the more successful , whether the transfer method gives an image which is too vague.  Somehow this needs improving, there is something a bit stark about the shapes – they don’t blend in well enough.

I know the tiles are not quite straight and I have experimented with satin stitch and a longer zigzag around the edges. I think the latter looks better.  You can’t really see the little red tulips, so I may add some metallic thread to these.

In the arch I experimented with painted bondaweb.  On the left is added a piece of black painted fine stick on interfacing before the bondaweb, on the right the bondaweb is stuck straight down onto the painted callico. (Colour is not quite right in the detail below, veers to far to the reds).

With regard to construction, I will need to turn the inner edges of the panels to the back, probably just stuck down with bondaweb, whilst the outer edges will be stiitched to the borders.  I will then back the whole piece with another piece of fabric, sewing three sides,turning it like a quilt and finishing the last side by hand.  I’m undecided about the colour of the backing as a little will show between the panels.  The top and bottom edging and the tassels will then be added.

I’ve just realised I haven’t tried stitching any pebbles in the arch, so need to try that.





Chapter 5



As well as the traditional way of using a lining that does not show on the outside of the work, sometimes it is effective for the lining edge to show as a contrast to the outer fabric.  The backing of a quilt or hanging could be used in this way.


I like the idea of using tabs as a way of hanging a work.  Having made my Monet inspired quilt as part of Module 1, I hadn’t decided how to hang it, so this seemed like a good answer.  I didn’t want to detract from the quilt itself by making the hanging part too ornate, so kept the stitching very simple.  each tab is secured to the back of the quilt.  The tiny bit of white that appears in places is from the fabric of the quilt lining which was white with black wavy, water-like lines over it.








I will use a simple bamboo pole on which to hang the piece.


Fringes and tassels could be used as a decoration on all sorts of items, from lamps, to cushions, jewelry, belts etc. the following are samples I have made:

The top fringe was printed using a wooden block once made.  Bottom left is made from machine wrapped cords and bottom right from two different coloured narrow ribbons.





The left hand tassels are made from wool, middle from embroidery thread and the right one is metallic thread threaded through a bead.  I can see the possibilities of using these in many ways, for example on the corners of cushions, or as part of a tie for a handmade book.






1. Amanda Hislop

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Amanda studied woven textiles and painting and this influence is evident in her work. She says:

 ‘The essence of the landscape and natural forms inspire my work. I use drawing to record fleeting fragments observed and absorbed; I look at the familiar, see the extraordinary and respond to subtle changes in view in the rhythmic motion of walking. The evocative moods of seasonal change and atmospheric qualities of light and changing weather experienced when walking are a constant source of inspiration’ .

She produces work inspired by sea and landscapes, layering papers, fabrics, textures, together with paint and stitch.  The different layers often appear woven into each other.  Some are quite representational, like the cow parsley and the shell; others are more abstract, but all I think all are very atmospheric and give a sense of having minutely observed what is around her.  You get a real sense of her connection to land and sea. I love her use of subtle colours and textures.  Much of this is laid down in the backgrounds, but it is the different coloured threads used in the embroidery that really bring the works to life.  The stitching is freehand, simple, like drawn lines and often fairly minimalist.

I love Amanda’s work and find it very inspiring.  I did a week- long workshop with her three summers ago and it was she who introduced me to the concept of mixed media and in particular of combing this with stitch.  It was also after this that I decided to study machine embroidery.

Information and photo taken from Amanda’s website.  Images of her work from the website and from a booklet ‘landlines drawn lines stitch lines’.




2. Val Holmes

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Val trained as an embroiderer and has taught this for many years.  She is constantly experimenting with different media and developing new techniques, the latest of which is the use of collagraphy for textile artists.  I think that she would consider that her most important role is to allow her students to find their own creative path, rather than to be prescriptive in her teaching.  I keep finding myself repeating her mantra ‘less is more’ – in other words how to produce the effect you want by suggestion rather than overkill, to really consider how stitch will integrate with a surface you have produced.  I hope this influences my own work.  Sometimes her stitching is quite complex and is like a painting ( eg ‘Blossom in the Drome); at other times it blends more into the overall image (eg. ‘Mist in the Marshes’).  Most of her work uses free embroidery with some hand stitching.

Information and photo taken from Val’s website.  Images of work from the website and from two of her books:  ‘Textile Art’ and ‘Collage, Stitch, Print’.



 3. Tilleke Schwarz

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Tilleke is from the Netherlands and trained mainly in painting and drawing but now uses textiles in her work.  Folk art, cats and daily life are her inspiration and her style is naïve, quirky and humorous.  She says her mother taught her embroidery and there is a certain ‘old fashioned’ style to much of it.  Most of it is hand embroidery, with a little free machine embroidery.  She calls her works maps of modern life and indeed you need to study them like a map to understand what she is trying to say, reading the words as well as the images.  This is not a style that I am drawn to at all, although I appreciate some of the humour.  I think I prefer work that is more subtle, which has an immediate appeal to my senses rather than to my mind.  How colour is used is very important to me and here it does not work for me.

Information and photo taken from Tilleke’s website and book ‘Mark Making’.





Chapter 4 – Fastenings

It’s fun making cords and I can see that you could use them in a practical way to tie things, eg books, bags etc, but also in  a purely decorative way, as a bookmark, an edging or simply to enhance the look of the object.  Braids too can be used in the same way.  Here you are letting the yarn or fabric used to be visible as an integral part of the design.

It ws easy enough to make roun d or oval beads using the wet felting methods, but flat beads worked better uding the embellisher – it was easier to get a flat surface which would then take stitch.  These are simple paper beads, but you could go further, embellishing them with yarns and beads twisted around.

I made this fabric on the embellisher some time ago and thought I would amke it into a little purse using two buttonholes as the fastening method.

Further experiments for backgrounds and edges

I was feeling a bit daunted and uninspired so I did some reading, in particular Maggie Grey’s books and did a bit more experimenting.  It’s amazing what you can do with nappy liners!

My first idea with the silk rods was to roll them up as an edging  and then stitch but it didn’t look right so I cut the ends in to triangles as shown below.

I think that distressing newspaper has great potential, it creates lovely texture.


Chapter 3 – Fancy Edges

Both the above samples stitched using hand-dyed cotton.

I found the burnt edges more difficult, getting the amount of burning just right.  I don’t feel the pieces below are totally successful – cutting might have been better in the 2 bottom samples.

Burning the sheers away in places below works better.  This is on a background of furnishing fabric.  The bottom two samples use leather cord for the edging.  I don’t have an edging foot, so had to do it by eye and cut away the surplus fabric.

Below, the thin  wire works much better than the thicker one – it is easier to manipulate and the fabric does  ot distort as much.  Scrim is perhaps not quite solid enough as a fabric for lettuce edges – I need to search out something else.

The first sample below doesn’t work very well – my idea was to have a band of several strips running along the edge, but burning  away has made strips too stiff.

In the second sample, stitching on  to thermogauze and burning it away has made the edging too delicate so that it has started to disintegrate.

Below, the thermogauze stitched edge is not sufficiently strong to stand out enough.  The double paper edge works better.