Learning to design textiles

I made a reference back at Christmas to an embroidery design course that I have been undertaking. Today, with snow stopping gardening and nothing horticultural to blog about I thought I would share some more of my other passion in life – embroidery and textile arts.

The course I completed at the end of last year was Level 1 Hand Embroidery – Moving On which is run by the Embroiderers’ Guild.  It is a distance learning course and has been such an eye opener to me.  Each unit has two parts: design and embroidery stitches.  The design units perplexed me to start with as I spent most of my time splashing black paint around, curling paper, weaving paper, collecting inspirational images from nature etc.  After a while pennies starting to drop and the design elements are intended to help you learn about putting together an image to stitch.

You learn about colours and how they work.  Having read countless garden design books and having always drawn and painted I thought I was quite good at contrasts and harmonious colours but doing the exercises on the course really helped me develop a better understanding.

End of unit design piece using fabric layering and embroidery

Having undertaken the design element of the unit you then move on to learning some new stitches or textile techniques.  These often build on the design work in the first half of the unit so the paper folding and weaving translates into fabric manipulation as seen in the slideshow above.  At the end of every two units you are required to undertake a piece of design work using the techniques you have learnt.

The Arum above was the design piece I created at the end of the cross-stitch section.  This section also included a lot of work on colour, exploring contrasts and tone so I wanted to incorporate those into my design.  The biggest lesson learnt was that trying to do berries in cross stitch is not the best idea.  And it is exactly those sorts of insights that you have to capture in your evaluation of your work which you then photograph and email to your tutor.

The tree above is another end of unit design piece which was quite a step forward for me.  I used the fabric layering technique which I had learnt in the unit (see slideshow) and then stitched leaves and apples on top as well as a variety of stitches to create the trunk.

My final piece of design work was to create an image from scratch bringing together everything I had learnt.  I had recently been to the Malvern Autumn show and I wanted to use some of the photographs from the vegetable show in my final piece.  I went through several complicated drawings, exploring techniques and composition (as seen in the onion drawing).  I finally set upon a simple composition which would allow me to use a variety of techniques.

I painted the fabric which was simple curtain lining.  I washed it with acrylic paints to give various tones which would complement the subject matter. The onion and squash were created using fabric layering with lots of appropriate coloured ribbons being built up and then covered with fine tulle. I then add stitches building up the layers. A similar approach was use for the tomatoes but with less stitching.  I went through various changes to the design while I created the piece all of which I had to document for my course.

In my final evaluation I had to calculate the cost of producing the piece, explore alternative fabrics and approaches and how I might present the work.

I have to admit I am incredibly proud of the final piece having never done anything like this before and I had signed up for Level 2 before I got the result of Level 1 – A Distinction!!  I’ve never done as well as this in anything in my life so I am over the moon.

Level 2 builds on what I learnt at Level 1 and already this year I have been printing on fabric and am about to do some stencilling once the paints arrive.

What I also love about this course is that I can incorporate my love of plants and wildlife into my work and what I have been learning about colour is helping me develop the garden borders.



9 Comments on “Learning to design textiles

  1. I love this work! The themes of nature are great and it looks so very artistic in the sense of painting-art as well as fabric art–

  2. I completed a Foundation in Art and Design course about eight years ago and it was one of the best things I have ever done. I was bitten by the wet felting bug, but more importantly, it made me look at things in a different way and work out how to replicate them through 2D work. I also realised I love colour and texture and always have!
    Congratulations on Level One and I hope you enjoy Level Two as much – it looks as though you will find it incredibly rewarding!
    Best wishes

  3. Very well done. It’s clear how much the course has helped; looking at the earlier pieces and then the final one, I can see how much you have learned, and how the concentration on the different elements of design has all come together.

  4. How thrilling it is to see your work, Helen, and read how you are progressing. And a Distinction – well done! 😀

  5. Looks like you really took to the concept of mixing techniques, materials and stitches. It is the way I like to work and I am really impressed by your tree and your veg. I know many gardeners who do various kinds of textile techniques and I have always found the two arts to have a lot of crossover. So many things we discover in the one can be used in the other. I’ve just dismantled our guest room to turn it into a workroom/studio and I can’t wait to get started on a project. Thanks for the inspiration.

Please feel free to leave comments as its always lovely to get feedback. I try to respond to comments as much as possible but sometimes life and work get in the way but I will do my best to respond especially if your comment is a question.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: