5.6 Stitched Drawings

  • Create two stitched drawings
  • Use previous exercises as inspiration
  • Figurative or abstract
  • Highly experimental

The brief also includes a list of ideas:

  • Stitches create a repeated pattern
  • Continuous line wandering and curving, crossing itself
  • Built up marks overlapping and creating tonal contrast
  • Highly organised, creating grid like effects and geometric form

I had planned to make a kind of abstract landscape inspired by a sketch I had made early in the course.

hel bild
Charcoal on drawing paper

However, I got distracted and what I did in the end are two very different drawings.


The first one is a development of my test pieces for the texture exercise. I wanted the squiggly line to form a stylised tree with large leaves. This is my search for it:

Initial sketches

I then painted the fabric with silk paints and stitched the line with two strands of embroidery thread. Stem and leaves were made as in the test piece.

Silk paint, black and red embroidery thread on cotton and sun blind fabric

For the flower/fruit I chose red as a contrast. It is blocked in without allowing any white to shine through and built up from three different reds to give it volume.

Detail from above. Red embroidery thread

I stitched the whole onto a piece of sun blind as a support and frame.

I am not satisfied with the leftmost leaf. I made the creasing too strong so it spreads to the surrounding fabric. The other two are better.

I like this very much although it seems different from what I do otherwise. The semi-abstract drawing appeals to me as do the colours and the single red dot. Maybe I have managed to work in key aspects of what “treeness” is to me – the root and in it the riches of the soil (although it seems to float in the air), green and specks of light around the leaves, all bound together in one movement, culminating in the fruit. But these thoughts came afterwards, I did not set out to depict anything like that. The roots of this picture are in the technique. This makes me wonder where the “meaning” in a piece of art comes from.


A very spontaneuous image. As I was looking for fabric for my second drawing I came across this and the ink stains intrigued me. It was crinkled and some of the creases coincided with a stain giving me the idea to use creases as lines.

The photo does not do it justice, the shadows of unwanted creases become much too overpowering as the colouring is very subtle and delicate.

Cotton and nylon thread on ink stained cotton fabric and sun blind

I chose a white thread so as not to deflect focus from the creases which I wanted to form the main lines. The stitching continues further than the creases to let the lines fade out in a way similar to the stains.

Detail from above

For the lines in the water I used dark grey nylon thread hoping it would reflect the light and glint like water. It has not yet done so but I still think it might given the right light source. I tried to make the water lines horizontal which turned out to be very difficult as the fabric is old, worn thin and losing its shape.

I like the way the ink has followed the weaving of the fabric in the edges of some of the stains. The lines remind me of a skyline of fir trees. I left these lines unworked so they contrast to the creases and waterlines.

I also left the stains above the uppermost waterline unworked to make them retreat and add some depth.

The fabric had become crinkled by the time I was done so I ironed it where possible. I could not do that over the nylon thread so the creases there stand out. They disturb the effect I had in mind with the water lines.

I am not sure if this works as a picture. Maybe the drawing is too subtle in colouring for a viewer to recognise what I saw. Maybe the idea with the creases would work better on a larger scale and with stronger colours? But I like the subtlety, the mere suggestion of a landscape. The colours and composition play first fiddle here, I feel, making the figurative aspect take a step back.


I am surprised at where this has taken me. During the initial exercises I have found new ways of using thread and fabric and they have led me down a different path than anticipated. I like that. Doing has had a different effect on me than thinking about doing. This is something to remember.

I have also seen that translating a paper-and-pen drawing to textiles does not necessarily mean to imitate it. Reworking an idea in a different medium can lead to something new and different. This might not be a new insight but with textiles being very different from pencil or ink it leads further away from the original idea.

In the brief it says the final drawings should be highly experimental. I am not sure if my ideas are experimental in a larger context, but they are for me. Experimental in the sense that I have been experimenting and following ideas I did not know the outcome of. The landscape especially although the stitching in that is conventional running stitch.

I am glad I chose this unit. It has further opened up my idea of what drawing can be. Ideas have been forming while I worked involving all kinds of materials and techniques. I will have to find a way to remember them and to revert to them in coming work.


Tutor Report 4

Things to keep up

  • Keep experimenting. I like to see the exercises as a starting point for further experiments. They make me do things and reflect on what I do which triggers ideas.
  • Study of other artists: Keep looking at what they do and how they do it. Look at their work analytically and learn from them.


Things to develop

  • Don’t forget the technical aspects of drawing. I tend to be seduced by materials and mediums and the freedom of experimental, expressive work. It is one of my main aims with this course, after all. But there needs to be room for technical development. I think good sketchbook practice would help here. I struggle with that. Try to balance sketchbook work between experimentation, development of ideas and technical practice.
  • I was surprised to see that my tutor only saw “some” tonal variation in my hand sketches and consequently only “some” volume. I read that as meaning tonal variation and volume are developing in my work but I’m not quite there yet. When I looked at the sketches again I understood what she means. There are no really dark darks in most of the hands. More dark tones would help to model the hand. I need to be bolder with the darks.
  • Keep the background in my mind. Not only as an area to fill out, but as a feature and part of the whole picture in itself. In these exercises the background had centre stage. Don’t forget it when it doesn’t anymore!
  • Including a narrative in a picture adds interest. Sometimes I manage that, not sure how, though. It is an intriguing thought and I would like to develop it. Try to use it more consciously.

Tutor Report 2

Report 2 reflects very well how I felt about the exercises in part 2: pencil drawings work well for me and I am able to work out an object’s form by using tone – but in order to develop I need to leave the comfort of what I know. I need to use other materials, go up in scale and find new ways of making marks. Diana’s key advice, I think, is to Combine the technical aspect with the expressive ways you can work. I have found that often, when I try to work more expressively I tend to forget the technical side of things.

My tutor suggests pastels as they do not lend themselves to detail but can be used expressively. Also my ocher stones are good for that, only I need to learn how to use them to best effect. I have worked in soft pastels and love them – but I don’t like using them in the house as the dust they produce makes my nose hurt badly and it gets everywhere. Oil pastels works fine and I am just about to discover them.

Diana also suggests that I apply what I learn from my research in my actual practice. Very good advice indeed and something I have not done yet.

Challenge accepted

As mentioned in connection with Part 2 and the last tutor report I tried to go bigger. Initially I thought the specific exercises in part 2 did not lend themselves to large scale and expressive mark making but I think that has more to do with me limiting myself than with the actual exercises. In the end I did make a large piece from one of my spin offs to exercise 2.1.

I´m not sure if the mark making can be called expressive. In the background maybe – it is made with a 20 cm trowel for surfacing and I could work with my whole arm. The pattern, on the other hand, was more restricted although I treated it less timidly the longer I worked.

Working big certainly feels very differently from drawing with pencil on an A4 sheet.

Acrylic paint and acrylic marker on drawing paper, 100 x 102 cm


Tutor Report 1

The tutor report on my first assignment reflects very well where I stand and how I feel about my work myself. It is good to know that I perceive my work realistically.

I am very happy to have succeeded in loosening up my mark making and be expressive and experimental. This was my main concern with this part of the course and also one of my main reasons to start the course. My tutor suggests larger surfaces to work on in order to have enough space to be expressive on.

On the other hand I need to develop my drawing skills and observation. This involves more practice and doing things several times in order to learn. I think this is really important if I want to adopt a loose and immediate style. I have always felt that when reducing the information in a picture to a few expressive lines it is very important that those lines are right.

I am currently working on Tone and Form. Implementing my tutor’s suggestions regarding observation and rules of drawing fits in very well with these new exercises. The ones about expressiveness and going up in scale is harder. Or is it? (I spot a challenge there 🙂 )


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