returning to my sketchbooks

first page of my reborn Flora research/sketchbook – Flowers Again!

Recently, the “After Winifred” embroidery has inspired me to develop work to use as Giclee prints in order to add a fresh way of getting my work ‘out there’. I turned to my old Flora workbook, some 20+years old – but still alive for me as a source of inspiration.

I found some empty pages at the end of the old book and started to collate recent samples and drawings of bunches of flowers grown and made up at Court House Farm, where I conduct drawing workshops, using the cutting garden as inspiration.

looking back at my Flora work, which is 3 dimensional and very heavily embroidery, I now want a freer drawn imagery to stitch into. So I bought some Derwent Inktense pencils that basically act as dyes when wetted and left to dry – I did many samples but found my drawings had too much information in them – I needed to loosen up further. Ha ha – the story of my working life!

To enable me to play easily with the new ink crayons I chose an old set of drawing research and photographs to work with. The colours of the crayons are very brilliant and I needed to find ways of making more subtle colours, so stippling, cross hatching and dotting colours one over another made for rich but softer ground colours – these techniques are still a work in progress. Below are 2 studies of the under drawings using pencil dyes ready to be stitched

Meanwhile I have been looking at all my old flowery finished works and their drawings to use as reference and then reframing/remounting stitched pieces ready for the printers.

the little Hellebore image above is my first Giclee print and the smallest at 30cms/12inches square.

8 thoughts on “returning to my sketchbooks

  1. All so lovely, I just love the auricula theatre. Saw one once in the Chelsea Physic Garden. I can’t believe this darling flower
    is called bear’s ear ! Looking forward to H’s memoir. Ann x

    1. I agree but it isn’t the flower that has given the name but the flour/farina covered leaves of the white ones – I used a pale dyed grey /green silk velvet to make mine and I have just had this work made into a same size print – looks amazing ! things look different when printed somehow….as to H’s memoir – heck – hold onto your hats it could be a bumpy ride!!!!

  2. Beautiful Janet. I was very interested in your experiments with Inktense pencils as I have had some for years but find them too intense. Your tips will be very useful. Thank you.

  3. Thanks – and yes the Inktense pencils are VERY bright as it says on the tin…however they do allow me more freedom than having to use resists and between colours, having to steam and re -resist all the time which is how I made the last in the post anemone image years ago.
    But I think to get the best from them I need to draw larger scale – it’s interesting research. My main problem is that most of the colours in the range are really natural/neutral – I would like some more variations in the brights – you can always soften brighter colours by using opposing colours as spots, and strokes on top of them or even washes when dry – but you just can’t enliven the drabs.

  4. Your sketchbook has such beautiful sketches and stitchings that it is hard to believe some of the images are 20 years old. I too recently discovered Inktense pencils, and wish I could use them as deftly as you do.

  5. Hi Maris, thanks for this – finally found time to get posting again – been so busy working, hitting deadlines and sorting out my new print venture…however you seem to be able to keep it ALL going so well.

    The Inktense pencils are a bit overpowering at first but too simple a solution for getting a background down before stitching…. all that dyeing and resists took so long that it seemed easier to just stitch the whole damn thing!

    But I am slowly getting ways of getting some nuanced colour. I think that my first language is drawing so I am more than happy to do the research and it did mean returning to drawing and sampling in my books – i just drew straight onto the fabric using wash – out pens when kantha stitching the skies.

  6. Hi!

    I’m an art and design student, and I was wondering about how you started embroidery in the first place – what made you really embrace it?

    With ‘flowers for our times’ and this page too, how long was your creative process overall?

    Kind regards!!


    1. Hi Jayde,
      so as to starting embroidery – it is a long story but basically I started because when I first moved to London to work as a fashion designer in the 70’s after leaving Liverpool Art College studying Fashion and Textiles (and yes I am that old.) I really missed the gardens at home.
      I moved to a flat in Ladbroke Grove – so not much in the way of gardens, and also I was asked all the time at work to design cheaper and quicker to make clothes….so I chose to just make something that no-one could tell what to do – My Antidote to Fashion – and my first embroidery was canvas-work of a fantasy garden with an angel dog in it….in fact I have just given a zoom presentation about this whole embroidering flowers journey for The Gardener’s Trust – last Monday in fact! And there I said that I felt I had found a new language – I have always been able to draw but being a fashion bunny am very quick and linear – embroidery slows me down and gives me time to think and that is how i progress my own ideas. And fabrics and threads were very easy to access – even easier now with the web -and I had the basic skills via college and ‘more is more’ in my embroidery

      as to the recent return to sketchbooks. I keep work/sketch/research books on all sorts of subjects – I work to commission and so most things i make are already sold, I got into the habit of telling the story of making stuff so that I have a memory of it and basically I have made my own reference library of samples and ideas. I know students HATE to sample – but sometimes this is all you are left with to remember what each fabric and colour was and where the ideas came from plus when you are working to commission it gives you a good idea of how long it will take to make

      the time taken varies on whether I am busy on any other work as I work to deadlines for most projects, so my own work just has to fit in around it – so today I have spent the day on organising my new blog post and earlier this morning I made an Illustrator document as part of. my ongoing commission for an American publisher (books of quilts by Kaffe Fassett). And now I have a couple of hours to go upstairs to my studios and stitch another border for the Dahlias embroidery – I’m about half way through it.

      The time spent on Flowers for our Times: “Dahlias” was quite quick – I was given the flowers end of August 2021 and worked on it fairly regularly – approx 4 days a week and finished and photographed it by first week of October so say 6 weeks – well that was just to make it ( including the unpicking) so very swift for me – but I decided to change my materials while doing it – to make it more interesting and change my technique enough for it to be a challenge

      hope this helps – get back to me for anything else you may want to know though ,

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