Little Ribbon Patchwork and Applique: the Story behind the Book

opening the package of the advance copied of Heart Space Studios’ first book

Here it is, my very first look at the proper printed books – Heart Space Studios’  Little Ribbon Patchwork and Applique,  inspired by and featuring Kaffe Fassett’s wonderful ribbons. And this is the English edition, and it is published by Heart Space Studios…But oh the hopes and fears were in equal measure when I saw that neat white package of the first 10 advanced copies of the book…

all the angst and problems of getting the UK cover perfectly coloured have paid off

Originally the book was commissioned by the American publishers, Taunton Press ( and uses American terms and measurement – bliss – I was educated using inches and yards) and then I was offered the opportunity of producing a small UK edition and this is it. And as a consequence I have spent a large proportion of the last 9 months working on this and other publications involving Kaffe Fassett’s ribbons and fabrics……

first ribbons
the 5 original reels of ribbon I designed with

I was first asked, by Susan Berry, a book producer concentrating on textile crafts (whom I have worked with for many years) if I had any design ideas for using the beautiful Jacquard ribbons designed by of Kaffe Fassett and produced by Renaissance Ribbons. Susan advised me to see them at his exhibition at the American Museum in Britain, that took place in 2014. Then I was sent a few reels of ribbons to ‘play’ with and this is what I came up with in the first few days….

yo yos
single and double ribbon yo-yos

I have a vintage – quilt hanging on my studio door and I immediately thought that this system may translate to the ribbons; so I just cut some random lengths and using running stitch gathered them up to form these pretty circles…some worked and some didn’t  – see above; but it is a designers task to make them all work beautifully – so lots of samples later I made this, below, which I intended to grow into a huge throw or curtain.

yoyo curtain small
yo-yo hanging – sadly this failed to make it into the book – it proved too complicated to show how to stitch together simply….

Then of course I thought of crazy patchwork, and this eventually became the heart-shaped cushion on the back of the UK edition cover

hand emb copy
crazy patchwork with ribbons hand embroidered into position between the patches of shot cottons

of ribbon with the loose yo yo’s, easy -peasy as these ribbons have been designed to work together – a rich mix but what else would you expect from Kaffe Fassett?

original design - KF ribbons PW
ribbon and yo-yo strips – first ideas

I just took lots of photographs as I researched, and sent them off with rough ideas for a book of small patchworks made of ribbon and plain fabrics – but the journey from playing with ideas to a finished book has been long and let’s say  problematical –  ideas are always easy for me to come up with, making them work for inclusion into a “how to do it” book is not easy at all.

ribbon samples
new ribbon combinations
sample ribbons2
getting the new ribbons into colour combinations – here are the brights

The first thing I realised was that I needed to put some other ribbons and fabrics with these intensely patterned Jaquard ribbons. So I included the Grosgrains, or Petershams,  fine ribbed ribbons that come in many sizes and colours, Renaissance Ribbons have many different versions – and they duly sent me some and more of the new ribbons from their Kaffe Fassett range; and then I needed a ribbon that could be used to tone with the 2 brights – I chose my old favourites – tartans. Tartan ribbons are universally available now on-line, and they conform to the clan colours so I felt sure that most buyers of the book could get hold of them easily. But then which fabrics to use for the patchworks particularly the crazies?

my stash of shot cottons selected to tone with the ribbons toning ribbons

I am a fabric hoarder, like most textile designers, and I found some small pieces of ‘shot’ cottons – the warp and the weft of the fabrics are different shades or even different colours from one another so the woven fabrics are subtle colours and so more easily used with other materials; and by chance who were these shot cottons designed by? Kaffe Fassett. So that was an easy decision as well and I sent off to The Cotton Patch, (who have the best user – friendly, on-line ordering fabrics service) for more samples of these lovely fabrics. I started designing approximately 20 different samples of ribbon patchworks and appliques.

But I fist made myself some new fabrics – out of the ribbons themselves….

more ribbons Nov
designing ribbon combinations for ribbon fabric
crazy ribbon fabric
trying out different ribbon fabrics for crazy patchworks

what I needed to realise is that when you are making your own ideas for a book, it is important to be able to demonstrate by using photographs, drawings, diagrams and words how someone else, who has not got your knowledge and may even be a complete beginner, can easily follow the instructions …a lot of lovely ideas and more complicated designs got thrown out in this process.

But here are some examples of 20 samples that made it, from first ideas, through to illustrations of the steps involved and finally the 20 projects that I made with the samples. There are 4 types of patchwork and applique techniques in the boon, strips – see below, crazy, squares and yo-yo’s.

heart ribbon start
putting several ribbons together onto my work top, trying to make up a new ribbon fabric
heart mask
designing another variation of ribbon stripes for a heart shape applique

from the work table to the finished book in one bound!

ribbon illo
illustration to make the ribbon fabrics
heart bag
page from the book to show the heart shaped applique

and eventually this design turns up on the contents page as well….

open book1
content page of finished book completed with the same Ribbon Fabric

the yo yo designs quick and fun to make and design with, within the book they come single, embroidered….

hat band illo
hat band yo yo with button stitching ribbons
small yo yo patch
embroidered double yo yo square patchwork

halved and giant.

yo yos band
half yo yo bands
large yo yo
and one very very big yo yo.

in fact I could have written another book about making and decorating with yo-yos

project section of the book – with lots of different things to make

I could write for days about the book and all that it contains – but then why would anyone buy it? As I write I am waiting for the large consignment of books to arrive from the printers….it is a small edition but I have plans to advertise it, it is being launched on September 15th at the American Museum in Britain, well it is full of the American Kaffe Fassett’s ribbon designs… and for this I am giving a special bead – making workshop. ( more of which in a  later post )Then the book is being sold with special packs of ribbons and fabrics on the Cotton Patch stand at the Knitting and Stitching Show in October; but meanwhile we have a lovely display in the shop window of Heart Space Studios, devised by our style guru, Jane- Marie Mahy, please see below and I have devised a whole set of classes to complement the book – go to for more information. And eventually we will be selling the new book on our website – watch this space

photo 3[1] copy
Heart Space Studio window display by Jane-Marie Mahy

Valentine Hearts

Stitched Paper Hearts by Susie Bancroft

The small but delightful exhibition that the Heart Space Studios staff made in the mixed media session are all framed and ready to go on the wall ….

more stitched paper hearts by Susie Bancroft

the first to arrive through the post was a box of stitched printed paper hearts from Susie Bancroft – so I set about mounting rows of  them on Japanese hand-made paper or crumpled tissue papers ready for framing

row of large printed paper hearts – Susie Bancroft

the cotton threads just going every which way – I think they look like tiny heart shaped kites…….-

minute beaded black lace heart in tin frame- Jane-Marie Mahy

the tiny hearts are somehow the most appealing, they came in all manner of materials and techniques….

hand knitted and beaded heart by Amanda Jones

I must admit that I did take a few liberties with the mounts before framing… the more impact we can give them the better chance to sell them – and this is a selling exhibition

Larger black beaded lace heart by Jane-Marie Mahy

Jane- Marie Mahy Heart Space’s display guru brought hers in already perfectly framed, as did Debbie Bird – her teeny tiny paper printed scraps look very vintage when heavily framed in black

printed scrap paper applique by Debby Bird

but for something completely different we have knitted copper wires to join paper and fabrics…with a flights of swallows scattered above a nebulous clear pill-case heart

flights of swallows by Steph Wooster

true to her discipline as a designer, Steph sent in 3 variations on her birds and hearts theme,

Steph’s second bird and heart picture

the third piece is an intricately cut applique of shredded bank notes, paper and woolen blanket stitched and knitted with copper wire…now that’s what I call mixed media.

Steph’s totally mixed media heart

the beaded paper heart by Libby Butler is at last padded and applied to a dark blue fabric ground.

padded beaded paper heart by Libby Butler

and right at the last minute this evening a lovely folksy map heart came form Kirsten Hill-Nixon…really worth the wait.

crushed paper and cut maps hand stitched applique by Kirsten Hill-Nixon

and so for the 14th February 14 heart pictures.


Paper Cut Hearts

stitched paper chain of hearts by Susi Bancroft

In celebration of Valentin’s day the staff and tutors at Heart Space Studios got together to develop mixed media work based upon Paper Cutting. Debby Bird led the session – a chance for everyone to get to know one another better and swap information, materials and ideas. The project was to make selling exhibition of heart pictures or cards for our gift shop.

bird motif for practicing on
lace bonded onto papers

The tutors had been asked to bring in materials and equipment from their own practice, and so when these came out everyone stared to play with different things..

pre-cut papers, from scalpel to laser techniques

everyone had very different pieces of inspirational materials…

Steph Wooster’s stash of old blankets,woolen yarns, ticking and tracing papers.

the characters of the makers was apparent by the things they chose to bring….

Kirsten Hill-Nixon’s felt tweeds and maps

Each person has developed stashes of very personal things and now they had a good excuse to use them…..

Amanda Jone’s knit and crocheted bead collection

in fact even the boxes and bags the materials had been brought in were inspirational.

Decoupage cardboard box.
Sophie Bristol’s sewing box of exotic ribbons

Just as we were getting started we were visited by a camera team to record the workshop for the regional daily news programme on ITV.

Regional news cameraman filming the workshop

Sophie and I were interviewed separately about various aspects of the how Heart Space works, she was fluent and received a round of applause from the group, but I was told by the interviewer that they had lots of ‘sound bites’ from me – I think this is a polite way of saying  I didn’t exactly answer the questions.

roving close-up camera checking Debby’s work

But we were all intrigued by the roving miniature camera used to get close-ups of the techniques were using. Back to work after the excitement and after we had given 5 top tips for beginners – more of which later…..

Lisa Keating starts to cut into a butterfly motif out of a modern photographic wallpaper.

Once the filming was over everyone suddenly seemed to be energised by what they could achieve in the day, they each had to make 1 sample heart picture that would ideally lead to a few other versions when they went home, when framed all this work will make up the Valentine’s exhibition for Heart Space Studios

everywghere Libby Bultler’s beaded wallpaper heart

I was really pleased to see that Libby, who volunteers helping to generate our publicity, used the techniques I had taught at the first session of the Crazy Beading course that run on alternate Saturday mornings – really good to see how simple ideas can be adapted to new materials.

Avril Best’s wallpaper and woollen materials
Avril’s cut paper turquoise heart stitched onto Japanese washi paper

Suddenly hearts started to appear on all the work sites.

Steph Wooster’s seagull legs and heart applique

a close – up reveals a really strange use of mixed media – now who would have thought that medicine capsules could look so glamorous?

medicine capsules or new type of sequin?

a really interesting idea emerged from Kirsten, she placed hearts and figures either side of a large decorative heart all of which she had cut from maps, I liked the idea that she could make links between the hearts and the figures using the map as a route……..

maps to link hearts and people? Kirsten Hill Nixon

the simplest hearts are often very successful – these stitched, printed, miniature bunting strips are just so desirable.

choices to make for developing finished work

When the sampling session was finished everyone set their work out for viewing by everyone – several people were determined to get more work for next week – which apart from St Valentine’s day celebration is the 3rd anniversary of the opening Heart Space Studios.

some of the group assessing the finished samples – where to go next – doesn’t look too hopeful does it?

Well they all promised to send or bring work for exhibition by the end of the week – so the next post will show the results….Oh and the 5 top tips for staring to make with textiles,

1 when threading a needle 1) cut the needle end of the thread at a 45% angle

2 when threading a needle 2) lick both the end of the thread and the eye of the needle

3 use circular needles to knit garments – you only ever have to make the basic knit stitch ( not alternate with rows of purl) and there are fewer seams to stitch up.

4 use the best possible materials you can afford – always.

5 press as you go when making any garments (this is also my own favourite rule)

Putting up Christmas

bunting wall at Heart Space

I am not a big fan of Christmas, I prefer New Year with its promise of a fresh start and better times ahead…but here at Heart Space Studios everyone expects us to do a Christmas window at least. But with a refurbished shop to launch, the powers behind my shaky throne decided to put out all the flags – well bunting to be precise – and go for it….hot mulled wine, mince pies and a late night opening party. Added to this was an idea for an exhibition of bunting.

animal mask by Jenni Joule

But, first things first – find the inspirational object – I always do this when starting something new, search for an image or a piece of fabric – anything that gives me lots of ideas or gives a very strong atmosphere…Sophie found it on Facebook in the guise of a head – an animal’s head, 3 animals in fact, by artist Jenni Joule, who brought wonderful things in to a meeting about a month ago – we were away, a spooky-wooky frozen forest

Debbie Bird being very precise and technical

rejected heart bunting

Meanwhile all the tutors set about producing bunting…Debbie Bird held a class on making it and so Heart Space admin, ( Sophie Bristol and I) turned up to find out how to do it.I made several attempts at heart shaped bunting in very tasteful fabrics…they were soon abandoned.  What I needed was a contrast to the white spooky windows..I realised I was trying to reconcile 2 different atmospheres in one space – so the only way to go is complete contrast, the more extreme the better. We would have one red window and one white. So I found an old and very crude Russian shawl in my stash, I hand painted the mustard coloured roses with some pink and purple dyes and then cut it up; next I went for glitz – why stop now? then I added tartan, I do love tartan and paisley – I couldn’t bring myself to cut up any of my old woven paisley samples – far too precious, but I had at last found a use for this old neglected shawl.

tartan and Russian Shawl bunting

I didn’t bag-out the pieces  but just cut them and left them, as they are cut diagonally to the straight grain they shouldn’t fray too much, and hey it’s only bunting…..I set about making 5 lines to sell.

But then we had to start stocking the shop. The first thing was to get one area working properly to set the tone for the whole place. An old and true saying is ” you can’t sell from an empty shop”;  so we piled it all in, colour co-ordinated of course.

Teresa Searle’s felted and embroidered bags, mittens and cases look wonderfully colourful, setting the standard for the rest of the shop, my hand embroidered felt letters look strong and clash nicely with the work beneath.

the first stand of textiles sets the tone

And the pile of scarves hand knitted by Sarah Thorpe go happily with Janet Clarke’s beautiful soft coloured felts. For real winter warmth, the  knitted and felted Hot Water Bottle Covers and neck warmers made by Steph Wooster all mingle together.

felted hot water bottle covers and knitted scarves

The shop starts to look like it is in business.

shop taking shape
the shop takes shape

But what about those windows? The winter white one came together very quickly, it is now stocked with cream and white  woollen goods for sale, with the 3 headed animal standing sentinel.

spooky white window

But the other window was more of a problem, the costumes that had been brought didn’t fit our stands and there weren’t enough animal masks to make an impression, beautiful though the horned mask is, by Jenni Joule.

jacket and mask by Jenni Houle hung with my silver heart

I needed more red stuff to link with the bunting on the wall behind…so I asked Lisa Keating who was running a corset making workshop for us, if she had anything suitable to contrast with the white and silver and she lent us this wonderful glitzy black and gold number – now that’s what I call a contrast.

Lisa Keating's black and gold lacedcorset

Then I took every red or silvered glass heart from home and hung them in the window – my house now looks bare – but the Christmas windows are paramount.

red and silver window with my glass hearts from home - note the corset bunting by Lisa

Eventually everything was finished and looked totally intentional; always the way when a design works out well, you can’t imagine that you ever had any other ideas than the finished piece.

Mending a Soldier’s Heart at Heart Space

recreated soldier’s pinned heart

This wonderful pinned heart, so bright and fresh but curiously authentic was made yesterday during a workshop at Heart Space Studios. The maker, Libby, had received the original some 25 years ago from her grandmother, to whom it had been given as a token of love by her husband, a soldier during the first world war.

box of rusted and stained remnants with scribbled design for reconstructing the heart.

When she first received the heart, Libby tried to restore it…..with disastrous consequences; the whole thing disintegrated because the silk that the heart had been made in had rotted. She thoughtfully put  all the pieces  in a small box, with a scribbled note of the design – and yesterday it arrived to be mended. The first thing to do was to see what we had got and to clean it as best we could….

all the beads were separated and washed as was the fine cotton velvet centre cross and the remaining  shoulder applique.

The pins were steel with several rusted, but we decided we wanted to use as much as possible of the original materials and also bright stainless steel pins would have detracted from the overall quality of the reconstruction.

rusted pins with some beads still attached

I then had to draft a pattern to fit the purple velvet cross, luckily one of my old pinned hearts was the perfect size so I used this.

original heart used for pattern.

Libby decided that she wanted to use strong colours that complemented the original velvets, but disliking yellow she chose some of my own hand dyed green silk velvet to replace the shoulder appliques.

drawing round the new paper pattern for the back of the heart

Next came the heart reconstruction, this time stitching by machine, it is stronger and quicker…..

machine stitching the heart shape for filling with sawdust

leaving lots more time for time for the really fascinating business of pinning the beaded design back into its original position.

the first central cross is held in position

The washed velvet was still a bit dull and faded but little is seen when all the rest of the beads and the ribbon are in place.

pinning the regimental ribbon in place

I was pleased to see that the original  woven silk regimental ribbon was still very bright after I had carefully washed it in several rinses of warm water. These ribbons with badges and coats of arms feature in many of the hearts I have collected, but none are as bright as this.

the simple beaded lettering being formed

Libby re-wrote the message “FOND LOVE” onto paper and the pricked through it with a pin straight onto the silk. We had found some evidence of sequins in the remnants and they are useful to hide the raw edges of the applied fabrics; in my stash of beads I found some dull gold metal ones salvaged from a 1920’s dress, the same period as the original heart.

the almost finished heart

By the end of the day the heart was almost complete, except that there were a lot of the original beads left over…Libby said that she would keep pinning them  into patterns as more is more in this type of thing. So that evening she brought back the finished heart which you can see at the head of this post.

The best thing of all though was how the remaking of this family heirloom originally made by Libby’s hardly remembered grandfather, resulted in her reflecting on her family and its history, the ties to the present formed by using the remnants of a family wedding dress;  she was moved by  the idea of actually touching the same beads and placing them in the same patterns as her grandfather had  – I have seldom worked with such an enthralled and ultimately contented and student.

Making Hearts at Heart Space

selection of old and some of my new beaded heart pincushions

Although I have not set out to just make hearts at the classes at Heart Space Studios they are proving very popular in several different textiles workshops. I decided to make my first teaching  workshop on how to make the stuffed and beaded hearts that were popular to give as love tokens or birth presents in the late 19th century. Hand made with pinned patterns and messages they were often made by men away in the forces as presents for those left behind. Now they make small gifts for all sorts of occasions and are highly pleasurable to make.

But before the fun of pinning the beads starts you have to make them and this takes quite a bit of manipulation and a lot of sawdust. They need to be so full that a straight pin will stay put when stuck into the surface to hold the beads. I always have to stuff and stitch them several times to get the tension correct.


They also need strong stitching to hold the stuffing in and I always like this “scar” that is made –  it looks very surgical and one of the hearts made at this class retains this scar idea on the front of the finished heart to great effect.


stitches holding sawdust in place.

Getting a good shape to the hearts takes some pulling and punching as well as a few retaining stitches, it was interesting how different and individual the hearts looked even at this stage. Maybe we all have a perfect heart shape within us.

pinning messages in place on Crazy patchwork base.

Two of the class decided to make “Crazy”  hearts – small pieces of fabric are pinned into place and them the edges covered with ribbons or beads. One of these hearts was made by a mother for her son who is a soldier, and she made it to remind him of home – a nice reversal of the original soldier and sailor makers sending them home.

this Crazy heart was made for the sheer joy of playing with the luscious fabrics, ribbons and beads

Another heart had a message pinned  in to it a rueful comment about the maker, first the message needs to be written in place though and this is quite a tricky piece of designing so it is back to the drawing board before she was able to get her message to fit perfectly in the elegant shape.

writing in position ready to pin - Jan Connet,

The finished heart was brought to me to photograph later when she had finished it – I like the difference the livid scar gives to the well-known saying.

mended but rueful heart.

By coincidence Jan Connet and Liz Hewitt, 2 of the makers shown in the post are responsible for organising a conference for TFSW to be held later this month in Taunton Somerset it involves Mapping and Networking and as I chair TFSW I am shamelessly adding the flyer to this post in the hope of attracting even more people to enjoy a textile networking day.

And by an even happier co-incidence the mended ceramic pitcher shown in  “mending goddess fights back” will also be exhibited.






Drawing Class

drawing and embroidery for my pink shoes- Ann Rippin

Welcome to my new world – I am starting something completely different this year – opening a space in Bristol for  textile based workshops called – not surprisingly – Heart Space Studios. I have been asked so many times to conduct drawing and/or stitching workshops that I decided to take the plunge and with 2 other stitchers, Liz Hewitt and Jan Connett have committed to developing series of workshops and courses from complete beginners to master classes for all things textile.

complete concentration at the first workshop - drawing shoes. Jan and Liz are seen here at the bottom left hand side of the table

I conducted this first drawing class for a disparate group, most are established textile makers, some teach classes them selves, some had never been to a drawing class before and Liz Bishop, informed me that she was unteachable, she had tried and failed to draw at countless classes…I had a plan for her – but as you can see below it was totally un-necessary. I meet with this “I can’t draw” problem all the time by people who are perfectly capable of drawing but who  have at some time in their lives been told they can’t – by what standards they have been judged is hard to fathom – my response to them all is – if you can write your name the same way twice – you can be taught to draw. But this is such a sensitive drawing that I really was perplexed when I saw it.

first drawing by the woman who "couldn't draw"

I have taught design and drawing, usually observational drawing, for many years as a senior lecturer in textile design at UWE Bristol –  from life drawing through fashion illustration to drawing for design outcomes. I have worked with private clients, costume students at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School as well as drawing practically every day in one form or another. I feel that drawing is my first language, English my second and stitching my third.

And what was my first drawing class about – shoes – well why not? Practically everyone I know has an attitude to shoes either their own or other peoples’ – I have been drawing and stitching them for the past few months and I had a lot of ideas about them to relay to anyone who would listen

shoe selection, from Chinese bound feet covers to Jan Connet's "staggers"

I called the first class How to Look, and I set about it in the usual way of quickly getting everyone relaxed for working by doing 2 minute studies of various shoes and being extremely strict about how they drew them – like not taking the pencil off the page for a continuous line drawing, how to use various angles of the pencils and crayons to create textured lines, pushing not pulling the pencils, drawing with an eraser….most people were amazed that I was teaching drawing skills, not just setting up poses – I was amazed they were amazed.

first simple drawings being used for stitched shoes - Janet Clarke

I have very few images of these early drawings – I was far too busy watching and teaching to remember to take photos…but happily several people returned to their simple line drawings for the stitched drawing later in the day. One of the most elegant drawing and embroidery transitions, below, was done by Sally Payne who “doesn’t stitch at all” and is a musician, she just came along with a friend.

an early drawing with transition into stitch - Sally Payne

Several people brought shoes, Jan Connett brought the most fascinating pair of all – a fabric and glitzy suede confection which almost everyone wanted to draw, but they would have taken the whole day to have done justice to them – the person who captured their spirit if not their fabrication was our only male student, Mike -who is just re-learning to draw after a very early retirement,

everyone's favourite fabric and leather shoes

coloured character drawing of the glitzy shoes, Mike Kersopp

But Jan’s own simple line drawing and embroidery caught something more refined which she could see in them – but then she has worn them and is very alive to their curious allure.

drawing and stitched transition drawing or her own shoe Jan Connett

Another shoe or rather boot, that proved to be the inspiration for several wonderful drawings, were Mike’s suede boots – their rugged rough exterior made everyone who saw them reach for oil pastels to draw really big – they turned quite a few people into confidant illustrators and their subsequent embroidered versions carried through the initial conviction.

work boot drawing, Ira Wood

work boots, Kirsten Hill-Nixon

However Mike really won the “bravery in face of the experts” award for his first attempt at stitching from his study of his own boot, I had to explain the rudiments of running, back and split stitches.  It is not surprising that such a rugged boot should elicit good drawings, there is a lot to record in them and the shape isn’t too refined!

But some of the most charming drawings of all were from a simple pink ballet -flat shoe,  their simplicity seemed to bring out careful and fairly accurate results which captured the spirit if never the quite the colour of the original shoes…

simple drawing of a simple shoe - Viv Young

and the header illustration by Anne Rippin is of these same shoes but she placed them perfectly in a shoe box to surround them with a pattern.

lively but simple drawing of my ballet flats - Ann Rippin

Anne has beaten me to blog this first, she sent me a link to her own post before I had even downloaded my images and she is extremely complimentary about the workshop.

The suede boots and shoes seem to bring out the most sensitive drawings from most people – maybe this is the ease with which you can apply pastels and soft crayons which suggests the texture of suede.

sensitive drawing and stitched painting of suede boot- Debby Bird

even my own difficult to draw, black suede shoes have been transposed into luscious deeply  textural studies by Sharne Lott – a knitter.

transitions from drawing to stitched images of a suede shoe - Sharne Lott

Even people who absolutely dreaded the day – like Liz Hewitt who organised the students for me, realised that if she didn’t worry so much about how the drawing looked but just concentrated on quickly recording just what she saw, not what she thought she saw (now I wonder why that helped?) her drawings were more accurate and looked convincing – but like many textile practitioners, she stitches a lot better than she draws.

sensitive stitching - Liz Hewitt.

killer heels quick drawing and transition stitching- Sally Sparks.

Being forced to draw quickly often brings about great changes in people’s work, when you are made to hurry up and just told to concentrate on the essentials, which are assessed before-hand,  the drawings are usually stronger by being more focused.  On the right can be seen 2 really strong drawings  of  killer heels by a dedicated machine – stitcher who was struggling to get any proper proportion in her slower and  more considered drawings. I often find that people who have taken a long time over a drawing and then realise it is out of proportion are loathe to change it – thinking that they will adjust it later ….better to erase the problem when you first recognise it .

Another thing that happens when you draw quickly is that it helps stop what I call feathery  or dithery drawing, where people make about 6 attempts at the line so it appears to be ghosted  – one of these lines must be right but which one? That is when I suggest drawing with an eraser…..choose the correct line and get rid of the rest – this advice worked wonders on one person at the class, who eventually made a sensitive if alternative coloured drawing and embroidery of the ballet- flats. – just look at that drawing of the bow!

fluid drawing after the de- feathering exercises-~Patricia Brownen


Twelfth Night

As you may have guessed by my absence of festival news – I don’t do much in the way of celebrating at Christmas although I do enjoy decorating the house; I decorate on xmas eve and then on 12th night, tonight,  it all comes down. I do, however, like to bring in the new year properly and so this year we had a large party on New Year’s day. Lots of people around for lunch, mostly old friends but several new as well  and one of the guests who had never been to the house before commented to Rosemary Murphy (her blog has pictures of the actual party ) how he thought that all the decorations were lovely and it must have taken me ages to put it all together. “What decorations- it always looks like this” she replied.

Well, actually there was a front door wreath,  I know this usually lives on the landing outside my studio but I added the red berries from the garden and put it on the front door.

And yes I must confess that the red roses wreath has lived permanently on the kitchen door ever  since it was brought in from the front door on 12th night 2007 – but it looks so lovely against the Blue Green painted (Farrow and Ball) door and I did select the scarves especially to colour co-ordinate with it. In fact this kitchen door always has a selection of scarves draped over it depending on the season and my agenda so I am thinking that it may provide a fabric series of posts in the future…..and the future is soon going to get very busy – but not just yet!

Moving into the small panneled room where I have shown my seasonal pelmet decoration as the header of this post  – you can see how it usually looks above, in fact I quite miss that extra xmas swag right now, but no doubt will get used to the minimal look again.

The fireplace also gets swagged for the 12 days,

This mantle-piece holds several art works by friends and colleagues, and by chance there is a red theme to them, so they lend themselves easily  to the xmas look –  the painting above is by Alfred Stockham, an old friend whose birthday falls on New Year’s day and he was the guest of honour at our party.

meanwhile this little silver heart wreath always lives on the shell wall lights.

And lights are the main area where, I grant you, that the extra xmas decorations are especially hard to spot, but those amongst you who are sharp eyed should enjoy the search.

I just had to include the photograph below because of the wonderful reflection cast onto the ceiling from the finial of the venetian style mirror – it isn’t at all apparent in the room itself…and I have just realised it is because of the flash on the camera!

Now I have to own up that this chandelier is festooned with all the past 8 years xmas decorations in the form of plastic, glass or crystal drops which I first started to add to it the year I bought it…and then couldn’t bring myself to remove them they looked so pretty – so this now is a cascade of pure glitz.

And last but not least in the return to textiles and my own work – I must show off my old and getting better by the year patchwork curtains made specially for this room

Heart Felt – Heart Fest.

I was asked to make this snail heart  for the Heart Felt exhibition, currently on at Centre Space Gallery Bristol. Paul, whose story I am symbolising is shown holding it aloft; he seems delighted – but I think mainly because it gave him an excuse to stop climbing ladders for a few moments, he was putting up poles for us to hang up the hundreds of hand -made hearts. I only read the first bit of his story which was attached to a photograph of a snail which, was all I had to work    but like most of them I suspect it is a sad tale…………you can buy the excellent catalogue to read them all, “Heart Felt, Life Changing Moments” it’s compiled by Jan Connett and available from her .

happy snail holder

I arrived on Thursday afternoon to help a team get the exhibition hung; it was the usual scene of everyone standing round looking a bit stunned and wanting a cup of tea; but within half an hour we were all working away to plans by Jan Connett who organised the whole project. There were about 10 people in all coming and going – most of them in for a long night, I had only a few hours but had volunteered for card making duty when I got home. Everything goes towards 3 charities the Children’s Hospice South West, the British Heart Foundation and the African Street Children Organisation and most of the hearts can be bought from as little as £5.00

the hanging team hard at work - hardly a heart in sight!

I was given the job of hanging the first wall of hearts with a partner; they had all  previously been strung out on lengths of fishing line with an elegant weight at the end – our first job was to unravel  the lines and get them into order on the floor –

the un-ravelled lines of hearts


As soon as they emerged from their boxes I started to photograph them on the floor, they were all so different but all full of vitality. they each had a label written with their own stories ( if you enlarge the image by clicking on  it –  some of the stories can be read).


when I left the exhibition was coming together, it was starting  to look really exciting – but what else is going to happen with that bike to make it suggest a heart felt moment?

5.30pm evening before the show.

the next morning this is what had emerged………….

she sure loves her bike!

The whole space had been transformed, 4 long rows of suspended hearts were gently swaying, twisting and turning, the whole room seemed to be swooning with hearts

strings of hearts with labels waiting to be read.

I just loved the whole room – now there’s a surprise! it was white and airy with small brilliantly coloured hearts with messages to be read hanging from them;some sad about the death of a friend or family member, some about the loss of pets, there were many heart memorials.

exquisite super real heart with a sad, sad message.

cats lovers look away.

Some are poignant about the loss of a loved parent to Alzheimer’s, now gone out of reach and recognition – others about the loss of self due to illness and broken relationships – but most are joyous – happy snippets of remembered times, seasons, gardens, fishes – anything and everything worth celebrating by making a heart.


Most heart warning are the hearts that celebrate a long loving relationship, the button heart is for 55 years of happiness and a birth of a great grandchild; the ivy wreath heart is dedicated to a life lived with “electric touch, shared pleasure, constancy and truth”













the Fish heart has a label saying “only dead fish go with the flow” and the funny face is for a well remembered and much loved grandmother










the 2 contrasting hearts below are for joy,  of watching seeds grow and the joy of finding a safe key holder for her heart…..













But my favourite heart of all is the one I found revealed on the worn painted floor as I was tidying up at the back of the gallery.

my favourite heart in the exhibition