Saturday, January 19, 2019

A few thoughts on design

I don't believe in following rules when I make art but there are a few design techniques that I do use so I thought I would share with you a textile art piece I made and how I did the design of it. I also do the same thing when I art journal or paint.

I usually begin with an idea or challenge suggestion to start my piece. Sometimes I will do a quick sketch if I need to work out how to do it but most times I do not. For this piece I went through my stash looking for something to use for a textile art piece.

I found the photo transfer leaves that were left over from another project and the coloured metal pieces, painted with alcohol inks, that were also left from the same project. I decided to use them so that was the beginning of my colour choices. The leaves and metal were rusty red, orange and yellow so I looked for a suitable background.

 I found this blue background that I thought looked good with the oranges and reds. It is a paper towel that was placed under fabric I was dying. It had been dyed and also has splashes of paint here and there. I also found some scraps of green fabric that were also leftovers. I wasn't sure if I would use all of these things but they were my starting point.

I laid the metal pieces in wavy rows and stitched them down using a variegated thread on my machine. I made sure to stitch along the edges and over all the points of the metal so they wouldn't scratch my hands later on. I have done similar designs on paper so wanted to try this with stitching.

 Next I decided to add more stitching lines in a brown to compliment the metal strips. I then felt I needed to add some light tones because the whole thing was a medium tone, so I did the white stitching and couched white cord to the piece. I used the machine to stitch some grids over areas of the background that I didn't want to save. The grids also help to lighten the piece.

I laid the leaves I was going to use on the background so I could see how it looked before stitching them on. I put them off center as I don't usually like to place the focal point right in the middle of my work.  I decided that they were blending into the metal strips too much. I placed a darker leaf on the piece and thought it looked better than the light ones. I usually try to use light, medium and dark tones in my work. It makes a nice contrast and dynamic picture.  I chose the leaf shapes I wanted and then coloured them with alcohol inks to make them dark.

The reason I chose these leaf shapes was because I liked the way the stems looked. The taller middle leaf is fairly straight and the two leaves on either side have stems slightly tilted towards the center leaf. It looks more interesting to me than the three straight leaves in the picture above.  I did not attach the leaves yet because that will be one of the last things I do.

 I used the scraps of green fabrics to fill in some of the areas I wanted to cover. I did this by laying tracing paper over the design and tracing the stitched lines that outline each area. I tried to space the colours around the piece so they weren't all bunched together. I usually try to add three pieces of each colour but on this occasion I did four of each colour and it still worked for me. There is only 3 dark green pieces here but you can see below I added a 4th piece because there was a bit too much blue in the center of the piece. I always make changes as I work. I machine stitched all the extra bits down so later I could add a little hand stitching. I now hand stitched the leaves on. 

I started hand stitching by adding straight stitch in some of the gaps between the stitched lines. Then I got some beads out in the same colours. I placed the large beads on the piece first. I used the square beads that are similar in colour to the leaves in three spots around the background. This makes the leaves integrate into the whole piece better, rather than being the only dark tone. The other beads were added one colour at a time so they could be placed around the background where I thought they looked best. My piece is now finished.


  1. Really enjoyed seeing the development of this. Gorgeous colour and stitch ♥

  2. This is lovely. Thanks for the walk-through. What are the leaves made from? If they're real, how are they preserved?

    1. The leaves look real because they are photos printed onto t-shirt transfer paper. Then they are ironed onto fabric and cut out. It is a great way to include them without the mess.

  3. Love this piece Wendy, thanks for the progressive photos, it’s good to see how it evolved