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The processes involved in my textile art pictures

In my last blog, I wrote about the inspiration and influences behind my new creative interest. In this one, I'll show you in greater detail the steps involved in making the sort of textile art picture that I have started creating.

The first step is to have a photo which will be the basis of the image that I set out to create.

Here's a little bit of background to the photo that I used for this particular piece: it was taken by a friend on a gloriously sunny autumn day at Longshaw in the Peak District, when she was having a walk there with family. She had previously seen my first piece of textile art entitled "Through the Trees" and photographed this scene because it was a bit like it.

At the time, she'd expressed an interest in buying "Through the Trees" but I wasn't sure whether I wanted to sell it so instead offered to make her one using her photo as the basis for it. She jumped at this offer, and that provided me with a great incentive to work on "Longshaw in Autumn"

I study the photo to decide on the focus for the artwork - in this case it was the path through the trees - and then make a simplified drawing of the main areas within the photo. Here it was the path, trees, sky and the different layers of foliage.

By making the sketch the same size as the intended collage, I am able to use it as a guide on the background fabric.

I used a white cotton material for the base of the work, cutting it larger than the intended finished size of the picture, and marked on with a disappearing ink pen where the edges of the collage would be. At this stage I also marked on where the bright blue of the sky would come down to.

The sky was the first area I worked on, selecting a variety of blue batik fabric offcuts, backing them with fusible bondaweb and then cutting out pieces that would overlap to create the sky. While it would be quicker to use a single large piece of blue fabric for a background area such as the sky, I like to build it up with small pieces both as a means of using up irregular-shaped offcuts and to create the texture and gradual variations in shade to depict the areas where the sky shows slightly through the background twigs and foliage of more distant trees.

I have the original photo image on my phone to refer to as I'm working, as this helps to guide my choice of colours and fabrics.

When all the pieces for the sky were positioned and bonded in place with a warm iron, I then stitched round them using blue variegated cotton thread, before starting to cut out and assemble pieces of fabric predominantly in shades of brown for the path. With these in place and bonded, I stitched over them using rayon variegated thread in shades of brown, red and orange. This stitching helped to add texture and interest to the path to depict the rough, leaf-strewn surface.

Once the path was in place, I filled in the rest of the background of autumnal foliage in varying shades of green, yellow, orange and brown.

The next additions to the image were the trees. For these, I traced the trunks and main branches from the reverse of my original sketch onto bondaweb, roughly cut round them and then ironed them onto light brown batik fabric. I then carefully cut them out, peeled off the bondaweb backing and positioned them over the background using the sketch as a guide. Stitching along the edges helped to keep these in place.

Once those were in place, it was time to add the foreground in the form of the foliage around the base of the trees and the branches. While the intention was not to add each individual leaf, I wanted to give the impression of the thinning leaves and the variations in the colours. From my fabrics, I chose stronger and brighter shades of yellow, orange and red for the leaves on the trees, and cut smaller, angular pieces than those used for the background.

The video showing my workspace gives a sense of the way in which I work.

When the leaves were in place, the final process was to add stitching using free machine embroidery. Variegated rayon thread in shades of yellow, orange and brown provided a slight shine to the foliage with the brown being used to create the impression of twigs.

I've been asked how long it took me to create this piece, a question that I find hard to answer. I worked on it over a 6 week period, sometimes becoming engrossed in the process and spending 2 or more hours continuously on it but also having times when I'd simply spot a small piece of fabric that I thought would be good in a particular place and adding that to the image. Maybe with my next piece I'll keep a log of the time spent.

"Longshaw in Autumn" is now with its new owner and I'm looking forward to seeing it framed and hung in her home.

What's next? I'm keen to try my hand at creating a more urban scene and I'm still thinking about how best to incorporate this type of textile art into my bag making. Watch this space or follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter for updates!

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