Well, I have to say that I’m relieved that the recent North East Open studios event is over. The exhibition is always enjoyable, but it’s also exhausting to spend all day every day demonstrating the machine and explaining the art of machine ...


A complicated freebie and more...

A complicated freebie

Well, I have to say that I’m relieved that the recent North East Open studios event is over. The exhibition is always enjoyable, but it’s also exhausting to spend all day every day demonstrating the machine and explaining the art of machine embroidery to people. I do enjoy it but all the same it’s good to get back to normal life (such as it is). But it’s so late in the month that it’s really too late for a September freebie, so I’m making this a combined freebie for September and October. And because it’s for two months it’s quite a complicated design – the Zentangle Fox that I posted a few months ago.


An edited fox

The original version was for the 8x8 inch hoop (200 x 200 mm) but I don’t know how many people have this, so I’ve adapted it for the 6 ¼ x 10 ¼ inch (160 x 260 mm) hoop. This is of course still a big hoop, but many readers seem to have it. The dimensions of the fox itself is about 6 x 5 x1/2 inches. I can’t really make it any smaller, because the design is so intricate that it can’t be “shrunk” much.

Adapting the design for the 6 x 10 hoop has meant cutting out the zentangle background and just leaving the figure of the fox, but in some ways I like this better than the original – it’s cleaner and clearer, and lets you choose your own background. However if you do have the 8x8 inch hoop and would like the original version complete with background, let me know and I’ll send it along to you   

Here's the file ( in .pes v6) and here's the worksheet. However, you should remember (as always with my designs!) that you should ignore the colours mentioned in the worksheet – I always do! Just use the colours you think will work best, and those that will work best with the applique fabric you choose.

Talking of freebies, you may remember that August’s design was a Jacobean motif which I offered in small (4x4) and larger (5x7) sizes, but because I hadn’t stitched it out at the larger size warned you to be careful about stitching it on anything important. But blog reader Rambou did try it at the larger size and I’m pleased to say that she got beautiful results, so you can go ahead with the 5x7 version with no hesitation. Thanks, Rambou!


It works at the large size too!


The blackbirds in the rowan tree

This design took me about the longest time to digitise than almost anything I’ve ever done: the berries alone took about a week, and then there were all those birds and leaves. And stitching it out took almost three hours. But I think it was worth it, and that it worked out well. Yesterday a friend of mine said that it reminded her of William Morris’ “Strawberry Thief”, which you may know is a design of a blackbird with a strawberry in its beak. I really like that idea so I think I’ll call this “The Rowan Thieves’



The Rowan Thieves

Now – things here are getting totally hectic in the run-up to our NEOS (North East Open Studios) exhibition. The woman who usually runs it is in poor health so the rest of us are running around in headless chicken mode trying to work out what needs doing and who’s going to do it - and then of course having to do it. So I probably won’t get round to posting for a couple of weeks, and I’m afraid that September’s freebie will have to wait. But I’ll be back soon


Cheating just a little...

The idea of this piece was to show an animal shape broken up into different smaller shapes, something along the lines of the camouflaged animals I did a while back. I drew a deer intended to be made up of 13 separate appliqueed shapes, each one with a slightly different design on it. Then I spent a morning printing up bits of fabric and appliqueeing them on a painted background to make up the deer.




Well, it sort of worked but I discovered that the patterns on the printed fabric were way too big to be seen clearly on the small pieces of fabric I used for the applique, and the fabric just looked sort of blotchy rather than patterned

So I cheated. With a fine gel pen I went over the patterns of the fabric and emphasised the lines and shapes of the patterns. It’s not too bad, but next time I will have a better idea of how to print fabric with clearly visible design patterns





The cuckoo

And on with some more pieces for the exhibitions. This is one I actually quite like, and it reminds me of a song we used to sing at school. “The cuckoo is a pretty bird, she sings as she flies. She brings us glad tidings, she tells us no lies. She sips all sweet flowers for to keep her voice clear, and she never sings cuckoo till the summer draws near”.



The cuckoo is a pretty bird...

When I first came up to Scotland I was really surprised to find that there were cuckoos as far north as this. I’d always thought of cuckoos as birds of the woods of Southern England, but no – in May you can hear that wonderful cry echoing over the moors here, and we usually have one or two resident in the woods around our house. They’re also very handsome birds with a very distinctive shape. It’s true that their domestic habits may leave something to be desired (after all, they leave other birds to raise their offspring) but all the same I don’t think I’d be without them – that “cuckoo cuckoo cuckoo” cry really means that spring has come

Anyway, less of the natural history and more of the embroidery. It's not a difficult piece - the bird is made up of just three areas of appliqué (body, upper wing and lower wing) and the stump is a fourth. All are overstitched very loosely to give a rough texture. The background is just printed with a simple stamp I carved out of a lino block, and the leaves on the front are stitched over it. So not a difficult piece!


Some chaffinches for the exhibition

11 August 2017. Right, it’s about time I posted some pictures of the work I’ve been doing for the two upcoming exhibitions. Both exhibitions will feature works inspired by this part of the world, so there will be a lot of Scottish birds and animals.



Chaffinches on the wires

And here’s the first – a little flock of chaffinches sitting on the telephone wires that run down our road. I have to confess that my first thought was to make the birds crows, but I slapped myself on the wrist and told myself that I’d done enough crows for the time being, and I should look at some other kind of birds for a change. And I’m glad I did – the chaffinches have cheerful autumnal colours, and there are a lot of them around here so I think it’s about time I gave them a picture of their own

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