Nina's Textile Trail

My OCA Textile Tales

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Supplementary Work to Assignments 1 & 2 in response to Tutor Report

Assignment 1 Tutor Report Nina O’Conner 513049 (1)

Assignment 2 Tutor Report Nina O’Conner 513049 (1)

To improve both the presentation of both assignments 1 & 2, the pages were bound into book form in response to the Tutor’s suggestions.


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Textiles 1: A Creative Approach – Assignment 1 – Tutor Report & Reactions

I had overlooked from the ‘Before you start’ Section of the course folder that my learning log should include my tutor’s reports on assignments and my reactions to these.   The following is the Tutor report received after submission of Assignment 1.

Overall Comments

Overall, a very good start to the course, well done. You have worked really hard with each aspect of the assignment and it looks like you have enjoyed the process of developing your creativity, technical and visual skills over this first assignment. It will be interesting to see how both your drawing and textiles develop throughout the course and as your confidence grows. Ultimately, this is a strong start to the course and I hope that you manage to maintain your commitment and enthusiasm.

Assessment potential

You may want to get credit for your hard work and achievements with the OCA by formally submitting your work for assessment at the end of the module. More and more people are taking the idea of lifelong learning seriously by submitting their work for assessment but it is entirely up to you. We are just as keen to support you whether you study for pleasure or to gain qualifications. Please consider whether you want to put your work forward for assessment and let me know your decision when you submit Assignment 2. I can then give you feedback on how well your work meets the assessment requirements.

Feedback on assignment: Drawing/mark-making

Lovely exploration of mark-making, both thoughtful and expressive, and using a range of pencil, pens, medias and tools with beautiful results. For example, of the ‘fast’ marks (Pg.3), are amongst those that I feel are most successful. They both feel fast in the action in which they were made but also the grain and quality of the mark communicates this energy and lighter touch on the surface of the paper. Don’t worry about getting lost in the joy of making, that’s a good thing! There a fine balance to be explored between the thinking and expressive thought and then allowing something to happen as the mind can too easily try to draw an image or representation rather than feeling. Although, I don’t feel this is a problem for you and you appear to have really enjoyed this exercise.

You have used this exercise really well but continue to build on this and your exploration of the tones and qualities of medias and materials that you use. Explore how the sensitivity and intention of a mark can influence the interpretation of a drawing and in turn inform your textile interpretations. Start to explore larger scale or use a viewfinder to focus on and enlarge an area.   Lovely developments in Stages 2 and 3 looking at texture using resist techniques, printing and collage.  Your rubbings are also very nice and show some lovely qualities.

Ideas to progress further with your drawing:

– More exploration of scale.

– Use a viewfinder to isolate areas.

– Use different kinds of paper – the surface will always affect the outcome.

– Identify artists which use line drawing in styles that appeal to you and add these to your blog / log with a few comments

– Explore drawing positive and negative space.

Feedback on assignment: Stitch

Very nice exploration of different machine stitch and textures of thread and how these create different textures and marks. Some beautiful initial and resolved samples, you show you are very competent with machine stitch and, particularly if this is new to you, that that you have tried really hard. It’s nice to see some hand-stitch elements within these samples too.

I would have liked to see some of these ‘stitched marks’ allow the space to be on their own piece of fabric and in a larger quantity so you could explore intensity, depth and space. Some of the stitch samples loose the quality you have achieved in your drawn marks. It is harder to find your own voice character with stitch as there is a different way on which the mind works with a pencil and with a needle and thread but the overlaps are really interesting space to explore.

I feel now you could now challenge yourself further by being more ambitious and adventurous in your interpretations.  Try developing the element of play when working with stitch, much in the way that you have begun to in your drawing/mark-making. Don’t always feel you have to be neat and tidy you’re your stitch work unless this is important to your idea, allow a thread to sometimes be looser and show its character. For example, what happens if you cut the stitches you make, or unpick them, use the back/reverse of your work, with non- traditional ‘threads’? Challenge your expectations, and expand your understanding and knowledge of what hand stitch can be. Try working with materials that were challenging and perhaps unfamiliar.

n.b. Presentation of samples – avoid sticking your textile work into your book, or at least completely flat, its nice to be able to handle the work and also look at the back.

Consider how you want to show and present these works? I see these as separate to a sketchbook. Is there a reason for your samples being circular? Remember the space around a work can be as important as the marks/stitches made.

Suggestions to help develop your hand stitch:

1. Structure What happens when it becomes multiplied? What kind of surface does it make? Stitch is a three dimensional construction, so its structure is more than surface ornamentation. Think about stitch direction and experiment with the way light falls on the thread.

2. Base How does the stitch interact with the base, is it on cloth or some other material? Is it on no base at all but formed independently – is it rigid to exist without a base? What might the base be, what type of material or pre-existing structure might you use? How might different base cloths affect the stitch? Does your stitch affect the base, as in drawn thread work?

3. Tools What kind of tool is needed to make the stitch and how might changing the tool affect the look of the stitch? Does it need to be sharp to pierce the fabric or strong to hold wire or something substantial?

Does the tool make a hole or create a tear or puncture something?

4. Thread. What material is going to be used to make the stitch itself? How adventurous can you be about the thread?

5. Action How you stitch can affect the outcome. Think of sewing/embroidery like handwriting – an expression of a hand. Explore the character and personality of stitch through: tension, slack, gathers, knots, cutting, fast, slow, neat, sloppy, mistakes – these ways of stitching might change the look of the stitch.

6. Scale Think HUGE, Think miniature, Think repeat, Think multiples

7. Colour Using stitch as a way of exploring and mixing colour or tonal gradation, or of reducing colour so only the structure becomes important. Try it several different ways to see what the colour does to the stitch.


You have worked really well throughout this project but it’s hard to see which your sketchbook work is? If you choose to display your assignment tasks in a sketchbook format then I suggest you have a separate one specifically for your sketchbook work which runs alongside your and separate to your assignment work. Perhaps develop a theme for your sketchbook to help with sources of inspiration, artist and research. Play with your sources of inspiration – cut them up, fold them, collage them together – how does each image inform and interact with each another? Don’t stop at one interpretation of an image or photograph, allow them to develop and inform new creative decisions and outcomes.

Go out and draw textures from life, observe how a mark is made, what ‘action’ made it? or, how have these textures formed? This could influence how you draw or stitch in response. Try to think visually as much as possible in your sketchbook; that is scribbling out ideas; jotting down rough ideas for designs and making colour notes, artist research, photography. Use it as a space to really be free, creative, energetic and explorative …be a magpie, collect those ‘shiny’ things that inspire you, even if your not yet sure why they do, continue to gather them together and reflect on their qualities.

Refer back to OCA study guides:

Learning Logs or Blogs / Critical essays:

Brilliant. You have made a really positive start with your learning log, especially considering you haven’t worked on a blog before! Really well observed and considered reflection on the progress and outcomes of the work you have completed.  Build on this by integrating more references into your log that relates to your work, e.g. visual inspiration, the work of other artists and designers. Bring into this more reflections on thoughts on exhibition visits, books and articles you are reading and places you have visited.

Re: presentation – (also see earlier comments) With regards to mounting and presenting your work, there is no hard and fast rule as it depends so much on the work and it can change from piece to piece. If you are creating designs to be sold as samples to an agency/company the presentation/format is easier but, as an artwork or product based work there are many things to consider. For example – the context of the work, conceptually what has driven the work? What do you want to communicate and how is it best to get your work/idea across? This may well be mounting your work flat/on a wall but equally, as your work develops you may find this isn’t appropriate or practically possible. Sometimes the edges of a pieces and the space around a work is as equally important and applying a ‘frame’ to a work will hide this and actually can confuse the ‘reading’ of the work. Your work may not always be viewed in an exhibition but instead in printed or digital/online format so, how and where you photograph your work will also affect this. I think it would be really worthwhile to carry out your own research of how different artists present their work within your learning log. Also, play around and test ways of presenting your work and document this through photography.

Suggested viewing/reading:

Hand Stitch Perspectives – Jane McKeating and Alice Kettle

The Textile Reader – Jessica Hemmings

Pointers for the next assignment:

  • Follow up on advice given in your feedback.
  • Consider how to best present your work.
  • Develop Sketchbook work.
  • Take risks. Be bold. Consider the message behind your work in more depth.
  • Be critical of the work of others and apply the same critiques to your own work.
  • More artist/designer research and where possible visit exhibitions and find artists and designers that really inspire you.

Tutor name:

Hannah Leighton-Boyce


9th September 2014

Next assignment due

3rd November 2014

My reactions to this report are as follows:

I’m pleased to note the comment that I have made a good start to the course.  I have enjoyed the process of developing my creativity , technical and visual skills and look forward to maintaining my commitment & enthusiasm.

I am intending to formally submit my work for assessment at the end of the module and would appreciate any feedback to help me meet the assessment requirements.

Feedback on Drawing/Mark Making

I appreciate the comments made and the ideas to progress further with my drawing.

Feedback on Stitch

The positive comments are appreciated.  Free machine stitch is not new to me, I taught myself the technique last year, but I have not used it in this way before and I became more proficient during this assignment.  I agree that I didn’t explore intensity, depth and space and that some the samples are less expressive.  With hindsight I think I was almost ‘hurrying’ through that section of coursework to move on to the next as I was familiar with the technique.  The work I have done during assignment two has made me more comfortable with focusing on being more expressive.   I would very much like to be more ambitious and adventurous in my interpretations and am trying to work more freely and expressively.  I feel I have made some progress but have a way to go to move away from the ‘neat & tidy’ habit.  I will continue to work towards challenging my expectations and working with new and unfamiliar materials.

I appreciate the suggestions to develop my hand stitch.  I was working on some samples inspired by Julia Caprara’s book ‘Exploring Colour’ whilst this assignment was being assessed and have included them with my Assignment 2 coursework.  I enjoyed using bigger stitches and combining different threads but see that that are still ‘neat and tidy’ and don’t really push boundaries.

Feedback on sketchbooks

I did indicate on several drawings submitted that they were from my sketchbook but there were very few examples.  I have a better idea of how to work in my sketchbook and referred back to the OCA study guides as suggested.  They include some very useful pointers and the prospect of doing as suggested is exciting to me, but as mentioned in the above paragraph I have not been very disciplined with this side of the course as I find the coursework all consuming.

Feedback on Learning Log

I appreciate the positive comments here and understand that more references relating to my visual inspiration and the work of other artists and designers and references on other sources should be included.

Presentation of Work

I appreciate the response to my question about how work should be presented.  I agree with hindsight that its nice to be able to handle the fabric and I have given consideration to presenting Assignment 2 differently.  I have researched the subject a little and some of my findings and thoughts are noted in the back of my pink sketchbook.  I spent some time pinning samples in different ways until I arrived at stitching them in hand made booklets.  I didn’t document the whole process with photography, only remembering to take one picture.  I will continue to develop ideas for presentation of samples and future pieces and work on documenting more aspects of my research and inspiration.

Suggested viewing/reading

I note the titles recommended.

I was delighted to receive my Tutor report and had every intention of acting on all the suggestions and am embarrassed to note, completing this at the end of Assignment 2, that I haven’t responded to many of the suggestions.  I do feel I have made progress and worked consistently over the last 10 weeks, but clearly have a long way to go to cover all aspects of the course.

I am excited by all the suggestions to help develop my work but feel that the coursework takes up most of my spare time and I rarely think to work on other aspects.  This also applies to sketchbook work.  I was concerned about my time management before I started and meant at the the time that I might be distracted working at home and not make time to do the course. This is not the case, I have immersed myself in assignment 2 and worked most days but I need to share that time out more effectively to make time for ‘playing, sketchbook work, reading and visiting exhibitions’ in addition to following the coursework instructions.

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Textiles 1 – A Creative Approach – Assignment 1 – Reflection

On reflection, the process of starting the first level one course was quite challenging.   It wasn’t really difficult but I naively expected to receive my course notes, open the folder and start working.  But there is so much more to it than the coursework and that was quite daunting initially, even overwhelming.   It was really beneficial to complete the online Induction course and to read the folder before diving into the coursework which I was impatient to do.  For a novice, it was very challenging setting up a blog, taking photos, resizing them and uploading them to my library.  I am delighted to have achieved so much in that area and welcome any constructive criticism if improvements are required.

I think I have been organised with the coursework and hope that it is well presented, although I am concerned that the notes say work should be mounted on A1 or A2 sized card.  Please let me know if I should approach this differently in future.

I feel I have improved my technical and visual skills in drawing, mark making and stitches.  In particular I have progressed with my free machining and control of  top and bottom tension.

I’m pleased to have worked from my own drawings and produced reasonably good samples, especially for a first attempt.  I have been able to identify areas of each sample that could be improved upon, in particular the design and composition of the hand stitched sample based on the bark collage.

I have always been a bit of a rule-follower so I am pleased to have demonstrated some creativity by tackling the free machined samples in a non-conformist way (which is how it feels to me!).  Although I didn’t feel in the least bit inhibited with any of the practical stitching work or the mark making exercises, that cannot be said for the sketchbook.  I documented my frustrations in my learning log and have worked to improve.  I am aware that more ‘letting go’ is required and regular work in a variety of media to find my preferred approach would be beneficial.

In addition,  whilst I have made progress with my coursework, I believe I have a much more realistic understanding of the commitment required to complete the course to a high standard and it  appears to me that a more three-fold approach is required, perhaps a third of my spare time on the coursework, a third on the sketchbook and a third on research.  The research and sketchbook are both areas that warrant far more attention.   In terms of research, I need to visit and make notes on trade shows, museums and exhibitions and read more widely.  I would also benefit from adding to my visual source material more regularly.

In conclusion, I have identified a number of areas to work on and others where I have made good progress.  I have enjoyed the challenge and welcome Part two.

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Textiles 1 – A Creative Approach – Project 2, Developing your marks Review and Reflection

Can you begin to see the relationship between stitching and drawing?

Definitely, this is very clear.

Were you able to choose stitches which expressed the marks and lines of your drawings?

Yes, I think, on the whole, I chose stitches which expressed my drawing.

Did you choose the right source material to work from?

Yes I chose the source material which excited me most, in a colour combination that inspired me and which gave me an opportunity to really explore the machine techniques which involved adjusting the bobbin tension.

Do you think the sample works well irrespective of the drawing? or is the sample merely a good interpretation of the drawing?

I believe the sample works well irrespective of the drawing and is also a good interpretation.

Which did you prefer – working with stitch to create textures or working with yarns to make textures?  Which worked best for you and why?

I concentrated my efforts on working with machine stitch to create textures and that worked well for me as I mastered some new skills to create texture and identified ways to use the new stitches to influence how colour can be affected.  However,  I am very keep to explore working with yarns in more depth and intend to create a collection of sample references.

Make some comments on individual techniques and sample pieces.  Did you experiment enough?  Did you feel inhibited in any way? 

I have commented on the techniques I explored as I posted pictures of each sample.  I feel I could have experimented for some weeks …. and didn’t feel inhibited in any way.  I was conscious of my deadline approaching and as this is an area of particular interest, I didn’t want to rush it.  I intend to increase my variety of yarns, which was limited to some quite dreary and dated samples and explore hand stitch and colour in detail.

Did you prefer to work from a drawing or by playing with materials and yarns to create effects?  Which method  produced the most interesting work?

Although I like playing with materials and yarns, I have discovered that I am much more focused and experimental when working from a drawing, which resulted in more interesting work.

Is there anything you would like to change in your work?  If so, make notes for future reference.

I mentioned in an early post that I would be more careful about using heavy weight thread on a delicate piece.  It would have been wise to experiment with the six strand embroidery thread before working on the main piece, but I have learned by my mistake and developed other techniques in an endeavour to correct my mistake without unpicking.

The background I used was too small and frayed as I worked.  A larger piece would have been more practical.  The hoop was also a little too small.  I also worked on the final piece in quite a haphazard way as I was experimenting.  I think I would lay down more of the background machine stitch before adding hand stitch and considered where I would use cable stitch so I could it all at the same time (or at least the majority) rather than keep turning the fabric over to work from the opposite side.


Textiles 1 – A Creative Approach – Project 2, Stage 6, Using thread and yarns to create textures

This stage involved looking at drawings for texture, colour effects and proportions.  I selected three drawings and moved on to look at my collection of materials.   I chose the left hand drawing of the rusting table surface as I was more excited by the combination of turquoise and orange materials.  (Both these pictures have been posted earlier under Sketchbook and Project 2, stage 4)

DSCN2597                                  DSCN2604

I decided to continue to focus on machine embroidery as I thought it suited the detail of the drawing.

Considering the relative proportions of colour in the drawing, the following selection of threads were wrapped in the same proportion.


This was an interesting exercise and took longer than I anticipated.   It was particularly interesting to note just how many variations of colour there were in the small drawing and a very good way to focus on the colours needed for the sample.


The sample was free machined and hand stitched on a cotton background (which may have been curtain lining).  It was stitched in a 12cm hoop and developed into a very detailed and intricate piece.  Although there are sections I would approach differently if producing similar work, I am generally pleased with the overall result.  I really got to grips with repeatedly tightening and loosening the bobbin to use whip stitch to create different effects.   I used it for dotted lines but particularly explored the effects of using the bobbin thread colour to affect the overall colour of the top thread.  For example the gold thread seemed too dark in one area so I used a flesh coloured thread in the bobbin, loosened the tension and sewed from the top which had the effect of lightening the final appearance.  I was also interested in how the colour of thread appeared lighter or darker depending on where it was placed.   I am keen to explore the use of colour, particularly in relation to stitch.



I was disappointed with the peach area shown in the top right.  I used a six strand embroidery thread in the bobbin for cable stitch (machined from the reverse).  Although the effect was interesting, I didn’t feel it was appropriate for the delicate area of the drawing, it was far too heavy.  I toned it down by machining over it with a lighter thread which improved it in the context of this piece, but would take care to better match the proportion of heavy thread to light in this kind of work in future.  I was also frustrated that I found it difficult to replicate the delicate peach of the original drawing but was slightly hampered by the materials in my stash.

I enjoyed combining free-machining and hand stitch, machining over, under and around the hand stitches and vice versa to create texture.  Although I was in possession of some of these skills, I lacked the confidence and knowledge to bring them together into a coherent piece and feel I have made progress and gained experience.

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Textiles 1- A Creative Approach – Project 2, Stage 5, Stitches which create texture



The above are machined samples of texture.  The grey stitches and black chevrons are free machined.  The others are stitched with the feed dogs up, which I was surprised to note was a laborious process, having vastly improved my free-machining techniques.

Although I have made my main focus machined embroidery so far.  I am very interested in exploring hand stitch and will continue to produce a detailed collection of samples using different stitches, yarns and colours.

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Textiles 1 – A Creative Approach – Project 2, Stage 5, Stitches which create texture




The above is a sample exploring hand stitches and materials which create texture, details of which are noted beneath the sample.

I selected materials in Stage 4 to help decide which drawing I would use for my next piece and,when I started this, I chose my least favourite selection of three, intending only to stitch a few individual stitch samples, but got carried away.   As as exercise in not being inhibited, using thin, thick, matt, shiny threads, working in a haphazard rather than formal way, this has been successful.  It was inspired by the bark collages, the materials were carefully selected, but I’m not sure I was really focusing on recreating the texture of the bark as I stitched.   I think its a bit too haphazard and feel I achieved a more cohesive piece on the grey linen in Stage 3.    However I really liked the effect of the paper string which looks a bit like pine needles, the knitted background was very easy to work with the thick yarns and was effective.  The stitches all suited the piece, although I would use some of them differently if starting again.  French knots are very versatile and stem stitch is particularly useful for creating movement and curved lines with different weight threads.  I didn’t like the use of raffia in this case and the moss green braid was a bit too chunky and needed more work to incorporate it into the piece.

This was was a useful experience.  I enjoyed working on the sample and whilst I’m not sure I like the overall composition, it makes me want to touch it and explore the texture, which is a step in the right direction.

Here is the sample again on a slightly bigger scale:


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Textiles 1 – A Creative Approach – Project 2, Stage 4 Preparing to make textures

The next section explores the textural qualities of stitch by looking at stitches worked in different directions and densities using a wide variety of materials.  In preparation, I am considering some collaged images of bark and a sketch of a rusty metal table.  The following images show a variety of materials being auditioned for the piece.


DSCN2602                                                       DSCN2604


Textiles 1 – A Creative Approach – Project 2, Stage 3 A sample

In considering the drawing to use for this sample, I was very keen to pick something which would enable me to experiment with cable stitch.  I selected a 5 minute sketch of some bark.   As the sketch was almost in black and white, I decided to stick to a limited colour palette which was influence by the piece of smoke grey linen I selected as a background.   I wanted to capture the different tones of grey in the sketch and create a textural piece which reflected the light and would encourage a closer look.



Overall, I am very pleased with the results.  I have always admired this type of work but not tried it.  Initially, I was worried that my stitching wasn’t capturing the essence of the sketch, but as I worked I could see that some stitches looked static and others created some movement and managed to let the ideas evolve from the drawing.   I found it useful to work from the sketch as it gave me some parameters to work within and a definite outcome to aim for.  In the past I would have been happy to experiment but without a focus, may not have felt as satisfied.  The following is the same sample in a slightly larger scale.


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Textiles 1 – A Creative Approach – Project 2, Stage 2 Exploring marks & lines through stitch techniques





Above and below are examples of my exploration into marks and lines free-stitched on a Bernina 330 onto calico bonded to medium weight vilene (F220).


I am familiar with free machining but have always wanted to explore whip, feather and cable stitch so this was a new venture for me.  I’m not sure how I failed to notice that I was tightening, rather than loosening the tension screw on the bobbin (I was following an instruction in a book rather than my machine manual!!)  However that afternoon’s work was frustrating as I determinedly adjusted the top and bottom tension by degrees hoping to get a spectacular example of feather stitch.  The two samples below are stitched with the bobbin too tight.




When, in desperation, I focused fully on the bobbin and realised the error of my ways, I loosed the bobbin and stitched the following samples which matched the ‘spectacular’ outcome I was hoping for.




I really enjoyed this exercise and tried lots of different types of thread.  I feel confident that I now have good control over my bobbin and top tension to create different effects and have tried a reasonable variety of threads to identify those which don’t work so well and those which give particularly good textural results.  I am really looking forward to using these techniques in my work.