Nina's Textile Trail

My OCA Textile Tales


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 – Building a Visual Vocabulary – Project 1, Making Marks – Stage 4 Working from your sketchbooks


I chose some images from the work I have done so far and produced the above textural drawings, spending about five minutes on each.


Have you ever thought about drawing this way before?

I have occasionally attempted to draw this way, but have always reverted to my old school O-Level Art ‘perfect outline and reproduction’ approach, which is definitely still hindering me.  I feel I’m on the verge of being able to use this approach but old habits are hard to break and I need to practice, practice, practice to feel confident.

Were you able to be inventive about the range of marks you made?

I think I am capable of being very inventive with a range of marks but still lack confidence and need to let go and keep on drawing.

Did you explore a wide range of media?

I felt I explored a wide range of media and found it very interesting to note the differences between the more expensive items which were smoother, softer, richer in pigment and so much more exciting and inspirational to use than some of the cheaper pens, pencils and pastels I have previously used.

Are you pleased with what you have done?  Will it help you to approach drawing more confidently? 

I am pleased with my work so far.  My lack of confidence was really interfering with my progress.  Whilst I knew I would find it difficult to make enough time between April and September, I have been very slow because I was finding it very difficult to motivate myself to draw.  I feel I have overcome a hurdle in the last few weeks.

Which exercise did you most enjoy?  Why?

I really enjoyed trying out lots of different ways and media to make marks in Exercise 4 of Stage 2 Making Marks in an Expressive Way and then putting that into practice in Exercise 1 and 2 of Stage 3 Using marks to create surface textures.  I find texture and colour very appealing and it was exciting to experiment with new methods and media.

Which media did you most enjoy working with? Why?

I really enjoyed working with collage because it is so versatile, especially creating coloured, textured and patterned papers which give such a wealth of opportunity for individual work.

What other forms of mark making could you try? 

I am keen to explore printing and collage further.  Decorating papers is particularly interesting to me.  I love the feel and the look of a combination of different papers, colours, patterns and textures.  I would like to explore adding marks to paper with machine and hand stitch.

How will these exercises enrich your textile work in the future?

The exercises have given me the tools to look for texture around me, to consider the qualities and feelings it arouses, to record those aspects with a series of marks which can then be interpreted in stitch.  I feel I have taken the first steps towards producing individual work.

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Textiles 1 – A Creative Approach – Building a Visual Vocabulary – Project 1, Stage 4 Working from your sketchbooks

The frustrations of feeling ‘unable to draw’ came to the fore with the mention of the word sketchbooks.  My official sketchbook has nothing in it!  I have made some half-hearted attempts at drawing but realise I have effectively put it off.  So, before I can properly proceed with Stage 4,  I have to address the mental block about drawing.



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Textiles 1 – A Creative Approach – Building a Visual Vocabulary – Project 1, Stage 3 Using marks to create surface textures

Exercise 1

Making marks to create surface textures, working from an image, not trying to copy the texture but trying to understand the feeling and making an equivalent, or an analogy.

Using the following image, I attempted to create a texture.

grass star2

The top left drawing in pencil below shows my first attempt, which I abandoned in favour of a picture of some bark for which I used coloured pencils (middle picture, left hand column). Although the colours weren’t a good match there was some success in creating texture, but I wasn’t really happy with my efforts and had a rushed attempt at the same picture to the right of the bark in black and silver pen.  I then had another go at the dandelion picture in the bottom left, using pen and ink and then used some fine coloured Sharpies, second picture from the left along the bottom.


I found this exercise frustrating. I wasn’t very relaxed and lacked confidence, which made me more tense and irritated.  I felt a real sense of not be able to produce any texture or draw.  To get back into a more positive frame of mind I tried a quick sketch from a photograph using pen and ink and gave it a wash with watercolour once it was dry.  I’ve never done anything like that before and was quite pleased with the results.  I could see that with more time and consideration I could produce a reasonable piece of work using pen and ink to create texture.

Although slightly reassured, I was still suffering from a lack of confidence in my drawing skills so decided to work with collage.  I used a small section from an image very similar to the following.



With the exception of the top right hand picture and the one beneath it, these were all attempts at creating an analogy of the texture of the bark.  I felt I was far more successful with this technique.  The example in the top left of the photo was one of the best.  It was produced with a combination of pale tissue paper and torn textured wall paper and coloured with acrylic paint. The third from the left on the top row was also reasonable, using watercolour paint and matt medium to reduce the reflective nature of the surface.  In the second row, second picture, coloured decorated papers were used with the patterns on each paper contributing to the texture acheived.

The four in the bottom row were drawn.  the first and third being the most successful.  The first used coloured pencil and oil pastel which acted as a resist so when washed with watercolour paint a good surface texture resulted and the third used oil pastels, a fineliner and a toothbrush and finger to create texture.

Exercise 2

Making marks to create surface textures, working from an object, not trying to copy the texture but trying to understand the feeling and making an equivalent, or an analogy.

Using a woven shopping basket, the following examples were produced with a rubbing technique.  Although all the pictures suggested a sense of texture, none really captured the true texture of the bag.  The bottom left rubbing with a Conte 2B pencil onto tissue paper was the better of the three.


A scallop shell was used in the following and the most successful rubbing for detail was the Conte 2B pencil onto white tissue paper (top right), although the Markal paintstik with a toothbrush gave a sense of the smoothness which accompanied the ridges on the shell (bottom right)


Continuing with the rubbing theme, various media were used to produce the texture of a stone.


The example on the right was most successful.  It was produced on a neutral coloured tissue paper using a combination of wax crayon and coloured pencils.
Feeling guilty that I had avoided ‘drawing’, the following were drawn using oil pastels and paintstiks, coloured pencil and watercolours from two different stones and both were a reasonably successful.

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Textiles 1 – A Creative Approach – Building a Visual Vocabulary – Project 1, Stage 3 Using marks to create surface textures

At the start of this section, we are advised to ‘look carefully at the variety of marks that artists like Picasso and van Gogh make in drawings and paintings’. Using the Bridgeman Education online library, I looked at the work of van Gogh. It was fascinating, a revelation to me – my exposure to art of this nature is so limited that I was mesmerised as I worked through the library.

My favourites were the works in pen & ink on paper and the black chalk on paper.

The Flower Garden, 1888 (black ink over pencil on paper) was particularly relevant, made up of so many simple marks giving such a variety of texture and value.

Also the later oils, where brush marks were really evident were interesting in this context.

I appreciated View from Vincent’s room in the Rue Lepic, 1887 (oil on pasteboard) which showed similar marks to The Flower Garden but using oil. Made up of dots, dashes, fine lines, dry brush texture.

The following pictures were also amongst my favourites.

Peasant of the Camargue, 1888 (brown ink over graphite on paper)

The Thunder Storm (oil on canvas)

The Artist’s House in Arles (pen & ink on paper)

Vincent’s Chair, 1888 (oil on canvas) so much texture in the walls, the seat of the chair and the tiles

The Man with the Pipe Portrait of Doctor Paul Gachet (1828-1909) (etching) (B/w photo)

Cypresses, 1889 (reed pen, graphite, quill and brown and black ink on paper

Peasant Woman Gleaning, 1885 (black chalk on paper)

Landscape with green corn 1889 (oil on canvas)

Landscape at Auvers after the Rain 1890

Portrait of a Woman (Head of a peasant woman with bonnet) c1885 (chalk on paper)

Rocky Ground at Mont majour, 1888-89 (pen, reed pen & ink on paper)

Meadow with Butterflies, 1890 (oil on canvas)

The Olive Trees (pen & ink on paper)

The Olive Pickers 1888-89 (oil on canvas)

Rain, 1889 (oil on canvas)

This was a very useful exercise, opening my eyes and mind to a different way of recording which lends itself more readily to stitch.


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Textiles 1 – A Creative Approach – Building a Visual Vocabulary – Project 1, Stage 2 – Making Marks in an Expressive Way

Exercise 4

Illustrated below are strips of papers produced using a variety of techniques which are annotated below each strip.


This was a very enjoyable exercise, I was excited by the resulting textures and made numerous different colour/pattern combinations of papers.

Other examples of various rubbings, printing and a small sample of bleach on dyed tissue paper are shown below.



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Textiles 1 – A Creative Approach – Building a Visual Vocabulary – Project 1, Stage 2 Making Marks in an expressive way

Exercise 1

An example of my first attempts at making marks.


Exercise 2

Using different pencils to create different areas of tone:


Exercise 3

Using a broader range of materials:



I enjoyed using the dip pen above as the different nibs and pressures could create so many different values and details.




The Markal paintstiks demonstrated above were also very satisfying to work with.

They were easy to apply, drawing with the paintstik and then and rubbing with a finger to spread the ink and form another texture.

They can also be applied or spread with a brush or a toothbrush or drawn onto the edge of a piece of card or stencil and brushed off .




The above shows Markal paintstiks in the left hand column, the middle two columns demonstrate Faber-Castell oil pastels and the right hand column Sennelier oil pastels.   They all behave in a similar way but the Paintstiks and Sennelier pastels are really soft and feel luxurious to work with in my opinion.

The following are examples of Derwent Coloursoft pencils and some water-soluble pencils, all of which had good pigment and I would choose to use in the future.



The following illustrate some of my attempts to work in an expressive way making marks in relation to words.




It was interesting to note how difficult it was to convey speed without just using the drawing implement quickly and how some marks just looked or felt wrong.  I felt my best efforts for ‘fast’ were achieved with a paint and a combination of a wet and dry brush in on the bottom left – middle of the following sheet in purple and green.


Continuing with paint, I looked at slow and smooth.  Slow was difficult and I didn’t achieve anything that expressed ‘slow’ this time.  I expressed smooth with paint by using good quality paint with a high pigment onto a wet page or a dry page with quick, even coverage.  I found the Reeves pan watercolour more difficult to produce this effect than the Koh-i-noor which was very effective as shown in turquoise and orange on the second page below.



Attempts at hard and soft are shown below.  I didn’t feel I expressed hard very effectively, although the most solid black patches below made with watercolour paint and a black sharpie were the closest.  ‘Soft’  using charcoal oil pastels, 8B pencil and Markal paintstik were all reasonable with the willow charcoal used lightly in circular motions then rubbed with a fingertip and the slate blue markal paintstik being most effective.


The following is my expression of sensuous in paint.