Archives for posts with tag: canvas work

I was tagged by Alex from underatopazsky, a great source of encouragement and inspiration to me, I get a regular fix of looking at her work for real at Scunthorpe Embroiderers Guild. Its good to spend time with like-minded creative folk in reality and in blog land. Thank you all for hopping over from her site.

I also live in North Lincolnshire, in a village with woodland on the doorstep. Regular walks whatever the weather all the year round are a great source of inspiration for me. My blog name of debbidipity was chosen because of the way I dip into all sorts of art and craft techniques with varying degrees of success. I finished a B.A in Fine Art Practice at Hull School of Art and Design as a mature student last year.

1.What am I working on?

As usual several (many) different projects: quilts; embroidery; painting; canvas work; finishing off lots of small mainly Embroiderer’s Guild projects; decorating; sorting, filtering, re-arranging and tidying my work spaces; writing; preparation for a large mosaic; a few little books; plotting, planning and designing new work; several running sketchbooks.


quilt inspired by woods




old suitcase retrieved from Dad’s loft cleaned up


vintage fabrics etc yet to be explored


fabric washed ready to use for a quilt inspired by a stained glass lampshade

designs with paper for above quilt design


2.How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I always have several projects on the go at a time, this keeps the ideas fresh and lets the work develop further, one thing leads to another and techniques from one media lend themselves to others. This transfer of skills across different media is what makes my work my own.


3.Why do I write / create what I do?

It’s just an integral part of me as far back as I can remember. I’m a doer, which isn’t to say I don’t think, but the thinking is best when my hands are busy too. When I see somebody else making something I want to have a go, not to copy what they are doing but to put my own slant on the process. It always has to be a challenge, part of the learning curve. I may make more than one of something (quilts for example), but everyone is different. Some of the things I make have a repetitive element to them, but this is good planning and problem solving time for other stages of the project or for another project entirely.


4.How does my writing / creating process work?

I don’t write a great deal other than “my pages” every morning, something I have done for many years now, since reading Julia Cameron’s The Artists Way. It sorts out my head, letting go of the dross, the trivia and trivial, processing things that are bugging or worrying me, which in turn helps make space for the creative things in my life. Some days the muse just flows and as I’m writing ways to solve the project in hand just end up on the page.

The creative process mainly works in a couple of ways. Occasionally I wake up with an image in my head of a finished piece. This may sound great but usually when this happens I have little or no idea how to execute them. Often my creative writing comes this way, but usually in the middle of the night with words chasing around my head, going round in circles until I jot them down, and once I have I go back to sleep, if I resist they just keep me awake.

A large felt sunflower piece came to me in this way. It was only the second piece of felting I had done, and by far the largest piece of work, other than a couple of quilts, I had taken on at this time. I had no idea how to make this piece but once I set up the pre-felted background 1 metre by 2 metres and had the fleece to hand it just flowed, and once it was hung in the pre-determined place it looked just as I had envisioned it.



felted sunflowers


Far more frequently some “treasure” be it a leaf, a thread or a piece of quilting fabric will inspire me to create. Sometimes this is sketched, planned and designed before the process begins, at others I make a start not knowing whether it will end or how it will look. It evolves as I go along, analysing and assessing each stage as it progresses.


ladybird fabric just had to go in my garden inspired quilt


nearly finished garden inspired quilt

My nominated blogger is writer Lois Elsden,  She is as intrigued by words and their meanings as my language teacher husband. Lois has published several e-books and continues to write all day every day.

Also take a look at Jean Pierre a french friend printer, he can’t take part in the blog hop, but well worth a look.




This carpet is the reason I didn’t continue work on the canvas work for eight dining chairs when we moved here in 1990. As you can see the colours were totally wrong , not to mention the pattern. Its proved very serviceable  over the years, red wine, and small children, but it really wouldn’t have been my (our choice), but it was far to good to change.


But the colours go beautifully in the lounge now. So when I found it while sorting out last back end I decided the time had come to finish it. If you are new to my blog you can go back and look at where I started re-working it.


I got so carried away once I started the final stage I forgot to take photos until I’d got the first two sides on. The learning curve was a bit steep as usual as the canvas work is not quite a square (15 inches in one direction and 16 in the other). I wanted the overall cushion to be about 22 inches square (to fit the pad I already had – 26 inch feather cushion – I like my cushions plump and squishy).


On the photo above the four horizontal stripes were already done when I started re-working it. And although I found most of the original yarns, these have disappeared, used for other projects(?) in the long interim. (I’ll probably find them now it’s finished!). I did pull out some of the original work (the shape of the finished piece had to be different) out but wanted to retain as much of the original as possible.


The fabric is brown denim and has a definite nap which I used to effect. I realised that if I put the short pieces on the longest sides and the long strips on the short going the whole length of the fabric and canvas work with the nap going in the same direction, it would optically make it look square overall (or nearly). The required lots of careful measuring and checking, more than the usual adage of measure twice and cut once. Then squaring off to end up at 22 inches plus seam allowance.

I have not put fabric with canvas work before in this way, so in the end for the first two seams I’d ended up doing five rows of stitching to get it right. I’ve got used to quilting where the pieces are the same size and the seam allowance comes off both sides, so I’d not allowed the seam allowance to add the long strips! Also I wanted the seam to be right next to the canvas work stitches and the first seam wasn’t quite close enough. So three unpicked seams! I’ve spent so much time on the canvas work I didn’t want to spoil the whole thing but not making it up well.

I’m not sure if readers think I am just totally incompetent or whether it’s reassuring that others make mistakes too!


For the back I decided  to put in a zip. Yes, it’s a bit of a pain, but all the other methods I’ve tried, overlaps, buttons etc., have their disadvantages too, especially with over stuffed cushions.

I know that my old needlework teacher Mrs Hirons would turn in her grave if she saw the way I did it, but it seems an easier way to get an even seam overlap putting in what should be the second row of stitches first on a flat piece of fabric (and working upside down!). Then putting the other piece of fabric up close to the zip and stitching from the right side. These stitches are completely hidden by the flap so are much less noticeable if they are not quite straight. They are straight though I’m pleased to say. Looking at it I’m sure Mrs Hirons would have said it was a well put in zip, if she hadn’t know I hadn’t done it correctly. Also I committed another sin, I didn’t tack. Hence the unpicking on some of the seams!



Made up ready for the cushion, not pressed, nor trimmed inside, just in case anything needed altering I’d not burnt my boats.


It fits, it’s worked, it just needs taking out and cutting off the excess fabric and the corners snipping off (see bottom left).


Finished at last. Looks better square in the chair, but will probably be mainly used as a floor cushion. I’ve realised as I’ve written that I haven’t taken any close up photos of the making up. I can’t at the moment as it’s been borrowed to put in a display of work by the Market Rasen group that I go to. If anyone wants to see close-ups let me know and I take some when I get it back in a few weeks time.


Once I’d sorted out the corners, the final border was plain sailing. It just took awhile, as the finished piece is 16 inches by 15 inches.20140626-161659-58619081.jpg

The finished border, ready to take off the frame.

20140626-161659-58619627.jpgThis shows the canvas piece laid on the cushion and the fabric for the edging and back. It only gives a vague impression as the extra canvas and denim are folded underneath. It’s now ready for the scary bit – blocking. Not something I’ve done before with such a big piece of canvas work, nor unaided. But too impatient to wait for help.

20140626-161700-58620173.jpgI’ve read how to do it in a couple of different books. Basically, it needs damping and stretching over an old sheet into a board with push pins or tacks, making sure it is straight and square, and leaving to dry thoroughly. One book recommends for at least a week. I’ve got mixed feelings about this. On one hand, it means I’ve got to be patient before I unpin it to see how it looks and to finish it off, on the other it means I can start (or continue) with another project without feeling I should finish this first.

20140626-161701-58621142.jpgThe blocking has to be done wrong side up, which means you can see the messy side, no knots (uncomfortable to lean or sit on), just woven through ends.


I’ve  just got to be patient.

For some reason when I posted this last week it didn’t appear! And only part of the draft was saved. Frustrating, but hey, so here I go again.

I’d nearly got to the end of this section when I realised it wasn’t going to meet up properly. It would have involved loads of unpicking, again. I decided to finish it off and see if it was obvious. I showed it to 3 observant folk and none of them could find it. Phew! I even have to look hard for it myself a few days on.

20140612-204639-74799672.jpg  The finished piece.

20140612-204639-74799891.jpgBut it wasn’t really as big as I wanted, and there is enough canvas to make it a bit larger. So I’m now putting on an extra border to make it bigger. I bought several feather filled cushions some years ago. One of which was ear-marked for an Indian cushion I received as a “thank you” for making a quilt for friends that was inspired by  several of these cushions. No idea what I was planning on doing with the others. But I want this cushion to be the same size.

This is it so far. I then had to take it to be photographed for “insight” open artist studios in North and North East Lincolnshire the last two weekends of September and first in October. More about this nearer the time. I was so close to finishing it but just ran out of time. Usually it’s not the whole piece that’s used for the brochure, so not really a problem. I just wanted to finish it off.

20140612-204640-74800089.jpgI’ve used the same pattern (just over more holes) as the outer border and the divisions of the sections.

IMG_1604The 2 small triangles and one large triangle give the impression of a heart, so it will have a border of hearts, once I get it back.


In between other projects I’ve stitched away at this canvas work cushion at the various groups I go to. It’s a slow process and I’ve been challenged to have it finished before the group on 13 June, we’ll see.

On Sunday morning I was feeling slightly head-achey and out of sorts, with not much energy. So I decided to have a slow start to the day and make the most of  a warm sunny morning, stitching outside under the wisteria  in the garden, before the wind and rain finishes it off for this year.

I dream of lying under it in the hammock with a good book, but rarely (once?) have I managed it, either time or weather has always been against me. It’s slightly passed it’s best but still smelt wonderful. Before we moved here (24 years ago) I had a similar dream of spinning under the apple tree, again it only happened the once, but I still remember it as being idillic.

There are goldfinch nesting up in one corner, almost totally hidden by the metal frame and the wisteria. I had a few really good glimpses of them. Also blackbirds coming and going with food for their babies.

Stitching with the sun on my back outside in the area of the garden that is more or less sorted for the moment was a rare treat. I made some good progress and the end is in sight on the one panel. The other needs more and what I hope to be the last of the unpicking on this project!

I sometimes find stitching quite mediative, totally in the moment, and the  garden setting helped with this. But, it also can be time to reflect and plan new projects, and just sort out my head amongst the chaos, and hustle and bustle of day to day living.


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This is the stitch I’d started for the final strips a month ago. I was not really happy  with them, but wasn’t sure why, partly the colours, but mainly the stitch. I’d even sewn in all the loose ends, so I could assess it better. And finally, at the group this morning I realised what  the problem was – the main sections are diagonal stitches, the ziz-zag strips and the border are horizontal stitches and I was the adding vertical stitches. It was just too much. Also they didn’t cover the canvas well with the pinky yarn.



I then started on the other side with Creole stitch, this is worked on the diagonal. It was very small and the scale looked unbalanced (I forgot to photograph this stage before I took it out). I then did my own variation on this stitch, which I’m sure is not really mine, and has it’s own name, but I’ve not spotted it in a book – yet. I’d also done the Creole stitch going from right to left, and I wanted the stitching to go from left to right on this side to lead the eye in to the centre.


I started off with just two colours to make it a more restful area, but didn’t want it too stripy, so planned on doing two rows of one colour randomly. But the darker tone then became too dominant. (This sounds like Goldilocks and the 3 bears!!)


So more pulling out! And the introduction of a third colour, again randomly, not one, two, three repeatedly.


This is the opposite end, with a different random pattern of the three colours.



And is the stage it’s at now, it should be easy to pick up and work on again in front of the telly!


I’ve finished the side panels of the cushion. They are deliberately not symmetrical, something that I have struggled with in canvas work in the past. I just want it to look balanced overall. The first photo shows a section round the edge that needs completing. Then it’s just the narrow strips on each side to do. And, the dreaded ends – always the last bit to drag my heels about!


Close-up of centre of one side panel.


Close-up of the centre of the other side panel.


The side panels completed.


I’ve found some brown denim type fabric in my stash, that will look good for the back and round the edges of the canvas work. It must be cut out soon while the dining table is still clear (needed for eating at on Easter Sunday, too many of us for the kitchen table). It is a superb space for cutting out on and working on big quilts, but I tend to fill it with many and varied smaller projects when we’re not feeding the masses.

The first photo I took in artificial light so the colours are not true, but it shows the progress I’m making.

I realised that it won’t work in the same way as the centre panel and that I’ve ended up with a triangle leading inwards in the middle. I tried carrying on varying the colours and stitch widths and meeting at a centre point. But I’m not sure that it looks right (right hand side). The other side has ended up meeting with the same colour which I think looks better. I’m going to try doing both sides the same and seeing how that looks before I do any more on the right hand side section. It might need pulling out again!!


The colours are not good on this photo,but it’s making progress.


Filling in the last triangle on each side.


Not sure I like the meeting of the ways.


This side ended up meeting with the same colour, but different width stitches.





Starting one of the outer sections.

I’ve been quietly working away at this in between other things. I’d not realised how much more I’d done since I last posted about it until I looked back at my blog. It’s gone to several classes since you last saw it and picked up and worked on while talking on Skype, and in front of the telly. Still have to unpick bits when I can’t count up to four. One tutor has suggested working on the diagonal makes it more difficult (but I suspect she’s just being kind!). The colours are being admired and the basket of yarns are covetable (see earlier post). It’s usually me wanting everybody else’s threads. I’m like the kid in the sweetshop with threads and want them all. I just love colour and it fascinates me the variations we pick as individuals. I tend to choose autumnal tones; reds, oranges, rusts, yellows, golds, greens and browns, both to wear and to work with, but challenge myself every now and again to use colours out of my comfort zone. It frees up my thinking somehow, and challenges me to push my own boundaries.


Second corner on the outer section


Third corner on the other outer section, I got carried away here and forgot to take photos.


Considering the overall balance. I’ve left the last bit of border to do when I’m talking – it needs less concentration.


Again worked away without taking photos. The stripes are over differing number of holes, giving variation in the width of the stripes. The threads are all different weights and textures and need a varying number of strands to cover the canvas.


Trying out colours and a different stitch for the bands in between the diagonal sections. I’m not sure if I like it, so leaving for the moment, probably until I’ve finished the outside sections.


The outer sections have more colours than the middle section, slightly more subdued, it’s not so noticeable in reality as it appears in the photo. I’ll have another good run at it on Friday at one of the groups I go to.


Working on the border was easy, I even managed to stitch while half watching the telly. I had to try out a couple of different versions to get round the corners, on the outer edge. I didn’t want it to just continue in the same stitch, and it didn’t work any way, so with a couple of bits of trial and error. I decided on this.






I could then continue with filling in the triangles.



I then sorted out all the yarns in the right colours and tones and put them in a basket to inspire me to carry on. They just look so warm and cosy, just what I need on these cold, grey wet days.



Progress so far is in the background.