Using Fabrics as your Inspiration.

An unusual starting point?

Whilst creating my last 3 pieces I’ve noticed a theme – the concept begins with the piece of background fabric.

You would imagine the subject would be the inspiration but strangely my backgrounds seems to be the starting point

‘Barn Owl in the Moonlight’ was inspired by the piece of fabric below, I would have never selected it for a quilt as its dark and dour but as a starting point for a piece of textile art its been perfect.


The wonderful thing about creating Textile Art is the ability to instantly cover the blank space in front of you.  Artists and writers know all too well how hard it is to be faced with a blank sheet.  Making that first mark can be terrifying.

This piece shouted out to me from the shelves at Midsomer Quilting as dark, spooky woodland.  With my current bird obsession the obvious line to follow from this setting was an owl and so the concept for ‘Barn Owl in the moonlight’ was born.

When attempting to create the texture and colours of an owl you can be greatly helped by the fabric pieces you select.  You could choose a very plain fabric and build up the detail with free machine embroidery alone but personally the patterns, shapes and colours within a given piece give me a loose pattern to follow with my thread.

The fabric below has the ideal shapes and colours to define my owl as a Barn Owl.



The main details of the owl were made up of just 7 pieces of fabric.  Three pieces for the background, trees, moon and sky and a further 4 for the owl.


Below you can see the image starting to build and the thread detail being added.  I chose a lightly patterned piece of white fabric to give a subtle amount of texture to the face.  The neck was created using a spotty cream fabric giving the illusion of the spots within the owls feathers, a detail I did not want to try and create with thread.


From the original sketch the details were transferred onto the fabric using a water soluble pen.

The owls face was built up using 4 different coloured threads.


The fabric used for the head and gave me a template to create circular details with different coloured co-ordinating threads.  I started the face with a white fabric and build up the details slowly with increasingly darker threads of cream, brown and grey.


The patterns within the fabric were then followed into the wing where I used a dark orange, gold, brown and turquoise to give the owl a modern twist.


Finally I used the lines within the dark woodland fabric to add more texture to the backing with a purple thread.  In all I used 13 threads to build up the piece.

AK001 Barn Owl in the Moonlight

Since creating this picture I have been busy making two more birds, one of which is again an owl.  Though the next owl is less abstract the starting point once again was the backing fabric.

A limited edition Giclee print of ‘Barn Owl in the Moonlight’ is available from my Website shop , please click here to view.

I look forward to sharing my next project with you soon.


Embracing a New Technique


This story very much follows on from my last blog post…..

Somehow this journey has led me to drawing and stitching birds.  As discussed in my previous posting I needed to start experimenting to find a technique using fabric and thread that allowed me to add small details.

This post outlines the stages of this process.

I have been obsessed with creating since this Pheasant was born so have more pieces to show you that have evolved (as they do) yet again!  The lovely thing about having time to create, experiment and explore is that you really do not know where it will take you….

For so long I had constrained myself to work that involved small pattern piecing with no embellishment. But now that Kathryn Chambers (K3N) had introduced me to what is out there and can be achieved there is literally no stopping me.

Starting from the inspiration of one of her techniques for the background I had fun drawing out an inquisitive Pleasant and even more fun choosing the fabrics.


Above – Pre cut strips all ready to dip into…


The strips are applied, slightly overlapping onto a firm wadding with 505 Temporary Adhesive for fabrics and paper.


The picture above shows the essential equipment for this technique. Bondaweb, small sharp scissors, thin paper such as Daler Layout paper, pins and a temporary pen or marker such as Prym Aqua-Trickmaster (water soluble) or my recommendation a Pilot FriXionball (disappears when heat applied from an iron).

Small thin strips of grey fabric, backed with Bondaweb are cut and inserted along a number of lines to give the illusion of woodland in the distance.


Ensure you remove the paper backing from the rear of the trees prior to stitching along the top edge of each strip.  These trees will be ironed into place and over stitched near the end. Pin them into place to avoid them getting knocked and stretched.


Next I drew the outline of my pheasant and then made a copy simplifying the design into colour blocks.The whole pheasant only has 8 different fabrics.  The most important piece was the fabric making up the face.

ph face small

Pheasants, like chickens have an unusual skin texture in this area that I thought would be difficult to achieve with stitching alone so this piece took some selecting!


The tiny pieces that make up the eye are incredibly important – getting the eyes right is essential, it either brings the bird alive or the eyes look vacant and unreal. How the light reflects from the birds eye is also important.  These pieces were tiny and fiddly but well worth a deep breath and lots of patience!

It is very important to really study the photograph or sketch you are working from to get the proportions and shapes correct at this stage.  Use shapes and shadows you can actually see – not what you think is there!

As you can see in the photo above, the next stage (at last) was stitching.  You can also see the stitching of the background strips in this picture.  By this stage you can really use your imagination, with the stitching and the thread colours.  The body is largely done in black thread but in the areas made up of black fabric (in shadow) are overstitched using a rich dark green as seen below.


The picture above illustrated the first stage of the top stiching


As you finish each segment of stitching, pull the top thread through to the rear of the picture and tie the threads off and snip off.

 Finally, using a technique shown to me by K3N I finely shredded some of the strips used in the background.  This created a confetti of fabric which I then spread along the three line and secured with a layer of light grey netting available from fabric shops (used for underskirts etc).


I then stitched along a few lines the secure and then using  various grey threads stitched along the tree trunks to secure and add some detail.


The picture was then trimmed into a neat square and edged using a narrow zigzag stitch.

The birth of this little pheasant has been a turning point for me, technically and creatively.

A limited edition Giclee print of ‘Missed Me’ is available from my Website shop , please click here to view.

AK005 Missed Me!

I have a lot to thank him for …….

I look forward to sharing a Barn Owl that has come to life since this blog post!