I have been looking forward to attempting a more realistic Pheasant for a while now, it was the subject of one of my very early pieces of textile art.  You can read this early blog from March 2015 here.

The aim is to create a set of  four or five of our the beautiful game birds in the UK.  These will most likely include the Red Legged Partridge, the Red Grouse,  the Black Grouse, the Woodcock or Snipe .

 I have approached this piece with a certain amount of trepidation as pheasants are so highly marked with so many feather patterns across their body.

Carl Bovis, a nature photographer from Somerset has taken many beautiful photographs  of pheasants, capturing their iridescence and feather patterns.  Carl has been kind enough to let me base pieces on his work.  More of his work can be seen on his ever changing blog carlbovisnaturephotography.blogspot.co.uk


I have written in earlier blog posts about how much I have also been inspired by artists in my family both amateur and professional.  My Grandfather was a miner, amongst other things during his life.  He took himself to evening classes (probably through the WEA – Workers Educational Association) to improve his talent for drawing and painting.  Below is one of his pieces of ink on wood made into a tray based on a Cock and Hen pheasant.



Selecting fabrics for a new piece is one of my favourite stages.  The colours and textures for this piece were especially inspiring.  Male Cock pheasants vary hugely in their colours and feather patterns, some can be quite dull, others unbelievably vivid.

I have lived with this chap at this stage for a number of weeks, afraid to start stitching, in fear of messing up his chest feathers.


Unsure of how heavily I would be stitching him I decided to make him in a hoop rather than on the backing fabric.


I was (probably due to fear) unusually grown up with this piece and prepared samples to test both thread colours and stitch patterns.


Enough was enough and stitching finally started.  As usual I started with the eye, which compared to many of my pieces was very small, this came with its own complications, with the fabric catching on the hoop and the needle pressing the tiny piece of fabric into the larger pieces of fabric beneath.


On to the fun part, the head and neck.  The jewel like colours of the threads start to build up the feathers.



Using a real pheasant tail feather as reference.


Back and tail complete, legs to be sewn once he is placed on the backing fabric.


Final stitch details will be added when he is on the backing material.  My thought is to stitch some grass and possibly heather details around his feet to complete the piece.


I hope to be posting the final stages of this piece over the coming weeks.

Thanks for reading.



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!