Starling – ‘Chorus Line’

Murmurations are one of nature’s wonders, as they pass overhead you have to stop, listen and watch.  Living near the Somerset levels they are part of our seasonal cycle.

Starlings are not a particularly popular bird, greedy on our feeders, intimidating smaller ‘prettier’ birds.  However, the beauty of their feathers can be seen in bright sunshine, iridescent, detailed and glossy.   As a large group they fascinate us, reconnecting us with the natural world on our doorstep.


To read more about Murmurations click here.

The beautiful photograph above taken by Carl Jones was the starting point for this piece.   Carl takes the most wonderful photographs and I would like to thank him for giving me permission to use this photograph for inspiration.  A quick watercolour allowed me to consider the colour and textures of the bird ready to start selecting suitable fabrics.


The startling feathers contain so many colours, the fabric choice produced quite a variety.  The outline sketch allowed me to colour block the image ready for fabric selection.


Fabrics selected and cut to size, the bird started to emerge.


We get thousands his starlings in this area and one of the ways I regularly see them is gathering in huge numbers on overhead wires – ready to take off at a moments notice.

Trying to capture this scene took a few attempts but this final version started with a backing fabric which contained waves of block colours and tiny dots – similar to a murmuration.  I then painted and stitched the tiny details of the birds on the wire.


The tiny details at the end of the starlings feathers required lots of hand stitching on top of the free motion embroidery.  My hand stitching skills are gradually improving with each piece and make a really enjoyable break form the machine work.


Below, he is almost complete, just the legs to add and final stitching details when applying him to the background.  I am awaiting the finished scanned and colour balanced image but will post as soon as I receive it.


He is hopefully the third of four pieces to be shown at some of the Contemporary Quilters West exhibitions this year, to read more about visiting these three venues click here.

Thanks for reading.


First steps on a locally inspired project

The Common Crane Grus Grus

Despite not posting a blog in months, lots of things have been happening in the background.  Despite my life being consumed by 6 months of building work at home I have, slowly been working on a few new projects.

One of the projects for this years ‘Work in progress – Unfolding Stories 3’ at UWE will be based on the reintroduction of the Common Crane to the Somerset Levels.

Back in March my husband and I made a very early start to Slimbridge Wildfowl Trust in Gloucestershire.  We had booked onto a walking tour of the area with the aim of seeing some Common Crane (Grus Grus).   We were able to see a number of cranes in the wild around the site and then a few in captivity (ideal for someone like me who does not have a very powerful camera lens).

I so enjoyed researching the vulture and swallow pieces I made last year that I have decided to base a series of work for the 2018 exhibitions on birds with an interesting back story, whether that be reintroduction into the UK, threats of extinction/habitat loss or just a story that makes us marvel at what  their life involves.

The Common Crane seemed an obvious choice due to us living so close to an area that has seen the reintroduction of the bird onto the Somerset levels as part of the Great Crane Project.


My aim is to create a full body study of the Crane for one of the final pieces (not sure yet whether they will be in flight or on the ground) but I’ve started small and made some watercolour sketches of the head and neck.


Scott Petrek was our fabulous expert for the morning.  If you are on Twitter I recommend you following him.


Rather than start with my usual technique of piecing fabrics to build the basis of the bird structure I decided to experiment with fabric pens.  Using a very small number of colours and nib width I created a simple picture ready to stitch.  I enjoyed the freedom and speed of this technique but didn’t like the ink spreading gradually on the fabric and felt limited by the number of colours I had.

I have been encouraged by the members of the Contemporary Quilters West to experiment and try new techniques.  I’ve loved having a go, but have to say I love the piecing stage of my work a little too much to change yet!  That said, the end product of this quick experiment shown at the end of this post is so heavily stitched I do wonder if you could tell the difference!


Machine stitching over the painted outline.


I have enjoyed experimenting with a different foundation technique.  I look forward to creating the same picture using fabrics and comparing the results.


In the meantime I need to start sketching some outlines of the whole bird ready to start the larger piece over the coming months.


Our group will be at the West Country Quilt & Textile show from tomorrow until Sunday, this year, rather than having a gallery of finished work you can view our working studios, where a number of us will be demonstrating some of our techniques.  I will be there tomorrow morning, it would be great to meet you if you are coming along.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to updating you on progress.