Tag Archives: textile art

Journey Mapping

There are now three permanent home workers in this household, the girls are doing lessons from home and I’m still stitching away as long as the light permits. Sometimes my very civil partner joins us – when he’s not on the rota to teach keyworker kids in his school. It’s busy, its different, but we’re making a new routine. It’s nice to have company at lunchtime! Although our post lunch walk included me piggybacking those with unsuitable footwear over the muddy bits – not easy with teenagers!!

I’m continuing with my Journey Mapping series of small pieces, it’s nice to see them selling well in my Folksy shop. I’m moving towards more water inspired pieces now. The current one is called Rip Tide. These photographs show it’s development, as I add in each layer of fabric and stitch. The part of Arran that I know best looks over to the small island of Pladda, between these two points the tide can be quite treacherous, hiding reefs under the waves that can catch sailors unawares. It does make the sea look very dynamic and that’s what I was trying to show in this piece.

It seems easier to stitch sideways with my machine rather than forward and back to create these stitch lines, good job my machine is a tough and sturdy one!

Journey Mapping – Rip Tide Donna Cheshire 2021

It’s time to do some more drawing sampling now, ready to start on the next series of these pieces. Then I will start to stitch some larger work, hopefully sometime soon we will be able to get out to galleries and exhibit work again and I intend to have a big series of these pieces ready to go.

Responding to Landscape

Arran Coast, evening time.

A weekend workshop with Amanda Hislop gave me a big creative boost. Looking for the abstract in land and sea was the contrast I needed after many hours working on a detailed wild flower piece. I felt I was never going to finish with the tangle of text, leaves and stems but a change of focus gave me the impetus to complete ‘Vagabond Plants…’ in time for a http://www.fusiontextileartists.com exhibition in November. The exhibition will be at the Bailiffgate Museum in Alnwick until January 2021.

Vagabond Plants Content to share the meanest spot. Donna Cheshire October 2020

The workshop took place over Zoom, for a weekend in October. Amanda guided us and showed examples of her work ing methods. Now I am focussing on taking my interpretation of the workshop ideas from paper to textile. First to be completed is a piece mounted on driftwood. This is, I think, going to be the start of a new collection – Journey Mapping, exploring the landscape in a slightly more abstract way. I want to incorporate ideas and objects I find as I walk the land, whether that is here in the North East or in Scotland, although this year all Scottish pieces are inspired by memories of past visits – I haven’t been further North than Bamburgh this year ( but the sea swimming there was great!)

I am working with my preferred processes but interpreting images in a different way, trying to capture the mood and feel of a place rather than a clear visual representation. Here, strong grid marks relate to the division lines found on maps. I’m using hand stitch to soften some marks and also to build texture as with the gold yellow section shown below. Textures refer to the movement of the sea, debris on the shore, and rocks. This part of Arran has geological features known as the Dyke Swarm, long fingers of prehistoric rock, some complete with fossilised dinosaur footprints, that reach out into the sea. These rocks make many inlets along the shore, trapping seaweed, shells and driftwood but also providing lots of basking spots for seals. A walk of just a couple of miles can be filled with wildlife and beach combing ‘finds’.

As 2020 has given me a lot more studio time than usual, I’ve been backing up visual research and investigation with reading, this book, by Simon Barnes , has some wonderful, uncomplicated, advice on how to see more when out walking. I’ll definitely try some of his tips when I’m out next.

Hideout in the hedgerow

Developing a piece of work is a slow process, an idea percolates, sketches are drawn and samples made – although in my case the samples often end up being included in the finished piece – not so great for the sketchbook but it does advance the making process!

Hedgerow and Hare 2020

The idea for this hare has been percolating for a long time. Ever since I stitched one for a community project, I have wanted to incorporate a creature into one of my wildflower scenes. My daily dog walks during the current Covid 19 lockdown, are proving inspirational in that I’m noticing daily changes in the wildflowers, bushes and trees in the little local park – though I don’t think my lovely canine companion is going to appear in stitch!

Bobby looking for treats!

He usually gets a treat when I stop to take a photograph, its the best way to keep him still for long enough to take a good shot!

This partial lockdown does mean that I’m not getting to see my beloved wild flower border, though it’s just a mile away from home but seeing wood anenomes, honesty, marsh marigolds, forget me nots and yarrow coming into bloom is lovely. And the number of birds I can see and hear is wonderful.

Anyway, I started with a sketch of this hare in the hedgerow and he has been growing daily over the last few weeks. Collaged from hand dyed fabrics onto pelet vilene and then stitched with free motion embroidery

Now he has been cut free from his background and is ready to fit into the hedgerow, I ve added a base layer of greens to a sheer chiffon ground – recycled fabric already printed with some leafy images.

Starting to build up a grassy hide away…

I positioned the hare and used a contrast thread to mark his outline so that I could matched the stitched grasses to those in my initial drawing.

Now I’m starting to add in the wild flowers, the Lady’s Bedstraw has been stitched on soluble fabric, the knapweed and clover have been stitched onto more hand dyed fabric and then cut away from the base. The tricky bit is to decide when to stitch the wire hoop into the background fabric – I’m using an embroidery hoop whilst I stitch but it is not quite as big as the wire one, I’m just concerned that if I stitch it to the wire then it will be harder to machine stitch if I decide to add more detail – patience required at this stage!

Getting back to my daily dog walk – I started to stitch the red clover yesterday and this morning, saw some growing in the park – it’s as if I have conjured it up – or did my subconscious draw it to my mind on a previous walk?

Progress through process

New work is my focus, I’m applying for several, larger shows so I’ll need work to display (& sell!) I’ll let you know which shows if I get accepte!

I would like to make larger pieces but these are obviously time consuming, and more difficult to transport. So, I’ve decided to focus on 40×40 landscapes for a while- my plan is to get 4 done in the next 6 weeks 😱 that’ll keep me out of mischief (but p’raps not too busy for school and national politics 😉)

Our family week in Wales was fantastic- why did none of you tell me sooner how gorgeous West Wales is??

In between sea swimming and ice creams there were cliff walks on the beautiful Pembroke Coastal Path and visits to Tenby and St David’s. My sketchbook didn’t get quite as much use as I’d hoped but my mind is full of experiences and my photo album is full to bursting.

So this week I’m sketching out the four images that I’m hoping to develop. I’m drawing them to the chosen scale and taking a quick tracing of the main composition to help with building up the appliqué.

Then I get the paints out. I’m using watercolour, water based dyes, inktense and some acrylic. When I paint, it is never the final stage- it is very definitely part of my process; painting allows me to assess how I am going to construct a piece. I can think about colour, texture and composition.

When I’m mark making with brush or pencil I’m thinking about how to transfer it to cloth and stitch. When I apply colour I’m thinking about what fabric and threads I’ll need (thanks Oliver Twists for the threads 😉) The process of painting and drawing helps me to develop my composition ideas into textiles and work through any issues.

I’m pleased with the two images I’ve developed so far, now I’m deciding whether to crack on with these in fabric, or to focus on getting the other two designs developed to paint stage. I’m tempted to start the textiles but I think it would be interesting to get the 4 designs done and then work on the four pieces.

What would you do?

Dancing with an Angel

21 years of an Angel Exhibition

Thursday 31 January – Saturday 30 March 2019

The Gallery, Gateshead Central Library

This week sees the opening of the 21 Years of an Angel Exhibition. The show marks the end of Angel20, a yearlong programme of activities in Gateshead which began on the Angel of the North’s 20th anniversary in February.

I delivered a one-day workshop as part of the programme. We made needle felted replica angels. During the workshop, participants learned how to create and felt over, a wire armature.

The basic armature is covered with polyfill – this can be needle felted to build the form, saving the need to use wool fibres at this stage.

The shaping of the Angel was entertaining 😊

It’s important to keep things simple at this stage though as greater definition can be shaped once the wool fibres are added.

We used rust coloured merino tops to match the Angel’s construction materials- it’s made of weather resistant Cor-ten steel, containing a small amount of copper, which forms a patina on the surface that mellows with age.

Details were added with a deeper brown fibre.

Then thread was used to add finer details.

Each angel is mounted on a ‘landscape’ created from a fish tin and fabric

Friday Dye Day

As I’m busy making new work for several shows at the moment, I’ve been very aware that my stash of hand dyed fabrics is diminishing. 

I dye natural  fibre fabrics with procion dyes so that I can have the same control over colour as a painter mixing their own colours might have. Presoaking the fabrics and then painting on the dyes allows me to layer up the dyes to create primary, secondary and tertiary colours. I can also create textures by using different brushes and sponges to apply the dye. 

Pots of dye mixed and ready to be applied



Greens are going to be important in new work I have planned; as I’ll be doing more landscapes I will need everything from acid yellow greens through to dark olive and bottle hues. 


Then I’ll also need blues; for the ocean- from slatey dark tones to almost Mediterranean turquoise.


There will also be buildings, rocks and cliffs to construct in fabric and thread. 


This is going to be my surprise selection- I didn’t want to waste the dyes left over after the painting session so I found more fabrics and added everything to a dye bath. I haven’t stirred the mixture so I’ll see what happens tomorrow when I wash everything off. 


All the fabrics are wrapped up in plastic so that the dye doesn’t dry out – this means the dye molecules have longer to soak into the fibres and there should produce stronger colours. 

All I have to do now is wait until tomorrow when I can unwrap the bundles, wash off the fabrics and see the results…..

Pondering whilst hand stitching. 

With each piece I get so far with machine stitching and then discern the need for the marks that only hand stitch can make. 

I guess it’s the first indication that a piece is nearly complete. 


The act of hand stitching slows things down and gives me time to ponder on the piece in hand; what does it need to resolve it? It’s like adding the final seasoning in cooking!

I also find my thoughts move onto what’s next – a new piece on the same theme, a change of idea, a return to sketchbook observation. So, whilst I used to find hand stitching frustratingly slow, I’m growing to appreciate the pause and reflection it encourages (just don’t tell anyone😉)


Those Cheviot Hills – 2017 

Something Fishy & All things Holy (T)!


Getting ready for tomorrow’s workshops- blanks cut and painted ready for participants to add their creativity! 

Some of the demonstration pieces will be for sale at the Holy T Art Fair – to raise funds for the project. See you there 23/24 September!!


And this view of Holy Isle should be framed and ready to go too! 

Great North Art Show

Tomorrow is delivery day for the Great North Art Show!! So my bank holiday is being spent adding mirror plates and searching for bubble wrap!

I’m taking five pieces to the show – but I think one of them is still in Edinburgh so there may have to be a last minute substitution….

I’m hoping  to take Glimpses of Summer

Glimpses of Summer

Sometimes the sun breaks through the clouds.

Arran Breeze

P1020133

Stonechat Lands

Stonechat cropped square

(I’ve just had this one re-framed and added in some sneaky extra details! Can you spot the difference?

There’ll be some more images soon of the show itself, I’m so looking forward to it!