Colour Extension: Strawberry Thief

Delighted to feel that I am now in the swing of Part Three: Colour. I have left the brief a little I confess as this fabric has a few more colours in it. Its been fascinating looking at my small collection of samples, chosen for their simplicity and vivid colours and seeing how much  variation of hue their actually is. I particularly like vintage fabrics and my selection included others in which the colours are woven rather than printed which i think gives the textile so much more quality and depth.

Strawberry Thief is one of William Morris’s most popular repeating designs for textiles. It takes as its subject the thrushes that Morris found stealing fruit in his kitchen garden of his countryside home. To print the pattern Morris used the ancient and painstaking indigo – discharge method method he admired above all forms of printing. He first attempted to print by this method in 1875 but it was not until 1881 that he succeeded. He registered the design with the Patents Office in 1883. This pattern was the first design using the technique in which red (in this case alizaren dye;) and yellow (weld) were added to the basic blue and white ground. I am particularly interested in plant dyes and it’s an area  i hope to explore later in the course. I would love to try making my own dyes with Weld, Madder, Dyers Chamomile and so on. Just the names are seeped in history.

The entire process would have taken days to complete and consequently, this was one of Morris & Co’s’s most expensive cottons and one of the most commercially successful patterns. This printed cotton furnishing textile was intended to be used for curtains or draped around walls or on furnishings.

Last christmas I made a fabric stag head covered with the tana lawn version from Liberty. Liberty first produced it as a furnishing fabric in 1979 and it has since been redrawn for Tana Lawn on a smaller scale. There are now many  variations in colourways and each has its own distinct look.  I choose the indigo and Mineral original drawing for this project, mainly as i adore the richness and depth of the colours. I was surprised how much grey was in their once I started mixing and when I really looked how many variations of each colour there are.


I have not used Guache paints before and found I really like their clarity and the texture. I have a very cheap set of twelve colours and found the green and greyish blue the most difficult to mix. A really useful exercise. I have a feeling the neutral colours of the next project could be a lot more difficult. I have had a great couple of evenings working on this and it is fueling my obsession to cover our walls with Morris paper which I will never be able to afford! His designs are so timeless.

Formative Feedback Assignment Two

“Well done Melissa it is evident you have worked hard at a consistently high level. You have produced some well-executed drawings and a number of engaging textile samples.”

Thank you Rebecca! All posative comments most welcome at this stage! Please don’t let me give up! I am enjoying this course so much but battling with the demands for time, guilt, work, self indulgence etc. I know it is worthwhile and am determined to commit to the degree. I do not consider myself as someone who ‘can’ draw, or who does draw, and approach this side of the course with trepidation. I must confess I did enjoy it and am pleased with the results, and you are right to suggest I leave my comfort zone. Going bigger produced some really useful pieces. I’d like to produce more floral/leaf drawings on a large scale to perhaps feed into some stitched work.

”There is evidence you have researched widely and used the material to influence your making”

Surface and Stitch Learning Log Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

”I am starting with your learning log because this is your weakest area, which is fine at this early stage in your studies. This mainly written section of your course is where you demonstrate your academic thinking and is therefore an essential part of the work. However most students start their degree without knowing what these skills are and find it tricky to develop them. In a nutshell this is the place where you evidence the reflective thinking, critical thinking and analysis of your own work. I can see you are already doing these things because there is evidence in your making that you are looking at your work, thinking about its value then making decisions on how to develop it. This is fab – some students arrive without already doing this. Your next step is to stand back a little from your creativity and look at the thinking that is going on. Recording this thinking will be evidence that you are using academic thinking skills to evaluate your work and make choices. Good choices show discernment – the ability to make valued judgments. Currently your learning log demonstrates that you are beginning to do this – for example the section on choosing which drawings to use to take onto the stitch stage. Here is would be good if you could dig a bit deeper and explain the reason why you thought some of your drawings ‘tell you what stitch to use.’ Conduct this kind of open discussion with yourself for all your creative processes; therefore include the other mark making you did on the range of surfaces and the stitched work. Include you motivation for doing these (links to research, a book read, YouTube tutorial, previous learning, etc.), how well the activity went and what you think of the results. These can be brief notes, lists, short annotations, etc. preferably with an image of the work you are discussing alongside. I suggest you take a look at some examples of student learning logs and investigate further reflective thinking, critical thinking and analysis. I recommend the book Critical Thinking Skills by Stella Cottrell, published by Palgrave Macmillan, in particular the final chapter on Critical Reflection.”

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Thanks Rebecca, I will be writing a separate entry on this. Lots to think about.

Drawing Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity

”In this section you have demonstrated a loose competent style of drawing. There is good use of scale, media and materials. I suggest you keep pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, as you have already found this will produce the most exciting work.”

Your tips from the introductory assignment to leave the comfort zone were really helplful, I will keep going with this. I love the abstact zip extended paper zip drawing i did and also my large dresses painted with ink on a brayer. I’d never done drawings likethis before. I’m usually poking lightly with a pencil in the centre of a very white tidy daunting page! Loving the big and messy work!

Engagement with textile techniques Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

”It is clear from the work you have sent me you have a good standard of skill in textile techniques. There is evidence you are willing to take risks but perhaps also have a tendency to over think. Your samples are exploratory and experimental, carefully organised to good effect. There is a nice use of materials where you are combining media to create engaging surfaces and textures.”


”The colour palette you have used contains variations in hue and tone to create pleasing compositions. Your strongest work is the Red Lace and the Drawing with Stitch collection.”

I was happy with both of these pieces and loved working on them. There was that feeling of rythmn and flow and I did not rush. Perhaps what helped them become stronger clear pieces of work could be that I did both of these projects whilst away on seperate breaks. There was little distraction (they were both completed on rainy evenings on holiday with not a lot else to do). There was space for them. I was concentating fully on the work and had planned ahead well, so only brought the materials for the work I had carefully thought through. Often I’m working in a crazy aladins cave of materials, distractions, books, the internet (had none on both trips). The drawing with stitch i enjoyed so much and i think this was in part due to the background all having to be white (less choices to make), and then the repettion, I did not have to decide or settle on just one drawing/stitch style. I could try lots and felt more freedom to experiment within these tight constraints.



”Here I can see you are working loosely in a relaxed and investigative way. You have therefore created interesting and varied work. The weaker work I believe is the more ‘finished’ pieces of the skirt and Chamomile. I am guessing that because you decided these would be more finished you lost some of that relaxed investigation. This is fine, at this stage of your studies you are not expected to make final work and I would advise against it if you are feeling tempted.

I have been feeling tempted! My head has been a never stopping wheel of ideas/possiblities and panicy feelings regarding all the possible finished pieces which could be produced around this inspiring topic. Thank goodness, I will really try to experiement more and finish less. I hope this will take the pressure off and look forward to adopting more of a laboratory approach rather than a factory!


”Please do not ‘redo’ the Chamomile piece for assessment. Instead reflect and analyse so that you can learn from it. Ask yourself questions like, what did work, what doesn’t work, why is this, what needs developing and how could I do this? I suggest you spend a little less time making and use this time to purposefully reflect on the work you have made.” 


I was trying to run here before I could walk. I had a finished piece in mind, after looking at all the wabi sabi research pieces, I wanted to do something similar, with no practise or experimentation. I didn’t have the time to produce this kind of work and no real plan, I just though I’d get stuck in and that the work would reveal itself as I went along. Bad idea. It just becme a mess. Initially I was inspired by faded chamomile on a beach which I had painted. I found the weathered old frayed fabric pieces on another beach which I took home and weathered a bit more with some bleach and hanging in the sun/rain and a bit of rough handling. I then made the mistake of quickly attempting to copy my watercolour painting of chamomile onto the green fabric with a pencil.

It lost all the asspects I liked about the painting and looked ridiculous. I hated it, but carried on. I had no idea how to transfer the qualities i liked about the drawings onto the fabric. I should have stoppped and re thought. After stitching this drawing I disliked it even more so decided to cover it up by tearing a bit out of the larger grey fabric and patching over the flower so it was slightly hidden. Then it looked out of place so I did more similar nieve flowers. I have no idea why I thought adding more of the same would improve it. It looked out of plave because it was. Really I wanted to use the weathered fabric and was trying to tie it in with the floral theme and it wasn’t working, mainly I think because the drawings on the fabric were nothiing like my paintings. They were rushed and not observations of the real flower.


I had no plan whatsoever now and began randomly doing little running stitches over it. It looked …welll… like a really grating stitched picture of a flower covered up with a hurridly sticthed patch. There was none of the mindful medititive slow sticthed beauty I had seen and wished to emulate from Claire Wellesley-Smiths book.

Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith











The piece did not work at all because I had not planned or experimented with any of the techniques I wanted to use. It was hurried and very unloved, which clearly showed. It had none of the emotion or simplicity I had initially wanted to achieve. I had wanted to make a piece which breathed and evoked the same feeling as the chamomile in the stark sun and sea bleached pebbles but I failed to plan, experiement, take my time and learn when to stop. Point taken! On a posative note, I am happy with the colours, the distressing and on reflection I actually quite like the reverse side because it is much looser,simplier and the colours blend well.  This has been a really useful excercise.





Research Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

”For this assignment you have gathered together a large quantity of interesting and relevant research material. You have used it effectively to develop your textile ideas. However I would suggest you have rather too much research material, consider cutting down on the amount of collecting you do, using this time instead on analysing the imagery you have gathered. Spend some time really looking at the work (you will need larger images for this) then write some brief notes on what you see (colour, texture, materials, scale, techniques, placement, composition, etc.) add to this what you wish to take from the work and how you can develop this in your own practice. This will help you to be more focused about the work you collect and help you make the most of it. I suggest you read the book Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon published by Workman; this straightforward little book uses examples from art, music and literature to demonstrate how ideas come about.

Pointers for the next assignment

● Reflect on this feedback in your learning log

● Develop your reflective thinking, critical thinking and analysis

● Keep your textile work loose and exploratory

● Continue to develop your drawing skills by drawing regularly

● Cut down on the amount of research you collect and spend more time examining the value of what you find

Never sew with a sink full of dirty dishes

Living a creative life

I have struggled to make space for my learning log. It has been jostling about at the back of the que, pushing behind reflecting, drawing, stitching, creating, researching and way in front of that my small job making clothing from discarded textiles, my ‘proper’ job, and my job as a wife, mother, friend, gardener, housekeeper. And now a further job as custodian of a very special parcel of organic sacred wild land, which I hope to run as a sanctuary for wildlife and human spirit, growing and selling native plants, herbs, dye plants, a medicinal forest garden and eventually opening as a creative workshop space. These are all things I am truly blessed to be juggling with. I am grateful every day for all the wonderful exciting tasks I try to complete and the amazing people, especially highly creative and intuitive women, who seem to be pouring into my life of late. Thank goodness as I think i will need lots of helping hands! I do not want to push any of these roles aside and can see a blurred distant view of them all merging into one at some point. They are all equally important but some shout louder than others, and they all seem to be housework related. I have picked up a few books recently which have come my way at the right time and I hope will really help with the struggle to carve out time for my artist self without guilt (while surrounded by washing up, laundry, dirty floors, empty fridges, lego, unbrushed sad-faced dogs etc!) I though I would mention them in this blog as I’m sure other students will be struggling with this too. I hope I will not be visited by childrens/animals welfare, I promise they are fine!

I would hope thing shave moved on a little since 1949 or I will never getting anything creative done!

Image result for singer sewing housework tidy lipstick hairImage result for women who run with the wolves


I’m not saying I aim to starve my children and live in a midden but after reading ‘Women who run with the wolves’ by Clarrisa Pinkola Estes, I can see that ‘women’s  work is NEVER done. Perfect way to stop a woman. I am going to learn to say no to half of what I feel I ‘should’ be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.’ This book draws on archytypal stories to awaken wild intuition, wisdom and creativity and is deeply inspiring and one to dip into over and over.



Next on my bedtime pile is a book I was recommend ,’The Artists Way’ by Julia Cameron. This book is written as a twelve week course and particularly helps with inner censorship, the feeling of inadequacy/not being good enough to justify dedicating all this time to my craft, and negative beliefs about creating art. To combat the inner censor Julia suggests writing three ‘morning pages’ upon waking. A complete mind dump before starting your day. Don’t censor these pages at all and don’t re read them (at least for a while until you are into the habit of free writing)

Two others, possibly a bit new age and out there for some,which have stirred things up here are ‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert and ‘ Sacred Contracts’ by Caroline Myss. Lots of bedtime reading.These books all highlight to me how the various roles and aspects of my life are certainly not separate.

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Found, Recycled, Worn and disguarded

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The fascinating work and world of  J Morgan Puett, Artist, creative producer ,installation art practitionor, clothing and furniture designer, architect,  film maker, and more, embraces merging lifesyle, being, community living and creative practise with lost, found, disguarded materials of all kinds.

Storytelling and humanity form the basis of Louise Richardson’s work. Garments and sculptures made from a diverse selection of gathered and found materials give a glimpse of unrtold tales.

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Jennifer Collier  remakes household items from found & recycled papers, giving new life to items that would otherwise be thrown away.

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In a fast-fashion world of throw-away clothing, I embrace the ethos of slow. Fashion, Food and stitch as well as a pared down simple lifestyle can reconnect us to a more real and mindful way of living. Many designers  create clothing from discarded and found textiles. My favorite is Gibbous. A miniature fashion house collecting bits and pieces of discarded history.  They hunt decrepit Victorian clothes and stained silk slips and use slow hand dying methods.  Their garments are made one by one, without patterns.  Each piece is one of a kind.

Raggedy Rags designer Hayley Tresize’s clothes are made intuitively, sculpted together from a combination of stitch work, patchwork, ruffles, sculptural shapes and plenty of layers, they are often off centered and deliberately asymmetrical.

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2.1 Surface and Stitch – Selecting

I laid out all my drawings and the ones i wanted most to translate to stitch were the most abstract and simple or flowing. Those with a lot of detail and texture were not so interesting especially as the yarn will add the element of texture and i want the lines to be simple. The strongest pieces also have some repetition and would perhaps translate to  large or small scale. Some already tell me what kind of stitch they should be, some call out for fine loose threads and other a chunky mindful repetitive slow stitch.

Reflections on Part 1 Observing and Capturing

There is so much scope within this project I got lost in the void of choices, i spent so long choosing the archive pieces, then the museum didn’t respond, i had to re think all my ideas, my head was a mess! I am so happy with the final pieces. I found the wedding dress the most exciting to work with, due to its romantic history and its personal connection to me (making my friends dress from it and seeing her and her husband grow as a family following their wedding and thinking of how many other women this dress has set off on this road). It was invaluable to be able to handle them and have them in front of me while I worked. I would have struggled with museum pieces.  I made clear time deadlines for each section and put in way more than the 8 hours a week but I spent an awful lot of time re reading the coursework, researching and wondering if i was doing ‘IT right’. Then had to keep stopping due to work and family commitments.  I had difficulty focusing on each section and could only see the whole project and the deadline I would not meet. I work best in obsessive long sessions. I would happily spend the whole year on this project.

I can see at the end the importance of producing a lot of drawings. Oddly this is my favourite



It is the one I am most excited about translating to stitch. I would never have imagined i’d draw or use something like this. Its not me, its different, its experimenting, its not my comfort zone.

I plan on carrying my sketchbook everywhere and during the next assignment I will take one step at a time and not be concerned with the outcome as this will reveal itself at the end without me getting to concerned about it.

1.8 Portraying by drawing

I am intending to use pen with either gouache or watercolour. I want a loose fast sketchy look to my drawings and will do some small and some large. I have decided to look at wildflowers and leaves and will see what I find when I get out there. Being July how could I choose anything else, they are EVERYWHERE! I will use simple colour , mainly to remind me of the moment, I  am not sure if i will include this when I translate to stitch. I am interested in silhouette and form as well as movement and their relation to each other. I hope to  use some repetition as well as letting the plants intertwine with each other as they do in real life. I may include grasses and leaves. I am interested in any patterns that might occur in nature and will be looking at the detail on the plants, bearing in mind; motifs, flow, scale, as well as repetition.