Into the Blue

January 22nd, 2024

5 x 6.5 inches. A view from the West Dyke Trail in Richmond, BC.

You might notice this one looks a little different. There is some thread in it but I’ve also used crewel wool. The fuzziness of the wool creates the very soft effect I felt this scene needed. It also does not have a sheen, which allows me use it as background. Then when I stitch thread over the top it gives the effect of the morning light hitting the taller stalks.

The sky and water are hand-painted with Pebeo Setasilk silk paint. I used a large make-up brush for the sky (a pristine one dedicated to painting!) as I find they absorb the paint better. You have to work very quickly and paint in large stripes of colour from more intense blue to less intense. The stripes then blend together as they dry. I painted the distant mountains and the dyke water using a smaller brush. Then as you sew you have to make sure the threads don’t crisscross behind the water or they’ll show through the silk and make the water look muddy and dirty.

The distant trees are worked in crewel wool, sometimes using single strands. This took an absolute age and I don’t know if I’d do it again. You certainly need a good light for the job. And it was very rewarding adding the foreground threads and pale shiny threads in the middle distance – but such a long wait for that moment! I can see myself using crewel wool here and there in future though. Embroidery Marketplace in Calgary have an excellent range from Appletons including plenty of the duller colours I found myself needing for this one.

On the Road

January 23rd, 2023

3 x 6 inches, hand embroidery on hand-painted silk. Memories from a late summer road trip from Vancouver to the Okanagan.

The blue sky was painted as a wash. I used a line of gutta to block the paint from running down into the bottom half of the composition. It promptly bled around the sides of course! But no harm done.

The very distant trees are hand painted using a toothpick to apply silk paint. I’ve used red thread to mark the edges of the picture temporarily.

Oh. And I underpainted the grasses but neglected to take photos of that stage. In the photo below you can see my paint blobs in yellow at the bottom, so imagine that underneath the yellow threads. At first I thought I could do without underpainting, but then the grass looked too pale and unearthly. So I unpicked my test threads, did the underpainting (and ironed it to seal the paint), then embroidered over the top.

For the foreground trees I used thread (thinned down sometimes to a strand or two) along with Tyvek fibres from my trusty FedEx envelope for the white tree bark.

The grasses are layer upon layer of blonde thread, which I’ve roughed up slightly with an emery board for a softer effect.

Shining Through

August 27th, 2022

6.25 x 5.875 inches. Hand embroidery on hand painted silk. Looking towards Fairview across False Creek from David Lam Park in Vancouver, BC. The building on the far left is Broadway City Hall.

A few close-ups, taken in different lighting:

And some photos I took along the way:

There’s a lot of underpainting in this one. I used thread to sketch an outline of the buildings, as the thread helps stop the paint running where it shouldn’t. Then unpicked the thread once I was happy with the look of the buildings.

Above, I’ve underpainted the water and started to play with metallic thread on some of the buildings.

Lots more texture appearing by now. I will have decided I was finished with the background painting and used an iron to seal the silk paint. I’ve hand painted small bits of silk a few shades of darker brown and appliqued them to the tree trunk to represent peeling bark. For the drooping twigs I split thread into the finest strands I could, arranged them on the picture, and secured them to the silk background with tiny threads here and there. This was my favourite part and probably the reason I decided to do this picture. It feels like it’s painting itself. One of the last things I did was attach a few tiny bits of orange and purple painted silk to represent the most tenacious leaves.

New paintings at Crafthouse

November 23rd, 2021

Newly framed and available at Crafthouse on Granville Island.

Patchwork Gardens

November 12th, 2021

Lately I’ve made a slight detour from my usual artwork into experimenting with patchwork gardens. What can I say, I watched one too many episodes of Gardeners’ World and it took me over. I’m going back to making my usual landscapes but the gardens will continue as a side project that’s easy to jump into when you only have a few minutes.

With fingers for scale. The paving slabs are the same scale in all pictures
A circle of blue silk that can represent a pond, bird bath, fountain – whatever you want
‘L’ – the first in an alphabet-themed series. Always pick the easiest to start! 2 inches by 2 inches

Lots of trials and errors! By the way, I don’t stitch the individual paving slabs together. I cut strips and nip the fabric together with dark thread at intervals:

Underside of the fabric showing narrow section nipped in with a row of backstitch
Pulling on the strip lets the dark thread show on the right side of the fabric, creating the effect of slabs
Experimenting with a curved path

I attempted larger garden plans but found it too difficult to join the pieces together neatly. So I’ve settled on creating small vignettes on a theme of letters of the alphabet.

It doesn’t show in the photos too well, but I don’t iron the patchwork flat, I let the lawns and flower and vegetable ‘beds’ follow their natural tendency to plump up on either side of the pathways. I like that 3D element.

For the record, I’m hopeless at actual gardening. Love looking at them though.


April 12th, 2021

3.75 x 6 inches. Hand stitching on hand-painted silk.

The background was created by stretching silk in a hoop and pouring paint straight onto it. I prepared two colours, a purple-blue and a bright light green. I saturated the whole surface with the purple-blue, then immediately held the hoop vertical and poured on the light green, letting it dribble from top to bottom. It does this in a random way which creates a northern lights effect with no effort from me.

Here I’ve placed scrap paper to help me decide which part of the background makes a more exciting composition.

#2 was the winner for me. The white ring you see around the edge is from the silk that goes unpainted while it’s bound inside the hoop. It has a lovely sheen as well. So I decided to incorporate that as an icy pond or area of snow – whatever you want it to be. I’ve re-hooped the silk to let that be part of the picture.

Below, I’ve underpainted in black the areas where I wanted trees. I use white thread to mark roughly where I think the boundaries of the picture will be. It also acts as a guide to help me keep the trees generally vertical while I sew.

The rest was a matter of hand-stitching in the same shade of black thread, thinned out to one strand for the distant trees and thickened, even doubled up, for the nearest.

Green Skies at Night

March 1st, 2021

Another in my northern lights series. 4 inches x 4.75 inches, hand stitching on hand-painted silk.


January 18th, 2021

2.75 x 4 inches. Hand stitching on hand-painted silk. This scene of the northern lights is out of my imagination.

I started out by pouring some shades of blue and green onto the silk while it was stretched in the hoop. When you do this, the part of the silk that is bound inside the hoop doesn’t take up the colour properly. Usually it comes out a much paler version than the rest. In this case it came out a pale purplish colour that to me looks like an icy lake. So the picture practically painted itself. Above, you can see where I’ve re-hooped the silk so that the icy lake is in the foreground and I’ve started to hand-stitch some trees around it.

I used black thread to stitch a rough skeleton of the trees first. Then I went over the main branches with a grey-blue thread that looks like snow in shadow. Finally I used white thread for a topcoat of snow. I used full-thickness thread for the nearest trees and half-thickness for the more distant ones.

More northern lights pictures are coming.

Sailing by Oak Bay

October 19th, 2020

A view from Oak Bay, British Columbia. 5.25 x 7.75 inches. The sky, mountains and distant shore are hand painted. The water and foreground rocky spit are hand embroidered. The sailing boat is made of Tyvek and thread, and the few gulls sitting on the rocks are Tyvek as well.

Some photos of earlier stages:

You’ll see I did some underpainting of the rocks and water. I used that underpainting as a guide to shape and colour as I embroidered the rocks. Don’t mind my practice blobs around the sides. I hadn’t finished painting the clouds when I took this photo.

Here I’ve started to do some stitching of the water and part of the rock. I then darkened up the sky a little when I saw how bold the foreground was going to look.

I’ve embroidered more of the rock by now. There are still some empty patches in the water. After filling those areas, I stitched my seagulls onto the rock (I cut a narrow strip from my trusty old FedEx envelope and used it like thread). I added the boat last of all, also made of tiny pieces of Tyvek. I glued some blue thread lint to one of the sails for some shading, and left the other bare to catch the light.

Fluff is in the Air

June 14th, 2020

Thread on hand-painted silk, 5.5 x 2 inches.

The hoop above shows the whole painted background from which my tall skinny shape was cropped. I mixed up a green and a blue (Pebeo Setasilk paints) and poured them on one immediately after the other. Then dripped on some medium, which appears white (it dilutes the colour away).

I sometimes turn the hoop this way and that while the paint is drying in an attempt to achieve a pleasing effect, but it’s mostly a matter of luck. This time the finished result happens to remind me of the Windows XP default background. Then I hang it to dry and clean up my green and blue kitchen counter.

Here I’ve planned out my composition with a paper frame to show my intended crop, and paper pieces for the dandelion clock and departing fluff. I didn’t record my progress from here to the final picture, but I followed the same methods I’ve used before.