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.

Vancouver White Caps

April 30th, 2020

3 x 3.25 inches. Hand stitching on hand-painted silk.

These are some of Vancouver’s North Shore Mountains. I painted the sky, then underpainted the mountains and hand-stitched over them. The snow is sewn from thin strips of a FedEx envelope (Tyvek).

My favourite fibre to use for distant fir trees is serger thread, but I only have it in one shade at the moment. It covers the ground quickly with that little bit of bulk yet transparency that suggests trees.

Some photos of the climb:

Finally the summit. With thumb for scale

Into the Wild

February 2nd, 2020

5.75 x 8.25 inches. This is a view from Maui’s Napili Kai towards the island of Moloka’i in the distance. I liked the way the manicured grass and civilized fence led me “into the wild” of the brush, rocks and ocean.

The sky, distant island and ocean are hand-painted on silk. Except for the fence, the rest is hand-embroidered, including the palm tree, surf, rocks, bushes and grass. I did underpaint the grassy areas so that I didn’t have to cover every last millimetre of silk with thread. You can see this better on the close-up below.

The fence is made of pieces of ribbon cut to size and coloured with Pentel pastel dye sticks. The larger pieces are attached with thread and the smaller ones using tiny amounts of acid-free sticky dots.

A close-up of the palm fronds. I included some shiny threads. When the sun hits palm fronds, they look almost metallic.

And grasses. With green underpainting, otherwise it would take me the rest of my life.

An earlier in-progress shot.

Starting to outline the palm tree.

Testing placement of fence posts. I preferred a lighter colour so ended up going over them with white pastel dye stick.


Hope you enjoyed this little trip to Hawai’i!

Aloha nui loa!

Kahului – in progress

January 5th, 2020


A little Hawaiian scene I’ve been working on. The finished area will be about 4.5 inches x 3 and a bit inches.

I’m still fine-tuning the painted background. I dipped the end of a toothpick in paint and used that to draw the shape of the mountains, to try to get it something close to accurate. Even my brushes are not that fine.

You’ll see I’ve already stitched some of the foreground threads, which helps me determine how strong I need to go on the background colours.

The rough underpainting in the foreground will end up mostly obscured by thread. I’ll also unpick those bits of thread I used to mark the horizon line and corners. It will all be hand-stitched and will take a while, but that means all the more of these evening-and-weekend “trips to Hawaii” for me.

Touch of Light

November 5th, 2018

5.75 x 6.25 inches, hand embroidery on hand-painted silk.  A view from the ferry between the mainland and Vancouver Island.  This one took a while…there was an apartment move since the last blog post, if that’s any excuse!

The photo below shows an earlier stage of the artwork.  I’ve used some thread, which I later remove, to mark the edges of the picture and also to give me a straight horizon line.  This picture goes almost to the edge of my hoop, so it was important for me to see clearly where exactly on-stage and offstage begin.  Especially because I like to try out my colours in the wings.

I leave the thread in place while I paint the sky, because it physically stops my brush from blundering into the horizon line and messing up the white “touch of light” area.

I underpainted the whole water area, then stitched on top of it in lighter-coloured thread (Sulky machine embroidery thread, which I usually split into half-thickness or less depending on how distant the waves).  The photo below shows where I probably stopped underpainting.  Then I unpicked my edge thread and ironed the whole picture to seal the paint before starting to stitch.  However, I did paint the sky some more after the sewing was completed.  It often happens that the stitching ends up looking more intense than I expected and the background needs to be built up a bit more to match.  Then I re-ironed just the sky area.

More water is on its way, in no great hurry of course!

Light on the Water

March 17th, 2018


5 x 7 inches, a view of the North Shore from Burrard Inlet.  The sky and mountains are hand-painted.  I also did some underpainting of the water, trees and sandbars.  Then I glued on thread lint and did some stitching for the line of trees on the left, and all the water and sandbars are hand-stitched.

The mini-lighthouse is a Frankenstein’s monster mix of thread, hand-painted ribbon and Tyvek.  When I first glued on the little strip of Tyvek representing the whitest part of the lighthouse, it looked too bright and “stuck on” (even though it is).  So I poked it with a needle all over, which made it look slightly distressed, dimmed the brightness and made it look much more like it belongs.  I may or may not have discovered this by accident during a moment of frustration.

I also found it best to sew the stilts of the lighthouse with lots of horizontal stitches.  A few long diagonal stitches might seem like the best way, but I found it looked too detached from the background.  In fact the stilts have barnacles attached, so I think the irregularity of horizontal stitches helps suggest that variation in colour and thickness and makes it look more real.


February 7th, 2018


I’m excited to be part of this show! You can see 50 Shades of Grey (below) as well as many other colours at the always beautiful Silk Purse Arts Centre.
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Further progress

December 2nd, 2017


A brief progress report.  I’ve painted more of the sky and made the colours stronger almost everywhere else…still not quite done yet.  I’m going to use thread lint for the stand of trees on the left and stitching for all the water and sandbars.  This is in my 9-inch hoop in case you’re wondering about scale.  I know some of the lines that should be straight are a bit wobbly but this will be corrected when I stretch the silk ready for framing.  There’s still a mini-lighthouse to be added as a focal point too.

Work in progress

October 9th, 2017

Just a couple of things I’m working on at the moment.  First a view of the North Shore from Burrard Inlet.   Don’t mind my trying out my paint colours on all sides.  Lots more painting to do, some more interesting clouds, and a mini-lighthouse on stilts to be added in the foreground.

North Shore in progress

Below, the beginnings of a school of herring.  I started by pouring on blue paint, then while it was still wet I poured on white silk paint (also known as medium) and let it run down, making white stripes.  As the paint dries it continues to blend so you get an effect of light penetrating the water from above.  Now it’s a case of “just add fish.”

Fish in progress