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

Soft Rock

August 28th, 2017

Soft Rock original

4.875 x 7 inches, hand stitching and free motion machine embroidery on hand-painted silk. A view from the seawall near English Bay in Vancouver.

I took a few photos of the work in progress. Below, here’s the sky all painted, with some dark green underpainting of the distant trees. Underpainting is to prevent any unpainted white silk from showing between stitches, and also to give me a rough idea of where to stitch in the first place. I’ve already begun embroidering some of the trees here…not enough patience to wait till the water was painted! And I’ve started to underpaint some gray-brown for the rocks. Before I start sewing on any area, I make sure to seal the paint using an iron.

In progress - underpainting and stitched trees

On the picture below, the water is more painted. I left bare patches where the white surf was going to be. I’ve also started some free motion machine embroidery of the rocks. However, some time after this picture was taken, my sewing machine broke. I mean, froze up completely. I wasn’t able to fix it myself and I’m reluctant to get it repaired by a professional or buy a new one since I mostly do hand embroidery these days anyway, so I decided to complete the picture by hand.


It took ages and I’m not eager to repeat the experience, but I’m glad it’s done now. I had to take care when stitching around the rock pools, not to let those dark threads run behind the water where they would show through. Some of the rocks are sewn by couching one thread into place with another, and some just have random overlapping stitches. The nearer the rocks, the thicker the threads I used and the more often I threaded a needle with two colors at once.

I embroidered the surf with white thread, and left this till last so I could make it appear to splash up onto the rocks a bit.

Hopefully it’s not quite as long until my next post!


Deep Blue

May 8th, 2017


3.75 x 4.625 inches.  Hand embroidery on hand-painted silk.

I painted the background, and underpainted the water.  You can see from the in-progress picture below that I also painted some of the left-hand edge of the spare silk a medium blue.  I used some strands of that deeper blue for the hull of the distant sailing boat because I didn’t have any regular thread that was fine enough.

In progress - further on

Early on in making this picture, I accidentally put a blob of “land” paint in the water.  Uh-oh!  I thought about inventing some more rocky outcrops to hide it, but instead I flipped the whole composition from left to right.  That way, the blob became part of the land on the left and even I can’t find it any more.


March 23rd, 2017


3.5 x 5 inches.  One of my dandscapes.

The background came about by chance.  I poured on gray-green silk paint and then ran some rivulets of the white medium over certain areas.  This erased the gray-green in stripes, but the silk was still so wet that it blended nicely into a nice effect of rays of light.

The stem is a piece of hand-painted ribbon (here’s how) and the rest is regular Gutermann sewing thread that I have teased into fluffiness and stuck down with acid-free glue.  I stitched the tiny seed pods with skinny pieces of hand-painted ribbon as well. There’s some hand-sewing in pinks and purples underneath the fluffy stuff.  I just wander the thread around in a rough circle; it doesn’t matter much because it will be only glimpsed through the fluff.


Lift-off framed

Make a wish and blow!