To the Lighthouse

November 27th, 2016


6.25 x 4.75 inches, hand embroidery on hand-painted silk.  This lighthouse is on a small island off the coast of British Columbia and the very faint purple mountains in the distance are the mainland.

The white part of the lighthouse is a scrap of Tyvek.  I have trouble capturing the shimmer of the threads on camera but may try again once it’s in the frame.  And here it is:


More scenes coming at my usual slow pace!

Positively Petite Annual Miniature Exhibition

October 25th, 2016


Excited to take part in this upcoming exhibition!  Here’s a map of the location.  It’s only a short walk from the new Opus Art Supplies in the area, which is now open (click here for Opus map)


October 21st, 2016


3 x 4 inches, hand embroidery on hand-painted silk.  A mini-lighthouse enjoying its day off by the waters off British Columbia.

The background is built up slowly from scratch.  The faint purple at the horizon is actually mountains in the distance.  For the lighthouse I used a tiny strip of a Tyvek envelope, because white thread often reads as gray.


Even the simplest pictures have their secrets.  On this photo of the back, the colors look different because I don’t have white paper behind the silk. When I stitched the lighthouse cap and so on, I had to first secure my thread at the side, then secretly walk the thread behind the rocky part, make my lighthouse stitches, and “step in my own footprints” to take the thread back to the side to secure it.  Otherwise, if I went as the crow flies, you would clearly see the dark thread behind the sky.  I’m also a believer in securing thread well because the whole picture has to withstand being stretched.

I’m still working on a larger and slightly different version of this picture, so I’m starting to feel as if I’ve been away at sea for a while!








Chasing the Sun

July 17th, 2016

Chasing the Sun master - thumbnail

3 x 4 inches, hand embroidery on hand-painted silk.  Another British Columbia coastal scene.

The sky takes the longest.  I use an almost-dry brush to build up the colour gradually.  The mountains were much quicker.  All the water is hand-sewn using Sulky and other embroidery threads.

I forgot to underpaint the nearest island, which would have saved me having to be as careful to cover all the silk with thread.

Trees are always fun to do and very forgiving.  The more untidy your stitching, the more tree-like it looks.  In fact the worst idea is to try to make something that looks like a tree.


Stem education

June 17th, 2016

I’ve written about creating dandelion stems by painting on ribbon before, in this post.  But I just learned a new technique and thought I’d pass it on.


I started with 1/4-inch-thick white ribbon.  Then I mixed some Pebeo silk paint to a nice green and painted it on.  The color is slightly different from one end of the stem to the other on purpose, for natural variation.

Then I loaded my little brush with some of the lightening medium (pictured below) and stroked it down the middle of the stem.  It “washes out” the green, making it scurry away to the edges, but then the green stays at the edges of the ribbon because it has nowhere else to go.   I did this while the green paint was still damp.  It makes the stem look 3D with very little effort from me.



I waited for it to dry then painted over the middle part with a yellow shade to warm it up a bit, while keeping the 3D look.  Then I took this splendidly blurry photograph!


Then I took a couple of better ones, our model is the second from the top.


And finally upright, as seen in nature.  Ribbons are useful for depicting all sorts of thick-stemmed flowers.   Before you plan your picture, make sure you can get hold of ribbon in the right width for the scale you want to work in.  If you’re only able to find a wider or narrower ribbon, that will decide the scale of the whole picture.


Fair Winds

May 17th, 2016

Fair Seas

Almost 3 x 4 inches, hand embroidery on hand-painted silk, depicting somewhere off the coast of British Columbia.  The blue haze on the horizon is land in the distance.

Where would you rather be, the boat or the cottage?

*Detail alert*

The boat hull is hand-painted ribbon and the sails are Tyvek.  Full-size boat sails can be made with Tyvek, and I think it’s the first time I’ve used the same material as reality!  I shaded them with scraps of mesh from a fancy ribbon.  I also painted them but they only hold a little bit of colour.  I used acid-free glue and thread to hold the pieces down, depending on whether they were large enough to take a needle.


This strange picture is of Tyvek.  It’s from a FedEx envelope.  (I don’t use the parts with the lettering on, haha).  The piece on the left is full-thickness.  If you split it at the edge with your fingernails and pull it apart, you get pieces like the ones on the right.  Looks a bit ghosty doesn’t it?  The thickness is very uneven, but then you can choose as thin a piece as you need.

And that’s a small piece of ribbon at the bottom, with the mesh part in the middle that I placed on my Tyvek to reduce the white glare.

Fair winds and following seas to you all!



Beyond the Bridge, the Sea

February 29th, 2016

Burrard Bridge cropped

5 x 2 inches, hand embroidery and hand-painted ribbons on hand-painted silk.  A view of the Burrard Bridge, Vancouver, BC.

I forgot to take photos in progress but here’s a photo showing the offstage shenanigans.


I’ve taken the photo too early and I’ll probably add a few tiny stitches in post-production.

I painted a blue wash first, then hand-painted the mountains and treeline on top of that.  The groups of white dots are lights from houses in the distance and they’re done in shiny and glittery thread although the camera doesn’t pick that up.

I glued the ribbons to the background but they’re also held in place by some hopefully discreet stitches.  I coloured the ribbons (originally white) in two different ways: Fabric Fun Pastel Dye Sticks, or Pebeo Setasilk paint.  The dye sticks gave me more vibrant colours and I could keep going over with sticks in different shades until I was happy with the results.  After ironing to set the colour (through tracing paper, to keep my iron clean) they leave a more matte finish, making them a better choice for the concrete bridge supports.  The Setasilk lets the ribbon keep its full sheen and is a better choice for the boats.

The sparkly lights on the bridge and their reflections are done in Candlelight metallic yarn and the rest of the water in various shades of Sulky embroidery thread.  You may notice that the reflections get less vibrant as they approach the bottom of the picture, further from the light source. I sewed with Candlelight all the way to the bottom as usual, then “submerged” the foreground sparkles by sewing over them with blue Sulky thread.

The bridge is not anatomically accurate in every detail.  I’m no engineer.  But let’s call it artistic license!









Outward Bound

December 21st, 2015

Outward Bound for blog

4.5 x 6 inches, hand embroidery on hand-painted silk.  This is a trawler heading out somewhere between Vancouver Island and the mainland.

In a rare episode of forward planning, I took photos while work was in progress!


I paint while it’s stretched in a hoop.  Embroidery is usually seen stretched in a hoop like the skin on a drum, but I stretch it so that the picture faces me from inside the hoop. It’s like looking inside a drum and seeing the skin at the bottom.  This is so that I can place white paper directly underneath and see the true colour I’m painting, because this is how it will appear as a finished picture.

You may be able to make out faint vertical lines in the paint at the top of the sky.  That’s not on the silk, just the ridges on the paper underneath the silk showing through.

You can see I underpainted the water a bit.  I then ironed that to seal it before beginning any embroidery.

Also, you can see all my messy testing of paint colour around the edges.  These are my practice swings–I like to see the exact colour and wetness of the paint before I touch the “on stage” part of the picture, because it changes moment to moment.


Above, a further stage.  I’ve begun sewing even though the sky isn’t finished yet.  I wanted to see how my thread colours would look.  In addition to off-stage paint scribblings, there is now off-stage thread securing.


Almost finished.  I’ve ironed the sky part by now, to seal the paint.  When ironing these seascapes I’m careful not to touch the embroidered part.  I use a Sulky rayon which splits nicely into two wavy strands, which look like water already.  Ironing them would flatten out the waviness, and I don’t want that.

Also, you can probably make out the horizontal line at the bottom of the hoop, which is the bottom edge of my white paper.  You can see the difference it makes.

If you’re wondering why the picture isn’t centered in the hoop, it’s because before I start I always look for a nice clear, slub-free area of silk for any sky areas, and I must have found it at the top.  The part that ends up covered with thread doesn’t matter.


Positively Petite

November 8th, 2015

Place des Arts evite

Just a little publicity for this upcoming event!

Wake Up

November 1st, 2015

Wake Up - large

Hand embroidery and thread lint on hand-painted charmeuse, 3 x 4 inches. The wake is from a ferry to Vancouver Island.

I wanted the wake to be mostly matt in contrast to the shiny water on either side of it.  I first glued some thread lint (finely chopped thread) in a range of colours to the background.  This helps bulk it up a little above the surface of the water and gives it that frothy look.  Over this I couched some matt sewing threads in various shades, using thicker threads closer to the bottom of the picture to help with perspective.  It was quite tough pushing the needle through the thicker layer of lint, so this may be my first and last wake, at least for such a large seagoing vessel!

This piece and a few others will be on show at Positively Petite starting November 13 at Place des Arts, Coquitlam.