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.






On a Sparkling Sea

October 6th, 2015

On a Sparkling Sea - Medium

Ahoy there, mateys!  I’m just drenching you with all this water, I know.  The sparkling sea in question is the Strait of Georgia as viewed from White Rock, British Columbia.  This picture is 3 x 4 inches. The sky, mountains and distant sea are hand-painted on silk.  I started by pouring on a pale pink wash.  Then I added blue very gradually, with almost-dry silk paint.

The nearer water is hand-stitched in various Sulky blues.  I left a space for the boat (the hull is hand-painted ribbon) then once those pieces were glued in place I filled in the bits of leftover empty space with watery stitches.

This boat had more rigging than I have patience!  But let’s call it artistic license.  I used a regular sewing thread that split into individual fibres as thin as hair.

I suspect the little flash of red is a Canadian flag.


September 13th, 2015

Vignette - originalThis picture is 2.25 x 3.25 inches, but the painted and stitched areas are smaller than that. The eagle-eyed among you will spot my almost invisible signature in the bottom left-hand corner.

Usually I do all sorts of colour tests and stitch-securing immediately off to the side of the piece, which I conceal behind the mat when framing. But I wanted to challenge myself to do a more “tidy” piece. The background trees, mountains and sky are painted, and the rest is hand-stitched. The boat hull is a piece of hand-painted ribbon.

I chose the name Vignette because of the way the picture fades in at the edges. But it seems that vignette is also the word for a boat licence in Europe. So, I’m making puns even without trying.

Reflective Moment

August 12th, 2015


Reflective Moment - master

I know, I keep being naughty and doing more and more waterscapes!

This one is 3.5 x 3.125 inches and depicts a heron in a river in White Rock, BC, having a reflective moment or probably just looking for some fish.  My husband did suggest the title Keep Your Heron but I said no.

Lately I’ve been representing water with stitching, but for this scene I wanted to paint the water and make the heron and the surface water bubbles stand out by embroidering them.

I used my wibble technique to paint the water.  Even though you’ll see a lot of vertical lines in the water (reflections of some trees we can’t see), they’ve been painted horizontally, with a zig-zag motion of the brush from side to side.  Wibbling is the technical term for this : )  Water demands a horizontal approach, or it will refuse to look like water.

The heron is stitched in regular sewing thread, in a mix of long and short stitches.  I tried to bulk out the body with an extra layer of stitches there.

A tricky aspect of stitching anything that stands alone like this, is that all the stitches have to begin and end behind the heron. Especially with the darker colors, if I anchored them off to the side of the piece, it would show through the silk.  The poor heron would look like it had faint lines springing out of it in all directions, like an airport flight path diagram or something.

And it was all looking a bit paint-by-numbers until I used an emery board to gently fuzz up the thread, which allows one color to blend into the next in a more realistic way.  I also used scissors to cut into threads sometimes to style as needed.

The bubbles are stitched in a shiny off-white thread.  For the larger bubbles I sometimes bulked them up with a stitch of regular white sewing thread underneath first.

More waterscapes are coming! It’s all the fault of White Rock.



Daily Mini Interview

August 7th, 2015

Become a miniac!  Read an article about my miniature landscapes and explore the Daily Mini site for interviews with other artists who work in miniature, and pictures that inspire.

Thank you Maarten Meerman (read about his amazing nano-sized creations here) for kindly passing on my name!