Part Two: Surface and Stitch: Project 1: Creating Surfaces

Exercise 2.3 Drawing With Stitch Onto Paper

Using viewfinders, I identified some areas of the six chosen drawings to inform the stitched marks and lines in this Exercise – examples of isolated areas shown below.

I gathered an assortment of different threads, yarns and other materials for stitching with, together with assorted needles, hole punches etc.

A selection of the paper manipulation samples were cut into 10 cm square (or occasionally larger) pieces to work on. I felt that some of the paper samples were finished already or in one case, too delicate to use.

Parsley Head/Slug Drawing Detail on wax-coated, cracked, indented paper.

Techniques/materials used: Trying to capture the chewed, silvery marks made by the slug with a rayon/metalised polyester thread and small, multi-directional stitches. The holes made by the needle give an added dimension, more visible from further away than the delicate, shimmering thread marks. The parsley heads were drawn with flour, so I was looking for a fairly matt, springy thread to represent the marks, and chose a thick, linen taxidermy thread. (No, I am not a taxidermist: I have the thread for rug making!) To give some dimension, I added paper circles attached with beads. This gives a mixture of smooth, waxy surface with cracked, peeled areas, almost gritty feeling stitches, contrasting with loose springy, large stitches.

Comments: I felt that this captured and exaggerated the marks in the original drawing. If I was doing something similar again, I might make more cracks in the background first, to give more interest to the base layer. I had thought that the small stitches would embed themselves in the wax, but they didn’t.

Parsley Head/Slug Drawing Detail on burnt paper, with cut outs and cellophane layer.

Techniques/materials used: Fine strips of iridescent cellophane (packaging material) were used in bunches of 3 or more strands at a time to enhance the shiny ‘slug trail’ marks in the paper sample. I decided to leave long tendrils of loose ‘threads’ to show the entrance and exit points of the ‘trails’. I used a torn strip of re-purposed cotton fabric, twisted and knotted to represent the floury plant head and stem marks in the original drawing. These were secured in place with a matt thread.

Comments: The fine cellophane strands were perfect for representing the slug trails. The twisted cotton textile contrasted well with the shiny threads, and with the dark hole behind it. I thought that this piece was quite interesting.

3D Flower Collage Detail on cut envelope paper.

Techniques/materials used: The threads I used for mark making on this piece were: – pink embroidery thread (wrapped around card); ribbon, gathered and stitched at the lower edge: the bold purple marks; short lengths of piping cord, couched with contrasting thread; the knotted paper ‘fibre’ that I had made in the paper manipulation stage (couched, but with most of it hanging free). The wrapping was irregular, trying to recreate the variable pink felt pen marks in the original drawing.

Comments: The wrapping did not go well on the sloping areas of card and I had to use adhesive tape on the reverse to get it to stay in place. It was also looser than I would have liked. Maybe a quick-setting glue, or rougher-edged card would keep the threads in place more easily? I liked the knotted paper, with myriad ways for arranging it, but was less keen on the other elements of this piece. The ribbon feels a bit ‘old school’ (although nothing wrong with that per se, but it was not in keeping with this ‘modern’ sample). The attached, wrapped card gives a raised dimension to that part of the composition, which might be a technique to bear in mind for the future.


3D Flower Collage Detail on embossed watercolour paper.

Techniques/materials used: cotton rag strip (sewn, wrapped, and knotted in one place), textured yarn (sparsely couched), thick, antique silk thread (fan shapes – sewn through pre-pierced holes). The base paper had quite a minimal impact on this piece, but I decided to keep it monotone and concentrate on the different qualities of marks and lines in the original drawing. (Reverse shown below, left).

Comments: I liked the contrast in textures, and reflectivity of the materials in this piece. The lack of colour gave it a calmer, more sophisticated air than the original.

Rag Rug Detail on recycled card, with peeled, lifted areas and punched holes.

Techniques/materials used: trying to capture the frayed quality of the rug drawing and the raised areas with darker fissures between. I used grass stems and leaves, gathered into small bunches, passed through two holes, looped and knotted on the surface. A black hemp thread was chosen to accentuate the areas between the raised areas of card.

Comments: This was one of those pieces where the back was probably more interesting than the front. This was not enjoyable to make: the grass stems were rather tricky to handle and did not create the regular looped (but frayed) surface I was aiming for, instead the loops lay in all different directions and it just looks rather a mess. Sewing with a needle through the card was unpleasant, as it crumbled and broke in a few places: should have left this one as purely a paper sample!

Rag Rug Detail on scrunched/pinched/glued tissue paper, layered with flat tissue paper.

Techniques/materials used: Trying to represent the creased, raised areas and frayed look of the original drawing. I used wrapped, couched piping cord with hemp thread; white embroidery thread; ecru quilting thread to densely cover the lower half with lines of stitch, with big loops left at the end of each pair of rows; thick linen thread and crochet cotton were also used to make large, loose stitches outlining areas suggesting the fissures between the raised paper blobs in the original collage/drawing.

Comments: This was one of my favourite pieces. It is almost the opposite of what I would normally make (which is usually colourful, and flat with no loose ends!). It has a delicacy and range of interesting marks and textures. On the downside, the tissue paper is very fragile and has to be sewn carefully, so there are a few small rips. My friend, Margaret, has just introduced me to Swedish pattern paper, which would be a more resilient alternative ground to use in future. It reminds me of a deep sea creature.

Rag Rug Detail on tissue paper.

Techniques/materials used: I thought I could make raised bumps in the paper by using elastic to draw in the edges of the paper. Two thicknesses of black, shirring elastic are used.

Comments: A horrible mess. I worked in a circle and it did produce a slightly domed centre. It might be possible to make something more pleasing by working in rows or in a check pattern. Probably a better technique for textiles.

Quilt Detail on pleated tissue paper, double layer.

Techniques/materials used: Aiming to recreate patterns resembling the marks on the quilt drawing. For the soft, shading, I used fleece wool balls attached with single stitches in a fine, cream thread, which were embedded into the wool and don’t show on the front of the piece; small lengths of reed were irregularly couched to the paper with bold hemp thread to evoke the strong lines representing a striped fabric; next came staples for the ‘checked fabric’; two thicknesses of black embroidery thread for small, all over patterns; thick, hairy, knotted wool for the bold marks on one section; and finally a very fine polyester thread for a random cross stitch pattern.

Comments: The reverse (shown at right, above) was as interesting as the front of this piece. The tissue paper tore a little, but I liked its soft, draping feel representing the quilt, so stuck with it (although the staples and reeds made it stiffer, in places). I liked the variety of textures and marks in this piece.

Digital Flower Drawing Detail of Stems, on letter paper with laminated cord, yarn and paper string, and tissue paper layer on top.

Techniques/materials used: this was really an ‘extra’ piece that did not adhere to the rules of copying the marks/colours seen in the original drawing. However, I wanted to make a small sampler of different stitches and textures, and more densely stitched than some of the other samples. Sections left to right: brown button thread, long, horizontal stitches; hemp thread looped into loose knots and couched to surface; silk thread (3 strands) sewn into closely spaced running stitch; a line of broken stitches of variable length, following the line of the laminated yarn; reverse cross stitch; grommets sewn with raffine; an overlapping, broken stitch line; strands of yarn couched with long stitches; silk thread French knots; gold elastic over laminated yarn; hemp thread, half sewn, half wrapped into cuts in the edge of the base papers, in two directions.

Comments: I liked most of the stitch experiments here, apart from the ‘woven’ section , which I would probably use on a stiffer base if I tried it again, and actually weave rather than overlaying the threads. I also wished I had not used the gold thread over the laminated yarn, instead leaving all the raised areas white. My favourite stitches were the horizontal ones, which could be placed closer together for a denser look and vice versa; also the reverse cross stitch has an interesting random look to it.

Grass Drawing Detail, on cut paper bag dipped in acrylic gesso.

Techniques/materials used: I cut up some bobbly braid and stitched into the bobbles using white embroidery thread to create ‘clover heads’ at different stages of flowering.


These were then sewn in an upright position amongst the ‘grass’. Some loops were tight, other loose, and some were cut, with a small amount of glue added to hold the threads upright.

Comments: A mixture of textures, but I didn’t like this one because of the mismatch of realistic and stylised representations of the plant material depicted.

Grass Drawing detail, on folded and cut lined paper.

Techniques/materials used: I was aiming for a stylised version of the weeds, moss and other life in our lawn (which is where the grass drawing was made). From bottom to top of the sample: knotted black paper string, with long ends left and also knotted; wire with glass beads (threaded through, twisted and bent); antique beaded braid (attached with small stitches); black raffine (sewn with large loops, which were then cut); black pipe cleaners (sewn through pre-punched holes and made into loops.

Comments: it is quite liberating to work with unusual materials and see the variety of textures and marks that can be achieved. I loved the wire/bead combination which could be bent to form different shapes and the knotted paper string, and tufts of raffine. I was not so keen on the attached braid, although it was like a hidden ‘treasure’ that can really only be seen by handling and exploring the piece. A very tactile sample that I liked a lot.


This has been a fascinating exercise, exploring both traditional and non-traditional materials for recreating marks, lines, patterns and textures. Both the very delicate and flat papers and the highly textured ‘grass’ like bases took stitches well, although care had to be used with tissue paper. It has taken me out of my ‘comfort zone’ and I found that I liked the white/cream monotone rag rug inspired piece, and the final grass drawing best – neither of which resemble anything I’ve made before; proving that experimentation and ‘play’ is good for discovering new processes and techniques.

Another aspect of the exercise that I have not used before is to make numerous small samples. In the past I usually have the idea in my head and sometimes on paper, launch into a big project and then it either works or does not. This method allows trials that could save a lot of time and materials in the long run, and lead to new discoveries.

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