Work done for City and Guilds Level 3 Certificate in Embroidery with Distant Stitch.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Certificate Module 4 Chapter 11 - making progress

My first task in this section of my work was to collect together all the elements from my sketchbooks and samples which I find particularly interesting.  To start with I put them all together on a design sheet.

4.11.H9 Design sheet 
Obviously there were too many ideas there for the cover of one book!  My next task was to select what I would like to have on the cover of the book.  One of my preferred themes was the combination of the circular shapes (of the fish scales and the tops of the barrels) along with lines (from the straight lines on the masts, cabin and funnels of the boats as well as the ribs in the fins of the fish).

By good luck, I had been watching You Tube videos on paper-making and, when one video ended it automatically played another video.  This was an artist at work, painting on paper.  He worked by dipping his hand in watery paint and then, using his fingers as a tool, described rough circles on a piece of paper on the floor.  It gave me an idea to work the circles theme in this way on the background of my book cover.  I tried it out, using diluted blue and white acrylic paint, diluted blue and black Quink ink and some diluted acrylic iridescent medium to add a touch of sparkle.  I used pelmet Vilene which had already been coloured a pale grey-blue as the base.  The herring are known as "the silver darlings" hence the use of silver and sparkle as well as the title of my book.

4.11.H10 the background for the book cover

(I'm afraid Blogger is playing up a bit.  Some of my pictures it turns through 90 degrees and I can't find out how to put it the right way round.)

I tried a variety of compositions for the cover.  My initial idea was to cut out the centre of the circles and use them as a frame for pieces of drawn thread work and machine stitched drawings of scenes from the herring industry.  However, it all seemed too fussy.

One of my favourite pieces of work was a piece of very coarse and loosely woven scrim.  I puzzled for a while over how to "round the square".  Drawn thread work is essentially a square technique.  How could I use it for my circles?  I considered Hedebo work, but the design was too precise and not loose enough for what I had in mind.  I then thought of a technique related to drawn thread work, pulled thread work.  The scrim was loosely enough woven that I could poke through a cylindrical object to pull the threads aside and make a circular hole.  I worked buttonhole stitch around the outside of the holes to keep them open.  I also withdrew a few threads in both directions and worked a spider's web filling to create small circles where the remaining threads intersected.  I used silver thread for the pulled thread work, cream thread for the bars and beige/stone coloured thread for the small circles.  I liked the contrast between the silver thread and the coarse brown scrim.  I decided that whatever else I chose, this would definitely be one element in my book cover.

4.11.H11 pulled and drawn thread work sample

I tried a few compositions on the background, just laying them onto the folded cover and photographing them.





To start with, I liked the first one I tried, H12, as I liked the simplicity.  However, when I laid on top (H13) the collaged fish I had done on hand made paper, with scales made of tracing paper painted with iridescent medium, and silver thread for the fins, I preferred that one.  To my amusement, it looks like the herring is caught in the net, so I may land up using one idea from my abortive first attempt at this chapter!

Alongside this work, I had also experimented some more with hand-made paper.  I wanted to make a finer paper and to explore how to size it so that I could write and draw on it with a fountain pen, dip pen or water-based paint.  To make the paper, I used tissue paper mixed with plant fibres bought from a papermaking supplier, pieces of cotton fabric cut up into tiny pieces and cut up linen thread.  When almost dry I pressed it with a hot iron between sheets of j-cloth.  I was really pleased with the paper which was fine and delicate seeming, but strong.  When researching size, I found that it was possible to use diluted PVA.  I didn't want a shiny or satin finish to my paper, so used matt medium instead which worked perfectly.  Below is a piece which I tested out by writing with a fountain pen.

4.11.H16  (Sorry it's gone all sideways again!)

Reasoning that iridescent medium had the same base as PVA I thought I might be able to produce sparkling paper by using it as a size.  Again it worked perfectly, but doesn't show up well in photographs.

Emboldened by my success, I decided to try printing onto my handmade paper from my computer.  It seemed my luck was on a roll as I was able to print a lovely sepia photo from the turn of the 19th/20th century of herring gutters at work at Point Law in Aberdeen.


I decided to use the hand-made paper for the title banner for the book cover.  Years ago, while in Mallaig where my husband was working, I had kept a sketchbook in which I had made a page documenting the various registrations on fishing boats, which recorded the port of origin of the boat.


I noticed that they all used the same font and decided to use that font for my title.

So I feel I am now almost there.  I still have some final decisions to make and then the assembling of the cover.

My original little booklet about the herring industry was in landscape orientation (a printout of a Powerpoint presentation) and I decided I'd prefer the book to be portrait orientation.  In addition, my husband has come across some new photos and information while searching through his papers and so, although not a requirement of this chapter, I thought for my own satisfaction, I'd like to edit and rewrite the book and its illustrations as well as binding it.  I've therefore decided to take some time out to  do this project.  The herring industry is now dead and very few people are still alive who remember its heyday.  Since my husband has a vast fund of knowledge and stories and since he is now 86 years old, I feel it is important to record this while he is still around.  I can complete the book cover and do the necessary paperwork for Module 4 as well as researching three artists before beginning on this, but I'll take a short break before starting Module 5 in order to give all my time to this exciting undertaking.


  1. Super, so glad you're on a roll. You sound completely enthralled in what you're doing and your book is worthwhile for so many reasons.

  2. Dear Catherine, it's so good to see that you have a theme you seem to be very much enthusiastic about, what a shame it would have been if you'd given up. I look forward to seeing how your work will evolve. I myself have (finally) arrived at the stage where I have to make up my mind about my theme and the book structure and at the moment I don't know in which direction to go....