I quite often tell groups who want to create a masterpiece immediately that when we hear a talented musician play a beautiful piece of music, we often forget that most of the rest of their time they spend practising their scales.  Sometimes in our desire to constantly make something new we forget how important knowing and practising the basics are.

I’ve been particularly busy recently with the non hands on stuff (including The Basque children in Salford research), and I’ve also been avoiding using the sewing machine for my textiles.  Hand sewing fits perfectly into my life because I find it meditative and relaxing and I use it as an antidote to stress.  Using the machine for embroidery – messing with tensions and tangles – is a cause of stress even though I’m pretty capable and used it for my City and Guilds. Recognising that I haven’t got much time to sew at the moment, and that if I ever want to make anything remotely affordable I really must overcome this reluctance, I have set myself a little challenge.

Going back to basics I am following the exercises in Val Holmes excellent book “The Machine Embroiderer’s Work Book”. Having bought my niece “How to make books: Fold, Cut and Stitch Your Way to a One-of-a-kind book” by Esther K Smith, which included making zines from folded paper, I thought I’d try and make a fabric zine with my samples. On a piece of calico cut to A2 size and divided (by folding) into eight A5 sections, I made a start with straight stitch in straight lines last week and continued over the weekend with straight stitch in wavy lines. I added my own little twist by dividing each “page” into two manageable boxes and I’m using the many reels of thread that I inherited from my Aunt.

My work is usually quite complicated and I’m really enjoying the simplicity of these exercises combined with the plain calico and simple colour palette of blue, pink and grey. So although I’m going back to basics and “practising my scales”, I’m also exploring a very different aspect of my creativity.

October 30, 2012


‘practising my scales’ This is a great simile, as a stringed instrument builder I sometimes go back to basics. Just walking around trees [my raw materials] getting a feel for the wood. Making other objects from wood to develop and hone skills.
Keep practising.

I always feel that my sewing machine has the upper hand when it comes to machine embroidery so perhaps I should take a leaf out of your book (or zine)!

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