WOWbook 05 is here

It’s here. WOWbook 5 is a real cracker of a book, bursting with ideas. Folk tell me that they love the fact that the artists in the book not only share their working methods but are generous with ideas for taking the work in other directions. In doing so, they enable you to fit the ideas to your own way of working, with your own favourite subjects. I’m working on a new series of sketchbooks and I can see just how to make use of the Alice Fox method of making botanical inks,


I’m also going to try some of Jenny O’Leary’s batik ideas (see below) with my long-standing obsession with wall paintings. That is just for starters. You can see a full list of the artists on the home page.


I shall never forget driving up to interview Jean Draper and pick up her work for the book. I always prefer to talk to artists face to face for these interviews and, with Jean, a visit was essential as we felt it better to pick up her Forbidden installation, rather than trust it to a carrier. Jean’s house is a treasure trove of art as she is a serious collector and has some wonderful pieces. I had only just started my City and Guilds textile course when our tutor organised a trip to see an exhibition of Jean’s work in Bristol. Her figurative series featuring Indian scenes showed me that textiles could portray images in the same way as paintings – I came to stitch through the drawing and painting route.



It was the distressed books exhibit, Forbidden, that I really wanted in the WOWbook. Clive and I saw it in a Textile Study Group exhibition and it made a very deep impression on both of us.



For me, the strength of the WOWbooks is the additional resource of the Members’ Club and the Facebook group for sharing ideas. This time, to start us off with a great ‘how-to’ workshop, we have our WOWbook editor, Lynda Monk, talking us through techniques for design transfer, including foiling, bonding, encaustic wax transfer and much more.

We also start you off with two videos – Lynda speaks to textile artist Sharon Osborne about her work and also shows us shows us a great transfer printing method.


We are all looking forward to hearing what you think of the latest edition and seeing some work in the Facebook group.



The Best Laid Plans

It’s funny how textile pieces change as you work on them. A week or so back, I posted on Facebook a progress report of ways of translating a computer design. This was originally a pastel drawing that I put through a Displacement map on Photoshop Elements.



One of the experiments involved in translating this to stitch was a method of hand stitching on rubber-stamped water-soluble paper. I placed the stamped design onto painted fabric, did some simple hand stitching and then dissolved part of the paper.



This led on to other trials and the whole project graduated to my ‘thinking board’.  This is where I pin things that might become a series. I always find that the pinning method generates ideas. My workroom is also a main route to our back door so I pass through frequently and stop to move things about. The board contains all kinds of samples that link by colour or theme and  might become part of a series one day.


It had now become enough of a compulsion to make a new piece for a background, so I worked on Craft Vilene, covered with a layer of gesso. Some cut-out shapes were pressed into the gesso and a palette knife was then used to apply a little Fibre Paste Texture Gel in between the shapes. When dry, I painted it with black Quink ink which gives a different shade of blue or grey according to whether it’s a gesso or gel. I left a few spaces for some pale yellow water colour, which I applied when the ink was dry.

You can see these steps below. The final piece, below that,  shows that some of the shapes have been lost, which makes for a good background.

















I thought I’d found my technique for the translation of the design – planned to cut it into strips and combine it with the water soluble paper stitching.


However, I then tried a (recycled) cut-out piece of stitching, featuring The Thee Graces on top and loved the result when I placed them on the background.



I’ve got just the frame for it, too. Oh well. I’ll just have to make another one for the displacement map.




Doing a Carole with Watercolours

I recently wrote a review of Carole Robson’s latest book Painting Expressive Landscapes

(Search Press, details at end of blog) As it was written for the website of the WOWbook, it wasn’t generally available. However lots of people asked me about it (after I posted on Facebook) so I decided to write about it here.


When I review a book that really grabs me, I tend to do a little workshop based on it for the WOWbook website – huge fun for me and a chance to see how something like a book on watercolour techniques can relate to textiles. As my current work has been an exploration of print techniques and image program designs on fabric, it’s a great chance to explore that aspect as well. The partly stitched piece shown here illustrates it.



Watercolour effects translate beautifully into textile designs, possibly using silk paints on fabrics. I like to use watercolour directly on paper and then scan and print on silk or cotton. This book on landscapes is ideal, as many of the finished pieces offer ideas for further embellishment. The suggestions and techniques may not be new to any of us from a City & Guilds or art-based background but I like the way that Carole combines them and her instructions are clear and helpful.

The book begins with the usual introduction to materials and basic techniques. We cover a lot of ground, moving swiftly from the absolute basics of mixing paint, dropping paint on wet paper, the infinite variety of pigments etc., then colour and tools (I love the spread on ‘painting without a brush’) and the techniques section where the action hots up. These range from some of our well-loved methods such as cling-film over wet paint, flicking paint from a brush and the use of salt. I loved the idea of drawing with a tube of paint, making use of the dried up stuff around the top. This gives a really bright pop of paint.


In the workshop I wrote based on Carole’s ideas, I was excited by the possibilities in manipulating the cling film to suggest elements of a landscape. This resulted in the sample shown below. A single colour was used (my favourite Nordic Blue) to produce a great interpretation of an overgrown forest. It was painted on heavy watercolour paper with quite a wet wash (see sample below).



This led to further experiments with additional colours. I outlined some of the shapes with a graphite stick.



How to incorporate the paper samples with stitch? I like inkjet printable fabrics by Jacquard and keep a small stock of the silk, cotton and organza packs. It’s not the cheapest method, but I fund it by filling the entire page with images and using any left-over bits for cards, which I sell at shows or use as birthday cards for stitchy mates. The resulting print is lightfast too, which is important if you sell work. In the pic below, you can see the original artworks, together with prints on both silk and organza.



I leave the prints overnight, before fixing them to a background fabric with fusible webbing, such as Bondaweb. I bonded the two stitched pieces shown onto felt, as I like the slightly quilted effect that this produces when stitched.



The tree was lightly free-machined with a few squiggles to suggest branches and a light outline of the trunk – it needs a bit more work as it looks a bit like a lollypop at the moment. I have begun to add more foliage with hand stitching in blue-green colours.

I always enjoy the experience of trying out ideas from books and appreciate the fact that Search Press are happy for me to do this. I took the book in to my stitchng group and everyone was impressed. We are going to have a ‘Messy day with Carole’ for our next meeting.

We have many extra workshops, by well known textile artists, in the WOWbook Members’ clubs on this website – so you don’t just buy the WOWbook but an ongoing experience.

Here’s the details about the book.

Carole Robson

Painting Expressive Landscapes

Carole Robson

ISBN: 978-1-78221-553-0


Search Press



Here comes the next one…..

What an exciting time – WOWbook 04 should be with us next week and it is a real cracker. To keep the concept fresh, we introduced a guest editor, Lynda Monk, and she has discovered some truly innovative artists for us. Here are just a few of the exciting workshops:

Wendy Dolan knows a thing or two about keeping a sketchbook. In her workshop, she demonstrates just how to turn a quick sketch into an exciting piece of art. She shows us in detail how to transfer a design and then add texture and stitch to make a dynamic piece of art.

Many years ago, at the the now lost  (and much lamented) Art in Action show, I was introduced to the art of collagraph by one of the demonstrators – Sue Brown. I loved her work, she is mistress of so many techniques and she has remained one of my very favourite artists. She’s also had a big influence on my work. So what a coup by Lynda to have signed her up for a workshop, using gum arabic as a print device – see below. Genius.


Amanda Hislop is another featured artist and you’ll all love her ideas for building up a surface. These could be carried into all manner of textile and artworks.


Our interview is with Sandra Meech and, as you would expect, it is a fascinating account of how she approaches her work and what it means to her to be able to explore a ‘sense of place’, not only in her studies of the wild places of the world but also following a fairly recent move to Somerset in England’s West Country. Sandra has also written a very comprehensive workshop for the website that is free with the book. This will be waiting for you when you receive the book – where you will find all password details for our members’ club.


We also have articles from two famous Annes – both giving ideas for working in three dimensions. Anne Hellyer has introduced the concept of three-dimensional art with a piece that looks as good at the back as it does at the front. Her stand at shows is always packed with fascinated onlookers.

Our other Anne is Anne Kelly who has written some amazing books that we know you all love and she has, typically, been thinking outside the box for her workshop. Inside the box too, as she is converting a vintage workbox to a piece of high art, with some beautiful examples of stitch.

Then there is the ‘Inspired by’ feature and, on the website, the next instalment of my ‘Maggie Grey’ course – lots of experiments with texture and form in that. Tyvek, Lutradur, lots of mess and even lots of stitching this time.

To put your name on the ‘Let-me-know’ list for the book just email



A Great Idea

I’ve just uploaded an article in the members’ club on the WOWbook site (  about the fAB group of stitchers at Bicton College in Devon. This group members not only support each other in producing their own work but also mentor current students in many ways. Gill Burbidge is the tutor for a Level 3 (A-level equivalent) drawing, painting and fibrecraft course. She found that, when they finished the course, the students wanted more. Thus the fAB group came into being. The group donate money from exhibition sales at the college and this is used in many ways. Perhaps to sponsor stands for students at exhibitions, to purchase student work or to exhibit at shows, the purchase of props, lighting, end of year prizes, visiting speakers etc. The piece below is by former student Caley Bright.


There is also a shop where students can purchase all manner of stitchy needs at reduced prices. fAB members also help students at shows – doing anything from setting up the stand to paying for stand fees and display materials. This pic shows work from the recent Craft 4 Crafters exhibition.



This is such a good idea and a great way of encouraging young textile artists. Like-minded people can apply to become members of the fAB group. Contact Gillian for more details.


A couple of things on my mind, one is the fact that the Gathering Memories project, which invited textile artists to submit work to be auctioned to raise funds for the Alzheimers Society, raised over £7,000. Such a great achievement and I know that a lot of people worked very hard to bring about this excellent result. This piece is by Sandra Meech.



I’ve just been reading an article from the Sunday Times magazine (yes, it often takes me a whole week to read the Sunday papers) about a very courageous woman with Alzheimers. She gives off the most upbeat vibes, while not belittling the difficulties, and has written a book. Sorry this is such a long link.


I dropped off my work for Ramster Embroidery Exhibition on Monday. having finally finished and framed ‘Raschida’, below. From what I could see from the work being unpacked, it all looks fantastic. I always do the eyes first these days – to see if I like how they look at me. I’ve worked a couple of ‘faces’ who have glared at me all through the stitching process.The exhibition starts on Saturday – here is a link with details



New Additions and Ancient Faces

I’ve decided that a good use of my blog would be to let folk who have purchased the WOWbook know when we put new workshops and videos on the site. We know that not everyone is able to look at our members’ only group on Facebook. The WOWbook members’ club on has some great recent additions. Articles by Nikki Parmenter, a workshop and review based on watercolours have recently been added. As part of my regular course, I have been making an altered book and having wonderful fun with it.




In the next couple of weeks there will be more on this, including combining water-soluble paper and Tyvek, ironed over a stamp. These can be embedded into the book pages for extra interest.



We recently enjoyed having a stand at Craft4Crafters, at the Exeter show. My goodness, this show has come on in leaps and bounds with some exciting demos going on and lots more for stitchers. We were right opposite West Country Embroiderers, who had a brilliant display, with great work on show. We saw some fabulous examples based on our kozo trees – extended way beyond the article, which is always good to see.



As I mentioned last time, In my own work I have returned to a favourite theme – Ancient Faces. I was inspired by a book of the same name and have been working on variations for many years. I always begin with a pastel drawing and my latest trials have been with Inkjet Printable Silk (after scanning the drawing). Playing with the Embellisher machine, I think I have found a way to ‘paint’ with silk on linen. Great fun – I expect it will turn up as a workshop on the WOWbook site soon. I’ll have a couple of pieces based on this theme at the Ramster Hall Embroidery Exhibition. This always a lovely event and it’s on from Saturday, 16 March 2019 to Saturday, 31 March 2019. More details from the website




Faces, flowers and a dog

One minute it’s Christmas, then you look at the calendar and we are half way through January. How does that happen?

A lot of excitement has been going on here since my last blog – the major event being the launch of WOWbook 3. It was so amazingly busy with sales that I didn’t even get time to blog about it. Every time we say that we won’t be so busy this time – I’m glad to say that once again, we were wrong. The mix of book and ongoing online workshops seems to have great appeal. This pic from the Inspirations section is Party Lurcher by Mrs Bertimus.

We are already seeing the results of the workshop tutors’ inspirational instructions and the Facebook page has been very busy. You can see some of the results on our Gallery page at Just look for the gallery on the top menu – you don’t have to be  member to view it. If you’ve bought the book and you would like us to include your work in the Gallery just send a pic to us The Gallery pic below is a lovely shot of eco-dyed fabrics from Jane Rouse.


The Facebook page is such fun – lots of our members say that it’s the friendliest group on the web and, as it is a closed group, we don’t get any spammy stuff. I love to see the work that results from our online members’ club articles, as well as the book stuff. You may remember that, in a recent article, I wrote about my experiments with turning Brusho paintings into stitch and here is Wendy Burgess’ take on that process.



My last blog was about transferring paper designs to stitch – some techniques, like Brusho, only work well on paper. I’m expanding that to watercolours as part of a workshop I’m writing about Jane Betteridge’s new book. Dynamic Watercolours has some great ideas and not only covers watercolour but techniques such as stamping into your watercolour, using tissue paper and so on, that we use in our stitched work.


We have a fun deal going with Search Press where we pick a book to review and expand it with an interview with the author and then I have a bash with one or two techniques from the book. Now I know I can transfer the results to fabric, I’m even more keen. I used some masking fluid that I thought was the peel-off version and was so disappointed when it was non removable. However I then decided to draw into the painting and found that the mask that I’d splattered over the paper was great when I doodled into it – another technique to be printed on the inkjet fabric. Hooray.


I’ve also used the drawing to fabric technique for transferring some of my ‘Ancient Faces’ drawings to a more forgiving medium. The top one here has been transferred to Craft Vilene by ironing paper onto Bondaweb and then rubbing the top layer away.I am making these for the Ramster Exhibition. More info here





If you are in the south-west of England, do come and see us at C4C (Craft4Crafters) in Exeter. I’ll be demonstrating my Brusho and watercolour ‘splat’ techniques as well as the embellisher machine. In addition, Amo House will be showing some exciting methods of image transfer. Fiona will be keeping us in order (some hope). It would be lovely to see you there.


The Glories of Brusho

In the latest lesson of the multi-media course that I run for the WOWbook members’ club we are looking at techniques for backgrounds We do like to be a little on the messy side so I’ve been playing with Brusho. Everyone loves a good splodgy play with this versatile powdery colouring medium. Especially the black, which separates into many colours when sprinkled on a wet surface.

One inevitably winds up with a very messy page and it’s best to cut it into individual areas. I like to keep them in a sketch book and find that they often provide ideas for stitch.


This large messy page divided into many small cut-outs – I call them Brusho studies and I reproduce them on fabric to stitch.

Here you can see two ‘study’ pieces, taken from the pic above. Both of them look like landscapes to me. These small selected areas can be enhanced with drawing tools or a fine pen.









The next pics show the Brusho painting and the stitched piece that I made from it. These little studies are fun to produce and to stitch. I can see them as Christmas cards.



A Productive Getaway

I write in praise of the idea of a retreat. Three times a year I go away, with a group of friends to eat, drink and be merry but, most of all, to work uninterrupted on ideas or just to stitch. The place we have found is Kingcombe  in deepest Dorset and is run by the Dorset Wildlife Trust. The wildlife is useful, feathers being a case in point. From the design potential of a hen’s feathers to the donation of cast off bits of the resident Guinea Fowl’s tail, which featured in a recent piece of my work. Here, the work in progress with the gratefully accepted feathers, bottom right.






















Apart from comfortable accommodation (and amazing food, thanks to Andy, the chef), wandering around the grounds with your camera is very rewarding.













I found it interesting to note the difference that the light makes. You can see that the fungi here look quite different when the shot is taken from another angle, so that the top of the ‘pile’ catches the light. I couldn’t help wondering what Marion Jazmik would make of these. Her wonderful work, based on all forms of fungus. featured in the last WOWbook.





















A new boardwalk had been built since our last visit and the design was spectacular. What appeared to be randomly placed pieces of wood as you walked past, resolved onto a pattern as you looked back – now that is so clever.































The boardwalk ends at the stream and the base of this tree trunk really caught my eye. I loved the ‘verdigris’ streak running down the trunk.


With a little jiggle in an imaging program it turned into a workable design.















Did I get any work done? Well I made a start on some ‘leaves’, using the embellisher machine – inspired by the sunflower photograph. I’ll be talking about the technique in the next WOWbook.



























Show and Tell

I can’t believe that it has been so long since I posted. I have two excuses. The main one is that we are deep in the busiest part of producing the next WOWbook and that is always frantic. Particularly so when I am writing a section of it, as I always get carried away and find myself with too many exciting paths to follow. While demonstrating the embellisher machine at the Dorset Arts and Crafts exhibition, I discovered a new idea that I hadn’t tried before and was delighted when I managed to replicate it using hand needle-felting tools. That’s the great thing about demos: time to play, usually with no particular outcome in mind



The exhibition was a retrospective and I ‘performed’ it as a life story, beginning with the first embroidery I ever did (a kit) and my City and Guilds work – see pic below.



I included our time racing round the world teaching and how the Batsford books began. It’s been a wonderful experience but I don’t think I could do all the travelling now. Below you can see a piece that was exhibited in an exhibition in the USA. The exhibition was about the joys of the internet so this piece, entitled Binary Humanity, was all about the fact that there are hands and faces involved in web interaction. I included comments from my blog around the edge of the work. Workshop on the Web and D4Daisy Books have probably been my best endeavours so it’s great to see them combined in the WOWbook.



It was lovely to see so many people, many of whom had come a long way to visit me and I am  humbled by that fact. The DACA summer show is a super event, with all branches of art and craft represented. The photography exhibition was excellent this year and there was also everything from textiles, painting and model-making on show. The ceramics of Rosemarie James are always a big draw for me. I managed to resist this delicious work of art but plan to get another of her pieces for my collection at the DACA Christmas fair.


My other piece of news is that I have a website again. It took me ages to realise that when the old Workshop on the Web site went, so did my bit of it! Clive has made me another one – a bit of a work in progress but I’ve unearthed some new photos for the pic clicks and it’s good to be back in the pack again. The piece below, which is described on the website, was made with the embellisher machine – told you I was having a bit of a thing with it! My triumph was embellishing paper from my dropcloth (or drop paper in this case). Do have a look; the addy is



The next WOWbook is coming along a treat. Our interview is with Cas Holmes and our Sam (Packer) has asked some searching questions. The really difficult part is choosing which of the great photos we use. At least with the WOWbook set up, we can overflow onto the website with a bonus extra. You can see some of the pics below.





Cas has a new book, ‘Textile Landscape’ and it is really good. I have just reviewed it for the WOWbook site.


However it’s not been all hard work – I took a whole weekend off and had a lovely time in Portsmouth with my cousins. As you can see it was a bit giggly – I wonder why?  We also had a surprise visit yesterday from granddaughter Lauren and her lovely cuddly rugby player. What a great guy.