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  • Writer's pictureSue Bateman Textiles

Cotswold House - Part 2

Updated: May 24, 2022

It's been a while since my last blog post. This one describes the second part of my journey to the completion of this highly textured textile artwork which was completed last year.

Time to tackle the windows!

These also proved to be a lot more difficult than expected, resulting in a lot of unpicking and re-doing! The windows were very dark inside and so I had the idea of using black chiffon to block them in. This would allow some of the lighter colour behind to come through. However, it was clear that they looked too black and did not allow the reflection of the sun shining on the shutters inside.

Cotswold House, Machine Embroidery, Textile Art
Cotswold House

Well I had to unpick it all and start again! The stitching was so tiny it took ages!

Lots of experimenting was needed to get the right effect. I tried different fabrics for the window sills but it was difficult to get just the right colour. I had a scrap of PVA thickened, tea-stained scrim which seemed to work quite well but it wasn’t quite right.

I tried dying silk rod waste in tea which took several attempts to get the right colour. This was appliqued on with black chiffon underneath to create the shadows. It was very fiddly, but effective. Dilute PVA was dabbed on to prevent further fraying.

After a lot experimenting, trial and error, and frustration (!!) I blocked the shutters in using white cotton sheeting with no idea whether this was going to work.

Cotswold House, Machine Embroidery, Textile Art
Cotswold House

With all shutters now blocked in, including the left wall and garage door it was time to add the shadows.

Cotswold House, Machine Embroidery, Textile Art
Cotswold House

Black chiffon was applied again and outlined quite strongly to try and show the window recess. The window panes were stitched from the back in white and the chiffon was carefully distressed to allow the shutters to show through and create the illusion of light. This seemed to work although additional white stitching was needed to make it show up.

As the windows were set back a little I had to try and create a further shadowed outline to push them back.

The window sills also took a lot of experimenting. It was difficult to get just the right colour, and they also created a dark shadow underneath. In the end I chose to use tea-dyed silk rod waste, with black chiffon underneath to create the shadow. This was very fiddly but seemed to be quite effective. Each sill was outlined in stitch, the shadow trimmed a bit, and then a very dilute dab of PVA was applied to stop the fabric from disintegrating – it was very delicate!

The little skylight window on the annex roof was added in and the gravel drive was indicated by stitching into the 3D medium, etc. with tiny circular free-machining. The chiffon was distorted a bit more to let more light through onto the shutters and then dabbed with very dilute PVA to stop it from fraying. An outline of the front door and pillars was also stitched in.

Time to tackle the front door!

The green patch in the sky was really annoying me!

Cotswold House, Machine Embroidery, Textile Art
Cotswold House

And now it’s gone! Luckily there was an additional layer of fabric underneath.

Cotswold House, Machine Embroidery, Textile Art
Cotswold House

The annex window was completed first. White cotton fabric was appliqued on and then cut away to reveal the small panel windows. The grey roof was appliqued to the top using a grey coloured tape and this was satin-stitched along the top to indicate the roof ridge. Calico fabric was appliqued on as the base for the chimneys, and the guttering above the annex window was also appliqued.

I stitched in the walls of the garage but I wasn’t quite sure about the result. Then I stitched around the edges of the window on the left wall to try and emphasise the recess. The fence on the right was also machine stitched in.

I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to deal with the shadows on the side, and also to indicate the shape of the house at the front. Using any paint was difficult because it just disappeared into the very absorbent, highly stitched fabric, and stitching would be too dark. I managed to get some indication of the shadows but they seemed a little too grey. Decided to go back to that later.

I then started to embroider the foliage around the door pillars and to applique the pillars on top. However, this didn’t seem to look right.

Cotswold House, Machine Embroidery, Textile Art
Cotswold House

I decided to take the pillar off and rethink that part.

A little paint was added to the bottom edge where the flower border will be. The shadow under the left side roof was indicated using thin cord, and the drainpipe was appliqued on with the white pipe immediately behind it. A little white acrylic was lightly brushed onto the left roof to bring out the tiles, and it was also used to lighten the orange wall a little.

Brown canvas was appliqued around the roof which will be stitched to indicate the ledges at the top of the walls. The chimneys were also given some background colour and shade. This was further emphasised by stitching in the shadows.

More detail added to the front wall to emphasise the brickwork, and a little more white acrylic was added to the windows as they still weren’t white enough.

I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to deal with the protruding shape of the house at the front. Stitching would be too dark so it was better to add a little paint.

I then started again to complete the front door pillars. I decided to applique the whole of the decorative pillars and roof in one piece, and then stitch details on top. I traced the outline, ironed it onto interfacing, and then ironed the piece into position on the front. I had already stitched the outlines so I knew where it should be positioned. This method made everything much more accurate. The door was also in position, along with the dark stonework above. Most of the top would be hidden by thick foliage anyway.

Cotswold House, Machine Embroidery, Textile Art
Cotswold House

Stitching and shading was applied to the doorway and it was looking much better! Time to tackle all the foliage on the front of the house. This was tricky as, again, I had three different photographic versions. The best thing to do was ignore the old photographs and concentrate on the new. I had been fortunate in visiting the house again as the customer had mentioned all of the roses. I got some really good up to date colours to work from.

I began by using my dark silk threads as a shady background to try and build up depth and colour. This was free-machined on using dark thread. The roof boarder was also emphasised with further stitching and a little more shading.

Roots and branches were added to the walls and bushy foliage by using a tension free bobbin. This created a lot of problems as the technique was very inconsistent. Sometimes it was so loose it just got tangled up. Other times there was no loop even though I hadn’t touched the tension! It seemed to depend on what thread I was using. Some threads (using the colour I wanted!) were quite weak and kept breaking. This was very frustrating!

Roses and other wall flowers were now added using the same technique. I thought the garden was going to be the easy part but it was very slow going. It was also complicated by the fact that I had photos from different angles so had to imagine their placement in the view that I had.

The mass of foliage above the door was now added, and the foliage over the garage. It took a lot of stitching to get the colours right with lots of tangling!

I decided to take the branches off of the left wall as they looked too dark. Then stitched the stonework on the wall at the far right.

I had to dampen down the yellow a bit more with some diluted paint as it was too bright and I wasn’t willing to put yet another layer of stitching on top! The silk fibre shadows created an unexpectedly nice effect!

The pillars were then completed.

Cotswold House, Machine Embroidery, Textile Art
Cotswold House

I started to build up the flora and light foliage on the right hand side – white flowers, foliage around the window, lighter coloured bush in the background. I used a tension free bobbin and stitched from the back which seemed to give the right effect.

I then stitched the grass in front of the fence with a free-machined straight stitch, and added some fibres to the side of the garage to create the roots winding up to the plants above. Some lighter coloured rose branches were added to the left wall.

The wall on the right hand side was completed with free machining to show the stonework. I then started to build up the foliage over the annex window, and continued to build up the foliage on the left wall with free machining.

I lightened the thick bush over the door by adding yellow. It was too yellow to begin with so I had to cut it back so that I could blend it in. Much more foliage was added to the annex and around the drainpipe.

Lots of flowers and bushes were added around the steps on the left, and roses were added to the left wall. Almost there! I still had the border around the house to do and the foreground.

The yellow flowers below the fence were added in and the wall detail was completed with free machining. The border stonework on the left was also stitched in. The poppies on the left were added in using free machined red fabric, and more foliage around the right hand side was now added in. Some border plants were also added in and the long leaved plants were free-machined in. I would like these to be a little more 3D in possible.

The plant pots were added outside of the front door on top of the free-machined decorative bushes. The pots were appliqued on using calico. Stitching and shading was then added.

Around the garden path in front of annex poppies were freed machined over bits of red fabric, machine embroidered Foxgloves were added, and long grasses were indicated by couching over green yarn. Yellow flowers and small purple flowers were also added. The foliage was now covering most of the drainpipe. The little chimneys on the annex were free machined on and the steps were highlighted with diluted paint. Now for the foreground!

More experimentation was needed to try and create the textures in the foreground. I had different versions in my photographs so it made it more difficult to decide what to do. I began by creating the grass at the front using a loose free-machine stitch, but this just looked too neat! I then tried cutting the threads to create fringes and a longer texture but it still didn’t look quite right so I decided to go back to it later.

Cotswold House, Machine Embroidery, Textile Art
Cotswold House

The hedge was machine stitched from the back using a combination of green and yellow thread. Although it was frustrating trying to keep the same tension throughout, it did create the texture and colour that looked ok and I was pleased with the effect. The grass still wasn’t right though. I tried a combination of flax fibres to create the dryer patches, and tension free bobbin for the grass. This knotted all of the time but I was able to cut the threads on the right side which created the clumps of grass. I think this finally created the effect I was looking for!

More foliage was added to the flower border, using the same technique, and under the left window. A little more blending was completed on the hedge, so all done!

The work had to be stretched over rigid board and then removed so I could sew it onto a background with a border (which I had forgotten about!). This was all very annoying. It was then re-stretched over two layers of flexible book board to make it as taut as possible ready for framing.

Cotswold House, Machine Embroidery, Textile Art
Stretching Textile Artwork
Cotswold House, Machine Embroidery, Textile Art
Cotswold House - Finished Artwork

Detail of left wall with textured embroidery up the drainpipe, extensive tension free machine work to create the flowers and foliage. This technique was also used under the window and along the flower border.

Cotswold House, Machine Embroidery, Textile Art
Cotswold House Detail

Detail of hedge and garden steps next to annex. Some of the flower stems are created by couching green wool yarn.

Lots of different colours blended together. Lots of frustrating knots which were then trimmed and blended to create the right effects.

Cotswold House, Machine Embroidery, Textile Art
Cotswold House Detail

Detail of garage with surrounding foliage and zig-zagged trees, and fence on the right hand side of the house. Shows machine embroidered gravel, dry stone wall and fence posts.

Cotswold House, Machine Embroidery, Textile Art
Cotswold House Detail

And here is the final artwork, mounted and ready for framing!

Cotswold House, Machine Embroidery, Textile Art
Cotswold House - Finished Mounted Artwork

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