I have spent more time than I should have on this exercise, I know, but it inspired me and I got carried away. I used a photo from an early morning walk on the sandy, dusty roadside where the shrub allamander grows against compound walls.

shrub against the pale yellow wall
shrub against the pale yellow wall

I studied the photo with pencil and then by watercolour pencil to see the colour, the line and the textures:

pencil drawing of shrub against the wall
pencil drawing of shrub against the wall
study with watercolour pencils to look at tones
study with watercolour pencils to look at tones

Then I played with the photo effects to see how the lines of the shrub would show with any significant textures:

enhanced, stripped down photo of shrub
enhanced, stripped down photo of shrub

Now it was time to find stitches. I used muslin and cottons to deconstruct the shrub….. I used backstitch for the stems, running stitch for the leaves and chainstitch and star stitches for the stamens:

deconstructed sketch with stitches
deconstructed sketch with stitches

Then it was time to stitch the sample, and to consider the fabric and the stitches that would fit this drawing.

I used a green/yellow satin as the fabric. The stems are sisal twine couched with green ribbon, against a line of brown pearl cotton running stitch. The stamens are green ribbon french knots with yellow pearl cotton spikes of running stitch. The leaves have an outline of brown running stitch whipped with olive green cotton. The inside of the leaves are blanket stitches with reverse blanket stitches to give a lacey effect.  I felt this was too ephemeral for the strong leaves so I then made a lattice weave of a stronger blue/green over the top to add depth to the leaf.

stitch sample

stitch sample

Critique:

I am actually really pleased with the process I followed here as I know that I could not have done this 2 months ago with such creativity. I don’t mean that my outcome is good, just that it is good for me! i feel I unpicked a snippet of my walk into looking at its shape, its relationships of texture and size, colour and tried to envisage that through yarns and stitches. I think I tried different techniques.

I am not happy with the end appearance of the leaves and on reflection it would have been better to use two tones of green in a Cretan stitch to show depth as well as fragility. The outline of the leaves is fine as there is a brown tone when I look at the shrub in real life, or on the original photo.

The stamen/buds: I used three wraps on the french knots and two would have worked better. I toyed with the yellow stitches and did try a green metal fibre but that looked too much like a Christmas decoration and went back to the yellow cotton.  Not sure, however.

The stems:  I really like the effect of the shiny green ribbon couching the natural fibre texture of the sisal.  It seems to marry sunlight with the earth…..

The fabric: I thought the satin would be strong. I had originally wanted to use an ochre organza but rejected it as it would be too weak for the ribbon and sisal.  However the satin has worn through at one point, I think because it was pulled too much in the embroidery frame.

close up  of stitches
close up of stitches
fabric and yarns
fabric and yarns