Exhibitions, General

How to make the most out of visiting an exhibition: advice from an Artist- Steward

There is an art to looking at Art

How to make the most out of visiting an art exhibition

I was recently interviewed for Hampshire Life magazine about the Hampshire Open Studios an event I have taken part in regularly in recent years. During the interview we talked about the visitor experience and how the artist can make this less intimidating for people who perhaps would not normally feel at home in an art gallery.  I thought it might also be helpful to share some tips on how to get the most out of a visit based on my observations of stewarding over the years, and also my own experiences as a visitor to other people’s studios and galleries.

The Hampshire Open Studios

For those of you not in the know, over the 10 days leading up to and including the August bank holiday, artists and makers open up their studios, homes, or rent venues, to show and sell their work to the public. While this costs the artist a fee to be included, it is a free event for visitors and a wonderful opportunity to buy from the artist directly if they see something that they would like to have in their life more permanently.

Why visit an art exhibition?

From the artists point of view, sales put food in our mouths and keep a roof over our heads (or at least enable us to buy more paint, paper etc to keep our creative practice going). However, there are many reasons why visitors look forward to this event (gleaned from talking to, observing and listening to many over the years), aside from increasing their personal art collection. These are (among others):

  • being inspired by others to reignite their own artistic or craft practice.
  • learning about workshop opportunities, and art education.
  • supporting, meeting, and talking to other artists (networking).
  • a good day out with family and friends.
  • visiting interesting venues that are not always open to the public.
  • having a nose around other peoples houses (freely admitted to by many folks I’ve spoken to!)

Making the most out of every visit

With nearly 300 venues taking part over a wide area, and a limited amount of time, choosing who to visit can be difficult. While artists include a photo or two in their advert in the book/on the website, unless you know their work (follow them on social media or have seen them before), there is always a bit of a gamble turning up. What if you are the only person there, in an artist’s living room, in front of work that doesn’t immediately speak to you? How do you make a quick exit without appearing rude?

The Twirl

catherine wheel
Photo by Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash

From the artist’s point of view we have all experienced the Twirl: that person who steps through the door, tries (with varying degrees of success) not to look disappointed, does a rapid spin around the room (sometimes on the spot) and leaves hastily with mumbled “thanks” or “nice” to cover their embarrassment.

While recognising that art is subjective and for every Twirl there is the person who spends a significant amount of time engaging with and enjoying the work, I always feel sad that the former has made the effort to come in and got nothing out of the experience. While some Art does jump off the wall/plinth at you (this is when you know you are in the right place) and creates a connection straight away, some art is much quieter and needs a little time to speak to you. If you don’t give it that time, you may miss out on a rewarding experience.

Hints and tips on slowing down the visit

Having seen the exhibition experience from both sides, I thought it might be helpful to give some hints and tips on how I’ve learn’t to slow down and make the most of visits, even when the art itself, on first glance, doesn’t appear to be my thing.

  1. Be methodical (if space allows) and work around the room. Be aware that hanging an exhibition from the artist point of view takes much planning. The work is placed intentionally in relation to that around it. There may also be an obvious progression of a series i.e. what came first? You can liken this to how musicians create an album. Dipping in and out on random shuffle may give you an idea of each piece in isolation, but the album overall has an impact if listened to in the order that the artist intended.
  2. Commit to standing in front of each piece for a number of seconds. Stand back (if space allows) and then look up close. For 3 d work, walk around it if possible and view from different angles. Often there is an interesting feature hidden around the back!
  3. Consider the colours, the composition (what has been placed where) and how your eyes are drawn to certain elements of the work. Note the materials used (they are often surprising and only obvious on closer inspection). Remember that the artist is using these things to communicate with you. What is the piece saying to you? As a viewer these can be negative or positive reactions, both are interesting. Not least as our reaction to elements such as colour, can change over time e.g with seasons, and things going on in our lives. You may have gone in to the room thinking that you liked blue landscapes and finished realising that you are starting to enjoy charcoal figures.
  4. Read the titles. Personally I spend a lot of time naming pieces. They add another clue and often can be quite enlightening if not laugh out loud entertaining as the penny drops.
  5. If there are sketchbooks or information to leaf through about the artist and their work, have a look. These can help if you are struggling to “get it” and sketchbooks in particular can be a fascinating insight in to process and background (and occasionally shopping lists if mine are anything to go by).
  6. Often at Open Studios artists will be creating work or demonstrating. Watch them for a bit and ask questions if appropriate.
  7. If there are chairs available, sometimes sitting down in front of the work gives you more time to let the introvert pieces show their worth. It can give another view (particularly if you are considering buying something to put in a room where you will be sitting in front of it regularly). There may also be an opportunity to partake in refreshments offered by the artist/venue at this stage.
  8. Talk to the artist if they are there, about their work. Ask them questions: what inspires them, how did they get in to art, what is their favourite piece, how long does a piece of work take them, where can you see more of their work, ask how something you are interested is made etc etc.
Nicky Barfoot open studios
A corner of my Nicky Barfoot Open Studios 2019


I hope that this has given you some ideas on how you might get more out of exhibition visits. It isn’t all about shopping and spending money, but if you have enjoyed yourself and got something rewarding from the experience, a small token of thanks to the artist is always appreciated to help cover their costs for being there. While you may not want a piece of their work hanging on your wall (and we do understand that, I assure you), buying a card (or something small and affordable) can help them keep doing what they are doing, providing entertainment, inspiration and pleasure to others through the creation of their work.

Happy visiting folks…….


Collage and the Art of Serendipity


For the 3rd year in a row I have been taking part in #the100dayproject over on Instagram. For those of you who are unaware of this creative endurance test, it is a free, annual, worldwide, participative event where creative souls of all genres publicly commit to a project and post a daily update for 100 days on their Instagram accounts.  This year we started on 2 April and at time of writing, we are on day 79.

The benefits of daily practice

Photo by RhondaK Native Florida Folk Artist on Unsplash

I’ve talked before in a previous post about how this type of accountability helps my commitment to daily practice. Artistic procrastination can be a common occurrence. How many times have any of these thoughts prevented you from making?

  • I can’t think of anything to do,
  • I don’t have enough time,
  • I can’t find the right sketchbook,
  • what’s the point of it anyway,
  • by the time I’ve got my stuff out I won’t have time to do anything.

Much like learning to play a musical instrument, doing a little something everyday makes a difference. As pointed out by the multi talented Maya Angelou in a 1982 interview for Bell Telephone Magazine (and not Oscar Wilde as sometimes attributed): “You can’t use up creativity, the more you use, the more you have.” And this doesn’t even take in to consideration how using the materials regularly makes us more skilled in their handling and application.

I have found this in all of the previous 100 day projects I’ve participated in. I won’t deny that more than three quarters of the way through I’m flagging a little. And my house is even more of a mess than usual. Leaving my art supplies out means no wasted time setting up and taking down.

But just knowing that I have committed to a daily post makes it hard to stop prematurely. Waiting for something to be “good enough” isn’t possible and the 100 posts required means that experimentation and pushing outside of a comfort zone is the only way I’ll hit that volume. This opens up all sorts of new directions, experiences and practices to enrich and inform my ongoing work when the project is over.


This year I’ve chosen to work in collage as my project. This technique has been used by many well known artists such as Kurt Schwitters, Man Ray and Eileen Agar, as well as Matisse in later life with his famous paper cut outs. gives the definition of collage (noun) as “a technique of composing a work of art by pasting on a single surface various materials not normally associated with one another”. This is why it was so popular with the surrealists having the effect of creating weirdness and humour by these strange and unusual juxtapositions.

As I do love a bit of weird, collage really tickles my creative fancy.  Working in it also has another big benefit for a control freak like myself. It adds a bit of serendipity to the work, an unexpectedness and helps me to let go of the outcome (to some extent anyway!).

Working with collage

  1. One of my favourite ways to use collage is to ask what the bits of cut paper want to be. It is the scraps on the desk that are the most exciting. They will tell me if they want to be a cat, a horse, a bird or a dog and I just need to find them the right background and one or two play mates.

    2019-04-22 20.58.12
    “The Riding Lesson” by Nicky Barfoot
  2. Sometimes a piece of random hand painted paper (my acrylic paint brush cleaning papers are my favourites) makes an interesting way to “colour in” a drawing, or add a bit of textural interest to a painting.

    2019-06-10 18.01.17
    “Zombie Girl” by Nicky Barfoot
  3.  Collaged papers make wonderful backgrounds. In the same way that many people paint their sketchbook pages before they work on them, I’ve started sticking bits of interesting paper on to my pages, often adding some acrylic paint and texture, and then drawing, painting, printing, collaging on top of them.

    2019-06-18 21.18.55
    “Head Cuddles” by Nicky Barfoot

If you’d like to find out more

  • If you’d like to see more of my collages, my project on instagram is #100daysofnickyscollagepics and can be found here.
  • A great and inexpensive book if you fancy having a go yourself and would like a bit of inspiration is “The Collage Ideas Book” by Alannah Moore, available on Amazon here.
  • Carla Sonheim is running a year long, on line course called “Year of the Collage”. It features herself, Lynn Whipple and Anne Marie Grgich as tutors. More information can be found on Carla’s website here.

(The recommendations above are from my own paid up, personal experience and not part of a financial/partnership arrangement).

It’s amazing how a Pritt Stick and a pair of scissors can transport you back to childhood and the satisfaction of making things purely for the fun of it. Be warned though. You’ll never end up throwing any scraps of paper away again!

Nicky BArfoot (1)




General, Knitting Know How

What is Intarsia and how do I work it?


Intarsia Colour work

Sometimes known as picture knitting, intarsia is a method of creating a single thickness knitted fabric with a motif on it. As yarns are not stranded/carried across the back of the work (as with stranded colour work or fair isle knitting) each time you come to a new colour, you start a new bobbin/length of yarn.

How to work it

In order to prevent gaps appearing in the work at the edges of the colour changes, the yarn that is being put down is twisted with the new yarn that is being picked up. On vertical lines the yarns are twisted every row.

intarsia twist 1
The blue yarn is taken over the top of the white yarn after the last blue stitch, to twist it 
intarsia twist 3
the blue yarn is dropped and the next stitch purled using the white yarn
Intarsia twist 2
when the white stitches are completed, the white yarn is taken over the next blue yarn and dropped. The blue yarn then purls the next stitch and onwards.

When working on a diagonal slant, the yarns are twisted every other row. For a diagonal slant to the right, the yarns are twisted on the right side. For a left slant, they are twisted on the wrong side.

The result as mentioned above, is a single thickness fabric comprised of sections of different colours.

intarsia post 5
the back of a motif showing the single thickness fabric

When to use Intarsia and when to strand?

Intarsia is usually used for blocks of colour and single motifs where colours are not regularly repeating. Stranding is usually used for repeating patterns where each motif is only a few stitches width and colours are repeating all the way across a row/round.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that intarsia can’t be knitted in the round. As yarns are being left at the end of each motif they require a wrong side row to pick them back up again.

Sewing in the ends

Lots of bobbins means lots of ends to sew in (as well as a few tangles during the knitting process). Where possible I try to follow the edges of motifs when weaving my ends in during finishing.

intarsia 6
weaving in the ends, following the motifs

Patterns to practice your intarsia skills

The following two designs use an intarsia motif for decoration. Follow the links in the captions to the pattern.

heart gift bag with knitting etsy
Intarsia heart gift bag. Free pattern available here
Manga tee 3
Manga Tee. Pattern available here.

I hope I’ve given you a taste for picture knitting. It is a lot of fun despite the tangles, and is a method I’ve often used for my knitted art work as well as knitwear. If you’d like to watch a video on how to make a butterfly “bobbin” then visit my Instagram page and take a look at my stories.

Let me know how you get on……




General, Knitting Know How, knitting patterns

Two handed Fair Isle (stranded colourwork) technique

Nicky barfoot presents (2)

Stranding with two hands

I thought it might be helpful to create a post to act as an aide-memoire to you lovely folks who have attended my introduction to fair isle workshops. So here it is.

No right or wrong with knitting, just what’s best for you

Of course there is no right or wrong with knitting. There are many ways of holding the needles and manipulating the yarns. Comfort and tension are always your main measures of success. However, learning to hold the yarns in both hands makes life a lot easier. Less tangle, less puckering and hopefully a smoother tension.

My apologies to left handers as what follows below is a right handed version (mine).

A right handed example

holding the background colour in the RH and contrast in the LH

The first photo shows how to knit from the left hand in the contrast colour (pink). I hold the contrast over my forefinger and use this finger actively to create the desired tension on this yarn. I also use this finger to push down on the RH needle, if needed, to help the catch and pull through of the contrast yarn to complete the knit stitch.

catching the contrast yarn and pulling it through

The second picture shows how I have taken my right needle over the top of the contrast yarn, hooked under it and pulled it through the stitch on the row below.

and repeat

The third picture shows a second stitch created in the contrast yarn in the same way.

back to the background

This final picture shows how I have carried the background yarn across the two contrast stitches I have created, to knit the next stitch from the right hand needle.

It is wise to keep your background yarns consistently in one hand (e.g. right) and the contrast (motif) yarns in the other. This greatly assists with creating a smooth tension and does help stop the yarns tangling.

Practice makes perfect 

If you are new to knitting with two hands I do advise you persevere with this technique. You may find it slow and cumbersome at first as your fingers get used to manipulating the needles and yarns in a different way. However, once you get a few hours of practice in to them you’ll find it becomes much smoother and does speed up.

Remember also if you are new to stranding and the results are not looking terribly even, a good blocking/washing helps the stitches and strands to settle. Also using a wool rich yarn such as a Shetland yarn will make your initial projects look much more pleasing (particularly after washing when they can bloom a little). Smooth, slippy and non stretchy yarns (some acrylics, cottons, merino) are unforgiving and are probably best avoided until you have practiced a bit first.

Some patterns to help you practice your technique

Kitty Beanie

Kitty Beanie

I have just published the pattern for this playful beanie in my Etsy shop. It is knitted using the stranding technique described above, in the round (no purl stitches to worry about!). More information on the pattern can be found by clicking here.

Hill Head Mitts

Hill Head Mitts

Inspired by my favourite coastal haunt, these practical mitts are also knitted in the round using stranded colour work. The pattern can be found by clicking here.

Happy stranding folks. Until next time…….



General, knitting patterns

Knitted Christmas Bauble Pattern

A few weeks back I wrote a mini tutorial on knitting in the round using the magic loop. If you made it to the end you’ll know I promised a seasonal project to help you put those skills in to practice.

So here it is: You’ll need a 3mm circular needle (or dpns if you’d prefer) and some odds and ends of 4ply sock yarn to whip up a few of these for your tree (or cat!).

A simple knitted bauble

Knitted Christmas Bauble
A simple pattern for you to embellish if and how you wish


k  knit. p  purl. st(s)  stitch(es). tog together.

Ssk   slip next two stitches knitwise, one at a time to right needle. Insert tip of left hand needle from left to right into fronts of these stitches and knit them together.

M1   using left needle, lift strand between last worked st and first st on left needle from front to back, then knit lifted st through back loop.

Cast on 12 sts.  Join to work in the round.

Rnds 1-2: knit

Rnd 3: (k1, m1, k2) to end. 16sts

Rnd 4 and all even rnds, knit

Rnd 5: (k1, m1, k2, m1, k1) to end. 24 sts

Rnd 7: (k1, m1, k4, m1, k1) to end. 32 sts

Rnd 9: (k1, m1, k6, m1, k1) to end. 40sts

Rnd 11: (k1, m1, k8, m1, k1) to end. 48sts

Rnd 13: (k1, m1, k10, m1, k1) to end. 56sts

Rnd 15: (k1, m1, k12, m1, k1) to end. 64sts

Rnd 17: (k1, m1, k14, m1, k1) to end. 72sts

Rnd 19 – 28: knit

Rnd 29: (k1, ssk, k12, k2tog, k1) to end. 64sts

Rnd 31: (k1, ssk, k10, k2tog, k1) to end. 56sts

Rnd 33: (k1, ssk, k8, k2tog, k1) to end. 48sts

Rnd 35: (k1, ssk, k6, k2tog, k1) to end. 40sts

Rnd 37: (k1, ssk, k4, k2tog, k1) to end. 32sts

Rnd 39: (k1, ssk, k2, k2tog, k1) to end. 24sts

Rnd 41: (k1, ssk, k2tog, k1) to end. 16 sts

Rnd 43: (k1, k2tog, k1) to end. 12sts.

Break yarn leaving a long tail. Thread through sts, stuff, pull up sts, fasten. Create a hanging loop using a crochet chain, or attach a ribbon.

Christmas bauble picture
Stripy versions


Rounds 19 to 28 give you an opportunity to add some simple stranded colour work, stripes, beads etc (as long as 72sts is divisible by the number of stitches in your pattern repeat, and the tension isn’t too dramatically altered). Or you can embellish after knitting.

Other Knitted Christmas decorations

My other favourite knitted Christmas dec is this delightful mini Christmas stocking pattern by Julie Williams. It is available as a free Ravelry download and can be found here.

mini christmas stockings
Cute mini Christmas stockings

Have fun x


General, Knitting Know How

How to work the Magic Loop

How to work the magic loop

What is the Magic Loop?

Despite it’s rather grand name the magic loop is actually a simple method of knitting in the round using one, long cable, circular needle. It can be especially useful when working projects of small circumference such as socks and gloves and is an alternative to working with dpns (double pointed needles).

Why use it?

  • As there is no juggling of multiple needles required, it can be an easier introduction to knitting in the round.
  • The work sits nicely on the cable when not being worked so the project is safe for storage and transport (unlike dpns where one stitch nearly always slips off at least one needle during a handbag journey!).
  • It is particularly useful for projects that start with a very small number of stitches which can be very fiddly with dpns e.g. working a circle from the centre out, or knitting Christmas baubles etc.

How to work the magic loop

Magic Loop cast on
Cast on 

Cast on the required number of stitches on to a long cable (I tend to use 80cm or longer for items such as socks and mitts) needle.

Magic Loop splitting stitches on to two needles
Divide the stitches on to the two needle tips

Divide the number of stitches in half (the exact number on each side can be varied as required) and carefully pull the cable through the half way point until there are stitches on each needle.

Hold the needles parallel with the cast on edges on the inside to check that the cast on hasn’t twisted. Turn the work until the working yarn is on your dominant hand side (e.g. on the right if you knit right handed).

Magic Loop joining in the round
Join to work in the round

Gently pull the needle up through the stitches on the side that you are going to knit with (e.g. right if right handed) and allow those stitches to slip down on to the cable (far enough down that you can freely move the right hand needle tip).

Place the free needle tip in to the first stitch on the other needle to join in the round and work it according to the pattern.

Continue working each stitch in turn from the needle until all have been worked from that side.

Magic Loop finishing one side
Work all stitches from one side of the loop

Rotate the work and carefully slide the stitches from the cable back up to the needle tip so that stitches are on both needle tips again (as in the second photo above). Pull that needle tip up on the side just worked to place the just worked stitches on to the cable. Repeat the steps above to complete the second half of the round.

Magic Loop changing sides
Turn and work the other side

The Magic Loop continues as above, working the rounds in a rectangular fashion, knitting one half, turning the work, then knitting the other half, transferring the stitches between the needle tips and cable as required.

The steps I’ve described above i.e. working in halves, are a good way of learning the technique but of course the magic loop can be a moveable thing i.e. pulling out the cable in different places in the work as you go.

I hope that this mini tutorial has helped you get to grips with working the Magic Loop method of knitting in the round. Personally I prefer my dpns for hosiery projects but I would use this method for something that starts off fiddly such as a knitted Christmas bauble. More on this next time…..

Happy knitting in the round folks.


General, Stitched Art

How to finish and frame Hoop Art

how to finish and frame hoop art

Homework reviews

I love it when folks on my workshops show me their finished projects from a previous session. This happened to me recently and prompted some discussion about how the artist in question might present a fab piece of stitched art she’d worked on. As this is a topic that we rarely have time to cover in our half day sessions I thought it would make a good blog post.

So many ways to do it

There are many ways to present 2’d’ work and I am often inspired as much by presentation ideas as I am by the work itself when I visit exhibitions. There is even a 160 page book by Annabelle Ruston called Framing and Presenting Textile Art so as you can see it is quite an in depth topic.

However I’m going to keep it very simple for the purposes of this post and give you an idea of how I usually do it. The methods I use are, generally speaking, reversible. I like to keep my (and any buyer’s) options open on how they would like to present the work as I know from experience that framing fashions change and I have also been known to rework my work (or incorporate it into something else) at a later date.

Stretching the work for framing

stretching a stitched picture
Stretching over mount board

I work with natural fabrics and threads so I usually give my work a blast with a steam iron both during stitching and afterwards. However, I want the fabric to look like fabric so my aim isn’t to flatten and smooth everything out completely, more to allow it all to “set” and “settle” before framing.

Using archival quality mount board, cut to the required frame dimensions and quilting cotton doubled, I place the picture over the board in the composition that I’m after (checking the front with any mounts I’m planning to use in the frame) and stitch across the long sides first. There is an optimum tension to be achieved during this, which takes a bit of practice and trial and error. Too much starts to curl the mount board, not enough leaves saggy bits in the picture.

Once the long ends are done I do the same with the short ends. In both instances I tend to start in the middle of the board and work out to the edges. The corners might need a little more stitched help as they can get a bit bulky. As mentioned before, I don’t tend to cut any fabric as I might want to undo my work at a later date. However, if this bulk is going to influence how the picture lies in the frame then you might need to get the scissors out and practice your wrapping skills.

a stretched picture for framing
Finished, stretched piece ready to put in a frame

Using a Hoop

Another way of framing stitched pieces is using an embroidery hoop. In some ways this is much easier (and cheaper) as the hoop creates the tension for you.

Framing hoop art 1
“The Lookout” by Nicky Barfoot, ready to be framed

In the piece above I have chosen a suitable sized embroidery hoop to frame the work (not necessarily the one it was worked in) and have stretched the work and fastened the hoop. You could of course finish the hoop (paint, tape, fabric strips etc) beforehand if you want a more decorative effect.

framing hoop art, gathering the edges
Gathering the edges

I then use a running stitch in the quilting cotton, just in from the hoop’s edge to ease in the fullness of the fabric. Again, you can cut the surplus fabric if you want to reduce the bulk. If you are working with fine fabrics you might also want to place a circle of mount board or light coloured fabric between the back of the work and the gathered edges to prevent the gathered fabric influencing the front of the work.

The back of finished hoop art
Finishing the back

There are a number of ways to finish and neaten the back after gathering. Many people stitch a circle of fabric/felt to the back over the top of the gathers. I tend to use a circle of mount board, gently pushed in (again, easy to dismantle at a later date) as I quite like how it slightly domes the front. I also saw at this year’s Knitting and Stitching show that a company was selling wooden circles to finish their hoop art kits.

I hope that this post has been helpful. As mentioned before, there are many ways to frame and display your work. I’ve just given you two.

Get it on the wall

However you choose to do it, the most important thing is to get it on the wall. It’s amazing how framing and presenting the work in a professional way adds status to it. So much better than leaving it screwed up in a project bag under the bed!

Please feel free to comment below if you have any other tips to share.

Until next time ….

Exhibitions, General

2018 Ally Pally Knitting and Stitching Show

Indian Summer in London Town

2018 Knitting and Stitching Show copy

Last week I had a hectic but fun time stewarding our “Missing Elements” exhibition with my Room 6 colleagues at the Ally Pally Knit & Stitch Show. As I’m now rehydrated (it was very warm) and have caught up on missed sleep, I thought I’d share my highlights from this year’s event with you.

2018 Ally Pally Knitting and Stitching Show

As usual Upper Street Events put on a great do. There was an inspirational line up of artists in the Textile Galleries where we were honoured to have been allocated exhibition space. I didn’t have much time to go around the show in it’s entirety as I was too busy chatting with lots of lovely visitors. However, I did get to look at the other exhibitions in the mornings prior to opening once our own space was ready and my caffeine needs had been seen to. I’ve included some of the work that resonated with me below.

Libbertine Vale

Libbertine Vale Harm Chair
Harm Chair

This artist was new to me and I found her mix of social commentary and mostly monochromatic, illustrative imagery and sculpture compelling. She was encouraging audience participation by asking them questions and using free machine embroidery to record the answers on to an automaton’s clothing.

The Harm Chair, featured above, was a finished piece from a similar exercise where she had asked “what keeps you in your chair and not mixing with others?” on social media.

I shall be following this artist with interest to see what question she poses next.

Jenni Dutton’s Dementia Darnings

Jenni Dutton's Dementia Darnings
From Jenni Dutton’s Dementia Darnings

I’m not sure Jenni was quite prepared for the amount of emotion that her large scale portraits of her mother would evoke in her visitors. When I popped my head around the partition on the first day she was handing out the last few sheets from an already empty box of tissues.

It was quite difficult for me to spend time in her exhibition space as so many of us could relate to her lovingly rendered and honest images. I must admit that I did have a little cry and had to snuffle away when I viewed the pieces of her work which reminded me of the drawings I made of my Dad during his last few days.

Dawn Hemming

Dawn Hemming knitted mandala
One of Dawn Hemming’s hand knitted pieces

On a more cheerful note Dawn Hemming’s large hand knitted, one piece, circular wall hangings were a delightful mix of motif and colour. They were named inspired by place and some had been made during travel. A lot of pins were used to hang these beauties on the walls (Dawn’s “assistant” was relieved and pleased with himself in equal measures I think after the hanging was completed) with the result a welcome splash of colour to greet visitors as they entered the hall. This one was definitely a mood lifter.

Ross Belton

Ross Belton Wedding Collars
Wedding Collars

Studio 21 had an interesting and varied exhibition as usual, this time based on colour. I enjoyed Ross Belton’s contributions, with their tribal art feel and textural richness.

Emily Tull

Emily Tull Everybody has a little piece
Everybody has a little piece of someone they hide

The final artist I wanted to mention here is Emily Tull and her hand stitched thread paintings. I was particularly drawn to the unfinished feel of the work. It gave me a sense of transience and a glimpse into the perpetual motion of the lives of the people she was portraying. The piece shown above is inspired by layers of ripped wallpaper and how the inhabitants of homes leave behind a bit of themselves when they move.

My Birds

Nicky Barfoot Whose Bird
Chick, Duck and Hen (reading from left to right).

And finally, thank you to all the wonderful folks who visited our Missing Elements exhibition. It was great to hear what you thought of it and a particular delight to see how it inspired the budding young textile artists who visited with their schools and colleges.

The exhibition will be travelling to the Dublin show in the next few weeks. Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend but if you are going, my Room 6 colleagues will be there to meet and greet and answer any questions about the work on display.








Stitched Art

Three easy ways to transfer an image on to fabric for embroidery

Stitching a drawing

You’ve just done the most amazing design in your sketchbook and it is begging to be stitched. Mmm, now how to get that paper image on to a suitable piece of fabric?

There are lots of ways to transfer a drawing from paper to fabric for stitching and embroidery. In this post I am going to show you the three simple methods that I use most often. Which one I go for depends on:

  • the time of year,
  • whether I have an electricity point to hand,
  • how complicated the image is,
  • whether I want to have a permanent drawn line on my fabric,
  • and the type of fabric that I want to work with.

Finding your image

As I have mentioned in previous posts I try to draw in my sketchbook every day. Not only is it a workout and practice session it is also my way of problem solving, telling stories and generating ideas for further work. When a drawing evolves that is asking to be stitched (and I don’t want to go freehand on the fabric) the next step is to transfer it.

sketchbook page for image transfer blog post
A page from my sketchbook that is begging to be stitched

Using a sunny window

This method is weather dependant but if you, like me, are lucky enough to have a sun facing window you can simply stick your page on to the glass with masking tape, place the fabric over the top and with whichever tool you intend to use, draw over the image.

window shot for image transfer blog post
Using a window and sunlight to transfer an image on to calico

The advantages of this method is that it will only cost you a roll of masking tape. The disadvantages, other than requiring the sun which for some of us is in short supply at certain times of the year, is that the fabric needs to be relatively light coloured, not too thick and probably not patterned. It works very well with pale coloured cottons such as the unbleached, medium weight calico I’ve shown in the picture above.

It doesn’t work if you have drawn on the reverse of the paper as the light will pick up the lines from images on both sides of the page (unless you are going for something weird and wacky and probably semi abstract!).

Using a light box/pad

I have to say that one of the best and most used Christmas presents that my family have bought me in recent years was a good quality, A3 size, LED light pad. It isn’t much thicker than a digital tablet, is relatively lightweight and plugs in to the mains. Perfect for when the sun refuses to shine, the image is too big to fit on the window, or is too complicated to draw at a vertical angle.

Lightbox for image transfer blog post
My Huion LED light pad

Obviously the downside of the light pad is cost, although some basic light bulb and plastic versions are available at a fraction of the price of this one, from larger craft stores.

The comments I made about the window trace are also relevant here regarding single sided paper images and suitable fabrics.

Tissue paper 

While the previous two methods work very well when there is a single sided drawing and light coloured and relatively lightweight fabric involved, sometimes you want to use a thick, coloured, or patterned fabric and there is no way that an image will show through with even the strongest light source behind it. For these circumstances I use tissue paper.

tissue paper transfer blog post
The tissue paper method

Trace the image on to a piece of tissue paper and pin on to the fabric. Stitch over the lines through all the layers using your preferred stitch, e.g. back stitch. Tension is important when working with this method, as is fastening off and starting a new piece of thread. You don’t want the stitches to sag when the tissue is removed or the ends of thread to be pulled through. When all the relevant outlines are stitched, carefully tear off the tissue paper.

The advantages of this method, as opposed to the others, is that a pencil or pen line directly onto the fabric is not required. This could be useful if you decide during your stitching that you want to change something. It is easy to remove stitches, not so easy to remove all traces of pencil or pen (unless you’ve bought a fancy disappearing one).

It is also cheap and a great way of reusing the copious amounts of tissue paper that arrive as packaging with on line shopping and in shoe boxes etc. This method works best with simple line work as it can get a bit difficult to remove the tissue from under lots of close together stitches. It also works best with linear stitch types such as running stitch, backstitch, stem stitch, etc again to help ease of removal when the transfer is complete.

I hope that you have found this post helpful and maybe discovered a method that you haven’t tried before. If you try any of these for the first time I’d love to hear how you got on so please do leave a comment.

Right, I’m off to finish stitching a bulldog. Speak to you soon.

3 ways to transfer an image on to fabric







Exhibitions, Knitted Art

Room 6 at the Knit and Stitch Shows 2018

Missing Elements poster

What a privilege

I am excited to tell you that after a few years off, I shall be exhibiting again at the Knitting and Stitching Shows this year. My work will be alongside the five other talented artists who make up Room 6: Irene Belcher, Caroline Bell, Susan Chapman, Alison Hulme and Consuelo Simpson.

Missing Elements

We are a group who come together for exhibitions but work individually. We make to themes to create a cohesive show while allowing our artistic individuality to shine through. For the Knit and Stitch Shows we chose the title of “Missing Elements” and each artist has responded to this with their own body of work. Expect a varied exhibition, both interpretation of the theme as well as media and style.


female seated life pose
Seated life pose, a page from my sketchbook

Those of you who have followed my work for a while know that animals are my usual muses but I also have a fascination for the human body. This is driven by my other identity as a sports injury specialist and movement rehabilitator. I am also interested in the use of language and inspired by Pop Culture. It is these seemingly disparate sources of artistic interest that have come together in my body of work (no pun intended) for Missing Elements. Read on to find out how I’ve made the connection.

Whose Bird?

Bird, chick, duck and hen are all words used to describe human females. The first two are commonly prefixed by a male possessive “my”, while the latter are considered terms of endearment in certain parts of the UK. Interestingly, Bird and Chick are two of the four most hated “pet” names by women according to a well known British Tabloid.

Many suggestions are given as to why women are labelled in this way. These range from a middle English word “burde” meaning “young woman”, through to the more misogynistic explanations. These include comparisons of mental ability between our feathered friends and those of us of a homogametic persuasion (“bird brained”), and the similarities in sound emitted from a pen of fowl and a room full of young women.

Misogyny or endearment aside, while we may all share eggs as our reproductive tools, according to the Collins English dictionary a bird is a creature with feathers and wings. I would therefore suggest that the most defining characteristics are missing.

The Artwork

Bird sketches
Two sketchbook pages from my #100daysofinspiredbyart project

I started to develop the visual side of this work during this year’s 100 day project (I’ve talked about this in a previous post) back in June . These are two of the sketches that provided that aha moment.

Knitted Paintings

It’s been a couple of years since I made a knitted painting and these drawings were really begging to be knitted. So I dug out the graph paper and my colouring pencils and went about translating these pictures into hand knitted fabric.

Blue Bird knitted picture
“Blue Bird” knitted painting, WIP

The final pieces

Of the work that I have created for this series I have decided on four knitted paintings to display at the shows. I am excited to see (and hear) what people think of them. As with all of my work I hope it brings a few smiles to a few faces. I’ll leave you with a sneak peek of part of the piece I’ve called “Duck”.

Duck knitted painting lower res
“Duck” knitted “painting” by Nicky Barfoot

I’ll be stewarding at the Ally Pally show if any of you lovely folks are coming. Please do drop by and say hi. I’d love to see you.