The “C” word (or being ahead of the curve for the first time and a little bit of bling brightens up the day).

Hello blog land (Mum), it’s been a while, but what a productive while it has been and I am feeling just a little bit smug. For the first time I have Christmas designs before November and am now a little bit embarrassed to mention them for fear of offending some of you lovely people who find the “C” word used before December highly offensive.

There was a reason to be super prepared this year (and not least because I only managed a hand full of Christmas cards last year which sold out within two days of receiving them back from the printers) as I have a stand at the Let’s Make Christmas event on the 20th November at the Ashcroft Arts Centre. So, with these festivities in mind I have been beavering away to produce some new stitch kit designs which thoroughly embrace the season with red and white, blue and white and a little bit of bling (although personally I would be happy to stitch in these threads at any time of year but then I also have fairy lights on in my kitchen all year round).

So here they are. First up is Christmas Kitty Skittle, which takes one of my most popular stitch kit designs and reworks it in folk patterns and gold highlights.

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Christmas Kitty Skittle  limited edition embroidery kit by Nicky Barfoot

The next kit design is Sam, a new character to add to the collection, who is dreaming of the treats Santa will be bringing him on Christmas morning.

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Sam limited edition embroidery kit by Nicky Barfoot

And of course I had to include a canine character and this one is modelled on my favourite muse.

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Seasonal Sas limited edition embroidery kit by Nicky Barfoot

I shall have these kits with me at the Ashcroft Centre if you are planning on coming along but for those unable to partake of the fun I have also listed the cats in my Etsy shop with Sas to follow in the next few days.

So, that’s it for now folks. I’ve got some very exciting stitching on the hoop at the moment which I can’t tell you about just yet. More on this in a future post so until then……..

“Aww, Go On!”

People often comment on how slow January can be but quite frankly I blinked and missed it this year! So here’s a little catch up on arty things a foot in my life at the moment. Remember my last post about the Textile Challenge for Canine Partners? Well, not content with creating one piece for this worthy cause I was compelled to do another. This time I left the paints in their pots and worked solely with the fabrics provided in all their mismatched pattern and colour glory, and used hand stitch as my method of unifying them. The result is a reproduction of an expression I see up close (Weimaraners are renowned for their inability to recognise the concept of personal space) countless times a day and the title was a toss up between “And me!” and “Aww, Go On!”, both of which would represent the sentiment behind this face equally well.

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“Aww, Go On!” by Nicky Barfoot.

The result is possibly my favourite piece of textile work to date and I felt a little reluctant to hand it over this morning when I dropped it and “Clown’s Crown” off to the lovely lady who has organised the challenge.

Both of these pieces will be for sale at the exhibition of work created for the Textile Challenge running from 18th to 21st February. Already it has raised enough money to buy a puppy and hopefully with sale proceeds from the exhibition more canine partners can be purchased and trained to provide independence and companionship to people living with disabilities.

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Textile Challenge Exhibition

So, one exhibition deadline met and two more to plan for in February, whilst also participating on a fantastic drawing course that I have started with Este Macleod called Creative Leap where we are being set a challenge for each day of February linked to the letters of the alphabet. No doubt I shall be showing you some outputs from that over the next few weeks or so. But for now I need to get back to making a fishy collage. Until next time folks ……..

Canine Partners Textile Art Challenge

At the back end of last year I found out about a textile challenge that was being put together to raise funds for Canine Partners, a charity which trains and provides (free of charge) assistance dogs to people living with disabilities in the UK.  These amazing dogs help their human partner with everyday tasks such as opening and closing doors, taking the washing out of the machine, picking things up from the floor, pressing switches and fetching help when needed.

Dogs and textiles for a good cause, well it would have been rude not to don’t you think? So the challenge is to buy a pack of 25 fabric squares from the Textile Challenge facebook page and create a piece of textile art or an object using at least part of every piece.

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My original pack of fabrics. 

Sounded easy until I had a good look at the fabrics supplied and realised just what a variety of weights, colours, materials and patterns there were (I should have realised by the word “challenge” in the title, huh?). So two days of standing at the ironing board rearranging, I came up with this.

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Trying to respond to the fabrics and coming up with this, mmm………

As you can see a few of the squares had foliage of some sort as a pattern so I thought I should use these in the final design and had some kind of stitchy flowering thing in mind. And then purely by chance I read an interview with the fabulous Grayson Perry who urged me to respect my muses and my techniques (my interpretation of his advice, not his words as such) and “what were you thinking?” came to mind. At the same time I decided that I couldn’t cope with all of those colours, textures and patterns (way too busy for me) and a bit of unifying was required so the paints came out.

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Now I’m getting excited but let’s move those leaves

So the leaves were replaced with, yes you guessed it, a dog! A free machine embroidered sketch of my usual Weimie muse followed by more paint and a few words hand embroidered on the top and this is the final piece.

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“Clown’s Crown” machine and hand embroidery on painted fabrics

All of the entries to the challenge will be exhibited at the Angel Inn in Midhurst (South Downs National Park) from 18 February for four days. The work will be for sale to raise further funds for the charity. Do check out the Textile Challenge facebook page to see what other people are making and there is still a bit of time left if you fancy having some textile fun yourself for a good cause.

Nicky Barfoot Stitch Doodle Kits

stitch kits available

Stitch kits currently available

I am delighted to announce that I have made some of my recent dog and cat stitch doodles available as limited edition kits. These were launched at the Harrogate Knit and Stitch show last month and have now been listed in my  Etsy shop.

The kits contain a good sized piece of calico printed (or hand drawn in some cases) with the design, a bundle of embroidery threads (mainly DMC and Anchor), a guide to commonly used embroidery stitches, a sheet of hints, tips and guidance to completing the kit, and a picture of the original design.

These non prescriptive kits are suitable for both beginners and experienced stitchers alike as I encourage you to use your needle and thread much as you would a pencil (“doodle” with it!). If you know your embroidery then you probably already have a good idea which stitches you would use to outline and colour in the design, however if you don’t there is still so much that can be done with a running or back stitch. My aim is to encourage you to make the kit your own individual piece of stitch art, inspired by my original design.

The kits are £19.95 each plus P&P.  If you fancy having a go, click the link to my Etsy shop where you will see each of the above designs listed.

I have also put into the shop a limited number of  ethically produced, 100% cotton tote bags with my very popular “And what is your problem with beige?” design digitally printed onto the front.

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Nicky Barfoot limited edition tote bags

Enjoy your visit to my Nicky Barfoot Etsy shop and I hope I can help you to find an unusual, hand made Christmas gift while you are there. Until next time….

Stitch Doodling, (hints, tips, toys and tricks)

I have been furiously drawing and stitching over the past couple of weeks, working towards a couple of November exhibitions.  I’ll tell you more about these in later posts but it occurred to me as I was beavering away last night that some of you might find it entertaining and even helpful if I shared with you some of the processes, hints, tips and tricks that I have developed and picked up over the years from various workshops, books, by making mistakes, and generally having a go. While I have been taught by some fabulous Embroiderists over the years (RSN tutors so they probably know what they are doing) be warned folks! This is the world of stitch doodling you are about to enter (drawing with a needle and thread) and my advice will not get you through an Embroidery City and Guilds inspection. OK, disclaimer over, let’s get on with it.

"hand stitched doggy doodle by Nicky Barfoot"

“You sir” by Nicky Barfoot. Hand stitched doodle on calico.

My process starts with a drawing or doodle, usually in pencil on paper in a sketchbook. Hang on, that’s not strictly true.  The process usually starts with an observation of an interaction or event, often combined with a book I am reading, or audio book or music I am currently listening to. These things then get mashed together in the washing machine of my brain, usually while I am out running in the woods with the dog, and I come home with an idea, a phrase and or a narrative that I need to exorcise. Then I draw it.

The next step (if another step is required) is to recreate it with stitch in mind. After blasting the calico (or linen) with a steam iron to de-wrinkle it (usually the long suffering husband comes to my rescue at this point as he has spent many years creating a smooth finish on his pure cotton shirts and therefore is sooo much better at it than me), I get to use one of my favourite toys. This little beauty is one of those things that you didn’t know you needed until one Christmas some kind family member buys one for you and you wonder how you ever survived without it.

"LED light pad"

LED light pad

This is not a TV screen folks, but a super duper light pad with adjustable illumination. No more tracing paper! Yay!

I used to use special fabric pens at this stage of the process but these days I mostly use a pencil or a Uni Pin fine line pen (probably because I can never find the right tool for the job so I end up making do with what is in my immediate vicinity and pencil case).

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Sketchbook and drawing materials.

So, you have your design on the fabric, now what? For this type of stitching I use an embroidery hoop and this contraption:

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embroidery hoop with seat frame

This genius contraption looks mighty weird but sitting on the base gives you both hands to work with (as does a table clamp but that obviously needs a table, not so good when sitting in the armchair in front of the TV) and tensioning the thread and placement of the needle becomes so much easier. I was given a tip by the lovely Shelley Cox a couple of years ago when I attended one of her West Dean College courses to cover the hoop with bias binding (or something similar). Can’t for the life of me remember why! Preventing marks on the fabric maybe? Something to do with the tension from the hoop?  Anyway, it seemed like a good idea at the time and she knows what she is talking about. It was also Shelley who suggested a use for those plastic shower caps that one often finds in hotel bathrooms as an embroidery cover to keep work clean when not in use. I have been collecting them ever since.

When it comes to stitching, needles do actually matter! Again, I used to use whatever came to hand i.e. what was sticking out of the pin cushion by my chair at the time, but apparently there are different needles with different heads and eyes and a number system and everything. A whole new world of needles was presented to me when I attended the RSN on a day workshop a few years back.  Who’d have thought? (fans of Terry Pratchett will understand if I refer to Stanley and his pin obsession at this stage). Anyway, I can’t remember what they are all called so things to think about according to Nicky when choosing your needle:

can you get the thread through the hole? (this one is quite important)

will the needle leave big holes in the fabric? (also quite important but rectifiable                   by disguising the hole as a design feature)

is it sharp enough to go through the layers you are working with?

To help with number three, in recent years I have also rediscovered the thimble. Not just a cup for fairies, it can provide valuable protection for finger tips as I have found that blood spots on the work can’t always be integrated into the design.

OK, we have the needle sorted but what about the thread? For my stitch doodles I usually use stranded cotton. This gives the versatility of changing the thickness of the line, blending and mixing colours and just look at the wonderful colour palette available at your local Hobbycraft store (other stores are available but sadly no longer our local John Lewis who have stopped stocking DMC and Anchor and now only sell generic packets of thread imported from China (?). Shame on you JL!). Two tips when using stranded thread I learnt from actual Embroiderists that changed my stitching enjoyment immensely for the better were: 1) cut a thread length approximately the length of your forearm and don’t be fooled into using longer as it will only get knotted up as you work and you’ll end up having to cut it anyway, and 2) separate each individual strand from stranded cotton first and then put back together the number you are planning to use. This also helps prevent the frustration of knotted and twisted threads at the back of the work.

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Part of the thread display at my local Hobbycraft (it is three times this long!).

DMC and Anchor provide a great range of colours and are easily accessible and reproducible.  However, as with yarn, there are some wonderful small businesses out there providing gorgeous threads in mouth watering colours. Be warned!

"embroidery thread"

A small sample of my thread stash picked up from various shows and workshops in recent years (can’t show you anymore in case the husband reads this post)

Another toy which I can’t survive without when stitching is my daylight bulb standing light which sits over my chair. As we move into darker and shorter days, this is invaluable both for seeing where you are sticking the pointy end and also distinguishing thread colours. I can’t imagine what it would have been like stitching by candle light.

Other bits of kit which might come in handy are sharp snips for cutting thread (much better than teeth and less likely to leave coffee or chocolate stains on the fabric), a book of embroidery stitches (I like the Embroidery Stitch Bible by Betty Barnden as it is ring bound therefore stays open on the page you are looking at) and a camera for progress shots (it is really helpful to step back from close work from time to time to get an idea of how it is going and a photo really helps with this).

As far as the actual stitching is concerned, don’t worry that what you are doing isn’t accurate embroidery, just imagine you are drawing with the needle and thread. Enjoy creating marks (dipping into embroidery stitch reference books for inspiration from time time) and as long as it doesn’t show through, forget about how neat the back should be and concentrate on the important side (not least as a messy back is often rather exciting in itself).

"the back of the work"

A messy back can be quite exciting in its own right

I hope I’ve given you a few hints and tips and perhaps a couple of Christmas list ideas to get you started on a bit of hand stitchery. I’ll leave you with one I have just finished as I’m now off for a cuppa before I get on with the next doodle. Until next time.

"hand stitched doggy doodle on calico"

“Byron” by Nicky Barfoot. Hand stitch on calico.

Hampshire Open Studios 2015

This year I am very excited to be part of this fantastic tradition where over 200 artists and makers in the Hampshire area open up their studios, homes and other venues to show and sell work, talk to the public and demonstrate their working practices.  I have been beavering away getting work finished, framing and mounting, and of course sorting out my venue which has been kindly provided by Studentnofee Property Agency at 24 University Road, Southampton, SO17 1TJ.

open studios flyer

I shall be in situ daily from 22nd to 31st August, 10am until 5pm, possibly drawing, possibly stitching and probably feeding my current obsession with double knitting, and am looking forward to showing you my work and talking about what inspires me and the various mixed media techniques I use.  Do rest assured though that if you would rather be left to your own devices to quietly walk around without my chatter in your ear I shall have plenty of work to do so can leave you to it if you would prefer!  I am also happy to provide a (free of charge) knitting surgery if any of my visitors have UFOs that they are struggling with so bring your knitting, and can do demonstrations on the WIP I’ll have with me if the techniques I am using interest you.

"Nicky Barfoot mixed media pictures"

Some of the framed mixed media pictures which will be on display

The items I’ll have on display will include mixed media work, prints, textile pictures both framed and unframed, and wall mounted sculptures.

"Doggy Doodle by Nicky Barfoot"

“Bert” hand stitch on calico by Nicky Barfoot

If you are a regular follower of my posts you will already know that subject matter is usually (but not exclusively!) canine, feline or life inspired.

"Nicky Barfoot knitted picture"

“Frankie in grey” knitted picture

I will also have a few hand knitted accessories on display such as this double sided scarf in a cashmere and wool yarn (pink) and a rare sheep breed yarn (green).

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Nicky Barfoot hand knitted double sided scarf

And of course, many of my designs are available as limited edition greeting cards and these will be available to purchase if any take your fancy.

"Nicky Barfoot limited edition printed cards"

Nicky Barfoot limited edition printed cards

Despite the manic last minute preparations, I’m now really looking forward to this event and it would be great to see some of you lovely people next week. The only downside is that as I am exhibiting on my own, I won’t be able to visit any of the other open studios this year.  Mmm maybe I can employ a stand in on one day?  So if you do arrive at the door and are greeted by a bald, bearded six foot plus male, he has to live and breath my art work (being subjected to it on a constant basis) so rest assured that he probably knows as much if not more about it than I do!

Life in Layers

Firstly apologies for the prolonged silence here this month. Lots going on in the background both in life generally and on the art making front resulting in time running away with me somewhat and before I knew it July was looming and no posts had materialised. Anyway, to make up for it here are three pictures of a new series I have been working on inspired by the techniques and generous teachings of talented artist Emily Jo Gibbs at a recent West Dean College short course.

"hand stitched life drawing on silk organza"

“Catherine” layered silk organza and hand stitch

"hand stitched life drawing on layered silk organza"

“Georgie (2)” layered silk organza and hand stitch

"hand stitched life drawing on layered silk organza"

“Chris” hand stitch on layered silk organza

I will be dropping Georgie off at Eastleigh College later this week where she will be on display at the end of year show as work of past graduates.  Inviting back past students is a new thing for this annual event and I am really looking forward to seeing how the work of the three years worth of Stitched Textile Degree graduates has progressed since their degree shows.  Do have a look if you are in the area.

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Eastleigh College end of year show

So, lots of stuff going on here, mainly involving stitched life drawings of which I have more planned (there is a bit of a stick and prop theme coming through!). But for now it is back to the knitting needles and a commissioned fairisle sweater (“sweat” being the operative word in this summer weather).  Back soon……….

“Caught on Calico”

Apologies to those of you who don’t “do” Christmas until December, but I couldn’t wait any longer to show you my 2014 Christmas card designs.  These three hand embroidered doggy doodles all show dogs (and cats in two of them) caught doing something naughty (hence the name of the series “Caught on Calico”) in a Christmas setting.  The names of the cards are: “The Christmas Party”, “Wreck the Halls” and “The Night before Christmas”. No prizes for guessing which title belongs to which doodle.

"embroidered Christmas doggy doodles"

Nicky Barfoot 2014 Christmas card designs: “Caught on Calico”

These embroideries have been transferred to printed cards for me by Moo on their lovely 340gsm paper.  They are for sale and are proving to be so popular I’m on my second print run.  If you have doggy mad friends or relatives who would appreciate a limited edition art card for Christmas, I’ll have them with me at the Harrogate Knit and Stitch show (20 to 23 November) so do come find me on stand A600 where I will once again be exhibiting my knitted dog heads as a finalist in the UK Hand Knitting Association’s Knitted Textile Awards.  Hope to see some of you next week.

More Doggy Doodles and my new Nicky Barfoot Etsy Shop is now up and running.

I’ve been quite productive since my last post, utilising the luxury of a couple of lazy weekends in revisiting the embroidery threads and pointy needles.  The result has been more doggy doodles, with the finishing touches put to this doodle, “Tune”, this morning.

"hand embroidered doggy doodle on painted calico"

“Tune”: Hand stitched on painted calico, decorated with vintage lace and mounted on Khadi paper.

“Tune” is currently available to buy and has just been listed in my new Etsy shop.  Do have a look.  More items, including knitting patterns as pdf downloads, will be added to the shop over the coming weeks.