It’s one thing to have an idea or concept – it’s another kettle of fish entirely, to make that up into a successful design for textile and fibre art.

So where do I start?

Well, funnily enough, at the end – and by that I mean the finished size I’ll be working with because that will affect the materials I use, the scale of elements in the work and how the work will be displayed.

My process is extremely visual – I need to ‘see’ my design come to life, and once I have that size as a starting point – absolutely everything else has to work with that in mind.

The scale of elements need to be in proportion with the size of the finished work and I need to ensure I can use my technique of choice to stitch out the design – meaning it can’t be too small or fiddly for me to work by machine, nor so big I can’t get it under my machine.

Designing to your technique is a huge factor in creating successful textile and fibre art in my opinion.

And that has to be thought of at the outset.  I can play around a little with a design once it’s under the machine, but I need a clear vision of where I’m going and what I’m doing right from the get-go.  If something’s not working, then I need to deal with that well before I begin work.

That’s why I like to design on paper – if I can draw it, I can stitch it, so I’ll tape sheets together to form my blank canvas.

Now that suggests a thoughtful and methodical process, which is usually how I like to work, but even when I work instinctively, I’ll make marks on fabric without a pattern, just so I have that visual roadmap.

For instance, in my circle work, Referencing Sonia, I marked three separate areas on the fabric I was stitching into, just as a guide – and that was simply so I knew where I needed to work small circles, medium circles and finally the larger circles – so they would blend fairly seamlessly together within the size of the finished embroidery, but most importantly make sense with each other as well as the work as a whole.

I believe we all need some form of a plan, design, roadmap or whatever you want to call it, melding concept with technique and storytelling with composition.

For me, I don’t leave design to chance.  I can be thoughtful yet instinctual, methodical yet embrace serendipity.

But it all begins, for me, at the end.

cathy jack coupland