Remember those cartoon-like, stick-figure images we probably all made as children, drawn on slips of paper and flipped to create our very own mini motion picture?

Creating textile and fibre art is much the same, and just like those stick-figure images, it doesn’t need to be complicated, quite the reverse.  Just look at it one process at a time, like learning the steps to a new dance or baking your first souffle.

Draw:  Just get marks down on paper.

Make a design file: two large, solid cardboard covers for front and back.  Glue and stitch some pretty ribbon to each side, front and back, top and bottom, decorate the top with something stunningly beautiful, and voila, you have a design file. I know, from long experience, how quickly these pieces of paper – which may just contain something absolutely amazing, can get lost.  Plus design ideas can be used and re-used and re-interpreted time and again.  Get into the routine of using your design file.  Pretty soon, you’ll need more – hopefully.

Draw when you’re relaxed and put lots of related ideas down on paper.  I love to have inspiration in front of me and simply work from that.  Manipulate scale, contrast and rhythm, then it’s a matter of trying to make sense of all those images or lines, melding them into a cohesive, understandable narrative.  Think abstract, realistic, pictorial, satirical, geometric –  just a few choices to get on with.

Refine:  Purify, clean-up, filter and concentrate.

It’s time to polish those lines and shapes, create harmony and focal points, as well as including contrast and repetition.  In other words, make those lines do the heavy lifting, ably supported by the elements and principles of design.  If you’re like me, I just love to get my markers out and begin colouring.  This gives me ideas, ensures the lines are where they should be and that they make sense – especially if they’re visually broken by another element – a great way to pick up mistakes or omissions before transferring.

Why not copy and cut out your shapes and use them to collage your design?  Make them in different sizes, twist and turn them – expand or simplify.  Your artist’s eye will tell you.

Stitch:  Sew, machine, embroider, needlework, needle-paint and embellish.

OK, now we’re really getting serious.  This is the nuts and bolts of creating textile or fibre art, establishing which techniques will work and perform in harmony and unity.  This is also where physical texture can come into play along with visual texture, through the use of thread and embellishments.  You’ll have to work out how to transfer your design to a suitably appropriate ground fabric, then hopefully because you have a design or cartoon to work from, it should be plain sailing from here until completion.

Repeat:  Reproduce, echo, duplicate and replicate.

Now, this is where the mantra comes into play.  What’s the use of completing these elements, then sitting back on your laurels?  None whatsoever.  The magic only happens when the mantra is repeated, over and over and over again.  It may be you like working in a series, or the idea of working in a series comes to you through one of the above processes, in which case the Mantra will help you to achieve even more.

My mantra?  Don’t stop, ever!

cathy jack coupland