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Hanna-Mae Illustration

Illustrator & eco clothing designer

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Monthly tutorial: Developing your ideas

This month I’ll be guiding you through how to develop your ideas. For me, this part of the creative process is just as important as the creating itself, as it’s the pre-planning that forms a solid foundation for my work. So let’s get stuck in…

‘Where do I begin?’

If you’re working towards a brief (if you’re studying art/design at GCSE onwards this word will become familiar to you and you’ll hear it often) then you have a good starting point. Read it carefully and make bullet-points or highlight exactly what it is you need to fulfil. Are you designing a Christmas card? A design for packaging? Does the brief state what style/feel they want? The more information you have the easier it is to generate ideas. Starting a self-led project from scratch can be difficult because every decision you make has to be your own and a successful design isn’t usually created by just picking up your paintbrush straight away without any blueprints. If you don’t have a brief, set yourself one. Write down briefly what you want to create, who/what it’s for and what sort of style you want. For example, I’m creating a Christmas card design, it’s for my family and friends, and I’d like it to convey warmth and cosiness and be in a cute illustration style.

‘What next?’

Now you’ve got your basics you need to build on this. Your task is to convey your meaning successfully. It can help to make some notes (I like to do colourful spider diagrams) to get any ideas in your head down. Let’s use my brief as an example. It’s for Christmas so I’d write down all the things I associate with Christmas, for example: holly, mistletoe,family get togethers, gifts, snow, stars etc. Do the same for the other important messages behind your intended design, in this case ‘warmth and cosiness’, which made me think of things like: blankets, thick coats/jumpers, fireplace, hot drinks etc. You’ll have quite a bit to work with by the end of this idea outpouring, so you need to narrow it down and decide which elements you think will work well together or excite you most.

Next steps…

Once you’ve decided what you’d like to include it’s time to pull the pieces together. How are you going to put these elements together in a way that’s natural and pleasing to the eye? It can help to do a bit of research at this point, see what other artists have done, and how they’ve gone about positioning things. If you’re designing a greeting card it can be really useful to browse card selections in shops. Bear in mind the message you want to communicate and work around this. For me, I wanted my design to be ‘soft’, which means soft, rounded shapes that curve and flow, rather than sharp edges. This is why I chose to position my chosen features (poinsettias, mistletoe etc) in a circular wreath and made my character rounded. Collecting images and making a small inspiration board to refer back to can be really helpful. When designing my Christmas card I collected a few photos of poinsettias and hedgehogs and worked from these, remembering my desire for ‘softness’.

 

 

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I like to do rough sketches of each element I plan on using before bringing them all together. I knew I wanted to include a hot drink in my design so I sketched a couple of versions of this until I found a version I was happy with. I like to make notes next to my sketches, for example, I wanted my hedgehog to be more rounded, so I wrote a note to remind myself ’rounder’. It’s ok for your rough work to be messy, no one will see this stage, this is your chance to get all your ideas down and play around to see what works.

Colour!

When you’re happy with your sketches and have decided the layout of your design it’s time to think about colour. Some colours work harmoniously and this is what will be most pleasing to the eye. Have a think about what sort of message you’re intending to send with this design, do you want it to feel cold and wintery for example? (in which case you’d consider cool colours) or warm an cosy? (in which case you’d consider warmer colours). For my design I wanted warmth but also to continue the feeling of ‘softness’. For this reason I chose not only warmer colours but quite muted versions of these colours. By this I mean I didn’t choose just orange, I chose a more burnt orange. A lot of the colours I chose I had to mix with colours such as burnt umber, burnt sienna and ochre to get that muted tone. I’m a huge fan of building yourself a collection of paint sample cards for use in your art/design planning. Get a file and get in to the habit of picking up some sample cards/booklets any time you find yourself in or passing a DIY/home shop. You can also just pay a visit to one when you have your colours already in mind. If you know you want cool colours, go and pick up sample cards just of these. You can do this for each project. I then hold colours I think I want to use next to each other and decide which appear most harmonious. When you’ve chosen, stick them to your rough sketches so you have a guide of what goes where. As you can see below, I’ve assigned colours to various parts of my character.

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Starting your final design

Before starting your final design it’s useful to work out sizing and most of the time I like to have a complete rough version with everything in place. Once you know where everything is going and how large it needs to be, it’s time to select your paper and begin. You can read about selecting the right paper in my guide: ‘Choosing the right sketchbook‘.  I chose to use fine grain heavyweight paper as I wanted a hint of texture as well as a paper that could hold oils well. Once you’ve transferred your design, you can begin adding colour. What medium you use is up to you but it’s essential to use paper that can handle your medium (see my mentioned guide, above, to read more about this).

As you can see on my rough pages, I’ve mixed my colours and tested them next to the samples before applying them to my piece. It’s a good idea to have some scrap paper nearby to test your colours on, particularly as they can appear different on your palette than on your paper. Some colours can dry lighter, some darker.

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I’ll be revealing my own complete design next month and kicking off December with some unique, creative gift ideas for you!

Happy creating!

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Monthly Tutorial: Loom knitting for beginners (and your guide to ethical knitting)

Wool is a subject that occasionally comes up in the vegan community, and for years I was unsure of where I stood with using it. I’ve been doing some research to bring you the facts about wool, the impact it has on animals, and how you can make your knit more ethical.

So, what’s wrong with wool?

Question 1. Don’t sheep need to be sheared?

I’ve found that many people assume shearing a sheep is essential and the ‘kind thing to do’ to ensure the sheep is comfortable. This is partly true. Sheep develop thick coats that do need shearing to ensure they’re comfortable, but here’s the thing: wild sheep have the ability to naturally shed their coats, it’s breeders who have bred sheep specifically for wool to develop thick coats, which they cannot naturally shed, meaning they need to be sheared. Like with dogs, we’ve almost ‘edited’ sheep for a purpose.

Question 2. Isn’t shearing painless?

Yes and no. The cutting of the wool itself is painless, but it’s when skin gets nicked or accidentally cut that it’s painful. This is more likely when wool is being mass produced. Shearers often get paid per sheep, rather than per hour, which means workers are more inclined to work faster, which can result in mistakes.

Where your wool comes from and why it matters

80% of wool comes from Australia, where a practice known as ‘museling’ is legal. Museling is when the skin from around the sheep’s rear is literally cut away, usually without anaesthetic. Why would they do this you might ask? Well, it’s claimed that this practice prevents something known as ‘fly strike’ which is when blow flies lay eggs which eventually hatch in to maggots which eat away the skin of the sheep. This can be fatal. However, there are alternatives, as the RSPCA Australia outline on this page (link).

Question 3. Where can I get ethical wool or alternatives?

The good news is that museling is illegal in the UK, so any wool that’s produced in the UK won’t come from sheep that have been subjected to this painful practice. This may be enough for you to decide you’re happy to purchase UK wool, but of course there’s always the matter of welfare whilst sheering. In my opinion if you still feel you want to use wool it’s best to go for small businesses that don’t focus on mass production. I contacted the owner of Laura’s Loom who collects fleece from ‘small manufacturers across the North of England into the Scottish Borders’ to ask about welfare. She was most helpful, actually speaking to one of her farmers, who assured her that their small flocks were well cared for. As well as selling accessories her online shop also stocks yarn for knitting and weaving (link).

If you decide that you’d prefer to take animals out of the equation all together, there are also plenty of synthetic wool’s available. You can pick these up at most craft shops, such as Hobby Craft, at a reasonable price. Materials include cotton, acrylic mixes (acrylic, acrylic with cotton, acrylic with viscose) and there are even more options online, including materials such as bamboo. I’ve found that etsy has quite a few options available, and also means you’re supporting small businesses (link) However, if you’re looking for a truly ethical/eco option it’s important to remember that acrylic is man-made and doesn’t biodegrade as natural fibres do.

So now you’ve decided the material for you, it’s time to get crafting. This month I’ll be giving you an introduction to loom knitting. This project is so simple, and is a good starting project for beginners. I found my wool in a charity shop. It’s always worth taking a look as occasionally you’ll stumble upon a stash.

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You will need:

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  • Small round loom (mine was intended as a flower loom)
  • Scissors
  • Wool/other
  • Loom hook
  • Button (optional)

Where to buy:

Loom Hook (link)

Round loom (link)

Step 1

Put a small length of wool through the middle of your loom, so you have a little tail, then wrap your wool once, in a clock-wise way, around each peg.

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Step 2

Once you’ve done this on each peg and you’re back to your first peg, wrap the wool around it again, as you’ve been doing, to create a second loop. Take your loom hook and pull the first loop (the one underneath the second you’ve just made, and pull it over the first, off the peg.

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Step 3

Repeat above over and over until you reach your desired length.

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Step 4

Once you’ve reached your desired length, snip the wool so you’re left with another tail. This time, instead of creating a second loop and pulling the first over it you’re going to pull the length of wool through the loop.

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You’ll be left with what resembles a loose knot. (I have removable pegs so remove them as I go along)

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Step 5

Repeat above until you’ve done all of the pegs, then gently pull to tighten a bit, and tie a knot to stop unravelling. Tie a knot in the other end as well.

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Step 6

Turn your wrist warmer the right way (it’ll be inside out).

 

Step 7

Sew on either a button, or you can use a little wool to make a bow to sew on.

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Happy crafting!

Monthly review – handstitching guide books

I spent months reading reviews and borrowing from libraries in the search for the ultimate hand-stitching guide! I wanted something that I could use as a reference that covered all the essentials, but without bogging you down with dense descriptions. Finally my search was over when I discovered Margaret Rowan’s ‘The Complete Guide to Handstitching & Embellishing Techniques’. If you too are looking for a sewing guide to last you a lifetime, your search may be over…

 

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Details

Full title: Stitch! The Complete Guide to Handstitching & Embellishing Technique –  The creative guide for dressmakers and needlecrafters that takes your work to a new level

Author: MargaretRowan

ISBN978-1-86351-453-8

PublisherSally Milner Publishing Pty Ltd (2013)

So, what sets this book apart from the thousands of other sewing books? Plenty! Unlike the majority of modern publications, Rowan’s book is dedicated solely to hand-stitching, with not a sewing machine in sight! and what’s more is that the author somehow manages to make the book suitable for all abilities. Many of the books I read used terms that would only be familiar to experienced sewers, whilst Rowan maintains an un-daunting, reader-friendly stance throughout. That’s not to say this book is geared solely towards beginners; whilst it’s an excellent place to start (covering all of what I deem ‘essentials’ from which needles to select, to how to prepare fabric – details often left out in books of the same genre) the book is clearly divided into logical, clear stages, from ‘tools and equipment’ in Chapter 1 ‘stitching essentials’ , progressing to ‘functional stitches’ in chapter 2, and advancing to ‘decorative stitches’ in chapter 3. What I particularly like is the ‘stitch selector’ at the beginning of the book, which visual examples of each stitch covered in the book, along with a ‘skill level’. Depending on where you feel you are in ability, you can skip to where you feel you are, or if you’re a seasoned pro just double-checking which technique is best to use for your current project, you can dip in and out and use the book as a reference.

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The layout of the book is one of the best I’ve come across, with no ‘information overload’ that you sometimes come across. There are several clear, colour images to demonstrate the technique/stitch, with clearly numbered steps, and a side-bar style panel which reminds you of the skill level, tools and materials you’ll need, and usefully some extra notes.

The books aesthetic is on a par with its functionality, with close-ups of the stitch/technique in the corner being decorative and also useful.

Another thing I found impressive about the book is that there are lots of useful extras in the ‘Resources’ section near the back. Again, Rowan pays attention to the ‘nitty gritty’ without bogging the reader down. This book itself is a manual on how to complete an entire sewing project, whereas usually you would have to consult various sources. From a ‘pressing guide’ to an ‘estimating fabric requirements’ chart,  this book covers it all, somehow squeezing it all into 256 pages (including contents, index etc). You will even find a ‘Directory of Motifs’ (designed by Kelly Fletcher) in chapter 4, covering everything from nature to celebrations and lettering.

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However, whilst I highly recommend adding this book to your collection (it’ll be the only one you need!) availability in the UK is sorely limited, and very difficult to track down at a reasonable price. But I can honestly say that the search will be worth it!

 

You can read more about this book by visiting the publishers page here: Sally Milner Publishing

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