Creative Project : Mark-Making & Stitch work on fabric

Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion.
Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.
— Franz Kafka
Ellie Beck petalplum bowl small with mark-making.JPG

Today's project is a lovely one that leaves things open for nature to interpret herself onto your work, for the unplanned, the instinctual, the messy, the mistakes to shine and show off. This is not about being perfect or knowing the final outcome, it's about letting go.... evolving with the process, enjoying the experience rather than thinking about the outcome. 

You'll Need:

  • Paint or ink - if you have fabric paint fabulous, if not don't worry too much*
  • Nature Brushes - Sticks, leaves, twigs, seedpods, dried flower heads, strange and unusual collections from nature
  • Fabric - plain is best, but anything you can find. Even an old tea towel
  • Needle & thread. I like to use a long needle, like a sashiko needle and thicker thread such as embroidery thread / floss, but please use what you have access to, no need to rush out and buy something new. Double your thread if you're using regular cotton.

*I'm going to suggest / recommend use only black or white paint, and threads. I feel like this limitation in colour choices means you don't focus on the pictorial aspects or the outcome, but rather simply immerse in the process. It's a bit like taking photos in black & white... you see and experience a different way of looking.

Here's what you'll do:

Depending on how you like to work, turn the music up loud, or turn it off altogether. Try doing the opposite of what you usually do. Lay your fabric down on the floor (use a dropcloth under you if necessary), and standing up use the nature brushes dip it into the paint / ink and move freely. Close your eyes, move to the music, listen to what you hear outside. Respond to these external forces. Allow the unusual-ness of the 'paintbrush' to work in your favour of making marks, rather than painting a picture. 

Don't try to be too pictorial, but let shapes and patterns and 'marks' just happen and evolve. Fling the paint from a long leaf, or a flower head, roll it across the fabric, use more or less pressure to get different texture. 

Stop before you over-think the process. Leave blank space, for breathing and thinking and looking... and stitching. 

Have extra fabric and keep going. Don't edit yourself, or curate what you make. Have fun, enjoy. This is about the experience more than the outcome - though I promise you'll love the outcome.

Once your fabric dries (in a few days) I'd love you to take some thread and work stitches back into the marks. Again without being pictorial. Stab-stitching, long rough running stitch, small delicate scattered stitches. You haven't yet joined my free Slow Stitch video series, this might be a wonderful time to experience the beauty of stitching. 


The reason why I find this project so powerful is that letting go of the outcome allows you to tap into your creative self in an innate manner, rather than a forced "making artwork" manner. I'm not saying that's the way you have to work, I'm simply offering some new ways of expanding your approach to the process of creativity. Immersing yourself in making simply for the sake of making is a beautiful thing, and allows you to spend time conversing with yourself, which to be honest I find interesting, exciting, inspiring and at time eye-opening. Often in our busy days we don't make the time to truly converse with ourselves. This project allows that in a few different ways because of the different techniques. 

Your own mark-making

This idea of mark-making doesn't need to relate only to paint on fabric. It can be anything, any way of working. Try it with your creative arts practice and see where it leads you. Experiment and explore - I'd love to see what you create. Please do share on the private Facebook group

Below some of my mark-making... glaze on ceramics, yarn & string on my weaving loom, thread on my stitched fabrics, paint on fabric, photo of shadows on a wall, and close up of those little bowls I made that I do so love.....