Exercise 4.5 (Option 1): Preliminary Sampling, inspired by Jane McKeating

Having viewed Jane Mckeating’s work recently at Gawthorpe Hall, I was inspired by her methods.  I wanted to find out more about them, as online the descriptions are rather inconclusive.

DSC_0076 I emailed her, asking a few questions about her practice and received this reply:

‘Hi Ailish,

thank you for your enquiry, sorry its taken me a while to reply.

I use cotton or linen fabric mostly for printing, which is specially coated for digital print. I am lucky as a member of staff to have access to a digital printer at work. I scan my drawings which are mostly from my sketchbooks, and often blow them up much larger and experiment with colour a bit in photoshop.

I usually put the print through twice so it prints on front and back as this makes it ideal for pages if I am making a book. I specially use quite thin cotton so the prints show through, a bit like if I used thin paper in a sketchbook. I like the accidental nature of what happens then.

I then hand stitch mostly. Sometimes I use the machine and when I do its mostly the Irish, but increasingly its hand as it becomes easier to fit into my time as I work full time, so hand stitch works in the evenings or is portable.

Recently I have started using hand processes in the print room too, so bleaching and overprinting. I made a whole book using these processes which is currently on display at the Portico Library in Manchester in ‘Made in Translation’ if you are northern based. It will be there till June. Current work is also on show at Gawthorpe Hall in the ‘Significance’ exhibition.

I hope that’s helpful,

good luck with your studies,


I can now visualise her methods better.  Could I use some of my own sketches and paintings, printing them onto fabric to work into?

Samples such as these with techniques, will widen my file and skill.

Below:  My first attempt.  This was one of my pastel paintings, scanned from an earlier exercise within this assignment.  Printed onto cotton, I again wanted to emulate the vision of my grandmother, like I have been already playing with through the “blind stitching” samples.  I bundled a lot of white threads together in the facial area, then used a sew stitches by hand to hold them down.  This conveys a blurry, unclear view.  At the bottom of the image, there was florals.  Thus I just picked a few of these out with hand dyed ribbons, cut into lengths.


I have printed another one to try too:


I was taken by the textures in the painting with pastels above.  I chose it as one to print onto cotton fabric.  I then decided to use Jane’s way of using running stitch to add a further layer of texture.  As I am sampling at this stage, I desire to produce a variety of samples rather than work solidly on one.  Thus I chose to try a small section.  I have scanned both the front and back, in order to compare it to Jane’s way of working and the image I have from inspecting the back of her work up close, as seen above.

image-287.jpgThreads will be cut off neatly of course.

The front:

image-286.jpg Close up, showing how I have matched the thread colour tones in with the painting tones, to just contrast no more.


What do I think of this style?

Although I don’t want to copy a style, I do like the idea of printing my drawings out onto fabric and then working in to them.  This can be very varied, as its what has gone on before the piece is scanned into the computer that’s important.  In Jane’s case, she has explored printmaking, overprinting, painting and bleaching amongst other methods, before scanning her pieces in, playing with Photoshop and then printing them onto fabric.  What techniques were presented, played with?  This can become very personal and experimental.  This is definitely a method I could work with and extend.  It also forms another technique to add to my folder.

What do I feel about Jane Mckeating’s way of adding embroidery to the piece in this painterly way?

In a subtle way, it took me out of the range in which I would normally embroider.  Simply put, I don’t actually like the look the stitches give, however if I perused this idea further, I could make it more personal to myself.  It reminded me of Audrey Walkers work too when I was embroidering.  I wonder if this inspired her too?  It is a form of painting with the needle, but I don’t like the running stitch style which is pursued in pattern or line.  I prefer working my stitches in a more instinctive style, which I feel gives a living factor to my work, an ongoing narrative.

AW Left:  An example of Audrey Walkers work.


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