Dueling Fiddlers

dueling fiddlers

I am always rabbiting on about how stitching is rarely interpreted as a graphic mark so this month for the 6 x 4 lives challenge I decided to attempt a fabric postcard which uses stitching as you would a drawing tool.

The 6 x 4 lives challenge aims to produce a fiber postcard at least once a month that records what you have been exploring, doing, or thinking about. The format of a fabric postcard can be used to explore telling stories visually, or experimenting with techniques.

Mid month we went to the Music at the Creek Festival and did all the usual things that you do at such festivals. Eve was performing so I did the proud Mum thing, we listened to music, and met up with old and new friends. In the bar Jerry got together with Tony Pyrzakowski and had a few tunes. Tony Pyrzakowski is in two bands the Wheeze and Suck band and the Mothers of Intention. Whenever Tony and Jerry get together it turns into a bit of fiddling duel which is highly entertaining for anyone who is in earshot as they are both high energy fiddlers.

I decided that I would attempt to illustrate 2 fiddlers at play. Here is the original photograph that I worked the image from. I liked the way the fiddles and the arms of both crossed in the center. This was the main reason I chose this photograph as I knew that on since on a post card sized piece of fabric there is only about a square inch to illustrate facial features so it was the composition that had to drive it.

I converted the image to greyscale, wacked a blur filter over it to strip out some of the detail and then striped it back to 8 grey tones which eliminated more detail. I then set about ‘drawing’ with thread. I wanted to keep it loose as possible but I think the size was working against me.

The piece was hand stitched on 36 count linen in DMC stranded floss using 1 and 2 strands at a time. Some fine wool was also used in the background. It took about 30 hours of concentrated stitching.

It was an interesting exercise but as I worked it I kept wishing I had worked at least a few sketches during the session. At the time I took the photograph, just as a photograph, with no intention of doing anything with it other than keep it in the family album. I was just enjoying the music while gossiping with a friend over a cold beer. Once I started to work the piece in thread however I wished that I had taken the time to more closely observe both figures. Only drawing will give me that. A camera is always a machines view and a memory aid. If the figure is not closely observed in the first place a camera is no substitute for close observation recorded in pencil on paper. Instead of concentrating on the dynamic between the two fiddlers I had to content myself with the technical challenge of working on such a small scale. So lesson learnt is never to leave your sketchbook behind!


  1. Mandy and all – thanks for the compliments and Mandy its true that draging out a sketch book at times is hard particularly in a place like this – we were in a bar – there is always some idiot (sometimes drunk) who manages to perfectly break your train of thought as they want to ‘take a look’. I have no idea why people think that the brain is not engaged when drawing!

  2. This works beautifully, and what a wonderful idea. I agree about needing a sketchbook to help remember the detail, though. Keeping a sketchbook around is something I have to work with – I still feel really embarrassed at the idea of bringing one out…. My younger daughter is an animator (2D) and always has one to hand whenever she is travelling on a bus or train. I must try to follow her example. The images she has, ready to use……
    Thanks for the inspiration. The picture works so well!!!

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