about me

ruth face on quiltRuth Peel is a textile artist, who has had her quilts exhibited at the Royal West of England Academy, The National Quilt show at the NEC, Romsey Abbey and Solent University.

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Making Faces

Recently I have been running workshops making textile pieces of faces.



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A selection of my work

In Your Dreams

This is a very large quilt based on dreams. Exhibited at the Festival of Quilts at the National Exhibition Centre, Solent University and Romsey Abbey

.   LINK to How I made it.

Undercurrents58-PNTX9230-ruth quilt body-cropped-composite-2

In this piece I wanted to make the sea look like ruffled sheets. I wanted to create a surreal feel as if on waking the sea and the sheets could morph from one to the other. 51-P1010879

I found printing on a large rotary printer for the first time exciting and something I will pursue.

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LINK to How I made it


Solo Living

This is a large scale hanging over 10 foot long.  I made this quilt in response to an article I’d read about the increase in solo living. It involved drawing in stitch and incorporating photographs. It has been exhibited in Romsey Abbey.

LINK to How I made it

The Railway Sleeper032-P1090280-002

This piece was achieved by using a variety of media: printing, photography, drawing and stitch. Again I was interested in dreaming and daydreaming as depicted by the sleeper and the reclining figure. I was trying to capture moments when we are ‘somewhere else’.

Once the layers were amalgamated in Photoshop the piece was bubble jet printed and mounted on foam board.

Stitched Face07-P1090411

Small piece that’s double sided.


“Jude” after Matisse09-P1090412

A piece from a drawing of my daughter using Matisse’s cut out style.

3D Head

3D head


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The background was printed and I used a mixture of fabric and stitch for the sea.

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Getting ready for the ‘ten out of six’ exhibition



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Images that have attracted my attention recently.


While travelling in London at the weekend I noticed this image and managed to grab a photo, it reminds me of an important moment in my life.  It also has a lot in common with my train photos with clear straight lines radiating from a point.


I went to a photo exhibition at Somerset House (Sony).  This photographer was reconstructing her dream.  Her parents were divorcing and her dream had her between the two of them.  I’m interested as I’ve tried to re-enact my own dreams.


Along the lines of my theme of train journeys and reflections.  She is still but the background is moving and blurred.

I’ve recently had my attention drawn to Caroline Hall’s work which has something of the flavour of blurred, coloured lines.  Her work is installed on the underground, she paints on large aluminium sheets.  The effect is of movement and the colour strong and glossy.  Evidently she often uses a credit card to swipe colours across the page and it is my intention to have a go.


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Solo – 3D Figure

I am thinking about the theme of my previous piece “the Rise in Solo Living” and taking it into 3D. I want to make a figure contained in a transparent box.

A few images I’ve seen have resonated with me, Juliette Drout’s multiple images overlaid on one another

and Farzona Hossen’s photograph of a Bangladeshi girl taking washing off the line.

My thinking is to emphasise the idea of the individual being isolated and contained in their own box (room): the “rise of Solo Living” and these images show people looking out and through a transparent layer, looking out on the world apparently isolated and alone.

I made a few little sketches to try and capture my initial ideas. I wonder about some concepts around this idea e.g. inside, outside, looking in, looking out, looking back, looking forward.

There’s a lot in the press at the moment about David Bowie as his exhibition is coming out soon at the V&A and also he has a new album coming out which has been a long time coming.

“One tries as much as possible to put oneself on the line artistically. But after the Dadaists, who pronounced that art is dead, once you have said “art in dead”, it’s hard to get more radical than that, since 1924 art’s been dead, so what the hell can we so with it from there on? One tries to at least to keep addressing the thing.” David Bowie

If I find this scary. How much worse if you are famous, such a big expectation is created.


Amer Shomali crouched figure has the pose I am looking for.

Amer Shomali

I realise I have jettisoned the ‘looking out’ idea for a’ looking in’ contemplative figure.I’d found stuffing my head (M6) with wadding very difficult.

1-cu head01-P1070133


I therefore decided to experiment with inflating the figure with industrial, polystyrene, expanding foam. The interesting thing about the foam is because it takes time to solidify you have time to arrange the figure into the pose you want. It is also very light and portable.

I did a couple of tests on a small scale.

The test was helpful, I realised I would need to use a fabric that had a closer weave as the foam was seeping through and I could also see that the foam tended to collect around where I’d inserted the nozzle.

I bought two IKEA tables and four dressing table tops I thought I could use to make my glass display box and stand. This gave me the size I needed to work to. It cost me £34.

To work out what size to make my artifact I’ve decided to make another smaller “body”.

I made a paper pattern using an artist’s wooden model to gauge proportion and size, laid it on some furnishing fabric and marked it with a thick black pen. Once I’d sewn it I stuffed it with newspaper. I tested it out for size in an upturned chair the same size as the display case. I felt it was too small I wanted the figure to look restricted and squashed.

I scaled up and used myself with some help to make an even bigger model.

I used furnishing fabric and hand stitched some features on the face, before sewing the pieces together.

I’d had problems with the polyurethane foam seeping through the fabric with my first trial so I decided to paint my model first this would prove to be a mistake that lead to some bizarre results.

We used several cans of foam to inflate the figure but with little success.

We tried raising the temperature, increasing the moisture in the air and in the end inflating it with a bicycle pump.

Eventually thinking we had at last succeeded we left it to dry clipped into the position.

However returning some hours later on moving her she started to ooze foam.

I think that painting the fabric before filling her with foam meant that the air was not in contact with the foam and so it wasn’t activated.

I’d also been unable to fold the limbs in as much as I’d planned so she no longer fitted in the display case.

I found she wouldn’t sit without tilting back so I had to sew some weights under her toes to redress the balance. I painted a white coat with a dry brush to finish her off.

Though the result was disappointing I think this method will be worth returning to as it has interesting possibilities,  particularly that you can shape the figure before the foam dries, it fills the sculpture well to the furthest recesses and it is very light and portable.


Posted in 2013, 3D Objects, Fda, Hand stitching, Module 3 | Leave a comment

Body and Society: A 10 foot cloth/hanging

My original concept started when I read an article in the Guardian in March 2012 the “Rise and rise in solo living”.

It was about the phenomena that more and more people are choosing to live alone within large cities or urban conurbations.

I produced a range of dyed fabrics with the colours I intended to use.

I chose a large piece of vividly dyed fabric in which I could see crowds of people emerge from the random markings.

The possibilities of representing society became apparent.

Different groups appeared; punks, church officials, festival goers etc.

I decided to explore different elements, the random nature of what I could “see” in the cloth with the specific; a figure in the window, apparently living alone. The randomness and the specific reflect society itself.

The Process

In many ways, because I was working on this brief and it was in the forefront of my mind, I saw its relevance wherever I looked at exhibitions, on television, in newspapers and magazines. I saw references to society in Grayson Perry’s programmes on taste, Keith Vaughan’s figures, Lucien Freud’s bodies, the Artist community at large Hockney, Picasso, Rembrandt, etc.

Amongst the crowd, in the cloth there is depiction of Hockney painting. Lucian Freud’s nude with rags, Rembrandt’s “The Fall of Man” and a figure from Picasso’s Villard Suite.

Textile artists Janet Bolton and Desiree Habitcht resonated with me too because elements of their work helped me see the direction I could take and how I could overcome some of the practical problems I was having.

I chose to jettison a lot of my original ideas, which in some ways seems a loss when I look back over my process, but eventually I had to take one path. This often called for some difficult decisions.

The process itself combined elements of the designed versus the random. A direction evolved that took me in a direction I had not expected. For instance, when doing a trial using a paper photocopy of my drawing as a template, I noticed how dramatic the image was against the vivid background fabric.


It also looked good with the monochrome border.

I decided I wanted to incorporate this element into the piece. I felt it accentuated the contrast of the two elements, people living alone and society.

But as the process continued, this image disappeared, but I continued with the stitched paper technique.

The final cloth is about 10 feet long, so difficult to get an impression of the overall design when working close up to I worked all the design out on a smaller scale print out of the design, so I could see how it looked from a distance.

Throughout I tested out the techniques on a smaller scale before committing to the final piece.

What succeeded?

I feel I have created a good contrast between the isolation of the individual and the rest of society. I have used my new found skills, in drawing with the machine and sewing using unusual materials, namely photocopied photographs and drawings to good effect.

My working set up at home with BS2 facility on my Bernina and the freestyle quilting frame has proved efficient. I found it easier to move the machine than the fabric. I could “draw with stitch” using this combination.

The quilting too worked out well as the separate layers were kept under tension. It was also important, as I was using photographs, that I didn’t have to tack the three layers together in the conventional way of stretching a quilt as I could not have stitched through the photos without leaving holes in the paper.

I did have misgivings about cutting my cloth to a regular rectangle but as far as the quilting went it proved necessary. In order for the quilt to lie flat it had to be quilted under tension on a quilting.

I also bought a very small sketchbook at the start of the module and I found that because it seemed more easily accessible I was using it more regularly and it gives me a more accurate and personal track of my thinking.

What didn’t succeed?

Originally I’d intended the one large figure to be just drawn, inspired by Hockney’s technique; the idea was abandoned for posterised photos instead of a single drawn/stitched close up and I kept the drawing for the crowds.

I had a lot of problems using paper, though I chose the thinnest I could find.

The machine stitches serrated the paper so that it soon lifted away.

I did overcome some of this by using organdie to protect and hold down the paper. I kept the organdie fabric over the white areas but cut it away to reveal the black in other areas.

However it was still difficult to stitch through the paper and where there was magic tape joining the paper it was even more of a problem.

In places I have left areas unstitched as the machine would not stitch properly, either only catching the bobbin thread occasionally or not at all.

In future I might try iron on Vilene to join the paper as someone suggested but more likely I would print directly on to fabric as I have done in the past. I am still concerned about the frailty of the paper. In retrospect it caused me a lot of practical problems but I am pleased with the design.

I did come to rely on photographs and in a way I regret this. I would like to try a similar design using just the drawn/stitched line. I can console myself with the fact that I did at least draw/stitch the background figures just using the machine and that I did experiment enough to know I can draw/stitch the larger portraits too.

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09-P1020165 07-P1020163 08-P1020164

I wish in places that the drawing was better and I’d taken more time to draw from photos and observation. Perhaps I was a bit anxious to get it done. On another occasion I could choose to take more time.

I have landed up with a conventional shape which I find disappointing but I think the upside is that it looks like a window on the world which fits with my theme.

I am still considering framing the close up figures in order to make them look more isolated.

Summing up

The quilt/cloth evolved and changed from the original article “The rise and rise of solo living.”

I also used five figures instead of one which is a change from my original idea. I’m not sure why this happened and it does dilute the message and contrast. Originally I had just one figure at a window with perspective now I had five figures. Why? Perhaps because I preferred the design, even though it perhaps diluted the message.

The process has been enjoyable and challenging: the learning, the thinking process and solving the problems putting the ideas into practise. I feel however that it is just a stepping stone and I am eager to try out some of what I’ve learned and to play with some of the ideas I’ve had to jettison.


Posted in 2012, Dyeing, fabrics, Fda, Machine Stitching | Leave a comment

Machine stitching exercise

The exercise here was to incorporate all kinds of free machine stitch into a sample.  We needed to include: straight stitch, zigzag stitch, granite stitch, whip stitch, cable stitch and  feather stitch

Advice included running the machine fast, but moving one’s hands slowly.  We could use our own design to see how to use the stitches in practise.  I outlined in straight stitch and filled with granite and zigzag stitches.




I likened this to drawing and shading.  Unfortunately I created opposing shadows  from  two light sources in the front view of the figure and I need more practise with the technique of free machine embroidery.  I think the drawing modules are helping to use this more usefully.






Posted in 2012, Fda, Machine Stitching, Module 3 | Leave a comment

Screen printing

ruths blue and yellow screenprint


warm rich blended:  scarlet, golden yellow, royal blue

cold: magenta, lemon, turquoise


  • Scouring fabrics
  • Manutex  to make the fabric stiff
  • Labels for pots
  • 1tsp colour mixed with little bit of warm water.
  • Then in soup pots add Manutex.
  • look re chemical water
  • keep notes by using masking tape on pots
  • sodium alginate
  • Use natural fabrics. The tighter the weave the sharper the image.
  • Often dye still wet roll in plastic and leave to prove in a warm place for 24 hours.
  • 1st rinse should be in very cold water with synthrapol or metapex.
  • Rinse in cold water until the water runs clear.
  • Then hot rinse then in washing machine at 60 degrees
  • Then iron it.
  • Soda would rot the fabric if it was left in.


When dye is in powder form it is toxic to the lungs so a mask should be worn when mixing it with water.  Once it is suspended in water it’s safe.

 Demonstrating the process

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Unfortunately there was no  space for me to work as the tables all around me were taken up by other people so I tried to document as well as I could everything that was going on.  I had already done some screen printing at a number of workshops so was not too worried about not being able to screen print myself.

Circulating and collating everyone else’s  work meant I got an excellent over view of methods of working and an opportunity to see what I thought successful and something I could try in the future.

An example of my screen-printing

This was created by crumpling the fabric and using a clear silkscreen, printing with yellow ink to create the background. Then applying masking tape onto the screen and printing with blue onto the flattened fabric to create the overlaying grid pattern.

ruths blue and yellow screenprint 

Posted in 2012, Fda, Module 3, Printing | Leave a comment

Constructing a fabric / Hot textiles


I used a Heat tool/glue gun Tie vec A4 (suppliers Hobby Craft Creative Craft and The Range)

Ideally paint it stitch it, you can integrate it into your design or you can sandwich between chiffon scarves.

Notes on the process

  • Ironing onto carrier bags
  • Baking parchment paper is your best friend
  • Can make grids
  • Solufleece
  • Very small zigzag picot can cover with lace and sheer fabrics
  • Can make fabric just from threads
  • Must make a grid on your solufleece and you can use net then free machine
  • Can hand stitch into water soluble fabric.

I think though I have been introduced to this idea I would need to take constructing a fabric further to feel it was satisfying, but now I have the rudimentary guidelines of the technique I could experiment further.



Posted in 2012, fabrics, Fda, Module 3 | Leave a comment