Textile Sketchbook Collection by Lynne Dennis

Process 2: writing / presentation

Textile Sketchbook Collection by Lynne Dennis

UCA Archives and Special Collections

by Chavisa Piankit (Pear)


         Lynne Dennis was a member of the Embroiders’ Guild, a society of textile designers and artists, which began life more than 100 years ago. The University for the Creative Arts holds a collection of archives and special collections which students can use for inspiration when creating their own sketchbook. Lynne Dennis’s sketchbooks mostly dated from 1986-1994, and they consist of a collection of 18 sketchbooks in total. They include inspirational, ideas, samples of textiles, paintings, sketches and her analysis notes for each project. They are interesting from the perspective of art history and personal ideas.

               Textile is derived from the Latin word texere which meaning to weave; but a wider meaning than simply weaving must be accepted since it is only one of various ways of making fabrics. (Miller, 1968:8) Textiles have been part of many different cultures, lives and civilization. According to Gale and Kaur, “One common perception of textile is that it is feminine art”. (2002:7) Lynne Dennis is designer who has a fascination with textiles. She applied her knowledge and skill to create fabulous art works. From looking at the contents of four sketchbooks, her design process can be revealed, which reflects the structure of her design over short period of time. In terms of practicality, Lynne has a sense of elegance in the way that she uses fabrics, which show her special talent in this area.

              From an analysis of four sketchbooks of Lynne Dennis, it would appear that, almost all of her works are influenced by nature and the environment. She assembled an interesting collection of inspirational items, for example, postcards, cards, photographs and brochures. She annotates each page of her sketchbooks. Stylistically, she used initial sketches and fabric samples to develop her designs. Some parts of her sketchbook contain freeform drawing which shows how her ideas develop. A large part of the sketchbooks consist of ideas which inspired her critical thinking techniques. She combined many kinds of materials and worked with various fabrics with unusual surfaces. These sketchbooks are interesting (other synonyms) because they serve to illustrate her passion for textiles. 

        Primarily, the craft of textiles derives from the tradition of domestic embroidery. Dennis is a designer who is highly proficient at using combinations of colours, employing various palettes, which balance warm and cold colours. Colour is an important element in her design work. Colours tend to generate a specific response or association from the viewer, and an understanding of these reactions will help the designer create effective colour combinations that will enforce their intended message. (Ambrose, 2005:24) However, fabric and thread are the main factor in Dennis’ work. By combining different colours of thread, new shade can be created, for instance red thread and yellow thread can make orange. Colour and contrast can generate a myriad of design effects when applied to textile design. (Clarke: 2011:144) The tone of colour is affected by how the fabric is perceived by the viewer. From observing Dennis’ sketchbook, it appears that she used 30 : 70 percentage of colours balance between warm and cold, which refer to the temperature created by the visual impact of a colour. However, at times she used monochrome to differentiate between dimensions and complex surfaces. Therefore, it could be said that, colour is the main factor that Dennis used to create and enhance the beauty of her fabric art works.

           Furthermore, Dennis’ sketchbooks showed that she was interested in ancient art, for instance the art of ancient Mexico, Maya, Aboriginal arts and American Indian arts. Most of her work in the four sketchbooks have many references to these civilizations, for example symbols and lines are used to replace text; continuing curves referring to the rhythm of water. Geometric form is frequently used in her work, and circles, squares and triangle are common forms found in this part of her sketchbook. From that point, they show diversity of forms from the international cultures that influenced her ideas. Dennis tried to merge the international styles together. She used some part of the ancient arts to improve her design. During this period of her life, she focused on developing these ideas, which combined between difference cultures and civilisation. She produced many fabric samples to develop the colours and composition. Dennis adapted her design by using initial sketch and fabric sample to create the real piece. According to Wilson, Textile designers use their creative and technical skills to translate ideas into reality. This suggestion that Dennis is a curious person who never stop to learn new things. Drawing’s caption and her sketch are proved that she attended to focus on her project. Dennis developed her work as step by step, which complete at the end.

             However, Dennis’ sketchbooks give an inspiration about work techniques. First of all, method of element of design is a rudimentary skill. She used line and grid to make a composition and balance. Horizontal line and zigzag line is used to add a high degree of dynamic to the design. Second of all, stitches technique are the movement of needle from back of cloth to the front and back again. (Clarke, 2011:110) This technique is used to create two-dimension pattern, which is one of the smallest motif in embroidery. However, there are many type of stitches, which use to produce the pattern for instance, chain stitch, herringbone stitch, blanket stitch, feather stitch and cross stitch. Dennis used cross stitch to produce a diagonal stitch by using X-shape, which showed in the file of fabric sample. Moreover, needlework technique is created a different surface. Dennis used various kinds of fabric to represent picture, which mix of smaller and large pieces of fabric. The contrast between texture and colours is made an interesting art work called “appliqué”. Lastly, painting in difference surfaces are produced interesting textures. Dennis used charcoal, watercolour, paraffin, ink, fingerprint and etc, which created many style of pattern for print textile. The combination of her techniques are showed how creative she is. These basic techniques are given an idea to produce the other texture of fabric.


        An Idea of design is developed through in different way; designer is the main idea of the work. Textile designer has to understand about element of design that can use to create an effect, which include space, line, colour, value and texture. Evenmore, these elements are combined with balancing, moving, repeating, emphasising and contrast. In different cultures and times, artists and designers produced vary style of product, which inspired from variety of source. Innovation of textiles are influenced from culture and nature. When the knowledge is developed, textile designers are improved more good sense of colour and aesthetic. From the mention above, Lynne Dennis is the example of designer who used to focus on embroider and textile design. However, Dennis’s working method is interesting. She observed ancient arts, which has affected the process of her design. She combined different element of culture together to create unique piece of her work. She used strong and weak hue to make the stroked effect, which it is very useful technique. Nonetheless, contrast between the colours is clear the different that can perceive between colours and intensifies or weakens them. (Clarke, 2011:144) This technique is created dimension on the plain space, which has movement and depth.

            Finally, Dennis’ sketchbook shows the role of textile designer and creative skills. As a designer, Lynne had to do many researches, which help to generate an idea to develop a design. Dennis’s design development is depended on two main factors; how an individual designer prefers to work and what is design being for. It can be seen that she used to make design sample in small piece to find out the best way to use thread and yarn. However, she would often find mistakes in her work, which is about material and colour. Sketchbook is a tool that helps her to solve problems and develop the products. It used to manage information and critical ideas. All in all, embroidery traditional is related to woman and needlework. Textile is reached the sense of feminine, which reflect to culture and artists’ work. Nowadays, technology is developed to reduce production of process, but traditional textile craft is still popular. Dennis is a designer who used various materials to answer the proposition. She is an example of designer who represented the way of textiles in historical period.

             In conclusion, Lynne Dennis is a textile designer who was good at ideas development. Her sketchbook is an inspiration of how a designer produces her work. Her sketchbooks display a special technique, which can be applied even now. Dennis used her sketchbooks asa tool to collect memories and her ideas as an artist and designer. It’s a personal belonging that show s her background and point of interest.Inspiration can be found everywhere, so this is just an example of how a designer organized their ideas. Even though the time has passed by, the memories still remain. Sketchbooks are not a diary but it is the gallery space of the designer. It’s true that the final outcome can show how successful the project is, but the journey of the process is more important. Journey can teach us about our mistakes, but the lesson can help us to prepare the way to reach the goal. However, to find the best way for oneself changes from person to person. Sketchbook is a journey of designers that push ideas of creativity, which gives a real identity to the great pieces of designers’ work.



Ambrose, Harris. (2005) Colour. London: AVA Publishing SA.

Clarke, Simon. (2011) Textile Design. London: Laurence King Publishing Ltd.

Gale, Colin and Kaur, Jasbir. (2002) The Textile Book. Oxford: Berg.

Miller, Edward. (1968) Textiles Properties and Behaviour in Clothing use. Great Britain: BT Batsford Ltd.

Wilson, Jacquie. (2001) Handbook of textile design Principles, Process and Practice. Abington: Woodhead Publishing Limited.

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