When is a piece finished?


Sometimes it is difficult to know when a piece is finished.  Often when I think a piece is done – I put it out of sight for a while, then I can come back to it with fresh eyes and I will see any glaring omissions or imbalances.

As a working artist – I have to balance the amount of time I spend on a piece with the “asking price” and this piece is a good example of that.

I love hand stitching, especially seeding and french knots – I could seed and french knot until the cows came home, or until  I make a hole in the end of my stitching finger.  I know,  I know – that’s why thimbles were invented.  However, I have decided that I need a summer thimble and a winter thimble – my hands were so cold in the studio to-day that my thimble kept falling off.

So, when I wore a hole in my finger, I decided to stop the french knots and running stitches on this piece – to work at it anymore would just mean that I was going to pay myself about 6p an hour – assuming that it sells.  In all honesty, on this piece, another few hours of hand stitching would not add to the work.


So when DO you decide when a piece is finished?  I think for me there is a whisper in my head that says “enough” and I stop.  The enough can be made up of many things, enough hours spent on one piece.  To do more would be to “overwork” the piece. Enough, because suddenly I have ideas for the next piece and want to move on.

On reflection – I think it is easy to overwork a piece, my rule of thumb – is that I stand back from the work and squint at it. There is the fine line between the stitching looking spotty, or blurry – if nothing jumps out too harshly then the seeding and knotting are probably right and then you have probably reached the “Enough” point.


This is just popped into the frame with no mount-board or backing – just to give an idea of how it will look.

The other great thing about hand stitching is that it gives me time to think.  To-day I was thinking how nice it would be to give this piece a name with “Flora” in the title – she is the goddess of flowers in Roman mythology, unfortunately, in the U.K. that word is associated with a well known brand of margarine now.


7 thoughts on “When is a piece finished?

  1. As you know, some pieces of your work speak to me more than others. When mum died I inherited some old pieces and they all hang on the walls in my home. I saw this piece on Sunday, before it was finished, and would remove the print that hangs above my fireplace for it. It is stunning.
    Ps – you still haven’t told everyone the size.

  2. O Karen what a serene garden goddess. She’s just how I see the garden at the moment-in my head obviously, the reality being cold and muddy and the abode of the birds who are tearing my winter salads to pieces. I love the suggestion of rising from the water and flowers. She feels so benign.
    I have been thinkng about when a piece is finished lately quite a lot- in the case of the current piece the answer is probably “last week,probably Tuesday” .What I have is very overstitched. For the next one, I will draw more,a lot more, and be more aware of that whisper in my head.
    Great piece Karen.

  3. Lovely piece.
    I always use ‘if in doubt, leave it out’. If you are asking yourself more than once ‘is it finished’ then it probably is.

  4. Hi Karen. I’m glad I’m not the only one who uses the ‘squint test’! It always seems to work for me whether I am selecting fabrics etc to go together or deciding if my piece is finished. I also tend to consider the proportion of the thing, along the lines of the ‘rule of 3’. So I try to consider how the ‘thirds’ of the image are made up and if they ‘work’ together. And just like working with plants or flowers, I tend to stick to odd numbers of adornments. Or maybe I just like squinting at odd numbers!!!! Your piece looks finished to me. 🙂

  5. This is a very beautiful piece!

    I know exactly how you feel, I sometimes let my work lie for a while and work out later on if it is finished.

    It is as if I am so immersed in it that it is difficult to judge, later on I have distanced myself and as a rule I can see immediately whether it needs more done to it.

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