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How To Use Sketchbooks For Art and Craft Ideas

How to use sketchbooks – we all know they are for sketching or drawing but do you really make the best use of your sketchbooks? This week in my feed, a fellow artist was pondering whether to throw away her sketchbooks that she felt disillusioned with. I am going to attempt to answer that question.

How to use sketchbooks
Sketchbook page for my ancient history textiles inspirations ebooks

The Purpose of Sketchbooks

First of all – what is a sketchbook for? First and foremost it should be for working out ideas, jotting down ideas, working through a problem such as shape, layers, colour. Many people are too precious about their sketchbooks because they see them as finished work. So if we look at this problem of throwing away from the angle of an ideas book, it makes it all the easier.

As a student I was taught never to erase nor to tear pages out of my sketchbook. As a textiles teacher, I am with that up to a point.

Having just moved my workroom around for better use of space, I went through my sketchbooks this morning. I have 4 A3 sketchbooks. This was the preferred size at the college I went to. It’s a good size, but no good for en plein air work. Two of the sketchbooks are spiral bound, the other two are not. On the whole I prefer spiral bound, but if you are a painter or felter, or even a textile artist like myself, you might prefer it perfect bound so that you can work across the page with ease. Spiral bound is also the best for people who love to make additions and stick fabric samples in etc. I have half a dozen A4 sketchbooks and zillions of smaller sizes. In the past year I seem to prefer to work with A5 or smaller, often with handmade paper in a zig-zag format.

sketchbooks for textiles
My student sketchbook

I like to theme my sketchbooks and return to them to fill them at intervals.

River Don sketchbooks
My River Don sketchbook

So I would further break down the query:

  1. Is your sketchbook separate sheets of paper that you can tear one out without missing it?
  2. How old is the work? We always say ‘keep it’ because you will be able to see how far you have progressed. This is apt up to a certain amount of years or number of sketchbooks. When you have several years of them, you will have progressed so far that your early work might be rendered useless.
  3. Can you re-use it? In collage or working over it? Is anything worth salvaging?
  4. Do you have the physical space to keep them all?
how to use sketchbooks
One of my first ever sketchbook pages that I would happily work over and cover
how to use sketchbooks
Another early one I still like

It’s Personal

It is entirely your decision. You might be that person who needs a clearout to breathe fresh air and feel the creativity filling their lungs. On the other hand, you might be that person that finds infinite ideas within the pages of their numerous sketchbooks.

Partly it depends how brilliant you are from the very first sketchbook. I am not a natural at drawing, so there are some pages in my first sketchbook that I shall cover over. There are others I would never get rid of. There is no rule, it is your work, you do with it as you wish. Best not to make the mistake of throwing it out and wishing you had kept it though.

I would always keep photographic references if they are still applicable to my themes and ideas of work.

photographic page
Photographic references can always be a springboard for new work

I would also keep work that I still like even if I cannot think of a way to use it in my current work

working out colours
Work I like

I would also always keep colour references and ideas

colour page

Photograph it

If you are unsure but want to get rid, photograph it. You can always print it out or use it digitally. I kept this page, but also used it digitally in my work.

how to use sketchbooks
page from my ancient history series of Inspirations textile ebooks

There are lots of ways for how to use sketchbooks and to re-purpose sketchbook pages. So think before you throw away, but don’t be afraid to discard work if you have outgrown it. See more of my work on the website I am currently writing an ecourse on sketchbooks and digital sketchbooks. My favourite sketchbooks are those of Maggie Grey, some of her work can be seen here

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2021

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Wearable Art Textiles Jackets and Coats 2021

Wearable Art is my main theme for the year. This is my first blog post of the year 2021. Why on the 11th January 2021 you might well ask; truth is I forgot to do it last Monday 🙂

Wearable art is such a fun past-time and can mean so many things. For me it is about creating unique wearable items.

Yes, well it is lockdown, but I don’t see why that should mean life is at a standstill. Keeping busy is a great way to get through. So I shall use this first blog post of the year 2021 to tell you what I have been up to so far and what you can expect in 2021.

wearable art
hand stitched wearable art


It is always good to have a jolly good clearout and mine has been largely a computer one. Yes I regularly have a turf out and discover files that I had completely forgotten about. It also gives me an opportunity to find things that need completing. Remember to regularly back up your work too, you don’t want to lose it.


In this way I discovered the roses file. In fact there were three. What’s in those I thought. There is only one way to find out and that’s to open them. Then I remembered that one file was for a book on roses and I had done over 100 photos and then just forgotten about the whole thing.

So I am pleased to say that I have now cropped and sized over 500 photos and I am still going. I also created a book cover as you can see below. This kind of exercise gives me the chance to reduce the number of images I keep as large files so it has a purpose in that sense. Of course, the real object is to share the photos with you and give readers of the book the opportunity to just adore roses (they are so adorable) and to paint them or use them for textiles. Of course, it stands as a largely pictorial gardening book too.

Roses book cover
Roses Book Cover

Wearable Art

Which brings me nicely on to the next topic and what to expect in 2021. I have already created almost two wearable art quilted jackets. They are both created with patchwork, with a lot of hand stitching. The next one will be using some of my images and be more arty. So I am very excited about wearable art, stay tuned. There will be an accompanying book on Wearable Art.

wearable art
hand stitched jacket

This is a major undertaking to look at clothing and fashion throughout the ages and create wearable art, patterns and resources for style and more. I have started with the medieval period. I find period dress very fascinating. If you have a penchant for traditional dress following the link for the ebook on Tunisia.

wearable art
Traditional Dress of Tunisia

Textile Inspirations

Of course, I am still providing plenty of inspiration in my current series, working on The Egyptians, having launched Prehistoric and Mesopotamia last year.

textile inspirations
Textile Inspirations Prehistoric
Textile Inspirations
Textile Inspirations Mesopotamia

All the ebooks can be found here

Time to get back to work.

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2021.

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Celebrating my 50th ebook Textile Inspirations Prehistoric

Celebrating my 50th ebook Textile Inspirations Prehistoric. Wow. My ebooks are exactly as I would write a book in print, with full colour illustrations and attention to detail. They are intended to provide inspiration to as wide an audience as possible. As a fully qualified and experienced teacher (of too many years) I put my hands-on knowledge into my ebooks.

Textile Inspirations


Celebrating my 50th ebook Textile Inspirations Prehistoric is quite an achievement. I began this ebook in 2012, and then in 2016 I thought I was ready to launch. I did a craft fair at Creswell Crags, and the ebook went onto the back burner because I lost confidence owing to someone’s comments. Everything happens for a reason they say. When I returned to the ebook this year, I found not only a renewed spirit, but things occurred to me that had not back in 2016 or 2012.

This series is unique in providing step by step projects and is like a mini ecourse.

The ebook can be purchased on the website

One of the six projects

Just the beginning

This is the beginning of history in more ways than one. The prehistoric period is the period before anything was written down. It is a fascinating period of our history.

For me, this is the beginning of what I envisaged in 2012. A new range of ebooks exploring history through textiles. A few weeks ago someone on social media made a joke about no-one would write a book on the Sumerians. My next textile book does indeed take a very close look at the Sumerians. It too was begun in 2012, as I intended it to be the first of the series. Then I started making cave paintings and realised that prehistoric should naturally be the first in the series.

So it is, at the beginning of what we know of our history. Follow me on this journey. These are not history books, they are textiles and art books all about inspiration, ideas and resources for your own creative development.

It’s not every day that someone launches their 50th ebook. All ebooks are exclusive to the website. Please take a look.

Words, work and images copyright Karen Platt 2020