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Finally I can show a project that has been ongoing since I was asked in February to create an unusual ribbon embroidery workshop for Lincolnshire Textiles (formerly Lincoln branch of the Embroiderers’ Guild). The remit was for something ‘richly textured’ but after some heavy googling and falling down Pinterest rabbit holes, I was fed up of looking at flowers, lovely though some of them were, and completely lacking in inspiration. It wasn’t until I was working on one of my sea themed upcycled pendants a few weeks later that a germ of an underwater idea took root.

I did some doodling with some oddments of silk ribbon just to see what was possible. French knots are definitely textured but quite greedy on ribbon. However, I liked the idea of ruching up ribbon on the surface using French knots – perhaps working them in thread rather than ribbon.

The loose twisted ribbon stitches for the tentacles of the anemone worked well from the start, although I was less pleased with the satin stitch body.

What I had taken away from this doodling was that an underwater themed piece would definitely work. The anemone was a definite, if I could create a smoother body and I wanted to use the ruched ribbon for brain coral. Doodling take two. On the right, a shorter satin stitch body. Still not right as the ribbon gathers as it goes through the fabric, leaving rough top and bottom edges. On the left, an idea for surface couching inspired by something I saw on someone’s Instagram of a section of a Jenny Adin-Christie kit. I’ve no idea how the effect was worked, but it was a wide flat thread of some type folded in a zig zag pattern and after a bit of trial and error, I managed to get the ribbon to behave and couched it down to produce the smooth edges I was looking for as well as giving an interesting textured effect.

Time to finally draw the design and use the anemone body I’d just trialled to make a prototype.

Some feather stitch and threaded chain stitch seaweed gave the design a bit of balance and added more textural interest. This was enough to give me a finalised design which I finished stitching this week.

That’s the easy bit – instructions complete with diagrams next! Good job the workshop isn’t until September…

At the end of my two days at the Artisan Market at The Collection two weeks ago, my lovely neighbour, Lisa, gave me a couple of pieces of hand made felt she had left over from some wet felted vessels, in case I could do anything with them.

I certainly could! I decided to cut the pink piece into a front and back for a mandala brooch and the larger more orangey piece into an abstract shape for a barrette.

I used a variety of oddments for the mandala brooch, starting with a vintage bead cap and bead in the centre of a brass connector from a broken necklace. I added a second round with some more vintage bead caps, seed beads and some little springs which I salvaged from broken earhooks.

I did wonder whether to add a further round but I wanted to show off the felt rather than obscure it, so I stopped there and joined the front to the back (adding a circle of pelmet vilene inside for strength) with a simple beaded blanket stitch.

I’ve not had chance to do anything further with the barrette but I’m thinking of doing couching with some decorative chains… Another fun collaboration and I have a decent sized scrap left over which I can use for other things and some trimmings which I’ll wet felt into some dreadlocks. Nothing goes to waste.

I stitched the ring of leaves for another cauliflower in the block of three I’m planning for the stumpwork garden and while I was doing that I decided to take the French knots out of the one I’d already done. They were not only too white, but more importantly, too flat and even. I need to find a more suitable weight thread to stitch them back in.

And as you can see from the bottom left hand corner of the photo above, I’ve started fuzzing up my carrot tops.

It takes quite a while to carefully undo the twist of the coton a broder threads, so I’ll be saving that job for the next long committee meeting!

I have to confess that I’ve not actually done anything with June’s Move It On Project yet. I know that it’s all to do with my reluctance to attempt the drawn threads, but I’ve also had a lot of other projects claiming my time so far this month. Chief among them has been my stumpwork garden. Last seen, I’d got this far:

The next vegetables to be added were the cauliflowers and this is where the larger scale of my second garden proved problematic. The cauliflower leaves are created with cast-on stitch and in the original, the caulis were small enough that the width of the cast-on stitch leaves were in proportion to the French knot centres. However, in spite of working the cast on stitch in the heaviest perle I had, the leaves for these look much less luxuriant and if anything, a bit mean. I’m also not happy with the very white looking thread I used for the French knots, so I’ve not stitched any more of the three I had planned to do while I work out if I can be bothered to take out those knots and re-stitch the centre again!

While I decide whether to unpick or not, I started the rather more straightforward carrots. These consist of a loose double wrapped French knot and then several loops of green thread worked over a cordonnet stick, as shown here when I was working them last year.

The loops are caught at the back with a couple of little stitches every two or three loops and then snipped to form the ferny foliage.

It’s easier to make all the loops first and then snip them but I got impatient and snipped my first row. So now I’m having to try and stitch the second row of loops while trying not to catch the loose ends from the first row…

I’ve also discovered, thanks to my ladies at In The Stitch Zone that if you run the needle through the strands that make up each thread, it fuzzes up beautifully and looks even more like carrot tops. But I am resisting doing that until they are all stitched!

This week has been a mad rush after our holiday, getting ready for a two day Artisan Market at The Collection in Lincoln this weekend, so there has been very little stitching and no movement on any of my projects.

Instead, I spent the week making earrings, brooches, Magpie Packs and necklaces, which are the only things in that list I managed to remember to photograph!

All the rushing to get everything together was well and truly worth it though. I was very happy with how the stall looked (I’m getting a bit of a standard set up now!).

In terms of sales I had a very successful weekend and generally it was a lovely market with a (mostly) fantastic atmosphere among the stallholders and the staff of the Collection, who were always available, cheerful, helpful and nothing was too much trouble. Although due to the sun pouring through the glass roof above me it was extremely warm, that was a small price to pay for such a good, brightly lit spot – so important when selling small stuff like jewellery.

I also managed some stitching in between the selling . I’ve been planning to stitch some tiny ribbon roses on dark blue silk carrier rod to set into these vintage marcasite clip on earrings.

Choosing the right colour ribbon took nearly as long as the stitching but now I can move onto doing the setting.

I also finished the stems…

…and started the ribbon embroidery flowers for a wreath brooch I’m upcycling.

I was lucky enough to have Lisa Tank, a talented abstract artist, as my neighbour for the weekend. I was very taken with some of her cards which had been made with sections from larger works and on the Sunday I bought some and promptly deconstructed one to add some abstract doodle stitching in stem stitch.

It’s textured watercolour on lovely thick paper and was a dream to stitch into.

A lovely artists’ collaboration to round off a lovely weekend.

Well, the lonely courgette now has some friends and as they are almost big enough to be called marrows, I left the flowers off.

I used the same interfacing backed painted cotton for the leaves as I did for the original stumpwork garden and the same method, which has scaled up very satisfactorily.

Next, I added big blowsy cabbages in a 1cm wide bluey-green silk ribbon. I made sure I worked the woven spider’s web stitches nice and loosely and let the ribbon twist and bend to give a more natural look to the leaves.

Lastly, a patch of radishes. As this garden is about three times the size of the original I needed to enlarge the original tiny line of detached chain stitch pairs. This time I gave the radishes at least four leaves each and increased the weight of the leaves by using a thicker thread and nesting one detached chain stitch inside another. I gave each one a little pink base to the leaf stalk to hint at the crunchy pink radish growing just under the surface.

To give an idea of how much bigger I’m working, here is the garden so far side by side with the original version. The hoop is 6 inches in diameter – this is practically enormous for me!

As it’s the end of the month, time for the update on May’s Move It On Project. Unfortunately I didn’t get as far as I had hoped with the Casalguidi work, although for a nice reason this time. Last week was half term, so we’ve had a lovely family holiday in Northumberland and all the stitching I did was to go in my holiday journal. But the overcast trailing is finished and more importantly, I have a book I can use for the flowers when I pick it up again.

June’s Move It On project is well out of my comfort zone. I’ve seen and admired a lot of Ruskin Lace during our holidays in the Lake District and for our holiday in 2015 I created a very ambitious altered book/holiday journal which I still haven’t finished! One of the things I wanted to stitch for it was a Ruskin lace sample.

I bought myself a Ruskin Lace book but after reading the first chapter, I bottled out big time. I hate the thought of cutting, withdrawing and weaving threads back into a piece of stitching and these are core skills for this type of embroidery. But I also hate the thought that it’s getting the better of me and recently managed to get as far as hemming a piece of linen following the instructions in the book before I gave up again. I’m determined to move the 2015 journal on and I’m hoping that once I’ve got my head round the cutting threads bit, the needlelace element should be more enjoyable.

This is where I am at the moment, cutting threads to form an internal border.

I’m using some of the linen I usually use for pulled thread work and am a bit worried that it’s going to be too open, but that’s what the Move It On Project is designed for. If it works, then that’s great – if it doesn’t, I’ll have learned useful lessons. Fingers crossed.

Gaslight

More teaching this week and we’re now into show week for Scunthorpe Little Theatre Club‘s long awaited production of ‘Gaslight

It was first cast back in January 2020 which seems a very long time ago. I’m doing the props for this one which mostly involves dressing the set to look like a dark, gloomy, overstuffed Victorian parlour and I’m glad to finally get all the bits and pieces I’ve been accumulating for it out of the house.

I also made several local charity shops very happy by taking a large number of huge, old fashioned and frankly unsaleable pictures off their hands!

It’s been quite a challenge to find Victorian looking bits and pieces. My choice of décor is almost exclusively mid-century, so I’ve been very limited in what I’ve been able to source from home and our show budget only runs to charity shops, not antiques centres.

I’ve done my best but I’m hoping that the ten yard rule most definitely applies.

While I was waiting for the set to go up I managed to get a little further on with May’s Move It On Project, the Casalguidi work. From here:

to here:

Thankfully I’ve nearly finished the overcast trailing now and I can get onto the flowers.

I also got stuck into all those French knots and have finished the In The Stitch Zone Stumpwork Garden Workshop garden path, all apart from some little white or lilac French knots to suggest flower heads on the low growing plants and some taller weeds around the edges.

Note the lone raised stem band courgette on the left. It needs some friends, leaves and stems by Monday!

Too many days supply teaching this week and coming back shattered in the evenings has meant minimal stitching but I have made a little bit of progress with the Casalguidi work. I’ve planned out where the meandering stem is going to fill the rest of the square, pinned it in place instead of just making my mind up as I go along and done a bit more of the trailing overcast stitch.

Last week this was my starting position:

This week I’ve got as far as here.

However, I have had a real stroke of luck with the instructions for the needlelace flowers. After a fair amount of fruitless Googling I decided to use an image search instead in the hope that a picture of what I wanted to stitch might link to something helpful. And it did! I’d only gone through about half a dozen images before I landed on a blog. The writer hadn’t given any instructions on how to construct the flower in her photos but she had posted a photograph of the cover of the book from which she had taken the instructions. Hang on a minute… I recognise that book! A minute or so later I was pulling my copy of ‘Embroidery Techniques Using Space-Dyed Threads’ by Via Laurie, published by Search Press, off the bookshelf. I couldn’t believe I actually owned the book she had recommended!! So once the trailing is done, I can get straight onto the flower.

We started the first session of the Stumpwork Garden at the Stitch Zone last week with the garden path and I decided to make this one rather larger than the tiny original, with satin stitch slabs set in French knot gravel with patches of moss.

I’m happy with the texture and colour of the variegated 21st Century Yarns stranded cotton but am now regretting my choice to surround my slabs with gravel!

This month’s Move It on Project is a sample I started at a Casalguidi workshop for what was then Scunthorpe branch of the Embroiderers’ Guild back in May 2017. We ordered one of the Guild’s folios on the subject to have a look at some examples…

…and then started on our own samples which we could use to make the front of a little pouch or lavender bag. All traditional Casalguidi embroidery is worked on top of a background of four-sided stitch and that was my starting point. I have a bit of a mental block where this stitch is concerned. I have to really concentrate to work it with the stitches in the same order because if you don’t the stitches lay differently. But I persevered and from this, which is all I managed to stitch in the workshop:

…by the following August, eleven months later (!) I had finally managed to complete the background panel. Now time for the more interesting part of the design.

But in the end it took until April 2019 before I got round to adding some stem stitch bands.

Then I started the trailing overcast stitch, working over a bundle of stranded threads and simply meandering across the panel.

To say it’s effectively a very narrow padded satin stitch, it’s surprisingly difficult to keep neat and even.

So that’s where I am at the start of this month. I plan to finish the overcast trailing, add some needlewoven bars and picots for leaves and smaller flowers and perhaps make one of the big statement needlelace flowers if I can find some instructions. A quick look for online Casalguidi tutorials seems to mainly focus on the big raised stem stitch bands so that might be a bit more of a challenge.

First of all, Happy 11th Birthday to this blog, which I actually began on May Bank Holiday Monday, the 2nd of May in 2011. It wouldn’t be a birthday without a cake, so please have a calorie free virtual piece of this strawberry pavlova on me!

Things have been very busy as usual, and with three workshops and two days teaching in the last nine days and with all the workshops needing samples and instructions I’ve been working flat out.

Tomorrow I’m teaching my Kamal Kadai workshop to Selby Textile Art Group. It’s a technique I’ve taught at least twice before and so I already had a folder containing all my samples etc. I thought I’d just stitch another piece with smaller unbeaded Kamal Kadai flowers to add to the samples…

…and I’d tidy up the instructions and do some templates for stitching the variant through four-hole buttons. Not a lot to do. Famous last words…

Good job I got the folder out in plenty of time. For a start, my button variant samples were nowhere to be found and even though I’ve turned every workshop folder inside out and emptied the box and cupboard they live in, still no sign. So here are my two new, frantically stitched button variants of Kamal Kadai.

I’m particularly pleased with the red one as I’ve added a smaller button decoratively stitched over the larger one.

Also, now I have more experience of leading workshops, the samples I was so pleased with three years ago, just looked untidy, so I ended up re-mounting them all. It took ages to do them properly but it does look a lot better.

Just one more button piece to mount and then I’m ready for tomorrow.

Next, the final update on April’s Move It On Project, the Newgrange stone. I found a good reference picture of the spirals to work from but unfortunately because of all the workshop preparation I just didn’t have the time to do anything else to it. However, I am pleased that I got the silk attached with the needle-turn applique and now it (hopefully) should be a relatively quick finish.

May’s Move It On Project was started in June 2017 and to my surprise, I’ve only blogged about once, in reference to the Embroiderers’ Guild workshop in which I started it, when it looked like this:

It has developed quite a bit further but May will be the time to see if I can move it on properly.

Our first workshop of the Summer Session at In The Stitch Zone is looking at Composite Stitches and after some research, I chose four as a starting point. It’s also been sunny and warm enough to work in the garden and I was delighted to be back in my outdoor office to start stitching my samples.

First was what I’m calling Blossom Stitch, which is a pretty combination of feather stitch and detached chain stitch.

I used perle and stranded cotton for the feather stitch and all six strands of stranded cotton for the detached chain stitch flowers. I separated all the strands out and then recombined them to give a fluffy, blowsy effect to the flowers.

Next was Blanket Stitched Chain stitch, the first of two chain stitch variations I found on Mary Corbet’s Needle ‘n Thread blog. It’s simply two close rows of chain stitch which then have blanket stitch worked into them but it creates an interesting heavy line stitch, especially when the blanket stitch is worked in the same thread as the chains, as in the middle example.

The second Mary Corbet stitch was Scalloped Buttonholed Chain Stitch. This time the blanket or buttonhole stitches are worked into the outside loop of each chain, rather than across them, which makes for a pretty edging, especially when you buttonhole both sides of the chain.

I tried out some different weights of thread both for the foundation and chain and the buttonholing. Perle on the left and stranded cotton on the right but I think I prefer the finer mercerised cotton in the middle.

The last sample is what I’m calling Peacock Feather Stitch which I think I found on Pinterest. It’s constructed from two nested detached chain stitches with a French knot inside the inner one and straight stitches around the edges.

As they are all tiny samples I’ve mounted them onto a larger piece of card so they can be handled more easily.

April’s Move It On Project is coming along nicely. I bit the bullet and got stuck into the needle turn applique this week. Most of it went pretty well but I just couldn’t get the the final section (top right) to lay as flat as the rest. I’m hoping that once I start to stitch into it, it won’t be noticeable.

Just the spirals to stitch into the stone now, and with the end of the month hurtling closer, I need to think about what to pick for May’s Move It On Project.

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