Not a comment about the weather, but it easily could be at the moment! Our last prompt at In The Stitch Zone was ‘Weave’ and that gave me the excuse to create and play with a pin loom. I used a little cardboard postal box which I filled with foam padding to give me a base to push the pins into. I used crewel wool in beige and yellow to do my first experimental piece. As I set the pins 0.5cm apart, and the crewel wool is very fine, it was a bit more open than I hoped, which means you can see the knots where I was joining pre-cut pieces of wool, but other than that, I think it worked out quite well.

I wanted to try it again with some thicker tapestry wool and I actually remembered to take some in progress photos this time so you can see how the loom works, with pins not only top and bottom, but also along the sides, which keeps the spacing between the warp and weft rows. Lots of knots again because I’m using pre-cut lengths from a load I bought in a charity shop which I think were probably from a kit.

This block is 9.5cm square and I managed to find a weaving needle in my workbox which made life very much easier with this sample as it was long enough to go across the whole piece in one go.

The thicker wool was a definite improvement and the denser texture meant the ends of the knots are much more difficult to see now it’s finished. I’m also hoping that I can more easily darn the ends from the weft knots along the edges.

I’m planning to use the cream piece as a background for the first one – something like this.

I’m delighted to have finished the central section of the Brantwood wallpaper motif. Last time I had successfully played red thread chicken and was thinking about using a very dark charcoal grey for the remaining stars rather than black.

I chose a lovely deep charcoal grey by HDF called ‘Night Smoke’ and have not only completed the stars, but also stitched over the red section at the base of the stalks which should have been black/grey. The grey is not quite as dark in real life as the photo suggests, but the weather isn’t really helping with good photographs at the moment.

The last section is the light grey. I’m not planning to fill in all the grey around the leaves as in the original – I can’t see that working at all – so I’m going to stitch the outline of the shape around the central motif and then satin and split stitch the stems and leaves around the edges. However, to my amazement, after having searched through all my threads, I’ve found I don’t have any pale grey silk thread at all, but I do have this lovely subtly variegated stranded cotton which is the right tone, if a little on the grey-blue rather than the grey-brown side.

I am torn though. I like the idea of the grey having the same sort of very subtle variegation as the blue, and I am also always keen to used what I already have rather than buying new. However, I love the lustre of the silk threads I’ve used throughout and I’m concerned that the cotton will look quite dull beside them. Any thoughts?

We’re currently about three-quarters of the way through the prompts for the SpringBoard Project and although I haven’t finished any more of my responses, I thought we’d have a bit of a break from the jewellery and I’d share the work in progress.

Week 4: Twist

Last time I showed my attempt at Twisted Lattice Stitch I’d only managed to work the base grid. I did started to work the twisted layer but I struggled to follow the diagram in my Mary Thomas and two strands of thread were too heavy, so I took it all out, went down to one strand and concentrated. I used a variegated darker green thread and found it interesting that the twisted/wrapped element is quite difficult to make out as distinct stitches.

What it does seem to do is to soften the grid and mask the lines. Next job is to put a twisted chain stitch border (or two) round it.

Week 5: Cut

I was a bit spoilt for choice with this prompt. I liked the ideas of reverse applique and versions of traditional and contemporary broderie anglaise but in the end I was inspired by an image I found on Pinterest of a scarf full of large circular holes which appeared to be filled with different needleweaving designs.

I had a piece of fabric I created in a batik workshop with a pattern of leaves and I thought about cutting out the leaf shapes and filling the spaces with something similar but I really liked the crackled effect of the leaves and I was loathe to destroy them. The negative space between the leaves, however, was much more suitable for cutting away. I edged the shape with blanket stitch to help minimise fraying and used the stitches as anchor points for the cream silk thread I used to criss cross the hole.

I’ve used blanket stitch over a triangle of the centre stitches to keep the threads in place and then added random blocks of needleweaving to partly fill the gaps. I enjoyed the challenge of working in an irregular space and the next step is to cut away another section and do the same with that.

Week 6: Fray

I stuck rather more to my comfort zone for this prompt with a set of frayed strips of fabric in sea, beach and sky colours, loosely stitched to the background fabric with lines of running stitch.

I wanted to add more fraying so I found a piece of heavy weight fabric and literally hacked a hole in the middle that I could fray out further with the idea of putting it over the seascape as if you were looking through a hole in a groyne.

It was a bit floppy on its own so I ended up stitching it on and round a piece of pelmet vilene, pulling pleats and folds in the fabric and stitching them in place to give the feel of weathered wood. I’m currently couching some threads down to add to the woodgrain feel and try and improve the rather untidy stitching.

And finally, Week 7: Layers.

There has been some overlap with some of the last prompts and I was able to return to the reverse applique I had fancied for Week 5. I started by laying out a series of interlocking shapes in various shades of blue felt on a piece of scrap felt and then stitched over them with running stitch lines to keep the different pieces in place. Unfortunately, I forgot to take any photographs until after I added the top layer of felt and started to back stitch wavy lines across it.

I’ve stitched the lines into leaf shapes which will then have the top layer cut away to reveal the multicoloured felt and stitching underneath. I’m really enjoying this one – it’s a nice easy stitch.

Next week is Weave. Still considering what angle I’m going to take on that one.

Just to update, I’ve finished off the two pieces of embroidered upcycled jewellery I finished stitching at the market last week and listed them in my Etsy shop. The wreath brooch has gone from this:

To this:

And is available here in my Etsy shop. The lavender locket insert was at this stage last week:

And now looks like this:

You can find it here. I’m not sure why, but my head is crammed full of upcycled jewellery ideas at the moment. The latest creative splurge was instigated by this large brass brooch which was missing most of the catch. I thought the individual elements were pretty – especially the leaves – but I felt it wasn’t particularly desirable as a whole.

So I took the saw to it. The third flower was very chunky and gummed up with solder so I scrapped that, leaving me with the following elements. The three leaves and the wrapped stem section has been put aside while I figure out what I’m going to do with it, but I already had ideas for the pair of leaves and the two roses.

The roses were easy. I shortened the stems, drilled them, added vintage mother of pearl beads to the middles and turned them into a neat little pair of earrings.

I also trimmed and drilled the stems on either side of the pair of leaves…

…before doing a bit of upcycling of my own original work. Back in 2013 I took a silversmithing course and among the many things I made was a load of impressed and hammered brass discs, which I domed and fixed over the holes in some silk cocoons to turn into pendants.

They were not a success as the brass element was so heavy, they didn’t sit right, so have been languishing in a drawer. It occurred to me that I could deconstruct one, cut the brass dome into a calyx…

…turn the silk cocoon upside down, add beaded stamens and turn it into a flower to hang below the leaves. So I did.

I’m enjoying the creativity so much – just a pity that life and teaching has to get in the way!

I know that seems to apply to most of what I stitch but this weekend I’ve been finishing up a couple of particularly small projects that have been hanging around for a while.

I spent the last two days at my first Christmas market this year, back at The Collection in Lincoln. It was a little slower than the previous times I’ve had a stall, but I wasn’t surprised, given the current economic situation. However, it did give me the opportunity to continue this ribbon embroidery I started back at the last market I did in June which is destined to fit in an unusual wreath-shaped brooch setting.

I added some daisies…

…and then finished it off with a mixture of silk thread and silk ribbon leaves. Now all I have to do is carefully cut it out and set it into the brooch setting.

Next job was to stitch some lavender onto a tiny oval of pelmet vilene to go in the centre of a vintage locket. I was properly away with the fairies when I started it and instead of drawing the shape onto the vilene so I had something to hold onto, I cut it out straight away. Hence why it’s being stitched onto a random piece of shirt fabric so I can at least handle it! The lavender is lazy daisy stitch in one strand of silk thread.

Then I added stem stitch stems and straight stitch leaves in a grey-green silk. In real life it’s about the size of my thumbnail.

Lastly, an update on October’s Move It On Project and news of November’s. Not that there’s much. Covid well and truly laid me low for a while and I’ve literally only just been able to keep up to date with the really time sensitive stuff. The cover of the collaborative book has progressed to a firmer design idea in my head, thanks to everyone who offered help and suggestions. There may be nothing to show, but trust me, I am a lot further on with it than I was at the beginning of the month. Therefore I plan to continue it into November and hopefully at least get a design down on paper, if not (yet) on fabric.

I’ve made a couple of pieces of upcycled jewellery recently that both have felt as a basis. The first is using the second of the two offcuts of hand made felt I was given by my lovely neighbour Lisa at the Artisan Market at The Collection back in June. I’ve already made the top one into a round found object mandala brooch which sold at Arttopia back in the summer.

I decided to make a barrette with the bottom one and cut it into a random curvy shape.

Next, auditioning found objects to decorate it…

…before I settled on a border of chunky vintage chain with a pressed brass motif, a larger clockwork cog and some unusual spiral wire wrapped chain links. I stitched everything down using simple straight stitches in a variegated mercerised cotton which echoes the pinks and purples in the felt.

I attached a barrette fixing to a piece of commercial felt for the backing and stitched the two layers together with a simple beaded blanket stitch and iridescent pinky-red/gold seed beads.

The second piece is a brooch and started off as a wet felted flower hair ornament which belonged to my little one when she was a lot younger. It doesn’t quite fit with the moody goth look she’s sporting at the moment and the felt itself was quite delicate so it had been pulled out of shape and was wearing very thin in places. I ironed it flat and having just processed some odd beads and a ring that all had a bit of a cogs and gears thing going on, had a bit of a play.

Next I stitched the pieces down with variegated turquoise and rust coloured thread.

And then cut the felt into the shape I wanted for the brooch, echoing the shape formed by the ‘cogs’.

Last step was to attach the felt and brooch back with beaded blanket stitch using some of my favourite iridescent turquoise seed beads. Not only is it a sturdy stitched edging but when you’re joining two pieces of fabric the beads sit nicely in the join and hide the edges.

Lastly, a thread chicken update on the Brantwood wallpaper motif. I made it: that is all I have left of the red!

I knew I had a little bit of wiggle room as I could have unpicked the red bar at the bottom of the leaves that’s supposed to be black, but I’m relieved it didn’t come to that. Next stage is the black (in fact a very dark grey called Night Smoke) stars.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, at In The Stitch Zone we’ve been working on what I’ve called the SpringBoard Project. My idea is that we all stitch something which incorporates the prompt for the week. It can be as complex or simple, obvious or tenuous as you like and therefore, hopefully accessible by anyone at any level of ability as I’m keen to encourage new people to join. I have shared some glimpses of my responses to the prompts but as I’ve completed two of them this weekend, I thought it was time for a dedicated catch up.

Week 1: Wrap

My initial idea for this was to wrap some lengths of plastic drinking straw with some scraps of fabric and then add beads and then just see where things led me. A couple of weeks ago this was as far as I’d got.

Sue, one of the ladies in the class, gave me some threads she didn’t want which were the perfect colour and that gave me the idea of wrapping the whole bundle in and out of the straws and couching them down. It would also help keep the straw sections in place.

Once I’d got this far I realised I needed a bit more space so I moved it onto a piece of furnishing fabric and a bigger hoop before I spread out and couched down the ends of the thread bundle, adding some one-wrap French knots for texture and then wrapped more beads over the ends of the loops.

I had one straw section left, so I cut it into three, wrapped each one in the rust and turquoise thread I’d been using for the couching and stitched them down with long straight stitches.

Finally I tore a strip of cloth I rusted in the summer and wrapped it with a length of perle cotton I’d used to tie the bundle up and couched it round the outside of the silk square I’d used for the background. First one finished!

Week 2: Fold

My response for this prompt was the American smocking panel I shared a couple of weeks ago. It had a lovely reception on Instagram with several people thinking it was a pastry lattice pie crust on first glance!

Week 3: Knot

My initial thought for this one was that it was an opportunity to finally get to grips with colonial knots, which I’ve been promising myself for a while but I was also quite taken with an image I found on Pinterest of layers of knotted fabric so I knotted some strips, found a random scrap of background fabric and layered them up with lines of Palestrina stitch.

I’m less happy with this sample – mainly because it’s the closest to my comfort zone. I’ve not used a new technique or given a twist to something I already knew how to do – the seaweedy curving lines are very ‘me’. However, it meets the prompt and I don’t have to love all my samples. I’ve also decided that when I find a suitable piece of fabric to mount it on I’ll have a go at a row of colonial knots or mixed colonial and French perhaps round the edge to attach it.

Week 4: Twist

This was last week’s prompt and as I spent the session struggling with what I though was a chest infection I only got this far with the base grid for Twisted Lattice Stitch from Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches. I’ve stitched it in mercerised cotton on linen so I could use the weave to keep things even but I suspect it’s a bit on the small side. (No surprise there…)  Mary Thomas shows it worked as a diamond so even though it looks rectangular it does have the right number of thread on each side – eventually…

The chest infection? After miraculously avoiding it for nearly three years (not bad given I’m a supply teacher, my husband works in two schools and my little one has been in school and college) I tested positive for Covid the next day. Week 5 of the Springboard project (‘Cut’) is postponed until a week on Monday!

Thank you very much to everyone who left ideas and comments to help me out with the cover design for the miniature book. They were all really helpful and helped me think in different directions rather then the rut I’d got into. So hopefully I should be shortly starting to put something together; any progress is better than it hanging over my head.

It’s been a busy week on the work front and as I’ve managed to find a local outlet which is interested in stocking some of my upcycled jewellery, all my spare time this week has been entirely focussed on creating a new ‘collection’ based round clock hands. I’ve been making clock hand earrings for a while now, but this was the first time I’ve looked at some of the larger and more decorative single hands in my collection and although cleaning and polishing them takes ages, it’s been a lot of fun finding beads and chains and other odds and ends from my upcycling stock to turn them into pendants and necklaces.

The Art Deco style hand at the top was gummed up with tacky gold paint which was a nightmare to try and remove. In the end I had to file it off, which made a mess of the file, but left me with a rather nice ‘brushed’ sort of texture which went well with the selection of turquoise beads. I’ve teamed the decorative vintage hand at the bottom with a haematite doughnut and you can just see a lovely figured picture jasper bead inside it, like a little planet.

This unusual hand must have come from a very large clock and certainly something that size isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I think the turquoise nuggets, the faceted pale gold cat’s eye beads and the unusual vintage chain balance it nicely.

The black plastic coating on this elaborate hand made it nice and easy to clean up and as it has a bit of a gothy vibe I decided to add some lengths of beaded chain in red and black. I love the design of this hand and I think it makes an amazing centrepiece.

This Art Deco hand was a lot easier to clean than the other one and as it was a bit larger and had the open bar at the top, I was able to add an internal dangle of a pale brown dyed mother of pearl heart.

And lastly, this hand was lovely and shiny so the more modern looking blue and white art glass bead was a perfect partner.

I’ve also made a few more pairs of earrings and fingers crossed the collection is a good fit for the venue. You can only try these things and see how they go, but at least this place is within ten minutes drive, rather than best part of an hour away!

And just to remind ourselves that this is mostly an embroidery blog, here is the current state of play on my Ruskin wallpaper motif. We have stars!

I wasn’t confident that satin stitch was the best stitch to get even coverage over the stars, but after some research I liked the look of fishbone stitch, worked separately along each arm. It gives the right sort of coverage and with a different texture which I like but it’s a challenge keeping the stitches even at this scale.

However, the next issue is going to be thread chicken. Three more stars to stitch and I may not have enough red thread…

At In The Stitch Zone last week we looked at folds. I’ve long wanted to have a go at American Smocking. My favourite aunt had a green velvet smocked cushion which fascinated me as a child. I used to poke my fingers into the pattern and try and work out how the fabric was woven – which of course, it wasn’t. I started by practising on some polycotton, which was a bit thin and limp for the pattern, but proved that it would work, before I started on a piece of hand painted velvet. Very pleased with the result, but in spite of knowing how to do it, I still don’t actually know why it works out like this – stitched witchcraft!

This month’s Move It On Project isn’t even started, but it’s been hanging over my head for a very long time. The story really starts back in November 2019, when I was doing a Christmas Fair at Gainsborough Old Hall and met Sanira, a talented print maker based in Essex. She bought one of my pendants and as I’d just started my Instagram account, she followed me and was very supportive of my work. As a result of following her on Instagram I ‘met’ a Spanish artist and printmaker who also makes books and during lockdown Sanira suggested that the three of us collaborate on a unique artists’ book. Dani would make the page block and print half of them with his wonderful miniature wood-block style medieval monsters:

Then it would go to Sanira, who would add more mythical monsters in her very different style.

Then a friend of Sanira’s who is a book binder would add the cover and endpapers:

And I would finish it off with an embroidered cover. Sanira sent me the book in the spring, when I was literally flat out with workshops, work and everything else, and so far, I have not been able to come up with a single idea for the cover. I thought about stitching another mythical beast, perhaps based on one of the ones from Shibden Hall, near Halifax but there are plenty of those inside. I thought about putting the word ‘Bestiary’ on the front but it says Mythical Creatures on the title page and even at the scale I stitch, I don’t think I would be able to fit Mythical Creatures on the front. I did wonder about a floral or foliate border based on something from a medieval psalter but given the scale I think I’m going to have to work on something like silk, otherwise it will be too bulky, and I feel like a border will need something inside.

It’s not like me to be stumped by something, but I really am, and now my lack of progress is starting to get embarrassing. Any thoughts would be very gratefully received!

I’ve had a few meetings over the last week which have borne fruit as far as the Victorian wallpaper motif is concerned. When I blogged about it a couple of weeks ago, I was a little worried about the coverage of the single strand red silk thread and wondering if two strands would work better.

As I’d worked a symmetrical section, I decided to change to two strands for the next one down and see how things went. And they went perfectly. The strands worked well together and I think the coverage is much smoother and neater. However, there is a definite difference in height between the two sections, so I’m wondering whether to restitch the three sections I’ve already done.

Especially as I checked back with the original photo – spot the not deliberate mistake!

I am definitely going to have to restitch the middle section, although I might just see if I can use the existing red stitches as padding, satin stitch over it in black and make it a slightly more raised block. Loving the way the silk shimmers in the sunlight.

At In The Stitch Zone, the class I teach on a Monday afternoon, we have just started the SpringBoard Project. The idea is that we all stitch something which incorporates the prompt for the week. It can be as complex or simple, obvious or tenuous as you like and therefore, hopefully accessible by anyone at any level of ability. We’re a week out of sync due to the Bank Holiday for the Queen’s funeral, so started last week with the first prompt, which was ‘Wrap’.

Even up to the start of the session I had no clear idea of what I was going to do. I had threads, fabric, beads and some other bits and pieces which included a section of plastic drinking straw. So I picked out some fabric in my favourite shades and started to play; literally doodling with the materials in front of me. And I ended up with this:

The bright turquoise is frayed habotai silk and I have caught it down with beads over sections of the straw.

I only had a small piece of the straw so I’m trying to use every scrap!

Loving this doodle and definitely going to carry on with it.

Lastly, as we’re at the end of yet another month (how did that happen?!) the round up for September’s Move It On Project. Not finished, but definitely moved on. I’ve learned some things, made choices and again, ended up with something that is worth continuing and finishing when the time is right.

I’ve bit the bullet with October’s Project because it’s actually something that has not yet been started. It’s not just my project, it’s a three way collaboration that started in lockdown and I’m painfully aware that I’m holding the job up, so I’m using this as a way of holding myself accountable. There will be pictures and a fuller confession to follow.

I called the felted, beaded upcycled brooch ‘Clematis’ and finished it late last night – hence the rubbish lighting in the photo. I put it on its story card and took it to the Eco Fair at the Ropewalk in Barton upon Humber today and it sold. To tell the truth I was a bit gobsmacked and am feeling strangely bereft. I was so pleased with the design but it feels like I barely had the time to get to know this piece before it headed off to a new home. Very strange emotions. I’m also wondering if I under-priced it, which I suspect I did, given the amount of work in it… Anyway, lesson learned.

After the summery clematis flower I went more autumnal with the piece of jewellery I was working on at the fair today. Our stitch group (SEATA) always has the most fabulous Sales Table at each meeting with donations from other members to be sold for the group’s funds. Other people’s stuff is always much more interesting than your own! A few months ago I bought a load of machine stitched, embroidered, layered and melted autumnal fabric leaves which I could really see being used in upcycling projects but it wasn’t until a leaf shaped stick pin turned up in a recent lot of broken jewellery…

…that things started to come together. I chose two of the leaves.

And then combined them to make a spray with the leaf at the top of the pin becoming part of the base of one of the leaves. I’ve stitched them together going over the machine stitches in a very fine thread so they are firmly attached but the join is pretty much invisible.

And of course, the other ongoing seasons-related thing in the pipeline is September’s Move It On Project which is based on the four seasons. Summer has been moved on a bit, from here:

To here, with the addition of some stem stitch stems and buttonhole ring leaves.

I’m enjoying the simplicity of these shapes and as each flower makes up relatively quickly, it’s just what I need to feel I’m making some progress in spite of the limited hours in a day.

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