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Apologies – March has been mad. Between trying to shake illness and most of my workshops and courses all coming at once, things have been crazy. So, to catch up!

The found objects plastic rings piece I blogged about back in February, came together like a dream. I wanted to use it as a sample piece for a Found Objects Workshop I taught at Hull Embroiderers’ Guild at the end of March. (There is a lovely post about the workshop on their Facebook page.) It was a lot of fun trying out different ways of attaching the rings, including lazy daisy stitch, sheaf stitch and chain stitch.

I finished it as a quiltlet, with a border of strip patchwork, which makes it nice and robust to handle.

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Love the indigo dyed back.

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I also taught a Beaded Oglala Stitch workshop with Brigg Allsorts (a local stitching group) the same week, so after having made a sampler of variants of the stitch…

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…I started another found objects piece I could use with both workshops as it combined Beaded Oglala with found objects. It worked surprisingly well as a method of attaching the vintage key and I’m very pleased with the effect.

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I had a fabulous time teaching the workshop with the ladies in Hull and they produced some lovely work.

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We also had a fantastic workshop ourselves at Scunthorpe Embroiderers’ Guild in February, doing Print to Stitch with Jan Dowson.

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Jan had made us some great kits with paisley shaped printing blocks in them as a main focus…

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…but I had a couple of my own stamps that I wanted to use as well. Medieval tile first.

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Then the paisley. We used acrylic paints and instead of rollering it onto the block, I dabbed random areas of paint to get a mottled effect.

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Jan had also put some pieces of compressed foam into the kits. You can cut them with scissors into any shape and then drop them into water to get a sponge printing block, which is how I got  the over-printed tear drop shapes inside the paisleys.

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Lastly I had a shell stamp from home to play with.

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I love the look of the paint on the stamps…

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…and on the palettes.

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Once we had our printed fabric…

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…time to stitch. The border of the paisleys was a perfect place for Pekinese Stitch. Rayon back stitch for a bit of shine, interlaced with all six strands of a variegated stranded cotton thread.

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I will try harder on here, honestly! It’s all Susan from Stitchery Stories‘ fault – she recommended I got myself onto Instagram and I have been properly sucked in. It is so much quicker when you are busy – or lazy!!

That’s just my Kamal Kadai work! I did wonder a few weeks ago what would happen if I used a very tight tension on the needle weaving bit of the Kamal Kadai work and since I had a partly worked piece from the workshop, I decided to find out. This is what it looks like when you ensure the weaving isn’t pulled tight:

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And this is how it turns out when you pull each row up tightly:

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French knot middle in rayon thread. It’s the perfect colour, but behaved appallingly. I really hate rayon thread!

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I’ve also started a piece incorporating found objects – plastic rings of varying materials and ages – and fragments of fabric on a hand dyed indigo background.

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Exploring different ways of attaching the rings.

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It’s exercising my ingenuity and very gently pushing at the edges of my colour comfort zone. I still couldn’t bring myself to use a riot of every colour in the scrap bag but it isn’t just blues and aquas!

A silver Victorian brooch arrived as part of a job lot of jewellery I bought online last week. It was perfect – apart from the central dome, which was badly dented and damaged. I gently tried to smooth it out with a doming tool but the metal was too far gone and I ended up resorting to carefully removing it with a jeweller’s saw.

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After some filing and finishing this left me with a tempting little space to fill and I was soon stitching a minute silk ribbon rose onto some ironed out silk carrier rod.

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The completed rose (with a french knot cluster in the centre and lazy daisy leaves round the outside)  is about 6mm in diameter.

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The brooch is only an inch in diameter but the rose makes it look huge!

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The completed ‘Blush Rose’ brooch is in my Etsy shop here.

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I’ve also started work on another embroidered locket piece – this time a little larger but not much!! My idea for this one was a climbing rose on a trellis. Trellis first. This locket was a bit distressed inside so I lined it with some more of the silk carrier rod which you can see through the hole in the front.

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Next I started on the stems of the rose and because I couldn’t resist, have already put in some vivid scarlet roses (french knots of course) in a shade of hand dyed silk called ‘Tart’s Knickers’!!!

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The colours have turned out a bit dodgy on this photo in spite of going outside to make use of a rare bit of February sun!

If you follow me on Instagram you will also have seen the cushion cover which I made this week…

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… a good antidote to working in miniature! The crewel work embroidery is not mine but came from a ubiquitous suitcase of embroidered household linens which friends recently cleared from the house of an elderly relative.

The embroidery on this piece was finished but it hadn’t been made up into anything so there had been no wear or light damage to the linen and I was asked to make it up into a cushion cover, which having had a well-earned rest from the sewing machine and panto costumes, I was finally ready to do.

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I found some fantastic toning batiks to edge the front and create the back. That pop of turquoise makes the soft green of my beloved suite look completely washed out!

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It’s good to think that all the hard work put in by whoever stitched the original embroidery will finally be on show and admired after probably at least half a century.

I’ve always kept a folder on my computer of images of things that I’ve come across on blogs and other lovely places across the internet that have piqued my interest. My own private Pinterest, I suppose. As the lovely group of ladies at Brigg Allsorts, (I taught a felted spiral brooches workshop there last September), have asked me to work with them on a regular basis, it is proving a treasure trove of ideas for things to teach.

My first workshop of 2019 with them was earlier in the month and from a selection of my treasure trove ideas they chose Kamal Kadai work. This is a type of needle weaving, sometimes beaded, which I believe originates in India and it was a real pleasure after the intensity of panto costume to get down to some sample pieces.

My first sample was a piece of beaded Kamal Kadai. My first attempt at guidelines was based on four diamonds which meet in the middle.  I also drew my lines by eye, but measuring accurately would help improve the result!

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The beads are added during the initial phase when the warp threads are being laid down. I found the single stranded thread such as perle and coton a broder worked best for this.

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Then, one section at a time, you fill the diamonds with needle weaving. Once you reach the first pair of beads you stop weaving on those warp threads and carry on on the ones left until you reach the final three threads.  It’s quite a challenge to get it even!

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I also found some examples of Kamal Kadai worked over buttons which I was keen to experiment with. I used the button as the basis for the guidelines.

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First with five threads per section:

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They look quite attractive even before you add the needle weaving.

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Then seven threads:

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And completed in the centre.

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It was a nice quiet relatively easy post-Christmas and New Year stitching workshop.

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The actual basics are relatively simple – straight stitches for the warp and then needle weaving, but as with a lot of fundamentally straightforward stitching, it’s the care and precision of working that gives the best results and we certainly had some lovely work from the group. I’ve added Kamal Kadai work to my range of workshops, so if you are interested please see the workshops page for further details and contact me (details in the side bar) for prices and further information.

After being extremely careful to keep the tension even on all my samples, I did wonder what would happen if I pulled the weaving up tight on each row. This is definitely something to explore.

To paraphrase Sir Steve Redgrave, the British rower,  “Anybody who sees me volunteer to costume a pantomime again has my permission to shoot me!”

You would have thought that after the last minute dash to get two World War 1 era evening dresses made for Blackadder Goes Forth in October that I would have had more sense, but no. No sooner had the curtain gone down on Blackadder then I was straight into costuming Scunthorpe Little Theatre Club‘s 2019 pantomime, Dick Whittington.

I did think I was on top of it nice and early, but I had stalls at a couple of Christmas fairs/markets which meant I needed to keep making stock…

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…and our Christmas challenge for Scunthorpe Embroiderers’ Guild which was to make a Christmas themed brooch to fit in a box we were given in September (silk thread and sparkly blending filament crocheted into a snowflake shape and beaded) …

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…the Christmas meeting which was making temari balls with Hazel…

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(my attempt has got no further than this, but I did learn that rayon thread, however shiny and pretty, is a very, very bad thing with which to wrap your temari ball)…

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…and of course, all the extra work that Christmas causes meant that I had very little down time over Christmas. Although I had been working on the costume since October, starting on New Year’s Day I sewed, altered, mended and generally worked like something demented for eight days straight. There are some odd photos of my labours but most have been taken as afterthoughts very late at night so apologies for the randomness and poor quality!

As the dame (Sarah the Cook) was a big lad at 6′ 3″ and build accordingly, most of our stock didn’t fit him so I ended up making a lot of it, starting with a baking themed skirt to go with an existing floral top. The skirt was plain cream and I made some felt gingerbread men and cup cakes to go around the hem.  They are roughly A4 size so they really stand out on stage.

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The sequins caught the stage lights beautifully.

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Then there was an existing red and green skirt but the top didn’t fit, so I remade that using the bodice pattern from the dress pattern I planned to use later. Have to remember to add the length to the sleeves for taller men.

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As it was for the scene where the dame serves in the shop, I added a rosette of medieval silver pennies and tickets to the matching mob cap.

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The main dress was for the ship/shipwreck part of the story and had to be made from scratch. I used a commercial broadly 18th century dress pattern which had a very full skirt to go over the traditional dame’s hoop and was open down the back – ideal for a Velcro fastening and quick changes. I uncovered some ‘Finding Nemo’ fabric in our club store which was ideal and used it for the sleeves and back of the skirt.

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The bodice and front were in two types of toning blue fabric (trying to use up what we had and not buy any more) but I broke up the bodice with a triangle of the Nemo fabric with extra fish added in the spaces and then created a set of felt signal flags to go across the skirt. They actually spell out something and no, it isn’t rude, although I was sorely tempted!

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It was worn with a ‘Kiss Me Quick’ hat before the storm and a very cute octopus (here modelling a miniature prototype bycocket hat for Dick) …

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…who was attached to a head band with crocheted seaweed for after the shipwreck!

We splashed out and bought a sparkly silver and blue walk down costume but when the headdress I had found in stock didn’t fit, I ended up the morning before opening night making a steeple hennin from very stiff lampshade fabric, more Finding Nemo fabric and the floaty veil from the original headdress. I am not ashamed at this point to confess that I used more glue than stitch!

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Instead of a good fairy we had Neptune, but the director didn’t want an old man in a toga, so I ended up designing a more military costume. The basic garment was a tunic created from some fabric that looked watery and amazing but as the crescent moon pattern was created from  a layer of loose threads between two layers of organza it was a nightmare to stitch and I ended up fully lining it with some left over fabric from one of the Blackadder dresses.

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It was worn with scale patterned leggings, tribal style tattoo sleeves with some amazing fantasy style leather armour on one arm, a scrim sash to look like a fishing net and a faux leather apron belt which was a cross between Greek and Roman and based on one worn by a character from a computer game! I had an interesting time cutting it out by eye, hand stitching it to look like separate pieces of leather and then making a medieval ring belt to go over the top.

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I wish I had some photos of the full ensemble. :o(

I also made bycocket hats for Dick…

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…an extravagant turban for the Sultana of Bungahie…

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…based on a 1970s turban hat and dressed up with oddments of pleated metallic gold and blue fabric stitched over the top.

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And a proper chaperon for Captain Cuttlefish to wear in the walk down. I made it as per the real thing, so it can be worn as a caped hood with a liripipe (long tail)…

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…or turned…

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…and worn with the head through the face hole and the cape and liripipe hanging down on either side.

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Another one that I had to cut without a pattern following an image on the internet, but I am delighted with the effect.

The show went very well and the costumes were much admired. Now all I have to do is to wash them all, and put them all away in the right boxes. Fourteen characters with between one and four costumes, each made up from a number of different elements… I might possibly be back before Easter!

 

 

I just had a couple of items to finish off for the Craft Fair at Gainsborough Old Hall on Sunday, one of which was another embroidered locket. I started off with some silk carrier rod, variegated soft silk thread and french knots and lazy daisies.

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The french knots reminded me of the spires of goldenrod that ran riot in the garden of our old house.

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Lazy daisy leaves in buttonhole twist silk. The twist has a wonderful lustre and always makes me think of the mice in ‘The Tailor of Gloucester’ – no more twist!

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I had plenty enough fortunately and after adding stems and leaves to the goldenrod, the little panel was added to the locket.

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Creating these little embroidered panels to upcycle lockets is one of my favourite things to do and a perfect use for my silk carrier rods. This trio were much admired at the Fair, (although I do wish people would look with their eyes, not their fingers!!) but sadly, only the snowflakes locket sold so the other two are back in my Etsy shop.

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I had a good day and learned a lot, including the need to bring a shawl (we were in Victorian dress and the Old Hall is seriously chilly!) and lights for my stall. It was very gloomy and that’s not helpful when people are trying to look at small piece of jewellery.

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But it was lovely to chat to people about my jewellery. I was quite surprised how many people were actively interested in the upcycling aspect and as well as the sales, I also made contact with a WI who are interested in having me as a speaker and someone local who has suggested another possible craft fair. All good!

I was delighted to get a stall for this Sunday at Gainsborough Old Hall Christmas Fair.

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It’s a big new thing for me but I am looking forward to chatting to people about my upcycled and hand made jewellery and hopefully selling some!

Stall signageSo this week it will be a mad rush to get everything organised and to finish off some pieces of jewellery that have been put to one side for various reasons, one of those being my snowy stitching.  One of our local churches has a Festival of Trees organised by the Rotary Club every Christmas. Organisations in the town and surrounding area put together Christmas trees decorated in such a way as to reflect their organisation as well as being Christmassy. This year is the first year that Scunthorpe Embroiderers’ Guild has had a tree and in September, Ruth, our chair, gave us all a plastic hoop with the simple instruction to stitch something suitable. I went for a mixture of blue and white fabrics and a snow/snowflakes theme.

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The big snowflake is crocheted in coton a broder and stitched down with lazy daisy stitches at the points to finish it off.

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The commercial embroidered silk got a bit of a make over with back stitch outlining and french knot snow.

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Then I had fun with stitch combinations to create snowflakes. Mostly fly stitch and straight stitches.

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A seeding of smaller snowflakes in straight stitch and french knots on a metallic fabric.

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And finished with a couched down border of a fancy white thread.

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It all ended up being a bit last minute as usual, so I don’t have any photos of the finished. neatened version but I really like the way it turned out in the end and looking forward to seeing it on the tree next month. Back to the fair prep for me now!