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Dragonfly

I still haven’t found the iridescent fabric I managed to tidy away, but I did find something I think turned out better in the end, and so the dragonfly for the second pouch is well underway. I stitched the body in satin stitch blocks…

…and the thorax in a sort of long and short stitch with detached chain stitch and french knot legs and clustered french knot eyes.

Then onto the wings. While looking for the iridescent fabric I had in mind, I found some purple hand dyed silk organza and an iridescent organza. I fused them with bondaweb and ended up with the perfect fabric for the wings!

I’m using it with the purple uppermost but there is still plenty of subtle sparkle. Veins in back stitch, following the lines you would find on a real dragonfly’s wings.

I have a real hankering to make some more of these sea glass watch case pendants.

But when I went looking for the watch cases I found this:

A box of clock hands I bought ages ago at a car boot sale and forgot about! I had a lovely quiet afternoon sitting on the patio sorting them all out.

Most of the really ornate ones are singletons, but there were a surprising amount of pairs and I chose a couple of simple geometric hands to turn into a pair of upcycled earrings with a bit of a steampunk vibe.

The hands are very light – probably aluminium – and those gorgeous purple art glass beads give them enough weight to hang nicely in the ear.

The earhooks and all the other metal is sterling silver and they are available here in my Etsy shop with free UK P&P.

Triskele

Slow progress on the Reeds piece for my Kew Memory Journal but still progress – remembering to move forward one stitch at a time.

But other things have been happening. A beach day on the Lincolnshire coast with my youngest before she returned to school.

Experimenting with embroidery on a cut silk cocoon…

…and a chunk of driftwood.

At the moment it looks like an embarrassed octopus but I plan to add bead, pearl and coral dangles to the ends of the ‘legs’ and stick it down close to follow the contours of the driftwood chunk. I love the black scribbly spalting on the bottom. Then, hopefully, it will become a pendant.

I found a couple of commercial pouches when I was clearing out a box and offered them to the friend I made the pouches for a few months ago.

She asked me to add embroidery to the fronts so she could use them for tarot/oracle cards. A triskele on the silver one and a dragonfly on the indigo. Triskele first with a base layer of chain stitch in lovely heavy weight variegated green perle.

Then whipped in a green/pink/copper variegated perle to give it even more weight…

…before blanket stitching it onto the front of the pouch.

I’ve drawn the dragonfly out onto some shibori dyed cotton I did at a course years ago but have stalled looking for a scrap of iridescent fabric I want to use for the wings. I was sure I knew where it was, but am having an increasingly nasty feeling that I ‘tidied it away’ during the recent deep clean of the lounge…

Firstly, the Niijima Floats piece is finished – all apart from stitching on the press studs. I had initially thought about continuing the lines of the trapunto onto the binding to try and disguise what to me had become glaring errors, but Debbie pointed out that by doing that I would lose the lovely contrast between the smooth binding and the furrows of the trapunto.

Then I found the sycamore leaf template I used for ‘It Rained’ in the Tattershall Journal and had a bit of a brainwave. I cut two leaves out of a very fine felt I made for a project that ended up not happening, stitched on veins and popped them strategically onto the binding.

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Not only do they hide the mistakes, they balance the colour pop in the top corner and remind me of the beautiful Japanese maples around the garden. It’s been a long slog, but I think this piece has finally got there!

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This gave me renewed enthusiasm to tackle the reeds again. It’s going very slowly as I put the tiniest of stitches in to attach the silver fabric, but at least it’s going and I’m starting to enjoy the process.

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And lastly, I trekked out to Cleethorpes in torrential rain on Friday to get the first batch of my upcycled jewellery into Arttopia – an amazing shop full of all sorts of art and craft by local artists.

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What with the pandemic and all sort of other issues, it’s taken a long time to get here, but I’m delighted to finally be part of this group of talented people.

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Great position right next to the till – I just hope the customers like my work enough to buy it!

Another way of working round Embroiderers’ Block I suppose, is to do something that you fancy doing, so I’ve started a third design for the Kew Memory Journal, based on English Paper Pieced patchwork.

First of all I cut a rectangle of paper slightly smaller than the page of the book and divided it into a few smaller rectangles. One needed to be big enough to be the background for a vintage 1990 Kew Gardens stamp, and I fitted the rest around it.

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I usually cut the pieces out one by one so I don’t forget what order they go in and put them back into the design when they’re covered. Taking process photos also helps in case of disaster!

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Then the pieces need stitching together. I use ladder stitch because I like my stitching to be as invisible as possible.

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Once the pieces were all stitched together I gave them a quick iron to press the edges under so they would stay when I took the papers out, and then ladder stitched round the outside edge to attach it to a piece of pale green felt.

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This stabilises the edges, gives the whole thing a bit of body as I’ve used a variety of weights of fabric including some very fine silk and means I have a firmer background to attach it to the page.

I trimmed it next and carefully back stitched the stamp in place. The pink and blue tones in the stamp don’t quite work with the greens, but I had to remind myself that this is a memory journal and the Pagoda is part of it.

The memory it holds is of having lunch in a shady grove of trees near the Pagoda and then, as it was one of those two insanely hot days last July, we sat on a seat under the bottom tier and decided it was much too warm to go up all those steps!

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I like embroider on these types of patchwork pieces as I did with my 2012 Cornwall Holiday Journal (August 2012 in the ‘Recent Posts’ part of the sidebar if you’re interested) so I’m probably going to add a branch to the top right hand corner.

I’ve also made the middle of a flower on the buttonhole rings piece. The big ring is attached with french knots, the inner one with invisible stitches to pull it down inside and the centre is filled with a few french knots.

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Now I need to decide not only on the colour of the rings that will become the petals, but also whether to keep them as circles or stretch them into petal shapes.

 

Or at least one jump ring! And there were quite a lot to undo and then replace when I took a couple of odd earrings…

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…deconstructed them…

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…and with the addition of some reclaimed chain and a load of jump rings, reconstructed them into an upcycled bib necklace.

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The gold tone sections are nice and light so even though the whole thing has quite an opulent look, it isn’t too heavy to wear. It’s available here in my Etsy shop with free UK postage and packing.

I have managed to set a few stitches too. After the mini workshop I taught on making buttonhole rings at The Stitch Zone last December I had an idea for manipulating some rings to create a four seasons piece.

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It seemed like a good way back into stitching since the Kew pieces are still proving problematic. I came across Quaker Stitch here on Mary Corbett’s Needle n’ Thread recently and was looking for an excuse to try it out.

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It’s a cross between stem and split stitch and really sits up beautifully on the line. Then I made a load of rings in various shades of blue and couched them down to form puddles or ripples.

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They don’t quite make sense until you add the rain…

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…and that’s Spring done! One stitch at a time.

In spite of having more than enough projects to be getting on with, I’ve done virtually no stitching this week. To be fair, there were three days when I was either out or doing household project jobs but I’ve struggled to stitch and it was starting to get to me. The first binding for the trapunto piece for the Kew Memory Journal I did several weeks ago was too narrow and so I had to unpick it. The second was far too thick, so that got unpicked too.

The third one was a piece of fabric patterned with Japanese parasols and I got all the way to pinning the back before I realised it wasn’t right. It’s badly uneven, the pattern was too big and so ended up lost and the colour took the eye away from the trapunto.

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I couldn’t face unpicking a third binding, so I just left it.

I did have a desultory attempt at another of the pieces I wanted to create, based on one of the Chihuly Reeds installations.

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The idea was metallic fabric over some sort of padding – originally felt but I couldn’t cut it thin enough. Then I would use alcohol inks to add the vibrant oranges and golds and the metallic would give it shine. I cut out some of the metallic pieces – most only a few millimetres wide.

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I even got as far as stitching one in place. Instead of felt behind I worked a line of chain stitch in perle along the middle of where I wanted the piece to go and then stab stitched the metallic fabric over it with fine silk thread and a beading needle.

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It’s not bad, but I don’t feel excited about it, not like I did with the trapunto.

Then it suddenly occurred to me this morning that I have Embroiderer’s Block.  Like Writer’s Block but with more needles. As I’m also a writer (check out my book details on the About page) I realised that Writer’s Block mirrors the issue I’m having with my stitching perfectly.  So now I know what it is, I can address it.

There is no magic fix to Writer’s Block. Professional writers don’t have the luxury of waiting for their muse to strike or for their ‘mojo’ to return. Basically you unblock by writing. It doesn’t matter whether it’s utter rubbish, or something better than that. You sit down and put words on paper, one after the other and, at least for me, it always works. So this afternoon I sat down with the trapunto piece, unpicked the binding and bound it a fourth time in a piece of the same silk noil as I used for the top layer.

It’s not good. The edge is uneven, the mitre in one corner somehow isn’t one (and I’m not quite sure how that happened) and the join is lumpy and obvious but it’s at least the right fabric for the job.

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But instead of keeping it on one side and waiting for the planets to align, I got back down to it. I put stitches into the fabric one after another like words onto a page and I have at least something to show for that. I’ve had some ideas about mitigating the state of the binding so I intend to work on it a bit more tomorrow and possibly the day after. Working through my Embroiderer’s Block one stitch at a time.

I seem to have had a spell where I keep finding the right pieces of jewellery to successfully upcycle and last week I managed a hat trick of embroidered pieces.

First of this batch to be upcycled was a vintage pendant mount I bought a while ago from the sales table at Guild and which has just turned up in the bottom of my sewing bag. I have a small bag of patchwork quilt trimmings which I bought a while ago from eBay and they are a great starting point for embroidered pendants like this one. I used the mount as a viewfinder to pick what I thought was the best area to embroider.

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And a few hours and a fair bit of unpicking later, I had an embroidered oval to go into the mount – with a thumb for scale!

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The kantha on the middle strip was an easy stitch, as was the lazy daisy floral section on the left, where I just followed the fabric pattern, but I had more of a problem with finding the right weight of both thread and stitch on the heavier fabric to the right. The Palestrina stitch in a teal perle was fine, but I tried various stitches in pink perle and pink stranded cotton which were just too heavy before I settled on more lazy daisy stitches in the same fine variegated silk as on the left. As the pendant had never been used it was easy to mount it into the frame using the folding metal tabs and very effective I think it looks too.

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Taking the embroidered section away from the rest of the patchwork enables you to really focus on the stitches and somehow the three completely different pieces of fabric become a harmonious whole. It’s currently available in my Etsy Shop here with free UK postage and packing.

Next to be upcycled was a lovely brass filigree brooch which seemed to be missing something in the middle. I had the very thing – a gold tone rope edged odd earring, also missing its middle. Despite probably a good forty plus year age gap, I think they go together perfectly.

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I embroidered some silk ribbon rosebuds onto a piece of silk carrier rod and gave them split stitch stems and lazy daisy leaves in fine silk thread…

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…before setting the tiny piece into the earring centre of the brooch.

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It was nice to do a variation on the blowsy ribbon roses I usually stitch and it’s now available here in the Upcycled Brooches section of my Etsy shop with free UK postage and packing.

The last of the week’s hat trick was an upcycled locket and this turned out so well I’m almost tempted to keep it. I’ve done a few lockets with rose bushes and trellises and I was keen to try some lavender. I chose a piece of my hand painted pelmet vilene which looked like a summer sky for a background…

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…and then chose some hand dyed stranded silk with a wonderful sheen for the flowers and a bluey green cotton thread which was a good match for the foliage. I’ve no idea where the green came from – I found literally one needle full in a tangle of oddments and was sweating the whole time I was stitching that I would have enough!

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The silver tone locket was a perfect setting.

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And it too, is available here in my Etsy shop with free UK postage and packing.

And a quick update – the Singer 28 is now with its new owner and she loves it. I think the lady from Number 12 would have been pleased…

I didn’t get round to replacing the Totoro bag zip in the end, I dug deep and made my first ever pair of loose curtain linings to replace the ones I discovered had rotted when I tried to wash them back in May. My mum is the curtain maker and I had always assumed that there must some sort of mystery to it. Surely it’s not just a large rectangle of fabric, hemmed and with heading tape attached? Well, yes, it is and the only mystery is how anybody would be able to sew more than one without dying of boredom as the sewing machine chugs along through miles of lining fabric. But I now have a lot less light coming through my bedroom curtains and they look and feel so much better.

I’ve also had a bit of a dabble with some Harris Tweed, another first. I fell for some oddments on eBay and had also bought some punched tweed circles in fabulous colours, planning to use them together to make some kantha pieces and possibly small kits. The trapunto Niijima Floats piece has stalled again as I can’t find the right fabric to bind it (I’ve stitched and unpicked two bindings already) and I wanted a nice quick calming stitch.

I chose a gorgeous hand dyed green shading to purple stranded silk for the stitching and I thought it would show up against the grey but it really didn’t.

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Close up it is gorgeous…

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…but from a distance that subtlety is lost. Oh well, I still like it, it’s only a sample piece and all learning is useful.

I’m going to see my middle one for the first time since December at the weekend and you may remember that she laid claim to the Singer sewing machine that I rescued from the skip back in May so I thought it was probably time I got it out of the garage and investigated properly. Having checked the registration number I believe it to be a Singer 28, made in 1937, so ten years younger than my Frister and Rossmann.

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It stitched straight out of the box – for a while – and then the bobbin thread gathered up and broke. It wasn’t running easily in the shuttle, so I referred to Google and was soon deep in blogs and sites about looking after old machines.

As a result, yet another first and one that I am even prouder of because it was mechanical and I don’t really do engineering type things. I managed to work out why the bobbin wasn’t rotating (build up of lint in the bottom of the shuttle), take it apart and clean it.

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Clean as a whistle! Then I cleaned and oiled the whole machine and finally with my husband’s help, freed up the rusted pull out section of the bobbin winding mechanism. It now sews like a dream and I did it all myself!

However, it was very interesting to compare it with my F&R and to be honest, there is no comparison. The F&R is full of little details which make using it so much nicer. I’m afraid the Singer looked and felt a bit crude by comparison. Beautiful it is – just look at that engraved head plate:

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But I wouldn’t swap what somebody once called my ‘Cleopatra handcrank’ for the world. Boosted by my success with the Singer, I then serviced the F&R like a pro. It always sews like a dream but after I’d finished, I swear it purred!

But a small amount of trapunto too. That’s because most of my stitching this week has been a mega darning session on a large rip in my favourite pair of knickers. It may be a very impressive and beautifully executed darn, but luckily for the world in general, I have no intention of sharing it!!

So the Niijima Floats piece now looks like this:

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Next I need to stitch down the image; possibly do some stitching into it, although the transfer medium is like thin plastic and tends to stretch and deform when you try to stitch through it, so I might leave it as it is – something to think about as I stitch it down  and work out how to finish it.

I’ve had quite a run of creativity with my upcycled jewellery and over the last week or so I’ve made two pairs of earrings and a bracelet.

The first pair of earrings started as an oddment of silver, possibly part of a pendant, which I bought from eBay because I loved the little fish dangling on the ends. They seemed very lonely on the end of their lengths of chain so I added some sea foam colour cats eye beads from a vintage necklace which look just like bubbles.

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Available here in my Etsy shop.

The second pair of earrings were inspired by some vintage necklace or bracelet strand separators which I found while looking for something else. I liked their rococo style but when I came to design some drops to hang from them, the holes were too close for three drops to have room to move, so I settled for a single drop of graduated haematite beads  framed with a loop of reclaimed chain.

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They are available here in my Etsy shop.

I never intended to make a bracelet. Honestly. I just went into my middle one’s old room, which I am slowly taking over for my jewellery making, to put a couple of earring drops into my box of bits for eventual upcycling.  As I did I spotted some bits of a broken vintage bracelet and suddenly the other jobs for the morning were forgotten.

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I gently curved the honeycomb drops and used them to frame one of those lovely big faux turquoise cabochons. Then two of the silver tone links and the other two cabs made up the rest of the bracelet with an Art Deco watch bracelet catch to finish it off.

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Upcycled assemblage pieces where I combine elements from lots of different fragments of broken jewellery, often take a long time to make because it takes so long to go through all my bits and find just the right ones.  However,  this one was much quicker because the components just jumped straight out at me – a very rare occurrence!

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It’s available here in my Etsy shop.

More mending this week, including replacing a zip in my little one’s beloved Totoro bag, but I hope to get on with some more of the trapunto piece as well.

As I continued to stitch the Diagonal Raised Band I became less and less sure that it was right for the piece. It’s a lovely and relatively simple stitch to work as it’s based on diagonally placed cross stitches and the lacy background is beautiful, but in spite of all its good points, it still didn’t feel right.

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It was too stiff and just didn’t reflect the soft curves of the raked gravel cradling the Niijima Floats in the Zen Garden. So I finished it off…

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…and started stitching into some silk noil. It’s difficult to see as it’s double running stitch in cream silk thread on cream silk noil but it’s supposed to be a series of parallel channels like the rake lines.

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I planned to experiment with trapunto quilting by stuffing the stitched channels with thick wool. And to my delight, even though the only wool I could find in the right thickness was green, it worked!

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Stuffing the other channels which aren’t open at both ends has been an interesting task but with the help of a stiletto I managed to get this far.

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And with the transferred picture.

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Suddenly it works. The lines of trapunto quilting even almost match up with the lines of gravel (which was a complete accident). I’ve been fighting the pulled thread work all week but when the right technique falls into place it just comes together so easily that I actively want to stitch it instead of it being a chore.

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