We finished the last round of our Travelling Books at Embroiderers’ Guild in July and despite some people’s misgivings at the start, most people thoroughly enjoyed the process and we’re planning to continue in September. For my last book, the prompt was just something very colourful, so I decided to return to the roots of my renewed interest in textiles – crazy patchwork.

I chose fabrics in tones of red, orange, gold and green including sari fabric, African batiks and sunprinted cottons and got patching. I always use raw edged pieces and feather stitch for the seams.

Travelling crazy patchwork 1

It was lovely choosing brightly coloured thread for the seams and then as I worked, planning what I was going to do in the patches.

Travelling crazy patchwork 2

Had a lot of fun surrounding this bird’s french knot spots with lazy daisy stitches.

Travelling crazy patchwork 3

He’s a bird in a field of Brussels sprouts!

I came back from holiday with this:

Box update 1And now have this:

Box update 2

It’s still not even as big as the palm of my hand <sigh> but one huge advantage is that it’s really easy to work. Select a length of thread, work french knots and eyelets until it’s finished and repeat. Great to take out and about, even if it is slightly on the large size to work in the hand.

Box update 3

The only downside of working out and about is people asking me what I’m doing. It seems perfectly reasonable to me to create a piece of densely encrusted embroidery to replace lost veneer on a box lid. it seems I’m the only one who thinks so…

As well as getting the journal made, I also wanted to create a piece of completely off the wall Steampunk themed assemblage jewellery for the wedding. Originally it was going to be a stick pin for my husband’s outfit, but as it grew I found all sorts of excuses for me to wear it instead!

My starting point was a stickpin with a Haig Fund poppy middle but nothing else around it. I added a turned and stained antique bone disc from a partial broken 19th century Victorian chess set – probably made in India. By simply filing the hole in the middle of the disc to make it larger and filing down the black plastic centre to make it smaller, I got them to fit together without needing any glue.

Assemblage brooch 1

On my trawl through my boxes of bits and pieces I had picked out various items to add to the brooch. First was this little antique glass test tube which was being used to store tiny brass screws. I replaced the screws with tiny nuggets of sea glass in greens, oranges and red, mostly from Seaham beach and also a wonderful sharks tooth sent to me by Jody some while ago.

Assemblage brooch 2

A tiny magnifying glass from a cracker I had as a child and the metal end of a miniature light bulb came together to make the start of a quizzing glass.

Assemblage brooch 3

Next, a random section of brass something, which I superglued to the back of the bone disc. The articulated section follows the curve perfectly and I now had my eye on the loops at the end of the brass cylinders for hanging things from. I also found the iridescent globe, remains of a broken single earring, which fitted perfectly into the centre.

Assemblage brooch 4

Once I had the loop section, everything just fell perfectly into place. First I selected a long brass chain to enable me to use my tiny quizzing glass

Assemblage brooch 5

…and a hoop earring just about the right size to give it a border.

Assemblage brooch 6

The test tube had a very old red leather strap with some sort of metal attachment wrapped around the top, holding a large hanging loop behind. I slid a jump ring through the metal bit and added a faux coin and a little pendant set with a cluster of tumbled green stone chips to match the green milk glass in the test tube.

Assemblage brooch 7

Assemblage brooch 8

There had to be a key somewhere. This one has been washed with brown alcohol ink to knock back the silveriness and to the brass link chain I added a couple of random pendants and a headpinned bead from my stash.

Assemblage brooch 9

Once the additions had been chosen, the actual work of wiring them all together was remarkably quick.

Assemblage brooch 10

And in all, start to finish, I think the whole thing took about 3 hours, including the time spent sourcing the components and rushing out to photograph the various stages!

Assemblage brooch 11

It sat happily in my lapel and the quizzing glass chain was the right length to reach my jacket pocket. Back to sewing soon!

This started with another full day workshop at our Embroiderers’ Guild branch: Brown Paper Embellishment with Fran Holmes. I didn’t have any brown paper but reasoned that an odd piece of vintage sheet music would work as well. So we had a lovely session scrunching and adding crayon, more scrunching, more crayon, then layering our paper with flowers etc. (I used simple leaf shapes cut from silk) Mistyfuse, chiffon and interfacing on the back. Then we ironed transfoil onto the front which caught in random places depending on how much Mistyfuse was still sticky through the chiffon.

Fused paper fabric transfoil

After all that, I ended up with this:

Fused paper fabric 1

Fran showed us how to further embellish the pieces with machine stitch, but I went for hand stitching and some seed stitches on the bottom piece with my favourite variegated Madeira thread.

Fused paper fabric 2

This was the starting point for a steampunk journal I’ve been planning to make ever since we were invited to a friend’s steampunk themed wedding. As the wedding was yesterday (and FABULOUS!) I can now reveal the rest of it.

The top piece of paper with die-cut cogs and a distressed watch face stitched onto it, became the basis for the front cover over a chipboard base:

Steampunk journal 1

Some flat-backed gems and an old earring cabochon added texture and sparkle.

Steampunk journal 2

Put together with rings to bind.

Steampunk journal 3

Steampunk journal 4

I had great fun going through my stash of papers and ephemera to make the pages of the book.

Steampunk journal 5

Steampunk journal 6

The scraps of vintage fabric on the right hand page were hand dyed with walnuts from Oxburgh Hall a couple of summers ago.

Steampunk journal 7

Steampunk journal 8

Steampunk journal 9

Steampunk journal 10

Steampunk journal 11

Steampunk journal 12

Steampunk journal 13

Steampunk journal 14

Steampunk journal 15

On the right hand page, which is the inside of the back cover, those layers are a multi-part pocket into which I’ve slipped some more bits and pieces for use elsewhere in the journal.

Steampunk journal 16

Steampunk journal 17

And the back cover. Steampunk journal 18 I hope the bride gets as much pleasure out of using it as I did making it.

After making a vilene template for most of the missing veneer on the top and sides of the lid, I chose my colours. I’d enjoyed working in the green/gold and orange palette for my canvaswork knot garden so for my holiday stitching I gathered up lots of threads in that colour way and began what I knew would be the very slow process of encrusting my big chunk of vilene in french knots and eyelets.

Box - first steps 1

While selecting my threads I found a small packet of green sea glass and a strip of brown chiffon which I’d had left over from an Embroiderers’ Guild workshop the other month. I used the chiffon to hold down the glass by putting a line of back stitch around each nugget.

Sea glass under chiffon

Then off to North Cornwall – Boscastle for a week of great food, great company, walking, beaches, and just being on holiday. I stitched quite a lot in the evenings and by the time we returned home I’d got this far:

First french knot cluster 1

First french knot cluster 2

First french knot cluster 3

First french knot cluster 3

Not very much compared with the vast expanse of white vilene, but a start.

The notebook I showed you started like this:

Holiday Journal 2015 1

I removed the staples and fused some lovely cream script fabric to the back of the cover to strengthen it before blanket stitching round the whole thing in full undivided strands of soft vintage toned silk thread.

Holiday Journal 2015 2

This strengthens the edges as well as giving a pretty finish.

Holiday Journal 2015 3

Then I added some vintage style papers to some of the pages…

Holiday Journal 2015 4…and put some extra pages in…

Holiday Journal 2015 5

…before using waxed silk thread and a simple pamphlet stitch to reassemble it.

Holiday Journal 2015 6

Loose ends on the spine meant I could add these tea dyed labels.

Holiday Journal 2015 7

One completed journal which has been perfect for recording the memories of our fabulous holiday in Boscastle last week. I’ve also had the time to make a good start on the makeover for my damaged box. Hopefully more of that soon.

I enjoyed the canvaswork knot garden so much I carried on planting my beds.

More knot garden 1

Rhodes stitch on the left and a composite stitch of upright cross stitches within boxes in green with diagonal cross stitches over the top in variegated orange on the right.

More knot garden 2

Crossed cushion stitch – I love this one, especially as I was able to use a thinner thread over the top and so let the threads underneath peek through.

More knot garden 3

Final beds planted top right and bottom left with a Smyrna cross stitch variant. The Smyrna crosses are worked in a trio of variegated green/yellow/orange threads. This leaves space for little upright crosses in between the larger ones, which I added in using the russety coloured stranded thread that has turned up in most of the designs.

More knot garden 4

Just the central section to go. The original design was for a glass shisha ‘pond’ attached with shisha stitch, but I only had large flat sequins at home and they were nearly as wide as the central space so I cheated and covered a brass ring with buttonhole stitch to hold them in place.

More knot garden 5

The space in the corners was filled with French knots in the same thread.

More knot garden 6

Ready to make up now, but it’s been put to one side by two new projects. Firstly, turning this Country Living freebie notebook into a holiday journal:


And secondly, winning this sad and sorry box from eBay.

Sad box 1

As you can see, it’s lost a fair amount of veneer and someone has had a cunning plan to encrust the spaces with odds and ends – an old watch face, a couple of broken earrings, a Renault emblem and other esoteric fragments. It must have once been beautiful. What’s left of the flame mahogany veneer is stunning – or could be, with polish and tlc.

Sad box 2

I couldn’t resist and it was mine for a little over a fiver, including P&P. Off have come the oddments.

Sad box 3

And I’ve made a template for the missing piece of veneer on the lid with some pelmet vilene.

Sad box 4

I’m going to make it beautiful again.


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