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With the outlining done on the medieval tiles piece it was time to make a decision about how to fill the space surrounding them. Seeding was a bit of an obvious go to and something I used in the last print to stitch piece, but I wanted something different. I toyed with seeding in a more distinctive stitch, like a tete de boeuf, fly stitch or detached chain stitch, but they all looked too heavy, so I fell back on an idea I had a while ago of a kantha spiral based on the centre of the motif. Typically, I chose one to start off where the motif wasn’t in the middle of the ’tile’ so I couldn’t quite see whether it was going to work as I hoped – mainly, I think, because the initial rows of single stitches were quite overpowering – until I got to the outside rows.

Stitching in circles and skipping the printed areas has pulled it up into a bit of a dome! I think there will definitely have to be something couched along the motif to try and flatten it. I think I like it. I might need to play with the couched lines before I can be certain one way or another.

I’ve finished the little needlelace sampler. Goodness knows why I thought it would be a good idea to work in wedge shapes and have to decrease as well as working the stitch. It’s not a huge problem with the Single and Corded Brussels, but created some interesting effects with the Double Corded Brussels (DCB) and the Ceylon Stitch.

I really like what happens to the lace as the stitch spacings get smaller on the DCB. The early rows have a lovely open trellis effect with the cord taking centre stage, whereas in the later ones it is much less obvious, becoming a pattern of double stitches and holes. It’s useful to see how different spacings can give you different effects.

The Ceylon Stitch loops were tiny from the start and as the spacing got smaller, I had to decrease in the middle of the pattern as that was where it was the mostly tightly packed.

It is such a lovely looking but incredibly unforgiving stitch that you can see every single place where it isn’t absolutely perfect. It also took forever and so I am not redoing it – it can stand as an useful object lesson!

I intend to carry on stitching some more needlelace but the next sampler is going to be based on rectangles. However, I might work another sample of the Ceylon stitch in a rectangle just to prove I can do it perfectly when I don’t have to keep decreasing!

I’ve not made much jewellery for a while as I’ve been trying to list a backlog of vintage jewellery on Etsy, but when an odd earring I was cleaning came to pieces, leaving me with a rather nice silver mount, I was inspired! I set it with a lovely and very unusual piece of beachcombed Victorian pottery and added a 16″ silver chain to make a unique pendant.

It’s available here in the Beachcombing section of my Etsy shop.

Podcasts at the ready, I got stuck into some of the more tedious stitching this week. All the motifs on the medieval tiles piece are outlined and I’m very happy with the alternating light and dark outlines.

The intersections are interesting too.

As is the back, where you can really see the subtle variegation in the threads.

I’ve still not completely settled on what to do for the background of the tiles but I’m inclining towards adding something to the inside of the motifs. Not sure if that is prevarication or not!

I had a couple of offcuts from when I printed the main piece.

I made one into a bookmark for a Christmas present and am turning the second one into another bookmark. This time I whipped the back stitch outline of the motifs and am pleased with the raised effect. It looks almost like I’ve edged them with a very fine cord.

I decided to add the more straightforward highlights to Baby Leaf-Tailed Dragon’s wings while I was still dithering about the circles on his neck.

Emboldened by that success, I started the circles. Not sure the first one is fit to be seen, but the second and third are reasonably presentable.

I’m definitely ready to finish these projects and get on with something different, especially as I unearthed some rusted embroidered fragments the other day that I’d done ages ago with the plan of making an art quilt and posted some on Instagram. They got such a good response I’m tempted to get the quilt underway again…

This is pretty much how I feel about most of my current projects. I’ve added one line of highlights to Baby Leaf-Tailed Dragon and bottled out of the circles above it because they are tricky to stitch accurately and I’ve realised that although the gills of the mushroom are now going in the right direction, the reason it still looks odd is that the stem should go up to meet the edge of the cap. This will mean either stitching more stem over the gills or, more likely, unpicking the gills completely and redoing the whole lot. I do love both projects but at the moment we’re not speaking.

The medieval tiles are moving slowly. Outlining the motifs in back stitch feels like it’s taking forever simply because they have so much outline, and I had a moment of real love-hate when I realised I wasn’t going to have enough thread for them all. Luckily I had managed to outline three and after a major trawl through my threads (not a quick job…) I was back to the problem I had the last time I played embroidery chicken with this piece – do I go for a similar type of thread or a similar colour? This time I’ve gone for similar type in a rich subtly variegated dark brown. I was a little unsure about how well it would work, but after having stitched my first motif in the darker thread, I’m happy with it alongside the lighter outlines.

At the moment the best thing I can say about it is that I’m over half way through the outlining.

I have managed to stitch one thing this week that I love, which is a scrap of crazy patchwork representing my comfort zone. I’ve been working through some bags of scraps with the idea of using them up and had my eye on the bag of purples. But one by one the scraps weren’t quite right. Too pink; too patterned; not the right weight. The only one I wanted to use was a piece of colour catcher (top right) which was a sullen grey -purple. Then a piece of patterned blue and black silk caught my eye and I was off on a completely different track into the bag of blacks and greys.

Comfort zone means feather stitch, some kantha and french knots and somehow it became a response to the current snowy weather courtesy of the Beast From The East 2.

Good to have made something I love – now back to wrangling the other projects.

Highlights

Having finished Baby Leaf-Tailed Dragon’s tail with the white circles…

…I decided to add the details to the head section next. Extending some of the outline to give him a jawline and define the ears was straightforward, as was adding the highlights around his neck, ears, mouth and nose. Then it was the eye. The eye more than anything gives him his personality and I really didn’t want to get this wrong, so I cut out a paper template and moved it around until I was happy before I started stitching. It’s amazing how even a small alteration in placement can make a big difference to expression and personality. After a reassuringly small amount of unpicking, I was pleased with the way he looks. Definitely cheeky!

I had a pair of trousers to hem yesterday and while looking for the right colour sewing cotton, I bumped into the Bayeux Stitch mushroom I started last January during panto.

I’d got as far as putting the gills in but they were going in the wrong direction. I knew they were wrong but simply couldn’t work out what the right direction was, so I put the hoop aside and left it – I didn’t even bother to finish unpicking the gills. So this was what appeared as I moved my mending pile:

As I picked up the hoop I could see instantly where the lines needed to go! Trousers were postponed and gills were couched in place. I also outlined the spots on the cap and next stage is… the highlighting. I really need to get over my nerves about stitching highlights on these pieces!

I’ve also been adding some more upcycled jewellery to my Etsy shop. These drop earrings I made in January from a fragment of Art Nouveau pressed brass frame in the shape of olive branches is similar are available here. I’ve added faux pearl drops and new gold plated sterling silver earhooks.

The broken silver ring I shaped into two Celtic motifs has been teamed with a couple of iridescent Czech glass beads to become this rather elegant pair of earrings which are available here in my Etsy shop.

Then a couple of beachcombing pieces. Several years ago I found four glass beads which had obviously once been part of a necklace or bracelet on a tattered piece of thread at a Cornish beach. I love the way they have been worn by the sea and have been looking for just the right project for them ever since. Inspiration struck when I came across an odd earring with a hanging loop inside. I made a piece of silver wire into a headpin and two of the beads fitted perfectly. You can find it here in the Beachcombing section of my shop.

I had a silver pendant which had a very odd looking flat part under the garnet. It was a little while before I realised it was a backing plate and whatever had originally been stuck on it was long gone. Perfect for a piece of sea washed pottery and this fragment of Victorian spongeware worked perfectly. The finished pendant has a new silver chain and is available here.

And the final highlight is the upcycled mourning locket I wrote about in last week’s post.

Within an hour of listing it on Etsy it had sold! A great boost on a cold and snowy day.

The embroidered upcycled lockets I make from time to time are quite popular and I was pleased to source another one recently. On a grey and miserable day last week I thought it would be cheering to stitch a blossom tree to go into the oval space on the front. It worked up really well and I was pleased with the way the grass at the bottom balanced it out.

Time to cut it out, following the faint pencil line you can see in the photo above. It was a little too big initially, so I picked up the scissors to trim it by eye. All was going well when my concentration wandered and I cut too far in between the bottom branches and the grass. Disaster. The vilene was so thick that all my attempts to remount it looked awful.

I didn’t want to throw away the little tree I had spent so long stitching, so I went looking for something else to mount it in and finally found a gorgeous silver mourning locket which just needed a couple of diamantes replacing. If I trimmed the grass off, it would fit into the frame. At this point I was happy to sacrifice the grass if it meant I could keep the tree! I reset the missing diamantes, removed the grass and backed what was left onto a circle of vilene which would be seen through the rear of the locket.

Here I had a bit of a crisis of confidence. The antique mourning locket is a lovely thing in its own right and once I had repaired it, in wearable condition. Usually I add embroidery to a piece of broken or damaged jewellery that wouldn’t normally be fit to wear as it is. I wasn’t sure whether putting the tree into it was the right thing to do. So I asked Instagram whether to add embroidery or not and the answer was an overwhelming yes!

I love the little glass door in the back of the locket – you can see why I needed a neat piece of vilene behind the embroidery. You can find it here in my Etsy shop.

I’ve finished all the edging of the Medieval tiles piece and am much happier with the visual weight of the lines. I was wondering about a third line of split stitch but I think this is enough.

Next job is outlining the motifs in back stitch, which I might whip to give a smoother but more raised outline. This is to give me a bit of mental breathing room while I consider what to put in the spaces around the motifs. I want something, to give the piece a density and weightiness in the hand but I’m not sure I want to use simple seeding this time. I’m toying with the idea of seeding with a distinct stitch, like tete de boeuf, detached chain stitch or fly stitch or possibly adding a kantha style background in a similar coloured thread to the base fabric but with stitched spirals centred around the middle of the motif.

Decisions, decisions!

I thought I’d started the Baby Leaf-Tailed Dragon in 2018, which would have been bad enough, but the blog post from September 2018 when I moved him from a hoop to a frame and really got going, says I started him in 2015 – July 2015 to be precise. I did quite a lot of work on him in 2019 and even got as far as starting to couch the outline but then, like so many things last year, he lapsed and it wasn’t until last week that I picked him up and finally finished the couched outline. The next stage was to add the split stitch highlights. I’m always worried I’ll put them in the wrong places and it will look odd, so I usually prevaricate at this point, but I decided to just get on with it.

The result was a lot less difficult than I thought (it usually is…) and so his lower tail is nearly done!

I’ve also decided to get on with the last two pieces for my Kew Memory Journal. I want to base one on the beautiful Chihuly Persian Chandelier that was hung in the Temperate House.

I thought the wavy edged circles could work either in needlelace or crochet and while I decided which one would be most effective, I started a small sampler of needlelace stitches.

Corded Brussels Stitch is my go to needle lace stitch and after having worked the Single Brussels – twice – I know why. The Corded Brussels is always worked in the same direction. When you get to the end of the row you run the thread across the front, back to the start and then work over it, incorporating it into the stitch. It makes the lace firmer and because there is something to work over, more even, and the stitches all run in the same direction.

The Single Brussels is worked from left to right and then when you reach the end of the row, back from right to left. I’m not very right handed and can work most stitches both right and left handed but I could not for the life of me get the rows even. On the left to right rows I could make the buttonhole stitch loops stay open but right to left they just wanted to flatten down to the stitch underneath. The second version is better than the first, but not by much.

However, as a sampler and a learning exercise, it’s been very useful.

The last old favourite is the final two kilt pin brooch kits.

Forest green, golden yellow, and brown.

and

Orange, bronze, brown, purple and gold.

Listed today in my Etsy shop with free UK P&P.

The stitching on the hoop initial is finished and will be made into a card for my middle one’s birthday as her name begins with a J.

It’s been a useful exercise in practicality – there is no way this would make a useful workshop as the stitches are far too small for anyone to make reasonable progress in a two hour session, although it could conceivably be a kit.

On the bright side though I have a hand stitched birthday card ready in good time for my middle one’s birthday!

I’ve also finished couching the outline of the Baby Leaf-tailed Dragon.

I didn’t think it had had much effect until I looked back at photos of him before I put the outline in.

And although I think my Bayeux Stitch edges are pretty neat, the couching really does finish it off very effectively. Split stitch details next, which is my least favourite bit. I always worry that it won’t look realistic.

I’ve made the experimental cross stitch/free embroidery tree stitching up into a brooch. It’s a bit of a double upcycle in that I’ve upcycled the oddment of cross stitching as well as the brooch. It was initially set with plastic pearl beads, about half of which were missing, so I removed the rest and reset the border with tiny amethyst coloured diamantes to echo the little purple flowers in the grass.

The stitching was gathered over a couple of pieces of pelmet vilene for strength.

Then I backed it with green felt and mounted it in the brooch frame.

It’s newly listed here in my Etsy shop.

Mainly because much of the embroidery I’ve been doing this week really isn’t interesting enough to share! More split stitch round the edge of the ’tiles’ on the medieval tiles piece and I’ve also made myself pick up the baby leaf-tailed dragon kit again but that’s all couching round the outline, so not much to see.

The birthday for which I’m stitching the floral initial is fast approaching, so I’ve prioritised work on that. I keep trying to persuade myself that I’m half way through but I suspect that’s just wishful thinking. Single strands of stranded silk do not work up very fast.

So jewellery it is, starting with a piece of pressed brass which I think might have been part of an Art Nouveau frame or mount.

I’ve had a couple of ideas for it but keep returning to earrings. So I sawed it into two similar but not identical sections and created these earring drops with the addition of some silver mounted pearls. I’m just waiting on some gold plated sterling silver ear hooks to finish them off.

Then I found a broken silver ring in my scrap box.

I realised that two of the broken sections had the same design, so I flattened them before sawing and filing the excess parts of the design off to make a pair of earring drops. These just need a session in the barreller before I choose some beads to finish them off.

Then there was the collection of classic brutalist 1970s pewter components which someone had half turned into a necklace. The cabochons look like lapis lazuli but in fact are beautiful pieces of art glass with flecks of gold leaf to look like lapis.

The large section felt too big and chunky to keep as a pendant and the pattern of holes suggested that it might have had further sections hanging from it, which would have made it very heavy both literally and visually. Then inspiration struck!

I carefully sawed the big pendant into three pieces. This gave me a smaller pendant with two cabochons and two double circle sections which I could use as part of the necklace. Once I’d tidied them up, the necklace went together perfectly, with a length of reclaimed chain finishing it off at the back. I think it still has a Seventies brutalist feel but it’s a bit more wearable now. It’s here in my Etsy shop.

This left me with four sections which I used to make a matching pair of earrings with silver earhooks. Also available in my Etsy shop here.

I’ve also managed to make up four more boxes for the kilt pin brooch kits, so there are now six listed in my Etsy shop with free UK P&P.

Blue-green, lilac, purple and silver

Dusty pink, pale green, gold and russet

Purple, green, red and white

Russet, gold, brown and red

Peach-pink, yellow, brown, gold and silver

Red, green, brown, gold and yellow

Hopefully the stitching will be a little more photogenic next week!

Happy New Year to you all and I really hope it is that; a year where we find and experience happiness alongside and in spite of what is going on around us. As friends are increasingly saying, “Be positive but stay negative!”

I wonder how many unexpected projects start with something like, “I went into a cupboard/a drawer/a box/the loft looking for X and instead I found…” It’s something I suspect I’ve typed more than a few times and here we are again. Just before New Year I went into a cupboard looking for some padded envelopes and I found eight kits for making upcycled jewellery kilt pin brooches like the one below which were left over from a workshop I taught back in 2019.

They were just popped into paper bags but it occurred to me that I could box them up nicely and put them in my Etsy shop. Kits seem to be quite popular at the moment and perhaps they would appeal to people who would enjoy the challenge of seeing what unique design they could make out of their kit rather than making the item on the front of the box.

I had some cardboard two piece boxes that I was given a little while ago (Thanks Ruth – I knew they would come in useful!!) that just needed making up and then I carefully cut the label off the paper bag and stuck it onto the front. The boxes are lovely quality and already they were looking really professional.

The original packs were designed for avid stitchers, but because these might be bought by or for someone who doesn’t have the vast amounts of stash that most of us do, I added an embroidery and a beading needle and a fat plait of assorted threads to the pack and reworked the instructions into a neat little booklet. This one is based on purples and reds (there are some lovely dusky purple seed beads hiding under the Magpie Pack) and is available here in my Etsy shop with free UK P&P.

This one is themed around autumnal russets and golds and is available here.

Yes, I did say there were eight kits and I’ve only listed two, but making up the boxes is taking a lot longer than I thought. As they are such good quality they have a triple fold plus tabs for each side and are taking me at least half an hour to make!

Over Christmas I’ve got into bad habits of browsing or playing sudoku on my tablet in the evenings so I’m trying to get at least half an hour away from the screen sewing before I go to bed. The last time I worked on my medieval tiles printed piece was in early November when I was playing embroidery chicken with the thread.

I’ve managed to find some roughly similar colour and weight perle thread to the lot that finally ran out on me and so I’ve picked this up as my before bed project. I’ve taken out the tacking stitches and am putting a second row of split stitch round the ’tiles’ to give the lines more weight (top left). There might be a third row yet but I’m seeing how it progresses.

I’ve also started back stitching round the motifs.

A nice straightforward project before bed but I just need to know when to stop. “I’ll finish when I get to the end of this piece of thread/the next piece of thread/the end of this motif,” took me until the other side of 1am last night…

In Limbo

I find the days between Christmas and New Year are like being in limbo. After weeks of hard work getting the Christmas preparations to fall right, the following days seem somewhat of an anti climax. The radio stations still play Christmas music for a couple of days and you’re sitting on oddments of Christmas paper and trying to find space in the fridge for yet another plastic container of leftovers. So it wasn’t until yesterday that I found time to return to my workspace and get on with an upcycled pendant based on this damaged carved mother of pearl brooch that I’d started before Christmas.

I suspected that if I cleaned up the damage on the left and took out the matching filigree section on the other side that it would still work. After carefully taking the jewellers’ saw to it, I was happy with the result.

Next I stuck it onto a piece of gorgeous deep crimson silk velvet and added satin stitching along the main stems to give a bit of colour and also to help make sure it was properly attached to the fabric.

I gathered it up round a circle of pelmet vilene for strength and stability and made a plain circle for the back.

I stuck them back to back into a wide odd hoop earring with a lovely floral design on the edge which forms the frame for the pendant. I think I actually prefer the design without the filigree all the way round – it seems to make the flower stand out more.

It was good to feel like I’ve accomplished something.

My middle one, however, has accomplished a great deal this year. She started teaching herself to crochet when she left university in 2019 and was struggling to get a job. This year money has been very tight for her but she has, like many of us, had more time on her hands and the family has seen the benefit of that in her Christmas gifts. She somehow found the time to crochet a jumper for my mum, beanie hats for my dad and her brother, a beautiful lace shawl for her foster sister, a chenille cowl/snood for her little sister and this stunning lap blanket for me.

I can confirm it’s as cosy as it is beautiful.

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