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Growing

The garden is growing slowly and getting loads of attention on Instagram. As was suggested by a friend, it would make a lovely workshop. Definitely an idea for the future when we finally manage to get back to near normality. The lone courgette has been joined by four others. The lines of the stem stitch band really work well for the striped skins.

Then I added stems in whipped back stitch.

I’ve looked at endless pictures of courgette leaves on the internet and they all seem to be very different, from big flat heart shaped leaves to deeply divided lobed ones, so I’ve left them for the moment while I mull it over and moved onto a patch of picot leaves at the bottom in a slubby green silk. Not entirely sure what vegetable this is. It might just be a patch of docks and nettles!

I’ve also been experimenting with various types of herringbone stitch. It was a genius idea to work on this pinstriped offcut of fabric from an old shirt as it helped me to keep the stitches level and (relatively) even. Ordinary herringbone and closed herringbone in two different weights of thread.

Thanks to my good old Mary Thomas, I tried out threaded herringbone (far left) and tied herringbone (second and third from the right), which has coral knots worked over each intersection.

A nice little project while I was visiting my middle one for a couple of days.

And very excitingly, my Frister and Rossmann…

…now has a proper home. I was contacted last week by one of my sewing ladies to say that she was moving and down sizing and to ask if I knew anyone who would like her sewing machine table. I did. Me!

I absolutely love it and it’s fantastic to have a proper place to stitch instead of heaving my machine on and off the kitchen table. Thank you so much, Kim. It’s come to a very good home!

Small Steps

Not much stitching this week as I’ve been dealing with the end of term in various ways, but the miniature garden now has some bullion knot lettuces in a very subtly variegated thread:

And I’ve started some courgettes. I think I might cut the leaves out of some fabric like I did with the pumpkin pendant…

…rather than embroider them as they are quite big. The only other way I can think of is to make them as needle lace slips and I don’t really want to go into that level of complexity. I’ve tried out an experimental courgette made from the tiniest raised stem band with a trio of lazy daisy stitches for the flower. Hopefully the head of the pin gives an idea of scale!

The wind sculpted tree has gone from this:

To this:

I needle felted a sheep for a birthday card:

And finished a doodle with some of my reticulated brass scraps and gold pearl purl on sapphire blue silk.

Must try harder!

Some stitched vegetable gardens came up on my Pinterest feed a little while ago and as I love stumpwork ideas, I saved them; whereupon more appeared of course… So naturally the only thing to do to get them out of my system was to stitch my own garden. It’s tiny – the piece of silk dupion it’s stitched on is 6cm by 10cm, or about 2.5″ by 4″.

Garden path first. I used satin stitch in varying scraps of greyish brown thread for the uneven slabs.

Then a darker variegated brown to edge the slabs before I started my strawberry patch. This has whipped back stitch stems, trios of lazy daisy leaves, scarlet French knot strawberries and loose white French knots for the strawberry flowers. Working French knots deliberately loose so you can put something in the centre is a little more tricky than it looks. There is a fine line between getting a firm knot with a space in the middle and a scribbly pile of threads!

Next, the peas. Feather stitch pea sticks for them to scramble over and then whipped backstitch stems. The pea pods are two parallel satin stitches and once they were completed (all 32 of them) I used a very fine pale green silk thread to give them tiny calyxes.

Then I half hid them with silk ribbon lazy daisy stitch leaves.

Onto the rows of veg next. The peas had taken a long time building up the various layers, so I went for a quicker result and three dark green silk ribbon ‘roses’ (woven spider’s web stitch) became a row of blowsy cabbages.

These were quickly joined by a little row or emerging seedlings in fine silk lazy daisy stitch – probably radishes – and then I started a group of cauliflowers with clustered French knot florets and overlapping cast on stitch leaves.

It was fiddly to work the cast on stitch leaves in such a small space and at such a small size, but leaves come in various shapes and sizes anyway.

The loose French knot practise on the strawberry flowers came in handy for the carrots.

My idea was to stitch loops which I could then cut to form feathery foliage, through the centre of the carrot tops. The smallest section of my cordonnet stick was the perfect size to stitch the loops over.

Loopy carrot tops.

Each set of threads has been fastened off separately underneath so they shouldn’t come out once I cut them. Very pleased with the result!

Lettuces and courgettes are next. It may only be a tiny piece of stitching but it’s taken a lot longer than I expected. Working small doesn’t always mean finishing things off more quickly…

Another one of those ‘While I was looking for…’ moments yielded a box containing a pile of scraps of embroidered chiffon from old saris which as usual I had fallen in love with, bought without any idea what I might do with them and consigned to a safe place in the cupboard whereupon I promptly forgot about them.

But with my upcycling head on it occurred to me that some of the motifs could be used to make jewellery components, perhaps gathered over rather ordinary looking vintage buttons. Time for some experimenting.

The chiffon is very filmy and in the end I found buttons too heavy, so I gathered the motifs over circles of felt and pelmet vilene at the front and just a circle of pelmet vilene at the back before ladder stitching them together. The super sheer black chiffon has a layer of black silk underneath which helps the motif stand out but the whole double layer was fiendishly slippery to stitch and get centred over the circles.

Not sure what to do with the black one yet, but I used some filigree sterling silver leaves from a broken vintage brooch and some silver beads to turn the purple discs into a pair of earrings.

I stitched all the elements together rather than running a headpin through the middle of the purple disc which made them a bit interesting to get to hang vertically but it’s kept them light.

I’ve also been slowly adding the tiny picots to this poinsettia in a single strand of silk thread called ‘Tart’s Knickers’!

I plan to set it into this lovely alpaca and abalone pendant in place of the missing black resin section so it spills over the edge of the setting.

I was going to do just one layer of petals but it looked too empty so I’ve ended up stitching the back layer on behind the first which is possibly not the easiest way but the picots are quite forgiving and move easily out of the way.

Three more to stitch!

I was asked to come up with three cards for assorted birthdays and anniversaries in short order this week and having no time to start anything completely from scratch, I went delving into a box of assorted bits and pieces and managed to come up with five finished cards in a day!

First was a piece I started at a 2015 workshop on sculpting silk paper with Linda Rudkin. Sashiko stitching on a scrap of indigo dyed sheeting. This one was completely finished and just needed mounting.

Next a couple of cards created from some samples I made playing with a soldering iron. This one has been enhanced with a scattering of silk French knots.

I finished it by stitching it onto the blue silk backing with herringbone stitch in the same thread.

I’d already started couching a frothy white thread round this sample when I found it.

The layered spirals and slashes combined with the frothy white thread made me think of the way artists like Hiroshige and Hokusai represent sea foam in ukiyo-e prints. I carried on doodling with the couched thread and added some split stitch spirals with the cream silk thread I was using to couch it down and two nuggets of sea glass.

Finished as a card.

Next up a piece of crazy patchwork that I stitched at least ten ago. I had half thought about appliqueing it onto a shoulder bag made from the cut off bottom of a pair of jeans. But the upcycled bags I’ve made in past from jeans bottoms and patchwork panels had very little interest when I tried to sell them, so I decided a card was the more sensible option.

And last, one of the back ground pieces from our teabags workshop with Fran Holmes in October 2019. This literally only needed about a dozen stitches into the lace border to finish it!

So not only did I manage to deliver the three requested cards, I actually have some in reserve for upcoming celebrations. Makes quite a change to be beforehand with the world instead of chasing my tail!

Pendants.

Back to the workbench for a day last week and several successes. I found this lovely starburst engraved vintage watch case in a pile of assorted oddments and decided that was a perfect starting point.

Just right for a subtly variegated peach and cream ribbon rose.

Then it was time to audition some gold tone pendants for the bottom of the case. This dyed howlite teardrop from an odd earring tones in really well with the colour of the rose.

And finally I finished it off with a vintage reclaimed gold tone chain.

Next I came across a couple of heart shaped wooden blanks and a large enamelled metal daisy from a 1980s earring. I’d always intended to set the daisy on the heart, but felt it needed a pop of colour. The remains of an embossed silk carrier rod were perfect not only to become leaves but an odd thin wispy piece was flexible enough to cover the centre of the flower.

The silk carrier rod is nice and stiff so the leaves have enough body to stand out on their own.

I wasn’t sure whether to finish it as a brooch or a pendant but I had just the right vintage beaded chain to go with it and decided that pendants are probably a bit more commercial than brooches. I considered adding a brooch back so it could be both, like some vintage pendants, but the heart is flat at the back and commercial brooch backs would stand too proud to be comfortable to wear.

I was really on a roll at this point, so I moved onto a teardrop shaped pendant which was missing an internal drop. Perfect place for a piece of hand made felt with threads embedded into the top layer, I thought, and decided I’d probably add beaded blanket stitch to edge with some tiny seed beads to pick up the blues and give it a bit of weight to hang properly.

But then I found a lovely brass teardrop pendant which worked well hanging from the top loop too! I polished it and reset the stones and considered putting the two tear drops together and not using the felt at all, but then it was just a pretty pendant that could have come from any High Street shop, rather than one which had the textiles component I try to make a feature of my upcycling. So I tried it with the felt and now I really can’t decide whether I prefer it with or without the pendant.

Is it too busy with the pendant or too plain without? Any thoughts gratefully received!

As a child I loved the ‘My Naughty Little Sister’ stories by Dorothy Edwards. I could identify with the world the sisters grew up in and especially their neighbour, Mrs ‘Cocoa’ Jones, as our next door neighbour, Mrs Lown, had a very similar grandmotherly sort of place in our lives. My favourite story was when ‘My Naughty Little Sister’ had measles. She was a grumpy convalescent and so Mrs ‘Cocoa’ brought her a treasure box full of smaller boxes containing trinkets and surprises to interest and cheer her up. I was completely enchanted by the idea of a ‘get better box’ full of little treasures to explore and longed for one of my own.

Fast forward to 2021. This is my treasure box. It’s a Chinese export lacquer sewing box dating from the 1920s. Family history says that one of my great great aunts lived in Wembley in the 1920s and put up some Chinese gentlemen who were exhibiting at the 1924 Wembley Exhibition. When they returned to China they gave a number of lacquer boxes, some jewellery and other odds and ends to their host. Most of them were passed down to my grandmother and when we cleared her house in the early 80s, I claimed this big, slightly battered, sewing box.

Since then it’s housed treasures of all kinds that I’ve accumulated. Some are family pieces, some came from boot sales or ebay job lots. There is ephemera of all kinds; jewellery oddments, coins, vintage wrapping paper, cereal toys and found objects.

Pretty much everything has a tale to tell.

So I spent several very enjoyable hours this afternoon going through it all, looking for some bits and pieces I could add to a stitched piece based on the idea of a printer’s tray of treasures.

I used Hungarian Braided Chain Stitch on 28 count Cashel linen to make up a grid of solid lines to look like the edges of a printer’s tray. This is such a lovely looking stitch and gave me the thickness I wanted for the lines straight away.

Then the treasures. This reproduction coin was the reward for getting out of what would now be called an ‘escape room’ in one of the top times during a family holiday in Cornwall in 2008. We were so competitive and determined to nail that gold reward!!

This covered button was part of a Victorian dress – red with a flocked black floral pattern – I wore at the age of 4 for the 1970s Dickens Centenary Festival in my home village of Blundeston, Suffolk (fictional birthplace of Dickens’ David Copperfield). Sadly, the dress is long gone but I still somehow have two of the buttons.

Next, a piece of white ‘coral’ (really the outer skeleton of a rare seaweed) I beachcombed as a child from the ‘Coral Beach’ at Claigan on the Isle of Skye in the 1970s.

I’ve mentioned before that as a child I was allowed to have half a yard of haberdashery but not sweets as a treat, and this is a very pretty but not terribly useful scrap of trim from my little yellow plastic workbox.

There had to be something beachcombed in the ‘tray’ and I picked up this piece of Victorian transferware on the edge of the River Conwy while visiting with my girls a few years ago when my middle one was still at university in Bangor.

Lastly, fabric. My mum made my 1986 May Ball dress from this black polyester damask. It had an unusual draped back and I vividly remember hunting all over Lincoln for a pair of black stilettos to go with it. This was the mid 80s and you could get turquoise, cerise or mustard (and classic 80s white of course!) but simple black was more of a challenge. By the end of the ball my new shoes hurt so much I walked most of the way home in my stockinged feet.

My stitched ‘printer’s tray’ of treasures.

It took longer to assemble them than it did to do the stitching!

It all started with this odd earring. It’s not a very good image because it’s already partly disassembled (I got all excited and forgot to take a photo before I attacked it with the pliers!), but you can hopefully see that it’s made up of three pairs of brass leaf shaped sections that made me think of flower calyxes.

That was enough to spark off an idea for a pendant and a pair of earrings using silk cocoons for the main part of the flower with a brass calyx on top of each one.

Pendant first. I made a set of beaded stamens by threading some random sequences of blue and gold bugle and seed beads onto Nymo and then knotting the ends onto the loop of a headpin and setting it all with a blob of superglue. This is my third cocoon. I discovered the hard way that the silk on its own wasn’t robust enough to cope with having a headpin put through it and I had to use a layer of glue to strengthen the fibres.

But the result was worth it. The little ‘hat’ section from the earring makes an effective calyx for a fantasy flower. It’s available here in my Etsy shop.

For various reasons, I didn’t get round to the earrings until today. I managed to find an almost identical pair of silk cocoons and they really are this red! you also get a better idea of how the brass ‘calyxes’ look from this photo.

Beaded stamens again, this time in greens and golds.

The silk cocoons are really light so although the drops are quite large at 5cm long and 2cm in diameter, they are a lovely weight and not too heavy to wear. I’m hoping to get them listed in my Etsy shop shortly when I can get some more photos of the details.

It seems ages since I had a good jewellery making spell and after finishing these earrings today I was feeling really inspired. It’s a shame most of the rest of this week is going to be taken up with three days supply teaching but as online sales have dropped through the floor over the last few months, beggars really can’t be choosers.

Just got back from a slightly different but very much needed and enjoyable week in North Cornwall. If you follow me on Instagram you will have seen photos of our walks and beach excursions in my stories and I even managed to get some stitching done as well.

First, a piece of blackwork from a gorgeous design I found on Pinterest several years ago. I’m afraid I don’t know the designer, so if anyone does please can they let me know so I can credit them. This is stitched in a single strand of Gloriana silk thread on 28 count natural Cashel linen and yes, it is tiny! Most of the motifs are about 1cm square.

Stitching al fresco in Boscastle while my husband and little one went snorkelling in the harbour.

And again at Tintagel while we waited for our slot to cross the new bridge onto the headland.

Finally finished. I still love the design and I’m glad I stitched it, but I’m ready to move onto something else!

I’ve decided to stitch a Memory Journal style diary for this holiday. I’m going for images and memories from the whole week, rather than one piece to represent each day as I’ve done in the past. We went to Crackington Haven on the Sunday evening to watch the sunset.

And to have a little beachcomb – although as the tide was well in, it was only a little one. I love the slate pebbles of this beach with their scribbly quartz inclusions.

So the first piece I created was using the pebble fabric from the Anderby Creek Memory Journal and some flat slate pebbles from Crackington Haven beach over which I stitched my own quartz inclusions.

I’ve also been very taken with the way the prevailing winds sculpt the trees on the north coast. (Taken through the windscreen of the car, so not the best photo, but I love the shape of that tree.)

Start of my sculpted tree piece. I’m planning to couch the strands of cotton down to make the outline of the branches and then clothe it in leaves – possibly a few less than on the original so you can still see the framework of branches.

We visited a few beaches during the week but the beach finds were generally a bit sparse. However, I’m planning to use some of these bits I picked up at Tintagel for various stitching and jewellery projects.

Plenty of inspiration and hopefully now I’ve had a week’s recharge, I have the energy to get stuck into them.

Samples

I’ve been stitching various experimental pieces recently and enjoying different ways of working. I’d seen someone on Instagram who had been embroidering fantasy aerial landscapes and I really liked the idea so I printed out a satellite image of part of a walk I enjoy along the River Ancholme between the villages of South Ferriby and Horkstow and decided I’d stitch the section from Horkstow Bridge along the lane to the road.

I drew it free hand onto some calico and then started to fill in the fields with satin stitch and the hedgerows in french knots. I used a slightly slubby silk on the longer field and an odd almost cord-like thread on the smaller one.

I then moved onto stranded silk which gave smoother looking fields. I like the contrast of the slightly textured silk but not so sure about the corded thread…

I also realised that I needed to vary the shades of green in the hedgerows and copses.

The lane from the bridge to the road was added in split stitch. Really not liking the corded thread at all now, but as the French knot hedgerows went right through the edges of the stitches I wasn’t going to be able to easily undo it at this point, so I’m living with it!

Lastly I added the River Ancholme and the drain that runs parallel with it in split stitch. Horkstow Bridge, which is a very early Victorian suspension bridge, is two French knots and a couple of satin stitches (bottom left corner) and I included part of the fields across the river. Off the hoop the tension isn’t great, but it was a lot of fun to do.

Back in 2010 I stitched a piece for our Embroiderers’ Guild Summer Challenge, for which we were given some blue thread, aida and the prompt ‘Blue Pot’. My response was to create some cross stitched ‘shards’ of Victorian blue and white china lying in the ‘soil’

I don’t have it any more because it’s on the cover of the 2010 scrapbook but I do miss it.

So I decided to stitch a mini version featuring the most iconic part of the willow pattern design – the birds.

Once I’d stitched it, I laced it over a couple of pieces of pelmet vilene for rigidity and started to couch various fancy threads around it for the soil.

I also added some patches of split stitch to vary the textures as I’d done with cross stitch on the original.

I wouldn’t normally stitch the same idea twice, but it’s good to have my own miniature version.

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