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The next memory journal combines two trips I made to Tattershall Castle last summer – the first a bit of quality time with my youngest in July after the end of term and the second to a fabulous tourney and medieval reenactment event in August.

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The first thing that hits you about this unusual castle is the fact it’s made out of warm chestnut coloured brick instead of stone and that extends to features inside like roof vaulting and some of the window surrounds.

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So bricks were the inspiration for this memory journal and canvaswork seemed a good place to start. Although the pattern is simple, as is the tent stitch I used, I put a lot of thought into choosing a range of threads that echoed the different shades in the bricks.

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However there was one thing I bottled out on – the brick bond. My design is a simple Stretcher Bond where you only see the stretchers, or the long faces of the bricks. Tattershall is built using English Bond as you can see below.

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The advantage of that is that instead of getting a wall that is one brick width deep (fine for a modern house), the row of headers give you a wall that is the whole length of the brick deep – much better for a castle.

However, although it may be better for a castle, it was challenging to get it to look in proportion on a canvas grid, so after two attempts I gave up trying to align the ‘bricks’ and concentrated on a simpler pattern instead!

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I keep reminding myself that it’s a creative response to the visit, not a slavish reconstruction, but the perfectionist in me keeps muttering that perhaps I just need to try that English Bond one more time…

…are one of my favourite stitches. I must have worked hundreds of thousands of french knots from the odd few dropped into something else…

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…to the full on french knot extravaganza that is the (still unfinished) Victorian box project.

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I find them invaluable in upcycling jewellery. I’ve added them to rings, earrings and pendants and the lovely textural quality of the closely packed knots never fails to get people’s interest. This one is set in a vintage silver setting and is available here in my Etsy shop.

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So when a friend asked me to upcycle a pair of earrings for her, my first thought was french knots. The earrings were a pair of sterling silver creole hoops which had been partly channel set with some baguette cut marcasites. Unfortunately the marcasites appeared to have been stuck in with school glue and most had fallen out. A local jeweller told her that it would cost far more than the earrings were worth to have them reset properly. So rather than scrap them, she asked me to work some upcycling magic!

I cleaned them first, to get rid of the glue residue and bring up the silver.

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Then I worked a row of french knots in silk thread on a piece of dyed pelmet vilene, carefully cutting it down to fit the channel which is about 2mm wide!

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Breathe, be grateful and relieved that you haven’t cut the thread or trimmed the vilene down too far and do the other one!

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As she lives locally I was able to take a slight detour on my daily walk and post them through her letter box. She was delighted!

I also found an interesting pendant when I was sorting a lot of broken jewellery and immediately thought french knots.

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I used some variegated silk thread again and stitched one french knot through each hole. Each knot has two wraps and is big enough that it won’t slip back through the hole.

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They fill the space nicely.

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The purple and gold of the thread made me think of drifts of pansies.

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So that’s what I named it and it’s just gone into my Etsy shop here. I think it will be a long while before I get fed up with these gorgeous little stitches, which is just as well, considering there is a still a long way to go on the Victorian box!

Onto the second side.

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The applique felt cloud shape echoes the concrete seats at the Cloud Bar with split stitch silk thread clouds on indigo dyed sheeting sky and seeding on the crinkled gold satin sand.

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I’ve used pulled thread work and specifically irregularly worked diamond stitch for ripples in the sand before and it’s one of my favourite styles to work so I decided to use it for the back ground to some beachcombed finds – seaweed, a tiny bit of drift wood and a shell with a very convenient hole already drilled into it.

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At the end of the walk was the lovely Anderby Beach Cafe and I used fabric paints to copy their clever logo onto a piece of fine cotton, turning it into a sort of receipt to remind me of the posh hot dog (local butcher’s sausage) and latte I had enjoyed for my lunch, partly obscured by an appliqued splodge of tomato sauce!

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I’ve also started another memory journal for a visit to Tattershall Castle last summer which is inspired by the bricks it’s made from.  The pelmet vilene base for this one has been covered in an appropriate fabric rather than being painted and it will have six slightly larger panels rather than the eight for Anderby Creek which will fold slightly differently.

DSCN7868I’m considering batik, canvaswork and reverse applique to record my memories of this visit.

The record of my 2019 Mothers’ Day visit to the North Sea Observatory and walk along the coastal path to Anderby Creek was finally finished on a very different Mothers’ Day just a year later. After learning tonight that the UK has joined much of Europe in lockdown, I hope I’ll never take being able to walk freely when and where I want for granted again.

Anyway, to the stitching. The cover title is in split stitch (my favourite for lettering) on indigo dyed sheeting over a piece of lovely pebble fabric from the Knitting and Stitching Show last November. It has been stitched through the pelmet vilene of the accordion with the speckly (a variegated metallic thread) stitches along the lines between the pebbles – sort of invisibly!

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Our walk started at the North Sea Observatory, just north of Skegness. It’s an amazing and I think very beautiful building, angular and austere with wonderful views over the beach towards the sea. Perfect to be stripped right back to the simple shades and tones of black work.

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From the Observatory we started to walk along the beach. I used tiny scraps of fabric to represent dunes, sea and sky in a patchwork landscape that is only about three inches high. This was the last idea I had for the book and it’s my favourite.

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Of course, when on a beach, beachcombing is obligatory! One of the things that blew me away about this beach was the huge amount of shells. I’ve never seen a North Sea beach with so many different types. I chose this oyster shell  because it had holes in it already, making it perfect for attaching with stitch. In this case I used long buttonhole bars which I worked back into for the little cast on stitch curls.

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When I saw a scrap bag at the Knitting and Stitching Show last year with this pebble fabric in it I knew it was perfect for the memory journal. The beach is more sandy than shingly, but it fits in with the story of our walk so well. I gave it a felt backing to give the pebbles a quilted look when I back stitched around them in my favourite variegated metallic Madeira thread. The idea was to look like the twinkles of light you get through pebbles when there is water underneath.

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Part two later in the week!

At In The Stitch Zone, the weekly embroidery class I run locally (information in the tab at the top) we’re working on a longer project based on my avocado dyed long cloth which I began back in 2011 and am still stitching into on an occasional basis.

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Time to make up packs of natural dyed fabrics, threads, lace, ribbon etc. for everyone. I found some avocado, red cabbage and walnut dyed fabrics from sessions I’d done before, which was a good start.  I’d only even dyed with red cabbage and a touch of vinegar, so hearing that you could get an amazing range of greens with bicarbonate of soda I decided to experiment. The greens really are gorgeous – especially against some avocado and red cabbage (with vinegar) dyed pieces!

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DSCN7529 As I dye everything in the kitchen using my ordinary utensils, I don’t mordant and only use food stuffs as dyes. I know red cabbage is supposed to be fugitive, but some of the pieces I found (admittedly in a drawer) from the last lot of dyeing I did are eight or nine years old and are still a lovely colour.

I also bought some annatto seeds from our local oriental grocer and they were an complete revelation! Bright orange initially with golden yellow as the dye bath became exhausted and they even dyed a piece of nylon lace (which I unfortunately forgot to get a photo of…) No filter needed on these silk samples.

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As the annatto seeds are incredibly hard and I didn’t want to stain the coffee grinder bright orange, I crushed some in a pestle and mortar and when that got too difficult, just put the whole lot into the slow cooker to create the dye bath. Then, of course, they were nice and soft, so after I’d done the first lot of dyeing, I whizzed them up in the food processor (didn’t stain it, I’m glad to report!) and got a second dye bath out of the pulverised seeds. A softer golden yellow, but still lovely.

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Packs for everyone plus some spares.

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They are slowly turning into some gorgeous pieces of work!

Cleaning a load of broken vintage jewellery the other day I immediately spotted two obvious opportunities for upcycling in the form of the two brooches in the middle, both missing the central focal stone.

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And both crying out for ribbon roses! First the gold and pink diamante brooch.

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This has a silk ribbon rose stitched onto coloured pelmet vilene with nested detached chain stitch leaves and a shiny rayon french knot nestled in its heart. Available in my Etsy shop here.

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If the round brooch was small, the bar brooch is even smaller, with the central bezel tray I was looking to fill measuring just over 1cm wide!

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Time to scale down to 2mm wide silk ribbon and single strands of silk thread to create a tiny spray. I love the way this turned out – even though I know it’s stitched, at first glance it looks like micromosaic!

Also available in my Etsy shop here.

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I was playing with some scraps of upcycled felt a while ago that I’d made in the washing machine from some 100% wool garments that were past wearing. I added some broken jewellery pieces and a kilt pin that had been part of a job lot of broken/unwanted jewellery and came up with this little pendant brooch.

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From this brooch came the idea for a workshop and some more samples. Firstly, an octagonal piece of broken earring, a scrap of felt and sheaf stitch, detached chain stitch and french knots in a funky variegated thread became this brooch. Finished off with beaded blanket stitch around the edges and blanket stitch to attach it to the pin.

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I realised that some little metal tags from my found objects box looked like the bodies of fish and so I started another sample, stitching them down with long and short stitch to create flamboyant tails.

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Palestrina and feather stitch creates fronds of seaweed and also helps hold the ‘bodies’ of the fish in place, and french knots form the sea bed.

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I like all my samples, but those fishes have a special place in my heart – they came out exactly as I’d imagined them!

Last February we had a fantastic Print to Stitch workshop at the Guild with Jan Dowson. One of the pieces I created was based on the paisley stamps she had made for us.

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Seeing my starting point now, after a year of covering it with stitch, it seems so bare!!

I started with some Pekinese stitch around some of the paisleys.

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Then seeding around the paisleys in a variegated stranded cotton. Doing that amount of seeding is pretty mind-numbing so I mixed it up with more decoration on the paisleys – split stitch on the right.

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It was a great project to take out and about, even making it to London with me last summer when the temperatures were through the roof and I was trying to keep cool in the Chinese galleries at the V&A.

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More seeding in seed stitch and french knots with chain stitch accents and woven and back-stitched spiders’ web stitches in the middles.

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Getting there… finished all the internal stitching on the paisleys and now just seeding at this point because I’m still not sure what stitch I want to outline the other paisleys. Something as bold as the Pekinese stitch but different.

IMG_20191116_091718It wasn’t until I began to explore Palestrina Stitch over Christmas prior to teaching it in a workshop that the penny dropped.

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Palestrina in a heavy perle was just right to balance the Pekinese.

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And the completed piece!

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No idea what I’m going to do with it, but that’s not the point. I love the colours, shapes and stitches and it’s been a pleasure to work. That’s all you need, sometimes, isn’t it?

 

 

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