Archive for the ‘Beading’ Category

I mentioned last week that I was thinking of adding needle lace to another of the cocoons. I’d already given it a blanket stitched edging and so it was easy enough to add a second layer of larger blanket stitches in every other one of the base stitches and then turn them into simple scallops by packing more blanket stitches into each large loop.

Having successfully used steam to ease one of the previous cocoons back into shape, I wanted to know whether I could steam the cocoons flat to make a flatter flower. I cut another cocoon into strips, like basic petals, leaving a small area at the top of the cocoon uncut, grabbed it between a pair of barbecue tongs to hold it flat and keep my hands away from the heat, and boiled the kettle. I literally only used the amount of steam that comes out of the spout at the end of a normal boil which was perfect. It was hot and wet enough to soften the cocoon and allow it to relax into a different shape, but not enough to actually wet the cocoon. I was able to handle it as soon as I took it away from the kettle and it held its shape perfectly.

Then I cut the petals to shape and stitched the top of another cocoon that I already had cut on top to form the centre of the flower. A scattering of seed beads gives a bit of sparkle to the centre and I held down the petals with whipped back stitch.

You might possibly recognise the background fabric…

You should never throw offcuts away and the scraps I’d kept from that project worked really well as a contrast background to the orange of the cocoon. I’m happy that I’ve explored plenty of different things to do with silk cocoons so they can be packed away while I move onto other stitching.

I’ve also managed to finish my encrusted initial, which was another of the projects we stitched at In The Stitch Zone this Winter/Spring session. I did one a few years ago as a sample for a workshop I was going to teach at a local sewing shop which never came to pass and have always liked the way the tightly packed flowers and leaves create the outline of the letter.

This time I went for a different vibe, with a background of my own rust dyed cotton and a variegated rusty red-brown thread for the flowers.

I let the variegations in the thread change the colour of the flowers and French knots this time rather than using different coloured threads.

Finished off with lots of lazy daisy stitch leaves and French knot centres for the flowers.

Lots of new things to prepare for the Spring/Summer Session at In The Stitch Zone – all will be revealed soon!

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I love all things silk. I love the types and textures of silk fabric, from silk matka that looks like hessian yet feels like velvet, to slubby dupion and crisp swishy silk taffeta. Silk thread is my favourite to stitch with, especially Gloriana stranded silk which sits almost weightlessly in the hand, and I embroider tiny images on silk carrier rods for my upcycled jewellery. So it will come as no surprise to learn that I have a thing for silk cocoons too, but I tend not to use them as frequently and when I do, it’s mostly as stylised flowers for upcycled pendants and earrings.

Time to have a bit of a play and create some samples for the silk cocoons workshop I taught at Stitch Zone last week. I was specifically looking at ways of adding stitching to the cocoons, attaching beaded ‘stamens’ without using a headpin and creating tassels. I started by making a couple of tassels, the first with a scrap of metallic rick rack braid stitched round the edge and the silk cocoon cut to echo the shape.

I used a whole skein of stranded cotton for the tassel and nearly lost the will to live separating all the individual strands out, but it does make the tassel look fuller and fluffier. It’s extremely difficult to stitch the folded over tassel through the top of the cocoon and then work the needle back round it to secure it and make the buttonhole stitched loop, so I will confess that there are some strategically placed dabs of super glue to hold the threads securely where I simply couldn’t fasten them off neatly enough.

For the second attempt I decided to use beading wire to tie the middle of the tassel threads and then bring it through the top of the cocoon and twist it to make a loop. I used beaded blanket stitch to decorate the edge this time.

And a bead cap just to strengthen the top of the cocoon. They are relatively robust but I’ve found from experience that repeated movement of a headpin or bail will start to wear the silk and enlarge the hole. Bead caps are a good way of preventing this.

The ‘strawberry’ started out as an attempt to use up the green cocoon which had been badly bashed. I cut some of the damaged areas away and found that steaming it gently over the kettle helped me to ease the rest back into shape.

I created some beaded ‘stamens’ for this one from odds and ends of seed and bugle beads. I threaded the bead sequences on Nymo thread. I go down as far as the end bead, which I use as a ‘stop bead’ and then take the thread back through all the beads a second time before tying the thread at the top and making another ‘stamen’.

Once I’d threaded the stamen cluster through the top of the cocoon I added another bead cap to stop any wear. Then I stitched on a jump ring to act as a bail and again, resorted to a dab of super glue to secure the end of the thread.

I find that each time I make one I think of another variation – I’m hoping to add a needle lace edging to my next one. As we have another week working on this, watch this space for further variants!

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As I mentioned last week in all the side-tracked business with the turmeric dyeing, I’ve actually finished the geode stitch sampler. Last time I gave a progress update I’d got to here. Twelve rows of stitches, finishing with threaded running stitch:

I had decided by this point that I wasn’t going to fill in the middle but I wasn’t sure how many more rows to add. So having stitched a couple of rows where the embroidery was more ‘open’, I added cable stitch, which is like a couple of offset rows of back stitch but worked as one line.

For the next row I wanted some texture and height, and it had been a while since I’d added beads, so I used some iridescent delica beads to stitch a row of Butterfly Oglala Stitch. This is the second attempt as first time round I used standard silver lined seed beads in teal and silver and they were just too bright. I think the matte finish of these beads makes them more sympathetic to the surrounding stitches.

The ruffles of the Butterfly Oglala fall over the neighbouring stitches and were already obscuring the cable stitch of the previous row so although I initially intended every row to be different, I repeated the couched wool roving I’d used in the second row to act as a buffer to the beaded ruffles and help them stay standing up.

By this point the hole in the middle was getting small enough that the stitch rounds were working up very quickly, so I forgot to take individual photos of the next two stitches. The paler one is Pekin Knot Stitch in a mercerised cotton. The knots are much more open/oval than the pictures on the instructions, so I’m not sure whether I’ve worked it wrongly, or just spaced the stitches out further. I like it well enough not to restitch it though.

Inside that is Up and Down Buttonhole Stitch, which I love. I never tire of the awe and wonder moment when I work the final step of the stitch and the tying stitch comes magically down and sits neatly over the two legs.

This felt almost finished, but I wanted to complete it in a way that gave the impression of the crystals you get on the innermost edge of a real geode. So this was going to be beads again. I wondered about quartz chips, but then I found some translucent bugle beads that were a similar colour to the quartz cubes and they fitted perfectly in between the legs of the Up and Down Buttonhole Stitch.

So it’s finished and I’m very pleased with it. I like the balance of beading and embroidery stitches and as well as old favourites, I’ve used seven stitches that were either completely new to me or that I’ve only stitched occasionally, so as a sampler, it’s worked.

I’m not sure what I want to do with it yet, but that’s not a problem. It feels good to have a successful finish that hasn’t stalled in sight of the end.

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Much of my spare time this week has been eaten up by paperwork for Scunthorpe Little Theatre Club: policies, the monthly newsletter and trying to make headway with the rewrite for the 2024 panto, so what stitching I’ve done has been slow. However, after a bit of a lull, I’ve got things moving with the Brantwood wallpaper motif again. The last time I posted about it in December, I was on with the very last section, the grey border motifs.

I was on the home straight but as so often inexplicably happens, with the end in sight, I stalled. I’m very pleased with the execution of this piece but I haven’t found it the most interesting thing I’ve ever stitched. It’s quite traditional/old fashioned and I don’t find stitching over the lines of a pre-prepared image very fulfilling, especially when the stitches are so limited. But this isn’t the only piece of stitching that I’ve stopped working on with only a few hours work left and I know I’m not alone in this. I just wish I could work out why!

Anyway, I’ve got it moving again and the end is creeping closer. I’ve finished all the left hand side and have put in most of the split stitch stems on the right. I’ve also decided that I’m definitely keeping the variegated cotton outline for the central motif. I’m hoping I can keep a bit of momentum going for this now as I just want to get it finished and put into the holiday journal.

I’ve also finished the vintage scarf ring I was planning to upcycle into another barrette. At the end of panto week I’d done all the decorative stitching and it just needed a pelmet vilene stiffening layer and a felt back.

I sorted the felt and vilene layers and added a beaded blanket stitch edging to hold them together and it now looks like this:

And the back looks like this:

Yes, I did say it was going to be a barrette but I had a senior moment and finished it as a brooch, not a barrette. That’s what happens when you put things aside when you’re nearly finished instead of pushing on to completion!

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The class I teach weekly, In The Stitch Zone, is intended to be accessible to people at all levels of stitching ability and as such I am always trying to create projects that can work at all levels, from a complete beginner to an expert. I spotted a piece of embroidery on Instagram recently which I think was supposed to look like the layers of a geode. What occurred to me was that it could become an interesting twist on a sampler of line stitches, stitched in concentric circles with some beading thrown in for extra sparkle and textural interest. We are starting the project on Monday so I can finally reveal my sample so far, which I started stitching during panto week.

I kept to my favourite shades of turquoise – mainly because I have a box filled with different types of turquoise threads and it was easy to grab and take with me – and a background of rusty gold in a 6″ hoop. I wanted to use quite bold stitches and also to try and utilise some of the fancy threads we all accumulate that you can’t actually stitch through fabric. The first row was Pekinese Stitch which I managed to thread with a very lovely but very slubby pure silk. I think the slub makes it look a bit untidy/unevenly stitched but I love the colour and it is supposed to be based on a natural form after all, so I’m trying to squash my tendency to neatness!

I followed this with a deliberately uneven row of wool roving, couched down with a shiny rayon thread: again something I wouldn’t usually use but I wanted a hint of shine against the wool. It wasn’t too bad for tangling but it was very springy and difficult to get it to pull the wool into place and hold it.

I followed the couching with a straightforward row of chain stitch in a heavy perle…

…and after that, whipped a row of running stitch with a length of hand dyed tubular ribbon. By having a thin thread for the running stitch and using a very thick one to whip it with, I really like the wave effect it’s given to the twisted ribbon.

Next, a knotted stitch and I chose Palestrina Stitch which I worked in two strands of a single strand silk to try and give it enough weight to compete with the chunky row next to it.

Next, time for some sparkle and the opportunity to use up a lovely string of quartz beads I’d had for ages but only just discovered that the holes through the middle are tiny – too small for anything but the thinnest wire and my thinnest beading needle. I couched them down in a circle and then went back and worked French knots over the couching stitches. I love that these cube shaped beads have been drilled corner to corner so they sit up like little crystals on the fabric.

Inside the layer of beads I felt it needed another chunkier stitch, so I used whipped chain stitch, whipped with some sparkly dark turquoise chainette thread – not the greatest photo under artificial light.

And my final row so far is feather stitch in heavy perle. I worked it quite small so the ‘arms’ were quite short but I felt it was a bit too open so I went round again and stitched an iridescent seed bead into the base of each open chain. Much better photos in daylight this morning!

I think I’ve got far enough to give an idea of the concept and I like the fact that the circle now has a bit of a wobble to it, which should develop as I continue into the middle, like a natural geode.

More fun, I think, than just a linear line stitch sampler.

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I’ve made a couple of pieces of upcycled jewellery recently that both have felt as a basis. The first is using the second of the two offcuts of hand made felt I was given by my lovely neighbour Lisa at the Artisan Market at The Collection back in June. I’ve already made the top one into a round found object mandala brooch which sold at Arttopia back in the summer.

I decided to make a barrette with the bottom one and cut it into a random curvy shape.

Next, auditioning found objects to decorate it…

…before I settled on a border of chunky vintage chain with a pressed brass motif, a larger clockwork cog and some unusual spiral wire wrapped chain links. I stitched everything down using simple straight stitches in a variegated mercerised cotton which echoes the pinks and purples in the felt.

I attached a barrette fixing to a piece of commercial felt for the backing and stitched the two layers together with a simple beaded blanket stitch and iridescent pinky-red/gold seed beads.

The second piece is a brooch and started off as a wet felted flower hair ornament which belonged to my little one when she was a lot younger. It doesn’t quite fit with the moody goth look she’s sporting at the moment and the felt itself was quite delicate so it had been pulled out of shape and was wearing very thin in places. I ironed it flat and having just processed some odd beads and a ring that all had a bit of a cogs and gears thing going on, had a bit of a play.

Next I stitched the pieces down with variegated turquoise and rust coloured thread.

And then cut the felt into the shape I wanted for the brooch, echoing the shape formed by the ‘cogs’.

Last step was to attach the felt and brooch back with beaded blanket stitch using some of my favourite iridescent turquoise seed beads. Not only is it a sturdy stitched edging but when you’re joining two pieces of fabric the beads sit nicely in the join and hide the edges.

Lastly, a thread chicken update on the Brantwood wallpaper motif. I made it: that is all I have left of the red!

I knew I had a little bit of wiggle room as I could have unpicked the red bar at the bottom of the leaves that’s supposed to be black, but I’m relieved it didn’t come to that. Next stage is the black (in fact a very dark grey called Night Smoke) stars.

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As I mentioned a few weeks ago, at In The Stitch Zone we’ve been working on what I’ve called the SpringBoard Project. My idea is that we all stitch something which incorporates the prompt for the week. It can be as complex or simple, obvious or tenuous as you like and therefore, hopefully accessible by anyone at any level of ability as I’m keen to encourage new people to join. I have shared some glimpses of my responses to the prompts but as I’ve completed two of them this weekend, I thought it was time for a dedicated catch up.

Week 1: Wrap

My initial idea for this was to wrap some lengths of plastic drinking straw with some scraps of fabric and then add beads and then just see where things led me. A couple of weeks ago this was as far as I’d got.

Sue, one of the ladies in the class, gave me some threads she didn’t want which were the perfect colour and that gave me the idea of wrapping the whole bundle in and out of the straws and couching them down. It would also help keep the straw sections in place.

Once I’d got this far I realised I needed a bit more space so I moved it onto a piece of furnishing fabric and a bigger hoop before I spread out and couched down the ends of the thread bundle, adding some one-wrap French knots for texture and then wrapped more beads over the ends of the loops.

I had one straw section left, so I cut it into three, wrapped each one in the rust and turquoise thread I’d been using for the couching and stitched them down with long straight stitches.

Finally I tore a strip of cloth I rusted in the summer and wrapped it with a length of perle cotton I’d used to tie the bundle up and couched it round the outside of the silk square I’d used for the background. First one finished!

Week 2: Fold

My response for this prompt was the American smocking panel I shared a couple of weeks ago. It had a lovely reception on Instagram with several people thinking it was a pastry lattice pie crust on first glance!

Week 3: Knot

My initial thought for this one was that it was an opportunity to finally get to grips with colonial knots, which I’ve been promising myself for a while but I was also quite taken with an image I found on Pinterest of layers of knotted fabric so I knotted some strips, found a random scrap of background fabric and layered them up with lines of Palestrina stitch.

I’m less happy with this sample – mainly because it’s the closest to my comfort zone. I’ve not used a new technique or given a twist to something I already knew how to do – the seaweedy curving lines are very ‘me’. However, it meets the prompt and I don’t have to love all my samples. I’ve also decided that when I find a suitable piece of fabric to mount it on I’ll have a go at a row of colonial knots or mixed colonial and French perhaps round the edge to attach it.

Week 4: Twist

This was last week’s prompt and as I spent the session struggling with what I though was a chest infection I only got this far with the base grid for Twisted Lattice Stitch from Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches. I’ve stitched it in mercerised cotton on linen so I could use the weave to keep things even but I suspect it’s a bit on the small side. (No surprise there…)  Mary Thomas shows it worked as a diamond so even though it looks rectangular it does have the right number of thread on each side – eventually…

The chest infection? After miraculously avoiding it for nearly three years (not bad given I’m a supply teacher, my husband works in two schools and my little one has been in school and college) I tested positive for Covid the next day. Week 5 of the Springboard project (‘Cut’) is postponed until a week on Monday!

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I’ve had a few meetings over the last week which have borne fruit as far as the Victorian wallpaper motif is concerned. When I blogged about it a couple of weeks ago, I was a little worried about the coverage of the single strand red silk thread and wondering if two strands would work better.

As I’d worked a symmetrical section, I decided to change to two strands for the next one down and see how things went. And they went perfectly. The strands worked well together and I think the coverage is much smoother and neater. However, there is a definite difference in height between the two sections, so I’m wondering whether to restitch the three sections I’ve already done.

Especially as I checked back with the original photo – spot the not deliberate mistake!

I am definitely going to have to restitch the middle section, although I might just see if I can use the existing red stitches as padding, satin stitch over it in black and make it a slightly more raised block. Loving the way the silk shimmers in the sunlight.

At In The Stitch Zone, the class I teach on a Monday afternoon, we have just started the SpringBoard Project. The idea is that we all stitch something which incorporates the prompt for the week. It can be as complex or simple, obvious or tenuous as you like and therefore, hopefully accessible by anyone at any level of ability. We’re a week out of sync due to the Bank Holiday for the Queen’s funeral, so started last week with the first prompt, which was ‘Wrap’.

Even up to the start of the session I had no clear idea of what I was going to do. I had threads, fabric, beads and some other bits and pieces which included a section of plastic drinking straw. So I picked out some fabric in my favourite shades and started to play; literally doodling with the materials in front of me. And I ended up with this:

The bright turquoise is frayed habotai silk and I have caught it down with beads over sections of the straw.

I only had a small piece of the straw so I’m trying to use every scrap!

Loving this doodle and definitely going to carry on with it.

Lastly, as we’re at the end of yet another month (how did that happen?!) the round up for September’s Move It On Project. Not finished, but definitely moved on. I’ve learned some things, made choices and again, ended up with something that is worth continuing and finishing when the time is right.

I’ve bit the bullet with October’s Project because it’s actually something that has not yet been started. It’s not just my project, it’s a three way collaboration that started in lockdown and I’m painfully aware that I’m holding the job up, so I’m using this as a way of holding myself accountable. There will be pictures and a fuller confession to follow.

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I called the felted, beaded upcycled brooch ‘Clematis’ and finished it late last night – hence the rubbish lighting in the photo. I put it on its story card and took it to the Eco Fair at the Ropewalk in Barton upon Humber today and it sold. To tell the truth I was a bit gobsmacked and am feeling strangely bereft. I was so pleased with the design but it feels like I barely had the time to get to know this piece before it headed off to a new home. Very strange emotions. I’m also wondering if I under-priced it, which I suspect I did, given the amount of work in it… Anyway, lesson learned.

After the summery clematis flower I went more autumnal with the piece of jewellery I was working on at the fair today. Our stitch group (SEATA) always has the most fabulous Sales Table at each meeting with donations from other members to be sold for the group’s funds. Other people’s stuff is always much more interesting than your own! A few months ago I bought a load of machine stitched, embroidered, layered and melted autumnal fabric leaves which I could really see being used in upcycling projects but it wasn’t until a leaf shaped stick pin turned up in a recent lot of broken jewellery…

…that things started to come together. I chose two of the leaves.

And then combined them to make a spray with the leaf at the top of the pin becoming part of the base of one of the leaves. I’ve stitched them together going over the machine stitches in a very fine thread so they are firmly attached but the join is pretty much invisible.

And of course, the other ongoing seasons-related thing in the pipeline is September’s Move It On Project which is based on the four seasons. Summer has been moved on a bit, from here:

To here, with the addition of some stem stitch stems and buttonhole ring leaves.

I’m enjoying the simplicity of these shapes and as each flower makes up relatively quickly, it’s just what I need to feel I’m making some progress in spite of the limited hours in a day.

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With this month’s Move It On project safely put to bed, I’ve been able to think about other things, including a piece inspired partly by a recent trip to Withernsea beach which always turns up some interesting beachcombed treasures, and partly by some recent images that caught my attention on Pinterest of densely encrusted stitching around seashells.

I rediscovered a fabulous piece of silk matka which looks like a hessian sack but feels like velvet, some scraps of organza to add subtle shading to the background and some assorted shells and literally started to doodle in stitch.

I had an odd pony bead and I knew I wanted to cover it in stem stitch band like one I did for the North Cornwall Wallhanging. I used a much thicker thread for this one but it still has the sea urchin sort of look that I was looking for. The raised cup stitch that was so successful as poppies on the Harvest Wreath was a complete disaster here, so I filled them with seed beads and started to surround them with French knots to try and blend them in.

Next I added feather, threaded chain and Palestrina stitches over the strips of organza to hold them down and continued to build up the French knots and add some little mottled sandy coloured beads.

I love the depth and texture of the stitching.

More French knots interspersed with bullions and pearl beads. I liked the shaded effect on the needleweaving on the left from the variegated silk threads I was using so I added some more of those.

Finally finished. Well, in the end I had to tell myself to put down the needle and walk away. With this sort of free form stitching it’s so tempting to just add another dozen French knots or another seaweedy frond. The hardest thing is knowing when to stop!

I finished the Mothers’ Day card in good time too and am told it went down very well with the recipient. Despite my best efforts the the tea bags did shred a bit and the whole thing had to be restabilised by stuffing scraps of Bondaweb under the flapping areas and ironing carefully. You can see some spidery areas of glue but it’s less obvious in real life and was much better than having bits dropping off!

Next job is to decide on April’s Move It On Project and I’m torn between revisiting an existing project or starting a kit that’s been hanging around for a while and of course, also needs moving on.

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