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The snowflakes brooch take two is completed and has worked much better this time around. The blue silk makes the snowflakes really stand out and the actual snowflakes are definitely better executed. I finished it by gathering it round an oval of buckram to stiffen it…

…and then made another plain piece to cover the gathers on the back. I ladder stitched them together and then stuck the resulting ‘sandwich’ into the brooch setting.

I also got round to making the practice piece for the Chihuly Reeds to trial the alcohol inks. I was concerned that they might either run off the metallic fabric and bleed into the back ground or the applique stitches would wick the ink down into the fabric, but in fact, neither happened. There is some bleeding, but that was where I touched the tip of the brush onto the fabric – not easy to avoid, given the size of the piece.

Onto the main piece, feeling much more confident. I did catch the background fabric in a couple of very minor places but I think the variegation of the back ground fabric helps to hide it.

Then I added the dried grass around the bases. I’m really happy with the way the combination of the metallic fabric and the translucent inks has captured the shimmering glass. Success number two!

And success number three is that the lovely The Old Stables Studio in Horncastle is going to stock my upcycled jewellery! I had a scenic run out there last week and met Kate, the owner, who is passionate about upcycled and handmade and happy to stock a selection of my jewellery. So that’s where Snowflakes Take Two will be going, as will this underwater themed locket which I finished this morning.

Fingers crossed – that’s all I can do at the moment.

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I’ve finally finished the English Paper Pieced patchwork page for my Kew Memory Journal with an embroidered branch across the top in split stitch and detached chain stitch.

Apart from the front cover it’s the first page I’ve fully finished. I really need to get down to stitching the snaps onto the Niijima floats piece – stalling again with only a tiny bit to finish! And the Reeds are closer to being finished that they were. There are only two more to stitch down but it is laborious putting the tiny stitches into the silver applique and not very interesting compared with all the other exciting things I want to play with – like snowflakes.

The plan was for the snowflakes to feature on the central insert for a broken vintage silver tone brooch. Indigo dyed fabric all hooped up and ready to go.

Improvising snowflakes in silk thread. So far so good. I liked the large and medium snowflakes and then I planned to seed the background with French knots for small distant snowflakes.

Ah…

Far too busy now and the detail of the bigger snowflakes is hidden. I added some blending filament to give them a bit of sparkle in the hope that it would help, but no. Definitely a back to the drawing board moment!

I’ve also upcycled a vintage watch face casing which was missing its face and mechanism. I found a sterling silver flower which had been a broken stud earring and fitted perfectly into the case.

Then I used an odd silver earring hook a fabricate a hanging loop and a loop to attach the baroque pearl dangle before adding a sterling silver chain.

I love silver and gold (gold tone in this case, I suspect) together and was so pleased with the way this worked out. If you like it, please check it out here in my Etsy shop.

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Firstly, the Niijima Floats piece is finished – all apart from stitching on the press studs. I had initially thought about continuing the lines of the trapunto onto the binding to try and disguise what to me had become glaring errors, but Debbie pointed out that by doing that I would lose the lovely contrast between the smooth binding and the furrows of the trapunto.

Then I found the sycamore leaf template I used for ‘It Rained’ in the Tattershall Journal and had a bit of a brainwave. I cut two leaves out of a very fine felt I made for a project that ended up not happening, stitched on veins and popped them strategically onto the binding.

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Not only do they hide the mistakes, they balance the colour pop in the top corner and remind me of the beautiful Japanese maples around the garden. It’s been a long slog, but I think this piece has finally got there!

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This gave me renewed enthusiasm to tackle the reeds again. It’s going very slowly as I put the tiniest of stitches in to attach the silver fabric, but at least it’s going and I’m starting to enjoy the process.

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And lastly, I trekked out to Cleethorpes in torrential rain on Friday to get the first batch of my upcycled jewellery into Arttopia – an amazing shop full of all sorts of art and craft by local artists.

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What with the pandemic and all sort of other issues, it’s taken a long time to get here, but I’m delighted to finally be part of this group of talented people.

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Great position right next to the till – I just hope the customers like my work enough to buy it!

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In spite of having more than enough projects to be getting on with, I’ve done virtually no stitching this week. To be fair, there were three days when I was either out or doing household project jobs but I’ve struggled to stitch and it was starting to get to me. The first binding for the trapunto piece for the Kew Memory Journal I did several weeks ago was too narrow and so I had to unpick it. The second was far too thick, so that got unpicked too.

The third one was a piece of fabric patterned with Japanese parasols and I got all the way to pinning the back before I realised it wasn’t right. It’s badly uneven, the pattern was too big and so ended up lost and the colour took the eye away from the trapunto.

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I couldn’t face unpicking a third binding, so I just left it.

I did have a desultory attempt at another of the pieces I wanted to create, based on one of the Chihuly Reeds installations.

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The idea was metallic fabric over some sort of padding – originally felt but I couldn’t cut it thin enough. Then I would use alcohol inks to add the vibrant oranges and golds and the metallic would give it shine. I cut out some of the metallic pieces – most only a few millimetres wide.

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I even got as far as stitching one in place. Instead of felt behind I worked a line of chain stitch in perle along the middle of where I wanted the piece to go and then stab stitched the metallic fabric over it with fine silk thread and a beading needle.

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It’s not bad, but I don’t feel excited about it, not like I did with the trapunto.

Then it suddenly occurred to me this morning that I have Embroiderer’s Block.  Like Writer’s Block but with more needles. As I’m also a writer (check out my book details on the About page) I realised that Writer’s Block mirrors the issue I’m having with my stitching perfectly.  So now I know what it is, I can address it.

There is no magic fix to Writer’s Block. Professional writers don’t have the luxury of waiting for their muse to strike or for their ‘mojo’ to return. Basically you unblock by writing. It doesn’t matter whether it’s utter rubbish, or something better than that. You sit down and put words on paper, one after the other and, at least for me, it always works. So this afternoon I sat down with the trapunto piece, unpicked the binding and bound it a fourth time in a piece of the same silk noil as I used for the top layer.

It’s not good. The edge is uneven, the mitre in one corner somehow isn’t one (and I’m not quite sure how that happened) and the join is lumpy and obvious but it’s at least the right fabric for the job.

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But instead of keeping it on one side and waiting for the planets to align, I got back down to it. I put stitches into the fabric one after another like words onto a page and I have at least something to show for that. I’ve had some ideas about mitigating the state of the binding so I intend to work on it a bit more tomorrow and possibly the day after. Working through my Embroiderer’s Block one stitch at a time.

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I didn’t get round to replacing the Totoro bag zip in the end, I dug deep and made my first ever pair of loose curtain linings to replace the ones I discovered had rotted when I tried to wash them back in May. My mum is the curtain maker and I had always assumed that there must some sort of mystery to it. Surely it’s not just a large rectangle of fabric, hemmed and with heading tape attached? Well, yes, it is and the only mystery is how anybody would be able to sew more than one without dying of boredom as the sewing machine chugs along through miles of lining fabric. But I now have a lot less light coming through my bedroom curtains and they look and feel so much better.

I’ve also had a bit of a dabble with some Harris Tweed, another first. I fell for some oddments on eBay and had also bought some punched tweed circles in fabulous colours, planning to use them together to make some kantha pieces and possibly small kits. The trapunto Niijima Floats piece has stalled again as I can’t find the right fabric to bind it (I’ve stitched and unpicked two bindings already) and I wanted a nice quick calming stitch.

I chose a gorgeous hand dyed green shading to purple stranded silk for the stitching and I thought it would show up against the grey but it really didn’t.

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Close up it is gorgeous…

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…but from a distance that subtlety is lost. Oh well, I still like it, it’s only a sample piece and all learning is useful.

I’m going to see my middle one for the first time since December at the weekend and you may remember that she laid claim to the Singer sewing machine that I rescued from the skip back in May so I thought it was probably time I got it out of the garage and investigated properly. Having checked the registration number I believe it to be a Singer 28, made in 1937, so ten years younger than my Frister and Rossmann.

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It stitched straight out of the box – for a while – and then the bobbin thread gathered up and broke. It wasn’t running easily in the shuttle, so I referred to Google and was soon deep in blogs and sites about looking after old machines.

As a result, yet another first and one that I am even prouder of because it was mechanical and I don’t really do engineering type things. I managed to work out why the bobbin wasn’t rotating (build up of lint in the bottom of the shuttle), take it apart and clean it.

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Clean as a whistle! Then I cleaned and oiled the whole machine and finally with my husband’s help, freed up the rusted pull out section of the bobbin winding mechanism. It now sews like a dream and I did it all myself!

However, it was very interesting to compare it with my F&R and to be honest, there is no comparison. The F&R is full of little details which make using it so much nicer. I’m afraid the Singer looked and felt a bit crude by comparison. Beautiful it is – just look at that engraved head plate:

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But I wouldn’t swap what somebody once called my ‘Cleopatra handcrank’ for the world. Boosted by my success with the Singer, I then serviced the F&R like a pro. It always sews like a dream but after I’d finished, I swear it purred!

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But a small amount of trapunto too. That’s because most of my stitching this week has been a mega darning session on a large rip in my favourite pair of knickers. It may be a very impressive and beautifully executed darn, but luckily for the world in general, I have no intention of sharing it!!

So the Niijima Floats piece now looks like this:

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Next I need to stitch down the image; possibly do some stitching into it, although the transfer medium is like thin plastic and tends to stretch and deform when you try to stitch through it, so I might leave it as it is – something to think about as I stitch it down  and work out how to finish it.

I’ve had quite a run of creativity with my upcycled jewellery and over the last week or so I’ve made two pairs of earrings and a bracelet.

The first pair of earrings started as an oddment of silver, possibly part of a pendant, which I bought from eBay because I loved the little fish dangling on the ends. They seemed very lonely on the end of their lengths of chain so I added some sea foam colour cats eye beads from a vintage necklace which look just like bubbles.

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Available here in my Etsy shop.

The second pair of earrings were inspired by some vintage necklace or bracelet strand separators which I found while looking for something else. I liked their rococo style but when I came to design some drops to hang from them, the holes were too close for three drops to have room to move, so I settled for a single drop of graduated haematite beads  framed with a loop of reclaimed chain.

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They are available here in my Etsy shop.

I never intended to make a bracelet. Honestly. I just went into my middle one’s old room, which I am slowly taking over for my jewellery making, to put a couple of earring drops into my box of bits for eventual upcycling.  As I did I spotted some bits of a broken vintage bracelet and suddenly the other jobs for the morning were forgotten.

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I gently curved the honeycomb drops and used them to frame one of those lovely big faux turquoise cabochons. Then two of the silver tone links and the other two cabs made up the rest of the bracelet with an Art Deco watch bracelet catch to finish it off.

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Upcycled assemblage pieces where I combine elements from lots of different fragments of broken jewellery, often take a long time to make because it takes so long to go through all my bits and find just the right ones.  However,  this one was much quicker because the components just jumped straight out at me – a very rare occurrence!

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It’s available here in my Etsy shop.

More mending this week, including replacing a zip in my little one’s beloved Totoro bag, but I hope to get on with some more of the trapunto piece as well.

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As I continued to stitch the Diagonal Raised Band I became less and less sure that it was right for the piece. It’s a lovely and relatively simple stitch to work as it’s based on diagonally placed cross stitches and the lacy background is beautiful, but in spite of all its good points, it still didn’t feel right.

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It was too stiff and just didn’t reflect the soft curves of the raked gravel cradling the Niijima Floats in the Zen Garden. So I finished it off…

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…and started stitching into some silk noil. It’s difficult to see as it’s double running stitch in cream silk thread on cream silk noil but it’s supposed to be a series of parallel channels like the rake lines.

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I planned to experiment with trapunto quilting by stuffing the stitched channels with thick wool. And to my delight, even though the only wool I could find in the right thickness was green, it worked!

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Stuffing the other channels which aren’t open at both ends has been an interesting task but with the help of a stiletto I managed to get this far.

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And with the transferred picture.

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Suddenly it works. The lines of trapunto quilting even almost match up with the lines of gravel (which was a complete accident). I’ve been fighting the pulled thread work all week but when the right technique falls into place it just comes together so easily that I actively want to stitch it instead of it being a chore.

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It seems that a lot of the last couple of weeks has been about creating cards. As well as the Fathers’ Day card I showed in the last post, I was also asked to make a first birthday card…

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…and a birthday card and anniversary card. For the birthday card I decided to revisit one of the experiments I did with some Angelina fibres, rubber stamps and an iron back in February 2012 and still have hanging about! I just added some simple gold herringbone and straight stitches. The Angelina is so blingy that I think less is definitely more.

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The anniversary card is one of the dozens of prints I took from Chris Gray’s huge wooden printing block collection when she led a workshop for our Embroiderers’ Guild back in 2016.

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I used just three threads in shades of green and purple to fill in the design with chain stitch, satin stitch, fishbone stitch, detached chain stitch and of course, french knots.

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Having had all these to put together, as well as one for my own dad, is partly why the pulled thread I had planned for the Kew memory Journal hasn’t progressed very far. The weather also hasn’t helped as I’m stitching in cream on cream…

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… and good daylight is a must. It just hasn’t been nice enough to sit outside and stitch very often.

Once I’m in the swing of counting I find pulled thread work has a very pleasing rhythm but unfortunately it seems that I’ve just got settled when at least one member of the family needs something – usually feeding!

I wanted a heavily raised stitch to echo the raked gravel of the Japanese Zen garden where Chihuly’s Niijima Floats were exhibited and I think the Diagonal Raised Band I chose does that very successfully.

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The picture has been transferred onto silk with transfer medium and will be stitched into the top corner.

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Now all I need is some decent light and a family who can feed themselves…!

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I bit the bullet! I finally plucked up the courage to steam and cut the canvas round my Sue Hawkins needlebook and once that was done, the rest just fell into place. The waste canvas folded back a lot flatter than I thought it would and blanket stitching the felt down was a breeze.

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The rest of the felt gave me four internal pages and a finish.

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It feels very odd to have a roomy book to leaf through looking for needles instead of a scrap of felt half the size of a credit card!

Another finish was this broken vintage brooch…

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…to which I added some 3D beading on a piece of dyed pelmet vilene.

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The beading was set into the long channel down the spine of the brooch and I set cats eye beads instead of diamantes into the cup shaped settings.

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A jump ring and a gold plated chain completed the transformation into what my middle one calls the ‘fancy pea pod’ pendant!

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It’s available here in my Etsy shop.

The other finish is another upcycled pendant created from a section of broken vintage bracelet and a single vintage earring.

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This one is available here in my Etsy shop.

The fresh start is the third of my memory journals. Now Tattershall has been put to bed I can concentrate on the Kew journal, remembering one of the hottest days of the year last July when I visited the Chihuly glass exhibition with my son. I’ve completed the cover, another stitched on paper piece which I blogged about back in last August but now I can focus on the Kew pieces rather than being distracted by having all three on the go as I did last summer. So here it is ready to be filled.

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The first piece is based on an image of the Niijima Floats in the Japanese Garden. Hopefully I will have something to show by next week!

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Finally finished, thanks to all your help, advice and ideas. I settled on a frame of brick fabric over an interfacing core to finish off the canvaswork bricks and a touch of Inktense to intensify the colours. It’s tacked in place here…

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…and slip stitched in place here.

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A closure of some grosgrain ribbon printed with maple leaves and a vintage snap was the final finishing touch, and I can now proudly present the Tattershall Castle Memory Journal.

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Unlike the Anderby Creek Journal this one is folded as a triptych with the bollock purse in the middle.

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And the reverse. The ribbon is stitched to the two folds and passes under the micro quilt which is press studded in place.

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I’m delighted to have finished it and am ready to move onto the third in the series – the Kew Gardens Chihuly Exhibition memory journal. I just have to find the black hole that my evenweave fabric has disappeared into first…

I also had fun making a Fathers’ Day card for a friend’s dad. I really object to the tired old football, beer, cars tropes that get trotted out every year, especially as neither my dad nor my husband are into any of those and neither is my friend’s dad. But he does love the Lake District, so I gathered some scraps of hand dyed fabric and started to experiment.

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A little bit of ironing later and I had this:

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It was a good way of showcasing the different textures as well as the variations in colour and I’m very pleased with the way it turned out.

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It went down very well apparently, so another satisfied customer!

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