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Archive for the ‘Experimenting’ Category

After Saturday’s talk, a whole Sunday workshop with Alice Fox. We had just been asked to bring our normal sewing kits plus threads, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, making it even more exciting. There was a tempting array of papers, threads and ephemera laid out…

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…along with some examples of Alice’s own work for inspiration. To start, we were each given a selection of different papers…

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…and a prompt sheet asking us to explore how it felt to stitch into them. I used a template from my silversmithing course five years ago to do some feather stitch in various weights of thread..

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I really liked the rough texture I got from putting stitching holes into the heavy tracing paper, so once I’d stitched through it, I used a metalworking scribe to mark wavy lines into the paper without piercing it before punching varying sized holes from either the front (smooth) or the back (rough).

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I really like the differences of line and texture on this. And it reminds me of the sea.

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The next prompt was cutting and patching.

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So a piece of old map cut along the grid lines became the fragment on the right.

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As you can see, by this time I had succumbed and made a little book for my fragments. It started off as an origami book, folded from a single piece of paper with one cut, but I wanted a bit more stability and to have access to all the sides of the pages, so I pamphlet stitched it in two places and tore the double pages into singles. Winging it, but it works.

Next was couching.  I followed the road and river lines on this scrap of map.

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By this time we were all engrossed in our own thing, and although there were two more prompts about deconstructing marked papers and accentuating printed marks, everyone was well away with their cutting, stitching, tearing, patching and experimenting.

At the end of the day we ended up with with a fascinating range of responses.

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Alice uses rusting quite a lot in her work and so when I got home to my rusty washers, I couldn’t resist some mark making on tea soaked paper.

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My little book was over half full by the time the workshop ended.

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With my rust and tea stained papers and these that I didn’t get round to exploring…

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…I have every intention of playing with some more of Alice’s prompts and completing my little book!

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The first item on Dorian Gray’s list is: “the great crocus-coloured robe, on which the gods fought against the giants, that had been worked by brown girls for the pleasure of Athena.” So my first job was to do some research and produce some crocus-coloured fabric. It seems that wool and linen were the most common fabrics, with silk and cotton available later in the ancient period, so I sourced some matka silk, wool and linen as my primary fabrics.

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Although crocuses are more often purple, I suspect crocus-coloured in this instance means saffron-coloured and certainly in Ancient Greece saffron robes are associated with women and ritual clothing, so my first choice of a dye stuff was saffron. Turmeric is also an ancient dye and gives a similar colour, so that was my second choice and my third was ‘false’ saffron, or dyer’s safflower.

This would give me nine different fabric and dye combinations to choose from, so I cut swatches of my fabrics and started dyeing. One of the really nice things about this is that all three dyes are food stuffs and none need mordants, so I was able to dye in the kitchen using my own pans.

First, the saffron. The extra piece on the left is the cotton muslin I put the strands into. Then, from left to right, wool, silk and linen. Lovely soft, sunshiny, golden shades.

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Next, the turmeric. From left to right, wool, silk and linen. Fantastic deep rich golds.

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And lastly, the dyer’s safflower. Disappointed with these shades, especially on the linen, but it was probably my dyeing technique that wasn’t right. From left to right, wool, silk and linen.

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I love the way the wool took up the dyes but it feels a little heavy and ordinary for a ceremonial robe. From left to right, dyer’s safflower, saffron and turmeric.

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The silk is lovely but the matka which I’ve chosen has a very nubbly texture, which would make embroidery a little more challenging. From left to right, dyer’s safflower, saffron and turmeric.

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So I’m leaning more towards the linen, which was very widely used in classical times.  From left to right, dyer’s safflower, saffron and turmeric.

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As undyed linen isn’t white, it didn’t appear to take up the dyer’s safflower much and made the saffron look a bit muddy, but the turmeric has worked well and looks very similar to the colour of the saffron on silk, so at the moment, that is my choice for the fabric. Another bonus is that I have plenty of cheap and easily obtained from the supermarket turmeric left!

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The dyeing is the easy bit – researching the background information on my three dyes to add to the book and putting it into a short piece in my own words takes a lot longer, but I had forgotten how much I enjoy reading, researching, referencing and cross-referencing.

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Several years ago when I was doing my silversmithing course, I had an idea about creating a piece where I ‘mended’ a piece of denim with a ‘patch’ of impressed brass. I impressed some brass with a piece of fabric to give it a woven texture, but got no further. Some time later I was revisiting my sketch book from the course and cut out a ‘patch’ which I then drilled all round the edge to take the stitches. Once polished, it stalled yet again.

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However, last week I found the perfect piece of denim  – an off cut from a pair of jeans – and with a square of apple wood from my Dad’s shed, the project was back on again.

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I cut a section of the denim with one of the iconic seams running through it and frayed the edges. Next I chose some bright red perle thread to stitch the ‘patch’ on. It took less time to stitch the patch down than it had to drill just one of the holes with my bow drill!

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Mounted onto the apple wood square…

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… and made into an unusual brooch which I’ve listed here.

Some more progress on the bluework too. From this:

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To this:

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I’ve finished the eyelets at the bottom and completed the leaves and stems on the floral fragment on the right. The leaves and stems are in split stitch, a favourite of mine for filling areas.

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I found an image on the internet of a flower where the petals had been created from long blanket stitches and then the top loops of the blanket stitches had been blanket stitched into to give a frilly sort of raised edge, so I thought I’d have a go at that for my next section.

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It’s an interesting method, but slightly untidy for my liking! I think I’m going to seed stitch the background so they don’t stand out quite as much.

And in other news, I have just got the silk fabric to add to my linen and wool and I should soon be able to start investigating how to get ‘crocus coloured’ fabric for the start of my Dorian Gray project.

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I’ve had flu for the first time in years and it’s been a bugger to shift, so my involvement at last Saturday’s Scunthorpe Embroiderers’ Guild meeting was limited to sneaking in half way through the afternoon to hand over Val’s Travelling Book and pick up Sandra’s, staying by the door and keeping my germs well out of the way. Everyone looked like they were happily stitching though, so I hope a good time was had by all.

For Val’s book page I worked a piece inspired by the work of Sue Spargo. I bought some gorgeous heavyweight pure wool felt before Christmas and cut simple leaf shapes in a soft green to go on a cream ground. I wanted to use the uncluttered shapes to showcase the embroidery, particularly new stitches.

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Then I got out a whole pile of books on embroidery stitches and started to stitch! The blanket stitch round the outside of the first leaf is actually called Berwick Stitch in the book I used and is a blanket stitch with a sort of added french knot where the needle enters the background fabric. Very nice to work and the knot gives a lovely finish. Then a row of running stitch and the dark green is twisted chain.

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After I’d worked the line of twisted chain I felt the gap was too big between it and the running stitch, so I added a row of split stitch in variegated perle. Inside the twisted chain I stitched a row of whipped running stitch before finishing it off with a row of closed fly stitch.

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Leaf two was held down with Knotted Buttonhole Stitch. It’s a lovely looking stitch but working the knots at the start took a bit of practise. Then a neat row of chain inside that.

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I wasn’t happy with the lone line of running stitch on the first leaf so at this point I went back and whipped it. Much better.

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Back to leaf two and courtesy of Mary Thomas, Portuguese Knotted Stem Stitch. Another new stitch to me and a gorgeous one (once I’d got the hang of the tension). I really like the way this sits on the fabric.

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The inside was finished with stem stitch, back stitch and Pekinese stitch.

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I mounted it up into the book and added my inspiration page which included a printout of a photo of the leaves labelled with the different stitches.

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This was a complete joy to stitch and a lot of fun finding new and interesting stitches to add to the old favourites.

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This was the intriguing title of our full day workshop with Josie Storey at Embroiderers’ Guild last Saturday, so armed with some very lush velvet and the usual sewing stuff I headed off without any real idea of what I was going to be doing!

The technique we were going to be playing with involved ironing prepainted bondaweb onto velvet and then using the stickiness to embellish with anything and everything to create a rich textured surface.

I started with some gorgeous Oliver Twists hand dyed velvet called ‘Stormy Seas’ and so I had to go for wave shapes,

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with silk waste, carrier rod strippings

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and scraps of painted melted plastic.

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By this point I’d decided this was going to be the next piece in my travelling book, so when I got home I layered it up with wadding and calico and quilted round the wave shapes with my sewing machine. From this:

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to this:

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No hand embroidery – yet…

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The starting point for this holiday’s journal was my middle one, who is doing ‘A’ level Art and is creating some very interesting and effective work stitching into photos and paper. I’ve been really inspired by this and to go along with the paper theme, I decided to alter a book as the journal. Here is the first spread,

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I used the top of the image on the left which I transferred to a piece of indigo dyed cotton with gel medium. The medium dried quite opaque, giving the image a very evocative, misty feel.

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Then I used a single strand of Caron Waterlilies variegated silk thread in a very loose stem stitch to pick out some of the detail.

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Really enjoyed my experimenting.

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I’ve been playing with small things over the Christmas period, like this single earring drop and a section of a felt sample I made for a lesson at school. Combined and embroidered a bit more, they became the front of a brooch.

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Whipped back stitch to hold down the drop with a scrap of thick silk thread couched down underneath it.

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The plain lilac felt back was secured with a beaded blanket stitch using some greyish purple delicas…

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…and then the natural (deliberately wobbly) bottom edge was finished with a fringe of delicas, seed and pearl beads.

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A nice quick little project and a good way of using up odds and ends of beads, threads and felt.

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