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Archive for the ‘Found objects’ Category

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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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’m trying to get stuck into processing some of the broken jewellery job lots which seem to have built up over the last few years. Partly so I can use the box I’ve been storing them in for my workshop folders but mostly so I can see what I actually have and start creating.

Processing is basically cleaning and sorting. As most jewellery is worn next to the skin, it can be…well, greasy. Sorry if you happen to be eating at this point. So a good scrub in warm soapy water with a firm bristled toothbrush is a must. I also put some of the all metal pieces into my barreller, again with warm soapy water and let it work its magic.

Then I sort out what I have. Some pieces are wearable, so I decide if they are worth listing on eBay or Etsy, taking to a car boot sale or popping into the charity bag. This leaves me with the proper broken bits. Occasionally it literally is rubbish, so if I can’t recycle it (usually only a tiny amount) then it goes in the bin. Some pieces need further breaking down, like stripping the beads off necklace fragments or separating useful components from an earring drop and then I’m left with the keepers which I sort into various boxes, depending on what they are, to use later, when inspiration strikes!

Often, inspiration strikes as I’m cleaning and this is what happened with the tiger cowrie shell butterfly barrette which some of you might have seen on Instagram recently. The lot I was sorting contained some ovals and circles cut from tiger cowrie shells. Two of the ovals had just one hole drilled in them so I made them into a pair of drop earrings, but the ovals with four holes looked like they would be a bit more of a challenge to turn into earrings. But added to two of the smaller circles…

The large black and cream bead was also in the same lot and was exactly the right proportion to become the body. A selection of orange beads from the orange bead department (which is why I sort my jewellery bits carefully) and some gold tone wire added the finishing touches and I stitched it down onto two layers of good quality green heathered felt.

Next, the cowrie shell pieces, which I stitched down in a geometric pattern with my favourite metallic Madeira thread.

Cutting the felt away around the edge once I’d done the stitching was a bit nerve-wracking, especially around the tail, where I needed something to be present underneath the beaded body, but not enough to be obvious.

The cowrie pieces had been cut from the top of the dome of the shell, so even though there were two layers of felt behind, there was still a bit of a void under the top wings. I filled this with some padding made from felt scraps before covering it with a butterfly-shaped piece of pelmet vilene for extra firmness and another piece of the green felt.

I connected my felt and vilene sandwich with beaded blanket stitch with dark copper colour seed beads to match the markings on the shell pieces and orange mercerised cotton to echo the touches of orange on the body. The beads also help to keep the blanket stitch even!

A first – a video on my blog! I hope this shows how lovely and sturdy it turned out with all the layers of felt and the beads have given the edging a nice solid feel too.

At this point I was still unsure whether to finish it as a brooch or a hair barrette and my poll on Instagram turned out exactly 50:50, which was no help. So I decided to go with what I think will be more saleable – a barrette – and stitched a new barrette clip onto the back.

You will notice, if you look at the ‘tail’ section that I’ve not beaded it. When I was joining everything I felt that the beads would be too big for the tight corners and I was struggling with very narrow pieces of felt which I didn’t want to shred, so I left it as plain blanket stitch. But the more I looked at it, the more I hated it. it was untidy, uneven and spoiled a result which I’m extremely proud of. So at the weekend I carefully undid the blanket stitch, fastened off the ends of the thread so I didn’t lose the rest of the beads and beaded the tail. It was a lot easier – mostly I think because the rest of the stitching was already done so the felt and vilene pieces were firmly held in place.

It’s the little details. And I’m finally happy for it to flutter off into my Etsy shop here

…along with my harlequin clasp.

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At the end of my two days at the Artisan Market at The Collection two weeks ago, my lovely neighbour, Lisa, gave me a couple of pieces of hand made felt she had left over from some wet felted vessels, in case I could do anything with them.

I certainly could! I decided to cut the pink piece into a front and back for a mandala brooch and the larger more orangey piece into an abstract shape for a barrette.

I used a variety of oddments for the mandala brooch, starting with a vintage bead cap and bead in the centre of a brass connector from a broken necklace. I added a second round with some more vintage bead caps, seed beads and some little springs which I salvaged from broken earhooks.

I did wonder whether to add a further round but I wanted to show off the felt rather than obscure it, so I stopped there and joined the front to the back (adding a circle of pelmet vilene inside for strength) with a simple beaded blanket stitch.

I’ve not had chance to do anything further with the barrette but I’m thinking of doing couching with some decorative chains… Another fun collaboration and I have a decent sized scrap left over which I can use for other things and some trimmings which I’ll wet felt into some dreadlocks. Nothing goes to waste.

I stitched the ring of leaves for another cauliflower in the block of three I’m planning for the stumpwork garden and while I was doing that I decided to take the French knots out of the one I’d already done. They were not only too white, but more importantly, too flat and even. I need to find a more suitable weight thread to stitch them back in.

And as you can see from the bottom left hand corner of the photo above, I’ve started fuzzing up my carrot tops.

It takes quite a while to carefully undo the twist of the coton a broder threads, so I’ll be saving that job for the next long committee meeting!

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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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On Saturday I taught my first workshop to our new Independent Stitch Group: Scunthorpe Embroidery and Textile Association or SEATA, formerly known as the Scunthorpe Branch of the Embroiderers’ Guild. I had decided to teach my Scrappy Nine Patch Rings workshop (in the Workshops tab under Found Objects) based on this piece I stitched back in early 2019. The idea is to use up those tiny precious scraps which you can’t bear to throw away by layering them in strips and as frames/backgrounds to help showcase the different ways to attach the plastic/brass rings.

As well as the nine patch, which I finished as a mini quilt, I also spent most of last week making some individual samples to demonstrate some more ways of attaching the rings to the backgrounds. A scrap of dyed aida was the inspiration for this one and I created a blackwork style pattern for it which served to stitch down the ring in a rather attractive pattern that I hadn’t anticipated.

I was determined to use a grass printed offcut from the Dames’ cow dress for the next one and I had just the vintage trim to go with it. This ribbon trim dates from the 1970s when my mother allowed me half a yard of ribbon or lace if I was good on the occasional shopping trip instead of sweets. My childhood self would much rather have had sweets, but my adult self has made good use of the trims! It was pretty rather than practical, as when you cut it, the flowers all unravel, which is why so much of it still survives.

I added lazy daisy stitches and French knots in green to the trim to help attach it as well as lazy daisy daisies and kantha around the machine embroidered butterfly and hand dyed purple flannel. It’s backed on a piece of stormy lilac colour catcher

This one was purely about the combination of fabrics and I also wanted to try out the possibility of using bullion knots to hold down the ring. The answer to that is yes, the bullions work, but there is some trial and error involved in getting them the right length, so some of mine (bottom right) are a bit slack. And also because I used such a fine cotton, you have to look very closely to see that they actually are bullions and not just a thick corded thread, which rather defeats the aim of using them!

I played about with back stitch and herringbone to enhance the machine embroidered silk scrap and added metallic feather stitch to the crinkled hand dyed organza scrap.

The final sample was started so I had something to work on in the session, although I didn’t actually get to set needle to fabric until well into the afternoon. The printed central piece is another offcut of the medieval tiles print to stitch piece form February 2019 – I really am getting the most out of every scrap of that fabric – and I outlined it in back stitch before blanket stitching the ring on top. Seeding next.

Lastly, the final update on February’s Move It On Project, my Chihuly chandelier. Unfortunately because of the workshop preparation I wasn’t able to add any more stitching to it this week, but again, the aim of the project has succeeded. I wanted to see if I could make the design work and end up anything like the real thing and the answer to that is yes, using back stitched spiders webs and crocheted circles. I’ve not finished it, but I know what I need to do to complete it in the future. Now to decide what I’m going to choose for March’s entry into the Move It On Project.

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After a very grey and wet Christmas period it was great to finally get out for a bit of a leg stretch yesterday along the beach at Withernsea. Since I first went last September to see the Pebble of the Day exhibition at the lighthouse, it’s become a firm favourite for a seaside walk and beachcomb. I love the massive variety of pebbles you find on the beach due to the underlying boulder clay and I was lucky enough to find a few fossils. I especially love the little one in the middle which looks like it has a set of tiny teeth!

I always seem to find really big chunks of sea glass at Withernsea. The slab of safety glass is an unusually large inch and a half by an inch and there are at least two other pieces of a similar size.

I also found a few nice pieces of beach china, of which at least two will be perfect for china pots for woven feathered chain stitch plants.

I’ve also been thinking about the direction I want to go in 2022 and I’ve decided that I’m going to focus on unfinished projects; revisiting them to see if there is anything to be gained by moving forward. So my idea is to pick one project a month and focus on it around other things that need doing. At the end of the month I’ll hopefully know whether it’s worth continuing with or not, rather than setting myself a potentially unrealistic goal of finishing it. A finish is a bonus but even if that hasn’t happened, I should have moved it on.

There are some very tempting projects in my box: buttonhole rings, Blackwell House of Arts and Crafts sycamore keys and some Casalguidi work…

…embroidered book covers and crazy patchwork…

…and a few kits from various places.

But first, it’s panto costume time (oh yes it is…) and the big item I’ve been putting off. This:

…needs to become Dame Durden’s opening dress for Scunthorpe Little Theatre Club’s 2022 panto Jack and the Beanstalk. Opening on the 11th January – hopefully, Covid cases and restrictions permitting. Time to bite the bullet and set scissors to fabric.

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Just finished the weekend’s Artisan Christmas Market at the Collection in Lincoln and I’m delighted to say that it was very successful, not just in terms of selling, but more importantly affirming that people are interested in both what I make and my ethos and there is definitely a market out there for unique upcycled jewellery. I had become quite demoralised with the lack of sales online and in the two galleries that stock my work and this has been a real boost.

I sold so many pairs of earrings on the Saturday that I came home and made some more to take on the Sunday, including some studs based on some vintage self-cover buttons that I unearthed in time honoured fashion while looking for something else! I had flattened out some quite flimsy bead caps and thought that two layered over each other looked like a snowflake, so while I stood behind the stall on the Saturday I stitched them onto some scraps of ultramarine blue silk dupion.

When I got home I finished off the button parts, removed the loops and added sterling silver posts and butterflies.

As I have dozens of these bead caps and another four buttons, I decided to make another pair, this time layering green chiffon from a scrap of an old sari over a piece of red silk satin.

However, the third pair is still in the planning stage and it will be different. After having made two very similar pairs, boredom set in – I really do have the attention span of a goldfish!

I decided not to add the diamantes to the mandala pendant. I laced it over a circle of felt and a circle of pelmet vilene and made a plain version of the back. At the moment I’m wondering whether to give it a beaded edge (beaded blanket stitch or a fringed edge) or leave it plain.

However, I think the prevaricating about how to finish the edging is a bit of displacement activity to mask the real issue. As you can see against my hand, it’s quite a statement piece (translation: probably a bit too big) and I’m having serious doubt about whether anyone would actually want to wear it as a pendant. I was planning to make some bag charms/key rings and I was wondering whether it would be more commercial if I did something similar with this. At the moment I could see it with a chunky tassel hanging from a bureau key or a cupboard door knob more than I could a pendant. Any thoughts?

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…and goodbye to Baby Leaf-Tailed Dragon. I finally laced him over the mounting board this week, labelled him and he was presented to the director of our Autumn 2019 production this weekend. Sad to see him go but glad that it’s one job not hanging over my head any more!

With stock drops to do at Arttopia and Bricktree Gallery in Caistor, my attention has been on creating upcycled jewellery that will hopefully have a Christmas party appeal.

Two broken bracelets have provided some useable sections for earrings and an earring and pendant set. Unfortunately I keep forgetting to take ‘before’ photos so you’ll have to use your imagination to reconstruct the original piece! The first one was made up from alternating silver crosses and abalone panels and I managed to salvage four sections – enough for two pairs of earrings. These ones worked perfectly with a couple of silver tone wing charms.

And I chose a couple of lovely art glass beads to tone in with the colours of the abalone for this pair.

I only managed to salvage three sections from this gold tone and diamanté bracelet but I’m very pleased with the earrings and pendant set I created from them.

Then I teamed four odd bracelet panels with some royal purple faux pearl beads to match the amethyst coloured diamantés in the middle of the panels.

I used the embroidered and sequinned black sari fabric disc I created a few months ago…

…along with a brass bale I made back in 2013 on my silversmithing course to create a pendant. It’s made of two discs of fabric gathered over circles of felt and pelmet vilene and then ladder stitched together so it’s light and easy to wear. I’m glad the bale has finally found a home too.

I did manage to take a photo of this bracelet before I upcycled it into a pendant and a pair of statement earrings. It was missing some of the diamantés and felt quite fussy, so I split it into three pieces.

First I separated out the central poinsettia shaped section and tidied up the rough edges at the back before drilling a hole into the edge of one petal for a jump ring bale and adding a reclaimed chain with a slightly worn gold plating to echo the pale gold coloured mesh in the middle of the petals.

I reset the missing diamantés in the other sections of the bracelet and added hanging loops to turn them into a pair of statement earrings. I ran out of clear diamantés in the right size so used some icy blue ones for the top which I think gives them a subtle pop of colour.

It seems that as fast as I complete one upcycle I find something else in a box which fires my imagination and replaces it in the to-do section of my desk. At the moment I’m creating some wintry mandala pendants by stitching found objects onto fabric scraps. It’s so exciting when the ideas are coming this thick and fast. Just a pity that work and life seem to get in the way..

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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!

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