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Archive for the ‘Found objects’ Category

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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Back to the workbench for a day last week and several successes. I found this lovely starburst engraved vintage watch case in a pile of assorted oddments and decided that was a perfect starting point.

Just right for a subtly variegated peach and cream ribbon rose.

Then it was time to audition some gold tone pendants for the bottom of the case. This dyed howlite teardrop from an odd earring tones in really well with the colour of the rose.

And finally I finished it off with a vintage reclaimed gold tone chain.

Next I came across a couple of heart shaped wooden blanks and a large enamelled metal daisy from a 1980s earring. I’d always intended to set the daisy on the heart, but felt it needed a pop of colour. The remains of an embossed silk carrier rod were perfect not only to become leaves but an odd thin wispy piece was flexible enough to cover the centre of the flower.

The silk carrier rod is nice and stiff so the leaves have enough body to stand out on their own.

I wasn’t sure whether to finish it as a brooch or a pendant but I had just the right vintage beaded chain to go with it and decided that pendants are probably a bit more commercial than brooches. I considered adding a brooch back so it could be both, like some vintage pendants, but the heart is flat at the back and commercial brooch backs would stand too proud to be comfortable to wear.

I was really on a roll at this point, so I moved onto a teardrop shaped pendant which was missing an internal drop. Perfect place for a piece of hand made felt with threads embedded into the top layer, I thought, and decided I’d probably add beaded blanket stitch to edge with some tiny seed beads to pick up the blues and give it a bit of weight to hang properly.

But then I found a lovely brass teardrop pendant which worked well hanging from the top loop too! I polished it and reset the stones and considered putting the two tear drops together and not using the felt at all, but then it was just a pretty pendant that could have come from any High Street shop, rather than one which had the textiles component I try to make a feature of my upcycling. So I tried it with the felt and now I really can’t decide whether I prefer it with or without the pendant.

Is it too busy with the pendant or too plain without? Any thoughts gratefully received!

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As a child I loved the ‘My Naughty Little Sister’ stories by Dorothy Edwards. I could identify with the world the sisters grew up in and especially their neighbour, Mrs ‘Cocoa’ Jones, as our next door neighbour, Mrs Lown, had a very similar grandmotherly sort of place in our lives. My favourite story was when ‘My Naughty Little Sister’ had measles. She was a grumpy convalescent and so Mrs ‘Cocoa’ brought her a treasure box full of smaller boxes containing trinkets and surprises to interest and cheer her up. I was completely enchanted by the idea of a ‘get better box’ full of little treasures to explore and longed for one of my own.

Fast forward to 2021. This is my treasure box. It’s a Chinese export lacquer sewing box dating from the 1920s. Family history says that one of my great great aunts lived in Wembley in the 1920s and put up some Chinese gentlemen who were exhibiting at the 1924 Wembley Exhibition. When they returned to China they gave a number of lacquer boxes, some jewellery and other odds and ends to their host. Most of them were passed down to my grandmother and when we cleared her house in the early 80s, I claimed this big, slightly battered, sewing box.

Since then it’s housed treasures of all kinds that I’ve accumulated. Some are family pieces, some came from boot sales or ebay job lots. There is ephemera of all kinds; jewellery oddments, coins, vintage wrapping paper, cereal toys and found objects.

Pretty much everything has a tale to tell.

So I spent several very enjoyable hours this afternoon going through it all, looking for some bits and pieces I could add to a stitched piece based on the idea of a printer’s tray of treasures.

I used Hungarian Braided Chain Stitch on 28 count Cashel linen to make up a grid of solid lines to look like the edges of a printer’s tray. This is such a lovely looking stitch and gave me the thickness I wanted for the lines straight away.

Then the treasures. This reproduction coin was the reward for getting out of what would now be called an ‘escape room’ in one of the top times during a family holiday in Cornwall in 2008. We were so competitive and determined to nail that gold reward!!

This covered button was part of a Victorian dress – red with a flocked black floral pattern – I wore at the age of 4 for the 1970s Dickens Centenary Festival in my home village of Blundeston, Suffolk (fictional birthplace of Dickens’ David Copperfield). Sadly, the dress is long gone but I still somehow have two of the buttons.

Next, a piece of white ‘coral’ (really the outer skeleton of a rare seaweed) I beachcombed as a child from the ‘Coral Beach’ at Claigan on the Isle of Skye in the 1970s.

I’ve mentioned before that as a child I was allowed to have half a yard of haberdashery but not sweets as a treat, and this is a very pretty but not terribly useful scrap of trim from my little yellow plastic workbox.

There had to be something beachcombed in the ‘tray’ and I picked up this piece of Victorian transferware on the edge of the River Conwy while visiting with my girls a few years ago when my middle one was still at university in Bangor.

Lastly, fabric. My mum made my 1986 May Ball dress from this black polyester damask. It had an unusual draped back and I vividly remember hunting all over Lincoln for a pair of black stilettos to go with it. This was the mid 80s and you could get turquoise, cerise or mustard (and classic 80s white of course!) but simple black was more of a challenge. By the end of the ball my new shoes hurt so much I walked most of the way home in my stockinged feet.

My stitched ‘printer’s tray’ of treasures.

It took longer to assemble them than it did to do the stitching!

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It all started with this odd earring. It’s not a very good image because it’s already partly disassembled (I got all excited and forgot to take a photo before I attacked it with the pliers!), but you can hopefully see that it’s made up of three pairs of brass leaf shaped sections that made me think of flower calyxes.

That was enough to spark off an idea for a pendant and a pair of earrings using silk cocoons for the main part of the flower with a brass calyx on top of each one.

Pendant first. I made a set of beaded stamens by threading some random sequences of blue and gold bugle and seed beads onto Nymo and then knotting the ends onto the loop of a headpin and setting it all with a blob of superglue. This is my third cocoon. I discovered the hard way that the silk on its own wasn’t robust enough to cope with having a headpin put through it and I had to use a layer of glue to strengthen the fibres.

But the result was worth it. The little ‘hat’ section from the earring makes an effective calyx for a fantasy flower. It’s available here in my Etsy shop.

For various reasons, I didn’t get round to the earrings until today. I managed to find an almost identical pair of silk cocoons and they really are this red! you also get a better idea of how the brass ‘calyxes’ look from this photo.

Beaded stamens again, this time in greens and golds.

The silk cocoons are really light so although the drops are quite large at 5cm long and 2cm in diameter, they are a lovely weight and not too heavy to wear. I’m hoping to get them listed in my Etsy shop shortly when I can get some more photos of the details.

It seems ages since I had a good jewellery making spell and after finishing these earrings today I was feeling really inspired. It’s a shame most of the rest of this week is going to be taken up with three days supply teaching but as online sales have dropped through the floor over the last few months, beggars really can’t be choosers.

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Just got back from a slightly different but very much needed and enjoyable week in North Cornwall. If you follow me on Instagram you will have seen photos of our walks and beach excursions in my stories and I even managed to get some stitching done as well.

First, a piece of blackwork from a gorgeous design I found on Pinterest several years ago. I’m afraid I don’t know the designer, so if anyone does please can they let me know so I can credit them. This is stitched in a single strand of Gloriana silk thread on 28 count natural Cashel linen and yes, it is tiny! Most of the motifs are about 1cm square.

Stitching al fresco in Boscastle while my husband and little one went snorkelling in the harbour.

And again at Tintagel while we waited for our slot to cross the new bridge onto the headland.

Finally finished. I still love the design and I’m glad I stitched it, but I’m ready to move onto something else!

I’ve decided to stitch a Memory Journal style diary for this holiday. I’m going for images and memories from the whole week, rather than one piece to represent each day as I’ve done in the past. We went to Crackington Haven on the Sunday evening to watch the sunset.

And to have a little beachcomb – although as the tide was well in, it was only a little one. I love the slate pebbles of this beach with their scribbly quartz inclusions.

So the first piece I created was using the pebble fabric from the Anderby Creek Memory Journal and some flat slate pebbles from Crackington Haven beach over which I stitched my own quartz inclusions.

I’ve also been very taken with the way the prevailing winds sculpt the trees on the north coast. (Taken through the windscreen of the car, so not the best photo, but I love the shape of that tree.)

Start of my sculpted tree piece. I’m planning to couch the strands of cotton down to make the outline of the branches and then clothe it in leaves – possibly a few less than on the original so you can still see the framework of branches.

We visited a few beaches during the week but the beach finds were generally a bit sparse. However, I’m planning to use some of these bits I picked up at Tintagel for various stitching and jewellery projects.

Plenty of inspiration and hopefully now I’ve had a week’s recharge, I have the energy to get stuck into them.

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I’ve been wanting to create some more watch case pendants for a while and last week I finally got round to hunting out the box they live in. I was also determined to do one at a time that I could actually finish, rather than planning all of them at once and overfacing myself.

I had a lovely little rounded piece of driftwood that I wanted to use for this one and teamed it with a pretty gold flecked batik cotton.

Seaweed first, in good old feather stitch and some overcasting with added cast on stitch picots to help hold the driftwood in place.

Then some maidenhair stitch and beading. Maidenhair stitch is a feather stitch variant where you stitch three loops gradually increasing in size on the same side before stitching three on the other side, rather than alternating as in ordinary feather stitch. It’s a new stitch to me and I really like the effect it gives, especially when you curve it like a plant stem.

Some more feather stitch and Palestrina stitch to give a different texture.

After one more swirl of Palestrina knots with a touch of purple, time to add the sea glass. The sea glass nuggets are held in place with a dab of superglue just to make sure they don’t go anywhere before I work the holding stitches over them.

Lastly I gathered the design over a piece of pelmet vilene before setting it into the watch case.

It just needs a silver plated chain attached (somehow…) and it’s a finish.

My not so little, little one turned 16 at the weekend and as I was completely out of inspiration for an original card, I used a pattern from the internet to cross stitch one of her favourite characters from Star Wars:

I was reminded how long it takes to cross stitch even a relatively small and simple design (best part of four hours for this one and I don’t think I was stitching particularly slowly) but it was worth it – she loved him.

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With the reopening of non-essential shops this week, the Persian Chandelier and most other ongoing projects have been put aside and my stitching and making has been focussed on building up my jewellery stock.

First, a new sea glass necklace.

I started with a vintage rolled gold pendant which had lost its stone and found a sea glass piece that fitted it perfectly in my dwindling collection of Seaham multis – this one clear with a smudge of pink. Then I added a delicate rolled gold necklace and found some perfectly frosted pink and white glass beads to replace the existing beads which luckily match the sea glass piece perfectly.

It’s available here in my Etsy shop.

I’ve also been altering another fabric brooch from a job lot of junk jewellery. This one was simply a piece of woollen checked fabric needle felted onto a square of black wool with a random button and a brooch back sewn on. I removed the button and while going through my found object stash for the Mandala Brooches, I found what I think might have been part of a fishing fly and a hemispherical panel from a bracelet which both appealed.

I used my go-to variegated metallic Madeira thread to stitch both elements down and add stitches into the fabric around the main part of the fishing fly. It isn’t supposed to be anything in particular but I think it looks a little like a comet!

Sashiko stitching on tiny scraps of indigo dyed cotton with silk thread mounted in a vintage brooch setting have become another boro-style brooch.

I’m really pleased with the sashiko pattern on this one, especially as I did it by eye, and it really pulls the separate scraps of fabric into a whole.

It’s available in my Etsy shop here.

Lastly, some experimenting with knotted stitches in this sort of crewel work style sample. Portuguese Knotted Stem Stitch and French Knots on the left, German Knotted Buttonhole in the middle and middle right and Palestrina Stitch and Pistil Stitch top right. Chain Stitch and Four-Legged Knot bottom right and the stem is Coral Stitch and Satin Stitch.

Hopefully I can get back on track this week and I have high hopes of being able to stitch outside if the weather stays good!

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I had a bit of an urge to make some upcycled jewellery pieces this week and was wondering what to do with these lovely but very simple brooches I found in a job lot of junk jewellery.

I have given brooches like these intricate beaded edgings in the past, but I wanted to do something different this time and I was inspired by Susan Lenz’s wonderful huge stitched mandalas to do something on a much more typically Alex scale! I had a very interesting scavenge through my many boxes of bits and pieces from beads and buttons to odd pieces of broken jewellery and found objects like the resistors on the left of the photo below. .

And after lots of arranging and changing and hunting in yet more boxes, I’ve come up with a couple of Mandala Brooches. Blue Mandala features resistors from old fashioned electronics, a pierced domed coin from an odd earring, and beads and jump rings from broken necklaces, stitched down with indigo dyed thread.

Green mandala features a metal heart which I wrapped with rayon thread a while ago as an experiment, copper coloured pressed metal shapes, large jump rings, seed beads and some stripy plastic beads from a broken necklace, stitched down with silk thread.

It was a fun project but not a quick one – choosing and finding all the different elements took easily as long as the actual stitching!

I also think I’ve finally finished the Bayeux Stitch mushroom. The last time I blogged about it was back in early February when I was pleased that I’d finally worked out what was wrong with the gills. But it wasn’t just the gills that were wrong and following a comment from Amanda, it was suddenly obvious and staring me in the face! The gills were wrong because the stalk needed to be inside the rolled back cap, going up to the centre! (This is what happens when you try and draw from memory and don’t use the real thing for reference…)

So a major unpicking happened and after some careful bodging so I didn’t have to undo the whole stalk, this is the final thing:

I hope. Unless it needs any more of the dreaded highlights…

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As promised from last week, here is the second china pot fragment, this time filled with ribbon embroidery irises, which have worked out rather nicely. The flowers are lazy daisy stitches with a stitch threaded through the bottom of the chain to give the falling petals, the leaves are done with ribbon stitch and the stems are two rows of split stitch.

I ended up finishing it late at night and the only photos I have of the finished piece have huge shadows round the sides of the pot which look like stains! Anyway, it was done in time for Mothers’ Day and went down well.

I’ve been working away on a couple of upcycled pieces of jewellery. The first was a fairly easy conversion from a broken 1907 silver and hardstone shamrock brooch to a pendant. The c-shaped catch was in good condition and substantial enough that I could twist it round to create a hanging loop. There was very little left of the pin hinge so I was able to carefully saw the remains off and neaten up the scar.

With the addition of a jump ring and a silver chain it’s good for at least another hundred or so years.

Available here in my Etsy shop.

The second make was a bit more of a puzzle. A chunk of abstract fused silver with two holes and a short length of tube on the back.

I wondered if the tube was supposed to be a bale, but it was very narrow and you would have struggled to get anything but the finest chain through it. And a very fine chain would have been out of proportion to the chunky pendant. So I decided to use the top hole as the hanging point and removed the tube. That left me with what to do with the second hole. I couldn’t hang anything from it as it was too far up, so I went through my odd stud earrings to see if there was anything to inspire me. I found a couple of round studs with semi precious cabochons in silver settings which were attractive before a little frog stud tumbled out of the bag. I’m not sure why I tried him in place, but he somehow turned the abstract chunk of silver into a sort of stylised lily pad.

He just works perfectly!

Mr Frog is available here in my Etsy shop.

As our second Mothers’ Day under lockdown in the UK rolled around, it reminded me of the memory journal of my beach walk on Mothers’ Day 2019 which I finished on Mothers’ Day 2020.

And that in turn reminded me that I have two pieces still to do for my Kew memory journal from June 2019. The recent needlelace sampler was a half hearted attempt at testing out some ideas for a piece based on the magnificent Chihuly Persian Chandelier which hung in the middle of the Temperate House.

But I’ve decided that I need to stop faffing and get on with it, so this morning I assembled some delicious Mulberry Silks, my tiny antique crochet hooks and a piece of lovely indigo dyed calico.

Time to stop overthinking and see what happens…

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With the outlining done on the medieval tiles piece it was time to make a decision about how to fill the space surrounding them. Seeding was a bit of an obvious go to and something I used in the last print to stitch piece, but I wanted something different. I toyed with seeding in a more distinctive stitch, like a tete de boeuf, fly stitch or detached chain stitch, but they all looked too heavy, so I fell back on an idea I had a while ago of a kantha spiral based on the centre of the motif. Typically, I chose one to start off where the motif wasn’t in the middle of the ’tile’ so I couldn’t quite see whether it was going to work as I hoped – mainly, I think, because the initial rows of single stitches were quite overpowering – until I got to the outside rows.

Stitching in circles and skipping the printed areas has pulled it up into a bit of a dome! I think there will definitely have to be something couched along the motif to try and flatten it. I think I like it. I might need to play with the couched lines before I can be certain one way or another.

I’ve finished the little needlelace sampler. Goodness knows why I thought it would be a good idea to work in wedge shapes and have to decrease as well as working the stitch. It’s not a huge problem with the Single and Corded Brussels, but created some interesting effects with the Double Corded Brussels (DCB) and the Ceylon Stitch.

I really like what happens to the lace as the stitch spacings get smaller on the DCB. The early rows have a lovely open trellis effect with the cord taking centre stage, whereas in the later ones it is much less obvious, becoming a pattern of double stitches and holes. It’s useful to see how different spacings can give you different effects.

The Ceylon Stitch loops were tiny from the start and as the spacing got smaller, I had to decrease in the middle of the pattern as that was where it was the mostly tightly packed.

It is such a lovely looking but incredibly unforgiving stitch that you can see every single place where it isn’t absolutely perfect. It also took forever and so I am not redoing it – it can stand as an useful object lesson!

I intend to carry on stitching some more needlelace but the next sampler is going to be based on rectangles. However, I might work another sample of the Ceylon stitch in a rectangle just to prove I can do it perfectly when I don’t have to keep decreasing!

I’ve not made much jewellery for a while as I’ve been trying to list a backlog of vintage jewellery on Etsy, but when an odd earring I was cleaning came to pieces, leaving me with a rather nice silver mount, I was inspired! I set it with a lovely and very unusual piece of beachcombed Victorian pottery and added a 16″ silver chain to make a unique pendant.

It’s available here in the Beachcombing section of my Etsy shop.

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