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Archive for the ‘Found objects’ Category

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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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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