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Archive for the ‘Fragments’ Category

I was very excited to receive my half of the art swap last week and as well as these fabulous prints…

…Nick also sent me some tie-dyed fabric and tote bags that he experimented with during lockdown. I love the prints but the tie-dye blew me away! These tote bags are beautifully patterned and the dye distribution is so even.

The fabric turned out to be three big pieces which are just stunning. In fact, so stunning that I don’t think there is any way I can bring myself to cut into them! The first two are on muslin, which is quite sheer and difficult to photograph.

This one is on something firmer like cotton sheeting. The detail is incredible!

If you’re on Instagram, this talented gentleman is @nick_knox_777 and well worth following.

I’ve been playing with an idea sparked off by a partly finished Victorian patchwork quilt I saw in an exhibition about fifteen years ago. It was an English paper pieced quilt and the papers were still in place. Although the antique silks and velvets of the patchwork front were gorgeous, I was much more interested in trying to read the fragments of unwanted cards and letters which had been cut up to make the papers. Those hidden snippets were tantalising.

As usual, I’m working very small, so I decided to use one text for all my papers – Viola’s speech (“I left no ring with her: what means this lady?”) from Twelfth Night, which is about her hidden identity.

I also chose to keep the text in the right order, again because everything was so small and once the fabric was stitched round the papers, much more of the text, already fragmentary, would be lost.

I used some ordinary light weight cotton muslin for the fabric – after all, in this piece the fabric is very much secondary to the papers! Now it’s all stitched together the text is reduced to the odd word or partial word.

Perfectly hidden, unless you know what it’s supposed to be.

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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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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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After a bit of thinking I decided to stitch the medieval tiles piece not as a whole cloth as I had with the paisleys, but to separate each print into a tile shaped block. When I came to draw out the ‘mortar’ lines I was quite pleased that the ’tiles’ weren’t exactly in line with each other. It made it feel a bit more hand crafted in a way.

Then I started on the stitching which is going to be rows of split stitch to give a little bit of texture and hide definite stitch beginnings and endings.

I had a couple of good sized offcuts when I trimmed the printed piece down last week. Actually, rereading that has made me laugh. To me, a good sized offcut is anything larger than a credit card – I think most people would put my offcuts in the bin! Anyway, I didn’t. I decided to turn them into bookmarks for stocking fillers.

I edged the main motif in back stitch and then added seed stitches in a fine thread almost the same colour as the background.

Then I ironed on some interfacing which I dyed with silk paints and blanket stitched all round the edge.

Debbie pointed out that if you turn your head and look at the motifs from the side, they look like reindeer heads. Yup, they do and I can’t unsee it now!

A lovely accident for me is how on the back, the reverse of the back stitch pushes through the interfacing in ghostly lines like parch marks or earth works.

The other scraps I’ve been stitching are really tiny ones, about the size of postage stamps, to make a boro piece for an upcycled bib necklace. The inspiration was the gold coloured ring at the top – no idea what that might once have been.

I forgot to take a photo of it in my hand, but again, it’s small, just not quite as tiny as the recent lockets. Sashiko thread would have been too big, so it’s stitched in cream silk.

I chose a piece of shibori fabric for the back and gathered up and laced both pieces over circles of vilene to give them some body.

Next they need to be stitched together and stuck into the gold ring before I start on some boro fabric beads for the rest of the bib. Not done anything like that before so it’ll be interesting to see how it turns out!

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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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I seem to have had a spell where I keep finding the right pieces of jewellery to successfully upcycle and last week I managed a hat trick of embroidered pieces.

First of this batch to be upcycled was a vintage pendant mount I bought a while ago from the sales table at Guild and which has just turned up in the bottom of my sewing bag. I have a small bag of patchwork quilt trimmings which I bought a while ago from eBay and they are a great starting point for embroidered pendants like this one. I used the mount as a viewfinder to pick what I thought was the best area to embroider.

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And a few hours and a fair bit of unpicking later, I had an embroidered oval to go into the mount – with a thumb for scale!

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The kantha on the middle strip was an easy stitch, as was the lazy daisy floral section on the left, where I just followed the fabric pattern, but I had more of a problem with finding the right weight of both thread and stitch on the heavier fabric to the right. The Palestrina stitch in a teal perle was fine, but I tried various stitches in pink perle and pink stranded cotton which were just too heavy before I settled on more lazy daisy stitches in the same fine variegated silk as on the left. As the pendant had never been used it was easy to mount it into the frame using the folding metal tabs and very effective I think it looks too.

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Taking the embroidered section away from the rest of the patchwork enables you to really focus on the stitches and somehow the three completely different pieces of fabric become a harmonious whole. It’s currently available in my Etsy Shop here with free UK postage and packing.

Next to be upcycled was a lovely brass filigree brooch which seemed to be missing something in the middle. I had the very thing – a gold tone rope edged odd earring, also missing its middle. Despite probably a good forty plus year age gap, I think they go together perfectly.

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I embroidered some silk ribbon rosebuds onto a piece of silk carrier rod and gave them split stitch stems and lazy daisy leaves in fine silk thread…

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…before setting the tiny piece into the earring centre of the brooch.

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It was nice to do a variation on the blowsy ribbon roses I usually stitch and it’s now available here in the Upcycled Brooches section of my Etsy shop with free UK postage and packing.

The last of the week’s hat trick was an upcycled locket and this turned out so well I’m almost tempted to keep it. I’ve done a few lockets with rose bushes and trellises and I was keen to try some lavender. I chose a piece of my hand painted pelmet vilene which looked like a summer sky for a background…

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…and then chose some hand dyed stranded silk with a wonderful sheen for the flowers and a bluey green cotton thread which was a good match for the foliage. I’ve no idea where the green came from – I found literally one needle full in a tangle of oddments and was sweating the whole time I was stitching that I would have enough!

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The silver tone locket was a perfect setting.

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And it too, is available here in my Etsy shop with free UK postage and packing.

And a quick update – the Singer 28 is now with its new owner and she loves it. I think the lady from Number 12 would have been pleased…

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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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The Anderby Creek accordion journal is really starting to come together. The Cloud Bar felt applique is finished and I then started a little piece of blackwork to create the North Sea Observatory. The photo I chose to work from showed the Observatory at an angle, so at this point it’s all a bit experimental!

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Filling in the areas with different patterns to represent different shades started to work better, especially at more of a distance.

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And the block work really pulled it all together.

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I also had a brainwave for the last piece – sand dunes in layered applique/patchwork with marram grass at the bottom. The way the ‘clouds’ echo in the ‘sea’ with the scraps of hand dyed fabric for the sea and sky is a very happy accident!

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All eight pieces completed (two are already in the book).

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Now the fun bit of attaching them to the pages.

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My memories of our Mothers’ Day expedition last year now safely gathered together.

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October’s Scunthorpe Embroiderers’ Guild meeting was a brilliantly packed full day workshop with Fran Holmes based on teabags.

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Fran brought along loads of samples she had stitched using a base of dyed, opened out and ironed teabags with added lace and hand and machine embroidery for inspiration.

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Then it was our turn. We had been asked to bring some tea bags of our own, and I was quite pleased with the effect where a fruit tea bag had leaned up against an ordinary one and they two had bled into each other, but mine were nothing compared with the amazing patterns Fran had got on the ones she had done for us in our kits.

We experimented with all sorts of things, including various iron on products, foils, printing, inks, paints and stamps and so busy was the day that I didn’t actually add any stitching until the afternoon!

We ended up with four different bases for further stitching.

The first two were a mixture of lace, tea bags and net.

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I added some watercolour detailing on the lace flowers of this one.

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Then a base for stamping in acrylics.

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And lastly one with a subtle shimmery foil underlay which I layered with torn silk ribbon and a stamp.

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All four lovely backgrounds, ready for stitching.

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I finally managed a few french knots…

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Great workshop and lovely to do something outside my usual range.

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I’ve been trying to get on with some stitched fragments for my accordion memory journals for a while.

Firstly, the Kew Gardens journal. My plan is for this to document the visit I made at the end of July and focus mostly on the incredible Chihuly glass exhibition. I have a list of ideas for pages and started the title page last week which is part of a leaflet backed on a piece of calico. I’ve put a line of whipped running stitch through the middle of the letters and am outlining them in back stitch.

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Outlining finished and beading started. I am really pleased with the effect of the random blue bugle beads over the stems and am looking for some iridescent seed beads that I know I have somewhere for some of the teardrop shaped ends.

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The Anderby Creek journal from the end of March has also finally been started with a scrap of crinkled fabric which I love for its suggestion of ripples in sand and a holed oyster shell. I attached the shell to the fabric with long stitches through the holes which I then buttonhole stitched over to make buttonhole bars.

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I wanted a bobbly effect like seaweed, so I used cast-on stitch pulled round to make little circles along the length of the buttonhole bar.

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Completed and stitched into place in the journal. One page completed, seven to go!

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Last summer my middle one bought a Tintin t-shirt from a lovely shop in Durham when we were on holiday and to her delight, it came in a paper carrier with a bold graphic of Tintin and Snowy on each side. I think she liked that as much as the t-shirt and I promised to make her a notebook from it. I bought some Tintin postcards to use as the covers and finally a couple of weeks ago, I decided it was time to get on and make it.

I laminated two pairs of postcards back to back for the covers.

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Then I carefully cut up the bag so I could use every bit of the graphics and the Tintin wording up the sides.

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I had to add an extra piece of paper from a 1970s educational poster (The Pied Piper of Hamelin to be exact) to make the signatures even,

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…but I was pleased that I managed to include all of the main panels of the bag.

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I used waxed white polyester thread and Coptic Stitch to bind the book.

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Finally a job off the list and a daughter delighted.

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