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Archive for the ‘Holiday Journal’ Category

Term has started and with it a three day a week supply teaching commitment which has at a stroke annihilated my stitching opportunities this week. I’m now teaching right across the primary age ranges from Early Years to Y6 and having to be involved in some planning and assessment as well, which has to be done at home. It’s a Catch 22. I can’t earn a living from my upcycled jewellery and textile art, so I have to take on supply work to pay the bills, but supply work doesn’t leave me with enough time to develop my creative side as a business so I can’t earn a living from it. Add to that my first cold germ of the new year, I’m feeling very frustrated and sorry for myself.

So, dribs and drabs of stitching is all I have to share this week. Last week I managed to find some more of the thread I needed to finish the leafy greens in my stumpwork garden. The last time I blogged about it back in July, it was looking like this:

Since then I’ve added more French knots to soften the hard edge of the path as well as finishing off the leafy greens and making a start on the weeds.

No movement on the buttonhole rings piece but I have done a tiny bit more on the Brantwood wallpaper motif. I’m glad I’ve continued with silk, but the thread is so fine I’ve been struggling to keep the satin stitch neat. I might try two strands in the needle and see how that goes.

I’m also trying to keep scratching the itch of wanting desperately to create upcycled jewellery. I came across this mid-century mother of pearl-set ‘Hollywood’ brooch in a recent lot of jewellery I was processing.

It was missing a section and it wasn’t that exciting anyway, so I decided to find something much more interesting with which to replace the mother of pearl discs. I cut six petals from a piece of hand made felt and added veins in whipped back stitch.

To hide the back of the stitching and give the petals a bit more body, each one has a back cut from some heathered green commercial felt.

They hide the little coloured diamantes, but I like the effect much better.

I’m connecting the two pieces of felt with a beaded blanket stitch in pale gold seed beads which are almost identical in colour to the metal of the brooch.

I’ve only had time to do one, but it’s come out so well I just want to get stuck into doing the rest!

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I finally finished the couching on the shishas piece this week. The last time I blogged about it I’d got as far as here and thought it wouldn’t take much longer to complete.

That was three weeks ago and it’s been surprisingly slow progress for something that is straightforward and stitches up relatively quickly. Having started in the middle I decided to complete the top edge first, right up to where the lilac silk fabric stops.

The turquoise fabric had a flat back diamante attached and I decided to make it into a miniature shisha by making a buttonhole ring to go round it. The size (it’s about 4mm in diameter) was quite an issue as it meant I had to scale down the thickness of the thread and I have a nasty suspicion that I twisted the ring as it isn’t sitting straight in spite of the row of fly stitches I added round the edge to try and disguise any shortcomings!

Once I’d finished the top edge I continued to the bottom – it took quite a lot longer than I thought it was going to and by the time I reached the bottom edge I was heartily glad to see the back of it.

It is extremely tactile though – everyone who has seen it has got really touchy feely with it – and with all that heavy thread, in spite of it being only about 7 inches square, it weighs a ton!

In complete contrast to the loose, abstract style of the couching, I’ve also been working on my Brantwood wallpaper motif. I’m using an unlabelled single strand silk with a very subtle variegation.

The stems are either chain stitch (centre and far right and left) or split stitch (middle right). This is the point where I should say something about how the different stitch treatments are all about design choices, but the truth is that between stitching the far right spray and the middle right spray, I forgot what stitch I was using. So I rushed ahead with the second spray and it was only when I finished and looked at the stems more closely (and in daylight…) that it was obvious that I’d started in chain stitch, not split… It’s not really a problem, just slightly irritating that I didn’t check more carefully and I am certainly not taking it out.

This is as far as I’ve got at the moment. You can see the subtle changes in the colour of the thread and also that the satin stitch isn’t all going in the same direction…

Sod it: life’s too short.

It’s a design choice.

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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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It’s taken two months, but I have sort of moved the Ruskin Lace on. When I showed you the project at the beginning of June I’d worked the hem and had started to withdraw some of the threads.

And there it sat for two months while I tried to find the courage and opportunity to move it on. Which I finally did this weekend. Carefully re-reading the instructions and checking what I’d already done, I withdrew the remaining threads for the four-sided stitch border. I’m still not quite sure if they are required for anything in the design so I’ve just pinned them back for now.

Next, the four-sided stitch border. This was a little different to the four-sided stitch I’ve used in Casalguidi and other pulled thread work as the working thread wraps around each group of threads twice. But once I got into the rhythm it stitched up nice and quickly. I’m using a natural linen thread which is nearly the same colour as the linen and as the weave is very open, it’s made much more of a feature of the stitch.

So this is as far as I’ve got with the Ruskin lace and it isn’t really even the actual lace bit yet! It looks like I need to do a whipped inner border next but I’m not sure whether that happens before or after I withdraw the central square. I need to go over the next stage of the instructions very carefully again but that will be at some point in the future. August needs a new Move It On Project and I have yet to decide on what I’m doing for that.

At the Stitch Zone we’ve been learning how to attach shisha mirrors using both shisha stitch and a ‘cheat’s’ way which involves buttonhole stitching round a ring and trapping the shisha underneath it. I also worked over some large sequins and an old coin for variation and added a fly stitch border to one of the ‘cheaty’ shishas.

The couching element is sari silk thread – one of those sort of things which you buy at the Knitting and Stitching Show and then never quite know what to do with it. It’s lovely and thick with a fabulous sheen and a random sprinkling of colours along each length which makes it work perfectly with the sparkle and multicoloured stitching of the shishas.

It’s a nice change to work more freely than you have to with any type of drawn thread work, but now I’ve made a start on my Ruskin lace, I’m much more tempted to keep at it than I was, which surprises me. Watch this space!

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Despite the lack of space, the peas have fitted in nicely and don’t look too squashed or too small. I started with rows of variegated brown feather stitch ‘pea sticks’ and added the stalks over the top in whipped back stitch.

The peas are two straight stitches which start side by side at the top and go into the same hole at the bottom to give a point. I’m always up for some ‘plein air stitching’ and started adding them on a trip to Lincoln to meet up with Karen (Lincs in Stitches).

Once the peas were nicely spaced over the stalks, I finished them off with a trio of tiny straight stitches in a single strand of stranded cotton to create the calyxes. Next I need to find some 2mm silk ribbon for the leaves.

I know it’s not really the best idea to start yet another project when there are other things on the go and especially when I’ve not made any progress on my June AND July Move It On Project, but I need something straightforward to stitch while I’m out and about and Ruskin lace definitely does not come into that category. The Ruskin lace is to go into a 2015 holiday journal which needs some other stitching doing for it, including a version of the wallpaper in John Ruskin’s study at Brantwood, near Coniston.

It’s quite light and modern for a Victorian wallpaper and I particularly liked the motif with stars on the right so I chose it as one of the pieces to stitch for the journal.

I originally planned to do it in applique, but when I came to look at the design I’d printed out ready to go, it was clear that the stems were going to be far too narrow, so I’ve revised my idea and it will all be embroidered. We were up in the Lakes for the weekend a couple of weeks ago and as we visited Coniston, it seemed appropriate to start the stitching there.

The lines will be in split stitch to give the right sort of width and each leaf will also be outlined in split stitch and then satin stitched over. Nice and straightforward, easy to take out and about and it’s still moving old projects on.

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As I’ve said before, this year’s Move It On Project is about revisiting and evaluating old projects and if any get finished during the month, then that’s a bonus. However, we have our first finish! I did say last week that there was a very good chance of this one being finished as it was pretty close already, with only the laborious job of marking out the diamond grid of background stitches to complete.

I ended up by counting the warp and weft threads to work out where to place the markings as it was more accurate than measuring but even then, I made a mistake that I didn’t spot until I was two columns in and so they aren’t quite exact, but close enough for a Holiday Journal piece.

Adding the pairs of straight stitches over the top was quick and easy, even if the finished motif does look like a grumpy moth!

With Mothers’ Day fast approaching I’ve had my usual commission from a friend to make a card for their mother and my starting point was a postcard sized piece featuring lace, tea bags and painted lace flower trims I started in a workshop I did with Fran Holmes back in November 2019.

I decided that it didn’t need much doing to it apart from stems and leaves for the daisies and took it with me today for some ‘plein air’ stitching when we went for a walk in Sherwood Forest. We were joined for lunch on this bench by a very confident robin and a cheeky little woodmouse, both of whom were well rewarded with titbits.

I’m using fishbone stitch for the leaves, which is pretty dense and as a result the closeness of the stitching holes at the edges of the leaves is shredding the delicate tea bags despite my best efforts.

Just going to have to hope that the stitches and the underlying bondaweb can keep it all together!

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March’s Move It On Project actually has a chance of being finished. I chose a sample I started stitching on our 2019 holiday to the Lake District based on an Arts and Crafts style table runner with a sycamore key design I saw at Blackwell, The House of Arts and Crafts, near Windermere.

By the end of the holiday I’d got as far as here:

I’m only doing one element of the pattern but I’d stalled on the odd curved shape underneath the keys. I couldn’t work out from the photo what stitch was used as it appears to be quite raised on the top edge and then it just got put to one side.

I chose it as March’s Move It On Project as it’s the last thing I need to finish to complete my holiday journal for 2019 and there wasn’t a lot to do to complete it. Then looking at it next to the photo, I realised that as I’d deliberately chosen not to stitch an exact copy of the original anyway, getting the stitch ‘right’ for that curved bit was irrelevant! So I’ve done it in the same thread and used Satin Stitch over a back stitch edging as I did for the edge of the keys.

The final stage is the grid of background stitches. I think from the photo that they are pairs of vertical straight stitches, but they are perfectly placed in relation to the weave of the fabric, so I think a ruler, a sharp pencil and very good light are my next requirements!

In other news, Dylan the Psychedelic Snail has a friend! Over the last two weeks I’ve run him as a workshop for the In The Stitch Zone group I teach at Scunthorpe Central Library (details in the Stitch Zone tab on the header) on a Monday afternoon. The first week we created the Raised Stem Stitch Band spiral for the shell.

And the second week we added the needlelace body.

I wanted a purple body for my new snail but could only find this very light variegated lilac in quite a stiff mercerised cotton or similar. I still think it’s a bit too pale but I love the way the firmer thread really shows up the texture of the Corded Brussels Stitch. Someone on Instagram actually thought the body was knitted!

So, meet Ermintrude! And of course, the obligatory photo to show just how small she actually is!

I always worry about repeating a design in case it doesn’t stitch up as well as the original, but despite the centre of her shell being less neat than Dylan’s I’m very pleased both with my second snail and also how the workshop went overall. A win-win!

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The project I’ve chosen to focus on for this month’s Move It On is a relatively new one and the reason that my Kew Memory Journal has stalled. I’ve already done four of the six pieces for it and last spring I started the fifth, based on a photo I took of one of Dale Chihuly’s Persian Chandeliers which was installed in the Temperate House at Kew Gardens in 2019.

I drew out the pattern of the glazing bars on a piece of indigo dyed cotton and as of last April, using thin white ribbon for the thicker bars and whipped back stitch for the thinner ones, had got as far as this:

The fun bit was next – creating the frilly circles of the chandelier – but at this point I froze up because I didn’t think I could stitch anything that comes close to representing Chihuly’s amazing art. I had various ideas about making wired edged needle lace slips, crochet circles using my tiny Victorian metal crochet hook and woven spiders web stitches. I reminded myself that I was only aiming for my impression of the chandelier but I was really reluctant to start and instead, put it to one side.

So this is where the Move It On project will hopefully help. By the end of the month I should know whether I can make this work or whether I abandon it and create a different fifth piece for the Memory Journal. The hard bit is going to be actually making that start!

As I’ve had the Inktense blocks out, colouring some pelmet vilene for the Ribbon Rose Brooch kits, I thought it was the ideal opportunity to stitch an embroidered centre for a silver Victorian brooch I’ve had for some time. I think these type of brooches were originally designed to be set with coins, but the empty frame makes an ideal surround for a piece of miniature textile art!

I went with my favourite colour palette and one of my favourite themes as there are so many stitches which suggest waving seaweed such as the feather stitch and threaded chain stitch…

…and a line of Palestrina stitch to fill in the gap on the right.

I’m very happy with the stitching but I feel it’s a bit flat, so I’m toying with ideas for a bit of extra dimensionality. I think it might be a bit too small to add even very tiny pieces of sea glass so I was thinking beads or possibly picots at the bottom. Or possibly a little silver fish… Any thoughts?

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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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As I suspected, finding the right white for the vertical glazing bars of the Temperate House was a pain. I ended up with a selection of white threads, ranging from good old Anchor stranded cotton to some fabulous Gloriana 12 strand silk called ‘Fresh Snow’ which is too perfectly white, silky soft and beautiful to use!

After standing in the sunny garden laying threads out alongside the ribbon and seeing how just one or two strands compared with the way the thread looked in the skein, I finally settled on a Dinky Dyes stranded silk in ‘Natural’.

I initially used back stitch rather than my go to split stitch as I wanted a stronger line but I wasn’t happy with the breaks between the stitches, so I whipped it to give more solidity.

The lines are similar rather than identical to the original, but when I referred back to the source photo, I realised how subtly the spacing and angles of the bars changed as their perspective to me altered. Had I drawn this from memory, all those lines would have been parallel and evenly spaced. It was a very useful lesson in observation.

I’ve also continued with the or nué acorn and started the coloured couching in single strands of stranded silk. Despite my initial concern that it was at an angle to the gold, I felt the first part of the cup worked well. It was only when I came to add the highlight that it started to get a bit challenging.

I wanted the highlight to curve round the cup, but working in straight lines makes that difficult, especially as this piece is so small. Not really knowing what else to do, I just carried on stitching to see if I could make it work out. By this point I had started the acorn, so things were ramping up on the difficulty scale, not least having four needles on the go at once.

I know I have the tendency to overcomplicate things, but I did think an acorn would be a relatively simple thing to stitch! Once I had sort of wrangled the highlight on the cup I realised I needed to add a lighter colour to the acorn. Unfortunately I think I should have introduced it at least a row previously…

It wasn’t working and I needed help to see where the shading was, so I added some lines to give me an idea of where the changes need to happen. Suddenly I feel more confident about it.

I think I will have to go back and unpick some of the darker green on the row or two above and add the mid green, but I’ve decided to continue and finish the design first and see how it looks. This is very much a first attempt at a new technique and it will do me good to not obsess about everything I do having to be perfect straight out of the box.

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