Archive for the ‘Holiday Journal’ Category

Firstly, the Brantwood House Victorian wallpaper motif I’ve been stitching since last July is finished! I had a real push on it this week and was delighted to set the last stitch on Thursday.

We also have had some sunshine, which really brought out the effect of the padded satin stitch.

So the finishing touch for the wallpaper motif is to lace it over a piece of firm plastic and mount it into the altered book that I’m using for this particular Holiday Journal. I’m not sad to see it finished, but I will be a bit lost for something to stitch when I’m out and about.

The other finishing touches are courtesy of February’s meeting at Scunthorpe Embroidery and Textile Association (SEATA). We had borrowed some folios of embroidery examples of edgings, tassels, insertion stitches, stitched buttons etc. from the Embroiderers’ Guild to inspire us and I was so inspired I completely forgot to take any photos of the beautiful work on show.

I started by making a cord with a lucet. I’d never used one before and it took a bit of getting started but once I was underway, I fell into the rhythm of it quite easily. It’s very much like a tight version of French knitting, but on two prongs instead of four nails, so there is no hollow middle and it cones out square/diamond in cross section rather than round.

Unfortunately instead of starting with something simple like just wool, I decided to use up some sparkly thread, so the results are not really fit to be seen, but I enjoyed it enough that I’m now mooching at lucets online.

I’m quite intrigued by insertion stitches, but after the morning making a lucet braid I wanted to stitch something more straightforward after lunch, so I folded some oddments of fabric and experimented with some blanket/buttonhole stitch edging variations.

They are tiny as usual – each sample is about 2 inches long – but long enough to see how the pattern works up and to give some ideas for the future…

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Much of my spare time this week has been eaten up by paperwork for Scunthorpe Little Theatre Club: policies, the monthly newsletter and trying to make headway with the rewrite for the 2024 panto, so what stitching I’ve done has been slow. However, after a bit of a lull, I’ve got things moving with the Brantwood wallpaper motif again. The last time I posted about it in December, I was on with the very last section, the grey border motifs.

I was on the home straight but as so often inexplicably happens, with the end in sight, I stalled. I’m very pleased with the execution of this piece but I haven’t found it the most interesting thing I’ve ever stitched. It’s quite traditional/old fashioned and I don’t find stitching over the lines of a pre-prepared image very fulfilling, especially when the stitches are so limited. But this isn’t the only piece of stitching that I’ve stopped working on with only a few hours work left and I know I’m not alone in this. I just wish I could work out why!

Anyway, I’ve got it moving again and the end is creeping closer. I’ve finished all the left hand side and have put in most of the split stitch stems on the right. I’ve also decided that I’m definitely keeping the variegated cotton outline for the central motif. I’m hoping I can keep a bit of momentum going for this now as I just want to get it finished and put into the holiday journal.

I’ve also finished the vintage scarf ring I was planning to upcycle into another barrette. At the end of panto week I’d done all the decorative stitching and it just needed a pelmet vilene stiffening layer and a felt back.

I sorted the felt and vilene layers and added a beaded blanket stitch edging to hold them together and it now looks like this:

And the back looks like this:

Yes, I did say it was going to be a barrette but I had a senior moment and finished it as a brooch, not a barrette. That’s what happens when you put things aside when you’re nearly finished instead of pushing on to completion!

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Running to stay still at the moment so not much to show apart from the progress made on two of the projects from last week.

Firstly the Brantwood wallpaper motif piece. I’ve made a start on the outer border with the grey Madeira silk and am very pleased with both the shade and shimmering effect of the silk.

I think for the moment I might leave the inner border in the variegated thread, but as there is still a reasonable bit of stitching to do before it’s finally classed as a finish, I have time before I need to make a final decision.

The abstract scrunched roses which were my response to the penultimate SpringBoard Project prompt are finished and were nice and quick to do as well as being very effective – they certainly got a positive response on Instagram.

After I stitched down the last scrunched rose, I finished off the design with some scrunched stems in subtly variegated green ‘Rachel’, a tubular nylon thread by Caron which I’ve had knocking around for a while, wondering what to do with it. Threaded with a chunky green wool, and then ruched or scrunched along it and couched down, it made some very effective chunky stems.

Always satisfying to find a use for the weird and wonderful!

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Thank you for all your suggestions about the grey for the outside of the Brantwood wallpaper motif piece. I had ordered some grey Madeira thread online but I was tending more towards the stranded cotton myself and so I set about adding the motif border in split stitch.

So far, so good. I like the way the almost white areas suggest highlights. Then I started on the sprigs on the lower left. Worked as satin stitch, the variegated thread proved to be less subtle than it looked in the skein and I had random bands of grey and white across the shapes, which I really didn’t like. So I unpicked the sprigs and am now very pleased that I ordered the grey Madeira just in case.

Our last two prompts for the Stitch Zone were Scrunch and Mend. Finding inspiration for scrunch was quite difficult as Google kept on showing me scrunchies, images of swirled fabric from fabric retailers and filo pastry! But I did find one or two ideas, including some rose-like flowers which looked like they had been created from scrunched up bits of fabric, machine stitched over the top in a spiral to hold them down. I had some light weight fabric which I thought might work and started to scrunch, pinning the folds when I felt they were lying in a pleasing way.

Then I added chain stitch spirals in a lovely rust and blue variegated thread.

I like the way the fabric springs up around the stitching, giving them a slightly puffy look.

Mend gave a lot more scope for experimentation. I decided to work on a piece of denim which originally had been trimmed off the bottom of a pair of jeans and work a number of different types of mend in indigo dyed stranded cotton. I started with a chain stitch band mend I’d seen in one of those short video compilations which come up on Pinterest and other social media. I know that there are similar compilations for cooking/baking/cake decorating hacks, many of which have been completely debunked; ranging from impossible to downright dangerous and I wondered if the same was true of some of these mending ideas.

I cut a slit in the denim and worked a series of horizontal bars across the hole. I went down and across, leaving a running stitch at the back as shown in the video, rather than going across the back of the fabric, and added the chain band down the middle. It is an attractive and decorative stitch, if you want to make a feature of your mend.

But, the hole is still a hole. It’s not going to pull any wider but it will keep fraying at the back and as it’s only the thread that’s bridging the gap, I don’t think it would be very hard wearing. In fact, at the back you still have the hole pretty much unchanged.

I think that to make it more practical, you would need to back the hole with a piece of fabric and work the bars over the back too, but a useful experiment. My next one is just a simple boro style patch.

Nice simple meditative stitching – just about all I can find time for at the moment!

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Not a comment about the weather, but it easily could be at the moment! Our last prompt at In The Stitch Zone was ‘Weave’ and that gave me the excuse to create and play with a pin loom. I used a little cardboard postal box which I filled with foam padding to give me a base to push the pins into. I used crewel wool in beige and yellow to do my first experimental piece. As I set the pins 0.5cm apart, and the crewel wool is very fine, it was a bit more open than I hoped, which means you can see the knots where I was joining pre-cut pieces of wool, but other than that, I think it worked out quite well.

I wanted to try it again with some thicker tapestry wool and I actually remembered to take some in progress photos this time so you can see how the loom works, with pins not only top and bottom, but also along the sides, which keeps the spacing between the warp and weft rows. Lots of knots again because I’m using pre-cut lengths from a load I bought in a charity shop which I think were probably from a kit.

This block is 9.5cm square and I managed to find a weaving needle in my workbox which made life very much easier with this sample as it was long enough to go across the whole piece in one go.

The thicker wool was a definite improvement and the denser texture meant the ends of the knots are much more difficult to see now it’s finished. I’m also hoping that I can more easily darn the ends from the weft knots along the edges.

I’m planning to use the cream piece as a background for the first one – something like this.

I’m delighted to have finished the central section of the Brantwood wallpaper motif. Last time I had successfully played red thread chicken and was thinking about using a very dark charcoal grey for the remaining stars rather than black.

I chose a lovely deep charcoal grey by HDF called ‘Night Smoke’ and have not only completed the stars, but also stitched over the red section at the base of the stalks which should have been black/grey. The grey is not quite as dark in real life as the photo suggests, but the weather isn’t really helping with good photographs at the moment.

The last section is the light grey. I’m not planning to fill in all the grey around the leaves as in the original – I can’t see that working at all – so I’m going to stitch the outline of the shape around the central motif and then satin and split stitch the stems and leaves around the edges. However, to my amazement, after having searched through all my threads, I’ve found I don’t have any pale grey silk thread at all, but I do have this lovely subtly variegated stranded cotton which is the right tone, if a little on the grey-blue rather than the grey-brown side.

I am torn though. I like the idea of the grey having the same sort of very subtle variegation as the blue, and I am also always keen to used what I already have rather than buying new. However, I love the lustre of the silk threads I’ve used throughout and I’m concerned that the cotton will look quite dull beside them. Any thoughts?

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I’ve made a couple of pieces of upcycled jewellery recently that both have felt as a basis. The first is using the second of the two offcuts of hand made felt I was given by my lovely neighbour Lisa at the Artisan Market at The Collection back in June. I’ve already made the top one into a round found object mandala brooch which sold at Arttopia back in the summer.

I decided to make a barrette with the bottom one and cut it into a random curvy shape.

Next, auditioning found objects to decorate it…

…before I settled on a border of chunky vintage chain with a pressed brass motif, a larger clockwork cog and some unusual spiral wire wrapped chain links. I stitched everything down using simple straight stitches in a variegated mercerised cotton which echoes the pinks and purples in the felt.

I attached a barrette fixing to a piece of commercial felt for the backing and stitched the two layers together with a simple beaded blanket stitch and iridescent pinky-red/gold seed beads.

The second piece is a brooch and started off as a wet felted flower hair ornament which belonged to my little one when she was a lot younger. It doesn’t quite fit with the moody goth look she’s sporting at the moment and the felt itself was quite delicate so it had been pulled out of shape and was wearing very thin in places. I ironed it flat and having just processed some odd beads and a ring that all had a bit of a cogs and gears thing going on, had a bit of a play.

Next I stitched the pieces down with variegated turquoise and rust coloured thread.

And then cut the felt into the shape I wanted for the brooch, echoing the shape formed by the ‘cogs’.

Last step was to attach the felt and brooch back with beaded blanket stitch using some of my favourite iridescent turquoise seed beads. Not only is it a sturdy stitched edging but when you’re joining two pieces of fabric the beads sit nicely in the join and hide the edges.

Lastly, a thread chicken update on the Brantwood wallpaper motif. I made it: that is all I have left of the red!

I knew I had a little bit of wiggle room as I could have unpicked the red bar at the bottom of the leaves that’s supposed to be black, but I’m relieved it didn’t come to that. Next stage is the black (in fact a very dark grey called Night Smoke) stars.

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Thank you very much to everyone who left ideas and comments to help me out with the cover design for the miniature book. They were all really helpful and helped me think in different directions rather then the rut I’d got into. So hopefully I should be shortly starting to put something together; any progress is better than it hanging over my head.

It’s been a busy week on the work front and as I’ve managed to find a local outlet which is interested in stocking some of my upcycled jewellery, all my spare time this week has been entirely focussed on creating a new ‘collection’ based round clock hands. I’ve been making clock hand earrings for a while now, but this was the first time I’ve looked at some of the larger and more decorative single hands in my collection and although cleaning and polishing them takes ages, it’s been a lot of fun finding beads and chains and other odds and ends from my upcycling stock to turn them into pendants and necklaces.

The Art Deco style hand at the top was gummed up with tacky gold paint which was a nightmare to try and remove. In the end I had to file it off, which made a mess of the file, but left me with a rather nice ‘brushed’ sort of texture which went well with the selection of turquoise beads. I’ve teamed the decorative vintage hand at the bottom with a haematite doughnut and you can just see a lovely figured picture jasper bead inside it, like a little planet.

This unusual hand must have come from a very large clock and certainly something that size isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I think the turquoise nuggets, the faceted pale gold cat’s eye beads and the unusual vintage chain balance it nicely.

The black plastic coating on this elaborate hand made it nice and easy to clean up and as it has a bit of a gothy vibe I decided to add some lengths of beaded chain in red and black. I love the design of this hand and I think it makes an amazing centrepiece.

This Art Deco hand was a lot easier to clean than the other one and as it was a bit larger and had the open bar at the top, I was able to add an internal dangle of a pale brown dyed mother of pearl heart.

And lastly, this hand was lovely and shiny so the more modern looking blue and white art glass bead was a perfect partner.

I’ve also made a few more pairs of earrings and fingers crossed the collection is a good fit for the venue. You can only try these things and see how they go, but at least this place is within ten minutes drive, rather than best part of an hour away!

And just to remind ourselves that this is mostly an embroidery blog, here is the current state of play on my Ruskin wallpaper motif. We have stars!

I wasn’t confident that satin stitch was the best stitch to get even coverage over the stars, but after some research I liked the look of fishbone stitch, worked separately along each arm. It gives the right sort of coverage and with a different texture which I like but it’s a challenge keeping the stitches even at this scale.

However, the next issue is going to be thread chicken. Three more stars to stitch and I may not have enough red thread…

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I’ve had a few meetings over the last week which have borne fruit as far as the Victorian wallpaper motif is concerned. When I blogged about it a couple of weeks ago, I was a little worried about the coverage of the single strand red silk thread and wondering if two strands would work better.

As I’d worked a symmetrical section, I decided to change to two strands for the next one down and see how things went. And they went perfectly. The strands worked well together and I think the coverage is much smoother and neater. However, there is a definite difference in height between the two sections, so I’m wondering whether to restitch the three sections I’ve already done.

Especially as I checked back with the original photo – spot the not deliberate mistake!

I am definitely going to have to restitch the middle section, although I might just see if I can use the existing red stitches as padding, satin stitch over it in black and make it a slightly more raised block. Loving the way the silk shimmers in the sunlight.

At In The Stitch Zone, the class I teach on a Monday afternoon, we have just started the SpringBoard Project. The idea is that we all stitch something which incorporates the prompt for the week. It can be as complex or simple, obvious or tenuous as you like and therefore, hopefully accessible by anyone at any level of ability. We’re a week out of sync due to the Bank Holiday for the Queen’s funeral, so started last week with the first prompt, which was ‘Wrap’.

Even up to the start of the session I had no clear idea of what I was going to do. I had threads, fabric, beads and some other bits and pieces which included a section of plastic drinking straw. So I picked out some fabric in my favourite shades and started to play; literally doodling with the materials in front of me. And I ended up with this:

The bright turquoise is frayed habotai silk and I have caught it down with beads over sections of the straw.

I only had a small piece of the straw so I’m trying to use every scrap!

Loving this doodle and definitely going to carry on with it.

Lastly, as we’re at the end of yet another month (how did that happen?!) the round up for September’s Move It On Project. Not finished, but definitely moved on. I’ve learned some things, made choices and again, ended up with something that is worth continuing and finishing when the time is right.

I’ve bit the bullet with October’s Project because it’s actually something that has not yet been started. It’s not just my project, it’s a three way collaboration that started in lockdown and I’m painfully aware that I’m holding the job up, so I’m using this as a way of holding myself accountable. There will be pictures and a fuller confession to follow.

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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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