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Archive for the ‘In The Stitch Zone’ Category

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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We’re currently about three-quarters of the way through the prompts for the SpringBoard Project and although I haven’t finished any more of my responses, I thought we’d have a bit of a break from the jewellery and I’d share the work in progress.

Week 4: Twist

Last time I showed my attempt at Twisted Lattice Stitch I’d only managed to work the base grid. I did started to work the twisted layer but I struggled to follow the diagram in my Mary Thomas and two strands of thread were too heavy, so I took it all out, went down to one strand and concentrated. I used a variegated darker green thread and found it interesting that the twisted/wrapped element is quite difficult to make out as distinct stitches.

What it does seem to do is to soften the grid and mask the lines. Next job is to put a twisted chain stitch border (or two) round it.

Week 5: Cut

I was a bit spoilt for choice with this prompt. I liked the ideas of reverse applique and versions of traditional and contemporary broderie anglaise but in the end I was inspired by an image I found on Pinterest of a scarf full of large circular holes which appeared to be filled with different needleweaving designs.

I had a piece of fabric I created in a batik workshop with a pattern of leaves and I thought about cutting out the leaf shapes and filling the spaces with something similar but I really liked the crackled effect of the leaves and I was loathe to destroy them. The negative space between the leaves, however, was much more suitable for cutting away. I edged the shape with blanket stitch to help minimise fraying and used the stitches as anchor points for the cream silk thread I used to criss cross the hole.

I’ve used blanket stitch over a triangle of the centre stitches to keep the threads in place and then added random blocks of needleweaving to partly fill the gaps. I enjoyed the challenge of working in an irregular space and the next step is to cut away another section and do the same with that.

Week 6: Fray

I stuck rather more to my comfort zone for this prompt with a set of frayed strips of fabric in sea, beach and sky colours, loosely stitched to the background fabric with lines of running stitch.

I wanted to add more fraying so I found a piece of heavy weight fabric and literally hacked a hole in the middle that I could fray out further with the idea of putting it over the seascape as if you were looking through a hole in a groyne.

It was a bit floppy on its own so I ended up stitching it on and round a piece of pelmet vilene, pulling pleats and folds in the fabric and stitching them in place to give the feel of weathered wood. I’m currently couching some threads down to add to the woodgrain feel and try and improve the rather untidy stitching.

And finally, Week 7: Layers.

There has been some overlap with some of the last prompts and I was able to return to the reverse applique I had fancied for Week 5. I started by laying out a series of interlocking shapes in various shades of blue felt on a piece of scrap felt and then stitched over them with running stitch lines to keep the different pieces in place. Unfortunately, I forgot to take any photographs until after I added the top layer of felt and started to back stitch wavy lines across it.

I’ve stitched the lines into leaf shapes which will then have the top layer cut away to reveal the multicoloured felt and stitching underneath. I’m really enjoying this one – it’s a nice easy stitch.

Next week is Weave. Still considering what angle I’m going to take on that one.

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As I mentioned a few weeks ago, at In The Stitch Zone we’ve been working on what I’ve called the SpringBoard Project. My 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 as I’m keen to encourage new people to join. I have shared some glimpses of my responses to the prompts but as I’ve completed two of them this weekend, I thought it was time for a dedicated catch up.

Week 1: Wrap

My initial idea for this was to wrap some lengths of plastic drinking straw with some scraps of fabric and then add beads and then just see where things led me. A couple of weeks ago this was as far as I’d got.

Sue, one of the ladies in the class, gave me some threads she didn’t want which were the perfect colour and that gave me the idea of wrapping the whole bundle in and out of the straws and couching them down. It would also help keep the straw sections in place.

Once I’d got this far I realised I needed a bit more space so I moved it onto a piece of furnishing fabric and a bigger hoop before I spread out and couched down the ends of the thread bundle, adding some one-wrap French knots for texture and then wrapped more beads over the ends of the loops.

I had one straw section left, so I cut it into three, wrapped each one in the rust and turquoise thread I’d been using for the couching and stitched them down with long straight stitches.

Finally I tore a strip of cloth I rusted in the summer and wrapped it with a length of perle cotton I’d used to tie the bundle up and couched it round the outside of the silk square I’d used for the background. First one finished!

Week 2: Fold

My response for this prompt was the American smocking panel I shared a couple of weeks ago. It had a lovely reception on Instagram with several people thinking it was a pastry lattice pie crust on first glance!

Week 3: Knot

My initial thought for this one was that it was an opportunity to finally get to grips with colonial knots, which I’ve been promising myself for a while but I was also quite taken with an image I found on Pinterest of layers of knotted fabric so I knotted some strips, found a random scrap of background fabric and layered them up with lines of Palestrina stitch.

I’m less happy with this sample – mainly because it’s the closest to my comfort zone. I’ve not used a new technique or given a twist to something I already knew how to do – the seaweedy curving lines are very ‘me’. However, it meets the prompt and I don’t have to love all my samples. I’ve also decided that when I find a suitable piece of fabric to mount it on I’ll have a go at a row of colonial knots or mixed colonial and French perhaps round the edge to attach it.

Week 4: Twist

This was last week’s prompt and as I spent the session struggling with what I though was a chest infection I only got this far with the base grid for Twisted Lattice Stitch from Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches. I’ve stitched it in mercerised cotton on linen so I could use the weave to keep things even but I suspect it’s a bit on the small side. (No surprise there…)  Mary Thomas shows it worked as a diamond so even though it looks rectangular it does have the right number of thread on each side – eventually…

The chest infection? After miraculously avoiding it for nearly three years (not bad given I’m a supply teacher, my husband works in two schools and my little one has been in school and college) I tested positive for Covid the next day. Week 5 of the Springboard project (‘Cut’) is postponed until a week on Monday!

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At In The Stitch Zone last week we looked at folds. I’ve long wanted to have a go at American Smocking. My favourite aunt had a green velvet smocked cushion which fascinated me as a child. I used to poke my fingers into the pattern and try and work out how the fabric was woven – which of course, it wasn’t. I started by practising on some polycotton, which was a bit thin and limp for the pattern, but proved that it would work, before I started on a piece of hand painted velvet. Very pleased with the result, but in spite of knowing how to do it, I still don’t actually know why it works out like this – stitched witchcraft!

This month’s Move It On Project isn’t even started, but it’s been hanging over my head for a very long time. The story really starts back in November 2019, when I was doing a Christmas Fair at Gainsborough Old Hall and met Sanira, a talented print maker based in Essex. She bought one of my pendants and as I’d just started my Instagram account, she followed me and was very supportive of my work. As a result of following her on Instagram I ‘met’ a Spanish artist and printmaker who also makes books and during lockdown Sanira suggested that the three of us collaborate on a unique artists’ book. Dani would make the page block and print half of them with his wonderful miniature wood-block style medieval monsters:

Then it would go to Sanira, who would add more mythical monsters in her very different style.

Then a friend of Sanira’s who is a book binder would add the cover and endpapers:

And I would finish it off with an embroidered cover. Sanira sent me the book in the spring, when I was literally flat out with workshops, work and everything else, and so far, I have not been able to come up with a single idea for the cover. I thought about stitching another mythical beast, perhaps based on one of the ones from Shibden Hall, near Halifax but there are plenty of those inside. I thought about putting the word ‘Bestiary’ on the front but it says Mythical Creatures on the title page and even at the scale I stitch, I don’t think I would be able to fit Mythical Creatures on the front. I did wonder about a floral or foliate border based on something from a medieval psalter but given the scale I think I’m going to have to work on something like silk, otherwise it will be too bulky, and I feel like a border will need something inside.

It’s not like me to be stumped by something, but I really am, and now my lack of progress is starting to get embarrassing. Any thoughts would be very gratefully received!

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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’m not much of a one for kits usually as I have more than enough of my own ideas that I’m yet to get round to stitch, but some years ago I couldn’t resist a Liberty canvaswork card kit for 50p in a local charity shop. It was a slightly odd design – I’m still not completely sure what it’s supposed to be beyond a flower/flower bud of some kind – but an unopened Liberty kit for 50p was a no-brainer.

I started stitching it pretty much straight away, but soon came up against the first problem. The instructions suggested you use three strands of the six-stranded cotton provided, but I felt the coverage was far too thin so I upped it to the full six strands. As there was not an overly generous amount of threads in the kit to start with (and I bet it wasn’t cheap originally…) I soon realised that the chances of me running out of some of the shades of peach thread were pretty high. I’d probably have some matching thread somewhere but that would require turning out far too many boxes and bags… So that’s where it stalled and that’s where I picked it up last week for this month’s Move It On project.

After the stress of the Ruskin lace I thought a bit of canvaswork would be nice and soothing. Of course it wasn’t. It’s counted and anything counted has the potential to go seriously awry. I started by playing the peach thread chicken to see exactly how much I would need to find and in which of the four shades. The thread use wasn’t helped by the fact that the kit specifies tent stitch, which due to the extra thread across the back, uses up more than good old half cross stitch. As I neared the end of the threads, I wished that I had ignored the instructions and done it all in half cross stitch from the beginning. Especially as after having congratulated myself on completing all the pale peach and peach stitches, I discovered as I added the dark peach, that I had counted wrongly and the middle section of the lower right petal was out in at least two places.

I took out the scrap of peach before reason kicked in and pointed out that it wasn’t the end of the world and no one would really know if I just worked the dark peach and brick red round my ‘mistake’. However, the scrap literally was just enough to cover the few stitches – no room for a needle to work it – so now I was looking for peach as well. Luckily there was enough brick red but the dark peach has come up short.

I also couldn’t understand why I’d stitched some of the cream perle outline and not the rest, so as a break from trying and failing (of course…) to find a distinctly salmony-peach thread among the literally hundreds I own, I decided to finish the perle. Which is when I found the second counting error on the top left hand edge of the left-hand petal. This time I decided just to work round it and alter the last stitch to make the petal join. I really don’t think it’s noticeable so not unpicking was the right call. But so much for it being soothing and easy!

The shishas and couching pieces has moved on to here:

And I’ve been working on more of my upcycled jewellery pieces. This one has been a particular joy. It started off as two odd pieces of two separate mid-century belt clasps or clothing clips.

But one happened to be one with the ‘hook’ and the other had the ‘eye’, and when I idly put them together, they fitted beautifully and I loved the asymmetric shape they created.

Next I reset the missing stones. I was originally going to stick with the original clear diamantes but after finding that some vintage faux coral stones fitted some of the spaces perfectly and gave a fantastic pop of scarlet, I reset them with a combination of the two.

Lastly, I needed something to fill the curved spaces on the left. I had some pieces of a silk cocoon in the same bright red as the faux coral left over from this pendant I made a couple of weeks ago.

Cutting them to shape was a bit of a challenge but they have a lovely subtle texture and silk sheen which was almost impossible to photograph.

I’m delighted with the result and I hope it finds a good home when I list it in my Etsy shop later this week.

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Despite the heatwave and the end of term finally arriving, I have had a bit of a creative boost with both my stitching and upcycled jewellery making. I’ve completed my peas with little silk ribbon leaves worked in ribbon stitch – and remembered to show a finger for scale!

We’ve also had the last session for the stumpwork garden project at In The Stitch Zone which was adding strawberries. I started with trios of lazy daisy stitches to represent the leaves, which also come in threes.

Then I added paler runners with tufts of plantlets at the ends, flowers created from loose white French knots with a smaller tighter French knots in a thinner yellow thread in the centre and scarlet strawberries. These are a little too round for my liking so I may be tweaking them in some manner to make them look more strawberry shaped rather than like red flowers. So basically the garden is finished now in terms of elements to be added.

However, I still need to finish the strawberries, carry on adding French knots to soften the edge of the path, add some more leafy greens bottom left and finally, sprinkle some weeds throughout before I can mount it and put it to bed.

I’ve finally got round to using these tiny ribbon roses I stitched on some silk carrier rod at the Collection Artisan Market at the beginning of June…

….to upcycle a pair of vintage marcasite set clip-on earrings. Originally there would have been a large flat faux pearl in the central setting but when they came into my hands one ‘pearl’ was missing and the pearl coating of the remaining one was badly damaged so it seemed sensible to remove them altogether and create something new to complement the original settings.

It was a bit of a challenge to stitch ribbon roses that small, but I think I they sit very nicely in their marcasite frames and they do look very pretty on.

I’ve also been inspired to do something with silk cocoons. This pendant is a compete mash up of a hand made studio pottery porcelain button, two silk cocoons, part of a ‘silk’ flower, an odd earring, a stumpwork leaf I worked for some project back in 2010, and a reclaimed bale and chain.

Then, all enthusiastic about using up more of the silk cocoons and inspired by a jellyfish pendant I’d seen on Pinterest, made from a piece of sea glass and sections of chain, I combined a load of odds and ends of chain with some beaded sections and another silk cocoon to create this pendant:

Then I made a pair of jellyfish earrings using the bead caps I found when I went looking for a silver bead cap to go on the top of the silk cocoon for the pendant.

I do wonder if it’s a touch of displacement activity though, instead of tacking that Ruskin lace!!

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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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The last time I posted an update on the progress of my stumpwork garden I’d just started feathering the carrot tops and it looked like this:

You can see more cauliflower leaves taking shape behind but I still wasn’t sure about the rather flat looking curds on the one I’d stitched. In the end I did take it out and restitched it with the other two in a thicker thread and varying the number of wraps in the French knots to give it a lumpier texture. I also gave them a bit of a wash with some Inktense blocks to add shading and a creamier colour.

Then a patch of ‘leafy greens’ in woven picots. The main problem I’m having with this version of the garden is that I’ve stitched it a lot bigger than the original, so in a lot of cases the veg has to be scaled up not only by making bigger stitches but also by using heavier weight threads. These picots are stitched using a 4 stranded cotton from 21st Century Yarns which is thicker and more tightly twisted than a standard 6-strand but unfortunately it was an oddment and as I don’t have any more of the same colour, this is a solitary clump!

With lettuces, strawberries, and peas still yet to add, I realised I’m fast running out of room!

Lettuces next, created by nesting bullion knots stitched in all six strands of a variegated DMC thread. I was pleasantly surprised at how neatly they worked up as I find the separate strands of stranded cotton tend to shift when you make the wraps and make the knots look untidy, but these aren’t bad at all! You can also just see in the top left corner the extra patch of leafy greens I put in by the cauliflowers to fill a space.

These are worked in a slightly loose perle-type thread which has given them a rougher more natural texture.

Garden so far. They might have to be very small patches of strawberries and peas!

And a confession. You may have been wondering where my progress report was on the Ruskin Lace I chose as my Move It On Project piece for June. Well…not only have I been busy (as ever), and it’s definitely not a piece to take out and about as it required absolute concentration, but to be perfectly honest, I am still completely paralysed by the thought of moving it on. So, I’ve decided to carry it on as July’s project. Hopefully when term ends I will get some days back where I can sit down, re-read the instructions and get stuck in. That’s the plan…

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