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Archive for the ‘In The Stitch Zone’ Category

I have to confess that I’ve not actually done anything with June’s Move It On Project yet. I know that it’s all to do with my reluctance to attempt the drawn threads, but I’ve also had a lot of other projects claiming my time so far this month. Chief among them has been my stumpwork garden. Last seen, I’d got this far:

The next vegetables to be added were the cauliflowers and this is where the larger scale of my second garden proved problematic. The cauliflower leaves are created with cast-on stitch and in the original, the caulis were small enough that the width of the cast-on stitch leaves were in proportion to the French knot centres. However, in spite of working the cast on stitch in the heaviest perle I had, the leaves for these look much less luxuriant and if anything, a bit mean. I’m also not happy with the very white looking thread I used for the French knots, so I’ve not stitched any more of the three I had planned to do while I work out if I can be bothered to take out those knots and re-stitch the centre again!

While I decide whether to unpick or not, I started the rather more straightforward carrots. These consist of a loose double wrapped French knot and then several loops of green thread worked over a cordonnet stick, as shown here when I was working them last year.

The loops are caught at the back with a couple of little stitches every two or three loops and then snipped to form the ferny foliage.

It’s easier to make all the loops first and then snip them but I got impatient and snipped my first row. So now I’m having to try and stitch the second row of loops while trying not to catch the loose ends from the first row…

I’ve also discovered, thanks to my ladies at In The Stitch Zone that if you run the needle through the strands that make up each thread, it fuzzes up beautifully and looks even more like carrot tops. But I am resisting doing that until they are all stitched!

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Well, the lonely courgette now has some friends and as they are almost big enough to be called marrows, I left the flowers off.

I used the same interfacing backed painted cotton for the leaves as I did for the original stumpwork garden and the same method, which has scaled up very satisfactorily.

Next, I added big blowsy cabbages in a 1cm wide bluey-green silk ribbon. I made sure I worked the woven spider’s web stitches nice and loosely and let the ribbon twist and bend to give a more natural look to the leaves.

Lastly, a patch of radishes. As this garden is about three times the size of the original I needed to enlarge the original tiny line of detached chain stitch pairs. This time I gave the radishes at least four leaves each and increased the weight of the leaves by using a thicker thread and nesting one detached chain stitch inside another. I gave each one a little pink base to the leaf stalk to hint at the crunchy pink radish growing just under the surface.

To give an idea of how much bigger I’m working, here is the garden so far side by side with the original version. The hoop is 6 inches in diameter – this is practically enormous for me!

As it’s the end of the month, time for the update on May’s Move It On Project. Unfortunately I didn’t get as far as I had hoped with the Casalguidi work, although for a nice reason this time. Last week was half term, so we’ve had a lovely family holiday in Northumberland and all the stitching I did was to go in my holiday journal. But the overcast trailing is finished and more importantly, I have a book I can use for the flowers when I pick it up again.

June’s Move It On project is well out of my comfort zone. I’ve seen and admired a lot of Ruskin Lace during our holidays in the Lake District and for our holiday in 2015 I created a very ambitious altered book/holiday journal which I still haven’t finished! One of the things I wanted to stitch for it was a Ruskin lace sample.

I bought myself a Ruskin Lace book but after reading the first chapter, I bottled out big time. I hate the thought of cutting, withdrawing and weaving threads back into a piece of stitching and these are core skills for this type of embroidery. But I also hate the thought that it’s getting the better of me and recently managed to get as far as hemming a piece of linen following the instructions in the book before I gave up again. I’m determined to move the 2015 journal on and I’m hoping that once I’ve got my head round the cutting threads bit, the needlelace element should be more enjoyable.

This is where I am at the moment, cutting threads to form an internal border.

I’m using some of the linen I usually use for pulled thread work and am a bit worried that it’s going to be too open, but that’s what the Move It On Project is designed for. If it works, then that’s great – if it doesn’t, I’ll have learned useful lessons. Fingers crossed.

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More teaching this week and we’re now into show week for Scunthorpe Little Theatre Club‘s long awaited production of ‘Gaslight

It was first cast back in January 2020 which seems a very long time ago. I’m doing the props for this one which mostly involves dressing the set to look like a dark, gloomy, overstuffed Victorian parlour and I’m glad to finally get all the bits and pieces I’ve been accumulating for it out of the house.

I also made several local charity shops very happy by taking a large number of huge, old fashioned and frankly unsaleable pictures off their hands!

It’s been quite a challenge to find Victorian looking bits and pieces. My choice of décor is almost exclusively mid-century, so I’ve been very limited in what I’ve been able to source from home and our show budget only runs to charity shops, not antiques centres.

I’ve done my best but I’m hoping that the ten yard rule most definitely applies.

While I was waiting for the set to go up I managed to get a little further on with May’s Move It On Project, the Casalguidi work. From here:

to here:

Thankfully I’ve nearly finished the overcast trailing now and I can get onto the flowers.

I also got stuck into all those French knots and have finished the In The Stitch Zone Stumpwork Garden Workshop garden path, all apart from some little white or lilac French knots to suggest flower heads on the low growing plants and some taller weeds around the edges.

Note the lone raised stem band courgette on the left. It needs some friends, leaves and stems by Monday!

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Too many days supply teaching this week and coming back shattered in the evenings has meant minimal stitching but I have made a little bit of progress with the Casalguidi work. I’ve planned out where the meandering stem is going to fill the rest of the square, pinned it in place instead of just making my mind up as I go along and done a bit more of the trailing overcast stitch.

Last week this was my starting position:

This week I’ve got as far as here.

However, I have had a real stroke of luck with the instructions for the needlelace flowers. After a fair amount of fruitless Googling I decided to use an image search instead in the hope that a picture of what I wanted to stitch might link to something helpful. And it did! I’d only gone through about half a dozen images before I landed on a blog. The writer hadn’t given any instructions on how to construct the flower in her photos but she had posted a photograph of the cover of the book from which she had taken the instructions. Hang on a minute… I recognise that book! A minute or so later I was pulling my copy of ‘Embroidery Techniques Using Space-Dyed Threads’ by Via Laurie, published by Search Press, off the bookshelf. I couldn’t believe I actually owned the book she had recommended!! So once the trailing is done, I can get straight onto the flower.

We started the first session of the Stumpwork Garden at the Stitch Zone last week with the garden path and I decided to make this one rather larger than the tiny original, with satin stitch slabs set in French knot gravel with patches of moss.

I’m happy with the texture and colour of the variegated 21st Century Yarns stranded cotton but am now regretting my choice to surround my slabs with gravel!

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Our first workshop of the Summer Session at In The Stitch Zone is looking at Composite Stitches and after some research, I chose four as a starting point. It’s also been sunny and warm enough to work in the garden and I was delighted to be back in my outdoor office to start stitching my samples.

First was what I’m calling Blossom Stitch, which is a pretty combination of feather stitch and detached chain stitch.

I used perle and stranded cotton for the feather stitch and all six strands of stranded cotton for the detached chain stitch flowers. I separated all the strands out and then recombined them to give a fluffy, blowsy effect to the flowers.

Next was Blanket Stitched Chain stitch, the first of two chain stitch variations I found on Mary Corbet’s Needle ‘n Thread blog. It’s simply two close rows of chain stitch which then have blanket stitch worked into them but it creates an interesting heavy line stitch, especially when the blanket stitch is worked in the same thread as the chains, as in the middle example.

The second Mary Corbet stitch was Scalloped Buttonholed Chain Stitch. This time the blanket or buttonhole stitches are worked into the outside loop of each chain, rather than across them, which makes for a pretty edging, especially when you buttonhole both sides of the chain.

I tried out some different weights of thread both for the foundation and chain and the buttonholing. Perle on the left and stranded cotton on the right but I think I prefer the finer mercerised cotton in the middle.

The last sample is what I’m calling Peacock Feather Stitch which I think I found on Pinterest. It’s constructed from two nested detached chain stitches with a French knot inside the inner one and straight stitches around the edges.

As they are all tiny samples I’ve mounted them onto a larger piece of card so they can be handled more easily.

April’s Move It On Project is coming along nicely. I bit the bullet and got stuck into the needle turn applique this week. Most of it went pretty well but I just couldn’t get the the final section (top right) to lay as flat as the rest. I’m hoping that once I start to stitch into it, it won’t be noticeable.

Just the spirals to stitch into the stone now, and with the end of the month hurtling closer, I need to think about what to pick for May’s Move It On Project.

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School term is finished for the year, as is ‘In The Stitch Zone’, my lovely weekly stitching group. As today is the last guaranteed posting day before Christmas, things are quiet in my Etsy shop and the bricks and mortar stockists of my jewellery.

So there has been Christmas cooking – this is Chinese spiced beef which I make every year. I use a kilo of uncut shin which is slow cooked in a broth of soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, garlic, ginger, whole peppercorns, coriander seeds, cinnamon sticks and star anise. After about five hours I put it into a close fitting plastic container and press it under cans of tinned tomatoes in the fridge, like I would a tongue. It comes out as a dark, tender aromatic block which you can slice thinly and have in sandwiches or as part of the buffet lunches we love this time of year and the cooking liquor makes incredible stock for soup. I wish the photo had smell attached!

I’m also marzipanning my Christmas cakes today – quite a lot later than I did last year. They were made just after October half term and as we have no sherry in the house but somehow have ended up with an abundance of mead, they have been well fed with mead this year. The smell as I opened the box was pretty potent!

Lastly, the Christmas puddings which were made back in November to a recipe that has come down through my mum’s side of the family and we believe came from the Radio Times just after the war. It has a lot of grated carrot to reduce the sugar content and a mountain of breadcrumbs instead of flour and is always moist, light and delicious. I’m not sorry that none of the children like it (more for us!), although it does mean that sadly the family recipe won’t be passed on.

Quite a bit of supply work in the last week has meant limited stitching again, although I do have a little piece of Bayeux stitch embroidery to show. It’s a miniature version of one of the buildings in the Bayeux Tapestry – this one is part of Harold’s palace and famously has Halley’s Comet over the top.

I thought the open sections were interesting and a nice comparison to the heavier areas of Bayeux stitch. I’m not entirely sure how they have been worked, but I used blanket stitch.

As I was working very small I also decided not to include the two coloured section under the turrets. I had a bit of an experiment but the thickness of the wool on such a small scale, even though it is fine crewel wool, would have made it far too clunky.

A ‘thumb-for-scale’ photo.

As ever at this time of year I hope that all the jobs will get done soon and I can finally spend some quality time stitching. Wishing all of you the best Christmas you can have in these continuing very testing times. Take care and stay safe.

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With stock drops and Christmas markets upcoming, the stitching has been pretty limited at the moment, but I did finish my example for the workshop I taught on Woven Feathered Chain Stitch at The Stitch Zone last week. I’ve used this stitch before to create plants in pots made from bits of beach pottery…

…and I thought it would be a nice little single session project. Variegated thread works really well to give the variations in the leaves and different weights of thread alter the look of the leaves as well.

After having used silk ribbon French knots and tiny woven spiders’ web stitches for the flowers in the two examples above, I decided to go for simple straight stitches into a central hole to create the flowers on this one – thumb for scale!

I’ve also been trying to tidy up and complete projects, including the beaded jelly fish I started back in August. The last time I posted on its very slow progress in October, it looked like this:

However, a bit of a push has added a couple more rows to the inside of the bell…

…before starting on the fun bit of the tentacles. The source inspiration picture had loads of layers of tentacles which appeared to be loose, but I decided to couch mine down.

Each one is caught down with a tiny stitch in between the seed and bugle beads using the Nymo I’ve been using to thread the lengths of beads. It’s a very pale blue, so is pretty much invisible.

I feel like I’ve made quite a lot of progress towards a finish for this piece in a relatively short space of time. I’m going to add some partial rows on either side of the tentacles to fill in the gaps, although I’m now not sure whether I should have filled the bell in first before I started on the tentacles. At the moment you can see the base fabric through the top layer of clear beads, but on the other hand, it would have made it tricky and possibly quite bulky to start the tentacles over the top of a layer of beads. And I suppose they could have looked like they were sitting on the top instead of coming out from inside the bell as they do here, so I think I’ve answered my own question.

Sequins would have worked though… The new question is, do I really want to unpick all those tentacles to add something behind?!

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As you can see if you go to the In The Stitch Zone tab at the top of this page, we’re back!

The first session last week worked very well and it was lovely to see so many people returning after so long. The room is airy despite having no external windows and we were able to spread out quite well while we caught up and experimented with some Rhodes Stitch hearts and butterflies.

This week I’ve been playing with samples for our Hungarian Braided Chain Stitch workshop. It’s been a new stitch to me this year and I’ve utilised it in a number of different pieces and with a variety of different threads. I decided to try working it in a circle for the first two samples and use perle, which seems to have been the most successful type of thread and I find gives the best definition of the lovely braid effect.

First a very heavy vintage green perle. The braid was good, but I struggled to join the ends of the wreath and I really wasn’t happy with the messy join at the bottom.

It was giving me serious Christmas vibes at this point so I wondered what would happen if I added straight stitches around the inside and outside to make it look like fir branches.

Much more successful than I hoped and even better, it disguised the horrible join! Next tiny gold beads…

…and a bow.

The second wreath used a variegated lighter weight perle (8) that reminded me of autumn wheat fields.

The join isn’t quite as bad on this one but it’s still lumpy and I really need to think of a better way to manage it. As the braid starts with a vertical straight stitch, and continually needs a chain put into the working end to fill out the pattern, it’s quite tricky to join up.

At this point it suddenly occurred to me that if you extended the initial stitch, short sections might make rather effective bull rushes. I put the wreath aside and this happened:

So yes, they do! Back to the wreath.

The harvest colours made me think about wrapping it in poppies. I used split stitch for the stems and then another new stitch to me – Raised Cup Stitch – for the poppy heads with French knot middles.

I had been thinking about something along the line of Rosette or Oyster stitch for the flowers but I much prefer this more raised effect. The flowers are created by literally tying knots around a base formed from three stitches in a triangle as you can see on the right. They are very forgiving if you can’t quite see where to put the knots which suits me perfectly!

I may add some little stalks of wheat in among the poppies too but just a few so I don’t lose the braided effect of the wreath.

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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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At In The Stitch Zone, the weekly embroidery class I run locally (information in the tab at the top) we’re working on a longer project based on my avocado dyed long cloth which I began back in 2011 and am still stitching into on an occasional basis.

Avocado long cloth 1

Time to make up packs of natural dyed fabrics, threads, lace, ribbon etc. for everyone. I found some avocado, red cabbage and walnut dyed fabrics from sessions I’d done before, which was a good start.  I’d only even dyed with red cabbage and a touch of vinegar, so hearing that you could get an amazing range of greens with bicarbonate of soda I decided to experiment. The greens really are gorgeous – especially against some avocado and red cabbage (with vinegar) dyed pieces!

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DSCN7529 As I dye everything in the kitchen using my ordinary utensils, I don’t mordant and only use food stuffs as dyes. I know red cabbage is supposed to be fugitive, but some of the pieces I found (admittedly in a drawer) from the last lot of dyeing I did are eight or nine years old and are still a lovely colour.

I also bought some annatto seeds from our local oriental grocer and they were an complete revelation! Bright orange initially with golden yellow as the dye bath became exhausted and they even dyed a piece of nylon lace (which I unfortunately forgot to get a photo of…) No filter needed on these silk samples.

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As the annatto seeds are incredibly hard and I didn’t want to stain the coffee grinder bright orange, I crushed some in a pestle and mortar and when that got too difficult, just put the whole lot into the slow cooker to create the dye bath. Then, of course, they were nice and soft, so after I’d done the first lot of dyeing, I whizzed them up in the food processor (didn’t stain it, I’m glad to report!) and got a second dye bath out of the pulverised seeds. A softer golden yellow, but still lovely.

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Packs for everyone plus some spares.

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They are slowly turning into some gorgeous pieces of work!

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