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Making the pumpkin earrings and gothic rose pendant a couple of weeks ago led me to sort through what is probably more broken and unwanted vintage jewellery than any normal person should own and I ended up with a heap of beads, pendants, charms and other oddments and lots of ideas for some more gothic themed upcycled pieces.

A little bag of tiny red teardrop shaped beads suggested droplets of blood and with the addition of a couple of crucifixes, scraps of chain, and odd red and black beads and pendants I created a pair of charm earrings.

I had two more of the crucifixes and a couple of the little droplet beads left over to make another slightly shorter and less flamboyant pair.

I forgot to take a picture of the huge crazy earring which I split to make the following two pendants. Imagine the crescent moon hanging from the middle of the fish, a large coin in the middle of the moon and two smaller ones hanging from each tip. The whole thing was larger than my hand and very heavy.

So it seemed obvious to split this beast up! I lightened the look of the crescent moon by removing the central hanging loop and adding some grey mother of pearl moons with some vintage glass and haematite beads. I teamed it with an unusual industrial looking reclaimed chain.

I kept the fish pretty much as it was, just adding one of the smaller ‘coins’ to the middle and hanging it from a beaded choker I created from one strand of a fussy broken multi-strand necklace.

The last pendant started with this enamelled tag which appears to be a vintage 1 franc label.

I layered a flower-shaped piece of pressed brass and an oval enamelled rose on copper on the front of the tag, leaving the 1F still visible on the back and added a dark brass coloured reclaimed chain.

These are all destined for Arttopia when I do my shift next Saturday. I’m hoping they will do well as we head towards Hallowe’en. Hopefully more stitching next week.

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Growing

The garden is growing slowly and getting loads of attention on Instagram. As was suggested by a friend, it would make a lovely workshop. Definitely an idea for the future when we finally manage to get back to near normality. The lone courgette has been joined by four others. The lines of the stem stitch band really work well for the striped skins.

Then I added stems in whipped back stitch.

I’ve looked at endless pictures of courgette leaves on the internet and they all seem to be very different, from big flat heart shaped leaves to deeply divided lobed ones, so I’ve left them for the moment while I mull it over and moved onto a patch of picot leaves at the bottom in a slubby green silk. Not entirely sure what vegetable this is. It might just be a patch of docks and nettles!

I’ve also been experimenting with various types of herringbone stitch. It was a genius idea to work on this pinstriped offcut of fabric from an old shirt as it helped me to keep the stitches level and (relatively) even. Ordinary herringbone and closed herringbone in two different weights of thread.

Thanks to my good old Mary Thomas, I tried out threaded herringbone (far left) and tied herringbone (second and third from the right), which has coral knots worked over each intersection.

A nice little project while I was visiting my middle one for a couple of days.

And very excitingly, my Frister and Rossmann…

…now has a proper home. I was contacted last week by one of my sewing ladies to say that she was moving and down sizing and to ask if I knew anyone who would like her sewing machine table. I did. Me!

I absolutely love it and it’s fantastic to have a proper place to stitch instead of heaving my machine on and off the kitchen table. Thank you so much, Kim. It’s come to a very good home!

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Another one of those ‘While I was looking for…’ moments yielded a box containing a pile of scraps of embroidered chiffon from old saris which as usual I had fallen in love with, bought without any idea what I might do with them and consigned to a safe place in the cupboard whereupon I promptly forgot about them.

But with my upcycling head on it occurred to me that some of the motifs could be used to make jewellery components, perhaps gathered over rather ordinary looking vintage buttons. Time for some experimenting.

The chiffon is very filmy and in the end I found buttons too heavy, so I gathered the motifs over circles of felt and pelmet vilene at the front and just a circle of pelmet vilene at the back before ladder stitching them together. The super sheer black chiffon has a layer of black silk underneath which helps the motif stand out but the whole double layer was fiendishly slippery to stitch and get centred over the circles.

Not sure what to do with the black one yet, but I used some filigree sterling silver leaves from a broken vintage brooch and some silver beads to turn the purple discs into a pair of earrings.

I stitched all the elements together rather than running a headpin through the middle of the purple disc which made them a bit interesting to get to hang vertically but it’s kept them light.

I’ve also been slowly adding the tiny picots to this poinsettia in a single strand of silk thread called ‘Tart’s Knickers’!

I plan to set it into this lovely alpaca and abalone pendant in place of the missing black resin section so it spills over the edge of the setting.

I was going to do just one layer of petals but it looked too empty so I’ve ended up stitching the back layer on behind the first which is possibly not the easiest way but the picots are quite forgiving and move easily out of the way.

Three more to stitch!

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Last week I was thinking about how the blogging world had changed since I started ten years ago. One of the features of blogging back in the day were Blog Awards. Sometimes they came with little images you could attach to the side bar to let people know that among your blogging peers you had been considered deserving of recognition and they usually came with a list of questions to answer to help people get to know you and your creative process better.

I remember being very excited when I was nominated for my first award and promptly set about answering the questions and passing on my nominations for further recipients. However, I quickly discovered that not everybody appreciated being nominated for an award and a couple of my nominees quite firmly put me in my place by saying they didn’t ‘do’ blog awards. I think some people considered them rather like a chain letter and not necessarily an indication of quality. I was just grateful that someone considered me worthy of notice.

Blog awards declined along with blogging, and I hadn’t thought about them for years until last week Amanda was awarded ‘Outstanding Blogger’ and chose me as one of the blogs to pass it on to. I was just as pleased and grateful as I was the first time round and very happy to take part.

In time honoured fashion, we start with the questions:

  1. What would my perfect holiday be? It would have to be Cornwall all the way. Beaches for beachcombing, swimming and wave jumping…

…castles

…and cottages.

2. Where is my favourite place to walk? Generally on a beach I suppose, but beaches are less for walking than for shuffling along, head down, looking for treasures. This past year we have walked more in our local area than ever before and so currently, my favourite place to walk is the Lincolnshire Wolds.

Just hilly enough to be interesting and challenging, with deserted medieval villages, hidden churches…

…and fabulous vistas, but close enough to home for an easy day trip.

3. What inspired me to start a blog? I was just finding my feet with my embroidery and I really wanted a place to document my journey. I liked the format, the ease of adding photos and also the feedback from other people out there on a similar wavelength – journaling with an audience.

4. What did I miss most during lockdowns? Other than my two oldest children who live in London and Birmingham respectively, the thing I missed most (and still do) was writing and stitching in my local coffee shops! I use a fabulous app called Coffitivity which gives the ambient noise of a coffee shop (proven to aid concentration) but nothing beats the real thing with the added extra of a proper latte…

5) What was the last book I read? ‘The King in the North: The Life and Times of Oswald of Northumbria’ by Max Adams. It was 99p on Kindle and I’m fascinated by the Dark Ages so I gave it a punt. After having read some shockingly written historical non-fiction kindle books recently, which seem to have been cobbled second hand from other people’s books on the same subject and one that gave quotes in French, Latin and Gaelic without glossing any of them, this book was a delight. It’s superbly researched, original, erudite without ever being dry and a damn good read.

So, bloggers to take up the Outstanding Blog Award, (should you so wish) are:

Debbidipity

VirtuoSew Adventures

A Stitch Or Nine

No pressure to do so – it’s just a bit of fun.

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Leaves and trees

The stitching on the hoop initial is finished and will be made into a card for my middle one’s birthday as her name begins with a J.

It’s been a useful exercise in practicality – there is no way this would make a useful workshop as the stitches are far too small for anyone to make reasonable progress in a two hour session, although it could conceivably be a kit.

On the bright side though I have a hand stitched birthday card ready in good time for my middle one’s birthday!

I’ve also finished couching the outline of the Baby Leaf-tailed Dragon.

I didn’t think it had had much effect until I looked back at photos of him before I put the outline in.

And although I think my Bayeux Stitch edges are pretty neat, the couching really does finish it off very effectively. Split stitch details next, which is my least favourite bit. I always worry that it won’t look realistic.

I’ve made the experimental cross stitch/free embroidery tree stitching up into a brooch. It’s a bit of a double upcycle in that I’ve upcycled the oddment of cross stitching as well as the brooch. It was initially set with plastic pearl beads, about half of which were missing, so I removed the rest and reset the border with tiny amethyst coloured diamantes to echo the little purple flowers in the grass.

The stitching was gathered over a couple of pieces of pelmet vilene for strength.

Then I backed it with green felt and mounted it in the brooch frame.

It’s newly listed here in my Etsy shop.

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I find the days between Christmas and New Year are like being in limbo. After weeks of hard work getting the Christmas preparations to fall right, the following days seem somewhat of an anti climax. The radio stations still play Christmas music for a couple of days and you’re sitting on oddments of Christmas paper and trying to find space in the fridge for yet another plastic container of leftovers. So it wasn’t until yesterday that I found time to return to my workspace and get on with an upcycled pendant based on this damaged carved mother of pearl brooch that I’d started before Christmas.

I suspected that if I cleaned up the damage on the left and took out the matching filigree section on the other side that it would still work. After carefully taking the jewellers’ saw to it, I was happy with the result.

Next I stuck it onto a piece of gorgeous deep crimson silk velvet and added satin stitching along the main stems to give a bit of colour and also to help make sure it was properly attached to the fabric.

I gathered it up round a circle of pelmet vilene for strength and stability and made a plain circle for the back.

I stuck them back to back into a wide odd hoop earring with a lovely floral design on the edge which forms the frame for the pendant. I think I actually prefer the design without the filigree all the way round – it seems to make the flower stand out more.

It was good to feel like I’ve accomplished something.

My middle one, however, has accomplished a great deal this year. She started teaching herself to crochet when she left university in 2019 and was struggling to get a job. This year money has been very tight for her but she has, like many of us, had more time on her hands and the family has seen the benefit of that in her Christmas gifts. She somehow found the time to crochet a jumper for my mum, beanie hats for my dad and her brother, a beautiful lace shawl for her foster sister, a chenille cowl/snood for her little sister and this stunning lap blanket for me.

I can confirm it’s as cosy as it is beautiful.

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Another way of working round Embroiderers’ Block I suppose, is to do something that you fancy doing, so I’ve started a third design for the Kew Memory Journal, based on English Paper Pieced patchwork.

First of all I cut a rectangle of paper slightly smaller than the page of the book and divided it into a few smaller rectangles. One needed to be big enough to be the background for a vintage 1990 Kew Gardens stamp, and I fitted the rest around it.

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I usually cut the pieces out one by one so I don’t forget what order they go in and put them back into the design when they’re covered. Taking process photos also helps in case of disaster!

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Then the pieces need stitching together. I use ladder stitch because I like my stitching to be as invisible as possible.

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Once the pieces were all stitched together I gave them a quick iron to press the edges under so they would stay when I took the papers out, and then ladder stitched round the outside edge to attach it to a piece of pale green felt.

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This stabilises the edges, gives the whole thing a bit of body as I’ve used a variety of weights of fabric including some very fine silk and means I have a firmer background to attach it to the page.

I trimmed it next and carefully back stitched the stamp in place. The pink and blue tones in the stamp don’t quite work with the greens, but I had to remind myself that this is a memory journal and the Pagoda is part of it.

The memory it holds is of having lunch in a shady grove of trees near the Pagoda and then, as it was one of those two insanely hot days last July, we sat on a seat under the bottom tier and decided it was much too warm to go up all those steps!

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I like embroider on these types of patchwork pieces as I did with my 2012 Cornwall Holiday Journal (August 2012 in the ‘Recent Posts’ part of the sidebar if you’re interested) so I’m probably going to add a branch to the top right hand corner.

I’ve also made the middle of a flower on the buttonhole rings piece. The big ring is attached with french knots, the inner one with invisible stitches to pull it down inside and the centre is filled with a few french knots.

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Now I need to decide not only on the colour of the rings that will become the petals, but also whether to keep them as circles or stretch them into petal shapes.

 

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Onto the second side.

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The applique felt cloud shape echoes the concrete seats at the Cloud Bar with split stitch silk thread clouds on indigo dyed sheeting sky and seeding on the crinkled gold satin sand.

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I’ve used pulled thread work and specifically irregularly worked diamond stitch for ripples in the sand before and it’s one of my favourite styles to work so I decided to use it for the back ground to some beachcombed finds – seaweed, a tiny bit of drift wood and a shell with a very convenient hole already drilled into it.

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At the end of the walk was the lovely Anderby Beach Cafe and I used fabric paints to copy their clever logo onto a piece of fine cotton, turning it into a sort of receipt to remind me of the posh hot dog (local butcher’s sausage) and latte I had enjoyed for my lunch, partly obscured by an appliqued splodge of tomato sauce!

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I’ve also started another memory journal for a visit to Tattershall Castle last summer which is inspired by the bricks it’s made from.  The pelmet vilene base for this one has been covered in an appropriate fabric rather than being painted and it will have six slightly larger panels rather than the eight for Anderby Creek which will fold slightly differently.

DSCN7868I’m considering batik, canvaswork and reverse applique to record my memories of this visit.

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The Anderby Creek Accordion Journal is making slow but steady progress.

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I found some lovely pebble fabric which was exactly the right scale and have used that for the cover:

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And also hand quilted with my favourite sparkly Madeira thread around the pebbles for one of the pieces inside.

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Inspired by the concrete cloud shapes at the Cloud Bar, I’ve started to add split stitch clouds to some indigo dyed fabric…

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…which will then be overlaid by a felt cloud shape…

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…based on some of my photos of the Cloud Bar.

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The blackwork version of the North Sea Observatory has only had a few more stitches added to it as I try to work out patterns, but the book is slowly filling up.

 

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I really do need to get it finished before the year is up!

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One of the stitches that my Stitch Zone embroidery group wanted to explore was Palestrina Stitch; also known as Double Knot Stitch. Palestrina is a line stitch with regularly spaced knots, often looking like a line of beads. It’s reasonably challenging to work initially, but once you get the hang the overs and unders, it has a pleasing rhythm to it. Mary Thomas shows it worked left to right, but I find it much easier to work vertically downwards where gravity helps with the loops you need to work into.

I started off with by stitching a sampler, experimenting with a variety of different threads, different spacing between the knots and varying the length of the stitch through the fabric, which gives ‘legs’ either side of the knot.

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I like the chunky knots you get with the heavier perle threads but also was very pleased with the effect of finer threads, such as the very fine perle second from the left in the photo above.

Learning a stitch that gives you a knotted line is all very well, but I wanted to use it in ways that exploited the texture and shape of the stitch. My first experiment was using it to echo the texture of bark and I used a variegated perle-like silk thread to embroider a winter tree.

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The stitch worked really well for the bark and I’m curious as to what it would look like if I filled in the spaces between the lines of Palestrina with satin or split stitch in the same thread. Something else to experiment with in the future perhaps.

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I also wanted to try beading the stitch and that led me to working a more typical sea themed piece.

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I used two pieces of perle to make a really heavy line of knots and then a single piece of the same thread with random seed beads. The bead goes on first and then the knot is formed as normal into the stitch after it. I think you lose the knots to some extent, but it’s an interesting variant.  The feather stitch is to vary the textures and lighten the design.

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I also used it to stitch down a holed scallop shell and found it surprisingly easy to work. The stitch through the fabric serves to hold the shell down and then the knot is worked into the thread where it comes out of the hole, exactly as you would on a flat piece of fabric.

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It was great to do some experimenting to find just a couple of ways of developing this stitch and I’ll definitely keep it in my repertoire.

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