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Archive for the ‘Upcycling’ Category

Several years ago my middle one decided she wanted to do some needle felting. Her craze lasted an intense few weeks and then vanished as quickly as it had arrived. I was happy to use the fleece I’d bought for her but I was also left with a large lump of orange felt she had partly formed into the shape of a sitting animal. I couldn’t bear to throw it away but also couldn’t think of what to do with it – until this week when I realised it was the perfect colour for pumpkins. Lots of rolling and wet felting later, I was left with five potential pumpkins.

I stitched through each one with coton a broder to pull it flatter and give it pumpkin-style ridges.

Then I turned them into earrings. First a pair of charm earrings. The dark coloured chain and leaf sections with the bead caps at the top were deconstructed from an over the top charm necklace. It had about six strands of chain and featured so many random pendants and dangles that I’m amazed anyone could have worn it and been able to lift their head. Possibly that was why it came to me in an unloved job lot of jewellery!

The snake chain sections looked unfinished, like they had originally had something on the ends, so I added two hand made polymer clay beads to match the orange of the pumpkins.

After using plastic leaves from a damaged bracelet to finish off the pumpkins I threaded each one onto a headpin and added them to the bottom of the longest chain where they finish the whole thing off very nicely.

The second pair of pumpkins were slightly larger, so I decided to make them into a simpler, shorter pair with a couple of metallic leaves.

Finally, with the addition of some vintage glass leaves, I turned the last and largest pumpkin into not a coach, but a bag charm/key chain.

Continuing with the Autumn/Hallowe’en theme, I’ve made a darker, more Gothic version of my ribbon roses. This was once a vintage brooch. I love the dark silver colour and High Victorian style of the setting and once I had cleaned it and removed the remains of the clasp, it was ready for a suitably dark upcycle.

I used dyed black pelmet vilene for the base and gave my stems thorns before I added the tiny roses.

The ribbon leaves are in ribbon stitch which is useful as you can control the size and shape of the leaf depending on how tightly you work the stitch.

Cut carefully to size and glued into the mount.

The pumpkin pieces are destined for Arttopia in Cleethorpes this month – that is if I can stop my little one from claiming the earrings for herself. Might be time to see if I have any of that pumpkin orange fleece left over…!

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And not a lot else! A few more have appeared as kale-like leaves in the stumpwork vegetable garden. I was initially unsure about them, especially as unlike the other vegetables I had no idea what they were! However, as I’ve added more, they seem to fit in better. I think I need a few more near the path and perhaps another couple at the other end.

The other picots have been used to finish off the upcycled poinsettia pendant I was working on back in July. I finished adding the picots for the second layer of bracts…

…and added a cluster of French knots to the centre. Next I needed to cut the pelmet vilene behind the poinsettia to fit the missing section of the pendant.

I ended up cutting a plain one as well, as the section was deeper than the thickness of the vilene. It was doubly useful as I was able to use the plain one as a template for cutting behind the poinsettia before I set it in the pendant.

There was a nasty moment when I thought I’d nicked one of the poinsettia picots.

But it was a false alarm and it works exactly as I’d envisaged it in my head, spilling over the edge of the pendant.

Finished off with a black thong with sterling silver mounts.

I only sold five pieces of jewellery at Normanby Country Fayre on Monday and once again came home wondering if there is any point in carrying on. But then I have an idea for upcycling a piece of jewellery that is too pretty to go into landfill and I have such a great time creating it, like this one, that perhaps I’m not ready to give up just yet.

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Back to the workbench for a day last week and several successes. I found this lovely starburst engraved vintage watch case in a pile of assorted oddments and decided that was a perfect starting point.

Just right for a subtly variegated peach and cream ribbon rose.

Then it was time to audition some gold tone pendants for the bottom of the case. This dyed howlite teardrop from an odd earring tones in really well with the colour of the rose.

And finally I finished it off with a vintage reclaimed gold tone chain.

Next I came across a couple of heart shaped wooden blanks and a large enamelled metal daisy from a 1980s earring. I’d always intended to set the daisy on the heart, but felt it needed a pop of colour. The remains of an embossed silk carrier rod were perfect not only to become leaves but an odd thin wispy piece was flexible enough to cover the centre of the flower.

The silk carrier rod is nice and stiff so the leaves have enough body to stand out on their own.

I wasn’t sure whether to finish it as a brooch or a pendant but I had just the right vintage beaded chain to go with it and decided that pendants are probably a bit more commercial than brooches. I considered adding a brooch back so it could be both, like some vintage pendants, but the heart is flat at the back and commercial brooch backs would stand too proud to be comfortable to wear.

I was really on a roll at this point, so I moved onto a teardrop shaped pendant which was missing an internal drop. Perfect place for a piece of hand made felt with threads embedded into the top layer, I thought, and decided I’d probably add beaded blanket stitch to edge with some tiny seed beads to pick up the blues and give it a bit of weight to hang properly.

But then I found a lovely brass teardrop pendant which worked well hanging from the top loop too! I polished it and reset the stones and considered putting the two tear drops together and not using the felt at all, but then it was just a pretty pendant that could have come from any High Street shop, rather than one which had the textiles component I try to make a feature of my upcycling. So I tried it with the felt and now I really can’t decide whether I prefer it with or without the pendant.

Is it too busy with the pendant or too plain without? Any thoughts gratefully received!

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It all started with this odd earring. It’s not a very good image because it’s already partly disassembled (I got all excited and forgot to take a photo before I attacked it with the pliers!), but you can hopefully see that it’s made up of three pairs of brass leaf shaped sections that made me think of flower calyxes.

That was enough to spark off an idea for a pendant and a pair of earrings using silk cocoons for the main part of the flower with a brass calyx on top of each one.

Pendant first. I made a set of beaded stamens by threading some random sequences of blue and gold bugle and seed beads onto Nymo and then knotting the ends onto the loop of a headpin and setting it all with a blob of superglue. This is my third cocoon. I discovered the hard way that the silk on its own wasn’t robust enough to cope with having a headpin put through it and I had to use a layer of glue to strengthen the fibres.

But the result was worth it. The little ‘hat’ section from the earring makes an effective calyx for a fantasy flower. It’s available here in my Etsy shop.

For various reasons, I didn’t get round to the earrings until today. I managed to find an almost identical pair of silk cocoons and they really are this red! you also get a better idea of how the brass ‘calyxes’ look from this photo.

Beaded stamens again, this time in greens and golds.

The silk cocoons are really light so although the drops are quite large at 5cm long and 2cm in diameter, they are a lovely weight and not too heavy to wear. I’m hoping to get them listed in my Etsy shop shortly when I can get some more photos of the details.

It seems ages since I had a good jewellery making spell and after finishing these earrings today I was feeling really inspired. It’s a shame most of the rest of this week is going to be taken up with three days supply teaching but as online sales have dropped through the floor over the last few months, beggars really can’t be choosers.

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What with my blog anniversary and last week’s Blog Award, there hasn’t been much stitching to show. To be honest, between work and getting things ready both for a new stockist and an older one, there really hasn’t been that much stitching full stop.

At the end of last month I was delighted to get a place in the gorgeous Bricktree Gallery in Caistor, a lovely little market town on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds. The gallery is home to dozens of local artists and makers and my little corner of it is a shelf unit created from a stack of vintage apple boxes! It’s the biggest space I’ve rented yet and took quite a bit of pre-planning to sort out what I could fit on the various shelves while making sure everything would still be visible to customers. It all looks easy to see from this angle, but I’m crouching down!

The ‘back stories’ on the cards have proved a very popular feature. I’ve found that the sort of people who are interested in upcycling like to know where the various components of their jewellery come from and for the brooches, it provides a sturdy display card into the bargain.

I used vintage doilies, place mats and napkins etc to dress the shelves just to give a bit of a theme and also soften the rough wood of the apple boxes. This shelf is blue themed.

And these shallower shelves are ideal for displaying my clock hand earrings. They are a pain to get to sit neatly on the story cards!

Lastly, the bottom shelf. As it’s the most difficult to see under normal browsing circumstances I went for a few more brightly coloured pieces which I put nearer the front.

Fingers crossed they do well. The gallery is really well curated with a great range of items and although it’s a little bit out of the way down a windy little historic lane, there is a great sense of cooperation among the small businesses in the town and they all try and put business and customers each others’ way.

Then last week I was in Cleethorpes again for my monthly shift at Arttopia. I think it was about the only gorgeous day in the last fortnight and as I was a little early I walked down to the front for a look at the sea – well, estuary really, but it was lovely anyway.

I have a much smaller space – a single shelf – at Arttopia

…so it’s a challenge to fill it as efficiently as I can.

I was over the moon to have sold two pairs of upcycled earrings since last month and while I was there I put the finishing embroidery touches to a silver and felt bead bracelet I’ve been working on.

It started as a sterling silver bracelet with a damaged filigree bead in the centre.

I removed the bead and carefully wrapped some fleece around the chain between the smaller silver beads which are soldered in place.

A mixture of wet and needle felting firmed it up into a flat cuboid shape so it lies nicely against the wrist and then I added the lazy daisy flowers.

I love turquoise/teal and it goes as well with silver as it does with rusty tones. Available shortly in my Etsy shop .

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Happy Tenth Birthday to this blog! Please help yourself to a piece of virtual cake. :o)

I wrote my first post on May 2nd 2011 which also happened to be Bank Holiday Monday.

In 2011 blogging was massive in the creative community. It seemed that everyone from full time textile artists to complete beginners were sharing their art and creative processes and many of the blogs I followed were like fabulous magazines, full of gorgeous images and insights into all types of embroidery and textile art that were new and endlessly fascinating to me. People connected, made friendships, shared ideas and advice and I found I could join a whole world of people who loved stitch as much as I did.

However, blogs have waned massively in popularity since 2011. Probably half to three quarters of the bloggers I was following in 2011 have stopped blogging for one reason or another and I have to put my hand on my heart and say I don’t read blogs as regularly as I used to – like many of us I’m more likely to scroll through the same people’s Instagram feeds. But although we get the instant gratification of a pretty or interesting picture on Instagram, I still do value the time and space to explore creative practise that you get in a blog.

The rise of social media is understandable. It takes a moment to upload a photo from our phones onto Instagram, type a few words and hashtags and press send. The image is out there and it gets instant engagement. You can click a like on it in less than a second before you move onto the next piece of eye candy, or spend a few more putting a heart-eyes emoji or a brief comment. It has its place. Some quick feedback about a problem; affirmation that you have made something pretty or reassurance that other people are in the same position. Speed of response can be very useful.

On the other hand, blogs take time and effort. You need to compose your thoughts, create readable content and suitable images to go with it. Not everybody has the time or natural affinity with words to do that which makes the bloggers who are still plugging away out there very special and their posts a valuable resource.

Social media is a snack – like a bag of crisps. A blog is a meal. Words and ideas to digest. You have to take your time and work through the blogger’s thoughts and accompanying images and to continue the metaphor, like a meal, a good blog post leaves you feeling satisfied. Or it can be so delicious it leaves you hungry for more. More images, more explanation, more of an insight into a project. A very common comment to both give and receive is something along the lines of, “I can’t wait to see more of this project!”

So thank you to all the fellow bloggers who still follow and comment on my tiny corner of the internet. Thank you for letting me know I’m not just talking to myself and thank you for carrying on with your blogs and continuing to interest, engage and inspire me with your creativity.

Lastly, the watch case pendant is finished.

Rachel asked how I was going to attach a chain to the winder and luckily my plan worked! One of my biggest jump rings was just big enough to go round the stem of the winder and still have enough room to attach the silver plated chain to either side. It’s a bit askew here because I’d turned it round to photograph the back and it wasn’t sitting properly, but it give an idea of the way it’s constructed.

Available here in my Etsy shop.

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I’ve been wanting to create some more watch case pendants for a while and last week I finally got round to hunting out the box they live in. I was also determined to do one at a time that I could actually finish, rather than planning all of them at once and overfacing myself.

I had a lovely little rounded piece of driftwood that I wanted to use for this one and teamed it with a pretty gold flecked batik cotton.

Seaweed first, in good old feather stitch and some overcasting with added cast on stitch picots to help hold the driftwood in place.

Then some maidenhair stitch and beading. Maidenhair stitch is a feather stitch variant where you stitch three loops gradually increasing in size on the same side before stitching three on the other side, rather than alternating as in ordinary feather stitch. It’s a new stitch to me and I really like the effect it gives, especially when you curve it like a plant stem.

Some more feather stitch and Palestrina stitch to give a different texture.

After one more swirl of Palestrina knots with a touch of purple, time to add the sea glass. The sea glass nuggets are held in place with a dab of superglue just to make sure they don’t go anywhere before I work the holding stitches over them.

Lastly I gathered the design over a piece of pelmet vilene before setting it into the watch case.

It just needs a silver plated chain attached (somehow…) and it’s a finish.

My not so little, little one turned 16 at the weekend and as I was completely out of inspiration for an original card, I used a pattern from the internet to cross stitch one of her favourite characters from Star Wars:

I was reminded how long it takes to cross stitch even a relatively small and simple design (best part of four hours for this one and I don’t think I was stitching particularly slowly) but it was worth it – she loved him.

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With the reopening of non-essential shops this week, the Persian Chandelier and most other ongoing projects have been put aside and my stitching and making has been focussed on building up my jewellery stock.

First, a new sea glass necklace.

I started with a vintage rolled gold pendant which had lost its stone and found a sea glass piece that fitted it perfectly in my dwindling collection of Seaham multis – this one clear with a smudge of pink. Then I added a delicate rolled gold necklace and found some perfectly frosted pink and white glass beads to replace the existing beads which luckily match the sea glass piece perfectly.

It’s available here in my Etsy shop.

I’ve also been altering another fabric brooch from a job lot of junk jewellery. This one was simply a piece of woollen checked fabric needle felted onto a square of black wool with a random button and a brooch back sewn on. I removed the button and while going through my found object stash for the Mandala Brooches, I found what I think might have been part of a fishing fly and a hemispherical panel from a bracelet which both appealed.

I used my go-to variegated metallic Madeira thread to stitch both elements down and add stitches into the fabric around the main part of the fishing fly. It isn’t supposed to be anything in particular but I think it looks a little like a comet!

Sashiko stitching on tiny scraps of indigo dyed cotton with silk thread mounted in a vintage brooch setting have become another boro-style brooch.

I’m really pleased with the sashiko pattern on this one, especially as I did it by eye, and it really pulls the separate scraps of fabric into a whole.

It’s available in my Etsy shop here.

Lastly, some experimenting with knotted stitches in this sort of crewel work style sample. Portuguese Knotted Stem Stitch and French Knots on the left, German Knotted Buttonhole in the middle and middle right and Palestrina Stitch and Pistil Stitch top right. Chain Stitch and Four-Legged Knot bottom right and the stem is Coral Stitch and Satin Stitch.

Hopefully I can get back on track this week and I have high hopes of being able to stitch outside if the weather stays good!

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I had a bit of an urge to make some upcycled jewellery pieces this week and was wondering what to do with these lovely but very simple brooches I found in a job lot of junk jewellery.

I have given brooches like these intricate beaded edgings in the past, but I wanted to do something different this time and I was inspired by Susan Lenz’s wonderful huge stitched mandalas to do something on a much more typically Alex scale! I had a very interesting scavenge through my many boxes of bits and pieces from beads and buttons to odd pieces of broken jewellery and found objects like the resistors on the left of the photo below. .

And after lots of arranging and changing and hunting in yet more boxes, I’ve come up with a couple of Mandala Brooches. Blue Mandala features resistors from old fashioned electronics, a pierced domed coin from an odd earring, and beads and jump rings from broken necklaces, stitched down with indigo dyed thread.

Green mandala features a metal heart which I wrapped with rayon thread a while ago as an experiment, copper coloured pressed metal shapes, large jump rings, seed beads and some stripy plastic beads from a broken necklace, stitched down with silk thread.

It was a fun project but not a quick one – choosing and finding all the different elements took easily as long as the actual stitching!

I also think I’ve finally finished the Bayeux Stitch mushroom. The last time I blogged about it was back in early February when I was pleased that I’d finally worked out what was wrong with the gills. But it wasn’t just the gills that were wrong and following a comment from Amanda, it was suddenly obvious and staring me in the face! The gills were wrong because the stalk needed to be inside the rolled back cap, going up to the centre! (This is what happens when you try and draw from memory and don’t use the real thing for reference…)

So a major unpicking happened and after some careful bodging so I didn’t have to undo the whole stalk, this is the final thing:

I hope. Unless it needs any more of the dreaded highlights…

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