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Archive for the ‘Upcycling’ Category

I called the felted, beaded upcycled brooch ‘Clematis’ and finished it late last night – hence the rubbish lighting in the photo. I put it on its story card and took it to the Eco Fair at the Ropewalk in Barton upon Humber today and it sold. To tell the truth I was a bit gobsmacked and am feeling strangely bereft. I was so pleased with the design but it feels like I barely had the time to get to know this piece before it headed off to a new home. Very strange emotions. I’m also wondering if I under-priced it, which I suspect I did, given the amount of work in it… Anyway, lesson learned.

After the summery clematis flower I went more autumnal with the piece of jewellery I was working on at the fair today. Our stitch group (SEATA) always has the most fabulous Sales Table at each meeting with donations from other members to be sold for the group’s funds. Other people’s stuff is always much more interesting than your own! A few months ago I bought a load of machine stitched, embroidered, layered and melted autumnal fabric leaves which I could really see being used in upcycling projects but it wasn’t until a leaf shaped stick pin turned up in a recent lot of broken jewellery…

…that things started to come together. I chose two of the leaves.

And then combined them to make a spray with the leaf at the top of the pin becoming part of the base of one of the leaves. I’ve stitched them together going over the machine stitches in a very fine thread so they are firmly attached but the join is pretty much invisible.

And of course, the other ongoing seasons-related thing in the pipeline is September’s Move It On Project which is based on the four seasons. Summer has been moved on a bit, from here:

To here, with the addition of some stem stitch stems and buttonhole ring leaves.

I’m enjoying the simplicity of these shapes and as each flower makes up relatively quickly, it’s just what I need to feel I’m making some progress in spite of the limited hours in a day.

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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 trying to get stuck into processing some of the broken jewellery job lots which seem to have built up over the last few years. Partly so I can use the box I’ve been storing them in for my workshop folders but mostly so I can see what I actually have and start creating.

Processing is basically cleaning and sorting. As most jewellery is worn next to the skin, it can be…well, greasy. Sorry if you happen to be eating at this point. So a good scrub in warm soapy water with a firm bristled toothbrush is a must. I also put some of the all metal pieces into my barreller, again with warm soapy water and let it work its magic.

Then I sort out what I have. Some pieces are wearable, so I decide if they are worth listing on eBay or Etsy, taking to a car boot sale or popping into the charity bag. This leaves me with the proper broken bits. Occasionally it literally is rubbish, so if I can’t recycle it (usually only a tiny amount) then it goes in the bin. Some pieces need further breaking down, like stripping the beads off necklace fragments or separating useful components from an earring drop and then I’m left with the keepers which I sort into various boxes, depending on what they are, to use later, when inspiration strikes!

Often, inspiration strikes as I’m cleaning and this is what happened with the tiger cowrie shell butterfly barrette which some of you might have seen on Instagram recently. The lot I was sorting contained some ovals and circles cut from tiger cowrie shells. Two of the ovals had just one hole drilled in them so I made them into a pair of drop earrings, but the ovals with four holes looked like they would be a bit more of a challenge to turn into earrings. But added to two of the smaller circles…

The large black and cream bead was also in the same lot and was exactly the right proportion to become the body. A selection of orange beads from the orange bead department (which is why I sort my jewellery bits carefully) and some gold tone wire added the finishing touches and I stitched it down onto two layers of good quality green heathered felt.

Next, the cowrie shell pieces, which I stitched down in a geometric pattern with my favourite metallic Madeira thread.

Cutting the felt away around the edge once I’d done the stitching was a bit nerve-wracking, especially around the tail, where I needed something to be present underneath the beaded body, but not enough to be obvious.

The cowrie pieces had been cut from the top of the dome of the shell, so even though there were two layers of felt behind, there was still a bit of a void under the top wings. I filled this with some padding made from felt scraps before covering it with a butterfly-shaped piece of pelmet vilene for extra firmness and another piece of the green felt.

I connected my felt and vilene sandwich with beaded blanket stitch with dark copper colour seed beads to match the markings on the shell pieces and orange mercerised cotton to echo the touches of orange on the body. The beads also help to keep the blanket stitch even!

A first – a video on my blog! I hope this shows how lovely and sturdy it turned out with all the layers of felt and the beads have given the edging a nice solid feel too.

At this point I was still unsure whether to finish it as a brooch or a hair barrette and my poll on Instagram turned out exactly 50:50, which was no help. So I decided to go with what I think will be more saleable – a barrette – and stitched a new barrette clip onto the back.

You will notice, if you look at the ‘tail’ section that I’ve not beaded it. When I was joining everything I felt that the beads would be too big for the tight corners and I was struggling with very narrow pieces of felt which I didn’t want to shred, so I left it as plain blanket stitch. But the more I looked at it, the more I hated it. it was untidy, uneven and spoiled a result which I’m extremely proud of. So at the weekend I carefully undid the blanket stitch, fastened off the ends of the thread so I didn’t lose the rest of the beads and beaded the tail. It was a lot easier – mostly I think because the rest of the stitching was already done so the felt and vilene pieces were firmly held in place.

It’s the little details. And I’m finally happy for it to flutter off into my Etsy shop here

…along with my harlequin clasp.

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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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At the end of my two days at the Artisan Market at The Collection two weeks ago, my lovely neighbour, Lisa, gave me a couple of pieces of hand made felt she had left over from some wet felted vessels, in case I could do anything with them.

I certainly could! I decided to cut the pink piece into a front and back for a mandala brooch and the larger more orangey piece into an abstract shape for a barrette.

I used a variety of oddments for the mandala brooch, starting with a vintage bead cap and bead in the centre of a brass connector from a broken necklace. I added a second round with some more vintage bead caps, seed beads and some little springs which I salvaged from broken earhooks.

I did wonder whether to add a further round but I wanted to show off the felt rather than obscure it, so I stopped there and joined the front to the back (adding a circle of pelmet vilene inside for strength) with a simple beaded blanket stitch.

I’ve not had chance to do anything further with the barrette but I’m thinking of doing couching with some decorative chains… Another fun collaboration and I have a decent sized scrap left over which I can use for other things and some trimmings which I’ll wet felt into some dreadlocks. Nothing goes to waste.

I stitched the ring of leaves for another cauliflower in the block of three I’m planning for the stumpwork garden and while I was doing that I decided to take the French knots out of the one I’d already done. They were not only too white, but more importantly, too flat and even. I need to find a more suitable weight thread to stitch them back in.

And as you can see from the bottom left hand corner of the photo above, I’ve started fuzzing up my carrot tops.

It takes quite a while to carefully undo the twist of the coton a broder threads, so I’ll be saving that job for the next long committee meeting!

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This week has been a mad rush after our holiday, getting ready for a two day Artisan Market at The Collection in Lincoln this weekend, so there has been very little stitching and no movement on any of my projects.

Instead, I spent the week making earrings, brooches, Magpie Packs and necklaces, which are the only things in that list I managed to remember to photograph!

All the rushing to get everything together was well and truly worth it though. I was very happy with how the stall looked (I’m getting a bit of a standard set up now!).

In terms of sales I had a very successful weekend and generally it was a lovely market with a (mostly) fantastic atmosphere among the stallholders and the staff of the Collection, who were always available, cheerful, helpful and nothing was too much trouble. Although due to the sun pouring through the glass roof above me it was extremely warm, that was a small price to pay for such a good, brightly lit spot – so important when selling small stuff like jewellery.

I also managed some stitching in between the selling . I’ve been planning to stitch some tiny ribbon roses on dark blue silk carrier rod to set into these vintage marcasite clip on earrings.

Choosing the right colour ribbon took nearly as long as the stitching but now I can move onto doing the setting.

I also finished the stems…

…and started the ribbon embroidery flowers for a wreath brooch I’m upcycling.

I was lucky enough to have Lisa Tank, a talented abstract artist, as my neighbour for the weekend. I was very taken with some of her cards which had been made with sections from larger works and on the Sunday I bought some and promptly deconstructed one to add some abstract doodle stitching in stem stitch.

It’s textured watercolour on lovely thick paper and was a dream to stitch into.

A lovely artists’ collaboration to round off a lovely weekend.

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Much to my surprise and delight, the Chihuly chandelier is working! I’ve not done very much more as there have been a lot of other time-sensitive things this week, but all of a sudden, I can see my way clear. I realised that the edges of the ‘frilly plates’ were quite pointy-looking, like the points of the spokes of the back-stitched spider’s webs, so I’m not filling the spokes completely to echo this.

I’m so pleased with the way its coming together that I’m slightly resentful that other things have kept me away from it and also rather sheepish that it stalled for so long in the first place…

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about this underwater scene which I’d stitched onto dyed pelmet vilene and set into a silver Victorian coin brooch. I just felt the seaweed was a bit flat on its own and it needed a bit of something else.

One of the ideas I threw out was to add a silver fish and the more I thought about it, the more it felt like the answer. I had some tiny offcuts of textured eco-silver left over from the band of a ring I’d created when I did my silversmithing course back in 2013.

The right hand side of the bottom piece already looked a bit like a fish, so I used that line as a starting point and I carefully cut my fish shape out.

I filed, polished and refined it and added a simple drilled hole for an eye.

I realised that it needed to go behind at least some of the seaweed, so I took out one of the lines of feather stitch, put the fish in place and stitched the feather stitch back over the top.

I also added another line of Palestrina stitch in Sylko thread to hold the tail down before setting it in the brooch.

There was a little tube on the back of the brooch and it occurred to me that if I could get a jump ring through it, then I could make it transform into a pendant as well which would give it twice the opportunity to be worn. In the end it needed two jump rings, but I think they work well as a bale and a silver chain completes the transformation.

Unfortunately this weekend hasn’t been the best time to take decent photographs of it!

This is going to be a piece that will be very hard to part with and it was so good to get back to the silversmithing again. I’ve called it the ‘Silver Darling’ and it’s in my Etsy shop here.

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It’s been slow and very steady but I’ve made a start on February’s Move It On Project! One of the ideas I’d had for representing the fluted plates of the chandelier was to crochet miniature circles in some wonderful Mulberry silk thread that I’ve been saving for a special occasion with one of my collection of tiny Victorian steel crochet hooks.

As I was making a prototype and wasn’t really sure if it would work or not, I ended up using a coton a broder rather than potentially damaging the precious silks. I made a simple chain ring and then added rounds of double crochet, finishing with little chain picots and it worked!

Happy that crochet circles were going to work for the 3D element of the chandelier, I went back to thinking about what I wanted for the surface stitching. Initially I was thinking about using woven spiders web stitches, but when I looked more carefully at the fluted circles, I realised they are quite heavily ridged.

So more like a back stitched spiders’ web. And there is the added advantage that you can work partial back stitched spider’s webs, which would work for the elements that are side on. The crochet circle isn’t in the final position, just there for scale.

It all looks a bit sparse and not very flamboyantly Chihuly at the moment, but the most important thing for me is that it’s a start.

Most of the rest of my stitching this week has been very uninteresting. Needlelace samples for a workshop and trying to put together kits for the Ribbon Rose brooches which at the moment just looks like a pile of papers and boxes!

But I have finished a couple of pieces of upcycled jewellery. First is a lovely pair of broken vintage Mexican silver clip on earrings which had had the clips sheared off. I filed the rough edges away and then drilled a couple of holes in the top of the silver settings and attached a pair of new silver earhooks. They can be found here in my Etsy shop.

Then I removed the mechanism from a lovely single 1950s French jet (black glass) clip on earring and combined it with a vintage 1970s stainless steel ring blank to make what I think is a very elegant cocktail ring. The facets really make it glitter when it catches the light. It’s here in my Etsy shop.

I’ve also turned some lovely vintage teddy bear buttons into stud earrings.

They may be a bit battered and worn but I think they are still very cute!

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The project I’ve chosen to focus on for this month’s Move It On is a relatively new one and the reason that my Kew Memory Journal has stalled. I’ve already done four of the six pieces for it and last spring I started the fifth, based on a photo I took of one of Dale Chihuly’s Persian Chandeliers which was installed in the Temperate House at Kew Gardens in 2019.

I drew out the pattern of the glazing bars on a piece of indigo dyed cotton and as of last April, using thin white ribbon for the thicker bars and whipped back stitch for the thinner ones, had got as far as this:

The fun bit was next – creating the frilly circles of the chandelier – but at this point I froze up because I didn’t think I could stitch anything that comes close to representing Chihuly’s amazing art. I had various ideas about making wired edged needle lace slips, crochet circles using my tiny Victorian metal crochet hook and woven spiders web stitches. I reminded myself that I was only aiming for my impression of the chandelier but I was really reluctant to start and instead, put it to one side.

So this is where the Move It On project will hopefully help. By the end of the month I should know whether I can make this work or whether I abandon it and create a different fifth piece for the Memory Journal. The hard bit is going to be actually making that start!

As I’ve had the Inktense blocks out, colouring some pelmet vilene for the Ribbon Rose Brooch kits, I thought it was the ideal opportunity to stitch an embroidered centre for a silver Victorian brooch I’ve had for some time. I think these type of brooches were originally designed to be set with coins, but the empty frame makes an ideal surround for a piece of miniature textile art!

I went with my favourite colour palette and one of my favourite themes as there are so many stitches which suggest waving seaweed such as the feather stitch and threaded chain stitch…

…and a line of Palestrina stitch to fill in the gap on the right.

I’m very happy with the stitching but I feel it’s a bit flat, so I’m toying with ideas for a bit of extra dimensionality. I think it might be a bit too small to add even very tiny pieces of sea glass so I was thinking beads or possibly picots at the bottom. Or possibly a little silver fish… Any thoughts?

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