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Archive for the ‘Upcycling’ Category

To paraphrase Sir Steve Redgrave, the British rower,  “Anybody who sees me volunteer to costume a pantomime again has my permission to shoot me!”

You would have thought that after the last minute dash to get two World War 1 era evening dresses made for Blackadder Goes Forth in October that I would have had more sense, but no. No sooner had the curtain gone down on Blackadder then I was straight into costuming Scunthorpe Little Theatre Club‘s 2019 pantomime, Dick Whittington.

I did think I was on top of it nice and early, but I had stalls at a couple of Christmas fairs/markets which meant I needed to keep making stock…

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…and our Christmas challenge for Scunthorpe Embroiderers’ Guild which was to make a Christmas themed brooch to fit in a box we were given in September (silk thread and sparkly blending filament crocheted into a snowflake shape and beaded) …

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…the Christmas meeting which was making temari balls with Hazel…

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(my attempt has got no further than this, but I did learn that rayon thread, however shiny and pretty, is a very, very bad thing with which to wrap your temari ball)…

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…and of course, all the extra work that Christmas causes meant that I had very little down time over Christmas. Although I had been working on the costume since October, starting on New Year’s Day I sewed, altered, mended and generally worked like something demented for eight days straight. There are some odd photos of my labours but most have been taken as afterthoughts very late at night so apologies for the randomness and poor quality!

As the dame (Sarah the Cook) was a big lad at 6′ 3″ and build accordingly, most of our stock didn’t fit him so I ended up making a lot of it, starting with a baking themed skirt to go with an existing floral top. The skirt was plain cream and I made some felt gingerbread men and cup cakes to go around the hem.  They are roughly A4 size so they really stand out on stage.

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The sequins caught the stage lights beautifully.

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Then there was an existing red and green skirt but the top didn’t fit, so I remade that using the bodice pattern from the dress pattern I planned to use later. Have to remember to add the length to the sleeves for taller men.

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As it was for the scene where the dame serves in the shop, I added a rosette of medieval silver pennies and tickets to the matching mob cap.

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The main dress was for the ship/shipwreck part of the story and had to be made from scratch. I used a commercial broadly 18th century dress pattern which had a very full skirt to go over the traditional dame’s hoop and was open down the back – ideal for a Velcro fastening and quick changes. I uncovered some ‘Finding Nemo’ fabric in our club store which was ideal and used it for the sleeves and back of the skirt.

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The bodice and front were in two types of toning blue fabric (trying to use up what we had and not buy any more) but I broke up the bodice with a triangle of the Nemo fabric with extra fish added in the spaces and then created a set of felt signal flags to go across the skirt. They actually spell out something and no, it isn’t rude, although I was sorely tempted!

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It was worn with a ‘Kiss Me Quick’ hat before the storm and a very cute octopus (here modelling a miniature prototype bycocket hat for Dick) …

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…who was attached to a head band with crocheted seaweed for after the shipwreck!

We splashed out and bought a sparkly silver and blue walk down costume but when the headdress I had found in stock didn’t fit, I ended up the morning before opening night making a steeple hennin from very stiff lampshade fabric, more Finding Nemo fabric and the floaty veil from the original headdress. I am not ashamed at this point to confess that I used more glue than stitch!

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Instead of a good fairy we had Neptune, but the director didn’t want an old man in a toga, so I ended up designing a more military costume. The basic garment was a tunic created from some fabric that looked watery and amazing but as the crescent moon pattern was created from  a layer of loose threads between two layers of organza it was a nightmare to stitch and I ended up fully lining it with some left over fabric from one of the Blackadder dresses.

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It was worn with scale patterned leggings, tribal style tattoo sleeves with some amazing fantasy style leather armour on one arm, a scrim sash to look like a fishing net and a faux leather apron belt which was a cross between Greek and Roman and based on one worn by a character from a computer game! I had an interesting time cutting it out by eye, hand stitching it to look like separate pieces of leather and then making a medieval ring belt to go over the top.

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I wish I had some photos of the full ensemble. :o(

I also made bycocket hats for Dick…

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…an extravagant turban for the Sultana of Bungahie…

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…based on a 1970s turban hat and dressed up with oddments of pleated metallic gold and blue fabric stitched over the top.

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And a proper chaperon for Captain Cuttlefish to wear in the walk down. I made it as per the real thing, so it can be worn as a caped hood with a liripipe (long tail)…

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…or turned…

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…and worn with the head through the face hole and the cape and liripipe hanging down on either side.

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Another one that I had to cut without a pattern following an image on the internet, but I am delighted with the effect.

The show went very well and the costumes were much admired. Now all I have to do is to wash them all, and put them all away in the right boxes. Fourteen characters with between one and four costumes, each made up from a number of different elements… I might possibly be back before Easter!

 

 

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I just had a couple of items to finish off for the Craft Fair at Gainsborough Old Hall on Sunday, one of which was another embroidered locket. I started off with some silk carrier rod, variegated soft silk thread and french knots and lazy daisies.

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The french knots reminded me of the spires of goldenrod that ran riot in the garden of our old house.

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Lazy daisy leaves in buttonhole twist silk. The twist has a wonderful lustre and always makes me think of the mice in ‘The Tailor of Gloucester’ – no more twist!

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I had plenty enough fortunately and after adding stems and leaves to the goldenrod, the little panel was added to the locket.

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Creating these little embroidered panels to upcycle lockets is one of my favourite things to do and a perfect use for my silk carrier rods. This trio were much admired at the Fair, (although I do wish people would look with their eyes, not their fingers!!) but sadly, only the snowflakes locket sold so the other two are back in my Etsy shop.

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I had a good day and learned a lot, including the need to bring a shawl (we were in Victorian dress and the Old Hall is seriously chilly!) and lights for my stall. It was very gloomy and that’s not helpful when people are trying to look at small piece of jewellery.

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But it was lovely to chat to people about my jewellery. I was quite surprised how many people were actively interested in the upcycling aspect and as well as the sales, I also made contact with a WI who are interested in having me as a speaker and someone local who has suggested another possible craft fair. All good!

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I was delighted to get a stall for this Sunday at Gainsborough Old Hall Christmas Fair.

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It’s a big new thing for me but I am looking forward to chatting to people about my upcycled and hand made jewellery and hopefully selling some!

Stall signageSo this week it will be a mad rush to get everything organised and to finish off some pieces of jewellery that have been put to one side for various reasons, one of those being my snowy stitching.  One of our local churches has a Festival of Trees organised by the Rotary Club every Christmas. Organisations in the town and surrounding area put together Christmas trees decorated in such a way as to reflect their organisation as well as being Christmassy. This year is the first year that Scunthorpe Embroiderers’ Guild has had a tree and in September, Ruth, our chair, gave us all a plastic hoop with the simple instruction to stitch something suitable. I went for a mixture of blue and white fabrics and a snow/snowflakes theme.

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The big snowflake is crocheted in coton a broder and stitched down with lazy daisy stitches at the points to finish it off.

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The commercial embroidered silk got a bit of a make over with back stitch outlining and french knot snow.

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Then I had fun with stitch combinations to create snowflakes. Mostly fly stitch and straight stitches.

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A seeding of smaller snowflakes in straight stitch and french knots on a metallic fabric.

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And finished with a couched down border of a fancy white thread.

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It all ended up being a bit last minute as usual, so I don’t have any photos of the finished. neatened version but I really like the way it turned out in the end and looking forward to seeing it on the tree next month. Back to the fair prep for me now!

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There seems to be an awful lot of stuff getting in the way of my jewellery making at the moment but I was able to sit down on Sunday and make a couple of pretty things. First, I upcycled a vintage brooch with some bud-shaped nuggets of sea glass.

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I only have a couple of tiny pieces of red but this one fitted perfectly and then I had great fun choosing some more tiny nuggets in unusual, vibrant colours and setting them into the brooch. It’s available here.

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I have been mulling over ideas for this fantastic broken bracelet for some time. It’s unmarked silver with translucent lime green enamel and everything about it is superb quality.

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The green enamel proved to be impossible to match even from my extensive collection of beads and other findings, so I decided to go for a contrast of pale pink and use some lovely rose quartz beads I had wired and ready to go.

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After taking two loops off each bracelet panels and reusing the jump rings that were left, I started to join the components. I also added some sterling silver beads and curved tubes, some cat’s eye beads in two shades of green and some reclaimed silver belcher chain and a clasp to create this:

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It has taken some time to get to this point but I finally think I have done justice to the sad and sorry remains of that once stunning bracelet and it’s here in my Etsy shop.

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For me, this blog is a place to express and explore my creativity and so I rarely talk about the other parts of my life, but those of you who have been around for a while will have probably worked out that I am, or was, a primary school teacher by trade. That was until just over three years ago when I was moved into the school’s Nurture Room to work one to one with a child who was unable to access classroom teaching due to some very complex needs. At the same time, the school’s Learning Mentor went off sick (and never returned) and I found myself covering her role.

I loved it. I managed a small team and for the first time found myself outside the toxic culture of the primary classroom, where nothing you do is ever good enough. I liaised with outside agencies and support services on behalf of our vulnerable children and families and designed and ran programmes to support children with a whole range of behavioural, emotional, social and mental health problems. It was the most interesting, creative and rewarding period of my entire working life.

Then last year the academy provider decided that the school would be better served by me returning to the classroom. When the current Y6 cohort, which contained some of our most challenging children, left there would (apparently) be no need for my role and the work I was doing three days a week would be covered by other members of staff (it hasn’t…). Bullshit. It was really just about saving money.

It broke my heart. I never even made it as far as the first day of term and spent eight months off work with stress and depression until I took redundancy in April. It was the biggest finish of my life, shutting the door on a nearly thirty year career.

I’m nowhere near retirement, so I need to turn my finish into some new beginnings and now I find myself like a child in a sweet shop, not knowing what to choose as there are so many things I love doing that could become potential careers.

I want to get back to writing. I have a second book of short stories ready to go, a novel I’m about a quarter of the way through, a panto script on the boil and an idea for a book about effective behaviour management techniques.

I also desperately want to carry on doing the sort of nurture/behaviour management stuff I was doing when I was working, perhaps as a consultancy. My behaviour management methods really work and I would love to be able to train and advise teachers, schools and teacher training courses.

And then there are all my creative things. I’m working on a couple of pieces of upcycled furniture at the moment which I am really excited about, as well as all my embroidery and my upcycled and original jewellery. I still love the mechanics of teaching and I’ve really enjoyed the workshops I’ve run at Scunthorpe Embroiderers’ Guild.

It’s like trying to choose off an amazing menu. Each time I think I’ve settled on one path, I think about the others and get really excited about them and change my mind. So I’m not choosing. I’m going to try and work on all of them and see how and where that goes.

I’ve started working as a Primary Behaviour and Social-Emotional Support Specialist with some initial pro bono work for a friend to get my name out there and have updated my LinkedIn profile accordingly. It’s reminded me how much I relish the problem solving and enabling children in crisis to find strategies to help them.

I’ve also started offering textile/embroidery workshops and have already had a few enquiries, which is encouraging. I even designed a flyer to help with publicity so if you’re interested then please get in contact. I can do full days, half days and evenings and am happy to travel (in the UK).

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And then there is always Etsy, eBay, car boot sales and I’m hoping to find some markets and fairs to attend. I’m dipping my toe this Saturday when Scunthorpe branch of the Embroiderers’ Guild have our 21st birthday exhibition. Some very long time readers might recognise the embroidery on the poster – my North Cornwall Wallhanging!

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I’m having a stall with a range of beachcombed and original jewellery and also a selection of my upcycled jewellery which has been embroidered or is textile-based in some way. I’ve read reams of stuff on how to have a successful hand made stall and have everything crossed. It will be fun!

 

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Some of the near finishes I blogged about recently in ‘Brooches etc‘ have become actual finishes!

First the Chris Gray amulet from summer 2016. It’s gone from this:

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To this:

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I sandwiched the felt backed front and a piece of black felt for the back on either side of a piece of very firm stiffener than Chris provided us with to give the amulet body. Then I blanket stitched the three pieces together with the same variegated thread I used for the seeding stitches.

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I added a ribbon loop at the top and a cluster of beads, chains, sea glass, shell etc at the bottom from an assortment of broken jewellery.  The long blue tyvek or similar bead was one of two we were all given as part of the original workshop.

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The Knot Gardens pendant is also finished. I coloured the pelmet vilene around the knots to look like soil/paths and sandwiched both knots together with another circle of vilene inside to make it thick enough to sit in the swivel part of the fob properly.

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It’s in my Etsy shop here.

I also completed the second of my autumn leaves embroidered and beaded brooches. The first had a green and copper bead surround:

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The second has a fiery gold and orange sunburst surround. I love doing these beaded edgings – they work up quickly and look really effective. I’ve got my fish name badge to do next.

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And lastly, an empty watch face pendant and a piece of embroidered felt came together to create another upcycled pendant which is on Etsy here.

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It’s really good to get so many quick finishes sorted, or may be it’s displacement activity because I have some mending that needs doing…!

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Embroidery as promised. I not only finished off the faux driftwood piece I stitched at our sea-themed Embroiderers’ Guild March workshop…

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…but also found a framed ceramic plaque for £1 in a charity shop which after a bit of sanding and dry brushing with some pale blue emulsion paint yielded the perfect frame.

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The beaded fish is now nearly a name badge. I just need to add a brooch back, ladder stitch the two sections together and bead it round the edge.

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On Saturday it was our April Scunthorpe Embroiderers’ Guild meeting and an opportunity to revisit the embroidery we produced in March after Mary’s workshop. It was lovely to see such a variety of outcomes.

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This was followed by a fascinating talk by Alice Fox, learning about her creative journey and focusing on her ‘Findings’ body of work. Anyone who beach and pavement combs and turns the oddments she finds into works of art is a woman after my own heart. We had a workshop booked with her on the Sunday but I’m going to blog about that separately.

I’ve also been embroidering more pieces of silk carrier rod to inlay into upcycled jewellery – two lockets and a pendant. The pendant was first: vibrant green carrier rod with a crimson ribbon embroidery rose circled by five little leaf stitch leaves.

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This went beautifully with a stamped filigree brass frame to become June Rose.

Then I moved onto the smaller of two gold tone lockets. I used a wintry blue carrier rod and embroidered it with tiny snowflakes in two weights of silk thread. 20180426_114304_HDR.jpg

It really is very small – the central oval is about 2cm by 1.5cm and the finest thread is thinner than normal sewing cotton. The snowflakes aren’t quite well stitched as I wanted, but embroidering something that intricate freehand was quite a challenge.

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Snowflakes is available here.

For the second locket I returned to a familiar design, an undersea landscape of waving feather stitch fronds of coral or seaweed and tiny nuggets of sea glass.

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I chose a variegated pink and turquoise thread as a starting point and teamed it with turquoise/blue carrier rod, three nuggets of multi-coloured Seaham sea glass and a couple of darker pink threads.

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The Coral Garden locket is quite a bit bigger than the Snowflakes locket at about 4 by 4.5cm. I really like the colour combination. I wouldn’t have necessarily put the two colours together but they worked so well in the variegated thread.

I really love stitching these little vignettes and using them to make bits of junk jewellery into things of beauty again.

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