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Archive for the ‘Workshops’ Category

As is always the way, the final leg of the stumpwork garden only took about half an hour. First I finished the last of the kale/chard slubby silk picots. I was a little uncertain about them to start off, but they’ve worked up into a very healthy looking clump.

Then the courgette leaves. I’d already decided I was going to cut them out of some painted fabric. However, when looking for a source picture, I found countless photos of courgette leaves online, all different, which didn’t help and was probably why I left this job until last.

The first tentative one looked OK in terms of size and shape so I cut out another couple and laid them over the courgettes. They weren’t quite right. They looked flat and completely obscured the courgettes, which is what the leaves do in real life, but I didn’t want to lose the stitching underneath. I was resigning myself to stitching in minute veins to make them look less 2D when Debbie, one of the friends I was stitching with, suggested I put a tiny pleat in the base.

It was like magic. Suddenly the fold suggested veins and depth.

As there was to be no stitching of veins, the last stage passed in a flash. I pleated each leaf and used the thread to attach each one to the courgette plant. Pleating the leaves also meant they would no longer lay flat and solved the second issue about covering and losing the courgettes.

The leaves stand up beautifully (the fabric is backed with a light weight interlining to help stop it fraying which helps) and are only connected at the base of the leaf so as you move the stitching you can still see the courgettes, even though the leaves cover them. A genius solution!

My completed vegetable garden. It’s been a delight to stitch and had a lot of interest (for me!) on Instagram where it’s currently my most interacted with post, so other people seem to love it as much as I do.

I also ought to post a shot to give you an idea of scale.

And against my hand – please excuse the state of my fingers – it’s that time of year when I seem to be constantly peeling and prepping fruit and veg from the real garden.

I’m definitely going to offer this as a workshop. I’ll suggest some different vegetables and lay outs so not everyone has to stitch an identical copy and it’s a good introduction to some raised embroidery techniques. Anyone interested, shout up. Contact details are on my workshops page (tab at the top).

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Since half term at the end of October, I’ve finally been picking up some supply work. It’s been much needed financially but quite stressful with all the different Covid protocols that each school has and it’s difficult not to resent the way it’s eaten into my stitching and jewellery making time.

However, I realise I’m lucky to be getting work at all and so I’m working hard at appreciating a few minutes or a few stitches here and there and trying not worry about how slowly (if at all) some of my projects are moving.

So quick finishes are good, like the broken bracelet sections I upcycled into this sparkly pair of drop earrings with the addition of silver tone maple leaves and sterling silver ear hooks.

I’ve been taking some stitching into the schools where I’ve been working so I can take advantage of any spare lunchtime to sew. This initial will be filled with whipped running stitch stems and lazy daisy stitch flowers and leaves in variegated single strands of silk thread on silk dupion. It’s a potential workshop idea or if I’m not convinced, it might become a birthday card for my middle one.

I found this cross stitch motif which I must have stitched well over twenty years ago, in a workbox at the weekend.

I rather liked it. What if I could somehow stitch it onto another piece of fabric so none of the aida shows? The stylised cross stitch could be an interesting contrast with more textured embroidery stitches…

Subtly variegated silk thread french knots make great bushes and the sheen of the silk complements the more matte quality of the cotton thread I used for the tree.

Bushes and grass at the bottom are relatively easy but I can’t surround the whole tree in them, so now I’m experimenting with satin stitch sky. Apologies for the horrible photo. Today is grey and rainy and this is the best I could do indoors. The sky won’t end there. I might use a version of long and short stitch to extend it and I am planning some trees and/or clouds as well.

Making it up as I go along!

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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.

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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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Last February we had a fantastic Print to Stitch workshop at the Guild with Jan Dowson. One of the pieces I created was based on the paisley stamps she had made for us.

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Seeing my starting point now, after a year of covering it with stitch, it seems so bare!!

I started with some Pekinese stitch around some of the paisleys.

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Then seeding around the paisleys in a variegated stranded cotton. Doing that amount of seeding is pretty mind-numbing so I mixed it up with more decoration on the paisleys – split stitch on the right.

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It was a great project to take out and about, even making it to London with me last summer when the temperatures were through the roof and I was trying to keep cool in the Chinese galleries at the V&A.

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More seeding in seed stitch and french knots with chain stitch accents and woven and back-stitched spiders’ web stitches in the middles.

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Getting there… finished all the internal stitching on the paisleys and now just seeding at this point because I’m still not sure what stitch I want to outline the other paisleys. Something as bold as the Pekinese stitch but different.

IMG_20191116_091718It wasn’t until I began to explore Palestrina Stitch over Christmas prior to teaching it in a workshop that the penny dropped.

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Palestrina in a heavy perle was just right to balance the Pekinese.

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And the completed piece!

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No idea what I’m going to do with it, but that’s not the point. I love the colours, shapes and stitches and it’s been a pleasure to work. That’s all you need, sometimes, isn’t it?

 

 

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Being the Dame’s Dresser in pantomime involves nice quiet periods in between bouts of frantic physical activity where I am trying to haul one costume (including wig, jewellery, shoes etc.) off a huge burly bloke while trying to simultaneously shove him into his next frock and wig. So once I’ve tidied up the chaos and returned the changing room to a temporarily Zen-like place of calm, I get to stitch.

Ribbon roses at the beginning of the week for my Stitch Zone ribbon embroidery workshop the next Monday. As I was working under dressing room lights the colours aren’t great, but it’s purples and lilacs on a indigo dyed scrap of cotton.

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Then ribbon stitch leaves around the french knot buds and closed fly stitch leaves.

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Finally completing it with some tendril-like stems at the ends in split stitch and a couple more fly stitch leaves.

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At the end of the week I moved onto mushrooms! When we did the Bayeux Stitch workshop at Embroiderers’ Guild last July I was working on the baby leaf-tailed dragon, but I did have a sudden desire to stitch some big chunky mushrooms in Bayeux Stitch. I started by sketching a simple design freehand and then traced it onto some calico.

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The light in the changing room is good to stitch by but not to take photographs by and the green cap is really more of a teal.

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Salmon-pink spots, not red!

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And tan gills.

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Stalk in a darker brown which I think might have been vintage mending wool – it kept breaking.

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And then the outlining.

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A lot of fun to stitch. I’ve still got the gills to put in and the rest of the outline and highlights to do, but I’m really pleased with all the stitching (even the ubiquitous mending of seams, buttons and various fastenings etc. of show week) I got done during panto this year!

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As regular readers will know, I am heavily involved in a local amateur dramatics group (Scunthorpe Little Theatre Club) and this time of year is panto time. As with last year I ended up doing costume again – hence the reason I’ve only just surfaced. This year it was Mother Goose, with a new script which I wrote as well as being Costume Mistress and Dame’s dresser. Not the least of my jobs was making hats for the goslings and trying to work out where was best to place the nostrils!

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But we’ve finished in theatre now – I just have every single costume (12 adults and 19 children, many with multiple costume changes) to wash and replace in our costume room.  It only took me until August last year…

But I did manage to design and stitch some Christmassy hoops for a workshop I taught before Christmas:

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And a single snowflake which I stitched in silk:

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The workshop, held at Jaylaurs, in Brigg was a great success. Just five ladies but they got on so well with the designs and two of them have since sent me lovely photos of their finished stitching.

I also had a go at chenille work, making a Christmas card for my parents. I started with a cardboard ring and used crewel work to stitch over it. Not satin stitch but coming up the same side and then going back over, to reduce the bulk at the back.

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It was a long slow job…

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…as it needed lots of layers to make sure I got the fluffy chenille effect at the end.

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Now the fun bit – the cutting. Carefully in the middle. That meant I could get the card shape out but left me with a distinct space where it wouldn’t cover the base fabric.

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Vintage trim to the rescue. I’ve had this particular very seventies trim since I was very young, when my mother would allow me a metre of ribbon or trim when she went to the local haberdashers, but not the sweets that like all small children I would have preferred! Anyway, sweets would not have solved my problem here but the trim that I’ve never used before did!

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I stitched it down with little gold beads between the ‘flower’ sections and added a hand made gold bow at the bottom.

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Very Christmassy and very pleased with it. (Was a nightmare to post though…!)

 

 

 

 

 

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At the end of October, just before it shuts up and snuggles down for the winter, I went with some friends to visit the textiles collection at Gawthorpe Hall. The items on show were all stunning and inspirational but I fell completely in love with this little early 20th century peony slip worked in Pekinese stitch.

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I love the texture and the layering and was completely inspired to do some of my own. Pekinese Stitch was one of the first stitches I learned from my mother’s Mary Thomas’ Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches as a child. It’s a variety of laced back stitch so an ideal one for a beginner to learn. I rediscovered it recently as a beautifully textured edging stitch, but although Mary Thomas does say it can be used as a filling stitch, I’d never considered it.

My first sample is on a piece of Japanese silk kimono fabric with stranded cotton.

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The shape was far too fiddly to work well – getting a very rounded loopy stitch into the points of the leaf was not easy! But I persevered and with a little bit of cheating to fill in those pointy bits, manage to finish it.

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I was unexpectedly given a ticket and a lift to the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate last Friday and one of my purchases was a spool of vintage metal thread in a lovely soft gold. Perfect for couching around the edge.

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Second shape needed to be interesting but without the tricky infills, so I chose a paisley, again stitched on Japanese kimono silk with stranded cottons.

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Definitely a better choice!

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It has an almost woolly look and texture.

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Finding the different gradations of stranded cotton was the most challenging bit so my next thought is to use a single cotton but in a variegated thread.

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If you are in or around North Lincolnshire on Friday 1st of November there are still places left on my Spectacular Spellbooks workshops at Normanby Hall Country Park.

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The workshops are suitable for anyone, whether adult or child, who is interested in learning two simple bookmaking techniques. First, you’ll make two origami books, each created from a single piece of paper with four basic folds and a cut. We’ll be making a blank ‘spellbook’ to fill with your own ideas…

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…and also one where you can collect and record fascinating facts and superstitions about some ‘magical’ medieval ingredients which I will have on display.

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You will also be able to make a third slightly bigger blank book…

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…with a cover created from random papers and a twig binding that can be decorated with fancy threads, beads etc.

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Then just add your spells!

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I’m providing the materials to make all three books which you take away with you at the end of the session.

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Please note that Park entry also applies, or please display your annual membership.

Places may be booked here. I am really excited about this workshop and looking forward to the ‘awe and wonder’ moment when with one last fold, the origami book suddenly appears in your hands. Never gets old, that one. :o)

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I’ve been asked to run some hour long spellbook making workshops at Normanby Hall Country Park  for Hallowe’en and have had loads of fun designing and making some printable origami books and a blank book with a twig binding. Both types of book are simple enough to be made by even quite small children, but I think the results are good enough to appeal to adults too, so I’ve made it age 6+ to adult. The workshop details can be found here if you’re interested.

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I’ve been making origami books with children for years now and I reckon I can fold and cut one in about ten seconds flat! It’s a real ‘awe and wonder’ moment when you fold the cut sides over and a real book forms under your hands!

I’ve also discovered that I can use Publisher to design a sheet of A4 which when you fold it, the pages come out the right way. So as part of the workshop the participants will make an origami book to gather information about some plants and stones that were considered to have magical properties in the Middle Ages.

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Then another origami book for their own spell book

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And a bigger twig book…

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…with a corkscrew hazel twig that can be decorated for the binding.

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Which can also be decorated and made into a spell book.

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Fingers crossed now that people like the look of the books enough to want to make their own..!

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We’ve just had our final meeting of the year at Scunthorpe Embroiderers’ Guild and it was a fantastic all day long affair, with a talk about the costumes and embroidery in ‘Game of Thrones’ in the morning followed by the opportunity to look at some of the incredible work some of our members have produced over the last year and were entering for the branch’s yearly hand embroidery prize.

Some pieces have come from past workshops, such as the paisley piece below which was started in Jan Dowson’s ‘Print to Stitch’ workshop back in February, or responses to objects in the local museum for our exhibition earlier in the summer, as with the Winterton mosaic piece at the top on the three circles.

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Contemporary, modern, traditionally flat or 3D, like the stumpwork flowers and tiny embroidered houses.

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Restrained and subtle or gloriously over the top and encrusted with bling.

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Sometimes a visiting speaker chooses the winner but this time we did it in our usual way by voting in the blue and white saucers with beads. Thank goodness we get five beads each. And even then choosing five places to vote was an almost impossible decision! But after the counting, the winner was announced: Sue’s fabulous blue ammonite, one of the pieces for our museum exhibition.

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Glad I didn’t put anything in as I would have been seriously outclassed!!

Then after lunch, a workshop on Bayeux Stitch. I’ve used this stitch on several projects, including Shy Bird,

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…the sycamore leaves from Blackwell…

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and of course, the Baby Leaf-tailed Dragon kit from Tanya at Opus Anglicanum which I bought and started a disgracefully long time ago!

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I really enjoy working this stitch. It works up quickly, which is always a huge bonus and I love the textured effect the couching gives to it.

We had some lovely examples to inspire us, from medieval style designs to working it as an all over pattern to create a solid embroidered fabric as in the purse below and some very contemporary pieces.

 

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Although I was very tempted to explore the contemporary design ideas, it was a good opportunity to get a bit more done on Baby Leaf-tailed Dragon.

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Every little helps!

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