Posts Tagged ‘alliums’

I love spiky allium heads. After having done some ‘long shots’ on a couple of the sections in my bluework bowl, I decided that I wanted the next section to be a closer view and I chose an allium head for that.

First, the main stem in herringbone stitch and the stems which carry the flower heads radiating from a central point.


Then a solid couple of hours stitching through a committee meeting got the six petalled individual florets in lazy daisy stitch added.


I used the same variegated silk to outline the stem in split stitch and then built up adjoining rows of split stitch to form the leaf.


As all the other sections are in Victorian china style blue and white, I wanted to introduce other shades of blue, but I’m not entirely convinced now…

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I was delighted to be tagged to take part in this by the very creative, talented and witty Iz, from Threadnoodle and it was lovely to welcome people who had popped over from her blog. So this week is my turn to talk in a bit more depth about myself and my creative process.

I live in North Lincolnshire in the UK although I’m originally, like Dickens’ David Copperfield, from the little village of Blundeston, in Suffolk. Among other things, I’m a writer, a jeweller and textile artist. But not necessarily in that order.

1. What am I working on?

Erm… everything? I have a second book of short stories and a novel both on the go as well as an article which has been back-burnered for various reasons. There’s a box of partly completed rings,

silver acorn ring

pendants and other odds and ends which need finishing.

Norwich stitch pendant

Journals, books and altered books,

York Minster altered book

kits, summer holiday diary fragments,

holiday diary fragment

the crazy patchwork cushion for my son,

James' cushion strip 1

felted and goldwork brooches,

Goldwork brooch


my hearts commission,

hearts commission

my rusted fragments art quilt…

rusted fragments art quilt

…you get the picture. I long to have a go at everything and greedily want 36 hours in each day to try, test and explore my latest passion to its full extent.

My latest obsession is upcycled jewellery, whether replacing broken/damaged elements with beads like this vintage necklace…


broken vintage wire necklace








upcycled m.o.p and haematite necklace









or adding textile elements – felting and beading…


Felted beads









Uncycled felted bead necklace









… embroidery or patchwork.

Bullion rose upcycled pendant








upcycled patchwork earrings









I love being able to make something from bits that someone else has discarded as worthless. Little things fascinate me too, and each of the projects is so small that I can be almost finished before I start to get bored. I really admire people with the stickability to work on large ongoing projects, but that’s not me. Whatever I do tends to be small, detailed, and precise, whether it’s stitched into fabric, wrought from metal, words on a page or even part of a show in theatre. For me, the devil (and the interest) is in the detail.

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

That’s a difficult one. As regards my jewellery, with its mix of metalworking and fine embroidery, I’ve certainly never seen anything quite like it. There are other artists who create  jewellery with textile components, but it seems to fall into two categories – fairly traditional jewellery shapes such as earring drops, pendant and rings set with pieces of textile work, or textile work with metal findings to make it into earrings, pendants, brooches etc. I do both…

Turquoise spiral brooch








Bullion rose upcycled pendant

…but prefer to do neither

Moss mixed media pendant













Indigo book charm














I suppose that everything we do is unique, but at the same time, everything we create is the result of our experiences. I’ve often thought that if we could break down the DNA of a piece, trace its bloodline of influences and inspirations, it would be fascinating to see precisely how it was born from the tiny fragments we draw from so many things we’ve seen, done and experienced.

3. Why do I create what I do?

Every project gives me pleasure to work and it also gives me pleasure to see how it is received by other people but essentially I create because I need to. Like so many creative people, I don’t remember a time when I didn’t create, from wobbly junk models and roughly stitched dolls’ clothes to furnishings for my doll’s house and stories set in imagined worlds.

It’s my way of responding to something of the beauty in the world I see around me, my way of revelling in the power of fashioning something that is mine alone. I bend the media to my will and I say how it turns out – mostly!

4. How does my creative process work?

The first thing to fire it off is usually a single item but it can be anything: a bead, a thread, some fabric, a fragment of something, an image or artefact. The alliums piece below was the response to the challenge, ‘A flower beginning with ‘A’ for an Embroiderer’s Guild competition.

Alliums sketchbook page












Alliums hanging










An idea from a curtain I saw on a course

kantha patches














and an image from a dream…

Dream kantha














It can be a very dangerous process to sort through my stuff – I get sidetracked onto new projects very easily!

In terms of how things then evolve, I let my creative subconscious do a lot of the work. Usually I have clear idea of the starting point and an image of roughly what the end point will look like (I write like this too). Then it’s a case of starting and seeing how and where things go. If I get stuck I just walk away for a while and its unusual for that break not to have straightened things out in my head.  If I’m lucky, things work out as well, or sometimes even better than I’d hoped. If not, then it’s good to learn from your mistakes and chances are, I can always turn it into something else one day…

Phew! I think that’s the wordiest post I’ve ever put up! If you’re still with me, then please go and visit my two nominated bloggers.

Firstly, Debbie at Debbidipity. I met Debbie at our Embroiderers’ Guild when I joined several years ago and we’ve been good friends ever since. In the last 5 years, as a mature student, she’s done ‘A’ levels in Art and Photography and then followed them up with a Fine Art degree at Hull. She likes to experiment with all sorts of media and her inspirations are rooted strongly in the natural world that she loves.

From the local to the other side of the pond and Penny at Art Journey. Penny creates wonderful textile artwork in areas that I don’t tend to dabble in but love to look at – punch-needle, doll-making and beading are some of her latest delights, and I consider myself very lucky to have Valentine, one of her wonderful unique dolls sitting on my shelf watching me as I type.

Penny's Valentine

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the next stage of the bloghop!

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I sat down cheerfully the next night and carried on stitching, in high hopes of getting it finished slightly ahead of time and without having to work late into the night.

But…with the machine stitching about 9/10 done, the handle of the Frister and Rossmann seized up. I tried all the things I knew but nothing helped and I was loath to start undoing screws and bolts and things in case I did some irrevocable damage.

I should have left everything gone to bed, but I decided that I could live with the amount of stitching that I’d done and I would dissolve the soluble fabric. I’ve never used a piece this big before and I think was a little too robust with it.  I then tried to press out the crumpled embroidered allium pieces and in the process melted some of the chiffon. 

But worst of all, once it was laid out, I didn’t like it. It didn’t quite do what I wanted it to. It didn’t feel right and I had no idea how I was going to hang it. At that point I finally left it and went to bed in despair.

I went off to work in the morning and put the problem aside. By the time I came home I had the glimmerings of an idea and going through my fabric found exactly what I wanted – a piece of spring green organza that happened to be almost the perfect size. I set up my work station and sat down to hand stitch.

Five hours later…

The whole thing is hand stitched to the organza every few millimetres round the edge, with loose ends worked in and continued in tiny back stitch to mimic the machine stitch and hold the piece down in places in the middle too.

I didn’t like the stylised drawn allium shapes on some of the circles so I embroidered over them in pink/green hand dyed perle which also kept the layers together. Then I folded over the top of the organza and hem-stitched it to form a hanging sleeve.  I even managed to find a piece of driftwood to fit through the sleeve and I was in bed for 1am!

I like it more than I did the previous night…

The idea was that as an allium is made up of many smaller flowers to form one large infloresence so my piece would also be made of lots of elements that would come together to form an impression of alliums.

Not sure it worked in the end but the process, as ever, was very interesting.

It’s been handed in and will be on display along with the sketchbook spread I did alongside it at our Embroiderers’ Guild Regional Day at Riccall on the 11th July.


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This is my grandmother’s German Frister and Rossmann sewing machine. I think, judging by the Egyptian imagery, it probably dates from the 1920s.

And I LOVE  it.  The last thing it (very successfully) stitched was three layers of heavy canvas, one painted, to attach a set of tabs for an 8(ish) metre wide backdrop curtain we used for January’s panto. Now I was asking it to stitch through organza, chiffon, silk, net and soluble fabric.  Oh yes, and with a cotton thread in the shuttle and a rayon thread on top.

You can see the prepared sample on the table in front. If it didn’t then I was going to be in a real muddle.

I arranged the sample on the machine, lowered the presser foot and turned the handle.

Organza, chiffon, silk, net and soluble fabric?  With a cotton thread in the shuttle and a rayon thread on top?

No problem. I didn’t even have to alter the tension.

I love this machine so much. 😮

To be fair, the tension is actually a little off, but the corded effect was just what I wanted. So I dissolved the soluble fabric to give my tsugihagi style fabric.

I can’t believe quite how well the Frister and Rossmann dealt with it.

Fabulous piece of German engineering.

So I set off on the main piece with a light heart. By the end of the evening I had this:

Black stitching is tacking and will come out at the end.

About one more night’s stitching and then it’s done.

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I’m prevaricating. I don’t enjoy finishing things off. The process, the journey, is the most enjoyable part of any project for me and the finishing for this involves a sewing machine…  

So I fiddled around with a sort of felt dreadlock I’d made a while ago, rolled it up, liked it and stitched it into a spiral. I really needed to get on with the alliums so… I sat and beaded a trim for it.

When I can lay my hands on a brooch back I’m planning to turn it into a brooch.  Then I started knitting a new pair of socks (lovely dark plum silk/wool mix) and after a night actually dreaming about sewing machines throwing wobblies faced with soluble fabric and chiffon/organza and with Saturday getting closer I got on with it.

Apologies for the photos, taken indoors. This is the final layout – some of the apparently empty areas are in fact covered with a very pale pink chiffon. Waiting to be pinned.

The pinked circles are a mixture of vintage dark and pale pink chiffon, silk organza, silk chiffon, hand-dyed net and crystal organza.

Still not a brilliant picture but after the rain we had I didn’t fancy taking soluble fabric outside to photograph!

It’s all now pinned and tacked in place. I can’t avoid getting the machine(s) out any longer but I have taken the precaution of making a practice piece so if the machines won’t take it at least it won’t mess up the main piece. Going to get them out now. Really. Honestly. Right this minute…

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Allium 6

With an impending deadline I finished the 6th allium piece this week. It’s based on Jacobean laid work. I bought a fantastic Anchor crewel embroidery stitches book from a charity shop recently and immediately thought that circles of Jacobean laid work tied down with cross stitches would be an interesting idea.

The laid work is in a wonderful thick softly twisted pure silk thread which is then tied down with cross stitches in a pink/green hand-dyed cotton perle.

Over the  top of the perle cross stitches I worked another cross stitch at right-angles to the first in the same very fine weight hand-dyed pink silk that I’ve used in several of the pieces. This pierced the thick silk threads top and bottom, changing the texture further and creating star stitches.

The allium head behind has been worked with the threads closer together to give a change of scale.

Stems added in hand-dyed cotton perle satin stitch.

Since finishing this I’ve tidied up the base fabric for all six pieces and cut out the organza, net and chiffon circles that will go between the embroidered pieces. My next job is to pin and then tack them onto the soluble fabric background.

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I fell in love with stumpwork/needlelace when we worked a stumpwork fish from a back issue of Stitch magazine a few years ago at an Embroiderers’ Guild meeting, and I knew I wanted at least one of the allium pieces to be three dimensional. I also wanted to stitch one that was an opening bud.

I had some needlelace leaves left over from another project and one of the longer thinner ones proved to be a good shape for one half of the bracts. I made another one to match it and then stitched them together onto a piece of mid green silk noil, backed with stiff pink cotton.

I folded the wired free edges of the bracts back as if they were just opening. I used chenille thread, couched down in loops, for the emerging smaller buds and some thick greenish perle cotton at the base to show the emergent stems.

The bracts were extended at the tip by working interlocked rows of blanket stitch over a back stitched foundation as the picture I was working from showed them still joined.  Then I stuffed a short piece of tubular thread with knitting wool and attached it with toning straight stitches to the base of the bracts to form a stem.

In spite of the needle lace elements (although it helped having one already made) this worked up much quicker than the other pieces. It’s so nice when something you embroider takes less time than you think, rather than more!

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It was a very odd moment going to into the Museum Gardens in York on Saturday and seeing real alliums!

I’d forgotten how much more purple

some of them are.

For the third allium piece I decided to use the other allium design from Janet Haigh’s book but this one is a lot smaller – the whole thing is only 2 inches square.

It’s stitched onto a scrap of green silk and backed with a stiff pink cotton using single strands of very fine weight space dyed silk thread. Stef Francis I think, but I’m not sure.

I love silk in all its forms and the majority of fabric and thread on all the allium pieces are silk. It gives a softness and lustre like nothing else.

I’m really pleased with the effect of the green stems showing through the flower heads but it was a challenge to fill all the spaces without being too regular and making it look artificial.

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I was very taken by the allium treatment in Janet Haigh’s book ‘The Embroiderer’s Floral’ and decided as my second piece to stitch a version of her design. I wanted to change scale from the first piece but as I’m using silk fabric samples I was limited by the size of the pieces, hence the decision to do half a flower head.

Instead of a gauze circle behind the stitching I used shocking pink silk dupion on a silk noil background with some pink fabric behind just to stabilise it.

Heavy space-dyed cotton perle in oranges and pinks for the large star stitches,  finer cotton perle in greens shading to pinks for the smaller crossing stars and Stef Francis space dyed stranded silk in yellows for the central french knots. Stitching the french knots through three layers of fabric and all those criss-crossed perle threads was…interesting!

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For one of the Embroiderers’ Guild Regional competitions this year the theme is a flower beginning with ‘A’.

I chose allium because they are sculptural and deceptively simple – many alliums from a distance look like a pink or magenta ball. Close to, the ball is an inflorescence, a whole cluster of smaller flowers.

I like working small and I was intrigued by the idea of the many parts making a whole. It reminded me of an amazing bolt of cloth called ‘Tsugihagi’ I saw at the Sashiko exhibition in York last year. The cloth was made of hundreds of pieces of cream silk all machine stitched onto a water-soluble fabric which was then dissolved to leave a scattering of fabric fragments joined with a lacy network of threads. http://www.sashiko.org.uk/gallery.php?image=18

So I went home and tried my own version.

 I decided to create several small allium pieces using different techniques then tack them onto soluble fabric and use machine stitch to create a Tsugihagi-like fabric. Many pieces coming together to create a whole.

The first allium uses a swirl of vivid pink silk tops as a background. The raw silk is caught down with french knots in random dyed fine silk thread and then each french knot was surrounded by six lazy daisy stitches, letting them overlap.

The stem is a silk embroidery ribbon with added back stitch on a silk noil background fabric.  The whole piece is about 2.5″ by 4″ and the head is just over an inch in diameter.

One down, five more to go.

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