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Posts Tagged ‘couched and laid work’

As I’ve said before, this year’s Move It On Project is about revisiting and evaluating old projects and if any get finished during the month, then that’s a bonus. However, we have our first finish! I did say last week that there was a very good chance of this one being finished as it was pretty close already, with only the laborious job of marking out the diamond grid of background stitches to complete.

I ended up by counting the warp and weft threads to work out where to place the markings as it was more accurate than measuring but even then, I made a mistake that I didn’t spot until I was two columns in and so they aren’t quite exact, but close enough for a Holiday Journal piece.

Adding the pairs of straight stitches over the top was quick and easy, even if the finished motif does look like a grumpy moth!

With Mothers’ Day fast approaching I’ve had my usual commission from a friend to make a card for their mother and my starting point was a postcard sized piece featuring lace, tea bags and painted lace flower trims I started in a workshop I did with Fran Holmes back in November 2019.

I decided that it didn’t need much doing to it apart from stems and leaves for the daisies and took it with me today for some ‘plein air’ stitching when we went for a walk in Sherwood Forest. We were joined for lunch on this bench by a very confident robin and a cheeky little woodmouse, both of whom were well rewarded with titbits.

I’m using fishbone stitch for the leaves, which is pretty dense and as a result the closeness of the stitching holes at the edges of the leaves is shredding the delicate tea bags despite my best efforts.

Just going to have to hope that the stitches and the underlying bondaweb can keep it all together!

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School term is finished for the year, as is ‘In The Stitch Zone’, my lovely weekly stitching group. As today is the last guaranteed posting day before Christmas, things are quiet in my Etsy shop and the bricks and mortar stockists of my jewellery.

So there has been Christmas cooking – this is Chinese spiced beef which I make every year. I use a kilo of uncut shin which is slow cooked in a broth of soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, garlic, ginger, whole peppercorns, coriander seeds, cinnamon sticks and star anise. After about five hours I put it into a close fitting plastic container and press it under cans of tinned tomatoes in the fridge, like I would a tongue. It comes out as a dark, tender aromatic block which you can slice thinly and have in sandwiches or as part of the buffet lunches we love this time of year and the cooking liquor makes incredible stock for soup. I wish the photo had smell attached!

I’m also marzipanning my Christmas cakes today – quite a lot later than I did last year. They were made just after October half term and as we have no sherry in the house but somehow have ended up with an abundance of mead, they have been well fed with mead this year. The smell as I opened the box was pretty potent!

Lastly, the Christmas puddings which were made back in November to a recipe that has come down through my mum’s side of the family and we believe came from the Radio Times just after the war. It has a lot of grated carrot to reduce the sugar content and a mountain of breadcrumbs instead of flour and is always moist, light and delicious. I’m not sorry that none of the children like it (more for us!), although it does mean that sadly the family recipe won’t be passed on.

Quite a bit of supply work in the last week has meant limited stitching again, although I do have a little piece of Bayeux stitch embroidery to show. It’s a miniature version of one of the buildings in the Bayeux Tapestry – this one is part of Harold’s palace and famously has Halley’s Comet over the top.

I thought the open sections were interesting and a nice comparison to the heavier areas of Bayeux stitch. I’m not entirely sure how they have been worked, but I used blanket stitch.

As I was working very small I also decided not to include the two coloured section under the turrets. I had a bit of an experiment but the thickness of the wool on such a small scale, even though it is fine crewel wool, would have made it far too clunky.

A ‘thumb-for-scale’ photo.

As ever at this time of year I hope that all the jobs will get done soon and I can finally spend some quality time stitching. Wishing all of you the best Christmas you can have in these continuing very testing times. Take care and stay safe.

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…and goodbye to Baby Leaf-Tailed Dragon. I finally laced him over the mounting board this week, labelled him and he was presented to the director of our Autumn 2019 production this weekend. Sad to see him go but glad that it’s one job not hanging over my head any more!

With stock drops to do at Arttopia and Bricktree Gallery in Caistor, my attention has been on creating upcycled jewellery that will hopefully have a Christmas party appeal.

Two broken bracelets have provided some useable sections for earrings and an earring and pendant set. Unfortunately I keep forgetting to take ‘before’ photos so you’ll have to use your imagination to reconstruct the original piece! The first one was made up from alternating silver crosses and abalone panels and I managed to salvage four sections – enough for two pairs of earrings. These ones worked perfectly with a couple of silver tone wing charms.

And I chose a couple of lovely art glass beads to tone in with the colours of the abalone for this pair.

I only managed to salvage three sections from this gold tone and diamanté bracelet but I’m very pleased with the earrings and pendant set I created from them.

Then I teamed four odd bracelet panels with some royal purple faux pearl beads to match the amethyst coloured diamantés in the middle of the panels.

I used the embroidered and sequinned black sari fabric disc I created a few months ago…

…along with a brass bale I made back in 2013 on my silversmithing course to create a pendant. It’s made of two discs of fabric gathered over circles of felt and pelmet vilene and then ladder stitched together so it’s light and easy to wear. I’m glad the bale has finally found a home too.

I did manage to take a photo of this bracelet before I upcycled it into a pendant and a pair of statement earrings. It was missing some of the diamantés and felt quite fussy, so I split it into three pieces.

First I separated out the central poinsettia shaped section and tidied up the rough edges at the back before drilling a hole into the edge of one petal for a jump ring bale and adding a reclaimed chain with a slightly worn gold plating to echo the pale gold coloured mesh in the middle of the petals.

I reset the missing diamantés in the other sections of the bracelet and added hanging loops to turn them into a pair of statement earrings. I ran out of clear diamantés in the right size so used some icy blue ones for the top which I think gives them a subtle pop of colour.

It seems that as fast as I complete one upcycle I find something else in a box which fires my imagination and replaces it in the to-do section of my desk. At the moment I’m creating some wintry mandala pendants by stitching found objects onto fabric scraps. It’s so exciting when the ideas are coming this thick and fast. Just a pity that work and life seem to get in the way..

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It only a took a couple of stitching sessions in the end but after six years Baby Leaf-Tailed Dragon is finally complete! When you last saw him back in February he looked like this:

I was struggling to stitch tiny neat split stitch circles along the line of his neck and in the end just gave up and let other projects come to the fore. But Baby L-T D was promised as a director’s gift for a show we did in 2019 and he really needed to be finished to be presented at a Memorial Concert in early November. Time to get stuck in.

I finished the circles on the neck first. They really highlight how uneven the wavy line is, but I don’t dislike the way they’ve ended up in pairs.

The his clawed and feathered feet. The feathery bits at the back remind me of the ‘feathers’ around the hooves of a shire horse. I did hope that I was getting better at the circles, but I’m not so sure about that, looking back at the photos.

And lastly the top section of his double tail. Highlight lines first and then more circles inside the trefoil leaves.

Finally, the veins on the large leaf and the last of the circles along the base of the tail to complete the stitching!

Then I removed him from the frame so I could see him in all his leafy glory for the very first time. I’m so pleased with him and a little bit sad that he’s going to go to someone else.

Now I need to sign and mount him – another job I tend to prevaricate about because I worry about getting it perfectly right…

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As I suspected, finding the right white for the vertical glazing bars of the Temperate House was a pain. I ended up with a selection of white threads, ranging from good old Anchor stranded cotton to some fabulous Gloriana 12 strand silk called ‘Fresh Snow’ which is too perfectly white, silky soft and beautiful to use!

After standing in the sunny garden laying threads out alongside the ribbon and seeing how just one or two strands compared with the way the thread looked in the skein, I finally settled on a Dinky Dyes stranded silk in ‘Natural’.

I initially used back stitch rather than my go to split stitch as I wanted a stronger line but I wasn’t happy with the breaks between the stitches, so I whipped it to give more solidity.

The lines are similar rather than identical to the original, but when I referred back to the source photo, I realised how subtly the spacing and angles of the bars changed as their perspective to me altered. Had I drawn this from memory, all those lines would have been parallel and evenly spaced. It was a very useful lesson in observation.

I’ve also continued with the or nué acorn and started the coloured couching in single strands of stranded silk. Despite my initial concern that it was at an angle to the gold, I felt the first part of the cup worked well. It was only when I came to add the highlight that it started to get a bit challenging.

I wanted the highlight to curve round the cup, but working in straight lines makes that difficult, especially as this piece is so small. Not really knowing what else to do, I just carried on stitching to see if I could make it work out. By this point I had started the acorn, so things were ramping up on the difficulty scale, not least having four needles on the go at once.

I know I have the tendency to overcomplicate things, but I did think an acorn would be a relatively simple thing to stitch! Once I had sort of wrangled the highlight on the cup I realised I needed to add a lighter colour to the acorn. Unfortunately I think I should have introduced it at least a row previously…

It wasn’t working and I needed help to see where the shading was, so I added some lines to give me an idea of where the changes need to happen. Suddenly I feel more confident about it.

I think I will have to go back and unpick some of the darker green on the row or two above and add the mid green, but I’ve decided to continue and finish the design first and see how it looks. This is very much a first attempt at a new technique and it will do me good to not obsess about everything I do having to be perfect straight out of the box.

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Podcasts at the ready, I got stuck into some of the more tedious stitching this week. All the motifs on the medieval tiles piece are outlined and I’m very happy with the alternating light and dark outlines.

The intersections are interesting too.

As is the back, where you can really see the subtle variegation in the threads.

I’ve still not completely settled on what to do for the background of the tiles but I’m inclining towards adding something to the inside of the motifs. Not sure if that is prevarication or not!

I had a couple of offcuts from when I printed the main piece.

I made one into a bookmark for a Christmas present and am turning the second one into another bookmark. This time I whipped the back stitch outline of the motifs and am pleased with the raised effect. It looks almost like I’ve edged them with a very fine cord.

I decided to add the more straightforward highlights to Baby Leaf-Tailed Dragon’s wings while I was still dithering about the circles on his neck.

Emboldened by that success, I started the circles. Not sure the first one is fit to be seen, but the second and third are reasonably presentable.

I’m definitely ready to finish these projects and get on with something different, especially as I unearthed some rusted embroidered fragments the other day that I’d done ages ago with the plan of making an art quilt and posted some on Instagram. They got such a good response I’m tempted to get the quilt underway again…

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Having finished Baby Leaf-Tailed Dragon’s tail with the white circles…

…I decided to add the details to the head section next. Extending some of the outline to give him a jawline and define the ears was straightforward, as was adding the highlights around his neck, ears, mouth and nose. Then it was the eye. The eye more than anything gives him his personality and I really didn’t want to get this wrong, so I cut out a paper template and moved it around until I was happy before I started stitching. It’s amazing how even a small alteration in placement can make a big difference to expression and personality. After a reassuringly small amount of unpicking, I was pleased with the way he looks. Definitely cheeky!

I had a pair of trousers to hem yesterday and while looking for the right colour sewing cotton, I bumped into the Bayeux Stitch mushroom I started last January during panto.

I’d got as far as putting the gills in but they were going in the wrong direction. I knew they were wrong but simply couldn’t work out what the right direction was, so I put the hoop aside and left it – I didn’t even bother to finish unpicking the gills. So this was what appeared as I moved my mending pile:

As I picked up the hoop I could see instantly where the lines needed to go! Trousers were postponed and gills were couched in place. I also outlined the spots on the cap and next stage is… the highlighting. I really need to get over my nerves about stitching highlights on these pieces!

I’ve also been adding some more upcycled jewellery to my Etsy shop. These drop earrings I made in January from a fragment of Art Nouveau pressed brass frame in the shape of olive branches is similar are available here. I’ve added faux pearl drops and new gold plated sterling silver earhooks.

The broken silver ring I shaped into two Celtic motifs has been teamed with a couple of iridescent Czech glass beads to become this rather elegant pair of earrings which are available here in my Etsy shop.

Then a couple of beachcombing pieces. Several years ago I found four glass beads which had obviously once been part of a necklace or bracelet on a tattered piece of thread at a Cornish beach. I love the way they have been worn by the sea and have been looking for just the right project for them ever since. Inspiration struck when I came across an odd earring with a hanging loop inside. I made a piece of silver wire into a headpin and two of the beads fitted perfectly. You can find it here in the Beachcombing section of my shop.

I had a silver pendant which had a very odd looking flat part under the garnet. It was a little while before I realised it was a backing plate and whatever had originally been stuck on it was long gone. Perfect for a piece of sea washed pottery and this fragment of Victorian spongeware worked perfectly. The finished pendant has a new silver chain and is available here.

And the final highlight is the upcycled mourning locket I wrote about in last week’s post.

Within an hour of listing it on Etsy it had sold! A great boost on a cold and snowy day.

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I thought I’d started the Baby Leaf-Tailed Dragon in 2018, which would have been bad enough, but the blog post from September 2018 when I moved him from a hoop to a frame and really got going, says I started him in 2015 – July 2015 to be precise. I did quite a lot of work on him in 2019 and even got as far as starting to couch the outline but then, like so many things last year, he lapsed and it wasn’t until last week that I picked him up and finally finished the couched outline. The next stage was to add the split stitch highlights. I’m always worried I’ll put them in the wrong places and it will look odd, so I usually prevaricate at this point, but I decided to just get on with it.

The result was a lot less difficult than I thought (it usually is…) and so his lower tail is nearly done!

I’ve also decided to get on with the last two pieces for my Kew Memory Journal. I want to base one on the beautiful Chihuly Persian Chandelier that was hung in the Temperate House.

I thought the wavy edged circles could work either in needlelace or crochet and while I decided which one would be most effective, I started a small sampler of needlelace stitches.

Corded Brussels Stitch is my go to needle lace stitch and after having worked the Single Brussels – twice – I know why. The Corded Brussels is always worked in the same direction. When you get to the end of the row you run the thread across the front, back to the start and then work over it, incorporating it into the stitch. It makes the lace firmer and because there is something to work over, more even, and the stitches all run in the same direction.

The Single Brussels is worked from left to right and then when you reach the end of the row, back from right to left. I’m not very right handed and can work most stitches both right and left handed but I could not for the life of me get the rows even. On the left to right rows I could make the buttonhole stitch loops stay open but right to left they just wanted to flatten down to the stitch underneath. The second version is better than the first, but not by much.

However, as a sampler and a learning exercise, it’s been very useful.

The last old favourite is the final two kilt pin brooch kits.

Forest green, golden yellow, and brown.

and

Orange, bronze, brown, purple and gold.

Listed today in my Etsy shop with free UK P&P.

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In the early fifteenth century Tattershall Castle passed to Ralph, the third Baron Cromwell, who became Treasurer of England in 1433, prompting a serious upgrade to the castle. In many places, including all over the huge fireplaces, he included the image of a medieval purse to indicate his status and the source of his wealth and good fortune.

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This type of purse is sometimes called a ‘bollock purse’ for obvious reasons – this one clearly says mine is bigger than yours…!

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Much more modest.

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The purpose of the pieces in the memory journal is to spark off a memory or story linked to that day and the purse does that in a number of ways. First as a symbol of the powerful man who created the castle we see today, but it also reminds me of the second visit we made to see a medieval living history encampment and tournament a plaisance.

Walking round the encampment, I spotted a lady embroidering and we soon got chatting. Among other things she had stitched and completed the baby leaf tailed dragon from Tanya Bentham at Opus Anglicanum and made him into a cushion. So I decided to stitch the purse in the same style to remind me of our chat as well.

First I tweaked the above photo to emphasise the contrast before turning it into a pattern.

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Then couched and laid Bayeux stitch in crewel wool for the body of the purse.

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Knobs.

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And the belt loop and edge of the top flap. I like the way the diapered effect really shows up in the strong sunlight.

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And finally the detailing at the bottom of the belt loop.

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Next stage is to couch round the edges and add the details with split stitch.

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