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Posts Tagged ‘experimenting’

Back in May 2019 I ran my Ribbon Roses workshop (details in the Workshops tab at the top of the header) for what was then the Selby Embroiderers’ Guild. In the afternoon those who had moved on through the morning’s activities stitched a Ribbon Rose Brooch from some little kits I’d made up.

I came across the remaining kits last year when I was creating my Upcycled Kilt Pin Brooch kits but as they were designed to be a follow on activity for someone who had already stitched the closed fly stitch leaves and the woven spiders’ web roses, the instructions were quite sparse and not suitable for a similar makeover.

However, I felt that they would still make a good subject for a kit when I got round to being able to sit down and create suitable photographs and instructions. And that was this week! I chose the kit in the above picture to photograph while I made it up and enjoyed an easy morning’s stitching to get to this:

It was a lot of fun to stitch and although having to continually stop and take photographs of every stage kept breaking my flow, it’s an easy project which stitches up quickly and can be completed in an hour or two, depending on your level of confidence and familiarity with the various stitches used. It was also useful to confirm that there was enough of everything in the kit, apart from the ribbon as I had to find another piece to work the French knot buds.

Unfortunately the process of writing up the instructions, creating the designs and images is taking an awful lot longer than the brooch did to stitch in the first place!

The Harvest Wreath is finished and I’m really happy with the balance of the leaves.

And last but not least, this week’s update on January’s Move It On Project. Thanks to a committee meeting and an actual face to face social read of our next pantomime script this week, I’ve now completed the kantha spirals on five out of the six tiles. I’m happy that I continued with the spiral backgrounds as I really like the way the pattern of the stitches works at the point four tiles meet and I couldn’t see that when I’d only stitched three.

It’s not the most exciting of things to stitch at this stage but being well over half way is a big boost. I’m unlikely to get it finished in the 36 hours left of this month, but that’s not a problem and not the aim of the Project. I’ve moved it on, solved the thread issue, decided on the pattern for the background and will definitely finish it at some point, probably turning it into a book cover. So all in all, month one of my 2022 Move It On Project has been a great success!

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The poppies harvest wreath has moved on a little further and I’m a bit happier with the balance of the flowers, given that they are pretty random.

I also, in another variation of: ‘Things I’ve Found While Looking For Other Things’ came across some Tyvek this week, which has prompted a little bit of playing (and encouraged me to clear a few bits off the ironing pile while I had the iron out!). I used water soluble oil pastels on both pieces but left one as it was and added water to blend the other to see if there was any difference once I added heat.

In the end there was no difference in the way they behaved apart from the unblended one leaving smudges of oil pastel all over the baking parchment. Probably should have seen that one coming…

I preferred the way the bottom one crinkled up but thought the top one would be easier to stitch into – and it happens to be my comfort zone colours too. So I chose a section to experiment with:

The colours reminded me of some tiny offcuts I couldn’t bear to throw away from the felt I used here:

I thought they would work well with the colours of the Tyvek and provide a textural contrast. A scrap of viscose tubular ribbon ruched and held down with French knots gave me a starting point.

The larger scrap of felt was stitched down as invisibly as I could as there was already a lot going on in it, but I used a series of fly stitches to attach the smaller piece.

I quite like how the melted Tyvek looks and I didn’t want to cover any more of it up, so I added some lines of stem stitch just to follow some of the patterns in the Tyvek and anchor it to the felt.

What I really should have been doing was getting some more pieces of upcycled jewellery made. I need to do a complete stock change from gothic/Hallowe’en to something more Christmas party/presents in Arttopia in less than a week; a stock refresh along similar lines for the Bricktree Gallery in Caistor and then I’ve realised that it’s less than two weeks until my first Christmas Fair with two more following quickly after that!

I’ve made some upcycled pendants from some odd vintage earrings, the centre of a bracelet (the silver flower) and a selection of odd beads and charms and am working on some earrings using sections of broken bracelets.

All I really need are about another 8 hours in each day…!

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As you can see if you go to the In The Stitch Zone tab at the top of this page, we’re back!

The first session last week worked very well and it was lovely to see so many people returning after so long. The room is airy despite having no external windows and we were able to spread out quite well while we caught up and experimented with some Rhodes Stitch hearts and butterflies.

This week I’ve been playing with samples for our Hungarian Braided Chain Stitch workshop. It’s been a new stitch to me this year and I’ve utilised it in a number of different pieces and with a variety of different threads. I decided to try working it in a circle for the first two samples and use perle, which seems to have been the most successful type of thread and I find gives the best definition of the lovely braid effect.

First a very heavy vintage green perle. The braid was good, but I struggled to join the ends of the wreath and I really wasn’t happy with the messy join at the bottom.

It was giving me serious Christmas vibes at this point so I wondered what would happen if I added straight stitches around the inside and outside to make it look like fir branches.

Much more successful than I hoped and even better, it disguised the horrible join! Next tiny gold beads…

…and a bow.

The second wreath used a variegated lighter weight perle (8) that reminded me of autumn wheat fields.

The join isn’t quite as bad on this one but it’s still lumpy and I really need to think of a better way to manage it. As the braid starts with a vertical straight stitch, and continually needs a chain put into the working end to fill out the pattern, it’s quite tricky to join up.

At this point it suddenly occurred to me that if you extended the initial stitch, short sections might make rather effective bull rushes. I put the wreath aside and this happened:

So yes, they do! Back to the wreath.

The harvest colours made me think about wrapping it in poppies. I used split stitch for the stems and then another new stitch to me – Raised Cup Stitch – for the poppy heads with French knot middles.

I had been thinking about something along the line of Rosette or Oyster stitch for the flowers but I much prefer this more raised effect. The flowers are created by literally tying knots around a base formed from three stitches in a triangle as you can see on the right. They are very forgiving if you can’t quite see where to put the knots which suits me perfectly!

I may add some little stalks of wheat in among the poppies too but just a few so I don’t lose the braided effect of the wreath.

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It all started with this odd earring. It’s not a very good image because it’s already partly disassembled (I got all excited and forgot to take a photo before I attacked it with the pliers!), but you can hopefully see that it’s made up of three pairs of brass leaf shaped sections that made me think of flower calyxes.

That was enough to spark off an idea for a pendant and a pair of earrings using silk cocoons for the main part of the flower with a brass calyx on top of each one.

Pendant first. I made a set of beaded stamens by threading some random sequences of blue and gold bugle and seed beads onto Nymo and then knotting the ends onto the loop of a headpin and setting it all with a blob of superglue. This is my third cocoon. I discovered the hard way that the silk on its own wasn’t robust enough to cope with having a headpin put through it and I had to use a layer of glue to strengthen the fibres.

But the result was worth it. The little ‘hat’ section from the earring makes an effective calyx for a fantasy flower. It’s available here in my Etsy shop.

For various reasons, I didn’t get round to the earrings until today. I managed to find an almost identical pair of silk cocoons and they really are this red! you also get a better idea of how the brass ‘calyxes’ look from this photo.

Beaded stamens again, this time in greens and golds.

The silk cocoons are really light so although the drops are quite large at 5cm long and 2cm in diameter, they are a lovely weight and not too heavy to wear. I’m hoping to get them listed in my Etsy shop shortly when I can get some more photos of the details.

It seems ages since I had a good jewellery making spell and after finishing these earrings today I was feeling really inspired. It’s a shame most of the rest of this week is going to be taken up with three days supply teaching but as online sales have dropped through the floor over the last few months, beggars really can’t be choosers.

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I’d almost finished the experimental combination of the cross stitch tree motif and free embroidery when I lost confidence in what I was doing. I’d left a small section on one side possibly for another bit of tree and then wasn’t sure if it would be too much so I left it here…

…and moved it around on my workbench while I did some other small things. I added some flowers.

That seemed to break the deadlock and I went straight into the tree section without any more agonising.

Just like that it’s gone from something I was unsure about even finishing to something I’m really pleased with. I don’t regret leaving it alone for a fortnight, even though there were literally only a few minutes worth of stitching left to do. I suspect that if I’d carried straight on I would have ended up unpicking it. I just had a gut feeling that stopping was the best course of action.

One of the other small projects on the workbench at that time was an upcycled brooch. I’d had the basic brooch – a simple hand made padded circle covered in fabric with a felt back – for a while and not got much further with it beyond knowing that I wanted to add a beaded edging. Again, I suppose, the skill of knowing when to leave things alone until they naturally come together and that happened when I came across a little vintage gold tone rose which was possibly once a pendant or part of a brooch.

I used buttonhole stitch to cover the stem; partly to give it a bit of colour, partly to tie it to the colours in the fabric and partly as a way of attaching it to the brooch. Then I added the beaded border and was pleased with my quick and straightforward finish.

I photographed it and that meant looking more carefully at it. Not happy. The green for the stem was pale and insipid and worst of all, the rose was too far up. I tried living with it for about an hour but my gut feeling that it wasn’t right was too strong and before I went to bed I took the rose off. I redid it today with some darker green silk and I’m much happier- it feels right now.

It started me thinking about how often I stop and start projects, often not consciously, but because my intuition has told me to just hold on a little bit. Comparing the amount of stitching time a project actually takes with the time taken including the thinking and putting it on hold can be quite alarming, but on the other hand, unpicking is frustrating and potentially causes damage. I’d like to think that I’ve learned to trust my intuition over the years and come to recognise what a valuable tool it is in my creative process.

And lastly, wherever you are and whatever sort of system you’re living under, I wish you all a safe and settled Christmas as the days gradually start to get longer and we head towards the light at the end of this tunnel.

Stay safe and take care.

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The cross stitch motif piece I showed last week has progressed reasonably well. I was initially unsure about the sky, but as I moved round the tree, I was able to get the coverage more even – it’s turned out as more of a long and short stitch than a satin stitch in the end – and now I feel the combination of the motif and the hand embroidery is working.

I wanted the tree to have other greenery around it, so the next part of the ‘evolving in my head as I stitch’ plan was to add a tree on the right. I used free cross stitch, which I love using as it gives a very textured effect, with a split stitch trunk.

Then a bit more sky and french knot bushes on the lower left. I’m not sure whether to put a bit of another tree in the top left corner or leave it as just sky, so it’s stalled a bit while I wait for my subconscious to finish churning the possibilities over.

I’ve finally listed an embroidered upcycled brooch I made last November here in my Etsy shop. Not sure how it slipped through the net, but at least it’s there now. I love the subtle sparkles in the hand painted fabric and metallic thread but they are really difficult to photograph!

I’ve also made some more of the clock hands earrings, with a wintry blue and silver colour scheme. They’re not in my Etsy shop as I took them across to Arttopia in Cleethorpes this morning to restock my display. The aluminium hands are very light and the art glass beads at the top help to give them enough weight to hang nicely. It’s quite a balance to end up with a pair of earrings that are heavy enough to move with you but not so heavy that they pull on the ear lobe.

It seems to be a real struggle to get anything much done these days and Christmas fast approaching is generating its own pile of work! I’m looking forward to the after Christmas period before term starts when I can hopefully get back to the memory journals and other projects.

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As I continued to stitch the Diagonal Raised Band I became less and less sure that it was right for the piece. It’s a lovely and relatively simple stitch to work as it’s based on diagonally placed cross stitches and the lacy background is beautiful, but in spite of all its good points, it still didn’t feel right.

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It was too stiff and just didn’t reflect the soft curves of the raked gravel cradling the Niijima Floats in the Zen Garden. So I finished it off…

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…and started stitching into some silk noil. It’s difficult to see as it’s double running stitch in cream silk thread on cream silk noil but it’s supposed to be a series of parallel channels like the rake lines.

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I planned to experiment with trapunto quilting by stuffing the stitched channels with thick wool. And to my delight, even though the only wool I could find in the right thickness was green, it worked!

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Stuffing the other channels which aren’t open at both ends has been an interesting task but with the help of a stiletto I managed to get this far.

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And with the transferred picture.

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Suddenly it works. The lines of trapunto quilting even almost match up with the lines of gravel (which was a complete accident). I’ve been fighting the pulled thread work all week but when the right technique falls into place it just comes together so easily that I actively want to stitch it instead of it being a chore.

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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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Apologies – March has been mad. Between trying to shake illness and most of my workshops and courses all coming at once, things have been crazy. So, to catch up!

The found objects plastic rings piece I blogged about back in February, came together like a dream. I wanted to use it as a sample piece for a Found Objects Workshop I taught at Hull Embroiderers’ Guild at the end of March. (There is a lovely post about the workshop on their Facebook page.) It was a lot of fun trying out different ways of attaching the rings, including lazy daisy stitch, sheaf stitch and chain stitch.

I finished it as a quiltlet, with a border of strip patchwork, which makes it nice and robust to handle.

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Love the indigo dyed back.

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I also taught a Beaded Oglala Stitch workshop with Brigg Allsorts (a local stitching group) the same week, so after having made a sampler of variants of the stitch…

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…I started another found objects piece I could use with both workshops as it combined Beaded Oglala with found objects. It worked surprisingly well as a method of attaching the vintage key and I’m very pleased with the effect.

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I had a fabulous time teaching the workshop with the ladies in Hull and they produced some lovely work.

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We also had a fantastic workshop ourselves at Scunthorpe Embroiderers’ Guild in February, doing Print to Stitch with Jan Dowson.

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Jan had made us some great kits with paisley shaped printing blocks in them as a main focus…

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…but I had a couple of my own stamps that I wanted to use as well. Medieval tile first.

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Then the paisley. We used acrylic paints and instead of rollering it onto the block, I dabbed random areas of paint to get a mottled effect.

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Jan had also put some pieces of compressed foam into the kits. You can cut them with scissors into any shape and then drop them into water to get a sponge printing block, which is how I got  the over-printed tear drop shapes inside the paisleys.

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Lastly I had a shell stamp from home to play with.

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I love the look of the paint on the stamps…

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…and on the palettes.

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Once we had our printed fabric…

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…time to stitch. The border of the paisleys was a perfect place for Pekinese Stitch. Rayon back stitch for a bit of shine, interlaced with all six strands of a variegated stranded cotton thread.

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I will try harder on here, honestly! It’s all Susan from Stitchery Stories‘ fault – she recommended I got myself onto Instagram and I have been properly sucked in. It is so much quicker when you are busy – or lazy!!

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After Saturday’s talk, a whole Sunday workshop with Alice Fox. We had just been asked to bring our normal sewing kits plus threads, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, making it even more exciting. There was a tempting array of papers, threads and ephemera laid out…

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…along with some examples of Alice’s own work for inspiration. To start, we were each given a selection of different papers…

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…and a prompt sheet asking us to explore how it felt to stitch into them. I used a template from my silversmithing course five years ago to do some feather stitch in various weights of thread..

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I really liked the rough texture I got from putting stitching holes into the heavy tracing paper, so once I’d stitched through it, I used a metalworking scribe to mark wavy lines into the paper without piercing it before punching varying sized holes from either the front (smooth) or the back (rough).

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I really like the differences of line and texture on this. And it reminds me of the sea.

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The next prompt was cutting and patching.

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So a piece of old map cut along the grid lines became the fragment on the right.

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As you can see, by this time I had succumbed and made a little book for my fragments. It started off as an origami book, folded from a single piece of paper with one cut, but I wanted a bit more stability and to have access to all the sides of the pages, so I pamphlet stitched it in two places and tore the double pages into singles. Winging it, but it works.

Next was couching.  I followed the road and river lines on this scrap of map.

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By this time we were all engrossed in our own thing, and although there were two more prompts about deconstructing marked papers and accentuating printed marks, everyone was well away with their cutting, stitching, tearing, patching and experimenting.

At the end of the day we ended up with with a fascinating range of responses.

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Alice uses rusting quite a lot in her work and so when I got home to my rusty washers, I couldn’t resist some mark making on tea soaked paper.

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My little book was over half full by the time the workshop ended.

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With my rust and tea stained papers and these that I didn’t get round to exploring…

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…I have every intention of playing with some more of Alice’s prompts and completing my little book!

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