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Posts Tagged ‘found objects’

I’ve made a couple of pieces of upcycled jewellery recently that both have felt as a basis. The first is using the second of the two offcuts of hand made felt I was given by my lovely neighbour Lisa at the Artisan Market at The Collection back in June. I’ve already made the top one into a round found object mandala brooch which sold at Arttopia back in the summer.

I decided to make a barrette with the bottom one and cut it into a random curvy shape.

Next, auditioning found objects to decorate it…

…before I settled on a border of chunky vintage chain with a pressed brass motif, a larger clockwork cog and some unusual spiral wire wrapped chain links. I stitched everything down using simple straight stitches in a variegated mercerised cotton which echoes the pinks and purples in the felt.

I attached a barrette fixing to a piece of commercial felt for the backing and stitched the two layers together with a simple beaded blanket stitch and iridescent pinky-red/gold seed beads.

The second piece is a brooch and started off as a wet felted flower hair ornament which belonged to my little one when she was a lot younger. It doesn’t quite fit with the moody goth look she’s sporting at the moment and the felt itself was quite delicate so it had been pulled out of shape and was wearing very thin in places. I ironed it flat and having just processed some odd beads and a ring that all had a bit of a cogs and gears thing going on, had a bit of a play.

Next I stitched the pieces down with variegated turquoise and rust coloured thread.

And then cut the felt into the shape I wanted for the brooch, echoing the shape formed by the ‘cogs’.

Last step was to attach the felt and brooch back with beaded blanket stitch using some of my favourite iridescent turquoise seed beads. Not only is it a sturdy stitched edging but when you’re joining two pieces of fabric the beads sit nicely in the join and hide the edges.

Lastly, a thread chicken update on the Brantwood wallpaper motif. I made it: that is all I have left of the red!

I knew I had a little bit of wiggle room as I could have unpicked the red bar at the bottom of the leaves that’s supposed to be black, but I’m relieved it didn’t come to that. Next stage is the black (in fact a very dark grey called Night Smoke) stars.

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As I mentioned a few weeks ago, at In The Stitch Zone we’ve been working on what I’ve called the SpringBoard Project. My idea is that we all stitch something which incorporates the prompt for the week. It can be as complex or simple, obvious or tenuous as you like and therefore, hopefully accessible by anyone at any level of ability as I’m keen to encourage new people to join. I have shared some glimpses of my responses to the prompts but as I’ve completed two of them this weekend, I thought it was time for a dedicated catch up.

Week 1: Wrap

My initial idea for this was to wrap some lengths of plastic drinking straw with some scraps of fabric and then add beads and then just see where things led me. A couple of weeks ago this was as far as I’d got.

Sue, one of the ladies in the class, gave me some threads she didn’t want which were the perfect colour and that gave me the idea of wrapping the whole bundle in and out of the straws and couching them down. It would also help keep the straw sections in place.

Once I’d got this far I realised I needed a bit more space so I moved it onto a piece of furnishing fabric and a bigger hoop before I spread out and couched down the ends of the thread bundle, adding some one-wrap French knots for texture and then wrapped more beads over the ends of the loops.

I had one straw section left, so I cut it into three, wrapped each one in the rust and turquoise thread I’d been using for the couching and stitched them down with long straight stitches.

Finally I tore a strip of cloth I rusted in the summer and wrapped it with a length of perle cotton I’d used to tie the bundle up and couched it round the outside of the silk square I’d used for the background. First one finished!

Week 2: Fold

My response for this prompt was the American smocking panel I shared a couple of weeks ago. It had a lovely reception on Instagram with several people thinking it was a pastry lattice pie crust on first glance!

Week 3: Knot

My initial thought for this one was that it was an opportunity to finally get to grips with colonial knots, which I’ve been promising myself for a while but I was also quite taken with an image I found on Pinterest of layers of knotted fabric so I knotted some strips, found a random scrap of background fabric and layered them up with lines of Palestrina stitch.

I’m less happy with this sample – mainly because it’s the closest to my comfort zone. I’ve not used a new technique or given a twist to something I already knew how to do – the seaweedy curving lines are very ‘me’. However, it meets the prompt and I don’t have to love all my samples. I’ve also decided that when I find a suitable piece of fabric to mount it on I’ll have a go at a row of colonial knots or mixed colonial and French perhaps round the edge to attach it.

Week 4: Twist

This was last week’s prompt and as I spent the session struggling with what I though was a chest infection I only got this far with the base grid for Twisted Lattice Stitch from Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches. I’ve stitched it in mercerised cotton on linen so I could use the weave to keep things even but I suspect it’s a bit on the small side. (No surprise there…)¬†¬†Mary Thomas shows it worked as a diamond so even though it looks rectangular it does have the right number of thread on each side – eventually…

The chest infection? After miraculously avoiding it for nearly three years (not bad given I’m a supply teacher, my husband works in two schools and my little one has been in school and college) I tested positive for Covid the next day. Week 5 of the Springboard project (‘Cut’) is postponed until a week on Monday!

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I’ve had a few meetings over the last week which have borne fruit as far as the Victorian wallpaper motif is concerned. When I blogged about it a couple of weeks ago, I was a little worried about the coverage of the single strand red silk thread and wondering if two strands would work better.

As I’d worked a symmetrical section, I decided to change to two strands for the next one down and see how things went. And they went perfectly. The strands worked well together and I think the coverage is much smoother and neater. However, there is a definite difference in height between the two sections, so I’m wondering whether to restitch the three sections I’ve already done.

Especially as I checked back with the original photo – spot the not deliberate mistake!

I am definitely going to have to restitch the middle section, although I might just see if I can use the existing red stitches as padding, satin stitch over it in black and make it a slightly more raised block. Loving the way the silk shimmers in the sunlight.

At In The Stitch Zone, the class I teach on a Monday afternoon, we have just started the SpringBoard Project. The idea is that we all stitch something which incorporates the prompt for the week. It can be as complex or simple, obvious or tenuous as you like and therefore, hopefully accessible by anyone at any level of ability. We’re a week out of sync due to the Bank Holiday for the Queen’s funeral, so started last week with the first prompt, which was ‘Wrap’.

Even up to the start of the session I had no clear idea of what I was going to do. I had threads, fabric, beads and some other bits and pieces which included a section of plastic drinking straw. So I picked out some fabric in my favourite shades and started to play; literally doodling with the materials in front of me. And I ended up with this:

The bright turquoise is frayed habotai silk and I have caught it down with beads over sections of the straw.

I only had a small piece of the straw so I’m trying to use every scrap!

Loving this doodle and definitely going to carry on with it.

Lastly, as we’re at the end of yet another month (how did that happen?!) the round up for September’s Move It On Project. Not finished, but definitely moved on. I’ve learned some things, made choices and again, ended up with something that is worth continuing and finishing when the time is right.

I’ve bit the bullet with October’s Project because it’s actually something that has not yet been started. It’s not just my project, it’s a three way collaboration that started in lockdown and I’m painfully aware that I’m holding the job up, so I’m using this as a way of holding myself accountable. There will be pictures and a fuller confession to follow.

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I’m trying to get stuck into processing some of the broken jewellery job lots which seem to have built up over the last few years. Partly so I can use the box I’ve been storing them in for my workshop folders but mostly so I can see what I actually have and start creating.

Processing is basically cleaning and sorting. As most jewellery is worn next to the skin, it can be…well, greasy. Sorry if you happen to be eating at this point. So a good scrub in warm soapy water with a firm bristled toothbrush is a must. I also put some of the all metal pieces into my barreller, again with warm soapy water and let it work its magic.

Then I sort out what I have. Some pieces are wearable, so I decide if they are worth listing on eBay or Etsy, taking to a car boot sale or popping into the charity bag. This leaves me with the proper broken bits. Occasionally it literally is rubbish, so if I can’t recycle it (usually only a tiny amount) then it goes in the bin. Some pieces need further breaking down, like stripping the beads off necklace fragments or separating useful components from an earring drop and then I’m left with the keepers which I sort into various boxes, depending on what they are, to use later, when inspiration strikes!

Often, inspiration strikes as I’m cleaning and this is what happened with the tiger cowrie shell butterfly barrette which some of you might have seen on Instagram recently. The lot I was sorting contained some ovals and circles cut from tiger cowrie shells. Two of the ovals had just one hole drilled in them so I made them into a pair of drop earrings, but the ovals with four holes looked like they would be a bit more of a challenge to turn into earrings. But added to two of the smaller circles…

The large black and cream bead was also in the same lot and was exactly the right proportion to become the body. A selection of orange beads from the orange bead department (which is why I sort my jewellery bits carefully) and some gold tone wire added the finishing touches and I stitched it down onto two layers of good quality green heathered felt.

Next, the cowrie shell pieces, which I stitched down in a geometric pattern with my favourite metallic Madeira thread.

Cutting the felt away around the edge once I’d done the stitching was a bit nerve-wracking, especially around the tail, where I needed something to be present underneath the beaded body, but not enough to be obvious.

The cowrie pieces had been cut from the top of the dome of the shell, so even though there were two layers of felt behind, there was still a bit of a void under the top wings. I filled this with some padding made from felt scraps before covering it with a butterfly-shaped piece of pelmet vilene for extra firmness and another piece of the green felt.

I connected my felt and vilene sandwich with beaded blanket stitch with dark copper colour seed beads to match the markings on the shell pieces and orange mercerised cotton to echo the touches of orange on the body. The beads also help to keep the blanket stitch even!

A first – a video on my blog! I hope this shows how lovely and sturdy it turned out with all the layers of felt and the beads have given the edging a nice solid feel too.

At this point I was still unsure whether to finish it as a brooch or a hair barrette and my poll on Instagram turned out exactly 50:50, which was no help. So I decided to go with what I think will be more saleable – a barrette – and stitched a new barrette clip onto the back.

You will notice, if you look at the ‘tail’ section that I’ve not beaded it. When I was joining everything I felt that the beads would be too big for the tight corners and I was struggling with very narrow pieces of felt which I didn’t want to shred, so I left it as plain blanket stitch. But the more I looked at it, the more I hated it. it was untidy, uneven and spoiled a result which I’m extremely proud of. So at the weekend I carefully undid the blanket stitch, fastened off the ends of the thread so I didn’t lose the rest of the beads and beaded the tail. It was a lot easier – mostly I think because the rest of the stitching was already done so the felt and vilene pieces were firmly held in place.

It’s the little details. And I’m finally happy for it to flutter off into my Etsy shop here

…along with my harlequin clasp.

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On Saturday I taught my first workshop to our new Independent Stitch Group: Scunthorpe Embroidery and Textile Association or SEATA, formerly known as the Scunthorpe Branch of the Embroiderers’ Guild. I had decided to teach my Scrappy Nine Patch Rings workshop (in the Workshops tab under Found Objects) based on this piece I stitched back in early 2019. The idea is to use up those tiny precious scraps which you can’t bear to throw away by layering them in strips and as frames/backgrounds to help showcase the different ways to attach the plastic/brass rings.

As well as the nine patch, which I finished as a mini quilt, I also spent most of last week making some individual samples to demonstrate some more ways of attaching the rings to the backgrounds. A scrap of dyed aida was the inspiration for this one and I created a blackwork style pattern for it which served to stitch down the ring in a rather attractive pattern that I hadn’t anticipated.

I was determined to use a grass printed offcut from the Dames’ cow dress for the next one and I had just the vintage trim to go with it. This ribbon trim dates from the 1970s when my mother allowed me half a yard of ribbon or lace if I was good on the occasional shopping trip instead of sweets. My childhood self would much rather have had sweets, but my adult self has made good use of the trims! It was pretty rather than practical, as when you cut it, the flowers all unravel, which is why so much of it still survives.

I added lazy daisy stitches and French knots in green to the trim to help attach it as well as lazy daisy daisies and kantha around the machine embroidered butterfly and hand dyed purple flannel. It’s backed on a piece of stormy lilac colour catcher

This one was purely about the combination of fabrics and I also wanted to try out the possibility of using bullion knots to hold down the ring. The answer to that is yes, the bullions work, but there is some trial and error involved in getting them the right length, so some of mine (bottom right) are a bit slack. And also because I used such a fine cotton, you have to look very closely to see that they actually are bullions and not just a thick corded thread, which rather defeats the aim of using them!

I played about with back stitch and herringbone to enhance the machine embroidered silk scrap and added metallic feather stitch to the crinkled hand dyed organza scrap.

The final sample was started so I had something to work on in the session, although I didn’t actually get to set needle to fabric until well into the afternoon. The printed central piece is another offcut of the medieval tiles print to stitch piece form February 2019 – I really am getting the most out of every scrap of that fabric – and I outlined it in back stitch before blanket stitching the ring on top. Seeding next.

Lastly, the final update on February’s Move It On Project, my Chihuly chandelier. Unfortunately because of the workshop preparation I wasn’t able to add any more stitching to it this week, but again, the aim of the project has succeeded. I wanted to see if I could make the design work and end up anything like the real thing and the answer to that is yes, using back stitched spiders webs and crocheted circles. I’ve not finished it, but I know what I need to do to complete it in the future. Now to decide what I’m going to choose for March’s entry into the Move It On Project.

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With stock drops and Christmas markets upcoming, the stitching has been pretty limited at the moment, but I did finish my example for the workshop I taught on Woven Feathered Chain Stitch at The Stitch Zone last week. I’ve used this stitch before to create plants in pots made from bits of beach pottery…

…and I thought it would be a nice little single session project. Variegated thread works really well to give the variations in the leaves and different weights of thread alter the look of the leaves as well.

After having used silk ribbon French knots and tiny woven spiders’ web stitches for the flowers in the two examples above, I decided to go for simple straight stitches into a central hole to create the flowers on this one – thumb for scale!

I’ve also been trying to tidy up and complete projects, including the beaded jelly fish I started back in August. The last time I posted on its very slow progress in October, it looked like this:

However, a bit of a push has added a couple more rows to the inside of the bell…

…before starting on the fun bit of the tentacles. The source inspiration picture had loads of layers of tentacles which appeared to be loose, but I decided to couch mine down.

Each one is caught down with a tiny stitch in between the seed and bugle beads using the Nymo I’ve been using to thread the lengths of beads. It’s a very pale blue, so is pretty much invisible.

I feel like I’ve made quite a lot of progress towards a finish for this piece in a relatively short space of time. I’m going to add some partial rows on either side of the tentacles to fill in the gaps, although I’m now not sure whether I should have filled the bell in first before I started on the tentacles. At the moment you can see the base fabric through the top layer of clear beads, but on the other hand, it would have made it tricky and possibly quite bulky to start the tentacles over the top of a layer of beads. And I suppose they could have looked like they were sitting on the top instead of coming out from inside the bell as they do here, so I think I’ve answered my own question.

Sequins would have worked though… The new question is, do I really want to unpick all those tentacles to add something behind?!

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Just finished the weekend’s Artisan Christmas Market at the Collection in Lincoln and I’m delighted to say that it was very successful, not just in terms of selling, but more importantly affirming that people are interested in both what I make and my ethos and there is definitely a market out there for unique upcycled jewellery. I had become quite demoralised with the lack of sales online and in the two galleries that stock my work and this has been a real boost.

I sold so many pairs of earrings on the Saturday that I came home and made some more to take on the Sunday, including some studs based on some vintage self-cover buttons that I unearthed in time honoured fashion while looking for something else! I had flattened out some quite flimsy bead caps and thought that two layered over each other looked like a snowflake, so while I stood behind the stall on the Saturday I stitched them onto some scraps of ultramarine blue silk dupion.

When I got home I finished off the button parts, removed the loops and added sterling silver posts and butterflies.

As I have dozens of these bead caps and another four buttons, I decided to make another pair, this time layering green chiffon from a scrap of an old sari over a piece of red silk satin.

However, the third pair is still in the planning stage and it will be different. After having made two very similar pairs, boredom set in – I really do have the attention span of a goldfish!

I decided not to add the diamantes to the mandala pendant. I laced it over a circle of felt and a circle of pelmet vilene and made a plain version of the back. At the moment I’m wondering whether to give it a beaded edge (beaded blanket stitch or a fringed edge) or leave it plain.

However, I think the prevaricating about how to finish the edging is a bit of displacement activity to mask the real issue. As you can see against my hand, it’s quite a statement piece (translation: probably a bit too big) and I’m having serious doubt about whether anyone would actually want to wear it as a pendant. I was planning to make some bag charms/key rings and I was wondering whether it would be more commercial if I did something similar with this. At the moment I could see it with a chunky tassel hanging from a bureau key or a cupboard door knob more than I could a pendant. Any thoughts?

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The thing I most enjoy about being on Instagram is connecting with other artists. I’ve ended up on the periphery of the print community via a customer who bought an upcycled pendant a couple of years ago, and was recently contacted by one of the lino print artists I follow asking if I would be up for an Art Swap. Definitely!

As this guy is a printer, I decided to go for the print theme in my swap items. First was this screen print on calico using a paper mask which I did at a workshop way back in November 2013 with Dionne Swift.

Then back even further to February 2012 to some experiments I did with ironing Angelina fibres onto rubber stamps. This was one of my favourites and the last one I have left of the batch. It sort of fits with the printing theme.

I chose some purple cotton and gold silk for the background and started by edging the motif in a goldwork thread. I’m not sure of the name of this type of thread, which is gold wound round a soft core. I think it’s either Jap or passing, but would welcome a positive identification!

Then I used a running stitch round the edges of the purple block to connect the layers of fabric.

Lastly, as it’s a big part of my practise, I stitched some found objects to the centre.

The third piece was a bookmark made from offcuts from a piece I printed using the same quatrefoil stamp as in the Angelina experiment at a Print to Stitch workshop with Jan Dowson in February 2019.

I cut the six whole quatrefoils off for my Medieval tiles piece. and made the offcuts into a couple of book marks. One I gave as a gift last Christmas and the second just needed a Bondaweb backing and a blanket stitch edging to be completed.

I used an eyelet setter and a perfectly matching eyelet for the tassel.

Which was made from a slightly darker green stranded cotton than the blanket stitch.

They arrived safely last week, to the absolute delight of the recipient. It’s always lovely having glowing feedback from another artist, but somehow when that artist is someone who doesn’t work in the medium of needle and thread, there seems to be much more of a wow factor. Perhaps those of us who stitch have become accustomed to the wonderful textures and effects we can get from textiles and are less blown away by them. It was good for my ego, anyway!

Very much looking forward to the prints I’m getting in return which should hopefully arrive this week.

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As a child I loved the ‘My Naughty Little Sister’ stories by Dorothy Edwards. I could identify with the world the sisters grew up in and especially their neighbour, Mrs ‘Cocoa’ Jones, as our next door neighbour, Mrs Lown, had a very similar grandmotherly sort of place in our lives. My favourite story was when ‘My Naughty Little Sister’ had measles. She was a grumpy convalescent and so Mrs ‘Cocoa’ brought her a treasure box full of smaller boxes containing trinkets and surprises to interest and cheer her up. I was completely enchanted by the idea of a ‘get better box’ full of little treasures to explore and longed for one of my own.

Fast forward to 2021. This is my treasure box. It’s a Chinese export lacquer sewing box dating from the 1920s. Family history says that one of my great great aunts lived in Wembley in the 1920s and put up some Chinese gentlemen who were exhibiting at the 1924 Wembley Exhibition. When they returned to China they gave a number of lacquer boxes, some jewellery and other odds and ends to their host. Most of them were passed down to my grandmother and when we cleared her house in the early 80s, I claimed this big, slightly battered, sewing box.

Since then it’s housed treasures of all kinds that I’ve accumulated. Some are family pieces, some came from boot sales or ebay job lots. There is ephemera of all kinds; jewellery oddments, coins, vintage wrapping paper, cereal toys and found objects.

Pretty much everything has a tale to tell.

So I spent several very enjoyable hours this afternoon going through it all, looking for some bits and pieces I could add to a stitched piece based on the idea of a printer’s tray of treasures.

I used Hungarian Braided Chain Stitch on 28 count Cashel linen to make up a grid of solid lines to look like the edges of a printer’s tray. This is such a lovely looking stitch and gave me the thickness I wanted for the lines straight away.

Then the treasures. This reproduction coin was the reward for getting out of what would now be called an ‘escape room’ in one of the top times during a family holiday in Cornwall in 2008. We were so competitive and determined to nail that gold reward!!

This covered button was part of a Victorian dress – red with a flocked black floral pattern – I wore at the age of 4 for the 1970s Dickens Centenary Festival in my home village of Blundeston, Suffolk (fictional birthplace of Dickens’ David Copperfield). Sadly, the dress is long gone but I still somehow have two of the buttons.

Next, a piece of white ‘coral’ (really the outer skeleton of a rare seaweed) I beachcombed as a child from the ‘Coral Beach’ at Claigan on the Isle of Skye in the 1970s.

I’ve mentioned before that as a child I was allowed to have half a yard of haberdashery but not sweets as a treat, and this is a very pretty but not terribly useful scrap of trim from my little yellow plastic workbox.

There had to be something beachcombed in the ‘tray’ and I picked up this piece of Victorian transferware on the edge of the River Conwy while visiting with my girls a few years ago when my middle one was still at university in Bangor.

Lastly, fabric. My mum made my 1986 May Ball dress from this black polyester damask. It had an unusual draped back and I vividly remember hunting all over Lincoln for a pair of black stilettos to go with it. This was the mid 80s and you could get turquoise, cerise or mustard (and classic 80s white of course!) but simple black was more of a challenge. By the end of the ball my new shoes hurt so much I walked most of the way home in my stockinged feet.

My stitched ‘printer’s tray’ of treasures.

It took longer to assemble them than it did to do the stitching!

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With the reopening of non-essential shops this week, the Persian Chandelier and most other ongoing projects have been put aside and my stitching and making has been focussed on building up my jewellery stock.

First, a new sea glass necklace.

I started with a vintage rolled gold pendant which had lost its stone and found a sea glass piece that fitted it perfectly in my dwindling collection of Seaham multis – this one clear with a smudge of pink. Then I added a delicate rolled gold necklace and found some perfectly frosted pink and white glass beads to replace the existing beads which luckily match the sea glass piece perfectly.

It’s available here in my Etsy shop.

I’ve also been altering another fabric brooch from a job lot of junk jewellery. This one was simply a piece of woollen checked fabric needle felted onto a square of black wool with a random button and a brooch back sewn on. I removed the button and while going through my found object stash for the Mandala Brooches, I found what I think might have been part of a fishing fly and a hemispherical panel from a bracelet which both appealed.

I used my go-to variegated metallic Madeira thread to stitch both elements down and add stitches into the fabric around the main part of the fishing fly. It isn’t supposed to be anything in particular but I think it looks a little like a comet!

Sashiko stitching on tiny scraps of indigo dyed cotton with silk thread mounted in a vintage brooch setting have become another boro-style brooch.

I’m really pleased with the sashiko pattern on this one, especially as I did it by eye, and it really pulls the separate scraps of fabric into a whole.

It’s available in my Etsy shop here.

Lastly, some experimenting with knotted stitches in this sort of crewel work style sample. Portuguese Knotted Stem Stitch and French Knots on the left, German Knotted Buttonhole in the middle and middle right and Palestrina Stitch and Pistil Stitch top right. Chain Stitch and Four-Legged Knot bottom right and the stem is Coral Stitch and Satin Stitch.

Hopefully I can get back on track this week and I have high hopes of being able to stitch outside if the weather stays good!

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