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Posts Tagged ‘found objects’

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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I had a bit of an urge to make some upcycled jewellery pieces this week and was wondering what to do with these lovely but very simple brooches I found in a job lot of junk jewellery.

I have given brooches like these intricate beaded edgings in the past, but I wanted to do something different this time and I was inspired by Susan Lenz’s wonderful huge stitched mandalas to do something on a much more typically Alex scale! I had a very interesting scavenge through my many boxes of bits and pieces from beads and buttons to odd pieces of broken jewellery and found objects like the resistors on the left of the photo below. .

And after lots of arranging and changing and hunting in yet more boxes, I’ve come up with a couple of Mandala Brooches. Blue Mandala features resistors from old fashioned electronics, a pierced domed coin from an odd earring, and beads and jump rings from broken necklaces, stitched down with indigo dyed thread.

Green mandala features a metal heart which I wrapped with rayon thread a while ago as an experiment, copper coloured pressed metal shapes, large jump rings, seed beads and some stripy plastic beads from a broken necklace, stitched down with silk thread.

It was a fun project but not a quick one – choosing and finding all the different elements took easily as long as the actual stitching!

I also think I’ve finally finished the Bayeux Stitch mushroom. The last time I blogged about it was back in early February when I was pleased that I’d finally worked out what was wrong with the gills. But it wasn’t just the gills that were wrong and following a comment from Amanda, it was suddenly obvious and staring me in the face! The gills were wrong because the stalk needed to be inside the rolled back cap, going up to the centre! (This is what happens when you try and draw from memory and don’t use the real thing for reference…)

So a major unpicking happened and after some careful bodging so I didn’t have to undo the whole stalk, this is the final thing:

I hope. Unless it needs any more of the dreaded highlights…

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The record of my 2019 Mothers’ Day visit to the North Sea Observatory and walk along the coastal path to Anderby Creek was finally finished on a very different Mothers’ Day just a year later. After learning tonight that the UK has joined much of Europe in lockdown, I hope I’ll never take being able to walk freely when and where I want for granted again.

Anyway, to the stitching. The cover title is in split stitch (my favourite for lettering) on indigo dyed sheeting over a piece of lovely pebble fabric from the Knitting and Stitching Show last November. It has been stitched through the pelmet vilene of the accordion with the speckly (a variegated metallic thread) stitches along the lines between the pebbles – sort of invisibly!

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Our walk started at the North Sea Observatory, just north of Skegness. It’s an amazing and I think very beautiful building, angular and austere with wonderful views over the beach towards the sea. Perfect to be stripped right back to the simple shades and tones of black work.

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From the Observatory we started to walk along the beach. I used tiny scraps of fabric to represent dunes, sea and sky in a patchwork landscape that is only about three inches high. This was the last idea I had for the book and it’s my favourite.

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Of course, when on a beach, beachcombing is obligatory! One of the things that blew me away about this beach was the huge amount of shells. I’ve never seen a North Sea beach with so many different types. I chose this oyster shell  because it had holes in it already, making it perfect for attaching with stitch. In this case I used long buttonhole bars which I worked back into for the little cast on stitch curls.

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When I saw a scrap bag at the Knitting and Stitching Show last year with this pebble fabric in it I knew it was perfect for the memory journal. The beach is more sandy than shingly, but it fits in with the story of our walk so well. I gave it a felt backing to give the pebbles a quilted look when I back stitched around them in my favourite variegated metallic Madeira thread. The idea was to look like the twinkles of light you get through pebbles when there is water underneath.

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Part two later in the week!

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Cleaning a load of broken vintage jewellery the other day I immediately spotted two obvious opportunities for upcycling in the form of the two brooches in the middle, both missing the central focal stone.

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And both crying out for ribbon roses! First the gold and pink diamante brooch.

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This has a silk ribbon rose stitched onto coloured pelmet vilene with nested detached chain stitch leaves and a shiny rayon french knot nestled in its heart. Available in my Etsy shop here.

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If the round brooch was small, the bar brooch is even smaller, with the central bezel tray I was looking to fill measuring just over 1cm wide!

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Time to scale down to 2mm wide silk ribbon and single strands of silk thread to create a tiny spray. I love the way this turned out – even though I know it’s stitched, at first glance it looks like micromosaic!

Also available in my Etsy shop here.

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I was playing with some scraps of upcycled felt a while ago that I’d made in the washing machine from some 100% wool garments that were past wearing. I added some broken jewellery pieces and a kilt pin that had been part of a job lot of broken/unwanted jewellery and came up with this little pendant brooch.

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From this brooch came the idea for a workshop and some more samples. Firstly, an octagonal piece of broken earring, a scrap of felt and sheaf stitch, detached chain stitch and french knots in a funky variegated thread became this brooch. Finished off with beaded blanket stitch around the edges and blanket stitch to attach it to the pin.

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I realised that some little metal tags from my found objects box looked like the bodies of fish and so I started another sample, stitching them down with long and short stitch to create flamboyant tails.

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Palestrina and feather stitch creates fronds of seaweed and also helps hold the ‘bodies’ of the fish in place, and french knots form the sea bed.

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I like all my samples, but those fishes have a special place in my heart – they came out exactly as I’d imagined them!

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One of the stitches that my Stitch Zone embroidery group wanted to explore was Palestrina Stitch; also known as Double Knot Stitch. Palestrina is a line stitch with regularly spaced knots, often looking like a line of beads. It’s reasonably challenging to work initially, but once you get the hang the overs and unders, it has a pleasing rhythm to it. Mary Thomas shows it worked left to right, but I find it much easier to work vertically downwards where gravity helps with the loops you need to work into.

I started off with by stitching a sampler, experimenting with a variety of different threads, different spacing between the knots and varying the length of the stitch through the fabric, which gives ‘legs’ either side of the knot.

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I like the chunky knots you get with the heavier perle threads but also was very pleased with the effect of finer threads, such as the very fine perle second from the left in the photo above.

Learning a stitch that gives you a knotted line is all very well, but I wanted to use it in ways that exploited the texture and shape of the stitch. My first experiment was using it to echo the texture of bark and I used a variegated perle-like silk thread to embroider a winter tree.

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The stitch worked really well for the bark and I’m curious as to what it would look like if I filled in the spaces between the lines of Palestrina with satin or split stitch in the same thread. Something else to experiment with in the future perhaps.

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I also wanted to try beading the stitch and that led me to working a more typical sea themed piece.

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I used two pieces of perle to make a really heavy line of knots and then a single piece of the same thread with random seed beads. The bead goes on first and then the knot is formed as normal into the stitch after it. I think you lose the knots to some extent, but it’s an interesting variant.  The feather stitch is to vary the textures and lighten the design.

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I also used it to stitch down a holed scallop shell and found it surprisingly easy to work. The stitch through the fabric serves to hold the shell down and then the knot is worked into the thread where it comes out of the hole, exactly as you would on a flat piece of fabric.

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It was great to do some experimenting to find just a couple of ways of developing this stitch and I’ll definitely keep it in my repertoire.

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This month’s Scunthorpe Embroiderers’ Guild meeting was a talk given by the very talented Jessica Grady, whose vibrant work includes embellishments made from all sorts of upcycled materials.

In the summer, to link with this talk, our chair gave us all an identical pack of bits and pieces to create something. I did blog about the start of my piece back in September when I hadn’t read the instructions and thought it had to be done for October’s meeting!

My starting point was the pale green tubing and a huge metal ring, to which I added a copper coloured earring middle and a holed limpet shell.

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There were more jump rings in the pack which I stitched down with random straight stitches to echo the big one…

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…and I also found a broken agate slice pendant which was a good colour match for the copper earring.

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Next I added turquoise coloured beads from the pack.

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Using the same metallic gold thread for all the stitching helped to bring it together. A few more smaller jump rings from my tool box and some gifted flat beads completed it and I even manged to get it mounted three days before the meeting!

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Needless to say, all the entries were amazing and incredibly different, give that we all had the same starting point.

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The other finish for the meeting were the embroidered Folk Art doves that will decorate our Christmas tree at the local Festival of Trees. They were a lovely fun, relatively quick stitch. Mine looks like this:

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And these are some of his friends:

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Even though a few more arrived later, there isn’t enough here to fill a six foot tree, so the chair has been frantically stitching over the last couple of months to add extra additions to the flock!

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In the end, Baby Leaf-tailed Dragon wasn’t finished for show week and in total, I only managed to put half a dozen stitches in him on stage the entire week, most of which had to be unpicked and restitched later! But ‘The Fifth Elephant’ went well and we had lots of positive comments from Pratchett fans, some of whom had travelled some distance to come and see the show.  No rest for the am dram wicked though – last performance of ‘The Fifth Elephant’ on Saturday and tonight (Monday) is the first casting reading for panto!

I did manage to get some stitching done in the interval though, so all the Bayeux Stitch is completed and I’ve started the couched outline. It neatens the edge up a treat.

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Since the Baby Leaf-tailed Dragon and his frame were props for a scene in Act 1, I had to find something else to sew before curtain up and I decided to experiment with a banner style brooch using an odd kilt pin. I had a few small pieces left of a wool jumper I felted a while ago and turned variously into a cushion cover, a pair of mittens and some earring cases.

I added some commercial grey marl felt and an odd earring drop…

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…blanket stitch, french knots…

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…sequins, a bead, split stitch and detached chain stitch…

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…before finishing with a kantha stitched back ground in shimmery blending filament, a beaded blanket stitch edging which joined it to the grey felt back and blanket stitching it to the kilt pin in stranded silk thread.

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A fun little project and I particularly like the subtle sparkle you get from the blending filament.

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The applique for Lady Margolotta’s bat themed blouse is finished!

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The biggest ones took 20-30 minutes each to stitch on and the smallest ones 10 to 15, so all twenty together have been quite a long job. Stitching with black thread on black felt has also limited when and where I can stitch, but in spite of that, it’s done with time to spare, thank goodness.

Baby leaf tailed dragon now has leaves sprouting from his lower tail.

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He would have had another leaf completed but after a busy evening rehearsing and stitching, I went to put the couching stitches in and realised that I had put a whole leaf’s worth of laid stitches in vertically, instead of horizontally… He learned some new rude words that night.

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Before the summer break, our ever-inventive Chair gave everyone who wanted to take part a pack of odd and interesting found objects to create a piece of found object embroidery. She included an instruction/guideline sheet as well, which I did refer to, noting that the finished piece should be no more than 7 inches by 5. However, I didn’t note that it was to be due in for November’s meeting. I assumed it was for the AGM last Saturday. Result – frantic stitching last week until a friend who had read the instructions properly, pointed out that I was two months too early. Moral of the story; don’t skim read and make the gaps up as you go along, Alex!

There was a load of thin plastic tubing in the pack and that suggested spirals to  me straight away.

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It’s couched down with gold thread for some sparkle and then I played with widening some of the lines with more of the tubing to give the spirals a bit more weight.

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Next to be added from the pack was a very large metal ring which I also couched down with gold thread in a starburst pattern. The broken earring front fitted perfectly in the middle of it and I love copper and green together.

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Then I added a holed limpet shell from my own collection  to echo the shape of the loop of tubing.

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At least I’ve made a start and hopefully won’t be rushing to complete it for November’s meeting!

 

 

 

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