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Posts Tagged ‘french knots’

Term has started and with it a three day a week supply teaching commitment which has at a stroke annihilated my stitching opportunities this week. I’m now teaching right across the primary age ranges from Early Years to Y6 and having to be involved in some planning and assessment as well, which has to be done at home. It’s a Catch 22. I can’t earn a living from my upcycled jewellery and textile art, so I have to take on supply work to pay the bills, but supply work doesn’t leave me with enough time to develop my creative side as a business so I can’t earn a living from it. Add to that my first cold germ of the new year, I’m feeling very frustrated and sorry for myself.

So, dribs and drabs of stitching is all I have to share this week. Last week I managed to find some more of the thread I needed to finish the leafy greens in my stumpwork garden. The last time I blogged about it back in July, it was looking like this:

Since then I’ve added more French knots to soften the hard edge of the path as well as finishing off the leafy greens and making a start on the weeds.

No movement on the buttonhole rings piece but I have done a tiny bit more on the Brantwood wallpaper motif. I’m glad I’ve continued with silk, but the thread is so fine I’ve been struggling to keep the satin stitch neat. I might try two strands in the needle and see how that goes.

I’m also trying to keep scratching the itch of wanting desperately to create upcycled jewellery. I came across this mid-century mother of pearl-set ‘Hollywood’ brooch in a recent lot of jewellery I was processing.

It was missing a section and it wasn’t that exciting anyway, so I decided to find something much more interesting with which to replace the mother of pearl discs. I cut six petals from a piece of hand made felt and added veins in whipped back stitch.

To hide the back of the stitching and give the petals a bit more body, each one has a back cut from some heathered green commercial felt.

They hide the little coloured diamantes, but I like the effect much better.

I’m connecting the two pieces of felt with a beaded blanket stitch in pale gold seed beads which are almost identical in colour to the metal of the brooch.

I’ve only had time to do one, but it’s come out so well I just want to get stuck into doing the rest!

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Despite the heatwave and the end of term finally arriving, I have had a bit of a creative boost with both my stitching and upcycled jewellery making. I’ve completed my peas with little silk ribbon leaves worked in ribbon stitch – and remembered to show a finger for scale!

We’ve also had the last session for the stumpwork garden project at In The Stitch Zone which was adding strawberries. I started with trios of lazy daisy stitches to represent the leaves, which also come in threes.

Then I added paler runners with tufts of plantlets at the ends, flowers created from loose white French knots with a smaller tighter French knots in a thinner yellow thread in the centre and scarlet strawberries. These are a little too round for my liking so I may be tweaking them in some manner to make them look more strawberry shaped rather than like red flowers. So basically the garden is finished now in terms of elements to be added.

However, I still need to finish the strawberries, carry on adding French knots to soften the edge of the path, add some more leafy greens bottom left and finally, sprinkle some weeds throughout before I can mount it and put it to bed.

I’ve finally got round to using these tiny ribbon roses I stitched on some silk carrier rod at the Collection Artisan Market at the beginning of June…

….to upcycle a pair of vintage marcasite set clip-on earrings. Originally there would have been a large flat faux pearl in the central setting but when they came into my hands one ‘pearl’ was missing and the pearl coating of the remaining one was badly damaged so it seemed sensible to remove them altogether and create something new to complement the original settings.

It was a bit of a challenge to stitch ribbon roses that small, but I think I they sit very nicely in their marcasite frames and they do look very pretty on.

I’ve also been inspired to do something with silk cocoons. This pendant is a compete mash up of a hand made studio pottery porcelain button, two silk cocoons, part of a ‘silk’ flower, an odd earring, a stumpwork leaf I worked for some project back in 2010, and a reclaimed bale and chain.

Then, all enthusiastic about using up more of the silk cocoons and inspired by a jellyfish pendant I’d seen on Pinterest, made from a piece of sea glass and sections of chain, I combined a load of odds and ends of chain with some beaded sections and another silk cocoon to create this pendant:

Then I made a pair of jellyfish earrings using the bead caps I found when I went looking for a silver bead cap to go on the top of the silk cocoon for the pendant.

I do wonder if it’s a touch of displacement activity though, instead of tacking that Ruskin lace!!

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The last time I posted an update on the progress of my stumpwork garden I’d just started feathering the carrot tops and it looked like this:

You can see more cauliflower leaves taking shape behind but I still wasn’t sure about the rather flat looking curds on the one I’d stitched. In the end I did take it out and restitched it with the other two in a thicker thread and varying the number of wraps in the French knots to give it a lumpier texture. I also gave them a bit of a wash with some Inktense blocks to add shading and a creamier colour.

Then a patch of ‘leafy greens’ in woven picots. The main problem I’m having with this version of the garden is that I’ve stitched it a lot bigger than the original, so in a lot of cases the veg has to be scaled up not only by making bigger stitches but also by using heavier weight threads. These picots are stitched using a 4 stranded cotton from 21st Century Yarns which is thicker and more tightly twisted than a standard 6-strand but unfortunately it was an oddment and as I don’t have any more of the same colour, this is a solitary clump!

With lettuces, strawberries, and peas still yet to add, I realised I’m fast running out of room!

Lettuces next, created by nesting bullion knots stitched in all six strands of a variegated DMC thread. I was pleasantly surprised at how neatly they worked up as I find the separate strands of stranded cotton tend to shift when you make the wraps and make the knots look untidy, but these aren’t bad at all! You can also just see in the top left corner the extra patch of leafy greens I put in by the cauliflowers to fill a space.

These are worked in a slightly loose perle-type thread which has given them a rougher more natural texture.

Garden so far. They might have to be very small patches of strawberries and peas!

And a confession. You may have been wondering where my progress report was on the Ruskin Lace I chose as my Move It On Project piece for June. Well…not only have I been busy (as ever), and it’s definitely not a piece to take out and about as it required absolute concentration, but to be perfectly honest, I am still completely paralysed by the thought of moving it on. So, I’ve decided to carry it on as July’s project. Hopefully when term ends I will get some days back where I can sit down, re-read the instructions and get stuck in. That’s the plan…

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Finally I can show a project that has been ongoing since I was asked in February to create an unusual ribbon embroidery workshop for Lincolnshire Textiles (formerly Lincoln branch of the Embroiderers’ Guild). The remit was for something ‘richly textured’ but after some heavy googling and falling down Pinterest rabbit holes, I was fed up of looking at flowers, lovely though some of them were, and completely lacking in inspiration. It wasn’t until I was working on one of my sea themed upcycled pendants a few weeks later that a germ of an underwater idea took root.

I did some doodling with some oddments of silk ribbon just to see what was possible. French knots are definitely textured but quite greedy on ribbon. However, I liked the idea of ruching up ribbon on the surface using French knots – perhaps working them in thread rather than ribbon.

The loose twisted ribbon stitches for the tentacles of the anemone worked well from the start, although I was less pleased with the satin stitch body.

What I had taken away from this doodling was that an underwater themed piece would definitely work. The anemone was a definite, if I could create a smoother body and I wanted to use the ruched ribbon for brain coral. Doodling take two. On the right, a shorter satin stitch body. Still not right as the ribbon gathers as it goes through the fabric, leaving rough top and bottom edges. On the left, an idea for surface couching inspired by something I saw on someone’s Instagram of a section of a Jenny Adin-Christie kit. I’ve no idea how the effect was worked, but it was a wide flat thread of some type folded in a zig zag pattern and after a bit of trial and error, I managed to get the ribbon to behave and couched it down to produce the smooth edges I was looking for as well as giving an interesting textured effect.

Time to finally draw the design and use the anemone body I’d just trialled to make a prototype.

Some feather stitch and threaded chain stitch seaweed gave the design a bit of balance and added more textural interest. This was enough to give me a finalised design which I finished stitching this week.

That’s the easy bit – instructions complete with diagrams next! Good job the workshop isn’t until September…

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At the end of my two days at the Artisan Market at The Collection two weeks ago, my lovely neighbour, Lisa, gave me a couple of pieces of hand made felt she had left over from some wet felted vessels, in case I could do anything with them.

I certainly could! I decided to cut the pink piece into a front and back for a mandala brooch and the larger more orangey piece into an abstract shape for a barrette.

I used a variety of oddments for the mandala brooch, starting with a vintage bead cap and bead in the centre of a brass connector from a broken necklace. I added a second round with some more vintage bead caps, seed beads and some little springs which I salvaged from broken earhooks.

I did wonder whether to add a further round but I wanted to show off the felt rather than obscure it, so I stopped there and joined the front to the back (adding a circle of pelmet vilene inside for strength) with a simple beaded blanket stitch.

I’ve not had chance to do anything further with the barrette but I’m thinking of doing couching with some decorative chains… Another fun collaboration and I have a decent sized scrap left over which I can use for other things and some trimmings which I’ll wet felt into some dreadlocks. Nothing goes to waste.

I stitched the ring of leaves for another cauliflower in the block of three I’m planning for the stumpwork garden and while I was doing that I decided to take the French knots out of the one I’d already done. They were not only too white, but more importantly, too flat and even. I need to find a more suitable weight thread to stitch them back in.

And as you can see from the bottom left hand corner of the photo above, I’ve started fuzzing up my carrot tops.

It takes quite a while to carefully undo the twist of the coton a broder threads, so I’ll be saving that job for the next long committee meeting!

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I have to confess that I’ve not actually done anything with June’s Move It On Project yet. I know that it’s all to do with my reluctance to attempt the drawn threads, but I’ve also had a lot of other projects claiming my time so far this month. Chief among them has been my stumpwork garden. Last seen, I’d got this far:

The next vegetables to be added were the cauliflowers and this is where the larger scale of my second garden proved problematic. The cauliflower leaves are created with cast-on stitch and in the original, the caulis were small enough that the width of the cast-on stitch leaves were in proportion to the French knot centres. However, in spite of working the cast on stitch in the heaviest perle I had, the leaves for these look much less luxuriant and if anything, a bit mean. I’m also not happy with the very white looking thread I used for the French knots, so I’ve not stitched any more of the three I had planned to do while I work out if I can be bothered to take out those knots and re-stitch the centre again!

While I decide whether to unpick or not, I started the rather more straightforward carrots. These consist of a loose double wrapped French knot and then several loops of green thread worked over a cordonnet stick, as shown here when I was working them last year.

The loops are caught at the back with a couple of little stitches every two or three loops and then snipped to form the ferny foliage.

It’s easier to make all the loops first and then snip them but I got impatient and snipped my first row. So now I’m having to try and stitch the second row of loops while trying not to catch the loose ends from the first row…

I’ve also discovered, thanks to my ladies at In The Stitch Zone that if you run the needle through the strands that make up each thread, it fuzzes up beautifully and looks even more like carrot tops. But I am resisting doing that until they are all stitched!

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More teaching this week and we’re now into show week for Scunthorpe Little Theatre Club‘s long awaited production of ‘Gaslight

It was first cast back in January 2020 which seems a very long time ago. I’m doing the props for this one which mostly involves dressing the set to look like a dark, gloomy, overstuffed Victorian parlour and I’m glad to finally get all the bits and pieces I’ve been accumulating for it out of the house.

I also made several local charity shops very happy by taking a large number of huge, old fashioned and frankly unsaleable pictures off their hands!

It’s been quite a challenge to find Victorian looking bits and pieces. My choice of d├ęcor is almost exclusively mid-century, so I’ve been very limited in what I’ve been able to source from home and our show budget only runs to charity shops, not antiques centres.

I’ve done my best but I’m hoping that the ten yard rule most definitely applies.

While I was waiting for the set to go up I managed to get a little further on with May’s Move It On Project, the Casalguidi work. From here:

to here:

Thankfully I’ve nearly finished the overcast trailing now and I can get onto the flowers.

I also got stuck into all those French knots and have finished the In The Stitch Zone Stumpwork Garden Workshop garden path, all apart from some little white or lilac French knots to suggest flower heads on the low growing plants and some taller weeds around the edges.

Note the lone raised stem band courgette on the left. It needs some friends, leaves and stems by Monday!

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Too many days supply teaching this week and coming back shattered in the evenings has meant minimal stitching but I have made a little bit of progress with the Casalguidi work. I’ve planned out where the meandering stem is going to fill the rest of the square, pinned it in place instead of just making my mind up as I go along and done a bit more of the trailing overcast stitch.

Last week this was my starting position:

This week I’ve got as far as here.

However, I have had a real stroke of luck with the instructions for the needlelace flowers. After a fair amount of fruitless Googling I decided to use an image search instead in the hope that a picture of what I wanted to stitch might link to something helpful. And it did! I’d only gone through about half a dozen images before I landed on a blog. The writer hadn’t given any instructions on how to construct the flower in her photos but she had posted a photograph of the cover of the book from which she had taken the instructions. Hang on a minute… I recognise that book! A minute or so later I was pulling my copy of ‘Embroidery Techniques Using Space-Dyed Threads’ by Via Laurie, published by Search Press, off the bookshelf. I couldn’t believe I actually owned the book she had recommended!! So once the trailing is done, I can get straight onto the flower.

We started the first session of the Stumpwork Garden at the Stitch Zone last week with the garden path and I decided to make this one rather larger than the tiny original, with satin stitch slabs set in French knot gravel with patches of moss.

I’m happy with the texture and colour of the variegated 21st Century Yarns stranded cotton but am now regretting my choice to surround my slabs with gravel!

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Our first workshop of the Summer Session at In The Stitch Zone is looking at Composite Stitches and after some research, I chose four as a starting point. It’s also been sunny and warm enough to work in the garden and I was delighted to be back in my outdoor office to start stitching my samples.

First was what I’m calling Blossom Stitch, which is a pretty combination of feather stitch and detached chain stitch.

I used perle and stranded cotton for the feather stitch and all six strands of stranded cotton for the detached chain stitch flowers. I separated all the strands out and then recombined them to give a fluffy, blowsy effect to the flowers.

Next was Blanket Stitched Chain stitch, the first of two chain stitch variations I found on Mary Corbet’s Needle ‘n Thread blog. It’s simply two close rows of chain stitch which then have blanket stitch worked into them but it creates an interesting heavy line stitch, especially when the blanket stitch is worked in the same thread as the chains, as in the middle example.

The second Mary Corbet stitch was Scalloped Buttonholed Chain Stitch. This time the blanket or buttonhole stitches are worked into the outside loop of each chain, rather than across them, which makes for a pretty edging, especially when you buttonhole both sides of the chain.

I tried out some different weights of thread both for the foundation and chain and the buttonholing. Perle on the left and stranded cotton on the right but I think I prefer the finer mercerised cotton in the middle.

The last sample is what I’m calling Peacock Feather Stitch which I think I found on Pinterest. It’s constructed from two nested detached chain stitches with a French knot inside the inner one and straight stitches around the edges.

As they are all tiny samples I’ve mounted them onto a larger piece of card so they can be handled more easily.

April’s Move It On Project is coming along nicely. I bit the bullet and got stuck into the needle turn applique this week. Most of it went pretty well but I just couldn’t get the the final section (top right) to lay as flat as the rest. I’m hoping that once I start to stitch into it, it won’t be noticeable.

Just the spirals to stitch into the stone now, and with the end of the month hurtling closer, I need to think about what to pick for May’s Move It On Project.

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With this month’s Move It On project safely put to bed, I’ve been able to think about other things, including a piece inspired partly by a recent trip to Withernsea beach which always turns up some interesting beachcombed treasures, and partly by some recent images that caught my attention on Pinterest of densely encrusted stitching around seashells.

I rediscovered a fabulous piece of silk matka which looks like a hessian sack but feels like velvet, some scraps of organza to add subtle shading to the background and some assorted shells and literally started to doodle in stitch.

I had an odd pony bead and I knew I wanted to cover it in stem stitch band like one I did for the North Cornwall Wallhanging. I used a much thicker thread for this one but it still has the sea urchin sort of look that I was looking for. The raised cup stitch that was so successful as poppies on the Harvest Wreath was a complete disaster here, so I filled them with seed beads and started to surround them with French knots to try and blend them in.

Next I added feather, threaded chain and Palestrina stitches over the strips of organza to hold them down and continued to build up the French knots and add some little mottled sandy coloured beads.

I love the depth and texture of the stitching.

More French knots interspersed with bullions and pearl beads. I liked the shaded effect on the needleweaving on the left from the variegated silk threads I was using so I added some more of those.

Finally finished. Well, in the end I had to tell myself to put down the needle and walk away. With this sort of free form stitching it’s so tempting to just add another dozen French knots or another seaweedy frond. The hardest thing is knowing when to stop!

I finished the Mothers’ Day card in good time too and am told it went down very well with the recipient. Despite my best efforts the the tea bags did shred a bit and the whole thing had to be restabilised by stuffing scraps of Bondaweb under the flapping areas and ironing carefully. You can see some spidery areas of glue but it’s less obvious in real life and was much better than having bits dropping off!

Next job is to decide on April’s Move It On Project and I’m torn between revisiting an existing project or starting a kit that’s been hanging around for a while and of course, also needs moving on.

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