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Posts Tagged ‘french knots’

I’ve been continuing the autumn colours with some ribbon embroidery sunflowers. I love the textured deep brown centres you get from clusters of French knots. All was going pretty well until I realised I only had enough golden yellow ribbon to stitch one sunflower – possibly two if I really used every centimetre. You can see on the bottom one that I ended up using ribbon where the edges were really a bit too worn just to complete the flower.

This was then followed by the very unfamiliar feeling of going online to buy some more ribbon. I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t able to find what I wanted (or something close enough) in my somewhat extensive stash but yellow silk ribbon is something that for some reason I simply don’t have. (Any other colour, yes, but strangely not yellow.)

Unable to complete the last flower until I had the ribbon, I made a start on the next part of the design, a meandering line of Hungarian Braided Chain stitch. It’s a fabulous stitch but this is the first time I’ve worked it in anything stranded – in this case four slender strands of a very slippery pure silk so in places it was somewhat less than perfect!

The ribbon arrived a couple of days later so I was able to add the last sunflower. It’s less golden yellow than the others but I like the variation in colours and the ribbon stitch works well for the petals. No two stitches are the same, which is perfect for the slightly shaggy effect I wanted.

Satin stitch leaves over split stitch outlines.

I’m very pleased with the result, and am hoping to incorporate it into some upcycled jewellery, although the next time I do a meandering line it would probably be best to draw it out carefully first, instead of doing it by eye…

I’ve also managed to get a bit further with my beaded jellyfish. Last seen, it looked like this:

I’ve finished setting the spangles on the front and worked the first round of the opening.

It’s hidden the wobbly couched edge rather nicely which was an unexpected bonus and reminded me how much I’ve enjoyed stitching it so far, so perhaps I can make the time to push on with it now.

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As is always the way, the final leg of the stumpwork garden only took about half an hour. First I finished the last of the kale/chard slubby silk picots. I was a little uncertain about them to start off, but they’ve worked up into a very healthy looking clump.

Then the courgette leaves. I’d already decided I was going to cut them out of some painted fabric. However, when looking for a source picture, I found countless photos of courgette leaves online, all different, which didn’t help and was probably why I left this job until last.

The first tentative one looked OK in terms of size and shape so I cut out another couple and laid them over the courgettes. They weren’t quite right. They looked flat and completely obscured the courgettes, which is what the leaves do in real life, but I didn’t want to lose the stitching underneath. I was resigning myself to stitching in minute veins to make them look less 2D when Debbie, one of the friends I was stitching with, suggested I put a tiny pleat in the base.

It was like magic. Suddenly the fold suggested veins and depth.

As there was to be no stitching of veins, the last stage passed in a flash. I pleated each leaf and used the thread to attach each one to the courgette plant. Pleating the leaves also meant they would no longer lay flat and solved the second issue about covering and losing the courgettes.

The leaves stand up beautifully (the fabric is backed with a light weight interlining to help stop it fraying which helps) and are only connected at the base of the leaf so as you move the stitching you can still see the courgettes, even though the leaves cover them. A genius solution!

My completed vegetable garden. It’s been a delight to stitch and had a lot of interest (for me!) on Instagram where it’s currently my most interacted with post, so other people seem to love it as much as I do.

I also ought to post a shot to give you an idea of scale.

And against my hand – please excuse the state of my fingers – it’s that time of year when I seem to be constantly peeling and prepping fruit and veg from the real garden.

I’m definitely going to offer this as a workshop. I’ll suggest some different vegetables and lay outs so not everyone has to stitch an identical copy and it’s a good introduction to some raised embroidery techniques. Anyone interested, shout up. Contact details are on my workshops page (tab at the top).

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And not a lot else! A few more have appeared as kale-like leaves in the stumpwork vegetable garden. I was initially unsure about them, especially as unlike the other vegetables I had no idea what they were! However, as I’ve added more, they seem to fit in better. I think I need a few more near the path and perhaps another couple at the other end.

The other picots have been used to finish off the upcycled poinsettia pendant I was working on back in July. I finished adding the picots for the second layer of bracts…

…and added a cluster of French knots to the centre. Next I needed to cut the pelmet vilene behind the poinsettia to fit the missing section of the pendant.

I ended up cutting a plain one as well, as the section was deeper than the thickness of the vilene. It was doubly useful as I was able to use the plain one as a template for cutting behind the poinsettia before I set it in the pendant.

There was a nasty moment when I thought I’d nicked one of the poinsettia picots.

But it was a false alarm and it works exactly as I’d envisaged it in my head, spilling over the edge of the pendant.

Finished off with a black thong with sterling silver mounts.

I only sold five pieces of jewellery at Normanby Country Fayre on Monday and once again came home wondering if there is any point in carrying on. But then I have an idea for upcycling a piece of jewellery that is too pretty to go into landfill and I have such a great time creating it, like this one, that perhaps I’m not ready to give up just yet.

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Some stitched vegetable gardens came up on my Pinterest feed a little while ago and as I love stumpwork ideas, I saved them; whereupon more appeared of course… So naturally the only thing to do to get them out of my system was to stitch my own garden. It’s tiny – the piece of silk dupion it’s stitched on is 6cm by 10cm, or about 2.5″ by 4″.

Garden path first. I used satin stitch in varying scraps of greyish brown thread for the uneven slabs.

Then a darker variegated brown to edge the slabs before I started my strawberry patch. This has whipped back stitch stems, trios of lazy daisy leaves, scarlet French knot strawberries and loose white French knots for the strawberry flowers. Working French knots deliberately loose so you can put something in the centre is a little more tricky than it looks. There is a fine line between getting a firm knot with a space in the middle and a scribbly pile of threads!

Next, the peas. Feather stitch pea sticks for them to scramble over and then whipped backstitch stems. The pea pods are two parallel satin stitches and once they were completed (all 32 of them) I used a very fine pale green silk thread to give them tiny calyxes.

Then I half hid them with silk ribbon lazy daisy stitch leaves.

Onto the rows of veg next. The peas had taken a long time building up the various layers, so I went for a quicker result and three dark green silk ribbon ‘roses’ (woven spider’s web stitch) became a row of blowsy cabbages.

These were quickly joined by a little row or emerging seedlings in fine silk lazy daisy stitch – probably radishes – and then I started a group of cauliflowers with clustered French knot florets and overlapping cast on stitch leaves.

It was fiddly to work the cast on stitch leaves in such a small space and at such a small size, but leaves come in various shapes and sizes anyway.

The loose French knot practise on the strawberry flowers came in handy for the carrots.

My idea was to stitch loops which I could then cut to form feathery foliage, through the centre of the carrot tops. The smallest section of my cordonnet stick was the perfect size to stitch the loops over.

Loopy carrot tops.

Each set of threads has been fastened off separately underneath so they shouldn’t come out once I cut them. Very pleased with the result!

Lettuces and courgettes are next. It may only be a tiny piece of stitching but it’s taken a lot longer than I expected. Working small doesn’t always mean finishing things off more quickly…

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Back to the workbench for a day last week and several successes. I found this lovely starburst engraved vintage watch case in a pile of assorted oddments and decided that was a perfect starting point.

Just right for a subtly variegated peach and cream ribbon rose.

Then it was time to audition some gold tone pendants for the bottom of the case. This dyed howlite teardrop from an odd earring tones in really well with the colour of the rose.

And finally I finished it off with a vintage reclaimed gold tone chain.

Next I came across a couple of heart shaped wooden blanks and a large enamelled metal daisy from a 1980s earring. I’d always intended to set the daisy on the heart, but felt it needed a pop of colour. The remains of an embossed silk carrier rod were perfect not only to become leaves but an odd thin wispy piece was flexible enough to cover the centre of the flower.

The silk carrier rod is nice and stiff so the leaves have enough body to stand out on their own.

I wasn’t sure whether to finish it as a brooch or a pendant but I had just the right vintage beaded chain to go with it and decided that pendants are probably a bit more commercial than brooches. I considered adding a brooch back so it could be both, like some vintage pendants, but the heart is flat at the back and commercial brooch backs would stand too proud to be comfortable to wear.

I was really on a roll at this point, so I moved onto a teardrop shaped pendant which was missing an internal drop. Perfect place for a piece of hand made felt with threads embedded into the top layer, I thought, and decided I’d probably add beaded blanket stitch to edge with some tiny seed beads to pick up the blues and give it a bit of weight to hang properly.

But then I found a lovely brass teardrop pendant which worked well hanging from the top loop too! I polished it and reset the stones and considered putting the two tear drops together and not using the felt at all, but then it was just a pretty pendant that could have come from any High Street shop, rather than one which had the textiles component I try to make a feature of my upcycling. So I tried it with the felt and now I really can’t decide whether I prefer it with or without the pendant.

Is it too busy with the pendant or too plain without? Any thoughts gratefully received!

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I’ve been stitching various experimental pieces recently and enjoying different ways of working. I’d seen someone on Instagram who had been embroidering fantasy aerial landscapes and I really liked the idea so I printed out a satellite image of part of a walk I enjoy along the River Ancholme between the villages of South Ferriby and Horkstow and decided I’d stitch the section from Horkstow Bridge along the lane to the road.

I drew it free hand onto some calico and then started to fill in the fields with satin stitch and the hedgerows in french knots. I used a slightly slubby silk on the longer field and an odd almost cord-like thread on the smaller one.

I then moved onto stranded silk which gave smoother looking fields. I like the contrast of the slightly textured silk but not so sure about the corded thread…

I also realised that I needed to vary the shades of green in the hedgerows and copses.

The lane from the bridge to the road was added in split stitch. Really not liking the corded thread at all now, but as the French knot hedgerows went right through the edges of the stitches I wasn’t going to be able to easily undo it at this point, so I’m living with it!

Lastly I added the River Ancholme and the drain that runs parallel with it in split stitch. Horkstow Bridge, which is a very early Victorian suspension bridge, is two French knots and a couple of satin stitches (bottom left corner) and I included part of the fields across the river. Off the hoop the tension isn’t great, but it was a lot of fun to do.

Back in 2010 I stitched a piece for our Embroiderers’ Guild Summer Challenge, for which we were given some blue thread, aida and the prompt ‘Blue Pot’. My response was to create some cross stitched ‘shards’ of Victorian blue and white china lying in the ‘soil’

I don’t have it any more because it’s on the cover of the 2010 scrapbook but I do miss it.

So I decided to stitch a mini version featuring the most iconic part of the willow pattern design – the birds.

Once I’d stitched it, I laced it over a couple of pieces of pelmet vilene for rigidity and started to couch various fancy threads around it for the soil.

I also added some patches of split stitch to vary the textures as I’d done with cross stitch on the original.

I wouldn’t normally stitch the same idea twice, but it’s good to have my own miniature version.

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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 took a bit of a break from the ongoing long projects this week and have enjoyed learning and working a couple of new stitches. The first was a little canvaswork piece with a hearts theme. I do enjoy the odd spot of canvaswork and I immediately thought of Rhodes Stitch, worked as hearts. A quick Google showed me that you can work the hearts in a variety of sizes, although as they get bigger they do get bulkier. I found some yellow canvas and matched it with some daffodil yellow stranded silk and some variegated stranded silk in purples and golds that reminds me of pansies. The small yellow hearts were pretty straightforward, although having to fasten off after each heart because any carrying threads were visible was mildly irritating.

Then I added pansy coloured larger hearts to the middle. The bottom one was the fourth attempt.

  • Attempt  1 – too far up.
  • Attempt  2 – I miscounted the placement of the first stitch but didn’t realise until I tried to put the penultimate stitch in and there wasn’t enough room!
  • Attempt  3 – Stitched it perfectly – on the wrong side…
  • Attempt  4 – Count twice, stitch once. Check carefully which side is the right side. Finally, success!

The top heart went quicker but I was more careful with my counting this time. Then I tried out a new Rhodes Stitch version I’d come across while looking at the various sizes for the hearts – a Rhodes Stitch Butterfly. It’s a straightforward and very effective shape to stitch, but once again, careful counting is your friend. I decided to do two stitches for the body and I think that makes him nicely chunky.

The second new stitch was one I’ve had in mind to try for a while. I’d been asked to make a Mothers’ Day card for a friend and I was inspired by some cards online using sea glass fragments as pots with drawn plants. What if I used a piece of sea washed pottery as a pot and the woven feathered chain stitch I’d been wanting to try out to make a trailing plant? Feathered chain stitch first.

Then you fill in the loops with needleweaving, rather like making a picot but with only two threads. I definitely improved as I stitched these two stems – no guesses for noticing which leaf was my first one!

Moving onto the middle stems. The needlewoven leaves remind me of quaking grass.

After the final two stems, some French knots flower buds in silk ribbon and the pottery shard to check the scale. You can get a better idea of the size against my hand.

Lastly I filed a little off the bottom left hand corner to correct the shape and added a shadow in split stitch just to ground the pot.

Very pleased with the result. I used coton a broder and it has given the leaves a lovely sheen. I think a fine perle would work well too and a subtly variegated thread might look even better. I’m so pleased with it I’m just about to start something similar for my mum.

Stay tuned!

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This is pretty much how I feel about most of my current projects. I’ve added one line of highlights to Baby Leaf-Tailed Dragon and bottled out of the circles above it because they are tricky to stitch accurately and I’ve realised that although the gills of the mushroom are now going in the right direction, the reason it still looks odd is that the stem should go up to meet the edge of the cap. This will mean either stitching more stem over the gills or, more likely, unpicking the gills completely and redoing the whole lot. I do love both projects but at the moment we’re not speaking.

The medieval tiles are moving slowly. Outlining the motifs in back stitch feels like it’s taking forever simply because they have so much outline, and I had a moment of real love-hate when I realised I wasn’t going to have enough thread for them all. Luckily I had managed to outline three and after a major trawl through my threads (not a quick job…) I was back to the problem I had the last time I played embroidery chicken with this piece – do I go for a similar type of thread or a similar colour? This time I’ve gone for similar type in a rich subtly variegated dark brown. I was a little unsure about how well it would work, but after having stitched my first motif in the darker thread, I’m happy with it alongside the lighter outlines.

At the moment the best thing I can say about it is that I’m over half way through the outlining.

I have managed to stitch one thing this week that I love, which is a scrap of crazy patchwork representing my comfort zone. I’ve been working through some bags of scraps with the idea of using them up and had my eye on the bag of purples. But one by one the scraps weren’t quite right. Too pink; too patterned; not the right weight. The only one I wanted to use was a piece of colour catcher (top right) which was a sullen grey -purple. Then a piece of patterned blue and black silk caught my eye and I was off on a completely different track into the bag of blacks and greys.

Comfort zone means feather stitch, some kantha and french knots and somehow it became a response to the current snowy weather courtesy of the Beast From The East 2.

Good to have made something I love – now back to wrangling the other projects.

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The embroidered upcycled lockets I make from time to time are quite popular and I was pleased to source another one recently. On a grey and miserable day last week I thought it would be cheering to stitch a blossom tree to go into the oval space on the front. It worked up really well and I was pleased with the way the grass at the bottom balanced it out.

Time to cut it out, following the faint pencil line you can see in the photo above. It was a little too big initially, so I picked up the scissors to trim it by eye. All was going well when my concentration wandered and I cut too far in between the bottom branches and the grass. Disaster. The vilene was so thick that all my attempts to remount it looked awful.

I didn’t want to throw away the little tree I had spent so long stitching, so I went looking for something else to mount it in and finally found a gorgeous silver mourning locket which just needed a couple of diamantes replacing. If I trimmed the grass off, it would fit into the frame. At this point I was happy to sacrifice the grass if it meant I could keep the tree! I reset the missing diamantes, removed the grass and backed what was left onto a circle of vilene which would be seen through the rear of the locket.

Here I had a bit of a crisis of confidence. The antique mourning locket is a lovely thing in its own right and once I had repaired it, in wearable condition. Usually I add embroidery to a piece of broken or damaged jewellery that wouldn’t normally be fit to wear as it is. I wasn’t sure whether putting the tree into it was the right thing to do. So I asked Instagram whether to add embroidery or not and the answer was an overwhelming yes!

I love the little glass door in the back of the locket – you can see why I needed a neat piece of vilene behind the embroidery. You can find it here in my Etsy shop.

I’ve finished all the edging of the Medieval tiles piece and am much happier with the visual weight of the lines. I was wondering about a third line of split stitch but I think this is enough.

Next job is outlining the motifs in back stitch, which I might whip to give a smoother but more raised outline. This is to give me a bit of mental breathing room while I consider what to put in the spaces around the motifs. I want something, to give the piece a density and weightiness in the hand but I’m not sure I want to use simple seeding this time. I’m toying with the idea of seeding with a distinct stitch, like tete de boeuf, detached chain stitch or fly stitch or possibly adding a kantha style background in a similar coloured thread to the base fabric but with stitched spirals centred around the middle of the motif.

Decisions, decisions!

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