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Posts Tagged ‘Kew Gardens’

The project I’ve chosen to focus on for this month’s Move It On is a relatively new one and the reason that my Kew Memory Journal has stalled. I’ve already done four of the six pieces for it and last spring I started the fifth, based on a photo I took of one of Dale Chihuly’s Persian Chandeliers which was installed in the Temperate House at Kew Gardens in 2019.

I drew out the pattern of the glazing bars on a piece of indigo dyed cotton and as of last April, using thin white ribbon for the thicker bars and whipped back stitch for the thinner ones, had got as far as this:

The fun bit was next – creating the frilly circles of the chandelier – but at this point I froze up because I didn’t think I could stitch anything that comes close to representing Chihuly’s amazing art. I had various ideas about making wired edged needle lace slips, crochet circles using my tiny Victorian metal crochet hook and woven spiders web stitches. I reminded myself that I was only aiming for my impression of the chandelier but I was really reluctant to start and instead, put it to one side.

So this is where the Move It On project will hopefully help. By the end of the month I should know whether I can make this work or whether I abandon it and create a different fifth piece for the Memory Journal. The hard bit is going to be actually making that start!

As I’ve had the Inktense blocks out, colouring some pelmet vilene for the Ribbon Rose Brooch kits, I thought it was the ideal opportunity to stitch an embroidered centre for a silver Victorian brooch I’ve had for some time. I think these type of brooches were originally designed to be set with coins, but the empty frame makes an ideal surround for a piece of miniature textile art!

I went with my favourite colour palette and one of my favourite themes as there are so many stitches which suggest waving seaweed such as the feather stitch and threaded chain stitch…

…and a line of Palestrina stitch to fill in the gap on the right.

I’m very happy with the stitching but I feel it’s a bit flat, so I’m toying with ideas for a bit of extra dimensionality. I think it might be a bit too small to add even very tiny pieces of sea glass so I was thinking beads or possibly picots at the bottom. Or possibly a little silver fish… Any thoughts?

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I was very tempted to get straight into the fun bits of needle lace and crochet, but realistically it was more important to work out the background first to make sure all the little twiddly bits were to scale. I chose this photo:

because the lines of the Temperate House glazing form an interesting but not overpowering background. I turned it into greyscale as I did with the bollock purse from the Tattershall Journal so I could focus on the lines and patterns and then transferred the design onto a piece of indigo dyed cotton.

My white pen is obviously running out but as it’s one that develops over time, I can’t tell that at the point I’m tracing the design! At least there was enough of the design marked up for me to start stitching. I decided to use very fine ribbon for the thicker bars to contrast with whatever line stitch I choose for the thinner bars and have blanket stitched the first one down with fine sewing cotton.

Unfortunately further stitching was curtailed by two and a half days supply teaching followed by my first Covid jab and 24 hours lost to feeling rough from the after effects. Looking at it again, I like the width and solidity of the ribbon but I’m not sure about using blanket stitch to attach it. It looks a bit too raised and I’m wondering if I might try stitching the next one down with tiny stab stitches to keep the ribbon smoother.

I did manage to do a bit of playing with a sample of Hungarian Braided Chain Stitch at the weekend. I’d seen someone using it on Instagram and was rather taken with the result. Mary Corbet came up trumps as usual with an excellent tutorial which you can find here and this is the result of my experiments.

I’m really pleased with the weighty, corded effect it gives and the colour changes in the variegated perle thread.

I love stitches that looks as impressive as this one but are in fact very straightforward to work. Another new one for the repertoire!

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I thought I’d started the Baby Leaf-Tailed Dragon in 2018, which would have been bad enough, but the blog post from September 2018 when I moved him from a hoop to a frame and really got going, says I started him in 2015 – July 2015 to be precise. I did quite a lot of work on him in 2019 and even got as far as starting to couch the outline but then, like so many things last year, he lapsed and it wasn’t until last week that I picked him up and finally finished the couched outline. The next stage was to add the split stitch highlights. I’m always worried I’ll put them in the wrong places and it will look odd, so I usually prevaricate at this point, but I decided to just get on with it.

The result was a lot less difficult than I thought (it usually is…) and so his lower tail is nearly done!

I’ve also decided to get on with the last two pieces for my Kew Memory Journal. I want to base one on the beautiful Chihuly Persian Chandelier that was hung in the Temperate House.

I thought the wavy edged circles could work either in needlelace or crochet and while I decided which one would be most effective, I started a small sampler of needlelace stitches.

Corded Brussels Stitch is my go to needle lace stitch and after having worked the Single Brussels – twice – I know why. The Corded Brussels is always worked in the same direction. When you get to the end of the row you run the thread across the front, back to the start and then work over it, incorporating it into the stitch. It makes the lace firmer and because there is something to work over, more even, and the stitches all run in the same direction.

The Single Brussels is worked from left to right and then when you reach the end of the row, back from right to left. I’m not very right handed and can work most stitches both right and left handed but I could not for the life of me get the rows even. On the left to right rows I could make the buttonhole stitch loops stay open but right to left they just wanted to flatten down to the stitch underneath. The second version is better than the first, but not by much.

However, as a sampler and a learning exercise, it’s been very useful.

The last old favourite is the final two kilt pin brooch kits.

Forest green, golden yellow, and brown.

and

Orange, bronze, brown, purple and gold.

Listed today in my Etsy shop with free UK P&P.

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The snowflakes brooch take two is completed and has worked much better this time around. The blue silk makes the snowflakes really stand out and the actual snowflakes are definitely better executed. I finished it by gathering it round an oval of buckram to stiffen it…

…and then made another plain piece to cover the gathers on the back. I ladder stitched them together and then stuck the resulting ‘sandwich’ into the brooch setting.

I also got round to making the practice piece for the Chihuly Reeds to trial the alcohol inks. I was concerned that they might either run off the metallic fabric and bleed into the back ground or the applique stitches would wick the ink down into the fabric, but in fact, neither happened. There is some bleeding, but that was where I touched the tip of the brush onto the fabric – not easy to avoid, given the size of the piece.

Onto the main piece, feeling much more confident. I did catch the background fabric in a couple of very minor places but I think the variegation of the back ground fabric helps to hide it.

Then I added the dried grass around the bases. I’m really happy with the way the combination of the metallic fabric and the translucent inks has captured the shimmering glass. Success number two!

And success number three is that the lovely The Old Stables Studio in Horncastle is going to stock my upcycled jewellery! I had a scenic run out there last week and met Kate, the owner, who is passionate about upcycled and handmade and happy to stock a selection of my jewellery. So that’s where Snowflakes Take Two will be going, as will this underwater themed locket which I finished this morning.

Fingers crossed – that’s all I can do at the moment.

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I’ve finally finished the English Paper Pieced patchwork page for my Kew Memory Journal with an embroidered branch across the top in split stitch and detached chain stitch.

Apart from the front cover it’s the first page I’ve fully finished. I really need to get down to stitching the snaps onto the Niijima floats piece – stalling again with only a tiny bit to finish! And the Reeds are closer to being finished that they were. There are only two more to stitch down but it is laborious putting the tiny stitches into the silver applique and not very interesting compared with all the other exciting things I want to play with – like snowflakes.

The plan was for the snowflakes to feature on the central insert for a broken vintage silver tone brooch. Indigo dyed fabric all hooped up and ready to go.

Improvising snowflakes in silk thread. So far so good. I liked the large and medium snowflakes and then I planned to seed the background with French knots for small distant snowflakes.

Ah…

Far too busy now and the detail of the bigger snowflakes is hidden. I added some blending filament to give them a bit of sparkle in the hope that it would help, but no. Definitely a back to the drawing board moment!

I’ve also upcycled a vintage watch face casing which was missing its face and mechanism. I found a sterling silver flower which had been a broken stud earring and fitted perfectly into the case.

Then I used an odd silver earring hook a fabricate a hanging loop and a loop to attach the baroque pearl dangle before adding a sterling silver chain.

I love silver and gold (gold tone in this case, I suspect) together and was so pleased with the way this worked out. If you like it, please check it out here in my Etsy shop.

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Firstly, the Niijima Floats piece is finished – all apart from stitching on the press studs. I had initially thought about continuing the lines of the trapunto onto the binding to try and disguise what to me had become glaring errors, but Debbie pointed out that by doing that I would lose the lovely contrast between the smooth binding and the furrows of the trapunto.

Then I found the sycamore leaf template I used for ‘It Rained’ in the Tattershall Journal and had a bit of a brainwave. I cut two leaves out of a very fine felt I made for a project that ended up not happening, stitched on veins and popped them strategically onto the binding.

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Not only do they hide the mistakes, they balance the colour pop in the top corner and remind me of the beautiful Japanese maples around the garden. It’s been a long slog, but I think this piece has finally got there!

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This gave me renewed enthusiasm to tackle the reeds again. It’s going very slowly as I put the tiniest of stitches in to attach the silver fabric, but at least it’s going and I’m starting to enjoy the process.

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And lastly, I trekked out to Cleethorpes in torrential rain on Friday to get the first batch of my upcycled jewellery into Arttopia – an amazing shop full of all sorts of art and craft by local artists.

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What with the pandemic and all sort of other issues, it’s taken a long time to get here, but I’m delighted to finally be part of this group of talented people.

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Great position right next to the till – I just hope the customers like my work enough to buy it!

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Another way of working round Embroiderers’ Block I suppose, is to do something that you fancy doing, so I’ve started a third design for the Kew Memory Journal, based on English Paper Pieced patchwork.

First of all I cut a rectangle of paper slightly smaller than the page of the book and divided it into a few smaller rectangles. One needed to be big enough to be the background for a vintage 1990 Kew Gardens stamp, and I fitted the rest around it.

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I usually cut the pieces out one by one so I don’t forget what order they go in and put them back into the design when they’re covered. Taking process photos also helps in case of disaster!

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Then the pieces need stitching together. I use ladder stitch because I like my stitching to be as invisible as possible.

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Once the pieces were all stitched together I gave them a quick iron to press the edges under so they would stay when I took the papers out, and then ladder stitched round the outside edge to attach it to a piece of pale green felt.

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This stabilises the edges, gives the whole thing a bit of body as I’ve used a variety of weights of fabric including some very fine silk and means I have a firmer background to attach it to the page.

I trimmed it next and carefully back stitched the stamp in place. The pink and blue tones in the stamp don’t quite work with the greens, but I had to remind myself that this is a memory journal and the Pagoda is part of it.

The memory it holds is of having lunch in a shady grove of trees near the Pagoda and then, as it was one of those two insanely hot days last July, we sat on a seat under the bottom tier and decided it was much too warm to go up all those steps!

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I like embroider on these types of patchwork pieces as I did with my 2012 Cornwall Holiday Journal (August 2012 in the ‘Recent Posts’ part of the sidebar if you’re interested) so I’m probably going to add a branch to the top right hand corner.

I’ve also made the middle of a flower on the buttonhole rings piece. The big ring is attached with french knots, the inner one with invisible stitches to pull it down inside and the centre is filled with a few french knots.

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Now I need to decide not only on the colour of the rings that will become the petals, but also whether to keep them as circles or stretch them into petal shapes.

 

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In spite of having more than enough projects to be getting on with, I’ve done virtually no stitching this week. To be fair, there were three days when I was either out or doing household project jobs but I’ve struggled to stitch and it was starting to get to me. The first binding for the trapunto piece for the Kew Memory Journal I did several weeks ago was too narrow and so I had to unpick it. The second was far too thick, so that got unpicked too.

The third one was a piece of fabric patterned with Japanese parasols and I got all the way to pinning the back before I realised it wasn’t right. It’s badly uneven, the pattern was too big and so ended up lost and the colour took the eye away from the trapunto.

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I couldn’t face unpicking a third binding, so I just left it.

I did have a desultory attempt at another of the pieces I wanted to create, based on one of the Chihuly Reeds installations.

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The idea was metallic fabric over some sort of padding – originally felt but I couldn’t cut it thin enough. Then I would use alcohol inks to add the vibrant oranges and golds and the metallic would give it shine. I cut out some of the metallic pieces – most only a few millimetres wide.

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I even got as far as stitching one in place. Instead of felt behind I worked a line of chain stitch in perle along the middle of where I wanted the piece to go and then stab stitched the metallic fabric over it with fine silk thread and a beading needle.

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It’s not bad, but I don’t feel excited about it, not like I did with the trapunto.

Then it suddenly occurred to me this morning that I have Embroiderer’s Block.  Like Writer’s Block but with more needles. As I’m also a writer (check out my book details on the About page) I realised that Writer’s Block mirrors the issue I’m having with my stitching perfectly.  So now I know what it is, I can address it.

There is no magic fix to Writer’s Block. Professional writers don’t have the luxury of waiting for their muse to strike or for their ‘mojo’ to return. Basically you unblock by writing. It doesn’t matter whether it’s utter rubbish, or something better than that. You sit down and put words on paper, one after the other and, at least for me, it always works. So this afternoon I sat down with the trapunto piece, unpicked the binding and bound it a fourth time in a piece of the same silk noil as I used for the top layer.

It’s not good. The edge is uneven, the mitre in one corner somehow isn’t one (and I’m not quite sure how that happened) and the join is lumpy and obvious but it’s at least the right fabric for the job.

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But instead of keeping it on one side and waiting for the planets to align, I got back down to it. I put stitches into the fabric one after another like words onto a page and I have at least something to show for that. I’ve had some ideas about mitigating the state of the binding so I intend to work on it a bit more tomorrow and possibly the day after. Working through my Embroiderer’s Block one stitch at a time.

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

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

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

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

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

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And with the transferred picture.

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

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I bit the bullet! I finally plucked up the courage to steam and cut the canvas round my Sue Hawkins needlebook and once that was done, the rest just fell into place. The waste canvas folded back a lot flatter than I thought it would and blanket stitching the felt down was a breeze.

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The rest of the felt gave me four internal pages and a finish.

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It feels very odd to have a roomy book to leaf through looking for needles instead of a scrap of felt half the size of a credit card!

Another finish was this broken vintage brooch…

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…to which I added some 3D beading on a piece of dyed pelmet vilene.

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The beading was set into the long channel down the spine of the brooch and I set cats eye beads instead of diamantes into the cup shaped settings.

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A jump ring and a gold plated chain completed the transformation into what my middle one calls the ‘fancy pea pod’ pendant!

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It’s available here in my Etsy shop.

The other finish is another upcycled pendant created from a section of broken vintage bracelet and a single vintage earring.

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This one is available here in my Etsy shop.

The fresh start is the third of my memory journals. Now Tattershall has been put to bed I can concentrate on the Kew journal, remembering one of the hottest days of the year last July when I visited the Chihuly glass exhibition with my son. I’ve completed the cover, another stitched on paper piece which I blogged about back in last August but now I can focus on the Kew pieces rather than being distracted by having all three on the go as I did last summer. So here it is ready to be filled.

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The first piece is based on an image of the Niijima Floats in the Japanese Garden. Hopefully I will have something to show by next week!

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