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Just got back from a slightly different but very much needed and enjoyable week in North Cornwall. If you follow me on Instagram you will have seen photos of our walks and beach excursions in my stories and I even managed to get some stitching done as well.

First, a piece of blackwork from a gorgeous design I found on Pinterest several years ago. I’m afraid I don’t know the designer, so if anyone does please can they let me know so I can credit them. This is stitched in a single strand of Gloriana silk thread on 28 count natural Cashel linen and yes, it is tiny! Most of the motifs are about 1cm square.

Stitching al fresco in Boscastle while my husband and little one went snorkelling in the harbour.

And again at Tintagel while we waited for our slot to cross the new bridge onto the headland.

Finally finished. I still love the design and I’m glad I stitched it, but I’m ready to move onto something else!

I’ve decided to stitch a Memory Journal style diary for this holiday. I’m going for images and memories from the whole week, rather than one piece to represent each day as I’ve done in the past. We went to Crackington Haven on the Sunday evening to watch the sunset.

And to have a little beachcomb – although as the tide was well in, it was only a little one. I love the slate pebbles of this beach with their scribbly quartz inclusions.

So the first piece I created was using the pebble fabric from the Anderby Creek Memory Journal and some flat slate pebbles from Crackington Haven beach over which I stitched my own quartz inclusions.

I’ve also been very taken with the way the prevailing winds sculpt the trees on the north coast. (Taken through the windscreen of the car, so not the best photo, but I love the shape of that tree.)

Start of my sculpted tree piece. I’m planning to couch the strands of cotton down to make the outline of the branches and then clothe it in leaves – possibly a few less than on the original so you can still see the framework of branches.

We visited a few beaches during the week but the beach finds were generally a bit sparse. However, I’m planning to use some of these bits I picked up at Tintagel for various stitching and jewellery projects.

Plenty of inspiration and hopefully now I’ve had a week’s recharge, I have the energy to get stuck into them.

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As I suspected, finding the right white for the vertical glazing bars of the Temperate House was a pain. I ended up with a selection of white threads, ranging from good old Anchor stranded cotton to some fabulous Gloriana 12 strand silk called ‘Fresh Snow’ which is too perfectly white, silky soft and beautiful to use!

After standing in the sunny garden laying threads out alongside the ribbon and seeing how just one or two strands compared with the way the thread looked in the skein, I finally settled on a Dinky Dyes stranded silk in ‘Natural’.

I initially used back stitch rather than my go to split stitch as I wanted a stronger line but I wasn’t happy with the breaks between the stitches, so I whipped it to give more solidity.

The lines are similar rather than identical to the original, but when I referred back to the source photo, I realised how subtly the spacing and angles of the bars changed as their perspective to me altered. Had I drawn this from memory, all those lines would have been parallel and evenly spaced. It was a very useful lesson in observation.

I’ve also continued with the or nué acorn and started the coloured couching in single strands of stranded silk. Despite my initial concern that it was at an angle to the gold, I felt the first part of the cup worked well. It was only when I came to add the highlight that it started to get a bit challenging.

I wanted the highlight to curve round the cup, but working in straight lines makes that difficult, especially as this piece is so small. Not really knowing what else to do, I just carried on stitching to see if I could make it work out. By this point I had started the acorn, so things were ramping up on the difficulty scale, not least having four needles on the go at once.

I know I have the tendency to overcomplicate things, but I did think an acorn would be a relatively simple thing to stitch! Once I had sort of wrangled the highlight on the cup I realised I needed to add a lighter colour to the acorn. Unfortunately I think I should have introduced it at least a row previously…

It wasn’t working and I needed help to see where the shading was, so I added some lines to give me an idea of where the changes need to happen. Suddenly I feel more confident about it.

I think I will have to go back and unpick some of the darker green on the row or two above and add the mid green, but I’ve decided to continue and finish the design first and see how it looks. This is very much a first attempt at a new technique and it will do me good to not obsess about everything I do having to be perfect straight out of the box.

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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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Slow progress on the Reeds piece for my Kew Memory Journal but still progress – remembering to move forward one stitch at a time.

But other things have been happening. A beach day on the Lincolnshire coast with my youngest before she returned to school.

Experimenting with embroidery on a cut silk cocoon…

…and a chunk of driftwood.

At the moment it looks like an embarrassed octopus but I plan to add bead, pearl and coral dangles to the ends of the ‘legs’ and stick it down close to follow the contours of the driftwood chunk. I love the black scribbly spalting on the bottom. Then, hopefully, it will become a pendant.

I found a couple of commercial pouches when I was clearing out a box and offered them to the friend I made the pouches for a few months ago.

She asked me to add embroidery to the fronts so she could use them for tarot/oracle cards. A triskele on the silver one and a dragonfly on the indigo. Triskele first with a base layer of chain stitch in lovely heavy weight variegated green perle.

Then whipped in a green/pink/copper variegated perle to give it even more weight…

…before blanket stitching it onto the front of the pouch.

I’ve drawn the dragonfly out onto some shibori dyed cotton I did at a course years ago but have stalled looking for a scrap of iridescent fabric I want to use for the wings. I was sure I knew where it was, but am having an increasingly nasty feeling that I ‘tidied it away’ during the recent deep clean of the lounge…

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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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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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Finally finished, thanks to all your help, advice and ideas. I settled on a frame of brick fabric over an interfacing core to finish off the canvaswork bricks and a touch of Inktense to intensify the colours. It’s tacked in place here…

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…and slip stitched in place here.

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A closure of some grosgrain ribbon printed with maple leaves and a vintage snap was the final finishing touch, and I can now proudly present the Tattershall Castle Memory Journal.

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Unlike the Anderby Creek Journal this one is folded as a triptych with the bollock purse in the middle.

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And the reverse. The ribbon is stitched to the two folds and passes under the micro quilt which is press studded in place.

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I’m delighted to have finished it and am ready to move onto the third in the series – the Kew Gardens Chihuly Exhibition memory journal. I just have to find the black hole that my evenweave fabric has disappeared into first…

I also had fun making a Fathers’ Day card for a friend’s dad. I really object to the tired old football, beer, cars tropes that get trotted out every year, especially as neither my dad nor my husband are into any of those and neither is my friend’s dad. But he does love the Lake District, so I gathered some scraps of hand dyed fabric and started to experiment.

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A little bit of ironing later and I had this:

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It was a good way of showcasing the different textures as well as the variations in colour and I’m very pleased with the way it turned out.

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It went down very well apparently, so another satisfied customer!

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Bullion roses first. In fact this is quite an old finish (early lockdown rather than later!) but one I haven’t blogged about at all. I began another tiny locket insert on silk carrier rod well before last Christmas, using silk buttonhole twist to make bullion knot roses.

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It stalled as other projects took priority but finally at the end of April I decided to crack on and get it finished.

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I was aiming for an asymmetric look but without it appearing to be unfinished and I am very pleased with the result which you can find here in my Etsy shop.

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Back to the Tattershall Castle memory journal. ‘It Rained’ is completed and I am really pleased with it. First the split stitch leaves and couched perle thread stalks.

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Then I added the raindrops. Flat backed teardrop shaped beads with an iridescent coating. They were the perfect finishing touch and I think this might be my favourite of all of the Tattershall pieces.

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This meant that I was now ready to assemble the memory journal, put it away and move onto the third one, documenting my visit to Kew last summer. I blanket stitched a border around the bollock purse…

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…and stitched into it with tiny stab stitches to attach it to the page.

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Everything else went on really smoothly but then I came to the canvaswork piece…

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Unfortunately I trimmed it really close to the edge and this has given me no leeway now I need to stitch it in place. I’m pretty sure that even if I try to invisibly stitch it down the handling will be enough to loosen the last thread on each edge and in any case, I don’t want the spiky bare canvas as an edging.

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So near and yet so far! So, dear readers, any thoughts, ideas or inspiration? All suggestions very gratefully received!

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