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Posts Tagged ‘silk’

Just finished the weekend’s Artisan Christmas Market at the Collection in Lincoln and I’m delighted to say that it was very successful, not just in terms of selling, but more importantly affirming that people are interested in both what I make and my ethos and there is definitely a market out there for unique upcycled jewellery. I had become quite demoralised with the lack of sales online and in the two galleries that stock my work and this has been a real boost.

I sold so many pairs of earrings on the Saturday that I came home and made some more to take on the Sunday, including some studs based on some vintage self-cover buttons that I unearthed in time honoured fashion while looking for something else! I had flattened out some quite flimsy bead caps and thought that two layered over each other looked like a snowflake, so while I stood behind the stall on the Saturday I stitched them onto some scraps of ultramarine blue silk dupion.

When I got home I finished off the button parts, removed the loops and added sterling silver posts and butterflies.

As I have dozens of these bead caps and another four buttons, I decided to make another pair, this time layering green chiffon from a scrap of an old sari over a piece of red silk satin.

However, the third pair is still in the planning stage and it will be different. After having made two very similar pairs, boredom set in – I really do have the attention span of a goldfish!

I decided not to add the diamantes to the mandala pendant. I laced it over a circle of felt and a circle of pelmet vilene and made a plain version of the back. At the moment I’m wondering whether to give it a beaded edge (beaded blanket stitch or a fringed edge) or leave it plain.

However, I think the prevaricating about how to finish the edging is a bit of displacement activity to mask the real issue. As you can see against my hand, it’s quite a statement piece (translation: probably a bit too big) and I’m having serious doubt about whether anyone would actually want to wear it as a pendant. I was planning to make some bag charms/key rings and I was wondering whether it would be more commercial if I did something similar with this. At the moment I could see it with a chunky tassel hanging from a bureau key or a cupboard door knob more than I could a pendant. Any thoughts?

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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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It all started with this odd earring. It’s not a very good image because it’s already partly disassembled (I got all excited and forgot to take a photo before I attacked it with the pliers!), but you can hopefully see that it’s made up of three pairs of brass leaf shaped sections that made me think of flower calyxes.

That was enough to spark off an idea for a pendant and a pair of earrings using silk cocoons for the main part of the flower with a brass calyx on top of each one.

Pendant first. I made a set of beaded stamens by threading some random sequences of blue and gold bugle and seed beads onto Nymo and then knotting the ends onto the loop of a headpin and setting it all with a blob of superglue. This is my third cocoon. I discovered the hard way that the silk on its own wasn’t robust enough to cope with having a headpin put through it and I had to use a layer of glue to strengthen the fibres.

But the result was worth it. The little ‘hat’ section from the earring makes an effective calyx for a fantasy flower. It’s available here in my Etsy shop.

For various reasons, I didn’t get round to the earrings until today. I managed to find an almost identical pair of silk cocoons and they really are this red! you also get a better idea of how the brass ‘calyxes’ look from this photo.

Beaded stamens again, this time in greens and golds.

The silk cocoons are really light so although the drops are quite large at 5cm long and 2cm in diameter, they are a lovely weight and not too heavy to wear. I’m hoping to get them listed in my Etsy shop shortly when I can get some more photos of the details.

It seems ages since I had a good jewellery making spell and after finishing these earrings today I was feeling really inspired. It’s a shame most of the rest of this week is going to be taken up with three days supply teaching but as online sales have dropped through the floor over the last few months, beggars really can’t be choosers.

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Since half term at the end of October, I’ve finally been picking up some supply work. It’s been much needed financially but quite stressful with all the different Covid protocols that each school has and it’s difficult not to resent the way it’s eaten into my stitching and jewellery making time.

However, I realise I’m lucky to be getting work at all and so I’m working hard at appreciating a few minutes or a few stitches here and there and trying not worry about how slowly (if at all) some of my projects are moving.

So quick finishes are good, like the broken bracelet sections I upcycled into this sparkly pair of drop earrings with the addition of silver tone maple leaves and sterling silver ear hooks.

I’ve been taking some stitching into the schools where I’ve been working so I can take advantage of any spare lunchtime to sew. This initial will be filled with whipped running stitch stems and lazy daisy stitch flowers and leaves in variegated single strands of silk thread on silk dupion. It’s a potential workshop idea or if I’m not convinced, it might become a birthday card for my middle one.

I found this cross stitch motif which I must have stitched well over twenty years ago, in a workbox at the weekend.

I rather liked it. What if I could somehow stitch it onto another piece of fabric so none of the aida shows? The stylised cross stitch could be an interesting contrast with more textured embroidery stitches…

Subtly variegated silk thread french knots make great bushes and the sheen of the silk complements the more matte quality of the cotton thread I used for the tree.

Bushes and grass at the bottom are relatively easy but I can’t surround the whole tree in them, so now I’m experimenting with satin stitch sky. Apologies for the horrible photo. Today is grey and rainy and this is the best I could do indoors. The sky won’t end there. I might use a version of long and short stitch to extend it and I am planning some trees and/or clouds as well.

Making it up as I go along!

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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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Onto the second side.

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The applique felt cloud shape echoes the concrete seats at the Cloud Bar with split stitch silk thread clouds on indigo dyed sheeting sky and seeding on the crinkled gold satin sand.

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I’ve used pulled thread work and specifically irregularly worked diamond stitch for ripples in the sand before and it’s one of my favourite styles to work so I decided to use it for the back ground to some beachcombed finds – seaweed, a tiny bit of drift wood and a shell with a very convenient hole already drilled into it.

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At the end of the walk was the lovely Anderby Beach Cafe and I used fabric paints to copy their clever logo onto a piece of fine cotton, turning it into a sort of receipt to remind me of the posh hot dog (local butcher’s sausage) and latte I had enjoyed for my lunch, partly obscured by an appliqued splodge of tomato sauce!

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I’ve also started another memory journal for a visit to Tattershall Castle last summer which is inspired by the bricks it’s made from.  The pelmet vilene base for this one has been covered in an appropriate fabric rather than being painted and it will have six slightly larger panels rather than the eight for Anderby Creek which will fold slightly differently.

DSCN7868I’m considering batik, canvaswork and reverse applique to record my memories of this visit.

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It seems odd to be thinking about Christmas in the middle of the summer, but I’m currently in the middle of creating unique upcycled jewellery for various Christmas markets I’m booked into.

First, another felted spiral brooch. I have no idea where the initial felted dreadlock came from for this – it’s an interesting mix of colours that I wouldn’t have thought of putting together. IMG_20190718_220121.jpg

Once rolled up and stitched I liked it even more.

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Finished with a beaded edging that echoes the colours of the felt.

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Then with the boro and sashiko work I’ve been doing recently I had the idea of doing a tiny piece with fragments of indigo dyed fabric and a single strand of silk to go into a vintage silver tone brooch. The needle gives an idea of scale – the whole oval is the size of the pad of my thumb.

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Finished and mounted in the brooch.

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It’s available here in my Etsy shop.

Lastly, another locket insert on silk carrier rods. This originally had a trellis behind it but it was too fussy and the trellis looked like it was hanging in midair, so I carefully unpicked it and am going for just the rose bush.

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Still not completely happy with it but it’s getting there. I’m definitely going to try and do more with the boro though.

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I first had the idea for putting a pamphlet stitched booklet inside the cuff of a shirt or jacket about 6 years ago and although I’ve since seen images on the internet, I’m proud to say it was it was an idea I had all by myself!

Denim cuff books

It’s a great method for making notebooks to carry around in a bag or pocket as the button (or snap) on the cuff holds the pages closed and you have the length of the cuff to decorate.

Leaves book cover 1

So I was delighted to be asked to teach it as a workshop for Brigg Allsorts group last week.  Men’s shirts, my main source of cuffs, often are patterned in stripes or checks and the patterns are a great set of guidelines for keeping your stitches straight, so I chose a checked one and decided to have a go at some chicken scratch embroidery with cross stitch and rice stitch.

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I also replaced the boring button with one covered in scarlet silk. It’s fascinating how adding even simple stitches can alter your perception of the background design so much.

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One of the early projects on the seven week crazy patchwork course I’m running for North Lincolnshire Adult Education at Ashby Link was to piece three tiny scraps of fabric together with feather stitch and enhance them with stitches to make a crazy patchwork brooch. This is my example. Black and gold silk covered with lace on either side of a scrap of printed Japanese style cotton with a gold coloured metal motif stitched onto it.

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Kantha stitch knocks back the brightness of the print in the middle. Whipped back stitch and threaded chain stitch to the left and bullion roses with stem stitch stems and nested lazy daisy leaves on the right.

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I went for a very closely worked blanket stitch edging as the pieces of silk fabric were fraying very badly. It took a lot longer to finish, but I think the neat effect is worth it.

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One thing about teaching these courses, I have to get things finished to keep up with the learners!

 

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‘Pattern’ is the name of the Scunthorpe Embroiderers’ Guild exhibition, currently on at North Lincolnshire Museum. Those of us who took part all chose an object from the Museum’s collection and created a piece of embroidery in response.

When I went in January with four friends, we had an interesting discussion about the items we were drawn to and whether or not we should deliberately work out of our comfort zones and choose an object that didn’t appeal to us. There is definitely a time and a place for that, but I suspect that working on something with which I didn’t have a natural connection might have made it a bit of a chore. So unsurprisingly, I went Roman and chose my favourite thing in the whole museum: The Winterton Cup.

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The Winterton Cup is decorated with rows of enamelled squares on a copper alloy base. Some of the enamel has been lost, but the original pattern of diagonal rows of alternating yellow, red, blue and turquoise can still be made out.  Enamelling on metal is a technique found in the Romano-British tradition which carries on into the Roman period and the Cup is one of a small group of enamelled vessels which are apparently souvenirs brought back by soldiers from Hadrian’s Wall.

The squares immediately said reverse applique to me. I had some amazing silk which was hand dyed with natural dyes and a silk scarf dyed in dark blues with flashes of pink and gold which reminded me of the oxidised metal. I would do the stitching with my sewing machine and it would be a reasonably quick job. Famous last words…

I started by cutting a piece of tracing paper to the same size as the scarf and made a template for the size of squares I wanted so I could draw it all out life size. Then I cut out the hand dyed silks and began laying them in place.

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So far, so good.

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Very pleased with the result.

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Next to pin the scarf over the top, ready for the machining.

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This is where the photographs of the process stop. My beloved Frister and Rossmann decided that this was the one thing that it wasn’t going to stitch and ate the fabric instead. Once I had rescued the silk and managed to straighten out most of the chew marks, this left me with forty-eight squares to hand stitch round as well as attaching the other silk scarf I had chosen to back it with.

Let’s just say that there were a number of stupidly late nights before I got to this stage.

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I am happy with the concept – that is exactly what I initially envisaged, but the double running stitching really doesn’t bear close inspection (as you can see in the photo below – which is the closest I am prepared to show!) and I just didn’t have time to fray check the cut silk, so I am a bit disappointed with myself over all.

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Definitely better at a distance in one of the exhibition display cases.

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