April 2021 /1

Good morning. We have had some glorious weather down in Cornwall in the last couple of weeks, albeit very cold at times, but the sunshine has been wonderful. It has been a splendid time to make some progress tidying up our garden! When we moved here, almost 12 years ago, we inherited a garden with 24 years of weed growth. Our seller was a delightful lady who believed that every plant that came up had a right to be here. So, after all this time, we realise that we can just try to keep it manageable!! Not wanting to use any chemicals in the garden means that man power hours get more difficult year on year!

This year our primroses are wonderfully abundant everywhere!! To be honest they always have been, but they seem to be even more so this year! They have self seeded in every nook and cranny, as well as literally all over the garden, in the walls, in between the paving slabs on the patio, in the grass path, but we absolutely love them, and they are given every opportunity to thrive!

I concluded the last Newsletter by saying that I would show and explain my last two samples of Unit 5. Within the Machine Embroidery course is an additional section to the samples. The section consists of 10 extended samples. We can choose to gradually work through this section, as during Units 2,3 and 4 we can complete two extended samples in each. The last four were to be completed in unit 5. Alternatively we could leave them until all the standard samples in all units are complete then work on them and produce the extended samples as a complete body of work as a conclusion to the course. Personally I chose to create them within the units. I showed you two of the extended samples in the last post, although I don’t think I identified them as such. The final two are shown below , and are shadow techniques

For this first shadow applique sample, I have used four of my leaf eco prints which were printed onto wall paper lining paper. I cut them out and laid them onto a space dyed fabric. I have used four different colours of synthetic sheer fabric over the top of the layers. I overlapped the sheers, just a little irregularly, and then stitched down the irregular overlaps; another hint of colour mixing. Using a black Aurifil cotton thread I machine stitched around the leaves, adding detail within the shapes. I have used the space dyed fabric to make a binding to finish the sample neatly! This is a simple classic sample.

I have produced a “contemporary” sample for the second one and have visited some experimental work I developed back in 2003! This is a further development, needless to say, and I feel that there is quite a lot of mileage left yet!

In this piece I have distressed brown paper by screwing it up and straightening it out many times, finally ironing it flat. It became much softer and more pliable. I then sandwiched it with scrim under the paper and scrim on the top of it. Using a self coloured thread and straight machine stitch down the length of the sandwich in four places this anchored it all together.

Next I tore some masking tape strips, and pressed them lightly onto the top surface and then painted them with black acrylic ink. I allowed a minimal amount of the paint to seep over the edges of the masking tape onto the scrim. When everything was dry, I carefully removed all the masking tape strips and repositioned some of them, before laying a piece of pale grey synthetic sheer on top of the whole “sandwich” of layers.

I freely cut some leaf shapes from the brown paper, and placed them onto the work

You may see a hint of colour in one or two places on the leaves, I had painted one side of the brown paper with Brusho first, with the intention of using the coloured side for the “leaves”. Unfortunately the colour was rather underwhelming, so I turned over the cut leaves, and what a difference! The “wrong side” was undoubtedly correct!

Using a black aurifil thread in the needle and the bobbin, I freely machine stitched the very fine detail of the ink that had seeped along the edges of the wet masking tape. That provided a delightful, and refreshing fine change of scale. I also stitched along the sides of the masking tape, trapping it in position, by adding stitched detail across the masking tape at the same time. I looked at it in between all the sessions of stitching, and felt that the sheer fabric had dulled the torn masking tape, so then I decided to lay the rest of the strips on top of the sheer fabric, and treated them in the same way i.e., stitching across the strips, making them secure.

I have been considering making a ?folder/book to keep all my Unit five samples in. There is quite a range of sizes within the samples which is not making the task very easy, but I have got one or two ideas. The trouble is that the wonderful sunny skies are such a distraction!

Finally I have also been thinking further about faces, and have recently given an airing of one of my quilts on which I had painted figures and their faces. This a quilt that I made between 2013 and 2014.

The late Mary Miller who was an avid quilter, came up with the idea of asking Truro Cathedral if they would be interested in displaying an exhibition of work created by quilters who lived in Cornwall. Helen Edmond, Jo Morgan and myself were asked to be on the committee with Mary, to help with the large task of organising, liaising with the Cathedral staff, and co-ordinating everything.

At the first meeting with a member of the Cathedral staff she explained that any exhibition must have a connection to the Cathedral, and she suggested that the quilts should depict Cornish Saints. They were to be hung in a certain order which was in the order of the Saint’s Feast Days as they are celebrated in the Church Calendar. The format and subject matter was sent out to quilt groups and individuals, and the idea was circulated as far as we could within the county and the Isles of Scilly. Entrants could chose which Saint they would like to depict. When we collated the information which was sent back to us, we were then able to give sizes of the individual quilts to each submission, having worked with the Cathedral staff who explained where the hanging spaces were, that we could use. We had more than one visit trying to work out how we could hang 35 quilts within the space allocated!

When all the entry forms were gathered it was noted that no one who had entered their choice of Saint, had chosen Henry Martyn. He isn’t actually a Saint, but was an incredibly important ecclesiastical figure in the history of Truro Cathedral, and it was felt that it would be a great omission if he was not included. So the rest of the committee asked me if I would depict him in a quilt! (I have to say, that when this was happening I had a very full teaching programme around the county, so had said I would definitely be happy to help on the committee, on the understanding that I couldn’t, in all honesty, take on planning and making a quilt!

The best made plans of mice and men….. I felt it was quite a responsibility, but of course responded positively.

I visited the Cathedral many times, particularly the beautiful Baptistry which is dedicated to Henry Martyn, gathering ideas; taking photographs; (with permission, of course). Looking for an inspirational starting point.

On one visit, my friend Janine mentioned to me that I was “looking up” all the time, studying the windows, and collecting inspiration from them. “Look at the floor Di” she said to me, and of course there are wonderful mosaic designs on the floor in the Baptistry! I instantly knew how I could move forward with my ideas then! I was inspired and cut a piece of wall paper lining paper to the required measurements I needed and started to design the quilt.

Henry Martyn, was born in Truro and educated at Truro grammar school then Cambridge university. He spent many months of his short life on the high seas when he sailed to India from Cornwall, to work as a missionary firstly in India and subsequently in Persia.

I created a contemporary Mariner’s compass design placing it off centre in the design of the quilt to depict this dangerous but only option for such a journey.

I included a suggestion of the Cornish countryside with an iconic engine house on the horizon to depict Henry’s roots. The rest of the background of the quilt illustrates two sections of the wonderful mosaic floors in the Baptistry. The figures in the quilt were all created from my photographs of Henry Martin, taken in the Cathedral.

Before Henry left the shores of Cornwall, he had met a lay with whom he had fallen in love and earnestly asked her to consider coming to meet him later, to be with him in India. Her parents forbade her to go with him on the journey, very understandably at the time. Although Henry and Lydia had very strong feelings for each other, they had only recently become acquainted! She was in his mind all the time after he said goodbye and very sadly they never met again. Letters sometimes took months to reach their destination, and often did not arrive.

I wanted to make sure that the presence of Lydia was a definite but unobtrusive feature of the quilt, as her constant “presence” which never left Henry’s thoughts and mind, was unseen! I made a simple quilting design of her initials (LG for Lydia Grenfell) and repeatedly machine quilted them straight and then upside down, creating a little square motif centered within the calico squares of the mosaic designs on the left of the quilt. On the patchwork mosaics on the right and behind the figures, I wrote her Christian name around each side of the blue squares on point! “Lydia”! Present but unobtrusive.

I painted the group of three men in the right hand bottom corner of the quilt onto a separate piece of cloth, and cut the whole group out as one, then appliqued it in position by hand.

I had never painted on a quilt before, and approaching it this way, meant I had a second chance if things went badly wrong!

This little tableau is within one of the windows in the cathedral, and features Henry in discussion with his learned legal colleagues. The image of Henry Martyn in the top left corner, is taken from a statue of him in the Cathedral. The mosaic sections are all hand pieced with dyed fabrics; the fields at the top of the quilt are hand pieced and hand quilted; the mariner’s compass is machine pieced and appliqued in position. Apart from the section relating to the Cornish countryside, all the rest of the quilting has been done by machine.

Thirty five Cornish quilts, individual as well as group quilts, were made. They were all unique, and made a terrific display in the Cathedral. In addition, two quilters made Celtic Crosses, and a group of quilters made a stunning display of cushions too. It was all very well received by the staff and fabulous comments in the visitor’s book. The stewards played a tremendous role, and there were always members involved on hand to discuss the quilts when visitors wished to know a little more about them.

Photography of the process and of all the finished quilts was very professionally undertaken by Chris Treweek. Indeed, a book of photographs of the quilts in the Cathedral exhibition was compiled with Chris’s expert skills.

Happy stitching, until next time!

Di

March 2021 /3

Miniature Turvy panel 3″ x 5″

Welcome to The latest Stitching News

I have really enjoyed stitching over the last couple of weeks. I finished the detail on the small house panel, and the second one I had prepared at the same time, is now underway, but my priority has been to concentrate on creating some more of the stitched samples, still outstanding in this Unit.

Unit 5 is all about:

Fabric texture;

Fabric manipulation

Applique; and

Shadow techniques.

It is also about preparing ideas and samples for the second assignment.

I have completed everything required for the preparation of my second assignment now.

I am happy with how I am attaching the floristry wire to the flower heads.

I have successfully couched machine thread around a single floristry wire, right up to the head.

I experimented with a different flower shape, although at the time of writing I have not couched that stem, as yet.

All seem to have worked well.

I was not sure if my couched thread would just slide off the floristry wire, so I wound a very small piece of double sided cellotape around the wire, at the bottom and top, and another piece in between.

The blue flower is still ona bare wire, but the main thing is that I know the stems will work!

I have then concentrated on the rest of the stitched samples required this time.

The first sample is about the texture of different materials.

We were asked to combine fabrics with different textural qualities, into one stitched sample.

I gathered a range of very different materials, keeping within a vibrant but limited colour scheme.

My finished sample where is shown on the left.

I have used a palette of six different fabrics; felt, scrim, a section of a wool jumper which had matted in the washing machine(!), silk, and finally in the centre, a small piece of paper I had printed and on which I also couched some boucle wool!

I completed the sample by couching a length of my dyed dishcloth yarn to the outer edge! I left a length at the beginning and the end, to identify the source!.

Next, I have concentrated on applique.

For several months, I have had lots of ideas whizzing around my head for a new body of work. I am interested in creating abstract faces. Some of you will realise that I enjoy working on different grids, and have done for years. Having a basic structure as a background gives me confidence to progress! So I have turned to this approach to design one of the applique samples required in the unit.

We have to make a soft edge, and a hard edge sample, so this first one is my interpretation of “soft edge”. This means that I have no hard outline stitching of the imagery. (Hard edge has the opposite; a common way to outline is to stitch a narrow zigzag stitch, or a satin stitch).

I have also chosen to use Bondaweb to secure the pieces in place, as accuracy is imperative! The face is abstract and the shape of the whole sample is slightly asymmetrical. I wanted a contemporary approach.

It was an interesting and exciting sample to work through!

I began by drawing a grid, then developing an idea within it, making alterations on my drawing until I was satisfied.

I made a photocopy of my finished design, and using my lightbox I transferred the design from the photocopy, onto my supporting fabric, which is a furnishing weight of calico.

From the photocopy I also traced the design onto freezer paper which I could then cut up for templates! I used a coloured pencil to draw lines through the design which made it easy to place each template onto the straight grain of the fabric.

I gathered my fabrics and started by cutting up just a few templates. I had numbered them all on my photocopy and the freezer paper copy. There are 48 templates, and all of them asymmetrical, so I had to be very organised!

Within my fabric choices were a stripe and check, I was extra careful to make sure these were cut on the straight grain. I have also used painted paper. With only one exception, I cut all the shapes on the straight grain, the exception being the “hair”! My conscience about not wasting fabric kicked in on that decision! I decided it would be too wasteful on the piece of fabric I had. (Common sense was also nudging me, saying that “hair is often all over the place”!!)

After the applique pieces were all in position, and had been ironed down firmly onto the calico, I spent quite a while trying to decide how to use stitch over the applique. In the end I chose two colours of thread; an ecru, for the background medley of neutral fabrics, and a medium blue for everything over the face!

One factor within the design was particularly important to me: maintaining the contrast of the background neutral pieces, and the foreground, which is of course the face. I did not want any distraction on either section: no fancy stitches; no distracting thread colours; nothing to take the focus off the subject matter. I feel satisfied that I have used stitch appropriately, and I am happy with my sample.

My hard edge applique could not be more different! In fact, this piece of applique covers both techniques.

I have made a simple traditional style of design, and used a fine cotton background fabric onto which I laid my cut out painted paper for the main “flower”. I used an accent fabric on top of the petals. The main flower has been been appliqued onto the background around its edge, with a narrow close zigzag giving a hard-edge, the “frame” and the accent fabric on the petals have been soft edge appliqued.

I weighed up the time spent on preparing the samples, and it is not inconsiderable! So I opted for simple with this one!

Finally I have created another stitched sample incorporating both hard and soft-edged applique. I was particularly mindful of using different surface textures within this design. (In the sample above I used a tight weave cotton fabric, and paper; both very flat, and matt surfaces).

I started this sample with a piece of felt I many years ago. What a find!

I was rummaging in the cupboard for something else, and was delighted to find a box of 8 felt sample I had made in a day workshop, probably about 13 years ago! The variety of techniques we were taught was quite extensive, and I am delighted to use one of them for this sample!

I laid the felt onto two layers of dyed muslin; two layers, purely for substance!

I embellished the surface of the felt with stitch, aiming for a feel of woodland, and at the same time, blending the edges of the felt onto the muslin background (soft edge applique of the felt). I then cut out a stag from a piece of fine needle cord which I have dyed. Clearly the needle cord has a nap, which is a fresh texture not yet used in the samples.

I used Bondaweb to temporarily secure the stag in position on the felt. The needlecord has some lovely texture on it, so I really did not want to flatten that with the iron, hence the light touch! A very tiny satin stitch around the profile of the stag secured its position permanently.

In this post I have shown you a selection of the samples that I have completed in this last couple of weeks. I have also made another couple of samples using shadow techniques, which I will post in the next newsletter!

I have sent the completed Unit 5 work off to Anne, now. Sadly I have been hugely delayed making progress with this penultimate unit due to the problems with my sewing machine. I was chilled about it to start with, but have to admit I did get very frustrated as time went on. But reality kicked in, and my problems were of absolutely no consequence, in the scheme of things!

I can’t quite believe that I only have one more unit to complete, but before even thinking about that, I need to do some serious tidying up, and cleaning!

Happy stitching! Until next time .

Di

March 2021 /2

Ginko leaf eco print 2.5″x3″

Welcome once again, with a special welcome to the new readers who have signed up since the beginning of the year.

I hope there is something for everyone in this post. The month is racing by and the garden is getting more colourful and interesting! Should I be stitching? gardening? walking? There are clearly all the necessary house hold chores to do, but somehow spring gives such hope, and a calmness….akin to slow stitching! Walking encourages observation of what is happening in the lanes, in the harbour, and along the coast path. Each area has its own flora and fauna being such different habitats and environments! We have to take a few moments every now and again time to stand, listen and watch.

The birds are very active in the garden, chasing all over the place, exploring boxes and many now carrying nesting material. An exciting time of year. Let us hope that these lovely signs of spring, alongside the glorious sunshine can lift our spirits and inspire our creativity. It is the 8th of March today, as I start writing this newsletter, and at 7 am this morning it was -4 degrees C. Brrr! However the clear blue sky is wonderful!

I have had a little interlude, preparing a couple of small panels which I can continue hand sewing, and quilting after I have machine pieced them. I am very fond of using freezer paper for templates, and have devised a technique over the years which works really well for me, and is a relatively quick, and a very accurate way of piecing. N.B I write any information on the templates that helps me, and always identifying the straight grain with a coloured pencil, on my drawn design, before the templates are cut out! When I place them on the appropriate fabrics I can line this coloured line up with the grain.

I have pinned the pieces onto a small piece of polystyrene board so that I can easily see at a glance the the order of piecing. The tree trunk needs to be applied to piece number 7, first, so I remove that template temporarily, then iron it back on, prior to piecing. The top of the trunk then gets sewn in with the seam.

Ordinarily I do not remove the freezer paper from these tiny panels until the whole panel has been assembled. Then I tack a line of stitches around the perimeter, so that I have a definite finishing line for any embellishments and for quilting.

At that stage I can remove the templates, and start any work on the panel that I prefer to do before I layer it up for quilting.

To the left is another panel which is in progress, and it it shows those next stages complete.

I have tacked a perimeter so the freezer paper templates are off I have applied and embellished the tree trunk; added the branches and leaves to the tree. The windows on the houses are in place, and I am ready to to add the backing and wadding, so that I can start quilting now. I also added some stitched lines on the “roof” of the blue house to give that a little more interest and focus.

I am always pleasantly surprised by the huge difference quilting makes, on such a small piece! I am going to use a machine 50 weight thread. It is a shiny red cotton by Madeira and is described as a “quilting thread”, presumably for machine quilting, but I love using it to quilt by hand on small pieces.

Because it is such a fine thread, it is quite unobtrusive! I make tiny stitches, and it is the quilting “texture” that is the overriding final impression. N.B The perimeter seam allowance is 2/3 of an inch, to give a little more lea-way, when the mounts are put on. The finished size of these panels is 3″ x 5″. So, that is my evening work prepared for a few days, and the rest of my focus this next week is on my assignment!

My main focus has been on making the samples for the assignment. I have tried out the techniques for my grasses and feel reassured that my ideas will work.

In creating the red grass I used some shredded red paper that came as “packaging” inside a parcel. I saved some, (as you do), thinking I might regret it if I put it into the recycle bin! The finely shredded paper strips are quite short and I needed to knot two lengths together to make them usable, and it has worked well.

The light coloured grass has been couched after threading the wire down through the centre of the string, leaving the top with no wire, allowing the end of the string to be frayed out!

For the knobbly twig I have used a strip of green cotton fabric, and a length of dyed dishcloth yarn to allow more texture, and colour to be included in this experiment! The wires in each of these experiments clearly allows manipulation. The other photo is an enlargement.

A very talented dear friend, Susie, who has been a flower arranger for many years, and has built up excellent skills in the field, has been very supportive of my idea of making my own flowers and grasses etc. She has not been able to return to Cornwall for months, as she was away when the latest lockdown was set in motion. Before she went away we had been chatting about this assignment, and Susie offered to bring me some floristry wires to work with, when she returned.

However, that couldn’t happen, and when we were chatting about it I that it would be great if she just brought some when she was able to return.

Then a couple of weeks ago I received a surprise package from her in the post, in which she had very kindly sent a selection of different floristry wires, and a range of different coloured threads that she had had in her stash for many years. More threads to experiment with for the flowers! what a fabulous surprise. She is a super star, and I am so grateful. She also included a couple of magazine pictures, which I found fascinating and inspirational. I had begun to feel that my thoughts regarding a wrap for the flower container was all feeling a bit staid and uninteresting, and this package really gave me a totally fresh boost of enthusiasm!

The picture on the left, is one of the magazine pages in my parcel. I was fascinated by the very contemporary presentation.

Food for thought indeed! Hundreds of fine threads have created this mesh in the picture! If you enlarge it on your screen, you will see what I mean. My thoughts went round and round that day, and then I thought about using soluble film to create a stitched mesh.

In that case, I would change my original idea of a glass jar/vase, to a bowl which could have a fitted mesh across and over the rim. I really like the thought of a much more contemporary approach to this assignment! Far more exciting!

How would I keep the mesh in place and stop it sliding all over the place? Clearly I would have to think this through, and try it out!

Soluble fabric is the obvious material to use, and would link very nicely to the creation of the flowers! The magazine photo has a dense mesh of individual threads over the bowl. I must use machine embroidery techniques I have learned during the course, of course with extended ideas, and experimentation if I so choose, for my assignment. So the idea of a machine stitched mesh on soluble fabric started to develop. I would create a grid to go over the top of a bowl, through which my flower and grass stems can pass into oasis at the bottom of my bowl. They benefit from support at the base, as well as support at the top of the bowl, from the constructed mesh.

So, I started to think the idea through, and clearly had to sample it! I probably made every mistake in the book with my first attempt! I went in totally head strong; no hoop (as I don’t possess one)! I had managed all my samples with the soluble material in Unit 4, without a hoop! I relied on my hands stretching the film and keeping it taut. I thought I was doing well! Little did I know! The end result was DISASTROUS!

After pausing and working out why it was awful, that piece went straight in the bin! I am too embarrassed to show you! So I had to totally reassess my approach. I had to be much more organised, and I started by borrowing an embroidery hoop from my lovely friend, Caroline. I asked her if she had an 8″ or 9″ embroidery hoop that I could borrow, and she had the latter, which is perfect! She was a life saver! Then I also realised I had to be much more precise in what I was doing, so I used a pair of compasses, and a protractor to create an accurate template to start the process.

The hoop made a huge difference.

While I was stitching the outer circle of the mesh, I stitched little extensions at repeated intervals, This is where the protractor earned its keep! I marked them on my template, when it was pinned in place. So, each time I came to a mark, I stitched a reinforced line (stitching over it at least 3 times, before stitching a small disc which I filled in with stitch. These extensions would hang over the rim of the bowl on the outside and would act as the anchors for the threads which would be attached to them after construction. These threads can be seen in the next photo and are to stabilise the mesh. I thought I would have to keep the mesh taut. However the mesh is very stiff, and needs no tension, just need to kept in position!

In the photo on the left, you can see underneath my finished sample. I worked on two layers of soluble fabric, and was careful not to rinse out all the dissolvable film. The “glue” is not visible, although enough has been left resulting in a very strong mesh. This is a tiny bowl, not the bowl which I shall eventually use, but perfect for the sampling!

After rinsing out the “glue”, I stretched the stitched mesh out on a pin board, and left it to dry for about an hour and a half, then I removed it and laid it over the rim of the bowl, and moulded it in place. Hopefully you will now be able to understand the rest of the process explained below!

I threaded a needle with the same variegated thread I used to create the mesh, and knotted my thread to one of the small extensions passing the thread under the bowl to the extension opposite, repeating the process to strengthen each tie, and carried on around the bowl in this fashion, constantly checking the position of the mesh on the top of the bowl. Finally I pulled all the threads together under the bowl, which gave an added strength and stability. I left it then to dry properly overnight.

I feel that this second attempt has worked well. I have still learned a lot, but I am feeling far more confident now. I do hope that my tutor is happy for me to use it as my preferred method of presentation.

As I explained before, when we were using soluble film in the last unit, I was a complete novice! I have learned some of the the do’s and don’ts by playing. Clearly we are given clear general instruction on the use of soluble fabric/film in the unit, which is necessary for working through the exercises. But having decided to take it further in my assignment has been a big learning curve. I am really pleased that I have persevered! (Please note, that I was never going to place any oasis in the practice bowl. I do have to remember to place oasis in the bowl, before I start securing the mesh in position, though)! This is purely a sample to show me I could go ahead with the technique as long as my tutor is happy!

Finally, I always aim to attach a hand made label to a gift, as I feel it is such a personal touch. I realised last week, that I had used my last one, so I got out some of my leaf printing blocks, which I made at least 15 years ago! I made many small printing blocks out of erasers which I bought in WHSmiths!

They were ideal at the time as they used to be quite thick and I could make a design on each side! Two for the price of one! They are much thinner now, and far more expensive too. Making you own printing blocks is wonderful as they are unique to you. You can choose your own medium to work with and if you look after them, they will last for a very long time!

I made a few more labels this afternoon. It took me half an hour to make eight. I have used my water colours, which give a delicate result, and my trusty hand dyed dishcloth yarn to attach the tags to the gift! The measurements are: 1.75″ x 2.5″.

Happy stitching, until next time! Thank you all for reading, and for your support.

Di

March 2021/1

Welcome to my first newsletter of Spring, 2021! Just as the season promises fresh colour, and hopefully “new shoots”, this is my aim too! My sewing machine is back home, so I feel refreshed and invigorated and able to pick up the threads of the Distance Learning Machine Embroidery Course that I have had to put on one side since early last December! http://www.pocketmouse.co.uk/distanceme.php

I am on Unit 5 of six units, so I am getting towards the end now! In this unit we have to prepare a brief for our second assignment, giving enough information to the tutor (Anne Griffiths), for her to understand and visualise what we are aiming to produce!

My brief:

  1. To make a bunch of flowers, and grasses to be displayed in a glass jar.
  2. To make a “wrap” to conceal the jar. In my presentation of the brief I have explained the techniques I intend to use, adding that I may also want to incorporate possible techniques from this unit, as well as other techniques I have learned during the course.

I want the wrap to be interesting while keeping a subtlety so as not to detract from the contents of the vase!

In preparation for this assignment I collected a few flowers from the garden so that I could look at their construction, number of petals, and look at the different constructions and colours of stems, etc. I would like to point out that the hellebore on the right of the painted collection, does not actually have its stem going down to a second flower head!!! I decided to insert a side view of the top of the flower to illustrate the leaves that emerge from the top of the stem! I had already drawn and painted the stem and hadn’t realised how the addition looked like until now!

Drawing and painting involves close observation of subject matter, It was indeed really useful. Ideas and techniques were flitting through my mind as I was working through this process. I don’t intend any of my flowers to be replicas of these in any way, but I felt that working through this would help me to understand the construction and small detail which could offer a range of two or three different construction approaches.

My colour palette will be bright and cheerful although the wrap for the glass container will be made in a soft colour palette so as not to fight with the flowers!

I have made a collage of flower heads, to include a change of scale and some different shapes and also a couple of leaf shapes.

The colours are vibrant but also have tonal contrasts, so I am hopeful of creating an interesting display!

The Flower Heads

In Unit 4 we experimented with soluble fabrics. I had not used soluble fabric before, so it was a new experience. We had various samples to do, and at the time I felt that this was “not my thing”. I really didn’t enjoy what I was doing!

Experimenting further, I started to play with the soluble fabric in a totally different way, and ended up creating these flower heads. Now I was really enjoying myself, and this is where my inspiration really came for this second assignment.

As you can see, I have placed some beads in the centres, to see how they looked.

I now understand just how I can experiment further to make different shaped flowers. I intend to use floristry wires to support the flower heads and stems, and the grass stems as well.

As I am not a florist and have never possessed any wires this will have to wait a little while. I have a dear friend who is going to provide some for me, as soon as we come out of lockdown. She is experienced and very talented in creating flower arrangements, and all sorts of allied work and has a wide range of florist wires, with which I can experiment very fully. I just have to wait until she is able to come out of lockdown and we can see each other and discuss it all. I am really looking forward to that.

While I have been working on some of the stitched sample section for this unit, I have inadvertently produced an idea that may work for “grasses”.

The photo on the left shows a section of the textured sample where I have couched lengths of cotton string to a background and then frayed the ends of the string. I want to try to add a length of floristry wire to the back of the string to give strength and allow some flexibility to the grass stem. I feel this should be possible, and work!

The Wrap

Above are two soft colour palettes of hand dyed fabrics from which I shall choose a range to construct the wrap. I think I am preferring the left hand group of colours.

The finished size of the wrap will be 10″ x 6″. It will be constructed around a middle layer of pelmet Vilene.

Within the range of the fabrics for the wrap are different weights of cotton with the addition of one silk fabric, I may also add a very loosely woven heavy scrim. I need to dye some first to experiment with. The cottons are a mixture of beautiful shirting fabrics; some with a sheen but others are matt. Any prints are tiny but their inclusion provides contrast, adding some texture in a subtle way. I have sampled some fabric manipulation textures which you can see below, and I aim to use some of these approaches interspersed with some plain strips, possibly the heavy scrim, onto which I shall couch some machine stitched cords. I shall make some sample cords next, for this particular project, having experimented with cord making in the last unit also.. Then I cannot do much more until I have some floristry wires.

Stitched Samples for Unit 5

amples from

We are encouraged to experiment with tea dyeing in this unit, but as I have done this several times in the past, I decided to use some of my recent eco dyed material which has the appearance of having been tea dyed!

Texture is the first section of samples required in the unit. I have played around with a variety of textures and combined them all into this one, on the left.

I have used three white fabrics of different weights. The “tea” coloured fabric is in fact fabric which I boiled in the water used during the steaming process of the eco printing. The pale check coffee coloured woven fabric is shirting.

Working down from the top of this finished sample:

I have a good quality medium weight white cotton which had been stamped with a “wax infilled disk” during its manufacturing process. I placed another medium weight cotton behind it, and emphasised the wax discs by drawing the fabric up slightly within the disc; pinning it to the backing to secure it in position before free machine stitching several overlapping rows of circles around it. I repeated the process in between the wax discs.

2. To the right hand side of the first sample I have knotted and twisted a torn strip of sari silk. 3. I cut some cotton string (which I had also used in eco dying), into differing lengths, frayed out one end of each, and couched them to a base fabric of a woven fine check piece of shirting. This has created a ridged and frayed texture all in one. Having prepared this, which took me one whole evening, I realized that it was a texture, but it was not made with fabric, but with cotton string. I stitched it nevertheless. It was well worth it as it happens, because I realized that if I used this process, and couched the string onto florists wire, instead of fabric I had a method of creating some form of “grasses” to add to my flower collection! I could not have thought of that if I had not been experimenting with texture! The string had been used several times during eco printing, which had also made it very soft, so it is great that it can be repurposed this way! 4. I used a large straight stitch onto another soft piece of of white fabric, and stitched a few parallel rows of stitching, leaving approximately ½” between each row. I pulled the bobbin threads in pairs, to create a gathered texture. 5. I cut some bias strips of the coffee shirting fabric mentioned above; folded and pressed them in half and sandwiched them between two strips of the eco dyed fabric creating an insert. I then joined them together with a 3/4″ flat strip of fabric. It didn’t look terribly exciting so I made a long fine pleat down the centre of each strip of the flat fabric and pressed them like an inverted box pleat. That has made a terrific difference! 6. I made some little origami squares, on point, sewing them into a row.

All the different texture samples were sewn together with the raw edges on the front surface, which added more texture. It was finished with a straight binding.

We are also working with sheer fabrics.

To the left I have sandwiched some different coloured sheer fabric squares and rectangles between two different coloured synthetic sheers.

On the top of the sandwich I have a purple sheer shot with turquoise.

Underneath I have a plain red sheer.

Note the colour change in the sections of the squares or rectangles that overlap each other creating another colour!

I realise now that the red sheer is actually too strong a colour because when I have tried to photograph the sample on the reverse side, it is red dominated! This illustrated the value of sampling, clearly. This is also an example of hard edge applique. The appliqued shapes, have been anchored in position with a narrow satin stitch. This sample was really difficult to handle and stitch, due to the movement of the layers sliding around on the machine bed. I had tacked everything carefully first, but it was still a BIG problem.

That is all for this Stitching News, this time. Happy stitching until the next post, hopefully in a couple of weeks!

Di

Stitching News February 2021 /2

Good morning to you all. A really spring like photo to start off the blog.

We have several of these miniature clumps of daffodils in our garden, and they really make me smile!

A member of one of the textile groups I belong to, emailed me during last year saying how much she was enjoying the weekly blog on the textile artist.org website: https://www.textileartist.org/ I must admit, that I put it on one side at the time as I had delved into it several years ago and not being terribly inspired at the time. However when I did revisit it a little later last autumn I was not disappointed! I signed up for their weekly blog again, and I really look forward to its arrival. I find it often has something relevant and interesting with some inspirational interviews with different textile artists. It is a terrific resource. So, many thanks Anne, you are a star.

Their blog which dropped into my inbox on 8th of February, really excited me. It is about a textile artist called Jude Kingshott, who lives in Kent. In the article, called “dyeing to stitch” she very generously shares the story of her background, her influences, sources of inspiration and working practice. She is also fond of eco printing and listed some of her favourite leaves. I noticed that Bamboo leaves were on her list and strangely enough I had recently been thinking of trying it out. We have an old, thick bamboo hedge, so, I am not short of the resource, but have strangely never given it a try! That is to come!

A final quote in the article is one by Maya Angelou which really resonated with me: ‘You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.’

I completed a “matchbox sketch book” in late 2019. The matchbox we all bought is the The Original Cooks Matches box, which is 5.75″ long, by 2.5″ wide and has a depth of 1″.

This is a project that each member of Textiles + was challenged to do, and it would become a feature at our next exhibition, which should have happened last year, but has been rescheduled for the Autumn this year. We are very cautiously hopeful that this will go ahead, but of course as we are all well aware, nothing is certain!

As you can see from the photo on the left this is a concertina folded sketch book. I have just shown three pages here, although I have 24 in total. It is incredibly difficult to photograph anything that is long and narrow to show any detail!

We could all decided on our own “theme” and I decided that the developments for mine would all derive from eco prints.

I didn’t make a cover for the box at the time, so have been considering that recently. The obvious cover to make is from a paper which I have also eco printed!

I decided to use a strip of Indian rag paper as this is reasonably flexible, certainly far more so than the paper I print onto normally. So I did a trial, and my method was also totally different as well!

This time I soaked the strip of paper in white vinegar, also soaking a length of fine cotton fabric which was the same width and length, in the vinegar. My reasoning for this was that it would give a measure of protection to the paper! II think I will have another go, just using the paper, as it is very durable.)

I laid the cotton down on a work surface, placed the paper strip on top of it, and then placed my chosen leaves over the whole surface. I carefully rolled it all firmly around a short length of copper pipe securing it together by winding some cotton yarn around the pipe and fabric to hold it all in position. I steamed it for about 1.5 hours but I did not open it up for several hours, finally leaving it to dry over night. I am reasonably pleased with my results, as I was really not at all sure what to expect! I am looking forward to seeing whether left open to daylight for several weeks, might strengthen the prints! I was really surprise to see that the prints are purple. (I like that very much!) I shall use a section of the paper, or a section from another attempt, for the matchbox cover, and will stitch into it, prior to gluing it to the box.

The cotton fabric results were totally uneventful, not that I was expecting anything different! I had added some myrtle twigs to the water right at the beginning of the process. I like to add some plant material (Cotinus or Rose of Sharon leaves, being my favourite. (I always use a dedicated pan when working with leaves, in a well ventilated area.) so I put the fabric strip back into the water, allowed the water to simmer for about half an hour, before rinsing the fabric in cold water, and leaving it to dry. It emerged giving the appearance of tea dyed fabric!

A little project I have been meaning to do for a while, is to space dye a ball of “craft cotton”. Craft cotton is also sold as “dishcloth cotton, depending on where you source it. I had promised to do this for a friend!

I wound it around the straight upright of a chair to start with forming it into a hank. I tied the hank loosely in three places which would avoid it becoming very tangled during the dyeing process. Then removed it from the chair back and soaked it in a soda solution. I use 1/2 a cup of household soda crystals or powder, to 4 pints of water. As long as the soda water doesn’t become coloured, I return any solution that his left in the receptacle that I am soaking my threads, or fabrics in to the 4 pint container I keep it in. The red blue and yellow ensures I can obtain an interesting mix of colours. I squeezed the soft dishcloth cotton all over to make sure the whole hank was absorbing the soda, which is the fixative for the dye. Then I made up three dye solutions a red, yellow and blue, from which I could create several different hues.

The photo above shows a selection of the yarn that I have dyed over the years. The one I have just dyed is bottom left in the photo!

I have also been making up scrap bags again, as I had not used up the wonderful selection of scraps that many of you very kindly posted to me a couple of years ago. We sold MANY scrap bags at the charity events, we organised, and I am aiming at using up the rest of the scraps in a big boost now.

I am also very hopeful of getting back to my Machine Embroidery course, and using my sewing machine again!

Finally here are three more of my hand stitched eco prints, that I have completed since last time.

The small Ginco leaf print top right is in progress and that will be its position in the top book.

The two lower stitched prints are for the blue mark making book.

I am hopeful that I shall soon be stitching all the contents of the top book together!

So, until next time, stay safe, and happy stitching.

Di

February 2021/1

Good day to you all.

Today (25th January) as I start thinking and making notes for this first February newsletter I have just checked the pond for frogspawn. We had our first couple of batches on the 21st January. Several more batches have been added since then! Whether it will survive is another matter! Who knows! It has been bitterly cold with hard frosts too.

On a day when the sun shone brightly in a bright blue sky I felt really energised, and I decided to try some red cabbage dyeing for the first time!

I cut up half of a large red cabbage and put it into one of the “dedicated” saucepans I keep in my sewing room specifically just used for non kitchen use. and brought it to the boil, allowing it to boil for about 45 minutes. (It was not essential to use my dyeing equipment as nothing toxic or potentially dangerous was going to be used, it was more habit for me, to be honest!

A potato masher squeezed out any remaining liquid from the cabbage before discarding the cabbage into the compost.

I then measured the remaining fluid, 1200 mls, and removed half of it into another receptacle. It was quite noticeable to me that the solution seemed particularly pale, and I made a mental note to add less quantity of water for boiling the cabbage initially, than I had done on this occasion (that is if I was ever going to repeat this exercise!)

I immediately stirred 1/4 of a cup of salt into each 600mls, and stirred it until it had dissolved. (On reflection I would probably double that!)

Into one of the saline solutions I added 3 heaped teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda, adding one at a time and stirring it in. This started to change the pink solution green/blue, as it made it alkaline. I have to admit I had very little bicarbonate in my stock, and so I was limited in quantities! I stirred another teaspoon in and felt the solution turned a little bit darker, so I upended the container tipping in the last teaspoon, stirred it in, and that was all I could do this time! I put it on one side.

To the second container of red cabbage water I added 2/3rds of a cup of white vinegar. This created an acid solution, turning it, in theory, a darker red. I was guessing quantities at this stage, but made a careful note of them as I went along.

While all this was happening I had gathered a selection of different weights of cotton fabrics, and a couple of silk scraps, as well as four skeins of cotton thread and had soaked them in hot soapy water, to help remove any dressing in them. I actually knew that the white cotton fabrics had already been washed as they were in my “ready to dye stash”, but I wasn’t sure about the silk. I rinsed them and wrung out as much of the excess water. The soaking also meant that the dye solution would have a much better chance of penetrating the fibres, than if the fabric was dry. The addition of the salt was to help to drive the dye into the fibres.

So at this point I inmmersed my fabrics, plus two skeins of cotton thread to the two different solutions.

As you can see I also weighted them down with a stone from the garden. The green bowl’s stone is just resting against the side of the sink in this photo so that you can more easily see the colour.

I then left everything alone for 24 hours before rinsing it in cold water.

The results are in the photos below. I am reasonably pleased, with them. I have only shown a couple of the pale pink fabrics here as the others were all the same as the palest pink. The silk took up the dye solution well as you can see the lovely dark pink result!

There are three different shades of green, and I am pleased with the threads. The pink thread has a slightly grey tint, which I really like.

There is no mordant with this cabbage dyeing, so I have no experience of whether they will fade any more, so as I have no project in mind at the moment, it will be interesting to see how they maintain their colour, over time!!

Over a year ago, I experimented with dyeing fabric using Avocado skins and stones dyeing, and was delighted with those results. The link below will take you to that post.

https://stitchingnews.wordpress.com/2019/10/20/stitching-news-october-2019/

I have continued stitching into my eco prints, and have decided that the stitched marks in this second mark making book will, in the main, be taken from natural marks on the prints or marks that are often there as a result of the print process. I have been looking through one or two plants books and there is a vast resource there; leaves, tendrils, tiny seed cases, etc. That seems very appropriate to me, after all, as any marks on the pages have already come from plant life!

I revisited one of the pages I showed in the last post and worked out how I could create some cross stitches alongside the cross formation I had already stitched. I wanted each cross to stand alone and work on both sides of the page! I also had to try to begin and end each one in a manner that was as inconspicuous as possible!

To the left is the reverse side of the previous page, which shows the cross stitch in mirror image

Next to that on the right I have stitched a bare outline of cotinus, and then used stitch to emphasise the grid pattern resulting from the steaming process.

The next six prints, are just laid against the pages. They are yet to be attached. I will secure them all to their pages when I have completed them all!

The far left print in the photo here was one of the end papers with evidence of one of the round weights I use in the printing process to help with the contact of leaf to paper. Each little stitched “comma” mark began as an obvious dot on the paper. So it had a “speckled” appearance initially. I decided to use each dot as the start of my “comma”. I decided not to stitch the “string” marks inside the circle, but outside the circle I did stitch them and used a dark brown fine silk thread. I was really drawn to the lovely soft greys and warm and creamy peachy colour mingling with the cinnamon. The yellow print on the right was originally printed from leaves of the Rose of Sharon plant.

I loved the grid lines in the print on the left, and chose to work inside them after emphasising them with long stitch. I used a grey cotton thread for the darker colours and a soft brown silk thread for the thinner section on the left of that print. The stitched motif over the whole piece is a small dried seed case.

I cannot recall why the division in colour occured on the right hand print, but the creamy soft mustard colour of the eucalyptus leaf sits very well alongside the milky pale coffee colour.

Finally I have completed the stitch study on the right of this pair, having shown the left one last blog!

Initially I outlined the long thin triangle, in the centre of this print, in orange thread. I then continued with the same imagery throughout the little study.

The size of an individual page in this book is 3″ x 4″, and in the photo above, the pair of stitched prints measure 2″ x 2.75″.

I have also also given some thought to the “wrap” for this second little blue book.

On the left is the colour palette I have gathered from which to select patches, and threads to apply to the denim strip, shown on the left side and the top.

Rather than using blues and white thread on top of the denim strip as I did for the first book;

https://stitchingnews.wordpress.com/2020/11/

I have chosen a colourful mix of fabrics and threads which reflect the colour palette of the eco printed pages and the threads used within.

The fabrics are of various weights, and I have also included some scraps of silk within the selection.

I began by tacking some patches onto my denim strip and have started to stitch them in longitudinal rows across the denim now. stitching a tiny blanket stitch around each patch to secure them in place and reduce the possible fraying of their cut edges.

I actually now have four small books in progress, so plenty of work ahead! My best wishes to you all, as we continue with the lockdown, vaccinations, and maintaining the rules which appear to be making some difference now. Perhaps we can begin to see a glimmer of light in the distance.

Until next time, happy sewing.

Di

January 2021/2

Every day I feel so grateful to have “stitching” as my getaway from the often grim realities happening in every region and every little corner of the country, indeed the world. When I read or listen to the news it often makes me emotional and sad. I still feel it is important to do so, because there are huge efforts and sacrifices being made on our behalf by so many people. Thankfully I can turn to creativity, which we all know can really sustain and feed us through these dreadfully turbulent times. It is an escapism which brings some normality and enrichment to those of us who love to hold fabric and needle!

My exploration of working with the eco prints; mark making in general; and stitch with both, continues.

I have started my second mark making book which will run alongside the first. This second one has a portrait format as opposed to the landscape format of the first little book. The possibilities have changed straight away! In this book instead of making marks with a drawing utensil straight onto the page, I shall be working into my eco printed papers first, then attaching them to the page.

I have been looking afresh at some of the leaf eco prints I have discarded in the past; discarded because I didn’t like them! I tore a strip off one and was startled to see the transformation that happened just with that simple action! Using part of the original eco print rather than the entire print created a new perspective and immediately ideas began to formulate!

I like the creamy marks against the blue page seen in the photograph below. I have always liked blue and brown together, and throughout this book I am using two different blue threads. Below these two stitched images, in the same photo, are another couple of prints I have selected so that I can spend time working out how I might stitch them!!

I knew I wanted to stitch my marks in this book rather then draw them. For years I have loved stitching on paper.

My am trying to keep my mind completely open now as I look at a chosen print. I am trying to stop thinking of the original prints as leaves by mostly looking beyond that at the other marks, or “suggestion of marks”. (Inevitably there will be hints of leaf in some of the prints.) The image on the left page, is a print of a stem of dried seed cases of the Crocosmia “Lucifer” Monbretia . On the right page are the long tapering pleated leaves of the same plant. The print of the leaves was very very pale, but I am delighted at the effect of the stitches, which actually have no reference to marks on the actual leaves, the underlying framework of the print just supports the shaping of the stitched lines.

This new little book links much of the work I have been doing not only over the last few months particularly, but over several years in total. It is so good to begin to tie it all together.

These two prints in the photo on the left were originally either on the top or the bottom of a parcel of leaves which had been been tied together with string to keep the layers from falling apart during the steaming and printing process. I have introduced a touch of orange to lift the colour palette. The stitching on the image on the left hand page is complete.

The right hand page shows a section of similar print where I have, as yet, only stitched the vertical lines with a couple of the horizontal lines. I have yet to consider how to continue.

To give an indication of scale, the measurements of a single page is 4 inches long by 3 inches wide, and the size of the two small stitched pieces in the photo above, is two and three quarter inches long by two inches wide.

With three different eco print and stitch projects on the go I try to do a little of the necessary preparation each day. It varies between half an hour some days, or maybe a couple of hours on another day. This ensures that I always have something ready to stitch! It is lovely now that the days are noticeably beginning to draw out, and the natural daylight time for sewing is gradually lengthening.

Above is a photo showing showing some examples of sorting out possible prints for different styles of cards. Some are drying after waxing, others have been cut out. All will have some machine stitched detail eventually.

More decisions and selection! Some lovely colours developing naturally on these old prints. some are about 3 years old now!! Maybe some of these will end up in the mark-making book, and will be hand stitched?

Another two sections selected for the next two pages in the mark-making book, with another couple of possibilities below. I spend several days “contemplating” how to develop the stitched marks while I am working on the previous one! I am particularly looking forward to working on the two laid down inside the book! I think the blue thread will look great on the yellow!

I shall clearly have to make the next wrap for this book, before too long, as well!

I have not yet received my sewing machine back from Rick; “The Bernina Doctor”. BUT the good news is that we have had a conversation and he has fixed it, which is very comforting. It has been my workhorse and brilliant companion for getting on towards 40 years. My very old “spare” is now skipping stitches and breaking the thread. I have done all the “normal” checks and fixes for these problems, but have had to give it up now!

So, after more years than I care to remember, I have bought a new machine. Important to me was that it should be a Bernina and mechanical rather than computerised. I have bought the Bernette b35 model. I ordered a free motion foot to accompany the five feet included with the machine, which I am still awaiting. It seems it should be here next week. This has held me up as I am wanting to do some free motion applique on a little wallet, as a small, “quick project” to help me to begin familiarising myself with the machine!

I chose it as it seems to be almost the equivalent of my 1015 machine, with one or two differences, the biggest being the feet! They “clip on” rather the old method, and this means new feet, of course, which sadly do not having visual access right up to the needle! I use that feature hugely on my 1015 for the miniature and small detailed work I do. So it is going to take some getting used to! However there are plusses, such as a few more decorative stitches, a much lighter weight to the machine, and an inbuilt needle threader, which I have to admit I have not yet mastered. However, as long as I have no problem threading needles I have no need to use it!

My thoughts are with you all, as we continue to stay safe, and well. Happy sewing until next time

Di

January 2021/1

A very happy new year to you all. A new year brings fresh beginnings and new hopes. Last year brought its own totally unexpected challenges to all of us. No one could have written it. But the beginning of this year gives promise, even though many difficulties will still have to be overcome with the virus.

As stitchers, quilters, embroiderers, and lovers of cloth in all guises, we are SO fortunate that we can immerse ourselves in wonderful creativity during these very uncertain times. Long may we enjoy it, and if we all strive to instill our love, skills and enthusiasm to the younger generation what a wonderful legacy we would be leaving. Enthuse, inspire and look forward, (not backwards) are my goals for 2021.

The promise of spring is wonderful. The hazel catkins are well out and the Hellebores are beginning to show their heads again.

I had to search, but once I started looking I could see hellebore heads emerging everywhere!! They are so intriguing, and such a welcome sight!

They grow like weeds in our garden, which is amazing when I see the price of just one plant in garden centres!

As I continued to explore the garden I noticed that what was a tiny myrtle bush at the beginning of 2020, has shot up and is clearly thriving!

Myrtle is of Mediterranean origin and is an oily dense bush. Because of the oil in the leaves it gives excellent Eco prints, as do the leaves on our little Olive tree.

I have Eco dyed with myrtle leaves many times over the years, but have never even noticed the berries that follow the dainty white flowers. You can see them in the photo above, of our original myrtle shrub. I can feel another printing session coming on!!

I have sewing machine news, and, sadly, it is that it has been poorly for about three weeks now. My old second-hand 807 Bernina machine is also not happy either! A week’s gentle sewing with it didn’t produce a standard of stitch that I was happy to have scrutinised. Basically I had completely forgotten how little control I have of the speed of the machine. All is not lost though, as I have ample hand stitching to work at until my machine comes back, hopefully with a clean bill of health! I am not expecting it for possibly another couple of weeks yet, but I am thoroughly enjoying the hand sewing, and have been working on more Eco prints.

Hand sewing is so therapeutic; rhythmical, meditative and strangely comforting! I have always loved it, and shall never tire of it!

I had machine stitched the detail on the leaves on the cards below several months ago. I had put them away as I didn’t know how I wanted to use them at the time. As you can see, I made a decision this week!

The apparent simplicity of the finished cards belies the amount of hours that has gone into each one. I have often repeated myself in this blog, and am about to do so once again(!) I really do not mind at all how long a process is going to take, as long as I know I am going to be pleased with the end result! The little smile along the way reassures me of that. From top left in a clockwise direction the three leaves are Acer, Portuguese Laurel and Cotinus. I am fortunate to have a very well stocked garden of shrubs, trees and plants, lots of weeds too, (many of which print very well indeed), so I have an endless resource with which to play and experiment when printing.

1. The leaves were initially Eco printed in a batch of possibly 4 parcels with 10 leaves in each, which result in about 40% of usable prints. This may well seem to be a poor percentage, but within each of the folds of my concertina folded paper, a leaf is trapped inside. I insert leaves in the front and back folds. Thus, they end up with a print on each side! Clearly, I have to chose which print is the most suitable for the project I am working on! Some don’t work too well either, so there is also always some natural elimination! I like some of the transfer of colour and mark, that comes with using this method, rather than having single individual prints.

2. I selected a few to work on, and closely machine stitched around the often intricate outline of the leaf, as well as over the internal veining. It was at this stage I had stored them away.

3. Next I cut each one out carefully close to the stitching and decided whether to leave them in their original printed colour (as I did with the four in the photo below) or to paint them in a sympathetic way to reflect their summer colour palette, as above.

4. Finally, I have given them a coat of acrylic wax and have hand stitched a simple border detail on the right hand edge of the card. I really like this very simple embellishment, feeling it gives a professional finish. It makes me smile as well, and that is a good sign!

I had also previously completed some simple out line machine stitching on some other prints several months ago, which secured them directly onto another background. I then mounted them individually onto cards.

A totally different end result, but valid, and an interesting alternative!

These haven’t been painted, but I have acrylic waxed them, which has brought out the beautiful colour palette detail.

I love the process of working out how to use my prints in a creative and interesting way. It rarely happens straight away. I often put them away in between the different stages, often for many weeks at a time. Reviewing them at a later date can be very satisfying when fresh ideas come to mind.

I have also looked out my most recently printed bundles during the last week and as ever, I was thrilled and delighted to see how they had continued to develop their marks and detail whilst all bundled together. I was inspired but my enthusiasm will just have to be put on hold!

The other Eco print stitching I have been working on are the pages for my new little book. There is no machine stitching in this book at all. Continuous lines of stitch may look to be machine stitched but everything in the book is hand stitched. The main supportive structure of the book is a strip of heavy weight water colour paper which I folded so that it has two valley folds on the front and one on the back. It creates a very strong structure which will allow the book to stand up alone, and unsupported. In order to take the stark “whiteness” of the water colour paper away I used a cotinus leaf as a “paintbrush”, dipping it into the murky steaming water in the bottom of the pan and stroking it across the surface, front and back!

I have posted the front cover in the past, but here is a reminder:

I have highlighted this cotinus leaf print by emphasising the occasional leaf veins in red. The actual print is beautifully clear, and with the addition of small French knots over the natural spots that developed in the printing process, nothing else was required.

I used a short length of one of my hand dyed threads to stitch a little detail on the top and down the left hand side of the print. The detail on the opposite edge was made using a commercial viscose thread.

The, height of the main book structure is 3 3/4″. and the width of each “face, is 3”.

Six Eco printed, hand stitched images, create the first half half of the book.

The photo above, on the left, shows the inside of the front cover, and opposite it is the stitched print which is anchored to the inside of the supporting structure of the first valley fold. To the right of that you can see the effect of the “painting” with the Cotinus leaf, onto the water colour paper!

Below, the next photograph shows the four little stitched prints that will be stitched into the valley fold in between the two prints above. The two outer prints will be stitched to the backs of the inner folded prints. Here I have laid them all in a row, as they are still separate and therefore easier to see. I shall change the position of them after I have stitched the next group so I am leaving my options open at this stage! I have posted a photo of this central folded unit in the row, in a previous newsletter

The first three from the left are all Cotinus leaves, which is why I shall probably move the first one to the next set of leaves I work on, and choose a different one here! The depth (top to bottom) of the inserts are half an inch smaller than the main book construction. I love inserts which are a different size to the overall book size. You can see from these three Cotinus leaves and the one on the front cover, that the choices for stitch within the same leaves are many! I have also only just noticed that the inside of the front cover (above) is also a cotinus leaf!! Yet another variation!

The variations occur due to the sort of steamer I use. I have an old electric steamer which has an intricate plastic grid which the parcels lie on. I also have an old stainless steel steamer which has a grid of holes, that I use on the hob. Sometimes I use a really old aluminium pan as a steamer too, which also results in different changes on the prints! I also use different weights on top of the tied parcels to aid with a good contact of leaf to paper and these can also impact on the print!.

All these elements are taken into consideration as I interpret the results in stitch.

Well, on a very wet and cold Saturday afternoon, I wish you all happy stitching until next time!

Di

December 2020/2

Rob and I are having a very quiet Christmas this year; no visitors and no travelling. As a family we made this choice a while ago and we are all happy with the arrangement. We can “see” each other, and do so, on a very regular basis. The wonder of modern technology in its various guises, has been welcomed across the land in the last year. We do moan about it, especially when there are problems, but it has been many people’s salvation. So, because of this we shall still be able to celebrate during the day with our family and friends, spread around two continents!

Here is my Christmas card for this year!

I sincerely wish you all a very peaceful and healthy Christmas and New Year. I would also like to thank the many of you who have sent cards, and good wishes to me. I have received so many kind messages of support for the newsletter, and I am delighted that it has been received so well through this incredibly difficult year. I had decided, and indeed had already started to write two posts per month instead of one, before the Corona virus had had such an impact and it seems that has been widely appreciated.

It has also been good for me, giving me a focus on a more regular basis!

My friend Caroline was kind enough to let me have a sprig of a mature conifer tree in her garden, and when she asked what I was going to do with it, I said I wasn’t quite sure! I had an idea in my head but until I could begin, I didn’t know how it might work!

I started with a 3″ x 4″ piece of red fabric, and cut a piece of firm weight calico, the same size, and blanket stitched the two together by hand, around the edges. This gave a nice weight on which to work.

Then I played with the sprig, placing it in different ways, as I worked out how to use it. When I decided on its position, I cut a “bucket” fabric shape from a little piece of batik, with a calico shape as well, and stitched those together in the same way. The tree was ready to “stand” in the bucket now! Now for the “NOEL”! Naturally I wanted a Christmas greeting on the card, and below I have explained the process.

Several years ago I made an eraser printing block saying NOEL.

As you can see from the photo on the left, if you are making a printing block of a word, you actually have to create a mirror image of the word.

There were several stages to making the printing block, and getting the word onto the red fabric.

1) Having established what size letters I wanted, I drew two faint parallel lines onto a small piece of tracing paper; the depth between the lines equalled the height of the tallest letters. Next I drew a faint line in between the two, at the height I wanted the smaller letters to reach. Then I wrote the word NOEL ( NOT in mirror image) in pencil, between them.

2) Next I turned this side of the tracing paper over onto a scrap of paper and could see the mirror image of the word now! I carefully drew over the top of the lines of the letters and turned this surface of the tracing paper over onto the eraser. By rubbing the back of it with my finger the mirror-imaged letters were transferred to the eraser! I sharpened the image going over the lines again, then using a craft knife I cut away all the eraser space around the letters, leaving them “proud” on the top of the eraser, as shown in the photo above.

3) I practised printing the word in different colours as well as onto two or three different surfaces to find my preferred result. My final choice was a metallic acrylic paint in air-force blue, printed onto recycled white packaging paper. (There is nothing fancy about this paper. It literally was packed around an item that came in the post one of the days I happened to be working on Unit 2, the colour Unit, and we had to paint all sorts of papers for our “scrap bags! I tried it out and really liked the fine crisp quality of it).

4) After printing onto the paper, and while there was some excess paper around the printed word, which made it easier to hold, I carefully outline-stitched the letters with a silver metallic Gutterman thread. To be honest it was quite difficult, because the thread kept twisting on itself, so I had to work slowly and meticulously!

5) Then I ironed a small piece of Bondaweb onto the back of the paper before cutting out the letters individually, peeling off the paper, and ironing them in place onto the fabric. The Bondaweb gave the advantage of stiffening the paper, making it easier to cut out the letters individually, AND, of allowing me to fine-tune the placement of each letter. The first and last letters measure 3/4″ high, and the middle letters are 1/2″ high, so it was a bit fiddly!

Now, to decorate the tree! I wanted to hang “baubles” from the branches, and as I searched through my beads, I found some perfect, gorgeous glass beads. They make fabulous baubles! They had been in my stash for a long time. I added a small golden bead underneath each bauble, to facilitate the silver hanging loop for the larger bead; the same silver thread that I had outline stitched with. Finally, I stitched some very tiny French knots as little twinkling stars! I had stitched one 8-pointed star, top right of the card, and vowed one was enough! It took me three attempts before I was satisfied with that. I really did not find the thread easy to hand sew, as it kept curling around, and therefore knotting on itself!

For several years now I have made a piece of work, which I could photograph for our Christmas card. I have printed them off in three sizes: 4 to an A4 sheet; 9 to a sheet, and 35 tiny ones to a sheet, which look great for gift tags!

I found the link below which shows how to make a simple five pointed star, and thought it might be a great project for the children/grandchildren/family/ to try out during Advent. All that is required are 1″ strips of paper as long as possible. The instruction says 18″ but you can use shorter, and join, as they show you. (Try it out on recycled anything)! I have to admit, I have not tried it myself, but I have read the instructions and with supervision I felt children of about 10 years, could well achieve it. It may well pass a few hours during the school holiday!

https://byopiapress.wordpress.com/2020/12/01/byopia-press-advent-calendar-2020-day-one-and-an-interlace-star/#comments

Lately I have been making some draw string bags. When we go away, I have several different cloth bag containers for keeping items separate in my luggage and I find them really useful. I made some smaller ones for my young nieces a couple of years ago, and put a selection of goodies in them which I believe went down very well!

These are bigger; about 14″ in length, by 11″ for the larger ones. The smaller are 11″ long by about 8″ wide, so they are useful sizes for a myriad of items. The drawstrings are my dyed dishcloth cotton. With pieced outers and fine shirting fabric for the linings, they make attractive little presents for either sex.

In between all the pre-Christmas activities, I have also just a a couple of sessions to work in my little mark making book, and have completed another 4 single page faces. They all relate to each other.

I used one of my old eraser printing blocks of a tiny sprig of three blackberry leaves. I have to admit that when I opened my white acrylic paint it was almost solid! (I have had it for MANY more years than I care to think of!) So I warmed the container in hot water, and managed to scrape a little of it out, and with the addition of a miniscule amount of cold water, I created a usable dilute white, which I was able to use for the four pages!

On the page to the left, I printed six of the sprigs and then used a Micron red pen with a sized 0.1 nib to add fine detail.

In the facing page, as shown in this photo on the left, I lightly pressed some narrow torn strips of masking tape across the paper, before printing another six images.

Once again I added the fine outline detail with the Micron pen.

When the paint was dry, I peeled off the masking tape, and was pleased with the fractured images.

For the next two pages, I just allowed the imagery on the first page, to follow across the two page spread.

Still using the diluted white acrylic paint, I printed some images onto some pale brown newsprint, then cut them out and glued them to the two pages. Using a fine black drawing pen, I drew very short vertical lines over each printed letter on the newsprint. I tore some smaller news print strips of a smaller scale of text which I glued at the top of the pages and repeated drawing even tinier lines over this text. The “spread” measures 8″ by 3″.

So, until next year, Happy stitching.

Di

November 2020/2

Welcome to this second November post of Stitching News.

Several times over the years, I have been asked to help people log on to my blog. I answered one of these requests, last month, from a friend who had a new email address and wished to use it to receive the blog posts. I explained the Follow button procedure, and heard back from her again, very recently, (six weeks later). She had clicked on the “Follow” button, but had received no blog posts! I had written two since then. I have no idea how often this has happened to others in the past. Anyway, this week I have explored my site admin pages more fully and discovered that I could “invite” her, which I did using her new email address. I had a response the next day from a very happy friend who had responded to the invitation, and was now able to read the blogs she had missed! If you are aware of anyone who has, or has had a problem, or would like me to invite them this way, please do let me know, either by a direct message, or via a comment on the blog, then I can get back to you privately for any email details. Thank you!

Now, back to sewing: I would like to use this post to show you the idea behind the small stitched and patched denim strip that I left you with at the end of the last newsletter. I had started some stitched rows using a white thread along the strip, if you remember …

Above, the photo is a reminder of that starting point. When I had finished the stitching, it was obvious that the strip needed to be a little wider, so I added a 1″ wide strip of denim along the two long edges, and added more stitch to blend in with the others.

My original starting point was a long length of straight binding that I had cut several years ago, and unearthed when I was looking for some denim for another purpose. I had clearly made far too much of this binding, and had stored away the unused section. I have enough for the bases of the stitched “wraps” I intend to make for the five little books I have now assembled.

The process of creating the pages; When I decorated the paper, I had cut one large sheet of wall paper lining paper, and using a sponge brush I washed the front and the back with dilute ink, deliberately using a very light touch with the sponge brush. Where the brush missed areas, it left spaces showing the original colour of the paper. When it had dried, I used a dropper to drop undiluted ink onto the large sheet, and tilted the paper so that it could run and find its own direction. I repeated the same exercise on the other side, then left the whole paper to dry naturally. Next I measured and folded the paper into rows of equal depth, across the width of the paper, tearing them along the fold, against a ruler, creating a number of strips.

Then I tore each individual strip of paper in half, creating two sections. Each of the two sections was then folded in half. This created two single-fold pages. A “signature” is just a group of pages. In this case I wanted one signature to consist of three single-fold pages with one page inserted inside the other, the three folds nestling tightly together. These signatures are stitched at the spine to hold them securely together. The signatures are also linked together during the stitching process. Each finished book has two of these signatures, and therefore has 24 single face pages to work on. Now, hopefully you can understand how all the pages within this small collection of books are “of a kind”, throughout. Working like this even for one much larger book, is an easy and fairly instant way to give an overall start to your work, whatever the purpose of the book. There are many simple book binding instructions on line, if you are wanting more in depth information. It is addictive though, be warned!

It is great to be recycling the painted paper as well as the straight binding in such a useful way. I am highlighting the front page of each book by outlining the marks with a fine black drawing pen, as shown in the top photo, on the left.

It is easy to compare the difference of the front pages on these two examples on the left., the second one having no additional marking.

The emphasis created by the fine black line, really brings the irregular marks to the fore-ground, creating a sharp focus. The second of the examples will look quite different after it has had the same treatment.

Each book measure 3″ x 4.25″.

The wrap

I finished the stitching on the strip of applied patches and created another stitch line to each additional long edge. I also inserted a tiny red square, just because I could! I love it!

Next I lined the wrap with a hand dyed cotton fabric, using the “bagging” method. I wanted the hand stitching to go to the edge of the wrap, as it is so narrow. I felt that a traditional binding would add an “interruption”!

I inserted a ribbon when I lined the wrap, and then stitched a small button onto the wrap so that the ribbon can wind around the button to create a closure

Below, the photo shows the first two pages of my book filled with marks, made from very simple straight lines.

I have created several different effects, also recording thoughts and ideas that came to mind at the time. Perhaps they might be quilting/stitch ideas; ideas for abstract designs; or for repeat pattern. I like the idea of the shapes tumbling down in long rows, on the left hand page and can imagine making some printing blocks to extend this idea. I love the pattern making that is happening all over that first page. Before I started, I also decided to outline the marks already on the page. The white spaces add an energy and a focus to the page, which became evident as I was working across it! I think it is a definite plus.

As I have often reiterated, it is the “doing” that creates the ideas; one process, often suggesting the next process. I never have any idea how it is all going to turn out! That is the exciting bit. Often serendipity happens, and you cannot plan that!

Until next time; happy stitching!

Di