July 2021 /2

Good morning from another scorching day down here in Cornwall. Mediterranean skies, with ocasional breeze, but still very hot.

I must admit I have been hiding indoors for the vast part of the last few days, having watered the essential plants, and made sure the bird bath is full! I always have time to pick the wonderful sweetpeas whose fragrance fills the house. It is just glorious!

In my last post I showed the work in progress on my first panel which is based on my take on Henri Rousseau’s imagery and style in his forest series of paintings. (He used many greens and particularly dark greens. More often than not he also painted a wild or exotic animal in his paintings too. I used brightly coloured imagery and guinea fowl in mine!)

To recap for the benefit of new readers: I had designed and made a small hanging several years ago, and a couple of months ago had taken sections of that panel and created a single-page folded sketch book, in which I created 8 fanciful sketches using the imagery based in my hanging.

The series of four panels I am currently making have been further developed from the sketchbook ideas. In my last Stitching News I showed my full sized drawing; a stencil I made which I worked onto the panel before any other process, and then a photo of the stitched panel, in progress.

Below is the finished panel.

It is 5″ wide by 13″ long. I have used a selection of hand dyed and commercial fabrics, with hand dyed threads for the straight line quilting in the background and machine weight threads on the stencilled areas. All the applique is raw edge and machined. I looked at many fabrics for the binding, and eventually chose one that is very “quiet”, as colour instantly became too busy. This final choice of fabric is one that I dyed with avocado stones and skins a couple of years ago! Details of the process can be read by clicking on the link below.

https://stitchingnews.wordpress.com/2019/10/

The second panel is now in progress. I decided not to stencil in this panel, but to hand and machine quilt the background before I applied the rest of the imagery. The tree is the main image, and when I chose the fabric I thought it would be a suitable colour. After it was applied, I felt it was not dark enough, so I did actually cut a tree stencil at that stage in order to work some of the fabric pastels through the stencil to give some shading and bring the colour of the trunk and branches out a little more.

To the left is the drawing for my second panel.

I have repeated some of the same elements as in the first one. But, as you can see the tree is fresh, as are the areas of “cobweb”, and the spirals hanging down.

I have also placed a couple of snails on the lower branch on the left! I am having fun!

The shaped units to the right of the tree trunk just refer to the pieced background of my original hanging, which had numerous small strip pieced and very small log cabin blocks. I had featured these in one of my sketch book pages, and really liked them!

There may be more leaves, than I have drawn, as I shall add more if I feel it is appropriate!

The guinea fowl will feature in all of the panels! They were a firm favourite in the original hanging as well as in the sketch book!

I have left generous 1/2″ seam allowances at the sides, and have not quilted right up to the edges yet.

After all the imagery has been machine stitched in position, I shall trim the panel to the right size and bind it. At that point I shall finish any hand quilting as required. I followed the same process with the first panel.

The reason I have quilted all the background first this time, is because it was such a fuss quilting the background and having to avoid the imagery in the first panel. It took a long time. I realise that it is inevitable that some of the quilting will be now be obscured, but I am hoping the process will have been quicker!

I have had tremendous use out of a small cross body pouch that I bought in India many many years ago.

Sadly the fabric of the pouch has become thread bare, but the beautiful embroidery which was on the front and a snippet also on the back is still wonderfully intact. So I have cut those out, and am reapplying them to make another pouch which I intend to attach to another simple denim zipped pouch I made several years ago, but have never used! I originally made it to go inside a bag I was making, but it didn’t work!

So this photo shows the pouch I have never used on the right, and I have teamed it with another denim, and a batik, plus the two embroidered pieces. which will will give an accent to echo the coloured zip I had used. I think I will make a very narrow denim strap.

I hope you enjoy this wonderful weather. Happy stitching until next time!

Di

July 2021 /1

Good morning on a blustery, showery and often sunny day! The garden plants, shrubs, trees and particularly the weeds, continue to proliferate and grow at a furious rate. Everything is so green, but we cannot keep up with the growth spurts!!

Another short newsletter today. My foot is healing well; I am much more mobile now, albeit rather slow, and taking it very carefully, but I am thoroughly enjoying working on my first of the four panels, resulting from the sketchbook I developed from “my take” on Henri Rousseau’s forest paintings!

Firstly I cut some paper the finished size of my panel, 13″ long by 5″ wide, and drew out an idea of what I wanted to portray in this first panel; leaves, other foliage, long trailing vine-like stem, and some flower heads. This particular panel I also wanted to feature a couple of cow-parsley-like stem and dried heads!

I had decided that each of the panels would have two or three “guinea fowl” as in my original hanging, so although they are not represented here, you will see them on the fabric panel at the end of the text!

My initial choice of background fabric was a pale green. But it became obvious that this was not going to work. So I selected three darker fabrics, cut them into strips of varying widths. One of the fabrics is a space dyed linen and the other two are dyed shirting fabrics. I Stitched these strips for all four panels, at the same time. I also cut the backing fabrics, and the wadding. So those initial tasks are done, and put to one side!

After a great deal of thought, I decided to make a stencil which would be a background to the applique work that you can see on my drawing above.

So I drew the stencil design out on a separate piece of good quality sturdy wall paper lining paper using my craft knife.

So, in essence there are two things going on at this stage; 1) the applique fabric design and 2) the stencil design.

I did a small test sample of the stencil on the pale green fabric, (my original choice of background colour), but it immediately showed me that that particular colour for the background was not a good choice; far too pale! (The value of a sample!)

However, the stencil worked really well.

So I prepared one of the pieced background fabrics, using masking tape to anchor it onto newspaper on my worksurface. Then I anchored the stencil in the same way in position on the background.

I decided to use my fabric pastels, for the stencilling. They are called Chromacoals. These can be used like any pastels, but they are fixed to fabric by heat.

Sadly I did not take a photograph when I had finished the stencilling.

I bought my pastels many years ago and have never seen them for sale since! However, I have searched again today and found exactly the same product by Pentel. They are called called Fabric Fun Pastel Dye Sticks and are readily available on the internet, quite possibly in your local art suppliers too. They seem to be about £4 for a set of 7 colours. They work in the same way, i.e. you can work directly onto fabric, or through a stencil as I have done, then the work is heat fixed with an iron. (Always cover the imagery with a piece of paper, or an old piece of fabric that doesn’t matter, before placing the iron onto the work. I also protect the ironing board for good measure too!) Once heat fixed, the fabric can then be washed by hand or in the washing machine.

Warning: please be aware that these pastels (as with pastels used on paper), will easily smudge. Any that remains on your hands during the creative process will also easily transfer to the rest of the fabric, your clothes etc. if you are not careful. So wash your hands and clear up your work station very carefully.

My sticks of colour are very bright, so I toned them down, by using my craft knife to scrape a little of one colour onto an old paint mixing palette. Then I repeated this with another colour on top of the first, and used the end of an old brush to carefully mix the colours together! I then used my finger dipped into the mixed powder to lift some of the colour and work it through the stencil. This method worked really well for me. I washed my hands straight after I had finished. After washing in warm soapy water there was absolutely no residual colour left on my skin.

The photo on the left is my panel in progress.

On the right hand side of the panel I have just started quilting in parallel lines down the length in between the imagery. I am working from the centre towards the edge.

On the left hand side I shall quilt parallel lines across the panel finishing at the “central” pieced seam.

My intention when creating a stencil for the background was just to add “infill”, not to be seen in every bit of detail. I wanted some of the stencil detail to be lost, and “underneath”.

The guinea fowl need feet, and eyes!

I may add a little more detail in other places yet, or wait until I have done the other panels, to make a final evaluation.

That is all for now. Happy stitching until next time!

Di

May 2021 /2

Good day to everyone. As I send out this post, we are recovering after yet another very wet and stormy few days! We were grateful for all the much needed rain that arrived two or three weeks ago. The garden was parched, the water butts empty or very low, and the rain refreshed everything. Our last frost was on 6th May. However, the rain has continued, and it seems, many days now there are extraordinary downpours! What strange weather times, we are living through, on top of just pure “strange times”.

Frank, (Kantha stitched Frank), on display in the last post and shown here again on the right, is an unassuming sort of guy. Not a party-goer! He prefers a night in, playing chess with a friend, enjoying a glass of beer. However there is an intelligence behind those bright eyes. He has steadily and steadfastly worked his way up the promotion ladder in his place of work, by sheer commitment and quiet determination.

My gallery of “rogues” now has its second portrait!

Esme!

Esme is, in every way a total contrast to Frank. She is colourful, exuberant and rather flamboyant. Popular with her friends she is the life and soul of any party. Alongside her extrovert personality she is kindness itself; nothing is too much trouble for her.

She has despaired about her mop of curly hair ever since she was old enough to complain, and recently she decided to just “go with it” so she went the whole hog and dyed it purple!!

She never has been a shrinking violet! but now heads turn when she walks into a room!

I have continued with my 8 page sketchbooks! I am loving the freedom of just playing with ideas, and have now completed the one based on further developments of my wall hanging “in the style of Henri Rousseau!” I actually did not use stitch in this sketchbook, just experimented with a fine drawing pen, and a thicker felt tip pen, and a graphite pencil. I feel excited by the results and have lots of ideas for small pieces of work, now.

Above you can see the covers. I made a colour and a black and white photocopy of a section of the wall hanging. From the colour copy I again cut out two different sections and mounted them onto the front and back of the sketchbook. I have laid the open sketchbook down on the table for this photo, therefore the front of the book is on the right!

I cut imagery from the black and white photocopy, and mounted four of those on the back of the pages.

Inspired by the progress I made in this sketch book, I have taken a fresh look at my concertina matchbox sketchbook. (I made this three years ago, as part of our Textile+ group plan to display them all in our forthcoming exhibition, which sadly has not yet taken place. Hopefully we shall be able to reschedule later this year, although nothing seems to be certain in this world now, does it!)

My review of it has inspired me to start another of the single sheet, folded sketchbooks based on the eco printing and ideas in that matchbox sketchbook. On each page in this new sketchbook I have mounted a small section of an eco printed leaf.

There are more stitched marks than drawn marks here. Below are the first 4 pages.

I am now developing small mixed media abstract collages which will have an eco print basis.

Here is the first! In this photo it is not so easy to see the stitch on the dark section of the cotinus leaf, and I apologise for that.

I had had the whole leaf out on my work surface, staring at me for weeks! I had machine stitched the detail on a cotinus leaf a long time ago, and then added a simple hand stitched detail “behind” part of it.

I decided to cut it up, but first painted PVA glue to the reverse side, so that the stitching would not come undone! My thinking behind this was “abstract”, and I hoped the leaf section would be the catalyst to get me going!

I am not confident at all with the concept of “abstract” and am learning as I play in my sketchbooks! I am always mindful of the principles of design, and of trying to apply them to my work!

I am equally mindful that I am really baring my soul as I post all the images I have done since I embarked on my “abstract journey.”

I wish you all well and as I am having a break for a couple of weeks, the next post will be in 3 or 4 weeks time.

Until then, happy stitching.

Di

June 2021/ 1

Hello every one. This is a short post, for the simple reason that I fractured a bone in my foot almost three weeks ago, at the beginning of a week’s holiday! Clearly my mobility has been completely reduced, also my interest and desire to sew, sadly. Back at home my studio is upstairs!

So, without easy access to the majority of my sewing equipment and all my fabric, I decided to push along some of the ideas I created in my last sketch book. I had taken this along with drawing and painting equipment away with me, also some eco prints and an appropriate hand sewing kit. I had no interested in it at all, even with the very sedentary days for the rest of the week! Fortunately that remained downstairs after we came back.

I have been drawing and painting imagery from that sketchbook creating further ideas for applique panels! I intend to make a series of small hangings (5″ by 13″) which can hang as a group, or individually. They will be machine appliqued with machine and hand quilting, and will originate from the ideas I developed in my “jungle” hanging, based on the work of Henri Rousseau.

I may include some piecing, or some printing, or stencilling. Those possibilities will develop a little later on.

The photo on the left shows work in progress.

The sketch book is open showing some of the imagery from the sketchbook and the beginning of ideas being pulled together for one of the hangings. I am taking three or four elements from each page to form the basis of each individual panel.

I am using a palette of Koh-i nor water colours; a fine and medium paintbrush; a fine felt tip and a 0.1 UniPin black waterproof drawing pen, onto watercolour paper.

I have found the process meditative, healing and uplifting. After almost three weeks of having completely lost my mojo, it feels great to be back on track and producing some work again. Creativity is SO healing. We are all so lucky to have inner resources to call on in this way, whatever journey we follow in our personal lives. Stitching relly does hold us together.

I have cut four strips of paper to the finished size of the hangings so that I can draw the designs out full size. The imagery in my drawings will be used but arrangements and positionings will have to be slightly rearranged with repeats of the motives etc. to accommodate the finished length. However, the essential planning has been completed now.

I shall paint the lower two panels with the Koh-i-nor inks as opposed to the water colours, as they are more vibrant. It will give me more clarification as to which colour palette I would prefer. I am thinking “vibrant” at this stage! The first painted page is based on the complementary colours, and the second, loosely on the primaries. Yesterday I preferred the second! Today I prefer the first!!

On the top two images I have added infill marks as suggestions for quilting patterns.

These hangings are based on my interpretation of the plant life. The original hanging was inspired by Rousseau’s work.

My next task is to draw up a couple of them to full size. Then I am “ready to go,” so to speak!

Take care, and stay safe.

Until next time, Happy Stitching!

Di

May 2021/ 1

In my last post I talked about the Sketchbook revival. It will be live on the internet and available to anyone who is interested and registers again in March 2022.

I also talked about Carla Sonheim and how her one-liner drawings had set me off on drawing my portraits. These gave me the confidence to try sketching more faces and then develop them on into ideas for abstract stitched panels. Something I had been tossing around in my head for a few months.

To the left is “Frank”: a stitched development of one of the drawings I showed in the last post.

As you can see I decided to use Kantha for this stitched study.

It didn’t really excite me while I was working, and I was going to abandon it, which I did for a few days! I picked it up again and now that the piece is finished, he is growing on me!!! I have purposely left some tiny unstitched spaces.

I do love the textures, and although the imagery is simple, there is quite a lot going on!

Finished size is 4″ x 3″.

Esme is the next “portrait” I have been playing with!

The picture on the left in the the sketchbook is of half of her face. I have made changes in order to make the image abstract!

This is how Esme started to progress! Preparation of templates, etc.

I decided on raw edge applique again with a colour palette of basically three colour groups; pale blues for her face; purples for her hair and reds/oranges for the “background”!

The finished size will be 5″x 3″. I am including a 1/4″ seam allowance of the background and face edges around the sides, which will give me some flexibility as to how I trim and finish it!

This is how she looks at the time of posting! Still early stages, but gradually she is coming to life!

As you can see the hair is my next process. I have decided to hand stitch the panel, possibly combining that with a little machine stitching. I do like to combine both techniques in a piece, as it gives more variety and interest in the texture. It also gives more flexibility for portability and using my hand dyed threads too!

So, hopefully you will see the finished panel by the next post!

Back to Helen Wells!

The little time I was able to spend watching and listening with the artists on the sketchbook revival really refreshed and invigorated me. I found it really inspirational.

I briefly introduced Helen in my last post. She is a UK artist who regularly makes the folded A5 sketchbooks as they are small, easily worked into and they develop from a single sheet of paper! An explanation of how to fold and cut the paper is given at the end of the last post: https://stitchingnews.wordpress.com/2021/04/

Helen was another of the artists who inspired me. I initially made one of her A4 single page sketchbooks immediately after I had watched her video and listened to her presentation.

While I was mark making in it I decided I would add stitched marks too, because at heart I am and always will be a stitcher. Helen is a painter, and designer, and her marks don’t include stitches!

I experimented with her myriad of suggestions of ways to make marks!

Splashes, splatters and dribbles; ink blobs blown across the page; large water laden drops/splashes; graphite pencil, fine black drawing pen, sticks and twigs from the garden dipped in ink; white paint pen, old credit card, paint brush used in various ways, etc.

Below are images of marks I made onto my pages and I added stitch to the bottom row of pages in this photo… I had absolutely no preformed ideas at all of how my marks and stitch might combine!!

One group of repeated short stitches in the individual photo below, had an unexpected result. I worked some shorter stitches around the inner edge of the blobs of water I had dropped (from the rinsing water for my paint brush) onto the sketchbook page.

Initially I had drawn some short black lines around the inside, of the blobs of water then I decided to add white stitches. When I had finished it made me smile, as I thought they looked a little like dandelion seed heads! The stitching just transformed the imagery!

Having an open mind is key. I started the page by making a running stitch, echoing one of the drawn lines, and one thing just led to another. This is such a small piece.

Helen also searches through her marked papers and often photo copies a page, then tears pieces from them, and adds a piece to some of her pages in a new book

This can harmonise the collection.

The photo above is exactly the same, as the first one, but I have turned it upside down here, so that the pages on the bottom row can be seen in the rotation they are seen when the concertina booklet is stood up! I purposely have not added stitch to this row. It is all very experimental. I have written my own notes on the back of each page!

Just abstract play! On the first and last pages of the bottom row in the photo above I have added some torn units of some paper I printed a while ago. I also made marks using a painted cork, credit card, sticks from the garden, white pen, and paint brush. I loved the freedom of working this way.

I don’t like everything I have done at all, but it is the “doing” which is the whole purpose of these exercises! Everything is a learning curve. I do like the image at the bottom right hand corner in the photo immediately above! I have used fountain pen ink, and a credit card, with some use of the fine drawing pen too. This is also one of the pages I added a torn section of a previously printed paper. It is simple and atmospheric. Less is more!

I have folded another one-page sketchbook, from an A3 sheet of cartridge paper. This time my inspiration will come from a piece of work I made several years ago based on the style of Henri Rousseau. Below is a photo of that wall hanging:

There are lots of ideas in this work for making marks, so if I am gradually filling the new folded sketchbook with ideas, then maybe the beginnings of a fresh piece of work will emerge. This hanging is full of colour, and the only decision I have made at this stage, is that I will add colour when I have filled all the pages! Actually, this is a mirror image of my hanging. I “flipped” my photo in the edit section on Windows, and it actually made me look at it with fresh eyes!

The photo above shows a couple of completed pages, based on the hanging, with a strip of the third page just catching the light on the right!

The photo below has a completed page on the left, with the next page in progress. I do like the way the graphite pencil adds a softness to the imagery.

All of the marks on the pages shown have been made with a Sharpie chisel edged marker, a rounded edge felt medium felt tip pen, a fine line drawing pen, and a 3B graphite pencil. Ideas are developing for some other applique and stitched panels …..

The are recorded now, and will be there for ever! Work for any time in the future maybe!

Happy Stitching! Until next time….

Di

April 2021/ 2

Welcome to this second Blog of April. It is about two weeks since I last wrote, and it has been a fascinating time for me! I had my second vaccination a couple of weeks ago and after a few days, I developed a great lethargy. I had no inclination to do anything physical at all. It seems that this sort of reaction is widespread and quite typical after the second dose. The upside of that has been that I have been resting and learning about fresh approaches to working practice; reading and exploring ideas, which have been very interesting. I am fully recovered now too!

In March my friend Janine alerted me to the fact that the Sketchbook revival would be starting soon. This an online event in its 4th year, hosted by artist called Karen Abend who lives in Italy. I have to say I knew nothing about it, as I had not heard of it before and only eventually caught up with it this year two or three days before it ended for 2021! Luckily I was still able to register, so have been able to watch some of the online videos as they were extended for some extra days. Registration also means that I will be sent alerts by email about next year’s event. It is free to join, and a wide range of speakers and practitioners talk about how they like to use their sketchbooks; what tools and methods they use, how the use of sketchbooks has really helped them to experiment, refresh, explore and develop new directions. The speakers all have unique and different approaches to how they use their sketchbooks to their advantage, but the common thread is that they explore and develop their work in sketchbooks. This post and the next post I will tell you about the two artists that I have found really interesting and inspirational.

I had been saying to Janine how I have often longed to have a much freer and abstract approach to design in some of my work. I am very well aware that I have a very “neat” approach, which is fine, and that probably will never change but I have had a yearning to explore a different path, a freer path. Our conversation was the catalyst that renewed the conversation about the sketchbook revival and the subsequent thoughts and explorations I have been doing!

During this time Janine told me about one of the artists she had watched called Carla Sonheim. She thought I might be particularly interested in the way she works, and as I had registered I was able to listen and watch her demonstration. The presentations, of which most… if not all, included a mini workshop. The availability of these was extended after the event had finished for another 2-3 weeks, enabling people who had registered to catch up on what they may have missed, and/or watch some of the presentations again.

Carla has been an art teacher for many years, and was very aware of how many adults repeatedly say that they “can’t draw”. I am sure we all hear it, all the time too, and many of us think that of ourselves! Me included.

Carla uses a technique with children which is really enjoyable and she decided to try it out on the adults in her classes who doubted their abilities and had these fears. She said the adults enjoyed it as much as the children, and many went on to develop their own style as they grew in confidence. The technique she used is called “one-liner” drawings. Many of you may well be familiar with the technique. I have to admit I had never heard of it before!

I did the exercises along with her during the presentation session. The whole point of the exercise was like it says on the can; you draw the image with one continuous line. The other essential was to do it quickly! It doesn’t matter whether you use a pen, pencil, or any other tool whatsoever. Doing it quickly makes it quite an impromptu effort! The exercises were simple, but it was good to actually put pen to paper! In her mini workshop she demonstrated how she drew a cat; then an elephant, and finally a vase of flowers, all one-liner drawings! They were quite quirky.

She admitted that “quirky” is her style, but although it isn’t my style, it has brought out a very interesting side of me, that I didn’t know I had!

The next day, feeling refreshed, I decided to have another go, and as I am gathering ideas and inspiration in preparation for starting a fresh body of work based on faces, I experimented by drawing 6 one-liner faces in my notebook. I thought this may be an interesting way to tackle my growing interest in developing abstract faces!

Shown above, and on the left are four of those original drawings. To get me going I decided to use our daily newspaper. I chose a photo of a face; studied it for a minute or so, noting the shape of the face; the hair line and length; placement of ears in relation to the nose and eyes, and hair; ?spectacles etc. then I covered the newspaper picture and drew the one-liner face from memory very quickly! I used a size 0.1 Unipin black ink drawing pen. Encouraged by my first one, I continued, and had a great time!

(At this point I just want to insert a paragraph about a different artist, Helen Wells, also recommended by Janine. Helen explained in her artist’s presentation how she liked to make very quick sketchbooks from one sheet of paper which is folded accurately and then cut in such a way that it finishes up as a small concertina book. She says she makes these frequently, and uses them to work into quickly. They get her creative juices flowing, and she frequently looks back at them, and often uses their inspiration as the start of a fresh piece of work. I was impressed. The thought of having a small sketch book with a very limited number of pages, I liked very much! There is always a sense of achievement in completing a sketch book, even if it is very small with a very limited number of pages!

I have explained the method of creating this folded sketchbook at the end of the blog.

Back to my faces! The following day, encouraged by my one-liner drawings I decided to make a one page, single cut sketchbook from an A4 piece of cartridge paper and to fill it with more faces! I chose to use a 3B graphite pencil this time. It is not easy to take a photo of the concertina of the 8 pages, showing all the detail, but the photo below gives a sense of what I drew!

I didn’t use the one-liner method exclusively, as you can see, because I wanted to add detail, So I tried more of a “sketch-like” attempt. My inspiration came from the newspaper again but this time after studying the picture I did keep the newspaper picture beside me for further referral. I drew quite quickly, and didn’t mind that it would not be true to life! That made it so much easier to draw!

As you can see they are quite caricature like! I did these drawings in less than ten minutes in total, and completely surprised myself.

I then folded another one page, single cut sketchbook but increased the size of the paper to A3. I had bought a new A3 sketch pad so tore a piece out and folding it in the same way I made this one to accompany the one above.

In this second one (shown on the left) I decided to work with just one of the previous drawings, and develop and experiment with it. I chose the first one.

A photocopied enlargement is shown attached to the first page. I also printed three smaller photocopies and experimented by individually cutting them up and slightly shifting the pieces, to give them an abstract contemporary feel. I took my time with this, trying small changes, and more exaggerated changes, before making final choices.

Next I placed a piece of tracing paper over each of the rearranged images, and made a tracing of each, simplifying and tidying them up.

I like these simplified results, and feel they are ready to work with.

I have more decisions to make now regarding size, colour choices, technique choices etc. Who knows? I may do all three; each in a different technique! I may do other variations, at this stage I haven’t made firm plans.

I shall make a pocket on the back of this “sketchbook” to keep the tracings in. I have lots of notes to make as well.

I potentially have work here for a long time!! and this is just from one of my drawings! Exciting!!

To make the one page, single cut sketchbook try it out first on a piece of copy paper or tear out a magazine page!

  1. Fold it in half lengthways. Make all the folds as accurately as you can, and then use a bone folder, or similar if you have one, to make the folds really sharp. (This is not absolutely essential).

2. Open the fold out and then fold the paper in half, width-ways.

3. Turn the paper over, place it flat on the table. Bring the short end up and match that to the central width-ways fold , making a sharp crease.

4. Slide the paper around 180 degrees, and repeat the last action.

5. Using paper scissors, cut from the short end along the middle fold, (the very first one you made, lengthways) until you just have one section left. Leave that one intact.

Now, you can concertina fold the book from the cut end, and as you fold it up you will find that the third fold, actually folds downwards, instead of along! Continue folding as at the beginning of the concertina folds. You will have a total of eight sides of the paper on which to write; draw; collage, stitch, or all of those things, making marks in whatever way you would like to! There are several variations of these one page, single cut folded books. They are also called “maze books”. A good write up, well illustrated, can be found in Cover to Cover: Creative Techniques for Making Beautiful Books, Journals and Albums, by Shereen LaPlantz.

Until next time, Happy Stitching!

Di

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

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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