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

December 2020/1

Hello and welcome to December Stitching News. To say what sort of a year we have all had, I cannot believe how quickly December has come upon us!

In this newsletter;

1. I have shown how the mark making book is developing

2. I have also written the promised tutorial on how I made the ladies in the bunting that I created in October.

Mark making book I have revisited the pages I showed you last time, and added to them or altered them. So the next series of photos show how the first signature of pages is progressing now!

The front page is the title page which I have now written. That is all that is necessary.

The stitched cover, with its little red square, perhaps gives a hint of what might have happened inside since last month!

The inside pages definitely needed “something else“, and as I worked into them further it became obvious to me that I had made a good decision. I started to smile and could see the difference, the “lift”, that the touches of red have made.

I have used a Stabilo fine red pen to make the infills on page 1. Next I used two threads in the needle; one length of a red hand dyed cotton, and one of a traditional red quilting cotton to stitch on page 2. The different texture and mark making with stitch created a fresh energy. I thought hard about it but made the decision to cut a “window” out of this page. I blanket stitched around the oval opening, using a self-coloured blue thread; a subtle repetition of marks already made on the page.

On Page 3, (above left), the “window” obviously reveals a section of the page 1. The red thread from the stitches on page 2 have made their mark here, as well! Opposite, (above right) on page 3, I used a soft blue pastel on my finger which I pressed into the page, to make the circular marks. (This was a fabric pastel, set by the heat of the iron, so there is no risk of it marking the opposite page when the book is closed.) I like the contrast of the softer marks. This time I used the hand dyed thread, to stitch the groups of lateral lines, and the French knots in the three “red” circles.

On Page 4 (left photo), I infilled the space between the two diagonal rows of red stitches (made on the previous page) with ink drawn “pebbles”. The darker blue circles were printed with a cork and metallic paint onto another piece of paper, then cut out. I stitched a red cross on each, before gluing them to the page. More of the same were drawn to infill the page and create a change of scale. Opposite, on page 5 I continued the theme!

On page 6, above left, I printed directly onto the left page with the cork and blue metallic paint. I really like the way the stitched lines from the previous page cross this page. Page 7 has a range of circular designs drawn with a fine black ink pen, and I have added a little detail with the red pen.

I was delighted to have completed my Unit 4 of the Machine Embroidery Distance Learning Course last weekend, and have now sent it off for assessment! I had about three samples left to work on, as well as my assignment to complete. It was quite an anticlimax after it had been sent! However, I have had a very relaxed few days working into my little book, as you will see below. This is also the time of year when I think ahead and plan this year’s Christmas card. Ideas have been whistling around in my head for a while, and once I had collected together what I needed, it didn’t take too long to assemble! Well, two half days to be honest! I have photographed the little panel and printed the sheets off ready for the next process of cutting the photos out and sticking them onto the cards. It is just a little early to show you here, so I will put a photo into the next Stitching News.

The “Bunting lady” tutorial

In October this year you may remember that I put together a string of bunting to hang in our conservatory. Click on the link if you would like to see the bunting, and/or read the stories about the ladies. Janine Pope was the source of my inspiration for them and I explain where I met her.

https://stitchingnews.wordpress.com/2020/10/25/october-2020-2/

There was a lot of interest about them so I am giving a simple tutorial about how I made them. I am calling this new figure Milly, and she is made from one of my drawings, the same pattern that I used for “Betty”

New contemporary “Milly” is on the left below. She is wearing her mask, to reflect what has been happening with the pandemic this year.

The two figures shown on the right, are two of the originals; Amanda and Betty. Amanda and Milly are based on the pattern I drew for Betty, which is shown on the next photo. As you can see all three of them have slight differences! Amanda and Betty are different enough for the viewer not to instantly recognise that they are the same base!

Requirements for making Milly: 10″ square of freezer paper. Two oblongs of calico a couple of inches longer and wider than your drawing. One piece of thin wadding the same size as calico. Sewing machine with straight stitch foot, and free machine embroidery foot. Basic hand sewing equipment. Scrap fabrics for blouse and skirt. Small piece of felt for boots. Machine threads for outlining the different parts of the lady. I used air force blue on this particular piece, but I used black on all my other pieces. A scrap of tracing paper for making the mask template!

Milly’s measurements are:

Height 7.5″ tall. Top of hair to chin; 1.5″. Chin to bottom of blouse; 2 3/8 inches. Bottom of blouse to bottom of skirt; 2.5″. Bottom of skirt skirt to lowest point of boot; 1″ 1/8th inches. Length of boot 1.5″ These are my measurements, but of course you can draw whatever measurements you would like! The photo above shows my templates for blouse and skirt. Please note; I have made my skirt template a little wider, to accommodate the tiny pleats I have made. It also needs to be about 1/4″ taller at the waist end so that it can tuck up under the blouse. No other seam allowances are necessary as this is all raw edge applique.

METHOD of assembly

Draw your pattern first, draw more than one, while you have the enthusiasm, and tools out! When you have practised drawing a few shapes keep all the originals. Choose which figure you are going to use, trace the figure onto the piece of freezer paper to make a clear second copy. You can use this to cut up for templates if you wish. You will need two oblongs of a base colour for the body wider and longer than the size of your figure; (I used calico). Lay your drawing onto a lightbox, or use masking tape or similar to tape it to a window, place one piece of calico over the drawing and lightly mark it out on the calico with a sharp pencil.

Choose a thread colour for your lady’s hair, and decide what style of hair you wish her to have. Stitch this first. Mine is free machine stitched, giving the appearance of a mop of curls! Practice first on scrap fabric if you would feel more confident. Also stitch the outline of the chin with your outline thread colour. IF you look back at the other ladies, some have straight hair, in a couple of different styles!

Change the colour of thread and if you would like glasses, stitch these in place at this stage. I like to stitch specs, because they give the face some focus. Stitching onto wadding also means there is a little bit of form too, which also helps to give shaping. For instance you may be able to see that there is a hint of fullness in the face, perhaps two cheeks.

Next think about the shape of the skirt.

Cut out the template, which must have a little extra added down the two edges, to accommodate the tiny pleats. It must also have a 1/4″ extra at the top edge template, so that it can fit under the blouse. You may prefer to just make a plain straight skirt, without fullness, There are many choices. Cut out your skirt material. Make the tiny pleats. When you feel they are right, place the skirt over your drawing on the calico. Make adjustments if necessary, then secure the pleats with a tiny tacking stitch. Place the skirt in position on the calico, matching the bottom and sides of the skirt to the pencil lines. The top of the skirt should be above the drawn line on the calico. Hand tack the skirt in position.

Cut out the blouse using the template for the shape. Draw the inside lines of the long sleeves as lightly as possible on the right side of the material. These drawn lines will become stitched lines to give prominence to the shape of the body and the inside of the arms. Then place the fabric shape on the calico, so that it fits over the top of the skirt, and matches the pencil lines of the figure at the edges on the calico. Tack it in position.

Put the straight stitch foot on the machine, and adjust th and raise the feed dog. I like to use my 1/4″ foot, because I can see right up to the needle, and therefore can easily watch exactly where I am stitching.

N.B. I do not use the 1/4″ measurement at all in this tutorial. Use stitch length 2, and thread the machine with your “outlining” colour of thread. Very slowly start stitching at the bottom right corner of the blouse (as you look at the photo to the right), and stitch across to the blouse at the opposite corner.

This needs to be done slowly and carefully as it will be covered with a tiny satin stitch later, when you are neatening and securing all the applique in position.

As you reach the sleeve leave the needle down, and pivot the work, which will allow you to work in the same way, going up the outside edge of the sleeve towards the neck. Carefully adjust the foot position when you need to so that the needle is able to accommodate the very gentle curve of the line. Stop when the stitch reaches the face. Leave the needle in the work, and lift the foot, to pivot the work on the spot so that you can continue to stitch around the low blouse neckline. Continue in the same way, back down the other sleeve back to where you started. Remove the work from the machine and neaten the loose threads at the back of the work. Repeat this action with the skirt, after dealing with the boots!

The boots are cut out as one piece.

Hold the template carefully on the felt, and with small, very sharp scissors carefully cut out the boots. Place in position, and make sure you are happy with it. I needed to cut the felt boots out again, as they were not quite covering the pencil guide. Secure it in position, when satisfied with a couple of tacking stitches.

Machine stitching the skirt: now put the machine needle into the top edge of the skirt, and stitch in the same manner as you have been down the edge of the skirt, around the bottom edge, until to come to the first leg. Stitch down the leg pencil line, around the first boot, and up between the two feet up as far as the skirt. Come back down on top of the stitches, and stitch around the other boot, and leg until you reach the skirt again.

Stitch the inner edge of the sleeves at this stage too.

You now need to stitch a narrow satin stitch, around the skirt and blouse, including the low neck line (Do not satin stitch anywhere on the face outline or the hair, legs or boots).

On my old Bernina, I set my stitch width to 1.5, and my stitch length to 1.5. This works for me on my machine fitted with my 1/4″ foot.

However, with my quarter inch foot still in place, I used a scrap of fabric, and turned the fly wheel very slowly by hand to assess that the needle cleared both prongs of the foot. I have mentioned several times in the newsletters that I frequently use this foot for a very narrow satin stitch. Even though I know these measurements work on my machine, I never fail to do a sample first just in case I have forgotten to correct the width of the zigzag. I do not like breaking needles!

There are just two stages left!

Prepare a mask, (if you want to!).

Bond the wrong sides of two small pieces of mask fabric together. Create a template by placing a scrap of tracing paper over Milly’s face, and draw an outline under the eyes then a short straight edge down either side of the face, in from of where the ears would be. The shape needs to be just a fraction under the chin. Cut out the tracing paper template, and lay it on Milly’s face, to check if it looks right.

Make any necessary adjustment.

Holding the template against the prepared fabric, draw around it and cut it out. I have used a blue thread for the “elastic” of the mask, and with a knot the back of the mask, I brought the needle out at one of the top corners, and stitched across on top the hair, repeating that once more.

I then repeated this at the bottom corner on the same side Do those first actions once again on the opposite side of the mask. This is all that is necessary to hold it in place!

Then the final action is to lay Milly on the second piece of calico, and pin in place. Using a straight stitch on the machine, 2.5 length, stitch just inside the fine satin stitch, practically touching the satin stitch if you can, all around the perimeter of the blouse, and skirt, as well as the bottom edge and the neck line of the blouse. By stitching fractionally away from the edge, when you finally cut away the excess calico, you can carefully slightly undercut the bottom layer of calico which will help to eliminate the fraying, as it will have less handling”. At least, that is my theory! This second layer of calico, neatly finishes the back of the figure!

I hope those of you who were keen for some instructions get on well with your own “Millies” and may even feel inspired to try new versions. I may well make a Santa now!

Until next time, Happy stitching, and stay safe!

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

November 2020/1

I had a lovely response to the last newsletter, thankyou so much. Many more readers getting in touch one way or another as to how they too have been completely out of their comfort range with feelings of creativity seemingly disappeared. I am pleased to say that at last I seem to have got over that hump, but am taking it slowly, with working just a little at a time, rather than long sessions at any task.

Several readers have asked if I could give some information on how I made the ladies in my bunting! I definitely will do, but it will need to be after I have completed the present Unit that I have been working on. Having now got back into my Distance Learning course after quite a break, I would like to concentrate on that at the present time.

Basically the technique of the ladies is just one of simple applique. Instead of applying the figure as part of a larger background piece of work, each lady is made on a background of the finished shape! But I will go into more detail as to how I worked on them, giving details of my order of work etc. I found some of my initial sketches, with a brief reminder of what I did! So I will make another as well, exactly the same process but maybe not a lady!! Thinking it through!

But first to more work on Unit 4.

I made another sample with holes in. I wanted to be pleased with this one and to enjoy making it, so I made a much simpler one than I showed you in the last newsletter, with a totally different fabric palette!

The layers of this “sandwich” from the top consist of a double layer of dyed scrim. (A single layer was not dense enough. I could see the fabric below through the loose weave). Below is a layer of a lightweight recycled blue patterned linen, and on the bottom I have ironed a medium weight Vilene to the wrong side of the linen. This was to give a little more stability to the sample.

Before layering it up, I used my fingers to manipulate the threads in the scrim, making a selection of holes. I secured the layers together with pins, and then started the stitching.

I then stitched a radiating pattern around each circle, catching the perimeter of the circle at the start of each line. I threaded the needle with two threads, an orange cotton thread and a bright lemon yellow embroidery viscose. I was pleased with the resultant vibrant colour. Finally I stitched an irregular, spiky border attaching the edge of the scrim to the linen background, which I trimmed to echo the edge of the scrim.

I have also been looking at edgings in this unit and my first sample shown in the photo below is an example of a fringed edging.

I cut a piece of card, the depth of the fringe I wanted and the width of the fabric to which it was going to be attached. I decided to wind two threads at the same time, around the card, and used a fine silky viscose and a thicker rayon thread. I wound them as one, then eased them off the card, keeping the order of loops, and I laid them across the centre of my fabric and then stitched across the the midline of the loops, anchoring them to the fabric.

I folded up the fabric, which was lying under the lower loops, up along the stitched midline. This exposed the lower loops. I then folded the top row of loops down to mix with them. It was certainly a fringe, but I felt it looked nothing until I stitched a few rows of automatic pattern above the fringe, in a very attractive variegated thread! That certainly gave it some life!

I then decided that I would attempt another fringed edging, this time with a very different type of “yarn” which would give a totally different quality of fringe!

Here you can see the hairy and rather coarse “string/yarn” that I decided to experiment with. I have had it for a few years, and had not known what I might use it for. As you can see it is very uneven. But it does have a certain attraction; the variation in what is happening along its length, as well as its bright mixture of colours!

I began by cutting another piece of card, deeper and wider, than my first. The fabric for this exercise was the central red in the photograph and it was in landscape rotation at this stage.

After I had wound the string very loosely around the card and stitched it down onto the fabric to secure all the loops, it just would not lie flat. It clearly had a mind of its own, and was not going to behave at all as I had wished! Not to be defeated having got this far, and because it wanted to stand on end, I tied it into three bunches, so that they looked a bit like pom poms; trimmed them slightly, and decided to turned them into a feature in the centre of a small panel. This was when I rotated the sample to portrait, I was not going to be thwarted!

I could then use another couple of different “edgings” that were discussed in the text of the Unit instructions, These were “layered”, and a binding!

I stitched three rows of decorative bright stitching either side of the pom poms. In preparation for the additional layered edgings, I placed the work onto a background fabric, with a layer of Vilene under it to give stability and a fabric backing underneath.

Then I measured and cut four of the pale blue strips, placed the raw edge of one of the strips over the raw edge of the central panel, at the top and the bottom attaching these with a zigzag stitch, and repeated this process with the two sides. The red spotty fabric was cut and attached in exactly the same way. On both of these layered borders I had two threads in the needle, one of which each time was a variegated thread. Finally the whole sample was completed with a bound edging.

I must admit I have never added borders this way before, but it was certainly quick, and effective and suitable for an item that would never be washed! I wasn’t going to let it beat me, but I don’t think I shall be using the hairy string again! However, I feel it is a very valid experimental sample, and as such am doubling it up to be one of my two extended samples, also required from this unit.

I have also been making cords

From left to right :

1. I have covered over a cut length of old black tights, using a wide zigzag stitch. I stretched the elasticated tights material as I stitched., but am delighted that it still has a little stretch left after completion.

2. I covered a length of dyed dishcloth cotton with a stitched free zigzag stitch (i.e. with the feed dog down), allowing the thread to “bunch” at intervals as I worked along it. I really like this effect.

3. This cord has a core made from a torn strip of dyed sari silk, hence the escaping cut silk thread ends.

4. Several lengths of a fine coloured string were wrapped with a zigzag stitch, leaving spaces to occasionally show the string. I am not thrilled with this attempt, but that is what “sampling is all about!” I won’t use this core again.

Many cords can all be sewn together to create a “fabric”. I have done this in the past, so didn’t make a sample on this occasion. It creates a very strong “fabric” which can be used for 3-D items as well as for 2-D purpose. Groups of linked cords could equally be used for decorative bag straps, or as embellishments on hangings etc.

As I have just explained, in this Unit we also had to complete more extended samples and below is my second. You can see that it is another “holey” one, but wholly different to my others!

This extended sample, incorporates several techniques, this time using free machine spiral patterns rather than one of my rather limited automatic patterns. I have finished the edge with a close small satin stitch. It reminded me of a piece of work I made many years ago, on which I used a satin stitch to finish the edge.

Some of you who have known me for a very long time may remember the little hanging shown below.

Because of the shape of this hanging, I knew I probably would not manage to do a very neat binding, on the “internal corners” at the bottom! I also felt that the piece of work was speaking for itself, and I was wanting a very inconspicuous way of neatening the edge. (I practised before committing myself). Interestingly enough, when I was looking for a suitable fabric on which to mount the whole piece, I ended up seeing this taffeta skirt lining in a remnant bin. I loved the colour with the rest of the work, and I also like the shiny contrast against the matt appearance of the fabric. So although I would never have considered it as a possibility, the colour sold it to me, and I felt it worked well!

This photo shows a close up of the satin stitched edge and the folded unit!

The small folded units in the panel are all made from hand dyed fabrics. Each one consists of two circles, hand stitched together with a tiny running stitch close to the edges. I left a small gap to turn through to the right side, and rolled the circumference of the circle between my fingers to make it accurate and flat. I closed the gap with a ladder stitch.

I laid the double circle on a flat surface and folded it in half, on the straight grain, and lightly finger-pressing the folded edge. I opened the unit and repeated the same action, by folding the opposite edges. This way I could see the centre of the circle. Then each edge was folded to the centre, checking that the edge of the fold was always on the straight grain of the fabric. Each edge was caught with a stitch in the centre point of the circle. I then manipulated the corner “ears” and flattened them as I wished! A perfect, portable little project for any busy mum who was transporting children to after- school activities, and having a wait in between! Many of us have had those experiences.

Finally, I have started a small strip of applied and stitched fabric, onto a lightweight strip of denim. This is the “second stage” of a collection of small books I have been working on recently. I have made the books, and stitched two signatures together for each, creating 5 little books. As you can see below, the piece is “work in progress” and next time I will show you the whole process. It makes me smile!!

Until next time, happy stitching, and stay safe.

Di

October 2020/2

Very many thanks to those of you who have been in touch since I sent out the last news letter. It is so kind of you, and I have really appreciated the contacts and support. Many of you have been expressing exactly the same feelings I was describing. I am feeling better now and have been really trying to focus on stitching in small sessions rather than tackling anything big, and overwhelming, and that is giving me back some enjoyment and the incentive to continue.

First a photograph of the lovely nerines in one section of our garden.

These are a particularly pale pink, but they still add a welcome splash of colour at this time of year, particularly on very grey, dark days!

Most of the acers are over already, although the red one near the top left of the image still has many of its leaves. Others have already dropped, courtesy of the strong winds and heavy rain we have been experiencing recently!

The nerines have multiplied very nicely since they were first planted.

Today is Saturday 17th October; wet, cold and rather miserable so I have decided to get out several old projects, and combine them all into some lovely bunting! This will be cheerful to hang in the conservatory and will bring a smile to our faces! So, up to my sewing room to explore some of my stash of hidden memories!

First up are the five ladies which I felt inspired to make several years ago, after seeing a selection of Janine Pope’s superb work at the Bovey Tracey Contemporary Craft Festival! She had several little ladies, all the same, and their dresses had been made from part of a vintage hexagon quilt. I loved them! They made me smile, and I bought one. I was inspired to have a go, and my efforts are below. Some of you may have seen them before, a long time ago, but I think the time has come to give them an airing and in a totally different context! I have given them all names, as you will read below!

They each have their own characters and personalities. On the left Mavis is sporting a very nice waistcoat that she has made, with patch pockets to echo the colour of her skirt. She is feeling rather self conscious at having her photo taken! Her friend Enid next to her, made her long skirt adding a patchwork trim from the offcuts from her little blouse. She wanted to make a pocket to keep her mobile phone in, and embroidered a row of tiny cross stitches across the top of it. Amanda in the centre, is on her way for an interview and is wearing a smart co-ordinating outfit; grey tweed coat and black skirt, set off with a bright and cheerful cherry-red hat. Betty, to the right of Amanda decided to wear her new earrings and matching necklace today, and very smart she looks too! She is wearing a “spotty” outfit; a pale grey blouson top with large white spots on, and a contrasting bright red and black spotty skirt. Then last but definitely not least is Bertha, a good friend and support to the rest of the group. She is very proud of her patchwork dress, and was thrilled when she found buttons to match. She is glancing “sideways” at the group though, wondering if she should have dressed up a little more for the photograph, or at least taken off her apron! She is an absolute darling, and loved dearly by them all!

I had made some houses and pennants on other occasions with bunting in mind, but had never made enough of them for a string. So I have put most of those to good use now. Finally I have been collecting shells with holes in recently so they are hung in between each individual item; definitely adding a “little something” to it all! Hence the order along the bunting is: shell, lady, shell, house, shell, pennant, shell, lady etc. The houses and pennants, as you can see, are threaded onto the hanging tape then secured in position by a button. I made a loop of hand dyed thread for the shells to hang from, and have stitched the ends of the thread into the hanging tape, knotting them to keep them in position too.

Just in case you are wondering what is going on in the centre of the photo behind “Mavis”, we have a bird feeder post with a squirrel guard (an upside down old black plastic waste paper bin, which has worked very efficiently for ten years!) and long may it last yet!

The bunting reaches across the halfway point on both windows either side of these central ones. Photographing through a window, is not the easiest of shots to take, especially when the focus is on the inside of the window, but you can get the jist of it!

Perhaps one or two of you, reading this newsletter might be enthused to look out some of your hidden away artifacts and consider transforming them into a fresh project. I am already wondering what might be next for me!

Unit 4 of the embroidery course is beckoning, so for now I am going to focus on that and aim to make some progress!

I am just looking at exercise 1. and have stitched two samples so far.

The whole of Unit 4 and units 5 and 6 are based on stitching, as we have now completed the design elements of the course. The first exercises are based on “holes”. The very first, is specifically on buttonholes, and how they can be used in many guises to create embellished, decorative and intriguing results….not necessarily meant for buttons! It is many years since I used the buttonhole facility on my machine, and it has seemed very reluctant to respond to encouragement! However, this morning, (two days later!) I have realised that I had not set my machine properly. I have really been struggling and was once again checking everything through in a logical order, when I realised what the problems was! My concentration needs some more attention!! What a relief though; I stitched a perfect buttonhole very quickly; no serious problem after all!

As you can see from the photo to the left, there are two small samples; one showing a central square, set in a lateral oblong, and the one below a central diamond which is set in a longitudinal oblong! If you have never used button holes in this context, then read on!

In order to understand what I have done you need to visualise the “flaps” (which have been turned back to reveal the aperture) turned back down to cover the aperture again.

I drew a square on my fabric initially, for the sample at the top, and worked two buttonholes on opposite diagonals, across the square. I then cut them open, creating the flaps and “Bob’s” your uncle.

I repeated the exercises within a drawn oblong for the second sample, but this time created my buttonholes centrally top to bottom and side to side.

Stitching around the apertures created some decoration, and embellishment whilst also securing the flaps back in position. I then searched through my previously decorated papers, and placed chosen sections of one of them under the apertures These were secured in position by machine stitching the frame again. Finally I laid the two units onto a heavy weight piece of dyed ticking, finishing them with a narrow satin stitch. I used my Bernina 1/4″ foot for this. Clearly the room for using a zigzag stitch is VERY tight on this foot. So I checked it out first, very cautiously moving the fly wheel by hand, adjusting the width of the stitch as required. It does give a very dainty result, which doesn’t overpower what is going on within the sample! I use this neat small zigzag quite a lot in my work. I have to say I would never ever have thought of this decorative use of buttonholes myself! Anne has give many suggestions for ideas in her instructions.

My second sample with holes is shown to the left. I cut into large bubble wrap. removing some of the bubbles! I stitched freely across the holes, before laying the bubble wrap onto one of my painted papers. Sadly the range of blues and turquoises in the paper does not show to advantage in any way! A piece of felt is used as a stabilizer at the back of the sample, and I have cut bubbles from felt and paper to add to the surface of the bubble wrap.

I have shown a close up of the sample in the next photo. I am not too happy with the finished sample at all, because I feel I have “over-egged” it, making it too complex, and thus losing the detail. However, that is the value of stitching samples. They are always instructive, giving valuable information for any possible future piece. Another time I would have chosen a much more colourful paper under the plastic!

In the close up you can see the crisscross stitching that I stitched across some of the open holes in the bubble wrap initially.

I had enjoyed stitching on bubble wrap in an earlier unit, which is why I chose it this time, but another criticisms of the sample would be that I worked too much in a monotone. I introduced the yellow thread, half way through, and that has helped…

Anyway, onward and upward. I have lots more experimenting to do in this unit, so will show a little more next time.

There are also fringes and tassels, as well as more holes, I think! It is nice to be getting myself back into it.

I have started stitching another little central fold unit for my Eco book. This is one of my projects for the longer evenings, now that we have changed the clocks. I find it almost impossible to sit with my hands still, and just need something small and easily portable. This fits the criteria!

To the left is a photograph showing the little progress I have achieved with it over the last few evenings. I have stab stitched the outline using a medium dark grey thread. What I do from now on, will be much more subtle with softer colours and will hopefully emphasise the lemon yellow and the very soft grey hues. No initial planning; it will be what my head suggests!

Until next time, happy stitching!

October 2020/1

It is a few weeks since I published the last Stitching News. I will be quite honest with you, I seemed to have lost my creative self and any interest in stitching over the last few weeks. I am sure I am not alone in this. I am putting it down to the situation we are all in. With little firm structure to the week, I seem to have spent days and days floundering around achieving absolutely nothing stitching-wise! I am still amazed at how the days still absolutely whizz by!

I feel it is probably all the indecision; lack of ability to plan very much “just in case” scenario; being unable to make firm future plans and decisions, other than maybe one or two weeks in advance, and unwittingly it can become quite demoralising. The shorter days, and colder weather are a reminder that winter is not far away, and maybe that is having an effect too. I have never minded winter in the past, but somehow I feel that the pandemic has insidiously and subtly altered the way some of us are feeling.

Many times I have got my sewing projects out, mulled them over, prepared my machine, but just have not had the desire or the enthusiasm to connect brain, hands and fabric somehow! Then suddenly last week I had an urge to do some Eco dyeing. I got out my equipment, prepared the paper, and enjoyed the whole process. I was thrilled with some of the results, and immediately felt my enthusiasm returning.

The photos below show some of my results. I had done one batch; steamed them for an hour after which I turned all the electrics off, and went out for about three hours, leaving them in situ. On return I removed them from the steamer, cut the threads which had been securing them in small “parcels”. and opened them out! This is always the exciting time!! I was delighted at how well most of the prints had taken. There are examples of wild geranium and viburnum. I had not tried clematis before and was pleasantly surprised at the excellent result (front row of the first photo; second and third print from the right) and cranesbill never disappoints! My experience over the last five years or so of experimenting has clearly shown me how the prints carry on developing and becoming stronger, over many months!

The second batch included black currant leaves, blackberry, red oak, beech, rose of Sharon, and Susie’s hedge! I Have yet to discover what it is!!

This week I completed the hand stitching of a double eco print. The height of the “page, is 3″ and the measurement of each individual page is just over 2.25”

This will be the centre of a valley fold in the new llittle book I am making, which is an ongoing project.

The next process will be to stitch two individual prints which will then create the backs of these two prints. I particularly chose this as the centre spread, because I loved the soft grey on the one print, and the cinnamon colour of the other. This leaf was trapped between the fold, and the print of the back of a leaf is almost always different to the front of the leaf. I understand that this is due to the natural plant chemicals being different on the two faces.

At the beginning of September I had started to prepare a new collage, this time for my brother. Unwittingly I had forgotten his birthday, and one can be forgiven for that … however, I have no excuse whatsoever because he is my twin brother!!! Perhaps that is an indication of how my mind has been in an altered state!

I had looked at it many times, but with no spark there at all. But this week the eco printing seems to have kick started me and I was beginning to feel creative again and spent two lovely days changing my original fabrics, and ideas, and then once I put needle to the fabric, I was away.

The size of this collage is 4″ by 4.5″. I wanted it to represent his enjoyment of the natural world. So the imagery was important.

Westonbirt Arboretum is not far from where he lives and he has trained to be a Westonbirt guide. The training was temporarily halted by the virus, but he has been able to complete it very recently. Both “trees” in the collage are dried leaves onto which I have painted acrylic wax to the fronts and backs.

I dried them two or three years ago, and the acrylic wax has kept them supple. With care, and using fine needles I have been able to stitch them. I machine stitched the detail onto the large cotinus leaf, securing it in place on the collage with small French knots. The smaller one, is hand stitched in place, using a stab stitch which embellishes the surface.

There is a stream running at the bottom of his garden, and a kingfisher patrols the area, hence the inclusion of my little painted kingfisher! Two of the background fabrics are commercial prints but I have also included hand-dyed linen, painted teabag paper, and a synthetic shimmering sheer, which unfortunately does not show to its best advantage in this photograph. Hand dyed threads, and machine stitched flower heads finish the embellishment. These are all small scraps. I rarely throw away anything, and when hunting for snippets it is wonderful as well as time saving to have a ready made scrap bag collection!

A couple of weeks ago made a birthday card for Doreen; a delightful lady who was going to be celebrating her 90th birthday. She loves all aspects of nature, and the changing seasons, so I decided to stitch into some fallen autumn leaves I had recently collected. As they had already dried, I waxed them on both sides, and left them until the acrylic wax was dry.

I chose a background of very dilute soft blue and green painted cheese paper. As we all know, dried leaves can be very brittle, and although the wax gives a certain amount of protection I used a size 8 machine needle. Past experience has shown me that the finer the needle, the less likely the subject matter is to shatter!

I outline stitched the leaves first, to secured them in position, and then added the detail over the rest of the leaf surfaces. Well, this has been a rather leafy newsletter, but I hope it has been of some interest to you. Hopefully next time I shall have more to show you.

Until then, happy stitching!

Stitching News September 2020

I have not done very much sustained stitching over the last three or four weeks, so this is a short newsletter to keep in touch.

One of the things I have enjoyed is slowly stitching into some more of my Eco dyed leaves during the evenings, as I am gradually putting together another small book. These particular prints were made a year ago. Janine, a lovely friend who lives in Abu Dhabi, was in England this time last year and she came to stay with me for a few days in September. We had such fun experimenting and “playing” with our Eco printing.

At that time I developed and subsequently stitched a selection of the prints in a totally new direction, which I loved; link below, if you are interested, and you need to scroll down, once you have opened the link.

https://stitchingnews.wordpress.com/2019/10/ They became a “matchbox book”, concertina folded so that it fits inside a matchbox. Mine has 24 pages, and is part of a group challenge, within Textile Plus, which will feature in our Thread of an idea Exhibition now rescheduled for November 2021 at The Poly, in Falmouth.

Just a reminder, that a taster of all the exhibitions that have been rescheduled due to Coronavirus is still open at The Poly, 24 Church Street, Falmouth, TR11 3EG until Friday 12th September 2020. So please do visit and support the Gallery if you are able. It may be sensible to ring to check opening times.

To return to the current book I am making, I also made a more traditional style zig-zag book around the same time, which I featured in the September Stitching news last year: https://stitchingnews.wordpress.com/2019/09/

My new small book will be in the same style but crucially it has only 2 valley folds in total, each will have a single fold small page stitched in, so there is not as much work, but it is close and tiny work, very time consuming and emminently portable. It is great to have these small projects that need little space. I find them most enjoyable.

I really should take some “before and after” photos, while I am working on them but my mind doesn’t always connect with that process at the right time, i.e. before I start stitching! Next time perhaps!! I wonder how many times any of us have wished we had taken a photo of “before we started,”….. For me it’s “lots of times!”

I have uploaded a couple of photos of the stages of this new small book, as they are at the moment.

The photo to the left shows the Eco print totally finished, having been stitched and already attached to the front face of the book structure. (As you can see in the following photo, the stitching on the right-hand edge, wraps right around to the other side of that page).

The width of the main book structure is 2.75″ and the height is 3.75″. The cover of any book is usually slightly larger than the interior pages, so the pages of the first single fold unit are 2.25″ wide by 3″ high. You can see the unit lying in position in the second photo, below.

Here you can see single fold attachment lying in position. It will not be secured through to the back until all the stitching on the reverse sides of the attachment, as well as on the front faces is complete. It is unnecessarily awkward to work on the prints after insertion! The two stitched prints are both still in progress. I rarely make definite decisions on how or where to embellish them before I start, but rather prefer to allow those decisions to develop naturally as I go along.

The “outlining” stitch that I use throughout these little studies, is called “split stitch” and makes a fabulous continuous line of hand stitching. From what I read the majority of embroiderers tend to split the previous stitch by coming up through it with the needle, and splitting the thread. As I am using fine machine cotton thread (Aurifil 50wt) I prefer to go down through the previous stitch as I can see exactly where to spit the very fine thread.

I use a fine sharps needle so that I am not puncturing the paper with too big a hole! As always when I am stitching through paper, I make the next few holes before continuing, so that when I bring the needle back to the top of the work, I am not having to guess where to go! From the second photo you can imagine how this single fold will be attached with a simple pamphlet stitch through to the back of the main book structure.

In total there will be 16 little stitched studies contained in this small book. One on each of the main supporting structure pages, a total of 6, plus 8 from the two inserted pages. Many hours of work! The nights are drawing in and this project alongside my mini “Turvy panels” will take me through the winter, I suspect.

I completed another blue mini Turvy house panel a couple of weeks ago. Funnily enough I did not like it at all while I was quilting it. One of the fabrics just seemed a wrong choice, but as soon as I had put the house features on it completely altered! This has happened before, and I should have more faith in my initial decisions!

I have been stitching one of the panels on my first assignment project recently. The photograph shows work in progress.

I have using a mid grey thread for the darker free embroidery stitching

There are only two layers, no wadding but a heavy weight calico underneath the top fabric. I want it to have less depth than the kingfisher unit so that the actual heads and tails of the birds will then lie just proud.

Having completed the darker machine stitching, I have cut another layer of imagery, which I am appliqueing over it,using a white cotton thread in the bobbin and a shiny viscose thread in the needle, this time. I like the complexity and layers of the imagery which occurs with the second layer.

There will be two of these panels; one will be 3″ wide and the other 2″ wide. The kingfishers are almost complete, and will sit on a 1″ wide upright branch, between the two panels. They will give a burst of intense colour, sitting across their branch, and will sit just proud of these two side panels!

I must just mention the stitch ripper which is sitting at the side of the panel on my machine table. It is a Clover product, and one of my favourite tools. As you can see, it has a long narrow handle. I use it such a lot as an extra finger which can get really close up to the needle, without getting my fingers anywhere near the needle! It is fantastic for holding down raw edges when appliqueing, keeping thread ends out of the way, etc etc. I would feel lost without it!

Finally I have made another 4 masks.

We are clearly going to be using masks for a very long time!! All the masks I have made have three layers; the main fabric, lining fabric, with a layer of non-woven interlining between them. Every time I make one I make slight adjustments!

This time, when I was sewing in the nose clip I cut my strip of material (which encloses the plastic covered wire,) folded it in half lengthways and sewed it in place on the inside of the outer main fabric. First I sewed the long raw edges in position, then across the short end and up the long folded edge to the other open end. With the needle still in the work, I then slotted the wire into this now attached tube and finished sewing across the final open end. SO easy! Why I hadn’t thought this through before I don’t know! I had made life very difficult for myself in the past, by preparing the casing and enclosing the wire, then stitching the completed unit in place!!!

Finally, I would just like to say that I am going to have a rest from writing Stitching News during the September, so will look forward to posting again in about a month.

Until then, happy stitching.

Di

Stitching News August 2020/2

Welcome to this new post of Stitching News. My focus this time is on collage.

I have been really busy getting further sampling on my assignment finished, then over the last few days I have had great fun using up some of the precious tiny scraps; as well as “not so tiny” eco prints, stitched sample snippets, unused hand made-prints, etc. that I have been looking at, in some cases just since lock down, but in other cases for several years!! I have a couple of boxes on my table overflowing with scraps that I don’t want to throw away.

I absolutely loved the collage exercises which was one of our tasks in the Colour Unit (Unit 2) of the Machine Embroidery Course.

I have never really done anything much in the way of collage, and the technique and method of choice was left entirely to us. I was hooked, and loved the essence of using colour to create exciting ideas using collections from the fabrics and painted papers we had been creating. The collages then were purely creating colour groups. I have extended my collage content now opening it up in a very different way.

In the collage on the left I have included paper; hand and machine stitch; Eco print, hand-made eraser prints on card. The list could be endless. I have found that the more I do, the more I understand the composition, colour and balance that suits me.

In this collage on the left, the two scraps with machine stitch were off-cuts from a piece of stitching where I was sorting out tensions and stitch pattern on my machine. It was lying around on my table,and caught my eye when I had added the right hand side of the collage with the pink printed flower head. I felt it gave some balance, in the colour to have it repeated a couple of times more.

Inevitably the maker is going to bring their individual style to the work. I have long loved combining hand stitch and machine stitch to my work. I have been Eco printing for several years now, and have a wealth of material to draw from there, and for as long as I can remember I have had a varied and immensely useful scrap bag of decorated papers; printed, inked, painted, textured, etc, and have dipped into them frequently in my work. The Embroidery Course design exercises have significantly stocked me up with a fresh supply!

Collages can be small or large, all fabric, mixed media, or some of both. They can include photos, found objects, paintings, prints, mark making, collections; ideas are endless. They could be pictoral, or abstract. Instagram and Pinterest will give you many ideas if you are interested in dabbling! for my work I haven’t followed anything other than my own nose, and those of you who have known me for many years, would look at these and probably say “that’s Di Wells”!!

If you haven’t attempted a collage before, but would like to have a go, here are a few suggestions that may help you to get started. Consider what finished size you would like to make. At the moment mine are 4″ square. For me this seems to be a nice size to work with. Mine are square, but you can obviously work with whatever shape and size works for you.

What are your interests? Maybe you love gardening…..lots of suggestions and imagery right outside your back door. You may well subscribe to a favourite magazine, if so study photographs that appeal to you, and look at their content, colour palette, change of scale, texture. If you can bear to, tear out imagery or ideas that you know you would use….if you can’t bear to tear it out, photocopy it. Those are just a couple of suggestions. Magazines could be to do with natural history, cooking, interiors, quilting.

We all have unfinished projects … if they are small, and you either know you won’t return to them, or you just really do not like them, consider whether something might be salvageable? That could be an excellent starting point.

The little eraser printed house just off centre in this second collage has been lying around in my sewing room for longer than I care to admit.

I began with this as my focus. I have then included part of a rejected (by me!) machine stitched sample in the top left corner, another scrap on the right when I was testing my stitch tension. I liked the leaves in this one, and felt that the Eco printed leaf I laid on last of al seemed to link to it. I also have some newspaper snippets from my “painting of papers” sessions. I always place some layers of newspaper on top of a plastic sheet protecting my work surface. This was directly underneath the range of different papers I was inking up. The bottom left hand corner shows two snippets, the red one with an arrow, and the other a flower, now turquoise! That particular newspaper page is a myriad of wonderful colours. I just tore out two small scraps. The golden pieces are recycled and over dyed colour catcher. I particularly like the change of scale and mix of hand stitch and machine stitch. The “tree” which overlays the top is an Eco print of a Pieris Forest Flame leaf cluster, one of many dozens of Eco prints in my collection! I have hand and machine stitched in areas and even added a little paper pieced triangle. As I am working I try to be aware of colour balance and tone.

Contrasts add energy. They could be: colour, texture; change of scale; space, machine and hand stitch, large and small, shiny and matt…..etc etc

I cut a 4 1/4″ square of “background to work onto. This might be a fabric or a supporting paper. Alternatively if that is too small for you to work with, cut a larger piece, turn it over to the back, and lightly draw a 4” square centrally. Thread a needle and using a contrasting coloured thread, make a running stitch along the drawn pencil lines of the square. Turn the fabric back over to the right side, and then work to the edges of the stitched lines. Allow a fraction of overlap, so that you can do a final trim with your rotary cutting equipment when the work is complete.

Those of you who did the Charity “Kantha house” workshop in September 2018 with me in the Big Barn at Cowslip Workshops will probably recognise the lino printed house, in the collage above. Those little houses have been really useful! The three collages above have been created for a specific purpose, and have certainly provided a most enjoyable and creative distraction for a few days recently.

Last year I bought a book called “Sketchbook Explorations for mixed-media and textile Artists” by Shelley Rhodes, published by Batsford. It is an exciting read, absolutely packed full of inspirational, creative advice and ideas for sketchbooks, techniques for collage, making marks and collections. Shelley Rhodes has a fantastic method and style of making collages as you can see from the brilliant book cover. The fascination is in the detail …

I have worked hard on more sampling for my first assignment, and my ideas and thoughts have consolidated now. Anne”s initial feedback was constructive and supportive and gave me the confidence to work further on my sampling. My latest samples have been accepted so I shall be moving that piece of work along during the next few weeks, as well as tackling Unit 4. So I have plenty to get my teeth into! I Have now picked up another small Turvy which has been pieced, and is at the hand quilting stage, prior to adding finer detail. (My evening project back again!)

Finally, you may remember that a couple of newsletters past I explained that Textile Plus, an exhibiting group of which I am a member, had to postpone our exhibition this year due to covid 19

It has now been rescheduled for November 8th-12th 2021. 

A taster of all the exhibitions that have been rescheduled, is now open at The Poly, 24 Church Street, Falmouth, TR11 3EG until Friday 12th September 2020. So please do visit and support the Gallery if you are able.

Until next time, happy stitching!

Di

Stitching News August 2020/1

Good morning everyone. In this Stitching News, I start with further discussion on how I have been working through the preliminary work for my first assignment. For new readers, this is part of the Machine Embroidery Course that I started at the beginning of lock down. I am thoroughly enjoying it, and am constantly discovering all sorts of things about myself, as well as my very simple basic sewing machine. I often have “play” sessions and have a wonderful selection of painted, printed, textured papers I shall be able to dip into for years!!

I have also included an applique sample, and a stitched sample as well as my method of presentation for the work from Unit 3. I have other work in progress, nothing to do with the course and so like many of us, I always have something to hand! I have never been a “finish one project before starting another” kind of person, although I have every respect for those who like to work in that way.

My assignment! My second blog in June explained my initial thoughts about this project. If you would like to refer back to that click on the link. You will need to scroll down on the site.

https://stitchingnews.wordpress.com/2020/06/20/stitching-news-june-2020-2/

Since then I have had a few weeks with ideas just being mulled over in my mind while I was working through the rest of the unit. Fresh ideas developed gradually which was exciting and inspired me to start sampling for this work. So I started afresh by going back to my sketch book where I had made those initial drawings, and I have actually removed a page from that sketch book, where I had sketched some of the original pieces of art work. I have stitched a little folded fabric edge to the left of the page, so that I can attach it to another page when I put all my ideas/sampling and work together in my book on this project.

The photo above is the page that I tore out of my old sketch book. I have now painted the drawings. referring back to the original source has clarified the detail in the original artefacts which has been really useful. I had already prepared some pages for my “project book” and this addition will have to be folded as it is a little too long.

On the back of the page I had drawn some different birds that I found on a photograph of a remnant of fabric. The birds were just outlined in a dark thread, so I have painted a couple of these, and am going to incorporate one of them into my hanging. Furthering my research as well as painting in the detail has been really helpful and has helped me to formulate my ideas. The piece of work will consist of three narrow hangings; the centre one will be bold and colourful and will feature three Kingfishers, (naive in their own ways).

The other two hangings, one on either side of the kingfishers, will be entirely free-machine stitched onto a fabric which is has a subtle monochromatic palette and will not detract from the vibrant centre! I have used this fabric in different guises already during this course, and I think it will be really suitable for this purpose. They will be narrow; one 2″ wide and the other 3″ wide. The centre colourful “tree trunk” measures 1″ wide, so the 1,2,3, series of measurements will work very well together! The monochromatic colours will not overpower the central panel, and the subject matter very nicely complements that of the central feature panel.

This is the stitched sample where I have tried out a range of the fabrics, and media I intend to use. I like the kingfisher although I don’t like the use of the cream scrim on the face; that area needs to be a smooth fabric.

I have used a heavy linen on the tree trunk in places, which works very nicely and I shall incorporate more of that and a little less of the scrim! I think it is going to be fun to work on, and I am looking forward to it. I can see in the photo now that I need to slightly tone down the acid green scrim… a little tea should do the job!

Below are another couple of samples from the last Unit. The first one is bonded applique, where I had to admit to Anne that I had to bend the rules slightly in order for my subject matter to work. She pointed out that if this had been a certified C&G course, the verifier would not have been too happy, but she said, as it isn’t…. flexibilty was allowed!!

Several years ago Jenny, a very longstanding lovely friend who lives in Gloucestershire gave me a delightful calendar one Christmas. It depicted some of Charley Harper’s bird drawings, I have been a fan, ever since!

I decided to use some sketches I drew at the time for my sample. I cut out the shapes from my chosen fabrics, and bonded them in position. …adding no further detail at the time.

For several days I considered the little piece of work before making any more progress on it. I felt it needed more, but wasn’t sure what! Playing around I laid some organza shapes over it, and this transformed it for me.

This is where I then transgressed, because I decided that a machine stitch around the edges of the organza shapes would be far too harsh, and totally detract from the other features I had yet to add, so I hand stitched them in position, which for me, in this context worked! (I have a lovely tutor and obviously expressed my concern to her about the hand stitching).

I then could just add the machine stitched leg and beak details, on top of the organza, finishing with a French knot for the eyes! It is a very simple sample, but on this occasion I felt “less is more”.

The second sample shown below is of Whip Stitch, a totally new machine embroidery technique for me. I knew it would involve changing my sewing machine thread tensions so I had completely procrastinated leaving it to the very end of the unit! However, it has been one of my favourite samples of the unit! Isn’t that often the way; like a dreaded visit to the dentist, it is often the thought, rather than the practicality!

So, whip stitch happens when the bottom thread comes up to the surface of the fabric. So, to start with it is necessary to tighten the top stitch tension (sometimes call the needle thread tension) and/or reduce the bobbin tension. There are also some variations to the basic stitch which I explain further on. Before I did anything else I made a very careful note of how the tension screw on my bobbin looked; ( I drew a diagram) and I also wrote down my top tension reading, also sometimes called the “needle thread” tension reading.

It is important to note that after I had completed all my whip stitch explorations I immediately put my thread tensions back to where they were before I started, and stitched a sample to assess the quality of my stitching.

My fabric for the sample was a hand dyed soft grey colour on which I dabbed a cotton wool bud dipped in bleach. I later added a little water colour paint to the areas, to remove the starkness of the bleach. After experimenting on a scrap of the same fabric I freely stitched, creating these individual flower heads, and noted that I really liked the little “on the spot” knots. I sewed with two or three different combinations of colours at the top and in the bobbin, as you can tell.

When I had finished stitching, I still felt more was needed so I added tiny clusters of bright red painted dots. It just finished it!

The variations that can happen: when you are stitching circles and curves the bottom thread comes up even more to the top due to the tightened top tension and this creates one of the variations called “feather stitch”. Another variation is called “cording” and this happens when you make several tiny stitches, almost on top of each other (free machining) and the bottom thread comes up virtually covering the top stitch. I was pleased that my sample demonstrated the various possibilities. The cording variation is how I made my tiny red stitched “knots” for want of another word! As always, Anne gives detailed explanations of how to prepare the machine and encouraged experimentation and exploration of the techniques, illustrating this with two or three of her own samples.

My finished choice of presentation for Unit 3 was a decision made rather late in the day. Although I had decided at the beginning of this machine embroidery course, that I was going to make a selection of books in which to present the samples from each unit, I changed my mind when I reached the end of Unit 3! It had taken me hours to make the cover for the Unit 2 book, which was to contain the concertina book. Even though it “killed two birds with one stone” and I really love it, it was very time consuming. I am still working on the book for Unit 1, so I needed something effective but much quicker for the Unit 3 samples.

So, here it is! It is a “bucket bag”. It holds all my samples, for which I have cut bespoke backings of mount board. These are a little longer than the samples which hang loosely on them, as I have punched holes in the tops of the boards, and tied the samples in place with hand dyed threads.

I made the bag from wallpaper lining paper. I painted onto both sides of the paper with the left over dye from the fabric dyeing exercise in the unit.

For the handles I made twisted cords from narrow cotton ribbon, (bought as a yarn, again), and I threaded the cords through punched holes and knotted on the inside of the bag.

I reinforced the top of the bag so that any extra stress would not be detrimental. The whole construction is very sturdy, and it stands unsupported too!

There was a lot of work to complete in this unit, and in these blogs I have just presented a few of my samples. I was delighted to be able to send everything in, the 23rd of July. I did take longer than originally intended for this body of work, but as with all adults, sometimes “the best laid plans……”

I have received Unit 4 now and have read it through. Once again there is a great deal to explore and experiment with. We have now completed all the design elements and exercises, and the introduction to Unit 4 says that stitching with allied techniques is the main feature of the second half of the course; i.e. Units 4,5 and 6. Unit 4 certainly looks exciting and full of interest! Our first assignment should be completed, along with the rest of Unit 4. Before I get started on it, I will do some more work on Turvy III

Until next time

Happy Stitching

Di