Stitching News May 2020 (2)

I seem to have inadvertently published my blog (2) long before it was finished! I am struggling with a new format on WordPress! Technology, Grrr! WordPress has changed its format for writing the blog and from June 1st the creaters of blogs must adhere to this new format. Nothing changes for readers, at all.

I decided to get it over with! “Strike while the iron is hot mentality”! Technology and I dont get on too well, but I decided to take the bull by the horns straight away. So how have I got on? The immediate answer to that is … not at all well! I spent several hours last night trying to sort out the new system. Then, trying to retrieve everything I had lost when it disappeared! What a nightmare! I searched in every possible area, but even though I had been “saving” all along that journey, it had gone, never to be retrieved. …. and of course, I have no idea why, which is SO frustrating. I kept checking in “drafts” quite unbelieving that it was not there!

I have slept on it, and am trying, from scratch once more! If this doesn’t work, I shall have to give up!
It totally takes the shine off writing, and that is such a shame.

I am still thoroughly enjoying Unit 2 of the machine embroidery course.

I have three stitched samples left to do now, then I will have finished this unit. During the time I have been working through the Unit, I have repeated many techniques that I have covered several times over the years. It has been a great refresher, and I am really excited about the wonderful stash of painted papers I have which will last me for years!! New ideas have been developing, and I admit I have got distracted several times, having to “pull myself back to the case in hand!

The first exercise after working on the basics of colour theory was to create a scrap bag of painted and decorated papers and fabrics I used Brusho as my favoured medium for these, having used acrylic paints painting onto as wide a collection of paper surfaces, and a few fabrics, to use in the rest of the stitched samples. I used Brusho for these papers, and had a fabulous time.

I have discovered new favourite surfaces for painting onto and thoroughly explored the lovely qualities that Brusho has. I love the transparent quality of the paints, because they give wondrous bright colours, and you can build on the marks you create with your chosen brush, or sponge or other painting tool, by painting the same colour over the first dried colour; or indeed a different colour, creating layers of intrigue!

Here are a couple of photos which sample a fraction of my results!

Another of the exercises in this colour unit is to make a set of collages, using our decorated papers.

The photo above shows a collage on the left with a painted paper on the right. I had added some “marks” to this painted paper; one from my collection. It has the secondary colours, so was a very good choice for a collage representing these colours. We didn’t have to have a source to start with, but my mind was blank, and I just needed a nudge to get me going. It worked, and subsequently I could have spent hours and hours putting together other collages. In total I produced five, which was what was asked for in the course material. Choosing from my stash of papers I chose dark, mid and light tones within the colour ranges for the collage.

The papers I used were; tea-bag paper, wallpaper lining paper, Indian rag paper, tissue paper, Khadi paper, white packaging paper and cheese paper. The latter was given to be by a tutor coleague when I was teaching in FE. It is very fibre like, takes Brusho paint wonderfully, and is not easy to tear! Very interesting paper to use.

However the real surprise was the packaging paper that came to us recently surrounding and protecting an item in a parcel. It was lightly scrunched up in the box. What a find. An off-white which gives a sharp representation of colour,. The brusho immediately soaked through onto the protective newspaper underneath. It dried crisply, and is a fine paper as opposed to a coarse or heavy paper. I have wondered if it is plain newsprint paper. If anyone has used newsprint paper in any of their art work, I would be interested in their opinion. It is even more interesting because I am recycling at the same time!

Here is another of the collages. This time it represents two of the complementary colours; red and green.

The complementaries sit opposite each other on the colour wheel.The papers I have used here are:

wallpaper lining paper

white packaging paper and

cartridge paper.

Again I have chosen papers which have tonal ranges and interest. I was itching to add hand stitch to my collages, using hand dyed threads, but had to be mindful of the fact that this is a machine embroidery course!!

My sewing machine (shown above) is a Bernina 1015. I bought it in 1987, and it has been a real work horse for me since then. I have used it hugely over the years, not only for quilting but for dressmaking, and house hold furnishings; curtains and cushions. Unless it became obsolete for any reason, I would not change it, or trade it in! It is one of the original heavy metal machines, but what I do love about it is that I can manually fine-tune stitch length and width to exactly what I want, rather than having computerised fixed settings.

It is very easy to take apart and clean, the walking foot, which I purchased, probably at least 20 years ago is very easy to attach, as are all the other feet too. It doesn’t have a knee lift, but I know my machine inside out and back to front, and I can stop it with the needle up or down, without really even thinking about it. The foot pedal also has two speeds. These days I rarely change from the “fast” switch but when I first bought the machine it was an invaluable feature. It runs at a very even speed which is also very easy to control.

When I took the photo above, I noticed an implement in the far background. It is a small weighted paper holder.

You just slot the bottom edge of the paper into the space within the holder, and the page will stand upright. I have no idea where or when I bought it, but it is a really useful piece of kit. I have had it for very many years!

I am currently working on two hand made “book” assemblies. One I have had to sample several times to get the measurements and the method straight!

I wrote down the stages I have to go through for each page when I had finally cracked it, so that I could refer to the notes quickly. It is so easy to refer to them before I start sewing, when I have it stood at the side of my machine! I have quite large gaps between working on each page, and my memory is hopeful. I need reminders all the time!

Prior to starting on my first proper stitched sample in this unit, we were asked to make a stitched practice sample of the automatic stitches. Mine is shown here to the left.

As you can see I stitched everything in bright red, and wrote my own notes on the sample at the same time. Referring back to this sample frequently, enabled me to work out exactly how to set my machine, once I had decided on the stitch I would like to use on my first proper stitched sample using my automatic stitches.

I learned a huge amount about my machine and the few automatic patterns I have. I had never used some of them, ever!

Finally here is a photograph of one of my stitched samples using the automatic stitches on my machine.

I have not stitched anything like this in the past, so it was a fabulous learning experience. I shall definitely use some of these techniques again.

I have used a mixture of ribbons, strips of fabric or paper, and a wide selection of my stitch patterns. These were all worked on top of one of my painted cheese papers.

I am very relieved to have completed this blog. It hasn’t been without its traumas, including the unfortunate posting early on!

Until next time, happy stitching


Stitching News May 2020 (1)

Good day, from sunny Cornwall, where we have another beautiful cloudless blue sky.

During the last week I have been busy gardening, walking, baking and of course getting on with my machine embroidery course. Naturally there are always the basic household chores to get through as well…mostly I skim over them, just giving them more attention when necessity kicks in!
I am sure I am not alone in saying that my creative self is quite erratic at the moment. Some days I am full of enthusiasm, and others are quite different! No day is uninteresting but the creativity definitely comes and goes!

This newsletter is about;

  • Colour; the design element of the second unit in the course is all about colour.
  • A little about my work on the presentation of Unit one.
  • Creating an original patchwork block.
  • My favourite “easy access” tool box.

I have been really itching to get on with Unit 2, and have been reading around the subject, and also had great fun looking back at some work I did years ago. It is always fascinating to go back and review old work as it is almost always still relevant to today!

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For the course and the start of Unit 2 we had to start with colour basics; a colour wheel. We could choose our medium with which to paint white paper, and my first choice was acrylics. I know the colour wheel inside and out and back to front, as the majority of readers probably do! There are several different colour wheels, but this is the basic one, and we had to paint papers with the three primary and the three secondary colours. I was quite happy to repeat the exercise, and began to consider the different combinations!

I soon cut the relevant sections from my papers and glued them down onto a background. I cut elongated triangles from scraps putting the complementary colours together too. The latter sit opposite each other on the colour wheel. I followed this by playing with the left over secondary colours I had mixed. Combining these created even more colours, a different array of sludgy ones which always appeal to me. I made some small collages from these. Great fun!

For an alternative set of painted papers I decided to work with Brusho. These paints come in powder form and are mixed with water. I made up solutions of blue, red and yellow and painted papers as before. Using this totally different medium gave very different results! I should have made the colours stronger, which I cna still always do.  Pale colours are always essential and so, on reflection I am sort of pleased! There is equally nothing to stop me increasing the strength. The first six are acrylic paints, the second are Brusho.

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This is just the beginning of exploring colour… there are many more exercises to do, which will be fun too, but in the meantime, I have put the colour work in Unit 2 on hold! I had completed all the course content in Unit one, but at that time had not decided on my format for the presentation of the work. I have considered many options and a final decision made; a book.  So many book ideas, which is what has taken my time… I have had it OK’d, and have returned to work on it.

I find I am working through this course in regular but very small capsules of time. That has so often been the way I find my ideas can develop. I have worked like this for many years. I like to have some space and time to really think ideas through. Strangely this “thinking time” more often than not happens in either wakeful periods at night, or when I am hand stitching on other projects. It is never ever a conscious action on my part. It just happens and it is surprising how the germ of an idea expands quite quickly once it appeals to me! When I am happy about my thought processes, I can start working out the nitty gritty; size and techniques. I have already made samples of the techniques I am going to use for this constructionand have already made samples using scrap paper and scraps of fabric. Part will be hand stitched, and part on the machine. I had to do several samples just to get the proportions right. This is invaluable use of time, and well worth the effort.

I am actually deconstructing a book that I was given maybe as long as 15 or even 20 years ago. The paper is a high quality cartridge paper but it has been so tightly bound that the book will not lie flat when it is opened. This makes it impossible to even write in! It was never going to be used, so I am cutting out the pages very carefully with a craft knife so that they can be re-used now to create a workable book! Great to recycle!

I had a fascinating time recently looking through some of my past work. I found two pieced 16″ blocks along with the initial design work. It had all started with a simple 1″ square that I had cut from polystyrene packaging and used as a printing block.

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As you can see from the photo above, I have printed a straight square alternating with a square on point all over the paper. I then lightly outlined the printed squares with a fine black drawing pen to give a little definition and highlight the small irregularities the uneven printing had created. Next I trawled a 1 inch square “window” over the page, looking for possible areas that might be suitable for a patchwork block. I considered three areas, finally choosing one with part of the negative space as well as tiny sections of adjacent squares. Simple but effective!

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The newly identified area, has been slightly modified to give continuity and balance. The first of two additional lines runs from the top left corner until it comes to a stop at a right angle to another line. The second line creates a small triangle in the top right corner. These additions serve to break up what would have been two large spaces.




I tried various arrangements of this final block, then coloured in the one that I liked; as shown below.

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In this coloured version, have a look at the yellow corner; it is four of the original design blocks. Each original block has been rotated by 90 degrees in a clockwise rotation. This could be called a 4-patch, and four of these create the whole design, seen here on the left. Each of the coloured corners consists of four of the design blocks, all coloured identically.

The final design could be called a 16-patch.


The photo below shows the bottom left quarter of the design after piecing.

This finished patchwork block measures 16″ square. The finished design as in the coloured version above, would be 32″ square and could make a very nice wall hanging.

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Use of colour plays a huge part in any block, emphasising shapes as blocks are put together. Below is another way I created interest, by inclusion of a change of scale;

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Three of the corners in this red block are the size of the green blocks above. However the left top corner has a 1/4 size of the whole design. Here, the large corners measure 8″ square. But the top left corner consists of four x 4″ squares, creating the final 8″ sized corner. I like the way that the black individual striangular shapes, touch each other and create the distorted z shape. The use of black, really makes a sharp impact. All this came from a very simply printed paper!

Below is another block which I created in exactly the same process as above, but from a different source.

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Below you can see repeated blocks which have been assembled identically in the three versions, but I have painted them in different ways. The different use of colour illustrates that a range of final options are possible if you take the time to explore them. All the design lines are still in place, showing the way to construct the block.



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Finally, I was browsing in Coast and Country Crafts late summer last year, and saw these little storage units.

I thought they were fabulous, and would make great Christmas presents. Of course I had to try them out didn’t I, so that meant “one for me” too!

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Mine is packed with everyday tools which were previously in other pots, pencil cases, boxes etc, but here they are instantly visible, and accessible and tidy! Probably a bit of a luxury, but hey ho!

It is called a “stash ‘n store”

All of the items are used very regularly, and I find the little unit fantastically useful and organised! It sits on a table just to the right of my sewing machine.

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The silicone top surface has an interlinking circular grid, which can accommodate a wide variety of tools, as you can see. They are gripped by the silicone, so won’t “fall over”.


Take care and stay safe. Until next time, Happy stitching!