Thursday, 24 November 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

A happy thanksgiving to American family and friends.

Apparently these decorations are the type of thing young American kids make for Thanksgiving.  The tail and wings are made from hand shapes, and the body from footprints (needless to say, I made these smaller than my own hands and feet!)

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Birthday bunting

Birthday card for my god-daughter, machine stitched fabric scraps on textured paper.  The design was inspired by Just Another Hangup's makeup bag.

Monday, 7 November 2011


This is from Day 2 of my print-making workshop, more lino-cutting. 

The image is from an Elizabethan design book: apparently peapods were a popular design motif at that time, in common with other plants and flowers. 

Plants were often used not just for their aesthetic appeal, but as metaphors for all elements of life.   In keeping with the more bawdy portrayals of Elizabethan society, peapods were reknown for their phallic symbolism.  I can almost hear the Blackadder theme music striking up. 

Friday, 4 November 2011


Spent yesterday at a print-making workshop.  Covered mono-printing, dry-point etching, lino print and the theory of woodcutting.  I much preferred mono-printing and lino (dry-point etching is like someone dragging their fingernails down a blackboard, and woodcutting seemed like way more effort than lino).  And top tip for lino cutting - heat the lino with a hairdryer or on a radiator for five minutes.

Here is my first lino sample, design inspired by stuccoes at the Alhambra in Granada.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


Tulip stitch using two threads of stranded cotton

New week, new technique: this time it's blackwork. 

Apparently it originated in Tudor times (frequently used to decorate collars and cuffs) but the technique the RSN teaches has evolved considerably.  It now includes lots of complex patterns and the use of different stitches and threads to vary light and shade.  It is stitched on linen, although any evenweave fabric would work (these samples are on Dublin linen with 25 threads per inch).
Interlocking Ys using two threads of stranded cotton

    Tulip stitch shading

Tulip stitch here is done with threads of varying thickness: starting at the left one strand of coton à broder, then one strand of stranded cotton and finally one strand of Gutterman's machine sewing thread.  The tricky part is blending the varying weights of stitches to avoid seeing a line where the threads change.

Thursday, 20 October 2011


Trellis stitch with French knots

For the last two weeks, I've been learning the basics of Crewel work.  It is named for the wool it is stitched in (Crewel wool) which is a 2-ply wool, and for stitching to be properly considered Crewel, it should be stitched on linen. 

Trellis stitch with satin stitch fill

I'd always thought that it was quite a chunky style of stitching, but as I am now fully aware, it's quite the opposite: some of the stitches are meant to be 2 or 3 mm long.  This presents quite a challenge when photographing: stitches which have been given the OK by my tutor, when photographed and blown up on screen look much less impressive.
Raised chain band

Guess it's back to the embroidery frame for some more practice.

Thursday, 13 October 2011


Flowing of Dawn by Soon Yul Kang

These two images are from an exhibition by the British Tapestry Group at Orleans Gallery in Twickenham.  There were some beautiful woven pieces there, in a variety of styles, but I was blown away by the subtlety and skill in these two works especially.

Blue on Blue by Hillu Liebelt

Please excuse the reflection in the image above - it was behind glass and therefore tricky to photograph., but the colours were so evocative, I had to try.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Polos and pompoms

For the last two weeks I've been learning canvaswork (at the RSN, of which I'm sure I'll post more in the future, but I will try to limit mentions of how amazing it is to study in a palace).

I've learnt loads already, both technically but also about what constitutes canvaswork: cross stitch, Bargello,  and what I would have called tapestry (amongst other names/styles).  Apparently tapestry is a misnomer which stems from the 17th century when canvaswork hangings were made in imitation of the expensive tapestries which adorned palaces and country estates - they were meant to look like tapestries and the name persists, particularly in the expensive kits sold in stately home gift shops.

This is my first finished piece - it's tiny as it's a birthday card, the stitched section measures just 5cm square.  The stitches are Jessica stitch (they are the stitches which look sort of like polo mints around the Shisha mirrors), French knots (both within and between the polo mints) and in the very centre, velvet stitch (also known as plush work).  Velvet stitch is the most tactile stitch I've ever come across - even done in stranded cotton, it feels super soft and luxurious, and reminds me of making pompoms at home as a kid.  Only now I get to make them in a palace ...

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Zip zip

Just finished take two on a self-zipping purse.  It's a bit of an odd name as you'd almost expect the purse to know when you needed to get at your money and unzip itself, but when you look at the purse's structure it makes more sense.  The instructions were courtesy of Craft Passion, referenced by the ever-fabulous How about orange.

I lined this one (with ribbon, rather than a strip of fabric as I didn't want to have to fold the seam allowance) and it does give it more structure (I hadn't thought the unlined version lacked structure, but it's a welcome addition).

Today is chief niece's birthday - hope she likes it.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011


Well, sort of.  Piñata making for us is a yearly occurrence, and this one definitely has an air of pantomime horse about her.  

Although my MiL did ask why we'd got a Friesian cow on our chair, so maybe I'm kidding myself.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Mirror, mirror

Been doing some experimenting with shisha stitch for a pre-college project (on the theme of Reflection).  I was partially inspired by Erratic Needle's lovely post, particularly by the stitch which I've done in green here.  I've seen it called Pinwheel and also American Shisha, so have no idea which is right.  Roll on September and having access to a whole library full of textile books.

Thought I'd go all out with a shiny metallic piece (the two biggest circles are still mirrors, just reflecting colours from around them).  Sewing with metallic thread on stretchy metallic fabric was easier than I'd expected, and like the way the mirrors become part of the whole piece.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

With thanks

Wanted to make a 'thank you' card which was stitched, and this blog posting gave me some indirect inspiration.  Design Sponge uses a threadless sewing machine to stitch holes into a piece of card, something I've done before but had pretty much forgotten about. 

I appropriated the idea and used it to punch holes for the letters, using a pin for the curves which were too tricky for my machining.  The stitches are either chain or Holbein, with a buttonhole wheel for the 'O', and some french knots on the flowers.  All in all, fairly quick and fun to do.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Ro Hae Sin 노혜신

Popped into the Ceramics section at the V&A yesterday, and was very taken with these pieces in the modern Korean room.

They're by a Korean artist called Ro Hae Sin 노혜신, and according to this blog, she meticulously builds up layers of different colours, then scores the pattern into the work, revealing the hidden colours.  I love the tactile feel of the spheres, the sugared almond colours and the multi-layered patterns.  I've been pondering spherical embroidered pieces for some time, and hopefully these will prove to be fertile inspiration.

Monday, 11 July 2011


This project was an idea from my OH: he asked his niece and nephew to draw some fish, and then we chose a couple to embroider. 

Yes, I did say 'we': it was his first foray into the world of embroidery.  He did confess that the best part was seeing it finished, so not sure he's a convert yet, but we shall see.

The one above I've nicknamed 'skeleton fish', and I think the second one has a bad cause of some contagious vomiting disease, but am really pleased with how they turned out. 

They were surprisingly quick to produce (probably helped by the liberal use of bondaweb), and were completed in a couple of evenings.  Skeleton fish has bullion knot bones, a buttonhole stitch wrapped eye and detached chain embellishment; vomiting fish has french knot spots, a bullion knot tongue and satin stitch teeth. 

I may suggest this as a future project for my local Young Embroiderers - we could have a whole ocean full.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011


Today is a day of conflicting emotions as my art course finished yesterday.

I'm v.happy to have finished my final piece and to have successfully hung it (and I've not had a phone call from a tutor to say it fell down overnight which bodes well).  However, I'm also sad as it's been a fantastic year, and I'm going to miss both the tuition and even more so, the people.  We've been a pretty diverse bunch but that's made for a supportive, non-competitive atmosphere which has been perfect.

The photos are of my final piece hung in the college exhibition hall.  I took the theme of female relationships and so was trying to convey the feelings of isolation and exclusion which can occur when relationships start to break down.  The piece uses embroidery materials (hoops, needles and threads) chosen partly because they will be the tools of my trade when I start my new course in September but also because they are from a traditionally female craft.

The close-up image shows the needles more clearly.  When spotlit they glint and shine which, particularly against the softness of the thread, gives a sense of discomfort: something which should be used for a pleasurable pastime has become something uncomfortable and slightly menacing.

Monday, 30 May 2011


Please excuse a non-craft related post, but today has, for once, been a craft-free day. 

Spent a contented hour this evening bottling elderflower cordial with OH.  I love elderflowers, both their blossom and their taste (although, disappointingly, the flowers smell nothing like the finished cordial and are really not v.pleasant).   The process of foraging for the blossom is a real pleasure as it involves a wander along the riverbank in sunny weather.

Recipe from  (makes 1.5 litres).

20 heads of elderflower
1.8kg sugar sugar
1.2 litres water
2 unwaxed lemons
75g citric acid

Shake the elderflowers to expel any lingering insects, and then place in a large bowl.
Put the sugar into a pan with the water and bring up to the boil, stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved.
While the sugar syrup is heating, pare the zest of the lemons off in wide strips, slice the lemons, discard the ends and add the zest and slices to the elderflower bowl.  Pour the boiling syrup into the bowl and stir in the citric acid. Cover with a cloth and then leave at room temperature for 24 hours.
Next day, strain the cordial through a sieve lined with muslin (or a new j-cloth rinsed out in boiling water), and pour into thoroughly cleaned glass or plastic bottles.

And finally, an elderflower stowaway who was safely relocated to the outdoors.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Prism 2011

Cenote Series by Rachel Gornall.  Photo from
Another inspiring exhibition today: just got back from up close :: in detail
courtesy of Prism textile group.  Lots of amazing work, some from old hands and some new, at least to me. 

Anita Bruce was showing some of her lovely knitted organic beings and also some large-scale knitting, beautiful in its simplicity. 
I'd not come across Rachel Gornall before but she does beautifully precise geometric sheers (if I were rich her work is definitely something I'd be dipping into my pocket for)
Anita Sturch does delicate expanses of what looks like cut work, reminiscent of Islamic carved screens.  There were lots more, too many to mention, but I shall be perusing the catalogue enviously over the next few days.

The exhibition closes on Saturday but if you're in that part of London (the Mall) between now and then, it's definitely worth popping in.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Leaf skeleton

More college project stuff - have lost count on the number of rethinks I've had, so this is yet another new direction.

I absolutely love this leaf skeleton.  It was on the pavement near home last November whilst out walking the dog in torrential rain.  I spotted it on the way out and left it on the corner of someone's drive, not imagining that it would survive the rain, nor that I'd remember that I'd left it, but both miraculously happened and, even more surprisingly, it's still intact six months later.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Hidden treasures

As part of my current art project (which I'm sure I'll blog about a whole lot more over the next few weeks) I've been looking at how objects can be hidden or obscured.

Whilst out and about recently I passed this door: I'd call it a gate but it seems too solid and important for that.  In my imagination it's hiding a garden of immense beauty, populated with Elizabethan ladies plotting intrigues and dropping handkerchiefs for their suitors to find.  I was particularly taken with the grille, through which I'm sure there have been all sorts of billet doux and illicit messages passed, not to mention unwelcome callers who've had the hatch slammed in their face.

Disappointingly, in between first spotting the door and returning to photograph it, the grille had morphed from the circular one in my memory to a slightly more run-of-the-mill square version.

It's still impressive, though.

Sunday, 8 May 2011


Image from

More images from Collect: this piece, called The Schoal [sic], is by Steffen Dam who is a Danish glass artist.  Apparently it's made from layers of blown glass within the clear glass panel, no jellyfish were harmed in the process.

The work is intricately detailed and I think it is just beautiful. 

Saturday, 7 May 2011


Just got back from Collect, a Craft Council exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery.  Have to say, I wasn't particularly expecting much, and did think that 15 quid entry was a bit hefty, but it was fantastic. 

10 different galleries of all forms of craft, a lot of it inspiring and exciting (although a little lacking on the textile front, I thought).  Pictured (slightly blurrily, as it was taken through glass in lowish light) is a work called Bubble Bath by Nora Fok.  This piece is knitted in nylon (presumably invisible thread?), using marbles to shape the spheres.  It has a beautiful, other-worldly quality.

Collect is only a 4-day exhibition, but apparently it's an annual event, so I'll be putting the date in my diary for next year.

Sunday, 1 May 2011


Having spent a sun-kissed day in deepest Berkshire yesterday, the last place I'd expect to be posting about is Slough station.  But there was something about the contrast between the cornflower blue sky and the deep coral pink of the wrought iron which was just beautiful.  Lots of patterns and shapes for future art projects.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Knitted lights

Three lights (blue and green) by Ann Sutton
These lights, by textile artist Ann Sutton, are exhibited in York Art Gallery.   They are knitted linen tubes, with glass light inserts.  I'd have dated them as contemporary, but apparently they were made in 1969 - I wonder if the knitting has stretched over those 40 years.

As the title suggests, the piece consists of three similar lights - the only reason one is missing is due to photography angles!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Pots and Kettle

 This textile work is in York Art Gallery.  Apparently it's a collaboration between Alice Kettle, a textile artist, and Alex McErlain, a ceramicist.  The gallery blurb says that she took his drawings and, "using computer technology and machinery normally used for stitching blazer badges"(!) turned them into textiles. 

I like the line drawing effect, and the feel that it's a drawing of an archaeologist's table at a very prolific dig.  I'd love to know if he used the drawings to create jugs, and what they looked like if he did. 


This is the motif for an Easter card - am really pleased with it, as it's an infrequent foray into cross-stitch.  I normally prefer unstructured embroidery with it's freehand meandering, but I wanted something more traditional for this design. 

The main part of the cross is (apparently) called Jacobean couching, or trellis couching - the flecks of gold between the crosses are tiny couching stitches.  It's a new stitch to me, and not in any of my books but really like the effect.  The ends of the cross are just normal cross stitch and the flowers are lazy daisy with a bead centre.  Some scattered french knots and a ribbon of back stitch finish it off.  I only had cream Aida fabric, so used a piece of sheer fabric over the top to give some colour - once pinned in place this was surprisingly easy to stitch through.

I hope you're having a happy, restful Easter

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Quilt Art 25

Photo from
Went to York Quilt Museum and Gallery yesterday, to see an exhibition called Quilt Art 25.  Quilt Art is a group of twenty textile artists who've been collaborating for 25 years, hence the title.  The exhibition was very good, some beautiful work providing great inspiration.

Unfortunately there was a strict 'No photography' policy, which I do understand but find frustrating, so this is a detail from High Tide Low Tide - Broadstairs/Kent, by Inge Hueber, used by the museum to promote the exhibition on their website.  It is a beautiful quilt, the piecing of different shades is incredibly skillful and I liked that she'd chosen to leave the raw edges visible so it was like seeing the reverse of the quilt.

Monday, 18 April 2011


Sutherland Seas (photo from
I've just spent a v.satisfying day looking at lots of lovely embroidery and then wandering around a beautiful garden in the sunshine so feeling v.relaxed and happy.

The exhibition was in the Long Hall at Ramster, a country house nearish Guildford, where there is a biennial textile art exhibition.  This year there were over 300 pieces exhibited, everything from traditional birds and flowers to stitched reclining nudes and 3D pieces.  Some of the names were renowned artists (Kay Dennis, Fay Maxwell, Heidi Rhodes), others unknown, at least to me, but producing some amazing work.  The piece here was from an artist I'd not come across before: Iona Mackenzie Laycock who produces some beautiful abstract land and seascapes.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Wall of colour

Inspired by Purl Bee's wall (which, incidentally is a needlecraft/quilting shop in Soho NY, not Soho London), OH and I now have a fabric wall in our lounge.  

I love it, as it combines fabric, luscious colours and embroidery hoops (although may want to tweak some of the fabrics/colours over time - great excuse for fabric shopping).  And the best thing is, the idea was OH's suggestion: he's definitely embracing the whole textiles thing, may yet get him stitching.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Shark's teeth

As part of the embroidery course I'm doing (C&G Innovative Hand Embroidery), my latest piece of homework was to create examples of edgings.  This is my favourite: it's called Shark's Teeth, although i think the repeating rows are more mountainlike.

Other edgings are (from left) some home-made bias binding, a different type of Shark's Teeth, and cording.  They were all surprisingly easy, although (my ongoing gripe with this course syllabus) I wouldn't call them innovative.   On the plus side, it does mean the spare room fabric mountain is v.slightly smaller now.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Make-up bag

To fulfill a birthday promise to a friend, I've just finished a make-up bag.  The request was for one big enough for mascara and a compact, but small enough to fit into an evening bag, so hope this fits the bill.

The fabric is unfortunately viscose, as I really like the pattern and had it been something a bit more tactile I'd have been tempted to buy a load of it to make a dress.  Probably just as well, though, as the fabric mountain in the spare room is too big already.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Stretchy spikey

Just a quick post (to get me back in the habit) - current college project is to make a 'temporary structure'.  That's the sum total of the brief (other than that we then have to draw/paint/collage it, so it would have been sensible to have chosen something which was easy to replicate - ah well).  Had lots of fun in the construction process, anyway.

I went slightly off-brief by making several temporary structures, here hidden amongst some of my OH's temporary plants.  Well, guess these are less temporary than some as they did at least survive the last two winters.

Thursday, 10 February 2011


Am desperately trying to convince myself that spring is on its way, despite today's relentless rain, hence making this brightly coloured daffodil card.

The background is silk-painted interfacing (the fusible kind as it's easy to iron onto card) with felt and foam flowers and machine-stitched stems.  In retrospect, the grass is maybe a bit overly green, but I'm pretending that's just wishful thinking for a sunny spring.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Shadow quilting

Another recently finished practice piece from my C&G course: shadow quilting.  It's similar to normal quilting, but with just two layers: a base layer of relatively sturdy fabric with a top layer of sheer fabric and other elements sandwiched in between.

In this piece I used ribbon, jewellery chain, a sequin (oddly without a hole) and a "fake shisha" ring (a blanket-stitched ring which is tacked on top of a mirror, avoiding the need to do shisha stitch).  I'm not 100% convinced about the effect - it's a bit flatter than I'd expected, and the chain looks a lot less chainlike behind the sheer fabric, but may be worth trying with some slightly more 3D objects in the sandwich.  

Friday, 4 February 2011

Sheer colour

Finally made something which I can post - been doing lots of tweaking and mounting portfolio work, dull but necessary.  So, it was a relief to spend a happy couple of hours at my City and Guilds course last night, cutting up brightly coloured sheer fabrics and laying them over each other.

OH referred to them as 'neon', which isn't quite what I was aiming for, but he does have a point.  I was more aiming at the rich colours of Prinkie Roberts' work, but guess it's always good to have something to aim for.