Thursday, 4 October 2012

Buttons or blankets?

It's good to be back at college: new term, new technique, this time it's stump work.  Also known as raised work, it's a 3D technique of raising embroidery from the ground fabric.  (Apparently the name 'stump work' comes from the use of boxwood 'stumps' which were covered in fabric, attached to the ground fabric and embroidered over.)

First day was using detached buttonhole stitch to attach small objects to fabric.  I've never been totally sure of the difference between buttonhole stitch and blanket stitch, but it seems that standard buttonhole is just blanket stitch with the stitches close together (although there are variations on buttonhole which are more complex).  Buttonhole certainly sounds more complex and professional, not least as blanket stitch is often one of the first stitches taught to children - I distinctly remember the blue felt recorder case I blanket-stitched in junior school.

For our purposes, the coins were covered in silk organza stab stitched to hold the coin in place  whilst the buttonhole was stitched (the idea is that the stitching eventually holds the coin firmly enough that the organza can be shredded and pulled away).  The first row of buttonhole was stitched very closely to the edge of the coin, and then subsequent rows were stitched into the previous row (this is the 'detached' element, the stitching is detached from the fabric, as distinct from e.g. detached chain stitch where the stitch is detached from the other stitches). 

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Trophy dog

I don't have a trophy boyfriend (or at least not one I'll admit to when I know my OH is reading), but I do now have a trophy dog.  This is the culmination of a small project I started two years ago: to crochet an amigarumi version of our terrier.  I lost impetus quite quickly and so the head has been sitting in my crochet box all that time.  The pattern was an adapted version of this from Reliquary Arts, including the addition of the beard which was created by velvet stitch in crochet wool, and some characterful lopsidedness.

I figured I was never going to get around to crocheting a body to fit the head and so the idea of a miniature trophy terrier was born.  The head was mounted on a piece of wood veneer (I pierced tiny holes and sewed through) and then backed it with a magnet (by removing the top layers of a marketing magnet and superglueing it to the wood). 

It's going to hang on the fridge door as a threat about what will happen if the dog chases one more fox ...

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Slippers for a queen

Been busy busy with this year's final college project: to design slippers for a queen. I wasn't overjoyed with the brief (far too girlie for me) but thankfully it was a group project and one of my course-mates had come up with the idea of slippers for a drag queen.

It's ended up being far more conceptual (thankfully, as my slipper-making skills are non-existent), and we created a whole drag queen persona.

She's called Diamond Juli (for obvious topical reasons) and her act is a tribute to the the current queen, and her 1950s dress designer, Norman Hartnell.

Feather and beads

Coin with silk shading, metallic thread and beads

Heated and moulded sequins

The idea was that the embroidery would be a mix of Hartnell's couture exquisiteness and the over-the-top tackiness of drag. The jewellery/makeup box was designed to present the samples in a way which expressed the kitsch elements of Diamond Juli's persona. 

Thanks to Hanny and Mookie for a fun couple of weeks.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Sneak preview

I've been working away on some pseudo goldwork which isn't yet finished (and won't be for a little while longer as I have more urgent things to concentrate on first), but thought I'd give a little sneak preview.

And yes, I have noticed that there isn't any gold ...

Gold part II

Day two was chip work over felt, surrounded with couched pearl purl. The chip work is a 'crimped' wire, called wire check which is cut into tiny 'beads' and then stitched randomly. The effect is super-sparkly.

Thursday, 8 March 2012


This week's technique is goldwork, something completely new for me and I'm really enjoying it.

We started with couching gilt thread (we aren't let loose on proper gold yet) which was fun and surprisingly easy (photo above of the front view).  Unfortunately, to finish off, the couched threads need to be sunk through to the back of the fabric (called plunging) and tied off (stitched), both of which are much less easy and also really tough on the fingers. 

The photo to the right shows the reverse of the fabric, part way through the tying off process. 

This is the same technique in a spiral which I much prefer (not least as there are hardly any ends of thread to be handled).

Tomorrow is chip work and pearl purl - even the names in goldwork are great.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Japanese embroidery

I went to a fascinating workshop in Japanese embroidery recently.  It was run by Midori Matsushima, a very experienced Japanese embroiderer. 

We used flat silk thread, both in it's pure flat state and also learnt how to twist it (so it looks similar to a superior perlé thread).  The shape on the left is done in satin stitch using twisted thread, and the flat silk on the right (the photo doesn't do justice to the amazing sheen).  The knots are Japanese knots - similar to French knots, but the technique is slightly different (and, given the state of some of my efforts, much more difficult). The final thing we tried was using fine gold thread.  Sewing with the gold was easier than I'd expected, and beautifully rewarding.

One of the lovely things about the workshop was using different tools: an awl, a minimalist pair of scissors and a small, slightly chunky needle with a round, rather than flat, eye (shown next to a size 10 embroidery needle).  Apparently the round eye puts less strain on the delicate silk than a flat eye, and the small needle was actually easy to use.

The whole experience was great, an intriguing insight into a different way of stitching led by a real expert.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Ceramic inspiration

I went to Ceramic Art London at the weekend which was really interesting.  A wide variety of ceramics, some functional, some weird and wonderful and a lot of them inspiring. 
grey orange jars
Photo from:

The friends I went with were unanimous in our liking of James and Tilla Waters' work.  I love the muted blue grey east coast seascape feel, which is put into beautiful relief by the bright orange.

I've been playing with fluorescent orange quite a bit recently, and so their ceramics inspired this sample - not sure I'd have thought of putting these colours together previously, but I do like them and it's definitely something I want to pursue.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Silk shading

I'm trying to convince myself that I like the new technique we started learning last week: silk shading.  It's so tiny, ridiculously small, which means it takes forever, and then the finished piece is just ... flat.   

I know, the whole point is to create light and dark through shading, but it just does nothing for me.  I have consoled myself by choosing colours I like for this exercise (inspired by agave and echeveria plants), but I'm still not sure it makes up for the fact it took a day and a half. 

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Beatrix Potter

Quite some time ago I promised Beatrix Potter 'name' pictures for two young friends of ours.  I have finally got them finished (who would have thought hedgehog spines would be quite so time-consuming?).  The second one has yet to be framed and stretched, but I'm awaiting any last-minute suggestions from OH, and wanted to blog about them now.

The lettering is done using Caran D'Ache water-soluble pencils (so in effect watercolour paint), overlaid with seeding. 

All of the figures are appliqued, padded with toy stuffing and then embellished with stitch.

Jemima Puddleduck's bonnet was a piece of shaped felt folded and stitched into place and her 'coat' is a piece of printed cotton fabric with detached chain stitch.  The hollyhocks are more Caran D'Ache, with embroidery on top. 

Mrs Tiggywinkle is more applique, her bonnet and apron are from a recycled laundry bag and her blouse (and bloomers hung out to dry) are from an old bra(!).  The laundry basket was a variation on basket-weave stitch and the socks on the washing line were my first success with needle-felting.  After much trial and error and suggestions from many different friends (various threads, wire, paintbrush bristles, wood splinters ...) I used bristles from a (brand new) scrubbing brush.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Penguin plethora

Have been meaning to post all Christmas and it's not happened, so thought I'd do a Twelfth Night post.

Both of these were Christmas presents - the lovely Scandinavian tree from a friend, and the penguins from me to OH, courtesy of the V&A shop.  Both are my kind of design - I like the foldable, interlocking elements, not to mention the clean lines and simplicity.

Happy new year.