Thursday, February 11, 2016

patches and pockets

lately i've been drawn to simple patches, old linens, hand embroidery - making things up as i go

there's sometimes a plan, albeit a loose one, but sometimes there isn't

i've learned i can waste a lot of time trying to figure out a project, beginning to end, before i've even taken up a needle, much less a pair of scissors

nowadays i just jump right in and get started, making it up as i go, hoping for a brilliant idea or two along the way

 we're making "patched pockets" over in karen's latest class, and in honour of her being both an exhibitor and an instructor, at the amazing "pour l'amour de fil" in nantes, france this april, i thought i'd make a pocket with a french twist

red and blue, new cloth and old, designs by french general and liberty of london

i'm in heaven

i started with an old tablecloth, lovely linen, all neatly hemmed with faded blue embroidery transfers in each of the four corners, but not a stitch taken

there were several stains on the cloth, so i took a deep breath, and cut off one whole side, leaving the hem intact on the three remaining

my plan is for an envelope-style pocket, with a fold-over flap

not having any designs ideas, as mentioned above, i decided to start on the back

in not much time i'd appliqued the first four squares - then i sat and looked at it, wondering what to do next

i wondered for a long time... days - winging it wasn't working!

in the absence of a better idea i started making red cross-stitches along the hemmed edge and while doing that i was reminded of laundry marks... the whole thing was immediately cast aside and an internet search on laundry marks began

there isn't a whole lot out there readily at hand but i found an issue of piecework magazine from 1999 that was available for digital download that had a very good article - it was a beginning...

an etsy search revealed french laundry tape - white, with red letters, monogrammed by machine

they looked awfully familiar so the ipad was dumped on the cast-off embroidery and upstairs i went, pulling out boxes and drawers, and a half hour later held up a 5" white strip with lovely little "J.A."s embroidered in said red - a little gift tucked into a textile order from long ago

"J.A." not "J.W." but it will do just fine

back to work again, this time embroidering some of the faded transfer lines on the cut-off piece

this will in turn be cut up again i think, and appliqued on to the pouch in some fashion, but just how hasn't quite come to me yet

while waiting on that idea to develop, i turned to the next thing i knew for sure

i embroidered a tiny white flower on a scrap of the cut off material  and then darned it to the main piece in the open space between groups of the "four-patches"

there was no tear here, no stain that needed covering, just a desire to bring some of the cut away part back home, darning it, connecting it in a way that is somehow as close as it can get again to being part of the whole

and that's as far as my thinking's taken me...

Sunday, January 31, 2016


i bet you don't often expect to come here and find vivid colours staring you down...

i love bright, but i rarely work with it - not sure why exactly because i really do like it, but i suppose if push comes to shove, soft and muted will always win

it's nice to change it up now and again though, and especially easy when doing silk ribbon embroidery

 i'm teaching a class next month and as i pondered what the "thing" should be (project class vs simply a technique class)

i decided on a fancy work needlecase

i love my needles, my treasured friends - have you ever thought about what an absolutely amazing invention it is? with this little thing we can do so much?

it boggles my mind

anyway - i love cecile franconie's style and even ordered one of her books - all the way from france

yes, it's in french but stitchery has it's own universal language and i've managed just fine

even to the point where i no longer consciously translate the directions - i love that

 this case is a series of pockets, which are the perfect size to slip a package of needles in

 the sides will fold in, and then in again and there will be some kind of closing device but i haven't any idea what yet

i'm still deeply entranced by all this colour, and beautiful flowers and leaves

i thought the one below was my favourite

and then i did these little roses
(this one is my own design)

and a new favourite was born

who would believe one simple stitch could make these little delights?

 so - the easy part is done and now for the putting it all together - i have to say if feels like a bit of drudge after all the fun i've had with the flowers

but all play and no work... and all that

 "the flowers that grow may fade and wither, but the ones that i stitch will live forever..."

Monday, January 25, 2016

little birds

the sun is shining today and the little birds are flying about, busy as bees

we've had a few warm days and the snow is melting - that, coupled with a few good downpours have turned my herb garden into a birdbath and as i sit here at the kitchen table, the sun streaming through the windows, drops of water are fluttering through the sky creating rainbows on my keyboard

it's wonderful to watch...

inside, little birds have taken over my sewing room as well

i'm teaching a class on stitching, patching and playing this spring

creating a design of one's own from a piece of inspiration of one's choosing

this version came from a piece of scrap-booking paper, which i've forgotten to take a picture of... something for another day...

one-half of the paper is devoted to little birds standing on each other's backs

pretty pastel birds in combinations of florals and stripes, tiny dots

the other side of the paper looks like strips of lace and ribbon

i'm making little patched and embroidered squares which are then applied to a muslin background, with more stitching and, eventually, more applique 

the tulips come from a section of the "ribbon" and this little bird can't resist them!

the strips of lace and floral fabric echo that portion of the paper as well...

the little guy below is standing on a branch, little felt leaves in soft blue and grey-green

the other two blocks are still in progress 

it's great fun, and a bit of a challenge, to look closely at something and start pulling out details to use here and there - changing it up, keeping it similar, inspired by something and then interpreting it in your own way

going out on a limb

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

it's easy if you try...

i think i've learned more important lessons in the past five years than in the previous fifty...

i've learned that the more you do the more ideas you'll get

"inspiration inspires" 

i've said that for a long time now - you never run out, you just keep getting more, one thing leads to another, and to another

i've learned that goals are only wishes when you don't have a plan - it's easy to want to be able to do something... it's an entirely different thing to put in the time, do the work, hone the skill, perfect the craft

i've learned to try

i drew these corset shapes by looking at a photograph 

and perfected them by having a rather large eraser

drawing what i saw

"draw what you see, not what you think you see"

wise words

the paper is heavy water-colour paper and my inspiration image is rather large - i needed smaller versions of the corset-shape for some design work exercises i wanted to do and the only way to get the smaller versions on to the water-colour paper was to draw them 

it wasn't easy, and they aren't perfect, but they're mine and i love them

working with pattern and shape

surface design

paper and stitch

contrasting lovely delicate lace with a cloth that has an edgy pattern

creating texture with pin-tucks

i wasn't too keen on knotting off all the beginning and ending threads and then i realized i could just fringe them

snippety-snip and lickety-split

now i have a lovely surface, all ready for some hand-stitching... i'm just at a bit of a loss right now as to what stitches i should use

i think if i do some kind of smocking, especially in the centre, it will cinch it in and emulate the idea of the corset-shape

too obvious?

i guess i won't know unless i try - and if i wreck it, i can always make another

two years ago i wouldn't have dared but now i know that something good will come of it

i'll either know what works, or i'll know what doesn't work

my mother, wise woman hat she is,  always says "nothing ventured, nothing gained"


i did get a tad carried away with my pin-tucking foot, making these three samples and then another three or four in silk - but i have lots of samples to practice on now

 and then i went back and drew one more corset and played about with cutting out shapes, applying papers that i had also pleated and stitched on, placing some on top and some underneath

looking at line, shape and colour

disassembled,  rearranged

it's a new year and there are many wonderful things to experiment with in the days and weeks and months ahead

i think perhaps i'll buy myself a few big erasers, and maybe even a spare seam ripper

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

stitching, patching, playing...

time is standing still a little this week - the days move along at a nice quiet pace

there's no rush to be anywhere... 

back in late november, early december, whilst wandering about on the internet, i came upon a "stitch along" on quilt mania's website

hosted by bea

the videos are all in french, but i found them surprisingly easy to understand, and the more i watched the more my french improved until after a while i wasn't even trying to translate them in my head

and then of course, embroidery and patchwork have their own universal language

 too busy to get started, i printed off the pdf documents, gathered some supplies and set it all aside for this week

i was so entranced by the random nature of this work that i decided to follow along fairly closely, at least at first

each section is completed on it's own, and then in groups, they are attached to a long foundation cloth {i'm using a piece of  a very old damask tablecloth - it's exceptionally unruly but i love it so am persevering!}

bea used a vintage piece for her monogram but as i had nothing with a "j" i had to create my own

i remembered a pretty alphabet pattern by alicia of posie gets cozy , found a fragment of an doily, and made my own

 layers of cloth, layers of stitch

 favourite buttons and pins

bea's method for piecing this tiny new york beauty block is brilliant

i hate foundation piecing on paper but this is done without ever having to sew through the paper - brilliant!

after laying out these first four components, a vine with felt leaves was randomly stitched - the leaves are layered with cheesecloth to add texture and dimension and then veins stitched with variegated embroidery thread

 trying to be as random as possible, i didn't draw any lines on the ground fabric, just going with it

the more you add, the more you want to add even more - layering stitches, adding dimension, integrating all the components into something whole

 the branch with tiny felt leaves and embroidered fronds adds such a woodland feel to this - i'm envisioning it winding it's way here and there, all the way to the top

there are so many wonderful ideas in this project, and the pieces are all so easily done - tiny treasures

the perfect thing for quiet snowy days when you have nowhere else to be

Thursday, December 24, 2015

christmas eve..

it's late

the house is quiet... christmas eve and i'm the only one still up

the tree is still lit, the candles glowing and i'm on the brink... the end of one amazing day, the edge of another

 i love this time of year, from now until after new year's

a time of awareness, of remembering - an acknowledgment of the past, enjoyment of the present and anticipation for the future

the tree is decorated with ornaments dating back to before my dad was born, ornaments gathered on whilst on holidays, some made by me - an eclectic mix for sure, but somehow they all work together and the tree sparkles and shimmers and shines 

i can never look at it enough

a pure celebration of light and love

i wish that for each of you too ... a magical time of love and sharing with all you hold dear

merry christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2015

a "growing" collection...

i've been meaning to write this post for many weeks now - a month or two at least, but between dark days that made picture taking impossible and a schedule that wouldn't quit, it never happened

it's almost better to be written now though, on this winter's solstice day

last summer i had my first vegetable garden

pure heavenly delight

to wander out there in the bright sunshine and pick food for our dinner was a wonderful thing... most of what i grew we ate fresh

there were a few things that were more abundant and i did freeze little bundles of swiss chard, raspberries and homemade tomato sauce, full of onions and herbs and simmered to a lovely rich thickness

i also made several batches of strawberry black pepper balsamic jam

and then i harvested little bits of fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers to dye embroidery thread...

oh what great fun it was

little jam jars filled to bursting with carefully tied skeins of white embroidery thread

and here and there a snippet of silk ribbon or cloth

cotton muslin and cotton cheesecloth

they looked so pretty stacked up on the windowsill, letting the waning autumn sun work it's magic

i experimented a fair bit with this process - scouring the thread, but adding the mordant to the dye jar... sometimes adding vinegar, sometimes not

above is avocado without vinegar... pearly greyish taupe

below is onion skins - brown and red, all mixed together in one jar

then lavender, this one with vinegar

below is the thread from my first attempt, back in september

marigold, lavender, blueberry and raspberry

 a better look at the avocado

below is beetroot

a piece of old linen towel that was ratty with holes so i did fme on it
i love how it took the dye

 more lavender

marigolds again
the difference between the cotton and the silk is quite amazing - same jar, same mordant

 below is rosemary, with vinegar

they were crammed in the jars pretty tightly, left to sit in the sun for four weeks

i'm so pleased with the results and have been quite diligent in my record keeping so i'm getting a pretty idea of what worked well and what didn't

i'm writing up little cards, attaching samples, doing light and colour-fast testing

plotting and planning and reading up on all sorts of ways of doing this

i want to try processing the jars in a water bath and leave them for a couple of months to see what the difference is

i want to try different mordants, different threads, different plants

i want to try freezing the plant material first to see how that works

i want to figure out how to get all the colours, bright and dark, pale and muted

then i want to paint little cards with images of the plants and attach small twisted hanks of pretty, plant-dyed embroidery thread to each of them

and then i want to stitch the plants with the threads they made

when i titled this post "a "growing" collection", i wasn't really referring to all the threads i've been creating...

i was referring to all the things i now want to do that stem from a lovely sunny day when i took a few pretty plants, some nice white thread and a few simple jars and made something wonderful

it seems those ideas are the collection, and i am a collector of desires