Monday, July 16, 2018

easy breezy days of summer?

summer is always such a busy time here in the shuswap 

and this year has been no exception

and the busiest time of all for me is always the first two weeks of july when the cherry trees in our yard are ready for picking

at first i'm excited but as the heat and the work wear on I get pretty tired of it

and I get pretty tired of missing my stitching...

my newest love is really an old love that has now found a purpose

you all know how much I love little bits of fabric, especially when they're stitched in place with little bits of thread

and a fancy stitch or two

a couple of weeks ago, whilst casting about for ideas for something small, original and varied to make and sell at my spinner's and weaver's guild annual sale, I hit upon this idea...


the one on the left was my first and though I loved it, it was a bit softer in feel than I wanted - coasters should have some sturdiness to them

the one on the right is the result of a little tweaking with the filling materials and has a lovely solid feel to it, without being stiff - perfection

I lay out the main base pieces first, secure them with over-stitching and then add interest with patches and decorative embroidery

the cloth dictates the style

they're kind of a cross between kantha and boro

a hybrid I suppose, but with a twist

layers of cloth, layers of stitch

i love the scope for variety - each one unique

my plan is to sell them in sets of two...

they are the perfect vehicle for playing with various combinations of colour, pattern, different embroidery stitches, different threads

 working up fairly quickly
{unless i get carried away, which happened here with these cross-stitches - i just kept adding more and more}

perfect summer stitching - easy to pick up and put down, never losing your place, just stitching one section at a time

easy breezy summer fun 

Sunday, June 24, 2018

without a plan...

every once in a while I have an urge to stitch pieces of cloth together...

well, duh, you might say

what I really mean is that every once in a while I have an urge to stitch pieces of cloth together without a plan - just a strong desire to see what this and that might look like if I join them together with stitch 

sometimes, that's where it all ends and the joined pieces can languish about for a long time, until... a day comes when I have an urge to embroider on cloth

a few years ago I gathered together scraps of linen, coarsely woven cottons, bits of embroidered doilies and towels, and using one of my english diapers as a base, 
{it was bought a few years ago whilst on vacation in the uk,  in a desperate desire for lightweight muslin but not finding any yardage!}
I joined them together to make a table mat about 13" x 21"

then I lost steam as I had no plan for what would come next

I did a little kantha stitching on it over the years but realized pretty quickly that I didn't want that for the entire surface... so eventually, back into the pile it went

late last fall, I got it out again to see how it might look if I used linear embroidery stitches like herringbone and feather stitch as filling stitchings, working them in rows across the surface of various patches

it was love at first stitch

about that time i decided the cloth wasn't patchy enough, and far too beigey-grey, so I added a few scraps of blue-grey here and there

the bit below is my favourite place on the cloth - a faint blue and grey striped fabric with pale chain stitches, stitched in pairs, resembling leaves

other stitching commitments caused me to set the cloth aside yet again but the other day, whilst looking for something else, I happened upon it again...

and began to surround one of the added patches with tiny cross-stitches... love, love, love this look

practicing seed stitch with a variegated thread

another patch of blue

varying textures

a heart cut out for some long-forgotten, long-gone project left this behind

 like an echo, don't you think?

I like that idea...

cretan stitch in blue minor 
{aka "pale"}

I take out almost as many stitches as I put in - it's always a struggle to get the reality of the piece to take the shape of what I see in my mind's eye, but I am gaining ground 

and though I still have no straight path forward, I am loving doing what I know to be right at the moment

this is one where the journey is the goal 

the finished cloth?

well, that's the bonus

Friday, May 18, 2018

mucking about...

I've been mucking about lately


oh such fun it is...

there's something deeply personal about colouring thread to stitch with, even though the results are rather difficult to control, never mind often unpredictable

maybe that's what I like about it though...

if I do it often I'm sure I'll learn enough to get fairly predictable results when working in a controlled manner, but as it's just for me, I really don't care - sometimes it's when we don't get what we think we want that we make astounding discoveries

anyway, I've bought a few books on plant-dyeing, read a few articles online, and recently, enrolled in an online class with India Flint where it all came together and I finally felt ready to make a start

below is my adventure with dandelions...

the first four plaits are straight from the depot, the fifth had a dunk in rusty iron water and the sixth went into a small amount of the dye to which I added baking soda - watching the colours change was indeed magical

these have all had a bath in synthrapol soap, followed by a good rinse and the water ran clear - this way, they will stay

avocado skins were another dye-pot I set to brew

a nice long, slow, simmer - the first threads were quite dark, and as I was using a small pot which I think I over-stuffed, the dye wasn't even... the second batch, seen below came out much better

the first two are straight from the pot, the next had a dip in rusty iron water and the fourth went into more of the dye with rusty iron vinegar added

from light peachy-pink to a deep plummy-grey - love...

my last thread adventure was with a dye bath that had some of both the avocado skin and dandelion dyes with the addition of a branch of eucalyptus leaves garnered from a local florist

this dye-bath yielded soft pinky-beiges with a hint of grey - "fawn" might be a good colour name for these... the one on the right was the only plait that was treated with a pre-dye mordant and gave out a beautiful, soft brown, tempered slightly with grey

oh my stars 

I'm busy plaiting more threads in preparation for a good bit of dyeing next week

I have lots of the avocado dye as well as the eucalyptus mixture and the dandelions are still growing

there's lavender and rosemary and the carrots are peeking out of the ground already - carrot tops make a lovely colour

last year I grew woad and got enough leaves to extract enough pigment for a couple of skeins of grey-blue thread... this year I'm hoping to do even better with that

after the thread dyeing, I tried my hand at eco-printing

decent results with one branch but I can't say I care much for this process at all - I did dye small pieces of fabric when I did the threads, and they turned out fine, but it's really just dyeing embroidery thread that has captured my imagination

though the marks of the wrapping string on this pale mauve fabric look rather wonderful

so much opportunity for stitch here

the true colour of this is wonderful - a pale, pinky mauve but I can't edit this image to anything but grey...

and another outer covering fabric with even more string marks

it's a messy business, and not a quick one but if I putter away at it over the summer I should have a lovely range of threads for winter stitching

though I expect I'll be into them long before then...

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

the world is indeed full of magical things...

I was listening to something the other day that made me think of growth, especially plant growth, and thinking about how my two favourite fabrics, linen and cotton, are a product of sun and water

how amazing, how magical, is that?
from a tiny seed, can come a bolt of cloth, a skein of thread

more than ever I want to learn how that's done - I've found a workshop in the uk where you can do that with linen... a five day workshop where you go from plant to cloth, working the fibres, spinning the thread and weaving the cloth

it's on my wish list...

another magical thing is the book "out of fashion, the new fashion" 
a photo journey of textile magic

I think it's my most favourite book of all, even surpassing "the godfather" which has held that spot for decades

this "brick" of a book even comes with an overlay of muslin which I have been happily adding fabric and stitch too

making it mine

it sits by the bed and every night I open it up at random and sink into visual heaven...

so completely inspirational - I can never decide which it makes me want to do more of: travel, or stitch

maybe travel with a needle in hand...

at any rate, it has me looking at old work with new eyes 

today I reacquainted myself with my christian lacroix artist book

sorting through all the bits and pieces I started a while back, poring over images, fondling cloth, drawing sparkling thread through my fingers

letting colour and pattern wash over me again

and of course, there's always the magic of white

I've been learning to create new surfaces, some more solid than others

below is the latest adventure with karen ruane

a variety of machine stitched surfaces ripe for hand embroidery

this is my first, a base layer of paper and scrim with an open-work overlay

below is with the overlay folded back

 I've just started the hand-stitching; I can see many happy hours ahead with this one 

it's so light and ethereal and I don't want to wreck that

and finally, making magic with art paper and fabric snippets, stuck in place with gesso

dry now, waiting for the next step

which has been waiting on me getting an idea for what that could be

same old, same old - go so far, pause

I made extra so I can experiment and, then just as I was uploading the image, one thought occurred to me - tomorrow I'll try it out

fingers are crossed that my sewing machine has a little more magic in it too

Sunday, April 22, 2018

a mixed bag...

at the risk of repeating myself, I seriously do not know where the time goes - but poof! another month long gone...

I read an article about time and our sense of it passing and the main gist of it was, the happier you are in what you're doing, the faster the time goes

and if you want time to slow down, get a 9 - 5 job you hate

that's a sobering thought...

I can honestly say I love every day

each one is a gift, and though some of them are simple ordinary days filled with the usual amount of the mundane, all of them, always, are accepted with grace and joy just for the simple fact of there being that one more day

and perhaps in a small effort at slowing down a little, more and more I find myself turning to handwork...

there are certain things that work better when sewn on the machine, but if I can do it by hand, I do

it's certainly slowed me down in terms of production, but greatly increased my satisfaction, and the bag you'll see below is a perfect example of that

the pattern was given in the facebook group India Flint created for those who bought her pattern "Bagstories"

mine is entirely pieced by hand as I think everyone in the group did as well, and how gratifying it was 

time-intensive, yes, but really, so what?

I was in no hurry to "git 'er done"

I even pieced the strap and embroidered it


you bet, but again - so what?

this bag will hold my travelling watercolour set, small weaving loom and a notebook I made

India called it a "Wayfarer's Wander Bag" 


last week I got back to this, adding a few more French knots and beads, which I've run out of and will have to wait until next month when I'm in Calgary to get more

the paper in the upper left is a couple of pages for a small book which I have joined together with buttonhole stitch - an idea from Karen's Artist Book class - I want to use it with my latest addiction of card-making

as well, I've been working on a visual reference binder for when I teach silk ribbon embroidery

seems like every time I teach I start a new sampler cloth to illustrate the steps, but this way I'll have a permanent step-by-step reference that students can take photos of if they wish and have to refer to in addition to the stitch diagrams I draw 

and finally, the pile of scraps has again reached a tipping point so I'm cobbling some together to make a cloth I can add embroidery to

a real mixed bag of this and that in my world of stitch 

and many pleasant hours spent in a state of happiness and delight

how are things in your corner?

Friday, March 16, 2018

delicate decisions

thank you for all the wonderful comments on my last post... the heart card especially has inspired further ideas

the other day i stitched some random strips together to create a surface for embroidery

silk, lace, handmade rosebud paper {not made by me} and a strip cut from some ivory silk i pin-tucked a while ago

it pays to have a stash of goodies like that when inspiration strikes

i've been adding french knots in white and pale, pale pink, crystal seed beads and a row of simple running stitch... so far...

then the great debate started up in my head...

what else to add?

bullion knot roses perhaps?

a spray of leaves in chain stitch or feather perhaps?

maybe fly stitch fronds?

last night this sat in front of me for the better part of half an hour whilst i waffled back and forth between any and all of the above... finally putting it aside to think about

this morning i decided that though enough was enough with my decision dithering, well, clearly i didn't have enough of this to experiment with...

so i made six more - not as large as this... tiny, diminutive even

little miniatures...

and tonight i will play

Sunday, March 11, 2018

little bits

this is one of my favourite days of the year... 

"spring ahead" day

some people are complaining bitterly about the time change but in a nod to my mother's attitude of making the most of things, for me, it means just what it's called... spring is truly ahead and so all's right with the world

 it's especially nice on a day like today where the sky is as blue as it can possibly be and the sun is beaming brightly

sunny days like this are especially nice in my sewing room as it has a big corner window and though it faces north-east, the light is beautiful, making it a happy place to be

most days I stand at my worktable for a few hours, working away at various bits of hand-stitching and lately i've been working on cards

cards are so much fun to make - using random bits, left-overs from other work, they come together quickly and oftentimes, no two are alike... "mini works of art" might be a stretch, but i think "delightful" might not be

the one above was a pure joy - simple, but so pleasurable to work on

there's just something about making french knots, and lots of them, that pleases me to no end

below is a play with some petal paper bought last september... it's very thin, in some areas especially, so it's been layered with a fine english muslin to add a little strength as well as give me a place to tie off threads... since this photo was taken the running stitch has been finished and a few more french knots added 

i like the way the pin-pricking and knots extend the lace, something i'd like to investigate further

this last bit is me experimenting with relief appliqué - hook, line and sinker, this is my new favourite technique... love it

all those wrinkle

it's a fiddle, no doubt of that, but so worth it

just in the process of working out the centre - more knots, beads maybe??? 
there will most likely be stitching that gets added between the petals - frondy-type ones?

it amazes me how many tries it takes to get things just right - designing is not easy, at least not for me

figuring out what to do with all these bits and pieces and ideas and things takes a lot of time, more time than if i just followed a pattern, and even though it's an exercise in frustration at times, it's so much more satisfying to figure it out for myself

and with a little bit of time, a little bit of effort and a little bit of this and that, i make a little thing that hopefully brings a little bit of joy to someone

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

it's a waiting game...

thank you very much for such a wonderful response to my last post - you are all so kind

i thought perhaps you might be interested in seeing what i'm getting up to now...

as i mentioned, that book was made in a class i took with karen ruane called "artist's books"

it was such a great class we all said we could make artist's books for a year, and so karen very kindly gave us what we asked for and created a new class:

this time around i thought it might be nice to have some sort of theme or direction to work with so chose the fashion designer christian lacroix as my inspiration

he has such a beautiful, bold style, and a flair for colour

i began making samples but couldn't quite make up my mind what format i wanted for the book itself and eventually stalled - without having some sense of page size etc. it was difficult to make certain decisions  

the other day i found the solution...

several years go, perhaps five or six anyway, i made a book with pages that were made up of bits and pieces of all types of paper that were sewn together by machine - loads of fun to make and rather eclectic

every so often i would pick it up, flip through the pages, thinking of various things i could use it for but always ended up putting it back on the shelf... the other day i was showing it to a friend when the wheels started to turn...

this is the frontispiece for the book pages, a beautiful old-fashioned image and a scrap of lace i had sewn in back when the book was made

looking at that image, i immediately realized this book was the perfect thing for my lacroix inspired work from the new class

the pages are all the same height but not the same width...

i laid one of my samples alongside a compatible page just to be sure - perfect! 

i had even used decorative machine stitches now and again when sewing the pages together and am so glad i did - they add yet another layer of interest

now that i had a format and a set of parameters for my page compositions i rooted out all that i had worked on and began playing about with page compositions

i even found a small painting of rosebuds from a couple of years ago

we had a great discussion in our class flickr group about a couple of options for ribbon choices and placement, which is another reason i love these classes so much

thoughtful and inspired discussions and suggestions, a wealth of knowledge and sharing... such an amazing and talented group

and no better teacher than karen - i could never thank her enough for all that she has taught me, both in technique and in awareness

"look, consider, see the bigger picture, never throw anything away, sampling informs"

and here is the beginnings of another page spread - some of this has already changed since the photo was taken but there is a plan that's developed and i'm ready to go

my work is taking the form of a scrapbook now, much like the way lacroix himself works: embroidered samples, scraps of fabric, snippets of trims and ribbons, photos and other inspirational images, ideas gleaned from here, there and everywhere

anything that inspires

some new, others that have been hanging around for a while, waiting for the idea to strike, the connection to be made

and then the waiting is over...

if you want to make books like this one or the one from my last post, and need a guiding hand, have a look here

you won't regret it...