Whitework on paper

I decided to try a little bit of whitework on paper, as a development from the crazy patchwork I described in one of last week’s posts. This development arises naturally out of last week’s work, but also out of my interest in the work of Emily Barletta, whom I’ve mentioned previously. Quite a lot of her work is embroidery on stiff paper, and I like it very much so thought I’d have a go. It wouldn’t work on anything flimsy, so I tried using watercolour paper, which is ideal. I did a few very small samples on one piece of paper, and soon discovered that the best way to do it (for me, at least) is to sketch out the image on the back of the paper, and then punch holes at regular intervals on the lines of the image, using a large pin. I don’t know how Emily Barletta works, but this works for me. Having done a few basic samples, I then had a go at a more resolved piece, which looks like this:Whitework on paper

It is stitched entirely using a thick-ish rayon thread which is part of a collection of very old threads that I was given many years ago. It’s not easy stuff to work with because it snags on everything, including rough patches of skin on my finger ends (of which there are many). However, I persisted with it, and I’m really quite pleased with the result. Because it’s quite a thick thread it casts shadows, so it’s easy to ‘read’ even though it’s off-white thread on an off-white background. I am busy working on some other samples so will report on progress over the next few days.

Finished cochineal piece

I’ve finished the cochineal piece that I’ve been working on for many weeks at a snail’s pace. Here’s the finished article just out of the hoop:Cochineal Klee-inspired piece

You’ll see that I put quite a lot of white and grey into it. Just because I felt like it. When I started this piece I wanted to get some pink and red contrasts (cool contrasted with warm reds and pinks) but didn’t have much clear idea other than that where I was going with it. I collected together various threads that I thought might work together and then just picked them out to use as I felt like it. This is fine in a sample piece. However, I think the next stage with this is to experiment with composition a bit more, so that the principal shapes and lines in the piece are more planned. I may also experiment with using line more, rather than working the colour in blocks. First, though, I’ll get this sample finished off, by backing it with something suitable and neatening the edges. I’ll post a photo of the finished piece once I’ve done this.

I’ve ordered a copy of Slow Stitch: Mindful and Contemplative Textile Art by Claire Wellesley-Smith. This was published a couple of weeks ago, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing it. Some readers may remember that I went on a course on natural dyeing with Claire a couple of years ago, and came away deeply impressed and very keen to try out natural dyeing techniques. If you haven’t come across it, Claire has a beautiful blog. She doesn’t update it as frequently as she once did (I can relate to that) but it’s well worth a look. And if you get the opportunity to go on one of her courses, drop everything and go.

I’ll probably get round to writing a review of Claire’s book at some point, so look out for that.

Off sick again

Paul Klee inspired pieceYes, I’ve been off sick again. What a nuisance. My last blog post was in March, just before I went on the life drawing course with Rachel Clark. I had a wonderful, action-packed, weekend and came home dog-tired on the Monday. By Wednesday I was starting to feel distinctly unwell, and by the weekend I knew I had a very nasty cold. Usually, when you get a cold you know you’re in for a few days of feeling grim at various levels, but that in another week or so you’ll be feeling fine again. But, this time, no…… I’ve had real flu before but this wasn’t real flu. It was like getting a series of cold viruses, one after another. Weeks went by, and I still felt awful. I didn’t start to feel well again for over a month. What made it worse was that it caused a flare-up of the jaw inflammation that I whinged about at length a while back. One way and another I’ve felt pretty sorry for myself rather a lot of the time for many months. Still, all things must pass and eventually it went away and now I’m back to as near normal as I get. It’s great to feel well again and to have enough energy to get on with things.

So, what have I been getting on with? A couple of months ago I started a whitework piece that built upon the Paul Klee-inspired work that I did last year. Reminder – at the top of the post – this is what the original piece looked like. Below the white version:Whitework - inspired by Paul Klee  I enjoyed putting the different fabrics together, and because I didn’t have colour to provide contrast, I had to do my best with texture. A useful addition was sinamay which provides some body and interest. Find out about sinamay here. It’s the woven stalks of the abaca tree, apparently. I found a roll of it on sale for five quid in the Manchester branch of Paperchase some time ago, and I’ve found it really quite remarkably useful. Worth a look, anyway. I also added a bit of lace which you can see on the right hand side.

I decided that I’d really like to develop this idea further, and that a good next step might be to do some drawing around the theme. I’ll discuss this and share images in the next post.

Incidentally, looking back over the 120 or so posts I’ve written since I started this blog, I can see that I’ve done a fair bit of whingeing about health issues. Apologies for that. I think I’ve had a rough couple of years…. Must do better….

Mountmellick whitework

So, Mountmellick whitework – a bit of a departure for me as I’ve not previously tried this technique. However, I have now crawled my way to the end of the second module of the Stitchbusiness Masterclass and it’s time to abandon colour for a while and to examine texture in some detail. Over the next few months I will be trying out some different whitework techniques and I’m looking forward to doing something a little different.

For this piece I used an abstracted leaf design that I created several months ago.Abstracted leaf design

I did not follow the design exactly but instead just tried to get the general idea across. You can see a photo of the finished piece below, and a close-up.Mountmellick whiteworkMountmellick whitework close-up

I’ve used satin stitch, stem stitch and French knots; this is quite a limited range of stitches and traditional Mountmellick embroidery uses many more. I think my next piece might be a stitch sampler where I try out some more of the stitches. In this piece I achieved a little extra variation by using different thicknesses of Mountmellick thread.

This is was fun to do. Because the thread is relatively thick the work grows quite quickly. I think I feel inclined to explore this design further, but perhaps with more contrast and variety.

I drew the design onto the cotton fabric using an HB pencil. The obvious drawback with this approach is that there’s quite a significant risk of the fabric getting grubby. I tried hard to keep it clean, but really it could do with a wash. Tracy A Franklin and Nicola Jarvis recommend drawing the design in a pale blue coloured pencil. I’ve found their comprehensive book on whitework to be very useful. I’ll try the pale blue pencil next time…

I’m away from my desktop computer today so am writing this on the iPad. I mentioned before that I found it quite easy to produce a post using the iPad. However, there is one problem that I’ve not yet resolved and that’s how to crop and otherwise manipulate photos. So the photos in this post are not exactly how I want them to be. Still, I hope you get the general idea…

Post updated 6th March 2015 – I really wasn’t happy with the photos in the original post, so I took some new photos with my proper camera to replace the iPad ones. I think it’s an improvement.


A larger piece using whip stitch

Whip stitch close upA couple of posts back I was talking about whip stitch, and said that I’d be working on a larger piece which I’d show you when it was finished. Well, amazingly (as my completion record hasn’t been too good recently) I’ve finished it and here it is. Below there’s a photo of the finished piece, and on the left there’s a close-up so you can see the stitching. I used a piece of lightweight felt as a base, then layered some shiny silk gauze on to, then stitched into it in wavy lines. Pretty easy to do and a pleasing effect. We did a long car journey a few days ago and when it was my turn to be the passenger I sat and sewed this piece. Makes a long journey seem shorter.

Incidentally, this is the first post I’ve written on the iPad. And I’ve used photos taken with the iPad. I don’t know why I harboured the suspicion that this would be a difficult thing to do… As with most iPad activities it’s amazingly easy and intuitive.

Whip stitch completed piece

Forgetting how to do things: shisha mirrors

I was working on a little felt appliqué sample the other day, which I’d decided to embellish with beads and mirrors. I like shisha mirrors. I hardly ever use them, but I felt quite confident that I could apply them easily. That is, until I tried to do it. I threaded the needle, put some foundation stitches in to hold the mirror down and then…. well, then I got stuck. I watched a video tutorial on applying mirrors by Laura Kemshall in the DMTV series that she produces with Linda Kemshall (very good; you have to pay an annual subscription but you get a new video almost every week and it’s worth it). Unfortunately, although I understood what Laura was doing in the video, I couldn’t quite manage to copy the technique. So then I tried a website that shows, with still pictures, how to apply the mirrors. I had a bit more success with that, but I’ve ended up applying five mirrors and they all look different. Oh well, perhaps it’s age…. Here’s a photo of the mirror element and another close up of some beading from the same sample. Felt appliqué sample with shisha mirrorsFelt appliqué sample

Just messing about….

I’ve been just messing about with my supply of silk sari strips. I bought this particular batch some time ago from The Silk Route, and haven’t really found a use for them. Regular readers may remember that I’ve used these in the past, sewn together to create a base for embroidery, but this hank of strips were mostly just too narrow for this purpose. In this sample, I’ve used an offcut of mountboard (I love mountboard – so versatile) with regular vertical lines cut in it, as a base for weaving. This is a rather nice effect, I think. It’s not going anywhere – it will just sit in my sample book, but I like the look of it and I enjoyed producing it, and I don’t know that there are any better reasons for making something. Weaving using silk sari strips

I noticed that The Silk Route now has an online shop, which is a very good thing. I’ve bought a lot from them over the years at shows. I probably buy less now that I’m up and running with natural dyeing, as it’s obviously a lot cheaper to buy silk in fairly large quantities and do it yourself. However, their procion-dyed colours are fabulous, and I still buy them from time to time when I just can’t resist the temptation.

Playing around with surface texture

A simple way of playing around with surface texture is to use whip stitch to create bumpy lines in fabric. Jean Draper’s recent book (Stitch and Structure: design and technique in two- and three-dimensional textiles) explains how to do this. (I see, incidentally, that this book has so far gathered 22 5 star and 2 4 star reviews on amazon.uk, and I’m not surprised – it really is good and if I get round to it I’ll review it in a future post). I’ve been having a go at this, and below are two of the samples I’ve produced so far:Using whip stitch to create a textured surface

The first, in black and white, is using a woven, patterned cotton fabric of quite loose weave. I think that using a patterned fabric can produce some rather interesting effects, and I’m quite pleased with this. The loose weave texture makes it lovely to work with, and I wish I had more of it. This fabric was used to wrap a small piece of pottery that I bought from an artist in France last year, so it’s just a fragment. Using whip stitch on felt

The second sample uses an oddment of felt that I got out of an Oliver Twists Lucky Bag. I laid a small scrap of silk organza over the bottom left hand corner, just to see what it looked like. (I do wish, incidentally, that Oliver Twists had a shopping website. I usually buy something from them at the Knitting and Stitching Shows).

As I was pleased with these and the other samples of whip stitch that I produced, the next stage is to produce a larger piece. I’m busy working on this right now, and will post a photograph or two when it’s finished.

Getting things finished

Looking back, I see that in August last year I wrote about creating some nine-patch pieces of quilting. I started off with the intention of creating a sample based on the old quilt I saw at the Festival of Quilts. Here’s the photograph of that quilt again:Ann Howe 1890 - 1900

And here’s the photograph of the beginning stages of the nine-patch pieces:Nine patch quilting pieces

Sometimes, life just gets in the way and getting things finished turns out to take a long time. However, I am usually a finisher, even if the process is long and convoluted, and I’m pleased to report that I have now produced a completed sample.Patchwork sample It’s taken ages to produce this piece, and I’ve mostly worked on it in lots of short bursts of a few minutes at a time. When I look at it now I am reminded of the day I finished it off by doing the hand-quilting. I had the most appalling toothache, and felt very low because of it. However, I stuck to the stitching doggedly throughout that day, being unfit to do anything else, and I’m sure it helped. I’m pleased with the finished sample because I think it contains the elements that I liked about the original, but is not a slavish copy. I like the colour combinations, and the effect of using a range of different fabrics. This has habotai silk, silk brocade, dupion silk, cotton lawn, wool and a little bit of linen. I love mixing fabrics up.

Nine patch

Over the weekend I’ve been making some nine patch pieces. Nine patch quilting piecesThese are mostly made of silk but the russet coloured piece in the middle of the main patch here is lightweight wool and there are some cotton patches in the piece with the needle in it. I love mixing up fabrics. I’ll make a few more and then think about what to do with them. These are one inch squares, so pretty small and fiddly. But relaxing to do, and very small so they can be easily carried about when travelling. I spent the weekend in Ludlow in Shropshire, which I think I’ve mentioned previously on this blog. It’s a fantastic place with excellent shops. I bought some clothes, rather expensive but lovely, and had a good time looking round the market. On Saturday it’s food, on Sunday antiques and general junk.

Just a short post today. I’m off to London in a few minutes, for a meeting tomorrow. I’m going again next week for one or two visits (number of visits dependent upon stamina) to galleries. Today I’ll be staying at Earl’s Court so if the weather’s not too hot, and if I have the energy I might walk up to the Victoria & Albert Museum for a cup of tea and a wander about.