Posts tagged ‘machine embroidery’

keeping the colour



Well, the weather has been every-which-way as the tail end of the ex-hurricane sweeps through, and as the high winds have been making me restless, but the barometric pressure was making me ache, and my arm was really swollen and painful from crochet and knitting, I was really ready for something different, full of colour and…smell!



I realize I have very fond memories that surge up when I smell scorching wood or paper, watching Andy make his amazing art pieces by the fire, knives red hot on the grate, flowers and trees and stars springing out from the grain…my work is very different, no sacred geometry, all freeform as usual, but the scorch smell makes me smile all the same…Some friends came round to play with fire on Saturday and there was a lot of laughter and fun, and it was a lovely feeling to pass on his skills and show them the tools he made as well as finished pieces…they can never meet him, but they have a much stronger sense of him now, I’m sure. People aren’t really dead when their work is so alive…































And then today I cleaned my sewing machine and played with the leaf stitch, using 3 threads at once, 2 up top, 1DSC_0009-002 in the bobbin. If you want to try this, a few tips: go slowly! And put the needle down before you start, have the heaviest thread in the bobbin, so the two ornamental threads balance it and keep your eye on the needle – if there seems too much tension, stop immediately, you don’t want a broken needle flying up in your face.


ForΒ  a post on using paper punches and scorching paper:


For a post on heat guns and fabric:


a breath of sea air 2

I had such a lovely holiday in May, being by the sea blew the cobwebs away and gave me so much food for thought/ art/ making… It’s a long time since I’ve been on a proper holiday, finding the spoons is hard, and much as I felt nourished and inspired, I can’t help noticing it’s over 6 weeks since I posted!


I had a lot of catching up to do in the garden (separate post!) and there have been a few dramas for me to remind myself that my new favourite mantra is ‘Not my circus, Not my monkeys!’ and then a couple where they were my monkeys – a scan (all clear) and activism chores….but now I feel the new idea inspired by the yarn I bought in Bath















and the expanded space I feel when I am by the sea:





are blossoming into a new piece…to be called Mused, as it is about inspiration, and keeping to the process, while pacing

I have been working away on various elements of it, and gathering materials from my *ahem* extensive stash πŸ˜‰ but the momentum has been growing the last few days and now I am at the happy embellishing stage:
































– helped by visits from friends who don’t mind me crafting as we talk…








as long as there is homemade cake πŸ˜‰


fibre tagging

DSC_0005-001DSC_0021-001So these are the bedizeners I have been making over the last week, about 3 dozen, which makes a feast of colour and tiny details that get quite overpowering when they’re all laid out on my photography ‘tray’ (an A2 corkboard with black handmade paper laid on top.)

By the way, laying them out is a good idea if you want to keep an eye on colour balance – it doesn’t really matter, as I will be tying these to railings and trees individually, but if they were all being hung from one tree, just like decorating a Christmas tree, total randomness can look less than pleasing!

I discovered I had made nearly everything in shades of blue (leftovers from all the watery blocks on the chiropractor’s quilt) or purple and oranges (C& G Machine Embroidery colour palette) so I stretched myself and deliberately made some pink and green ones, and some black and greys.



I’ve also made hearts, some from complex cloth, which is where you lay out scraps of cloth and stitch them to a backing cloth, (like quilting without the wadding we assume for modern quilting.) I use ribbons, lace, leftover fabric, sweet wrappers, anything that will hold up to the task I intend the cloth to manage.

The slitheriest and most swearingest part was stitching silk taffeta ribbon to satin blanket ribbon…I set myself a target of 100 metres of thread in an ornamental stitch and by the end I was getting the hang of not twisting the ribbon as it unrolled…Β  πŸ˜‰

I then arm-knitted massive chain from this (like fingerknitting, but huuuge!) and as everything is so slippery, the next stage is stitching hearts to the links to keep them in position…

DSC_0052Of course, the ‘more is more’ school of embellishment means that some at least of these complex cloth hearts are being edged with beads and sequins, photos of that stage to follow πŸ˜‰

Another set of hearts are knitted and some have a crochet edging. As my hands hurt horribly if I knit more than 2 a day of these small hearts, my lovely Mahjongettes have stepped into the breach. Gold star goes to Elizabeth, who has taken yarn home with her to do more (I so owe her cake!) and the moss stitch hearts are hers, with edging by PoetrySue. Eleanor stuck to garter stitch and had fun mixing ribbons in and making faces over my texture yarns. The results are very pleasing!


And of course, all those ribbons and threads and glittery bits and rustly wrappers are very attractive to Nonie…


waste not, want not: sewing room snippets

I’ve had the loveliest evening, listening to a favourite band with interesting lyrics, while making miniature bunting/ yarn tags/ fibre art tags.


Now, I’m using tags in the graffiti sense, a street artist leaving art that has a strong flavour /signature/ handle that others recognise. These are the first pieces of dozens, maybe hundreds I will be making for an event next month in London.

However, they are very easy and pleasing to do, and you can adapt the technique to make your own festive bunting/ tree decorations/ or even tags for gifts to crafty friends. The best thing is, they CAN be made entirely from leftovers, in fact, they are richer and more interesting if they are! Just like a patchwork quilt where you can look back and see a favourite shirt, summer dress, band Tshirt…twice the happiness!

How do I acquire all these snippets? Basically, whenever I make anything, instead of sweeping the snips and trimmings into the bin, I save them in a clear plastic bag. At a sew or knit event, I’ve been known to sweep up everyone’s snips! Some ofΒ  Truly Hooked’s yarn trimmings are in this batch, I am not a great one for pink πŸ˜‰

Then, when I need a variety of materials and really don’t want to cut into a block of fabric, out come the bags. Seeing what I have available, pulling out particularly appealing pieces and mixing and matching makes the wheels start turning, and then I might seek out some larger remnants or a particular yarn…It’s a really great way to gently ease back into making if you’re unsure what to do next or feeling blocked or downhearted, the variety of colours and textures is like a salve to bruised feelings πŸ˜‰

DSC_0012-001So, what have we here? Chopped off bits of felting, leftover machine cords, trimming edges on something in yellow gingham (I am sooo drawing a blank on what THAT was!!) a couple of inches of rust ribbon, a bit of rainbow chiffon with automatic stitch patterns to embellish…hmmm….


Punchinello (the plastic foil sequins are punched out of) can be torn in half, if you start at a corner and work slowly, and then it’s much more bendy, which helps. You can see a seam edge from a charity shop blouse lovely Robyn gifted me, mmm, patterned kingfisher/ teal shiny satin! by cutting very close to the seam I got the most remnant for use, but also created an interesting ‘string’. There is a theory of proportions, called the Golden Mean, the human eye likes things to be divided by thirds, so because the white stitching makes a third of the strip, it looks very pleasing. Otherwise I could make it work by having one third and two thirds of a piece of fabric either side of an interesting line of stitching. Sometimes you can make something jump out by breaking this rule, it snags the eye, it all depends what effect you want whether it’s ‘right’ or not!

Because I have lots of interesting snippets, I can work quite fast, the trouble I have is not getting out everything in the studio πŸ˜‰Β  oh, i have a button somewhere that would be just right, or where is that ladder yarn I was using the other day? Staaaaaaaaaaap! Challenging myself to work as much as possible from the one bag really helps πŸ˜‰

DSC_0028Making a series is good, I get quicker and quicker and then I can string them together by stitching them onto a machine cord or a piece of braid or a ribbon and voila! I have bunting πŸ™‚ Well worth a try, and good fun to do when you are going on holiday and can’t take much with you. Coming to a tree or a railing near you soon, yours or mine?

Complex cloth is good for using up leftover scraps or strips of fabric and ribbon. I used Thorntons choccie wrappers, they are plastic/foil and I need to make some waterproof embellishers too. Cut a 6″ or 20cm square of backing cloth, I used umbrella fabric someone gave me. Pin the wrappers along the fold line so you can stitch anchors in the strong sections – put the needle down first, then sew slowly, with strong thread, using a wider zigzag so the strain is spread across the fragile plastic/foil. Unpin everything, and pick a pattern stitch you like and can curve with, in a contrasting colour. Again, needle down first, start slowly and set the pattern stitch to be wider than usual. Draw lines of stitch to please you, but also anchor your scraps. This is easy for quilters, but just keep it simple and slow, and even beginners can get it right πŸ™‚


Now cut out the shape of your bunting – draw on the back if it helps – and save the scraps! This is a double winning technique!

Here are my hearts, and you can see a pile of scraps to the side – they can be used in the tags or as dolly bunting or as spacers between bigger bunting shapes πŸ™‚

Again, very simple, very pleasing, and a great way to make something fromwhat would otherwise go in the bin, to landfill. Zero waste rocks!


back to the drawing board

It was lovely to have enough spoons and nothing planned so I could get out my 12metre roll of taffeta, which I’d embellished a little last week, and start trying out more colours and elements with it. This is the breakaway piece, in a very similar palette to ‘whispering wall’, blues, browns and brassy-golds, which is about water and how we waste it in Britain. We flush away toilet waste with prime drinking water (there are some new eco-builds where ‘grey’ water from the washing machine/shower etc is channeled to the toilet tank) and 6 – 8 LITRES at that…waste on waste…At least put a bottle of tapwater in your tank to help fill it and save water, very few times does the flush need to be that strong. My new neighbour in Flat 1 works shifts, so I am trying not to flush the toilet as often – or let Nonie out the squeaky window!

I used to complain about paying water bills until I stopped to consider how much work the company is doing – clean, safe filtered water and sewage/drains for Β£220ish a year? Bargain! I do wish they were nationalized again, because things for the benefit of the community shouldn’t be trying to make a profit for shareholders when the sewage pipes/tunnels need replacing…but householders shouldn’t be putting substances down the toilet a business would be fined for – British sewers’ number one problem is fat, every time a chip pan gets emptied down a drain instead of put in a bottle and sent to landfill or BETTER YET used for biofuel, it adds another 2 litres to the problem.

I was in the shower this morning and found myself thinking more about this wrong usage and how I would highlight that by sewing mirrors and abalone shells into the coils and chains that make up the torrent of water and waste. I had been feeling a little guilty about not being able to source as much industrial salvage for this, but then it occurred to me that this is a perfect way to highlight the waste, to use ‘treasure’ to embellish the water elements and salvage for the waste. Brace yourself for posts on humanure in the future πŸ˜‰


I made some more freeform chains with the most delicioso mixes of laceweight, silk remnant, pompom yarn and a gold and black glitter yarn Eleanor gave me, mmm, so next I will bundle these together, with the smaller chains braiding round the big loops of the taffeta. To give you some scale – the taffeta made two loops from a metre of embellished fabric πŸ˜‰ Big!


The better quality images are taken with my new camera, which due to my main laptop being at the menders, I’ve not had enough playtime with, yet πŸ˜‰ The poor guy is trying so hard to fix it, and has lent me my hard drive in a spare laptop so I can have a catch up day with blogging and photography etc! So here are some more detail shots of the taffeta, with not much processing as the poorly laptop was on meltdown just holding a 1MB image…anyone who has the Bigdog trojan/malware in their Skype/Logitech, be careful, it’s a pig 😦


richer by giving




I have been managing a little making again, and started with an engagement present. It is for the sister-in-law whose husband died the year before mine (yes, that is a little complicated!) meaning, our husbands were brothers. I am really pleased she has found someone new to be happy with and wanted to make her something, as although we are very different people with different tastes (she is much more elegant, and has a degree in the philosophy of science) we both enjoyed being able to have intellectual conversations at family gatherings and discuss books when the mainstream of the conversation was what third cousins were doing 150 miles away πŸ˜‰


When making a gift, I always have a think about whether I am giving a reflection of myself, something purely for the recipient’s taste or some combination. This time I leaned more towards what I wanted to give, a piece that rejoices in her happiness with a touch of sympathetic magic (wellwishing) in the making.

Then I said in the card I hoped it wasn’t too eccentric for her πŸ˜‰

As it is only 7cm square it won’t be too dominating… but it has some of my current concerns in, mandalas and fibre bundles.

I started with a collage background, and two possibilities, one plainer, so I could go with ideas as they came up, and by decision time, they were very different.


Comparing the two side-by-side helped me realise the first was too clumsy, and I cut the beads and button off, and put it all to one side (yes, you will be seeing it later πŸ˜‰ ) I still liked the second, so on I went, choosing tinier and tinier elements, oh my…


Final touch was a machine cord loop for easy hanging, and that was secured by stitching the bead loop on the front at the same time.

Why? It is a little more fiddly, but it means the weight of the elements are braced against each other, with less drag on the twinchie canvas, which as you will see from the shot of the back is… more of a bargain than a quality product πŸ˜‰

The Japanese, the Hindu, the Tibetans all haveΒ  ritual mindful sewing, and many contemporary slow stitch groups are connected to the prayer and good hope Christian church sewing circles, where women met and stitched quilts and baby clothes for the needy…the idea is that by consciously investing the process with good wishes, the recipient will feel loved and energised in themself as well as receiving the physical aid of the item.Β  Of course it also bonds the community and makes the group focus on positive action for the good of everyone, so it really is a shame the groups fell out of favour, with fundraising for bought goods taking over in some places.

I use this mindful technique a lot, as among other things, it helps overcome self consciousness about making, the worthiness of what you are offering as a gift etc – all good to pass on to anyone you know with social anxiety or low self esteem!

Making for others, even from patches and leftovers, often makes people feel very aware of how rich they are, and this ties in nicely with linking to zero waste week, which runs from 2 – 9th September

for which I will be trying to post everyday with zero waste ideas – as the focus this year is food, and I have already posted about sprouting seeds, there will be at least one upcycled post – but how appropriate is that?!!


things that like to be together

STA45270So I have cleared every last cone of skipped and gifted yarn in my studio – I have NO, repeat NO, cones of yarn…I’m reeling! (sorry, bad pun!)

I have a small collection of metallics and serging silks/nylons on cones, mmm, kingfisher blue, silver, copper, mmm…. for embellishment, but all my yarn now fits in the small plastic 4 drawer unit that sits on top of some project crates.

Wow! Where did it go, you ask? The largest/fullest cones and some fluffy acrylic that will go well with the fake mohair on some of the cones is going to the refugee forum, a bag so big I can barely lift it πŸ˜‰ Luckily my home help volunteers at the forum, so she will happily drop it off with some baby toys my child visitors no longer use.


For the story on where I get this skipped yarn and tips on winding yarn to maintain good tension:

The 47 cones I cleared (in slow stages! it was a lovely anti-anxiety aid when I was fretting about the missing benefits – now sorted, only the appeal to not worry about now πŸ˜‰ ) are now divided into yarn for ‘whispering wall’ and balls to use for fundraising for the exhibition next year. What you see below is for the netting and bedizeners and is now stored in a newly cleared 80litre crate of materials and components for whispering wall and cradle for stones – they only both fit in because about 80 cones and cardboard inners that I will use for scrolls are now stored in a big cardboard box, waiting for winter when I can dry the brusho painting by the fire.

I want to make the most enormous braid/dreadlock so will bundle several of these together for one huge freeform crochet chain…I wonder what the record is for the most strands/ply in a crochet/finger knitting chain?

STA45272STA45272-001STA45272-002Some of these were so pleasing to mix – they may look a little brash in the picture but once mixed will hopefully be rich and sumptuous πŸ˜‰

My principle for choosing what yarns to mix is based on paying attention whenever I am in nature – there are colours and textures that like to be together. Too harmonious can become bland, so a little contrariness often pays off, too πŸ˜‰

The smaller balls are to be corded with a zigzag on the sewing machine, I have some dark golds, metallic brown and gold mixes and a dull orange that shows up as sandy gold against blues, oh yum!

The blood orange mixes will be corded with a metallic plum and black mix…oh yessy πŸ˜‰ colours are so pleasing to work with!

The other mixes are a fluffy fake mohair based set, and a wide range of landscape inspired mixes…my favourites are the ones with flashes of turquoise and the strawberry sherbet mix πŸ™‚ I might knit some up as scarves, they would look lovely with machine cord tassels …

It looks as though I used picasa neonize for the bottom images, but I think my camera did some funny flash/solarise, I don’t understand the settings on it, it came free from a charity shop because it didn’t work properly and had no manual!! I will take better photos when I set up my fundraising site, promise πŸ˜‰