Wednesday, 31 October 2007


How is it that however many times you have a clear out of the textile stuff you accumulate, there still seems to be the same amount of it in the cupboard next time you look!

I started the day yesterday with about 3 hours of much needed housework, Yuk! I know, but when you start finding dog hairs in places they shouldn’t really be, you know the time has come to give in!

The trouble was that once I started I couldn't stop, you know the feeling I'm sure. I had planned a nice afternoon on the embellisher, yes that again, more delaying tactics on the rust project. I suspect that's what started the HW blitz in the first place.

Well it wasn't all bad I cleared a huge bag of fabrics dating back to a time I'd rather not admit, and they’re ready now to pass onto my daughter, so she can guard them for the next 20 years. Anyway I did discover some little gems to use with my latest toy and I even organised my work area especially for easy access to colour coded jars of little scraps! Oh dear I think I might be hooked, thanks Helen

Monday, 29 October 2007

Joint effort

My grandson Ben came over for the day today and I had decided to introduce him to my new embellisher, seeing as he has a passion for all things 'distressed' at the moment. I thought I would see if he was proficient at free machine embroidery first, as the principles are the same.

As is typical with young people today he had no problems getting to grips with this, especially as he is no stranger to my patient old Bernina. Within about an hour he produced this little gem, with no preparation of course! See if you can see the 'secret hedge hog' hiding in the top of the circle. I like the laughing snails!

Ben was so pleased with his fist efforts he decided to continue with the sewing machine and give the embellisher a miss for today. He thought it would be a great idea if we worked together on a textile postcard. I was to do the background on the embellisher while he did something to go on the top. He decided to do a cityscape and I was to produce the mountains in the background, at night! He didn't want much, off the top of my head.

He was soon beavering away having quickly drawn out his design on Romeo water-soluble fabric. I suggested he work on a layer of net and then he didn't have to worry about joining everything up. This was, after all his first experience of W/S and it can be a bit tricky even for the experienced.

I, on the other hand, couldn’t decide what backing fabric to use and had at least one false start. I finally decided that felt and sheers were probably the best option. I managed to get the hang of it and finished off my piece with a sunset of wool tops.

Anyway, remarkably when we put the two parts together they seemed to work. Unfortunately when Ben finally got onto the embellisher we couldn’t make the net weld to the felt, I don't know why, so we had to resort to bondaweb. Ben gave the buildings a final outline stitching and I satin stitched the edges, and hey presto we had a postcard.

We considered asking if someone would like to swap with us, but at the end of the day neither of us wanted to part with our joint effort!

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Just for fun

Post card 2 has just been completed. I was so impressed with the way my embellisher handled the dyed nylon Twinkle on velvet (previous post) that I decided to take time out from the ongoing rust project to make a post card, just for fun!

I started off with the cotton velvet and welded small pieces of twinkle down to the surface. I then got out my small sample stash from various day workshops and proceeded to see what would work. This included some floristry paper from an old bouquet that I had printed with painted Bodaweb and some painted nylon.

I really liked the effect of just using the embellisher on the velvet, which gave the surface a completely different feel. I left just a little bit of the velvet in its natural state to give a contrast.

To give it a little bit of 'pizzazz' I sewed on a few beads randomly over the piece.

A pleasant way to pass the time on a disgustingly rainy day!

Friday, 26 October 2007

recording the process (rust triptych) 4

The embellisher has arrived:
I finally picked up my Janome embellisher from the shop yesterday and spent most of the afternoon and evening getting to know how it worked. I started on a white piece of felt with the instruction book in front of me and made a flower! Having negotiated that safely I proceeded to weld more and more adventurous fabrics to the felt, but as I hadn't watched the enclosed CD carefully enough I didn’t realise how important the background colour is when you are using this machine. For this reason I haven't included the first sample here. Way too embarrassing!

Day 2 (today) I started the day by following Jean Littlejohn's tutorial in the Oct/Nov issue of Stitch. As I wanted to keep to the rust colours I used a sample of an old army blanket dyed a lovely deep brown, exactly the colour of the rust samples I had collected from Hurst Castle. Next step was to bond a pre-painted piece of Bondaweb to the wool, as instructed. This went well till I tried to bond some transfoil to the this layer of Bondaweb, also as instructed, and it pulled half of the under layer of colour off with it when I removed the plastic paper. I thought I had got the hang of this, obviously not! Anyway undeterred I just stuck a bit more painted Bondaweb on the gap. I followed this by applying some bronze powder, some Soya bean fibre and some dyed silk tops. As Jean had instructed I covered the lot with some matching nylon sheer fabric and pressed it into place.

I embellished the whole sample with rough swirling movements to match the rust patterns and let it distort and pull the sheer away in places. This done I then embellished it from the wrong side in three circles to represent the mouldings on the gun doors. Machining from the wrong side caused the fabric to distort and I could easily push it into mound shapes.

This was a great exercise and I was delighted with what the embellisher could do.

Sample 2. For this sample I roughly followed Lynda's tutorial for embellishing scrim onto velvet. I started with red cotton velvet and some painted scrim that I had worked at the beginning of this project. After I'd put down several pieces I wanted to see what else I could put down and used some painted silk organza, this worked quite well but benefited from being embellished from the wrong side too. My favourite fabric was a piece of dyed Twinkle, this just meshed into the velvet perfectly. On another project where the colours were different I would use this exclusively, I may try it on a post card. I also tried another dyed fabric that's a bit like plastic but I don't know what it was, this virtually disintegrated but gave a good effect.

Finally I added a bit of the dyed silk tops used in the first sample and applied some stitching to follow the rhythms of the underlying textures. I didn't like the coral chain stitch so I zapped it with the embellisher. Great!

These samples are just learning pieces and visual thought processes, they’re not meant to be finished samples. I’m still very woolly as to the direction of this piece and can only hope that in the midst of chaos will come order. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed making them, just for the fun of it which is a 'turn up for the books'!

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

recording the process (rust triptych) 3

Had a whole day in the studio today, amazing!
The first thing I decided to do was work into the 'urban' sample Ben and I had started yesterday. I forgot to mention that before I started the machine embroidery I mounted the piece on some Romeo water-soluble fabric. I machined a heavier thread on the bobbin and worked some circles from the wrong side just to give a different texture. Having done this I took the heat tool to it again to see if I could get more of a lumpy surface, (Ben’s idea!) and it worked. The only thing was that when the Romeo melted it was very fumey, so the windows needed to be open and I definitely needed my mask. After I'd done this I did a bit more machining around the lumps and put the soldering iron on it to make a few more holes,
I shall leave it now until I get my embellisher.

My next experiment was with the little canvas sample that I'd painted. This was truly a moment of 'lets try it and see what happens', so I started by stitching down some of the painted scrim with French Knots using some of the delicious threads I'd bought at Hobbycraft. This seemed to go OK. Spurred on by this moment of serendipity I decided to see if it was possible to iron the painted bondaweb to the canvas, and hey presto it worked! But I did have to wait a bit for it to cool before removing the paper. I was feeling pretty good by this time; this project that seemed to be going nowhere was finally beginning to have something.

Next I tried ironing on the wax rubbings I took of the scrim on tissutex, this worked too, see the picture above. Buoyed up by this success I even tried putting down bondaweb and ironing on the metallic sheet and this time it worked thanks to Lynda's help, as she'd given me a check list of things to do, and one of them said iron on a wool setting, bingo! I'd been using the hottest setting, no wonder it didn't work.

Anyway I did a bit more with the bodaweb and then went back to the stitching, more French knots and a few running stitches in hand dyed silk thread, beautiful.

What a great day, thanks to all the helpful advise on the discussion we had on the Fibre arts/ mixed media group I 'felt the fear and did it anyway!' Thanks you guys!

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Post card from Debbi

I was so excited today to receive my first exchange post card from Debbi. It is so beautiful with the gentle rhythmic lines of embroidery. The tones are so subtle and Autumnal, it makes me think of the ploughed fields, waiting for new seeds to be planted.
I can't wait to have another go myself.

Ben and me

Well this is going to be a reveal all post!!
Today my grandson was here for a half term visit and as usual he was very keen to get in on the act with my latest project, and as his passion at the moment is 'urban art' he was keen to show me the latest technique he has learnt.
Firstly he took a piece of yellow nylon sheer and rubbed it with an orange oil pastel that he had warmed in warm water first.
He then added charcoal in the same way, much to my disappointment; I quite liked the look of the orange.

Then the good bit started and we both set about the piece with the heat tool, and of course the matches, taking great care not to set the shed on fire. We did have a bowl of water handy in case of accidents! The effect was definitely urban!
I then decided to add some of the painted scrim that I'd prepared (shown in the first post). We did this using the soldering iron and using acrylic felt as a welding agent because the scrim wouldn't stick to the sheer.

As a final couple of touches I added some erise film and welded it lightly with the soldering iron, just enough to attach it or it shrivels to nothing. I also added some tissutext that I’d used to take a rubbing off the sheet of Formica that I’d painted the scrim on, which wouldn’t come off when it dried without leaving half of it behind.
I was now left with a background that I could embroider, but I thought it would get caught under the machine foot so I made a net sandwich. We both decided this looked a bit solid, so Ben set about it with the soldering iron one more time and concentrated on crinkling up the edges.

By this time Ben was burnt out! (metaphorically of course) and ready to eat a horse, like any young lad, so we stopped for lunch.
After lunch I set about the piece with a variegated thread on the sewing machine.

I have no idea where this is going next, so here's hoping the experiment wasn't a waste of time. Ben and I had a great day and that's what really counts.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Recording the process (rust triptych) 2

Having had a very interesting visit with my friend Carol, who is an accomplished embroiderer, I reallised that I hadn't finished the paper design for the complete tryptich, so after her input I turned the piece 45 degrees CCW and decided to split it into three.
I did this by photographing the paperwork, opening it in PS and putting three guide lines roughly where I wanted them. I then selected each selection and pasted it onto another page, slightly bigger than the original artwork.

After talking to Karen on the forum of FAMM I decided to just look at the shapes in thumbnails and see if that helped to get an idea of how the tryptich might look, especially as I wanted to make the design sqaure, because I had originally wanted it to fit a 16"x16" canvas, but turning what was now a rectangular design into a square wasn't working.

I finally decided to go back to the computer and my favourite piece of software, Photoshop. I created a new page in a square format and pasted on a small piece of one of the tryptich designs. I then scaled this to fit the background and pasted on one design. To soften the edges and give the feeling of a soft textile, like organza, I put on the liquify filter, so this is the design for my first tryptich piece, I think.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Work at home Gran

I had no time to post yesterday as I was busy with my home work, well that is producing the straps for my daughter Hannah's baby carriers.
She has an online baby carrier business called Connecta Baby Carrier, which she runs at the same time as looking after 6 children. This is no mean feat as she makes the carriers herself with a little help from Mum. But it does mean that we both have to burn the midnight oil occasionally when demand hits the roof!!
Still the upside of this is that I get lots of lovely offcuts, sometimes silk, which she uses for special collections and plenty of wadding, plus some money to put away for the expensive items such as my new Embellisher, and of course my beautiful Horn sewing cabinet, seen in the picture above.
One of my other daughters, Nicola, is moddeling this caarrier with Hannah's youngest daughter Sylvia.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Recording the process (rust triptych) 1

As I seem to have quite a difficult time starting a new project I thought it might be a good idea to record the process of development on my latest piece of work. I want to create a triptych using 3; 16"x 16" deep canvases and incorporating mixed art media with textiles. My inspiration is rust, as mentioned in my post, "A grand day out".

I have started with a small canvas, which will act as a sample to try out ideas. I've made a start by using the imagery I worked out in my sketch book and using acrylic. This has handled a lot differently to the Luma inks I used on the watercolour paper and I have therefore had to mix up new colours to try and match the original paperwork, but this did remind me how much I enjoy experimenting with colour mixing to find just the right match, a hangover from my textile print studies.

Next I painted some bondaweb with acrylic, trying to match the colours and textures of the rust. I ironed this onto white silk organza, as it was the nearest fabric I could find to replicate the tissue paper I used on the paperwork. It worked very well especially with a hint of metallic paint. But the next thing is going to be "how do I stitch this to achieve the texture of rust?”
I did another one of these bondaweb samples to give myself more pieces to work with and try different colour ways.

As I still had acrylic left over I decided to paint some scrim to see if that gave me any ideas, so I suppose when these samples are dry I will have to venture into stitch! Always a tricky moment for me as I usually quite like the piece as it is without adding any stitch.

This is completely new to me, as I’ve never painted a canvas before, but I was pleased that it felt comfortable, so I’m just going to try and go with the flow on this one and let the process develop naturally.