Friday, 20 March 2015

Fifty on Friday

Five? Pah!

I've been so unbelievably slack with posting pictures of the amazing work happening in class, so now I'm going to have to pay for it with a massive post to show what we've been doing! Brace yourselves...

First, way back in January, we indulged in my favourite stitchy exercise - strips of texture, sari silks and wot-not. These were then embellished with metal bits and pieces, in the following weeks, as we got more confident stitching on metal:

(Our first experiments with metal were simple samplers, of "foot-on" stitching then free-machining, posted way back here).

Then we played around with positive/negative images, which is REALLY HARD to do with metal, as it is a pig to cut intricate shapes without shredding your hands unless you have a fancy die-cutting device! We had some good results using chocolate wrappers and foil from dark chocolate bars, which seemed to please the troops (can't think why...)

Using the same shapes, we experimented with distressed kunin felt motifs on foiled or metal backgrounds (and there is a rogue fish there, not on metal, but fun nevertheless!):

And then another one of my favourites: since half-term we have been stitching metal with a water-soluble fabric backing. This allows separate pieces to be linked with stitch, which I then chose to weave into, after the backing was dissolved away:

You can also stitch fringes and decorative edges, as the fabric supports the stitch until you dissolve it. And for the really brave, you can incorporate beads, sequins and washers as embellishments to your fringes and edges - stitching directly into them with the sewing machine needle (you may well need to change to a thinner needle first, and perhaps remove the foot!).

Top picture here is the intrepid Jill, bravely stitching away into metal and beads, without a presser foot:

Then for the all-important embellishments, we've had a go at making beads with metal shim and wire. Our favourites were the beaded wire tangles!

And along the way, there have been some wonderful creations, and more are still works-in-progress:

Looking back at that lot, I think we deserve a holiday!

Monday, 9 March 2015

My second favourite pastime

This post was going to be a sharing post with loads of photos of students' work. But seeing as my husband has "borrowed" my laptop for the day, and uploading and formatting photos takes forever on the ithing, perhaps could be a Teaching Tuesday post.

Meanwhile, back at today, I am indulging in my love/hate/favourite/detested pastime: a spot of procrastination! On the surface, I am having a lovely time. I'm now winding up threads and stranded cottons. 

I rescued this lot from the bin early this morning, having chucked them out late last night as I couldn't be bothered to sort them.

I had already sorted this lot, while watching a telly programme about wolves...I know I will always associate these threads with wolves and buffalo now...that's how my brain seems to work (I listen to a lot of Radio 4 while I work and cook,  and can always remember what I was listening to when I look back at finished work, or my stash of marmalade...)

Yesterday I sorted all these drawers of thicker threads, sari silks and rainbow-dyed wools. I've acquired the Girl's old bedside drawers, so three more drawers for my stuff! And with a lot of thread and fabric being decluttered and charity shopped, those drawers are wonderfully organised and uncluttered. Fabulous stuff.

But underneath, deep down, I know I shouldn't be doing this. I should be designing and stitching. I have an exhibition over Easter, and as my husband keeps insensitively pointing out "before we know it, it will be (Girl's) birthday and the end of term". YES I KNOW! 

Funnily enough, I've just read a fantastic book about procrastination, the best one I've ever found. Apparently the three reasons we procrastinate are: feeling (or fearing being) overwhelmed, fear of failure, and fear of not finishing. I know the strategies suggested will work, it all makes so much sense - and yes, I am fully aware that I am choosing not to implement them right now! But I will, when I've finished winding my threads....

Monday, 2 March 2015


It's been a while, hasn't it?! I have been busy doing all sorts of things, not least decorating the Girl's bedroom a calming shade of duck egg blue:

Just before that, I also won my local Embroiderers' Guild branch "purple" competition with my purple circle, inspired by aboriginal designs, and completed at the very last minute (as usual, but I may have hit upon a system to stop myself doing that's early days...)

But there's more! The second most exciting thing: my sourdough experiments are working! I've got my pot of starter (nicknamed "bubbles") on the go, and I've dabbled and experimented, and yes, I think I'm there. I've made round things, lumpy things, dubious things where I tried using ordinary flour instead of bread flour, and I'm now experimenting with one of those silicon rugby-ball shaped devices from a certain kitchenware company based in Cumbria. It's all working so well we've bought a new toaster, and I've gone from eschewing all things wheaty* to eating sandwiches and toast like the good ol' days.

Here are a couple of loaves on their final rise:

and out of the oven:

But the eagle-eyed readers will notice I said second-most-exciting! Because the FIRST most exciting thing, the biggest and most important triumph of recent weeks, has been the discovery that all that excess starter that you are told to "discard" can be kept in a tub in the fridge, and then - miracle of miracles - become CRUMPETS!!! Who knew?!

Crumpet rings warming up on the griddle:

Pot of saved starter, being sticky:

Crumpet rings duly filled and cooking gently, with some already out of their rings:

Some crumpets are now ready to be flipped over:

Those that weren't eaten straight away are cooling:

And the best thing is, it is SO easy! A teaspoon of salt and sugar, a dash of bicarb, and Bob's your uncle. Nice.

* I have a (possibly half-baked!) idea that my family history of bowel cancer may be linked to diet. There's a lot of dubious science out there on the "dangers" of gluten, but there does seem to be a consensus that wheat has changed in the last 50 years, and food sensitivities, particularly to gluten, are on the increase. The family risk for cancer may be just chance or bad luck but it is definitely something to ponder. "People" say fermented and soaked grains, especially old varieties of wheat like spelt, are supposed to be kinder to our bodies. Sourdough is a fermented food, so also good for general gut health. Apparently. Worth a go? Tastes good, crumpets as by-product - can't go wrong!

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Snow Day

We planned a day of stitch, a day with no teaching, just a day to come along to the village hall and catch up with each other, and catch up with work.

But we didn't reckon on this! We woke to a very light dusting of the stuff, but then it turned more serious. 


This was the carpark by 9.30. What to do? So I cancelled. But they came anyway! 

And we had a lovely day, productive yet relaxing, and we were all pleased with our progress (well, most of us). And all that pretty white stuff was all gone by 4pm, hooray.

I spent all morning ironing. How did that happen?? And then stuck lots of sari silk to some pelmet vilene, which I have just started to stitch with automatic patterns. This follows on from my sketchbook meanderings that you may have seen on my facebook page.

Morag has been making silk paper, and stitched these fabulous oak leaves. They are destined to become a leafy bowl:

Fiona was catching up with her metallic samples after missing a class, but has overtaken us!

Here are some strips of scrap collage that she was going to use for borders, but are rather lovely by themselves

Kathy has been finishing her bird piece from last year, and turning it into a book cover

Vix finished her poppy, and a landscape

Libby stitched a foiled sample

And Di started assembling a miniature quilt, based on our copper samples:

She also brought this scrap collage to incorporate, but we can't decide how. It's not quite wide enough to cut into strips for a border, but we love the colours and texture.

Jill brought a stack of household sewing projects and diligently worked her way through, and Carole thought she would machine stitch a beaded fringe to finish her silk bag (started this time last year) but ended up sewing by hand.

You may notice that both Carole and I are working in a similar coincidence there. There may even be a competitive element to this (moi?) but neither of us has any confidence in even being placed this time round! I hear the competition is quite stiff...

Monday, 26 January 2015


I'm being a bit slow with the blogging, for which apologies! Without further ado, here are some pics of class work from last week.

First up, we have been busy making collages with sari silks, foils, and any other glisteny sparkly textured bits we could lay our mitts on:







This last piece of work belongs to Rosa, our newest student, who was a bit taken aback when we started the session with "how to heat copper tiles over a gas hob". For some reason she came along expecting to stitch?!

Anyway, we put the copper to one side and made a start on her first strippy collage. The idea being to investigate all the automatic patterns our machines will do, to warm up both machine and our own creative muscles, practise using transfer foils, and create a background for further embellishment.*

And those who were itching to stitch on metal started a simple sampler with feed dog up/normal presser foot, and feed dog down/free machining. Here are some in progress:





These are all stitched with 0.002" copper shim on felt - you must use a thick-ish background to absorb the sharp pointy bits of copper created when the needle penetrates the metal (but it doesn't have to be felt). This also protects your machine bed from scratches.

Fiona laid some organza on top of her tiles before stitching then blasted it with a heat gun - so effective!

*for transfer foils in large quantities at reasonable rates I am selling them on Facebook at Frugal Foil - if you are not on Facebook but would like some, just email me. Plug over!

Monday, 19 January 2015

Choosing to work

Someone recently commented on Facebook that they'd love to learn more about my process. I do find this amusing, as to be brutally honest my "process" up to now has been

1 start something with noble ambitions
2 procrastinate for ages (sometimes months)
3 rustle up something at the last minute that is not related in any way with what I started in the first place.

Which is why I have so many stashes of "work in progress". Here is just one:

But armed with my new word - Choice - I have chosen to

a) book, then ring fence "work" time in my diary (in pencil, but it's a start)
b) decide which WIPs I actually want to do still, and chuck the others (gasp)
c) actually choose one of them and do it! 

So now I can proudly present "my process"

First, choose what to do. I chose this watercolour spiral today.

Second, add a stitch'n'tear backing and choose a thread

Third, stitch by machine and wonder what to do next

Four, tip out a shamefully tangled collection of threads and set to

Five, fight - really fight - the urge to do something, anything else eg make curtains, sort recipes, declutter another cupboard...

Six, audition various additions - including a washer found on the doorstep and a twig circle made last summer.

(not brill lighting, but it still gets dark so early in the afternoon)

Not finished yet, but I'm very chuffed so far - not least because I actually stuck at something!


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