Sunday, 30 December 2012

New Projects

Hope you all had a good Christmas and are now ready for the New Year celebrations.

New Year, new projects. The next module in my RSN Diploma will be appliqué. Mmmm….can’t say that it is something that I have been eager to get my teeth into! Still after some serious browsing sessions (what did we all do before the internet!) I have come up with something based around an 11th century tapestry that will hopefully allow me to meet all the requirements in the brief.

I have started to frame up the calico backing and will then be ready to begin when I get back to Durham in a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, and as well as, I thought I would revisit some of the things I have learnt over the past few years and develop my own designs. This will definitely be an interesting experience for me as I have to interpret all those ideas I keep going on about into physical designs. Oh, to be artistic........

So far I have done a small sketch based on a traditional Jacobean leaf that I will then stitch in crewel wool.

Crewel Leaf design
I have some linen fabric – not the traditional twill-so will see how that works up and I shall use wools from Renaissance Dyes. I haven’t used these before so I reckon I can make all this part of the learning process of seeing what works and what doesn’t! Maybe one day I'll even get adventurous.

Crewel wools and linen fabrics

Stitching ideas!

I have already worked out some stitching ideas that I want to incorporate into the design so all I have to do now is pounce it onto the fabric and off we go. I'm sure there'll be plenty of reverse stitching, so watch this space!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

A little inspiration....

Just a quick little post before we all settle down to eat too much and do too little (some hope!).

I left the security blanket of a paid job on Saturday and have now joined the ranks of the self employed. I had decided to have a rest and recharge my batteries then start afresh in the New Year, use the time to get ready for Christmas when the family will descend and maybe get the cake iced before Christmas Eve!

Just thought I'd share these cute little needle books with you. 

Rear of books

Front of books

They continue on from what I was experimenting with earlier in the year using different canvas stitches in stranded cottons and bringing metallic threads in to add texture and depth to the design. As you can see they are based on Elizabethan knot gardens and I like to think the rear of the books is a lawn. The lurex thread is used in the Rhodes stitches at the centre and four corners and mixed with stranded cotton for long legged cross stitch to outline the design. The flower beds are done in French knots, rice stitch, eyelet stitch, leaf stitch, cross stitch and tent stitch. The box edge and lawn are done in cushion stitch.

They are for two girls and each is slightly different to identify whose is whose. Hopefully they will be amused by them and see what you can achieve with a little inspiration......

Thursday, 13 December 2012


Wow, how time flies when you’re having fun………….!! I have had so much going on in the last few weeks and really don’t know where the time has gone.

The Christmas cake is made and the mince pies in the freezer along with a number of casseroles so I can have a ‘rest’. The cards are written and the majority of the pressies are ready to wrap. And I have finally made the decision to leave the weekly pay cheque of the supermarket job and concentrate on my embroidery wherever that takes me. People say you should follow your dream, well, better late than never. I’ve been dreaming so long I feel like Sleeping Beauty!

There is so much buzzing round in my head and I need to concentrate on my ideas and develop my design skills and practice, practice, practice!

The angel is finished.

Completed piece
Pearl purl to give movement to design 
Angel Head
Couched upper wing
Compass or Wheel of life or the Earth? - my doughnut.

 My, we have had a tortuous journey me and my angel – don’t know who is guarding who!!! The doughnut went on – and off and on again. The feet were like applying small dots. I ran out of places to anchor my couching thread. And then there was the cutwork.

I have had to use rough and smooth purls as per the brief – yes very fragile! Two lines of cutwork angled into each other and then s-ing next to that. I lost count of how many cut purls cracked and were taken out when knocked with the needle. What is that saying about more haste less speed?

Anyway, I ran out of rough and smooth purls, so I had to stop fiddling with it. When I got up to Tracy’s yesterday we agreed that one line of s-ing looked a bit squashed as you see in the photot, so I redid that and then yeah……………….it finally came off the frame. Hip hooray! It was getting like the blackwork and I never wanted to see it again. It is now partially mounted, just the backing sateen to put on when I go back in January, so will be ready for the New Year assessment.

When she sat on her board, yes I did feel a bit chuffed. This is different to my normal work and I am so grateful that the Beryl Dean Trustees allowed me to use one of her designs. Having worked on it over the autumn makes you fully appreciate her skill as an artist and wow did it challenge me.

Now I'll have to practice applique.

Sunday, 11 November 2012


Starting to look like an angel?

So here I am 8o'clock on a Sunday evening and finally, I think I have got the blessed doughnut and feet right. My shoulders, elbows and wrists are just about worn out as I have struggled to get that needle through carpet felt, leather and or nue but I only broke two needles this time so must have been doing something right!

I started off putting some hair on the head - it did look a little like a helmet ( that storm trooper association again?). However, once I'd got the leather stitched down it didn't look too bad.

It's hair - honest!


Now on that bit there are just the facial features to sort out. Don't you think the hands look better than they did now I've reduced the stitch size?

Close up of the feet.

The feet were so fiddly. Tiny little scraps of leather over felt and carpet felt but at least this time they look like they are standing on the wheel. I finished it this time with No 3 purl pearl and then No 1 on top of that to make sure the edge is covered and I want to put some cut work on the wheel but that was what did my arm in so I'll have to wait for that. 

I finally feel like I am getting somewhere but is probably a good thing as we're nearly at the end of term. Only the mounting to face now :(

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Finally coming together.

Well, apologies for the lack of post this last week or two. You know how it is – you never seem to be getting anywhere and there are only so many times you can write about the same area of embroidery – and then it all comes together all of a sudden. I had got to a critical place in the angel and just had to keep going but as you can see I did manage to take some pictures as I went along!

Only joking.....

Those hands are just not right!

Halo couched in silver plated No 6 Passing.

I said to Mark that yet again I have chosen a project that pushes me to the limit! The design looks to be fairly simple, as it is. But then comes the interpretation of that into goldwork technique. I have had a bit of a problem with the large wings on the angel as the curves of the feathers have been done freehand without any design lines on the fabric. 

Feathering - No 1 silver plated pearl purl applied freestyle.

This allowed me not to be constrained by the fairly tight curves of the drawing but ‘aaargh’, I then had to DO something on my own. Fortunately Tracy gave me some guidance and we decided to lay small pieces of pearl purl as a representation of the feathers. This is then filled with chipwork in gold, silver and copper bright check and a bit of wire check purl. It will fade away as it moves towards the centre.

Where did that random thread come from?

Chip work in bright check and wire check  and rough purls.

 The ‘wheel’ or doughnut was another niggle. I have had to appliqué the wheel onto the area of or nue – not easy on the fingers – without damaging any threads and at the same time pulling it tightly down without damaging the leather. I did it once and couched down some No 2 pearl purl around it but didn’t like the way it looked, so I unpicked it all carefully and have to reattach it.

Kid leather over carpet felt and cotton felt, gilt super pearl purl centre chipwork

 The feet have been a pain as they are so small and they will not be outlined so they have to be attached with tiny, tiny stitches; the same with the hands, which I have replaced as their stitches were too large. But, that is about par for the course – seems like two steps forward and one back all the time. Hopefully it will look good when it is finished. Sometimes you just wish you could start all over again from the beginning. 

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Home from the Hills

After a little break (can’t say restful but that’s another story) I have been struck down by the first of the winter bugs. A streaming nose and throbbing head are not really conducive to fine hand embroidery so I just retreated and felt sorry for myself –nobody else did! ENOUGH. I’m compus mentis again and eager to get on.

Peace and quiet in the Cheviots

You know, I’m sure I say this every module, yet I still haven’t learnt my lesson, what seemed a good idea at the time is turning into the usual marathon and I panic about whether I will finish on time. The or nue skirt took ages to do and then to plunge the threads and the leather nearly saw off my fingers but now we are getting to the meaty part of the project and I can finally see where I am going!

Laying threads for the upper wings

I’ve started on the angels wings and as there are multiple parts to these it gives quite a lot of scope in the threads I can use. I began with laid and couched threads on the large wings close to the torso. These are a mixture of threads: jap, twist,  rococo and passing threads laid in random and to make them even more interesting they are in silver, gold and copper with silver, gold and copper thread to couch down. This has given the wings a hint of depth as they shade in towards the body. Tracy has some beautiful Spanish threads and the rococo is lovely and fine to work with. There is more to overlay to do on this but I’ll save that for later.

Starting to look like a wing........?

I am now outlining the lower wings with silver plated pearl purl – first the small inner wing in super pearl purl around the leather and then the large, outer wing with no.1 pearl purl. Once that is down I can start with the chip work. Again this will be silver, gold and copper chips randomly sewn down and fading out away from the edges. That should provide a bit of sparkle!

And just in case that wasn’t enough homework I am starting on the wheel my angel is standing on. That is to be done on a hoop separately and appliquéd on later.

Plenty to go on with then…………. 

PS  If you are in Durham next week 25th -27th October check out Fowler’s Yard where Tracy Franklin is holding an exhibition of her students’ work – there will be a number of pieces by RSN Certificate and Diploma students.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Enjoying myself

Well tomorrow we are back up to Northumberland for a little break and hopefully not swimming up there.

The embroidery frame is packed along with Mark’s fishing gear but before we left I thought I would share with you the progress so far.

I have nearly finished the or nue skirt and had left plunging all the silver passing threads until I had been up to Tracy’s and checked it was OK. In the clear, that left a lot of metal threads to plunge so that is mainly what I am doing.

Plunging has to be done!

However, I have also started to add some of the really ornamental threads and have begun on the large wings. I’m doing a mix of metal threads and colours of threads starting with silver on the outer edge and working in to copper next to the body couched down with gradually darkening Gutterman thread so that it will provide some depth to the image. It was like picking through a sweetie shop when Tracy got all her little packets of gold, silver and copper threads out for me to choose from. I now have quite a variety of twist, passing and rococo in assorted colours to mix and match.

Couching mixed threads

So that is my homework for this week to get as much of the wings done as I can then I can move on to laying some pearl purl over the top. Can’t wait……….

Friday, 21 September 2012

Just doing it...

Just thought I'd keep you up to date and show you that I took my courage in my hands, girded my loins or whatever and got on with it. There wasn't too much manipulation but the leather is so soft and buttery I was terrified of tearing it.

The face went on OK....... I just thought I'd go for it

My Angel now has a face, hands and  body covered in leather. Having said that I have a sneaky suspicion that it looks more like a stormtrooper from Star Wars than a heavenly body but then wait until the bling goes on. Ah well back to the or nue as my thread have arrived.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Alternative Therapy

Just thought I’d do a little extra blog this week as I have run out of passing thread and am waiting for some more to arrive in the post.

So, it’s my day off from work and I am feeling like c..p – sore throat, sniffles etc. I’ve been telling myself for a couple of weeks that it is hay fever but really I am just run down and need to recharge the old battery (probably needs a replacement but don’t tell). I should be doing the leather on my angel but am avoiding it like the plague as I have to ‘manipulate’ it to fit the raised body. Sounds easy peasy, no? Well, my knarled old fingers don’t do manipulation like they used to, let me tell you. I am therefore finding any and every excuse to do something else.

And I just felt like a treat so did some home baking therapy. Would have gone in the garden but it’s about 20 below out there and raining so not the best tulip bulb planting weather.

Sad looking garden in need of a tidy :(

How is it that some days you get everything organised and ready and it all just goes haywire. And other days a little idea pops into your head, you set off all haphazardly and it all goes perfectly. That’s how it has gone today. I wasted the morning messing about and then started and in a couple of hours I have produced ginger biscuits, Anzacs, flapjack and 2 lovely date and walnut loaves. Wham, bang one after the other mixing the next whilst one thing was in the oven. If I was doing it for a fair or event I would have produced one sad Victoria sponge!

Mmmm ..........yum!

I now feel as though I have achieved something with my day – even though not what I intended this morning – and the love of my life will be happy again now he can raid the cupboard and find something to eat.

Hey, maybe I’ll do some manipulation – there’ still enough light left……………

Monday, 17 September 2012

Learning New techniques

Yesterday we went to church and the burse and veil I made were blessed while the Bishop was making a visit.

Burse for Austwick church

 Everybody seemed to like it, so that was a huge relief, although I do hate having my name announced as the maker – so embarrassing. I like to just do things quietly/anonymously, although somebody would say that is false modesty or some such crap! Anyway, it’s now part of the furniture!

I spent the last week putting carpet felt on my angel then went to class and unpicked the ‘arms’ I had put on.

Thought I was doing OK.......!

I had to apply yellow felt to the torso first and then put on the carpet felt for the arms and cover them with yellow felt. A bit laborious you might say but it does look a lot smoother I’m sure you will agree.

Torso ready for leather

The torso and head are now ready to cover with leather and that is part of this week’s homework.

The other part is to continue with or nuè for the skirt. I started this in class on Wednesday. I am using No 6 Smooth silver passing and couching 2 threads/1 thread on alternate rows to get a pin stripe effect. 

Starting or nue

This is a technique totally new to me although I have obviously couched threads before. I suppose it is not as difficult as doing facial features but I am actually quite enjoying it and find it rather relaxing, not at all boring, especially once you get a rhythm going. Having said that I hope I don’t have to unpick any of it or I will still be doing this module next year!

I’ve also finished my little needlebook and am quite pleased, so will have a go a devising some pattern of my own design incorporating gold thread.

Close up of needlebook

Finished needlebook

Mark has already put in a request for a book cover in the technique – told him slippers first!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

So Good To be Back........

Yes! I started back for a new term at Tracy Franklin’s doing the RSN Advanced Goldwork for my Diploma and it is so good to be back under direction again. As those of you who follow me will know, I am working on a design by Beryl Dean that I have been given permission to use.

I’d already got the calico on the frame and the silk mounted so I only had to prick and pounce the design on and draw it on the silk then I was off.

The brief this time allows you to use different coloured metal threads so I think I will be mixing some silver, gold and copper to get a nice depth to the piece. I have already appliquéd on some organdie where the angel’s wings are going to be and this will give a nice sheer base to the wings.

Advanced Goldwork - organdie applique

My homework this week is to get the carpet felt attached on the torso and built up around the shoulders and where the arms are folded to get some shape there and then to attach the felt over it. I’ve got some black leather – kinky! – for the body which I might or might not get on as we are back next week and I’m off out this weekend.

As I mentioned in my last post, thoughts are already turning to the seasonal period. Well we crafties have to think ahead! I dug out a lovely book I have called Creative Embroidery Techniques Using Colour Through Gold by Daphne Ashby and Jackie Woolsey –bit of a mouthful!-and had a go at one of their ideas - with a bit of adaptation. It is really effective and quite easy to think of different ways to combine stitches and colours – I think it makes me experiment outside my comfort zone as I am not naturally blingy. However, I think this little experiment looks quite Byzantine or at least that’s what I tell myself.

New Ideas

Anyway, back to the real deal – and heavenly inspiration!.......................

Friday, 31 August 2012

New Term

So far, so good. I have had a really productive summer and can say that this vacation I have actually finished more things than I started. When I made my list at the beginning of the holiday I would have been glad to get one or two things out of the way. Instead I am really proud to say that I have finished two major things, one is nearly finished and I completed a substantial repair job. AND I did not start anything new (even though I was mightily tempted!)

This last week I have been slogging away at the old man’s slippers – ho, they’re tedious sometimes but I am determined they will be on his feet come New Year if not earlier.
I have also been preparing myself for the new term at Tracy Franklin’s. For those of you who are not familiar with the way we prepare for the RSN course here it is in pictures and you will probably understand why it is a good idea to get ready early if you can. If not, the preparation of your frame can take up nearly all of your first day on the course.

String backstitched down side of calico

Calico being attached to frame webbing

String attached to side of frame tightens everything

The finished frame ready for fabric to be attached

Added to all that I unrolled the silk dupion I had bought for the piece and it had been folded –aargh! A bit of judicious ironing did not remove the fold mark but as it is fortunately a fat quarter I think I can cut enough without having the mark across the face of my embroidery. Heh ho, c’est la vie.

My design is drawn out just ready to get the correct size and then be traced and transferred. And I can’t wait to get going again. I hope to keep you posted with my progress as I go along.

I’ve also been thinking about Christmas; well something small to do on the sofa in an evening really can’t hurt, can it…………….

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Good Works?

No, I’ve not been away and not blogging. I’ve been giving a hand to building a carport – literally. I didn’t build much but you know when you need that extra hand to hold something whilst you get the level. I was the third and fourth hand!

I’ve also gone back to that bad old habit of opening my mouth before engaging brain. Yes, I’ll do some repairs on ……………., (bugger my own work). But I can’t really complain as doing repairs on church furnishings is also a good learning experience. This is some gold work that had threads literally hanging off. As it is part of an altar set that is used nearly every week it was only going to get worse.

 Threads before work started

When I came to start the repair it was obvious that at some time the piece had been repaired already and placed on new backing fabric. Sadly, and I’m not being horrid, the repairs were not very good and in an assortment of threads but the piece is getting so fragile it was best to stabilise it and leave it at that. To take out the old repairs would have been a marathon job and probably damaged the gold threads which were already very worn.

Some of previous repairs

So I began, having photographed some of the loose threads. The only thing was that as I worked more of the original silk thread collapsed so quite a bit turned into a lot of stitching that is why I’ve ended up with what I call Gold work Finger

Not Bond's Goldfinger!

 I can’t work with a metal thimble as I like to feel what I am doing. If I ever find a leather finger cover I’d try that but in the meantime I have to put up with hot sore finger ends. Still it’s all for the greater good and all that. And maybe it’ll help to harden them up before I start my next RSN module!

Embroidery after repairs completed

This coming week I will start to prepare my frame for going back to Tracy Franklin’s. I’m so excited to be getting back to it.