Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Stitched paper grids

Haven't had time to do much since I started my new job. A few weeks ago inspired by one of Gwen Hedley's books I had a go at stitching a grid on a paper serviette. This is one quarter of one. I machined a random grid and put a few rows of machine pattern in for good measure.
When done I dunked it in a small bowl of warm water and the serviette paper washed away easily. There were clumps of pulp in the bottom of the bowl which I reapplied to the piece in a few places to add more texture.

I like the finished effect but I haven't had time to do anything further with it and incorporate it into a more layered piece.

I have had time to make a few Christmas cards for my family. This one uses quilled closed and open shapes plus some fringed pegs for the snow crystals. I just used ordinary printer paper cut to size on the paper trimmer and stuck them to a metallic blue card blank. It was quite fiddly!
Here is a bit of a retro looking one. All the light bulbs use a whole length of quilling paper. For the flex I wrapped a length of black quilling paper around a long wire - I found a kebab stick was not thin enough. For the rings that join the bulbs to the flex I wrapped black paper around the fat end of the quilling tool a few times and then squashed them into shape with my nail.

The blue tag and sentiment were free with a craft magazine! All mounted onto red striped paper on a red metallic card blank.

Finally I made a birthday card today for my friend's teenage daughter. She likes baking so I chose a cupcake theme. The pocket on the card is made out of a 16cm square of double sided paper. Fold the square diagonally in half with the fold horizontally across the bottom. Then fold each point up to touch the opposite edge of the triangle so that the upper edge of the folded piece is horizontal. Then fold the upper flap down to make the pocket. I made a mini tag to go in the pocket and mounted the whole thing on foam pads on a polka dot covered card blank.
This is another thing I have been doing with serviettes. I got this from the latest Kirstie Allsop series and amazed a waitress in the restaurant where we had our work's Christmas meal by producing one of these for her - didn't get us any freebies though!

To make it open out a serviette and fold each corner neatly into the centre to make a smaller square. Do this 2 more times folding in to the centre on the same side as before. Then turn over and fold the corners to the centre a 4th time. The carefully pull the top flaps on the back round to the front, squashing the corner in with your thumb. Don't pull round fully as it tends to lose its shape. Then gently pull the next layer of flaps round to the front and finally fold the last layer of flaps round to form the outer row of petals/leaves. Be careful not to tear the paper on this single layer. Tease into shape and put on the centre of your poshest dinner plates to wow your guests!

Finally as part of my induction course for the new job working for Carnival UK, we went on board the Oriana P&O ship. Didn't expect to find any textile interest there but I was wrong. Here is part of a large number of panels decorating the White Room - the Marco Pierre White restaurant on board. I am grateful for a reader of this blog who has identified it as a series of 6 large panels by Alice Kettle commissioned in 1994-5 called Glimpses of India.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Patchwork Bag

My sabbatical year has ended this week as I started a new job. I have enjoyed my 'year of being more creative' hugely but it was time to move on to the next stage and earn some money! I will still continue to update my blog, but maybe not as frequently as before.

To get one last 'sewing fix' in before I went back to work I made a new work bag. It is made entirely from upholstery or curtain fabrics, most of which I was given by the local department store as they couldn't bear to throw them away.

Each patchwork piece is 15cm square and I used the same fabrics front and back. The top strip is 5cm high and the bottom is 15cm high. The handles are 65cm long. All measurements include 5-10mm seam allowance.

After sewing the patchwork squares together on the machine, I attached the top and bottom strips.
Then I cut out 2 pieces of fleece from an old blanket (the bright green in the photo below) and 2 pieces of dress lining. Making a sandwich with the patchwork on top, fleece in the middle and lining on the bottom, I quilted round the patchwork squares 'in the ditch'.

On the front I added some extra decoration - a row of grosgrain ribbon, a row of lace and a row of thin ribbon. These are all pieces that I have saved in a box from chocolates or those annoying loops to keep clothes on the hanger in shops. Where the thin ribbon wasn't long enough, I had to make a join so I covered this with a cute bow.
Next I stitched the sides and bottom of the bag together.

To make a flat bottom, I turned the bag inside out and squashed the corner flat, matching up the side and bottom seams. I ruled a line across at 45 degrees, measuring down from the corner each side to check it was even, and then sewed across. I tacked in a piece of craft vilene to give the base a bit of rigidity.
Then I started on the lining. I was using 2 cotton fat quarters that I had lying around. I wanted a big pocket but the cotton was very thin so I bonded a large square of calico behind the pocket area with Bondaweb to reinforce it.

The pocket is 2 pieces of dress fabric, 1.5 times wider than the finished size. I sewed round 3 of the sides, right sides together and turned through. Then pressed under a channel for elastic at the top and sewed that. I basted 4 pleats on the bottom edge, threaded elastic through the top edge, pulled up the fabric to match the bottom and stitched to secure. Then I could sew the pocket to the lining. I used the pattern on the lining as a guide, which was handy! Finally I sewed the 2 pieces of lining together along the sides only.

Then I made the handles by putting 2 strips right sides together and sewing down the long edges only. I turned them through with the aid of a large safety pin, pressed and sewed a zig-zag top-stitch down both sides to keep them flat. I used zig-zag so that the stitches could give if the handles came under strain.

The final assembly is the tricky part as there are so many layers to sew through by now. I started by sewing the handles on firmly inside the top seam allowance and pinning them out of the way. They are lined up with the edge of the second patchwork square.

Then with the bag right side out and the lining wrong side out, pull the lining over the outside of the bag, line up the top edge and side seams, pin and stitch. Turn the lining to the right side and press. It would be advisable at this point to top-stitch the lining to the seam allowance to stop the lining rolling out to the outside of the bag, but I didn't think to do it until too late so had to add a row of top stitching round the top at the end.

Next I pressed under the raw edges of the lining on the bottom edge and sewed them together from the right side. I pushed the corners in to match the shape of the bag and sewed across them too so that things won't get lost in the folds of lining at the bottom of my bag. And that was that - I am so pleased with this, it makes me smile every time I look at it.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Leaf Printing

I have been printing leaves to see how they come out on fabric. I just painted slightly thinned acrylic paint onto the back of leaves and printed them onto calico, Bondaweb and polyester crepe. The ones on the calico and Bondaweb came out equally clear but the paint just sank into the crepe to give ghostly images.

Next I cut some of them out and bonded them onto a rectangle of calico. I had covered the whole piece of calico with Bondaweb first.
I added random squares and strips of sheer fabrics and then added some of the leaves printed on Bondaweb on top. I ironed them all down between sheets of Baking Paper.

Then I started free-machining around the leaves, picking out the stem and veins. I used a variegated black and white machine embroidery thread and I love the result. It is just plain black thread in the bobbin so the line of stitching looks quite broken up.

I tried to jerk the fabric backwards and forwards around the edge of some of the leaves to give a pointed uneven outline. You need to run your machine fast to do this else you risk pulling the needle out of alignment and breaking it on the needle plate.

I really like how this leaf came out too - this is a Bondaweb print on top of the sheer fabric. I think I like the sepia quality it has.
Once I had stitched all the printed leaves I had a go at putting some extra ones in freehand. I don't like them as much as the printed ones so I only did a few. It is really hard to get the outline and veins looking realistic.
I also really like how they look on the back in just the plain black thread!

I will certainly do more leaf prints on Bondaweb in the future - a possible inclusion on my Wasteland hanging that I am working up to.
Finally, I have made 50 of these this week! They are to sell at the Museum where I volunteer on the Halloween themed Open Day coming up. I used 15cm long black pipecleaners twisted round the base of a lollipop. I found a bag of old googly eyes but I reckon you could cut or punch circles out of labels and put a black dot on with a marker pen.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Hand stitch 'flowers'

I have finally finished a piece of hand stitch that I have been working on throughout the summer. I got the idea to do this from a piece in Workshop on the Web by Jennifer McFarlane. It is stitched onto a single layer of muslin in a hoop, which allows the threads to make a hole in the middle of flower. As you can see I have used every type of neutral thread I possess and it was interesting to see the effect each type gave. Some were not that nice so after using up the thread in the needle it didn't get used again. Some others were very pleasing and so I used them a lot.
I started by just stitching whorls of flowers, usually with eyelet stitch, and added buttonhole wheels, woven and ribbed webs, lazy daisies, diagonal satin filling, bullion knots and pistil stitches. I also sewed french knots in between. I made some free-machined flowers and webs on water soluble fleece to add a different texture in places and stitched them on too.
I didn't set out to cover the whole area of the hoop but it felt right to carry on until I had!
When I had finished stitching there were still quite a lot of gaps so I raided the bead box and sewed a load of beads on too. I particularly like the seed pearls standing up on end in the middle, secured with a tiny pink rocaille - they look like insect eggs in the middle of it all. I'm not sure what I am going to do with it now it's done!

Otherwise, this week I have been doing practical sewing - making a roman blind for our bedroom. I have been meaning to do this for a year now but college work was always more interesting!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bondaweb 'prints'

This week a piece of my textiles based on Daisies was accepted for publication in online creative textiles magazine, Workshop on the Web. I feel honoured and very pleased about this - it is the culmination of a fantastic sabbatical year - and I will be paid too!

The editor of this magazine is Maggie Grey and by chance she was speaking at the local Embroiderer's Guild this week, so I went along and met her. Her talk was engaging and full of interesting techniques, one of which I have tried out straight away.

It is a method of transferring an image onto fabric using the adhesive powers of Bondaweb. As I am working up to a large wall hanging based on a theme of 'wastelands' I chose the image on the right.
This is a drawing from the chapter headings in an old wildflower identification book - 'Dry Wastelands' in this case!

I photocopied it on the printer. Then I cut a piece of calico and Bondaweb to the same size. Iron the Bondaweb onto the calico and remove the backing paper when cool.

Next iron the printed image, ink side down onto the Bondaweb under a piece of Baking Paper so that you don't burn the print.
I left it overnight to 'develop', as recommended by Maggie.

To reveal the print, brush the back of the paper with water to get it thoroughly wet. When you can see the whole image through the wet paper start gently scrubbing away at the paper with the rough side of a kitchen sponge. This is messy but quite quick.
When finished, rinse under the tap and leave to dry.

I am impressed by how easy this was and how clear the final result is. It feels soft and not at all plasticky.

I guess that if you used a less smooth fabric the image would be less clear - Maggie showed us some samples on felt which were quite faint and blurry.

My background fabric and paper colour are a similar colour but you would get a completely different result if done on a dark fabric as some of the white paper fibres are still stuck to the Bondaweb.
I got the results of my seaweed pressing workshop - all my samples survived the pressing process and look amazing. My favourite is this one - the detail it preserves is incredible. It looks like a very fine pencil drawing.

Finally, there were some beautiful quilts on display at Bursledon Brickworks Industrial Museum Heritage Day, where I volunteer. They were by the local quilting group and all on the theme of 'By the Sea'.

Festival of Quilts

I have been a bit hopeless in writing about my visit to the Festival of Quilts at the NEC last month. I enjoyed it much more than I was expecting and my friends from college and I went round all the displays saying 'I wonder how they did that' to each other constantly!

These are my favourites from the many hundreds on display. I cannot name their makers as this info was contained in the catalogue, which I was too tight to buy.

I liked this round design because the central part is all made out of patterned fabric, which probably looked most unpromising but has been used to brilliant effect to create a kind of iris.
A clever design - I'm guessing that the main trunks were appliqued onto the strip background but the way the background evokes tree trunks too is brilliant.
This looks like some photo-editing effect on an atmospheric photo of some old stairs. I think it was done using reverse applique.
Part of a quilt which was created with gaps in joined by rows of beads. The accuracy and patience needed for this is astounding.
A massive colour-fest all done with checks and stripes.

Above is the whole quilt and to the right is a close up. They were squares of dyed silk, stitched in the centre and then probably twisted when wet to reveal the shading - gorgeous!
As you have probably worked out from this blog I am a sucker for anything with seed heads on.
Simple but very effective - and a prize winner. I particularly like the composition of the branches to give the effect of looking up through the trees.

Above is the whole massive quilt - I am not mad about the colours here but I loved the little birds and bullrushes, shown in the detail on the right. This shows how effective a stencil or screen print can be.

We all loved these fish - this is only part of the quilt and for some reason I didn't photograph the whole thing. I'm not sure how they were created but they really looked like a shoal of silvery mackerel on that inky background.
Finally, my favourite one of all. This came first in its category and again shows the effective use of stamps or stencils for both the foliage and the flower heads.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Daisy project

Eliza's painted Bondaweb
This week's project was inspired by Gwen Hedley's book 'Surfaces for Stitch'. I wanted to try the technique of painting Bondaweb as a way of colouring fabric. I had a 'stitch buddy' this week, Eliza, the 12 year old daughter of friends who stayed the weekend so in this blog I will show both our pieces.

My painted Bondaweb
We began by painting the Bondaweb with some watered down acrylic paints on the rough side. As the backing paper was still attached, it crinkled and made a rippled effect. You can use fabric paints too but acrylics were all I had and worked well.

Whilst the paints were drying we cut some calico for the backing fabric and a drew on it with Intense Pencils. Eliza drew a bee and I drew daisies and text. Then we cut a piece of plain Bondaweb and laid it on top. Onto this we put some daisies cut out of a piece of craft paper and decorative threads. We ironed this down between 2 sheets of Baking Parchment to protect the iron to make the background more manageable.

Eliza's background

My background
Then we ironed on the painted Bondaweb, which muted down the background a lot. On top of this Eliza made very neat coils of yellow wool for daisy centres and petals from embroidery floss. She ironed on each of these as she went. The Bondaweb can be reheated as many times as necessary, which makes it easy.
Eliza's piece ready for final ironing
Finally we added a layer of sheer fabric over the top to cover the applied threads and make the surface easier to stitch. It also gets rid of the plasticky feel of the painted Bondaweb surface. Eliza chose a gold shot organza. 
Here is her final piece. She hasn't decided whether to add any further stitching yet. It it beautiful and very impressive for her age. She really enjoyed doing this project.
Eliza's finished piece
In my piece I ripped out most of my daises and placed them randomly with threads on my background and bonded them down. Then I cut my painted Bondaweb up into blocks and ironed them down on top. Next I added further cut out paper daisies, decorative threads, squares of sheer fabrics, angelina fibres and some orange bag net. I placed a dark blue chiffon over the top and ironed it down. The daisies I drew on the calico have been obliterated!

My piece after final ironing
Where the chiffon went over the sheer squares it didn't bond down very securely so I added some stitching. Mostly I used free-machining to echo the daisies and thicker threads but I also added some machine-patterns to echo the orange bag net. My machine didn't like free-maching over the paper but it improved when I changed to a new needle.

My finished piece
I am very pleased with the final result. It looks intricate and interesting and I am inspired to create a larger wall hanging using the same technique.