Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Mixed Media Wall Art

This was another technique I picked up at The Crafts House.

The idea (I think!), is to divide up your chosen piece into equal portions - in this case squares and 'treat' each individually.  Here, I'v'e gone a step further and incorporated rectangles, comprising 2 or 3 of the squares.
The materials I used range from wallpaper, through to plush velvet. I've also included a small piece of blackwork and the embellishment uses embroidery, scraps of thread and pumpkin seeds painted gold.  The 'punctum' is a brass ring covered in blanket stitch.

The world's your lobster with this, as it costs virtually nothing to produce and it can be made any size at all to suit your needs.

Mine sits happily on the porch wall.  I'm seriously considering doing something similar but on a grander scale, to go above my bed.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

When it all goes wrong...

I know.  Cute, isn't it?  This is a knitting pattern from a Sublime booklet.

My grand-daughter was born last May, so a few weeks ago, I decided to make this for her - using just one colour, but with a contrasting one in the ruffled edges.

I knitted the back.  I knitted the sleeves.  I knitted the right front.

When it came to the left front, I realised there was something wrong.  It didn't fit against the other front, or the back.  I went over the pattern again and again.  No explanation.  In desperation, I pulled out the last front and started it again; but once I got so far,  I realised it still wasn't going to fit.

Eventually - and admittedly after a couple of glasses of wine - I decided I must have made a mistake with the back!  So I pulled that out and started that piece again.  It wasn't long  before it was obvious that there was something radically wrong.

Reality struck.  I'd knitted the 'correct' pieces in one size and the last piece two sizes smaller.  That's not all.  I knew at the beginning I might be really pushed for wool; I might just have enough, but hoped the contrast ruffle might win the day.  Wrong.  I wasn't even going to have enough to knit the last piece.  What's more - the wool is discontinued.

Guess where the unfinished cardi ended up yesterday - in the bin!

Now, I'm normally a patient and persevering kind of person, but rarely, something like this goes wrong and I just get to the point where I never want to look at the thing again.

Nowadays, I don't let it get it to me, 'cos most things come out right.  But - Tabitha - Gran is really sorry and will try much harder next time. x

Monday, 27 February 2012

Vases from Bottles

Something very simple today.  I came across this idea in a Martha Stewart craft book.

From left to right, the original bottles contained - ginger beer, bath oil and washing up liquid.  I sprayed them with off-white matt paint and fixed lace around the necks.  Then I made the decorative tags from polymer clay and embellished them, and threaded ribbon through the holes.

I found that the lighter bottles need weighting down if they're not to fall, or be blown, over: I used rice.

These sit on my kitchen window sill and bring a bit of brightness into my life every time I wash dishes.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

The Art Journal

This time last year, I had no idea at all of the art journal process.

When I was at school, I somehow got the impression that I was rubbish at art and so for many years I accepted that and stayed as far away from it as possible.  I've heard many people say the same sort of thing about maths, for instance.  Maybe it's down to uninspired teaching - I don't know.

So it was purely by chance that I discovered The Crafts House and the lovely Sandra, some years ago.  I was so blown away by the wonderful stuff on display that, with Sandra's patient encouragement,  I determined that I was going to face my fears and get stuck in.  I really do wish I had more time to concentrate on art.

This is a journal I began last year.  I particularly like this kind of technique because I'm an 'itsy-bitsy' kind of crafter: I really enjoy working small-scale.

I started with an A4 spiral bound artist's book, then lay down a background treatment on the paper, with two pages for each month.  For June, I used blues and silvers, and 'shadow stamped' squares over it.  Each of the days is represented by a square piece of card, numbered for the date wherever possible, and is decorated and embellished individually.

Of course, my life isn't so exciting that I could think of dramatic happenings for each of the days, so some of them are 'empty' of content.

Since then, other things have overtaken my life, so that I haven't had anything like the time I'd love to devote to developing my art.  Oh, for 72 hours (at least) in the day!  So, I'm making myself a promise to devote several hours each week to the art journal, and practise and experiment with how I can transfer this kind of technique to other projects.  

Friday, 24 February 2012

Homemade Bag

I've made several different kinds of bags but this one is my favourite.

I had an old one and liked the style and shape of it, but wasn't fussy on the fabric it was made from.  So I made a paper pattern from it to use for my own homemade bag.

That determined the size and shape of the front flap, so I could go to work on creating a new one.  Firstly, I cut a piece of muslin a few inches larger all round than the pattern.  Then I simply stuck random pieces of fabric all over it.

Once covered, I machine zig-zagged across all the places where the pieces of fabric overlapped.  Now comes the fun bit...

Using a cutting mat, (big breath), I sliced the whole into 2" strips: then turned some of these round, top to bottom.  That done, I stuck these strips down closely together on another piece of muslin and zig-zagged down each row.

Back to the cutting mat - I turned the piece 90 degrees, and sliced 2" strips again and repeated the last step.  That leaves you with a square-patch effect, but each of the squares will be completely different and contain all sorts of shapes/bits from your original arrangement.

I trimmed it to fit the front-flap pattern and embellished it to within an inch of its new life, with different hand embroidery stitches, tiny metallic bits of things and even managed to fashion a butterfly and a spider's web.

For the rest of the bag, I chose a tan suede-effect fabric and used a magnetic catch for closing.

This is another technique that is not just fun, but very economical in using up all manner of scraps you might have hanging around.

Not just for a homemade bag, though.  It can also be used to make cushion covers, wall-hangings etc and I'm sure others will have lots of other great ideas for how to use it.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Small Gold Cushion


I'm always on the look out for unusual embroidery patterns and this one really appealed to me.  The original was published some years ago - I think in New Issues magazine, and the colours used were quite different to this.  Also, it was larger and rectangular in shape.

The design is geometrical, with both large and small repeated motifs, but the rest of it actually appears quite random.

It's basically counted-thread work and I have to admit it does take  some concentration.  Every one of the 'flowers' is different, and they're joined by straight stitch stems and leaves.

I fancied doing this one in shades of gold and I've embellished it with gold sequins in the centre of each of the 'flowers'.  This particular one is quite small - about 10" square.  Again, it's my favourite embroidery fabric - tea-dyed 28 count evenweave.

I did several others in the same pattern, but using greens and reds, and the effect was quite different.  It's amazing how you can bring your imagination to bear on a good pattern, to give such varied outcomes.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Wall hangings

If you're stuck for ideas/money to fill a wall space, wall hangings are a great idea.

I made this one from scraps of fabric, bonded them to a cotton backing, hand embroidered where the pieces met, then trimmed to make a square.  Each of these was bound, again by hand.  Then I simply stuck them firmly to thick scrap cardboard.

They're joined together with beads.  At the top, I added a curtain ring; at the bottom I attached larger beads and a tassel.  Voila!

You could, of course, with imagination, customise and vary the shape/size etc. of yours, and embellish to taste. With wall hangings, there's so much scope and little demand on your bank account.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Elaborated Embroidery

Since I devised this technique myself, it doesn't have an actual name, as yet.

Technically, it's not only cross stitch, but a combination of that and 'back' or 'straight' stitch, all based on counting the threads of the fabric.

A good number of years ago, I hit on the idea of designing geometrically based patterns, based loosely on traditional 'blackwork', but with crucial differences: while that technique invariably comprises straight stitches and only sometimes 'simple' cross stitches, I give greater definition to a pattern by combining the two in original ways; crucially, however, instead of a solid coloured embroidery thread, I use variegated.; and lastly, of course, comes my favourite bit - embellishment.  Here I've used gold metallic thread, which gives the finished cloth a rich and sumptuous effect: it also adds quite a lot of weight, so the finished product really does feel like 'cloth of gold'.

I often add tiny, tiny beads - coloured and/or metallic, always placed in keeping with the basic geometrical design.

I should, perhaps, mention that I always use evenweave fabric - 28 or 32 count, usually - which, I think, 'hides' the fact that it's all achieved by counting threads.

Very often I 'tea dye' the evenweave, before I start, because I adore the finished 'antique' effect to the whole.  I believe that this equals heirloom embroidery any day!

This work particularly lends itself to cushions and I've made many, of all different colours, sizes and shapes.

It does take time, and patience, but I find this kind of work nothing short of meditative.

Try it and I guarantee you'll come to love it.

Friday, 17 February 2012

How To Fabric Paint

This is just a very brief explanation of how to fabric paint, with an example of how I use it.

Firstly, I decided on the size of the cushion I wanted to make.  Then I traced my design and replicated it on the central, in this case muslin, fabric.

I use acrylic paints, and mix them with fabric medium (available in places like Hobbycraft).
To embellish the top portion, I 'spotted' with the darker colour and added a ' jewel' to the lower part.
Then I used embroidery thread for the running stitch around the actual design and the borders of the muslin.

The face is, again, muslin - painted and then stuck with a 'bonding' product: I prefer BondaWeb but there are others.
Lastly, I added the borders.

I've found that actually getting down and doing it is the very best way of learning how to fabric paint.  Practise.  On scraps of fabric.  More endless possibilities, limited only by imagination.  For instance a small cushion like this could be designed and/or customised as a gift  - for babies and children, birthdays, weddings etc - and personalised however you wish.

Thursday, 16 February 2012


I devised this technique some years ago, while 'playing'.   Ideas for wallart are limitless.  This technique is fun: you don't quite know what you're going to end up with.  In this case, I've composed a selection of 'inchies' ie inch square card prints, and then embellished each individually.

Of course, the actual composition can be customised - size/colours of pieces and embellishment techniques, and the whole could be framed in many different ways.

I think this sort of thing would make a wonderful, personalised gift - designed specifically to commemorate an occasion, perhaps.  Though this one, unusually, is definitely staying at home.

Wallart is wonderful!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Cross-Stitched Cushion

As I explained in the 'My Background' page on here, I started my embroidery life with cross stitch.  As many do.  There came a time when I wanted to expand my repertoire and I have since enjoyed using many different embroidery stitches.

However, I'm regularly disappointed when I hear stitchers berate this technique, on the grounds, I assume, that, at best it's too simple and/or 'twee', at worst too restricting.

I don't agree: and I often come back to it.  I have seen some wonderful pieces of cross stitch work.  With imagination and just a bit of flair, not to mention embellishment (in this example - sequins -  it can give beautiful effects.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Small Cushion

A brief departure, for Valentine's Day.  A small cushion made for Tabitha.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Heirloom Embroidery Cushion

Now, I have to admit that this technique is one of my very favourites.  I always use evenweave fabric when embroidering something like this: I think it gives a far nicer result than aida,  I also like the tone-on-tone effect - so subtle - yet really set off by the contrasting thread of the darker backstitch panels and centre motifs.

The design comprises quite a variety of stitches, including hardanger (cutwork) at the sides, and is embellished with beads and pearls.

This one belongs, again, to my daughter, Charis and, I believe, is one of her favourites.  Another one I made in slightly different colours now belongs to my good friend and neighbour, Sue.

Anyone recognising a theme here, yet?  No worry...I only ever give my stuff to people I know will really appreciate it. With love.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Baby's Memory Box

A baby's memory box offers all manner of possibilities, as far as decoration is concerned.  I made this this one for my grand-daughter's Christmas present last year.

It took a while to find the right box: her mother wanted quite a large one and it needed to be robust, given that it will hopefully need to last at least one lifetime (I like to think of all my stuff as heirlooms!).  Papier-mache type ones were obviously out of the question and hardwood ones proved to be too heavy.

Eventually I found this plywood one at Ikea and, even though she could probably climb inside it now, it really fitted the bill.

I'd already made her cot quilt and bumper in a patchwork design, so thought it would be a good idea to copy one of the fabrics from those and paint it.  The logistics were easy - since it was flat-packed, I painted the panels separately before construction.  Quite a painstaking job but I enjoyed it and all concerned seemed really satisfied.

Let's hope this particular baby's memory box fills up with wonderful things!

I need to acknowledge Sandra, from The Crafts House (see link), here.  A wonderful woman who has encouraged me to develop my art skills over the years.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Mala's Tiny Teddy

This is a tiny teddy I embroidered some years ago, for my grand-daughter, Mala.  I found the pattern in an Inspirations magazine, see link below.  Unfortunately, the Australian producers don't retail in the UK any longer, which is a great shame, because the publication is exquisitely beautiful.  You can, however, subscribe for multiple copies.

The teddy is only about 5" high, so the actual embroidery and embellishment was extremely fiddly.  I was happy with it, though.  So, I think, was Mala, who insisted upon walking, well toddling, around with it in her mouth for hours.
Don't think I'd do another one!

Friday, 10 February 2012

First Quilt

Since I intend to post pictures of my projects here, as I go along, it just so happens that I have guardianship of this at the moment.  It's the first quilt I ever made and was for my daughter, Charis, on her 21st birthday.  That was 2001 !  I can't take credit for the fabric selection - she has a great eye for colour/design - but I did stitch it completely by hand.  Sadly, I need to return it to her when she visits in a few weeks time.