They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
How many of you have a cupboard full of fabric scraps and bits and bobs that ‘will come in handy one day’? Well I have to admit that I have cupboards and boxes of fabric scraps. Over the last couple of weeks I have challenged myself to incorporate these within my embroideries and I would like to share with you some of the results. I have produced three miniature quilts using this method.
I have used a range of fabrics and textures to create a background fabric. These have been layered and pieced together with free machine embroidery, these are worked on 3″ squares.
By using different fabrics, papers and lace you can create an interesting and textured background fabric.
Shabby chic inspired my first couple of quilts. Live, Laugh Love and Love, Life, Happiness were embroidered onto the background fabrics along with free machine appliquéd hearts. The fabrics were further embellished with hand embroidery and buttons.
The first set of squares I created were Live, Laugh, Love. I made a background by quilting a piece of hand dyed cotton using free machine squiggles and hearts. The squares are hand sewn onto the quilted fabric; the back fabric is attached and the edges are finished using blanket stitch.
For the Love, Life, Happiness quilt I made a background fabric from fabric scraps. I have free machined strips of fabric together and then quilted them. The three squares were then hand embroidered onto this background and finished with blanket stitch.
I love the rugged finish on both of these miniature quilts and the most satisfying thing is that all materials were found treasures in my bits and bobs box.
As you will know by now I love flowers and at this time of year I am fascinated with the delicate structures of the seed heads. My third quilt is inspired by these. I have free machined seed heads onto my pieced background fabrics and then further embellished with hand embroidery. My backgrounds have been created using fabric scraps/strips and free machined together.
I have loved making these. They have provided me with the perfect opportunity to switch off and unwind for a while. A good coffee and a relaxing playlist always help.
Since my post last week I have been inspired to create some pieces of textile art that I would like to share with you.
My love for wild flowers has been my inspiration over the last few days. Here are some of the photographs I have used for my inspiration along with my embroideries. These are worked on a cotton Jacquard woven fabric with layered organza and tulle embellished with hand embroidery .
I can honestly say that I have managed to rekindle my passion and love for hand embroidery; this has proven to be the best medicine for me over the last few days.
Unfortunately over the last couple of weeks I have struggled with my balance; as I have been unable to get around very much I have had time to rekindle my passion for textile art. I have so many beautiful threads and fabrics that the first problem I have had to overcome is what to choose? I am not going to lie this did take me a couple of days 🙂
My favourite techniques are hand embroidery, free machine embroidery, layering fabrics and adding textures so I have initially concentrated on using these.
Yesterday was a struggle for me with regards to moving around so I sat myself down with a few scraps of organza and tulle, my hand dyed embroidery threads, a few beads and a piece of woven Jacquard cotton. A couple of hours later I was relaxed and pleased with the end result.
I have used some of my favourite colours and stitches including French knots, couched boucle yarn and straight stitch.
I have started some layering and free machine embroidery so hopefully there will be a new post in the very near future ……
Last summer I started to write this blog primarily to share my love of embroidery and textile art. I had many good intentions to continue writing and sharing however my job has proven to digest all of my time and I have been unable to find the time to commit to the blog and this has started to upset me. I would like to review my live decisions and try to readdress my work life balance.
Ten years ago this summer I made the decision to go back to university to complete my teacher training course. At this time I was running my own business dyeing threads and fabrics and running a small craft shop; within the business I ran a wide range of creative workshops and I found that I loved this part of the job. I had completed my adult education qualifications however I still felt that I had more to give and in 1996 I made a massive career changing decision to complete my post-graduate qualification in education. I received so much support from my family throughout this year, without them I could not have continued to run my business and complete my studies but throughout this they had faith in me and also believed that I could succeed within education and continue to pass on my enthusiasm and passion for a subject I loved, Textiles.
In 1996 there was a national shortage of Design and Technology teachers and I was qualified to teach both Food Technology and Textiles, this appeared to be the perfect career change providing me with the opportunity to continue my love of teaching to a wider audience.
I loved it! It was very hard work however the time spent with the teenagers was so rewarding it made it al worthwhile. I was able to watch them learn new skills and develop knowledge and understanding of this subject. I am not going to lie, it was challenging and I worked long hours but initially I was able to teach and work with a wide range of children and work with a wide range of needs and I was able to work out ways of delivering interesting lessons to engage children and encourage them to experiment and find their own niche.
Today I find myself working all hours to meet the demands of the headship team, ofsted and government policies; what has happened to the needs of the children sitting in front of us? I have read countless articles in the press about the stresses and demands that teachers are under, how many are leaving teaching after many years, how the work life balance has become impossible to manage, how so many teachers are on medication for depression. I do not have to read any of these articles as I see this everyday in my working life and it is getting worse every day. I am also aware of how the public perceive a teachers life; working Monday to Friday school hours and 13 weeks holiday a year yet we are constantly moaning, I am writing this blog to review this common belief as I would quite like to have this idyllic teaching career however it does not exist – can I make this work?
Here is a true scenario – An eleven year child walks into my classroom for the first time. They look around the walls, displays and equipment and are intrigued as they have not used a sewing machine or seen a heat press or embroidery machine before – at this point it could be easy to engage this child through practical activity. This is a practical subject and as an eleven year old they just want to learn how to use the equipment and make a product however we need to provide evidence of progress; children must demonstrate that the are able to write the date and underline it and then they must write a title and underline it, as a teacher I must ensure that they have used a ruler and if they have not completed this I must indicate this error using a red pen and then they must correct it using a green pen to show that they can act upon my feedback and improve their work. The eleven year old child really just wants to have a go of the sewing machine however before they can do this they must demonstrate their clear knowledge and understanding of this process in written text to enable the teacher to assess their level of understanding and provide written feedback on how to improve this written task, then the child is to act upon this feedback to demonstrate to the headship team and ofsted inspectors that as a teacher I am regularly marking pupils work and providing them with the opportunity to improve it. All the child wants to do is demonstrate their knowledge and understanding through practical work with the teacher regularly providing verbal feedback on how to improve and praise for excellent work. There are children who can achieve excellent results through their practical skills and their grades may be dictated by their academic ability and this also works the other way, just because a child is in top sets for all academic subjects does not mean that they are creative or even have the ability to hold a pair of scissors correctly.
With work scrutinies occurring every few weeks to ensure that all books are marked and data being inputted and analysed every four weeks to ensure that pupils are making progress teachers do not have the time to embed skills and encourage creativeness within children and they have to constantly provide evidence and a professional opinion is no longer valid without a paper trail of evidence. A constant plethora of emails issuing unrealistic deadlines and tasks has knocked the passion out of my bones and I feel resentful that I no longer have to time to sit with a child and really share my love of the subject to encourage them to explore, experiment and create as this is not always measurable.
The government have decided that they know what all children should study; that the schools performance should be measured against the English Baccalaureate. Within the EBacc proposal every pupil taking their GCSEs would have to study a minimum of seven, narrowly defined, GCSEs: English literature and English language, maths, double or triple science, a modern and/or ancient language, history and/or geography. The EBacc has had a massive impact on children as there is now little time left for pupils to study design and technology, art, dance, music, drama or any other creative industry relevant subjects such as hair and beauty, engineering, business, travel and tourism, food and catering. I am not a political person but I have seen the detrimental effect that this is having on schools and children’s choices. Not all pupils want to follow this academic programme, this does not suit everyone, where are their choices?
Ten years! I began this journey ten years ago when there was a national shortage of Design and Technology teachers, now there are redundancies looming in our school as this subject is no longer accessible to these children through their limited choices. I feel saddened by this situation – what does the future hold? More and more experienced teachers are leaving the profession and in most cases they are being forced out. On the days when I can shut buy classroom door and teach the children sitting in front of me I love my job. I wish I could do this every day without the justification, accountability and production of evidence, analysing data and explaining how I will ensure progress for each individual child – I am a professional and I endeavour to plan and teach every lesson to meet the needs of every child sitting in front of me, I provide an environment for learning and manage the behaviour effectively, I aim to provide pupils with praise and advice on how to progress further, every child is different and I intend to engage them and encourage their learning. Why do I need to provide evidence of this after every lesson and justify the outcomes? Am I a professional person?
I began writing this to reflect upon my work life balance and I have had a bit of a rant – I apologise to anyone who has read this – I have had to write this to come to the conclusion that on the days that I can shut that classroom door and teach the children, share my love of textiles, encourage creativity and engage them I love my job. Sadly these days are shadowed by other priorities that are cascaded down to teachers without consideration of how these are effecting their lives. Unfortunately I see these effects every day with an unrealistic work life balance. I am currently on a school holiday with a mountain of marking staring me in the face and I have to go into school to work with pupils next week for two days and I must go in for another day to mark more work – so much for a break 🙁 All I want to do is walk by the lake and crochet a few random squares….. I am off for a walk
Well summer is finally over. I am back to work and buried under a massive pile of work so I have decided to crawl out of the work mass and share with you a project that I completed over the summer. I realise it has been a while since my last post but I have spent most if August in the Lake District in my bolt hole with minimum internet or telephone reception, pure bliss. The peace and tranquility has been fantastic, it is such a shame I have to go to work.
My very good friend Cath works with stroke patients. Our caravans are on the same site however we live in opposite corners of the country therefore the time we spend together is treasured and our children have grown up to be great friends over many years. Anyway back to Cath, she messaged me over the summer to ask if I would have my sewing machine at the caravan as she had a challenge for me….. She was finding that one of the things patients struggle with is fastening clothes and she wanted me to make a therapy cushion for her male patients. We started this task with a shopping trip – charity shops for men’s clothes and then gift shops, clothes shopping and lunch for us, win win.
Equipped with a mans shirt and a pair of trousers we waited for a cloudy afternoon and then got started. I used the front of the shirt for one side of the cushion to enable to patients to practice fastening shirt buttons and pocket buttons and then used the top of the trousers for the other side for zip and button rehabilitation. As the cover needed to be removable for washing I used the shirt fastening as an opening to allow easy removal of the cushion.
As you can see the end product was successful and has been used many times already in the hospital. I am sure she will be requiring a one for the ladies next……..
There is nothing nicer than a field of brightly coloured sunflowers dancing together in the gentle breeze to cheer you up and make you smile. I travel to France every year and each time I see these fields of sunflowers I am instantly relaxed and smiling.
I have recently returned home to England after spending two glorious weeks in the Loire region of France. We have a very humble abode in the guise of a 1980s touring caravan which remains in storage in France as I fear it would fall apart if we were to attempt to tow it anywhere. This little caravan is our home for two weeks every year on the banks of the river Cher where I have the most spectacular view from my front door.
Sunset on the river Cher
We first visited this camp site in 2005 and since then we have embarked on a 1500 mile round trip every year for the last 10 years. The boys all enjoy fishing and I enjoy reading quietly in these beautiful surroundings. The local wine cave is within walking distance so what more can a girl want or need.
Sunflower fields have been the inspiration for my textile work over the last few years and I would like to share a few of these embroideries with you whilst these cheerful flowers are still in the forefront of my mind.
This embroidery is worked entirely in straight stitch. Through using a variety of yarns in a range of thicknesses you can instantly add dimension to your work. Hand dyed threads and fabric will provide a wide range of shades.
I began this embroidery by hand dyeing a piece of silk calico fabric, this is a soft unbleached fabric that has natural slubs within the weave. The outline of drooping petals were then painted onto the fabric using acrylic paints and a fine paint brush.
A range of hand dyed threads are used to add texture to the petals and background. Threads used include fine cotton, cotton perle, chinese silk, medium silk and stranded linen. Interest is created through altering the length and denseness of the straight stitch and changing the direction of the stitch in each petal.
Trapunto is a form of Italian quilting where shapes are filled, this is a technique that can add dimension to your work and provide raised and flat areas. This is also known as the ‘stuffing technique’ because through utilising two layers of fabric and outline stitches specific areas can be filled.
I began this textile work by using clear silk gutta (resist) to outline the sunflower and leaf shapes onto a piece of stretched silk habotai. Once this has dried silk paints are applied and allowed to spread to the resist. I have used iron fix paints therefore once dried the fabric is pressed to fix the colours and then the gutta is washed out – this will leave a white outline. To enable the shapes to be filled I layered the silk habotai onto a piece of calico fabric and tacked these together.
Working through the tow layers the flowers and leaves are outlined by couching a thick hand dyed cotton thread to cover all white lines. When all of the outline is covered I have selected the areas that will be raised, using embroidery scissors a small cut is made into the backing fabric to enable filling to be pushed into the shape until the required thickness is achieved, the incision is then sewn closed.
Once the desired shapes are filled I have added french knots in the flower centres using a viscose ribbon and straight stitch stars in the background with cotton thread.
To begin I tacked together a piece of hand dyed organza onto cotton calico. I have used hand dyed threads to stem stitch around the petals and leaves. Once the outline was completed I have made small cuts into the backing fabric and filled each petal, leaf and flower centre with hand dyed silk fibres. Once the shapes were filled and the incisions closed the final details were added, stem stitched leaf vein and french knots in flower centre.
The main fabric for this work is hand dyed silk velvet, this is a very soft fabric that can be easily manipulated to create texture. For the raised circles in the centre of this work small areas of the silk velvet have been free machine embroidered with circles – the ruched effect is produced by winding shirring elastic onto the bobbin and this pulls the fabric into small raised circles. The outer edges of this work have been free machined with vermicelli stitch with machine embroidery thread on the bobbin and in the needle.
Texture is further added using a fabric that I have named ‘bubble fabric’. hand dyed nylon organza is gently held near a candle and moved in circular motion, by allowing the heat of the flame to melt the fabric in with your circular movements you can create a bubble textured fabric. If you would like to experiment with this technique I advise that you do this near a sink full of water, if the fabric ignites it can be easily extinguished.
Further embellishments are added with French knots and beads.
I hope you have enjoyed reading my sunflower post and seeing some of the textiles that I have created after visiting France and being inspired by these wonderful flower fields. Even after visiting for many years I am still in awe of this vision and I look forward to seeing them every year. I am going to leave you all with a photograph of the enchanting château situated at the end of our camp site. I am already looking forward to returning to this magical place next year.
At work this week there were a couple of colleagues leaving who had helped out over my sick leave. I really wanted to give them a small gift as a way of saying Thank you. I would like to share with you the gift cards I made for these colleagues.
Canvas can be a brilliant background fabric for small projects as it is stiff and easy to handle however the stark whiteness can often put people off using this fabric. By colouring the canvas it can be used for free embroidery as you do not have to cover all of the background. I colour the canvas using silk paints as these are colourfast once pressed with a hot iron. When canvas is wet the stiffener used in the fabric sizing softens and the canvas will quickly lose its shape therefore the canvas must be pinned out into position onto a board to prevent any distortion. Once prepared the canvas may be painted with the silk paint, this must be then left to dry thoroughly then it can be unpinned and pressed.
This gift card was embroidered onto hand painted canvas using rayon and cotton embroidery threads. The stems are embroidered using straight stitches, the flower petals are bullion knots and the flower centres are french knots.
The daisy in this gift card was embroidered using cotton embroidery thread. The petals are embroidered with pistil stitch and the flower centre is embroidered with french knots.
In April I taught myself how to crochet. This is something I have wanted to learn for many years however never managed to get around to it. Whilst recuperating from a period of ill health I sat down with a book, You Tube, some yarn and a hook, a few months later I am hooked! I began this process by practicing stitches and trying to keep the same number of stitches on each row, I met a lady in a wool shop who kindly showed me how to start a chain and how to stitch a treble – she told me that this was the one and only stitch I would need to learn to move forward and after leaving the shop I have practiced and practiced.
The most confusing thing about crochet is the name of the stitches – trebles, as I learned them, are actually doubles in American patterns and doubles are singles – talk about making things complicated however this is where You Tube has helped me because I have been able to watch stitched being worked and then decide what they are called.
My first project was a hat and then I decided to have a go at amigurumi and I also made an iPad cover. The hat was a success – the rabbit was … well all I can say about the rabbit is that I have tried and the lady in the wool shop was right – trebles are the best.
After trying a couple of small projects I then began a blanket – I have called this my recovery blanket and I have then moved onto a couple of shrugs (I don’t have photos of these yet but they were mainly using treble stitches and I even tied new patterns and V stitches)
With this new hobby I was quickly collecting a variety of new bits and bobs including hooks and stitch markers – I have managed to pull myself away from my crochet for a while to make a storage roll. Now sewing is my first love and always will be so it only seems fitting that I have used my sewing skills to make something to keep my hooks safe. I have made this out of a selection of remnant fabrics I had in my sewing box. I began by making the inner of the roll by stitching down narrow pockets for the hooked and using ribbon for the needles, scissors and pins. The outer cover is decorated using crazy patchwork with free machine embroidery over the joins.
So last week I began my next crochet challenge and this one might take a while. At the Woolfest last month I bought a beautiful hand dyed indigo extra fine merino and silk yarn. This was in a hank so last week I sat myself down and wound it into a ball – this took a lot longer that I had imagined, I have 100g of this yarn which is lace weight and approx 800m long – thankfully I have a twirly gig that helped..
I have made a start at a fine shawl – it is worked on a size 2 hook. I have taken the pattern from a You Tube demonstration from which I have made notes and written up the pattern in a format that I can understand. This project may take some time…. I will keep you all updated on my progress
I am pleased to say that after showing my friend Cath how to crochet a granny square she too is also hooked and is now having a go at a shawl 🙂
The other evening my husband was reading my Woolfest blog, although I was in the other room I knew he had read it all as I heard a small gasp and then the words ‘Oh no!’ I guess he now knows that I am planning to do a little bit of dyeing so it will not come so much of a shock to him when he arrives home from work to a house full of wet threads! With this in mind I thought I would continue with a bit of textile work for the minute and creep back up on the dyeing.
Last weekend my husband and I went on a beautiful walk in Cumbria.
We have a humble abode (a small caravan!) in the North of the Lake District and this is our bolthole. My husband loves to fish which is ideal as I get to spend some time sewing or just relaxing. We love to walk – preferably a pub walk where there is always a light refreshment either along the way or at the end. Last weekend we walked from our caravan along to a beautiful little place called Isel and then we called into the Lakes Distillery on the way back, it would have been rude to walk past and not pop in.
Along our walks I am always on the look out for wild flowers and my husband loves some water so that he can look for fish – my goodness we really know how to enjoy ourselves 🙂 This was a perfect walk to combine fish and flowers…..
We walked down the river which led onto the most tranquil country lane, the hedgerows were filled with colour and scent. I have photographed so many flowers I could be embroidering for a long long time. Along the walk I photographed an abundance of colour icluding Buttercups, Clover, Vetch, Red Campion, Forget-me-nots, Irises, Herb Robert and Thistles.
My favourite flowers were the large Daisies in the hedgerow. I love the simplicity of this flower with the bright sunshine center and clean lines of the petals – this has been the inspiration for my next embroidery………
As we continued along our walk we heard a rumble in the sky -the Vulacn was approaching. This was a wonderful sight.
In the late sixties and early seventies my Dad worked on these magnificent beasts in the Royal Air Force. 2015 is the last year this aircraft with fly. It was amazing to see and hear this aircraft so close and we were directly under the flight path – it is a shame the cyclist did not appreciate it as much as we did.
So back to my embroidery…. Daisies
I prepared the background by using a piece of hand dyed muslin and backed this with a piece of cotton calico for stability.
The Daisies are three dimensional and have been worked on water soluble fabric. I trapped some yellow silk fibres and fabric scraps between two sheets of water soluble fabric – I arranged these in circles to represent the flower centers and secured these in place with machine embroidery. The flower petals were also worked with machine embroidery and when I was happy with the shape I washed away the water soluble fabric and allowed the flowers to dry.
The leaves are hand dyed muslin and scrim secured with hand straight stitch and once the Daisies were dry they were attached to the background fabric.
I now need some more spare time to produce textiles from my other photographs – Oh and I also need to dye some more stuff……