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.
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.
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.
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……
Last weekend my husband and I took our little dog Mini for a walk in Plessey Woods , this is a country park close to our home in Northumberland.
It was a beautiful afternoon and as we walked through the woods down to the river we found the riverbank filled with Red Campion flowers.
I love these with their brightly coloured flowers and delicate centres. These photographs have been the inspiration for this embroidery. I decided that I would create a layered background for this embroidery. Many years ago I used to teach this workshop and I called it ‘Encrusted Surfaces’, this is a technique that I frequently use as it is simple yet produces a highly textured background. Many people can find it a bit daunting when faced with starting a piece of textile art, I have been asked many questions regarding this concern for example, where do I start? or how am I going to fill this fabric with stitches? This technique allows you to create a background that is not too restrained by your inspiration material and will enable you to be influenced by the colours and patterns of your chosen subject. I am going to show you how I have used these photographs as inspiration for a hand embroidery.
The first step is to investigate your stash of threads and fabrics and select shades and textures that will complement your inspiration pictures. I have found a range of green fabrics in varying textures and shades, some hand dyed lightweight interfacing, pink/red paper flowers, hand dyed silk tops and some hand dyed threads in shades of green.
The first preparation stage was to cut up the hand dyed interfacing into leaf shapes – I simply cut out a pointed oval and then snipped the edges with my scissors. The next stage was to prepare the flowers – I found these paper flowers in the card making section at a local craft store, these were the perfect colours but they were the wrong shape therefore I began by cutting into each petal so that they closely resembled the Red Campion flower shape. The paper flowers were also quite uniform and rigid so I scrunched them up and rolled them between my fingers and then gently unfolded them to produce a textured flower that could be used on the background.
I do not throw anything away – all of the cuttings from the above were kept and I also added a few more snippets from the other green fabrics and mixed all of the green snippets together – I found some tiny storage containers, you can see one of these in the photograph above, these are ideal for keeping scraps, you must not mix your colours, you must keep the same colours in different shades together to produce a palette of different colours.
The background is produced by layering, bonding and trapping fabric snippets and fibres.
First select a piece of fabric for the back, this must be large enough for your embroidery and strong enough to support all of the layers that are going to be applied. Cotton calico is a good choice of fabric for a light background but for this project I wanted a darker background and therefore I have chosen a dark green cotton fabric. The first layer is bondaweb – this is essential to bond all of the layers together. I find that is you apply a sheet of bondaweb onto the background fabric the completed work is stiff and more difficult to embellish with embroidery. I overcome this by peeling the bondaweb off the baking paper, tearing into small pieces and sprinkling onto the background fabric – this produces a more pliable background. An alternative to using bondaweb could be hemming web.
The next layer provides texture for the background foliage – add small slivers of silk top fibres. To do this you must gently pull some fibres out of the silk tops and place on top of the bondaweb – this layer must not be too thick as it only needs to produce a wispy appearance and if it is too thick the layers do not sandwich together very well.
The fun starts here – You must now create your design. Add the paper flowers, leaves, small lengths of thread and sprinkle with the snippets – I have added the red paper snippets in two areas to represent the buds and flowers in the distance. The green snippets represent the background leaves and foliage.
Once you are happy with your design stop adding stuff! There is a saying ‘less is more’ which refers to the notion of simplicity and clarity leading to good design. Less is more in this case refers to the fact that your layers will not bond together if they are too thick 🙂
The next layer is an adhesive layer – I find that bonding powder is the best product for this – just add a light sprinkling over the entire design and right to the corners of your backing fabric. If you cannot find any bonding powder then you must remove some bondaweb from the backing paper and tear into small pieces, these are sprinkled over the design. Make sure your bondaweb is in small pieces as it can often be seen in the final design.
The final layer will trap all of this work together and therefore must be a very fine organza. I have used a green organza on this design – you must make sure that the organza you choose is translucent enough to show your design and the colour must not dominate your work or mask the design colours. Layer the organza onto the top of your design, cover with baking parchment and press to ‘stick’ all of the layers together. Please please remember to use the baking parchment or your iron will be a mess; also the iron must not be too hot or it will melt the organza.
I use many different types and thicknesses of embroidery threads in my work to add dimension and texture to my finished pieces. My threads are all hand painted to add variegated colours throughout.
In my Red Campion embroidery I have used the following threads: fine cotton, stranded cotton, fine silk, cotton perle no 8 and mercerised cotton.
I began by securing the large flowers with five long stitches from the centre to the side of each petal. I added detail to the leaves with fly stitches and used stem stitch for the stems.
To create the texture of the flower centres I used a small piece of pale pink purl, this is a very tight spring coil of fine wire, which I pulled to expand the coil. I then twisted this into a small ball and attached it to the flower centres using french knots sewn using a pale pink stranded cotton.
The next stage was to add some detail around the flowers using fly stitch, lazy daisy, straight stitch and french knots however I did not plan the next step that would add some further shading…..
I had been working on this embroidery when my son arrived for a visit. I put my work onto the table next to us and made a cup of tea. Aunty came in to see us and as Adam stood up to give her a hug, with tea in hand, he spilled some of it onto my embroidery – The fabric dried well however there is a bit of staining on my paper flowers. This just goes to show that nothing in life is predictable and this shading has added some depth to my work – can you spot it?
To finish this and add further dimension I prepared some more paper flowers in the same way as I had for the background. These were added to the foreground using straight stitches, uncoiled purl and french knots.
This kind of embroidery is perfect for hoop art.
Here are some photographs of the final piece. I hope you have a play with this technique.
I walked into my garden this morning and looked at these beautiful poppies. Sadly they are a little bit past their best but I still admire them every day. These poppies were taken out of my Grandmothers garden when she moved out of her home to live in a care home several years ago. My Grandparents had lived in that house all of their married lives and it was the only home that I had ever visited them in.
I can remember all of the fun times we had in that house. It was filled with love and laughter. I love these poppies and the memories they bring.
This afternoon I called into a local shopping centre, the Metrocentre in Gateshead. I do not particularly enjoy shopping and therefore visiting such places is a rare occurrence which is only compensated with a shoe purchase. However getting back to my visit … I came across a spectacular poppy art installation in the middle of the mall, this was a really pleasant surprise (it was actually installed last August which shows you how often I visit shopping centres). This poppy installation is a commemorative piece of art that really struck a chord with me this afternoon and I would like to share these thoughts with you.
My grandfather fought in WW2 and he rarely spoke about his experiences until the last few years of his life. He was a brave man and will always be my hero but most importantly he was a loving grandfather whose words of wisdom will remain with me forever. Some of these do include, pull your shoulders back, stand tall and be proud – I can always here this when I begin to slouch or loose my confidence another one is bulls**t baffles brains – my sons love this one.
My grandmother was a creative person who always supported my decisions and I dearly miss her. She was an inspiration to me with her kind words, patience and she had the ability to make anything out of nothing – she could feed a family of four out of her and grandads dinner rations and still have enough for the two of them; she could entertain all of the grandchildren for hours with a comb and a piece of tissue paper and she could make the best dress up outfits from random things lying around the house.
Remembrance – these poppies have brought fond memories flooding back and got me to thinking about the creative textiles that I have produced using poppies as my inspiration. I would like to share four of these with you today.
Poppy 1 – My Stenciled Poppy:
Using a stencil is a brilliant way of adding colour quickly to a background fabric. You can use commercial stencils and fabric paint if you wish however I have made this stencil out of firm card and cut the design using a craft knife. I have used a textured unbleached cotton fabric for the background and stenciled by using a small sponge and applying acrylic paint. These paints are thick enough to transfer the image without smudging under the stencil, it is not necessary to use fabric paint if you are not going to launder your textiles and as this is decorative the acrylic paints work brilliantly. I have further embellished the poppy by embroidering long straight stitches using a rayon thread, this adds some detail and shine onto the petals and leaves. I have attached small black beads for the flower centre and stamens. I love the texture of the fabric in this poppy.
Poppy 2 – Appliquéd Poppy
This poppy has been appliquéd onto a cotton calico fabric which has been hand dyed to produce different shades of black and grey. The poppy petals and leaved have been appliquéd onto the black cotton, I have used red hand painted silk habotai for the petals and green hand dyed cotton muslin for the leaves. To appliqué the petals and leaves I used the following technique: the desired shape is drawn or traced onto the paper of the bondaweb. This is ironed onto the reverse of the fabric and the shape is cut out. The fabric shape is then laid onto the backing fabric, glue side down, and ironed into place. The fabric is stiffened slightly with the use of bondaweb. When applying sheer fabrics it is important to protect the iron with a sheet of baking parchment. The outline and detail have been free machined onto the leaves and petals. Black beads have been attached to the flower centre. This is such a simple technique that can be used on many different projects.
Poppy 3 – Free Machine Embroidered Poppies
This is actually a small piece of work that has been free machine embroidered onto silk and again I have attached a few small beads for the flower centres. I would like to further develop this site to include step by step tutorials so watch this space!!!
Poppy 4 – Poppy Play Time
This is my favourite poppy because it is the most creative and was a lot more fun to create.
I started out by sponging some acrylic paints onto a piece of cotton calico – no particular pattern was used and I roughly sponged a darker green where the stem and leaves were going to be and sponged some red paint where the petals would be. I then had a bit of a ‘play’ with different fabrics, these included organza, net and hand painted lightweight interfacing. I created the different leaf and petal shapes by using a soldering iron to melt away the edges of the fabric producing a texture around the edges. These were sewn onto the background fabric using simple embroidery stitches. Again i have used black beads and french knots in the flower centre.
Any textile work should be fun and you should not be afraid of experimenting. As a child you have no fear of doing something wrong and therefore play and explore to create art. As an adult you should remember how to play with materials to create textile art – within art there are no mistakes. There is a saying that I strongly believe and use it with my students:
‘Creativity is about allowing yourself to make mistakes, Art is about knowing which ones to keep.’