Little trees and knee high socks

This weekend was glorious. Crisp days with clear blue skies. My favourite type of winter days. It puts me in the mood for the ‘non-serious’ type of creating. I can set aside my Diploma work for a little while and create something for the pure joy of creating.

The stumpwork is coming along nicely. I am happily up to date with my stitching plan. The fabrics have been applied to the background. The fabric was still together when I pulled the fabric drum-tight on the slate frame. I also made a start on the first part of surface stitching – leaf stitch and ‘long and short’ stitch using Appleton wool. I am quite happy with the result.

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In the bigger scheme, it is quite a small amount of stitching, but the colours contrast beautifully with the shiny silk fabrics.

Stumpwork

With my brief hiatus from this piece, I spent some time making a stocking for the Sleepthief for Christmas. I thought I would go for a tactile rather than visually ‘pretty’ design. With the winter settling in, bringing with it cold and frost – and making themselves quite comfortable, I thought I would do this mini project to make me feel all snug, cosy and festive.

I have never really been a drawing to sewing machines. I come from a family of women who were very talented with a sewing machine, however I spend my childhood and teenage years as far from a sewing machine as I could get. I was given a little £50 John Lewis sewing machine a few years ago and tried my hand at it. Little by little, I have been bringing it out of the box more often, becoming more confident and more adventurous each time. This time, I was going to need a pattern.

Firstly, I got out a few old knee-high socks, an old newspaper and a marking pen. I outlined the design, tweaked the shape, then cut out the ‘pattern.’ The fabrics I chose were red cotton velvet, white faux fur and a Christmas patterned cotton. Right sides of fabric facing, I cut out the shape, leaving a 1cm seem allowance. I cut out a rectangle of the faux fur that was approx 18cm x 30cm for the trim along the top of the stocking. All up – there are 4-5 parts to the stocking, 2 velvet stocking shapes, 2 cotton stocking shapes (or 1 if the fabric is folded along the grain to create a seem, like I did in the middle picture below) and one faux fur rectangle.

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With right sides facing, I machine sewed the edges of the velvet and the cotton pieces, leaving the top open. I turned the velvet stocking inside out, inserted the cotton stocking (once sewn and right sides still facing) into the velvet stocking. I folded the faux fur in half, pinned it to the velvet, did a quick seam with the sewing machine, then turned the faux fur edge over, pinned it to the cotton and slip stitched this seam.  I added a little gold ribbon (trapped between the faux fur slip stitching) to hang the stocking.

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This first half was all done at home. I cut the fabric and machined the seams. All the hand sewing together was done while having a relaxing coffee and cake at my favourite coffee shop. It was such a great place to work on a festive piece, the staff were showing off their amazing new hand painted Christmas aprons, the owner was decorating the Christmas tree in the corner behind me and there was just that happy buzz of the festive season drifting through the coffee shop. It was really a lovely way to complete my mini project.

It is a visually very simple stocking, however there would be so many ways to embellish a stocking and make it a truly unique and gorgeous addition to Christmas decorating around the house. I chose more textured fabrics because Sleepthief is still too little for adornments. But the verdict said it all – Sleepthief hugged the stocking, smiling and stroking the contrasting textures of the velvet and faux fur for the rest of the afternoon.

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Backgrounds and crutches

Hello stitchy people! And what a fresh and crisp morning it is. Walking through the park this morning, I could not but help think that the frost on the grass catching the early morning sun look like someone had sprinkled crushed diamonds overnight. It was such a beautiful sight, and yet I had no camera with me to capture this moment to share with you all.

It was a hard road to get started layering the background fabrics, but it is getting there. I love how embroidery is a discipline that keeps on giving. I have never stopped learning with it. Just  as soon as I think I get something, it is turned on its head – and I have to think or another way to do something, to make it work, to balance it – to take a deep breath, walk away, get a tea and perspective, then jump straight back into it!

I chose to put the lighter silk on the background, and layer the darker silk (the shadows) on top. It just worked better to my eye. The shadows appear to fall ‘over’ the floor, if that makes sense.

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The silk was applied to calico on a loose frame. The herringbone was worked from the center to the edges, the stitches going through the fabric to just on the edge of the silk. This ensures that all the materials will have the same tension when pulled drum tight, and avoid tearing of the fabrics. The fabric was measures to find the center lines. The design was also given guidelines to match up the center of the design to the center of the fabric. I took the advice of one of tutors and did not paint on any lines at this stage. Crazy? At the time I thought it was, but it was a lesson is how to do things differently, rely on your eye and slow down and think of steps properly and thoroughly instead of just jumping straight in.

The advice of the tutor reminded me of a point illustrator Andrew Loomis makes in ‘Successful Drawing’

– “If an artist traces or projects photographs instead of drawing a subject, the result will end up in their work. If the drawing is to be individual and dynamic, the artist must use the camera only to provide something to draw from, as he would draw from a model.”

It was a lesson for me to ‘let go’ of my crutches. While tracing is an essential element to the process to transferring designs for embroidery, I think it is important to develop drawing skills as well. To be more self-sufficient, creative and unique. These steps in applying fabrics without painted lines I felt I must take, trusting that I already have the ability to do it. To build confidence in my ability to train my eye to see the fabrics, how they line up, how it fits together visually, rather than seeing only the painted line I have to stitch to. I think this is why I enjoyed redesigning parts of this picture – to push me out of my comfort zone and have a little more faith in my own abilities. This is why, after a few days of messing around with the background fabrics, I feel I have learnt so much more than just getting it right the first time on a painted line.

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The silks all have folded edges and I have used slip stitches to secure them, and herringbone to the area of fabric that go past the design. The next layer of background fabrics to apply are cotton. These will make the walls of the room. Then it will be time to tighten up the frame and start some surface stitching. Exciting times!

Time to frame up

 

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It has been such a long time since I have framed up that I have almost forgotten how! After a few too many false starts, I finally got it right (with a little help).

One little tip I found helpful was to take a single thread of the calico and gently pull the strand out.  The calico might need a little ironing after, but it helps to see the straight grain on the fabric, saving time and frustration later.

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I am framing up a slate frame with calico for a stumpwork project. For this design I have chosen a beautiful design by illustrator Ofra Amit (www.ofra-amit.com). It is this artist’s take on Little Red Riding Hood.

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The fairytales and childrens illustration lend themselves beautifully to stumpwork. I am not interested in the Disney princess type of illustrations, I prefer for the darker side of fairytales. These stories were once used as lessons for children to learn. In times gone, it was these stories that were passed down from generation to generation, where literacy was but for the privileged few.

The elements I must complete as part of this assessment required some redesigning of the original picture – enlarging Red Riding Hood to the specified height and turning her around a little to include a face. The size of the figure and a face are essential elements for assessment.

I have sourced fabrics and colour matched them to the design. It is notoriously difficult to get exact colour matches, but this can also allow some creativity and interpretation of the original design colours.

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I am currently putting together a stitch plan and order of work. The early stages of any embroidery requires a lot of planning. A little bit of thoughtful planning can help to avoid mistakes later on,

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Or so I’m hoping!

Tomorrow I will be ready to start applying background fabrics.