Sunday, 30 May 2010

Spirograph III - winding on the frame

I've now finished the first two spirals in the Spirograph III hanging:

These are at opposite ends of the frame, but they're both over towards the same side.  The rest of the design is over to the other side.

All of which is fine, but my frame isn't wide enough to get everything visible in one go.  This means the palaver of taking out the lacing up the sides of the fabric, taking the bars off the stretchers (though not the fabric off the bars, which is something), rolling the fabric round one of the bars and unrolling it from the other, putting them back on the stretchers, and lacing it all up again.  Phew!

This is always a bit of a chore with a smaller frame, but with one this size it's a real effort, especially on my own, so big thanks to my mum, who gamely volunteered to come round and help me with it.  It made a big difference!

So, thanks to our combined efforts, here's the current state of play, from the back so you can see what remains to be done:

The biggest spiral only just fits between the bars; I think it would have been very difficult to stitch if it had been too big, at least if I'd wanted to maintain the effect of it all being one continuous line.  Happily, it just squeezes in.

Close up, you can see more detail, or in some places, a lack of detail:

In some places, the transfer hasn't come out too well, so I'll need to draw the lines in with a pencil.  Worse, in other places, the transfer has shifted slightly, and there are two lines where there should just be one.  I stitched all round the individual spirals when I tacked the transfer to the linen to try and prevent this happening, and while I'm sure it minimised it, it didn't eliminate it all the way together.  I'll just have to decide which one looks the best and aim for that one when I come to stitch it.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Return of the Bookshelf Project

More of my bookshelves have appeared online!  Book blogger Peter Sandico is collecting pictures of people's bookshelves from around the world, and I sent him a picture of the books in my living room.  He wrote a very nice post about them in January.

More recently, he sent out a call for more pictures, so I sent photos of yet more bookshelves, including the sewing and art books in my workroom.

He's now written another very nice post about them, so if you want a glimpse into my home, take a look!

And yes, I do have a lot of books...

Monday, 24 May 2010

Spirograph III - one and a bit spirals

I've completed the first of the spirals on the Spirograph III hanging, and am about half way through the second.  Here's the first one, all done:

The first of the spirals was more of a challenge than I'd been anticipating, I must admit.  I mentioned last time that I went wrong somewhere and needed to unpick what I'd done and start again; when I was almost finished, I realised that I'd gone wrong again, but this time I was so far on I just carried on and hoped no-one would notice.  I don't honestly think it's too obvious - or I hope not, anyway! - but it is wrong.  What's more, when I was working on the second one, I very nearly did exactly the same thing again, though at least I realised in time, and have worked out just what's going on.  I'll try and explain with the partially-worked second spiral:

When tacking through from the back, I decided to do this in sections, to stop the network of little stitches to be oversewn getting too confusing.  I did about a third of the spiral in this way, then turned the frame over and couched over the running stitches with the gold passing thread.  No problem so far.  Now, I tend to work in a clockwise direction; no particular reason, I just do.  So, all the running stitches on the back went clockwise round and round the loops, and then so did the couched thread on the front.  The trouble is, what's clockwise on the back, looks to be anti-clockwise from the front, so when I came to stitch over the second section, it was going the wrong way and the threads were crossing the wrong way round.

I'm sorry if this doesn't make much sense - it didn't to me either at first, and it took me a while to realise just why one of the three sections I'd worked the first spiral in (the first one) was heading one way and the two others were going in the opposite direction.  It was only when I realised that the second section of the second was also crossing over the wrong way too did I make sense of it.

Yes, my head hurts too!

Anyway, the upshot of this is I tacked over the rest of the design, and am couching the remaining two-thirds of it all in one go.  For the subsequent spirals, I'm not sure whether to still try and do it in three batches and remember to tack the design through from the back anti-clockwise (aaaugh!!), or do it in just two sections, or even all in one go, and hope I don't get too lost.  I think I'm going to have to experiment a bit.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Spirograph III wallhanging

After a break and a couple of cushions, I've now started the second in the series of three Spirograph wallhangings.

To confuse things slightly, I'm doing number three next, instead of number two; the largest spiral in the design for the second one is actually too wide to get it all visible on my embroidery frame, so I'm going to have to do a bit of redesigning.  As I haven’t done that yet, I'm going to start work on Spirograph III first.

Just to remind you, here's the design:

This will be in the same fabrics and colours as the first one (they all will), so that's silk matka in a sand colour, lined with a fine linen for strength, then no. 8 Japanese gold passing thread to work the designs.

The spirals in the first of the hangings, you may recall, were not actually one continuous line, even though they looked as though they were.  This made it easier to stitch, as it could be done in discreet sections.  These spirals, however, really are one continuous line, so it's a bit trickier to do a bit at a time.  I've decided just to do a section at a time, and hope for the best!

Here's the first section of the first (and smallest) spiral, tacked through from the back to transfer it to the front of the fabric:

And here it is overstitched with the gold thread:

As before, I'm using two strands of the gold, couched with Gutermann Sulky thread in gold, to match the passing thread as closely as possible.

Even with just a few loops round I still managed to go wrong somewhere and had to unpick what I'd done and start again, so I've got a nasty feeling that the next section is just going to complicate things even further.  I just hope I get the hang of it!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

'Masquerade' slip case

I haven't had a chance to do much - or any, really - embroidery recently, so I'm terribly behind with where I'd intended to be with the Spirograph wall-hangings.  I'm going to start the next one soon, though, so look out for that!

Before then, though, I thought I'd show you another application of the appliqué method I used on the character cushions.  This looks completely different, and so I hope this shows you just how versatile a technique it can be.

This is a slip case for the Kit Williams's book Masquerade.  The design is inspired by the beautiful illustrations within the book, but is not copied from them - this is my own take on the theme.  The eagle-eyed amongst you may notice that the hare is a very close relative of the one I stitched in Moon!

The background is a gold silk dupion, to give a slightly rough texture.  The hare is worked in split stitch, to create a look of fur and to give the shading.  I'm not entirely happy with this as I think the first shade of brown I used is too dark, or the others are too light, depending on how you look at it. The stems and thorns of the tangle of roses are also in split stitch, but the leaves and and the roses themselves are appliquéd.

Here's a close-up, so you can see the design more clearly.  The photo's a bit too bright, unfortunately, so the colours aren't quite right, but I hope you can get an idea of it.

The leaves are a plain green silk, edged with Gutermann Dekor gold metallic thread in chain stitch.  In fact, all of the elements of the design are edged in this way, bringing it all together.  The roses are in hand-painted silk satin, edged in the gold metallic thread, but here the gold is also stitched into the appliqué shapes themselves, to pick out the individual petals.  Further detail is added with French knots.

One rose is seen from the back, so all the detail of the structure has been stitched over the appliqué and onto the background.

As the appliqué pieces are over felt shapes, as with the cushions, when stitched over in this way it gives a sumptuous, quilted feel to it, adding depth and texture.  If you wanted, you could use this as part of a stumpwork project, by using additional layers of felt beneath the final applique layer.

This is one of my favourites of the slip-cases I've made, and I hope you like it too!

Sunday, 9 May 2010

@ and & cushions - making up

I've finished making up both the cushions, and I'm very pleased with how they've turned out.  They're both for sale, so if you're interested, have a look below.

I'd wanted to try an alternative method that wouldn't involve inserting a zip (I do not like inserting zips!), and it's been very successful.

I tried it out in calico first, just in case; the front was just a straightforward square, but the back was formed of two sections that overlapped by about 10 cm (4") or so.

Stitched and turned right side out, the overlap looks neat:

It's easy to get the cushion pad in and out, but the overlap is big enough for the pad not to be seen or to become dislodged.

So, that's the mechanics out of the way, here are the finished cushions:

The cushions are each 41cm (16") square, and are silk matka with silk satin appliqué (the back is a plain  black cotton upholstery fabric), with a feather pad.  In more detail...

The @ cushion:

The & cushion:

This is my favourite, I must admit.

Blog readers can have first refusal before they're available for sale anywhere else.  They're each £49 plus postage - if anyone's interested, drop me a line at  I hope you like them!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

& cushion - appliqué

I've now done the appliqué for the & cushion too.  This used exactly the same technique as the @ cushion (and described in Part I and Part II), so I won't go into detail here.  But without further ado, here it is:

I think I like this one the better of the two - it's a nicer shape, I think - and I'm pleased with how it turned out. It's now damp-stretching, and the next thing to do is to make up both of them into cushion covers.  I don't much like inserting zips, so I thought I would try an alternative method.  I'll be giving it a go in calico first!

Sunday, 2 May 2010

@ cushion - the appliqué process part II

With the appliqué shape all ready, it was time to stitch it to the background fabric.  I first placed it on the marked-out outline of the shape, and put a few stitches in around the edge to keep it in place:

With a simpler shape this may not be necessary, but with this one I felt it would make my life easier!  The stitches are in black sewing cotton, and are permanent, not tacking stitches.  Here it is held in place:

I could then work my way round the shape and stitch it into place, without needing to worry that it would shift.

I always bring the needle up through the background fabric, and down through the appliqué, leaving about 0.5cm (about quarter of an inch) between stitches.

I've seen instructions elsewhere saying to do it the other way round, so I suppose it just comes down to personal preference.  I've always found the positioning of the shape easiest to control in this manner, anyway.

Here, I've stitched all the way round the inside of the loop and around the 'a', with the outside of the loop still to go:

This didn't take too long to do, followed by stitching down the oval in the centre of the 'a', so that all the shape was attached.

All the tacking stitches can now come out.  If you recall, I started and finished the tacking on the front of the shape, to make this easier.  I usually pull the stitches out with the eye end of a needle, taking care not to catch any of the stitches holding the appliqué piece.

It looks much better with them out!

But not good enough, though.  No matter how hard I try, there are always a few wobbles around the edge; these can be neatened up by stitching a line of chain stitch around the edge.  In this case I'm using black stranded cotton to match the appliqué itself, but depending on the design, a contrasting or even a metallic thread could look good.

The chain stitch can fill in little hollows and go straight across little bumps, to even out the edge and make the final piece look much neater:

Much better!

The fabric is now off the frame and is currently damp stretching; I'll do the & cushion next, and then make them both up at the same time.