Monday, January 30, 2012

Week 15 - Tyvek and Canvas Work

At college this week we continued to explore texture by heating and distorting stuff. We started with Tyvek paper and Tyvek fabric, shown in the photo right. You can use a heat gun or an iron and paint it with acrylics before or after heating. It has plastic fibres running through it to make it very strong that contract on heating. Apparently the paper is used by solicitors as 'precious paper' and the fabric is used to make protective overalls.
I preferred the effect of the paper after heating as it went into bigger bubbles e.g. bottom right. If you melt it a bit too much you get holes, which are good, and it disappears altogether, which is not! The fabric seemed better with a heat gun but was less stiff after the heating and generally made smaller bubbles in the surface.

We then moved on to carrier bags - just cut pieces and lay on baking parchment. Cover with another piece of baking parchment and iron over to fuse them together - the thinner orange supermarket bag melted quite a bit, which gave a good effect. You can also stitch into this.

Finally we tried 'soft sculpt' - the grey stuff in the photo. This looks like the foam bit of mouse mats or something you would find lining the inside of your car. You apply the iron to the surface, protected by a sheet of baking parchment and then whilst it is still hot you press objects into it to make an impression. You can only really do small bits at a time because it cools down quickly and when you apply the iron again you erase any marks you have already made in that area. Again you can paint it and stitch into the dips.

Here is a piece stitched using the Tyvek and carrier bag pieces from above.

I first printed some tissue paper for the background using one of my Brusho experiments in my Christmas Break post overlaid with some text pasted out of one of my husband's lesson plans on the formation of the earth's crust (he is a science teacher). I found out the method for doing this from a library book called 'From Image to Stitch' by Maggie Grey.

I crumpled up the tissue paper and ironed it on to some furnishing fabric with Bondaweb. I then attached the carrier bag sample with free machine stitch in variegated thread and then attached the cut up pieces of Tyvek in the same way.

Finally to dull down the whiteness of the Tyvek I rubbed on some gilding wax. I was inspired by the formation of the earth's crust where the rocks split apart and red-hot magma spills out.

Then we moved on to canvas work. This is very traditional and takes ages. First we edged the piece of canvas with masking tape to stop it fraying and stop the stiff canvas catching the wool - a brilliant trick.

We are doing a sampler of set stitches in both tapestry wool and cotton pearle no 5 to see the different effects. From top left the main stitches are Algerian Eye, Vault, Velvet, Leviathan, Ray, Vault, Rhodes, Ray, Fishbone, Cushion and Rice. All the edges and gaps are filled in with Half-Cross.

Here are last week's stones sprayed with gold spray paint.

I have also done lots of other things this week but as they are for birthdays I cannot publish them until next week. Watch this space!.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Week 14 - Textured Stones

College this week was all about stones. We experimented making different textured stones by sticking objects onto circles of cereal box with PVA glue and then covering them with scrunched up tissue paper.

Clockwise from top right I used:

  • magic maize (didn't work as dissolved under the PVA used to stick down the tissue paper)
  • various leaves
  • strands of cotton string
  • egg box
  • lentils
  • shredded tissue and polystyrene balls
  • hole-punch waste
  • egg box
  • kozo plant fibre (centre - used in making paper)
The ones I made at college we are going to paint in our next class but as I made a few more at home I have painted them with acrylic paint and then highlighted the texture with gold rub-on cream like I did for the cover of my Colour Book (see Week 12).

It still amazes me how a bit of scrunched up tissue and 3 colours applied with a dry brush can produce such incredible results.

We then moved on to some handstitching, using stones as our inspiration. The challenge was to stitch a stone using mostly French Knots (the round blobs), Bullion Knots (the long blobs) and Turkey Work (the tufts). This piece of stitching is about 10cm x 10cm and has taken me most of the evenings this week to finish and I loved doing it. It is not taken from a real stone so I concentrated on making bands of colour to flow across the stone to mimic the strata that you get in rocks.

I first backstitched round a pencil outline to create the edge. Then I started stitching but the idea of it wasn't really flowing so I got the Brusho paints out and dry-brushed a random texture on it using brown, yellow and lemon yellow. Whilst it was still wet I got a minute amount of black Brusho powder on my finger and dabbed it on randomly. I think this is what made the greenish bits. 

When it was dry I carried on stitching. I could follow feint streaks of colour in the paint to inspire me, although I still had to use a lot of imagination! It is mostly worked in Bullion Knots, some densely wrapped, but most loosely wrapped, which is not the usual way of using this stitch. You can pile them up on themselves and make them cross over each other so it is very versatile. I put the odd French Knot in to break up the lines and also tried to integrate the whole with some seeding in straight stitches, mostly in the dark greenish-brown colour. The biggest challenge was knowing when to stop!

A really important part of the making of this for me was to use more than one colour in the needle to create blended colours. I only used what I had to hand, which was dark brown, chestnut brown, dark green, light olive and dark golden yellow normal polycotton sewing thread and charcoal brown and chestnut brown cotton stranded floss. The thinnest stitches are 2 strands of polycotton thread, the medium Bullion Knots are 4 strands of polycotton thread and the thickest are 1 full strand of stranded floss with 2 strands of polycotton.

I finally finished it off with a bit of bright green Turkey Work to imitate tufts of moss using 2 strands of polycotton sewing thread. This was surprisingly easy, stitched like backstitch but with every other stitch left as a loop. Once an area was completed you cut through the loops. I haven't seen this stitch used in any textile art I've seen or read about so far and it isn't in my modern Stitch Dictionary as an embroidery stitch but I don't know why as it is so effective.

Finally I came across a couple of Challenges that have started on other people's blog in January. Carolyn Saxby is running 'Tag Tuesday' on her blog 'Loves Stitching Red' where she sets a theme each week (the latest one is 'White') and people make a small piece out of anything they want in the shape of a parcel tag and post a picture on her blog. Look at this week's wonders at

I also spotted 'TAST 2012' on Carolyn's blog This stands for 'Take a Stitch Tuesday' and is being co-ordinated by a blogger in Australia on the Pin Tangle blog. She will set a different embroidery stitch each week for participants to try out and take it as far as they can and post a photo of their efforts. This will be particularly inspiring for the handstitch part of our course I expect - see

I don't think I will have time to take part in either challenge regularly but it will be interesting to follow them.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Week 13 - Paper/Fabric Textures and Water-Soluable Lace

Back to college this week and starting on a new topic of 'texture'. First we took all kinds of paper and had to think of different ways of scrunching and folding it to produce different textures. I must confess that ever since every time I have had a piece of waste paper in my hand I have been experimenting with different ways of doing this. Waxed paper and foil-covered paper are the most satisfying, closely followed by tissue paper!

To make the crinkled tubes we loosely wrapped an object like a ruler or a marker pen with a strip of paper and then pushed the tube hard down on its end on the table to produce the concertina effect.

Then we moved on to making textures with calico. This piece involved sewing parallel tucks into the fabric using the machine and then sewing across them in alternate directions.
This technique is called 'furrowing' and you sometimes see it on posh cushions. The crinkled piece of calico starts off as twice the size of the finished square, which you draw as a guide on the bottom piece of fabric.

You can then either attach it all round the edge and in the centre and then 'furrow' it by eye to draw in the remaining fabric or mark dots on the large square and dots on the underside to match-up. I did it the second way - see photo of back below.
The two pieces are joined with a small stab stitch, coming from the back of the piece each time. I probably should have turned the raw edge under on the top to finish it off neatly but I quite like the fraying.
 Then we moved on to raising the surface up quite high in a kind of 'nipple'. This is made by hand sewing a running stitch in a spiral, following a circle or ellipse and pulling it up tightly. The width of your spiral determines the height of your 'nipple'. You need to use double thread to stop it breaking as you pull it up. I haven't sewn this onto a backing yet as we are being asked to consider how we want to display all these textures in a final item.
Homework was to try some gathered circles. Clockwise from top left:

  • a circle, gathered with running stitch, stuffed and sewn down with gather underneath
  • a smaller circle made as above, stuffed and sewn down with gather on top
  • a circle, edge turned under then gathered round a circle of card
  • a circle with edge fringed with scissors before gathering round a circle of card
  • a circle gathered round a circle of card with a smaller one sewn on top, gather side down, finished with a strip of ripped fabric which was further fringed with scissors, gathered and joined around the button as a collar
  • a smaller circle gathered round a circle of card with frayed edges showing - a circle of calico tucked under the gathers to finish off the centre
  • a large circle gathered, stuffed and sewn down, with stab stitch from the back to further quilt it

At home I experimented with what happens if you gather up a piece of fabric horizontally and vertically.

The result is similar to the furrowing but not as neat. As the fabric is mobile inside the square I have pulled the centre flat.
I have been experimenting with sticking foil onto felt. I have these foils from card-making that you stick onto tacky glue and peel away to give a gilded effect. I wondered if they would work on fabric, so I tried with felt as I knew we needed some for our next college class.

I first tried with bonding powder but that didn't work - I think the grains of powder went into the fibres of the felt too readily and there was not enough stickiness on the surface.

So then I tried fusible webbing (Bondaweb). I fused a piece to the felt with an iron and peeled away the backing paper. Then cut inch wide strips of the foil and randomly applied them with the tip of the iron working one colour at a time. The foil strip was held under a piece of baking parchment to stop the iron sticking to the bare webbing and getting all sticky.  I also added some Angelina fibres, which you can just see on the blue piece. I am pleased with the results.

We had an extra college class at the weekend where we tackled a big project. We were making a small bag with machine lace edging and machined cord handle.

First we made the bag pieces. I cut out a paper template for my bag shape and then cut two from my felt. I deliberately chose the most unpromising looking colour, plus I had some new pale variegated thread to use. On top of the felt I cut out two pieces of lace. The lace had butterflies on it so I chose one with a butterfly showing and one where you couldn't tell what it was for contrast. Finally, a layer of sheer fabric went over the top - I chose a gold twinkle organza. Then we secured our fabric sandwich with free-maching all over and free-machined zig-zag round the edge. On the butterfly piece I experimented with trying to emphasis the shape of the butterfly with my stitching.

Then the tricky part of making the machine lace. I pinned my bag front onto a piece of Solufleece (water- soluble fabric) and drew a lace design in pencil around. Then we sewed it with free-maching straight stitch, trying to make sure all the loops joined up, else it would come apart when the fabric was dissolved.

Next we were supposed to go over it all again with a narrow free-maching zig-zag to make it more defined. I hadn't appreciated how difficult this would be and so only ended up going round the outer edge and the inner arches of my design.

The final stage was to dissolve the Solufleece in hand-hot water and leave it to dry, whilst we made the cord. This was done by free-machine zig-zagging over some lengths of wool, until it was covered.

To assemble the bag I sewed the front to the back using a standard straight stitch on the machine, trapping the cord in the seam as I went.

Finally, I emphasised the butterfly by giving it antennae in seed beads as there were no antennae on the original lace pattern and I didn't think to embroider any on when I stitched the front.

This took about 6 hours in total. I am very pleased with how the choice of colours has come out and the butterfly effect on the front. The lace is better on the right-hand side than the left for some reason, where lots of bits weren't joined up properly.

Below is a close-up so you can see the stitches!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Christmas Break - Colour Book

Happy New Year to everyone. Here is a picture that I couldn't put on my last blog as it was a christmas present that I had made but not yet given. It is a silver clay oak leaf pendant. This is made by covering a real leaf in many layers (about 10 in all) of silver clay paste, firing with a blow torch, polishing up to a brushed silver finish and then creating a patina with Liver of Sulphur, which you then polish off so that the black patina just sits in the cracks and dips. I also made a pair of earrings in the same way based on rose leaves but gave them away before I photographed them. Learning point - small items are much harder to get right than larger ones in silver clay.
In between Christmas and New Year we went to see the angel sculptures at Mottisfont House. We all liked the large wooden carved angel best, although the woven wicker one (bottom middle) was intriguing as it had fine wire patterns on its surface that the artist said were tattoos!
As college starts again this week I have been finishing off my colour book. I threaded some ripped silk strips through my signature stitches and then temporarily stuck them in place with double-sided tape before sticking on the covers with copious amounts of PVA glue. Before I did this I also designed my fastening - a cardboard circle held with a brass split pin, around which to wind a cord and tassel that I made from variegated thread (see week 8). The ends of the cord were stuck between the back page and the back cover. I am pleased with how this has all come together, although the middle two signatures are a bit wiggly as I could see they would be, as it is only the silk strips holding them in position. The name plate is made by embossing thick foil from the back with mirror writing and then painting and highlighting with gold as for the cover.

Here are all the inside pages:

I got some more Brusho colours for christmas so this week I have been experimenting with some of them, primarily to see if I could get a suitable effect to make the collage fig in my colour book above.
Top left: left to dry with crumpled cling-film on top; top right: left to dry with dishwasher salt scattered on top; bottom left: wet in wet colours; bottom right: wet paper with paint dropped on then scattered with a few grains of black 
I had another birthday card to make for a friend's daughter last week. This is a white card blank with the handbag shape cut out with a scalpel and backed with a clear sticker. Onto that I stuck the flap cut out of blue pearly card and then drove myself mad with sticking on the tiny beads that make up the rest of the bag. These beads are only the size of poppy seeds so go everywhere. It was finished with a loop of white crystal trim for the handle, a flat crystal for the fastening and a Happy Birthday sticker.
Finally I have made a New Year's resolution to go walking in the Hampshire Wildlife Trust reserve near where I live at least once a week. I took this photo there on Christmas Day and like the contrast of the spiky gorse in the foreground with the long golden grasses, backed by the purple haze of trees. In fact I like it so much I have been inspired by another christmas present I received ('Stitchscapes' by Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn) to create an embroidery.
First I painted the background on a piece of calico using Brusho. This is about A5 size and only uses 4 colours (purple, brown, black and green). I found that a fairly dry brush worked best to give subtle strokes.

I then mounted the calico into a window of poly-cotton so that I could put it in an embroidery frame ready to stitch.
This is as far as I have got. The trees were completed in random fly stitch (which creates a stitch like a letter Y) using a variegated thread. I then used a single strand of dark purple sewing thread to add fine details at the ends of the branches in straight stitch and also filled in any gaps in the fly stitch with small straight stitches in the same thread. I put in a tree trunk with dark grey stem stitch (on the left) and intend to put more in when I have decided on which colour to use for the silver birches in the photo above.

For the grass I have been doing an uneven satin stitch with two different shades of ordinary sewing thread in my needle for the first tow rows and three shades for the third row. Compared to the trees, these rows take ages! I am pleased with the effects so far but I think it will be more challenging as I come nearer the foreground and the stitches have to be more random.

I went back to the reserve this week and found that I could walk right under a pylon and take my own version of the pylon photo that so intrigued me in my line-book work, without endangering my life!