Welcome to the Year of the Sheep

Or should that be Year of the Goat?  Apparently the Chinese word means either.  Anyway, the description of those born under this sign sounds far more like a sheep to me.

DSCF8204‘People born in the Year of Sheep are tender, polite, filial, clever, and kind-hearted. They have special sensitivity to art and beauty and a special fondness for quiet living. They are wise, gentle and compassionate and can cope with business cautiously and circumspectly. In their daily life, they try to be economical. They are willing to take good care of others, but they should avoid pessimism and hesitation.’ with thanks to TravelChinaGuide.com

Happy Year of the Sheep….

Embroidery endings

I have just completed my lunchtime embroidery project – something started last October as a project to work on in my lunchbreaks. I did the front cover intending it for Embroidery front covera small square sketchbook when it was finished.

Once I came to the end of that side I invented a back cover which was a shadow version of the front design in running stitch.  I now think I almost prefer the second version.  I have been reading about Japanese ways of embelishing, joining and strengthening cloth.  Often a practical measure when material is in short supply but  often very beautiful in its own right.

Back Cover

Now I’m finished and I have to find a new project for my lunch breaks as I miss it already…. I am considering either Pansies or Bees…. watch this space.

Designing a new hat

Black HatI am trying to decide what to do with the sinamay hat I blocked last week.

Our next project this term is to make a brimless blocked hat.  I was late for class and ended up with a pointy block that looks like a helmet (as there are thirteen of us and a lot of blocks had already gone by the time I got there!)  I actually quite like this block though.  And I was amazed that all that tugging and pinning of a flat piece of damp sinamay could turn it into the shape you see in the first photo.  It’s all to do with using the bias apparently.  The sinamay is impregnated with a sort of glue stiffener a bit like PVA so you don’t need to stick the layers together and it holds its shape once it is dry.

This ’embryo’ hat has three layers – black top and inside and a middle layer of gold.  I hope to cut the top black layer away to reveal some of the gold, and then edge the cut outs with rolled sinamay.  So I used my photo (above) to try out designs in my lunchbreak (which is why it is done in marker pen and tippex!)

Number 1 was using the helmet idea (imagine that the tippex is actually gold).  But to be honest I wasn’t keen so I tried a couple of slightly more feminine styles.  I think that number 3 (front and back) looks the most stylish.  But I am still wondering about the helmet one – after all if it looks like a helmet maybe it should be a helmet.

I could give it gold sinamay horns too!!

Buttons Toggles and Frogs


Embroidered buttons


Embroidered felt


Acorn toggles

Over the past couple of Saturdays I’ve been doing a short course at Morley College with the delightful name of ‘Buttons, Toggles and Frogs’.

In fact the course would have passed me by totally if I hadn’t noticed the lovely display case of samples in the foyer of the building I do my millinery course in.

It was taught by Debby Brown, with whom I did a year long Experimental Textile evening course about four years ago, so I knew it was likely to be good. Debby is a very experienced and inspiring teacher always providing loads of samples, materials and ideas to stimulate the imagination. My favourite sort of class – where I get lots of ideas and the chance to play, with some expert help on hand if I need it.

DSCF8413If I had tried to take in all the ideas that were on offer I could easily have gone into overload and so I went mostly with embroidered and painted/printed buttons – just one toggle to get the idea of it and no frogs at all! I also skipped on the buttonholes – which judging by the frustrated noises coming from the two students on my table was probably a wise move. (They were trying to use something called ‘gimp’ to strengthen a handmade button hole as in the picture above and I think it kept slipping.)

I started out with Tudor stuffed buttons which were made by gathering a small circle of fabric around a brass curtain ring, and stuffing it, then backstitching around the inside of the ring.  After that we were free to embroider what we liked – there are a couple of examples in the final photo of a sunflower and a strawberry (why I chose that horrible pink fabric as a base heaven only knows!!).  The final step was to make a loop on the back by reinforcing a loop of two or three strands of strong thread with buttonhole stitch.

DSCF8415On the second Saturday we used the heat press to print on fabric for covered buttons.  I’ve used this before and it always throws me that the lovely subtle colours in my paintings come out much more psychedelic when they are printed. Still an interesting idea though.

My final effort was a strawberry made around a template of pelmet vilene, once again stuffed with wadding.  I used a form of needlelace to make the leaves and was really pleased with the result.  I can see that if I ever get my act together to do another craft stall or put items on my Etsy site buttons will be making an appearance in some form.