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.

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.


Useful and Beautiful

I have long been in agreement with the famous William Morris quote:

‘Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.’ William Morris lecture ‘The Beauty of Life’, 1880

I love the fact that he doesn’t necessarily expect things to be both. He allows for ‘unnecessary’ beauty and personal taste and doesn’t say that everyone else should think something is beautiful – only that you should…

I recently saw this on the National Portrait Gallery website (where they are currently having a Morris Exhibition.)

‘Nothing which is made by man will be ugly, but will have its due form, and its due ornament, and will tell the tale of its making and the tale of its use’.  William Morris article ‘Art’, 1891

I assume, given that it is Morris writing, that he is referring to handmade objects. ( Although I question his assertion of man’s inability to make anything ugly, but once again I suppose he is allowing for personal taste).  I like the idea that an object shows the tale of its making and use.

As I have written here before I believe that making something slowly and by hand provides a wonderful contrast to the speed and machine led nature of modern life. It is the reason that I can be found escaping from the computer and stitching quietly and slowly during many of my lunch breaks.

I am currently re reading poet and novelist May Sarton’s ‘Journal of a Solitude’ first published in 1973 and came across this:

‘It is troubling how many people expect applause, recognition, when they have not even begun to learn an art or craft. Instant success is the order of the day; ‘I want it now!’ I wonder if this is not part of our corruption by machines. Machines do things very quickly and outside the natural rhythm of life….So the few things that we still do, such as cooking, knitting, gardening, anything at all that cannot be hurried, have a very particular value.’

Goodness knows what she would have thought of today’s world, but the quote seems even more pertinent now….

Goodbye to East Finchley

On Thursday I went to the last Creative Embroidery evening class for this academic year. I won’t be going to the class in September as I’m signed up to do Contemporary Millinery at Morley College for at least the Autumn Term. With a full time job two evening classes a week is a step too far!

I shall miss it. I’ve learnt a lot, but really what I will miss most is sitting round a table with a group of women quietly stitching and listening to the highs and lows of other people’s lives – lives which are often very different from mine. There have been deaths and births, illness, holidays and work issues – and along the way a lot of very beautiful and skilled stitching has emerged.

I’ve included the two main pieces I’ve worked on over the last two years here as they never appeared in this blog in their finished state. Velvet stitch nearly killed me at one point…. 20140716-074145-27705321.jpg

 and I confirmed my love of the French knot with my tribute to Gustav Klimpt….


I can’t say definitely that I’ll be back next year as heading off into the depths of East Finchley every week isn’t my favourite thing in the world. But I may….

Learning to Layer

I’ve been working on my hydrangea embroidery quietly – mostly in my lunch breaks at work. Trying to decide how to draw / paint in stitch I’ve been experimenting with layering simple stitches. The first layer of small running stitches was inspired by looking at the amazing Japanese cloths in the recent Boro exhibition at Somerset House.


On top of that I’ve put single strands of purple and French knots. It seems to be working rather well even if I am making it up as I go along!!


Ps I can’t believe it’s only a week since I got back from Portugal ….. Seems like a world away…..

Peacocks and a leap out of my comfort zone

In an attempt to master the dreaded sewing machine I am making my latest project in my embroidery class at least partially machined….so I am constructing my own ‘fabric’ using disolveable material and machine threads.  It is to be a peacock like this (although with different colouring – not sure where this came from in my drawing..)

Peacock Design full

So there I was last night teeth gritted, trying to remember to breathe, and hoping that I could get through what I needed to do quickly and without tangling myself up too many times. 

‘You’re going too fast!’ said Isobel, which apparently explained the strange loopy quality on the back on the stitching.  Although it doesn’t really matter for what I want.  The embroidery will be constructed in several layers – as below:

Peacock layers

Peacock layers

I started on the yellow piece yesterday – the amount of machine stitching I will end up with is debatable and may depend whether I stop wanting to throw the machine out of the window!!  Roll on hand sewing…. !

I keep telling myself it is a useful tool if I can master it so for the moment I persevere….