Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Making marks with stitch

I have said less about the Poetry of Stitch course with Christine than I might have, since we started way back in September. It has been tremendously interesting. Since those early experiments with weight of line and making our curve apparent, we moved onto the same exercises but using machine stitch. This was followed by taking just one of the designs we had stitched and, using the same fill pattern, find out how a variety of free machine embroidery stitches would behave. These were:

Whip stitch

I had a few tension problems to start here, hence the blue at the top and further down - the yellow thread was in the bobbin.

Feather stitch

This time there was dark thread in the bobbin and yellow on top. On the left hand side the top thread has been removed, leaving just the thread pulled through from the bottom to give the lightest of marks on the fabric. That was a fiddly job! Bondaweb on the back stops the thread from pulling out altogether.

Cable stitch

Thick thread hand wound onto the bobbin, then the stitching is done on the back so the bobbin thread is couched down onto the front of the design. It can get a bit too wiggly if you don't get the speed right. It would be interesting to play with colour on the top and bottom threads, and the speed of stitching, to see what colour blending effects might be achieved.

All these, as you can see, rely on changing the machine tension to persuade more or less of the top or bottom thread to be pulled through the fabric. A great lesson in understanding how the different stitches achieve a different weight and character of mark. The following session concentrated on using those stitches to make interesting "blobs" on some fabric which already had a layer of blobby marks. This helped us to move further away from stitch as "a proper stitch" and more towards the possibilities of hand and machine stitch to make a mark on the fabric, a drawing tool rather than a correctly constructed stitch. Something to provide the next layer of marks onto a piece of already dyed/printed/otherwise coloured fabric.

Christine then gave us a series of words; rough and smooth, jumpy, disconnected, sad and so on. First we used our drawing tools to express these in marks. Then it was back to our curves and putting into practice the lessons we had learnt already about how to create texture with hand and machine stitch.

Happy and Calm seemed to go together

Angry and Jealous made another suitable pairing

Rough and Smooth, Disconnected and Jumpy

The final image shows me catching up with homework. I have worked those words with machine stitch, though I admit to too much reliance on straight and zigzag stitches despite notes to self on the drawings. Now I am starting with hand stitch - a layer of herringbone to try and emulate those changes in tone around Smooth. It certainly works better than the machined zigzag, which gave me rather too many staggered edges on the top of the curve.

Now what shall I try for Rough?

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

finished fish

Our second "Zoomshop" with Becky happened on Saturday so we twelve stitchers joined her to find out how to finish our little fishy.

Again, her teaching was easy to follow - a combination of pre recorded video and demonstrations, and of course she was there to answer any questions we might have. I so admired the way she managed to balance chatting to us and getting on with things on her own while we were stitching. It is easy if you are in the same physical space; the tutor can see how folk are getting on, and often there is a bit of chatter around the table as the next part of the project is completed. With Zoom it is all quite different. We tend to run the sessions (Christine's as well) with everyone on mute to avoid distracting noises. Folk can unmute themselves to ask questions, but the sense of being able to just throw in a little comment, or whisper a query to your neighbour isn't there. I'm sure as tutor it must at times feel as though you should be filling the silence with "something", but Becky allowed a silence at times, and talked to us at others, in between her videos and demonstrations and the afternoon passed incredibly quickly. Making the mackerel stripes with incredibly delicate black purl, which seems almost to fine to be true, was a tremulous operation, but very effective over the metallic silk organza.

I had the bulk of the stitching done by the end of the afternoon, but the scariest part was then having to cut out the fish so it can be mounted on a little piece of silver fish shaped wood to give it some rigidity and allow it to exist independent of the background fabric. I managed, but still had to go back and add in some extra couching to ensure the silver pearl purl border didn't just fall off - having carefully cut through a couple of the couching stitches!

I'm very pleased with him, and glad I re-stitched the main couching on the body. Even though the stitching is not as regular as I'd like, the balance between the two halves is much better. He will be tucked away now and come out each year as a suitably coastal Christmas Tree ornament to add to the little collection of "danglies" we use each year, not being the sort of folk who have to have a themed tree and new set of ornaments each Christmas - just the old ones with the occasional happy addition.

So, a finished something - that in itself is a small miracle. Best I get on with another something now - I am sorely tempted by her badger, which has been sitting in a box upstairs since the original woodpecker workshop we did with Becky back in 2016!

Friday, 12 March 2021

Layers developing

As well as the lovely Becky Hogg stitching, I have been doing some needle musing with the Mesopotamian layers sample, just to see what if?

It is hard to photograph, because the layers catch the light in differing ways. In reality the lightest area, that of deepest excavation, is not quite so contrasting. Stitching is sparse there, because treasure is as much about the shadow of a wall in the soil as it is about gold and artefacts

I have carried some water around the base of the ruin, to provide moisture for the crops in the fields

There is the merest hint of buried sparkle here, something worth digging for perhaps

There might be another hint within those ruins to the north; a regularity under the layers, a glimmer in the shadows? 

I have irrigated and planted the pleasure gardens at the base of the North wall - some more obvious treasure here

And then, of course, there is the inscription, carved on rock on the way out of town, where all the tracks and trails lead who knows where?

Sennacherib, King of the world

Monday, 8 March 2021

Fishy business

We who are Sussex Stitchers had a lovely Zoom workshop on Saturday afternoon with Becky Hogg who lives just down the coast in Hastings. We all worked on the same project, a kit by her called Hastings Mackerel. My good man bought me mine for Christmas. It is a delightful design, as are all of hers, and presented in lovely packaging - I still have two awaiting my attention from the last workshop we did with her - the woodpecker which took me so long to complete.

Becky is a generous and charming tutor and, making the most of social technology, she set up a WhatsApp group so we can communicate in between sessions, sharing pictures of our work and asking her questions where advice is needed.

So, after a Sunday morning’s gardening, I spent the afternoon completing the first stage of the project. On Saturday Becky talked us through applying the felt, the organza for his back, and his silver fishy face and beginning the couching on on his silky silver belly.

Using the giraffe as a table frame was really helpful

The back seems to be inadvertently rather fishy in texture as well

I completed the couching on Sunday. I felt it had, perhaps, encroached rather too far into the other half of the body, the stitching was far from regular and that I had squished the felt a bit by being slightly too firm with my stitching, but it made me smile, and reminded me of a squid.

Then I decided that perhaps it did look a bit flat, and really was too far across the middle line. Mindful of Rachel's patient unpicking in pursuit of perfection, the scissors came out and all but the first two rows were taken out.

Lining up the away knots and setting in the next row - more on, rather than over the central line and with a bigger interval between each starting point

I come to the conclusion that the central line is perhaps, not quite central, but the belly is more rounded, the stitching is more even and, interestingly, I found I had space for one more row of silver. There is a little bit more space for the mackerel stripes too, which I'm looking forward to.

I love the way the moirĂ© pattern of the folded organza gives my fish some water to swim through 

Next time we will be finishing; plunging the thread, if there are any left to plunge, adding the mackerel stripes to the back, the pearl purl outlines and giving him an eye to see with and a tail to swish as he swims about on the Hastings shoreline.

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Nearly there

 Here is where I sit now for all things textile. A clearer focus for you all and for me I think. Welcome if this is your first visit - you’ll find all the old stitchy posts here too.

So, this lovely jacket is nearly at the finishing line, if you’ll pardon the pun. It has been really interesting to knit, both for construction and for the lacy pattern on the skirt. Those 500+ stitches have been worth it.

The three in one rib has a lovely textural quality and the curlicues in the lace pattern an unexpected pleasure

The final shaping at the top of the sleeve is interesting too - a passage of standard decreases and then those purl 3tog, k 2tog rows to draw it all in at the top. I’m looking forward to seeing what that is like - it all feels rather Jane Austen 

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Happy New Year

I hope you and yours have had an enjoyable, if quiet Christmas and New Year. Tomorrow we take down the tree with it's message of hope for the return of light in the darkness, and our little colour changing angels and snowflakes will be safely tucked back in their boxes to come out again next year. 

We aren't amongst those who have a themed Christmas and buy new decorations each year. Some of mine go back 30 years to when my daughter was a child, and upstairs I have a box with the last few remining ornaments that went onto our tree in Petersfield when I was a very little girl. And yes, Amanda Jane is tucked away in a box upstairs as well, along with all her clothes. She was given to me twice, the first time I was underwhelmed by her and she was "tossed to one side", so Mum packed her back up, put her away and brought her out again the following year when I was more appreciative!!

I have some new reading for the New Year. Thank you Rachel for the indirect recommendation - I was given two for the price of one! I am amused by the way that the same font has been used on both covers. Better finish "Early Mesopotamia, Society and Culture at the Dawn of History" first though. I think these will keep me busy for a good while, in between such delights as re reading PD James, for when I have an evening brain rather than morning one - you know how it goes.

I have been stitching as well, those little bits of blackwork all finished now, along with some Dorset buttons, which are rather fun to create, and may get a bit more embellishment. I will probably work a better version of the darkest square as well, it's lopsidedness is even more obvious here. They will be gathered together with others for a group project which must be finished in the next couple of months. I will post the results when it's done. I wonder what it might be?

I have enjoyed doing some simple stitching that hasn't required too much thinking. Sometimes that's all you need, a set of instructions, a needle, some thread, fabric and an embroidery hoop. Oh, and some good music to stitch by, in this case one of my favourite Christmas albums - Jethro Tull's Songs From the Wood with it's glorious ringing out of Solstice bells.

Wednesday, 30 December 2020


The residual marks left when existing text on vellum is scraped back for reuse. Christine Chester made a beautiful textile in 2015, relating it to her own ongoing theme of memories lost. You can read her thoughts behind her work here.

Here, just visible, the shadow of blackwork unpicked. I hadn't centered the pattern properly, didn't like the way it interacted with the edge, so out it came, leaving a trace of black fiber within the slightly larger holes. I am hoping the stitching will cover that little remnant.

I'm not happy with the way this one is centered either, so might have to find another square of fabric

This, on the other hand, has worked well - the difference in colour is down to the lighting

I'd forgotten what fun blackwork can be - the rhythm of the stitching so soothing, the patterns almost stitch themselves, and the back can look like cuneiform ...