Thursday, 22 December 2016

Making an Embroidered Purse

This is my first embroidered purse ( a gift for a friend ). She was looking for a glasses purse that she could wear around her neck. I’ve wanted to make a purse for ages so this was my Christmas project !
My biggest problem was sourcing the purse frame as I wanted one that had two links to attach the chain. The only size I could find to order was slight smaller than I would have liked and I was worried that glasses might not squeeze in !!

First I eco dyed some silk noil as a background. The silk noil has more ‘bite’ that slippery silk and is easier to embroider into, also a lot hardier for use as a purse.
There are less blooms to choose from in winter but I have a kind local florist who had some roses and eucalyptus that were about to be binned. I wrapped and steamed my silk noil and left for a few days to dry. When unwrapped I was pleased that the flowers had given soft shades and the eucalyptus had blended with the rose leaves and given defined green shapes.

I gave myself a basic shape to embroider into and tacked the dyed silk down.
The base under material I choose was cut from a discontinued upholstery fabric swatch book - my purse was starting to be very eco ! The grey fabric had a slight sheen was a nice neutral starting point to lay the dyed silk over.
It is so easy to be nervous and take too long to pick the ‘perfect’ section to cut and this part of a project is the hardest for me. Once I am committed I enjoy the process but the first choices of colour and layout selection are often painfully long for poor indecisive me !
Really .  .   .  you have no idea how long I debate and agonize !!!
To help with this I usually photograph my fabrics in position and then print a few A4 sheets where I can draw some ideas for embroidery before I start to stitch.

Choosing the antique lace is much easier. I have a large collection of Edwardian and Victorian lace and I have divided it into shades and style and size. Old lace is very beautiful and so any choice is a good one. You can’t go wrong with antique lace.
I took inspiration from the natural marks that the flowers and leaves had left on the silk noil to layout the lace and build a flowerbed.

On one side I stitched wild lavender and daisy and a fossil spiral. The shades of purple and pink give a very vintage style to the purse.
The other side I embroidered an open pod with small scraps of antique lace trapped inside. Also some cow parsley as I always love to include french knots.

For an extra bit of colour I stitched a blue moth - an exotic little creature to sit in my antique garden.  The moth was born out of reused work .   .   even more eco! 
Years ago I had some designer knitwear in a fashion awards show and had silk painted a dress for the model to wear with it. It had swirls of marine colours and fish and has been a fantastic source of scrap silk for some time now. I have never been afraid to cut up past work to reuse and relove !

Stitching the purse together and onto the frame was certainly a learning curve !!
It was not easy and there are things I will change next time . . . but all in all I did very much enjoy making my first fabric embroidered purse.
I put it in some tissue and Christmas wrap and it is now ready to give to my good friend Barbara
.  .  .  . just hope her glasses fit !

Monday, 26 September 2016

Sea Queen finally crowned !

This year I was delighted to be part of the Irish Guild of Embroiderers exhibition at the Lexicon Library, Dun Laoghaire Co Dublin.
The theme was ‘Marine’ and the selection of embroidery and textiles by members was fantastic.
The exhibition from 10th September until 5th November 2016 (so still on while I write this blog post). Here are some photos of parts of the process.
Whenever I complete a complex large piece of textile art that has lived so long on my work table, on my sewing machine and on my lap
 .  .  .  it feels strange to stitch the last stitch and cut the last thread.
I do love making small portable pieces but every now and then it is lovely to get absorbed in planning and making a large one.
But I never think about just how much time it will take at the start !

The theme was ‘Marine’ and immediately I had the idea to make a sea lady with a dress made of a shoal of fish.

I eco dyed silk with flowers and rust and added this to indigo dyed silk and did a rough layout of the fabrics onto black felt.
The black felt deepened the colours of the silk and gave me a nice base to stitch to.

Next came the sketching and layout of my figure (which at this stage I had upgraded her to a queen). I wanted her to be at the centre of a deep underwater sea cliff.

I drew my figure onto some natural flat felt (using black biro actually!) and then painted shadow and tone with watercolour.

I choose a palate of threads and started to build up her face and arms with hand stitching.
I think this was my favourite part of the work and a total experiment as I had not embroidered a face before.
I realised that for this piece less was more and did not fill in everywhere. The watercolour shading was a huge help.

For her hair I used dyed wool fleece attached with tiny hand stitches ! 

I used some lovely blue tulle for her dress and stitched this flat before adding the fish.
I am lucky to have a friend who designs curtains and soft furnishing for period homes and who kindly gives me pieces of delicious high end silks from sample books and discontinued collections.

My shoal of fish were born in this way and after making some basic traced shapes I spent a few days cutting out fish. I them machine embroidered the edges, scales and details. I could then add them one by one to make the dress.

One of my passions is antique lace and it features in most pieces I make.
So here and there I added some, softening the whiter pieces with tea stain.
The main lace (Edwardian and Victorian) is in the crown and through her hair.

After all the main elements were finally in place I had fun with the other hand embroidered details. 

I made an anchor with some silk I had rust dyed - and  ‘aged’ it with stitched marks.

Then I ‘grew’ lots of underwater plants and algae to decorate the queen’s garden.

Rocks made with cut felt shapes, seaweed made with silk strips, embroidered shell fossils on the cliff sides .  .  .

and then an octopus cloak !
Each addition made the piece heavier and heavier to twist and turn !

I worked on my textile Sea Queen for quite awhile and the very last part I added was the antique lace crown !! She is stretched and wrapped on 50cm x 100cm canvas.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Cultivating lace and felt bulbs

  . .  Somnium sublacerum (she dreamt of growing antique lace)

I love felt and use it as a base for much of my embroideries. It is a pleasure to stitch into and I love the steady sturdy feel. I often eco dye pieces of felt with flowers and leaves or rust.

When entering a piece for the curated Feltmakers Ireland exhibition ‘Kaleidoscope’ I decided to make 3D felt pods. The exhibition was to celebration the changing shape of felt and the constant inspiration from the natural world. As the venue was to be National Botanic Gardens Dublin I took my inspiration from the bulbs and plants in the majestic vintage greenhouses. Their exotic structures are almost alien and the roots especially interesting and lace-like.

I made both felt pods using natural fiber shades and a large plastic resist sandwiched inside the fiber layers. I gained some valuable lessons in this 3D felt adventure.
(1) It takes a lot of rubbing and rolling.
(2) Best to use strong plastic that can be easily pulled out of the pod.
(3) The opening hole you cut will get a lot lot bigger before pod is finished.

I made a large pod shape and then when finally felted I manipulated the felt into a bulb shape by sewed ridges all around. 

I then made a second smaller ‘younger’ bulb with layered shades of brown and grey felt. 

I wanted lots and lots of felted roots . . . and that took lots and lots of rolling ! The olive soap made my hands the softest and cleanest in Ireland by the time I had made them all !

To dirty the end of each root I first tried rust water but it was too hard on my hands.
So then I tried tea - but the colour was too yellow - so in the end I mixed some watercolour paint in the perfect shade of earth/soil brown and dipped my roots in one at a time.

I made holes in the pods and attached the roots all around.

Next I made the folds of felt to make up the layers in the pods. They had to be soft curved shapes - as natural as possible. ( I used onions and flower bulbs as my reference. )

The leaves were the only green in the bulbs and I shaped them to stand up inside each. 

I imagine my bulbs producing a constant supply of antique lace - how great would that be !! So I added some wonderful 120 year old antique lace scraps onto the larger pod and inside the folds of the bulbs.

Larger flat sections of felt wrapped on a canvas were my ‘soil’ base and I embroidered here and there added ‘stones’ and a little more antique lace.

It was a fun and very interesting project and one I really wish could actually grow me some lace . . .  . but like the name it is a dream ! (thanks you to my scientific sister for the lovely title.)

I was thrilled to have my finished piece chosen to be part of the fantastic Feltmakers Ireland exhibition in the Botanic Gardens in August 2016.

These are a few images from the venue.

Somnium sublacerum
. . . she dreamt of growing antique lace.

It is delightful to imagine a hybrid species that could produce
120 year old antique lace from the natural folds of felted bulbs,
to snip off little pieces from your own personal textile terrarium.