Monday, 24 May 2010

New Buddy Icon: a traditional Tudor Rose

Phew, its very hot in England at the present time, and as a result I’m…um, sunburned!  Because of that I don’t feel quite able to make this into a big 3-in-1 post, so I’ll just say for now that Motif No.2 looked easier than it is and I’m going to have to work out some very crucial stuff, with plain cotton - I’m almost there, but I need to really understand what’s happening before I take it any further.   

However, whilst barbequing myself (lol) in the garden on Sunday, and taking the opportunity of peering closely at my Hawthorn blossom…


it struck me that what I need is a new contextual buddy icon.  I’ve decided to go with a traditional Tudor Rose.  With that I took out my Search Press paperback on Tudor Designs (£4.95) and made one of my little paper template thingies. 

I’ve based the way I’ve filled the shape on two influences.  One is an historical Tudor Rose made entirely of Bullion and pearl seed beads (5 inner petals) but I’ve changed it a bit and added more colours, and the outer petals are based on a bejewelled outfit worn by Henry VIII in a painting. 

Eventually I hope to cut the rose out and mount it as a slip (aka Appliqué) onto piece of green velvet or copper-brown ‘sateen’ (I’m not sure yet?) and extend the design with coiling stems and larger pearls as leaves etc.  Basically, I’ve seen some amazing slips/appliqué work in Jourdain’s ‘English Secular Embroidery’ and I would like to try some ideas out, especially as I’ve been bitten by the ‘bead-lust-bug’...   (I will talk about the beading on the buddy icon more next time.)  

Now as my sunburn is really painful, I decided to post all my pictures sequentially and without any accompanying text, because if you don’t mind, I’ll end off at this juncture and go and apply some more soothing camomile lotion!!  

1 2 3 4 5 6  8 9 10    CIMG3857 CIMG3860

As you can see, I’m losing some definition on the inside of the petals due to the red cotton ‘Raised Padded Buttonhole’ triangles being a bit too big.  Hopefully the next one will ‘conform’ better.  (I’ll explain how to make those raised triangles next time). 


Thursday, 13 May 2010

How I made the Stump work mini fabric book

Well finally, here is the finished repro Girdle Book, with its beaded neck and flat Turks Head Knot tassel.  Remember the book itself measures a mere 2 inches!


As you know I based the idea on an historical item of jewellery that was worn round the waist on a long chain.  I also mentioned that my version of that idea is secular, in fact, this is a stump work mini fabric book made for my daughter about…………… her DOG!!

As you can see, the whole thing was an embellishing fest’!

And you know, the more I added to it, the more it came together, in other words, I found my own way of really understanding some of the basic ideas behind the lavish decoration on Elizabethan items.  The colours are so strong that you have to add lots and lots of themes, like patterns; colour repeats; contrasting effects and naturally consider patina, luminosity, reflection etc etc in other words, lots of stash-busting ideas.


As you can see, it contains 2 photographs protected by thick transparent plastic (recycled) and 4 white fabric pages stitched together that have Image Transfer prints of little caricature sketches I would hurriedly draw of our dog, to stuff into my daughter’s lunchbox when she was at school.  Well, she kept all those drawings in a little box, so I raided it and set to work...


I got the idea of mounting DBH stitching onto card from Dorothy Clarke’s ‘Exploring Elizabethan Embroidery’.  In it she describes how to make serviette holders out of a Pansy design by mounting them onto card.  I think this idea is really great and you can think of endless things to do with it, like stuffed portraits.  So, here I made a heart- shaped book!

How to Start

The whole thing began as a freehand drawing of a heart which I cut out and pinned to some calico and drew around.  Then I stitched 2 hearts with red Detached Buttonhole in a loose way and later stuffed them with standard filling using a handy Bodkin.  Once that was done I cut them out leaving tabs so I could mount them onto card.

Heart template 
padded heart

Shopping list:

1.  Stiff Cardboard (re-cycled Pizza supports)

2.  Cotton red DBH stitching (2 shades plus a metallic type)

3.  White fabric (re-cycled)

4.  Transparent plastic (re-cycled)

5.  Rhinestones

6.  Gold thread (hand-embroidery and machine types)

7.  Beads (gold, red, pearls, silver)

8.  CQ stitching

9.  Mini ribbons & mini roses

10. A piece of choker jewellery with a daisy design

11. Patchwork fabric

12.  2 Photographs

13.  Stuffing

14.  Gold tassel cord (purchased)

15.  Turks Head Knot (purchased)

16.  Large vintage pearl bead (recycled)

17.  Gold elastic

18.  Antique bronze flower charm to conceal join

19.  Decorative braid from stash.


I used spray mounting glue to get the hearts onto the card thinking that would help but it made things very difficult when I came to stitching them securely later on as the glue causes dirt particles to adhere and discolour the work.

Mounting Photographs

Once the hearts were mounted onto the card, using the same template I cut out patchwork fabric to mount the photographs. 


To do this, I cut out 2 more pieces of stiff (Pizza support) card in heart shapes, 2 photographs in heart shapes and 2 pieces of recycled transparent plastic, in heart shapes.  

Then I stuck the mounted photograph to the other side of the stuffed heart and sewed all around the edge to secure everything.  This was easy and took no time. 

Embellishing Borders

The next part was difficult, however, because I had to finish off the raw fabric inner border covering the photograph with Crazy Quilting seam treatments on one side and beads on the other.  This proved to be very time-consuming as the stitches were tiny and I had to take care not to scratch the plastic covering the photographs or pull the fabric out of shape (or stab myself too many times!!).  Remember, its only 2 inches both ways + 1 inch depth.



White Image Transfer Pages

Then I printed the little drawings onto some white sheeting using image transfer paper for an inkjet printer, remembering to use the ‘mirror’ function on the printer settings so that the text would come out the right way.

Ironing Image on Fabric

Now when it came to ironing them I was aiming for a matt effect.  I found the best way to achieve this on my iron was to only press for 8 seconds, rest for 3 seconds and repeat this twice more.  Then quickly pulling the paper off, carefully, but taking tremendous care not to let the thing cool down or else it will develop an unattractive glossy sheen.  (Also remember to always protect your ironing board cover!)

Stitching White Pages

Then I used the heart template again for the white pages, leaving a hem of about 1 cm for tucking in.  Then I stitched the white pages together using hand patchwork technique of ‘blind stitch’. 

I should add the white pages took a long time to stitch together because the chemicals that make up the Image paper are very difficult to stitch into.  I wished at that stage the chemical had stopped short of the edge, however, when I came to bead the circumference of the white pages I was actually glad that it was there as it gave the page stability. 

Sewing Gold Mini Hinges

After all that was done I created the mini hinges that I described earlier (see earlier post).  These consisted of little loops of gold lame, say about 4 loops, then I went round all of them with tiny buttonhole stitching and tied them with thin ribbon.  I found using this method very in-keeping with how the Elizabethans tied their shoes etc.  Later I concealed the ribbon knots on the mini-hinges with ribbon roses in a matching colour because they are just so girlie!!


For newbies, this is what I mean.

Below you see what the hinges look like from the inside, I think its important that they looked decorative from this view as well.  The other advantage of using extraneous loops like this, is that they don’t cramp the pages as they’re opened.  This is another important factor in the overall feel of the item.  I used 2 hinges on each page.  


Beadwork Back

Next I tackled the beadwork back.  I used a simple ‘5-bead netting’ trellis, the kind you see a lot in Tudor paintings.  You make this by adding 2 beads, adding the shared bead and then add 2 more.  For the next row you go into the shared bead, then start sequence again.  (Its explained fully in The Beader's Bible by Dorothy Wood.)  Essentially a grid design that I then had to adapt to fit round a moulded shape.  This took a long time because the margin for error is nil  as the eye immediately rests on the oddity if you decrease incorrectly.  I had to take it out and start again twice!  It was worth it though because it unifies the whole thing by helping to integrate the large rhinestone design on the front.  (For information about the front see earlier post.) 

Braided Trim

Between these two ideas is another ‘unifying’ them, that of the gold and pearl braid running along the edge of the top heart.  I found I needed to add this because the lighter inner area of the book was a bit wide and needed to be concealed.  I was fortunate enough to have this particular braiding in my stash.  I don’t think they make it anymore, its quite old.  If you notice, it not only links the front and the back by means of the pearls but also because of the pattern.  Its a gentle winding curve that echoes the curved form of the padded heart. 

Stages of Construction of 5-Bead Netting

How I beaded the back:

I made the beaded lattice on the table, working from side to side downwards, checking the dimensions every now and again and anchoring the whole thing to a pair of scissors.  I went through each bead only once.  This did not matter at this stage as I knew later on I would go through each of them once or twice more.


Then I rested the beadwork on the heart shape and carefully chose where (and how) to tension and secure the thing in place.  I started from either side at the top, taking great care with how I wanted to centralise the design.  Then I increased and decreased outward, taking tremendous care to mirror each action on both sides.


But saying all of that, even though you are extending the pattern to fit the shape, at the same time you’re moulding the outer edge to echo the overall shape of the thing.  I thought this part was very interesting because I didn’t realise that in decreasing you can achieve this with  as few beads as only one bead at a time in between the shared bead because what actually creates the whole visual effect are the lines of vertical shared (gold) beads coming down.  Furthermore, it helped me decide that I’m going to do this again on the repro bag.

Fitting the Clasp

Then I made a clasp with thickish gold elastic and an antique pearl bead.  The colour for this clasp had to be right, although it might be a little larger than I would have preferred.  I don’t think it detracts though, because there is so much ‘going on’ design-wise, however, this type of clasp has caused readers to refer to it as a needlecase, which is OK really because I borrowed the idea from the Chinese needlecase in my workbox.


As the clasp is merely gold elastic, I concealed the join with a little flower charm that broke off a mobile phone decoration a couple of years ago.  It fits in because its mock antique bronze.


Beaded Neck

Here is a close-up of the neck.  The red beads are very dark but terrifically shiny and so I lessened their deadening tone by adding gold and pearl crowns either side.  The red beads are about 2o years old, for cheap beads I can see now they were really well made. 


Attaching Choker Jewellery Interconnecting Piece

Below is the Celtic style piece of choker jewellery that I threaded the cord through to connect book to cord.  I chose it for design and function as it has an all-in-one ring from which to dangle the book.  Of course the cord was too thick to be able to move along the chocker piece (I found out!), so I added two lines of silver beads on either side to conceal the gold securing stitches, as you can see, its slightly thicker on the left.  But that’s ok, as long as you match the gold colour, you can get away with a certain amount of ‘compromise’. 



Flat Turks Head Knot

Here’s the flat Turks Head Knot.  Again its a very early Christian Celtic design that the Elizabethans adored.  Its my opinion that along with the Talismanic significance of gemstones (see earlier post), the symbolic legacy of these Celtic designs also conveyed something to the Elizabethans.  Here its formed flat, exactly the same formation can be positioned and then tightened around a cord to form the familiar cylindrical Turks Head knot that you see on Swetebags and ships rigging.  The Bag I’m working from in fact has in excess of 35 such knots.  I recently worked out how to make them, so that will save me some money!! 



So in the end its 3 things; its a heart tassel/quasi evening bag charm, a mini fabric book and a stumpwork keepsake.  I like the multiplicity of purpose!

Correction of information regarding name of stitch used for front design goldwork:  I used “Threaded Back Stitch” as described in Mrs Christie's 'Samplers and Stitches'.  Chosen because: 'very little thread passes through the material'.  You can use a different coloured backstitch but I find that if you use the same then the end result is very much like a Cabled Chain stitch but easier for a gold passing thread to complete. 

Bag Progress

Here’s the pattern for the next motif.  Thankfully I’ve found another type of silver Lurex that will suffice for much speedier mock-ups as I need to spend more time working out the complex methods of construction.  For instance with the next flower below.  If you notice the middle section marked with a number 7.  Its my guess that this element was created in a one ‘frill’ idea, then continues outward into 7 individual petals. 

I might be wrong and find that it is in fact made of  7 individual petals that are brought together with the pearl purl but from what I’ve learned so far about curl, I don’t think so because if you notice on the drawing of the photograph below, the curl for this middle element is very exaggerated.

Flower Motif 2 Pattern
Second Flower Motif of Detached Buttonhole
Phew, gotta go!

Friday, 7 May 2010

Yellow stumpwork (modern) rose

You know, I was really quite disappointed with the contemporary red rose I made last week.  In my excitement, I think I inevitably tried to do too many things at once, as you do, and ended up with a woolly mishmash.

So, feeling I couldn’t really leave things as they were, I did a bit more work on it and here’s what I ended up with.  Its still not what I’m after, but I think its quite a nice little thing, if I may say, so I wont be pulling it out.  It needs some leaves etc and I thought I could maybe use it to decorate a needlecase and put 4 of them at each corner on the front, linking them with gold cording or metallic green stems of some description.  Alas, I don’t have enough time for that right now, so  I’ve drawn a quick sketch of that idea and stuck in my ‘ideas’ book.

You can see below that my inspiration in this instance is a Hybrid Tea.

Its still not a very successful ‘furled central cone’ but there was some serendipity along the way in that, because the ‘cone’ collapsed, the resultant form turns out to be reminiscent of a cabbage rose and I don’t mind that because they’re nice and old. 

stumpwork old rose

This is what I’m aiming for:


If you recall, last year, after I discovered that I could make these little flaps of Detached Buttonhole (DBH) I became very concerned with creating accurate right angled corners and inconspicuous mid-air return rows because I needed to find ways to keep the sides from getting  lumpy and to maintain uniformity.  I figured that if I understood the correct technique for that, then I could make lots (and lots) of flowers!

This year, however, what with working from The Bag image  and the discoveries I’ve made so far with the first Blue Flower, I can see that my concerns need to progress to ‘how to turn squares into curved shapes’ –see further along for more about that.  

To save newbies having to read back to those original posts, here’s a brief description of how you make the outer petals of the yellow rose.  The construction is different to the method described for the Gold Petal.  Here’s a quick diagram of both methods plus at the bottom you can see I’ve also included a diagram for the basic petal shape for the next flower on the bag, which you will notice is tapered (see earlier post for a drawing of that).

 DBH diagram re petals 01

It looks very straightforward and it is.  What you do is this:

1.  Make a base line of standard chain stitches, start  this line of stitches from the correct side.  What I mean by this is, consider that when you commence buttonholing, you will always be working TOWARDS your dominant hand.  This will ensure your buttonhole stitches lie flat, are fast to work and are smooth-looking. 

2.  Work your first row of standard Buttonhole stitches, going underneath each chain stitch twice or 3 times.

3.  When you get to the end of the row, take a long straight stitch return row behind the work and come up out of the first stitch, from behind, like this:

Return Row

Here its being pulled tight.

return row pulled tight

4.  When you get to the other end, make sure you go into the very last stitch, it will look funny because it kind of shrinks but you learn to spot it, see the Gold Petal post for a picture of that. 

How to turn right-angles into curves with DBH

Below is quite a neat curved corner. 

Curved Corners

Last year, the way I made curves like this was, I went round the whole thing at the end with straight buttonholing.  This year I’ve found out a quicker method.

To create this curved corner you learn to do 2 things:

1.  When you reload your needle, you take a couple of standard buttonhole stitches on the way back up from emerging through the fabric and in turn,

2.  When you ‘end off’ at the other end, you creep down the petal edge towards the ground fabric again making normal buttonhole stitches into each edge DBH stitch. 

*I hope to do a video of how to make one of these petals for next time.*


From what I’ve discovered so far, curl is a by-product of making these little shapes.  I’ve found that you can make the curl go in the opposite way if you really want to, by tweaking them afterwards, but the natural direction of the curl formed by these little elements have a charm all of their own.  So I don’t tweak them afterwards or wire them or anything, what you see is what you get!!

I should mention, when I’m this excited about making new flowers with these ideas I don’t draw them first, I just go round and round, overlapping petals and making each subsequent row of petals larger than the preceding set.  This can cause you to lose quite a bit of time, so I would have a basic plan to hand, like:

1.  Cone: spiral – Brussels Stitch

2.  3 small petals – Brussels Stitch

3.  5 larger petals - DBH

That’s my basic recipe so far, and as you can see, what I’ve aimed for this time is simplicity.

But saying all of that, I should mention there is something else going on here. 

In going round and round like this, and always mindful that the corolla will need to be photographed, I’ve found a way to enhance perspective by pegging down one edge of the petal further out than on the other side.  What that means is that the uppermost shape you create will be of a ‘teardrop’.  To help me with this, I found looking at the corolla at eye-level and turning it round to reveal which way to achieve this.  Its a visual thing, so you just have to try it for yourself.

For the next flower on The Bag, perspective is handled very adeptly, and so I want to stay close to those lessons.

Here’s what I mean:

 Natural curl

This picture sort of shows what I mean with regard to pulling one side of it out a bit further than the other and pegging it down so that it’s bunched a bit at one end: ‘pull and peg’.


So that’s all I wanted to show you about my own way of doing a modern rose.   I’ll be coming back to this idea often, as the mood takes me…


Progress Report on The Bag

My Lurex, spangles, smooth purl, pearl purl etc etc have all arrived and have been checked and tested.  I have 2 lots of Lurex, one will do Trellis Stitch, the other type wont.  I’ve decided to do the background in 90% silver passing Number 4.  This is the thinnest real silver thread I can get.  Lurex is 0.33mm and the passing number 4 is 0.35mm, so the difference is very small just as on the bag. 

The image of the bag indicates that background silver is slightly thicker than for the motifs and has different segmentation.  The silver they used for the motifs is the same silver they used for the cords, doubled-up.  From this careful examination of the image, I have concluded that they probably used flattened silver wire wrapped round a silk core for the Gobelin background but for the tiny knotted motifs, I think they used gilded parchment. 

It will be a little frustrating to use the Lurex as you don’t have to do much with it before the core starts poking out.  I should also point out that on the museum image, there is no core sticking out, anywhere. 

In terms of deterioration, what has happened extensively on The Bag is that the thread used for securing the smooth purl has snapped in various places.  Other than a damp patch on the bottom left side, The Bag is in remarkable condition.

For the next motif I will need Bullion, which I don’t yet have, so I’ve decided to satin stitch those areas for the mock-up.

I’ve been invited to go along and speak at a group that meets on the coast.  So to help me with that, I intend to make a mock-up of each motif the same size as the last one, that means at the end I’ll be able to make a fabric book which can be handed round the class.  As the bag will have real silver thread, I would prefer them not to handle it too much. 

Now I have to choose the silk.  I’m going with The Silk Mill’s divisible thread.  Thankfully there is enough colour on The Bag for me to carefully match each colour with the pigments in Watercolours.  It’s pretty difficult I find, to choose colours over the internet but that is what I’ll have to do as I am nowhere near any silk thread retailers. 


Anne of Cleves House

Oh, for those of you visiting the Southeast this Summer, thought I’d tell you about Anne of Cleves house that I passed the other weekend, which you might like to visit.  I didn’t actually go inside, but I had to show you this because I so love Tudor kitchens!  Obviously, the one at Hampton Court is par excellence but I think as Tudor divorce settlements go, she didn’t do too badly.

 anne of cleves house & gardens 1

I think you can just see below, Anne’s Kitchen now also houses the Gift Shop!

 ann of cleves house - page 2