Thursday, 28 November 2019

Enthralled by threads and fabrics

Rediscovering working with fabrics and threads has been a joy over the last few months, and the latest piece has some pretty threads knotted to make a macramé chain for the painted silk centrepiece. The colours are inspired by a vintage china vase I keep my paint brushes in and  it has rather an oriental feel to it. Working in mixed media gives me the freedom to achieve some interesting surface textures, in this piece it’s a look of cloisionne enamelwork that I wanted to imitate. Working the intricate little knots proved a very soothing and pleasurable distraction from all the tidying, cleaning, reorganising and gift buying that Christmas demands.

My love of threads and fabrics started when I was about 11. My nan took me into Norwich to buy some sewing supplies. I’d been given my first workbasket not long before and had told her that I was keen to have a go at some cross stitching. We went to a sewing shop called Aldertons (closed many years ago sadly) and I well remember my excitement as we walked in and I saw the vast array of pretty threads and bewildering selection of fabrics. The old fashioned shop seemed to be bursting at the seams with crafting goodies.

Nan told the lady what I wanted to stitch (a needle book) and we were told that we needed a fabric called ‘Binca’. We thanked her and started to select some brightly coloured embroidery flosses – Every so often as we browsed though the shop she sneaked up behind us and boomed in our ears ‘Binca…… Binca….. never forget, you need Binca! Anyway we did indeed get a piece of Binca, as well as some lovely threads and as we were leaving the shop the lady followed us to the door and boomed after us again ‘BINCA…. Yes it’s Binca you need, don’t forget that will you!’ As we walked up Swan lane nan turned to me and chuckled ‘We never will forget that stuff is called Binca will we!’ And of course I never have.

I have a different more grown up workbox now, a treasured gift from my sister, and it is as delightfully full of crafting treasures as ever….. but not a single scrap of Binca. I’ve recently added a full set of DMC metallic threads and a beautiful brand new book of embroidery stitches to add to the vintage ones . The 11 year old me would have loved experimenting with those!

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Nimble needles

Like any keen crafter, I have an ever expanding collection of craft books. Being keen on mixed media, I have an excuse to buy books on a wide variety of subjects, from macramé to metalwork and everything in between! But it was a very small booklet that began my lifelong love for crafting.  I had been given my first ever sewing basket for Christmas, full of sewing notions such as needles, tape measure, pins and thimble. I begged some scraps of fabric from grandma and she gave me this little booklet.

Those nimble needles still help me – dear old back stitch and his friends help to make bead embroidered pieces and I recognised a distant cousin of buttonhole stitch when I completed the chain on my latest piece.

The tiny floral pattern I painted on the heart reminded me of those little scraps of flowery fabrics and my first adventures in needlework.

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Fascinated by ferns

I've been meaning to make a necklace featuring a fern leaf for some time. They seem to be such mysterious plants, flourishing in secret damp and shady places. There is a hint of the magical about them. Wanting to create a mossy appearance around the border led to some experiments with knotting around the painted silk section.

The Victorians were certainly fascinated by ferns, and collecting them was quite a craze back then. They never seemed content with just looking at nature, they had to dig it up and take it home. Special metal containers called vasculums were made so that the keen fern collector could ravage the countryside and keep their trophies fresh. I think I'll stick to painting nature and leave the real thing to grow and flourish!

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Michaelmas daisies in miniature

Funny what takes you back in time isn't it? This year I bought some plug plants on the internet - a lucky dip assortment for the patio pots. Such pretty things came up, including some wee michaelmas daisies. They remind me of my grandad, he always had them and they flowered until quite late in the year. My miniature version is still going strong out there on the patio, but it's far to wet this week to go out and sit. Instead I've been busy with the miniature painting brushes and seed beads, creating a pendant inspired by them.

I figured that I could incorporate a 'cabochon' made of silk and surround it with a bezel, to make something that had a vintage look to it, in keeping with a flower of cottage gardens..... and urban ones!

Monday, 16 September 2019

A garden escape

Inspired by sketches I made earlier this summer of some beautiful oriental poppies we spotted on the grass verge, I decided to create an abstract pendant within an embossed copper frame. I painted my design on some stretched cotton, and added just a hint of pearly and metallic paint, so that it has a lovely sheen.

Now I'm wondering what other abstract designs I can come up with, based on the still abundant blooms on the patio. I'll get out there with my sketchbook tomorrow!

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Capturing the beauty of autumn in bead embroidery

Subtle changes herald the approach of autumn. Mornings feel cooler and the hedgerows are beginning to take on their autumn hues. The bramble in particular, favours a colourful costume, as her leaves turn the most beautiful shades of yellow, red and purple.

Over the years, I’ve spent many happy hours with watercolours, trying to capture the beauty of autumn leaves and berries, sometimes sitting outside, or sometimes with a sprig on my desk in a jam jar. So I already had a good folder full of reference material to base my necklace on. I've also noticed that the hedgerow that borders our front garden is full of sloes this year, so that is something I'm keen to include.

A painting from my autumn sketchbook 

I love the bloom on these rich purple berries and hunted out a large bead with just the right finish to it as well a a treasure trove of other berry themed bijouterie. I did a quick sketch of what I saw in my imagination.

Having been happily experimenting with painting on silk, I decided to make painted bramble leaves in all their autumn glory. The photo below shows the leaves in the first stages of construction. The wire armature was covered in wire wraps and gave a good firm anchor point to attach them to the background support fabric.

Combining my love of painting nature with making jewellery has meant hours of creative bliss and this lustrous creation is the end result. It’s quite close to my original sketch I think.

Friday, 16 August 2019

Mellow Yellow

I'm just mad about saffron.... do you remember the Donovan song from way back when? I've been indulging my love for the colour recently, and golden yellow has found it's way into my latest piece. I can just imagine how lovely this would look with outfits in autumnal colours.

The central flower is a vintage one, unusual and beautifully made. It was plain, and the little stamens just seemed to invite me to use them to claw set a dichroic cabochon! It's fun to think outside the box!

Friday, 26 July 2019

Marigolds and feverfew

It was some gorgeous orange marigolds that inspired me this week. I have several lovely lengths of satin cord and this orange colour matched my painted flowers really well.

Mr J pointed out that some silver bead caps would give it a bit of sparkle so I hunted some out that look like little petals. A mixture of knots along the cord add a bit of texture. Jewellery making has been a bit slow this week - far too hot to concentrate on anything complicated!

Saturday, 20 July 2019

A fanciful framework for dichroic glass

I've been on a personal mission over the last few weeks to find ways of encasing cabochons without losing too much of the outside edges of them. As soon as I pulled this lovely dichroic cabochon out of my collection it reminded me of some photos I had seen of reflections of city lights in water.

I particularly liked the way the stripes looked right at the edges of the glass so spent a bit of time working out how to craft the wire so that these areas remained visible. I've gone for quite an art nouveau look to this one and have designed the chain so that the shapes echo the wirework. I think I need a couple of days off after all that!

Friday, 12 July 2019

A painterly pendant

I've had a lovely couple of days making this pretty necklace. There is something so relaxing about sitting with a palette of paints and a pile of beads.

There was only one small (well large actually) hiccup during it's making. I had strung all the beads and held it up to check everything looked good. One end slipped from my grasp and all the beads slipped off. One strand would have been bad enough, but I have three in this piece. That will teach me to put masking tape on the ends next time!

Monday, 8 July 2019

A walk amongst wildflowers

What a lovely way to spend a Monday morning, walking alongside a wildflower meadow. This pretty area is beside the path I take to the post office on the days when I am fortunate enough to have jewellery to send.

I took my camera out with me this morning, in order to photograph the cornflowers which look spectacular amongst the abundance of other wild flowers. Looking at a picture in a book is all very well, but getting up close and personal with this lovely flower teaches me so much more about how it is formed. The colours are so inspirational, I love yellow, purple and blue in combination. I've no idea what I will make as yet, but it will certainly be bright and inspired by this lovely ramble in nature.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Sitting Pretty

We try to spend as much time as possible sitting on our garden seat throughout the summer months. Lunches are eaten there, plans are made, wine is enjoyed and necklaces are made. Looking at the colour of the roses and geraniums inspired me to hunt out components in those colours.

I decided to include some turquoise after noticing how a bright blue solar lamp was making splash of colour in amongst the pot plants. It’s added just the contrast I needed to make a gorgeous combination with the rose and antique gold. Just the merest hint of marigold is in there too, in the form of some sparkling Swarovski crystals.

The 2 glass ‘nugget’ beads have been in my collection for ages – as always, beads have a mind of their own and know when they want to be used!  It really has been a labour of love and I’ve really enjoyed every moment of its creation.

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Dawn Mist - Finished at last

Hurrah, my latest piece is completed. Learned how to make a few new twists and turns with the wire during its making.

The weather is so lovely outside that I've decided to take the afternoon off, and sit out amongst my plants to read the little pile of wirework  books that came through post last week.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Filigree Wirework

Filigree wire wraps just seem to suit the muted dawn shades in my latest wirework  piece. The central section is nearing completion - just a few more beads to weave into the side 'arms' to give it stability and structure.

I've loved every minute of making this. There have been some long pauses between wraps, as I consider how to continue the shapes. That's what I love about working with wire - it can be fast and freeform, or slow and symmetrical.

Saturday, 22 June 2019

A new dawn

A new morning saw me leaping out of bed with an idea for a wire wrapped necklace in mind. There's no holding me back when I'm excited by a new creation and I was hunting through my beads before I'd changed out of my jim jams! It's at a very early stage at the moment, but the wire 'skeleton' is taking shape ready to be encrusted with beads in shades of dawn and dove.

The real challenge will be achieving a symmetrical look. I will take my time, checking my work after every wrap, adjusting as I go. I'll post more pics as it progresses over the weekend.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Safari - A new necklace inspired by African wildlife

I've been busily wire wrapping all morning. I've reached the stage where I'm putting all the component parts of 'Safari' together. I had a good ferret about in my box of semi precious gemstones and came across these agate beads to include in the chain.

I will make some elements with beads and wire loops and incorporate them between the bail and chain sections. The colours complement the pendant really well. Can't believe I created this pendant and then had it sitting in my component box for so long. I guess it was just waiting for the right accent beads to come along. Anyway, it will be a heavenly creature once it's done!

Friday, 14 June 2019

Floating petals

It seemed an appropriate time to add this pretty piece to my Folksy store. Looking out at my patio, there have certainly been some floating petals this week.

I loved coming up with a design for this fused glass cabochon which made the most of the striking lime green border. I made paper cut outs before I got to work with the saw and hammer. The little pink flecks in the glass have the look of an impressionistic watercolour. Which reminds me - I must remember to watch the programme on BBC2  tomorrow about the RA summer exhibition. Every year it makes me determined to do more painting of my own. If the rain ever stops I'm intending to sit outside and paint my pot plants!

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Rain and shine

We’ve had rain all week. After working so hard to create a lovely place to sit outside our back door, it’s been too wet to venture out. The poor plants have taken a battering, the chives are no longer standing  to attention and the daisies have sensibly closed their petals in defeat. However, coming down to make the first coffee of the day I looked out and couldn’t believe my eyes. Despite the early hour, and the damp cool morning, there was the most beautiful little humming bird moth hovering among my patio plants. I did a quick sketch, noting it’s rust coloured wings, cigar shaped body and amazingly long proboscis.

I do hope it will return, as I have plenty of flowers to tempt it including some pretty Zinnias. I waged war on the slugs this year, with copper tape round all the pots and a daily ‘snail patrol’ every morning and evening. If I find one I lob it over the hedge into the field. So far I’ve only lost one plant. My vigilante approach seems to be working!

The upside of all this wet weather has meant that I have had more time for jewellery making.  I’ve completed two necklaces this week! ‘Elfine’ is done and will be off to her new home soon. I loved every minute of her making, and am pleased with the arrangement of all the different elements.

The back has turned out nicely neat and smooth, which is something I always aim for in my bead embroidery projects.

Whilst the rain pattered down I created my ‘Nixie’ wirework necklace. I just loved that cabochon with its flash of green and had some fun choosing all the lovely beads to coil and weave around it.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Gardening gloves off!

I’m ashamed to say that I used to be rather  lazy about the garden – even though ours is really just a patio with the odd bed here and there. This year though I’ve caught the bug and there are pots-a-plenty full of little flowering treasures to paint in watercolour or to inspire my bead embroidery, as well as some herbs and mixed salad leaves to harvest if the snails can be kept at bay. Of course all this outside activity has meant that beadwork has taken rather a back seat. But it’s damp and dull at the moment so I can spend some time this weekend on my latest bead embroidered creation.

I wanted to use this silver coloured leaf and combine it with freshwater pearls, but wasn’t sure how to do it, so it had sat in my components drawer for some time. But my experiments with painted fabric led to the lightbulb moment I needed and I backed it with handpainted silk. This meant that I could stitch a little pearl at the bottom and it sits beautifully over the leaf shaped piece of mother-of-pearl on the other side. I’ve called this piece ‘Elfine’ after a character in ‘Cold Comfort Farm’ by Stella Gibbons – one of my favourite books. Hopefully I will end up with a pretty piece that looks as if it might be worn to dance in the dells and woods!

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Fabric folding fun

I’d been rearranging  my sewing materials when came across some gorgeous cream coloured silk dupion fabric. Maybe it’s because I’d been watching ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’ that I felt a compulsion to craft some jewellery out of fabric. I have a selection of ‘Lumiere’ fabric paints and I figured that they would work well to colour the silk. To stop the colour running too much and to help the fabric to stiffen and fold crisply, I gave it a coat of ‘Powertex’ medium.

This is my first experience of using Powertex, it’s made specifically for sculptures, mixed media and jewellery and I like the fact that it’s environmentally friendly. The first thing I noticed was that it has a very pleasant smell and the bottle is sturdy and very well designed. Once applied to the silk it dried quickly to a stiff finish that provides a perfect base for the Lumiere paints. I’ve been looking at Elizabethan costume designs on the internet recently – they were expert at cutting, pleating and layering fabrics, as shown in the beautiful doublet below.

Did you know that the Elizabethans used crushed bluebell bulbs to starch their clothes and ruffs? Thankfully the bluebells in the local woods are safe as my Powertex worked a treat, and after a brief spell in the lovely vintage flower press I picked up on Ebay last week my leaf earrings were ready to have the beads added.

I’m pretty satisfied with these first two prototype pairs of earrings – silk is incredibly tough, (think of parachutes) especially when painted with mediums and textile paints. These pretties would certainly stand up to the rigours of everyday wear. I’m already thinking of other exciting possibilities for this technique, for example in combination with Soutache or bead embroidery.

Friday, 8 March 2019

A tidy desk at last!

What an enjoyable challenge this new piece has been! Thought I’d post some photos of ‘Enchantress’ before she goes off to her new home.

The back is neatly done with beads, as I wanted the patterns to go over the edge of the pendant.

It seems rather strange to have a bead-free desk, but a couple of days off will give me a chance of a really good tidy up and a think about what I will make next. 

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Enjoying the elements

I must confess, beading has been a bit slow. The lovely sunshine was just too tempting to resist, so walks, weeding and sitting outside meant that progress on ‘Enchantress’ has waited until the weather has gone back to the usual for early March. Added to that, was the fact that this has been a piece that has really stretched me, both in terms of visual design and construction techniques. As I already have a buyer for it, I’m keen that it will be a beautiful piece of work.  Now that I’m happily back in my beading seat, the chain elements are well under way.

As you see in my photo, I’m thinking about the way they will link to the main pendant. My challenge when starting this piece was to make it without the usual backing and edge border stitching that you normally use to make a bead embroidered piece. It enabled me to play with ways of breaking out of my donut shape, and I’m going to use that little disk shaped green bead between the two bail  strings at the top of the pendant, as it will then sit a bit above them at the top. Little touches like this can make such a difference to a design.

My muse keeps coming and whispering about a piece I’ve had in mind for a while - a bead embroidered fish. Now I’m thinking this new technique without the border might work well for that ……. or perhaps an exotic bird version……. Exciting beading times ahead!