Flowering gumnuts

Flowering gumnuts

The w/e of 11-12 May I joined other members of my local textile group to attend a 2-day felting workshop by Hellen Edwards. Her work is interesting, vibrant, and involves machine stitching on felt.

Typical of Hellen’s work

The thought of machine embroidery filled me with dread. In the past I have done free motion embroidery quite successfully but I’m not a regular practitioner so to speak, and last year attended two workshops involving FME, the results of which were constantly mangled threads that neither tutor could resolve, total frustration and (I’m ashamed to admit) me leaving early in tears! I reported my troubles to my machine service guy, he investigated and found no obvious problem. What!!!! So, it is me!!!

However, on collecting my machine he wasn’t there, explaining my woes to the lady serving I gained some new knowledge….not all machines like doing free motion embroidery (she had such experience over several years and several machines)….so, machines have their likes and dislikes too! Then came my AH HA moment – those two particular workshops I had been using my new machine. Note to self – Use old machine for future FME.

Hellen chose a photo from her floristry arrangement collection (flowers in vases) then gave instructions for the laying out of the wool, showing various tips and finally let us loose on our own work.

This is what Hellen produced during our workshop.

Most of us hadn’t known what we would be doing but I had researched Hellen’s work and then in passing found various images of gumnuts (eucalyptus) in flower. Although not the flowers in a vase scenario, Hellen was content for me to use my images….I know I’ve said it before, but….I’m not really a rebel!

Those of you who have read my previous posts will know I draught very thinly so I paid particular attention to that this time. Corriedale was a requirement on our supply list but as I have plenty of washed and carded white Shetland I planned to use that rather than buy in more wool. Onto three ‘good’ layers of the Shetland (realising that laying the ‘picture’ would be mostly vertical I actually planned the layers of the Shetland backwards, if that makes sense!) I added the merino, blending several colours together to create the leaves etc. Nepps were added for detail and some synthetic fibres for a bit of lustre.

Once our pictures were complete it was onto felting and fulling. From the photos you may just glimpse that I use a thin plastic below and (once wetted down) above my wool. I continue as if I’m working with netting. I find this method means the water doesn’t disappear between the bubbles so I use less and enables me to flip the whole package over very easily to work from both sides.

At the end of the first day we were given instructions to ensure that our works were finished and completely dry ready for machine embroidering the next day.

Having read the above you will understand that I really had to steel myself for the FME. But having dusted off my old sewing machine and having put the bad memories in a box, I set to. Ha! Although I’d dusted off my machine I had not checked the drawer where the embroidery foot was located….it was full of machine oil from a leaked little bottle, everything was soaking in it! This can’t be happening! OK, be positive, the upside – nothing will rust!

Finally everything cleaned, fingers included, machine threaded, needle threaded and….off….woohoo….success! All I could think of was ‘I love you, I love you’ as I patted my old trusty workhorse, my friend then started laughing….although I had thought it, she pointed out I had actually voiced it. 

There was a contended buzz in the room with only some chatter as we were all concentrating on our work and the end of the two days came all too quickly.

Our group with a wonderful array of work

Since the workshop I have continued with the FME, using my darling trusty machine for straight and zigzag stitch and applied the detail with hand stitching. I was lucky to have just the right colour variegated yarn which split and sub-split into fine matt and lustrous threads.

And on the way I purchased a great travel steam iron to use on my felt – it is really dinky (almost cute) and fits perfectly into the little crevices.

My Gumnuts piece is complete after only 2 weeks….an absolute first for me. It is not in the PINS (project in need of something) box and I am sufficiently pleased with it that it is awaiting a frame.

31 thoughts on “Flowering gumnuts

  1. That is a fabulous piece! So glad you overcame you FMS fears. I’m currently stitching on a felt piece to and I’m really not feeling the love, wish I’d been at your class!

    1. Thank you Amanda. Try putting your piece to one side for a while, rather than ploughing on….you might be inspired by something during that time to spark the love back!

  2. Feeling inspired!
    Thankyou for the lovely insight into your work and very helpful info.
    I am just making a book of ideas for an exhibition for my textile group and oh! the joy of seed heads . I discovered gum nuts on google and love the textures and colours . We have a very tall eucalyptus in our U.K garden but it only has tiny seed heads ! I plan to make a felt picture from the googled images. Hopefully it will work out. There will be lots of stitching . My machine copes well, but it’s the threads that unravel I find very frustrating .
    One day it works and the next can be a complete nightmare.

    1. Seed heads are a favourite of mine too….I’m trying to take photos rather than continue littering the house with the real ones! I hope your book of ideas works out, I’d love to see it and your felted picture please.

  3. Well done on overcoming your fear. It’s one I share despite having done Ruth’s course. I should have continued doing a little every day to improve my skill & confidence but the dining table was reclaimed for its intended purpose! When i got back to it I got loads of tangled threads. You have made me think that I might try a friend’s sewing machine.
    Your gumnut flowers are lovely and i like that you’ve chosen natural setting rather than an arrangement in a vase. The whole group appear to have produced some great pictures.

    1. Thank you for your comments. Yes it was an almost paralysing fear, which was just getting worse. But as soon as I heard about the foibles of some machines that gave me enough confidence to try again. Tangled threads are no fun at all.
      Our group did produce great pieces and I’m looking forward to seeing them all completed – hopefully when we have our August exhibition.

  4. I too have a slight dread of FME. But not for any logical reason, I’ve never seriously tackled it. After all the work that goes into a felt piece I cringe at the real possibility of spoiling it.. sadly a course is not an option for me, there being nothing very close to me. (Like nothing I can find in the whole of Spain 🤪). Your picture is gorgeous and I’m inspired to make a start with my machine – YouTube here we come! Thankyou for your talent and inspiration.

    1. Thank you Jane, I hope I have inspired you – that is exactly the purpose of this site. I’m sure you will find YT very helpful (coincidence I’m in Spain at the moment!). Start with a running stitch and progress from there. The important thing is to relax – maybe a good glass of ginebra will help!

    1. I feel honoured that my work has brought back the memories for you. Whilst I have seen and handled the seeds (actually in the States) I have sadly not seen these beautiful flowers….one day………..

  5. Great post, and I am glad you figured out the way to move forward with FME. The gumnuts turned out beautifully and should definitely be framed.

    1. Thanks Ruth. I did enjoy this one as evidenced by it’s speedy completion. Now that my old faithful machine is out I need to maybe check my PINS box for possible candidates.

  6. What a beautiful felted piece! The FME & hand stitching makes your gumnuts really pop! Thanks for the great post & photos and for sharing about your sewing woes as I can certainly relate. 🙂

    1. Thank you for you lovely comments.
      I always hope that by writing about my ups & downs on the way to producing a piece, it supports others….most of us travel similar parallel paths.

  7. Love all the little hand stitched details. Everyone in the class photo had a successful project and a proud smile.

  8. Looking at the photos it was obvious from the beginning that I would be embellishing the piece with knots at the very least. I’m glad you like my efforts Debbie.
    Certainly it was a successful workshop, with great results by all in our group.

  9. Your embroidery enhances the felt beautifully and the knots are the ‘icing’ – you’ve created wonderful flowers that deserve framing and displaying!
    The class photo shows how successful everyone was – what a great tutor!

    You have disproved the saying that a bad workman always blames his tools – how can you work with dodgy tools?
    Happy to hear that your trusty old sewing machine is giving good service.

    1. Thank you Lyn for your lovely remarks. Happily everyone produced great works.

      My old machine is still good allowing me not only to FME, but also to ‘slide-alter’ the width of my stitches as I’m actually stitching. I found out a couple of years ago that my new (now 4 years old) machine won’t let me undertake my much loved technique as it is ‘digital’….New is not always better!

  10. Antje I share that terror of machine embroidery even though I’ve done several pieces and taken Ruth’s class. It’s a matter of starting. Your piece is gorgeous. Great detail and color. I’m so glad you soldered thru your fear. All of your classmates did a great job. Kudos to all of you.

  11. Thanks Marilyn, I blended various Merino tops to achieve the colours, and simply studied the photos to help replicate the feel of the flowers.
    Once I got started with my old machine I felt right at home and the fear melted away, thankfully. The funny thing is if I want to go backwards with my FME I can’t stop myself stopping the machine to turn the fabric – sideways or circles no problem, but not straight backwards!

  12. I am so glad you have been successful with FME, I adore it, it makes your work pop. Your piece is fabulous, I hope you are proud of it, and glad you had a good day in the company of like minded people.

  13. Fabulous work Antje! I’m all in favour of a bit of gentle rebellion when it comes to using your own design and you’ve certainly pulled it off! I am a big fan of FME, particularly on a Felted background, so I can see you having a lot of fun with it on your old machine.

  14. Thanks Karen. I love learning new things (today, meeting an artist friend, I’ve just been finding out about the gathering of cork bark!), but if I’m in a workshop I want to learn everything (and more!) employing that knowledge into something more specifically ‘mine’. I do try to be careful though as some tutors find that concept difficult.
    Now that I’ve overcome the machine hurdle I hope to use more FME on my work and ideas are bubbling away!

  15. What a lovely piece! I have only just started wet felting with wool and I have severe issues with the free stitching. I have an old (very) Sears Kenmore from the USA that still works and I don’t think my machine likes it much either. I am hoping to crack it one day! 🙂

  16. Thank you Arlene. You will find wet felting an addictive hobby, not only the creating but also the learning as wool is so versatile allowing you to explore very many directions.
    You could try adding a thin backing (adhesive Vilene – used in dress making, typically in cuffs & collars) your felt to see if that helps with your machine….but as you’ve read above I’m not the expert!

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