I have been continuing to slowly add bits and pieces to my tree ‘specimen’ book. You can see most of the ‘blank’ pages of the book in this post and some pages that have had ‘specimens’ added to them here.
This is definitely a ‘slow’ project that I am working on very intermittently. It’s been fun to pick it up again and just add a few things here and there without pressure to finish it or make it look perfect.
I added some more machine stitched moss to the first page and a definition of mossy.
On this page spread on the left, I had one of my plaster coated pages but it had cracked significantly. I need to get some gesso to paint over these pages but since I haven’t ordered it yet, I decided to try something different. I layered different colors of paint on the cracked surface. You can click on the photo to enlarge it. The page on the right is a torn piece from one of my small sketchbooks. It kind of reminds me of pine needles. It was originally screen printed and I added colored pencil to enhance the look of the pine needles. Torn and messy is the point of this book so I ripped the sketchbook page and glued it down to a lightly painted background page. You can see the dark edges of the next page which is next up.
The page on the right is an eco print on paper that my friend Paula created. She has a big stash of these papers and kindly let me use a few.
This is the back side of the eco print above. I cut a window out of the painted background so you could see more of the backside of the eco print. I added a machine stitched tea bag leaf as well. The right side is another plaster coated canvas pages that needs to be gessoed and then drawn or painted on.
This pine cone on the right was stenciled ages ago. I pushed some kind of thicker medium through the stencil to give a relief effect. It didn’t work all that well and got a bunch of bubbles in it. I painted it green at some point but didn’t like that either. I got it out of my paper stash and decided I needed to finish it. I added walnut ink, sepia marker and matte medium to get it to a point that I was satisfied with it looking like a pine cone. It also needed more strategic cutting out than I had done previously. I glued it down to the painted background letting a little bit of the pine cone stick out over the edge of the page. This is a testament to never giving up on a piece of artwork!
Next to the feathers that I had shown you in my last post, I glued another one of Paula’s eco prints down on to the dictionary page. I can’t decide if this page needs something else but I will just leave it for now. I do want to leave more simplified areas where the eye can rest.
This one on the right is the last page that I worked on this time. It was originally a deconstructed screen print on paper all in the brighter green. When I was looking through the book, this page caught my eye as I saw a leaf in the middle of the page. I used Inktense pencils and then water on a brush to make the darker leaf appear more strongly on the page. I hope you can tell I am having fun with this. It is a very freeing process not worrying about the final outcome.
My next step in finishing the driftwood piece was to create lichen. I had made lichen before from Tyvek but alas, I had none in my stash. So I looked for other materials that could be shaped with a wood burning tool and that would shrink and make interesting shapes with a heat gun.
What I found was a fusible lightweight Pellon interfacing and nylon organza. The interfacing does not need to be fusible to work, it’s just what I had on hand. I can’t remember why I bought it but hopefully, it would work so I wouldn’t have to buy anything else.
I painted the small pieces of interfacing and organza with a light layer of acrylic paint. As you can see here, the paint was not heavy and the shade of blue green was very light in value.
Next, I got out my wood burning tool and a piece of glass to burn on. I made random lichen shapes in the interfacing. I also did the same with the nylon organza. Once they were cut out, I held the small pieces with a pair of tweezers and used the heat gun to make them shrink up and get curly. I also added a bit of brown marker to the edges of the lichen as there are definitely brown bits on the real stuff.
Here’s the result. Yay, it looks like I wanted it to. Success. Now to add it and the dead teabag leaves to the mossy driftwood. I glued the lichen in place as it was mainly on the wood itself. I stitched the leaves down to the felt in a couple of places.
Here’s the result. You can click on the photo to enlarge it.
And the close up views. I’m happy with how it turned out and it was a really fun project.
The moss has been getting filled in by hand stitching and adding the machine stitched moss I created. I am trying to decide how much more hand stitched moss to add. I think it needs more “trailing” knots in the “bare” felted areas. But I also need to add lichen in places but I haven’t created the lichen yet. I’m thinking I will try Tyvek lichen.
The next step was to create dead, desiccated leaves. I found a tutorial for making them out of tea leaves on Youtube. I had made them out of Lutradur before but not tea bags so I thought I would give it a go. I drink tea every morning so I started saving the old tea bags for this project. In the video, she used some type of stabilizer but I decided to try without one. I layered two flattened tea bags together and just started free motion machine stitching the veins. As you can see, you don’t want to stitch the outer edge of the leaf as it looks more natural without it. Then I cut them to shape with scissors.
The next step was to burn the edges and the holes. I found it was easier to get a more natural look when I was looking at photos of dead leaves. That way the leaves don’t all turn out the same. I used a wood burning tool for this operation (the video uses an incense stick). Obviously, you need to be careful when you’re burning things and it is pretty stinky too, you need ventilation. So I took mine to the stove and turned on the overhead fan to draw away the fumes. Plus the stove top is heat proof and won’t be burned or damaged.
So here’s the full piece with the leaves just placed on it. I will be stitching them down at some point to hold them in place.
Here’s a couple of close ups. You can click on the photos for a bigger view. I am happy with the progress and it is definitely looking very “forest floor”.
Last time I posted, I showed you a piece of driftwood that I had covered in green felt to represent moss. It definitely needed more work to achieve the natural look that I desired.
I took a small pair of sharp scissors and cut out some holes as well as making the ends not so uniform and straight. I then decided to use the left over cut out pieces as padding for stitching. I added the left over pieces in a couple of places and hand stitched them down.
I then decided to try adding more texture with needle felting. I had a pile of little wet felted scraps which you can see on the left and I needle felted those down. Then I added some wool from my carded batts that I had left over after wet felting. I needled those down but not too firmly. I still wanted the texture of moss, which you can see in the right photo.
Here’s what it looked like after I finished the lower layered bits. I left hanging threads as this will be the “grassy” looking bits sticking up between the moss.
Next was looking for different green threads. Here’s what I came up with. You can also just see on the left side that I found some of my photos of moss and printed those out for reference.
I then started adding some hand stitching. These are “wonky” French knots with hand dyed lace weight wool thread. This is going to take a while. I have another “slow” stitch project on my hands.
Next up was to try some machine stitching. I made a sandwich of the threads on the left between two layers of water soluble fabric. I then machine stitched a random branching pattern. The photo on the right shows the result after washing out the soluble fabric.
Here’s a small piece of the machine stitched moss by the French knot section. I haven’t stitched it in place as I think I will do more of the hand stitching first. I’m loving all the different greens as that is definitely what you find in nature. I will keep you updated on my progress.
I have been thinking about creating a meadow themed landscape for a while so I decided to do a smaller piece (about 8″ x 10″) to try out some different ideas.
I found a nice background from my stash, that is nuno felted and has an upper plain felt portion. The only problem was it wasn’t 8″ wide. I want to be able to frame this piece with a standard frame so that it doesn’t have to have a custom frame. Looking through my boxes of felt pieces, I found the upper darker blue piece that would add enough to the total to get to 8″ in height. I think it is a screen printed piece but I really can’t remember. Some of the stuff in my stash is really old and needs to be used up.
Now to connect them together. The simplest plan was to needle felt them together. I made the light blue felt uneven by cutting it as I didn’t want to see a straight line working it’s way through. Then I needle felted the two together and this is the result.
Next, I looked through my many boxes of yarn bits. These are the ones that I decided to try. I want the scene to look like autumn grasses and seed heads. Some of the choices didn’t get used but now I needed to sample them and see how I wanted the stitching to look.
Luckily, I have more of the nuno background to use as a sample. This piece is about 3″ x 6″ as I only wanted to try out the different colors and practice a little free motion machine embroidery before I started on the main piece. I did put a thin interfacing on the back to stabilize the felt. I like most of these ideas for grasses and seed heads except for the one that looks almost white. I think I will skip using that one. The purple one on the far end is a small piece of purple felt that I stitched down with a lighter thread color. I’m only going to have a few flowers that are still blooming in this piece. The tentative name at this point is “Late Bloomers”. Hopefully, I will finish this before my next post.
We had a busy few days setting up the exhibition and I thought you might like to see a few set up photos.
And then it was the day of the exhibition. We had around 80 people attend over the two days in early July. It was wonderful to be able to see all the hard work accomplished by my fellow students and to share our work with other interested people.
I asked my fellow students if I could share their work and I’m happy that everyone agreed so that you can see some amazing fiber art. These are just a very few examples of their work produced in class.
Maureen Goldsmith wasn’t able to come to the in-person exhibition but was able to send her wonderful work.
Covid Birds by Maureen is a framed wall hanging, you can see it in the first photo behind the group photo on the wall, to understand the size of the piece.
Here’s a detail view so you can see the stitching more closely.
Val has an interest in historical embroidery and needlework.
Her piece “Pleasurable Pursuits” is based on historical needlework studies that she pursued during the class.
Here’s a detail shot so that you can see the amount of hand stitching in this piece.
Sheila Asdal created a machine and hand stitched book about the Big Leaf Maple and the creatures that find shelter and sustenance in the tree.
Here’s a side view and front cover of the book.
And a detail view of the stumpwork moth she created.
Catherine’s interests are from nature, including rocks, plants, seed heads and the winter garden.
She used her original photos of her winter garden to create this handstitched series.
Each of the individual pieces are about 6″ x 6″.
Bobbie Herrick is also inspired by her garden. She took on a tremendous project in creating The Hanging Garden light.
Bobbie’s lamp was created with machine and hand stitching and cut back applique. She found it interesting to work with light during this process as it changed the colors immensely when the light was turned on behind the fabric.
Alana Koehler was inspired by a row of bottles on her windowsill. As she worked through the process, she became intrigued with the difference between the hardness of glass and the translucent fabric that she ended up using in Ethereal Bottles.
The sheer fabric in Ethereal Bottles float away from the wall and the bottles are created with machine stitching. It is definitely ethereal in person.
And lastly, there is me. The Language of Trees is based on the concept that trees and other forest plants, have a vast communication network underground.
This wall hanging is mostly machine stitched on a dyed and painted background. The little bits of orange are words that I selected from tree poems to express the trees communicating with each other.
And because I have had a few people asking, I have also included my book about my dog Edgar. Here is “The Book of Edgar”.
Thanks to all my classmates for their camaraderie and support. Thanks to Gail and Penny for all your expert guidance and perseverance through a challenging three years of class.
Here is where I was when I left off in my last post about my latest nuno felted landscape. I decided the next step was to create more evergreen trees to add to the left hillside.
I used some green wool sandwiched between two pieces of water soluble fabric and free motion stitched some trunks/branches. These were then soaked in hot water and gently felted. I started adding them into the foreground. I decided I didn’t have enough so I went back and stitched more several times until I was satisfied with the volume. I also added in a few areas of lighter trees to give a bit of contrast. Once I had those arranged and pinned down, I started looking at the yellow brown area in the middle of the picture, part of the closest mountain. It seemed to have too much contrast and due to being the same color as the foreground, it “moved” that mountain too far forward.
So I added a couple of pieces of sheer nylon scarves, one deep red and one purple over the area. That’s better! I try a lot of different things as I’m working and take quick photos on my phone. I’m not showing all the photos as it is hard to tell the differences in some of them. But I use the photos to see how the piece looks from a distance and find any glaring problems. At some point in here, I added some sheer black fabric behind the foreground mountain as there were bits of black wool that were drawing my attention too much.
After I stitched down the trees with a variety of blue green threads and a bit of feather stitch, I started working on the foreground. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you can see the details a bit better. The grass is a combination of raffia, burlap and cheesecloth. I also was bothered by the “driveway” of green on the middle right. At some point, I tore some of the wool from the surface so that it wasn’t such a line.
I arranged the grass bits numerous times and then started stitching them down. The photo on the left has the “clumps” stitched but I was trying various pieces of raffia on the very bottom and had them pinned in place. I also decided the raffia was a bit too light so I colored it with a felt tip marker in light browns, greens and dark brown edges. The photo on the right shows the piece after completing the foreground. Next up was the sky.
I wanted to “move” the colors in the sky around a bit with some stitching. But how to do that? I first thought about couching threads to the surface. The photo on the left shows that idea being tested. I wasn’t happy with that but couldn’t decide what to do. So I reached out to Antje (who has authored posts here in the past), and she made several good suggestions. I decided to use running stitch. I used variegated colors and mixed several strands together to not have such a solid color effect. Click on the photo on the right to see the starting of the running stitch. The point of adding the stitching was to soften some of the harder transitions in the sky. Thanks Antje for your help!
Here is the finished Montana Sunrise (16″ x 30″). It definitely has a bit different feel using a mosaic type of nuno felt instead of one piece of dyed silk. I think it is much less abstract than some of my other recent pieces. Now I have to find the right fabric for it’s matting. What color would you use as the matte?
I decided to return to basics and take an introduction to wet felting course. I am hoping to become a training mentor with the International Feltmakers Association and thought that rather than observe the interaction within this course; I would throw myself into it. Despite felting for the best part of 10 years I will readily admit I am learning loads – happy days! The course involves sampling various breeds of sheep for, among other attributes shrinkage rate and required finishing the fulling by rolling the sample in a bamboo mat.
I knew I had them somewhere in my workroom – you might be familiar with the process – one puts something away safely for use in the future and then one promptly forgets where it is! My room was a disaster area after the Christmas holidays as it had become a dumping ground. It was quite the miracle that I could even find the work table let alone the bamboo mat. A tidy was on the cards.
As I started tidying, I uncovered a number of unfinished projects which I reckoned would fulfil the criteria of this quarter’s challenge. Let’s just call it as it is, repurposing something stuck in the back of a closet into something a bit more useful. Those unfinished projects started with great enthusiasm then put by when I ran out of steam!
First up was the unfinished silk throw which I started in June 2021. I mentioned in an earlier post that I had inherited lots of fabrics from my husband’s Aunt Kathleen. In amongst them were small lengths of beautifully coloured wild silk which I had cut into squares and sewn together. I had gotten as far as putting wadding and a backing on to it so I added a binding and machine stitched (diagonally) through the layers to complete the throw. Sorry that I forgot to take a photo of the piece before I attacked it – just one of my work in progress and the finished throw. I have to say I just love the richness of the colours! I took the throw out into the garden to photograph but it was so windy it was difficult to catch so this photo does not capture the sheen off it. You can just about see the pattern from the diagonal machine stitching.
Back to the presses where I discovered a pile of felt that I had made up – not sure for what reason – long forgotten. Some of it was plain and I had experimented by nuno felting various silks onto another piece. One piece was a beautiful red and it inspired me to make a heart brooch. I cut out my shape and then put it through the sewing machine a number of times using a zigzag stitch on the edge. I then sewed a brooch pin on the back. Here is the result in time for Valentine’s Day (note the bottles of champagne in the background which still have not been removed from my workroom):
I then cut a rectangular shape from the nuno felted sample and zigzag stitched around this in a similar manner to the heart.
These were quick and easy to make (once the initial felting was done) and they have potential for selling at Christmas fairs or including in cards as small gifts.
I keep my handbags in my workroom. I have a beautiful black leather bag that I paid a fortune for in the 1990’s and have worn it to death. The colour of the bag is now nearly grey and it’s scuffed – it is normal wear and tear – I don’t believe in using something I love only on occasion. I had enquired about having the bag renovated but the quotation from the one place I knew who did this kind of work was way up in the hundreds so I did not want to go there. Instead the bag greeted me forlornly every time I walked into the room. It was like it was pleading with me to put it back to work again. I headed off to our shoe menders who said that there were no guarantees that any leather dye would work on bags (they are apparently specifically for shoes). I decided to take a chance as I did not want to scrap the bag. It was time to redeploy it. I used two coats of spray on the bag and now it is as good as new. I am so pleased. Unfortunately I did not take a ‘before’ photo but this is how it turned out.
Back in the day when my daughter was at college, she worked in a high end retail store. Like her mother she fell in love with a leather bag and spent most of her week’s wages on it. Within a month it looked worn out as it scuffed easily and the colour came away. So she talked to the buyer and got a replacement only to find the same thing happened. Disappointed the bag was discarded as it was not fit to be seen. She told me to throw it out as she felt she would not insult a charity shop by donating it. Armed with my new confidence I headed back to the shoe repair shop and purchased another dye. This time I opted for a paint rather than a spray on dye and got to work painting on two coats. I left it to dry thoroughly for a couple of days and then presented it for inspection. I have to admit I fell in love with it and I was hoping she might hate the slightly changed colour so I could keep it. She loved it (secretly I am delighted as she is a fussy lady) and she is now never without it on her shoulder when she is heading out!
Then I found a cheap carrier bag that I had purchased while on holidays a number of years ago. I remember that it cost €1 (which is less than £1 and around US$1). The handle was torn and the zip, which was used to tidy the bag when not in use was broken.
It was a bit of a sorry sight but I liked the plastic coated fabric and the challenge of repurposing it. First of all I removed the zip to see if there was any life left in it. When I was examining it I fell in love with the rainbow effect of the colours on the teeth and made up my mind to salvage it if I could. I then unpicked the outer pocket that housed the folded bag and dismantled the bag by cutting away the side and bottom seams and the handles. This left me with two pieces of material and I cut two rectangles from these, using as much of the fabric as I could. My intention was to double over the material so that the bag was self lined. In effect, the bag would be half the size of the cut rectangles (less seam allowance) and I would be sewing through four layers.
Next, I removed the broken tag on the zip using a pliers and I opened the little hook on the mechanism as wide as I could so that I could fit in a fabric tag as a replacement.
I hand sewed the top and the bottom of the zip, cut the zip to size and then covered these areas with remnants of the bag fabric. Here’s a photo of the mended zip:
I drew a line at the centre of the rectangles of fabric and sewed through the two rectangles using a big stitch in preparation for inserting the zip (as per Teri Berry). Then it was time to tackle the zip so I did this using the method Teri outlined in her post of 12th January (thanks Teri, it worked a treat).
I then sewed the original outer pocket back on to one side of the rectangle.
I turned the bag inside out (you might recall that the bag is self lined so the material is the same inside and outside. I used quilters’ clamps and pins to hold the pieces together and sewed through the material rounding the corners.
I then used my sheers to neaten the seams.
So here is the finished odds and ends bag. I hope I have added value to it and it will sell for more than its original €1 price tag when it hits the charity shop.
Did I ever find that elusive bamboo mat? Yes I did in the very last box in the room. It was worth the search. I am feeling virtuous (or is that a bit smug) with my finished projects, ‘new’ leather bag, happy daughter and completed upcycling project.
Oh yes and tidy workroom. Bets are on as to how long that lasts!
A little post script which happened since I uploaded the post. A friend of mine asked if I could help out with a handmade gift for a new arrival. Something small, so in the end we settled on booties. I wanted to keep the price as reasonable as I could for her so I searched through my stash of felt samples. In the middle of it I came across a hat which I made in my early days and which was waaaay too small for my head. So out came the scissors and I took over the role of shoe elf (part time). Thankfully I could work during day time when the real elves were asleep. I found a free pattern on Pattern Bee (https://patternbee.com/_images/free_stuff/FELT%20BABY%20SHOES.pdf) and got to work. So here is the result. I hope my friend and the new parents like them.
I will readily admit I spent quite some time out of my comfort zone putting together this post. Cutting into things does not come easy to me and I have fabrics that I caress every now and again, afraid that if I make that cut I will destroy it. But it was good to let go on items where I had nothing to lose if things went wrong. New things created from old things discarded.
Have you anything that you recently repurposed? Perhaps this post has inspired you to finish off a project that has lingered in the back of the cupboard. Perhaps you make do and mend. If so, we would love to see your work. Here is a link where you can upload a photo and write a brief description of what you have done https://wp.me/P1WEqk-cJX . The process is quick and simple and it’s just one click away. I would love for my next post to feature our reader’s work. Let’s get this conversation going. We can all inspire each other.
I have been working away on my nuno felt landscapes this winter. I always sell more work in the summertime, so it’s good to get ahead of the game and get work ready to be framed in the spring. So what to do with this background. I felt like the diagonal lines of color felt too “tie dyed” and needed to break them up. The colors reminded me of summer flowers so that’s where I decided to go with this background.
I played around with a variety of cotton fabric and cheesecloth and laid these out on the nuno background.
I added a small bud to the small, lower right hand flower.
I pinned the pieces in place and added interfacing to the back to provide support for the machine stitching. I could have fused them down but I find that I don’t like the way the fusing flattens the fabric and doesn’t allow “movement” of the fabric with stitching. This is a personal preference and it is easier to stitch if everything is fused in place but I prefer to pin or baste the pieces in place. I also was looking at possibly bringing some of the dark blue up into the area above the flowers. I tested this out by cutting some small bits of #5 perle cotton and laying it down to give the impression of blue flower stalks.
I free motion machine stitched all the green first. I used two different shades of green to give a little depth to the stems and leaves.
I used three different shades of thread in the centers of the flowers and two colors on the petals. I decided to bring a bit of the burnt orange down into the petals to give a look of a bit of shadows near the centers. Last, I added dark brown to the bottom of the centers which definitely helped define the centers.
Lastly, I added blue French knots with #5 perle cotton thread. I then stitched it down to the background “matte” fabric and laced it on to card. So it’s ready to frame. I decided to call this one “Summer Fireworks”. I have run out of nuno felted backgrounds so I guess that will be my next project.
In my last post, I showed you this nuno felted background and asked for suggestions. Everyone’s ideas were so interesting and different than what I see in this randomly dyed piece. I loved hearing your suggestions but to me, this was definitely an autumn forest scene. I wanted to try and make it more abstract and less “real”. So I started off just adding some lines in free motion embroidery that were to symbolize tree trunks. I forgot to take any in process photos. Once I get started on the machine, I get engrossed in the process. Then I got to the stage of “really ugly”. Do you find when you’re working that you go through that stage of “this is awful and I should just toss it”? But I kept going and ended up going more realistic than planned but that was the only way forward that I could see that would work.
I added tamarack trees, a fallen trunk and some foreground leaves in the upper right corner. The small trunks in the back left were too white so I took a gray colored pencil to them so they wouldn’t stand out too much. I then hung the piece up on the wall so I could look at it from a distance and to see what else it needed. I decided to add more foreground leaves so they came down into the distant aspens in the lower right.
Here it is with more leaves added. That pushed the aspens back further into the distance and made the piece feel a bit more cohesive.
Here’s a couple of close ups of the free motion stitching. I don’t usually use the zigzag stitch when doing free motion but I liked the more abstract effect on the tamarack trees. If you don’t have tamaracks (also called larch) trees in your area, they look like pines/evergreens but their needles turn a bright yellow orange in the fall and then they shed all their needles. So they are a deciduous conifer. They are a gorgeous addition to the landscape in the fall.
I continued my new “habit” of finishing the piece at the time I made it. Here it is stitched down to a tan matting fabric and laced over matte board, another piece ready to frame. It does have some abstract qualities to it and I like the end result. Sometimes, you just have to keep pushing through and ignore that inner critic.