Tag: interior decoration

Mending, Upcycling, and other adventures

As a family, we have always made and remade, mended and upcycled, garments, furnishing and furniture. There is a tale of five year old me, accompanying my mother to buy fabric for a dress in the now long-gone and much-lamented fabric shop in town, and piping up, as she was paying, to ask “What will it be _next_?”, so you can tell this is deeply ingrained!

Usually this is something I let pass without comment, but two episodes lately seemed worth mentioning, in case they give someone else an idea..

Close up of the handle of a small willow pattern teapot, mended using the "New Kintsugi" style. Rather amateurishly, but it seems solid!

The Japanese mending technique for pottery, “kintsugi”, involves highlighting the mends with gold, so as not to obliterate the history of a piece. I can’t say I’m very good at it, but I had an entertaining afternoon with a kit that enabled me to play with the idea, at least.

Top-down view of a footstool. The cover is made of many pieces of black and gold figured upholstery velvet, with gold piping.

And then my cousin mentioned a footstool she had with an entirely unsuitable cover for the surroundings, and a few oddments of furnishing fabric from earlier work on the room. Cue a Kintsugi-inspired crazy patchwork footstool cover, with all the seams emphasized with gold piping! This took some work and collaboration, as my sewing machine isn’t up to the task, but Mam’s was.

Close up of the stitching holding the tuck in place.

And on an entirely different scale – one of the problems with older knitwear is the way the ribbed cuffs seem to lose all their elasticity, and what was once a trim and neat shape, will often become shapeless and saggy with age. I’ve tried in the past adding elastic, but I couldn’t make that work (if anyone has – what’s your trick?), so it rather nags at me.

Close up showing the trim cuff and the sleeve billowing slightly.

Then this winter we made a dress with rather extravagantly tucked sleeves, and I thought I had an idea that might work. I’ve created an inverted box pleat in the cuff here – it’s just held with stranded cotton at present, something that will show up so I can play with it until it works, and then do it properly (or not!) – and held it together, starting at the sleeve end, with crossing stitches. Then I caught down the side of the box pleat.

You can see in this picture how the cuff is now neat and close, and the sleeve has a bit more shape, and rather less “flop”. I’m very pleased with that, and I may extend this to other, similar garments.

Finally Displaying Tudor Trinkets!

As I forecast, I had a rather entertainingly messy time with plaster bandage and acrylic paint to create my Trinket Tree.

As you can see, foamcore, wire, crumpled paper and lots of tape were involved, as well as some tissue paper to vary the texture a little. Although I needn’t have worried – now the Trinket Tree is loaded, you can barely see it!

The results of several years of online embroidery classes in Tudor Embroidery, displayed under a glass dome.

At present it sits on the hall table – the table it is on for this photograph is where I stitch and usually covered with bits and pieces relating to the current task. Not a good place for a glass dome, although it fits so neatly over the trinket tree’s base, that it’s quite hard to knock adrift!

Yet another idea!

Long time readers of my blog know that I use it, not just to talk about the embroidery I’m doing at the moment, but also as a place to put some of my ideas, in the hope that the Search facility will help me find them again, rather than having to paw (I use the word advisedly!) through stacks of paper and notebooks. This is one of those posts!

A box full of a tumble of cone-shaped paper angels.

Some of you may recall that the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists used to send out, not just cards, but little sheets that had angels printed on them. You could press them out and curve them into a cone shape, making a charming little Christmas decoration. I was reminded of them when we got the decorations out of the loft, and found a whole boxful!

It occurred to me that I could use a variation on that little pattern to create a needlelace Nativity scene.

A single paper cone angel. The patterns looks as though they are textile based, because the wings have bobbin lace printed on them, and the necklace is from a piece of tatting.

That idea became a bit clearer when I looked at a few of them. If you look at this one, the angel’s wings have clearly been made to represent fabric with a bobbin lace edging laid over it, and if that necklace isn’t based on a piece of tatting, I have never seen tatting before!

Clearly, I would want to tweak the shape a little. Only the angel, of the characters in the Nativity, needs wings, and besides, I think a bit of variation in height would be advisable!

Paper angel taped flat so you can see the shape.

The basic shape can be seen when you open one of them out. The wings wouldn’t be hard to remove, for those that don’t need them. But the shape is fairly simple, and it would mean that I could use really gorgeous thread and stitch, allowing the thread and the stitch to do all the work.

I doubt I will be tackling the idea any time soon – I still have to work out how to create the Baby Jesus in the manger in much the same style! – but I think it would be fun to do.

A tree for the trinkets..

Parlour Dome with a wooden base, containing the small Tudor Nightcap I worked following a course from Thistle Threads. It's spangled and gold laced, and what my grandmother would have called a dust catcher, so if I want to show it off it wants protecting!

When I had the idea about using a parlour dome for the Violets and for the necklace, I realised that I would need to play with how I displayed them, trialled the Tudor Nightcap in the dome and realised that I could now put it on display.

So what about all the other Thistle Threads pieces?

Well, it turns out you can get parlour domes that aren’t round, so I got the largest I could bring myself to buy and then stopped to think…

The Floral Glove, Tudor Rose panel, and three little cushions in Tudor goldwork, displayed under a parlour dome. They don't really fill it, so it looks a little half-hearted.

I started by playing around with propping the various pieces I’ve been planning for that Winter Decoration Corner against one another within the dome. It’s a flattened oval, and quite high, but anything I could improvise seemed not to have the height I wanted without taking up all the display space.

I think this shows the idea will work, but it doesn’t really have the presence that the pieces deserve.

This time the Floral Glove, one of the little cushions, and a hanging ornament are all hanging from the branches of a wire tree. I think this looks better.

This is better. I’ve used offcuts of the foamcore that I bought to help me with Nefertiti and Akhenaten to create the base that will sit inside the glass, sandwiching the beginnings of the wires forming the tree between two layers. I’ve built up a support for the green and orange cushion at the back using smaller bits of foamcore, and wrapped pipe cleaners around the wires.

It’s not perfect, but I’ve set it up in the hall where I will pass it every day, to work out whether I like it. Then the idea is that I will have a lovely messy hour or so covering the wire with papier mache, allow it to dry, and paint the whole thing gold.

The Tudors were as fond of bling as the ancient Egyptians, after all!

Mending a tablecloth, second stage

Split Stitch in place
Split Stitch in place

Having settled on a smaller circle, but still worried about the stability of the fabric, I paused for thought.

I’ve used tear-out fabric stabiliser underneath the fabric, and placed a circle of it over the previous overcast stitch ring so as to leave trimming out what isn’t wanted until the last moment. It’s now enclosed between two layers of stabiliser, so I shouldn’t catch my needle in it.

And this is definitely a case for using a hoop. Most of my Amarna pieces have been worked in slate frames or bar frames, and the Jacobean coat is being worked in the hand, but a table-sized piece of fabric of which a small element is the focus requires a more limited approach!

Needlelace completed
Needlelace completed

I decided in the end to use simple cloth stitch for the needle lace, but of course, choosing to work it in a circle rather complicated matters! I had to use several lengths of thread, so it became a matter of concern to make sure that firstly, there was no chance of it coming undone, and secondly, weaving in the ends made sense!

It was also important to bear in mind that while classical, straight cloth stitch has a free “return” stitch, I couldn’t expect to keep control of a “return loop” in my circular variant. So instead of that, I whipped the base of the stitches to create the heavier line.

Patterned Buttonhole Stitch
Patterned Buttonhole Stitch

Once the needlelace was finished, I had to consider the edging. The whole aim of this exercise has been to cover the hole in the tablecloth in a manner that looks considered and deliberate – not just a mend, but a thoughtful mend. So the edging had to be thought about too.

In the end I chose to work a pattern in the buttonhole stitch – the uprights of the buttonhole stitch covering the split stitch and the edge of the needlelace alternate one long with two short. I also considered enlivening the needlelace with some daisies in white, reversing the blue on white of the main decoration, but decided that that was going a bit too far!

Mending a tablecloth, first stage

Choices, Choices
Choices, Choices!

Over the New Year, my cousin showed me a rather charming embroidered tablecloth she’d bought, only to discover, when she got it home, that it had been rather amateurishly adapted for a table with a parasol. She doesn’t have such a thing, and all the ironing in the world hasn’t flattened the buttonhole stitch, so she asked, could I think of something?

Yes, I could. I’ll re-do the buttonhole stitch, slightly larger, and infill the entire hole with a needlelace stitch of some sort. I’ve not decided which of these threads to use, but I’m prepared for when the decision is made!

Not at all central
Not at all central

When I got it home, and folded it carefully to check that the hole was central, I discovered that it really wasn’t.

It really isn’t at all, in fact. And this close up gives you a chance to see just how tatty the oversewing around the edge turned out to be.

Oversewing, not buttonhole stitch. I’ll have to do better than that, won’t I!

This will be a very large hole!
This will be a very large hole!

In fact, once I’d done a bit of playing around and found a suitable circle that both encompassed the existing hole and placed the hole centrally, it was HUGE – at least three inches across!

That seems too big – even for infill with needlelace, it seemed to me that this would unreasonably weaken the fabric, so I started to think of suitable backing materials, and then emailed my cousin to ask whether she had some thoughts. After all, it’s her tablecloth.

She rang, and we had a chat, and she says she would prefer a smaller, non-central hole, without too many baroque attempts at backing it. So simple it is, then…

Finally! Crazy Paving Canvaswork finished!

Finished Form Cushion
Finished Form Cushion

In fact, it was finished a long time ago, and somehow I didn’t get around to writing it up…

Not that there is much to say. All of the interest (almost!) was documented in the stitching.

The old form has been scraped, holes filled, sanded, and repainted, and the cushion is a simple shape, tidied up with piping cord.

Backing Fabric
Backing Fabric

Some of the interest, in fact, is in the backing fabric. It’s an unremarkable jacquard woven pattern in cotton on a synthetic warp, but the design – rather ironically, since I’m card-blind for all practical purposes! – is a design of suits I created during my MSc in Textile Design Technology. It’s clunky, and not well-differentiated, but it was the first time I designed a jacquard pattern. The only time, too, but it was fun while it lasted, and I’m glad I asked the technician to weave a half-metre for me instead of the 10 cm that was all that was needed for the module.

Renovating Grandmama’s Footstool

Beginning Refurbishment

Beginning Refurbishment

Having been working on the Heart, I was still thinking about Grandmama, and noticing that one of the footstools she made was getting a bit shabby and buckled, I decided to renovate it…

It’s worked in tapestry wool on binca (that strange cotton matting fabric that stitching happened on at primary school – does anyone else remember it?). I think I still have, somewhere, Grandmama’s draft of the pattern on squared paper, but the best I can do for putting my hand on it is to say it is Somewhere In The House! Since I don’t have a workroom, I put the footstool in a plastic tray, which I seem to remember is sold for cleaning oven trays. I use it for wet felting and to contain messes when I’m doing things like this. The blued-steel flat-headed nails were very hard to get out, and indeed, some of them lost their heads (!) and didn’t come out. In due course they were hammered firmly back in, instead!

Repaired Stitching

Repaired Stitching

The binca around the edge was badly mauled by the nails, so I knew I would have to do something about that, but in the meantime, there were sections of the canvaswork that needed to be reinstated. First I washed and dried the whole thing (by hand) and then spent some time looking very hard at the stitching. More than fifty years of use have worn a few small sections, and the stitch took some identifying, but in the end, I decided it was Rice Stitch, and found a pale oatmeal tapestry wool that didn’t shout its’ newness too loudly.

Attached To Calico

Attached To Calico

Then I attached the binca to some calico and covered the join with one of the long-armed cross stitches. I wasn’t absolutely sure I had enough of the plain oatmeal colour so I alternated a needleful of each all the way around.

In the end, I had plenty left over, but I’ve said many a time before that when ekeing out assorted supplies, the trick is to Make It Look Deliberate!

Finished Footstool

Finished Footstool

I had to do that with the trim as well. Nothing in our local needlework shop was even remotely suitable so in the end I took some bobble fringing, a length of ribbon and some ricrac, and made my own!

There are one or two infelicities in the details, but it’s certainly got a good few years left in it now.

Thank you, Grandmama.


The Second Worktop Bin

Stage Four

Stage Four

I did indeed find myself mixing and blending a lot of different browns to fill in all those brown sections.

Remember what I said about stash busting being “an inexact science”? Well, the trick about dealing with that (in this context) is to make the various infills and changes look deliberate. I scattered the different shades in a random looking pattern across all the different diamonds. There are four or five different blends, and outside the central section there are only two of each shade in any one row.

Stage Five

Stage Five

The central section has brown diamonds all the same colour because I was using the central section to help me lay out the trellis pattern, and I simply kept going. In fact as I look at the canvaswork while I write this post, the central section blends beautifully into the outer sections. It really does look deliberate.

The tiny diamonds that lift the whole effect are in a very light cream. Fortunately I didn’t need much of this one, and I had enough!

Inside Top In Place

Inside Top In Place

I profited from the experience of making the first little worktop bin, and instead of stitching the inside section after I’d folded back the top and stitched the rim, I worked it while the canvas was still flat, which was altogether easier to do!

Although I confess, I was wondering whether I would have enough of this beige to complete it, or whether I would have to take it out and use a different colour entirely…

Another Worktop Bin

Diamond Framework

Diamond Framework

The first worktop bin was such a success that I decided to do another one.

This time the bin itself is a cardboard drum that used to contain chocolates. It’s rather bigger than my sawn-off milk bottle, and furthermore, the canvas is finer (I’m only using two strands of Paterna in the needle, not three), so the canvas is going to take a little longer to do.

Stage Two

Stage Two

I’m staying with browns, and with diamond patterns, and starting with this diamond lattice pattern. I’ve had enough of the creamy beige wool to work the framework, and since it is only two strands, I should have enough of it to work the edging and seam as well.

But there is a lot more dark brown to come and I may very well find myself combining threads to stretch my varieties of dark brown to fit the pattern. Never mind, I will then have made some Stashbusting Progress!

Stage Three

Stage Three

Has anyone else noticed what a very inexact science stashbusting is? You embark on a project, full of hope that it will consume vast stores, only to find that the Stash in question has shrunk not at all…

Right up until the project when you rely on that happening….

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