Saturday, 14 October 2017


Right in front of my studio there’s a ready supply of limpet shells, and I’m always wondering what I could do with them.

I’d seen Alice Fox’s stitched limpets  – she takes ones with the top of the cone broken off, drills holes around the aperture, and “patches” the gap with flat needle weaving in off-white thread.
Intriguing… so I drilled one of my own and had a go. To make it different I added colour and texture - shaded indigo linen thread (from Stef Francis) and ribbed spider’s web stitch. If you’re going to try it, remember you’ll need an odd number of spokes for simple weaving, but an even number for ribbed spider’s web.
I wasn’t all that keen on drilling though… it seems, I don’t know, unnatural? A strange thing to say when I’m adding stitch to limpet shells, but that’s how it feels to me. Also it’s not a technique you could just play with spontaneously on holiday, say. So what could I do with these holey shells without the need to damage them further?
They could be completely wrapped with thread, ribbon or fabric. But I’d rather see some of the original shell. So let’s try just enough to make a base to decorate.
I used red shaded cotton from Oliver Twists, wrapped at intervals through the hole then woven over that “warp”  a few times. A bit clumsy perhaps, maybe a finer thread would look better, but I didn’t doing enjoy it so I’ll leave it there.
This next one was wrapped through the hole as before, but with a natural pearl cotton to tone in with the shell. Then I stitched raised chain band on these bars, using no. 8 pearl cotton (Hellebore, House of Embroidery). There’s nowhere to get rid of the ends on this one so I made a “feature” of them – i.e. just tied them in a knot on the front! I suppose if this was going to hang as a pendant or something these ends could form the loop. I just love raised chain band, any excuse. I might try this again with more bars, more rows of stitching – if I can find just the right shell.
These could make hanging ornaments, maybe a few strung together vertically or along a string as a garland? I can imagine trying that on a wet day by the seaside…

The tricky bit is fastening the thread on and off. I knotted the ends inside and threaded the ends through a few of the “stitches”, but tacky glue or masking tape would do – I won’t tell if you don’t. 😉  Best to allow plenty of thread to minimise the problem, no extra fastening on and off and hiding thread ends. Or make a feature of knots/tails on the front, or use as a loop for hanging.

Another approach is to fill the hole, with texture or protrusions.   

French knots embroidered on felt with variegated pearl cotton, made to fill the shell’s hole.

Loops of pearl cotton 8 (Hellebore again), on purple hand dyed felt, glued inside the holey shell with Tacky Glue. I left them uncut but a denser cut pile is another option.
A fringe free machined on soluble fabric with variegated pastel thread. I worked it round a small circle of white felt and after dissolving I stuffed it in the limpet ring and held it in place with glue inside.
Beaded tentacles or stalks made entirely by free machine embroidery on soluble fabric with a deep red velvet centre.
Finally I moved on to stitching limpet rings onto fabric.
It was soon apparent that I needed a firm base or it would distort. So I used thick wool (an old blanket I felted and indigo dyed) backed with pelmet Vilene. I stitched three rings down, just big “spokes” all round from the outside to the inside. Then I covered them by weaving round and round in ribbed spiders web (as A) using subtly variegated linen threads (from a long defunct supplier). To integrate these into the background I added a couple of lines of running stitch with light indigo pearl cotton.
I’m pleased with these, the embroidery seems to suit them, it’s quite natural and shell-like.
So, that was fun, and maybe some of the ideas can be taken forward… but it’s all broken shells, surely I can do something with intact ones? Without resorting to drilling holes, or gluing things to the surface. Watch this space…

Friday, 2 June 2017


I live on the sea shore now! After 10 months that's still so novel and exciting.

One of the marine themes I've been exploring, on and off, is starfish. Such a variety of shapes, colours and patterns, who could resist? 

I started with a favourite technique - FME on soluble to make lacy shapes. These cast pretty shadows if they're mounted on pins and lit at an angle.

I was a bit disappointed with these tbh. Not sure why... too far from the original inspiration, and not interesting enough in ordinary daylight? And, I remembered I meant to give up creating fragile wall pieces that need box frames and are impossible to photograph! So I didn't take them any further. They're just pinned randomly on polystyrene here.

So, going off at a tangent, I tried felted crochet next. A nice loosely spun pure wool, in pink-orange-red. I tried raised, textural crochet stitches, and plain crochet with chunky French knots. After felting in the washer they looked like this:

The really knobbly one, using popcorn stitch, is fun - it's very 3D. And the French knots worked well too. Now what? These are quite big (9-12cm), but perhaps smaller ones, made with finer wool, would make brooches?

Back to the Bernina, and soluble fabric (I never stay away long!). But not lacy embroidery this time - the soluble fabric allowed me to decorate a cut out felt sunstar. Embroidering felt this way means you can go over the edges, and end up with a slightly stiffened shape without the usual fluffy edges. It's only about 6cm, so don't zoom in. More brooch potential, I thought...

A wildlife trust walk at an exceptionally low tide provided my first glimpse of living maerl beds. Maerl is coralline red algae, a sort of seaweed with a hard chalky skeleton that grows unattached on the sea bed. It provides shelter for a wide range of marine creatures, including brittle stars.

I used the embellisher to create my maerl bed, needle felting lengths of pink-purple textural yarns to white felt.

Then I machine embroidered brittle stars on soluble fabric.

 The brittle stars were fun, so I made a whole tangle of them for another little framed piece:

That led to the idea of a lacy structure of finer brittle stars held together by crossed legs!

Instead of mounting in a frame, maybe something like this could hang in a window?

Aargh, there I go again, creating things that are impossible to photograph nicely! (for me, anyway)

And finally (for now), I tried a brittle star bowl. Just a little one, 7cm diameter. The most open bowl I've ever made, and a very different technique to my Botanic, Ice and Metamorphic designs. Amazingly, it worked!

The idea needs some refining, and I didn't like the brittle star centres, but it's opened up a world of new possibilities... watch this space! 

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Samples 2016: 52, Grid/Sunset

Last sample of the year – I just have to play with soluble fabric again! I machined a grid of shaded orange on Solufleece. Then I filled it with raised chain band and running stitch/weaving using stranded cottons in shades of orange, yellow, pink and mauve.
I love how the raised chain band looks like little hearts when the fabric’s disappeared.
So that’s it – TEN YEARS of weekly samples completed, with a different theme each year.  I think it’s time I gave it a rest. I’ve tried before, but soon missed the project too much. I’m going to try harder this time, but who knows... Just as everyone else seems to be getting involved in weekly exercises, I'm stopping - ahead of my time, or just plain awkward?!

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Samples 2016: 51, Concentric/Sorbet

Soft pastel shades of raspberry, lemon and lime - my least favourite colours, but the random sample generator demands sorbet shades.
Starting with a base of white cotton bonded to pelmet Vilene, I machine stitched yellow silk paper in a large ring then tore away the excess along the stitch perforations. Pink silk paper and green handmade paper went the same way.   
Then it was time to have fun with hand stitching for more concentric circles. I couched green chenille and yellow boucle yarns, and stitched a pink sequin in the centre. Chain stitch rings took longer but I think they were worth it. Plus a few tiny French knots and a little running stitch.
Only one more to go...