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.
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…