Saturday, May 27, 2017

little girl, little girl... where have you been?

 i've been to london...

london from primrose hill
 my favourite city in all the world
{not that i've been to very many but even if i had i know i would love london best}

i've had trouble transferring photos from ipad to my laptop - i think it will be a long slow go but for now i have a few from the very first days of my time in the uk

in advance of the embroidery workshop with karen ruane on saturday april 1st, three of us went on a little shopping expedition of all things creative in a few of london's most charming of shops

we started at shepherd's bookbinders...


walls and drawers and tables full of amazing papers
i practiced a lot of restraint here, and the khadi paper on the table in the image above being the most foolish of all - i bought just two sheets of it, wishing now i had bought twenty...


one of the most beautifully presented shops i've ever been in, chock-a-block full of inspiration, i came away with a few new tools and supplies which will hopefully help me to improve my book-binding skills and a few lovely sheets of paper to inspire

more shepherd's!

 we wandered through a vintage button shop, a specialty ribbon and trim store, "the cloth house" on berwick street, lace stores and several silk shops in soho

the cloth house

 the windows of the cloth house were entrancing with the little textiles strung across them on  clotheslines

the cloth house

new cloth, old cloth, new buttons, old buttons... lace

i had a budget and i stuck to it though goodness knows how
the cloth house

inspiration at every corner, in every shop, and the kindest people

the best day

that is, until the next day...

saturday was my embroidery class with karen ruane

nine of us gathered in a lovely space in covent garden for a day of stitching, tea, cake and chatter
i'd been waiting for that day for months; the chance to meet karen, see her amazing work in person, meet people i had come to know a little during our online courses - just be there

below is what i worked on during that most wonderful day

my project

 karen made workshop packs for us filled with several surfaces to stitch, tear, stitch, and tear some more

workshop kit

 she gave us graph papers and bits of lace and trims to play with as well

workshop kit

 the metallic lace in my work was a gift from sue, shopping tour guide extraordinaire

i don't have much to show for six hours of stitching but i have a very good reason that - tea, cake, chat, tea, cake chat... look through karen's ledgers, stitch a little and then tea and cake again

we called it the "london cake day"

i've pulled this out a few times since coming home, thinking i should work on it some more - today i decided it will stay as it is and i'll be able to look at it always and say "i made this in london"

latest work

hard to believe it's already a month since we left - the only consolation then is that it's one month less until i get to back again...

Friday, March 24, 2017

a journey...

if you've been a follower of mine for any length of time you'll know i've taken more than a few online classes from this lady...

karen ruane of contemporary embroidery teaches online classes and i've been taking them since 2012

can't begin to tell you how many amazing things i've learnt over the years - wonderful techniques and ideas that have pushed and pulled me in so many ways, added such creative joy and brought me back to my first love...

hand embroidery

our latest class, "embroidery school" has karen making cloth sample pages and i thought i would do the same but mount mine on art paper

one side a diminutive cloth sample of something particular, the other a paper-based sampling of similar ideas

this spread is central to the hexagon shape

one side with fabric hexagons and stitch details

the other paper

taking stitches from one side to the other, matching colour and certain stitch details

not re-interpreting every element, just creating two sides that together, make a whole

such great fun - and wonderful like-minded people who do similar things in ways that are just a little bit different

feeding on each other's ideas and enthusiasm, it's an amazing group in every class

what's truly amazing though, is that in not a long time, i'll be winging my way over the pond to take a class with karen in london, england, along with nine other people i've met through her classes over the years

how lucky can a girl get????

i'll try to post here along the way, and i'll definitely be posting images of our journey on instagram, as we traipse through england, scotland and ireland... you can find me there as "jwafineseam" if you're interested...

it will be an amazing journey... i just know it...

Sunday, February 19, 2017

scratching an itch...

a while back i mentioned a hankering to learn to weave...

since then i've taken a one day introduction to weaving class, a one day class on reading weaving drafts, and i've played about on a frame loom

i also bought myself a 24" rigid heddle loom, but the most fun i've had lately is with this little "wee weaver" swatch loom by purl & loop

it measures a scant 4" x 4 1/2" 

i've woven some textured cotton yarns on it, played around with strips of fabric and yesterday i had an urge to weave with silk and lace

and to see what would happen if i strung beads on the warp before winding it on the loom

the challenge is to get the number of beads right - once you start winding the warp it's pretty hard to add or take away

but it's quite fun to slide them up and down!

 wide strips of grey silk, folded in half, alternating with ragged strips of very old lace

 it took a few tries just to get to here - the plan is that when the weaving is done the silk will fold to the back and i'll carefully stitch in down - the lace will come to the front

 i posted it on instagram yesterday and someone asked me what it was going to be

 "i don't know", i replied...

"right now i'm just scratching an itch"

stay tuned

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

paying the piper...

 probably one of the first expressions i learned that made sense to me immediately, no explanation required...

i've spent many, many happy hours dreaming away, la la land we called it when i was young
teachers often mentioned it in report cards, year after year, teacher after teacher
"jillayne is a day-dreamer"

lately my day dreams are more often than not about this room, my studio, and what's in it

it's chock-a-block full of all sorts of delightful goodies, most i've chosen for myself, some gifted to me through the recent craze of "de-stashing"
i'm much more judicious in my purchases than i ever used to be - never mind that i've run out room, i'm also mindful of the time i have available

i've learned  that the things i like to do the most are the fiddliest, most labour-intensive, using up next to nothing kind of creations you could ever imagine...

like the little scrap you see below

a very little bit of paper, silk and lace, a few beads, a modicum of embroidery thread
smoosh it all together and it wouldn't take up three square inches of space

but don't ask me how many hours...

 i love it though, on ever level
love looking at it, loved making it, love thinking about it, love sitting in la la land day-dreaming about it

 trouble is, at this rate of resource usage, i've enough supplies to last me a very long time

and i long for a room that has space in it, supplies enough, but not over-flowing abundance where to get at one thing, you have to move two

making fiddly things, while very delightful, is not going to help create space in here...

so this year i've resolved to make an effort to do things a little differently - making an effort, not just to use things up, but also to take the time to make some of the things i've wanted to make for a while but pushed aside when a bead glimmered at me in the most delightful way

i bought the fabric, surely i must have wanted to actually make something with it???

over the past few weeks i've doing some old-fashioned quilting, in new-fashioned ways

four little quilts, small table mat sized

a tiny four-patch

 my favourite one - a disappearing four-patch

 simple crosses

and finally, square in a square

this last one has a very strong appeal for me... beautiful quilts are wonderful things but quilts made up with a mish-mash of fabrics, some pretty, others, not so much- they're something special...

approachable is a word i like to use for them

a child would be free to drag them around, inside or out, the dog or cat can curl up on them at will
and they're amazing to have wrapped around you on an under the weather kind of day

the only thing is, little quilts don't help out much in the stash-bash department...

methinks it's time to scale things up a bit, make a few lap and bed-sized quilts, ease the load on a shelf or two and fill the cupboard with a pile of coziness

it's a start...

Monday, January 30, 2017


january... my beautiful slow month

i've said it before, i'll say it again, january goes at it's own pace; not too fast, not too slow, just a lovely long month of regrouping
i think for that reason, and for today, i'll say it's my favourite

february drives me mad because it's just too short, so i will enjoy one last day of january before i let the world catch up with me

 i've been stitching away like crazy but haven't got a lot to show for it - mostly embroidery... a little quilting but nothing finished yet so pictures will come in a few days

in the meanwhile, welcome to my white world...

 i'm making a series of sample cloths, each one showcasing the merits {as i see them} of a stitch or technique

above is my bullion knot cloth
flat bullions separated by yellow french knots
loopy bullions with beads
loopy bullions within clusters of french knots and beads
flat bullions with french knot clusters at each end
{it took an effort to have them not resemble dog bones too closely!}
and one long seam of plain loopy bullions tumbling all over each other

above is my hexagon cloth - a solid white one with embroidery on top, and two open ones, one with embroidery and the other with a gathered fabric insert
that gathered bit of fabric wasn't intentional but i made such a mess of the insert that it bubbled up and would not lie flat - the more i tried to fix it, the worse it got... i was almost ready to cut it out and try again when the idea of gathering it occurred to me - now it's my favourite part of this sample

fiddly fun

little clusters of loops, knots and beads destined to be tiny handmade buttons - these are so addictive
if i had meters of silk i would do nothing else but make hundreds of these 

 methinks a button cloth sample will soon be forthcoming...

the last is my appliqued circles and web stitches sample cloth

this one is my favourite - favourite to do, favourite to look at

there are still many web stitches to add, and at least one more tiny appliqued circle before it's finished

 as each one is completed i have a little book i'm putting them in, each on it's on page, tied in place at the top with white embroidery thread, the bottom left free so the reverse of the work can be peeked at

the left-hand page will have the annotations: what i did, why, how etc. etc. and in the end i'll have a little reference book, a book to look through when in need of an idea or a dose of inspiration

stitch diagrams and colour photographs can only inspire a girl so much... having pretty little samples to touch, the gleam of the silk, the glint of a bead, how a stitch lays on the cloth or stands proudly above it... that's what fires me up

as if all of that hasn't kept me busy enough, the stitch sampler below is my play-cloth

 basted off sections on one larger piece of white silk - here is where i try things out, learning the ins and outs of a stitch
practicing, over and over
and in the case of the web stitches - over yet again

quiet and gentle this handwork is...
peaceful even
each time i take up my needle, the cares and woes of the world float away, and for a little while i find myself in the vicinity of peace

Monday, January 2, 2017

everything's coming up roses...

a new year - i hope it and every year to come is wonderful for all of you

i really do love a new year - i think because my birthday's in spring... i'm all about renewal, growth, beginnings - i prefer beginnings to endings, which might explain why the words "once upon a time" still bring a smile of delight to my face

it feels hopeful somehow, unsullied, a promise, a way of marking off and measuring not just time but life itself

it's a pause, and a re-set

three years ago, on new year's day i started writing in the morning what my creative plans for the day were - i still do it each and every morning
i don't ruminate over past or present hurts, don't try to figure out why i am the way i am, or am not, as it were... 
just what it is that i want to make, how, why, when, what works, what doesn't - it's a creative journal that more often than not would probably read like a drudge 
{any guesses as to how many times i've complained that i had the bad luck to be born on a 24 hour-a-day planet???}

 every so often my writing brings clarity though, and ideas, and i'm up from the table like a shot, over to the work table, gathering things before my latest and greatest escapes me...

a couple of years ago i started writing a list of twenty-five things i'd like to make/work on, choosing five and then only doing them until they're done

i still do it... i've learned to balance the list and also to break down projects into various stages, both help to keep me from getting bogged down - it's a brilliant strategy which i will never give up

when i first started it there were those who thought it too confining, too limiting, not allowing for creative freedom
for me it has been exactly the opposite - it gives me more creative freedom than i could ever have thought possible and has taught me more than anything just how long it takes to make things
it lets me choose deliberately what it is i want to do with the time i have

 my current list has me back at my embroiderer's ledger for one

stitching together bits of fabric, lace and paper
tiny ribbon rosebuds

 hundreds of french knots

using scraps of paper, snippets of ribbon, a tiny tea rose

lace cloth with rose fabric reverse applique

roses, roses everywhere

i'm in girly heaven!  
i hope wherever you are, whatever you're doing, that it brings a smile to your face and gives you a happy heart...

Saturday, December 24, 2016

christmas present, and christmas past

rolling through saved images on my laptop, it's lovely to look back on some of my favourite things that i've made over the years
in a fit of nostalgia, i thought i would post some of them here... memories perhaps for some of my readers who've been with me for a long time

the wishing stars were a favourite

i've forgotten now the exact number i made for those of you gave me a word
but i know it was many
the stars piling up, the image below one of my very favourites ever that i've posted on my blog

the year of the mice...
so much fun to make, especially when it comes to their faces
always amazing to me how the shape of the head has as much impact as the set of the eyes or placement of the whiskers

the santa mice, hats askew, the fiddly yet adorable glasses perched at just the right angle... these guys made me laugh over and over again

the little penguins, with stovepipe hats almost as tall as they themselves... tottering on awkward feet, unbalanced by their large bellies, anchored again by a tiny wreath

a santa stocking for a forgetful son, souvenir tweed from pitlochry, scotland

tiny patchwork and quilted cards... using the last scraps of favourite holiday fabrics

 i hope i'll always make things for christmas - there's just something so magical about this time of year, especially when it comes to making and creating

 inspiration and joy abound, perfection is out the window

unpacking some of these treasures each year brings back so many memories... the making of them, yes, but also the blog posts that shared them with all of you

i'm so lucky in my blog, it's readers, many of whom are now friends - i've only ever had wonderful, thoughtful comments; beautiful thoughts shared, from me to you and back again

one just recently by "ancient wanderer" was especially touching - i wanted to send you a personal reply but there was no email link...
please know it meant a lot to me that you took the time to leave it...

  the other day, as the sun was moving lower, not quite sunset but almost, the sky cleared a little {for the first time in ages!} and the far hills were kissed with the rosy glow
of the sun skipping along their tops, catching the snow and the whole world sparkled

it was one of those moments when you are so very glad you happened by a window, glad you can see, glad for a camera to capture it a little, glad for the world, and your place in it... grateful suddenly for every good thing in your life

i hope for all of you, in your lives, wherever you are, that you can be glad too

merry christmas to all of you!