Melted Organza Leaf with Gold Threads

I enclosed cut-up gold threads when this leaf was stitched. The lines created by the cut threads echo the lines of the ‘jaggedy’ machine-embroidery, I think that it actually looks quite like a mineral.

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Ties and Ribbons

I have been looking at ways of making ribbons, cords and ties to fasten to the textile leaves I have been making, so that they can be tied to things or hung up. I think that I prefer the idea of loose cords or ribbons that will need to be tied in a knot, rather than continuous loops. I tried various fabrics, but in the end using organza, as used in the leaves works best.

Another idea that has kept coming back to me while exploring leaves and purses, has been the idea of ribbons. In the above photo I have used the leftover threads and fabric scraps from stitching the leaves, to create some very wild-looking ‘ribbons’. I like this disheveled appearance, especially where the more tangled threads contrast with the ornate stitching.

All of this has brought to mind ‘wishing trees’.

Sometimes a tree has been chosen as an object of sacred significance, or it’s position is in close proximity to a place or object, such as a well, which is considered to have magical or healing powers.

You may have spotted one of these trees, as it’s branches will be covered with numerous pieces of fabric and often plastic strips, where the person has reached for whatever they have available, especially when they have come across one of these trees unexpectedly.

The idea is that if a person is unwell they can appeal to a supernatural force for healing, by offering ideally a piece of their clothing. As well as requesting healing, a person may request a blessing.

It’s fascinating that these ‘wishes’ are symbolized by the collection of weathered pieces of fabric, decorating a place in nature. Something physical has been used as a prayer to a higher force; a form of communication to reach a spiritual realm. Likewise the sacred object is considered to have a connection with this same other-dimensional realm.

The significance we give to objects is very interesting. They become more than physically functional; they can also be symbolically functional. In other words they represent something, this makes it special as they have been imbued with meaning.

Leaf Purse with Yellow Accent Stitching

Another purse made from a folded textile leaf. I like the fact that it has been folded into shape as if around something. The small hand stitches hold it into place.

This is the textile leaf made from organza layers enclosing fabrics and merino wool fibres, used to create the purse.

When the organza is melted, the stitching sometimes stays precariously in place, this works well to express a very similar fragility found in leaves as they degenerate.

Clusters of Stitched Squiggles with Withered Organza

Free machine-embroidered squiggled clusters worked on organza which has been melted afterwards. There is a contrast between the withered and deteriorated look of the organza with the ornate character of the stitching.

As it is autumn, there is a lot of inspiration on the pavement where leaves have fallen and have started to degrade. I particularly like the lacey qualities.

Melted and Stitched

Looking at some other ways of creating a delicate appearance. Melting the fabric creates a really organic quality and there is a contrast between the decayed look of the melting and the decorative appearance of the stitching. I feel that this tells a story and suggests some kind of history.

Fragile Textile Leaf

I love lacey textures in nature and I often try to emulate them. Here watersoluble fabric was used to enable an openwork fabric to be made into a leaf shape with machine embroidery as well as fabric scraps and threads. I am very tempted to make an entire shawl from this fabric, but it would be very fragile…

Details of the above leaf. Jagged scribbles were stitched around the outside, but the appearance has changed after the watersoluble fabric was dissolved and they are ‘softer’ although still desirably ‘scraggly’!

Crumpled Papers

As I love textures and qualities that evoke ageing and deterioration, I often find myself using both crumpled papers and fabrics in my work.  What is interesting is that there are lots of different subtle variations that can be created.  I remember in uni, my textile tutor suggesting that I explore a whole range of papers being crumpled  a varying number of times.  She explained that the fibres in the papers begin to soften the more they are broken down and she was right, indeed when even a thick paper is repeatedly crumpled, it becomes soft and velvety,  like fabric.

In the following examples, I wanted to create surfaces inspired by dry blackberry leaves, but only as a starting point.

If you would like a selection of surfaces to use in collage, mixed-media textiles or even as interesting wrapping paper, I would suggest collecting a range of papers, including tissue paper, cartridge paper, brown paper and something metallic would definitely be in there to add some shine. Crumple them both lightly and repeatedly and see the differences that can be achieved.  Also try crumpling them when they are wet and see how this creates a much more fragile and deteriorated quality.  If you then iron them (under another sheet of paper) you will change the character again.

My favourite papers to crumple are tracing papers.  This is because it combines 2 of my favourite qualities to work with: crumpling and transparency.  I often iron the crumpled paper to create very interesting patterns. This paper has a sturdiness and brittleness to it.

I have been working with greaseproof paper a lot recently and this sample has been made of 2 sheets glued together.  The glue has created the crumpled look here.

Ahhh, metallics! I can’t resist including them! This is the underside of something like a chocolate wrapper that has been crumpled, ironed and painted with metallic ink.

This is another type of tracing paper that is almost as fine as tissue paper, I have added a very pale wash of watercolour paint and it has been ironed.  I love the subtle quality that is very organic and actually very similar in quality to the wing of an insect.

This is cartridge paper which has been crumpled, I think, once and ironed.  The crumples are pronounced and distinct.  The addition of diluted gouache paint, adds to an aged appearance.

It would be truly amazing to see any experiments you do after reading this blog, feel free to message me or reply here and we can exchange notes!

Inspiration From Last Summer

Blackberries were my main source of inspiration this last summer.

In the last couple of years I have been drawn to wild plants and flowers.  There just seems to be a mystery as well as a vitality about them.  They belong in fairytales and they have an ancient quality.  I believe in totems; plant, animal and even mineral.  To me this means that we can resonate with different natural beings or objects all through our lives or at a particular time.  Therefore plants are very special to me as they are not only beautiful and consisting of physical benefits such as food and medicine, but they also have a magical significance.

So more and more I have found myself wanting to work visually with them.  What I find appealing about blackberry plants is their sprawling, vigorous nature; the wildness, the fact that the berries grow through a range of beautiful colours and I like the shape that the groups of leaves grow in as well as the fact that they are strong.

Usually I work with a range of subjects for inspiration; within some kind of theme… However I recently have found that just 1 type of flower or plant can provide plenty of qualities to explore further, in fact sometimes a quality alone, for example the edge of a leaf or the transparency of the petal of a flower is enough to work with. I find more and more that whatever I use as research inevitably leads to very similar areas or personal themes of interest, I guess every creative person finds the same thing… that curiosity follows patterns and defines one’s unique story.

Blackberry Leaf Prunings

The leaves start to fold, and form interesting and irregular shapes as they die. They become more 3 dimensional and like packages or envelopes that perhaps conceal something. I like this characteristic and I think that I would like to explore things that contain, hold and protect…

Pockets, pouches and purses come to mind as well paper wrappers. I love the fact that pockets were once external accessories that were separate objects from garments… I think that sachets and cloth pouches like lavender bags are interesting too.

Leaves, Fabric Scraps and Stitching

I am revisiting the leaf theme I was working on the last time I posted here.  However now I am working with fabric, machine embroidery and handstitching.  I wanted a fairly simple idea that I could endlessly experiment with…and I would like to create a motif that can be used for different things.

My last blog was a year and 8 months ago!! largely because the focus of my attention has been on surface pattern design.  Basically surface pattern design is the designing of patterns for absolutely anything where a pattern is required from dress fabrics to wallpaper to crockery. This is a new direction for me and there has and still is a lot to learn.  

A couple of years ago, I returned to sketchbook work and I really wanted to be able to make more use of my drawings. I discovered digital pattern design and it provided me with the answer I was looking for. It has surprised me that I enjoy digital work so much…but I find it to be enthralling and the endless possibilities are exciting! 

So, I am now juggling my embroidery work with surface pattern design, however I try as much as possible to connect the 2 things and that is not hard to do.  After all, any sketchbook work I do for embroidery can easily be explored digitally and developed into a surface pattern and in fact I am hoping that the development of my signature style is distinctively informed by my work as an embroidery designer.

Nevertheless, on the whole I am going to focus on embroidery in this blog and I am working on a dedicated blog for surface pattern design (link to arrive shortly).

Therefore to continue, I have been exploring the combination of fabric scraps (re-using materials is at the core of my endeavour to be as ecologically-conscious as possible), handstitching (inspired by darning and Japanese Boro), freestyle machine embroidery and handmade felt;  because I love the quality as a base fabric for embroidery.

My plan is to try to refine my process as much as possible while simultaneously experimenting with many variations.  The leaf shape was chosen as a simple motif that I can apply different themes to.  For example my first designs are around the theme of ‘Springtime’ and I am using a colour scheme which, is quintessentially of this time of year.  The colours are of fresh green shoots, young leaves and blossoms in an array of pinks and lavenders. Creams and yellows complete the positive and hopeful energy of the colour scheme.

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