Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Button jar from Norwich

I spent the day in Norwich today (that's Norwich, Norfolk, UK) and found a couple of good little places. The first was a bead shop called Raphael Crafts which is at 45, St Benedict's Street. They already have a shop further up the road at 33 which sells jewellery. You  can find them on facebook here. I bought some lovely beads including some very reasonably priced bags of seed beads and some lovely silver charms. The lady who runs the shop was lovely too.

After that I went to an antiques market inside an old church. It's at St Gregory's church between Pottergate and St Benedict's Street and has about thirty stalls with a huge variety of objects from stuffed badgers to antique glass and jewellery. There were lots of things which caught my eye but in the end I just bought a jar of buttons! It was a bargain with about 160 buttons for £3 which works out at less than 2p a button. Here they are:

There are some really unusual ones. This one was hard to photograph. It's like a cube that's squashed sideways - a bit art deco.

Quite a few are a combination of metal and plastic.

And some are quite delicate.

Very pleased with the find.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Straight Lines Zentangle

Haven't posted a Zentangle for ages. This is one I did today for the Diva Challenge number 219. The challenge was to use only straight lines. I'll own up; I did this after seeing Jeanine Corina Hughes' entry which I loved. (Can't seem to link to the exact post so I've just linked to her site. Ooh it might be here.) Hope you don't mind Jeanine.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Flour Batik

I seem to have a pathological dislike of green clothes and never wear green, so this week when I was looking through my scraps bag for some green material I couldn't find any at all. It was Sunday and the material shop in town was closed so I decided to dye some cloth using a flour batik technique that I used a while ago. This is the cloth I produced.

I'm really pleased with it and it's already attached to the middle of the next piece I'm working on.

Flour batik works like batik with wax except you use a 'batter' of flour and water (equal quantities) instead of hot wax. You can find lots of instructions on line. I used these. I didn't bother with the alum or stretching the fabric either. What makes it interesting is that if you but the batter on thick it blocks the dye and you get a white patch, but where it's thinner it seems to attract the dye and you get darker lines. The piece above is made by squeezing  the batter on using a clean shampoo bottle, letting it dry then spraying green and brown fabric dye on to it. Once that has dried you pick off the flour then wash, dry and iron the cloth. 

Below are some photos of the first batch I did using a purple dye. 

Here is the batter with the shampoo bottle ready to be filled. (The salt isn't used - it just happened to be out on the side.)

Here are the 'battered' pieces.

Once the batter dries you spray it with dye (or I suppose you could paint it on.) Here's one of the pieces with the dye sprayed on to it. I've cracked the thick bits to let the dye seep through.

These are the four final pieces.

In this last one you can see how I cracked the two right hand shapes but not the left hand ones. Here's a close up of part of the curly one. I think the photo looks better than the actual cloth!

Just to finish off, here's a close up of the green cloth.

Polymer Clay buttons

I imagined some buttons that I want to use for my next beaded quilt and as they don't exist I had a go at making them out of polymer clay. Of the 27 buttons I made I like about 15 of them and plan to use about three!

Here they are:

26 Polymer clay buttons, various designs

And some not-entirely-in-focus close ups.

Three blue Polymer clay buttons with printed design

Four cream Polymer clay buttons with brown printed design

Large green Polymer clay button with brown printed design

Three green and cream Polymer clay buttons, one with printed design and two marble effect.

I used inked stamps to add the design. I'm assured that if you bake them long enough they are fully washable but since they are going on a beaded quilt I won't be testing that theory. It's bad enough when you wash a tissue in the machine; the thought of polymer clay clogging up the works doesn't bear thinking about. 

In  the end I only used four of the buttons. Here they are on 'The Green Pathway' with a bought button before all the beads are added.

Five green buttons sewn onto cloth, four grouped together and one slightly set apart.

Charity pink bead embroidery finished piece

A few weeks ago I posted pictures of a jar of beads I bought in a charity shop and the fabric I planned to use. I've finished this piece now and it was a really interesting piece to do as I was constrained by the beads I had.

The final layout of the cloth looked like this:

Patchwork of pink and cream fabrics with pink border.

I didn't use the striped material or the plain white in the end. Once again my photography has let me down a bit - I'm too impatient to wait for proper light and just stick it under the dining room light which isn't great (but you do get a glimpse of my nice oak table.)

This is the finished piece:

Embroidery piece made of patchwork of pink and cream fabrics with variety of beads sewn on

All the while I was sewing it I had it turned the other way, with the pearl shape running up the right hand side, but now it's finished I like it better this way. Because I was short of beads, having limited myself to using only what was in the jar, I had to spread out the background beads quite a bit but I quite liked the effect in the end. I desperately need to learn how to bind the edges properly. The truth is, once I finish sewing on the beads I just want to get on to the next piece so I don't take time finishing it off properly.

A couple of close ups:

Close up of Pink bead embroidery showing purple ceramic butterfly bead, oval pearls and small gold and white beads

Close up of Pink bead embroidery showing floral fabric with small pink and purple beads

Close up of Pink bead embroidery shwoing pinky coloured stone chip beads, black and silver beads, small white square beads and small purple beads.

And all I had left was some of the nice irregular shaped pink stones which I plan to use in my next piece, and the beads below which were either too big or broken.

bag of large beads, pearl and other sorts

All in all, quite a nice little challenge and certainly the cheapest piece I've made so far.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Charity Pink bead embroidery - the plan

When I was at my local Oxfam shop the other week I found a jam jar full of beads that they were selling for £1.99. I think they had filled it with beads from necklaces they couldn't sell. I've challenged myself to make a bead quilt using only the beads from this jar. Here are two shots of the jar ...

...and some close ups of the contents

The fabric I'm going to use are fabrics I already have so this is going to be a cheap project for a change. I've chosen six fabrics though I doubt I'll use them all. From top to bottom they are: a slub silk that I bought about a month ago; some jacquard type ivory coloured cloth left over from covering the cushions on our sofa; a stripey pink that my daughter made a T-shirt out of (it's a bit stretchy so I might not use this); some plain white cotton from an old sheet; some floral pink stuff that I can't remember the origin of; another floral piece from a set of patchwork squares I bought.

Next job is to sort some of the beads and decide on the layout of the cloth. 

Experiments in beading texture - two

This is my second piece of texture practice. This one is based on a section of Nancy Smeltzer's quilt 'Elements - Earth'. Here is the section of Nancy's quilt.

As with the last experiment, this is only a few inches big and I made mine bigger and in different colours. Having learnt my lesson from last time I used different fabrics for the background and tried to mix the beads up more. This is the result.

It's still not Nancy standard but I'm pleased with it. I think maybe I've left too much space this time but never mind. Also, I need to work out how to get better photos - the beads at the top of this are a lovely deep purple but they look like quite a dull black in this picture. I didn't worry too much about shaping the red and purple fabric as I just wanted to see what the effect of different colours was. Here are a couple of close ups. 

The other major change with this piece is that it's padded like a proper quilt. All my bead embroideries so far have been done on flat cloth with iron-on interfacing on the back. I couldn't really see the point of using wadding (or batting I think it's called in quilting) so I haven't bothered before. This time I thought I'd use a thin layer and I have to say it makes the beads sit better and it doesn't make it any harder to sew so I think I'll keep using it.  

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Experiments in beading texture - one

Although I like the beading I've done so far, I still haven't managed to recreate the extraordinary textures that Nancy Smeltzer manages to create in her bead quilts. As an experiment I decided to study two small sections of her quilts and use them as inspiration for lessons in textures. The aim was not to copy them, but to use them as guidance. The first one I chose was a section of Japanese Irises. The section I chose is here:

This is probably only a few inches wide and I've made mine bigger - about five inches by four. I also went for completely different colours because the point was to look at the texture. Here's what I made:

I've followed the basic shape and tried to build up the texture by adding beads over beads and letting some of the stitches sit proud of the fabric by having more beads on the thread than the length of the thread so it bows up a bit. There's a close up of the corner here.

Although this still doesn't look like a Nancy Smeltzer, I did learn a lot in the process. For example:
1) I tend to use one type of bead at a time and Nancy mixes different beads in the same pass. I didn't mix the beads enough in this piece,
2) The background material matters. When I originally looked at Nancy's quilts it seemed to me that she spent a lot of time sewing on different materials when they were mostly covered with beads and you could hardly see them at the end. However, I realised that with a white background like the piece I used I felt I had to cover every square millimetre when sometimes spaces would have looked more effective.
3) There is no limit to the different shape, size and texture of the beads you can use and sometimes a bit of contrast works wonders.

With all that in mind, I am now working on a second texture piece.