Tag Archives | finishing

Fabric Covered Boxes

I have a bit of a thing for boxes. I love sorting stuff into them and stacking them up on shelves. I love the way they make a room seem tidier somehow (no matter the multitude of sins that may hide inside them). I keep all sorts of boxes because they “may come in handy one day”, so there are piles of clean, empty boxes stashed all over the house.

You can never have too many useful boxes!

You can never have too many useful boxes!

If you are a fan of Winnie-the-Pooh by AA Milne then you will remember the story of Eeyore’s birthday. Piglet was going to give Eeyore a beautiful balloon, but it burst and so Eeyore was left with just a sad bit of colourful rubber. Pooh was going to give Eeyore a jar of honey, but he ate all the honey and was left with only the empty pot. Oh but how well this turned out…

“It’s a Useful Pot,” said Pooh. “Here it is. And it’s got ‘A Very Happy Birthday with love from Pooh’ written on it. That’s what all that writing is. And it’s for putting things in. There!”
When Eeyore saw the pot, he became quite excited.
“Why!” he said. “I believe my Balloon will just go into that Pot!”
“Oh, no, Eeyore,” said Pooh. “Balloons are much too big to go into Pots. What you do with a balloon is, you hold the balloon”.
“Not mine,” said Eeyore proudly. “Look, Piglet!” And as Piglet looked sorrowfully round, Eeyore picked the balloon up with his teeth, and placed it carefully in the pot; picked it out and put it on the ground; and then picked it up again and put it carefully back.
“So it does!” said Pooh. “It goes in!”
“So it does!” said Piglet. “And it comes out!”
“Doesn’t it?” said Eeyore. “It goes in and out like anything.”

I’m a bit like Eeyore – I love putting things in and out of boxes. So it is not surprising really that I love making boxes. Next week I am teaching a class on making fabric covered boxes at the Embroiderer’s Guild of Western Australia. For many years, this class has been taught by a wonderful lady, Rene Sinclair. Rene recently moved to Hawaii. I was very honoured when she asked me to take over running the class.

I haven’t made any boxes since before Christmas, so I wanted to refresh my memory before next week. Do you remember the small pieces of canvaswork I was playing with a few weeks ago? Oh happy serendipity – a small piece of canvaswork is perfect for mounting on a box lid.

Fabric covered box topped with geometric canvaswork design. Completed size - 14cm x 14cm.

Fabric covered box topped with geometric canvaswork design. Completed size – 14cm x 14cm.

Just to make sure that the techniques are completely refreshed and clear in my mind, I also made this slightly larger box.

Fabric covered box. Completed size - 19cm x 16.5cm.

Fabric covered box. Completed size – 19cm x 16.5cm.

And you can never have too many boxes – especially beautiful ones 🙂

Two useful (and beautiful) boxes.

Two useful (and beautiful) boxes.

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SPUN – The Society for the Prevention of Unfinished Needlepoint

I can hear you saying “The society for what???”. And as I browsed through the internet and stumbled across it, I too was initially tempted to chuckle and even gently scoff. But I have to tell you that I very quickly changed my mind – it is really rather cool!

Over on Facebook this week, I have been following with interest a discussion in the Needlepoint Nation group about unfinished projects. It has been so much fun to see how many of us have WIPs stashed in the cupboard – and all the different ways that we can justify them! And then in a moment of serendipity I stumbled across a reference to SPUN – The Society for the Prevention of Unfinished Needlepoint.

My initial reaction was to think that this was some kind of delightfully quirky joke. (I wonder if that is my irreverent Australian sense of humour taking over :)). But in fact SPUN is the brainchild of Mary Smull, an artist, writer, and curator living in Philadelphia, PA. This article from Needlepoint Now magazine gives an excellent overview of the project and Mary’s philosophy. Simply put, Mary and a group of volunteers collect unfinished needlepoint canvases and complete them usually only white thread. This has the effect of preserving the work of the original stitcher, whilst at the same time finishing the canvas. The result is a completely different kind of needlepoint which is simply lovely.

"Lute Player", Found unfinished needlepoint completed by Mary Smull using only white yarn, 20" x 21", 2011

“Lute Player”, Found unfinished needlepoint completed by Mary Smull using only white yarn, 20″ x 21″, 2011

This piece, “Lute Player”, is almost ethereal – and I love it. As an embroiderer, I know what it feels like to roam a canvas working small parts at a time. And here that process has been captured and preserved for all time. The original stitcher enjoyed working the solid black background, and perhaps enjoyed making a start on the beautiful gown. And then something (who knows what) interrupted the stitching progress. Maybe it turns out that those half-finished pieces tell just as much of a story as the fully completed ones….

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Another piece of finishing

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about cleaning out my sewing room and then about the Year of Finishing I undertook some years ago. These two circumstances conspired to bring about another piece of finishing I thought I would share with you today.

Whilst cleaning and sorting out after Christmas I came across this little piece of cross-stitch that I worked (I am ashamed to say :)) over fifteen years ago.

Four patchwork designs worked in cross-stitch.

Four patchwork designs worked in cross-stitch.

It is a dear little piece of simple patchwork designs worked up into a series of pretty cross-stitch squares. Sadly, I no longer have the pattern so I can’t tell you the designer or where I bought it from. Suffice to say that I remember thoroughly enjoying working it, but that it was then carefully filed in my box of “finished embroidery waiting to be turned into something”.

Detailed view of one of the designs.

Detailed view of one of the designs.

I happened to mention this piece to my Mum on the phone the other day and she remembered it. “Why don’t you turn them into a series of pincushions and donate them to the Embroiderer’s Guild gift shop?”, she said. This struck me as such a good idea that I have gone ahead and finished them all today. They are very “country” which is not my usual style, but I am really happy with them – especially the cute little buttons to finish them off.

Four completed pincushions.

Four completed pincushions.

I plan to donate one to my Patchwork Group for a forthcoming fundraising event; two to the Embroiderer’s Guild Gift Shop; and I will keep one for myself, just to remind myself about another piece of finishing. My halo will choke me!

My favourite of the four pincushions - which I will keep for myself :)

My favourite of the four pincushions – which I will keep for myself 🙂

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A Year of Finishing

Some years ago we were living in Melbourne and I was a member of the Embroiderer’s Guild of Victoria. The monthly magazine, Threadlines, had an article entitled “A Year of Finishing”. The idea was that if you were feeling overwhelmed by the number of UFOs in your cupboard that you make a commitment to a full year of finishing projects. And you weren’t allowed to start any new projects!

At the time my children were still very young and I often felt like I couldn’t sew as much as I liked – and I had a cupboardful of unfinished projects! So the article really struck a chord with me and I decided to do it.

In fact, I had never been a good finisher. One year in high school (early eighties) I made cross-stitch bookmarks as a Christmas gift for all my teachers. My Art teacher immediately pointed out that my crosses were not all going the same way and somehow in my head this translated into a fear of not finishing things “properly”. So I had a cupboardful of cross-stitch projects with large swathes of crosses all completed (with all the crosses in the same direction) but no half-crosses, no back-stitch outlines, and no isolated single crosses – in case I somehow didn’t do it “right”.

A completed cross-stitch from the "Country Companions" series by DMC.

A completed cross-stitch from the “Country Companions” series by DMC.

Another completed cross-stitch from the "Country Companions" series by DMC.

Another completed cross-stitch from the “Country Companions” series by DMC.

Detail of stitching in "Catch the Wind" by Butternut Road - one of my all-time favourite designs.

Detail of stitching in “Catch the Wind” by Butternut Road – one of my all-time favourite designs.

My year of finishing was a revelation. It turned out that I could (of course) do all the fiddly finishing bits. The sense of satisfaction in finishing a piece and seeing it framed was wonderful. But having finished all those cross-stitch projects I realised that I wanted to do a lot more than just cross-stitch!

My sewing journey irrevocably changed from that year onwards. Most importantly I found confidence in my own ability. Finishing something meant that I could really say to myself “I can do that”. So now my embroidery life has blossomed into something rich and wonderful, and so fulfilling. All because I spent a year finishing projects instead of starting them…..

What helps motivate you to finish projects? Or have you done something that changed your sewing journey too? I would love to hear your stories.

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