Events, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Thread Love

I am writing this post in conjunction with the Stitch-A-Long that is happening in my group shortly. It’s all about the threads………

All threads are not equal!!!!!

I have a confession to make …………. I am a thread addict!  Seriously, I love thread.  The colours, the textures, the endless possibilities.  There are so many different brands, and types of thread out there that it would be impossible to list them all, so here are a few of the most common threads, some of my favourites, and not so favourites!  

Standard threads come in a skein of 6 thin threads, twisted together – these can be separated into individual threads, so you can choose how many threads you use in a particular design – if you want a very fine line or stitch, you can use a single thread – going right up to the full six if you want a really thick, prominent stitch.  On most of my hoops I tend to use two threads for an outline, and three for a filler stitch.  The most commonly known brands of standard threads are DMC and Anchor, but there are lots of others!  What threads you but can depend on the type of embroidery to do. 

Both DMC and Anchor threads have reference numbers for every colour shade.  If you are following a specific pattern they often list these numbers so that you are guaranteed to get a result similar to the pattern.  If you are more of a wing-it kind of a person (this is me!)  then you can mix and match brands as you like.  I would just add that it can be worth paying a little bit more for threads to get a decent quality.  There are numerous non-branded multi packs of threads available in general craft shops, etc. and some of these are perfectly good for embroidery, but some are really stiff, and not at all easy to stitch with.  If you can, have a good feel of them before buying – squidge them about a little bit, and if you can, actually feel the thread – if it feel stiff or scratchy, you may be better giving them a miss!

Both DMC and Anchor also do various “speciality” ranges – different types of thread that give different effects. 

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These are DMC Satin Embroidery Threads – they are still six strands, but they have a beautiful glossy sheen to them.  They can be a little bit slippy when you are stitching!  These look lovely if you use them to fill in a larger space – the gloss really shows up

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DMC Light Effects – these are six strand metallic threads, and I will freely admit I hate them with a passion!  They look gorgeous when you see them in the complete skeins, and to be fair, they are very effective when used…….but they are horrible to sew with!  Due to the metallic nature, they are very stiff, and stitches don’t “flow” very well with these.  If you do use them, try to work with very short lengths – they are slightly more manageable that way!

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DMC Mouline Etoile – I absolutely love these!  They are six strand threads that have sparkly glitter running through them.  They come in a fabulous range of colours – and you can get them all in a collectors tin!  They are very soft, so lovely to sew with, and you can get a lovely sparkle using only one or two strands.

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Threads don’t just have to be silk or cotton – these threads are 50% wool.  These do not split, they are a single thread, which is roughly the thickness of 4 standard threads.  These are lovely and soft, and look almost fluffy when you use them – they make a really unusual outline thread, or great for filling in.

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Moving away from the DMC/Anchor now….

These are hand dyed mulberry silk embroidery threads, with short colour changes – so they produce the most amazing effects.  If you have ever seen the rainbow hearts that I make – these are the threads I use!  They come in a good range of colour schemes, and are lovely to work with.  They are a single thread, which is roughly the thickness of two standard threads.

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Something very different – these threads are from flax grown and spun in Sweden’s textile are in the 1960’s, and were recently rediscovered by an amazing supplier.  They are in the most gorgeous muted tones, and they feel amazing!  I have to admit I haven’t actually stitched with these yet!  I bought them quite a while ago, and have been saving them for a special project…….which hasn’t come along yet!  I will use them eventually, and at the moment, I just like to open the box occasionally and stroke them!  If you have any suggestions on what to use these on, I would love to hear!

The next two threads are my absolute favourites!  They are both a bit more expensive, but if you have a really special project, they are totally worth it!

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Chameleon threads are hand dyed in Africa, in a fantastic range of colours.  They come in individual colours, as well as variegated skeins.  They are a perle thread – which basically means a single, twisted thread.  I could honestly talk about these threads for hours, and I regularly spend far too much time on the internet looking at the different shades! 

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These are very special!   I attended the Knitting and Stitching Show at Harrogate last year, and came across a stall selling these amazing threads.  They are hand wound pure silk twists.  The thread is roughly the thickness of two standard threads, and I cannot accurately describe the richness of the tones.  You don’t get very much on the tube, so they do work out quite a bit more expensive than most threads – but they are worth every penny!  I would only use these on small designs, where the quality of the thread really shines through.  They stitch beautifully.  Because they are pure silk, they are very smooth, and an absolute delight!

I hope you have enjoyed these run through of threads!  This really is only a small example of the threads that are available.  My best advice if just to try out different threads until you find what you like to work with – try out an individual skein first, so that if you don’t like it, you haven’t wasted too much money (I learned this the hard way!)

Pair different threads together and see what happens!  There are no rules! Just have fun with it!

Hugs

Zoe

Course Review, Inspiration, Uncategorized, Update

Wire Work

Wirework

Hi everyone!

I can’t believe it’s August already!  Where is this year going??????  I have just realised how long it has been since my last blog post, and I have been so naughty neglecting it!    But…….you may be happy to know (or not!) that I have just brainstormed a load of topics for future blog posts, so stay tuned!

Anyway, to catch you all up on what has been happening in my little corner of the world……..

I recently attended a wirework jewellery class.  It was run by the very lovely Jo of Willow Moon jewellery (See link below) and the class was to make a wirework bracelet and ring in copper wire.  Jo also offered the option to make in sterling silver, for a very small extra fee.  I really wanted to make something that I could wear every day, so I went for the sterling silver option!

After a good introductory chat from Jo, where she explained all about what we would be making, the different options, and an overview of the tools we would be using, we got started!  I chose to do a sleek, non-beaded bracelet.  Jo measured out the wire we would need, and we got to work! The design used seven lengths of wire, and I swapped two of them for copper to add another pretty element.

All throughout the day Jo explained, and demonstrated, each technique very clearly and by mid-afternoon myself, and the other three ladies had all managed to finish our bracelets!  They were all very different – but equally beautiful!    To finish off the class, we then made wire wrapped rings!  Jo had a lovely assortment of beads for us to choose from, and I think we all managed to make at least two!  They were quite quick and easy, and huge amounts of fun!

Jo had also brought some examples of her own work in, which were completely drool-worthy!  She also had an assortment of semi-precious cabochons, and the most gorgeous lilac coloured pearls that she explained a lady had used in a previous workshop to make her bridal tiara!  How amazing is that!

The class ended far too quickly for me!  I could have stayed on for hours!  But Jo did send me home with the copper wire that I would have used for the standard class option, so I had goodies to play with at home! 

Needless to say, when I got home I promptly got my tools out and had a practice, and managed to make another two, slimmer, bracelets! 

So,  the end of this tale is that I have completely fallen in love with wirework!  I ordered some supplies in, and I have been practising!  Many of you will know that I have a hoard of gemstones and beads, and this is giving me a fantastic chance to use some of them!

I have made myself a pendant in a similar style to my bracelet, and a couple of wire tree of life pendants, wrapped around some gorgeous labradorite!

I will keep you updated on my wirework experimentations, but I also wanted to quickly mention a big upcoming project.   Starting from the 1st September, I am running a month long Stitch-A-Long!  There are plenty of details on my facebook page and group, but this will also have its own blog post shortly!

In the meantime, I hope you are all enjoying the lovely weather – stay safe!  Wear sunscreen!

Hugs

Zoe

https://www.facebook.com/willowmoonjewellery/

Events, Inspiration, Update

What have I been up to lately?

Quite a long update for you today!  Points to everyone who manages to get to the end!!!!

I have been continuing to challenge myself with my work recently – which I am really enjoying!

One of my recent makes was the beaded hedgehog – I hadn’t done any bead embroidery for a little while, and decided to throw myself back in at the deep end!  I love how he turned out, but at the time I really thought I had bitten off more than I could chew!  Those spikes took a loooooong time to do!  Every bead is added by hand, then the spikes stitched in place.  I’m sure you can imagine, it took quite a while to do!  I had forgotten how much I enjoyed bead embroidery though – there will definitely be some more coming soon!

I have been lucky enough to be able to collaborate with one of my absolute favourite artists recently.  The amazing Christiana of Canea Chrysalis very kindly designed a pattern for me based on her fabulous Paperhorns!  (Disclaimer – Christiana is one of my bestest friends) It was a total honour to work on the design, and I am super happy with how it turned out!     If you don’t know about the world of the Paperhorns – check out the Facebook page here www.facebook.com/CaneaChrysalis/

Across on my Facebook page I ran a voting poll recently to select an animal art challenge piece.  There was a list of unusual/obscure creatures, and the followers of my page got to like, or comment on the one/s they wanted to see!  The results were quite varied, and unexpected, but the winner was the Pangolin!  I love pangolins so much, but they are not the easiest of things to embroider!  Getting the detail in, while working with a very limited palette was quite a challenge!  I do love how he turned out though – and he is available should anyone like to adopt him!

Pangolin

I am already planning ahead for the next Makers Emporium event (which will be the 31st May)  The theme this month is all things Floral.  I have already completed a trio of Floral Affirmation hoops – I love this type of design – Simple, but effective!  These three will all be available on the night, alongside some floral animal hoops I am currently working on, and possibly another little surprise!

I am trying to get this all done in advance as I am off on my holibobs next week!  A week in glorious Norfolk, with my lovely mum and the dogs.  The plan is chilling, drinking eating, and maybe a little bit of crafting!  After that I am back at the day job for a few days, then I am on jury duty for a fortnight!  I am not sure if I am looking forward to it or not – but it should be interesting!

Last weekend I attending a full days class on using silver art clay – it was a fantastic day, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and I got to make lots of lovely things – but they deserve a blog post all of their own!

I would love to hear what you think of my latest endeavours!  Pop a comment below, or message me!

Bye for now

Zoe

x

Inspiration, Uncategorized

Spring is Springing!

Dare I say that spring appears to be well on its way?  I don’t want to jinx it, but the last few days have been considerably warmer, the nights are getting lighter, and my garden appears to be blooming!

I like this time of year – it sounds a little twee, but it really is a time of new beginnings.  I see it as a time to dust of all those things that have been dragging you down, and start afresh with a spring in your step. 

For crafters, inspiration really is all around us now.  The flowers are blooming – cheerful daffodils with their faces up to the sun, the pretty crocuses and tulips in the fabulous colours, and my personal favourite, muscari in all its purple glory!    The birds are nesting, there is plenty of billing and cooing, and you can see the signs of nests being built all over the place!

So what has all this got to do with Athena Makes you may ask!  Don’t worry, I haven’t lost the plot – on the contrary I think I may have found it!   Followers of my Facebook page, especially those I am also friends with, may have noticed several references to losing my mojo.  This has been the case for quite a while now.  I have been going through the motions, making hoops, making jewellery, but my heart has not been in it, and I believe this has been reflected in my work.  When you are not putting your heart and soul into something, it shows.  This is made particularly obvious when your work isn’t selling.  I hate to talk about “sales” and “money” but the simple fact is that I have been really struggling to sell my work.  The last few sales events I have taken part in have been the worst financially, and by number of sales, that I have ever done.    This has given me a bit of a wakeup call that things need to change.  Quite frankly, there is no point in making large numbers of items if no-one wants to buy them!  for a short while I even toyed with the idea of closing Athena Makes down altogether.

But……I don’t want to.  I don’t want to give in to the niggling voice in the back of my head that says it’s because my work isn’t good enough.  I want to prove it wrong.    After much thought, and consideration, and taking advice from a very valued friend who got me into this in the first place, I have decided to do things differently.  Instead of focusing on making a dozen hoops or a dozen pieces of jewellery, to get the maximum number of items in events etc. I am just focusing on doing one or two.  But those one or two will be more complex, using more detail, different techniques, and making them to the absolute best of my ability.  There is still so much to learn in embroidery, and I am devoting my time and energy into progressing my skills – and hopefully making some embroidery art that people love!  My first endeavour into this new mind-set is my lion hoop.  I have had this pattern for nearly a year – I love it as soon as I saw it, but I never had the confidence to tackle it as I was scared of mucking it up.  So last week I bit the bullet and I did it!  And you know what?  I think it turned out great!

There are so many different forms of embroidery – stumpwork, whitework, crewel, kantha.  I intend to embrace them all!  This is going to be a real period of learning for me, and I will be sharing it with you along the way! 

I do apologise for the length of this blog post – I have a tendency to waffle once I get going!  But I really just wanted to share my thoughts and feelings with you.  If anything I have said has struck a chord with you, please let me know – sometime we all just need a tweak to our mind-set!

Congratulations if you have got this far!  

Hugs, as always

Zoe

Events, Inspiration, Uncategorized

2019 – Plotting and Planning!

In my last blog post, I briefly mentioned some of the new ranges I have planned for this year.  Well, today I thought I would tell you a little bit more about them!

I have a number of brand new ranges in mind, to work in conjunction with the commissions and one-offs I already offer.

First up is my new Fairytale & Literature range – embroidery hoops based around some of the most popular traditional fairytales, and literary works.  The first up was released last week – Rapunzel in all her golden haired glory!  More in this range will be appearing throughout the year – I already have a long list I want to tackle!

Next up is the continuation and expansion of a range that I started last year – Floral Creatures.  These super pretty designs started with the Vixen and Fox.  I love these designs – they are so pretty, and are a real joy to sew!  There are several more creatures planned, including one which I am building up the confidence to do!  The lion would be the most detailed and challenging hoop to date, and I really don’t want to mess it up!

I have already released some parts of the Botanicals range – this is a range of elegant, simple, but effective designs featuring leaves, flowers, and trees.

Whitework is a traditional form of embroidery that features white thread on a white background to create the most gorgeous effect.  More modern techniques use a base colour background with shades of white thread to create depth and texture.  I recreated my vixen design in whitework last year, and have got several more designs ready to get started on!

There are several other ranges planned – Endangered Species, Mixed Media, Gods/Goddesses and Elements/Seasons – more about these next time!

I also have jewellery ranges planned!  I will be continuing to expand upon my chainmaille range – I have invested in a selection of coloured rings that I am hoping to put to good use soon.

There will also be more in my Shibori ribbon range – I have released one new heart brooch recently, and have more new designs ready to make.

Another range that I am going to be expanding on this year is my bead embroidery brooches.   These proved popular last year, and again, I have new designs planned out – including the much requested rainbow!

I am continuing to work through my lampwork bead stash – there will be new pendant released soon.

The final range I have planned is one that I am very excited about!  Over the years I have amassed a collection of semi precious gemstones, which I am planning to pair with sterling silver to produce a beautiful collection of jewellery with.  Watch this space!

I think that is all the ranges I can tell you about right now – no doubt this will get altered and expanded upon as the year goes on!

I would love to hear what you think of the new, and planned ranges!  Please pop a comment below to let me know your thoughts, or if there is anything else you would like to see!

Zoe xx

Upcoming events;-

The Makers Emporium will take place on 31st January 2019 – starting at 8pm.  You can find the group here https://www.facebook.com/groups/498933563623248/

The next LLD/Paper Panda Emporium is starting at 9am on 1st February, and runs through to 9pm on 4th February.  You can find it here https://www.facebook.com/groups/LLDsEmporium/

Course Review, Events, Inspiration, Uncategorized

2018 Round Up!

Happy New Year!

I would like to wish you all the very best of wishes for 2019 – may you all be happy, healthy, wealthy and wise in 2019!

The beginning of a new year is the time when I like to do a little reminiscing of the previous years – the highs, the lows, and everything in-between.

2018 was, on the whole, a good year for me.   I was able to combine my love of crafting, with learning new skills and techniques, and put them to (hopefully) good use!

To finish off this year of blog posts, I thought I would have a little run through of my favourite projects of the year!

1 & 2.  Early in the year I started to combine my love of embroidery with my love of beads – the first project I did was this pretty beaded butterfly.  A range of insects and creatures followed, including the little bee!

3. While learning bead embroidery techniques, I came across Shibori ribbon. This beautiful hand dyed ribbon used in jewellery creates the most beautiful effect – This was my first necklace, and I was super pleased when one of my gorgeous friends purchased it, and it went winging its way to the US.

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4 & 5.     In my Facebook group, I have a challenge post whereby group members can challenge me to design a hoop based on a theme of their choice – My two favourites this year have been the Northern Lights, and Sunset.

6. Summer saw my friend’s daughter getting married, and I was super proud to stitch this hoop to commemorate the big day. I am thinking of offering similar as a commission next year!

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7. More experimentation!   This time with beading!  I taught myself to do Peyote stitch beading, and had sooooo much fun learning how to make these little tube pendants.

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8 & 9.     This is perhaps my most favourite hoop I have ever made.  I love this fox design.  It is so pretty, and intricate.  I really wanted to push myself to work on a more detailed design, and I think I achieved it with this.  I followed this up with a whitework version!  I love how the same pattern looks so completely different just be taking away the colour.

10. If you follow my Facebook page, you will already be aware of my love of thread! I am a compulsive thread buyer, and I am not ashamed!  Hand dyed threads are my weakness – they come in the most beautiful colours, and variations, and I think the seahorse sets these off beautifully.

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11. October & November saw me making forays into the world of chainmaille! This came about following discussions in my Anglo Saxon history nightclass (have I mentioned I’m a bit of a geek!)  The first weave I learnt was Byzantine, which is shown beautifully in this copper bracelet

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12 & 13. Never satisfied with keeping things simple, I experimented a little more with the chainmaille after I came across these fabulous coloured rings!  One of my beautiful friends promptly named the first colour range unicorn, and I absolutely could not resist making a rainbow version.

14. I have been collecting (or hoarding) lampwork glass beads for literally years now! I finally decided it was about time I got to using some!  This rainbow bead came from the fabulous Sally Sutherland, and I think it paired perfectly with the Swarovski sparkles!

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15. One of the new ranges I will be working on in 2019 is a botanical range – this simple, elegant leaf design is the first in the range. I envisage this on the wall in a beautiful conservatory!

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16. My last hoop of 2018! I thought it was very fitting to end on a unicorn!  Again, this is a much more detailed design, stitched with gorgeous threads I purchased at the Knitting and Stitching show in Harrogate.

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So there we have it!  A few of my favourite makes of 2018.  Throughout the year I was privileged enough to work on a number of commission pieces for people, and I attended some fantastic classes, which have really helped to expand my skills, and my confidence.  I am looking forward to more in 2019! 

I will be releasing some new embroidery hoop ranges, which I am very excited about, I am working on some different mixed media makes, and I am expanding my jewellery range to include more sterling silver pieces, and some new chainmaille designs.  Just because I love you, here are a couple of peeks!

Well, if you made it to the end of this looooooong post – thank you!

Here’s to a fabulous 2019 – see you all soon!

Zoe x

Inspiration, Uncategorized

Inspiration!

Inspiration!

One question I do get asked quite a bit, is “Where do you get your ideas from?”  and it is a question that I struggle with sometimes!  By nature, I am quite a random person, and rarely have any type of plan!  And much as I hate to admit it, quite often I just make whatever I feel like at the time!  Great from a creative point of view, lousy from a business point of view!

At any one time, I have a huge list of projects that I want to do – ideas that come to me, suggestions made by friends, or by my lovely Facebook group members.  Sometimes they involve purchased patterns – these tend to be embroidery, and are very straight forward – you buy a pattern, and you stitch it!  Even then, I do rebel against instructions, and if at all possible, I alter a stitch, or a colour, to make it that little bit more unique!  One of my favourite places to purchase patterns online purely provide an outline drawing – perfect for me!  I can choose what stitch to do where, what colour scheme to use, and even leave out sections, if I choose.  Wonderful for someone who can’t draw for toffee!

Sometimes though, inspiration does strike at the strangest of times.  I visited a town near me called Bakewell – famous for its tarts!  Also famous locally for its fabulous Monday market.  Bakewell is a very picturesque town in the heart of the Peak District, on the banks of the River Wye.  To get to the market from the carpark, you have to cross the famous Lock Bridge, and this is the view!  How beautiful is this?

I have been looking back at these photos for a while, trying to decide how I could translate them into an embroidery.  I really wanted to incorporate the water, and the trees, but with a distinct lack of drawing skills, I was a little stuck!

Inspiration struck when I was browsing Facebook, and saw a post from one of my favourite jewellery makers, Louise Goodchild designs.  Louise was taking part in the #Inktober campaign, and the prompt for that day was #tranquil  It really struck me as soon as I saw it, that it was the perfect interpretation of what I had in my mind!  Louise very kindly gave me permission to use her sketch as the basis of an embroidery, and this is the result.  I was so pleased with how it turned out.

This just goes to prove that inspiration strikes at strange times, and things come to pass in strange ways!  Now, if only I could get someone to sketch all my other ideas for me………….