Friday, 4 May 2018

How to hatch a Swallowtail.

Hello everyone, I thought it might be a good idea to show you the processes that go into one of my pieces. One of the questions I get asked most when I'm out and about with my hatchlings is 'how long do they take ?'  

So here goes.....  Making a Liberty Swallowtail.

Each butterfly begins with a drawing, either from a specimen, book illustration, photograph or a combination of all three. I create a line drawing which simplifies the wing patterns .
The next stage is to break the patterns down into colour layers, these can be any number but usually about three or four. These are then traced onto bondaweb. I then select the fabrics that best match the colours of the particular species.

Each of these layers are then applied to individual fabrics and cut out. I use a very sharp pair of scissors. On the Swallowtail the black layer is fairly complex, this can take well over an hour.

The layers are then fused together and placed on a background of silk with another one of interfacing. This creates a stable base for embroidery.

I can then begin to stitch, looking very closely at my original source material, I satin stitch the edges of each wing part.

Next I cover each piece with a voile or organza and stitch the veins on the wings.
Using my very sharp scissors I then cut away parts of this layer to reveal what's underneath.

This creates iridescence and depth.

I then apply more free motion embroidery to add interest, it's this stage where the piece can come to life. The separate wings are stitched together to complete the butterfly's shape.

Hand stitching tiny beads and sequins adds texture. I then felt a body from pure wool, referring to photos, sewing bead eyes and antennae of hemp string.
And he's finished.
To answer that familiar question, about three and a half hours, without the sketching stage.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Made By Hand Cheltenham.


It has taken me a little while to write about being part of the new show Made By Hand Cheltenham, organised by the brilliant team behind The Contemporary Craft Festival

Helped by my lovely husband, we had quite a stressful journey to Cheltenham, the weather was awful and there was an accident on the M5. But the stress disappeared as we were greeted and directed to our pre-timed unloading spot. there were even porters to help carry in boxes. We unloaded, and armed with a drill we set about assembling the display.
A really welcoming cup of tea and friendly neighbours meant that set up was done by about 7pm.  I resisted further tweaking. So onward to our Purple Palace, what my hubby calls the Premier Inn.
The next day after a good night's sleep and a lovely breakfast, I walked down to the town hall. Last night I hadn't realised how beautiful the building was and the work on display, just amazing.

It was a fabulous two days, with brilliant fellow makers, customers and visitors.

I was also  thrilled to be featured in a lovely interiors blog called Home Relish
Use the link to pop over and see more fantastic images from the event.

We also came home with a new member of the family, thanks to the superb Fauxdermy
Meet Hartley, who will always remind us of a brilliant event.

I have heard that the event will continue next year, so hopefully I may see you there, it is well worth a visit.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Another fix of Liberty Magic.

Well another fantastic day, even though it had a very early start, up at 5am and then a drive to Tiverton Parkway, my train was delayed so this added another forty minutes onto my journey. Frustrating but not the end of the world.

I arrived at Oxford Circus and made by way to the Argyle Street exit, I love ascending the steep steps and seeing beautiful Liberty ahead of me. I never fail to have a flutter in my stomach at the sight of the gorgeous facade. Making my way round the back to Little Marlborough street , the less glamorous side of the building. I had a delivery to make, a new collection of bees and ladybirds. Safely handed over to a gentleman who seemed slightly bemused by my concern over the box and it’s contents. Maybe telling him they were like my children was rather extreme.


With half an hour to spare I went into Arthur’s Restaurant for a quick drink. Lovely though the new booths are, with an Art Deco feel, I think I preferred the old cafĂ©.


Then onwards to the haberdashery, I love this section of the store with its vintage feel. Beautiful cutting tables, old Singer sewing,machines and cute chairs upholstered in tapestry. I was made to feel so welcome as I set up my little display. Without exception the staff are delightful and so enthusiastic about my work.

I was filmed for social media and my hatchlings appeared on the Liberty Instagram feed.

The customers were from all over the world, I had a great chat with a blogger from Puerto Rico, her blog is called Sew, Sew Easy. There were visitors from Japan, Sweden and Germany, what an opportunity to talk about my work.

I was only in store for a short time, just two hours this time,but I loved the experience.

My fix of Liberty will keep me going for a few more months, until I can once more climb those step out of the underground  and catch my first glimpse of the most beautiful store in the world.


Sunday, 7 January 2018

Looking backwards and forwards

Well here we are in 2018 and maybe it's time to reflect on the past year and start making plans for the new.
2017 was a fantastic year for me and it started in January with a meeting at Liberty, London. Following on from a chance meeting with a very lovely lady at a craft fair in Chagford, I had a chance to show my work to the home buyer. And so began the most wonderful opportunity in my creative career, I've written previously about my long standing love of Liberty and I cannot over emphasis it is a dream come true.
Seeing my work in the store moved me to tears on more than one occasion last year, I'm thrilled to say I'm working on a new collection from them, due to be delivered in early February.
Other highlights this year were exhibiting at The Contemporary Craft Festival in June, being a guest maker at The Devon Guild and being selected to have my work on the gorgeous Made By Hand Online.

I also had the privilege of exhibit at Cowslip Workshops for both their summer and Christmas Fairs.
My banner making continues to go hand in hand with the butterflies and bugs, I have some very exciting commissions to fulfil this year.
I am so lucky to do something I love everyday, its has been especially important as I also undertook a new role as a carer for my Mum. The saying 'a needle and thread mends the head' couldn't be more true as I learn to deal with her vascular dementia, my creativity provides me with a constant in the more difficult periods.
Thank you for being with me on this stitchy journey and I'm so looking forward to sharing what 2018 will bring.
Heather x

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Stitching at Liberty, a wonderful evening !

I’m so sorry it’s taken me so long to write down my thoughts about my recent trip to Liberty.

It all started with an email a few weeks ago asking me if I’d be interested in giving a demonstration in the beautiful haberdashery department. About twice a year, I think, the store hosts a Lotto evening with entertainment throughout the store and a chance to win discounts on purchases through a scratch card system.

After thinking for all of three seconds, I booked my train and accepted the invitation. For those of you who have read my blog before you know my love of Liberty and that having my work in the store is the greatest achievement in my embroidery career. So actually stitching within those beautiful walls was yet another dream come true.

I decided to work on a Purple Emperor butterfly, in iconic Tana lawn prints, purple is also such a Liberty colour.

Along with the butterfly I took my threads, beads and needle felting equipment, sketchbooks and patterns so people could see my processes.


The day dawned and I made my way to the station, I was fortunate that my hubby had work in the city on the same day so he came with me. It was just as well as I was also delivering a new order to the store, comprising of seven framed pieces, so the help was greatly appreciated.

As I entered the store I noticed a board with all the details of the day’s events, my name was on it. I was so thrilled.
The staff in the haberdashery are so lovely, especially Rachel who went out of her way to make me feel welcome. I was there with Alice Garrett of Alice Caroline and Petra Boase. We set up and got chatting, only to discover that Petra and I did the same degree course in Manchester, one year apart. It was brilliant reminiscing and made the evening just speed by.
I had to get to grips with a Janome machine, we eventually made friends though I won’t be swapping my Bernina. It was so nice to chat with customers and explain the process of making the butterflies.

The evening went really quickly, the store was buzzing with customers, live music and flowing Prosecco. I had a surprise visit from one of my dearest friends too, so that made it special. Having Richard, my husband, with me too was just perfect he is a constant support to me. It was such a lovely experience, with some retail therapy thrown in, and the chance to see behind the scenes, I will never forget it.
The Purple Emperor is now finished, I’ve named him Arthur after the original Mr Liberty. Thank you to my very special friend, Linda, for the suggestion.
I think I’ll hang on to Arthur, stitched within the walls of Liberty he is a very unique hatchling indeed.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Beautiful Madeira

Hello everyone, I'm just back from a week's holiday on the gorgeous island of Madeira.
What an inspiration, the island is so rich in flora that at every turn you see colourful bursts of beauty.

Bird of Paradise flowers are so abundant they almost become mainstream and banks of blue Agapanthus line the roads.
Madeira belongs to Portugal but has strong ties with the UK  so there's an influence of English style in the formal gardens.
I spotted my first ever Monarch butterfly in the centre of Funchal, the capital, they are so big and quite difficult to photograph.
Madeira has a fairly mountainous terrain and some lovely steep hills to conquer. The landscape is dotted with 'levadas' irrigation channels which are now popular walks. Some are fairly gentle and shady whereas others are craggy and precipitous.
This beautiful Madeiran Spotted Wood was nestling on an Agapanthus leaf , found during our levada walk in Paradise Valley.
As you climb higher the landscape changes and becomes less verdant but very dramatic. Here we are at 1,000 metres overlooking the Nuns' Valley.
The air scented with Eucalyptus and Pine trees.  
We walked with a local guide who was so informative about the plants and their uses, pointing out Poinsettias, Hollyhocks, Dragon Trees.........
At the end of the walk he presented me with a little selection of bulbs and seeds,
'The British brought a lot of plants to my island, now you can take some back!'
So I will always have a small piece of Madeira in my garden.
In my next blog I'll show you the beautiful embroidery I discovered on my travels.

Monday, 14 August 2017

They've Landed !

As you may know from my previous posts the greatest thing that has ever happened to me, creatively, happened this year. My work is for sale in Liberty of London. If you read my blog you will know that my love of all things Liberty began at the age of 7.

Well at the end of last month I finally got to see them in the 'flesh' or should that be fabric, in their new home. Lovely friends beat me to it and sent me pictures of them, but nothing could compare to the feeling of seeing them myself.

It started with this sign, proclaiming the new Haberdashery, its wonderful to see a department like this developing. I remember seeing the outrage on social media when John Lewis threatened that their habby would be going.
I felt like a child creeping downstairs on Christmas morning to unwrap their presents, except in reverse as I ascended the amazing wooden staircase towards the third floor. My heart was beating so fast and the emotion rising as I got nearer.

I walked through the door and there they were, sitting against a pale grey wall. It was so difficult to take it all in.

Inevitably, I burst into tears and my lovely hubby took a picture !

The haberdashery is glorious, with wonderful vintage tables displaying beautiful notions and materials. There are also work tables, the walls are lined with inspirational mood boards too.
I would highly recommend a visit, there is so much to see and I bet you won't be able to leave empty handed.