Thursday, June 01, 2023

New Beadwork Class Open for Enrollment!

 Fruit of Thy Hands

I am super excited to announce my new 17th c beadwork class at Diamond K Folk Art Online Academy is now open for enrollment. I am so far behind from being sick last year, I am trying to catch up & sincerely apologize to all of my students patiently waiting for the classes I was working on to be ready.   
I designed this project class to teach the basic detached techniques used in making beaded baskets like mine shown above. What is learned in class can be applied to any and all the flowers and fruits and acorns etc I made for my basket!

If you are not familiar with 17th c beaded baskets, I can refer you to read an earlier post on them here. There is a link to the basket above at the Met~ note the wonderful beaded oranges and lemons in the border surround. I will teach you how to make them in this class~ though you will make strawberries, the technique is the same for all fruits/ nuts etc. 

Class starts on 1 July, and the kits will ship mid-June. If you would like to learn more about it or enroll,  you can do so here, or click the Diamond K Folk Art Online Academy PAGE TAB under the header at the top of the page to see the current classes offered.

Thursday, May 25, 2023


 Enjoying The Many Steps

I have always been told I have a lot of patience. I'm not so sure...I think I just enjoy the heck out of the process of making things from nothing. A doll from a lump of embroidered casket from a pile of paper and silks..a cozy quilt from a pile of fabric scraps...or pretty tools from chunks of wood. I enjoy the process of *creating*.  Heck, this week I have really been enjoying the process of making lilac jelly, but that's a whole post in itself.

I know I'm not the only one who enjoys the process of making things, and then there's a whole group of folks who have no interest in making anything, but they just like to see how it's done, so I thought I would share my process for making my latest scissor holders in the ETSY shop.

It all starts with a gorgeous piece of wood. For these scissor holders, I chose hard maple so that the turning would be nice and crisp. You can see a piece behind the two scissor holders above. It's first cut into a long block, then I cut the corners off on the table saw so the rough turning doesn't break the cutting heads on my tools.

I drew out the design I wanted and worked with my son at the lathe to get just the right shape. Josh rough-turned the blocks for me. 

They were a wonderful maze of cuts and angles...sometimes the wood chipped out or broke. We just went with it and created. After turning, I cut them apart by hand~ LOTS of careful sawing! 

Here are the left above is a little dude that broke halfway through turning, so Josh just went with it and I turned it into a candle holder. Once the holders are cut apart, they get sanded and then drilled in the center for the scissors. The holder on the right still has a flush top. I wanted these to gracefully dip down to the hole in the center, so they get carved out, by hand(holder in the middle). Carving on the end grain is extremely difficult~ it took some while, and I had to be very careful to not cut off any of my fingers. Funny story, I did slice a huge chunk out of one of my fingers on the drill press. It's always when you least expect it!

After sanding and sealing the piece, the design is drawn on by hand in pencil. For this particular holder, my design was inspired by a pair of 18th c hand painted silk dress sleeves in the Colonial Williamsburg collections. (The finished piece is shown in the first photo)

Next, I draw the design and add details with a steel tip pen and India ink, just like it was done in the early 19th c. I do not use waterproof pens or Sharpies like other folks. I use drawing ink and a dip pen, that's it. 

I usually sign it someplace within the design. This holder is going to be blackwork, inspired by 17th c blackwork embroidery designs, and painted only in black. I love painting in a monochromatic palette. It's a challenge to see how much depth and movement one can make with just shades of a single colour. These are particularly challenging to ink because of the compound angles. In order for ink to flow from a steel tip pen, the little channel through the center of the tip must open with downward pressure. This is done by pulling the tip toward you. The angles on this piece greatly limit the design. For example, on the Williamsburg holder, I was planning on writing on the bottom lip, but ultimately I could not get the ink to flow thru the tip because of the weird angles so drew vines there instead. 

Colours are built up over several layers. This is two separate coats of black so far. I paint only with watercolours. The first shading is done on what will become the light parts of the design.

Same flower after 5 more cycles of black and lacquer.

Finally, tiny hints of white are added to pop little details. In watercololurs, all colours are transparent, except white. White is opaque so it really pops and jumps out of the design. love it

I added some faded bands of black to finish it. I wish I had some of the blackwork slate frames & other tools I have painted over the years to photo with it~ these look smashing as a set. It's available in the ETSY store if you are interested in it. I think there are still a couple of needle minders in blackwork left from the group of tools I listed last week. 

Happy Stitching!

Monday, May 15, 2023

In the ETSY shop

 New Tools Available!

There are some pretty new tools in the ETSY shop today.  Link is to the right in the sidebar. I have been working on these blackwork pieces for a while. I am still working on it, but will also have a blackwork scissor holder to match soon. I love painting a monochromatic palette and showing how much depth can be achieved with just a single colour. I also really love 17th c blackwork embroidery, which I think you can tell, was the inspiration for these.

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

10 Spots Available

 Beneath Thy Poft Oak

Beneath Thy Poft Oak, The Art of 17th c Beadwork is a wonderful class that will teach you all about 17th c beadwork. It is a 12 month class that I am now running individually, so you will not have to wait for a class to fill if you are interested in taking it!  I have just 10 class spots available.

You can learn more about all the particulars and/ or enroll here. You can also click the tab at the top of the blog page here for the Diamond K Folk Art Online Academy to see all the classes currently offered.

For those of you who keep asking me about teaching here in the USA,  this is the perfect opportunity for you to do so right from your own stitching chair! This is the most comprehensive class I have ever offered, and like all my classes, all materials you need to complete Beneath Thy Poft Oak are included in the class kit. All the student need to provide are a few tools and a slate frame. The class is divided into 12 easy-to-complete monthly lessons. Each lesson contains a slew of pictures, step-by-step photos, instructions, and videos for completing this pastoral Texan scene.  This is not just a class to work the shown picture~ it is a class aimed at teaching you all you need to know about 17th c beadwork techniques and how to apply them to other projects you have milling around in your head.

As you can see above, my scenes are complete. Ladye is not just sitting under a tree with a one-dimensional top of a skirt draped over her lap....she has beautiful legs, shoes, stockings, and garters under her gown. 

Each kit comes with a one of a kind 3 piece hand sculpted papier mache figure set (bust and two arms)
Along with flat and looped cartouche treatments, speckling, grounded and in-hand peyote stitch, flat and curved couching, French wired leaves and flowers, detached hair and lace techniques, netted overlays, designing and working clothing, and bead history, I will also teach you how to make these gorgeous fully detached yellow roses. The same technique can be applied to any flower~ known to nature or contrived of your own imagination. 

Friday, April 28, 2023

Scenes of Country Life Casket Progress

 AKA the What Was I Thinking Casket....

I have had such a large workload in the shop I haven't had much stitching time. Well, I probably have had a good amount of stitching time, but struggles with my health have prevented me from being in the happy zone that allows me to stitch. I am soldiering through hoping I will bump into my former self sometime soon. I have just three panels left on this casket, the front, front frieze, and top. I am working the front panel next, which has a smaller cartouch scene on either side of the front keyhole. I try to post on Instagram at least once a day, and if you have been following along, you will already know why I am now referring to this casket as the What was I thinking? casket. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, let me offer you this advice. Just because you can draw it that small, doesn't mean you can stitch it that small! This panel is an ode to my many days spent fishing for supper as a child...didn't like it then, don't like stitching it now. I started with the background~ the tree trunk is several hundred French knots in 4 or 5 shades of brown, I can't remember off the top of my head (probably blocked it out)

After the trees, I stitched the bridge, the water, the fishing pole, and the fish. The fish were a nightmare in themselves. I had always planned on using some microscopic metal spangles for the fish scales~ TINY, less than 2mm in diameter... I stitched them on the fish and they were way too huge and hideous, so the fish got worked in satin stitch, which I actually really like. But I wasted at least 3 days stitching dinner plate sized spangles onto microscopic fish and then unpicking it all off again because my brain would NOT let go of wanting to use them. 
Then came the ladye & my descent into HELL

I can fit this entire scene into the palm of my hand...and I have pretty small hands. I am not holding a giant pencil...nope, this is a standard size pencil eraser. It looks HUGE compared to her tiny face. 

I ended up stitching her face and unpicking it THREE TIMES before my final fourth try(which is just ok). This is her second face. I call this one the burn victim. Poor girl. HORRIBLE.  So I will remind you that I have macular degeneration....on top of having to wear regular glasses cause my ass can no longer SEEEEEEEEEEEE.  It is beyond frustrating. My first try was satin stitch...didn't like it so I thought I would stitch directionally. My eyes were tired, sooo tired. I have to have magnifiers on and even then, I am trying to focus and what I am focusing on will literally just disappear from my vision. Its gone. nothing, and I have to start all over....then maybe the lines of stitching will literally move, right as Im looking at them, and Im not moving. Enlarge this poor thing and say a prayer for my eyes, please. She didn't look that bad really, until I took a picture and looked at it on the computer. OH MY Golly. What the heck happened!? These stitches couldn't come out quick enough~they took forever to unpick cause they are so small. 

I put this picture on because I took it to show the fourth try at her eyes...not bad~ again though, it went all down hill from there. The only reason I did not unpick it and try again was that the ground fabric just could not handle another unpicking (neither could I)

I chose some really great taupes for her gown, purple but not too purple. I really wanted to give her a yellow dress, but who in their right mind goes fishing in a yellow dress??? At this point, I am hoping that the gimps will relieve some of her massive homliness. Enter Hell 2.0

What a person wants to use and what is available are not even close to the same thing when working at this scale. I used Jenny Adin Christie's Very Fine size gimp for her gown, which actually came out really nice. Thanks to my guardian angel for having mercy on my soul and letting her have just the colour. Now traditionally the hands and hair and face would have also had couched gimps for the defining details....but not here. Everything I had was too big. For her hands, I used  HALF of a single PLY of soie ovale. (first, separate a strand down into six plies, then separate a single ply in half~this will grant you entry to Hell 3.0) 

 No gimp currently on the planet is small enough for her hair...nor silk-wrapped wire. All too huge. I finally ended up digging through my silk-wrapped purls, finding the tiniest one and straightening it out. I like her hair a lot actually, as long as I don't look directly at her face shes great. 

 So here is the finished fishing panel, and now I am on to the milkmaid panel...Lord help me her face is HALF the size of this one.

Friday, March 24, 2023

I am now offering Bespoke Scrimshaw for

 Jackie Du Plessis's "A Sailor's Valentine" class

Jackie includes two precious printed paper inserts in the kits, but for those who want to add a little extra 19th c flare to their projects, I have been asked to make scrimshaw cabochons for the centers of the two panels.  As shown above, I measured a completed panel from last year's class while at Williamsburg. I have made the cabochons 2 mm smaller so they nestle perfectly within the circular center, with room for the chenille to be couched neatly around them. 

19th c Sailor-made scrimshaw is beautiful. It was made from whalebone, whale's teeth, and ivory. For my scrimshaw, I have sourced the most authentic ivory substitute made today. It is absolutely gorgeous. It replicates the grain and Schreger lines of real elephant ivory so perfectly that the manufacturer processes it with a fluorescent that glows under UV light so that it cannot be sold as real ivory.
Here you can see how beautiful and transparent it is. The grain of each piece cannot be replicated. It is made in the manufacturing process, and changes throughout the large bulk pieces. 

It is actually pretty exciting because the grain cannot be seen until the pieces are sanded smooth~ so I have no idea how they're going to look until I have sat and hand-sanded them for yes, literally over an hour. I do everything by hand the old-fashioned way~ NO POWER TOOLS ARE USED WHAT SO EVER. It takes me about 4 hours of work to make a single set from start to finish. First, the shape is cut, then sliced into coins. From there each piece is hand-sanded from 120 grit to start up to 420 wet sanding to finish.

Once the pieces are super smooth, I draw the design on with a pencil and then hand scratch it into the surface, as shown above. These are super tiny, so I actually place them on sandpaper to hold them still while I'm working them as my hands get super crampy the period, the most popular thing used to get the etching to show up was tobacco spit. I don't chew tobacco, so I use India Ink, which actually was also used back then ;)

There is more sanding to remove excess India from the surface, and then they are polished with wax for a nice, natural shine. Again, only hand polishing.

The cabochons are drilled thru the edge for stitching onto the panels.

There are two designs, a sailing ship and Sailor's heart/anchor. I can fit TWO initials within the heart if you would like to personalize your set. 

If you are interested in purchasing a set, you can do so by clicking the "Scrimshaw" tab at the top of my blog header, or click  here to go there now.  Ordering info is at the bottom of the page

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Casket Side Panels Finished!

 No Glamorous Spaces Here

I often get asked what my stitching space looks like. I am usually a pretty organized person, I'm a Virgo so I do like everything to be in its place. When I am 'creating' though, things tend to get pretty hectic. We are always bombarded with pictures of Women's creative spaces looking so clean and glamorous...I personally don't know a single person whose space looks like those in the magazines. In case yours doesn't either and it bothers you, don't let it! This is a picture of my stitching counter, you can just see the corner of my slate frame in the bottom left there.  

See, I usually set aside January for doing my business tax papers....but doing so takes up my entire counter. I used the excuse that I would work on my stitching in January, and start my tax papers on 1 Feb. Well.....I was so close to finishing this current slate frame worth of casket panels, that I convinced myself that it would be a total waste of time to clean off my counter for tax papers, and then have to set everything else back out again. I mean. LOOK at it. I got EVERYTHING I need, right where I need it. It looks like a huge mess to the untrained eye, but it's what I call my 'working mess'. I stand to stitch, and everything I need is right where I can grab it.  You don't even want to see my doll room when I'm working on a doll. Just, no.

Anyways, I am also a numbers person and keep track of everything. I know how much time is WASTED getting stitching things out, and then packing them up again. Just think how much stitching you could get done in the time it takes you to set up and break down your stitching area every time. So this is my tip of the day for getting some serious gains on stitching progress~

Make yourself a dedicated stitching area. It doesn't have to be an entire room. Or an entire counter. A side table, the top of a dresser....just someplace you can have your stitching at the READY and not have to haul everything to and fro all the time. Portable rolling carts are great~ keep all your stuff for your current project in there, and then when you want to stitch all you have to do is roll it aside you. You may be surprised how much progress can be made with just 20 or so minutes of stitching a day!

Speaking of progress, yes! I have progress to share on my Scenes of Country Life or Rural Pursuits casket~ WOO!

I actually 'finished' them twice LOL. Above is a picture of the first time, with the original configuration of the silk-wrapped purl flourishes. Up close they looked good, but from across the room, they looked like a sideways crab or spider clutching onto the cartouche! It kept me up at night, literally. HUGE design flaw for me. I wanted the ovals to be within the center of a block of stitching....not hovering between two crabs in a rectangular negative space. So while I was sleeping I thought of all sorts of things I could do to remedy the situation. Just leaving it was not an option for me. What I decided to do was to make the one-sided flourishes into leaves. I drew them in with a pencil first, as can be seen in the bottom half. Then couched yellow silk over the lines to match the rest, as seen in the top portion. I just needed to get the rectangular angles out of this white/negative space of the ground.

A few silk-wrapped purls later, and bam! YES! Finished for the second (and LAST) time!  I am very happy with them now. 

I have now cleaned off my counter and started my tax papers like a good girl. This slate frame is ready to get cut up and glued to the casket, but I am saving that for when I get back from a trip to Colonial Williamsburg. Cant wait to see them on the casket!

Did you stitch some today???! DO IT!!!!!