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“Out of my Comfort Zone”

LUCKY DIP…..    If you were given a piece of delicate lace, what would you do with it?  Our group recently had a “Lucky Dip” where each person wrapped up a piece of fabric, threads or fibres – some vintage, some newer, some hand-dyed – all beautiful!  We each chose a package and our challenge was to use these finds to create something new.

This is the amazing vessel created by Eimear; she certainly made the most of the beautiful lace given by Catherine.


Here she explains her process and struggles in the early stages to find a vision for the piece.

“I had received a piece of lace which was lovely, and yet it was not something that I would have considered buying. I couldn’t envisage how I could incorporate it into my own work. Definitely, out of my comfort zone!

I went home, put the lace to one side and got on with existing work. Guilt tapped on my shoulder and the lace got put on my worktable within eyeshot.  The lace got picked up, draped; around collars, over hands, grouped with other materials and anything else that came to hand! Finally it got thrown back into a corner in sheer exasperation. I got on with everything else, including the dreaded ever present housework.    I didn’t have a clue what to do with it….

Deadline looming, panic had set in; I had to do something and quickly! In the end, I decided to play with it. I decided to incorporate the lace in an embellished piece as I had made some nice pieces before and the embellisher is good for merging fabrics together. By playing with it, the pressure was off, and what the hell, it was a piece of material, not lifesaving surgery. At least now, I had a plan of action although I still felt unclear what the end product would look like. Playtime was now in full flow.

I used a base of acrylic felt on which I put a further thin layer of different merino wool tops. Other different fabrics can be added in this layer. I also take my containers of small scraps and threads and add them on top of this layer as desired. I keep these containers close to the sewing machine always, so that I can put trimmed threads and scraps of material in them while working. These scraps can add interest and contrast to other pieces of work and nothing is wasted. It also cuts down on these threads following you around for the rest of the day, and in theory, you don’t have a messy workspace! (We won’t mention the rest of the umm…mess, all in the name of Creativity!)


Yes even that piece of lace has been put in this layer. Hooray, I felt I was now making progress. Catherine had given me a big piece of lace, so I got a rush of blood to the head and decided to cut the lace into sections; – some single units and a larger piece of the lace pattern. I wanted to blend the lace into the landscape of wool tops and at the same time, focus on the composition of the lace by using single units of the lace. Organza was used as a top layer over the last two layers. The organza has a dual purpose of holding the under layers in position and also for blending or altering the colour palette of the lower layers. At last, I felt I was making progress. I decided to make a 2D landscape but was open to incorporating the piece into a 3D structure, so as work progressed   , this decision would be dictated by the piece.

Before sewing, secure the three layers together to prevent organza creep which can occur, especially if using the embellisher. The organza layer should overlap the base fabric with a reasonable margin. The layers can be tacked together by hand at regular intervals along its surface. Alternatively pin the layers together and pin also at regular intervals. It is worth taking time with this step as it can prevent problems at a later stage. You know you have enough pins in when you start getting jabbed in the hands! Keep the pins in straight lines along the surface, and then the embellisher can be run down the surface between rows of pins to tack the layers. One pass of the embellisher is sufficient to tack the layers. It should be noted that the organza layer can be distorted if the embellisher works over the area a number of times. This may/may not be a design feature, which can be used.

The layers can also be tacked, using hand felting tools, but should be pinned first. A net layer may be used in place of the organza, as a temporary layer for stability, or as a permanent layer. When tacking using the embellisher or using the sewing machine, begin in the centre and work out to the edges of the work. This will stabilise the background prior to further work. An embroidery hoop is not necessary as the background is stiff enough to work on. Edges of the work can be neatened at this stage.

I decided to embellish the piece further by using layers of machine embroidery using threads in a colour palette which would echo and complement the background. At this stage, I decided to make the background into a 3D piece, – a vessel.  I set up the sewing machine for free embroidery. A darning or free embroidery foot is used and the feed dogs are lowered. It is also important n to lower the top tension lever before sewing. I find it useful to warm up first by doing practice pieces to check tensions and also to practise drawing with the sewing machine.  I love drawing, carry sketchbooks everywhere, so the process of drawing with the sewing machine ticks the box for me. Designs can be practised and indeed these practice pieces can be retained for further reference. Alternatively, embroidery stitches, if on your sewing machine could be used. The stitching can also be in response to the background. Care should be taken if using an open toe darning foot as the organza layer may be distorted as previously mentioned and the foot gets stuck and this can interrupt the flow/speed of work.  On completion of the free embroidery, turn the work over and inspect the rear of the work. This will allow a clear review and evaluation whether further embroidery is required.

IMG_3644When I was finished I rolled the piece into a vessel and used a piece of organza and hessian tape on the top. The latter was hand stitched with different weights of wools, all echoing the colours of the vessel. The vessel was completed with a number of machine wrapped cords and strings.  So, this is the result, and I am pleased with it. The lace was out of my comfort zone, however looking at the end project, I was glad that I didn’t let it get the better of me! By moving away from our usual work practices, materials or habits this can perhaps allow us to move in new directions. And even if a new direction does not work out, experience and new skills are gained and perhaps may be used at some stage in the future. So go ahead and give it a go! And thanks, Catherine.

By the way I am also looking forward to seeing the wonderful work the other members have made!

Eimear Molony.

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