Tag Archives: Embroidery

Dorset Feather Stitch

Image - Elegant sufficiency blogspot

I think that defining this embroidery technique as a traditional, regional craft is stretching the definition somewhat, as it was invented at the beginning of the twentieth century by members of the Dorset Women’s Institute.  But at the end of the day, it involves many traditional stitches and it can be traced back to a particular region so why not!  Some would give credit solely to a lady called Olivia Pass, one of the members of the WI, who wrote a book all about the stitch.  However in the foreword of the book Mrs Pass refers to ‘we’ and says;

“This happy easy work is a revival, by Dorset Women’s Institutes, of some old stitches in modern form.”

so it seems to me, it was more of a group effort than the invention of just one member.

Dorset Feather Stitchery is really a reinvention of various well known, basic embroidery stitches – Feather, Buttonhole, Chain and Fly stitch, working them together to form a distinctive design.  Why I think that it clasifies to be here amoungst much older traditional crafts is because it is an evolution of older techniques.  To quote Mrs Pass again

“In evolving this work, Dorset has drawn on traditions from many sources, notably a book of designs taken off nineteenth century smocks…… (and) a beautiful Balkan apron.”

Do you know, I feel a tutorial coming on!

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North Country Quilts (that’s not the same as Welsh Quilts)

Durham Quilt image from Welsh Quilts blogspot

As the nights draw in, I have started to grumble about the cold.  I have decided it would be nice to have a good old fashioned eiderdown or quilt to put on my bed.  Obviously, this got me thinking about where the different types of quilts come from.  So I am off again, heading up north to look at North Country quilts.  Also known as Durham quilts, but they have always been made across the whole of Northumberland, Durham and Yorkshire.

Durham quilter. Note the fabric here is sateen

North Country quilts are whole cloth quilts, which means instead of being made from scraps of fabric to make the more familiar patchwork quilts, they are made from a continuous piece of fabric.  Like most historic crafts this would traditionally be a cheap, readily available fabric, usually cotton, but sometimes a sateen type fabric.  The exception to this rule was a ‘stripy’, which was a utility quilt that used strips of fabric, which was easier to construct and cheaper.

by Lilian Hedley

 

North Country quilts are often confused with Welsh quilts and this is not surprising, as to the uninitiated they do look similar.  The main differences between the two are;  Firstly, each have different ways of creating the stitched patterns.  North Country quilts have a central motif surrounded by an area of infill patterns, often based around a specific design called the running Durham feather stitch, with a decorated border around the edge.  Welsh quilts also have a central motif which is then framed by two or three squares which are then infilled with patterns, often a spiral motif.  The second way of differentiating between the two regional quilts is the way the edges are finished.  Welsh quilts tend to be finished with a butt edge, secured with a couple of rows of running stitches and North Country quilts tend to be finished with a couple of rows of machine stitching.  Thirdly, North Country quilts are generally padded with cotton, presumably from the local mills and Welsh quilts are padded with wool, from the local sheep.  Last but not least is that although both North Country and Welsh quiltmakers  sometimes made the ‘Stripy’ quilts, the North Country quilts incorporated the strip into the design, with the patterns following the stripes whereas the Welsh quilts ignored the stripes and the patterns remained the same as whole cloth quilts.

I found a really interesting post on the difference between Welsh quilts and Durham quilts on Pippa Moss’s blog.  Pippa goes into great detail on the differences and has some great images of her amazing collection of quilts.  I must say, having looked at all her lovely examples, I really think a nice antique Durham quilt is just what I need for my bed.  I will have to look out for one on ebay as there is not even the smallest chance I am going to make a full size quilt for myself.  I know this for an absolute fact, as I just don’t have the stamina.  I am in the process of making some samples of English quilting for the Design and Stitched Fabric course I have rashly signed up for and it is going to take me a month to make a cushion cover.  But I digress….

I want this one for my bed, but it is at Nunnington Hall. North Yorkshire!

Both the Welsh and the North Country quilts have very intricate designs and patterns, and these patterns could vary, not just from area to area but also within the same village where individuals would have their own distinctive style.  Kate Trusson is a quilter from Swaledale and in an interview for Popular Patchwork she describes how North Country patterns were flowing, using running feathers, leaves, twisted chains, curlicues and spirals.  Julie still uses patterns which are linked to her own locality, Swaledale in the Northern Dales.  These unique patterns have an openness and a primitive quality about them.

Interestingly, Welsh patterns were called ‘string and teacup’ because they used household objects to draw round and used string as a compass and also to mark out straight lines.  There were many ways the patterns were marked out and North Country quilter’s sometimes sent their quilts off to a stamper who printed the chosen pattern onto the fabric to give the quilter a guide to work from.  This method does explain the complexity and symmetry of some examples of whole cloth quilts from the late nineteenth century.

I Love Feathers by Sheila Curtis of Ledbury.

Quilt making both in the UK and America is very much alive and kicking and the traditional patterns are still known and used.  There are also many contemporary quilt makers who push the boundaries of this traditional skill.  You only have to search the internet for Durham quilt making workshops to find a whole host of resources.  If you want to see exquisite examples of both antique and contemporary quilts then I suggest you check out some of the websites below.  Right now I am off to draw up an example of Durham running feather stitch for my course samples and I better order some cotton batting too if I want it to be authentic!

 

 

 www.lilian-hedley-quilter.com - Queen of North Country quilts who runs courses on how to do Durham running feather stitch and also how to mark out your pattern

www.welshquilts.blogspot.co.uk - beautiful images of Pippa’s collection of vintage welsh and North Country quilts.

www.beamish.org.uk - large collection of quilts

www.quiltmuseum.org.uk - All things to do with quilts

www.stensource.com –  Inspired to make your own quilt?  Here is a source of designs if you aren’t confident in designing your own

Posted in County Durham, Heritage Crafts, Northumberland, Yorkshire | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lots of Lovely Dorset Buttons

Finally finished my second tutorial on Dorset Buttons.  Had lots of images of all the samples I made and so I thought I would share them with you all.

Got a bit carried away and kept making more!

One great big Shirt Waister (yes, I know it’s off centre)

Open Weave around a Curtain Ring, a Christmas tree decoration perhaps

I like these ones – On a nice cardigan or maybe a brooch.

I think I have got the Dorset button bug now.  I may even branch out and do some colourful ones.  I found a really nice booklet which gives intricate details of how to make many of the traditional dorset buttons including the High Tops and Singletons.

I am planning on integrating some big ones into some of my embroidery pieces next.  Have a look here.

 ‘How to Make Dorset Buttons Booklet’ by Marion Howitt is available from

www.dorsetbuttons.co.uk

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How to Make a Dorset Button

How to make a Crosswheel Dorset Button

Let’s get one thing straight from the start.   Dorset buttons are not hard.  A bit fiddly perhaps but not hard, so don’t you go giving up before you have even started.  Plus, I have written these instructions assuming that you know nothing, so each and every stage is covered. Those people who know a little bit more than nothing can ignore what is written in italics, these bits are for complete beginners.

NB I am left handed so if you are right you may find it easier to work in the opposite direction to me.

 

You will need

A curtain ring

Fine (2 ply or crewel) wool

crochet cotton or 2 ply wool (size 10 works for me)

Short large eyed blunt needle

Short large eyed sharp needle (this is for casting off if you need to)

 

Casting or covering the ring

1. Thread your needle with about 2.5 metres of your chosen wool or cotton.  You need it this long to cover the whole of the ring and create the spokes of the wheel without having to cast on again

2. Loop thread around ring a couple of times to hold it steady whilst you start off and then blanket stitch* all around the ring.

 

4.  Keep stitches fairly tight and evenly pushed together to cover the ring.  Use the loose end to help hold ring steady.

5.   When you have almost gone around the ring you need to tie in the loose end.  Lie it flat along the ring and blanket stitch over top of it.  Finish blanket stitching and slip needle through the first stitch to finish off.  Then pull the loose end tight and trim (Don’t cut main thread, you haven’t finished yet)

 

Slicking or pushing ridge of the stitch to the inside

Twist the stitches so the ridge is facing inwards.  You can do it gradually and a thumb nail is the perfect implement for this job.

Laying or making the spokes

1.    Have the thread to the front of the ring at 12.00, bring it down to the bottom and bring it back up the back in exactly the middle.  Try and make the blanket stitches part slightly so that your spokes lie flat next to them.

 

2.   Turn the ring ever so slightly and continue to wind over and over to create the spokes.  Aim for eight or twelve spokes for the first button and definitely only eight if you are using wool.  Don’t worry if the spokes look off centre at this stage.

See how the spokes of the wheel are not centred until you have secured them with holding stitch

3.   When you have got back to your first spoke end by taking needle through stitches in the centre from front to back.  Gently nudge the spokes with the needle, so they all cross over each other at the centre.

 

4.    Then bring the needle back up through the stitches and wiggle threads again to ensure the spokes are definitely centred and then do another stitch to secure spokes and to make sure they stay centred.  Make theses two stitches a neat cross as they will show.

Rounding or filling in the gaps

You should still have enough thread left to carry on without casting on or you may wish to change colour at this stage.

1.   Starting in the centre, use back stitch* to loop around each spoke in turn.  Use the needle to nudge each stitch towards the middle.

2.   When you have gone around the wheel once, take a good look at the spokes and make sure they are centred, if they are slightly off then push to the middle with your needle.  This is the last chance to wiggle them and its really easy to forget to do this bit.

2.   After a couple of circuits you will start to see the ridges forming around the spokes.  Fill in the whole wheel or stop whenever it tickles your fancy.

3.   If you need to change thread during this stage. Cast on or off by running thread up or down one of the spokes.

Top tip – there is no need to pull all the thread to the front of the button and then pull it all back to the back.  Bring the needle to the front pull a little thread through, take your stitch back down and then pull all the thread through at once.

4.  Keep pushing the stitches towards the centre of the button to keep everything tight and tidy.

 

And there you go!  Once you have made a basic button it is time to start experimenting.  See my next post for some buttons that I have been making.

 

*Blanket stitch

a. Start with your thread coming through ring from the back to the front at the top.

b.  Pass needle through centre of ring from behind.

c.  You will have created a loop.  Pass needle through this loop

d.  Pull all your thread through loop and pull stitch tight.

e. Repeat stages b-d over and over again!

 

 

 *Back Stitch Weave

a.  Bring needle up through the button on the left of top spoke.

b.  Go down through the button to the right of that spoke.

NB -the button is slightly wonky in this photo.  

c.  Pull tight.

d. Working anticlockwise, bring needle back up through to the left of the next spoke (i.e 11 o’clock)

e. Go down through the button to the right of that spoke.  You can hardly see the first few stitches but it becomes clearer as you go on.

f. Repeat over and over.  Remember; up on the left, down on the right. Working anticlockwise around the button.

 

Is this tutorial clear?  Is there a glaring error?  Please let me know and give me a pat on the back if it’s useful!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Dorset, Heritage Crafts, How to Make, Textiles, Traditional Crafts, Tutorials | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Yorkshire Buttons

This is going to be short!  I have been searching for information on Yorkshire buttons and they are proving elusive.  There is a type of button which goes by the name of ‘Yorkshire button’ and I have found references to them here and there, but I can find no historical proof that they were linked exclusively to Yorkshire.  I have a sneaking suspicion they might be a relatively recent invention but I remain unsure.

Anyway, for now all I can say is that they are a type of hand stitched button.  Made by creating a circular woven wheel, traditionally from woollen yarn and stuffing it to form a sphere.  You can find more detailed instructions on how to make them here, as for no particular reason the Yorkshire Button is the subject of my very first tutorial found on my How to….page.  So, even if its own history is a bit hazy, it now has a place in the history of Potter Wright and Webb!

If, by any chance, you can shed light on the history of this humble button then please let me know.

Posted in Textiles, Uncategorized, Yorkshire | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

How to Make a Yorkshire Button


Yorkshire Buttons are basically an extension of an embroidery stitch called a ribbed wheel.  (Also known as ribbed spider’s web, back stitched spider’s web, woven wheel or woven spot).  Somewhere in Yorkshire, someone had the bright idea of taking this stitch and weaving it free of any backing material.  Instead the stitch is woven onto a circular template, thus they were able to take the finished circle off the template and gather and stuff it to form a little sphere and hey presto a new button was invented.

To make a Yorkshire button follow the instructions below.  Anything in italics is details which some people might not need or want.  Note that I am left handed so the photos show me sewing clockwise.  Right handers will probably want to go the other way!


1.    Make your template.  Cut a circle out of strong cardboard or plastic.  No bigger than 5cm (2″) if this is your first one.

a)  Use a compass or draw round something the right size.

b)  Cut 12 V shaped notched around the edge of the circle, big enough to hold the thread.  These should be evenly spaced like a clock face – that is at 30° intervals.  Best way to do this is to divide into quarters and then divide the quarters, this way the notches stay even. Imagine or mark the notches as a clock face

c)  Pierce hole through the centre.

Bear in mind that the diameter of this circle will end up as the circumference of your finished button.  If you want your button to be a certain size and don’t remember all those complicated formulae from school then take the buttonhole measurement and double it and then add about 3mm.  You can pull it tighter if it is a tad too big.

2.    Thread a blunt darning needle with about 2.5m of thread, this seems alot but it is best to do the whole button without needing more thread.  Wool would be the traditional choice in lace weight but I like to use cotton crochet thread (no 8 is good).  Bring your needle up through the centre hole of the template, pull the thread to the front leaving about 10cm at the back to hold on to.

3.    Next you need to form the spokes to weave the button onto.  This sounds more complicated than it is but follow the instructions as two threads must form each spoke and you do need to end up in the right place.

Start by taking the thread from the centre to notch 1, go around the back to notch 12, come to the front and go down to notch 6, go round the back to notch 7, come to the front and up to notch 1,  continue in this way in the following order

b = thread at the back,  f = thread at the front

1  b 12  f 6 b 7 f 1 b 2 f 8 b 9 f 3 b 4 f 10 b 11 f 5 b 6 f 12 b 11 f  5 b 4 f 10 b 9 f 3 b 2 f 8 b 7

4.    From 7 come to centre, take needle UNDER all spokes and come up between 12 and 1, loop over the centre between 6 and 7 and back to form a little anchor stitch.  Check that the spokes are sitting centrally before pulling the stitch tight.  This will show so it needs to be neat!

5.    You are now ready to weave the stitch.  It is basically a spiral of back stitches over the spokes, working from the centre outwards.  Work as follows – take thread back over a spoke (should be spoke 12 if you came up between 12 and 1).  Take needle under this spoke and the next (12 and 1). Pull thread through.  Repeat – back over spoke 1 down and under spoke 1 and 2. (basically it is one spoke back two spokes forward).  After a couple of stitches the ridges will start to appear and it is clear how the button is formed. Continue in a spiral until the whole template is filled.  Neaten the stitches as you go, pushing them together so the spokes do not show and the template is tightly packed.

 

6.    When you can fit no more stitches onto the template the button, turn the template over and run a running stitch through each of the loops on the back.  Then slide each of the loops off the template and pull the thread to start to form the spherical shape.  Cut off your loose starting thread at this stage, leaving about 1cm inside the button so it doesn’t unravel. Stuff your button with small amount of wadding.  Alternatively a spherical bead which is the right size.  Draw the loops tight.  Lastly make a few stitches at the back to neaten the button up and then leave the thread to sew on to garment.

There you go – a Yorkshire Button, easy to make and can be made to compliment a special garment or when you just can’t find anything in the right colour.

NB  This is the first of many tutorials.  If you use this and find I have made an error or there is part of the instructions that really don’t make sense to you – Please let me know so that I can correct them. Thank you.

 

 

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Suffolk Puffs or as some may say – YoYo’s

image courtesy of raitantiques.com

To state the blatantly obvious, Suffolk puffs are traditionally associated with the county of Suffolk.  American’s call these little gathered circles yoyo’s and may never of heard of Suffolk, a county to the east of London, which is famous for lovely beaches and low rainfall but in the UK they are Suffolk puff’s. A puff is simply a circle of material gathered in on itself to form a smaller double thickness circle.  The gathers make it look rather puffy – hence it’s name.  The puff’s can also be stuffed for extra puffiness.  (Over use of the word puff/puffy in this paragraph me thinks!)

Ruth Singer - Suffolk Puff Queen

The history of the Suffolk puff is unclear.  There is mention of puff’s as early as 1601 and the technique of making little gathered circles has cropped up all over the place since before the Victorian era.  I have read that the practice of using puffs made from scraps of fabric and sewing them together to make quilts developed in Suffolk during the 19th century and it was a method of reusing old material and creating something useful and decorative, popular with the rural poor of the county.  I have also read the technique may have been named after the fact that the puffs were often stuffed with Suffolk sheep’s wool.  I guess if the latter is true then the chances are those sheep were in Suffolk somewhere.  Whichever version you prefer, by the beginning of the twentieth century the technique had become well established and was known as Suffolk puff patchwork quilting.

Lovely use of Suffolk puffs from Knit Purl and Stitch

Suffolk puffs are very easy to make, simply cut out a circle from a piece of fabric, approximately double the diameter you require and then run a running or gathering stitch all around the circle, about 4mm in from the edge.  When you have done this, gently pull the thread, the circle will come together to create a sphere, or puff!  Here is a full tutorial if you would like further instructions or suggestions with what to do with your puffs.

As you can see I like to use my puffs to decorate clutch purse’s

Quilt Museum  –  examples of Suffolk Quilts

Planet Suffolk -  All things Suffolk related

Ruth Singer –   My favourite Suffolk puff’s

RachelClare – More on Suffolk Puffs and what to do with them

 

Posted in Heritage Crafts, How to Make, Suffolk, Textiles, Traditional Crafts | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dorset Buttons

Ok I am back!  Been on holiday but now itching to get back to my journey round the British Isles and right now we are in lovely Dorset, looking at Dorset buttons.  The Dorset button industry started when a man called Abraham Case moved to Shaftesbury, Dorset.  (The other thing Shaftesbury is famous for is the Hovis advert, the one where the boy pushes his bike up the hill.  I always thought that advert was filmed in Yorkshire.  I was wrong, it was filmed in Shaftesbury by Ridley Scott no less).

Hovis boy pushing bike up Gold Hill in Shaftesbury

Anyway, back to buttons.  Abraham Case came to Shaftesbury after a career as a soldier, during which time he travelled in France and Belgium and admired the European Buttoner’s art.  After leaving the army, he found himself in need of employment.  It seems he was in the right place at the right time for button’s in the 17th century were very much a status symbol and there was a high demand for intricate and ornate buttons for gentlemen’s waistcoats.  Having seen the buttoner’s art in Europe and finding himself in an area where buttons were already made on a small scale,  Abraham Case saw the opportunity to develop a Buttony industry in Dorset.

image from This is Dorset 

The earliest buttons produced by Case were High Tops, conical in shape and Dorset Knobs, similar but flatter (the famous Dorset Knob biscuit is named after a button!).  Disc’s of horn from Dorset rams were covered with linen and worked over with fine linen thread forming the distinct cone.  It seems likely the technique he adopted combined the techniques he had seen on the Continent with the techniques which had existed in Dorset for centuries.

Abraham Case’s business quickly grew and by the early eighteenth century buttony had become a cottage industry employing thousands of people and bringing in a revenue of twelve thousand pounds per annum, which I must say was a great deal of money back then.  When Abraham Cash died, his sons Abraham Jr and Elias took over. Production grew and grew and the family managed to keep much of the business in their own hands by paying their workers in goods not money to stop them branching out on their own. By the beginning of the nineteenth century there were depots in many Dorset towns for the outworkers to collect the materials from and sell their finished buttons to.

image from 50 Heirloom Buttons to Make by Nancy Nehring

One of the most important developments in Dorset Buttony history occurred during the reign of George II (around 1750 for those of you who can’t remember your kings and queens).  Buttons based around a wire ring, rather than the disc of horn, were introduced and quickly developed into many different styles.  Blandford Cartwheels, Ten-Spoke Yarrels, Basket Weave Honeycomb Cross Wheel of Spiders Webs, Spangles, Birds Eye and Mites to name but a few. These wire based buttons are the ones that are now more well known than the original High Tops and Knobs.

image from Aquarius blog

Production of the Dorset Buttons continued apace.  It was a popular source of income among the rural poor of Dorset, a good Buttoner made between six and seven dozen buttons a day and could earn up to 3 shillings  as opposed to the 9d that could be earned as a farm worker and it had the advantage of being a home based activity, which was more attractive than being outside in all weathers.

Unfortunately all this ended abruptly in 1851, almost over night the Dorset button industry collapsed and the thousands who relied on the industry were suddenly penniless and on the brink of starvation.  All this happened because of a button making machine which made handmade buttons redundant – they just couldn’t compete.  The inventor was a man called Mr John Ashton and he exhibited his machine at The Great Exhibition.  And here is a funny thing, those of you following my blog will recall that a Trug maker from Sussex called Mr Thomas Smith had a very different experience of the Great Exhibition.  Queen Victoria brought his trugs at the Exhibition and he went home a very happy bunny.  Yet in Dorset an exhibit at the same exhibition caused misery and starvation, three hundred and fifty families from Shaftesbury alone were forced to emigrate to the Americas and Australia as a result.

image from downunderdale.blogspot.com

(I absolutely love this button, I have searched the web and decided – this is the best!)

So the Dorset Button industry ceased to exist.  It went through a brief revival at the beginning of the twentieth century initiated by Lady Lees but the outbreak of the First World War put paid to her attempts to put the buttons back into production.  Nowadays the tradition is kept alive by the Verwood branch of the WI and by the many courses being offered to teach the art of buttony.

I am very pleased to say, I shall be attending one of these courses myself.  Fibrefest in Devon is running a workshop on Dorset and Yorkshire buttons which I am very excited about.  I shall keep you posted on how I get on.  And I have decided I am going to develop a Dorset Button brooch for the Potter, Wright and Webb range.  By the way – the website is coming along nicely – still aiming to have all these lovely things available to buy from October!!



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