Our portrait sewn up by Harriet Riddell

Last Sunday we had the absolute pleasure of meeting artist Harriet Riddell at the Hepsibah Gallery in Hammersmith. I love having this little gallery so close to home and I love art and I love sewing so you can imagine how heavenly it was to be sitting with my nearest and dearest, chatting with the artist herself whilst she effortlessly drew us with by means of a sewing machine!

Harriet Riddell portrait

Harriet is a performance mixed media artist specialising in observational drawings in stitch. Which means she won’t copy a photo – only live subjects need apply, and therefore each and every creation is an original. Oh, and she doesn’t do dogs!

And for someone who graduated only a year or so ago, she has a pretty damned fine back catalogue already. I found it tempting to sit on the face of Jeremy Irons who was beautifully stitched into the seat of a chair and mesmerised by the Mexican dancers with their intricately decorated dresses, on the wall. One of her brilliant projects involved sitting outside in the streets of Birmingham, stitching people sat on a bike whilst they pedalled to power her sewing machine. Just how cool is that?

Of course I quizzed her:

Q: What kind of thread do you use?

A: Just the usual 50p kind from Peckham market!

Q: What is this fabulous fabric you are using?

A: Heavy weight canvas from Goldhawk Rd!

Q: Do you ever get stressed from the queues that build up on your event?

A: Sometimes!

Q: How long without sewing can you go without getting ‘scratchy’

A: About a day or two!

Q: What do you love most about what you do?

A: Travelling the world and meeting wonderful people.

Q: What fancy stitch did you use to create the detailed embroidery on the Mexican dancers’ dresses?

A: Oh I never use those. Just do it freehand!

(I can honestly vouch for her being the coolest person ever!)

Even the reverse of this artwork is beautiful. I need to source a frame with double sided glass so it’s not hidden. Any ideas?

Harriet Riddell reverse

Of course the only downside to this wonderful sitting was that now I am hugely inspired by this lovely lady and I want to venture more down the ridiculously wonderful road of freehand embroidery too. Of course I have plenty nuff hours to fill, don’t I?

You will find plenty more examples of Harriet’s fascinating creations over at Institchyou.

And I leave you with some lovely shots that Mr O took whilst our youngest daughter took the first sitting:

Harriet Riddell Harriet_Riddell_2 Harriet_Riddell_3 Harriet_Riddell_4 Harriet_Riddell_5 Harriet_Riddell_6 Harriet_Riddell_7 Harriet_Riddell_8

Scrap-bustin’ thank yous and superstitions

scrap busting thank yous and superstitions

Quality scrap-bustin’ that is! The word scrap doesn’t and shouldn’t be associated with a gorgeous piece of turquoise silk and some beautiful vintage cottons. But scrap-bustin’ it is until I think of something else!

This little zipper pouch was inspired by a combination of prompts. I often frighten myself with all the intended ‘must-have-a-go-ofs’ that lurk in the back of my brain. The first to come to the fore, was a spot of free-motion embroidery. I spotted some lovely work by @thebobbinbird on twitter and that certainly set the ball in motion. I also needed a way of saying ‘thank you’ to my colleague’s mum who kindly donated a sack load of zips to me! (I’m not kidding about the sack. I’m still bringing them home a handful at a time because they weigh a tonne!) And I have been itching, for so long, to incorporate these tiny pieces of beautiful fabric, into a worthwhile project.

butterfly pouch

Now this is of course free-motion embroidery in the loosest sense! I pinned the tangerine-print butterfly pieces to the silk, lowered the feed-dog and using Sulky metallic thread and an embroidery foot, I ‘walked’ the stitches, free style, around the butterfly wings and to draw the curly antennae. I really loved the process, as I thought I would, and I’d love to be more adventurous next time. Perhaps even incorporate the technique on a garment or two!

butterfly applique detailI love the free nature of it all. The wonky lines and the fraying edges and the grain of the fabric. Quite a relief from some of the more precise methods usually employed in dressmaking. And oh how those colours pop!

I had to use one of the millions of zips, of course! Would have been daft not to! And I covered the ends of the zip to act as stoppers and also because I had cut the length of the zip to fit.

covered ends of zip

The lining is a gorgeous vintage printed quilting cotton. Again part of another generous donation to me from a lovely friend and neighbour. I made small hand stitches around the opening edge to make sure it didn’t get caught in those rather hefty teeth!

pouch liningAnd the superstition bit? Well I’m not entirely sure how Mrs J will use this pouch. She may well use it as a purse so to be on the safe side I’m including a shiny penny to ensure good luck and prosperity. It is bad luck to give an empty one. Does anyone else do this or is it just me… and my mum who made me believe this?!

I think you may be seeing a lot of zippered projects to come. But if you have seen or employed any innovative uses recently I’d be very interested to hear about them!

zips