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

New Year, new Brother!

I’m not really sure how to write this post. For one, I’m still pretty speechless and secondly I’ve been battling with not wanting to be braggy. But it would be a crime not to mention the fact that I got hugely, massively spoilt, by Mr Ooobop! this Christmas… with this little beauty:

Brother Innov-is 1250

The very beautiful Brother Innov-is 1250

I have spent the last few days sweating over the instruction manual, scared to even turn the machine on in case I do something wrong. Its all digital! But yesterday I bit the bullet and decided to make a start and thread it up. Its got a nifty little cover to keep the thread and threading mechanisms dust-free.

innovis1250 thread cover

Nifty thread cover

I never questioned the functions of my trusty Janome Sewist, and I never will. Its a lovely little machine, if not now a little ‘manual’ (ssshhhh)! The bobbin is wound on the Brother at the press of a button with no foot action required! It then gets slotted in its carriage and the thread is wound around the plate and is automatically cut at the end. I just have to remember to insert it the opposite way to my Janome! The upper thread is easy enough to feed through. It also gets cut at the end, just before you pull down the lever to activate the automatic needle threader. This is also a feature on the Janome but seems to function more successfully on the Brother. You don’t have to ‘pick up’ the bobbin thread by winding the needle down. It’s picked up automatically.

innovis1250 bobbin

No picking up bobbin threads for me anymore!

The stitches are selected from the digital display. You are going to have to bear with me because I’ve only practiced with a few basic stitches so far. Stitch style, length, tension etc are all selected via touch screen (see top left, foot J). A little scary at first but then apparently very helpful as on selecting the stitch, the appropriate foot is displayed.

innovis1250 digital display

Touch screen digital display, no less!

Incidentally the feet and the unpicker and the bobbins have a cool little pull down compartment at the front. (Sorry Janome, but it is a much smoother operation in order to get to those accessories!)

innovis 1250

Closed accessory compartment

innovis1250 accessory compartment

Open accessory compartment!

Most importantly, it sewed first time, smooth as you like with but a whisper of a sound. I always wonder if my neighbours are cursing me when I sew late into the night! No worries about that anymore!

I love how the needle resumes a ‘down’ position every time you take your foot off the pedal. I’ve forgotten to ensure the needle is down, when turning corners, a few times, and it is really annoying!!

I also love the little button that you press when you come to the end of your stitching. It raises the needle and cuts the thread automatically, to a perfect length, so you don’t have to pull it through the back before resuming sewing. The number of times I have forgotten to do that and have had to thread the needle again, is not worth mentioning!

innovis1250 buttons

Foot up/down, reinforce, needle up/down and automatic cut thread when finished, -buttons!

So far I have practiced regular stitching, blind-hemming, overcasting and I couldn’t resist a little decorative stitching. I really need to do some more reading before I embark on the clever stuff! At some point I will also attempt a little video tutorial. I tried searching for one on YouTube but to no avail. I feel obliged to post one as I think it would be so helpful for people who have an aversion to manuals…. like me!

So as you can imagine I have had a wonderful start to the new year and have no excuse in not upping my productivity and setting myself some new sewing challenges for 2012. I am normally uber hesitant about making new years resolutions but I think I can safely say that this one might be a pleasurable one to achieve!

Lastly but not leastly, I would like to take this opportunity to wish a happy and healthy new year to all my wonderful bloggers and readers xxxx