Wednesday, 31 May 2017

How I Got My Sewing Project Published in Needlepoint Now!

Embroidered Necklace, Earrings and Bracelet by Bobbin and Fred

This is my Belle Jewellery Set. Looking at it you may not imagine it began life as a rather shabby set of sketches in my 99p pad. To look at it now all you see is it looking gorgeous and polished (toot toot) having just been published as a tutorial in May/June's issue of Needlepoint Now, complete with a
fantastic interview conducted and written by June Russell-Chamberlain. How June made sense out of my garbled yet enthusiastic answers I'll never know but she did and now I'm one very happy designer with a feature in a magazine I enjoy.

woman reading magazine

So much of what we designers do is done behind closed doors and, though not secret, is a bit of a mystery. All of our mistakes, dodgy sketches and failed attempts are swept under the proverbial carpet we roll out to display our expertly made and beautifully designed wares upon.

I've met good designers who kept their sketchbooks hidden because they didn't look pretty enough or the drawings were crude, hell, I've even hidden my own until now, but I've come to realise just because a drawing isn't very good doesn't mean the finished piece won't be, nor does it make me (or you) any less skilled at what we do.

The Belle Jewellery Set wasn't the first collection of needlepoint jewellery I made; there have been lots of finished pieces and attempts that didn't quite make it! For example, the earrings began life over a year ago. When I first designed them I'd been looking at tribal jewellery and motifs and I wanted to echo the shapes I found in my research. Blinded by desire, I wanted the embroidered portion to be in the shape of a semi-circle...not an easy feat for a rigid canvas made up of squares. 

earrings sketches and stitch samples


Some sketches, stitch samples and even the beginnings of a finished piece later and I finally admitted defeat. The stitched design was supposed imitate the bottom half of the silver ring to give an impression of a ring interlaced with a semi-circle. A nice idea that was a total failure! I didn't like the sharp corners or the pixelated circular form either; it felt clumpy and ugly in my hands so I jumped ship. Back at my graph paper pad I licked my wounds and decided to keep it simple.

I picked the square design at the top right of the page and that simplistic, misshapen line drawing became these earrings...

handstitched earrings by Bobbin and Fred


Whilst all this was going on I set up an Instagram account and posted the best photos of the things I'd designed and made in recent years. If Instagram is a mystery to you, Jessica of LycetteDesigns has written a fantastic and comprehensive article (also in the May/June issue) that will get you started! With the help of hashtags and some lovely folks I garnered a few followers in the process and decided to show my makes to Elizabeth at Needlepoint Now. She thought their readers would enjoy learning how to make my needlepoint jewels and we both hoped they'd inspire a new generation of needlepointers.

Success! I'd scored a feature in an American magazine! Now I just needed to design something to share with their readers. I knew two things: one, I had to wow them, and two, I really wanted to push the earring design further and see what else I could do with Norwich stitch squares. Armed with the knowledge my tutorial would be in the June issue, I decided to make a set to accessorize a wedding outfit with, so I grabbed my pens and got sketching.

jewelry sketches by Bobbin and Fred


I wanted to carry the silver ring motif through the design so I looked at ways to join and decorate it. I loved (and still love) the idea of the squares being freestanding, it's something I plan to go back to but at the time I couldn't see a way to make it work. I went with a cuff style bracelet instead as it gave me a backdrop to appliqué the squares on to.

Jewelry Design Sketches by Bobbin and Fred


With my trusty red and yellow pens in hand, I began more finely plotting the stitched design and looking at different beaded edges. I also floated the idea of using oval rings as I wasn't sure if the circular ones would curve around the wrist. I still like the idea of using ovals but I couldn't find anywhere to buy them so I ditched that and put blind faith into those little silver 10mm rings.

Jewelry design ideas for needlepoint now and colours


A bit more sketching later and it was mood board time! Who can resist putting their sketches and colour selections on a page, scrapbook style? Not me, no way. I chose colours based on the trend forecasts for Spring/Summer 2017. For the bracelet I originally planned to use two colours. I was imagining a green lattice around pink beaded squares to create a design reminiscent of roses growing on a vine, a sort of wearable abstract English garden...all right, you caught me, I'm waxing lyrical, that was going through my mind but I also thought it'd just look really pretty.

Next, I did a bit of experimenting to see if linking the squares with the rings would work. It didn't. The chunkier design won through process of elimination. At this point I was about 80% sure I could make it. I decided to leave it in my mind's cooking pot and crack on with the rest.

What I love about Norwich stitch is that the threads lay flat and you can mix them to create a painterly effect so I had a few goes at mixing the threads to get a tone I liked. Here are a couple of my attempts that survived the unpicker...one day I'll make them into something else.

Plastic canvas stitch sample


To buy myself some thinking time I made the earrings and necklace first. I knew they'd be straight forward as I'd already made a few pairs, albeit in a larger size, and the necklace is pretty much two earrings joined together. While I stitched, photographed and wrote up how to make them I thought about how to make the bracelet.

Pink Needlepoint Necklace and Earrings by Bobbin and Fred


Most of my designing goes on in my head. In my line of life I get a tonne of thinking time and not much doing time. So I thought about it a lot. I thought through every possible way of making it, I thought about every problem I would come up against and I thought about how I could solve every single one. Some I couldn't and that was fine, I simply kept coming up with alternatives until I found one that worked and most importantly, looked great.

By the time I'd finished I had a pretty good idea about how to make the bracelet and I couldn't delay it any longer if I was going to meet the deadline. First I stitched all the bits I was certain of and then I started making a maquette (in fancy speak) or a small, scrappy and rather anemic section of the bracelet (in everyday chat). I worked out where to cut the canvas on the maquette, how the needlepoint filling the space between the Norwich stitches would look and how to do the edging. I also worked out how to sew on the clasp but I had to cut it off and sew it onto the final piece so that isn't in the picture.

maquette for bracelet design by Bobbin and Fred


As I worked out each part on the maquette I applied it to the final bracelet until I had a finished piece in my hands. In the end I decided to show some restraint and leave the beaded edging in favour of the pretty scalloped one because I felt having beads along the top and bottom would detract from the design's central motif.

Pink Needlepoint bracelet by Bobbin and Fred


That's how I designed and got my hand stitched jewellery set into an American magazine, and how you could too!

If you'd like to learn how to make your own Belle Jewellery Set you can do so in May/June's issue of Needlepoint Now.

And the crafty goodness doesn't have to end there! You can also make a gift box to pop it all in over on my post 'How to Make a Large Presentation Gift Box for the Belle Jewellery Set'.

If you enjoyed this post, I'd be very grateful if you'd help spread it by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Facebook or Twitter. Thank you!



2 comments:

  1. Gorgeous! Thank you for sharing the process of getting published, it's very inspiring (and generous) :) x

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    Replies
    1. You're so welcome, it was a fun post to write and I'm so pleased it's inspiring you to have a go and hopefully be published too! Lots of luck with it and do keep me posted :D xo

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