Thursday, 5 September 2013

Project Wedding - Part 2

For Project Wedding - Part 1, click here.

A Thoughtful Gesture 

During the run-up to last Christmas, I had been scratching my head wondering what on earth I could send as a gift to a very dear friend. I'd not had the opportunity to make or buy anything, but wanted to send something in addition to a card. I remembered that my friend collected buttons; especially unusual and vintage ones. I knew I had a small pot of buttons that I had acquired after my great-grandmother had died more than twenty years ago, and whilst rummaging through the collection I found an assortment of vintage pearl beads. Remembering that said friend had an interest in jewellery-making, I felt the pearls would be absolutely perfect for her.
After my friend had received her Christmas package, she got in touch to say that she couldn’t accept the pearls because of their sentimental value and that their rightful place was with me… but with a new lease of life! My wonderful friend said it would give her much pleasure to restore the pearls and use them to make a couple of necklaces for me. I was moved to tears because it was such a lovely, thoughtful, heart-warming, and generous offer.
Because my friend knew I had already sorted out my outfit for the wedding, she had suggested the idea of designing one of the necklaces so that it could be worn with the outfit. Given that we live in different countries, it obviously wasn’t going to be as easy as us getting together for me to show off the outfit, and for her to consult with me about the necklaces. However, that’s not to say that it was completely impossible. I remember receiving a lengthy e-mail, full of questions about desired necklace length, clasp preferences, and whether I wanted something modern or more classic, etc. In order for my friend to know the exact shade of the red jacket I would be wearing (with a navy dress), I had sent her the spare fabric-covered buttons.
From a selection of loose pearls and beads that my friend had purchased, I received the following two stunning necklaces, aptly named Roses for Remembrance and Classic Couture. When the postman delivered them I was so excited that I really did feel like all my birthdays and Christmas' had come at once. The two necklaces are so well-made and just absolutely exquisite to look at. hat I cannot stress enough is how perfectly the Roses for Remembrance necklace went with my outfit.

'Roses for Remembrance'
'Classic Couture'

Both necklaces are 18 inches, with gorgeous gold-plated findings. The ‘Roses for Remembrance’ necklace was strung on wire. In addition to my great-grandmother’s 6mm cream pearls, the necklace includes red rose focal beads (reconstituted stone), semi-precious red coral bamboo rounds, and gold Mill Hill seed beads as spacers. As for the ‘Classic Couture’ necklace, it was strung on Illusion Cord, which means it will adjust to my neck over time. In addition to my great-grandmother’s pearls, my friend had added bronze glass pearls. 

Because my friend had done such a fantastic job of cleaning and restoring my great-grandmother’s pearls, it’s impossible to tell by looking that both necklaces consist of beads from completely different eras. I know my great-grandmother would be thrilled to bits to know that her pearls have been given a new lease of life and are being worn again after all these years. In addition, she would be tickled pink to think that her pearls had travelled overseas and back, and if she was still alive it is a tale that she would great pride in telling. 

My great-grandmother was very much a lady with fine tastes. She wasn't vain, but made an effort with her appearance and always dressed elegantly. It would please her no end that the ‘Roses for Remembrance’ necklace has been worn with a smart outfit, but it has to be said that both necklaces look equally wonderful when worn with a casual top and jeans; it is their versatility that adds to their greatness. 

In case you’re curious about the outfit that was worn, this is it. Regrettably, the necklace had twisted round without my knowledge. The red jacket, navy dress, and red patent wedge shoes are by a label called South, which were purchased from Very around December/January. When I had started looking for an outfit, I had wanted something multi-functional that would be suitable in a work-place setting, which wasn’t black.
The outfit

The Pew Ends
With just a matter of weeks to go before the wedding, my mother was approached by the bride-to-be and asked if she would be willing to put her floristry skills to use and do the pew ends for the church. Whilst my mother was flattered to have been asked, it’s been a good many years since she obtained her floristry qualifications. Although she has done bits and pieces since then, she openly admitted to me that she was completely out of touch and absolutely terrified, even though the bride and myself had complete confidence in her abilities. 

I had accompanied my mother to the bride’s home on a fact-finding mission, so that my mother could get some ideas as to the budget, colour scheme, and style of the pew ends. It rather felt like Mission Impossible, as my mother wasn’t really any the wiser when we left. It was known the budget would be extremely tight, but at that point no ceiling amount had been stated. It was known that the bride had no preference about the style of the pew ends, or the flowers and foliage used. The only concrete things my mother had to go on was that the colour scheme was ivory/cream and jade green, and that the bride wanted 12 pew ends. Because there are so different shades of ivory/cream, with some looking whiter, and others looking more yellow, my mother had rather been hoping to have obtained a sample. The last thing she wanted was to end up choosing flowers that would clash terribly because they were the wrong shade. 

Two days before the wedding, my mother spent the day working flat out to make the pew ends. Due to the design of the church pews, which all have doors, she had no option other than to use Le Klips. These were hooked (one at a time) over the door of a kitchen cupboard, so that my mother could work her magic on them, and involved many hours spent kneeling on a hard kitchen floor. 

We visited the church the following day with the pew ends, plus some gorgeous ribbon bows that my mother had made. She was shaking like a leaf, not because she felt anxious, but because all those hours spent kneeling on the floor had taken their toll on her poor knees. Having burned the midnight oil, one would have thought that my mother would have not had any difficulty getting to sleep that night, but I don’t think she slept a wink. It seems that it is common amongst florists to worry that their creations will wilt overnight and that flowers will fall out, etc. 

As it turned out, my mother need not have worried about anything. The pew ends had been given a good spray, and one of members of the church’s Flower Guild had checked on them on the day of the wedding ceremony. The photographs below were taken the day before the wedding. To add some colour, my mother had taken a gamble and added some pink gerberas and carnations. As we got our first glimpse of the bride walking down the aisle holding her bouquet, it was a relief to discover that the gamble had paid off (see the final cropped image).
Pew Ends
Ribbon bow with beads
Bride's bouquet

I am so proud of my mother for successfully creating such lovely pew ends, and on a tight budget too! Although she had been itching to get stuck into a project, it was a lot to take on single-handedly, given the amount of work involved. It is for this reason that she has decided that her answer will be a resounding, “No”, if approached with a similar request in the future.

Project Wedding - Part 1

Since spring 2012, I have felt compelled to be somewhat selective about the content of some of my posts. In particular, posts relating to what shall be aptly named 'Project Wedding'. The recently married bride would be the first to admit that she is not in the least bit creative, and whilst she has been known to pass comment on my stitching, I don't think she has ever had any desire to visit my blog and read detailed accounts about it. Even so, I didn't feel I could risk letting too many secrets out of the bag before she and her husband tied the knot.

The Wedding Samplers

Within seconds of learning that the wedding had been officially announced, I had already decided that I would stitch a wedding sampler. Admittedly, I took a risk and published a post about two wedding samplers I had purchased, which you can read about here. 

The first sampler I stitched was Wedding Couple by Design Works; an 11” x 14” counted cross-stitch kit stitched on 14-count Aida, which included embroidery floss and white beads. As you will see on the image I have included below, the wording states the names of the couple and the date, but because I wanted to have at least one sampler that included the name of the church and there was space for me to do so, I repositioned the wording.

Wedding Couple by Design Works

Although it was the style of the font that had influenced me to purchase Wedding Couple, rather than the image itself, it now seems quite apt given that the bride's bouquet had also included pink flowers. More will be said about the flowers later on; the real ones, not the stitched ones.

Earlier this year, I had taken Wedding Couple to be professionally framed by Mark at Betty Stitchkit. I was adamant that the frame had to be silver, and with assistance from Mark's lovely wife Sharon, was able to find a simple silver frame that we both felt was just the right shade. Had money not been an issue, I would have liked to have included a mount and opted for clear non-reflective glass. I managed to take a photograph before the sampler was gift-wrapped, and if you click on the image below, you should be able to make out the white seed beads.

My intention had been to return a few weeks later to get Wedding Arch by Bothy Threads framed, but due to health and financial issues it just wasn't possible. The weeks turned into months, and regrettably there wasn't a financial opportunity to get Wedding Arch framed. All being well, an opportunity will present itself before the newlyweds celebrate their first wedding anniversary.

The Greeting Card(s)
Having got the wedding samplers out of the way, the next task on the list was the greeting card. I had spent hours looking at cross-stitch designs, but could not find a single one that took my breath away and made me think, "Wow!" Regular visitors to my blog will know that this is what ultimately led to my discovery of another style of stitching to add to my repertoire. The design I chose to stitch was purchased from the Stitching Cards website. Regrettably, I don't have any photographs of the card (or of the printed insert), which I fear I may have deleted in error. I have asked the recently wed bride if she can take some photographs of me, and providing she obliges they will be added to this post as and when. In the meantime, you will have to make do with this rather small image courtesy of Stitching Cards.
Design Copyright ©
I knew my parents would also want to send a card, so had shown my mother a variety of designs and asked her to choose one for me to stitch. The one my mother opted for was from the Form-A-Lines website. As with the other card I had made, a printed insert was included, which on this occasion I am at least able to share an image of. For the verse on the left, I used a free font called CAC Champagne, which I had downloaded from a font site. According to the template on my computer, Batang had been used to create the hearts, although I don't think this can be right as I'm unable to find anything resembling a heart in the Character Map for Batang. On the right-hand side of the insert, I used Abadi MT Condensed Light for 'Congratulations on your' and CAC Champagne for 'Wedding Day'. I should add that I cannot take credit for the verse, which was obtained from a website.

Design Copyright © Form-A-Lines
Card insert
The Gift Card
Several weeks later, after stitching many more cards and gaining more experience, I saw a design on the Stitching Cards website that seemed the perfect choice for a gift card, and tied in rather nicely with the wedding card I had stitched. However, I had used up my supply of card blanks, and was too impatient to wait until I had ordered and received delivery of more. I knew I had some larger card blanks with an aperture somewhere, so decided one of those would have to do. 

Some may consider this a stroke of luck, as the design I had opted to stitch was the perfect size for the aperture. After cutting a piece of white card that was slightly larger than the aperture, I positioned the pricking chart on it so that it was centred. Once I had pricked the holes and completed the stitching, it was then a matter of positioning and securing it in place.

There was a vast area of white space around the aperture, which in my opinion I needed to do something with. From Etsy shop ValerianeDigital, I purchased this pack of digital scrapbooking papers, and then experimented to see how well they printed, and which one I felt worked best as a card background. Once my decision was made, it was then a matter of tweaking the shade and size of the image, which took several attempts to get right. Once happy, the design was printed onto an A4 (21cm x 29.7cm) sheet of photographic paper, and then trimmed to size with a wavy paper cutter. The most difficult part was cutting out a square for the aperture. I then positioned and secured a piece of card that I had stitched the names of the bride and groom on to.

Whilst I was pleased with how the card had taken shape, I felt it needed something extra, such as some ribbon to frame the aperture, and perhaps a tassel. Yes, definitely a tassel. Given that the gift card was clearly going to be far grander than the wedding card, I decided that nothing other than a beaded tassel would do. I had made bookmark tassels, and although I had never previously tried my hand at a beaded tassel, I figured it shouldn’t be too difficult. I browsed the internet for inspiration, and when I saw the image below, I promptly named it my ‘Inspirational Tassel’. I spent absolutely hours studying it, paying particular attention to the sequence of the beads that formed the tassel dangles.
'Inspirational Tassel'

On one of my visits to Hobbycraft at Webbs of Wychbold, my eagle-eyed mother just happened to spot a pack of self-adhesive ribbon strips, and then saw a pack of self-adhesive embellishments. Both items were absolutely perfect, so into the shopping basket they went. During that visit, I picked up a pack of silver tissue paper (to wrap the framed wedding sampler), and some clear Gutermänn 7mm bugle beads, size 9/0 seed beads, and 4mm faceted beads for the tassel I intended to make. Initially, I hadn’t actually realised the beads were clear (not that it was a problem). In the storage tubes, they look white with the most wonderful iridescent sheen. As I’d not managed to find a suitable head and neck bead, I placed an order with The Bead Shop for a selection of Swarovski beads, in a variety of sizes. 

I knew I would need an extremely fine thread to string the beads of the tassel, and in my wisdom used Kreinik Cord thread. Anyone reading this that is skilled at making beaded tassels is either wagging their finger disapprovingly, or laughing themselves silly! When it came to threading the beads, I really didn’t have a clue what I was doing, so made it up as I went along. After passing a long length of thread through the bottom bead, I then brought the two ends of the thread together and passed through the other beads in the sequence that formed the dangle. At this point, I wasn’t sure what to do next and found myself thinking that there must be an easy-to-follow tutorial on the internet, which would not require any jewellery-making tools. Eventually, I struck gold and found this excellent tutorial. 

I started from scratch and followed the tutorial, using my Kreinik Cord thread. All was well until I went to show my son the finished tassel and accidentally dropped it on my hard kitchen floor. The impact of the fall, along with the weight of the beads resulted in causing the thread to snap. Fortunately, none of the beads were damaged, and although my choice of language was colourful to say the least, I looked upon it as a blessing in disguise and a valuable lesson learnt. I would need to get hold of some fine Nymo beading thread, or so I thought, and make the tassel again. 

Because I couldn’t think of anywhere locally that would sell beading thread, I looked online and quickly realised that in addition to being available in different thicknesses, it is ridiculously expensive. However, as my research continued, I learnt that beading thread is no different to fishing line. Apparently, when it was discovered that fishing line was an effective beading thread, it was re-branded and the cost of it rocketed. The advice by those in the know is that it is considerably cheaper to buy fishing line. I won’t deny that when I visited my local fishing tackle shop, I felt extremely self-conscious; as though I was invading male-dominated territory. After explaining what I was after and why, I had almost expected the two male shop proprietors to look at me as though I was barking mad. Instead, they pointed to a reel of monofilament fishing line behind me, and informed me it was the one most commonly used for beading. Rather helpfully, the packaging was opened, and I was invited to look at and feel the fishing line. For the grand sum of £2, I skipped out of the shop (in spirit at least) with a 100-metre reel of Drennan 7 Series Carp & Silverfish monofilament, suitable for weights of up to 4.6lb. Now, if only it was possible to purchase 100-metre reels of embroidery thread… and for the same low price! 

Working with monofilament fishing line does take some getting used to, especially when using an extremely long length of it. Although the beaded tassel wasn’t difficult to make, I cannot deny that it was extremely fiddly. It’s impossible to tell from the images below, but there are 16 dangles that form the tassel, to symbolise the date of the wedding (16th August).
Beaded Tassel

Because I wanted the gift card (and my handiwork) to be visible and draw attention, putting it in an envelope was not an option. With the benefit of hindsight, the addition of the tassel would have made it difficult anyway. Without an envelope to protect the card, I needed some other way of protecting it, and had the idea of adding an acetate cover. A4 would have been fractionally too small, so it was a matter of using an A3-sized sheet (420mm x 297mm) and cutting to size. From I ordered a pack of 5 A3 acetate sheets. The cost of the pack (including VAT) was £2.40, plus an eye-watering £4.74 for the cost of standard shipping (including VAT). Because I’m hopeless at cutting straight lines with scissors, I used my paper trimmer, and this would have been fine if the acetate hadn’t been so damned slippery. With one sheet completely wasted, I then used my heavy duty DIY craft knife, metal ruler and cutting mat, which resulted in another wasted sheet. I had been kneeling on the tiled floor of my kitchen, with one end of the ruler wedged under my knee to prevent it from slipping. Before the third attempt, I had the idea of holding the ruler in place with masking tape, in addition to using my weight. There were areas that needed trimming and neatening up, but at least I finally had something I could work with. A layer of double-sided tape was applied to the card fold before the acetate cover was affixed in place. 

The next step was to make a cord for the tassel, which would loop around the card, pass through the tassel loop and be secured with a knot, and then be secured to the gift wrap. I used a combination of DMC B5200, E5200, and E168 (or perhaps it was E415) to make the cord, but when it came to securing it to the gift wrap I had to abandon the idea. For the beaded tassel to hang correctly, the gift card needed to be hanging vertically, so another idea was needed. As I had a couple of acetate sheets left over, it occurred to me to make an envelope pouch that the greeting card, plus the wedding card could slot into. The images below are of my first attempt, which was a bit too small. For demonstration purposes, I hastily wrapped some silver tissue paper around an envelope.
Front of gift card
Card insert (left) - Wedding rings image obtained from a jewellery website
Card insert (right) printed on parchment paper - Verse obtained from a website
Envelope pouch (1st attempt)

If you are wondering how the tassel was attached to the card, seeing as the cord had been scrapped, the answer is quite straightforward. It was stitched on to the acetate cover, purposely done in a way that it can be removed and used as a hanging decoration (if desired), without damaging the card. 

Project Wedding resulted in being so much more than stitching a couple of wedding samplers and cards, which will be explained in Project Wedding – Part 2.