Millefiori Brooch – working in a small space

Working on the center of the Millefiori brooch was the most fun and the most challenging. The brooch is so small – about 2 inches from top to bottom – everything must be attached in a very small space. Additionally, as more and more little pieces of metal thread are attached, it becomes more difficult not to bring the needle up in the middle of a previously attached piece of metal thread. If this happens – which it did! – the piece can be slightly damaged.

Below you can see that all of the colored purl has been attached along with the tiny beads. The instructions are clear, so doing the work wasn’t that difficult but it was fiddly. Often my needle would appear between the strands of passing thread on the side! Fortunately those passing threads are quite durable and didn’t show any damage as a result of my lousy aim!

The center rose and leaves were another thing altogether! I love using purl thread. In the piece I did a long time ago Colors of India, I worked s-ing with purl thread and really liked how it looked. In that case the little pieces of purl were laid on the fabric more or less in a row and not all grouped together to create a rose bud or leaves as they are on the brooch.

The first few pieces of purl thread for the rose went on just fine but then my inability to see through the fabric meant that eventually my needle did come up right in the middle of a previously attached piece of purl. You can see the results in the photo – see where the purl is slightly split? That’s the result of not having x-ray eyes. (Now, wouldn’t those be great?!)

Smoothing the purl with the end of a melor helps to take those splits out but not always completely. In the end, they don’t bother me in the least as the look of the brooch isn’t ruined in the slightest.

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The last bit of bling to be added was the chip work. If you remember, I did loads of this on my RSN piece, The Bishops Crosier. I love this technique! It’s a comibination of metal thread work and mosaic. The trick is to fit the miniscule pieces of gold check into the space, angling them in different directions so the final result is a sparkly surface without any particular grain or pattern. It’s time consuming but I just love it!

Again, the needle did pop up too often where I didn’t want it to be but I just carried on. Later I went back and did my best at smoothing out the small bruises in the purl. Fortunately Jenny gives her readers some great tips about how to minimise those misplaced needle jabs in her instructions.

All the major stiching is done now. It looks beautiful don’t you think? All that’s left are some spangles and beads to attach, plunging the threads and contructing the brooch. Should be done soon!

Millefiori Brooch – pearl purl

This is FUN! Really, really fun! Making something so small and so pretty that I’ll get to wear is a treat! Why haven’t I done this before? Well, I don’t know, except that I’d never seen anything like it before.

The small size of the project means that progress is relatively quick; I do one step and can see a difference in only an hour or so. That’s great, especially at the beginning of a school year for a teacher – one of our busiest times. The small size of the brooch also means that I don’t tire of doing anyone thing because nothing takes that long to complete before moving on to the next step, which will be different from the previous one! This is really a perfect project for me.

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As you can see from the photos, I’ve been working on getting  the pearl purl couched down all around the outside of the brooch and all around the edge of the heart in the center of the brooch. Once again, the instructions are very clear. Bring the needle up next to the gold passing threads, lay the pearl purl next to the couched down passing threads, lay the pearl purl you are attaching inside the thread and take the needle down angled slightly through to the back. Actually, Jenny’s instructions are longer and more complete in the book of instructions but you can get the general idea…I hope!

DSCF3215Couching down pearl purl is one of my favourite techniques in metal thread work: I love the little click or pop sound that it makes when the thread snaps into the groove between each of the golden pearls.

When couching the pearl purl inside the heart shape, it’s equally important to bring the needle up close to the couched passing threads and angle the needle back under them a bit as your needle goes to the back. During this process, I had to continue to be careful not to pull too tightly so the soft padding didn’t get squished due to overzealous tightening of each stitch.

DSCF3226As I stitched on the pearl purl I was grateful for Jenny’s tip to keep the passing threads on the front (not plunged through to the back just yet and the ends of the threads covered in tape. I would have been catching my needle on them had they been plunged through – even if they were secured. As it was, I did catch the ends of the threads in the loop of my working thread and, had the tape not been on the ends, probably would have unraveled the thread and I would have been really angry. Great tip!

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After the heart was outlined both inside and out the last bit of pearl purl to stitch down was a circle in the middle of the heart shape. I drew the shape on the felt first, using a coin that was the right size. This stitching was the most interesting, as I was working over a hump and the pearl purl had to curve quite a bit as I stitched it down. It wasn’t difficult, I just had to be careful. My number one tip for metal thread work is GO SLOWLY. Let each stitch take as long as it takes and it will most likely turn out very well. If you hurry, you can be 100% sure you will make a mistake and damage the delicate metal threads.

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Below is the heart with all the pearl purl attached. Even at this unfinshed stage I think it looks just lovely.

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Below you can see the height of the padding on the heart. Remember the whole piece is a little less than 4 cm or 2 inches from tip to tip. It’s possible I’ve padded it more that Jenny intended – my ability to measure the height of the padding wasn’t good. I tried a ruler and a tape measure and still wasn’t sure so I went with what looked about right.

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The next steps involve using the beautiful colored purls and seed beads to add detail outside the circle. I can’t wait to get started!

What project have you been doing lately that you just fell in love with?!

Colored Passing thread – how pretty!

Once the gold passing thread was couched on the heart for the Millefoiri Brooch, the next step was to attach the beautiful Red opal passing thread. This thread is a blend of colors changing subtly from gold to a pinkish color to red and back again. If I’d seen it in a shop I probably wouldn’t have purchased it – I wouldn’t have know what to DO with it! That’s one of the great things about working on a first class kit: the use of materials is often something new and you can explore using different materials in a way that’s been tried and tested.

As I couched down the red opal passing thread, I had to be careful not to pull the couching stitches too tight. I’ve discovered that this is a huge problem for me when using gold threads on a padded shape. I tend to pull the couching stitches too firmly, resulting in the padded shape being pushed upwards. The gold threads are then flat or almost flat against the fabric and the padded area is rising above the fabric without any threads on the padded area.

The goal is to work the passing thread onto the gently sloping side of the padded heart. In the photo above I’ve done a pretty good job. Below you can see the red opal all finished and the last rows of gold passing thread couched down. The slope of the padded heart is still looking pretty good. I think I’m getting better at this as I work! I need to remind myself…gently, gently!

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In the photo below you can see one of the tricks I’ve learned from Jenny Adin-Christie. Look at the ends of the passing threads. Each of them is secured with a tiny piece of invisible tape. The tape prevents the thread from unraveling as I continue to work on the rest of the brooch. Pretty clever , I’d say!

The next step is to couch down pearl purl on the outside and inside of the passing threads. All the plunging of the passing threads is to be done at the end of the project – the last step- so I’ll have to be careful when I work the pearl purl around the outside tip! I’ll let you know how it goes!

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Above is a photo of the heart brooch almost finished. In respect for the work Jenny Adin-Christie has put into her kits, especially the outstanding and well thought through instructions, I have removed all images of the piece in progress.