Starting a new embroidery project : ‘Wisdom’ envelope folder

‘Shlama’ bag with Indo-Persian design and beaded fringe

Now that my ‘Shlama’ bag is finished, I want to start embroidering something new, but related to the bag in some way. I want this new project to still have an Aramaic word stitched on it, linking it to the contents, as I did with the bag (‘shlama’ in Aramaic means ‘peace’, which is the result I get from listening to my music and meditation tracks). So this folder will have the word for ‘wisdom’ in Aramaic embroidered on it, as the notes it will hold are to do with the Aramaic-themed audiobooks and guided meditations of Neil Douglas-Klotz which I listen to a lot.

I had originally intended the bag to be large enough to be able to keep A6 sized notes in, as well as my MP3 player, but as that wasn’t to be,  now I want to make some kind of an envelope folder to keep the notes in, separately. I’m still very much at the planning stage, but I’m getting ideas for the colour scheme – that’s usually the bit that sparks ideas the easiest, with me.

I found some gorgeous royal blue Dupion silk on a goldwork website, so that is going to be the background colour. I want the front flap of the folder to have heavy embroidery covering most of it, with more on the front pocket when the flap is lifted up.

Embroidery materials ready for my next project

So far, this is what I’ve collected together to use, either from my stash, or from ‘preliminary’ online shopping. I want the shades to be deep, on the whole, and most areas of embroidery to be outlined with gold thread and braid. I’ve bought some milliary wire to try, for some of the outlining – never used that before – and I’ve also got some shisha mirrors, and red and blue cabochons which I might incorporate somehow.

Most of the time, I use Anchor stranded cotton to embroider with, as that is the range that I use in the miniature embroidery kits that I sell on my website –  I keep a full set of the skeins, in shallow trays so it’s easy to choose the shades I want.

My trays of Anchor threads

I like the look of Rayon, but it drives me mad, the way it twists up all the time! Similarly, I get attracted by variegated thread – I’ve bought loads of the stuff, but it’s never *quite right* for any one project, so it just sits in a drawer…..

I’ve just bought some lovely pearl purl from Rajmahal, which is very tempting stuff, and I fell for a tiny piece of red kid leather, although I’ve no idea how to incorporate that, yet. And then there’s the gold beads – both size 11’s, and teeny tiny size 15’s.

I think this folder is going to take a while 🙂

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Finished embroidery – my Shlama bag is finally completed!

The finished Shlama bag

This has taken me almost a year of so-called ‘spare time’ to complete, but I’m very pleased with how it’s turned out. It’s a drawstring bag to keep my MP3 player in, and measures 7 inches high by 4.5 inches wide, not including the fringe. I did a previous entry here about the progress of the stitching, when I was about half way through. ‘Shlama’ is Aramaic (the language Jesus spoke) for ‘peace’ – it is the word that is embroidered across the lower part of the front panel, and is read from right to left.

Detail of the stitching

The stitches used include chain stitch, split stitch, long and short stitch, fly stitch and french knots. The gold Kreinik braid is couched down with silk thread. I added a few blue and gold seed beads and sequins, too.

I couldn’t quite decide how I wanted to finish off the assembly of the bag, which is why it sat in the hoop on my tapestry frame for far too long! Eventually, I just had to get on with it, as I was fed up with seeing it sitting there, very flat and not at all bag-like.

The front and back panels stitched along the bottom seam only

So, the first thing I did was cut out the front embroidered panel, and make a plain back panel the same size (lined with batiste, like the front, so that the weight would be the same). Then I stitched the bottom seam of the bag by machine, and pressed the seam open, grading the seam allowances.

Guidelines for the fringing, marked in pencil along the seam allowance

Next, I marked guidelines in pencil, to show exactly where the fringe needed to be stitched on.

Making the fringe, with saucers to hold each type of bead

I made each fringe length separately, attaching it to the seam allowance exactly through the bottom seam.

Detail of the fringe

I more or less made up the fringe pattern as I went – the pattern of gold/blue/gold/red etc. stayed the same but I just added a few gold beads each time to the beginning of the fringe length to make the  bottom edge shape graded.

The bag with the side seams stitched

Then I stitched the side seams – the first two inches of each side I stitched by hand, in case the fringing might get caught in the seam, but after that I finished it by machine.

The beaded loops for the drawstrings

I marked three points on the front and three on the back, an inch down from where the top edge was going to be, and stitched on two short lengths of seed beads at each of the three points, to make carrier loops for the drawstrings. Doing it at this point meant that no untidy stitching would show on the inside.

The scarlet silk lining, slip-stitched in place

Then, I put the lining in the bag, turned down the top edges, and slip-stitched them together. The lining was made from a small piece of scarlet shot silk which I’ve been hoarding for about 15 years for just such a purpose!

The plaited drawstring, and beaded tassel

The drawstrings were made from three lengths of Anchor thread, plaited together and then knotted to stop the ends from unravelling. The tassels were made by wrapping the same three shades around a piece of cardboard and then cutting the pieces all the same length, to make a bundle of two-inch pieces that I tied to the knotted plait ends, spreading them evenly around the plaits and folding them in half before tying them off again to finish the tassel, so that each completed tassel is about an inch long. The tying-off thread was then hidden by stitching a ring of gold beads around the head of the tassel.

With three layers of fabric on each side, the finished bag feels almost quilted, which is the effect I wanted – I need it to give a little protection to the MP3 player that I keep in it. I had originally intended the bag to have an inner pocket of some sort, to hold notes on the meditation tracks that I listen to on the player, but as I was putting it together, I realised that if I drew up the ties, then anything paper placed inside would get crumpled unless it was very small, so I abandoned that idea. I’m planning to make some kind of embroidered envelope folder, now, just for the meditation notes – any excuse to embroider something else!

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An Unintended Holiday Stitching Project

I have just got back from a great holiday in the Dominican Republic. It’s a wonderful country, populated by the friendliest people you have ever met, and with beaches like this:

The beach at Bayahibe, early morning

However, I wasn’t so impressed with the baggage handlers at Manchester Airport, who managed to wreck my suitcase.

My damaged suitcase, with broken zip and squashed corner

The staff at our hotel suggested that we let them send one of their staff to a local chain store, to get prices for suitable-sized new suitcases, and then they’d buy one on our behalf, so that we didn’t have to waste our holiday time doing it. But when they gave us the price , they were so expensive that we said we’d prefer to try to mend it ourselves.  ‘No, no!’, they said,’Let us get our hotel tailor to mend it for you!’

So, we left the case with them for a week, then enquired about it.

‘Come back tomorrow,’ they said. When we did that, they said ‘Come back at five o’clock.’

By now we were not very confident that they would get anything done. We only had two days left before going home, and no suitcase. When we eventually talked to the head of Guest Services, he owned up. ‘The tailor has been off sick for a week. Now that he’s back, he’s got a backlog of work. He’s looked at your case, and he thinks it’s beyond repair. Sorry.’

Aarrgghh!!

So, we asked for the case back, and said we were going to attempt to fix it ourselves.

‘Can’t be done!’ they said. ‘The tailor said so. It’s beyond repair.’

Several members of staff later, we got the suitcase brought back to our room. With the aid of a tiny ’emergency mending kit’ provided with the toiletries in the bathroom, my husband Chris managed to backstitch the zip back into place, using all six shades of cotton provided in the kit.

Chris fixing the suitcase
Chris’s backstitching

Despite the hotel staff’s disbelief, the suitcase held together all the way back to the UK (including through baggage handling at Manchester Airport).

One of the hotel staff offered him a job as hotel tailor, but he turned it down, as he reckoned the commute to work would be a bit long from Staffordshire.

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Embroidery ‘Work in Progress’ – my hand embroidered ‘shlama’ bag

 

‘Shlama’ hand embroidered bag, in progress (front panel, 5 x 8 inches)

I have been working on this bag on and off throughout the summer – I’m just about to have another spurt of activity on it, so I thought I’d post a couple of images here, before I do that.

The fabric is a golden yellow shot silk, which I’ve backed with cotton batiste, to strengthen it, as areas of the stitching will be quite dense. I’m using Anchor stranded cotton for the stitching (two strands most of the time, and just one for the finer details), with Kreinik braid for the gold outlining. When the embroidery is completed, I’m planning to add tiny beads and sequins, and possibly a beaded fringe, in colours that echo the stitching.

‘Shlama’ embroidered bag detail, showing gold braid couching

The motif was inspired by an Indo-Persian panel on a building, which I have ‘coloured in’  in deep jewel shades. The word embroidered in red along the base of the front panel reads ‘shlama’, which is Aramaic (the language Jesus spoke) for ‘deep abiding peace’. The word is read from right to left. The ‘dots’ indicate vowels. When it’s finished, the bag will have a drawstring about an inch down from the top.

This Aramaic word is ‘shlama’ – it means ‘deep abiding peace’

I haven’t yet decided what to embroider on the reverse of the bag – I may leave it plain, or I may stitch just the barest outlines of the main design again, simply outlined in split back stitch.

I want to use the finished embroidered bag to keep my MP3 player in. This might seem quite a large bag (5 x 8 inches) to keep an MP3 player in, but that’s because I want to be able to keep notes in it as well. I tend to use my MP3 player to listen to guided meditations and body prayers, so I need an index of what I have stored on the MP3 player, so that I can choose a relevant one – brief titles aren’t enough. So, I intend to make an inner pocket for the bag, so that the notes can be kept separate from the player itself. I haven’t yet worked out quite how to assemble the bag to incorporate that, but I’m sure it’ll work, somehow 🙂 !

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