Friday, 14 September 2012

TRINITY - The story behind the blog background photo



                                                                       " TRINITY "

The background photo selected for my blog is one that has significant meaning for me.  It is a piece of work that has been ongoing for a couple of years and was finally completed recently.  It is aptly named " Trinity" as it embraces three generations of women in my family whose roots were firmly entrenched in theatre, fibrearts and the fashion industry.  The three women?  My beautiful grandmother, the actress Miss Kitty Carey , my equally gorgeous mother, dancer Miss Joan Clarke and myself, the end product of the triad, Mis(s)-behaving (-:

I'm going to show some closer details of the stitching with explanations of the techniques along with a little history of the photographs themselves.  It probably goes without saying, but I will, that this piece is entirely hand stitched. It is quite dense in that it is only 14" square.  The background or base fabric for the piece is black dupioni silk, as is the finished border. The front is backed with fused flannel to give some stability to the heavy beading and embellishments. Once the stitching was completed then a dupioni back was added and finely quilted through all three layers. The back layer was cut larger so that when the quilting was completed, I could then fold over the edges to make a finishedborder on the front.



Left front                                                                                                         Right front

                              Gran's official calling card printed on to linen and embellished.
                              Below card - Silk ribbon flower of twisted layered stitches and
                              beaded stems with some moss stitched buds.
                              Frame to left -  edges are finished with simple chain stitches with bead
                              embellishment in centres.


                            Photo transfer taken from original Gaiety Theatre program in our
                            archives.  Gran worked this theatre first on the boards and later in
                            the costume dept. Hence I have surrounded it with needles and
                            thread - actual brass needles and Kreinik gold cord.  Little flowers
                            are satin stitched and beaded - border of pic is laced and
                            accentuated with french knots.

                             Daring and ahead of her time, Miss Kitty Carey, my Gran, in her
                             Peter Pan costume circa 1905. The photo is edged in a closed
                             blanket stitch and the left side is a build up of a meandering &
                             looped silk ribbon base with overlays of silk threads looped
                             through the ribbon and then finer ribbon looped through the
                             silk threads giving it dimension.  Overtop of that is feather
                             stitching, french & colonial knots topped with tiny glass stars.

 These are the only images of the three of us together as my Gran was killed in the blitz WW11 in London, England.  I never had the pleasure of her touch or had the joy of sharing our love of textiles and stitching together.  I was told by her sister, I have definitely inherited her genes, to the point I apparently even hold my needles and stitch in the same quirky manner that she did. However, I know for a fact I do not have her genious gift of going up the high street with pad and pencil, sketching a dress in a posh shop window, coming home and making it up from scratch as she did for my Mum. In fact, my mother was so well dressed as a young woman, she was fondly referred to as The Duchess of Bedford Park by some of the lads in the neighbourhood.
The top right picture is of my mother at a very young age dressed in full regalia working at the Windmill Theatre in London.  The picture of myself to the left of her, is edged in wrapped and laced silk thread and fine ribbon.  Silk ribbon flowers finish off the top left corner. It was taken in my photographic studio about age  27.

  The bottom picture to the right is of the George Dance Duchess of Dantzic company.  Gran is second from the left. The edging on this photo is wheat ear stitch,  needled with two strands of hand dyed threads and adorned with a bead in the centre of each loop. It gives a lovely feathery effect. Right above that is a wonderful antique carved bone button with a windmill charm stitched in the centre, representing the Windmill Theatre. The brass bows were added as both my mother and grandmother had a " thing" for bows. Alas, I do not.


 In the picture left, Joanie is wearing an exquisite ruffled silk dress made by my Gran.  I understand it was  very pale lilac in colour with a thin sliver of silver silk ribbon on the ruffle edges. Joan said it made the most beautiful gentle rustling sounds when she danced and she felt like a fairy queen in it. Her toe shoes were a deeper purple in colour. Her photo is edged with bugle beads alternated with # 8 seed beads.
To her left is myself during modelling days wearing a white feathered hat.  The photo is edged in herringbone stitch with a tiny bead in the heart of each outside crossover.  The Coq d'Or is one of the clubs where I worked, often with the loveable rascal of rockabilly, Rompin' Ronnie Hawkins,  to pay for my photographic studies.
       The next photo is of Miss Kitty Carey ( Gran) in her role of Catherine Upscher in the Duchess of Dantzic, a comic opera about Napoleon 1 and a laundress, who becomes a duchess by marriage.

Again I have created a dimensional silk ribbon piece in the same vein as previously described
but enhanced with montee rhinestones.Around the rest of the photo edges, I made colonial knots in Rajmahal art silk threads which give a rose like effect. The border for the Box Office Square is larger bugle beads with a seed bead between each one and then a couched effect created by running a thick silk stitch over each bugle.

The picture to the right is a close up of the dimensional beaded pieces
at the top of the overall work. These are started with a  wandering layer of manipulated black dupioni tacked to the base fabric.  Then a random  layer of larger seed and bugle beads intermingled with bulky french and colonial knots in silk ribbon and ribbon floss are stitched on top of that. Layers are built up with loop stitches and bridges criss-crossing one another, adding or taking away more beads as you go depending on how jumbled you wish the layers to appear. Larger beads are wedged in between loops which assist in holding them upright.
To the right of the beaded layer is photo edging consisting of alternate coloured threads laced in opposite directions resulting in a rather circular effect and topped off with a seed bead within each circle.

To close things off, I give you the formal and elegant, Miss Kitty Carey, surrounded by silk pansies and soft loopy laced stitched edging.


I hope you've enjoyed this little tour of " Trinity" and getting to know a little about the wonderful ladies who have influenced me and my stitching and textile endeavours over the years. I welcome any questions or comments regarding any of the techniques involved or about the creating of this piece of work.


  1. Oh my gosh! Leonie, this is a treasure. Your stitching is perfect and beautifully executed. The photos have such meaning, with a historic narrative, that will be enjoyed by us all. An accomplishment to have three generations, depicted with such artistry. Please tweet!

    1. Thank you always Vic for your encouragement and support. Your fair critiques, sage advice and friendship are the treasure! L x

  2. Oh this is beautiful. I saw this on Craft Gossip and had to have a look. What an amazing piece!

    1. Thanks for your kind words. Much appreciated.

  3. Sweet Leonie! As always, your stitching is masterful, artistic and touching. What a tremendous way to honor your heritage. You are a gorgeous woman, inside and out!

    1. Jeesh Betty, I will need to get a bigger hat size this morning (-: Seriously, thank -you - I will endeavour to live up to those words! Lx

  4. What a wonderful tribute to your family! Your work is beautifully executed on this project which is sure to be a beloved heirloom to future generations.

    1. Thanks Jan for stopping by and for taking the time to comment.

  5. Oh Leonie, this is just an amazing work of art. The stories are fascinating. I hopoe you put all that into on the back too so it is not lost but remains with this beautiful piece.

    1. Thanks so much Stephanie - your opinions and critiques are always appreciated and valued! Having been a photo retoucher for years, it has become a habit for me to " lecture" my clients & others in doing the very thing you have advocated. Much is lost that could so easily be rescued and appreciated! Document your photos folks! PS: Yes, there is a pocket on the back of Trinity (-:

  6. Miss Leonie, I love this! Are the photos printed on fabric? I do love this! Now to dig up and see if I can find some old pictures of my family. Then turn them into black and white. I do have a couple of sepia ones of my grandparents. And a black and white one of my Mom and Dad when they were newly weds.

  7. Hi Deborah: Yes the photos are printed on fabric. If you feel inspired, by all means dig out those family photos. You already have material for at least three generations to work on by the sound of things and I'm sure your kids and grandkids would treasure it. (-: Good luck in your endeavors.

  8. Wow - Leonie - this is just stunning! I can't imagine the work that has gone into this piece - the stitching and beads are just perfect. What a beautiful trinity of women you are :)