Have Your Say

18th June 2021

Orts and Other Things

One guaranteed thing about needlework is that there will always be leftover threads, fabric and notions after any project is completed. While some of these extras are thrown away, others are saved for another day. They get tucked away (sometimes neatly, sometimes not!) with all the best intentions to use them up in the future.

For many of us, that future never seems to come. However, for some the future is the part they look forward to as they devise ways to use up their scraps, orts and leftover bits and pieces. 

We were inspired by the emails we received in response to our welcome about waste in All Stitched Up! issue #283, so we’re sure you will be too!

One of Carol Lynn’s art quilts

Carol Lynn Stratton told us that she has made art quilts for many years using leftover and throw-away fabric and threads. In fact, all of the members of her guild collect their orts for her so she can use them in her creations. We have included a few photos of her wonderful pieces that have made use of materials as diverse as lace, threads and even alpaca hair.

‘A Stitcher’s Nest’

Carol Lynn’s skill and creativity are fantastic. We are particularly taken by the Stitcher’s Nest that has a darning egg nestled in the centre. This piece is made exclusively from orts and bits from other projects and, Carol Lynn tells us, the egg represents the ‘goose eggs’ we all make every now and then.

Roberta Kenney also collects orts that she says make perfect stuffing for pincushions or small ornaments. We had come across this idea before and always marvelled at the thriftiness behind it.

It would take a lot of orts to stuff a pincushion though, which is probably a good indication of how much stitching Roberta does!

Heather Grover works with used textiles frequently and enjoys deconstructing damaged pieces and saving all of the materials to work them into something new. Her orts include bits of lace, threads, ribbon and scrap tulle and all kinds of other goodies. To find some kind of order, Heather sorts the piles by colour using a muffin tin or egg carton to hold them. She then stores the piles of colourful orts in plastic bags so she can take them with her to classes.

L – Heather’s orts R – Heather’s design created using ‘entrapment’ technique.

The question she hears most often from her students is ‘what can you do with them?’ This is where one’s creativity can really fly. One technique Heather recommends is turning the bits and pieces back into fabric using a technique called ‘entrapment’. This is where you take two pieces of tulle, lay one down and spread your orts on to it. When you’re happy with the effect, pin the second piece on top and machine stitch all over to bond the three layers.

Your new ‘fabric’ can then be used as a background for embroidery, or it can be cut up for appliqué or to make any other kind of textile art. What a fantastic idea!

Several readers were inspired to write in concerning the wooden display boxes we also featured in All Stitched Up! issue #283. Boxes, as we have said before, are a perfect way to display your work. But finding the right box isn’t always easy.

Jackie Williams suggested a carpenter in Yorkshire, UK, who makes bespoke boxes. When Jackie was working in retail, she used to have a customer who would buy every blackwork design Jackie could supply, then work the piece and mount it in one of these bespoke boxes to give as Christmas gifts. We can but envy the lucky recipients! Jackie advised that if anyone is fortunate enough to return to the Harrogate Stitching Show that is generally held in November in the UK, the carpenter usually displays his work there.

We heard from a reader who isn’t even a stitcher (yet!), but who was inspired by Susan Casson’s Tiny Turtle project. Margrethe suggested mounting the project in a small table shadow-box. That way, you can look down on the little turtle and view it from the right perspective. This seems like a perfect idea – now we just need to figure out where to get four-legged table shadow boxes. Does anyone know?!

Finally, Joanne Gealta shared with us some wonderful pictures of her stitching space with the most adorable baskets imaginable. Each of the baskets holds a different colour or type of thread, and the drawers hold six-stranded thread and perlé cotton. No-one could fail to be inspired in this working space.

If you have innovative ways of using your orts, recycling old materials, organising your stash or anything else to do with embroidery, come and join in on the conversation. There are always comfy chairs available. All we need to know is whether you like your tea with sugar or without. Email us at news@inspirationsstudios.com

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