Bonfire Heart: textile art inspired by a song

My latest finished piece of textile art is called “Bonfire Heart”. Here is the story behind it’s creation.

How this Bonfire Heart textile art got started!

Every year my local branch of The Embroiderers’ Guild sets some sort of Branch challenge. In summer 2020 we decided to revisit our game of embroidery consequences…. and use it as the basis for our 2020/21 challenge. I’ll write another post about playing embroidery consequences.

Anyway, since we couldn’t meet face to face then our Branch chair, Alison Larkin asked each of us to make a specific suggestion for a requirement for our creative efforts. She combined them together and out popped this rather random list pf requirements!

Our challenge was to create a piece of embroidery or textile art which had to include ALL of the requirements. We thought it would make a lovely group of themed work for our (still hoped for) exhibition at Burton Constable Hall.

And the list of ingredients for our textile art?

Orange background, include a heart shape, include a knot stitch, use some perle thread, some metallic thread, lime green thread, sky blue thread, beads and lace…. phew what a list!

Next step in the challenge was to think of a creative way to combine all that lot. I have to say I love using song lyrics as inspiration for my embroidery so I started searching for song with the word ‘heart’ in the titles. Well of course there are thousands! I came across loads of new ones, and then stumbled upon Bonfire Heart by James Blunt – one that I had forgotten about but immediately thought… YES!

One of the key lines is “You light the spark in my bonfire heart”.

That immediately told me how to combine all those random requirements in my embroidery. The image of a spark, a bright bluey-green flash told me how to bring in the blue and lime green, and to use the metallic thread for the sparks and flash too.

So I was only left with the lace…. how could I use some lace in all of this? The sewing shop in town (sadly now closed down due to the death of the owner) had a fab selection of trimmings and haberdashery. I spotted some oddments of bright orange lace about 5cms wide. Perfect! I could cut out some flame shapes, and layer on top of some scraps of yellowy hand dyed silk I had in my stash.

On to the orange background fabric.

I had nothing suitable and we were back in lockdown 2 so in a flash of inspiration, I decided to use a yellow duster and dye it! Obviously I had a packet of new unused ones…. who can be bothered with dusting anyway? This was a far more useful fate for a duster! I didn’t really have any ‘proper’ dye but had some old silk paints and splattered those on to a damp duster, then rolled it up. Wow I was really chuffed with how that turned out – lines like flames. Such an unexpected result from a desperate experiment.

At last I could start some stitching. I pinned on my flame shapes into the shape of a heart. Then using orangey variegated threads, I started stitching wavy lines of chain stitch, and feather stitch. I used the darker shades at the bottom of the chain, and lighter as I worked my way up the heart, just like flames work.

Then onto the ‘spark’ running around the heart.

This was to bring in the blue colour and the metallic thread and the knot stitch. After a few experiments with different knot stitches I decided upon knotted pearl stitch. I hadn’t stitched it before so I used a great video from Mary Corbet and off I went.

I loved making this stitch. of course the metallic thread was challenging. However, I remembered a tip from my goldwork expert friends, and used some beeswax to keep it in order. The finished effect of the stitch and thread was really pleasing! It works up quickly and goes nicely around curves and you can really alter the appearance by changing the spacing and length of the ‘legs’.

And finally the other sparks, using lime green sparkly thread.

I had some slivers of iridescent fabric so simply attached them with chevrons and crosses in a lime green sparkle thread. I added a few lines of fiery feather stitch to cover joins in the duster flames and, VOILA! Done.

I sewed it onto a stretch canvas square, 30cm x 30cm, attached by 4 old mother of pearl buttons, attached the ‘wrong’ way round to show the ‘bark’ as a sort of ‘burnt’ effect.

I really enjoyed making this and all of the pieces made by the group, shown together will create a bright and interesting display.

This is what our embroidery group made.

Herb 2020 branch challenge grid (1)

Here is the song for you to enjoy too.

If you enjoyed reading about this textile art challenge…

perhaps would will also like these blog posts too?

https://www.stitcherystories.com/simple-embroidery-stitch-challenge/

https://www.stitcherystories.com/a-fun-hand-embroidery-challenge/

About the Author
This embroidery and textile art blog and podcast are created and produced by Susan Weeks.