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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Opus Anglicanum finish: Mary

This is where I left Mary at the end of the Opus Anglicanum class in January.  Since then I have managed to work my way through a piece of canvas work, preparatory to the March Retreat in the English Lakes District, finish the Australian Bush piece . and the acorn and horse from Opus Anglicanum.

So now for Mary. It seems appropriate to be posting this from Windermere, on my embroidery retreat. Details of how that is going can be found on my travel blog.

    Regretfully, I did not take photos of the face in progress. It looked more like a skull for much of the time. My granddaughters had many questions about the veil - why did she have white hair? why would Mary wear a veil? why would you wear a veil under a crown?

I have surprised myself by thoroughly enjoying working with one strand of silk. That, however, came to an end and there was no way out of completing the goldwork!

I'm very pleased that I had finished the crown at home during the course. This meant I only had the cloak/shawl to finish. It took a few hours and I tried hard to improve the stitch as I went along.

In deference to my granddaughters, I also added rather more hair than the original had - in order to make it clear that the white bit was a veil.

Again, I had been giving thought to how I might use this piece. I still had one box with a magnetic base for storing needles and the embroidery space on the lid was perfect.

So here she is, guarding (blessing?) the needles. She will make a nice gift for someone.

Thanks again to Alison Cole and my fellow students!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Dorothy Wordsworth's Post bag

I am posting this from Adelaide Airport, about to undertake the first leg of my journey to London, from where I will  once again travel to Windermere, in the English Lakes District, to attend another of the Lady Ann's Needlework Spring Retreats organised by Phillipa Turnbull. When I attended last year's Retreat I had no intention of travelling to England again this year. It was, however, such a great experience and such a great group of people, that I, and most of my fellow students, decided to return in 2018.

When I returned home in mid-January from a beach holiday, there was a parcel waiting for me. It was canvas, wool and a pattern for Dorothy Wordsworth's Postbag, which we had viewed at the Wordsworth Museum in March 2017. Phillipa was inviting us to make something based on the bag in advance of the Retreat. She had also organised for the results to be displayed at the Museum towards the end of our Retreat.

I was mildly panicked.The next day I was to begin the first of my two Summer Week classes at the Embroiderers' Guild and I had an unfinished project from my beach holiday.  As a fanatical finisher, I was even more panicked at the end of my Summer School Classes.

Even though I have published blog posts on the Summer Week Classes, I prioritised Dorothy Wordsworth's bag over finishing those projects. I have been working on this in the background and only returned to Opus Anglicanum and Australian Bush once I had finished the work on this bag.

The story, however, has had to wait a bit to be told.

So panicked was I, that I began work immediately, using only the notes that came in the package. I decided, however, to approach it differently to Phillipa's suggestion.

The original bag is roughly A4 size. If I reproduced that size I would need to back the bag with something.  I decided instead to make the piece longer, so I could fold it in half to make a smaller bag embroidered on both sides.

I began by embroidering a set of diagonal lines delineating the different colours in the original.

I initially used cross-stitch in a single thread on the diagonals but soon decided that the coverage was a bit thin, and that cross-stitch was going to take me too long. After some experimenting, I settled for tent stitch using a double thread.

Once I had the diagonals in place I began to add the skeletons of the little trees, using a silk thread in my needle along with the two strands of wool.  This was a bit tricky, but I got into a rhythm of pulling the wool into place before pulling the silk into place - not perfect, but allowing the silk to dominate.

I completed a corner to make sure it was going to work. I  used the dark red and dark blue as my backgrounds, rather than their lighter versions - hoping I had enough thread.

I then went ahead and outlined the whole piece, filling in the tree skeletons.

It was about at this point that I got a link to Phillipa's tutorial . If I had waited, I may well have, as Phillipa suggests, started in the middle and worked out, working the skeletons in wool first, using the silk to form a cross over the wool stitch!

As it was I was too far in where Angels fear to tread!

I  kept going.

By now my panic had subsided and I was having fun. I had forgotten how addictive canvas work can be. This is especially so when the pattern repeats itself as it does here. I love being able to work from an outline without referring to a pattern.

While I am telling this story in a single blog post, it took me about three weeks of not doing much else to finish the embroidery. I'm very grateful to my family and friends at the Embroiderers' Guild who encourage me and dampened the panic!

The thread in the needle in the canvas is all I had left of the dark blue!

My stash yielded several options for lining fabric, but this printed linen seemed the natural choice.

A maroon zip, side seams and a neat, useful bag emerged.
The finished bag was slightly twisted, so I blocked it. It took a while to dry.
The bag has, of course, one side where the trees face the zip and one facing the other way. That's fine by me. There are inconsistencies and imperfections in my stitching. That's also OK by me. I'm not after perfection - but serviceability, harmony & tribute to Dorothy Wordsworth.

I really like the result. It will be useful and I'm happy to share it with my fellow students and the Wordsworth Museum. It is safely packed in my suitcase which is now booked all the way to London.

I will continue to post to this blog while I'm away but most of my travel adventures, for anyone interested, will be found at The first post should be there within 7 hours of this post.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Australian Bush finish

This is where I left the Australian Bush project at the end of the class in Summer Week at the Embroiderers' Guild. I had added one gold leaf in Alison's double sided brick stitch.

I decided against adding more leaves worked the same way. It's a great technique, and I can see myself using it again, but I did not want to invest the time at the moment on this project.

I used a bit of the left-over dyed silk to make a couple more gum leaves.

I then visited the very peaceful spot where Jim's ashes are buried under a flowering gum and collected a few of the leaves and a couple of the gum nuts. I came home and painted them with gold glitter paint and attached them to the piece. Jim always liked to be included in my embroidery projects!

I was reluctant to put this behind glass and hang on my wall. I am not keen on hanging much embroidery, especially behind glass. I hit on the idea of hanging it in a hoop.

I had a conversation with the helpful staff at Create in Stitch and purchased a wide-edged Nurge hoop.
On their suggestion I mounted the piece on the inside of the hoop, rather than having the embroidered surface flush with the frame.

I have added a removable hook to my front door and, for the moment, this hangs as a welcome to guests. This isn't a long-term solution, but I'm not sure this is a long-term piece.

For the moment it is welcoming ,a reminder of a very enjoyable class and a bit of a tribute to Australian flora and fauna.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Opus Anglicanum: Roger the Little finish

Since the Embroiderers' Guild Summer Week of classes, I have been doing my best to finish the four pieces I started as part of the classes I did. The box with the acorn embroidered on velvet  in my last post was finished in time to house some jewellery for my eldest granddaughter's birthday last month. 

I then moved on to Roger the Little, a horse head embroidered on linen, also part of Alison Cole's Opus Anglicanum class.

This was a lovely piece to work on. I won't go into the detail of stitches. It is Alison's design and I'm sure she will be offering it in future classes.

The only difficulty I had was in shading. I would have liked a couple more transition colours between the dark and light greys.

Nevertheless, I am pleased with the result.

I had, all along, planned to use this on the lid of the companion box to the one I used for the acorn. Once it was finished I went in search of an alternative - a box with a round mounting space of the right size - but I was unable to find exactly what I was looking for, so returned to the original  plan.

I padded the back of the roundel and backed it with another layer of linen, couching a gold thread around the outer edge to give it dimension .

The box I had is not easy to work with, having a very narrow edge to which to affix an inset. There is also a shallow allowance for the lid to fit the box, so the inset needs to fit high and tight into the lid.

In order to minimise the thickness of fabric at the edges I mounted the edges in silk and cut away as much of the linen as I could.

In process I pricked myself and added my blood to the linen!

Again, attaching the inset to the lid was difficult. I can't find tacks short enough, and getting even a small staple gun into the space is difficult. I managed with the help of pliers. I am sure there are better tools for achieving this, but I don't have them.

I have a bit of a plan for this box - but will set it aside for several months.

Now for Mary!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Summer Week at the Guild: Opus Anglicanum

My second two day class at the SA Embroiderers' Guild Summer School was a class in Opus Anglicanum with Alison Cole. Alison spent several days attending the 2016-7 Opus Anglicanum Exhibition at the V&A, researching the exhibits and the history. Subsequently she has developed projects based on her research.  Our class was a triptych - three small pieces, one on linen, one on silk and one on velvet. Shown here are Alison's photos for the workshop.

 As it turned out, I could have spent two days on each!

Alison's skill and knowledge are deep and she is generous with her knowledge and her time.

We worked on the horse for most of the first day. I'd have loved to keep going with it, but needed to learn the skills for the other two pieces. I haven't posted a photo of my horse-in-progress because it would be too easy to use it to copy the design and techniques. I try to save my post until I have items finished, but I can see this is going to take some time at the moment. I'll post an account when the horse is finished.

Mary was also pleasant to work on. We had a bit of debate about her state of mind and I'm sure the finished class pieces will show a variety of changes to her expression!

I spent a bit of time on her chin, cloak and, at home, her crown.

Again,  Mary is unfinished and I will post more when she is completed.

The final piece, the acorn, is the one we spent least time on, and the one I decided to finish - largely because I thought it most easily achievable, but also because I had not embroidered on velvet before.

My tracing was decidedly wonky. I should have redrawn it, but didn't. My stitching, using the gold laying thread, was also far from perfect - even with magnification I was having trouble seeing clearly.

 Even so, the moment of truth was exciting!
All in all, the velvet rescued me, and it wasn't too bad!

I had given some thought to what I might do with the three pieces. Framing and mounting holds little appeal for me.

I dug out a couple of small boxes I have had for a while - intending to put initials on them for my granddaughters.

The horse and the acorn fit perfectly. I needed a staple gun to hold the insert in place as the box design does not allow much room for a backing.

I also added some stems to the leaves and a small central bead stem - hopefully these provide a little reshaping.

I have another plan for Mary!

Once again, thanks to Alison and a great group of women for two days of pleasure and learning.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Summer Week At the Guild - Australian Bush

My apologies to anyone who received a notice about this post before it was finished. I have been using a new app to load photos and it defaults to ‘publish’ rather than ‘draft’. This took me a while to work out. I often collect photos well before I add text, and had no idea the photos I was gathering had been posted. I hope I now have the hang of the new app.

This January I did two classes at the Embroiderers’s Guild Summer Week. Both classes were with Alison Cole. I enjoy Alison’s classes and, as she comes from Victoria, chances to learn from her in Adelaide do not come easily. 

The first two-day Class was entitled Australian Bush and was a sculptured project that really stretched my boundaries.

We began by dyeing silk - learning both wet and dry methods. I’ve not done this before but was keen to try. It was a lot of fun. Some of the group were quite experience at this. There was a lot of chatter and sharing. The temperature outside our air conditioned haven reached 41C, so we did not have to wait more than a few minutes for them to dry!

We worked with mulberry bark, padding,  wires and added some goldwork. Alison’s double-sided brick stitch was pretty amazing and required patience. I was determined to master it and worked on it at home late into the night.

I was more familiar with stumpwork wires - and decided to use this technique for some of the gum leaves as well as the moth.

I have not finished assembling this yet - I had another class immediately after this one and I have found it hard to keep up.

I’m not at all sure what I am going to do with the finished piece. It isn’t something I can turn into a utilitarian item! 

Regardless of what I do with it, it was an engaging and fun class. I learned a heap and pushed my boundaries. My next class was also with Alison Cole - Opus Anglicanum. That's the topic of my next post!