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Friday, December 15, 2017

Colcha Scarf

I have been obsessed over the last few months with New Mexico Colcha Embroidery, something I had not heard of seven months ago.

It began with an article in the March/April issue of Piecework Magazine. I noticed that the diagram of Colcha stitch looked a lot like Bokhara stitch, which we had been identifying and practising at the Ethnic Embroidery Study Group of the Embroiderers' Guild of SA. I began to read more, ordered all the books referenced in the Piecework article,  ordered wool from churro sheep, the kit from Piecework and talked endlessly about what I was discovering.

Because I had no way of seeing original colcha pieces, I decided to try my hand. I chose an open-weave scarf I had purchased to embroider and some traditional motifs from Wroth, William (ed) Weaving & Colcha from the Hispanic Southwest, Ancient City Press, Santa Fe, 1985

The first one, an eagle, I marked on the black scarf using a chalk pencil.

I used Appleton's wool, which I could source easily and chose colours close to the traditional. The result was quite pleasing.
















On the other end of the scarf, I used Solvi. It isn't my preferred method - I don't much like the feel of the barrier between my hand and the work - but it worked a bit better than the chalk for a slightly more complex pattern.


In the meantime, my enthusiasm had caught on and I agreed to run a workshop for the Ethnic Embroidery Studies Group on our final 2017 meeting last Wednesday. It went really well and I will post a report in a few days’ time.

I have summarised my research in a paper. I will  provide a link when I write up the workshop.

I have had considerable help in my researches from Esther Vigil in Albuquerque New Mexico. Her two books and her encouragement have been invaluable.


This has been a wonderful journey of discovery - I'll share a bit more in my next post. - before Christmas.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

SA Embroiderers' Guild Certificate Workshop: Monograms and Satin Stitch.

I learn so much from being able to attend the Guild's Certificate Workshops, even though I am not enrolled in the course. The November workshop was taken by Christine Bishop and focused on Satin stitch via the medium of a monogram.

Christine provided us with some lovely linen on which to experiment. I chose a solid, large but not gigantic, letter J from amongst the many stencils Christine brought along. For the sake of seeing clearly and being bold I chose to work in red. It was only after Christine pointed it out that I realised I had opened myself to a Christmas theme!

I have, of course, worked quite a lot of satin stitch in my time, but there is a lot of room for improvement.  Christine's tips and instructions certainly helped. I ended up with a reasonable letter - improved by backstitch around the outside edge.

With some instruction, I added a trailing vine and French knot berries.


I discussed with a couple of my fellow students some options to turn this into something useful. I was thinking of a button to wear as a brooch. A stocking was also suggested.





Once I got home, I found some red beads to liven up the berries. I played with the brooch idea but soon hit on the idea of a pinwheel. I like pinwheels, and have been thinking for a couple of months of making one.  So  pinwheel it was.


I had some pieces of milk carton in my Basics to Beyond kit, so cut them to size using a tumbler as template, along with some wadding.





I scrounged around in my stash to find some appropriate figured linen for the back, gathered and lashed the two pieces.


















I chain-stitched around each disc- in cream on the back and a two-colour chain in red and green on the monogram.
To help me keep track of it - and so it can also hang as a decoration - I added a twisted cord.


I then whipped the two discs together.


As a special treat I ordered a pack of red glass-headed pins to complete my pinwheel. They arrived yesterday and worked as well as I hoped.





A great outcome - a useful, pretty object, improvement in my satin stitch and a really pleasant 5 hours spent with a great group of women.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Pontos Vermelhos

I have been making a bit of an effort to work some of the kits and projects in my stash. I played with a few of them, but the one that spoke to me was Pontos Vermelhos, a drawstring bag designed by Maria do Ceu Freitas in Inspirations 79  in 2013. I features the traditional embroidery of Guimaraes in Portugal.

The bag is worked on a single piece of linen, edged and prepared for construction before embroidering. Traditionally worked in one colour, this one is in red.

I used a pencil to trace the design on  to the linen.



It was relatively complex, but could be followed from the basic shapes of the design.

It used reverse chain,, whipped chain, padded chain, buttonhole, satin, padded satin, stem, eyelets - and lots of bullion knots.

The result is highly textured - and really interesting to work.












The interest didn't stop there.  The bag is stitched together decoratively, a hem-stitched panel accommodates a cord and tassels are added.



I love the result - and enjoyed it. It is the kind of project that gives me huge enjoyment - so many parts, each one satisfying and purposeful.




For the moment this is a keeper. I am using it to store the monthly Stitchy Box thread packs.


I am also grateful to Christine Bishop for showing me a piece from her collection of Portuguese Embroidery and giving me access to an article she wrote on Viano do Castelo Embroidery for Embroidery and Cross Stitch Magazine.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Quaker Embroideries in Adelaide

The Quaker community in Australia is working on producing a series of embroideries along the lines of those in Kendal, Cumbria UK. The 77 Kendal panels were worked between 1981 and 1989 by 4000 embroiderers in 15 countries and tell the some of the story of Quakerism. The Australian Quaker Narrative Embroidery/Friends in Stitches Project is the result of a visit of an Australian Quaker to Kendal in 2005 which was followed by a visit to Australia in 2007 from the Director of the Kendal project. 

So far 16 panels have been worked on the Australian project which aims for 40 panels.
The Australian panels use the same format and design templates as those in Kendal, and the same range of stitches. The colour palette is slightly different, reflecting both the Australian landscape and the interpretation of the stitchers.

The panels completed so far were on display at the Friends Meeting Room in Adelaide from 26-29 October 2017.  They are remarkable on a number of fronts.

Finding the images, stitches, design and words that convey a whole narrative episode in a panel is an art. It has found its stride in this project.  I came away with a strong sense of the Society of Friends in Australia.

The women staffing the exhibition were knowledgable, helpful and welcoming. They gave permission to take  photos and also to write about the exhibition in my blog.

As there are few photographs of the panels online I have focused on the embroidery detail rather than whole panels. I also emailed a draft copy of the blog to the address the women provided with the offer to alter or edit and the offer stands.




The photos are copyright. Any requests to reproduce should be directed to the Australian Quaker Narrative Embroidery Project.

The background fabric is wool, grown, spun and woven in Queensland and providing a lovely textured, firm and even surface for stitching.

The design skill of individual stitchers is evident in the stance of the figures depicted - they lean into conversation or activity. Their faces, with a few well-placed stitches, give them personality, making them, I am sure, recognisable.


The same range of stitches has been used as was used in the Kendal work. A book of stitches produced in Kendal was on display.

Anne Wynn-Wilson, while working on the original Quaker tapestry project, developed a stitch, now known as Quaker stitch, for embroidering the text that is an integral part of each panel.  The stitch produces a beautifully clear text that contributes significantly to the elegance of the panels. I intend to learn and apply Quaker stitch to my own work.


The detail of the flora and fauna depicted on the panels is terrific, cleverly conveying dimension with a limited range of stitches and superb colour choice.














My favourite depiction is of a tractor - the wheels given movement and dimension by the creation of spaces and angle.


I feel privileged to  have seen this exhibition - and enriched both by its contribution to Australian embroidery and, more importantly, its contribution to Australian culture and history.


I hope to see the other panels as they emerge - and one day the completed project.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Zen mandala

For some time I had thought that Zen colouring designs would make interesting embroidery, so a couple of years ago, when Herrschner's advertised some already printed on fabric, I ordered some for me and some for my Adelaide daughter.  She got to work on hers fairly smartly, but I put them on my embroidery back-burner. In the last month or so I dug one out as a back-up 'grab and go' project. 
I had purchased a thread pack to go with it. This consisted of a range of bright perle cotton. The thickness is not marked on the label, but it is about 5 - quite thick.                                                                 My concept for this mandala was a red edge, then very roughly following the rainbow from purple into a red centre. I didn't want to plan it in detail - and I certainly didn't want to colour it in pencil first. I wanted to use the threads to guide me and work it from the outside in, making decisions as I went.
I also wanted to try out a range of stitches. The narrowness of the bands of the design, especially when combined with the heaviness of the thread, places some limits on stitches. I worked the outside border in fly stitch. It gave the density of colour that I wanted - but used an entire skein of thread.
I gradually worked my way in, using stem, chain, more fly and French knots. Later I introduced pistol stitch (yellow row below).
Keeping to my rainbow colour movement wasn't straightforward but it provided a general guide. I tried to foreshadow coming colours and provide an echo of those I was moving away from.

I found it useful as I entered a new band, to try out colours on a wedge.


The density of the thread grew on me. It began to look like a carpet.


Most of it I worked in my hand. I needed to scoop most of the stitches and even if I don't always follow the maxim 'never scoop in a hoop' (picked up at a class at the RSN) these narrow circular bands are difficult to work in a hoop. I used a hoop for the pistol stitches.

The row of curly things gave me a challenge. I tried bullion knots and fly stitch before settling on a double couched line and French knots. The line below these is worked in Palestrina knot stitch.

The finished piece needed blocking - and easy task which straightened it up nicely.


By now I had decided what to do with the finished piece, which is about 10" in diameter.

No, not a bag.


I appliqued it on to the coat I made last year, using the red thread of the outside border and a buttonhole stitch.

It blends well with the wool fabric and I get to see it (as, of course, do others!).



















I've really enjoyed this piece. The threads (somewhat to my surprise) were terrific. I have some other designs to do and another pack of thread when the mood takes me.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Deerfield Embroidery Workshop

The September workshop for the Embroiderers' Guild Certificate Course, was on Deerfield Embroidery and taken by Deb Richardson. Deb had researched extensively and provided us with background notes, many laminated photographs and some really helpful examples she had worked. 

We came prepared with a piece of white linen about 30 cm square and four skeins of stranded thread in shades of blue. Deb had designed a motif that gave ample scope for using a range of stitches. We each traced it on to our piece and we were up and running.

I soon realised that I should have taken more care to choose a piece of truly white linen. My cream piece did not show the blue of the Deerfield work to the very best advantage, although the quality of the linen was good. Deb had worked the piece herself, so we were at liberty to repeat the stitches she had used, or to choose our own from the range given in her notes.
Mine is a mixture. I used most of the same outlining stitches as she had and very similar filling for the leaves and the bird's body.


However, I went for a bit of a variation when it came to the tail. I used feather stitch in the four shades of blue I was using. I am quite pleased with the result.









Here is the completed piece. Of course, I decided it should be made into a bag.


So I blocked it and went in search of fabrics in my stash with which to line it. I came up with a fine lawn handkerchief of Jim's.

I felt good about using it - something that I haven't felt in the 3 years and 4 months since his death. He would have liked to be part of the endeavour.



The handkerchief was quite large, so, folded in half, it made a reasonable bag. As you can see, I even got out my cutting board and a tape-measure, measured it properly and cut the linen precisely.

I'm improving.


I made the bag to the size of the folded handkerchief, folding the top over to form the channel for a drawstring and a frill at the top. The only cut in the handkerchief was a small slit on one side to allow me to thread in two cords.


I then embroidered the checked top, using stitches from the Deerfield motif.
















Two twisted cords, one made from the remains of the four skeins of stranded cotton in various blues, the other from a skein of variegated blues, and two tassels complete the project.

I do so enjoy these monthly workshops for the Certificate Course, even though I am not enrolled in the course. It is a real chance to expand my repertoire, to learn about various kinds of embroidery, try them out. It's interesting and fun, even if I don't ever pursue the genre further.

In the case of Deerfield, I can see myself using it and integrating it into my future work.

Once again, I am grateful to the Guild for allowing members to attend these workshops even when not enrolled in the course, to Christine Bishop and Barbara Mullan who organise the Course, Deb who taught it and my fellow students, who share their learning, knowledge and interest