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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Crewel work sampler

At the Lady Anne's Needlework Spring Retreat in March, Phillipa Turnbull provided us with an extra project - a crewel work sampler in an attractive motif. Phillipa provided us with some examples of lesser-known stitches, a selection of Appleton's wools and an opportunity to experiment. I brought home the sampler and a couple of skeins of Appleton's ready to experiment.                                                                             Once my roundel and whitework projects were finished I got to work.
Because I could not remember details of the samples Philippa provided, I dug out my copy of the A-Z of Crewel Embroidery - to which Philippa contributed, as which has a couple of pages of the sorts of stitches she was suggesting. I tried out a number of these on the different leaves of the design.
I limited myself to the colours I had to hand. I quite enjoyed the challenge of a limited palette. I got absorbed in the range of stitches and combinations.
I opted to pad one petal with satin stitch and work the others directly on to the linen.
I only had two slightly different shades of green, so decided to use them on the scroll border, choosing Cretan stitch. This was very enjoyable and smooth to work. The curly bits, and a shift from lighter to slightly darker thread provided a sufficient challenge.

I chose to vary the colour of the French knot background.

This was so enjoyable. I really like exercises that give me freedom to play and this was an elegant design. I've got a bit of an idea for what I might do with this piece. I've also got an itch to do more crewel work!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Duftin Chicken bag

In between my more demanding projects I worked another Duftin embroidered bag, this time a pair of roosters. I worked this a while ago as a cushion. Again, I worked this mostly in stem and split stitch so it wears better than it would with the recommended satin stitch. It takes longer to stitch this way, but will last longer.
This project accompanied me on plane trips, car trips, visits to friends, Guild meetings. It was my grab-and-go project for about 3 months.  The ease of doing it was much enhanced by the threads provided by Duftin which were of surprisingly good quality, rarely breaking or knotting and producing a nice sheen.
After a while I even stopped putting it in its own bag and carried the project around in the bag itself. While there is a colour chart, the design is symetrical and once you have worked one bit there is a lot that can be done without referring to the chart.

It was eventually finished. washed and ironed. It is a really cheerful, useful bag and a good gift.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Mountmellick ring cushion finish

This is where I got to at the Lady Anne's Needlework Spring Retreat with Nicola Jarvis's ring cushion in March of this year.

It sat reproachfully on my Lowery Stand waiting for me to finish the Blackwell Roundel and then focus on Mountmellick.

I was finding it difficult to proceed until I had worked out what I was going to do with it when finished. I didn't want a ring cushion. I can't imagine the circumstance in which I would want one. If my grandchildren were to ever want one, it should, I think, be designed especially for them. The work is rather too delicate to be displayed without glass, and I am not into framing work to hang on the wall. In the end, I hit on a display tray produced by Sudberry House and available through Australian Needle Arts. After much measuring, I found a tray that was the right fit and ordered it.  It took a while to come, but in the meantime, I could now get on with the embroidery.

On the Embroidery Retreat we had worked an example of each stitch on the project, but had not completed any section. I returned to Nicola's instructions and began at the beginning.

I had to work hard to get back into the rhythm, especially when I got to the satin stitch using a single strand of cotton.

I also learned a lot about working with white thread. Somewhere along the line I mislaid the stranded cotton and the cotton-a-broder. I had a supply in my stash, but the cotton-a-broder turned out to be not quite white - no doubt it had been so once, but it had discoloured slightly. The stranded stitched with small patches of discolouration - whether from handling or the affect of storage I don't know.

It does not show clearly in photographs, but it was obvious in the light. I purchased new thread and put another layer or so over the top.

In the end, I enjoyed the satin stitch!  When you break it down, step by step, and focus on the bit you are working, it is quite soothing.

It was, however, satisfying to get to the blingy bits at the end. This is where I discovered I had also mislaid some bugle beads and was just a few short.  I searched in the tin I inherited from my mother but found what I needed at Cottage Needleraft.

I was so excited when my tray arrived that I forgot to photograph it empty. I was concerned that, with the beading, there would not be enough depth for the piece. There was no way of telling until I had lashed the finished piece to card and tried it.

It worked! I now have a very useful and attractive tray, full of associations of original purpose along with wonderful memories of both the retreat and my subsequent work on it.

I have not been able to photograph it to show the sparkle to good effect. It glints and glitters in the light. I can use it for serving drinks - or for holding my stitching bits as I sit on my sofa.

It has been a lot of fun and hugely satisfying. I hope Nicola's original brings her much joy and sparkle.  It is such a generous project. I love the association - and the usefulness of my final product.

It also looks pretty good next to the roundel!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Blackwell Roundel Box

This week the parcel arrived, securely and neatly packaged. I rushed to the Post Office to pick it up after finding the delivery card in my letterbox. I had been home but possibly missed hearing the buzzer. As I had hoped, it was from Jenny Adin-Christie, the box for my Blackwell roundel from my Spring Retreat with the Crewel Work Company. At home, out of the tightly taped post bag, here it was, waiting for me to open the box.
It was lovely. So lovely I forgot to take a photo. It was my grandchildren-after-school day and had a meal to prepare. I had to put it aside until evening.                                                                                     The kit had come with the backing fabric and the box came with a mounting board. When the family had gone I got to work.
The back was a little bulky - two layers of silk organza, backing silk and its cotton lining - but it worked fine. I added a circle of pellon.
The box is beautifully crafted - so smooth and lovely to hold.  The mahogany is perfectly matched to the colours in the embroidery.

The interior  mount-board backing is held in place with tiny brass screws.


  I'm not sure what I will do with this. I have more boxes than I know what to do with. This one is special - so beautifully designed and crafted.

I'm sure I'll find someone to use and treasure it.

It can sit here for a while, on my sewing box.

Thank you Jenny Adin-Christie!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Project 5 - B2B- Embroiderers' Guild of SA

It's been a year since I posted about my progress on Project 4 of the Guild's Back to Basics Program. This is because I had not made much progress. The group meets once a month, and closes over the Christmas/January period. Between my knee reconstruction and trips away my progress has been slow. 

The group has even changed it's name since I last wrote about it. There are five projects in the program and members take varying times to finish. Some slow down towards the end, because they do not want to leave the supportive and educative group. So we re-named the group Basics to Beyond. We can keep the B2B abbreviation and members can stay on 'beyond' the basic course.

Much of my time in the group last year was spent getting the layout and dimensions of the Project 4 bag right. The course places a lot of emphasis on construction, including accurate measurement - an area where I need to improve. I've had to re-do my initial attempt at tacking the boundaries of the embroidered panel and the side panels of the bag. I've learned a lot from this process. 

My first attendance this year was in April, and I could finally begin the embroidery. Our designs for this project are based on our initial, and I had planned to use the curves in trees and plants to give me my J.  This project also requires the incorporation of texture to the embroidery.                                                                                                                                                                               I used what I had learned from tree limbs in my Robins quilt to put in my first tree trunk.I then began to add smaller branches, building up the framework of the tree (and incorporating a few more Js!). 
Once the framework was in place I added leaves, and whipped some of the branches to get the grey-green colour of many Australian trees, including the red flowering gum that I wanted to construct here. It isn't easy to achieve this in a single colour thread.

One of my daughters had given me a year's subscription to a quarterly thread package and my first package contained a length of red chenille thread, which I cut into pieces to form the flowers. I like the result.

The other side of the embroidered panel is framed by a wattle tree. I found a photo of an interesting wattle tree on the Australian Geographic Flickr site and based my wattle tree on that. This gave me the opportunity to use some  cane toad leather, purchased from Alison Cole and to practise my couching. Once again, I worked the framework of the tree, then added the flowers - using Ghiordes and French knots.

My progress is largely down to a recent trip to Sydney and the NSW Southern Highlands. It was a good 'grab and go' project.  I could work it within the framework I have established without reference to a pattern or charts. It has given me the boost I needed to move the work forward.

This is where I am now.  I intend to put a layer of grasses and Flannel Flowers on the ground but it can wait a bit. I now have the energy - and motivation - to attempt to finish the Whitework project from the March Retreat.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Mending slippers

Last year a much-travelled friend gave me a pair of knitted slippers she had bought in Uzbekistan. I had admired hers and she kindly sent me a spare pair she had. They were truly charming and very comfortable for wearing on my carpeted floors.
They even won me a prize in a photo competition promoting Bundarra clothing!
However, my fondness for them produced holes in both heels and they looked like unravelling. Drastic action was required - and some of the skills of my grandmother and mother. 
 It was easy enough to pick up the unravelling stitches.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   I had a good supply of oddments of 4 ply wool in the right colour from Fair Isle jumpers made many years ago, so I could construct my set of bars across the hole and weave my patch.
The result was pretty neat (and on the underside anyway).

For good measure. and longevity, I added a couple of little felt patches over the mend, both on the inside and outside.

I'm very pleased with the result.
I'm happy to be able to continue using my lovely slippers, pleased to have preserved both a gift and a treasure. I'm also pleased to have used the skills given to me by my mother and grandmother.

Lots of wins for many women.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Blackwell Roundel

My last post on this project was from Windermere in March. This is the Jenny Adin-Christie project that we worked on at the Lady Anne's Needlework Spring Retreat. While a small piece, it is very detailed, with many steps and techniques. We had done something from each step but there was a lot of work to do to complete each one. My last photo from Windermere shows where I was up to.  
                                                                                                    I did not carry my work from the retreat with me while travelling. I didn't have a sitting frame with me and the work demanded greater care than I could give it. The Crewel Work Company kindly packaged and sent my projects on after I arrived home. It was only in early May that I had the instructions and projects set up and ready to go. I have been working on this one ever since - and not taking time out to write up my progress!
One of the things I love about a Jenny Adin-Christie project is the bag it comes in - a calico bag with a clear photo of the project firmly pasted to the outside and an identifying tag. These are so useful for working, storing, identifying and managing projects. I have all my projects in bags - since I love making them, but am  tempted to make myself a pile of simple calico bags that can be tagged in this way, or to find a way to adapt the concept to my existing bags.                                                                                                                              I have had the product I am aiming for constantly in front of me on the bag (This, of course, only works if you know what the end product will look like!). 
Jenny's instructions are also very detailed and sequenced. I went back to the beginning and worked my way through the project in order of the steps Jenny laid out. It mostly went smoothly - but in one place came close to disaster! 
The photos show my progress. It is delicate work - requiring (for me at least)  good magnification. I used a number of different magnifiers before settling on one attached to my daylight floor lamp.
I was doing quite well to this point. Then my attention faltered and I made an error in identifying the gold pearl purl I needed to couch down around the leaves and stems. Instead of the pearl purl, I used the cut purl, struggling to couch it (unsurprisingly, since it is designed for threading!). I persisted and got it almost finished with the wrong purl before I worked out what I had done.  
Some of it I could undo. Other sections, however, I was very reluctant to try to undo, given the silk organza on which the project is worked and the closeness of the fine couching. I opted for undoing where I was confident of not damaging the fabric,  and laying the real pearl purl over the other where I was not confident. Here you can see the real pearl purl laid around the outside, or on top of the wrong one. I then covered the mistake with gimp or the second row of pearl purl, or removed what I could.
I am writing calmly about this, but it rattled me and I am wincing at revealing the error in photographs. I had been so careful and followed Jenny's extensive and meticulous instructions so carefully, but made an assumption about packaging that was quite wrong - and in retrospect foolish. It came close to ruining the project. I recovered, but not without making significant compromises that a skilled needleworker's eye will pick up easily. I have progressed the project with some further imperfections - but nothing so dramatically wrong.. I tell myself that there is no way I would get this perfect with the limited experience I have of goldwork, and working on my own.
Here is the finished piece. I've learnt a lot from doing it, and am pleased to have finished it.  It isn't going to become my favourite kind of embroidery, and my eyes will be pleased to get back to  more forgiving techniques (not, however, before I finish the Nicola Jarvis whitework piece from the same retreat!).

I have ordered the small round box Jenny has designed for this project - it isn't the kind of thing I can put on a bag!

I am also grateful to Jenny for proof-reading this post and fixing my terminology. It is the generosity of a busy and committed expert. Thanks Jenny, on so many fronts.