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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!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Guardian Cushion 4: Colcha Angel

The last of my Guardian Cushions is rather different in style. I really wanted to work one of Esther Vigil's colcha angels - from her Colcha book. Somehow, batik didn't seem to suit and I searched my stash for something more suitable, coming up with a piece of rusty red dupion silk.This set me thinking, so, rather than stitching the figure in the colcha stitch, I made a pile of my silk fabric pieces and chose some that I thought would look well on the dupion.
I then traced the pattern, cut some pieces and played around. I used an adhesive backing to attach the silk cut-outs to a cheese-cloth backing.

I decided this would look better if machine-appliqued rather than hand-stitched (I am stepping well outside my comfort-zone here!) so set to work using some gold synthetic thread.

When I had the pieces outlined and stitched together I plunged into stitching it to the background silk. The gold thread was clearly designed for use in an overlocker, or machine that held the reel upright, so I had many breakages and rethreading but got into a pattern of intervening in the thread feed to minimise the problem.

I modified the halo shape as it seemed a bit small. I'm not sure this was the best idea - but I stuck with it. The original shape was more in keeping with the oval stylised head, whereas the round shape halo might be better with more flowing angel hair.

Although I love the Dijanne Cevaal panels and the challenge of finding the right thread and embellishment, I was pleased to turn to the purity and vibrancy of silk for this final cushion. It's as an angel should be.

During January, while I have been posting these Guardian cushions (which could not be posted until after Christmas) I have been to the SA Embroiderers' Guild Summer Week - and also on holiday. I will begin posting those projects towards the end of this week.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Dijanne Cevaal Owl Cushion

At the October Craft and Quilt Fare in Adelaide I had resisted the temptation to buy one of the owl panels that Dijanne Cevaal had available. A friend urged me to buy, but as I had four untouched panels at home I resisted.

That was before I conceived of my 'guardians' theme.

Niamh likes owls. Owls too, have, in literature, performed the role of guardians of humans.

I contacted Dijanne and bought a panel.

I figured this is a mystical owl so chose red/gold colours to reflect that. I still had some of the lovely red/gold over-dyed stranded, as well as some lovely red silks.

I tried a range of stitches on the wings and breast, trying to get a notion of feathers. I did a couple of rows in colcha stitch. On the breast I used long single chain stitches, double in some places to get coverage.

I went looking for beads for the head- flat, round ones to go in those circles. The ones I found were a little yellower than I was looking for, but I went with them anyway.

I found some owl-coloured ones that I decided to use for the wing tips.

After trying a few seed beads and larger ovals in the central head section, I settled for an outline of large ovals and chips of gold bugle beads to infill. It took a while but I was pleased with the result. I also had to go back to the bead shop several times - and captured the market on round flat beads!

Amongst my cache of broken jewellery I had a pair of earrings that were perfect for the eyes. I stitched the surround in red metallic and attached the silver disc with (I confess!) super-glue.

The beak is a shell from an odd earring.

         I used midnight purple for the background and a straw-coloured silk for the feet - to pick up the gold in the head.

I chose the batik (again from Chrissy at Batik Fabrics Online - superfast pre-Christmas service) to suggest trees. I wanted the owl to seem to be emerging from the greenery, so did not put a border on this one.

I'm very pleased I relented and sent for this one. It turned out better than I  had dared hope.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Dijanne Cevaal Dragon Cushion

After working the Sentinelle,  having so much fun, and earmarking it for Veronica, I decided to work a series of 'Guardian' figures for each of my grandchildren. Esther Vigil, whose excellent books on Colcha Embroidery had been so useful for my New Mexico Colcha Embroidery Workshop, had told me she was embroidering an angel for each of her grandchildren.  This got me thinking.  I already had the Sentinelle, to stand guard over Veronica.

I also had a dragon, another guardian figure - especially in Chinese mythology, where the dragon is a hero with power over the water - so I set to work to create a Dragon Guardian for Fionn.

I wanted this dragon to be a hybrid - a green dragon blending to red-gold.

I used silks, some red beads, metallics and a splendid red glass bead for the eye.

I couldn't go past the overdyed stranded cotton that I bought from the Guild earlier this year - it has a dragon's name on it!

I'm not sure why I was so sure of the green on the dragon - surely not a hang-over from the Hobbit drinking song in Lord of the Rings? Maybe it was the lure of some bright green silk.

I found a lovely dark green silk for the plants and practiced my colcha stitch.

The background is midnight blue Madeira metallic  and I filled the spaces between with running stitch in stranded cotton.

I had purchased batik on which to mount this dragon but didn't feel I had enough. I thought he deserved a bigger cushion than my half-metre would make. I considered ordering more but also thought he got a bit lost in the gold of the batik.

I remembered a large quantity of dark denim I had bought a few years ago, got it out and rather liked the contrast. I washed it and set to work

It is quite a different look to the Sentinelle but I like its strength and boldness. Hope Fionn does too!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Sentinelle Cushion

For the last couple of months I have been working on some of my Dijanne Cevaal panels. I began with the Sentinelle - for the sheer enjoyment of doing it. When one of my granddaughters expressed enthusiasm for it as it emerged, I conceived the idea, first of making it for her, and then of making a 'Guardian' cushion for each of my grandchildren. This was helped along in conception by Esther Vigil, who has made an angel embroidery for each of her grand-children.

The term 'sentinelle' relates to the English term 'sentry'. It is someone standing guard, watching over, guarding.

I began this one with the halo. Given the shapes in the screenprint, I looked to see if I had any round beads and found a couple of packs of heart shaped ones almost the exact size I was looking for.

Having done that I needed bugle beads for the outer edge.

While I was buying these I found the large lozenge shaped mauve beads that fitted well with the other shapes on the cloak

From the beginning I had the notion of using shisha mirrors on the cloak. The circular motifs seemed to cry out for it.

I experimented with metallic thread to hold them in. Somewhat to my surprise, it worked quite well. It took a bit of time, and required working with a relatively short thread , but proved fun to do.

I worked the mirrors in first, then added the surrounding spokes and the lozenge beads.

Because I was, at the same time, obsessed with Colcha embroidery and Colcha/Bokhara stitch, I used the stitch for some of the embroidery on the cloak. It worked well for the long folds - stitched on the diagonal rather than the full length of the fold.

For much of it I used chain stitch. I also ran some gimp down the edges of the folds. This was quite hard to keep tight, no matter how hard I tried. I tightened it several times.

I also worked out colours as I went - working from a general notion of the effect I wanted.

The metallic mirror surrounds worked the same way - I used two metallics in dark blue and bluey-red.

I filled the background in using a black synthetic with silver - very easy to use and providing some texture along the lines of the print

I also used a very fine copper metallic to outline the facial features and more bugle beads on the head band.

Here"s the finished panel, being blocked, ready to be mounted in batik. The blue of the panel is truer here than in previous photos.

Once again, I'm delighted with the batik - from Crissy at Batik Fabric Online.

Again, I worked a border in one of the Kantha edges from The Art of Kantha Embroidery, by Niaz Zarman.

Here she is, very crumpled, in all her splendour and, on the right, with continental pillow insert on Christmas Day.

In the next couple of weeks I will post the other three guardian cushions.