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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

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Mairi Tam

A couple of years ago the South Australian Hand-spinners and Weavers had sample bags at the Stitching and Craft Fair. I think they were free to the first 50 customers of the day and I was lucky enough to get one. Inside were - in my case -two skeins of green Shetland wool which I added to my stash.  After knitting the two swing jackets last month, I went through my stash to see if there was anything I could make up while in the mood. I found a skein of apricot merino/silk/alpaca mix that I made up into a shrug for Brigid ( and forgot to photograph).                                                                                                                           
Meanwhile, Veronica saw the pile of skeins and made very complimentary noises about the green Shetland wool. Needing no more encouragement, I set about finding a pattern I could use to make her something. It is about 4 ply - a little fine for a shrug (or rather, insufficient wool to knit a 4 ply shrug!). In the end, I decided on a hat, and found a pattern called Mairi Tam in Wendy Knits Lace.

This proved to be a great pattern to make on a recent trip to the Gold Coast with three of my grandchildren. I got it started before I left and it served me on the plane and the first couple of days away. 
I had almost forgotten the pleasure of knitting small lacy things with shape. The initial pattern is simple enough to remember and it is great fun to see the shape emerge.  The decrease rows require a bit of checking back with the pattern, but, with the help of markers, the rhythm sets in and it is easy to keep track and check for mistakes.
The finished product is very pretty. 
The instructions were to block it around a dinner plate. I thought this would stretch it too far, especially the band, so I used a smaller microwave dish. Even that, I thought, might have been a bit too far. It might have been better not to block it at all.                                                                                                                               When I got home I added some shirring elastic by hand through the band.

It was a big success!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Hems and Edges Day 2

The second day of Gay Sanderson's Hems and Edges class at the Embroiderers' Guild of SA in September was every bit as good as the first. 
We began on a new square of linen, folded and pinned our hem, taking care to match our corner folds before tacking the hem down.
We then worked a pulled thread hem along one side. I had a go at a drawn thread hem in the same stitch on the other side of the square.

I preferred the drawn thread version on this 28 count linen, but I can see that the pulled thread one might be  preferable on a fine handkerchief linen.
I then worked an edging stitch without a hem - designed for such things as bookmarks or other items where you do not have room to turn a hem. This is a great stitch to learn and satisfying to do.

We needed to work enough to turn a corner, but I liked this one so much I finished it off at home and worked the fringe as well.

We finished with a picot edge. 'Satisfying' is the word that keeps coming to mind for this work. When I  worked such edges for tablecloths many years ago I had the same feeling.

There is something deeply fulfilling about completing something very simple yet so neat and shapely with a needle and thread where there was once a raw edge.
Again, I worked the whole hem around at home to get the effect.

I left, however, the back in several stages in order to use the piece as a sampler, to remind me how I did it.

Towards the end of the session, Gay produced a box of various objects she had created using these techniques. Amongst them was a hanging decoration made from a strip of linen twice as long as it was wide. She also gave us each a couple of pieces of linen she had machine-edged so we could try out extra ideas.

At home I used one of these to have a go at a hanging decoration, using a simple motif I found in the tiny Coats 50 Counted Thread Embroidery Stitches I had inherited from my mother many years ago.

I worked up quite quickly. Alas, I had checked the size of the fabric by folding, but did not get it right.

The technique worked, but did not deliver an object based on perfect squares.

It does, however, show the technique and the kind of result I can expect to achieve.

Once again, it was lovely way to spend a Sunday - learning techniques with a great teacher and sharing my learning and endeavours with a small group of like-minded women. Bliss.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Debbie Bliss jackets

 I got sucked in badly with some Debbie Bliss yarn on special at Loveknitting. I have three drawers of wool and had vowed to buy no more until I am down to one drawer.  But I caved and bought enough to knit each of my daughters a jacket from the pattern book conveniently marketed alongside the yarn.
When it arrived I was determined that this would not end up in the drawers with the rest of my yarn, so set to straight away.  So anxious was I to ensure I knitted it that I did not stop to photograph the first (purple) one at all. I thought I had taken photographs as I ironed the pieces, but no evidence exists, so I must have dreamt that. Progress on knitting projects does not, I think, make for much of a narrative, but I regret failing to photograph anything at all of the purple jacket. 

It knitted up beautifully. I usually go for fully natural fibre yarn for knitting, so this is a bit of a deviation for me. It produced a completely smooth fabric. You have to look closely to discern the stitches. 

My only complaint about the pattern is that the instructions for making the buttonholes is added to the end of the instructions for the fronts - well after you have knitted the rows where the holes should go. Fortunately it was not difficult to separate the knitted yarn and buttonhole-stitch in appropriate places.

I was pleased to make use of some buttons I had collected - paua shell for the purple one and soap stone ones on the green -both from  New Zealand.
The pattern has a neat cuff turn-over designed for a contrasting colour, but I stuck with the same.
The finished product is not so easy to photograph. It has a nice swing shape.
As I had more than a ball of the purple left and two balls of the green, I made cowls, with a simple lace pattern and then fingerless gloves. 
I ran out of purple yarn before I finished the gloves so ended up undoing one and reshaping a little. They will, as my mother would have said, pass with a push (no photograph!).

 The green ones made it without manipulation.

I have enjoyed getting back into knitting I have so much wool in my stash that I could knit for years, but with more embroidery classes giving me ideas there is a bit of competition!