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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.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Embroiderers' Guild of SA class: Ort Pot

I recently attended a most enjoyable one-day class at the Guild to make on Ort pot. Orts are the left-overs, for embroiderers mostly bits of thread or small scraps of fabric. The word derives from Middle English 'orte' meaning food scraps, which was, in its turn derived from either Dutch or German. 

Gay Sanderson, a long-term member of our Guild, has come up with an ingenious design for a small, personal, portable ort bin to carry with you and collect those annoying threads such as I leave all over the house - and anywhere else I go.  Gay has enlisted her husband Peter to cut the rings of polythene pipe that are an essential part of the kit for this project. I had purchased a kit for one of these some time ago, but hadn't got around to making one. When Gay offered a class, I figured enrolling was a way to tick off one more project on my list.
My kit came with this attractive fabric all cut to size. Since I purchased it, Gay has modified the size a little, so I needed to do a tiny bit of cutting.                                                                                  There were eight of us in the class, and we had a really enjoyable time, adapting, cutting, stitching and watching the pot emerge. Gay is a relaxed and flexible teacher.
By early in the afternoon I had my completed pot.
The big attraction is the way it folds up to fit in
a work box, bag or basket. It takes up less space than scissors.

As I finished with time to spare, I embroidered an initial on the base between the folds.

I have actually been using mine at home while working on my Jenny Adin-Christie roundel from my recent embroidery retreat.

Of course, at the end of the class I was so enthusiastic about my little ort pot that I bought another 4 sets of rings and circles so I could make some more with friends, or as gifts, so ticking this project off my list does not reduce my list at all. They are, however, objects I can make while travelling, talking or watching TV. I don't actually need any more projects for travelling, talking or watching TV.  They were such good fun to do that I'd like to share them with others - perhaps my SitnStitch group will be interested.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Flour sack apron

Last year, as I was settling into my apartment, I made an effort to work some of the untouched kits and projects I had in my stash. This one I bought a few years ago when I thought aprons would make good presents. I was intrigued by this Herrschners kit that used serviettes and a simulated flour sack.                                                                                         The flour sack was simple a rectangle of cotton which I managed to lose in the process of moving my kits into their new storage space. I therefore cut a piece of calico to the right size (36"x24") and hemmed the sides and top.
The serviettes have their hems removed and are then cut into squares and rectangles of specified sizes.

The smaller squares are folded into triangles and stitched to the bottom hem - a bit like bunting.
The calico is pleated. The larger squares are stitched back to back and stitched on as pockets.
The long rectangles from the serviettes are joined together and attached to form a tie waist.                                                                                            Finally, a range of fruit is embroidered along the bottom, using iron-on transfers provided in the kit.                                                                                                                                                             
My younger granddaughters helped me cut out some of the pieces for this project. I thought it a bit big and wanted to make a smaller version, but Niamh liked it as it is and laid claim to it  - identifying it at once with Little House on the Prairie. 
Of course, that called for a second, quite different apron for Veronica. I thought I had taken more photos of this in the making - but the photo fairies seem to have made away with them. This is the best I can do!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Robin Quilt Construction

When I got home from England with my last Robin panel, I blocked it again to get it, not into a perfect square, but a fraction squarer. I also backed it and quilted the edge with running stitch.

I had stitched over the printed words on five of the blacks. Although the other four were reasonably clear, I stitched over those as well.

I could now assemble and consider all nine panels

In an attempt to apply the construction techniques I am slowly absorbing from a couple of years attending the Guild's B2B (once Back to Basics, now Basics to Beyond) group, I measured all the panels and graphed them up. There were large size variations in the original bird panels, so the edges were different sizes. Some I didn't want to trim too much, so the connecting sashing needed to compensate.
Part of my intention in using the striped batik fabric was to give me choice of colour in connecting the blocks. In fact it gave me too much choice. The stripes are, of course, not one solid colour, so there is no simple or obvious colour choice. It was not possible to get consistency across the joining rows.

In the end, my choices were somewhat arbitrary.

I joined the blocks firstly into columns.

I had alternated the direction of the stripes on the back of the blocks
I then joined the columns, both front and back, with full lengths of striped sashing with light wadding sandwiched between. I hand-quilted the sashing using six strands of stranded cotton in a single colour (blue) to provide a bit of consistency)

This took a bit of time and care, as I had no frame that would take the piece. I had to take care with tension and consistency through the wadding and two fabric layers.

Keeping straight was difficult - my eye kept following the pattern in the fabric.

This, after the Guild Exhibition for which it is being made, is to be my summer bed quilt, so the final size is tailored to my bed.

I carefully chose pink/red sections of the fabric to frame the whole piece, which left the largely blue/green sections for the backing. I ironed the wadding on to the strips and assembled them in pairs - then machine-stitched the first side on the wrong way round - with the red/orange on the back!

I tried it on the bed again, and decided to reverse all the edges -  mostly blue/greens on top.

This is the back.

At this point I had a dilemma. I only had enough fabric to put a drop edge on one side of the quilt. Either my summer quilt did not have a drop edge, or I ordered more fabric. It was already overwhelmingly bright. Maybe drop edging would be too much.
I pinned on the one side I had, consulted with a friend, and ordered more fabric.

Fortunately, Chrissy at Batik Fabrics Online had a new consignment, and, with her usual fabulous service, got it to me 36 hours after I had ordered it.

In that 36 hours I also obtained more wadding from Create in Stitch - and a reel of red top-stitching cotton to quilt down the stripes in the drops.

Manipulating the fabric, mitring the corners on both sides of the quilt and stitching through the layers gave me quite a few challenges - and a lot of unpicking. I admit to a few compromises that would not pass the test of quilting precision. The fabric is, after all, not geometric and I tell myself my methods are consistent with the fabric and the embroidery design.

I did, however, once I had added the fall on three sides, mark the top and bottom of the fall at 10cm intervals, top and bottom, before machine-stitching the layers together down the stripe. By now I knew that my eye was easily deceived into thinking the batik stripes were straight when they were far from it.

So here it is, finished. I have to go over it with great care to snip any stray threads, but otherwise it is ready to be packed away, ready for the SALA Exhibition in August.

I am planning on creating a book about its creation from the blog posts, to accompany it. For the moment, however, I can de-thread my apartment and turn my attention to smaller projects!

I am truly grateful to the encouragement of friends and family that have kept me going on this project which began as a single panel to do my bit for a Guild exhibition!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Dorset Feather Stitch: Embroiderers' Guild of South Australia Graduate Certificate Workshop.

Last Saturday the monthly workshop for the Guild's Graduate Certificate Course was on Dorset Feather Stitch and taken by Deidre Clarke, a member of the Gawler Branch of the Guild. She had brought along examples - some from the Barossa Branch and some from the Guild Museum.
They were all bright and cheerful. There are also plenty of examples on Pinterest.
Dorset Feather Stitch appears to be a style generated by the Dorset Women's Institute in the middle of the twentieth century. The style uses button hole, feather and chain stitch, mostly whipped, with the addition of satin stitch and often incorporates stitching over ric-rac braid.In 1957 Olivia Pass, one of the Women's Institute members, published a book called Dorset Feather Stitchery which has become the Dorset Feather Stitch Bible. The book is now out of print, but available second-hand.

We were able to select a piece of fabric with a pattern printed on it to use as our sampler for the day. I chose a small mauve piece that I thought I could finish within 24 hours and turn into a little mat to use as a coaster. The fabric piece was about 6" square and the pattern about 4" square. Variegated thread worked quite well with the design and I experimented with various, mostly perle, threads.
Our notes suggested the stitches to use and I followed the suggestions. The trickiest bit was whipping the feather stitch - a bit more difficult than whipping buttonhole. The whipping gives the work a nice firm line, dimension and adds considerably to the folkloric look of the work.
I found the most interesting bits to be the paisley-like medallions in the centre of the piece. I used a padded satin stitch in the centre in a bIue DMC stranded.
I then used a colour way of Cottage Garden Threads' variegated stranded around it.

I tried a different colour way on the other medallion. It was a lot of fun to play around.
For good measure, we also made a Dorset button. 
I finished my little mat off at home, backing it with some heat-proof wadding and a piece of slightly darker cotton, and button-holing all around the edge.

This was a great workshop - and I am very grateful to the Guild for allowing any member who wants to attend the Graduate Certificate workshops, and to Deidre Clark for teaching this one. Here's to the Guild!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter stitching

 Sometimes I can't - or won't - let go of an idea. A year or so ago I saw a crocheted purse shaped to resemble a chicken, in a charity shop. I loved the idea and thought I'd like to try making one with my newly developing crochet skills. I got as far as buying a couple of 4" zips but no further.

This year, wanting a small challenge before tackling the assembly of my Robins Quilt, I set about working out how to make the chicken purses using supplies already in my stash.
I found some pale yellow 4 ply cotton and, using it double, worked a straight line of single crochet, increasing at each end and in the centre of each row. This gave me the shape I was after.
 I inserted my zip and crocheted up the side and bottom, adding some eyes and felt feathery bits. I had hoped to fill this with small eggs but couldn't find what I was looking for - so went for other chocolate treats.
I made two more of these - one for each of my granddaughters.
On one I used some shells for the tail feathers. Both Niamh and I like shells so I thought this would be a good embellishment.

I didn't think my 12 year-old grandson would be pleased to receive a chicken purse, so I tried out a variation on another item I had seen and liked while in England- felted rabbits dressed in embellished coats. I sketched out a body on paper, cut it out in felt and got stitching. It was pretty rough and ready.

As my grandson is a supporter of the Hawthorn Hawks football team, I gave the rabbit Hawthorn ears

and a Hawthorn coat

I couldn't figure out how to attach an easter egg football, so I crocheted a little basket to sling over his shoulder.

I don't think this will be taken up by the Hawthorn merchandising arm, but I am pretty pleased with myself. When I asked my friend Jennifer to give me some crochet lessons a couple of years ago, this is about where I had hoped to get with the skill.

My final Easter creative effort went into making chocolate crackle nests as my mother did each Easter. She used Arctic Mints as eggs and I can no longer find them. This year I could do no better than jelly beans.

I sometimes think I am completely insane.  Gifts should surely begin with a question of what the receiver would want, not what the giver wants to make - yet I've had terrific fun making these over the last few days, and they did give pleasure to recipients. It also raises the issue of how an idea is passed on and adapted. These are all based on ideas derived from things other people have made, although heavily adapted and certainly not directly copied. I hope my use is legitimate and sufficiently respectful of those from whose work the ideas were derived.