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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Hems and Finishes class at Embroiderers' Guild of SA

When the Embroiderers' Guild Class program for the second half of this year came out I debated whether to enrol in Gay Sanderson's class on Hems and Finishes for counted thread work or whether to launch into completely new territory with Glenys Leske's Seascapes - creating scenes with layers of fabric and embellishment. I decided I should push my boundaries and go with the Seascapes. However, when I received the requirements for the course I chickened out. It was the sprung hoop for machine  embroidery (plus the machine itself) that decided me. I didn't want to go there. So I swapped my enrolment for Hems and Finishes.

This is a challenge of a different kind for me. I have done a reasonable amount of counted thread work over the years and enjoyed it. My eyes, however, find it a challenge, and the level of accuracy required is not my natural inclination. On the other hand, I love the effects achieved and I also love the history of various kinds of counted work.

So I took a deep breath and got on with the preparation work for the two day workshop - four pieces of even-weave linen to be tacked up in colour-coded machine thread - tacking to be three fabric threads under and over.

At the same time that I was doing this, I was also preparing a piece of linen for Project 5 of Basics to Beyond - a counted thread sampler (more in another post).  I figure this is reinforcement and will maximise my learning.

The class is over two Sundays, and I am writing this after the first of the two days. I simply loved it- which is just as well, because in attending I missed my grandson's Under 12 football team win their Grand Final and my grandson being awarded Best on Field!

 Gay is a great teacher - clear, organised, experienced and knowledgable, disciplined and pragmatic. I respond to her capacity to adapt within the framework of her skill and knowledge - which is huge.

Her projects are also really well designed. They teach specific techniques in a logical way, with completion of discrete steps. We worked a sample of pulled and drawn stitches on one piece of fabric before putting them into practice on a second piece, providing us with both a complete example and a sampler of the stages for future reference.

Some of the techniques we learned were hemstitch, antique hemstitch, creating an internal selvage  and mitred corners.

Even though I find the tacking preparation tedious, I love the way the tacked lines turn into the framework for the edges. It is so purposeful and rewarding,

I also enjoy the company of a group of embroiderers focused on the same task, sharing their struggles and triumphs. This is only possible because the project is well designed and Gay's methodology allows for learners of various skill level. The class then becomes a learning community and we all thrive.

Although our only homework was preparing a couple of very small pieces for next week's class, I couldn't help myself, and finished the edge on the second piece. It has the calming effect of a meditation.
I also blocked it. This seemed a better
proposition than ironing.

 I'm looking forward to the second day of the class next Sunday.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Shiburi cloths

Friends who recently visited Japan brought me back a pack of 3 shiburi cloths. Each is about 40cmx30cm, lined and hemmed. 
The pack comes with 3 hanks of thread, two variegated and one plain. The plain is bright pink and the variegated brights and autumn tones respectively.
I found myself visiting my daughter with the pack in my bag to show her and no other project to work on, so began work on the simplest of the three cloths. I used the bright variegated thread for these flowery balls - a bit like balloons. It is, of course, addictive. 
I found it difficult to stop when I got home, so turned my back on my longer term projects, and began the leafy cloth, using the autumn coloured thread.  After several days I mislaid the autumn thread - so started on the third flowery cloth using the pink and bright variegated threads, then worked the autumn one using stranded and perle cottons.

I eventually found other thread to finish the autumn one - and, of course, when it was finished, found the lost one!

I plan to use these to wrap bread when serving at a meal, or as food coverings. I might try to give these a crocheted edge using similar thread perhaps with some beads for weight - like the milk jug covers my grandmother made.

Many thanks to Barbara and Kenneth for the gift.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Certificate Course WorkshopJuly: Asian Appliqué

The Certificate course workshop for July was on Asian Appliqué, most specifically, Thai appliqué, taught by Barbara Mullan. Barbara bought in a number of examples for us to look at, some of her own, and some from the Guild Museum.

We worked two designs in the Workshop. The first was an elegant, seemingly simple motif worked in reverse applique on two layers of fabric.

 The trick was working the curves. Turning under the fabric edge on the curved  parts required patience and there was a bit of figuring out to do where the two lines touched at the bottom.

It was interesting to see how the addition of a simple row of back stitch in the exposed under-layer made a big difference in the impact of the design.
In my eagerness to use even sample pieces that I work, I decided to add it as a pocket to a linen shirt I have had for at least a decade.
It's not spectacular, but useful - and a bit of a talking point!

The other piece we began to work was a bit more complicated. This one, also based on some of the examples we examined on the day, has a series of layered strips as well as the addition of a reverse Appliquéd strip - and the traditional appliqueing of the pieces cut from that strip.

It was good to play with this. I'm not inspired to finish it - this really was a working piece - but the concept is great and could be put to good use on something substantial in the future.

These workshops are great learning opportunities - full of friendships, ideas and techniques.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Ort Pots Galore

On my recent trip to the NSW Southern Highlands, I took the makings of three more Ort pots. I thought the two friends with whom I was travelling might be interested in the concept and I had also promised to make one in the fabric I had used for my third Basics and Beyond project - a bonus accessory to the suite of products in the B2B course.

My friends were intrigued, then wrapt. They both wanted Ort Pots for their knitting threads!

Robin chose this one, from Liberty fabric given to me as a birthday present by a cousin in London.

Pat went for this Morris Meadows fabric left over from a skirt I smocked a few years ago.
I had done some fussy cutting to get the rose on the bottom of the pot - both inside and out.

This left me with my own one to finish in front of our wood fire before I came home and added it to my B2B suite of accessories.

Everyone is happy and I still have the makings of three more to meet the needs of my SitnStitch friends, who are still keen and one of my daughters who has put in an order.

They really are a lot of fun to make and use.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Russian Drawn Thread Workshop

I'm a bit behind in my postings. I attended the CertificateWorkshop for July last weekend - before I had posted this one from June!

The Embroiderers' Guild of SA Graduate Certificate June workshop was on Russian drawn thread work and taken by Carol Stacy, who had spent months researching and Guild at it's very best - a learning community of members researching, practising and sharing their skills. Thanks Carol! 

I worked in 28 count linen. These days I avoid anything finer if at all possible. The work is traditionally, but not exclusively,  worked with the same colour thread as the linen, but to work on 28 count I needed to have matching thread in both Perle 8 and 12 and my stash gave me no choice but pink in the two thicknesses. It turned out well for me - it was much easier to see!

I didn't take photos of the early stages. It took me an hour or so to work the button-hole border and a bit longer to trace and edge a leave shape inside the square. We then removed threads in quarters of the remaining fabric in the square and bound the remaining threads. It was pretty exciting to see the emergence of the mesh of holes at that stage.
There are, of course, a lot of patterns possible. Counted work is not my passion, but I still love to see the transformation of a piece of solid linen into something open and patterned. There is a quiet joy in it. I feel the temptation to keep working more samples just to see the variety of patterns emerge.
Of course, I wasn't content to leave the piece as a sample. Had I been enrolled in the Certificate Course and not just attending for fun, I'd have filed this carefully with other samplers I had worked. As it is I, of course, turned it into a bag.
It was a small matter to buttonhole a hem, work a twisted cord and two tassels. It will make a useful gift bag or I can fill it with lavender or rose petals.                                                                                       Great workshop, great company and a useful product - so grateful to be part of the Embroiderers' Guild.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

B2B Bag progress

In June I set this project aside to finish the Mountmellick work from the March Lady Anne's Needlework Retreat.  In the last couple of weeks I've returned to it and made an effort to finish it. It is the fourth Project in the  Basics to Beyond course of the Embroiderers' Guild of SA                                                                                                                      I had always planned to add a series of round flowers in the centre of this piece - to echo the similar set in the Hussif from Project 3  so I thought the Dorset button I made as part of the Dorset Featherstitch workshop would fit in. Texture is one of the criteria for this Project.

I became a bit concerned with the extent of the fairly dour background fabric. I chose it for durability and blending with the lining fabric (as well as availability in my stash!) but began to see its limitations. I decided it needed quite a bit of sky. I began couching some wiggly wool threads I acquired out of curiosity from Australian Needle Arts then added some needle-felted wool roving. 
Next a patch of flannel flowers, giving me a chance to use some green seed beads from the Stitchy Box Just the Threads shipment my daughter gave me. As soon as I saw those beads I thought 'flannel flower centres'!
The stand of flowers in the centre gave me a chance to use shisha mirrors. I had mislaid the ones I had originally acquired for this purpose so had to order some more online - they are not in ready supply in Adelaide thread shops.   I'm happy with the results - and there are lots of hidden "j"s in this foliage to satisfy the requirement that this design be based around our initial.
 Above the patch of flowers I added a sheep - using some of the stumpwork technique I learned in 2015 at an RSN day-course- a felt base covered in French knots using six strands of cotton, blending two different colours.

No horns on this one - a ewe, not a ram.

I then went all out on the sky - filling as much as I could, using Bokhara, chain and reverse chain and a bit of couching of the wiggly wool. A hank of variegated blue shiburi thread came in useful.

I soon realised that I had a problem with the flowering gum tree. I either had to put in more foliage to provide a solid block-out of the sky, or I had to add sky behind the tree. Had I planned the sky from the beginning, I would have put the sky layer in first. The shiburi thread proved useful for weaving behind the existing stitching.

By now I was set to fill in the whole landscape. It took a while to finish the sky and fill in the land behind the trees. I did it largely without a hoop, so it needed blocking when I finished. I am, nevertheless, very pleased with it.

My lining fabric is a print of Australian wildflowers. It seemed a pity to only use it as lining, so I cut large piece, added a zip and created a pocket on the back.

The construction instructions were quite explicit. For the most part I followed them.  In order to make the lining more visible I reduced the turnover of the outer fabric, bringing the lining closer to the top of the bag. I also added a layer of wadding between the outside and lining.
I didn't manage to catch the lining in the seams of the false placket sides. I decided not to undo and redo them as the lining was holding the internal shape anyway.  The tacking, while it had provided excellent guidance for construction, did prove a bit difficult to remove.
There is a loose lining-covered panel in the base to hold the shape. I used a piece of plastic cut from a document folder. I also tacked it down at the corners to keep it in place.
This is the finished item. It has been a bit of a long haul. I'm pleased to be taking it in for assessment tomorrow - and very pleased to have learned so much about embroidering landscape. I plan to use this bag to carry all my B2B supplies and working project.

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!