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Monday, October 17, 2016

BATB: Jenny Adin Christie, Whitework Buttons

I chose Jenny Adin Christie's Whitework Button class at BATB because I had purchased the kit for her 5 buttons at the last BATB two years ago. I had enrolled in her one-day class, chosen the simplest button and completed it in the day. The kit has been sitting in a drawer for two years, so I decided I should enrol again and at least complete one more button.
Jenny is a great teacher, and a class with her is a pleasure.
This time I chose what seemed to me the most complex of the buttons, the Scabiosa. It is quite large and involves shadow work, padded satin stitch, cut work, beading, French knots and a range of eyelet work. It is worked on French gauze mounted over fine linen - prepared in advance by Jenny as part of the kit.
The shadow backstitch/herringbone is worked first and then the inner eyelet circle and the padded satin stitch. The latter was for me the tricky part. - getting the satin stitch smooth. Jenny had several tips about this, which really helped.  The great advantage of working with a teacher is the very specific technique help and practice.

I made quite a lot of progress in the class - both in terms of improving my technique and in the amount I was able to do.

As I had expected in choosing this particular button, I did not finish it in class but Jenny had provided instruction in all components.

After the class I set myself to finish this button as a priority. As usual, I had only enrolled in two classes at BATB - what I can realistically take on and finish. The whitework button took me a week of working on not much else and was really enjoyable.

The outer ring of ladder stitch eyelets gave me trouble. I did not succeed in making the holes distinct enough. I need more practice in this technique.

Once again, I decided to turn the button into a brooch, rather than display it in a box, so, after backing and lacing, mounted it on the felt backing provided.

I now have two of the five buttons in the kit completed. I regard these as practice pieces rather than perfection (which is just as well!)  I am in it for the learning.

Having tackled this large and complex button, I feel more confident to proceed with the others without counting on Jenny to return to BATB three times over the next six years to finish the kit!

Now I can turn my mind to Japanese beading again.

Monday, October 10, 2016

BATB: Margaret Lee Japanese Beading

This is a quick post while Beating Around the Bush is still underway. I have done two classes - a two day Japanese Beading class with Margaret Lee and a one day Whitework Button Class with Jenny Adin Christie. Three day classes are underway this week but I have not enrolled. Two new projects is my limit - otherwise I am overwhelmed with unfinished projects and unable to consolidate what I learn.

This post focuses on the first of my classes - the Japanese Beading. I found it quite demanding. I learned heaps. I'm very glad I had done the Merrilyn Whittle projects last month as preparation. They gave me time to get an idea of the genre and know the questions to ask. All my questions were answered. While I don't see myself turning into a beader, I could see a way forward with Japanese beading as long term study and work under Margaret's tutilage. It is an art form, and apprenticeship-type learning would produce terrific results.
I used a slate frame for the first time. Margaret very generously gave up the afternoon before the class to teach us to set up our frames and projects. I can see the importance and value in setting up your beading work space. Getting the position, light and angles to suit took quite a long time and my back gave me a lot of trouble in the first day.  I did a lot of standing and walking in breaks. The second day I also took my spiky ball and massaged my sacroiliac joint at frequent intervals.
Margaret is an energetic and intelligent teacher. There were 17 in the class and she worked endlessly and tirelessly to give individual attention - analysing and helping us improve technique. We began with the simplest and easiest motifs and techniques, seeing results and achievements early, building up quickly to more complex work.
By the end of two days we had covered all techniques required. I can now use a koma and know how to place my beading shoe on my work to maximum effect. I have the beginnings of knowing how to choose beads and the importance  of a laying tool. Now it's a matter of practice and repetition. This is very much the kind of work you perfect over a lifetime and that benefits from a master-apprenticeship model. It's no wonder women come to study with Margaret from around the world on a regular basis. It is the way to learn and become skilled.                                                                                                                                   I don't think I will become expert in this genre - but if I were to do so, I'd enrol to study with Margaret. I will, however, finish this piece.
I need to set the project up properly at home so I can work on it as I get the time. I don't find working at a table comfortable and I doubt my floor frame is up to the job. I need to solve this problem later this week. 

There is a great atmosphere at BATB. I enjoyed sitting back and observing the atmosphere or talking to people in breaks. The majority, it seemed to me, were from outside Adelaide - from country towns, interstate and, like my own US house guest, from overseas. It's an important opportunity from women to pursue their passion with kindred spirits and spend time focused on something of great importance to them. Much knowledge is passed on. Many who are attending classes to learn also teach in other contexts - there is a sense of community.

The market day on Saturday saw an extraordinary array of small specialist providers display and sell their wares - things you rarely see gathered together in one place. I forgot to take photos, unfortunately. 

My next post will have some photos and progress on my white work buttons - a slightly less ambitious project, but also very beautiful.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Scissor keeps

As I finished my 3 beaded scissor fobs I chose a pair of scissors to go with each. I had, I discovered, at least 7 pair of embroidery scissors without fobs - and more importantly, without cases or keeps. The scissors with new beaded fobs needed, I thought, a case to go with the fob. For Anastasia i made a case out of the Italian felted wool coat left-over fabric.

For the black fob I chose a scrap of black silk from which I had once, I think, had a dress. For the purple Anastasia I chose a piece of cotton Bali ikat from which I still have a smocked dress.

That would, you might think, be enough to keep me going.  I was, however, by now well and truly on a mission, spurred on by the thrill of using up scraps of treasured fabric.

In the hunt for further suitable fabric I came across a set of embroidered linen serviettes I bought in 1972 in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We had used them throughout the 70s and 80s before wear and stains pensioned them off - but I couldn't bear to dispose of the meticulous, tiny cross-stitched embroidery.

So here was my chance. I cut the embroidered sections out and made them into both a scissor fob and a scissor keep.

I searched through the pieces of fabric I had overdyed in the Futonji class. I don't think I will ever put these to their intended use, so one piece fell to the scissor mission.

This lovely piece of shot silk is from a sari I bought in India in the 70s and had made into trousers and top for my daughter's wedding.
 It now houses my purple scissors

This Paisley scissor keep with the crocheted edge I made earlier this year as an off-shoot of my teabag holder project, was enhanced by a fob with a crocheted star.

I experimented with the stiffening agent - in some using the plastic from milk cartons, as we did for those we made in Back to Basics, in others I used a variety of interfacing - from quite stiff, to felt, to much  lighter. All were successful in their own way. All the fobs were weighted with coins, some of them old, some contemporary Australian and some foreign. I do hope none of them were valuable - or if they were, that some future embroiderer one day takes them apart and benefits!

So now I have fobs and keeps for most of my embroidery scissors. I didn't expect to end up here when I decided to try Japanese beading!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Japanese Beading: Hana

Within hours of finishing my 'Anastasia' Japanese beading project, I had begun on the second project, Hana, from Inspirations 91.  My Japanese beading learning had become an obsession. I was a woman on a mission. I needed to perfect the technique - and I needed scissor fobs.
Hana was an easier project than Anastasia - largely because the basic pattern was a simple repeat of a flower motif. While the colour varied, the technique for each was the same, encouraging practice.
This did not prevent me from making the most fundamental of errors - not reading the whole set of instructions through carefully before plunging in. I discovered, rather late in the piece, that the lower petals had fewer beads than the upper petals - which left me with a shortage of beads. This was exacerbated by the blue beads having holes too small for the beading needle provided. As I could barely thread the needle provided. I improvised by borrowing beads left over from Anastasia and living with the colour variation.
The trickiest part of this project, in terms of manipulating beads, was getting the stems crossing over each other.
To help hold the tension on the long string of edging beads I used the traditional Japanese wooden koma - which I had bought from Merrilyn Whittle. This is designed to tension your needle when laying a long line of beads. I found it a bit light for the task. For me, tensioning my needle in a heavy pincushion served me better. I hope, however, at some point (I've enrolled in a Margaret Lee Japanese Beading Class at Beating Around the Bush in October) to learn a bit more about this tool and improve my technique.

Although far from perfect, I was pleased with this piece. I like its stark simplicity.

Again, I constructed it without glue. Another pair of scissors with a fob!

An addendum to this post is that I began using these scissors with fob and inadvertently dropped them unloading my car at my daughter's home in Adelaide. By the time I realised what I had done, they had spent a night on the wet grass. They seem, however, to have recovered!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Japanese Beading:Purple Anastasia

Yes, I did continue my Japanese beading frenzy and finish the third project I had purchased - the purple Anastasia. As the pattern is the same as the original Anastasia, I will not post photos of every stage.

This time I decided to vary the order in which I worked. Instead of working the centre, then each of the corners in sequence I worked the centre, then one corner, then all the leaves, all the stamens etc. I have found this method works for me when doing tapestry or cross stitch and it seemed to work here too.  When working with thread, it enables me to use up the thread in my needle. Here it enabled me to place more beads on the 'shoe' and reduce the number of times I dipped into little plastic bags of beads.

One thing I enjoyed about this beading technique is the use of two needles (once I figured out I needed to store both to them above rather than below the hoop)-one with a double thread for threading the beads and one with a single thread for couching them. I eventually developed quite a good rhythm with this.

In this project it was the pink beads that the beading needle provided didn't go through. I managed to find a 'between' needle that was fine enough yet with an eye I could thread.

Once again, I made this up as a scissor fob.

This exercise in Japanese beading was prompted by this year's Embroiderer's Guild Ethnic Studies Group focus on beading. It's given me a feel for the process and tools of Japanese beading, and raised some questions I'll be able to raise when I do Margaret Lee's class at Beating Around the Bush next week. I'm particularly interested in any tips for threading a beading needle (or whether some brands or styles are easier than others), how to effectively use a koma and ways of laying out beads while working.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Punto Umbro

I am interrupting my account of my beading adventures to record my experience of last weekend. when I spent a fantastic two days attending Christine Bishop's Punto Umbro class at the Embroiderers' Guild. It was an energetic and friendly group, including quite a few country members who had come down for the class.
Christine had designed a mat - about 30cm square - that requires five stitches for the embroidery, two of which were likely to be familiar, and a couple more for the hem, once again demonstrating her ability to design a project to fit the time and capacity of her class. It was a challenge but possible to learn the stitches and complete much of the work in the two days.                                                                                                                                                                                       My first challenge was to get my Palestrina stitch sitting with the knots in the centre of my line, not to one side like railway tracks.
I eventually got the rhythm. I then had to work to get coverage I wanted on the 'elephant tusk' arms. My spacing needs some work.
I really loved working the needlelace bits - which is where we got to at the end of Saturday. Some of the country members were planning to enjoy a night socialising. I was by now hooked - and couldn't wait to bunker down to complete most of the outline that night. 
On Sundaywe began on the curly bits. I really enjoyed this stitch and the challenge of getting the mirror images right. It was so satisfying to see the pattern take shape.
While it wasn't finished at the end of the two-day class, it was very well advanced. We had also been through the steps for blocking the finished piece and practiced the stitch to finish the mat edge. I was highly motivated to finish it and went home to work on the last curls.
I did just that, finishing over the next 36 hours before I left for a few days in Canberra. 
I was able to block the piece the night before I left so I can finish the edging on my return. I tightened the piece just before I left. It was looking very smooth, promising a nice straight edge without ironing.
It's been a most satisfying and enjoyable little project - achievable, lots of learning, great company and an elegant product to reflect the experience.