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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Kantha design progress

While recuperating from my knee operation I have been working on the Kantha design I began in the Barbara Mullan Embroiderers' Guild workshop in June.  In my last post on the topic I had a design on paper. I transferred the centre motif and the four large corner motifs to the fabric using a combination of sketching and tracing. I worked these before adding the other motifs.
The central motif is from a marine photograph of a star-fish-like creature.
Two corners have crabs.
The other two corners have octopuses. In between, jellyfish swim around and a variety of shell fish nestle.

For the smaller shells and the jellyfish I sketched the basic shape with pencil then improvised with thread.

Once I had the basic design stitched, I began the process of background stitching. I began with the piece in a hoop to maintain tension in the running stitch, but soon abandoned it as too slow. It is much more efficient to work the running stitch with a scooping, rather than a stabbing, technique and the mantra from my class last year at the RSN was 'never scoop in a hoop'!

Without the hoop I progressed more quickly. I worked a swirling circle around the central motif - a current taking the jellyfish around in a whirlpool and washing other creatures off to the edges.

This process took several days of stitching. When it was finished I did a little bit of padding to give dimension to a few of the creatures. I was a bit ambitious with scallop shell, distorting the fabric - creating the need to block the finished piece.

I was able to successfully block it overnight. I am pleased with this result. I've decided to make this into a very large floor-cushion. I've ordered some dark green batik with which to back the cushion and mount a border. The border embroidery and construction will be my next post.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Hospital project

I needed a project to take to hospital with me. It needed to be straightforward - without charts or elaborate instructions to follow but interesting enough to keep me occupied. I chose Gary Clarke's whitework bag Blossom from Inspirations 90.  I liked the design and the candlewicking technique as well as the finishing touches of corded sides, tassels and covered beads.I thought, however, the embroidered element might not keep me sufficiently occupied, so decided to go with the extended design outlined at the end of his Inspirations article - a block of nine of the designs. I figured this would make a much larger bag using the same principles.
I traced the nine designs on to a piece of ecru linen using pencil and assembled the various hanks of candlewicking thread I had in my stash. The night before I went to hospital I did a little practice on one of the designs to see how it would go.  To my horror, the soft candlewicking thread absorbed the graphite from the pencil marks. Although this would wash out at the end of the project, I couldn't face spending 10 days in hospital embroidering in the resulting dirty grey colour.       I therefore hunted through my stash and pulled out a range of coloured perle threads that did not absorb the graphite and packed those to use.
This proved to be a good tactic. The first I used was a variegated red hank. It covered the pencil well, had great texture and the variegation gave variety.
I then used some finer variegated purple thread over-dyed by the Embroiderers' Guild
and a heavy Perle 3 I think I originally purchased for huck embroidery.
This brilliant variegated combination is Poppy from The Bay Window.

It proved to be a great hospital project - eight of the nine motifs were finished by the time I came home, leaving me with the colonial knots to fill in the background.

The knots took me the best part of a week to complete.

I decided to place one motif on the back. I had used up most of my specialised perle thread by this time, so tried the most varied hank of Anchor stranded multicolour I had - using three strands. There was rather too much navy, I thought, so I removed some of the navy sections from the pieces I cut.

I selected a hand-printed heavy cotton as lining.

The original design has a twisted cord along the side of the bag and a tassel with covered cord on each lower corner. I decided that the larger bag would be better without these - at least in practical terms, if not aesthetic.

I'm pleased with this project. It had sufficient interest but the simplicity necessary when recovering from an operation and it has made an attractive and useful bag.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Knitting: Shetland tunic

18 months or so ago I was inspired by a friend who had knitted herself a couple of lovely tunics to wear. I was staying with her when Bendigo Woollen Mill purchased a bale of Shetland wool to spin and offered the resulting Aran weight yarn to their regular customers. I bought what I hoped was enough to make myself a tunic. As I was travelling in the UK for much of the last Australian winter, I got going this Winter and knitted away for several weeks before my knee operation, trying to finish it.

The pattern I chose is great. It gives texture and interest but is predictable and memorable once you have worked a full sequence. I've been able to work without constantly consulting the pattern, and can tell very quickly if I have made an error. I would, however, have been better off allowing an extra ball of the yarn. The bale sold quickly and I have no chance at all of getting more. I want the tunic to be loose and comfortable, so it needs to be quite large.
This is the back - which would make a decent baby blanket!

It was lovely to knit - so soft on the hands.

The pattern is an easy one. It was easy to tell if I  had made a mistake and to retrieve it before I went too far. At the same time, there was sufficient need to concentrate to make it interesting to knit.

It took me about a month to knit the front and back, finishing the front while watching the long vote count on election night with friends. I knitted the first sleeve on my recent trip to NSW and the second on my return, finishing in time to go to hospital for my knee reconstruction!

Although I  had been worried that I had ordered enough wool, I did want this to be quite long and roomy, so made it to the prescribed body length. I rang Bendigo Woollen Mills and discussed substitutes, consequently ordering a couple of balls of 10ply merino. The match wasn't perfect but I thought I might be able to be creative with bands on the sleeves.
In the end I didn't need to supplement it and finished with a small amount left over.

It  could, I think, be a smidgen longer but, although it is clearly longer on the skinny pattern model, it is the length recommended in the pattern.  It is very warm and cosy - perhaps rather more than required in Adelaide but I have worn it all day a couple of times and found it comfortable - beautifully soft. It would go well with the alpaca hat I knitted a few years ago - if I could find it!

The imbecilic look in the photo is the result, not of the tunic, but of the need to focus on looking ahead rather than on the camera button on my phone.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

70th bag: Construction

The first task in constructing my 70th birthday bag was to join the two pieces together. They were quite firmly quilted by the stitching, which was through two layers of fabric sandwiched with wadding.

I trimmed off the bottom of one bag so that one layer of unstitched figures formed the base. I then joined the sides and mitred the bottom corners to form a base and sides.

 I used a woven belt that my late husband had bought in, I think, Indonesia, to form the handles. The colours were so bright and it seemed appropriate. Jim would have enjoyed being part of this.

The belt had lovely tasselled ends. I cut it in half so that each side of the bag has a tassel.

I examined many pieces of fabric for lining - florals, figures, plains - all appropriate, but the one that grabbed me was this print of little astronauts in a vivid blue sky. The colour was terrific with the bag - and the theme of possibility, endeavour and imagination struck me as perfect.

So in went the lining and the bag is finished. It really has been one of the most enjoyable and satisfying I've done

I am posting this from hospital while recovering from my knee replacement, using my iPhone, so have less control than usual over layout. Apologies for any glitches.

Monday, July 11, 2016

70th Bag: 2nd side

The weather was a little cooler when I began the second side of the 70th birthday bag, so I tried to give the figures slightly warmer clothes - long sleeves, boots and more leggings. I was also more generous in using specialist threads - I didn't need to ration them as much on the home stretch.

I also tried out a few Kantha stitches - such as the laced running stitch in the Fig.1 jerkin and in the yellow leggings, the 'marching ants' in the blue trousers and the blue top of Figure 2. 
Fig 2
I used quite a bit of variegated thread in perle 5, or even 3. It gives a lovely dense coverage.                            
The greatest challenge is hair - getting variety as well as texture and colour. Bullion knots and French knots proved very useful.

One disadvantage of using the black and white print fabric is that I get only white faces and need to find other ways of showing complexion and ethnicity. The medium is not subtle enough to shade skin tone.

I tried to include a few headscarves but found it unexpectedly more difficult to get the effect I wanted than I expected. At least one of my attempts ended up looking more like hair than a headscarf!

I incorporated quite a few Kantha stitches.

The best coverage came from rows of stem stitch. I managed also to use some gold thread.

Variegated thread worked a treat. One of my grand-daughters had given me some amazing hanks for Christmas which I incorporated.

It was quite easy to vary the embroidery of the four repeated shapes to get quite a variety of figures and shapes.

My Julia Gillard pieces gave more scope for incorporating different stances and activities, but this allowed for a surprising variety in a different way.

Here are the two sides - 70 figures - finished. The un-embroidered lower rows allow for the bottom of the bag.

My next post, hopefully while recovering from my knee reconstruction tomorrow,  will show construction and finish!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Back to Basics: Project 4

I have had quite a bit of time to think about my 4th Back to Basics Project. Since  last posting about Back to Basics my hussif has been assessed (successful!) and displayed. I have also done quite a bit of thinking about the next Project which is a library bag with an embroidery design and a construction element. The design has to be based around, or incorporate, the student's initial. It requires sturdy, plain fabric for the outside and a patterned fabric lining.

I wanted to keep the bag (which, since I read almost everything electronically, I will not use for library books) within the same colour and design range of my earlier Back to Basics projects. I also wanted to use fabric from my stash.

I came up with some khaki drill and a Japanese cotton floral.

Gay Sanderson, who runs the Back to Basics course, had pointed out to me that my Project 3 embroidery design incorporated stitches that looked very like the J of my initial - so I had been working on this. It led me to think about J curves and for a while I toyed with the idea of a pulled back curtain - but in the end I was drawn to extending the floral design of the husif.

This took me to framing the husif design with trees, incorporating upside-down J curves in the branches. I was also keen to make them Australian trees - so ended up with a flowering gum and a wattle tree. These also give me scope to use a range of stitches, since texture is also a criterion for this project.

One of my fellow students, Mary, kindly gave me some of her large graph paper so I cut it to fit the embroidery space on my bag and scaled up the drawing.
I'm planning to incorporate quite a range of stitches, and I've managed to get some of those elusive shisha mirrors from Barbara Mullan to include this time.

My first embroidery step, however, will be to get the outlines of the framing tree branches in place. I will miss the July meeting of the group next week because of my knee reconstruction (which, incidentally, has gone well - home tomorrow) but I'm happy to take my time on this one. It is such an enjoyable group to belong to that I'm in no hurry to complete the full 5 projects that comprise the course!