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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Red Robin Panel 3: Wake up, wake up you sleepy head, get up, get up, get out of bed.

I'm working at the moment on a plan to alternate the male and female Scarlet Robins on each panel. This may change as I see how they are fitting together. This one, however, is a female and I worked her in stem stitch again.

To tell the story I began with a series of little hammocks slung from trees across the top of the panel. The hammocks are worked in needle-lace.
Underneath each hammock is the shape of a tiny person. The hammock can be lifted to reveal the sleeper underneath.

The more difficult part was embroidering sleeping people inside buildings. I hesitated between a home and a dormitory - such as a camp or shearers' quarters. In the end I went for a hybrid.I tried for straight and neat - but ended more Grandma Moses! This bit is shapes only - nothing to lift and reveal the sleepers.

The birdsong in this panel is my attempt to capture the song of the Scarlet Robin itself. I am not a musician and do not read music more than knowing one note is higher or lower than another. I found some recordings of Scarlet Robin birdsong  and played them over and over, trying to gain a sense of the way the notes might flow.  This time I worked the notes and sound waves before I added the panel back!
I also stitched over the words on this panel. I'm not happy with the 'take' of the printed words.
Finally I added the back panel and quilted lines around the borders of the panel. It's a bit wonky and crude but I think the story is there.

I'm enjoying this move into what is turning out to be narrative embroidery.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Red, Red, Robin Panel 2: "There'll be no more sobbin' when he starts throbbin' his own, sweet song".

For the second panel of my Robins quilt (chronological not stitching order) I tried appliqueing the bird. Having seen the Tentmakers of Cairo documentary late last year, I wanted to try adapting their appliqué method. Mine is called 'Tentmakers with pins'.
I used, as the tentmakers do, a rough-cut piece of fabric, but kept it small and used pins to hold it roughly in place, adjusting as I went. It worked quite well.

Once I had appliqued the four pieces in place I embroidered the edges and wing. I am very pleased with the result. It will only work, I think, for the male bird. The complex browns of the female bird would only work if I found a fabric that matched the subtlety of the bird.

I had decided from the beginning to try to tell this line of the story using emojis - moving from sad, to 'wow' to happy.

It proved harder than I anticipated. The sad emoji gave me no trouble.

I struck trouble, however with 'wow'.

Getting that open mouth and eye look was not easy. I tried outline only, black fill, black fill with white inside then back to all black. I couldn't get the exact shape I wanted.

In the end, I went on to add the sound waves and notes that complete the story and voila! it lifted the emoji to the message I was after.

The effect is exactly what I wanted. The mistake I made was to add the backing and quilt the sound waves through all layers. I'd have been better to have kept the back consistently stitched around the bird shape and border only. I do, however, have a Plan B.
I hand-quilted straight lines around the borders and am well satisfied with the result.                                                                                           Since completing it I have realised that reverse applique might have worked better for the emojis.                                                   Next time!                  

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Tribal Inspired finish

When I got home from holiday, with my African Tribal piece from the Embroiderers' Guild Summer School embroidered, I set about blocking it. As it was a 100F day in Adelaide, I pinned it out on the carpet and sprayed it with water until saturated. Even with the aircon on, it dried completely in 2 hours and came out beautifully flat.

I trimmed the edges - realising as I did it, what a poor job I had done of getting the outer edges of the octagon even. This is because, although I measured and drew an initial template for the Maltese Cross, I did not measure the lines extending from the Cross to the outer edges, but simply extended them as I went. I don't mind the somewhat haphazard folk-art look, but it's a lesson for future work of this kind.
I added some cotton interfacing on the back, to strengthen those exposed sections of the bottom layer of fabric before turning under a hem all around.
I had designed this piece to be added to clothing, but it had more than doubled in size from my original concept. I tried it unsuccessfully on various pieces of clothing before hitting on an black linen shirt that I usually wear open over tops. I decided the piece can serve as a pocket. I stitched it on by machine, reinforcing the opening, but using a long stitch elsewhere so I can remove it easily if I change my mind. The downside is that being linen, this shirt requires constant ironing!
It was a good thing I used the large stitch. I had left an opening near the front edge of the shirt. I should, of course, have left an opening near the side seam! The pocket came off, and I relocated it.  My hand now goes easily into the pocket.                                                                                                   I've had a lot of fun with this project, learned a heap, and am looking forward to seeing where my fellow students have ended with their pieces.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Tribal Inspired Embroidery from North Africa : Summer School 2017

The Embroiderers' Guild of SA holds a full Summer School every second year. This is usually held at a local boarding school, so country and interstate members can live in if they wish. In the alternate years Summer classes are held at the Guild's headquarters. This year was a Summer School year and the program was very enticing. I originally chose two classes but in the end one of these clashed with a family holiday and I reduced my attendance to one class - Barbara Mullan's Tribal Inspired Embroidery from North Africa. Her sample for the class is on the right. (courtesy of the Embroiderers' Guild Facebook page)
The piece begins with three layers of fabric to be worked with reverse applique. I had an African geometric print as my bottom layer, a variegated small wavy print as the second and a mustardy brown as my top layer(the truest colour is in the last two photos below).  We were a small group and began by discussing design and North African motifs. I settled on a Maltese Cross as my basic design and set about finding a location on the bottom layer where the geometry was well displayed.
The scary part is cutting through the two layers to expose the bottom one. I inserted a small piece of red fabric as a third layer under the lozenges just to lift the colour a little.
As it took shape I expanded the pattern and exposed more of the under layers.
I began to embroider the various segments of the Maltese Cross. I used enhanced chain stitch around the patterned shapes and rows of couched thread around the smaller, mustardy triangles. Only when I'd finished embroidering the Maltese Cross section did I then expose the full outer circle. This is about where I got to in the two day class. It was a fabulous class - full of experimenting, sharing and ideas. Everyone did something quite different but the purpose, enthusiasm and interest was shared as we worked within the parameters of the tradition we were learning from Barbara.

At home I tried an open chain stitch in the brown octagon but soon decided it was too heavy and the wrong colour. I switched, to black and light brown, which worked much better. These threads were woven between the edging rows of chain stitch.
After experimenting, the final row was achieved by cutting and appliqueing the top layer, then couching a gimp thread.  I wanted to finish with a layer I could turn under to hold in some interfacing since the bottom layer seemed a little thin. The variegation in the second layer gave me an unpleasant yellow on one side, so I cut and inserted some strips from the other side.
This gives me a more even edge coverage. I have finished it to this stage while on a family beach holiday this week. When I get home I will block the piece, add the interfacing and finish the edge. I'm not sure what I will do with it yet. It began as an amulet - to ward off the evil eye- but has grown too big to hang. I may yet find a piece of clothing I can mount it on.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Robin Panel 1: When the red, red robin

The panel I chose as No.1 is mottled lemon and white - inviting me to think about wattle. This one, I decided, would belong to the female scarlet robin. I stayed with stranded cotton and stem stitch.

I put her on a barbed wire fence and was thinking of filling in above the fence with wattle and below with wheat, when a friend suggested chicken wire. Invented in Norwich in the UK, it is widely used in Australia, and a brilliant suggestion from my friend. I went home and spent the evening embroidering chicken wire.

I  added branches of wattle.

I was assisted here byAnnette Rich's book on Australian wildflowers which has designs for three different varieties of wattle. I used stem stitch for the elongated leaves and French knots for the blossom.

I am very pleased indeed with this panel. My friend Sue's suggestion of chicken wire was brilliant and has captured exactly what I wanted.

Two down, seven to go!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Birthday Crafts

My birthday - an auspicious one - was last week and I celebrated with lunch with friends and dinner the next day with family. I had many messages and phone calls. It was very gratifying - and I plan to make this celebration last all year. 

The gifts I received were so creative, crafty and satisfying that I wanted to record and share them. It is also appropriate for what happens to be my 400th blog post!

My grand-daughter Niamh, still on a mission to save my sofa (and those who sit on it) from pins, made me a fat pincushion using chain stitch, stem stitch, buttonhole stitch and top-stitch - all learned at the Junior Embroiderers' Group of the Embroiderers' Guild. It is wonderfully soft and tactile.
Her brother, with a little recipe help from his father, made me a jar of Fionella - a chocolate and hazelnut spread in the style of Nutella. It is delicious and very nutty.
Brigid crafted, 'fired' and strung me a pendant reminiscent of the waves she spends time riding as part of her Surf Club patrol duty. I looks as if it were made for the top I was wearing!
Veronica created Bubbles to keep me company while I stitch. Bubbles has a rainbow tail and comes with her own handbag containing a coin - her bus fare in case she gets lost.
Their mother, my elder daughter, gave me six months of StitchyBox threads - I wonder where these will take me in 2017?

My younger daughter, whose wonderful knitting has been interrupted for several years by arthritis, has picked up her needles again to make me a necklace, which comes on a gold chain, but can be threaded on to a range of necklaces.

A friend also gave me a bundle of Madiera threads - among my favourites. A couple of books from my brother and a beautiful, bright green handbag from friends completed the gifts showered on me on the day. I feel very blessed - and secure in the knowledge that the skills and joy I learned from my grandmother and mother will go on giving joy beyond my lifespan.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Robin Panel 4: Cheer up, the sun is red, live, love, laugh and be happy

I began my Robin's Quilt embroidery with the first panel I had bought, now panel 4 in the redesigned, monster project. This was the panel that gave me the Big Idea and the one I was most clear about.
I did some research into Australian robins and decided mine will be the Scarlet Robin that inhabits the South and East of Australia. They are endangered, nest in the tops of trees in bushland, feed on the ground and venture into towns and houses as feed becomes scarce in Winter. The males are black with white markings and a white crest above the beak, a red breast and white underbelly. The females are brown with light red to orange breast,  white crest above the beak and whitish underbelly.  The red breast did not show up well on this red panel but I shall fix with an outline.                                                                                                                                            
I wanted to make the most of the dyed panel which suggests a sun to me. I embroidered some lines of figures dancing on sunbeams

then added a bunch of happy emojis below. I'm hoping I can tell this story in the symbols of our time. (There is a certain irony at the time of posting when it is 40C in Adelaide and the sun is not something in which I am rejoicing!)

I also stitched over the words on the upper border. I had not pressed hard enough on the iron in transferring the words and music and I was afraid the words would lift.

At this point I added the back to the panel - a square of the same batik fabric with a light wadding attached - and hand quilted the borders using a variegated machine thread and running stitch in straight lines.

I stitched around the robin in the same thread. I may yet go over the breast outline in black.  I used stranded cotton and mostly stem stitch in filling the robin - it is a robust stitch that can be adjusted to suggest feathers.

This is the back. It's not a bad start. I will now return to Panel No.1 - can't wait, a woman driven by an idea and the pleasure of seeing it unfold!