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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Dijanne Cevaal Owl Cushion

At the October Craft and Quilt Fare in Adelaide I had resisted the temptation to buy one of the owl panels that Dijanne Cevaal had available. A friend urged me to buy, but as I had four untouched panels at home I resisted.

That was before I conceived of my 'guardians' theme.

Niamh likes owls. Owls too, have, in literature, performed the role of guardians of humans.

I contacted Dijanne and bought a panel.

I figured this is a mystical owl so chose red/gold colours to reflect that. I still had some of the lovely red/gold over-dyed stranded, as well as some lovely red silks.

I tried a range of stitches on the wings and breast, trying to get a notion of feathers. I did a couple of rows in colcha stitch. On the breast I used long single chain stitches, double in some places to get coverage.

I went looking for beads for the head- flat, round ones to go in those circles. The ones I found were a little yellower than I was looking for, but I went with them anyway.

I found some owl-coloured ones that I decided to use for the wing tips.

After trying a few seed beads and larger ovals in the central head section, I settled for an outline of large ovals and chips of gold bugle beads to infill. It took a while but I was pleased with the result. I also had to go back to the bead shop several times - and captured the market on round flat beads!

Amongst my cache of broken jewellery I had a pair of earrings that were perfect for the eyes. I stitched the surround in red metallic and attached the silver disc with (I confess!) super-glue.

The beak is a shell from an odd earring.

         I used midnight purple for the background and a straw-coloured silk for the feet - to pick up the gold in the head.

I chose the batik (again from Chrissy at Batik Fabrics Online - superfast pre-Christmas service) to suggest trees. I wanted the owl to seem to be emerging from the greenery, so did not put a border on this one.

I'm very pleased I relented and sent for this one. It turned out better than I  had dared hope.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Dijanne Cevaal Dragon Cushion

After working the Sentinelle,  having so much fun, and earmarking it for Veronica, I decided to work a series of 'Guardian' figures for each of my grandchildren. Esther Vigil, whose excellent books on Colcha Embroidery had been so useful for my New Mexico Colcha Embroidery Workshop, had told me she was embroidering an angel for each of her grandchildren.  This got me thinking.  I already had the Sentinelle, to stand guard over Veronica.

I also had a dragon, another guardian figure - especially in Chinese mythology, where the dragon is a hero with power over the water - so I set to work to create a Dragon Guardian for Fionn.

I wanted this dragon to be a hybrid - a green dragon blending to red-gold.

I used silks, some red beads, metallics and a splendid red glass bead for the eye.

I couldn't go past the overdyed stranded cotton that I bought from the Guild earlier this year - it has a dragon's name on it!

I'm not sure why I was so sure of the green on the dragon - surely not a hang-over from the Hobbit drinking song in Lord of the Rings? Maybe it was the lure of some bright green silk.

I found a lovely dark green silk for the plants and practiced my colcha stitch.

The background is midnight blue Madeira metallic  and I filled the spaces between with running stitch in stranded cotton.

I had purchased batik on which to mount this dragon but didn't feel I had enough. I thought he deserved a bigger cushion than my half-metre would make. I considered ordering more but also thought he got a bit lost in the gold of the batik.

I remembered a large quantity of dark denim I had bought a few years ago, got it out and rather liked the contrast. I washed it and set to work

It is quite a different look to the Sentinelle but I like its strength and boldness. Hope Fionn does too!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Sentinelle Cushion

For the last couple of months I have been working on some of my Dijanne Cevaal panels. I began with the Sentinelle - for the sheer enjoyment of doing it. When one of my granddaughters expressed enthusiasm for it as it emerged, I conceived the idea, first of making it for her, and then of making a 'Guardian' cushion for each of my grandchildren. This was helped along in conception by Esther Vigil, who has made an angel embroidery for each of her grand-children.

The term 'sentinelle' relates to the English term 'sentry'. It is someone standing guard, watching over, guarding.

I began this one with the halo. Given the shapes in the screenprint, I looked to see if I had any round beads and found a couple of packs of heart shaped ones almost the exact size I was looking for.

Having done that I needed bugle beads for the outer edge.

While I was buying these I found the large lozenge shaped mauve beads that fitted well with the other shapes on the cloak

From the beginning I had the notion of using shisha mirrors on the cloak. The circular motifs seemed to cry out for it.

I experimented with metallic thread to hold them in. Somewhat to my surprise, it worked quite well. It took a bit of time, and required working with a relatively short thread , but proved fun to do.

I worked the mirrors in first, then added the surrounding spokes and the lozenge beads.

Because I was, at the same time, obsessed with Colcha embroidery and Colcha/Bokhara stitch, I used the stitch for some of the embroidery on the cloak. It worked well for the long folds - stitched on the diagonal rather than the full length of the fold.

For much of it I used chain stitch. I also ran some gimp down the edges of the folds. This was quite hard to keep tight, no matter how hard I tried. I tightened it several times.

I also worked out colours as I went - working from a general notion of the effect I wanted.

The metallic mirror surrounds worked the same way - I used two metallics in dark blue and bluey-red.

I filled the background in using a black synthetic with silver - very easy to use and providing some texture along the lines of the print

I also used a very fine copper metallic to outline the facial features and more bugle beads on the head band.

Here"s the finished panel, being blocked, ready to be mounted in batik. The blue of the panel is truer here than in previous photos.

Once again, I'm delighted with the batik - from Crissy at Batik Fabric Online.

Again, I worked a border in one of the Kantha edges from The Art of Kantha Embroidery, by Niaz Zarman.

Here she is, very crumpled, in all her splendour and, on the right, with continental pillow insert on Christmas Day.

In the next couple of weeks I will post the other three guardian cushions.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Colcha workshop

My last post reported on my developing interest in New Mexico Colcha embroidery over the last seven months since reading an article about it in Piecework magazine.

As I gathered more and more information, my obsession spilled over to the Ethnic Embroidery Studies Group of the Embroiderers' Guild of SA, of which I am a member. Other members of the group are as keen as I am to learn about the embroideries of specific cultural groups, so I offered to share my research at our December meeting.

Colchas (Spanish word for bedcovering) came to the Americas with the early Spanish explorers, along with churro sheep - small, wiry arid land sheep. The sheep provided both the woven material for blankets and the thread with which they were embroidered. When the Spanish sent expeditions north from New Spain churro sheep, blankets, looms and expertise in embroidery and weaving went with them.
modern churro wool for weaving or knitting (from Weaving Southwest)
In the harsh conditions they found on arriving in what became New Mexico, the sheep and blankets were invaluable and contributed to the survival of the community. Embroidery of the blankets was reduced to the use of a single stitch - now known as  Colcha Stitch, a variation on Bokhara couching. It was quick to work and provided two additional layers of wool to the base wool fabric. The sheep were also highly valued by the Pueblo Indians and have become integral to Navaho weaving.  The story is much richer than this summary - I put together and made available a paper summarising what I had learned of the history.

For the workshop I put together some simple kits using doctors' flannel, Appleton's wool and some traditional designs from Wroth, William (ed) Weaving & Colcha from the Hispanic Southwest, Ancient City Press, Santa Fe, 1985

I created some iron-on transfers of the designs to save having to trace them individually. While this made it easier, the transfers bled a bit on the flannel.

Interest was high and everyone tried the stitching. Many also explored the books (all of which are listed in the paper).

A couple of members have already finished their sample piece. One is intending to make a blanket or quilt!

In April next year our group is responsible for a display of work in the Guild's Gallery. We plan to display our colcha pieces.  I will post photographs when the time comes. In the meantime, I have some photos of finished pieces. Barbara Mullan finished hers and then did another one on black - this time outlining the chalk tracing with tacking stitch to keep the shape.
Barbara's finished lizard
Barbara's tacking outline

my unidentified plant!

Lori Howlett's bird

I am especially grateful to Esther Vigil who sent me her two books on Colcha. Esther is the daughter of Maria Teofila Ortiz Lujan, a pivotal pioneer in the survival and renaissance of Colcha Embroidery. One of the cleverest ideas I have seen in a long time is the back covers of Esther's books which feature the back of the piece of embroidery featured on the front of the books!

Esther has answered my questions, supported this venture and sent me links to a video interview with her. There is also a transcript of that interview. I hope I have done her justice in the workshop and paper.
We topped off our workshop with a shared Christmas lunch - a really lovely morning spent stitching, learning and eating together.

 May we all enjoy such blessings this Christmas!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Colcha Scarf

I have been obsessed over the last few months with New Mexico Colcha Embroidery, something I had not heard of seven months ago.

It began with an article in the March/April issue of Piecework Magazine. I noticed that the diagram of Colcha stitch looked a lot like Bokhara stitch, which we had been identifying and practising at the Ethnic Embroidery Study Group of the Embroiderers' Guild of SA. I began to read more, ordered all the books referenced in the Piecework article,  ordered wool from churro sheep, the kit from Piecework and talked endlessly about what I was discovering.

Because I had no way of seeing original colcha pieces, I decided to try my hand. I chose an open-weave scarf I had purchased to embroider and some traditional motifs from Wroth, William (ed) Weaving & Colcha from the Hispanic Southwest, Ancient City Press, Santa Fe, 1985

The first one, an eagle, I marked on the black scarf using a chalk pencil.

I used Appleton's wool, which I could source easily and chose colours close to the traditional. The result was quite pleasing.

On the other end of the scarf, I used Solvi. It isn't my preferred method - I don't much like the feel of the barrier between my hand and the work - but it worked a bit better than the chalk for a slightly more complex pattern.

In the meantime, my enthusiasm had caught on and I agreed to run a workshop for the Ethnic Embroidery Studies Group on our final 2017 meeting last Wednesday. It went really well and I will post a report in a few days’ time.

I have summarised my research in a paper. I will  provide a link when I write up the workshop.

I have had considerable help in my researches from Esther Vigil in Albuquerque New Mexico. Her two books and her encouragement have been invaluable.

This has been a wonderful journey of discovery - I'll share a bit more in my next post. - before Christmas.