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Sunday, April 19, 2020

Chicken scratch apron no.3

For the last 52 days I have been posting a daily blog at It began as a travel blog, but continued when I arrived home on 19 March to 14 days self-isolation, and subsequent lockdown at home in the face of the Covid19 pandemic. Much of my daily blogging is about embroidery, which I have not  repeated here. The post below was written in January. I will certainly post to this blog again in the future, maybe some composites of finished projects while in lockdown, or, certainly, when the need for daily posts has past, returning here to my usual project-based posts.

In the meantime, here's a post I prepared in a less troubled time, three months ago!
I was making this one over the holiday period between Christmas and early January, on the last piece of gingham I had bought more than a year ago to make aprons. It needed a heavy thread to get decent coverage. I had a good supply of ecru thread in perle 5, but not much red. 

 I began on the pockets, using ecru thread and working crosses on all the ecru squares using running stitch up, down and across the diagonals, then whipping the diamond section.The second pocket I worked with similar technique but on the mixed red-ecru squares, leaving the whipping.

Along the bottom I worked a chain stitch diamond border.

Introducing colour into the bodice, was, I think, a mistake when I didn't have red thread. The pink didn't quite pop, but I was not going to undo it.

When Create in Stitch opened again after the holiday break,  I made a bee-line and bought a supply of red perle 5.

I used it first to whip the diamond on the second pocket,

then to work an edge below the bodice.

It helped. The impact would have been stronger, I think, with red in place of the pink, but it does have its own charm. It is such a lot of fun experimenting with chicken scratch. The effects are pretty much limitless. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Quilt repair

I have been on my annual jaunt to England for the Crewel Work Company's Embroidery Retreat. Now back in Adelaide, I am in self-isolation for  14 days, and catching up. If anyone wants to read of my retreat experience and associated travels, you can do so at I am continuing that blog while in isolation.

Back to the Quilt
The quilt I made in 2014, from paper-pieced hexies from fabric left-over from sewing projects dating back to the 1960s, has been in use on my bed each winter since then.

However, when I had it cleaned two years ago, the dry-cleaner pointed out that the wadding had begun to leak through the machine stitching rows on the plain black borders. The shedding wasn't too bad but after that I washed it myself, rather than having it dry-cleaned.  At the end of last winter, however I decided to cover the black borders with more hexies.

I had some spare 2" fabric squares left from the project, and a few papers. Over Summer I slowly created hexies to add to the quilt. I figured I needed about 160 extra coloured 'flowers' and maybe 90 extra black ones.

As I began to applique the completed hexies, I realised I could get away with only adding the coloured ones. The black background on to which I was appliqueing was sufficiently covered by the coloured hexies not to leak further - especially if I added in the purple and red centres where the black hexies would have gone.

I was constructing the hexies in horizontal rows. I had made black hexies for a couple of rows, so used those, but after that reverted to simply adding the coloureds.

It is cumbersome work, but effective. The quilt is looking better already.

Because of the need to pin the hexies, and the awkwardness of size, The pincushion necklace that Niamh made me for my birthday has come into its own - so much easier to have the pin cushion always around my neck!

I got, I think, 82 hexies done and attached before running out of already cut fabric. At this point I decided to call a halt for a bit. I had covered two sides and part of the third.

When I arrived home from England last week, I quickly decided it was time to swap my summer quilt for my winter quilt, to it is now on my bed.

My plan now is to construct the remaining hexies (about 78) and add them in batches.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Sari bag therapy - resolution busting.

On 7 January at a Guild gathering, I talked about my use of drawstring bags for gift wrapping and the bags I had just made from a kimono jacket. In the past I have bought 'sari scraps' to make bags, but as my old source of sari scraps has dried up, I proclaimed to the Guild group that I was resolved in future to use up my fabric stash in replenishing my bag supply. My quick online search for 'sari scraps' had returned only resellers in Australia or USA and I certainly have a good supply of cotton and other fabric I could use up.

When I got home I did a final search online, this time using 'remnants' instead of 'scraps'. Before I went to bed I had ordered three bundles of sari remnants from The Purana Bazaar. Two days later they had arrived. 25 substantial pieces of vintage sari.

Such deliciousness!
cut out bags

On 11 January I cut out 85 bags - large to medium size and stitched up 10 of them before going away for a few days on 12 January.

On my return, I stitched up 10-20 bags each day. I am using a stool to sit at my machine - good for my back, but hard, so I limit myself to about an hour at a time.  Once stitched, I have a box of ribbons and other cords to sort through to find the right draw-string. Most of these bags are made from a single piece folded, so I fold over a hem at the top and undo the side-seam to insert the cord. These have only one drawstring. If the bag has two side seams I use two cords.  This means I can often knot the ends together rather than adding a stop.

Some pieces need a repair. The silk had split on this piece, so I added a piece of bias binding to hold the cord.

I used the cord and ribbon I had - but also bought a new supply as I was running too low to complete this batch.

When the cords are in, I dive into my collection of buttons, single earrings, broken jewellery and beads to find suitable cord stops. It's satisfying work and a lot of fun. I also repaired a few bags that have have come back to me in the recycling process.

These are a few of the beads, buttons and bits that I used to stop the drawstrings disappearing into the hems.

I added a few extra bags from stash fabric.  With the Japanese kimono fabric , the sari remnants , stash bits and ribbon purchase, I made 128 bags at a cost of about $A1.06 per bag. I now have a goodly supply for the next year or two!

I love recycling!


Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Another chicken scratch apron

I was well and truly on a roll with chicken scratch aprons. The other two pieces of fabric I had were both ginghams - one in dark blue and one in a dark red. Both had an ecru rather than white contrast.

I cut both of them out to the same template as the previous one. I began stitching the blue pockets with stars, using perle 8 thread.

While I was pleased with the effect, I thought I needed more thread coverage on the edge and bodice to achieve a lacy look, so I switched to a perle 5 ecru thread.

This gave me the coverage I was after and I could work it in rows of running stitch - first one diagonal, then the other, then verticals and horizontals.

It's rythmic and easy work, but you need to be very careful with tension.

I worked a dense pattern with an embedded  diamond shape on the bodice

and an outline pattern around the hemline.

I then decided the bodice needed an outline in dark blue. I had no dark blue in perle 5, and all local shops that sold perle 5 were closed for Christmas-New Year, so I used the perle 8 in a close pattern.

I was very pleased with this result.

I had no particular recipient in mind, but one of my stitching buddies, who also loves cooking, fell in love with it, so I was delighted to give it to her.

She agreed to model it, provided I didn't show her face!

Monday, February 3, 2020

Shadow Box Class

Late last year the Embroiderers' Guild of SA offered a two day class with Christine Bishop to populate a Shadow Box with a needle-case,  scissors, pincushion and needle threader. I wasn't convinced I needed another box in my workspace, but I did like the box, the embroidery and concept. I could also see that something solid to hold embroidery necessities might mean they were always in the same place - and there's sense in that. I notice Christine is teaching this project at Beating Around the Bush this year.

It was a fun class, over two Sundays. A great group of enthusiastic embroiderers . I knew when I enrolled that I would only be able to attend for half the second Sunday, as I had a subscription concert. Christine was OK with this, so I went ahead.

We got to choose our box, which Christine had had made for us - there was a choice of white, red or blue. I chose the blue.

We began stitching the needle book, Christine demonstrating the stitches to get us started and then more or less on demand. We began with Rococo stitch - new to me. It took me a while to get the hang of the way the stitches fit together. Once I did, I was hooked. I hope I can use it again.

Because I knew I would miss the last few hours of the second day, I put in quite a bit of time between classes to finish as much stitching as I could, so I could have some help with construction on the second morning.

Like a few others in the class, I played a bit with the designs. I altered the row of houses at the bottom of the needle book cover to a symmetrical design, so it would not matter which way the book was lying in the box. I'm going to use this, and I can see I won't be careful about how I place the book!

My strategy worked well. The kit came with a lovely piece of Liberty cotton for the lining of the needle book.  Christine went through the construction steps and I was able to complete the construction fairly quickly after the class.

The book is designed to hold needle packets. rather than loose needles. There are a few options, however, to accommodate both.

I opted to add little squares of doctor's flannel.

One of the other students embroidered quotes on the linen pockets.

I found some off-cuts of acid-free mounting board left over from a previous task

and used these to back the pin-cushion, scissor keep and holder for the needle threader.

The box made a handy holder for the bits required throughout the process!

Gay's quotations on the linen pockets gave me an idea when I realised that the back of the needle book was blank.

I embroidered a paraphrased version of Philippians 4:8. This is a principle I try to live by and a mantra that helps to keep depression at bay in the face of so much bad news. It will be reassuring to have it always there when I am stitching.

It took a little bit of adjustment to get the small pieces fitting snuggly as the spaces are not the same size - but it was not a drama.

The scissor keep is designed to fit Kelmscot Little Gems scissors.

I found an online Australian supplier, StitchWOT and ordered both blue and red. In the end I used the red.  I experimented with a few needle threaders and eventually added this little bird with a threader beak. It has the advantage of a hole that accommodates a cord. I reckon an unattached needle threader is not going to survive my use!

Altogether this has been a thoroughly enjoyable project. It had a few mild challenges, looks good and will be a tool set that does not leave my coffee table - so always there when I need it.

What more could I want?