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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!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Aviarius: Red, Red Robin: from one extreme to the other.

I've been incubating this project for about 3 weeks. As it will take up a bit of  2017 stitching time, a New Year's Eve introduction seems appropriate.
Each August the Embroiderers' Guild of SA participates in the SALA (South Australian Living Arts) Festival. In 2017 our theme is Aviarius - birds. The Guild has prepared some fabric blocks that members can buy, embroider, and submit for our SALA Exhibition. The fabric blocks are hand-dyed and feature either a seagull, a wren, a robin or a group of bird shapes.
At the time I bought my blocks there were only seagulls and robins available. I chose one of each. I could immediately see what I would do with the seagull, but the robin had me stumped. I could only see Christmas cards. I'd have preferred a cockatoo, magpie, kookaburra or galah.                                                                                                                                                    

Eventually I began to think of other contexts for robins and hit upon songs, which led me to When the red, red, robin comes bob, bob, bobbin' along. The more I considered it, the more excited I became.  It is still, or course, not Australian. It does, however, have a history, is well known, open to interpretation and above all, optimistic. I could see possibilities for telling a story.
The next day I went to the Guild and bought 7 more robin blocks - all that were available - and one group block.
I backed each of these with wadding and a piece of old, soft sheeting. I couldn't resist experimenting with one of them using some wool roving and felting needles.
In the meantime, I went back to Batik Fabrics Online and ordered some amazing striped batik that was at that time available in 270cm widths. I figured I could use the different stripes to mount each of my blocks.

When the fabric arrived it was breathtaking - I couldn't wait to get started.
Within two days I had cut and stitched the borders.

I then had nine blocks, ready to be embroidered with the story of the song. I was also playing around with embroidering the music and words on each block.

At this point I saw the Authentic Adelaide Exhibition at the Adelaide Town Hall. Amongst the exhibits was a quilt with a significant section of words printed on it. I came home and searched for products that would enable me to print on to fabric with transparency between the letters. This was not easy - but I found a product on eBay which sounded promising. I paid for express post.
It worked a treat. It comes with either gloss or matte sheets. The matte sheets were indeed transparent and did not leave the surface shine that the gloss ones produced.

I had to juggle the position to avoid the darker parts of the fabric.

I now have nine panels to embroider. Each one will illustrate the words on its border. At this stage I intend to back each  block with the batik fabric, quilt the borders with Kantha-style running stitch and join them with long stripes from the same fabric. This could, however, change as I progress.

I rushed to finish my knitted shawl so that I could start stitching a robin panel. It called to me! The seagull might  have to wait.

I can at least laugh at my own about-turn. One day I was grumbling about stitching one panel, 24 hours later I had 9 panels, and three and a half metres of batik fabric on the way.

Two more days and I am experimenting with printing on the fabric.

I'm in the grip of an idea.

This is a great place to be on New Year's Eve.It looks as if  that large Exhibition bag I made will be put to use in 2017!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Smocked Nightdresses

Christmas was almost upon me this year before it registered that I had not made the nightdresses that I usually make for my granddaughters for Christmas. A hurried search of my stash retrieved the liberty cottons I had purchased at some point in the last year for this purpose and I got to work.
The only dilemma was sizing. I can now almost cut out and pleat the fabric on autopilot. I smocked both the fronts and the backs of both, using different colours so the girls can easily tell which is meant to be the back and which the front.  Unfortunately, I did not take many photos.
Fortunately, my sizing was within range - a little on the large side but not unwearably so - guaranteeing a couple of years usage. The girls were well pleased with them.                                                                                                                               In the excitement of Christmas Day I forgot to take photos. Suffice it to say they looked great!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Graceful Shawl

Earlier this year my lovely brother visited Peru and bought me back ten balls of baby alpaca wool - two each of five colours. It is beautifully soft. 
The Graceful from Shawls and Scarves
I wanted to make something that used all or most of the yarn so had a bit of a hunt through my pattern books and magazines. I tried a scarf using drop stitch but thought I would continuously catch my fingers in it so unravelled it. I settled in the end for a pattern called "The Graceful" in a Knitting Magazine collection of patterns for shawls and scarves
It is very easy knitting - my brain just needed to be in gear to design the stripes as I knitted and to remember to leave a loop at each end of a row to create the fringe. I missed quite a few of the fringe loops and had to add them at the end.

the white on the left is the waste thread.

The shawl is knitted as a large rectangle. In the centre you make the split for the fronts by using a waste thread, which you remove at the end and finish as an edge.

An advantage of the design is that you know exactly how much wool you have used at the half-way mark.

 As I had two balls of each colour, I adjusted the first half to use one ball of each colour - with the exception of red. A little red went a long way in terms of design.

It was a slow, but easy task to remove the waste thread and knit an edge around the split.
When completed you fold in half and stitch up the lower part of each side - forming arm holes. The result is more of a loose shrug than a shawl.

I finished with the best part of a ball of red and the tiny bit of brown and dark grey.

Knotting the fringe took quite a few hours - quite soothing work.
This is, of course, of no use at all at the moment where we have begun 4 days of temperatures over 95 Fahrenheit - including a predicted 105 on Christmas Day. I did however, want to finish it in the year the wool was given to me.                                                                                                     It is also not shown at its best over my pink tshirt, but I couldn't wait to try it. It is marvellously soft, warm and very cheerful - just the thing for winter. It will remind me of our warm Christmas every time I wear it.                                                      Joy to the World