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Friday, December 7, 2018

More Estense


In August I did another Estense class with Christine Bishop at the Embroiderers' Guild. I had enjoyed the Certificate Course workshop so much, and gained so much from it, that I wanted more.







We met over a Saturday and Sunday, about ten of us, all engaged and eager.

The project was a pin-cushion, with an option for enlarging it to a cushion.

It is in the lovely, rich colours of the tiles of the Ferrara region of Italy.





We made good progress in class, and I went home and worked on in the evenings. It is mesmerising and the combination of counted and drawn thread work very engaging.














I decided against a pincushion and in favour of another jewellery pouch.

I blocked it first








then folded the linen to form a pocket, lined it in silk and inserted a zip.


I have a string of pearls with a chunk of coral on the end.  The silk lining will keep pearls' lustre and the red centre of the pouch will remind me of the coral - helping me to remember what is stored inside.











A lot of fun, some learning, convivial company and a useful and beautiful item.






Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Embroidered shirt

I recently bought this purple cotton shirt from Dare2BStylish - a US company whose tops I really like. I have a wardrobe full of them, mostly synthetic. They are colourful, great for travelling and for daily wear in the ‘between’ seasons in Australia. For Summer, however, only cotton really works. I thought I’d try this cotton shirt in fabulous purple.

When it arrived, I saw immediately that I could embroider it. Within four minutes of opening the package I was hunting through my storage cupboard for some old iron-on transfers I knew I had somewhere. They turned up in a plastic container full of old patterns, carefully stored in plastic sleeves labelled things like ‘children’s’, ‘hats’, ‘gloves’.
The transfers I chose first were blue, which I thought might not work too well on purple. I then chose a spray of flamboyant yellow which I thought would be clearer on the purple.

I was wrong. The blue worked well - the yellow sank into the fabric and I needed to go over it with a chalk pencil! Consequently I worked these sprays first, to get as much done as I could while the chalk lasted. I used some perle cotton overdyed by the Embroiderers' Guild.









Above these sprays, on either side, I worked a simple spray of lazy daisies in 3 strands of stranded cotton.

















At the bottom, I added a couple of budgerigars. These were transfers I got in a women's magazine more than 50 years ago!




I looked at lots of photos of budgerigars and decided on one blue-grey and one green-yellow.











I wanted to wear this top to a birthday party last weekend. That gave me about 9 days to finish the embroidery. I finished 45 minutes before I needed to leave home for the party! I then had to iron it (as you can tell, I took the photos before I did that!)



I do think I've gone a bit mad - but I'm pleased with the result!





Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Running Hare and Chair



I've been up and running on covering my chair with crewel work. Sarah, from Comfort Works, offered me $75A to have the cover altered to the right length. I appreciated the offer, but decided I didn't want the hassle of finding someone to do it, taking the cover there etc. So I set to work and altered it myself - just turning up the hem about 2" and running it around on the machine.


It's now fine. I've also been trying out bits of finished crewel on it.

I also got out the Crewel Work Company's Running Hare which I've had for a couple of years, and got to work. 

It proved lovely to stitch and worked up quickly.



The colours are inspired. I am not so good on colour, and would not have thought to put these together.








I couldn't resist trying it on the chair at the last hoop change!









It might have been better to start with the hillock, rather than finish - it wasn't easy to get the hoop smooth over the existing stitching!










Nevertheless, I finished - a lot of enjoyment, and another raggy piece to show for my effort.









 Before long, however, it was looking much better. I also blocked the crewel work sampler from the 2017 Retreat







Then came the tricky bit - stitching it on to the chair cover. It's coming along.

I have ordered a Jacobean Stag kit to go on the left of the inside. I think I will have to get some extra pieces of linen twill to fill in the gaps between the pieces - but I'll wait and see when it is further advanced.

Obsessed is again the word. I also ordered the two fire screen panels to put on the back of this chair. It's a bit mad, I think - but I'm going to really enjoy doing it!

And I really do NOT need any more cushions (nor, unfortunately, fire screens!).

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Jacobean Medley finish


It's about three weeks since I last posted about the Jacobean Medley from Beating Around the Bush.

I soon finished what was in my hoop at the end of that post.













I then moved the hoop for the last time.












Here's the finished piece - crumpled and crinkled from the hoop.













I couldn't wait to block it - on  a towel on the carpet overnight.


It is so rewarding to see the smooth piece emerge from what looks like a rag!



 I had been giving a lot of thought to what to do with this. My original intention was to make just one more giant cushion, but I realised this was not big enough for what I had in mind, so I mulled it over - and had an idea.

I have a small Ikea Solsta Olarp bucket chair in my sewing room. It occurred to me that I might be able to add some crewel work to it. I already have an embroidered Ikea chair - with Alison Snepp's  Skyros men, but it isn't the same model.

The Solsta Olarp chair did not have a loose cover. Ikea did not supply one for this chair. To add embroidery, I really need a loose cover. It is too difficult to stitch onto the chair itself - and too hard to clean.

I discovered two companies that make loose covers for Ikea chairs, including the little Solsta Olarp. After some hesitation and investigation, I ordered a cover, in Panama Cotton, from Comfort Works in the USA.

The cover arrived - very efficiently - yesterday. I couldn't wait to unpack it, test my embroidery against it, and try it on the chair.

The cover is beautifully made and the fabric lovely. Comfort Works have followed up with emails to make sure it meets my requirements. That’s impressive!

I had a bit of trouble fitting the cover over the chair. It is, of necessity, a tight fit. It is a trifle long. I'm wondering if I should try to get slightly longer screw-in legs. It would be neater if about 3cm shorter. I could also just turn it up a little. Comfort Works are looking into it.








I pinned and machine-stitched the Jacobean Medley panel to the seat cushion cover.







I needed to tighten it a little at the top - easier for me by hand.


I have plans to cover the rest of it with crewel work. I'm already working on the Running Hare panel to put on the inside right. I have a couple of small pieces I am also playing with. A friend is shocked that I will allow anyone to sit on the embroidery. No worse, in my view than putting feet on an embroidered footstool!

I have a feeling I am going to be a customer of The Crewel Work Company for quite a while before I am finished with this chair!



Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Jewellery bags from scraps



A couple of months ago I was on a roll - or is it a binge?- with bags for storing jewellery.  After making the blue linen into a bag with Zakka embroidery, I had quite a few odd bits of the quite lovely linen left over, along with some of the gold silk lining, so decided to turn the left-overs into more small jewellery bags.











The first one is tiny - good for a pendant, or earrings. It is not evenly cut - and I quite like it for that







The Zakka had worked so well I decided to try some motifs from Karen Holmburg’s book of Scandinavian Stitchcraft I had recently purchased.

The thread is the remains of the silk from the Gift of Stitching kit I used for the Zakka bag, supplemented by a hank of red silk I had from my daughter's gift last year of monthly surprise thread packs from Stitchy Box.

In addition to the tiny snowbells pouch, I made a drawstring bag, with a silk cord on the outside





I added a tassel and a needle-lace button (using a scrap of the linen as a base).

There was still some linen left so I fashioned a folding pouch in three sections, lined with silk and folded.


With the last strip I made an of even smaller folded pouch for pearl earrings.










This was a productive way of trying out the motifs and stitches in Stitchcraft: Scandinavian Embroidery, using every bit of this lovely hand-dyed linen, and yielding several useful bags for storing my jewellery.



Sunday, October 21, 2018

Jacobean Medley with Phillipa Turnbull at BATB

Two weeks ago I spent three enchanted days stitching crewel with a twenty other women at Beating Around the Bush. 

When the BATB program came out, I expected to be away for the first week of the event, so I booked into Phillipa Turnbull's Crewel work class for the last three days, when I expected to be back in Adelaide.

In the end I didn't go away for that week, but with the Guild Exhibition on, I'm glad I didn't try to fit in more!


Beating Around the Bush is a very different experience from a small group embroidery retreat. BATB is a chance to be part of a big group of people who come for a wide range of embroidery experiences. It shows the range of embroidery interests, from stumpwork to Solerosom, crazy patchwork, Japanese beading, crewel work, tambour and more.

Each teacher is free to set up their room with their work - including kits and other supporting bits to sell, On the first evening of my three-day class time was provided to visit other classrooms to look and buy.

Although I have travelled with Phillipa on her first Scottish Highlands Tour,  have attended two of her retreats, and booked into another one,  I have only been able to experience her teaching in a couple of two hour blocks. This was a chance to spend three whole days learning from her as an embroidery teacher.

I'm so glad I did.


Our project was A Jacobean Medley, an elegant design with a good variety of crewel stitches.  Philippa is a really good teacher. She is clear and explicit in her instructions. My technique noticeably improves from working with her. Her knowledge and skill come from years of closely examining examples of extant historical crewel work and working out exactly how they were made - down to needle angles, order and short-cuts. Not content with analysis, she practises and perfects the physical execution to ensure a comparable result. She observes and corrects posture & handling techniques in the pleasantest possible way.

I also really like the business model of The Crewel Work Company - the partnerships with museums & private collections. It is respectful, educational and ensures we understand and honour our history. It's why I go back and back.


Most teachers have their preferred hoop or frame. Phillipa works with and sells a seated hoop of the stalk variety- the same model used by the RSN when I was there. I too prefer a sit-on hoop. Mine is (I think!) a 7-8 year old Lacis one. I also have a Nurge seated frame - great for arm adjustment, but the clamp is a bit limited.

The screw holding the stem into my Lacis stand has worked loose in recent years. Tape on the wooden screw has been a fix for a while, but the problem, I suspect, is wear on the thread in the stem of the stand.

When this began to impact my work, I swapped to Phillipa's version. The screw on this one is hardened plastic, which I suspect will hold longer than the wooden version. In any case, it worked brilliantly to hold my work firm - and is continuing to do so as I finish it at home.


The best thing about BATB is the range of students (mostly women). While I recognised several members of my Guild, there are lots of overseas visitors - and a huge number of women from country towns in Australia. I met  three Victorian women whose husbands had initiated the visit - they were off exploring the Flinders Ranges while the women were at BATB.

In our class of 19 there were 3 women from Melbourne, 3 from Canberra, 2 from Sydney, 2 from Adelaide, 1 each from Tallangatta, Sale, Wangaratta, Rockhampton, Ravensthorpe, Young, New Zealand, Huston, Texas and (I think)  Gidgegannup.




And yes, I have been working steadily on my piece since the class finished. I haven't finished yet, but am making good progress - and I have an idea for using the final product, along with other crewel pieces I have, including a couple not yet stitched.

I am being reminded of how soothing and satisfying crewel work is - especially its capacity to absorb error and enable corrective work over the top rather than by unpicking! It blends and smooths.

There will be more on this as I progress!  It's a great privilege, and a lot of fun,  to be able to participate in this class in my home town.

I might even join the Guild's Crewel Work group!