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Monday, March 27, 2017

Red, Red, Robin Panel 8: Singin' a Song

Panel 8 is one of few words. I decided  'singin' a song' deserved its own panel. While the last panel  seeks to capture many of the activities I enjoyed as a child, I felt that singing deserved a panel of its own. My childhood was full of singing - both my parents sang as they went about their work, we sang around my grandparents' pianola, we sang at school and church. Even on those lunchtimes at Primary School when it rained and we were confined to eat in a classroom, we entertained ourselves by singing popular songs. My mother had two Hawaiian guitars she sometimes played and my father joined in with a paper and comb. This panel is a tribute to those times.

This is the panel on which I experimented with needle felting before I even began stitching the first panel! I happened to have some red roving, and couldn't resist temptation. So when I finally got to this panel, I thought I should keep going and needle-felt the whole bird. I'm not sure what this means for cleaning the quilt, but I figure I will  probably have it dry cleaned, so hopefully it will survive.
Of course, I had no black or white roving so set off to Spotlight and bought a bag of undyed roving in black and white and set about felting it into position.

It is a lot quicker than stitching!

The rest of the panel, however, made up for the time I saved. I began by adding a church choir.
and followed this up with a version of my high school choral group.

My mother would not be flattered by my version of her playing the guitar. My choice of variegated thread (to hand rather than carefully selected)along with my over-enthusiastic black French knots, has her resembling a clown.

The group around the pianola was a little more successful. I quilted the spaces in between with some musical notes.

I have continued to use the heavy stitching to quilt the borders and have stitched around the outside of the robin to create an outline on the back.

I really enjoyed stitching this one - it was a creative challenge and I'm pleased with the overall look.

I have been working on the last panel while I've been travelling in the UK. I hope to have it finished and the account posted before I leave for home next weekend.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Red Robin Panel 7: I'm just a kid again, doin' what I did again

Panel 7 is a a female robin and I worked it once again in stem stitch. The orange is true to the colour rather than the pink! This is also one of the smallest of the robin panels.
When I first conceived these panels, this was one of the first that I knew how I'd approach. I wanted it to reflect the activities that occupied my time as a child.

  playing quoits, swimming, reading

skipping, playing ball and Jacks (knucklebones in some cultures)

riding my tricycle and going to high school in my brown uniform carrying a briefcase.

The bird is completely our of proportion to the little figures - but I think that's part of the metaphor of this story.

I have continued backing the squares with the batik stripe and quilting the edges in a bold running stitch, now using six strands of variegated thread.

I'm very happy with this panel.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Red Robin Panel 6: Rain May Glisten

I am currently in the England, in the Lakes District, to attend the Spring Residential with The Crewelwork Company. I have set up a travel blog where I will be writing about the Residential. Interested readers are welcome to visit the travel blog.
In the wake of the reverse applique work of the African Tribal Inspired workshop from the Embroiderers' Guild Summer School, I thought I'd have a go at reverse appliqueing a robin. I tried it with a male bird which has simpler whole colours rather than the varied browns of the female.
I began by adding a layer of black cotton to the back of a panel. It was already backed in white sheeting, so that became the middle layer

The red layer I inserted from the front after cutting out the whole of the basic robin shape. It required rather a lot of pins to hold the layers in place and to catch on my thread as I stitched - but it worked.

I could then embroider the bird with feathery stitches and add some greenery. This time I decided on a flowering gum.

The size of the robin, is, of course, out of proportion to the leaves. This might be a pre-historic giant ancestor of the modern Scarlet Robin.

I used Ghiordes knots for the blossom.

For the glistening rain I found a metallic in pale, watery colours. Here is the singer of the song, sitting under her umbrella listening 'for hours and hours'.

The metallic doesn't show up well in photographs - but it does glisten!
Here's the total panel. You can see that the central robin panel is smaller for this one than most of the others. This is just the way it came from the Guild and will make, I think, the finished quilt quite interesting.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Red, Red Robin Panel 5: What if I've been blue, still I'm walking through fields of flower
I thought the lovely blue on this panel was most appropriate for the next line in the song. I considered a range of cottage garden options for the panel, but settled on using a photograph of Western Australian wildflowers as inspiration. The photo comes from Ross Tours.
I'm working on alternating the male and female robins from panel to panel. This one is a female. I had to go and buy more stranded thread in browns and greys - it's not a colour range I have used extensively and I need variegations for the female robin.
She really stands out against the blues.
My goal was to get the sense of the WA field of flowers without totally covering the blue background

I used a wider range of pinks than the photo and included fewer stems but kept the perspective of larger foreground and smaller background flowers.

There is a little person walking through the field.

The orange edging really helps.

I have moved from using machine thread to hand-quilt the panel borders to using three strands of variegated stranded cotton. I rather like the effect. Its more Japanese chiku-chiku and less Kantha.

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!