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Saturday, May 5, 2018

Estense Embroidery - Certificate Course Workshop.

This post arises from an Embroiderers' Guild of South Australia Certificate Workshop taken by Christine Bishop in January of this year. These monthly workshops are primarily for those enrolled in the Certificate Course, but any Guild member can attend. Those enrolled naturally get the first call on the teacher's time.

Estense embroidery hails from the Ferrara region of Italy and is based on the Graffito ceramics of that region in the Renaissance period. It has been documented and popularised by Elisabetta Holtzer, first in a 2007 book, now out of print, Ricamo Estense, which did have English translation by Jeanine Robertson, and then in a 2014 manual, Il manuale completo del ricamo estense which has only Italian text.

Christine had adapted a couple of designs for us to work on linen. I worked on a stylised flower and a leaf. The colours and designs are both from the Ferrarese ceramics. The embroidery uses a limited range of stitches, with the drawn thread work typically inside the surface stitchery.

It was lovely to work and I continued to play with it long after the class. I didn't write about it sooner, because I wanted to do more of it, and to turn my piece of linen into something usable.

On an impulse I took it to England with me and found it worked well as a pick-up/put down project. I found the level of concentration worked well to take my mind of time passing and focus on the stitch.

I worked a flower and two leaves, then folded the linen to form a small bag and hand-stitched the back and bottom seams.

I then folded a hem at the top and worked drawn thread eyelets to hold the hem and take a drawstring.

I made a twisted cord drawstring, When I got home I ironed it, and voila, a pretty little linen bag.

Christine is offering a two-day class in Estense Embroidery at the Guild in August, available to  both members and non-members. I have enrolled!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Wattle scarf

I have. over the last seven years since doing an Ottoman Scarf class with Alison Snepp, embroidered a number of scarves. Most of these were Raffal scarves, purchased as a follow-up to Alison's class. They are woven in India from Australian wool. The Raffal story is worth reading, a successful business established by one woman using the expertise she gained from working for the Australian Wool Board, utilising Australia's fine merino and the expertise of Indian weavers.

I am not sure if Raffal are still making perfectly plain scarves, but I had a couple left from my earlier purchase, and wanted to embroider one of them as a gift for a cousin who had kindly invited me to stay during my recent trip to England. I purchased scarves in colours that reflected the Australian bush, so chose a green one, sketched out some wattle branches and got to work.

It is a little tricky embroidering on these soft, open weave scarves. They resemble original Turkish bath towels - which is why Alison Snepp chose them for her original Ottoman scarf design. This means, however, you need to take great care in stitching, not to separate the fibres.



You also need to take care that the back is fairly neat - as scarves don't sit obligingly on one side. These considerations limit the stitches you can use.

I limited myself to French knots, stem stitch and fly stitch.

Rather than adding larger tassels to those already there, as I had done in the past, I added gold beads that sparkle. It's not too over-the-top but adds little glints as the scarf moves.

It worked - and is something that will get some use in England!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Stumpwork Violet RSN

I've been finishing off projects from my UK visit: I want to be ready to go to work on Nicola Jarvis's Dove Cottage sampler when it arrives back from the Wordsworth Museum Exhibition!

In the last week of my trip to England I attended a two day course at the Royal School of Needlework. As you can see, it was Easter!

It was a Stumpwork Violet and Silk Shading class  taught by Helen Jones. I chose it purely on the dates I had available and not for its content. Both Jenny Adin-Christie and Nicola Jarvis however, told me it would be a good class - and they were right.

We were located in the classroom with the square windows - the first time I have been in this room with its view over the courtyard, rather than over the grounds.

     Wherever you look at Hampton Court it is interesting and visually attractive - even if a bit shabby.

We began couching wires and embroidering leaves using stranded cotton.

Towards the end of the first day we learned the silk shading technique.I got used to the idea that 'silk shading' is being used to describe a thread painting technique in any thread, rather than shading in silk thread.

I did quite a bit of work overnight to finish the leaves of the violet so I could cut it out, plunge and assemble it the next morning. We had a bit of time on this in the morning of the second day.

Most of my fellow students sensibly chose to do the green leaf, rather than the five petals in order to have something to plunge!

I wasn't regretful, as I wanted to be as close to finishing as I could be, to avoid taking home another UFO. I managed to have the violet finished and attached by the end of the day, along with an attached stem in silk-covered purl

and the best part of a leaf. I had started, but not finished, the thread-painted violet.

Back at the hotel that night I worked to finish the piece. I finished it all, except for the beaded centre of the flower.

There was nothing I had not done before, but I learned a lot of techniques and tips. My stem to the silk flower is misplaced. I adapted to accommodate, but should probably have moved it. It remains as a reminder that
(1) violets are scraggly things and grow at odd angles
(2) I need to double check placement of purl.

Helen was a thorough, pleasant, relaxed and highly professional teacher. I benefitted - in technique, but also in enjoyment and relaxation.

It is interesting to be at the RSN classrooms, which are shabby, rambling and a bit ramshackle. You keep coming across wonderful pieces of embroidery sitting behind a makeshift display of current student work or items of interest.

It is a calm and pleasant environment in which to learn.

Once home, I found some gold pieces with which to fill the centre of the stumpwork violet. I then went searching for something on which to use it. This was not easy to find but I came up with a satin-covered box on Alison Coles' website and ordered one in green. I was very pleased with it and will, I'm sure, order more.

Mounting was pretty easy. The padded lid lifts off. I pinned the violet silk, cut it, gathered and lashed it,

It fitted quite snuggly, but I used double-sided tape to ensure it didn't dislodge

It caught Veronica's eye - so might end up with some birthday jewellery in it for her.

I'm really pleased with this result. I learned quite a lot in a really relaxed atmosphere with people who share some of my interests and finished up with an elegant, useful object to remind me of it.

What more could I ask for?

Monday, April 16, 2018

Harp Needlecase: Jenny Adin-Christie

Those who followed my travel blog in March will already know a bit about Jenny Adin-Christie’s Harp project that I and my fellow Retreaters worked on inWindermere. Jenny designed the Harp Needlecase to replicate (and improve on) one held by the Wordsworth Museum in Grasmere. The original was made by Edith Southey, the daughter of the poet Robert Southey, while staying with the Wordsworths in Dove Cottage. It is an amazing tool that we saw, and fell for, at the Wordsworth Museum in 2017.

Jenny’s work to reproduce it is extraordinary. It combines so many skills of embroidery, design and construction. Having achieved that, she patiently taught us, in tiny meticulously explicit, steps, how to make it.  Unusually, the kit for this has been made available more widely after the retreat, for anyone interested.

We began by stitching the design on silk, in both silk and gold thread.

The rod and its finial  was a lovely and enjoya
ble piece of work, completed during class.

I finished off the last of the embroidery at home late last week.

The construction began in class. It involved a bit of careful ironing,

a lot of pins, a bit of glue, and fine, delicate stitching.


I didn’t attempt the construction until I got home, had unpacked, attended to accumulated tasks and could clear an afternoon and a morning. The pinning and glueing took an afternoon. The night before I had been through the kit to re-identify and organise the many component parts, all in plastic bags carefully labelled. It would be very easy to lose something -especially while travelling. The only thing I was missing were some little pins to sit in the underside of the sound box to act as little feet. A pity, but fortunately the harp is stable without them.

Inserting the needles ( bespoke -manufactured in Japan to Jenny’s specifications) was challenging. I hadn’t expected it to take so long but the placement needed to be quite precise and I needed pliers to do it. I don’t think I will be taking them out to use on a daily basis (probably not in any basis!).

The final result took my breath away. I’m not sure, confident as I am, that I believed I could really make this. It is exquisite. I have ordered a dome to go over it. It won’t arrive until October.  I don’t usually go in for display items but this project warrants it, I think. 

How amazing is that?

Thank you so much Jenny!