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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! 

Monday, April 9, 2018

More zenbroidery

The zenbroidery piece I have been working on while travelling is the third piece I have worked. The first was a mandala. The second is the one below.

When I finished my Christmas cushions, I wanted a no-pressure project that I could pick up and put down over the Christmas period. I reached for another of the zenbroidery pieces in my stash - along with one of the cotton thread packs I had originally purchased from Herrschners ( more recently I have bought them in Australia through the Fox Collection).

This design presented more dilemmas than my previous mandala because there was potentially more white space. As the mandala was in quite narrow rings, there were fewer choices of whether to fill or not to fill.

I began roughly in the centre with some of the spirals, and left quite a lot of space.

These designs are  great for experimenting with stitches. The spirals lent themselves to running stitch in the Kantha style. I used star stitch on many of the centres and quite a bit of stem stitch.

I worked out colour as I went, once again, grading through the rainbow from the centre out. As I went, I experimented with leaving white and filling it in. By the end I had pretty much filled it all.

I find these great fun to stitch. I love making it up as I go along, trying things out, adjusting, adapting. It really IS colouring with thread - with the extra pleasure of playing with stitches.

Because I worked this on holidays over Christmas, mostly in my hand, with only the occasional use of a hoop for tricky stitches, it needed blocking. My intention was to turn it into a bag. I tried therefore to square it up by blocking.

This worked well, so I found a lining fabric and zip. I really like the look of this. The thread is from China and I enjoyed working with it. It is perle, soft and pleasant to work with- very little tangling, no shredding and wonderful colours.

I folded it in half, sewed up the sides and added a zip. It makes a lovely gift. I'm glad I filled in
most of the white background with colour and texture. The resulting pouch  is a useful size for a pencil case or small tools.

I have given it as a gift to a cousin. It's handy and not readily lost.

I've been working another, slightly larger, while travelling.

I like the thread, the colours, the patterns - and the leeway to make your own emphasis and colourways.

I can see myself making more of these.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Opus Anglicanum finish: Mary

This is where I left Mary at the end of the Opus Anglicanum class in January.  Since then I have managed to work my way through a piece of canvas work, preparatory to the March Retreat in the English Lakes District, finish the Australian Bush piece . and the acorn and horse from Opus Anglicanum.

So now for Mary. It seems appropriate to be posting this from Windermere, on my embroidery retreat. Details of how that is going can be found on my travel blog.

    Regretfully, I did not take photos of the face in progress. It looked more like a skull for much of the time. My granddaughters had many questions about the veil - why did she have white hair? why would Mary wear a veil? why would you wear a veil under a crown?

I have surprised myself by thoroughly enjoying working with one strand of silk. That, however, came to an end and there was no way out of completing the goldwork!

I'm very pleased that I had finished the crown at home during the course. This meant I only had the cloak/shawl to finish. It took a few hours and I tried hard to improve the stitch as I went along.

In deference to my granddaughters, I also added rather more hair than the original had - in order to make it clear that the white bit was a veil.

Again, I had been giving thought to how I might use this piece. I still had one box with a magnetic base for storing needles and the embroidery space on the lid was perfect.

So here she is, guarding (blessing?) the needles. She will make a nice gift for someone.

Thanks again to Alison Cole and my fellow students!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Dorothy Wordsworth's Post bag

I am posting this from Adelaide Airport, about to undertake the first leg of my journey to London, from where I will  once again travel to Windermere, in the English Lakes District, to attend another of the Lady Ann's Needlework Spring Retreats organised by Phillipa Turnbull. When I attended last year's Retreat I had no intention of travelling to England again this year. It was, however, such a great experience and such a great group of people, that I, and most of my fellow students, decided to return in 2018.

When I returned home in mid-January from a beach holiday, there was a parcel waiting for me. It was canvas, wool and a pattern for Dorothy Wordsworth's Postbag, which we had viewed at the Wordsworth Museum in March 2017. Phillipa was inviting us to make something based on the bag in advance of the Retreat. She had also organised for the results to be displayed at the Museum towards the end of our Retreat.

I was mildly panicked.The next day I was to begin the first of my two Summer Week classes at the Embroiderers' Guild and I had an unfinished project from my beach holiday.  As a fanatical finisher, I was even more panicked at the end of my Summer School Classes.

Even though I have published blog posts on the Summer Week Classes, I prioritised Dorothy Wordsworth's bag over finishing those projects. I have been working on this in the background and only returned to Opus Anglicanum and Australian Bush once I had finished the work on this bag.

The story, however, has had to wait a bit to be told.

So panicked was I, that I began work immediately, using only the notes that came in the package. I decided, however, to approach it differently to Phillipa's suggestion.

The original bag is roughly A4 size. If I reproduced that size I would need to back the bag with something.  I decided instead to make the piece longer, so I could fold it in half to make a smaller bag embroidered on both sides.

I began by embroidering a set of diagonal lines delineating the different colours in the original.

I initially used cross-stitch in a single thread on the diagonals but soon decided that the coverage was a bit thin, and that cross-stitch was going to take me too long. After some experimenting, I settled for tent stitch using a double thread.

Once I had the diagonals in place I began to add the skeletons of the little trees, using a silk thread in my needle along with the two strands of wool.  This was a bit tricky, but I got into a rhythm of pulling the wool into place before pulling the silk into place - not perfect, but allowing the silk to dominate.

I completed a corner to make sure it was going to work. I  used the dark red and dark blue as my backgrounds, rather than their lighter versions - hoping I had enough thread.

I then went ahead and outlined the whole piece, filling in the tree skeletons.

It was about at this point that I got a link to Phillipa's tutorial . If I had waited, I may well have, as Phillipa suggests, started in the middle and worked out, working the skeletons in wool first, using the silk to form a cross over the wool stitch!

As it was I was too far in where Angels fear to tread!

I  kept going.

By now my panic had subsided and I was having fun. I had forgotten how addictive canvas work can be. This is especially so when the pattern repeats itself as it does here. I love being able to work from an outline without referring to a pattern.

While I am telling this story in a single blog post, it took me about three weeks of not doing much else to finish the embroidery. I'm very grateful to my family and friends at the Embroiderers' Guild who encourage me and dampened the panic!

The thread in the needle in the canvas is all I had left of the dark blue!

My stash yielded several options for lining fabric, but this printed linen seemed the natural choice.

A maroon zip, side seams and a neat, useful bag emerged.
The finished bag was slightly twisted, so I blocked it. It took a while to dry.
The bag has, of course, one side where the trees face the zip and one facing the other way. That's fine by me. There are inconsistencies and imperfections in my stitching. That's also OK by me. I'm not after perfection - but serviceability, harmony & tribute to Dorothy Wordsworth.

I really like the result. It will be useful and I'm happy to share it with my fellow students and the Wordsworth Museum. It is safely packed in my suitcase which is now booked all the way to London.

I will continue to post to this blog while I'm away but most of my travel adventures, for anyone interested, will be found at The first post should be there within 7 hours of this post.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Australian Bush finish

This is where I left the Australian Bush project at the end of the class in Summer Week at the Embroiderers' Guild. I had added one gold leaf in Alison's double sided brick stitch.

I decided against adding more leaves worked the same way. It's a great technique, and I can see myself using it again, but I did not want to invest the time at the moment on this project.

I used a bit of the left-over dyed silk to make a couple more gum leaves.

I then visited the very peaceful spot where Jim's ashes are buried under a flowering gum and collected a few of the leaves and a couple of the gum nuts. I came home and painted them with gold glitter paint and attached them to the piece. Jim always liked to be included in my embroidery projects!

I was reluctant to put this behind glass and hang on my wall. I am not keen on hanging much embroidery, especially behind glass. I hit on the idea of hanging it in a hoop.

I had a conversation with the helpful staff at Create in Stitch and purchased a wide-edged Nurge hoop.
On their suggestion I mounted the piece on the inside of the hoop, rather than having the embroidered surface flush with the frame.

I have added a removable hook to my front door and, for the moment, this hangs as a welcome to guests. This isn't a long-term solution, but I'm not sure this is a long-term piece.

For the moment it is welcoming ,a reminder of a very enjoyable class and a bit of a tribute to Australian flora and fauna.