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Sunday, January 30, 2011


In January 2010 I enrolled in an Embroiderers' Guild of South Australia class for Mola embroidery. Unfortunately, there were not sufficient numbers for the class to run, so I have yet to learn the technique. Mola is an applique and reverse applique technique in which layers of different coloured cloth are cut to reveal the layer beneath, and the edges stitched down. Further shapes can be appliqued on top of any layer and embroidery worked to define or embellish.

Mola is worked by the Kuna Indians of San Blas Panama. I bought some small examples from the Museum of the Native American in Washington DC. Some of these I have made into two sewing work bags.

Bag One

 Bag Two

Since making these, I have discovered Rita Smith's Mola Art and Crafts website (, and I have bought some fabulous Tshirts from there, and a molita that I hope to make into a larger bag. Rita packs and mails all over the world and keeps an eye on delivery to make sure things arrive. Her website is full of information about Mola Art and she has an excellent collection of collectable pieces.

The Tshirts are spectacular.

I have another four small molas from the Museum of the American Indian that I hope to make into another sewing bag .

I still hope to learn to stitch a mola one day!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Embroiderers' Guild of SA Summer School - Ottoman Scarf

Last week I attended a two-day class on Ottoman Embroidery taken by Alison Snepp as part of the Embroiderers' Guild of SA Summer School. The project was an embroidered wool scarf. The Summer School is held at Hosanna Heights, now an International College in the suburb of Rostrevor.

The scarves provided by Alison for the class are Australian wool woven in India by a company called Raffal. They are quite loose woven and incredibly soft. Stitch tension is a challenge. The threads are Gumnut Stars stranded silk. I got mine, as did most of the class, from Christina's Craft and Gifts on Prospect Rd in Prospect, Adelaide. She has a great range and offers mail service -

Alison's design is for a bath towel - the embroidered covering carried by the Ottomans over their arm to cover up the towel they used at the baths, which they carried underneath the cover towel.

The project uses four stitches, chain stitch, stem stitch, Bokara and Atma stitch. Atma is a couching stitch, with satin stitch beneath Bokara.

It is a bit scary, as the satin stitch looks really ugly until the couching Bokara goes over the top.

Once you get into the rhythm, it is very soothing sewing. We also learned to make little tiny tassles to add to the scarf's own dangling knotted fringe. I need to practice these more, but by the time I have done 64 to accommodate the fringe at both ends I will be very good at it!

I have finished my first motif since the class finished on Thursday. It is designed to have two motifs at each end but could be worn with only one end embroidered or only one motif at each end.

I intend to embroider the four motifs.

I really like Alison Snepp's classes and her work. Two years ago I did her class in Naxos embroidery and made the necessaire that I make very good use of for my day-to-day embroidery projects.

                                                    It is a counted-thread technique.

I have also made a chikan sachet designed by Alison for Inspirations Magazine issue 61.

I really like Alison's historical knowledge and interest, as well as her focus on India, Greece, Turkey, Uzbekistan - probably what the British used to call the East. She is a very clear and patient teacher. She has published a book of embroidery based on May Gibbs's work and The Australian and New Zealand Book of Cross Stitch and Counted Thread Embroidery. Both are out of print but I managed to get copies through Abebooks.

29 January
Three of the four motifs are almost finished. I ran out of light green and light blue thread, so visited Christina's this morning to top up. It is looking good.

7 February
Finished the scarf late yesterday afternoon. I needed to buy additional silk in four of the colours - both blues and the two goldy greens. I substituted a slightly paler blue for the Atma stitches in the berries when the original wasn't available, but compensated by using dark blue in the foundation satin stitches.

I found the tassels a bit of a discipline to make - very fiddly work. It made me think of women in Ottoman homes gathering up the little pieces of leftover silk thread and working them together. I at least had mostly thread still on the hank. As I ran out I reduced the number of colours in the tassels.  

The reason it takes so long to make each tassel is because you are wrapping it around the existing knot on the tied off ends of the scarf. A regular tassel that is attached later would be a lot faster - but less effective.   

Even the back doesn't look too bad and will not draw attention when it flips over while being worn.

I am very pleased with the final result. I'll be wearing it when the weather allows.

 Many thanks to Alison for the class, Christina's for thread help and all those who have endured my tassel making.

Monday, January 10, 2011


I have begun work on a couple of child size 8 nightdresses for a birthday present. I am using a pink polycotton batiste from Country Bumpkin, highly recommended by Monique Johnson as very washable and not needing ironing.

The pattern is Primrose Lane, Victorian Dreams for Girls, purchased from the Garden Fairies Trading Company in the USA. I must say, that, although they have a great selection of patterns, I had difficulty with delivery from them, only succeeding after I lodged a dispute with PayPal. From postings to various forums, my experience is not uncommon.


For the first nightdress I used  smocking design Emilee from  AS&E 74.

In both cases I have smocked the back as well as the front, but only embroidered the front.

This is the finished Emilee adaptation. The lace trim on the bodice and hem are from my mother's stash.


For the second nightdress I have used the smocking design suggested in the pattern, but with two extra rows added.   This one is not yet finished.


Sunday 16 January 2011
I have just finished embroidering the yoke for this second nightdress. I had hoped to do a shadow bow, but the fabric wasn't quite sheer enough, so I have used satin stitch, not my best stitch!

  If I block the smocking tonight I might be able to put the second nightdress together tomorrow.      

Wednesday 19 January.  The second nightdress is finished.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Smocked top for adult

In the Christmas period I finished a smocked top for myself. This is entirely experimental. I have some beautiful  ikat bought from Pertenunan Berdikari Handwoven Cloth Factory, JL. Dewi Sartika 42, Singaraja, Bali, Indonesia. I thought I would make some of it into a tunic top with a smocked front panel but couldn't find a pattern of exactly what I wanted.

In the end I adapted a nightdress pattern - MecoModes' Simone, which I eventually got, with some difficulty, from The Garden Fairies Trading Company in the USA. MecoModes patterns are designed by Kathy Barak of Australia, but the adult patterns are hard to come by.

I elimated the belt and neck frill and shortened it to the mid-thigh. In order to test it out, I made it in a white lose-weave heavy cotton, rather than try it on the ikat.

I have a bargello smocking pattern in mind for the ikat, but tried the first attempt with a simple colour gradation.

I think this was probably a mistake - a  pattern with more vertical interest,  would work better.

I also made a mistake setting in the sleeves by not reading the pattern carefully enough. I need to cut a curve into the back gathered section below the yoke. It is, however, quite wearable, will be useful and help me to do a better job on the ikat when I get to it.

The Christmas Result.

 This blog revisits our Christmas in photos to show the results of  bag-making and embroidery.