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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Embroiderers' Guild Summer School: Maharani's Fish Pond.

PictureThe last two days of the Summer School I attended Barbara Mullan's Kantha class to stitch a version of her Maharani's Fish Pond. Her piece (left) is about 60cm square and really beautiful. It was originally stitched, I think, for her thesis.

For the class, Barbara prepared a small version, designed to be stitched on fabric 20cmx20cm.

We had instructions to prepare the fabric and trace the design in advance of the class. I have wanted to do more of this since working on her sampler last year.

We began the class with some Kantha background, then learned some of the techniques, practising on a waste piece.

This, I admit, is not my favourite way of working. It was useful, however, in learning some of the padding techniques that can only be done at the end - when we will all be at home, away from a teacher.

This class attracted both embroiderers and quilters - so a great mix of women with different experiences and skills, from a young woman with no needlework experience at all, to highly experienced needleworkers and quilters, including Michelle Hill, who continues to write books and blogs on applique and William Morris.

I had to get my head back into the techniques and stitch arrangements for Kantha, but it didn't take long.

My stitching accuracy was initially not too good - hours of focusing played havoc with my eyes. Eventually I found a rhythm and figured which stitches I worked better in a hoop and which in my hand.

There are no fixed colours for this piece - beyond a suggested pallette, so experimentation is the order of the day. Interesting to see how differently individuals work - some unpicking when not satisfied, others (like me!) adapting as they go.

At least a couple of women will get truly beautiful products at the end.

Once I am into this, and the design begins to take shape, I am addicted. I have difficulty putting it down.  I really love the freedom to improvise and experiment with such fluid shapes and stitches.

It continuously makes me smile that the restriction to running stitch produces such freedom, variety and improvisation.

Women in various parts of the world who worked with running stitch knew a thing or two and left us a great legacy.

Since returning home I have finished stitching the figures and begun  on the background fill. I added the beginnings of a border and am letting the design take me where it will. I am finding it immensely satisfying.

Embroiderers' Guild Summer School: Beetle wing box finish

The Embroiderers' Guild Summer School ended on Sunday. I had a great time - good company, classes, food and a market.  

There is too much to tell for one post. My last two day class, Barbara Mullan's Maharani's Fish Pond, is certainly a story in its own right. I have a lot more to write about!

On the last night in residence, I finished stitching the beetle wing gold work. I will, with a bit of practice, be able to make my crouching stitches more accurate. I might even get better at cutting and shaping beetle wings!

It was a lovely piece to embroider - and well designed to teach specific techniques in a way that is both manageable and complete. 

Once home, I proceeded with the construction of the trinket box.
Not the neatest lashing in the world, but strong and firm. The panel fits perfectly into the lid (which is so black and shiny you can't see the frame in the photo below!).
I'm very pleased with my little box. Many thanks to Alison Cole for the design, the teaching, and the encouragement.

I have continued to load these blogposts from my iPad mini. This one I have edited on my computer to reduce the size of the photos and add links - neither of which can be done from my iPad. It isn't perfect, but I can manage it if I either reduce photo size before loading, or limit the number of photos - a good experiment that will help me when travelling..

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Embroiderers Guild Summer School: Alison Cole Class

About 80 women are enjoying themselves at the SA Embroideres Guild 5 day Summer School. Most are South Australian, but there are participants from Canberra and Tasmania and tutors from Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia. It has been a privilege and convenience to live in.

I progressed my Ottoman Double Running project from Carol Mullan's class in the second day of the class and then overnight while listening to conversation in the common room. I've discovered an error which I am working around. One of my fellow stitchers and I also adjusted the colour of our yellow to a darker, golder shade - to avoid going blind as well as the look!

Yesterday I took a half- day gold work class with Alison Cole. This was about as perfect a project as you get as far as I am concerned. In three hours we learned to use four different gold threads, attach beetle wing leaves and create bead flowers. This is to be mounted on a box lid ( box supplied in kit).

Alison is a high energy teacher and keeps her students motivated and confident. I found cutting the beetle wings (or more accurately, the wing carapaces) tricky. I didn't get my shapes very even. I also tangled the passing thread at the back of my work. Nevertheless, I made great progress and enjoyed the class no end.

I worked on it during the Market afternoon and (late) at night. 
This is how it was when I went to bed. I'd like to finish this before I leave on Sunday. It would be great to have a finished project to construct when I get home.

I did buy a few bits at the market day - but I shall miss breakfast if I write about that!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Embroiderers' Guild of South Australia Summer School

I am currently in residence at the Summer Schools of the SA Embroiderers' Guild. I usually attend one class, but this year booked myself in for the full complement of 2 classes of two days each and a half day class. It is being held at a school in Adelaide and I am staying in the boarding house with about 15 other women. 

I don't usually directly blog while away, but I am testing the use of the Blogger App on my iPad. It is more limited than my computer, but I want to,see if it will work well enough to serve me while I am travelling later this year.

The class I am doing today and tomorrow is an Ottoman Double Running and Darning Project with Carol Mullan. This is the photo of her finished piece from the Guild website. I can't link to the website from this App.

It has been an intense and productive class. We have all made good progress, working from many different starting points and directions. One of Carol's particular strengths is her flexibility and capacity to encourage diversity.

I began in the centre, then worked outlines - I still get quite excited and inspired to see the shape emerge.

The pale yellow section slowed me down - it was very hard to see against my ecru linen, and I think I will redo it in a darker shade. 

I plan to do a bit more tonight and look forward to getting further tomorrow.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Birthday Gifts

My birthday this month was celebrated with a dinner for family and friends at the Grange Jetty Cafe - my very favourite eatery.

Once again, I wanted to record the gifts made for me by my daughter Katherine and her family, either from stitching or baking.

Katherine made me a large jar of granola that I have been enjoying every morning with fresh fruit for breakfast - a favourite of mine and a reminder of breakfasts in New York.

Fionn made me a jar of 'Wookie Cookies', which I have been sharing with friends who have dropped in for a coffee. They are a big hit.

Veronica used a sewing machine for the first time to make me a notebook cover. It is reversible - either plain purple or butterflies. Really useful and very pretty.

Niamh stitched me a cute and practical purse. I think I am going to keep my knitting markers in it. Her dad suggested the direction of the stitching on the buttons - a nice touch.

Brigid made me a pendant necklace that was assembled and baked in the oven.It looks terrific on red, and purple and blue.

How lucky am I?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Embroiderers' Guild 2015 Challenge

2015 is the fiftieth anniversary year of the Embroiderers' Guild of South Australia. As part of the celebrations, each member has been given a small (about 10 inch square) piece of gold dupion silk to embroider. These will be put on display in August.

I have never taken part in a challenge before and the photos of the last anniversary (Ruby) challenge ten years ago did not fill me with confidence to get started.

In the end I took the plunge, deciding to embroider an owl in silks, using an image from the Colouring Book, Secret Garden - the book Mary Corbet has been using as the basis of her kingfisher embroidery.

I like the owl and intend it to symbolise the collective wisdom of the Guild accumulated over 50 years.

I traced it to tracing paper, then to the gold fabric using pencil and my LED lightpad - really good for the job. I have simplified it a little, figuring I can always add detail back in.

I sorted through my silk threads and collected a good range of colours - a number variegated -around a generous and somewhat fantastic palette. I plan to use them as I go rather than planning it out in detail.I will buy more threads as need arises.

My initial play has resulted in some button hole stitch around the eyes, bullion knot eyebrows and fly stitch breast feathers.

I have no idea if this is going to be worthy of display, but I'm looking forward to a challenge of imagination  - focusing on colour, harmony and finding the appropriate stitch as I go along.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Italian Blackwork progress

Although it has been good to work on some relatively undemanding projects over the Christmas period, I looked forward to progressing the Italian Blackwork Project I began with Carol Mullan before Christmas. So once the rooster cushion was finished I turned my hand back to blackwork.

Of the six patterns in the sampler, I had started five and finished two.

The fifth one was going so well I began by finishing it, then went back to finish the third. Both of these were very satisfying to stitch.

I then completed the fourth one, which is a very flowing, decorative pattern.

I have worked all of these without a hoop. My thread is very dark navy but appears black.

It was a real pleasure to move on to the sixth, and last motif, having the pleasure of figuring and laying out the foundation line. I really like this part of the process - figuring the pathway that will enable me to come back to fill in the double-running line with minimal break in continuity. It also 'reveals' the pattern to the fabric - rather like adding lemon juice to an invisible ink message.

I've been giving thought to what I might do with this piece. I don't much go for framed pieces. I am considering adding a border, then using it on a linen bag.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Rooster Cushion

I fell for a couple of easy folk art cushion kits in very bright cottons from Herrschners a few months ago. They are produced for Herrschners by Duftin, a Hungarian company whose products I have successfully used before. I like their products that come ready-made and stamped to embroider. They make for easy, attractive products to embroider while on holiday, talking or watching the world go by.

This was no exception. The threads were sufficiently well organised and labelled to be usable without further work, the pattern was clear and the instructions simple, bold and easy to manage.

I began just before going to Carrickalinga for Christmas by embroidering the central line of the design.

By the time I went away I had some tail feathers done, and had decided to use stem stitch and split stitch in place of satin stitch for a good part of the design.

When I came home on 26 December I had a large part done and was enjoying it very much.

It is a lot of fun to work on something so bright and shapely. It is an exercise in colouring-in and the interest and satisfaction is in adding each component and watching the colours lift and complement each other.

The body of the roosters and the pink flowers practiced my long and short stitch.

I finished it, appropriately, on New Year's Eve, washing and blocking it on New Year's Day. I haven't inserted a cushion yet. I will give this to someone who could do with a cheery cushion!

A few days ago Herrschners had a special on the shoulder bag in the same pattern and fabric. Even with the deteriorating exchange rate and a generous stash of projects I did not resist.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Girl's Cotton Cardigan: the case of the disappearing photos.

The project I chose to take with me on my recent trip to Canberra and the NSW Southern Vales was a girl's cardigan in 4 ply cotton. I used Sirdar Pattern 2215 which has a nice 1-12 years age range, with a lace medallion pattern that gives interest to the knitting, but doesn't require constant reference to the pattern once you have the hang of it. This was to be a Christmas present, so the timing was good.

It proved a good choice of travel project. The cotton (Bendigo Woollen Mills 837 Orchard 4ply) was pleasant to knit in what proved to be fine and warm weather, I could go for hours without referring to the pattern and progress was steady enough to keep me encouraged.

I seem to have been having too good a time to take photos - although I thought I had taken some, I can find no trace! I have distinct memories of taking photos of the finished pieces before construction. I am either deluded (quite possible) or the victim of cunning photo fairies.

It is more than likely the fairies, on a crusade to save readers from photos of pieces of unconstructed knitting..

I will need to be content with these two photos of the finished product, taken by someone else, and interesting enough to escape the attention of the photo fairies.