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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Rabbits! Finish

Well, as hoped, I finished Rabbits! before I left for London - about half an hour before!
It has proved to be a really enjoyable exercise and a good pathway back into crewel work.
The instructions continued very clear and the quality of fabric and thread added considerably to the ease of working.
There was a good variety of stitches too - and I really love the colours.

I did not have time to block or do more that take the piece from the hoop - and snap a couple of photos for the road. 

It is designed as a small cushion, but might work well on a box lid. 

I shall think on it while away.

It has me highly motivated for more crewel work - the intension of the gift!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Icons Project

,The Embroiderers' Guild is SA has set 'Icons' as the theme for its contribution exhibition for the South Australian Living Arts Festival in August this year. Partly triggered by that and partly by the Kantha work I did earlier this year, I have been working on an idea inspired by the events that lead to the defeat of the government led by Julia Gillard, Australia's first female prime minister.

Whatever the policy issues associated with that defeat, there was undeniably a great deal of misogyny and harassment meted out to Ms Gillard while she was PM. In an interview after her defeat she placed her treatment in the context of women generally, summing this up as "It's about all of us".

I, and many other women in Australia, agreed with her. Her treatment was sharper and more intense because she was the figurehead - but it serves as a symbol of an attitude and culture affecting, in less public ways, all of us.

I wanted to create an embroidery that expressed this notion. It seemed to fit the 'icon' theme.

I began by searching photos online. There are many photos of Julia Gillard available, but few full-length ones. I needed one that showed her easily-identified hairstyle and tailored look (the one of her in a chair knitting didn't quite do it!). 

I traced the photo and settled on on to a piece of fabric hand dyed by the Embroiderers' Guild. These are the pieces of cotton on which the Guild's hand-dyed cotton threads are laid to dry. The one I chose was quite pale with pinks and greens radiating out from the centre. I backed this with a thin wadding and calico.

I couldn't, however, get the facial features right, try as I might. Finally I hit on the notion of printing her face on fabric, using cotton printing sheets. It took a bit of adjustment but worked in the end.

I stitched around the edge in a reddy-brown and later padded the face from the back

I filled in her figure using chain stitch on the clothes and stem stitch on the arms and legs.I was able to get texture and light variation by the direction of the stitch, and by varying the tension.

I then began to create little outline or stick figures of women, radiating out along the colour lines of the fabric and embroidered the quote at the bottom.

These soon became addictive. I found myself looking at the passing parade of people in public places and sketching shapes.

The first figures were done in double running stitch. I then added some stem stitch, back stitch, French knots, bullion knots and a few satin stitches into the mix.
One night at the theatre, as the actors on the stage struck poses I took out my notebook and sketched in the dark. The sketches were rough but proved to be great guides for my stitching. Getting the basic shape was the trick.

The joy of stitching this, was in making it up as I went along. I could take my fabric, a few threads, needle and scissors and stitch it whenever I had a few minutes.

    I have purchased some fabric with which to bind/frame the piece.

I am not sure that it fits with what the Guild envisaged for Icons - but I'm pleased to have done it regardless.

I shall post the finish soon!


I am booked on a tour of the Scottish Highlands with The Crewel Work Company in June and a kit arrived as part of my package to prepare for the tour. I have been so busy trying to finish off some of my existing projects that I only began the Rabbits! kit ten days ago - and I am now on my way to London. 

The threads - Appleby wools - are beautifully packaged so they can be drawn and cut very easily - the best I have experienced in a kit.

It is decades since I did crewel work so I followed the instructions! These come in a booklet - very detailed and full of tips. There is a teacher's brain at work here!

After working on a few projects this year which have been free- wheeling, I had to adjust to the routine of consulting instructions - a very different discipline. It paid off, however, in re-orienting my brain to the techniques and effects of crewel work.

Even my stem stitch required a bit of adjustment, but I got into the swing of it. The test came of course, with long and short stitch. The instructions were very helpful and explicit. I did quite well, stitching into the night. The daylight, however, revealed less blending than I had thought I achieved. Still, learning is the purpose and I can adjust it.    I did manage to finish this, less than half an hour before I left for the airport this afternoon -  but the finish will have to be a later post!                                         

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Exquisite Threads: English Embroidery 1600s-1900s

 I visited the Exquisite Threads Exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria on my recent trip to Melbourne. It was fabulous. Most items belong to the museum's collection. Visitors are allowed to take photos without flash - so I did.

Items included some wonderful samplers, displayed using mirrors, so the backs can be seen, and with chairs provided so you can sit to read and view the detail.

There is also a dress uniform.

and a cope.

There is a pair of embroidered leather gloves. The description suggests the embroidery was first done on silk then transferred to the leather - an extraordinary process.

A couple of stomachers made me grateful for my jeans.

There is a silk embroidered apron in which the original gold thread has faded to - grey!

I think my favourite was the amazing wall hanging embroidered by Catherine Holliday for Morris and Sons, but I also enjoyed the braces and crewel work.

There is a bonnet and any number of bed hangings - mostly crewel work.
The exhibition is free, beautifully curated and easily accessible, drawing a constant stream of visitors - a real tribute to the Gallery.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Progress on Owl

 I  have made some progress with my silk fantasy owl.  This is the piece on silk for the Embroiderers Guild 50th Anniversay Exhibition this year. I am posting this away from home from my iPad - so can't control the photo sizes.

From where I was when I last posted on this project, I moved to the area below the breast feathers and tried out the Bokara stitch I learned with Alison Snepp in 2011 then used in the chair project. Once again, this stitch served me well.

I also admit to its addictive hold over me, once I get going with it. I extended it. I also used satin stitch and open chain stitch to try to keep the rows of feathers in the outline drawing.

Using variegated silk thread both helped and hindered the effect I was after. While it got me variation within the band, it gave me rigid divisions between the bands vertically. I had to go back and alleviate this by blending with single colour thread. There is still a bit to do - and a couple of places to unpick.

I had originally intended to leave the breast in open fly stitch, but then filled it in. It really IS like colouring in with thread - try a bit, see how it looks, then add a bit more from the pallet.

It is coming along. I have the tail feathers and irises to go, as well as a bit of blending - best done in daylight.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Couple of tassel finishes

I recently had the need for a tassel or two to finish off the Ottoman pouch. This caused me to dig out the tassels I made last year at Christine Bishop's workshop - and reminded me that I had one to finish - one with the head covered in needle lace. Since Finish should be my middle name, I took the tassel with me on my recent trip to Canberra and worked on it in spare moments.

I had bought some variegated perle 8 cotton to make it easier for me to work - a technique (trick?) that worked well.

I was able to bring the needle lace right down over the tasseled binding and was pleased with the result.
I even considered using this tassel on the Ottoman pouch, but opted, in the end, for dark blue. Although the pink one looked ok, the blue provided more consistency.                                                                           I will save the pink one for another day,another project.                                                                  
I used one of the buttons we made last year with Christine as a fastener, with a blue tassel on the closure loop.

I then made a few more tassels to finish the bag.

I like these bags a lot (now there's a surprise!) and find them really useful.