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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Back to Basics: Project 4

I have had quite a bit of time to think about my 4th Back to Basics Project. Since  last posting about Back to Basics my hussif has been assessed (successful!) and displayed. I have also done quite a bit of thinking about the next Project which is a library bag with an embroidery design and a construction element. The design has to be based around, or incorporate, the student's initial. It requires sturdy, plain fabric for the outside and a patterned fabric lining.

I wanted to keep the bag (which, since I read almost everything electronically, I will not use for library books) within the same colour and design range of my earlier Back to Basics projects. I also wanted to use fabric from my stash.

I came up with some khaki drill and a Japanese cotton floral.

Gay Sanderson, who runs the Back to Basics course, had pointed out to me that my Project 3 embroidery design incorporated stitches that looked very like the J of my initial - so I had been working on this. It led me to think about J curves and for a while I toyed with the idea of a pulled back curtain - but in the end I was drawn to extending the floral design of the husif.

This took me to framing the husif design with trees, incorporating upside-down J curves in the branches. I was also keen to make them Australian trees - so ended up with a flowering gum and a wattle tree. These also give me scope to use a range of stitches, since texture is also a criterion for this project.

One of my fellow students, Mary, kindly gave me some of her large graph paper so I cut it to fit the embroidery space on my bag and scaled up the drawing.
I'm planning to incorporate quite a range of stitches, and I've managed to get some of those elusive shisha mirrors from Barbara Mullan to include this time.

My first embroidery step, however, will be to get the outlines of the framing tree branches in place. I will miss the July meeting of the group next week because of my knee reconstruction (which, incidentally, has gone well - home tomorrow) but I'm happy to take my time on this one. It is such an enjoyable group to belong to that I'm in no hurry to complete the full 5 projects that comprise the course!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

70th bag

This is a large (for me) project that I have been working on for some time without being able to blog about it. It is a 70th birthday gift for a friend of sixty years. As she follows my blog and I wanted this to be a surprise ( also wanted to make sure it worked!) I have had to hold of posting until after her birthdaylon 5th July. I began the project in late February - so it's been hard keeping it to myself. Fortunately my friend lives in another State (usually a disadvantage to me, but in this case advantageous) so plenty of stitching friends locally have seen it and encouraged me.

I began with the intention of embroidering a scarf with 70 flowers. Then, while reorganising my stash, I came across a shirt that my late husband bought in Bali in the 1990s. We both liked the fabric, which was printed with a batik block of four repeated human figures. When the yoke stitching gave way I kept it - perhaps to mend, perhaps to reuse.

It occurred to me that I could use it to make a bag for my friend. I cut two large rectangles - one from the shirt back and one from the two fronts stitched together. I backed them with wadding and cotton sheeting.
I then began embroidering the figures.

The goal was to embroider 70 figures - 35 on each of the two pieces, then join these two pieces together to form a large shopping - or crafting - tote bag.
It's been a lot of fun. My granddaughters got involved as did the Junior Embroiderers group at the Guild - identifying their favourite emerging figures and providing fashion advice and ideas.
Here's the first side finished in early April.
I will about post the other side - and the constructed article - soon.

Ethnic Embroidery Study Group

One of my favourite Embroiderers' Guild groups is the monthly Ethnic Embroidery Study Group . 

Its purpose is to gain a greater understanding of embroidery through the study of traditional textiles from around the world. The different techniques and materials used, the significance of traditional designs, the place of embroidery both domestically and ceremonially in the lives of people of other cultures are all explored by the study of embroideries from the Guild's Museum and other public and private collections and through research and the sharing of knowledge.
We have great expertise in this area in our Guild. A number of members have travelled, lived, worked and collected textiles amongst a range of ethnic groups - particularly throughout Asia.
The group's theme for this year is beading, so each month we have looked at different uses of beading in the work of a range of ethnic groups. This month we invited talented , long-standing Guild member Sheana Davies, to talk to us and to show us some beading techniques.
We looked at a lot of samples of beading work, from the Guild's Museum and from Sheana's own collection, and browsed some books and magazines with stunning examples of ethnic beading.

For me, the most interesting piece was this beaded cardigan. The original colour in the beads has faded with time, but the effect is still lovely - because the thread used was matched to the colour of the beads and still preserves the colour.  Tip from Sheana - always match thread to the bead you are using!

I have little experience with beading, but would not have thought to do this.

As usual, we had a lively and interesting meeting as we shared, asked questions, and some tried their hand at it. It is great to be part of a group focused on learning and sharing around our common interest.

It inspired me to get out my stash of broken jewellery and make a relatively simple restringing repair to a strand of this necklace, of Indigenous Australian origin, so I am now wearing it again!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Kantha design workshop

Another great Embroiderers' Guild Workshop on Sunday - the first of three by Barbara Mullan to design and execute a piece of Kantha.

I can only do the first workshop of the three as my knee replacement will interfere with the other two!

Sunday's workshop was on design.

We explored Barbara's many examples, considered design principles and the basics of Kantha then played with shapes, frameworks and motifs.

It was a hugely enjoyable day. We shared our ideas, consulted with Barbara, drew, rubbed out, cut out, pasted.

I had arrived, as requested with several ideas. I had a folder of drawings and photos I have collected with the intention of 'doing something with them' one day. These included some marine postcards I had bought on eBay years ago (while looking for Australian embroidery kits!) and a few children's drawings for which I have embroidery ideas.  I tried a few ideas and settled in the end for a design based around marine creatures.

One of Barbara's many helpful suggestions was to cut out our drawings and re-arrange them rather than keep drawing or tracing them. It saved me a great deal of time.

I have been a shell collector since I was about eight years old and my Uncle Sid gave me a shoebox full of shells (and their long-dead marine inhabitants) he had collected while serving in Papua New Guinea in WWII. One of my fellow students had brought along a book of shells. I was able to use the postcards, some examples from the book of shells and my memory of my own collection to sketch out a design.

We had discussed fabric with Barbara. I was keen to use some of the unused wool I had bought for the Gilaf workshop - or some of the wool left from my recent jacket project. I'm still keen to do that but decided the marine environment needed something a bit larger and more layered.  A piece of cotton fabric I had bought from the Embroiderers' Guild beckoned.The Guild over-dyes and sells thread. The thread is laid out to dry on pieces of cotton fabric that absorbs colour from the thread. The Guild then sells the coloured fabric. This is one of those pieces.

As you may be able to see, it has a stripe woven into the original white fabric. This is not what I would have chosen but the colours of this piece seem appropriate to the marine design so I'm going with it. I backed it with light interfacing and then a piece of the same fabric undyed - another purchase from a Guild trading table!

The fabric piece is 52 cm x 42 cm so I worked my design to fit it. This gives me plenty of space to use the background running stitch that is characteristic of Kantha - effectively quilting the three layers together.

I have taken the design to the border of the cloth and intend to add an external embroidered border. I'm hoping to make this into a large floor cushion.

I have a knitting project to finish before I can start on this - but will get the design on to the fabric in the next few days. This may prove to be my knee replacement hospitalisation project!

In the meantime, my fortunate fellow students will work up and execute their designs in two further workshops. At some time there will be an opportunity to see their work. If I get a chance I'll post some photos. It's been another great learning opportunity - what a Guild is all about.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Berlin Jacket

Until the 1980s I made many of my own clothes. By the mid 1980s my work and family responsibilities left little time for dressmaking. When I finished full time work I smocked a couple of dresses for myself but for the most part buying clothes is easier - and leaves more time for embroidery and making clothes for children.

Amongst the promotional emails I receive regularly is one from Tessuti Fabrics in Sydney. They have a wonderful range of fabrics. They also stock specialist patterns. I bought some Japanese children's patterns from here when my grandchildren were smaller.

This week I received an email from them with announcement of a couple of new jacket patterns - and a new range of fabulous felted wool from Italy. I'd been looking for,a jacket much like these so I took the plunge. I ordered the pattern and fabric on Wednesday. It arrived on Friday. I cut out the jacket on Saturday and sewed it on Sunday.

It was a long weekend in Australia and, thanks to a friend's tip, I was helped along by the radio playing the voters's choice of the top 100 voice recordings on ABC Classic FM.

The pattern is available as a download, but I chose to have the paper pattern delivered with the fabric - since I don't have facilities for poster-size printing and didn't fancy taping A4 sheets together on that scale.

The pattern pieces were sturdy and very well marked. I had allowed a bit extra fabric to ensure the fronts of the jacket overlapped across my ample hips.

The fabric is truly lovely - both in colour and texture. It cuts and handles easily.

I was wowed by the simplicity of the technique for sewing the boiled wool. Pockets, sleeves and fronts are faced. The facing is lined up with the main piece edge and stitched on the right side. The other edge of the facing is stitched down on the wrong side. End of story.

The pocket, with facing attached is placed on the front and stitched around on the right side - nothing to turn under. No doubt others have been stitching like this for years - I enjoyed the discovery!

At the shoulders the front and back pieces are overlapped by 3/8" and stitched down on the right side.
The sleeves are joined in the same way. This leaves a narrow ridge on the right side. I thought it looked better flat, so simply ran another row of stitching along the ridge - giving an effect rather like a French seam. Very easy.

The side seams are stitched right side to right side and the bottom edge is left raw. Next time I'd experiment with a flat side seam.

I really enjoyed the adventure of making this jacket - and couldn't wait to try it out. It is warm, soft and comfortable. I like it with the scarf my friend Vivienne gave me in 2012 and my Robyn Gordon dragonfly brooch.

I have a couple of pieces of left-over fabric that I think will take some Kantha embroidery. I might one day succumb to greed and buy the pattern for the Brooklyn Coat and the Cherry Tepore Marle boiled wool. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Sollerosom Biscornu

The May workshop for the Embroiderers' Guild Graduate Certificate was on Sollerosom and taught by Gay Sanderson. A group of Guild members, myself included, took advantage of the Guild's generosity and attended the class along with the enrolled Certificate students. It was a lot of fun.

Sollerosom is a Swedish embroidery technique from Solleron Island, in Dalarna Province. It is worked on even-weave linen. I used a white 28 count linen and Perle 8 thread.
It is worked in two colours in layers. I chose a dark green and a pale mauve, initially working the first layer with the dark green and the second layer in the lighter mauve.

Gay provided us with a range of motifs and we could try them as we wished.  I decided to learn to turn corners in the motif with which we started.

I ended up working a small square, using as a model one of the samples Gay had bought along to show us.

I experimented with a filling stitched that reversed the border, but didn't like it on the small sample. One good thing about Sollerosom is that it is very easy to undo!

I replaced it with Swedish four sided stitch - again, inspired by one of Gay's samples.

This is how my first square turned out.

For some time I have wanted to make a biscornu. I have never made one and, liking the finished effect, wanted to try. One of Gay's samples was a partially completed biscornu, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to try. Gay obligingly produced a set of instructions about constructing one!

I decided to repeat the square using the pale mauve as my first layer and the dark green as the second layer - to see what difference it made.
After the class I put aside other projects to create the second square.

Sollerosom works up quickly and is fun to do, so before long I had my first layer. The second layer was mostly whipping. I added some tiny cross-stitches over the Swedish four-sided stitches.

There is not, in my view, much of a discernable difference between the green on mauve side and the mauve on green side.

Following Gay's instructions, I mitred the corners of my two squares and put the two sides together. I whipped the two outer rows of stitching together, stuffed it very tightly and used a couple of small buttons to draw in the centre.
What I really like is the view from the side - where the edging lines show to good effect.  
I like Sollerosom a lot. It is satisfying, easily grasped and a great effect. And I got to finally make a biscornu! Many thanks again to Gay for her generosity, skill and flexibility, to Christine Bishop for her commitment to learning and management of the certificate course and to the Guild for making it possible.