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Monday, October 31, 2016

Cathedral window bag experiment

After making the Cathedral Window pincushion last week, I was really curious to see how the technique works out when the 'windows' are joined together in a larger piece, so I set about finding out. I went through my stash and found a piece of purple cotton left over from my 2014 hexagon quilt (still very much in use). There was enough to cut 12 of the base squares (20.3cm) for the Cathedral Window. I machine stitched these into the required envelope shapes.
I hand-stitched them together to give me my experimental base. I did reasonably well on consistency and accuracy - but it was by no means perfect.

I used various small pieces from my stash as the inserts. I love the way this process echoes past projects and triggers memories.  I included a little medallion from a Japanese wrapping cloth that Jim had brought back from a visit to Japan. He was always keen to be represented in such projects, so I thought I'd keep that going.

I  was helped along by a new tin of Sajou pins a house guest had bought for me. Long, sharp, very smooth pins made a difference.

As I finished the inserts, and, as ever, committed to turning all work into something useful, I decided the shape and size I had would make a bag, so I picked up a zip and inserted it along the narrower edges.

While I was very pleased with the overall effect, I wasn't pleased with the neatness of the points where the diamonds join. Try as I might, I could not get them neat, let alone invisible.

I experimented, embroidering over each join with contrasting red thread. I began by binding the intersections, but found it could be achieved with cross-stitching which both covered and secured the joins.

I'm very pleased with this experiment. I learned a lot. As much as I like the effect - and the little bag I have made - I doubt I currently have the skill or patience to make a quilt using this technique. I would need to get much better at machining really accurately and also solve the problem of connecting the points of the diamonds. I will need to practice on a few more small projects before I think about a major project.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Certificate Course: Cathedral Window Pincushion with Barbara Mullan

The October workshop for the Embroiderers' Guild of SA Certificate Course was held on 22 October. Taught by Barbara Mullan, it fitted into the Fabric Manipulation section of the Certificate. Fundamentally, it was a quilting technique which we applied to a pincushion - and finished within the course of the day!

We began with two squares of fabric. The instructions were very specific as to size. The fabric suggested was calico. I was not the only student whose method of measuring and ripping did not produce perfect squares! Nevertheless, I managed to square it up in the process of making the two envelopes of fabric, into which we then inserted the smaller squares of colour.
It is a fantastic process. We then folded our piece to join the two short ends and inserted another small square of fabric in the diamond shape formed on the other side of what became our pincushion. It is magic! 
The edge of the diamond shape formed by the folds covers the raw edge of the inserted fabric. You choose whether or not to fold down the outer edges of the background fabric according to the effect you want.
I had thought my 2014 effort to make a hexagon quilt from scraps of fabric saved over the years had satisfied any desire I had to make quilts. This workshop, however, inspired me. I could see myself gradually putting together a summer quilt using this method. There would be no need for backing. The little 'pockets' into which the diamond 'windows' are inserted are already backed and quite self-contained. You could get great effects with small scraps of left-over fabric.

I really loved this workshop. I think we all did. We left with a finished pincushion - and bursting with ideas of other ways to apply the techniques we'd learned.

Watch this space!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Punto Umbro mat finish

I did finish the Punto Umbro mat from Christine Bishop's Embroiderers' Guild Class - the post has been delayed by my preoccupation with my two BATB classes. This was such an enjoyable project that I don't want to lose recording the finish.
As it was counted thread work, the finish involved, unsurprisingly, much counting of threads and tacking - to mark the boundaries of the work, to create a hem and then to decorate and edge that hem - all in logical sequence. The perfect geometry of the process is part of the satisfaction.
There was a row of drawn thread work and then an outer edge complete with picots.
I decided to use mine under a shallow pale green  glass for floating a flower. I love the mottling of the shadows on the linen.

Monday, October 17, 2016

BATB: Jenny Adin Christie, Whitework Buttons

I chose Jenny Adin Christie's Whitework Button class at BATB because I had purchased the kit for her 5 buttons at the last BATB two years ago. I had enrolled in her one-day class, chosen the simplest button and completed it in the day. The kit has been sitting in a drawer for two years, so I decided I should enrol again and at least complete one more button.
Jenny is a great teacher, and a class with her is a pleasure.
This time I chose what seemed to me the most complex of the buttons, the Scabiosa. It is quite large and involves shadow work, padded satin stitch, cut work, beading, French knots and a range of eyelet work. It is worked on French gauze mounted over fine linen - prepared in advance by Jenny as part of the kit.
The shadow backstitch/herringbone is worked first and then the inner eyelet circle and the padded satin stitch. The latter was for me the tricky part. - getting the satin stitch smooth. Jenny had several tips about this, which really helped.  The great advantage of working with a teacher is the very specific technique help and practice.

I made quite a lot of progress in the class - both in terms of improving my technique and in the amount I was able to do.

As I had expected in choosing this particular button, I did not finish it in class but Jenny had provided instruction in all components.

After the class I set myself to finish this button as a priority. As usual, I had only enrolled in two classes at BATB - what I can realistically take on and finish. The whitework button took me a week of working on not much else and was really enjoyable.

The outer ring of ladder stitch eyelets gave me trouble. I did not succeed in making the holes distinct enough. I need more practice in this technique.

Once again, I decided to turn the button into a brooch, rather than display it in a box, so, after backing and lacing, mounted it on the felt backing provided.

I now have two of the five buttons in the kit completed. I regard these as practice pieces rather than perfection (which is just as well!)  I am in it for the learning.

Having tackled this large and complex button, I feel more confident to proceed with the others without counting on Jenny to return to BATB three times over the next six years to finish the kit!

Now I can turn my mind to Japanese beading again.

Monday, October 10, 2016

BATB: Margaret Lee Japanese Beading

This is a quick post while Beating Around the Bush is still underway. I have done two classes - a two day Japanese Beading class with Margaret Lee and a one day Whitework Button Class with Jenny Adin Christie. Three day classes are underway this week but I have not enrolled. Two new projects is my limit - otherwise I am overwhelmed with unfinished projects and unable to consolidate what I learn.

This post focuses on the first of my classes - the Japanese Beading. I found it quite demanding. I learned heaps. I'm very glad I had done the Merrilyn Whittle projects last month as preparation. They gave me time to get an idea of the genre and know the questions to ask. All my questions were answered. While I don't see myself turning into a beader, I could see a way forward with Japanese beading as long term study and work under Margaret's tutilage. It is an art form, and apprenticeship-type learning would produce terrific results.
I used a slate frame for the first time. Margaret very generously gave up the afternoon before the class to teach us to set up our frames and projects. I can see the importance and value in setting up your beading work space. Getting the position, light and angles to suit took quite a long time and my back gave me a lot of trouble in the first day.  I did a lot of standing and walking in breaks. The second day I also took my spiky ball and massaged my sacroiliac joint at frequent intervals.
Margaret is an energetic and intelligent teacher. There were 17 in the class and she worked endlessly and tirelessly to give individual attention - analysing and helping us improve technique. We began with the simplest and easiest motifs and techniques, seeing results and achievements early, building up quickly to more complex work.
By the end of two days we had covered all techniques required. I can now use a koma and know how to place my beading shoe on my work to maximum effect. I have the beginnings of knowing how to choose beads and the importance  of a laying tool. Now it's a matter of practice and repetition. This is very much the kind of work you perfect over a lifetime and that benefits from a master-apprenticeship model. It's no wonder women come to study with Margaret from around the world on a regular basis. It is the way to learn and become skilled.                                                                                                                                   I don't think I will become expert in this genre - but if I were to do so, I'd enrol to study with Margaret. I will, however, finish this piece.
I need to set the project up properly at home so I can work on it as I get the time. I don't find working at a table comfortable and I doubt my floor frame is up to the job. I need to solve this problem later this week. 

There is a great atmosphere at BATB. I enjoyed sitting back and observing the atmosphere or talking to people in breaks. The majority, it seemed to me, were from outside Adelaide - from country towns, interstate and, like my own US house guest, from overseas. It's an important opportunity from women to pursue their passion with kindred spirits and spend time focused on something of great importance to them. Much knowledge is passed on. Many who are attending classes to learn also teach in other contexts - there is a sense of community.

The market day on Saturday saw an extraordinary array of small specialist providers display and sell their wares - things you rarely see gathered together in one place. I forgot to take photos, unfortunately. 

My next post will have some photos and progress on my white work buttons - a slightly less ambitious project, but also very beautiful.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Scissor keeps

As I finished my 3 beaded scissor fobs I chose a pair of scissors to go with each. I had, I discovered, at least 7 pair of embroidery scissors without fobs - and more importantly, without cases or keeps. The scissors with new beaded fobs needed, I thought, a case to go with the fob. For Anastasia i made a case out of the Italian felted wool coat left-over fabric.

For the black fob I chose a scrap of black silk from which I had once, I think, had a dress. For the purple Anastasia I chose a piece of cotton Bali ikat from which I still have a smocked dress.

That would, you might think, be enough to keep me going.  I was, however, by now well and truly on a mission, spurred on by the thrill of using up scraps of treasured fabric.

In the hunt for further suitable fabric I came across a set of embroidered linen serviettes I bought in 1972 in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We had used them throughout the 70s and 80s before wear and stains pensioned them off - but I couldn't bear to dispose of the meticulous, tiny cross-stitched embroidery.

So here was my chance. I cut the embroidered sections out and made them into both a scissor fob and a scissor keep.

I searched through the pieces of fabric I had overdyed in the Futonji class. I don't think I will ever put these to their intended use, so one piece fell to the scissor mission.

This lovely piece of shot silk is from a sari I bought in India in the 70s and had made into trousers and top for my daughter's wedding.
 It now houses my purple scissors

This Paisley scissor keep with the crocheted edge I made earlier this year as an off-shoot of my teabag holder project, was enhanced by a fob with a crocheted star.

I experimented with the stiffening agent - in some using the plastic from milk cartons, as we did for those we made in Back to Basics, in others I used a variety of interfacing - from quite stiff, to felt, to much  lighter. All were successful in their own way. All the fobs were weighted with coins, some of them old, some contemporary Australian and some foreign. I do hope none of them were valuable - or if they were, that some future embroiderer one day takes them apart and benefits!

So now I have fobs and keeps for most of my embroidery scissors. I didn't expect to end up here when I decided to try Japanese beading!