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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Aviarius: Red, Red Robin: from one extreme to the other.

I've been incubating this project for about 3 weeks. As it will take up a bit of  2017 stitching time, a New Year's Eve introduction seems appropriate.
Each August the Embroiderers' Guild of SA participates in the SALA (South Australian Living Arts) Festival. In 2017 our theme is Aviarius - birds. The Guild has prepared some fabric blocks that members can buy, embroider, and submit for our SALA Exhibition. The fabric blocks are hand-dyed and feature either a seagull, a wren, a robin or a group of bird shapes.
At the time I bought my blocks there were only seagulls and robins available. I chose one of each. I could immediately see what I would do with the seagull, but the robin had me stumped. I could only see Christmas cards. I'd have preferred a cockatoo, magpie, kookaburra or galah.                                                                                                                                                  

Eventually I began to think of other contexts for robins and hit upon songs, which led me to When the red, red, robin comes bob, bob, bobbin' along. The more I considered it, the more excited I became.  It is still, or course, not Australian. It does, however, have a history, is well known, open to interpretation and above all, optimistic. I could see possibilities for telling a story.
The next day I went to the Guild and bought 7 more robin blocks - all that were available - and one group block.
I backed each of these with wadding and a piece of old, soft sheeting. I couldn't resist experimenting with one of them using some wool roving and felting needles.
In the meantime, I went back to Batik Fabrics Online and ordered some amazing striped batik that was at that time available in 270cm widths. I figured I could use the different stripes to mount each of my blocks.

When the fabric arrived it was breathtaking - I couldn't wait to get started.
Within two days I had cut and stitched the borders.

I then had nine blocks, ready to be embroidered with the story of the song. I was also playing around with embroidering the music and words on each block.

At this point I saw the Authentic Adelaide Exhibition at the Adelaide Town Hall. Amongst the exhibits was a quilt with a significant section of words printed on it. I came home and searched for products that would enable me to print on to fabric with transparency between the letters. This was not easy - but I found a product on eBay which sounded promising. I paid for express post.
It worked a treat. It comes with either gloss or matte sheets. The matte sheets were indeed transparent and did not leave the surface shine that the gloss ones produced.

I had to juggle the position to avoid the darker parts of the fabric.

I now have nine panels to embroider. Each one will illustrate the words on its border. At this stage I intend to back each  block with the batik fabric, quilt the borders with Kantha-style running stitch and join them with long stripes from the same fabric. This could, however, change as I progress.

I rushed to finish my knitted shawl so that I could start stitching a robin panel. It called to me! The seagull might  have to wait.

I can at least laugh at my own about-turn. One day I was grumbling about stitching one panel, 24 hours later I had 9 panels, and three and a half metres of batik fabric on the way.

Two more days and I am experimenting with printing on the fabric.

I'm in the grip of an idea.

This is a great place to be on New Year's Eve.It looks as if  that large Exhibition bag I made will be put to use in 2017!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Smocked Nightdresses

Christmas was almost upon me this year before it registered that I had not made the nightdresses that I usually make for my granddaughters for Christmas. A hurried search of my stash retrieved the liberty cottons I had purchased at some point in the last year for this purpose and I got to work.
The only dilemma was sizing. I can now almost cut out and pleat the fabric on autopilot. I smocked both the fronts and the backs of both, using different colours so the girls can easily tell which is meant to be the back and which the front.  Unfortunately, I did not take many photos.
Fortunately, my sizing was within range - a little on the large side but not unwearably so - guaranteeing a couple of years usage. The girls were well pleased with them.                                                                                                                               In the excitement of Christmas Day I forgot to take photos. Suffice it to say they looked great!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Graceful Shawl

Earlier this year my lovely brother visited Peru and bought me back ten balls of baby alpaca wool - two each of five colours. It is beautifully soft. 
The Graceful from Shawls and Scarves
I wanted to make something that used all or most of the yarn so had a bit of a hunt through my pattern books and magazines. I tried a scarf using drop stitch but thought I would continuously catch my fingers in it so unravelled it. I settled in the end for a pattern called "The Graceful" in a Knitting Magazine collection of patterns for shawls and scarves
It is very easy knitting - my brain just needed to be in gear to design the stripes as I knitted and to remember to leave a loop at each end of a row to create the fringe. I missed quite a few of the fringe loops and had to add them at the end.

the white on the left is the waste thread.

The shawl is knitted as a large rectangle. In the centre you make the split for the fronts by using a waste thread, which you remove at the end and finish as an edge.

An advantage of the design is that you know exactly how much wool you have used at the half-way mark.

 As I had two balls of each colour, I adjusted the first half to use one ball of each colour - with the exception of red. A little red went a long way in terms of design.

It was a slow, but easy task to remove the waste thread and knit an edge around the split.
When completed you fold in half and stitch up the lower part of each side - forming arm holes. The result is more of a loose shrug than a shawl.

I finished with the best part of a ball of red and the tiny bit of brown and dark grey.

Knotting the fringe took quite a few hours - quite soothing work.
This is, of course, of no use at all at the moment where we have begun 4 days of temperatures over 95 Fahrenheit - including a predicted 105 on Christmas Day. I did however, want to finish it in the year the wool was given to me.                                                                                                     It is also not shown at its best over my pink tshirt, but I couldn't wait to try it. It is marvellously soft, warm and very cheerful - just the thing for winter. It will remind me of our warm Christmas every time I wear it.                                                      Joy to the World

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Snowflake Ornament: legacy of a fanatical finisher.

The November meeting of the Embroiderers' Guild Ethnic Embroidery Study Group was a chance for each of us to bring in a beading project to work on or try out. We had been studying beaded works all year and set this meeting aside to have a go. I had planned to take in a kit to constructed beaded spiders as Christmas ornaments - spiders apparently  have an association with Christmas in the Ukraine where legend has it, spiders decorated the tree of a poor widow for Christmas. Unfortunately, I put the kit in a safe place several months ago so it would be ready for this meeting. Hunt as I might for the safe place, it eluded me. 

The best I could do at the last minute was a felt snowflake, left from my Wizard of Oz ornaments four years ago. It is printed on felt and decorated with sequins and beads. It can hardly be described as ethnic, but does have quite a cultural connotation.

At the meeting, one member had researched and reported on various Christmas ornament traditions (including the spiders!), others had brought along family ornament treasures from a range of traditions and our convenor brought along patterns, beads, threads and felt. We shared and discussed - and did a little experimenting. I put a few stitches into my snowflake.
When I returned home, the sensible thing would have been to put the snowflake away and get on with my project of the moment, but of course, my fanatical finishing instincts kicked in. I found myself with sequins and beads, stitching away, on a mission to finish an ornament for which I had no particular need or desire.

Here's the finished item, now hanging from a Yukka where it adds to the festive spirit on my balcony. Ethnicity - Metro Goldwin Mayer!

It's been a great year with the Ethnic Embroidery Study Group. We celebrated with a shared lunch at our convenor's home last week. It is deeply satisfying to belong to a group with such a shared passion - and so much knowledge. I'm really grateful.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Dijanne Cevaal Figure 3: First Dragon Cushion Finish

 As the dragon panels were a little smaller than the two Medieval project pieces (queen and king) I had worked, I had chosen and purchased, from Batik Fabrics Online a piece of batik that was slightly smaller than the previous ones.  the batik was overprinted with interesting paisley patterns.

When the panel was finished I decided not to cut the batik to edge the panel, but to applique the panel to the background fabric. This however, required a transition fabric on which to mount the panel. A friend and I paid a visit to Riverlea Cottage Quilts on Unley Road, not far from me to enrol in a class for next year, and I took the panel along to find an edging fabric. Paige, who was in charge of the shop at the time found the perfect fabric - a blended stripe in gold-brown.

Once I had mounted it, my plans for another Kantha border melted away. The fabric dictated a different approach. I had been considering embroidering some of the paisleys on the batik fabric, but once I saw the mounted piece I decided to continue some of the paisleys into the border using embroidery.

It seemed to work. I had a bit of trouble finding thread that worked. Silk thread had the best texture but not the best colour match. I found an almost perfect colour variegation amongst the Embroiderers' Guild over-dyed thread collection, but it was a fairly course and heavy texture.
over-dyed thread

silk thread

In the end, a combination of the two, plus care not to overfill the border had me happy.

I made the cushion cover up using an overlap at the back. It is still fairly large but not enormous. It looks rich and sumptuous.

I don't have a cushion of the right size as yet and this may end up as a gift, so I have placed it, temporarily, on a cushion a little smaller than the cover.

I have another dragon and a Sentinelle to go in my Dijanne Cevaal binge!