The Embroiderers' Guild of SA holds a full Summer School every second year. This is usually held at a local boarding school, so country and interstate members can live in if they wish. In the alternate years Summer classes are held at the Guild's headquarters. This year was a Summer School year and the program was very enticing. I originally chose two classes but in the end one of these clashed with a family holiday and I reduced my attendance to one class - Barbara Mullan's Tribal Inspired Embroidery from North Africa. Her sample for the class is on the right. (courtesy of the Embroiderers' Guild Facebook page)
The piece begins with three layers of fabric to be worked with reverse applique. I had an African geometric print as my bottom layer, a variegated small wavy print as the second and a mustardy brown as my top layer(the truest colour is in the last two photos below). We were a small group and began by discussing design and North African motifs. I settled on a Maltese Cross as my basic design and set about finding a location on the bottom layer where the geometry was well displayed.
The scary part is cutting through the two layers to expose the bottom one. I inserted a small piece of red fabric as a third layer under the lozenges just to lift the colour a little.
I began to embroider the various segments of the Maltese Cross. I used enhanced chain stitch around the patterned shapes and rows of couched thread around the smaller, mustardy triangles. Only when I'd finished embroidering the Maltese Cross section did I then expose the full outer circle. This is about where I got to in the two day class. It was a fabulous class - full of experimenting, sharing and ideas. Everyone did something quite different but the purpose, enthusiasm and interest was shared as we worked within the parameters of the tradition we were learning from Barbara.
At home I tried an open chain stitch in the brown octagon but soon decided it was too heavy and the wrong colour. I switched, to black and light brown, which worked much better. These threads were woven between the edging rows of chain stitch.
After experimenting, the final row was achieved by cutting and appliqueing the top layer, then couching a gimp thread. I wanted to finish with a layer I could turn under to hold in some interfacing since the bottom layer seemed a little thin. The variegation in the second layer gave me an unpleasant yellow on one side, so I cut and inserted some strips from the other side.
This gives me a more even edge coverage. I have finished it to this stage while on a family beach holiday this week. When I get home I will block the piece, add the interfacing and finish the edge. I'm not sure what I will do with it yet. It began as an amulet - to ward off the evil eye- but has grown too big to hang. I may yet find a piece of clothing I can mount it on.