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Monday, April 24, 2017

Dorset Feather Stitch: Embroiderers' Guild of South Australia Graduate Certificate Workshop.

Last Saturday the monthly workshop for the Guild's Graduate Certificate Course was on Dorset Feather Stitch and taken by Deidre Clarke, a member of the Gawler Branch of the Guild. She had brought along examples - some from the Barossa Branch and some from the Guild Museum.
They were all bright and cheerful. There are also plenty of examples on Pinterest.
Dorset Feather Stitch appears to be a style generated by the Dorset Women's Institute in the middle of the twentieth century. The style uses button hole, feather and chain stitch, mostly whipped, with the addition of satin stitch and often incorporates stitching over ric-rac braid.In 1957 Olivia Pass, one of the Women's Institute members, published a book called Dorset Feather Stitchery which has become the Dorset Feather Stitch Bible. The book is now out of print, but available second-hand.

We were able to select a piece of fabric with a pattern printed on it to use as our sampler for the day. I chose a small mauve piece that I thought I could finish within 24 hours and turn into a little mat to use as a coaster. The fabric piece was about 6" square and the pattern about 4" square. Variegated thread worked quite well with the design and I experimented with various, mostly perle, threads.
Our notes suggested the stitches to use and I followed the suggestions. The trickiest bit was whipping the feather stitch - a bit more difficult than whipping buttonhole. The whipping gives the work a nice firm line, dimension and adds considerably to the folkloric look of the work.
I found the most interesting bits to be the paisley-like medallions in the centre of the piece. I used a padded satin stitch in the centre in a bIue DMC stranded.
I then used a colour way of Cottage Garden Threads' variegated stranded around it.

I tried a different colour way on the other medallion. It was a lot of fun to play around.
For good measure, we also made a Dorset button. 
I finished my little mat off at home, backing it with some heat-proof wadding and a piece of slightly darker cotton, and button-holing all around the edge.

This was a great workshop - and I am very grateful to the Guild for allowing any member who wants to attend the Graduate Certificate workshops, and to Deidre Clark for teaching this one. Here's to the Guild!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter stitching

 Sometimes I can't - or won't - let go of an idea. A year or so ago I saw a crocheted purse shaped to resemble a chicken, in a charity shop. I loved the idea and thought I'd like to try making one with my newly developing crochet skills. I got as far as buying a couple of 4" zips but no further.

This year, wanting a small challenge before tackling the assembly of my Robins Quilt, I set about working out how to make the chicken purses using supplies already in my stash.
I found some pale yellow 4 ply cotton and, using it double, worked a straight line of single crochet, increasing at each end and in the centre of each row. This gave me the shape I was after.
 I inserted my zip and crocheted up the side and bottom, adding some eyes and felt feathery bits. I had hoped to fill this with small eggs but couldn't find what I was looking for - so went for other chocolate treats.
I made two more of these - one for each of my granddaughters.
On one I used some shells for the tail feathers. Both Niamh and I like shells so I thought this would be a good embellishment.

I didn't think my 12 year-old grandson would be pleased to receive a chicken purse, so I tried out a variation on another item I had seen and liked while in England- felted rabbits dressed in embellished coats. I sketched out a body on paper, cut it out in felt and got stitching. It was pretty rough and ready.

As my grandson is a supporter of the Hawthorn Hawks football team, I gave the rabbit Hawthorn ears

and a Hawthorn coat

I couldn't figure out how to attach an easter egg football, so I crocheted a little basket to sling over his shoulder.

I don't think this will be taken up by the Hawthorn merchandising arm, but I am pretty pleased with myself. When I asked my friend Jennifer to give me some crochet lessons a couple of years ago, this is about where I had hoped to get with the skill.

My final Easter creative effort went into making chocolate crackle nests as my mother did each Easter. She used Arctic Mints as eggs and I can no longer find them. This year I could do no better than jelly beans.

I sometimes think I am completely insane.  Gifts should surely begin with a question of what the receiver would want, not what the giver wants to make - yet I've had terrific fun making these over the last few days, and they did give pleasure to recipients. It also raises the issue of how an idea is passed on and adapted. These are all based on ideas derived from things other people have made, although heavily adapted and certainly not directly copied. I hope my use is legitimate and sufficiently respectful of those from whose work the ideas were derived.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Seagull for SALA

The second panel I purchased for the Guild SALA Exhibition, Aviarius, was a seagull. I really liked the background fabric on which it is printed.

I had several ideas for this panel, but when I visited Victor Harbor with friends in late December and we sat for a while on the top of the Bluff I knew that was where I wanted to place the seagull.

I set about reproducing the back of the seat, using thread left over from the Ahwahnee table topper I made four years ago. There was quite a lot left so I thought I was safe, but inevitably I ran out and was fortunately able to match it exactly while staying near Hampton Court recently.

The seagull went in using stem stitch, in stranded cotton - white and a range of greys and a touch of black.

I then tried to outline the main parts of the scene. it wasn't easy to get the perspective and distance. I needed to enlarge some parts of the scene - to give greater definition to elements like the islands.

I thought the dark green conifer would be easy to embroider. I did vary the dark green thread, and both the shape and the stitch were easy enough, but it was still a little bit solid.

I expected the grass behind the chair to be easy - tiny seed stitches upright, rather than at different angles - but getting the colour right was a challenge. it took me several attempts to get a green that resembled the yellowy-green heading to brown of Australian grass in Summer.

While the background fabric was what suggested the landscape, I still needed to find a way of ensuring we saw water. I did this by straight blue lines.

Finally I needle-felted some clouds and outlined the seagull in black - the definition had been a bit lost against the island behind.

I blocked the finished piece overnight
.All the embroidery had been done in hand, without a hoop, and the heavily embroidered central section was a little tighter than the rest.  Blocking brought it back into line.

I had been giving thought to what I would do with this piece. The shape suggested a zip bag.

I bought a zip, found some blue cotton backing fabric and some oilcloth in my stash. Voila - a bag for keeping suntan cream, mosquito repellant and possibly a hat for the beach.

I printed the photograph on to a post-card sized fabric square as a label..

Once dry, I stitched this to the back - adding a line of feather stitch to cover the fold line I had failed to iron away.

The SALA Exhibition is not until August, so I will need to put this away until then. I've learned quite a lot from this and my other SALA pieces, most of it relating to story, While this seagull piece is a landscape, it is a landscape with association - a narrative. I enjoy playing with different ways of telling stories - and of formatting images to create narrative. These exhibition pieces have allowed me to explore this at some length.

It will be interesting to see where it takes me from here.