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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Embroiderers' Guild Summer School: Maharani's Fish Pond.

PictureThe last two days of the Summer School I attended Barbara Mullan's Kantha class to stitch a version of her Maharani's Fish Pond. Her piece (left) is about 60cm square and really beautiful. It was originally stitched, I think, for her thesis.

For the class, Barbara prepared a small version, designed to be stitched on fabric 20cmx20cm.

We had instructions to prepare the fabric and trace the design in advance of the class. I have wanted to do more of this since working on her sampler last year.

We began the class with some Kantha background, then learned some of the techniques, practising on a waste piece.

This, I admit, is not my favourite way of working. It was useful, however, in learning some of the padding techniques that can only be done at the end - when we will all be at home, away from a teacher.

This class attracted both embroiderers and quilters - so a great mix of women with different experiences and skills, from a young woman with no needlework experience at all, to highly experienced needleworkers and quilters, including Michelle Hill, who continues to write books and blogs on applique and William Morris.

I had to get my head back into the techniques and stitch arrangements for Kantha, but it didn't take long.

My stitching accuracy was initially not too good - hours of focusing played havoc with my eyes. Eventually I found a rhythm and figured which stitches I worked better in a hoop and which in my hand.

There are no fixed colours for this piece - beyond a suggested pallette, so experimentation is the order of the day. Interesting to see how differently individuals work - some unpicking when not satisfied, others (like me!) adapting as they go.

At least a couple of women will get truly beautiful products at the end.

Once I am into this, and the design begins to take shape, I am addicted. I have difficulty putting it down.  I really love the freedom to improvise and experiment with such fluid shapes and stitches.

It continuously makes me smile that the restriction to running stitch produces such freedom, variety and improvisation.

Women in various parts of the world who worked with running stitch knew a thing or two and left us a great legacy.

Since returning home I have finished stitching the figures and begun  on the background fill. I added the beginnings of a border and am letting the design take me where it will. I am finding it immensely satisfying.


Katherine said...

Gorgeous design and you are stitching it beautifully Jillian. Love the colours and I really just love fish too.

Jillian said...

Thanks Katherine - they have a lovely fluid shape. For stitching.

Monica said...

This sounds like it was a really wonderful class. I am quite envious!

I didn't realize that Kantha could also be padded, like boutis. It is so interesting to learn about all the regional variations!

Your fish pond looks wonderful. I think the fun you are having is coming through in the finished piece. Great post, thanks!

Jillian said...

Thanks, Monica. The best book on Kantha is apparently hard to obtain. I'll post details next time. The Guild Library has a copy which I will get around to borrowing.