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Friday, March 31, 2017

Red, Red Robin Panel 9: When the Red, Red, Robin

The final panel in my Robins quilt began as a cluster of fairly generic birds. I cornered the market on robin panels and was short one panel. I figured I could adapt this one to suit my purposes. The plan is to turn these birds into a group of robins in a nest.

A bit of research told me that Scarlet Robins build cup-shaped nests in the forks of trees. They make the nests from twigs and leaves, bound together with spider web and plugged up with moss. I found a couple of stock images from Getty Images.

I began by sketching in an outline of the nest and branches and tweeking the shape of the birds.

I found it a bit hard to get the cup-shape around the group of birds without making it look huge.

A couple of days before I left for London, I paid a visit to Create in Stitch to find a range of threads that might serve as spider web and moss. I wanted to work on this while away and needed to take enough thread to keep me working and improvising - but not weighing me down.

I worked the birds first to help me define the area left for the nest, and to give me a colour-fix. I began to fill in the right side tree branch using Bokhara stitch to get a bit of texture. I finished working this on the plane from Sydney to Dubai, but didn't like the result. My tension was too tight - a product of not using a hoop, but also, I think, the length of the area I was working. Bokhara, I suspect, only works well on shorter distances.
I am not big on unpicking. but decided this one had to go.

Instead. I tried out the stitching we had used on the Phoebe Anne Trequair piece with Meredith Hahn Willett on the Scottish trip in 2015. I laid thread down on a diagonal angle and couched it down with back stitch. This enabled me to provide not only texture, but some notion of bark and markings on the tree.

Much happier.

I decided to shorten the side of the nest to get the shape more cup-like.

Anxious (and curious! about how I would manage to get the nest as complex as the real thing, I worked a small area on one side.

I worked a series of straight lines (sticks) across, then filled in the spaces with a variety of threads, colours and stitches. I overlayed this with some rough needle-lace to create the spiderweb binding.

It seemed to work

so I set to work on the whole nest.

This kept me occupied for quite a while! I used a lot of stem stitch, some of it whipped, some chain stitch, double chain stitch (some of these also whipped) some fly stitch, Bokhara, feather, weaving, couching and a few French knots. Most photographs showed the nests as greyish.  Grey also helped me to keep the nest distinct from the birds.

As I neared the end, I decided the nest was better expanded to the original right-hand boundary, so I added that in again.

When I had finished the basic nest I worked the spiderweb needle lace in sections rather than covering the whole thing. I figured this is what birds would do - gather bits of spider web and attach it, rather than coercing a spider to spin web over the nest!

The silk I had used on my little test section was a flat grey. I decided that a slightly variegated light brown would work better, so I reworked that section as well. The web effect does not show up well in photographs, but looks quite good in reality. The wide grey band in the front would be better broken up - but I'm not going back!

The final stage of embroidery was to surround the nest with leaves - since they are built in the tops of trees. I only had three useful shades of green with me. I had managed to supplement my greys from a thread shop in Keswick, the greens were more elusive. I used the three shades I had, and a little brown. It isn't hugely varied, but works, I think, well enough for a Eucalypt.

By now I was concerned that the amount of embroidery on the nest - worked without a hoop - had severely distorted the fabric in a couple of places. I thought I would be able to block it back into shape, but was anxious to try it.

I was by now staying in a hotel near Hampton Court and had almost a week before I would be home.

I improvised with what I had to hand and blocked the piece overnight.

To my relief it straightened up. There is still a bit of slack in it and I will block it again when I get home - but I know I have a usable block. It isn't perfect - but I have learned so much from this block alone. I am discovering, amongst other things, that I like narrative embroidery (not surprising, I guess - I like narrative!). I wonder where that is going to take me? (Not, methinks, into serious quilting!)

I will probably stitch over the wording on this one with black thread, maybe in the next couple of days. My eyes needed a bit of a rest before I tackle it.

When I get home I can back this one and quilt the edges. Then I need to MEASURE, trim and cut the joining strips. Can't wait to see it all together!


Monica said...

Personally, I love stitched fabric books, but I don't have the patience. (hint, hint)

What a range of textures you achieved on this one! The branches are beautiful with that woodgrain look, and the nest is almost palatial! Spiderwebs! Who knew? It will be exciting to see it all together. :D

margaret said...

what a journey this was to get such a lovely piece, the nest looks so realistic and the robins so much at home in it, you must be thrilled with it

Jillian said...

I don't think fabric books will turn out to be the direction , as interesting as they are. Something will turn up!
Yes, the research for this has been really interesting!

Jillian said...

Thanks, Margaret. Yes I am. I'll be constructing as soon as I'm home and awake enough!

Anonymous said...

pour vos napperons
le 2 = dentelle aux fuseaux
le 3 dentelle de Luxeuil
et 4crochet

Jillian said...

Merci! J'appr├ęcie votre aide.