Planning a new embroidery course

The new course I’m delivering starts next week and it’s very different to anything I’ve done before. Usually I’m presenting techniques with elements of design included. This time, from the start, the students will be embarking on designing their own pieces, with me offering support on stitches and techniques as they go along.

“Creating Textile Journal Maps” combines my fascination with all things cartographic and a desire to explore elements of my life in embroidery. So, for example, a memorable holiday in the Loire Valley is being recorded with a map containing images and text. I was enjoying this new approach so much that I suggested it to my students as the next course and they seemed equally enthusiastic. I can’t wait to see what they come up with.

The map at the top is Britain, from Mappa Mundi in Hereford Cathedral, and it’s hard to recognise!

 

I now need to resist the urge to research yet more about maps and map-making though. I find so many, particularly older ones, so intrinsically beautiful and fascinating that I spend far too much time on this; the internet can draw me in for hours.

It’s absorbing, too, working on different ways of representing things in stitch – so many ways to depict roads or paths, for example.

Now I will have to wait and see what the group comes up with; I know they will all be different and personal. Exciting.

Crewel work and a dragon

The crewel work course I have been teaching came to an end last week.  It’s a mix of sadness – the last time I’ll be with that particular group – and admiring what each has done and learned. None of the projects was actually finished but all were well on their way and some only needed a few more stitches before blocking and mounting. I’m still, after all these years teaching, impressed and delighted by the wide range of designs and different projects produced when all have had the same input from me!

The Embroiderers’ Guild branch I belong to has been running a ‘Travelling Books’ amongst its members.  The idea is that a group (of six or eight) is set up and each chooses a theme for their own small sketch book. They outline the theme on the first page and do an embroidery to be mounted on the next.  The book then travels to another in the group who interprets the theme in their own way and passes it to the next and so on.  When the book reaches its ‘owner’ again that person has a book of lovely small embroideries done by friends.  A great idea.  I have just done a page for a young member of our group whose theme was classic novels.  Others had represented The Secret Garden, A Christmas Carol, Robinson Crusoe, Little Women, Canterbury Tales and Jane Eyre.  The young embroiderer herself had chosen Pride and Prejudice. I chose The Hobbit (which, I argue, was written long enough ago to count as ‘classic’ now!) and worked a piece based on the illustration of Smaug the dragon curled round his treasure hoard. I had a thoroughly enjoyable time machine embroidering a huge hoard and then set it with sparkly, french knot jewels.

Happy New Textile Year!

I do enjoy the notion of a fresh start for a new year.  An illusion, of course, as I never really ‘finish’ a year off in terms of having completed all projects and having nothing to carry over into the next! I do have some minor rituals to mark the passage of time.  I tidy and clean my workroom and make an attempt to reduce the amount of clutter. I start a new desk journal to capture this year’s to-do lists, jottings, plans etc.  I once again determine to work more effectively – to get things done, rather than find them unfinished in a box at the end of the year. Have you done anything to mark the transition to 2018?

A couple of posts ago, I when I reviewed my favourite stitch books, I said I would tell you about technique books that I have found valuable.  The first is one I have written about before: The Anchor Manual of Needlework, a volume that sparked my love of embroidery.

Early 20th Century Embroidery Techniques

More recently I have learned a great deal from Gail Marsh’s Early 20th Century Embroidery Techniques. This is a wonderfully illustrated, thoroughly researched  and delightfully written exploration of the embroiderers who developed traditional skills and designs and influenced the course of embroidery for the rest of the century.  The Gawthorpe collection provided the source material and much of it has not been seen in print before. Fascinating.

 

Casalguidi Style Linen Embroidery

An Australian author, Effie Mitrofanis, has a fresh approach to  traditional techniques such as Casalguidi work. Her work is firmly rooted in needle skills but allied to a more contemporary and lively appreciation of the potential of colour in previously neutral and monochrome schemes. Her 2009 book, Threadwork, presents a lively combination of beautifully worked stitches and cords and beading with an exuberance of colour.

Mitrofanis Threadwork

I am also enjoying the ongoing series of technique manuals from the Royal School of Needlework. If you want to know the ‘right’ way to do something then these are the books for you.  Stitches and methods are well illustrated with photographs of the workings and there are lovely examples of contemporary interpretations of such traditions as crewel work, canvas work, blackwork, whitework and more.

 

Patchwork cushions

Several years ago, as part of my City & Guilds course, I made several patchwork blocks in a range of blue / grey batiks.  As I was a beginner each block took a long time and although I was enjoying the process I didn’t really want to invest the time in ‘just’ samples to sit in a drawer.  I did each one as a fully backed, quilted piece with the vague idea that I could make more and create a quilt. Well, time moved on and I made no more blocks.  Also when I put them together I didn’t really like the effect as I had created several different sizes!

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago – preparations for Christmas and the realisation that I needed new cushions for the sofa. Coincidentally I was going through some drawers in my workroom trying to find space for yet more ‘essential’ pieces of fabric.  I found the blocks, I gained drawer space and new cushions. Result!

I wanted to pipe the cushion covers because I think it gives a better shape and fortunately I had enough of the dark fabric for all the backs and piping so they look like a set despite being different designs.  I was once again thankful I’d invested  in a piping foot for my Bernina. Actually it isn’t the one marketed as a piping foot, which is number 38 and has a raised right hand side.  I like number 12 which is described as a bulky overlock foot and has quite a deep groove underneath which sits neatly over the cord and works a treat. I used to use the zipper foot but it never quite did the job well.

I do like Christmas preparations! This year I changed the colour scheme of The Table and made a set of place mats with cheerful green, red and gold seasonal fabrics.  I just cut squares in half and matched green with red, used insulating wadding and backed them with more glittery goodness.