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.


Slow progress with quilt

Well I haven’t finished any more projects since my last post but I have kept busy.

A surprising amount of time spent holding various fabrics up against the bed quilt centre in an effort to decide on borders to get it up to a reasonable size.  At the moment it would perch uncomfortably in the middle of the bed! I think I’m there now and thanks to the great staff at the Bramble Patch the next fabric (see above – isn’t it beautiful?) arrived yesterday, so no excuse not to progress.

I taught the next crewel work session last week as well.  Projects have now been decided on and I can’t wait to see how they turn out.  We looked at using satin stitch in various ways, both for areas of colour and for moving through different colours or shades. I love this encroaching satin stitch, it adds so much texture to the shapes.

Quilted and embroidered

Two projects finished last week!  Not started and finished obviously, just completed in time for the deadline of my local EG branch annual display of members’ work. I so enjoy seeing what everyone has been doing that I feel it only fair to include some of mine.  This year’s theme was trees which meshed nicely with my textile group’s challenge.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned the group – Wyvern Textiles – before.  We haven’t been together long, still finding our way.  We joined together because we wanted to have others to talk to about our work as it progressed.  I don’t know about the rest of the group but I’m really appreciating having such great people to give me help and constructive criticism.  We are all very different in background and in what sort of work we are doing, hence the use of ‘textiles’ in our name.  Definitely not tying ourselves down as a group, or individuals, to one technique.

We set ourselves a challenge. To all use a single point of inspiration to create,  in any way we wanted, a piece to be exhibited this coming month. We chose a painting by David Hockney, Three Trees at Thixendale, Winter 2007.  We have all produced very different work! It’s been an interesting journey. Here’s a detail of my piece  and I’ll ask the others if they can let me have photos of theirs.

This is machine embroidery worked on a pieced and hand and machine quilted ground.  I am enjoying combining different techniques, makes the process varied and challenging. The  image at the top shows my other piece with couched gold and after doing that I painted and quilted the batik it is worked on.

So now – on with the bed quilt and some other unfinished projects.  I’ll see if I can finish something else before my next post!

Crewel work for autumn

It’s September, it’s definitely autumnal and the teaching term has started!  My Wivenhoe group asked to get involved with crewel embroidery so we started from basics and everyone has their own project in mind to finish (?) by January.

I decided I would work a small piece alongside them and treated myself to someone else’s design so I could jump straight in.  I chose Sue Hawkins‘ Pomegranates.  This one of her kits is just right for me because it uses several of exactly the same colours as a cushion I have already worked, so will sit well with that. That earlier one was started in a Philippa Turnbull class and is part of her Levens Hall Pillowe design (which I can’t now see on her website but there are other wonderful designs). Apparently I worked this five years ago – seems like yesterday! Sue uses a stitch I haven’t come across before.  The one down the sides of the open part of the pomegranate.  It’s worked the same way as whipping over the spokes of a spider web but done on a ladder of straight stitches.  Very effective.

I’ve also made progress with my bed quilt. I showed a picture way back in May of a couple of rows.  Then I didn’t get to working on it much over the summer.  This Saturday I took all my completed rows and started to seam them together – and this time my points mostly meet!

These feel somewhat like autumnal colours as well (grey for the rain?) and I am pleased with the way they are blending together, a bit more so than in the photo.