I wanted to demonstrate to a group the almost limitless possibilities of a simple embroidery stitch. A perfect excuse to indulge in one of my favourite activities – playing with colour thread and fabric. I used a piece of my snow-dyed fabric, working with that colour palette and chose fly stitch. It’s a basic, simple loop stitch and I think that often the simpler the stitch, the more you can do with it. Everything (except one back-stitched outline) in the as- yet unfinished sampler is a variation of fly stitch. Interestingly, the twisted version (on the left) looks just like twisted detached chain, and it is! Detached chain stitch and fly stitch are worked with exactly the same movements, the former has both ends of the “loop” into the same hole, the fly stitched doesn’t.
Progress is being made on a small quilt, too. I’ve had a charm pack lurking in a drawer for a couple of years now, I was determined to use. I found the traditional ‘Tumbler’ block and realised this shape would waste very little of each square. I used remnants from making a grand daughter’s dress to sash one side of each piece and loved the zigzag that appeared. Here are the completed rows waiting to be stitched together. Every charm square used and I really like it!
I went to an exhibition by RAWedge at Thaxted. An absolute delight. Not only were the six artists’ finished pieces a joy to look at but their sketchbooks were accessible. So fascinating to see that they had gone through the same processes (via workshops with Mentor Alex Waylett) and yet produced completely personal work.
Another completed project – I may be slow but I get there in the end! Remember the interleave quilting? Way back in February I did a panel with my textile group. Three months later and it’s a bag. I used some more of the same fabrics and foundation pieced random length strips to create a back panel. Fortunately I had enough of the black to finish off the top edges, make a gusset and then bind the seams. I did these wrong sides together to give a neat black edge to the panels.
It ended up being a very large bag and was used on Saturday to carry all my sewing stuff to a great awayday.
Alex Waylett has an enviable studio near Colchester and offers a wide range of workshops. Eight of us, mostly from the Embroiderer’s Guild, convened at 10.00am to experience the delights of layering sheers and silk velvet, machining and embellishing, to produce a grid-based piece of work that we would take home to decorate further with beads, braids and burning. Alex led us gently and clearly through all the various stages and we were so enjoying ourselves that we didn’t leave till well gone four o’clock.
I include a detail of my piece but it is very much a work in progress, so watch this space. (It still has the Romeo soluble fabric shining brightly but that will be rinsed away.) Do look at Alex’s work on the web. There aren’t any photos on her website of this particular project but you will get an idea of the wonderful pieces she makes and what you might enjoy as a workshop.
A very mixed bag of activities since the last entry. That’s one of the (many) aspects of textiles that I love – you certainly don’t need to be doing the same thing all the time! In my textile group we played with Gelli plates. Two adventurous members made their own; I have a 6 inch square commercial one. We all brought stencils, mark makers and paints and shared them, thoroughly enjoying ourselves. We all produced very different looking prints as it is a very versatile and personal technique.
I have been re-acquainting myself with Tyvek’s potential, both the film and the fabric. I worked on both with several types of media and decided that I prefer the effects on the fabric. This is also easier to stitch into so that’s what I will stay with. Now to actually use some of them with fabric and embroidery. As you can see from the two examples the fabric Tyvek contracts much more interestingly when subjected to heat.
And for something completely different – I hand-embroidered a wild daffodil. It is a contribution to another travelling book, one with the theme of wildflowers. I sat in the garden over our sunny weekend and immersed myself in woven picots and knotting.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.