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.

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.

Piecing for a tuffet

I have covered a tuffet!  I went to a great class with Linda Chevin Hall at Bramble Patch and now have a beautiful footstool.

A friend of mine went a couple of months ago and said she had such a good time I was determined to go myself; she was quite right, it was a very enjoyable day.  We needed thirty strips of fabric and I wanted to use up some of my stash, not buy a new jelly roll or yet more fat quarters.  In the end I used mostly my material with just a couple of beautiful additions from the wonderful range at Bramble Patch to complete my colour palette.

Linda seemed to effortlessly have loads of time for each of the ten in the group and was especially helpful with colour sorting.  I based my scheme around the colour of a painted cupboard in the room it was destined for and my husband painted the wooden feet with some chalk paint fortunately left over.  I love it.

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!

Textile exhibition

Recently I was asked to put some of my work in a textile exhibition. Gulp. I was very flattered of course but also a little intimidated. Does anyone not feel nervous about putting there work ‘out there’?  I know I do.  Somehow it’s easier to submit a piece to a juried exhibition because any rejection happens in private.  No-one will know my work was not considered appropriate. I won’t say ‘good enough’ because the piece would not have been submitted if I hadn’t felt it didn’t meet my own standards, therefore for me it was good enough.

So I’m now in the next stage of trying to decide which pieces to hang and get some pieces completed in time. I included a pair that I started and left unfinished before I had to take a break, so at least two years ago. I’ve very much enjoyed getting myself back in touch with the theme I was working on and seeing it through to finished pieces. Giving a title to work is tricky isn’t it?  I thought long and hard about that and finally decided on Stone Stories 1 and 2.  Of course this might change before I actually type up labels… The images came about from my thoughts on old buildings, specifically Romanesque churches, and how the stone still stands as witness to a time and society that has vanished and that we find hard to understand.

Details of some pieces in the photos; I’ll post full pictures once the exhibition is open.  If you live locally to Wivenhoe do come and see ‘Threads’ at the Nottage Maritime Institute on the Quay from  8 to 23 July on Saturdays and Sundays (please check opening times on the website).

Below is the information from the website – I feel very much a newcomer in such illustrious company!

The exhibition showcases the diversity of ideas and range of  techniques used in working with fabrics and textiles.  The exhibitors are all residents of Wivenhoe.
Beth is a freelance textile artist who makes designs for printed fabrics.  There will be printed samples of her designs for sale.
Annie is known for her framed silk stitched collages and her work reflects her love of the sea and the timelessness of landscape. She uses highly decorative techniques crossing the boundary between fine and applied art.
Janet’s love and understanding of colour and geometry are evident in her abstract works while her ability to draw and her imaginative use of fabrics enliven her more complex figurative pieces.
Eliza is a highly regarded textile artist working with words in her hand stitched and embroidered artworks.
Trained at Kensington and Chelsea College of Fashion and Design under Noel Stewart, Lesley produces exquisite bespoke head creations in all materials.
A member of the Embroiderers’ Guild Susan is a teacher of traditional hand embroidery but is also an expert in new techniques.