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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Red Robin Panel 7: I'm just a kid again, doin' what I did again

Panel 7 is a a female robin and I worked it once again in stem stitch. The orange is true to the colour rather than the pink! This is also one of the smallest of the robin panels.
When I first conceived these panels, this was one of the first that I knew how I'd approach. I wanted it to reflect the activities that occupied my time as a child.

  playing quoits, swimming, reading

skipping, playing ball and Jacks (knucklebones in some cultures)

riding my tricycle and going to high school in my brown uniform carrying a briefcase.

The bird is completely our of proportion to the little figures - but I think that's part of the metaphor of this story.

I have continued backing the squares with the batik stripe and quilting the edges in a bold running stitch, now using six strands of variegated thread.

I'm very happy with this panel.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Red Robin Panel 6: Rain May Glisten

I am currently in the England, in the Lakes District, to attend the Spring Residential with The Crewelwork Company. I have set up a travel blog where I will be writing about the Residential. Interested readers are welcome to visit the travel blog.
In the wake of the reverse applique work of the African Tribal Inspired workshop from the Embroiderers' Guild Summer School, I thought I'd have a go at reverse appliqueing a robin. I tried it with a male bird which has simpler whole colours rather than the varied browns of the female.
I began by adding a layer of black cotton to the back of a panel. It was already backed in white sheeting, so that became the middle layer

The red layer I inserted from the front after cutting out the whole of the basic robin shape. It required rather a lot of pins to hold the layers in place and to catch on my thread as I stitched - but it worked.

I could then embroider the bird with feathery stitches and add some greenery. This time I decided on a flowering gum.

The size of the robin, is, of course, out of proportion to the leaves. This might be a pre-historic giant ancestor of the modern Scarlet Robin.

I used Ghiordes knots for the blossom.

For the glistening rain I found a metallic in pale, watery colours. Here is the singer of the song, sitting under her umbrella listening 'for hours and hours'.

The metallic doesn't show up well in photographs - but it does glisten!
Here's the total panel. You can see that the central robin panel is smaller for this one than most of the others. This is just the way it came from the Guild and will make, I think, the finished quilt quite interesting.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Red, Red Robin Panel 5: What if I've been blue, still I'm walking through fields of flower
I thought the lovely blue on this panel was most appropriate for the next line in the song. I considered a range of cottage garden options for the panel, but settled on using a photograph of Western Australian wildflowers as inspiration. The photo comes from Ross Tours.
I'm working on alternating the male and female robins from panel to panel. This one is a female. I had to go and buy more stranded thread in browns and greys - it's not a colour range I have used extensively and I need variegations for the female robin.
She really stands out against the blues.
My goal was to get the sense of the WA field of flowers without totally covering the blue background

I used a wider range of pinks than the photo and included fewer stems but kept the perspective of larger foreground and smaller background flowers.

There is a little person walking through the field.

The orange edging really helps.

I have moved from using machine thread to hand-quilt the panel borders to using three strands of variegated stranded cotton. I rather like the effect. Its more Japanese chiku-chiku and less Kantha.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Red Robin Panel 3: Wake up, wake up you sleepy head, get up, get up, get out of bed.

I'm working at the moment on a plan to alternate the male and female Scarlet Robins on each panel. This may change as I see how they are fitting together. This one, however, is a female and I worked her in stem stitch again.

To tell the story I began with a series of little hammocks slung from trees across the top of the panel. The hammocks are worked in needle-lace.
Underneath each hammock is the shape of a tiny person. The hammock can be lifted to reveal the sleeper underneath.

The more difficult part was embroidering sleeping people inside buildings. I hesitated between a home and a dormitory - such as a camp or shearers' quarters. In the end I went for a hybrid.I tried for straight and neat - but ended more Grandma Moses! This bit is shapes only - nothing to lift and reveal the sleepers.

The birdsong in this panel is my attempt to capture the song of the Scarlet Robin itself. I am not a musician and do not read music more than knowing one note is higher or lower than another. I found some recordings of Scarlet Robin birdsong  and played them over and over, trying to gain a sense of the way the notes might flow.  This time I worked the notes and sound waves before I added the panel back!
I also stitched over the words on this panel. I'm not happy with the 'take' of the printed words.
Finally I added the back panel and quilted lines around the borders of the panel. It's a bit wonky and crude but I think the story is there.

I'm enjoying this move into what is turning out to be narrative embroidery.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Red, Red, Robin Panel 2: "There'll be no more sobbin' when he starts throbbin' his own, sweet song".

For the second panel of my Robins quilt (chronological not stitching order) I tried appliqueing the bird. Having seen the Tentmakers of Cairo documentary late last year, I wanted to try adapting their appliqué method. Mine is called 'Tentmakers with pins'.
I used, as the tentmakers do, a rough-cut piece of fabric, but kept it small and used pins to hold it roughly in place, adjusting as I went. It worked quite well.

Once I had appliqued the four pieces in place I embroidered the edges and wing. I am very pleased with the result. It will only work, I think, for the male bird. The complex browns of the female bird would only work if I found a fabric that matched the subtlety of the bird.

I had decided from the beginning to try to tell this line of the story using emojis - moving from sad, to 'wow' to happy.

It proved harder than I anticipated. The sad emoji gave me no trouble.

I struck trouble, however with 'wow'.

Getting that open mouth and eye look was not easy. I tried outline only, black fill, black fill with white inside then back to all black. I couldn't get the exact shape I wanted.

In the end, I went on to add the sound waves and notes that complete the story and voila! it lifted the emoji to the message I was after.

The effect is exactly what I wanted. The mistake I made was to add the backing and quilt the sound waves through all layers. I'd have been better to have kept the back consistently stitched around the bird shape and border only. I do, however, have a Plan B.
I hand-quilted straight lines around the borders and am well satisfied with the result.                                                                                           Since completing it I have realised that reverse applique might have worked better for the emojis.                                                   Next time!                  

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Tribal Inspired finish

When I got home from holiday, with my African Tribal piece from the Embroiderers' Guild Summer School embroidered, I set about blocking it. As it was a 100F day in Adelaide, I pinned it out on the carpet and sprayed it with water until saturated. Even with the aircon on, it dried completely in 2 hours and came out beautifully flat.

I trimmed the edges - realising as I did it, what a poor job I had done of getting the outer edges of the octagon even. This is because, although I measured and drew an initial template for the Maltese Cross, I did not measure the lines extending from the Cross to the outer edges, but simply extended them as I went. I don't mind the somewhat haphazard folk-art look, but it's a lesson for future work of this kind.
I added some cotton interfacing on the back, to strengthen those exposed sections of the bottom layer of fabric before turning under a hem all around.
I had designed this piece to be added to clothing, but it had more than doubled in size from my original concept. I tried it unsuccessfully on various pieces of clothing before hitting on an black linen shirt that I usually wear open over tops. I decided the piece can serve as a pocket. I stitched it on by machine, reinforcing the opening, but using a long stitch elsewhere so I can remove it easily if I change my mind. The downside is that being linen, this shirt requires constant ironing!
It was a good thing I used the large stitch. I had left an opening near the front edge of the shirt. I should, of course, have left an opening near the side seam! The pocket came off, and I relocated it.  My hand now goes easily into the pocket.                                                                                                   I've had a lot of fun with this project, learned a heap, and am looking forward to seeing where my fellow students have ended with their pieces.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Tribal Inspired Embroidery from North Africa : Summer School 2017

The Embroiderers' Guild of SA holds a full Summer School every second year. This is usually held at a local boarding school, so country and interstate members can live in if they wish. In the alternate years Summer classes are held at the Guild's headquarters. This year was a Summer School year and the program was very enticing. I originally chose two classes but in the end one of these clashed with a family holiday and I reduced my attendance to one class - Barbara Mullan's Tribal Inspired Embroidery from North Africa. Her sample for the class is on the right. (courtesy of the Embroiderers' Guild Facebook page)
The piece begins with three layers of fabric to be worked with reverse applique. I had an African geometric print as my bottom layer, a variegated small wavy print as the second and a mustardy brown as my top layer(the truest colour is in the last two photos below).  We were a small group and began by discussing design and North African motifs. I settled on a Maltese Cross as my basic design and set about finding a location on the bottom layer where the geometry was well displayed.
The scary part is cutting through the two layers to expose the bottom one. I inserted a small piece of red fabric as a third layer under the lozenges just to lift the colour a little.
As it took shape I expanded the pattern and exposed more of the under layers.
I began to embroider the various segments of the Maltese Cross. I used enhanced chain stitch around the patterned shapes and rows of couched thread around the smaller, mustardy triangles. Only when I'd finished embroidering the Maltese Cross section did I then expose the full outer circle. This is about where I got to in the two day class. It was a fabulous class - full of experimenting, sharing and ideas. Everyone did something quite different but the purpose, enthusiasm and interest was shared as we worked within the parameters of the tradition we were learning from Barbara.

At home I tried an open chain stitch in the brown octagon but soon decided it was too heavy and the wrong colour. I switched, to black and light brown, which worked much better. These threads were woven between the edging rows of chain stitch.
After experimenting, the final row was achieved by cutting and appliqueing the top layer, then couching a gimp thread.  I wanted to finish with a layer I could turn under to hold in some interfacing since the bottom layer seemed a little thin. The variegation in the second layer gave me an unpleasant yellow on one side, so I cut and inserted some strips from the other side.
This gives me a more even edge coverage. I have finished it to this stage while on a family beach holiday this week. When I get home I will block the piece, add the interfacing and finish the edge. I'm not sure what I will do with it yet. It began as an amulet - to ward off the evil eye- but has grown too big to hang. I may yet find a piece of clothing I can mount it on.