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Friday, June 23, 2017

Blackwell Roundel Box

This week the parcel arrived, securely and neatly packaged. I rushed to the Post Office to pick it up after finding the delivery card in my letterbox. I had been home but possibly missed hearing the buzzer. As I had hoped, it was from Jenny Adin-Christie, the box for my Blackwell roundel from my Spring Retreat with the Crewel Work Company. At home, out of the tightly taped post bag, here it was, waiting for me to open the box.
It was lovely. So lovely I forgot to take a photo. It was my grandchildren-after-school day and had a meal to prepare. I had to put it aside until evening.                                                                                     The kit had come with the backing fabric and the box came with a mounting board. When the family had gone I got to work.
The back was a little bulky - two layers of silk organza, backing silk and its cotton lining - but it worked fine. I added a circle of pellon.
The box is beautifully crafted - so smooth and lovely to hold.  The mahogany is perfectly matched to the colours in the embroidery.

The interior  mount-board backing is held in place with tiny brass screws.


  I'm not sure what I will do with this. I have more boxes than I know what to do with. This one is special - so beautifully designed and crafted.

I'm sure I'll find someone to use and treasure it.

It can sit here for a while, on my sewing box.

Thank you Jenny Adin-Christie!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Project 5 - B2B- Embroiderers' Guild of SA

It's been a year since I posted about my progress on Project 4 of the Guild's Back to Basics Program. This is because I had not made much progress. The group meets once a month, and closes over the Christmas/January period. Between my knee reconstruction and trips away my progress has been slow. 

The group has even changed it's name since I last wrote about it. There are five projects in the program and members take varying times to finish. Some slow down towards the end, because they do not want to leave the supportive and educative group. So we re-named the group Basics to Beyond. We can keep the B2B abbreviation and members can stay on 'beyond' the basic course.

Much of my time in the group last year was spent getting the layout and dimensions of the Project 4 bag right. The course places a lot of emphasis on construction, including accurate measurement - an area where I need to improve. I've had to re-do my initial attempt at tacking the boundaries of the embroidered panel and the side panels of the bag. I've learned a lot from this process. 

My first attendance this year was in April, and I could finally begin the embroidery. Our designs for this project are based on our initial, and I had planned to use the curves in trees and plants to give me my J.  This project also requires the incorporation of texture to the embroidery.                                                                                                                                                                               I used what I had learned from tree limbs in my Robins quilt to put in my first tree trunk.I then began to add smaller branches, building up the framework of the tree (and incorporating a few more Js!). 
Once the framework was in place I added leaves, and whipped some of the branches to get the grey-green colour of many Australian trees, including the red flowering gum that I wanted to construct here. It isn't easy to achieve this in a single colour thread.

One of my daughters had given me a year's subscription to a quarterly thread package and my first package contained a length of red chenille thread, which I cut into pieces to form the flowers. I like the result.

The other side of the embroidered panel is framed by a wattle tree. I found a photo of an interesting wattle tree on the Australian Geographic Flickr site and based my wattle tree on that. This gave me the opportunity to use some  cane toad leather, purchased from Alison Cole and to practise my couching. Once again, I worked the framework of the tree, then added the flowers - using Ghiordes and French knots.

My progress is largely down to a recent trip to Sydney and the NSW Southern Highlands. It was a good 'grab and go' project.  I could work it within the framework I have established without reference to a pattern or charts. It has given me the boost I needed to move the work forward.

This is where I am now.  I intend to put a layer of grasses and Flannel Flowers on the ground but it can wait a bit. I now have the energy - and motivation - to attempt to finish the Whitework project from the March Retreat.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Mending slippers

Last year a much-travelled friend gave me a pair of knitted slippers she had bought in Uzbekistan. I had admired hers and she kindly sent me a spare pair she had. They were truly charming and very comfortable for wearing on my carpeted floors.
They even won me a prize in a photo competition promoting Bundarra clothing!
However, my fondness for them produced holes in both heels and they looked like unravelling. Drastic action was required - and some of the skills of my grandmother and mother. 
 It was easy enough to pick up the unravelling stitches.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   I had a good supply of oddments of 4 ply wool in the right colour from Fair Isle jumpers made many years ago, so I could construct my set of bars across the hole and weave my patch.
The result was pretty neat (and on the underside anyway).

For good measure. and longevity, I added a couple of little felt patches over the mend, both on the inside and outside.

I'm very pleased with the result.
I'm happy to be able to continue using my lovely slippers, pleased to have preserved both a gift and a treasure. I'm also pleased to have used the skills given to me by my mother and grandmother.

Lots of wins for many women.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Blackwell Roundel

My last post on this project was from Windermere in March. This is the Jenny Adin-Christie project that we worked on at the Lady Anne's Needlework Spring Retreat. While a small piece, it is very detailed, with many steps and techniques. We had done something from each step but there was a lot of work to do to complete each one. My last photo from Windermere shows where I was up to.  
                                                                                                    I did not carry my work from the retreat with me while travelling. I didn't have a sitting frame with me and the work demanded greater care than I could give it. The Crewel Work Company kindly packaged and sent my projects on after I arrived home. It was only in early May that I had the instructions and projects set up and ready to go. I have been working on this one ever since - and not taking time out to write up my progress!
One of the things I love about a Jenny Adin-Christie project is the bag it comes in - a calico bag with a clear photo of the project firmly pasted to the outside and an identifying tag. These are so useful for working, storing, identifying and managing projects. I have all my projects in bags - since I love making them, but am  tempted to make myself a pile of simple calico bags that can be tagged in this way, or to find a way to adapt the concept to my existing bags.                                                                                                                              I have had the product I am aiming for constantly in front of me on the bag (This, of course, only works if you know what the end product will look like!). 
Jenny's instructions are also very detailed and sequenced. I went back to the beginning and worked my way through the project in order of the steps Jenny laid out. It mostly went smoothly - but in one place came close to disaster! 
The photos show my progress. It is delicate work - requiring (for me at least)  good magnification. I used a number of different magnifiers before settling on one attached to my daylight floor lamp.
I was doing quite well to this point. Then my attention faltered and I made an error in identifying the gold pearl purl I needed to couch down around the leaves and stems. Instead of the pearl purl, I used the cut purl, struggling to couch it (unsurprisingly, since it is designed for threading!). I persisted and got it almost finished with the wrong purl before I worked out what I had done.  
Some of it I could undo. Other sections, however, I was very reluctant to try to undo, given the silk organza on which the project is worked and the closeness of the fine couching. I opted for undoing where I was confident of not damaging the fabric,  and laying the real pearl purl over the other where I was not confident. Here you can see the real pearl purl laid around the outside, or on top of the wrong one. I then covered the mistake with gimp or the second row of pearl purl, or removed what I could.
I am writing calmly about this, but it rattled me and I am wincing at revealing the error in photographs. I had been so careful and followed Jenny's extensive and meticulous instructions so carefully, but made an assumption about packaging that was quite wrong - and in retrospect foolish. It came close to ruining the project. I recovered, but not without making significant compromises that a skilled needleworker's eye will pick up easily. I have progressed the project with some further imperfections - but nothing so dramatically wrong.. I tell myself that there is no way I would get this perfect with the limited experience I have of goldwork, and working on my own.
Here is the finished piece. I've learnt a lot from doing it, and am pleased to have finished it.  It isn't going to become my favourite kind of embroidery, and my eyes will be pleased to get back to  more forgiving techniques (not, however, before I finish the Nicola Jarvis whitework piece from the same retreat!).

I have ordered the small round box Jenny has designed for this project - it isn't the kind of thing I can put on a bag!

I am also grateful to Jenny for proof-reading this post and fixing my terminology. It is the generosity of a busy and committed expert. Thanks Jenny, on so many fronts.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Embroiderers' Guild of SA class: Ort Pot

I recently attended a most enjoyable one-day class at the Guild to make on Ort pot. Orts are the left-overs, for embroiderers mostly bits of thread or small scraps of fabric. The word derives from Middle English 'orte' meaning food scraps, which was, in its turn derived from either Dutch or German. 

Gay Sanderson, a long-term member of our Guild, has come up with an ingenious design for a small, personal, portable ort bin to carry with you and collect those annoying threads such as I leave all over the house - and anywhere else I go.  Gay has enlisted her husband Peter to cut the rings of polythene pipe that are an essential part of the kit for this project. I had purchased a kit for one of these some time ago, but hadn't got around to making one. When Gay offered a class, I figured enrolling was a way to tick off one more project on my list.
My kit came with this attractive fabric all cut to size. Since I purchased it, Gay has modified the size a little, so I needed to do a tiny bit of cutting.                                                                                  There were eight of us in the class, and we had a really enjoyable time, adapting, cutting, stitching and watching the pot emerge. Gay is a relaxed and flexible teacher.
By early in the afternoon I had my completed pot.
The big attraction is the way it folds up to fit in
a work box, bag or basket. It takes up less space than scissors.

As I finished with time to spare, I embroidered an initial on the base between the folds.

I have actually been using mine at home while working on my Jenny Adin-Christie roundel from my recent embroidery retreat.

Of course, at the end of the class I was so enthusiastic about my little ort pot that I bought another 4 sets of rings and circles so I could make some more with friends, or as gifts, so ticking this project off my list does not reduce my list at all. They are, however, objects I can make while travelling, talking or watching TV. I don't actually need any more projects for travelling, talking or watching TV.  They were such good fun to do that I'd like to share them with others - perhaps my SitnStitch group will be interested.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Christmas bags

When I finished my Red, Red, Robin quilt I needed an easy project to occupy my hands for a couple of days while I came down from the demands and euphoria of a project that had occupied my mind for several months. I pulled this kit for cross-stitch gift bags out of my stash, . I've had a couple of these for several years now and they come out and go back untouched each Christmas.                                                                                                                                                         They looked cheerful and straightforward enough to give me the mind-break I needed.
I won't comment on the absurdity of Mr and Mrs Snowman fully decked out and wearing shoes, nor on their relevance to Australia. I liked the look of them, found them soothing to stitch and smiled as I counted my stitches on the easy Aida fabric.

The bags were partially made up. When the stitching was done you joined the back seam and hemmed the top. I used a herringbone stitch on the inside, giving a running stitch effect on the outside. I then threaded the ribbon through the Aida as a draw-string, rather than just tying it around the outside of the bag as the kit instructed.

I had found two of these kits in my stash, so, ever a finisher, I thought I should keep going and finish all four bags.

Just a few hours after I had taken this photo and put the bags away for next Christmas, I found yet another one of the kits in my stash! Common sense might suggest I leave it for another day, but, no, I was determined to clear my slate of this purchase, so got on with the last two bags as 'down time' between more demanding projects.

I have enjoyed their cheerfulness and simplicity. I've been looking at my books of cross stitch patterns for ideas to create more simple bags from my stash of Aida! In my spare time.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Flour sack apron

Last year, as I was settling into my apartment, I made an effort to work some of the untouched kits and projects I had in my stash. This one I bought a few years ago when I thought aprons would make good presents. I was intrigued by this Herrschners kit that used serviettes and a simulated flour sack.                                                                                         The flour sack was simple a rectangle of cotton which I managed to lose in the process of moving my kits into their new storage space. I therefore cut a piece of calico to the right size (36"x24") and hemmed the sides and top.
The serviettes have their hems removed and are then cut into squares and rectangles of specified sizes.

The smaller squares are folded into triangles and stitched to the bottom hem - a bit like bunting.
The calico is pleated. The larger squares are stitched back to back and stitched on as pockets.
The long rectangles from the serviettes are joined together and attached to form a tie waist.                                                                                            Finally, a range of fruit is embroidered along the bottom, using iron-on transfers provided in the kit.                                                                                                                                                             
My younger granddaughters helped me cut out some of the pieces for this project. I thought it a bit big and wanted to make a smaller version, but Niamh liked it as it is and laid claim to it  - identifying it at once with Little House on the Prairie. 
Of course, that called for a second, quite different apron for Veronica. I thought I had taken more photos of this in the making - but the photo fairies seem to have made away with them. This is the best I can do!