Monday, September 17, 2012

Finishing things

I have had a busy summer finishing a variety of projects and travelling!  I spent a lot of my time making 3 bridesmaids dresses for a wedding in mid-August - they were finished the day before the wedding as there were a lot of last minute adjustments to make however the girls and more importantly the bride were very happy with them on the day.

I also made 2 bags over the summer - I wanted a padded bag for carrying my laptop around and decided to use this blue Tiffany style fabric.

I was also asked if I would make a bag for someone, which I agreed to.  She sent me the fabric and here is the finished result.  I was very pleased with how it turned out and so was the recipient.

In the middle of August I got my results back for my blackwork module and was very pleased to have earned a distinction - the piece of work has also been included in the RSN's special summer newsletter commemorating 140 years of the RSN much to my delight and amazement.

Now it's time to start some new projects and continue with others which have been put to one side over the last few months.  I have started my next module with the RSN which is Long and Short Silk Shading.  For this piece I am working on a picture of a fuschia flower on dark green silk.  So far I have created the design, decided which threads to use, transferred the design to the framed silk and started to do the split stitch - on Wednesday I shall start the actual long and short stitches.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Blackwork finished!

I have just realised that it is many months since I last posted and haven't given any progress reports about my RSN course.  My Jacobean crewelwork piece was assessed and I got a credit for it which I was pleased about - a good mark for a first piece.  Since then I have been working on my next module - blackwork.  I decided to create a picture based on a photograph of Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland and actually used 2 pictures because one of them had a wonderfully dramatic sky outlining the castle.  It was important to find an image with lots of shadows and shading that I could trace and use as my reference.  The design was transferred onto evenweave fabric using tissue and stitching lines and then I had to choose about 5 or 6 different stitch patterns.  The shading is achieved by using different weights of threads (fine silk, machine embroidery thread, stranded cotton and coton a broder) and breaking up the stitches or adding an extra line to them.  The first photo shows the progress I had made by early March. 

And here is the finished picture ready to be handed in this week for assessment over the summer.

The next module that I will start in September is Silk Shading using long and short stitch.  I need to find an image of a flower that is not too complicated and that I like before then so I intend to take lots of photos as I am out and about on my travels.

This week we have an exhibition opening in Rugby Library and Museum for 10 days, with a lot of work from the RSN Certificate and Diploma students based in Rugby on display - it should be a great show as there is a lot of lovely work to be displayed.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The crewel work picture is finished!  Hurrah - it is mounted and now ready to be handed in for assessment.

To get the mounting right took a lot of work and a lot of tweeking but I am pleased with the finished result and look forward to getting my assessment mark - hopefully a good one.

Now on to the next module - Blackwork.  I have chosen to do a picture of Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland - lots of opportunities to use a variety of stitches (about 6) and lots of shading in the picture which will present an interesting challenge.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Recent Progress
I have made a lot of progress on my Crewel Work piece since the last time I blogged about it, firstly I finished the flower on the right hand side then worked on the flower on the left, also finishing that.  I have also completed 2 of the hillocks at the bottom of the piece and the branch for the robin to sit on.

This week when I went up to Rugby I added a new flower at the top, decided on the stitches for the hillocks, started work on one of the hillocks and worked on the robin.  The robin is stitched using long and short stitch for the body/breast in 4 shades of the pink.

This week I shall try to finish the robin and the hillocks so that when I go back for the last session before Christmas I just have the flower at the top to work on.  This means that I shall be ready to mount the piece in the New Year and move on to the second module.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Day 3 
During the past 2 weeks I have done some work on the crewel work design, slightly hampered by a sore thumb, a busy couple of weeks and the record breaking hot weather we have enjoyed over the past week.  However, I did manage to do some of the work most of it being done twice!  I started with the leaves at the base of the tree using a mixture of stem stitch and chain stitch.  When I came to doing the branch for the robin to sit on I hit a couple of problems - firstly, the mixture of colours I chose was wrong, too light and too similar to the leaf on that side, secondly, I wasn't sure how to stitch around the feet of the bird.  I managed to sort out the colours myself but left the rest of the stitching until I could ask for advice from the tutors - now I know what to do.  The trunk of the tree is stitched using raised stem stitch - here you can see the base stitches which it will be woven on.

I also tried to do the upper petal on the flower, filling it with the trellis pattern but realised when I had done it that it looked too heavy, too solid and the columns of stitching looked wrong - so out it came and again I waited until I went to Rugby to ask advice about how to position the stitches to get a more balanced effect.

When I was in Rugby we looked at how to finish the flower on the right - I worked the upper trellis to get the positioning correct, started to fill the end petals with pearl stitch, the pink solid petals with fishbone stitch graduating from dark to light at the tips.  The small outer petals are edged with a dark green thread which is couched down, then a row of scroll stitch fills the inner shape of the petal.  

Here you can see the flower in more detail.

It is surprising how slowly it takes shape - I have lots of works to do for homework in order to finish this flower, the branch the robin is sitting on and then to start the other flower.  We are also talking about adding a third, smaller flower at the top of the design to balance it  more.  Now it's back to the stitching ...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Day 2
Yesterday I headed up to Rugby again for Day 2 of the certificate.  I was looking forward to transferring my design on to the linen and starting to stitch it out.  I started by pinning my pricked out design onto the linen and then used a soft roll of wadding to gently push the powder through the holes.  Once the design sheet was removed I then carefully painted over all the lines with a very fine brush and watercolour paints.  I was now ready to start stitching!
As I needed to start by stitching items that are at the back of the design, I began with one of the leaves near the bottom of the design using 3 different shades of green and a mixture of outline stitch and chain stitch.  I will continue with the other similar leaves at home using different combinations of the greens to add variety to the finished design.  

During the last 2 weeks I had done a bit of practising of some of the stitches which enabled me to get a feel for the wool and some of the different stitches I might use.  Then I moved onto the trellis work on the flower - here I found it quite tricky to lay the threads down evenly in the grid and ended up using a separate piece of wool to work out the position of the next line.  The threads are tacked down with a tiny diagonal stitch, then the squares are filled in alternately with satin stitch and french knots using pink and blue threads.

The next section I started work on is the flower petals - outlining them using back stitch.  This will then be whipped with a lighter shade of pink.  Along with some decisions made about which areas to complete for homework over the next 2 weeks until I go again, that was my days work.

I have now come home to work out the best way I can set up a work area to support the frame without a large outlay of money and it taking up half of the living room. I am going to try using 2 TV tables with a small pad on each to raise the front end up - it may not work which will mean I have to get my thinking cap on again for a different solution. This final photo give some idea of the size of the slate frame I am working on.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Day 1

Early thing this morning I headed up to Rugby by car, I was originally thinking of getting the train but changed my mind at the last minute, as I had never been to Rugby before and didn't know how far it would be to walk from the station to the Library, where the course is being held.  All of the main locations in Rugby appear to be well sign-posted and ignoring the sat-nav I ended up in the right place first time!  The Library and Museum are in a new building right in the centre of town, opposite Asda with a large carpark in front of them.  There were the 2 tutors, Nikki and Sarah,and 4 students today. Two of the ladies had already been on some day courses with the RSN and had made a start on their designs and stitching so that  left 2 of us to think about a design for the crewelwork module.  After we had coffee and an introductory chat we looked through books and other source material before Nikki use her fantastic artistic skills to draw the elements we wanted to include ready for tracing and photocopying.  The designs traditionally have hillocks, a tree, leaves, flowers and a bird or animal - so my design will have hillocks, a tree shape, a large leaf, a carnation and a robin. Once the design had been drawn, traced and photocopied to the right size it was time to colour it in, deciding which colours should go where and then which stitches to be used in the various areas.  I will be using shades of terracotta and green with accents of blue and gold.

After lunch we started to prepare the material to work on by framing it up on new 'slate frames' - the carefully ironed linen twill was centred and sewn to the webbing on the top and bottom slats, then webbing was stitched to the 2 sides before it was bound with string to the 2 sides of the frame.  The string was tightened so that the fabric was drum tight in the frame.  Now it is ready for the pattern to be transferred onto it next time I go up to Rugby.  I really enjoyed my first day on the certificate, learnt lots and am looking forward to my next visit in a couple of weeks time.  In the meantime I can practice the various stitches that I will be using in my design using the wools on calico.  I can also try the different colour combinations although I don't have all of the shades of the two main colours yet.

Later whenI left the Library I drove around the centre of Rugby and discovered how far it is away from the railway station - I think I will be driving up there in future especially when I have to carry the heavy frame and other materials as it is about a 20 minute walk into town.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Nearly there 
Only 3 days to go until I head up to Rugby to start the course.  I have the course information, some of the books on the recommended list and the basic equipment that I need to take with me.  I haven't done any hand embroidery lately as I want to be fresh when I start the course, but I am working on a super kingsized machine embroidered quilt.  Each block is made from a plain piece of fabric and is heavily stitched to create the design on it - so far I have completed 9 blocks and need 16 for the full quilt.  During the last 2 weeks I have been putting together the blocks that are completed with the sashing and backing and quilting them ready to be assembled together into a larger piece.  Here is one of the blocks created using the patterns from the book 'Aquamarine Ambience' by Simon J Haskins. 

I need to keep working on the quilt as it needs to be finished in the next 2 months ready for an exhibition at the beginning of December.

Friday, September 02, 2011

New Beginnings
I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year - I hate the fact that summer is coming to an end and cooler weather and then winter is approaching, but I love the fact that this time of year is when new things often start and we have exciting things to look forward to.  I have always loved using something new for the first time, a new outfit, a fresh loaf of bread to cut into, a new exercise book at school.  This year I am excited as this week I start a new course with the Royal School of Needlework and I will be realising a dream to train to produce beautiful, high quality (I hope) embroidery.  I start on Wednesday in Rugby on the certificate course and will begin by learning how to produce Jacobean crewel work which uses a variety of embroidery stitches.  I have done a wide variety of embroidery over the years including cross stitch, needlepoint, canvas work, contemporary work but never crewel work, so I shall be very interested to see how working with wool on a firm twill background differs from the other forms of embroidery.  The RSN are very flexible in how you attend and I plan to go to Rugby about once every 3 weeks for tuition, this will give me time in between the sessions to enjoy the work I am doing and not feel as if I am rushing through the modules.  Once I have finished the crewel work module I shall then move onto canvaswork, goldwork then finish with long and short silk shading.  More details about the certificate can be found on the RSN website here

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Imagine my surprise last week, while on holiday, when I happened to look on the Irish Quilting blog to discover that they had listed me as a missing person/reader and that I had won a prize in a competition that they ran earlier this year! When I went to the Festival of Quilts last August I picked up a copy of the Irish Quilting magazine out of curiosity and read that they were running a competition in association with Janome to design and stitch a 10" flower quilt block which incorporated three different quilting stitches.  I registered my interest in entering and eventually made the quilt block shown below, having used this design in a Baltimore style wall hanging. 


The central section is machine appliqued using my Janome 350e embroidery machine using batik fabrics on a black background.  The border is foundation pieced then attached to the central section.  I then free motion quilted around the flowers, quilted in the ditch around the border and used one of the preset embroidery stitches on my Bernina 730 to do the other lines of quilting.  As I didn't hear anything when the winners were due to be announced I assumed that I hadn't won anything, especially as nothing arrive in the post.  First and second prizes were sewing machines (which I didn't win), third prizes were Janome Mega Tote Bags - apparently there was a mix-up and I should have received one of them, so now I look forward to receiving it.  

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The garden in autumn

The garden in autumn is still looking lovely with many flowers still blooming although I am very glad that I have added a number of plants in addition to the original planting plan otherwise there wouldn't be very much in bloom at the moment.  We have also had 2 rather strange birds land in our garden!  They have arrived from the Austrian/Italian border and seem to be making themselves at home in amongst the flowers!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Holidays and stitching - just back from a fortnights holiday driving to the South of France and back via Lake Como, Stuttgart and Luxembourg.  We had great weather on the Cote D'Azur - cloudless blue skies virtually every day, no rain until we got into the Alps, great food and lots of driving.

We stayed in a cottage in the South of France which was very rural and quiet yet only 5 minutes from the motorway which it made it very easy to get around and visit St Tropez, Antibes, Grasse and Nice. 

We visitied some very interesting places including the Musee Picasso in Antibes, the International Perfume Museum in Grasse and the Villa Ephrussi di Roschild in Cap Ferrat.

On the way home we also stopped in Brugges for a couple of hours to wander round and enjoy the atmosphere.

Stitching - before we went away I decided to try to get a quilt finished for my nephew, Andrew.  His sister and 2 cousins had each had a quilt when they started university, but as he hasn't gone off to uni I've made him one anyway and here is the finished result.

The pattern is from a book called and was really easy and fun to do - the scariest part was cutting the completed blocks to the right size then trimming them so the would appear twisted.  I then had to decide how to quilt the finished top.  A week before I went on holiday I went on a course at The Bramble Patch with Edwina McKinnon entitled 'But how do I quilt my quilt?'  On the course we discussed lots of ways to quilt the various quilts tops that we had taken and this inspired me when I came back to have a go with a spiral design on this one.  It took me about 15 hours to quilt it but I was pleased with the finished result and I think Andrew liked the finished quilt.

Since coming back from holiday I have been making a pegbag as a sample for this month's Creative  Thread project and preparing samples for a nativity wallhanging workshop we are holding at the end of the month.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Back again
Oh dear!  I should never make a New Year's Resolution as I can't keep them - here we are in august and this is only the second post this year - no excuses really apart from laziness.  So what have I been up to?  Lots of travelling round the world and in Europe, lots of stitching related things, enjoying our newly landscaped garden and a little bit of housework. Here is what the garden looked like before 

and after the landscaping - 

This quilt is one that I designed and organised at the machine embroidery group I belong to - we made the star blocks using a technique of foundation piecing in the hoop which presented us with many challenges which many in the group don't want to repeat!  The embroidered blocks were digitised to represent significant landmarks in the 5 local counties and the quilting was done 'as you go' with the borders and binding added after the blocks and sashing had been assembled and quilted.  The quilt is to be presented to a member of the Armed Forces in the next few months - I just need to make a bag to put it in with some of the spare blocks.

A lot of my time recently has been spent improving my machine embroidery skills - below is a table runner that I made last week for a wedding present for a friend.  It took a lot of practising and false starts before I managed to get the design to stitch out to my satisfaction with a minimal amount of puckering and with all of the elements of the design positioned in exactly the right places.  Now I hope they like it!

These are just 2 of the stitching things I have been doing recently - more to follow.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Hello 2010! 

Happy New Year to everyone!  OK so I didn't do very well with blogging last year - only a couple of posts - lets see if I can do better this year.  As the country is gripped with a covering of snow we've been taking advantage of activities being cancelled and not going far and I have done some more snow dyeing and other crafty things.  I am at the moment experimenting with overdyeing some fabric that I dyed earlier in the week as it came out very pale and not very interesting.  Interestingly the snow I gathered this morning has a different texture to that which I used earlier in the week when it was fresh, this time it was more powdery and finer so I'll be interested to see if it makes different patterns.

We are off on a big holiday in 2 weeks time downunder to New Zealand so this will become something of a travelogue as well over the next couple of months.  In preparation for the trip I have been sorting out a stitching project and thonk that I will work on a miniature, foundation pieced 'storm at sea' quilt.  I have a small cutting mat, rotary cutter and ruler to take with me and decided yesterday to make a wallet to hold them whilst on my travels.  Here is the finished article