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I went back to Tolethorpe Hall again last Friday evening to see Macbeth and Shy Bird came too. There wasn’t a massive amount of time for stitching before the performance but I did get a bit more of his head done.

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He didn’t enjoy it as much as The Tempest – the witches were seriously creepy and there weren’t as many laughs. However, I thought it was one of the best and most powerful versions of Macbeth I’ve ever seen and the costumes were stunning.

The next day was National Stitch Day and to celebrate, Scunthorpe Embroiderers’ Guild had a beautifully staged little exhibition of crewel work both stitched by members and also samples from one of the Guild Folios of handling pieces in the local library. Several of us came along for all or part of the day to do some stitching and Bird, of course, came too, as did my youngest.

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First of all I finished his head. I added yellow and cream highlights over the split stitch as per the original and highlights in his eye to bring it to life.

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Then his breast, which was more split stitch in the variegated Needle Necessities that I had used for the yellow highlights on his wing and head.

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I’d only used the golden yellow section of the variegation for the wing but using whole lengths, dark brown shading through gold to beige, tied the colouring of his breast into the rest of him, but made it lighter, which is the effect I wanted.

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Last of all, his legs. The one behind was stitched in the brown crewel wool I used for his head, tail and wing, and for the one in front I used the lighter sections of the variegated thread. With the detail added over the top in a darker brown and my monogram in the corner, he was finally finished!

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It was a lovely relaxed day’s stitching in the library and although we didn’t have many people showing interest, those that did were lovely and we all had a great natter anyway!

The theme set by the main Guild was leaves, so there were leaves to stitch: felt ones for any children who turned up and wanted a go and hooped up shapes on fabric for any adults.  My youngest embroidered her own leaf and then after having beaded it, decided she wanted to add an ant, which she stitched freehand. I think  he worked out beautifully.

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Shy bird thinks he looks delicious…

I worked a bit more on Shy Bird at Stitch Club last Saturday at the beginning of a fantastic two days of embroidery which I’ll blog about a bit later, and his wing is now completed.

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Now that he’s firmly fixed as part of the family, he came out with us to lunch yesterday at Mount Pleasant Windmill, Kirton Lindsey. The girls and I had worked extremely hard all morning and I decided we deserved a treat. As all the sandwiches are handmade to order, it’s not the place to go if you’re in a hurry, but we love it and were happy to just sit and enjoy a rest and chat while I worked on Shy Bird.

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In order to fit around the curves of his eyes, I started following the outline of his head in split stitch, using the same crewel wool that I used for his tail and wing.

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When we got home, another hour stitching in the garden until I got rained off got me this far:

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You may remember that he was originally going to be a travelling book piece and that I had to come up with something new at short notice. I decided to go for a piece of work based on a Sashiko exhibition I saw in York back in 2009. I transcribed my sketchbook notes and sketches…

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…gathered some pieces of fabric in shades of green and machined them onto a piece of water soluble fabric. The first layer:

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And then I completely forgot to photograph the second layer, which incorporates the interlocking v-shapes or the finished piece when I’d washed the stabiliser away, or the final spread. I shall just have to wait until the books return in September and try and get a photo then!

Little shy bird is a joy to stitch and has become a huge favourite with my girls. Such a favourite that I have had to change my plans for him. He was being stitched for the next Travelling Book page I’m working on, but when I mentioned that he would be leaving us at the end of the week, there was such an outcry that I daren’t part with him!

I’ve finished the Bayeux Stitch for his wing…

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And added couched down stranded thread for the edging to his wing.

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More crewel wool for his tail.

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These stitches are going to be held down with couched stranded thread and flystitch/lazy daisy stitch hybrids to echo the markings on the glass bird’s tail

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He’s fast becoming a member of the family and I have to admit I would have been very sorry to see him go.

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Now all I have to do is create something new for the Travelling Book – in two days!

I couldn’t resist the little shy bird from Shibden Hall, peeking out from under his wing. I cropped the photo and printed him out in various sizes before copying him onto calico.

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We went off to Rievaulx Abbey a couple of weekends ago to attend their Murder Mystery weekend  and he was perfect to pop into my bag to work on while the rest of the family solved murders, explored the ruins, decorated a wooden shield and walked up the bank to Rievaulx Terrace.  What a view to look at while I stitched…

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…and behind me, down the Rye valley .

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His outline is worked in split stitch using a heavy vintage perle thread.

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It wasn’t long before we were out again, this time to Tolethorpe Hall to watch the Stamford Shakespeare Company’s production of The Tempest.

More wonderful surroundings…

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…and they have this amazing Kaffe Fassett tapestry.

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We took a picnic, as is traditional, and the play was really good. I taught The Tempest this year as part of the Shakespeare 400 celebrations so now I know it really well, which enhanced the whole experience.

Shy bird came out after the picnic and I managed to add one foot in split stitch and start the Bayeux stitch for his wing in crewel wool.

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He’s a well travelled little bird!

Last month a group of members from Scunthorpe Embroiderers’ Guild had our summer outing to Bankfield Museum in Halifax to see the Exquisite Threads exhibition. As well as some amazing pieces from the Embroiderers’ Guild collection, including the Millennium Casket…

 

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…there were pieces from Bankfield’s own collections…

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…pieces from the recent Regional competitions…

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…and an old friend: the ‘rainbow squares’ which was one of the first things I sewed with the Guild when I joined. Each branch was given a colour and each person stitched a square using primarily that colour. They were then joined together in long chains and displayed at various places around the country. The last time I saw them was at the Quilt Museum (now sadly closed) in York but didn’t think to get a photo of my square. So here it is!

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Upside down – but I think only I know that! Simple feather stitch in shades of red, with seed beads added.

Then we went on to Shibden Hall.

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Not much in the way of textiles but plenty of inspiration. The stone mullioned window in the middle of the above picture is set with the most gorgeous medieval painted glass rescued from an abbey I believe, after the Dissolution.

These guys are delightful. They remind me so much of the characters in the margins of the Luttrell Psalter.

“Tee hee, I nicked your dagger…”

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“Life…don’t talk to me about life…”

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“My name is Spike…”

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“No… I’m shy…”

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“Plough your garden, Mister?”

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Inspiration strikes! Watch this space…

Wow! Thanks for all the comments on my french knots project. In light of some of the questions I thought I’d post a recap (since it started about a year ago).

This is the beautiful flame mahogany veneered Victorian box I bought for a fiver on ebay last year.

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The box is basically in good shape – the joints are sound, as are the hinges, but the lost veneer is a huge issue and when I got it, someone had started to upcycle it by sticking various oddments of broken jewellery etc to the missing areas.

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They were easily removed and I had the idea of making a series of patterns in pelmet vilene to match the lost pieces and then encrust them with embroidery. I’d done some small scale encrusting work before, mostly with my embroidered jewellery

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and I favour a mix of eyelets and french knots.

I made a pattern for the missing veneer on the top and sides of the lid and chose a selection of threads in shades of green and orange for the embroidery.

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Last August it went off on holiday with me and I made a start, also incorporating some of the sea glass I love by stitching the nuggets down under a piece of chiffon.

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How pristine the vilene looks there!!

It soon became apparent that this was going to be a very long project and I don’t do well on long projects due to a very low boredom threshold. However, what has helped is the unstructured nature. As there is no design, I just load my needle with a length of thread and work french knots and/or eyelets until it runs out. Working so many means that I can do them without thinking and as I’m placing them without spaces, I can embroider in less than perfect light levels and while other things are going on – like meetings. And boot sales, hence the progress I’ve made since last week.

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Yes, all those knots are french knots,

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not punchneedle, although I can see the similarity. Had it been punchneedle though, I would have completed it a long while ago!

And so you can get an idea of how it will work:

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I can see the end in sight – well of this bit at least, as there are other much smaller areas of missing veneer which will need the same treatment. It’s been one of the longest continuous projects I’ve done to date and amazingly, I still don’t hate french knots!

We had the OFSTED call this week. That acronym might not mean much to anyone who hasn’t been involved in the British education system but OFSTED carry out school inspections. And anyone who has been involved with them will know that they pretty much sow terror, despair and misery in their wake.

I head up our Nurture/Learning Support team and am also the behaviour specialist so it was decided by senior management that the few hard core behaviour problem children we have in school would be taken out of their various classes and corralled in the Nurture Room where instead of lessons they would do something interesting, arty and creative for the duration of the inspection (a day and a half) under my tender care. What I think about this is pretty much unprintable, but as these six boys are often violent and abusive, no one wanted to risk the outcome of the inspection on one of them kicking off.

So I decided that we would felt. First  I showed them some pieces of handmade felt and demonstrated how to pull tufts of fleece and lay them out in layers to form a big piece of flat felt (about 70cm by 70cm) for the base of the design. They used blue and white fleece to create a stream running diagonally from one corner to the other and I showed them how to ‘paint’ with tiny wisps of different coloured fleece to make pebbles in the stream.

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Then they added different greens all around the stream for grass and bushes and started to create the felt. While they took turns in pairs to roll the huge sausage of felt, bubble wrap, net curtain and fleece, I started the rest off rolling fleece around small balls to make flowers. Once the fleece had felted tightly around the balls I cut slits into the top to make petal shapes and they carried on rolling, watching the slits become holes and the felt gradually shrink further and further down the balls until they became little tight cup shapes.

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The next day they made a piece of green felt about 40cm by 30cm and designed some leaf templates. I cut leaves out of the felt while they added stitches and beads to make the centres of the flowers.

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Most of them had never embroidered before so we had to give quite a lot of initial support, but several of the boys really took to it and once all the flowers were done they began to add central veins to the leaves with whipped and threaded running stitch.

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Once each element was finished they told me where they wanted them putting and I needlefelted the flowers and leaves in place, which worked brilliantly and was much quicker than stitching!

The finished piece:

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They are extremely proud of it and I’m just pleased we managed to keep a powder keg dry for the best part of two days.

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