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I’ve never been a quilter for several reasons – use of a sewing machine, length of the project, lack of small fiddly hand embroidery etc. But I do love looking at other people’s quilts and I adore beautiful fabric.

It was while visiting my son in London two years ago that I discovered an amazing quilting shop in East Molesley, just across the road from Hampton Court Palace, and I fell in love with a little charm pack of oriental themed squares in black, white and grey with touches of red. I experimented using them for a few potential layouts but they finally disappeared into the cupboard, appearing occasionally to be admired. That is until I came back from holiday at the end of August and decided that I was going to make them into a lap quilt for my middle one who is going away very shortly to Bangor University to study Archaeology.

My 90yr old Frister and Rossman was pressed into service and using black silk dupion for the alternating squares, I began to piece my first ever quilt top.

Strips first.

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And then I sewed them into a rectangle for the quilt top.

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I was determined to use fabric I already had for the backing and the binding, which for the back meant that I had to insert a strip of kimono fabric scraps into the black silk skirt gore I was using to make it large enough.

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Then I sandwiched the front, back and the batting together and the Frister and Rossman rose happily to the occasion, stitching through thick layers of cotton, batting and silk to quilt the top. I went for a very simple option – just following the line of the fabric pieces to create a grid effect on the back.

DSCN2196.JPGNext was binding the quilt and as this is something I’ve never done before I went to YouTube and thanks to a very clear tutorial managed to add some cotton kimono fabric for the binding. The Frister and Rossman whirred gently and made short work of four layers of cotton/silk and the batting. I love that machine so much!

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The tutorial actually showed how to do the binding with a continuous piece but I wasn’t sure if I was going to have enough fabric to join all the pieces so I did each edge separately and then cobbled some sort of hand stitched mitre at the front…

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So pleased with the lovely neat finish.

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DSCN2210.JPGFinally a label embroidered in floss silk to add to the back.

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Unfortunately I forgot to photograph it once I’d appliqued it onto the back though! And the time taken for this project? Five days. Now to be fair, apart from cooking, washing and shopping I didn’t do much else for five days but it’s been lovely to see this project work up so quickly and turn out so well. I have a feeling it won’t be my last quilt.

As our meeting on the Saturday afternoon was to be followed by an all day workshop with Chris on the Sunday, at the end of the meeting we got a tantalising preview of all the goodies we were going to be using – piles of gorgeously dyed fabrics, threads, and beads, paints and box upon box of intricately carved wooden stamps all laid out ready. Talk about whetting the appetite!

The next day our task was to choose two pieces of the lusciously dyed fabrics that Chris had provided and print them up with one of Chris’ blocks to stitch into an amulet. If we had any of our own spare fabric, we could print that as well to take home.

Chris had told us a tale of a lady who never did any stitching on one of these workshops – she spent the whole day printing – and after experiencing the fantastic crisp images the blocks produce…

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…I completely understood where she was coming from.

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Everywhere I looked was another block I wanted to try.

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I’d come out of the house in a hurry (as usual) and grabbed a handful of scrap fabric to print on rather than the whole bag. Ultimately this was a good thing because had I grabbed the bag instead I don’t think they would have got me away from the blocks.  Even so, I printed on everything I had. When the calico was covered, I printed on silk dupion, which turned out pretty well in spite of its slubby surface…

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…printed and patterned fabrics,

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odd shaped scraps and oddments…

…and I even ended up printing on ironed out silk carrier rods, scrim and chiffon and emptying out my workbag in case there was anything else remotely usable hidden in its depths. The scrim and chiffon were a revelation. We were printing with emulsion paint – no fancy textile inks or paints  – using blocks with very fine detail and the results were amazing. First the scrim:

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Close up you can see how crisp the image is despite the crinkled nature of the weave.

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Then the chiffon. I didn’t expect much of a result with emulsion paint on such a fine fabric, but I was over the moon with how well the blocks printed on it.

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By this time pretty much everyone else was already stitching, it was nearly lunchtime and the blocks were being washed and packed away, so I resolved not to try and cadge any more fabric from anyone else and sat down to stitch the print I had chosen for my hand dyed fabric piece. Medieval tile pattern on turquoise of course and feather stitch around the edge to attach it to the black felt behind.

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I love the rust-coloured patches in this fabulous thread and once the block was feather stitched down, I went back and beaded it with matte iridescent delicas in similar tones.

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A rusty washer was perfect for the centre.

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I attached it with beaded blanket stitch, using some more of the same beads and another favourite thread, my bronzy metallic Madeira.

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Next step is to back stitch around the design in the Madeira thread.

Chris posted some more images of the lovely work done by everyone else here. And then if her generosity of knowledge and enthusiasm wasn’t enough, she presented us with this lovely amulet to be raffled at our AGM at the end of the month.

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Thanks Chris, it was brilliant!

We’re finally back after several family visits and a week away in the Scottish Borders and after a very busy Bank Holiday weekend I’ve finally managed to get some computer time to blog about the Scunthorpe Embroiderers’ Guild’s July meeting and workshop with Chris Gray.

The Saturday was our final meeting of the year which means along with the usual attractions like the sales table and the usual display of Travelling Books ready to journey on…

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…we had a display of hand embroidery worked in response to various workshops we’ve had throughout the year. These pieces were all entered for our annual Dorothy Theaker Award to honour the lovely lady who founded our branch of the Guild and worked tirelessly to develop and promote embroidery. As pieces kept coming in through the day, I didn’t manage to photograph all of them, but here is a taster.

Some goldwork letters from our April workshop with Brenda Scarman:

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Bovver birds (February) with Liz Hornsby, one of our members:

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Some of the Christmas Matchbox Challenge entries:

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Crewel work with two more of our members, Eilleen Grieve and Jean Threlfall, in May, with, in the little box, the brooch to be awarded to the winner of this year’s Dorothy Theaker Award:

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I didn’t manage to get a picture of the winning piece (a stunning goldwork initial in gold and turquoise) as it was one of those that came in later, but given the high standard of all the entries I’m just glad it was Chris doing the judging, not me!

Then we enjoyed a talk by Chris about the tribal textiles that “float her boat”. She handed out stunning embroidered, beaded examples for us to look at and handle, talked about her love for and appreciation of them, how they informed her work and encouraged photos.

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It’s books and medieval patterns, especially tiles that really appeal to me and I completely fell in love with these delicious little printed, painted, embroidered booklets.

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I’ve ‘known’ Chris for several years through her blog, but in person she is even more warm, witty and engaging and great fun to listen to. It really was a fascinating and inspiring talk and I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t wait to get stuck into her amulet workshop the following day!

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!