Last Saturday was our March Scunthorpe Embroiderers’ Guild meeting and we had a talk from Mary Sleigh about some of her collection of African textiles, from strip woven West African fabrics…
… to heavily embroidered wild silk ceremonial robes, bark cloth. indigo resist and all sorts of other embroidered and embellished fabrics.
The raffia cloth fascinated me. Remembering piles of scratchy unravelling hanks in the back of art cupboards, I couldn’t quite get my head round how something like that was going to create a fabric, but although there was a slight stiffness to the cloth, it was an amazing transformation and I love these applied geometric shapes.
My head was a bit of a shed on Saturday and although I have photos of my finished kantha fish from February’s meeting…
…I completely forgot to photograph the other pieces that people brought in. Oops!
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Our Scunthorpe Embroiderers’ Guild meeting for February was an all day Indian embroidery and fabrics talk and workshop led by Julie.
The Young Embroiderers started off at 9:30 with a kantha stitching around animal shapes project. My little one loves sea animals of any kind, so she chose to do a turtle. Liz, the leader of the group suggested a spiral pattern in the quarters of the shell which is looking very effective.
Julie had borrowed one of the Guild folios as a base for the display and she and other members added to it with items of their own, making a very colourful and tempting taster for the talk and workshop to come!
Samples from the folio:
And our own additions:
So to begin the day, we had a talk given by Julie based on her visit to a recent exhibition at the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum in London giving a good overview of different types of fabrics, stitching and how the finished embroidery was used. I particularly liked the short videos that she had interspersed through the presentation which brought some of the elements to life.
After lunch we had the choice of two projects. Either a shisha mirror centred flower – these are Julie’s lovely sample pieces…
…or something more like the Young Embroiderers were doing, an animal or similar surrounded by kantha stitching. I outlined my fish in chain stitch using a heavy variegated slate blue cotton thread.
Then for the background I chose some variegated stranded cotton in pale blue, pink and yellow to tone in with the background fabric.
It was good (but surprisingly difficult!) to deliberately work larger running stitches. When I usually do kantha style work my stitches tend to be tiny – these are about 2mm long.
And it takes ages! But the above piece is only about and inch by an inch and a half so I deliberately stitched larger on this one to match the size of the design and it was good to get some quicker results!
It was interesting to notice how calm and quiet the atmosphere in the room was as we all sat stitching our pieces. There is something very mindful about running stitch…
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Thanks for all your input on the indigo book. I was starting to lean towards the boro mend myself, so it was good to have that thought supported. Hopefully I should get it finished today.
James’ blue crazy patchwork cushion continues to evolve slowly. I found another scrap of commercially embroidered fabric which I added to the left hand side of the strip to break up the expanse of the piece at that end.
The printed Japanese cotton had curious spirals within the faux tie-dye shapes, so I enhanced them with spirals of chain stitch in white silk.
The new piece of embroidered brocade now has a seeded background.
And the other commercially embroidered patch has had heavy soft silk couched around the shapes prior to adding some extra detail in probably fly stitch and French knots – not quite decided yet.
The little yachts will be getting their own frames of chain stitch spirals in variegated thread.
And the ultramarine silk dupion has waves of kantha stitch.
Slowly making progress.
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Our last Embroiderers’ Guild meeting was a full day workshop led by one of our members to make a gorgeous book bound with what I know as French Link Stitch with the aim of using the front to showcase a piece of embroidery. I’ve used this stitch several times to make fabric books but it was my first time using this binding on paper and I love how it turned out.
Having only discovered at the last minute that I could actually make it to the workshop, I had to make do with the contents of a bag of fabric scraps that I had hastily grabbed on my way out of the door to find something to use for a cover. About the suitable only piece was this oddment of indigo dyed cloth that was annoyingly only big enough to fully cover one of the boards.
However, what was left would be big enough if it was joined… So I decided to do just that, using some natural coloured silk thread and boro/kantha type stitching right across the two pieces I wanted to join.
I really like the way it turned out, especially the way the join is almost invisible below the layers of stitching.
Then came the question of what to put on the front. I toyed with weaving scraps of indigo dyed cloth, but they disappeared against the indigo cover. Then I tried some beading on another piece of indigo dyed cloth, this one with a vibrant sunburst in the middle.
I like the sunburst and I like the beading but… next to the cover, somehow it’s not quite right. The indigo of the sunburst is a different colour and texture and if I did apply the beaded piece to the front then I would lose the marbled pattern behind.
In fact I like my boro mend so much that instead of making it the back, I’m tempted to make it the front and not add any extra embroidery at all.
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It’s all been a bit monochrome with the pebble for a while so I thought I’d share a recently finished fragment.
My fragments are fabric doodles, scraps of thread and cloth which I keep in my travelling sewing kit and put together to play about with when I’m out and about. This one is 3 and a half inches by just over 2 inches.
The background is offcuts of hand dyed silk left over from my ribbon rose thimblekeep arranged on a scrap of calico with a die-cut fabric heart in the centre.
I love the almost indecipherable fragment of text on it.
The whole thing is densely stitched in regular rows of running stitch like kantha work with Stef Francis stranded silks – again leftovers from the ribbon rose thimblekeep.
The heart was blanket stitched down and then several rows of running stitch worked to echo its outline.
When I ran out of room going round, I changed direction and sent the running stitches in long gentle curves from the heart towards the edge of the fabric.
The stitching completely alters the feel of the fabric, partly hiding it; partly enhancing it.
I love the way such simple stitching becomes alchemy, binding thread and fabric into something rich and strange.
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