Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Goldwork WIP - couched gold leaves

I did exactly what I always advise others NOT to do....

... set the work aside before finishing all the (pesky) metal thread tails on the back!!!
Taking the tails to the back, may make the front look neat and somewhat tidy, but 'taming' the tails on the back is a completely other story - one I was determined to get over and done with today.

These uncontrolled tails, poking out in every-which-one direction take f-o-r-e-v-e-r to tidy up. I am convinced I have spent at least twice as long working on the back as it took stitching the front.

One-by-one every tail, trimmed, bent back and stitched securely down...

... they are all done!
I love the look of solid, couched gold laid side by side.. but I am glad there are no more ends.

Best stitches
Anna X

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Goldwork WIP - pearl purl stems

Since the whole idea of my self-imposed 'Goldwork Week Challenge' was to stitch every day, posting every day proved a bit too much but if you follow me on facebook you will have seen what I have been up to.


Day 2 was spent filling the flower centres with pairs of fine imitation Jap (T70). Instead of using matching thread, I used a fine dark red silk for a bit of colour.
One of the challenges when embroidering symmetrical designs is to get the elements to be as identical as possible. I have found that if you do one bit one day and the other the next or a few days later - it is almost impossible to get them the same. I am much more likely to get a good result if I do both (or all) at the same time. 

End of day 2 and it is slowly starting to take shape.

Day 3 turned out to be all about pearls. Not beautiful ones that grow in oysters, but metal pearl purls. These threads, or wires, are fabulous. Super rigid, they are perfect for outlines and creating firm definitions of shapes.

I used a fine pearl purl to outline the petals finishing each off with a tiny gold bead at the tip.

One of the really fun that I love to do with pearl purl is to pull the coils open by pulling it fairly hard (to about double the cut length) and then wrap coloured silk into the wire.


When you stitch it down with the same colour silk, the result is this fabulous, candy striped wire.

At the end of day 3, it looked and felt like I was getting somewhere...

Day 4 - today...
... it just did not happen at all. I had a few little things to do this morning... one thing led to another, then I had to go 'down the street' (which from where we live is the minimum of an hour round trip) and now it is late. I don't like working with metal threads at night. The glare of the artificial light is too hard on my eyes. The good thing is....

... there is always tomorrow.

Happy stitching
Anna x

Monday, February 20, 2017

Goldwork WIP - attaching gold kid leather

I worked a lot last week, but sadly not on my embroidery. This morning the new goldwork piece looked exactly the same as it did a week ago. All felt and not the tiniest bit of sparkle in sight.

This week I am determined to make up for it and have set my mind to work on it every day. A Goldwork Week Challenge starting today with the centre motif.

DAY 1 - Attaching gold kid leather
The centre motif is going to be covered in gilded kid leather and outlined with a fine twisted cord. This really fine, gilded leather gives a really sparkly, smooth surface. I find it can be a little overpowering at times, but think it will work well for the centre bud.

1. The leather shape is cut ever so slightly larger than the actual shape to allow for the padding underneath. When I work with 2 or 3 layers of padding will usually cut the top padding piece inside the marked line and the leather outside the marked line - by doing that the difference in size are usually just enough to make the leather sit taut and smooth over the felt.

2. The thing to remember when working with leather is that you cannot tack it like you normally would to hold in place. If you do, the tacking stitches will leave permanent holes in the leather where you stitch through it. So to hold it accurately in place you need to place 'tacking' stitches all the way across the shape so you only stitch through the fabric on either side. I use mighty big herringbone stitches.

3. Use a matching sewing thread to stitch the leather in place. I start by placing a tiny stitch over the edge at top and bottom and midway along each side. For really small shapes, I sometime pull the tacking stitches out after that, but this one is slightly bigger so I decided to keep the tacking in until the edge was stitched down all the way around.
For each stitch, the needle comes to the front through the fabric on the marked line at the edge of the shape and goes to the back through the edge of the leather. These stitches are tiny and quite close together. I use a no. 12 sharp needle for this so that the holes in the leather are as small as can be.

4. Once the entire edge is stitches down, the tacking stitches can be taken out. 

The shape ended up with a slight dent along one side... sigh. After considering pulling if off and starting again, I decided that it could probably be 'fixed' with the cord outline. 

Fine twisted cord is laid along the edge of the shape and couched in place. For each stitch, I open the twist ever so slightly so that I can place the stitches into the twist and hide them completely. 

I got all the way around and was just about to sink the tails to the back when I discovered, I had managed the damage the metal almost at the start.
Most metal threads are made by wrapping a cotton (or silk) core with metal and if you accidentally break the metal it will unravel and cotton show. It may be a little hard to see, but the arrow points to the spot were the metal has come away.

Sigh ...
               ... deep breath ...
                                           .... unpick and start again!

Second time around and the twist sits nicely around the edge. The tails are taken to the back at the tip and stitched down on the wrong side.
The centre motif is finished...

Tomorrow I will start the flowers on each side.

Happy stitching Anna x

Thursday, February 9, 2017

New Goldwork project

 It (finally) feels like proper summer.. a bit too hot even.

Having spent the morning in the garden, watering and tidying up, it is nice to move inside where it is much cooler and enjoy getting my new goldwork project started. 

Tile by Henry Richards (1905)
I love the patterns on Arts & Craft tiles. These patterns are often clean and simple and at the same time intricate in the way stems and foliage are used to form shapes and interlocking patterns. Ideal for embroidery.

Taking inspiration from the tiles, this new design is not large and the shapes are really simple so it should be fun to stitch. I have marked the design using my light-box and acid free pen which allows me to mark beautiful, fine, clean lines.

First step is to add felt padding onto the fuller shapes. The flower parts all have two or three layers of felt. I didn't think to take a photo, but the smaller layers are underneath, so that when I apply the final layer, I get a smooth, rounded dome shape. The top pieces are stitched down with tiny little stitches so that the edges are pulled down and there are no 'fluffy' bits of felt sticking out.

I had not decided when I started whether or not I would pad the leaves, but I ended up adding just a single layer of felt to those. Partly because I do like the way the light plays on the metal when it is slightly raised, but also because I want the leaves to have a green tint to them and therefore don't want the pink of the silk to reflect onto the metal threads. 
With the padding finished, I am ready to play with gold...

... perhaps after a trip to the beach for a quick evening swim...

Best stitches,

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Dragonflies WIP

I think I have solved my colour palette for the dragonfly project.
 As much as I liked that bright coral coloured dragonfly, it just didn't quite work for what I have in mind...

..now it is bright blue, with pistachio green wings. The design I am working on has three dragonflies on it, and for a bit I was toying with the idea of making each a different colour. I gave that idea away and all three will be stitched exactly the same. They will still be different, but only ever so slightly thanks to the variegated silk I am using for the 'tails'.

It is not often I use variegated threads. Mostly because I like to be in charge of what shade goes where, but from time to time I find these stunning threads really useful. I have had the beautiful skein of Waterlilies (227 Desert Shadows) in my stash for ages and the colours running through it will be perfect for the dragonfly tails.

The tail is stitched in padded satin stitch, so the gradual change of colour will really show. By using a different length of the thread for each dragonfly, I will be able to make them different, but still the same... if that makes sense.

A padded satin stitch body in two shades of turquoise with dark purple/blue stripes across it, jade green Rhodes stitch eyes and long & short stitch wings with veins of feather stitch worked in fine metallic gold completes the dragonfly.

I prefer not to stitch on white or ivory fabric if I can avoid it. I just find that using coloured grounds can complement the stitching and make it look so much more lush. Look around you, how much white do you see outside?

I had a bit of soft green cotton in my (yet another) stash. It is a homespun that I use for stumpwork leaves but I like that the colour blends with the shades of the wings and at the same time allow the rest of the dragonfly and the yellow buttercups 'pop'. The fabric is a little bit too fine to support the stitching. I am not a tight stitcher, but there are still puckers beginning to form around the wing. Since I don't want to back this project I am now on the hunt for a suitable fabric in the same (or very, very similar colour).
With the sampler done and my main 'problems' solved this project is now on hold for a bit. Not only because I am waiting on fabric swatches but also because I have a goldwork project I need to start work on for a class in July..

Best stitches,
Anna X

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

I am inspired...

...by the work of May. May Morris, the daughter of William Morris.

May Morris, 1909
From the age of just 23, May was in charge of the embroidery department at Morris & Co and I guess one could argue that she was the 'brains and talent' behind many, if not most of the embroideries released by Morris & Co from 1885 onward. 

When I feel I need a bit of 'eye-candy' or ideas for a new project, I will often flick through two of my favourite books: 'Morris & Co, Designs & Patterns, Art Gallery of South Australia' and 'Morris & Co, Art Gallery of South Australia', devouring the stunning images. 
You may wonder what the Art Gallery of South Australia has got to do with one of Britain's best known design companies of all times. We are fortunate that  the gallery holds the largest collection of Morris & Co items outside of Britain. Why and how? It is all thanks to a ridiculously wealthy Adelaide couple, Robert and Joanna Barr Smith who were one of Morris & Co's largest international clients. They decorated several of their estates with furniture, carpets, curtains and embroideries from Morris & CO.

The women in the family were all skilled embroiderers so the collection includes numerous embroidered screens, pillows and table toppers. At least two of these embroideries were designed specifically for the family by May. One of these is a square panel named 'Adelaide' - I guess as a tribute to this important client and their home town. 

I have always admired this relatively simple design of a large centre open flower with buds, surrounded by a heart-shape daisy-chain. The original design was embroidered by one of the family's daughters, Erlistourn Mitchell in c. 1890. It is stitched in two colour variations of coral and yellows onto a blue-grey fabric and set into a folded screen.  

Having looked at May's 'Adelaide' I am sure you can see it was my inspiration when I stitched my silk shaded tulip. I named my tulip 'May' as a tribute to this incredibly talented embroiderer and designer who's work will continue to inspire what I do. I just hope she would have approved of my interpretation...

It is not a large piece, and once I had the shading and colours sorted I had a really nice time stitching it before popping it into a box lid.

After teaching the design in Bangkok in December I have been busy this week packing kits for the shop.
Now back to those thread cards.....

Enjoy the rest of your week.
Anna X