Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Wisteria Wednesday

Eight weeks into Lockdown. I miss some of my usual activities, but we are all finding ways to live with the restrictions.
I'm missing my visits to my Dad, and I'm missing getting out into his garden and getting some good healthy exercise. When they lift the Lockdown I may have to hire a flock of sheep to eat their way across the lawns. We speak on the 'phone, but it's not a substitute for physical presence and I'm looking forward to being allowed to travel again.

How am I surviving without going stir-crazy? Well I've always been crazy, so I'm a natural for surviving this period of confinement, but I do get taken out for a walk round the industrial estate across the road. It's quiet, with plenty of space for 'social distancing' should we happen to meet anyone else.
Jane-Beth christened it "Wisteria Wednesday" because one of the things we like to do is walk past the side of the Ferrier Pumps Ltd building. They have a beautiful garden along the front and side of the building and on a Wednesday we like to take a walk along the road to see how the Wisteria is coming along. Thus, Wisteria Wednesday.
We are really impressed that Ferrier have created this little haven of beauty. Why not drop into the 'News' section of their website, https://www.ferrierpumps.co.uk/news and scroll down to the entry about the garden. Kudos to Ferrier for their garden and their community sponsorship.

My photograph, their Wisteria
And where does embroidery get a look in? I don't know yet, but maybe I'll break one of my own rules and design something based on their garden.

I have of course been doing lots of stitching. Every Monday morning and Thursday evening our craft group gets together for an hour or so by Zoom (thanks to Bethany Christian Trust and Inspiring Leith) and I work on my Inspiring Leith piece.


I have reached the background! I have decided that to keep the weight down so that it can be a hanging or a banner, the background will be a diagonal skip stitch in two directions. The finished embroidery will measure 15½ by 17½ inches.
At this rate I shall have it finished by the time the Lockdown restrictions are lifted to a stage where Jane-Beth feels it is safe for me to go out alone.
So, Christmas then.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

How many sleeps 'till Christmas?

In this case, -2334.

I stitched "Santa" and "Mrs Santa" in 2013 for the American Needlepoint Guild Auction of that year. All funds from the auction go to the Education Fund. This funds projects to make the public more aware of Needlepoint, to encourage them to try it, and to raise its profile as an art.

These were painted canvases, without a stitch guide, so although I had to pretty much follow the general colours indicated, I was able to choose my own stitches.




I have to admit now that I enjoyed stitching these little fellows so much that I forgot to record just about everything about them. I do recall that I mostly used DMC Medici, and the background is Soie d'Alger. I made their bags from some Christmas material I had on hand, and filled them with small sewing items. Each had a pair of scissors, some threads, not all of them visible in my pictures, and a roll of 'something to stitch on'.

Sometimes it's fun not to think about time and just let your needle run with your imagination.

Friday, 8 May 2020

Auspicious Quilts

We now slip back in time to the last months of 2012.

Late in the year, my brother announced that one of his daughters was expecting a baby. Well, that family thing kicked in and I said I would make a cot quilt for the latest addition to the burgeoning mob that is his family. About a week later, one of my team asked to see me privately and advised me that she was going to have a baby. Office tradition required some recognition of the event.
Two cot quilts then.

Not that there was any hurry, the big event was still some months away and you can't give something like a cot quilt until the mother is, as they used to say, 'safely delivered of a child'.

Not that I designed two different quilts. There is a limit!
I decided to go with an oriental design using the stylized bat stencils I cut for "Batique Out of Hell".
In Japanese and Chinese mythology, bats and the numbers 3 and 5 are considered auspicious, with 3x5 being especially lucky. The design shows three columns of five bats.

Auspicious I

Auspicious II
 Both central panels were created using English Piecing, basting each piece to a paper template, then stitching them together by hand. The papers were then removed and the bats appliqued to the top of the quilt. The wadding and backing were basted to the front and then quilted together.
Heavy, close quilting can make a quilt quite stiff and hard. As these were cot quilts, I did only a minimum of quilting. I quilted the outline of each bat 'in the ditch' and expanded the lines to create an inner border, probably best seen in Auspicious II so that there was a wide band of softer, unquilted fabric round the edges, before binding it with soft satin bias binding.

The quilts were presented only after the births, with a wish that the child have a Long life, Good luck and Happiness.

Auspicious I and II were worked together and took 140 hours.
And I still have the templates.

Thursday, 30 April 2020

Inspiring Leith

Back in June last year I was one of the founders of a small stitching group that met on a Thursday afternoon in Leith Library as part of the Inspiring Leith Project. As part of the project I designed "Inspiring Leith".


This was specifically designed to encourage anyone coming into the library to 'have a go'. It was always going to be colourful, and of course size matters. It's much easier for newcomers to needlepoint to start on a larger grid of canvas.

Anyone stitching in public is likely to get a mixture of reactions. Some people will look away, some will not even notice, but there are always a few who will come and have a look.
The lookers are obviously interested and often apologetic for disturbing you, but none of us is ever going to be annoyed by questions if we think we're going to get another person hooked on needlepoint.
The most common reaction I came across was "I could never do that". The open door. "Of course you can. If you can thread a needle you can do needlepoint", at which point I offer them a chance to try. "It won't break and you can't damage it", was part of my mantra.
I gave them the choice of stitching where I was stitching, or choosing a new colour, a new letter and a new stitch. "Choose a colour, any colour, chose a letter, any letter, chose a stitch from the stitch book."
It brought out some unusual colour combinations, but the whole point was to be colourful and noticeable.

After almost a year, this is where we are.


Each letter is a different stitch and the colours clash, but it has been fun persuading people of all ages to add a few stitches.

The current thinking is that it might be the centre piece of a banner, so I'm thinking that I may take out the small amount of background at the top right and do a skip-stitch, so that much of the canvas is left unstitched. It would reduce the weight, and it would allow the wind to pass through, making it easier to control if it is carried in a parade. I'd have to put a backing on each letter, but that's for later.

Maybe by this time next year it will be finished.

Saturday, 25 April 2020

You win some, you lose some.

I created this piece, "Boats: After Hokusai" as an entry for the RHASS (Royal Highland Agricultural Society Show) 2013. The class was "Boats, Blackwork". Being me, I started with absolutely no idea what I was doing, so as usual, I winged it.

I started from a Hokusai print of fishermen and a pleasure boat.


It was much more detailed than I wanted, so the first thing I did was to draw it out in rough, removing the figures and some of the smaller details. Having done that, I marked the shading to highlight the darker and lighter areas before transferring the outlines to graph paper.


The next step was to add in the stitching lines. The small amount of cloud at the top was obviously the darkest area, so I decided that it was the best place to begin. I chose to create a 'stitch' based on an octagon with a square in the centre. With that drawn in I could see that the lighter areas could be created using 'partial' version of the same motif.
The boats were obviously lighter in shade than the rest of the picture so I decided that they should be completed in backstitch.

When I started to put needle and thread to linen, I did at least understand that if I had to ensure that I was not drawing threads across the back as they would show through. That was quite tricky in places and I spent a lot of time weaving through the threads on the back.

It took me 90 hours to design and stitch 'Boats'. It is worked on 28 count linen and the stitched area measures 10" by 6½".

And you lose some. It came last! Was I upset? Well, I admit I was a little peeved. It was the only piece in the class that was 'original'. On the other hand, I have to admit that while practically every other piece was the same design of a galleon under full sail, they were mostly much better stitched than my entry.

And you win some. What I won was a much better understanding of blackwork.

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Stand Up for Christmas

While we were in Philadelphia I picked up a couple of pieces to stitch for the  ANG annual auction. It's a sort of bonus, a piece of needlepoint that looks like fun to stitch, but which I can then send back.
I ended up with two pieces, a Carol Singer and a Gate, both of which were part of a larger set of carol singers.


I am always impressed by wrought iron work and this gave me the chance to stitch some. Not surprisingly, I used a lot of black Kreinik metallic threads to get the dull sheen of the wrought iron, and to give the holly a shine I used more Kreinik in green and red. The cat is worked in DMC Medici. The gates and cat are worked in tent stitch, the background is stitched with a very fine machine embroidery silver in a diagonal skip stitch.

The second piece is one of the carol singers,


I used a wider variety of threads and stitches on the carol singer to show the different fabrics of her dress, fur muff, jacket, woolly hat and cloak. Like the gates, the background was completed in a diagonal skip stitch with the same fine silver.

I was able to see the completed set of carol singers before they were auctioned.


It took me just over 100 hours to stitch both pieces. I don't know how long it took to do the others, but if you were one of the stitchers on this set, well done!


Thursday, 2 April 2020

Philadelphia Story

Not starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn or James Stewart.

The American Needlepoint Guild 40th Anniversary Seminar was held in Philadelphia. We couldn't not go, and I knew I had to come up with something appropriate.

What I came up with in the end was "Democratic Evolutions".


"Democratic Evolutions" is best explained by the artist's statement I submitted with the piece. It went as follows:
Democratic Evolutions was inspired by the knowledge that I was coming to Philadelphia. To millions, Philadelphia and The Declaration of Independence are synonymous, but The Declaration of Independence did not spring fully formed from the mind of Thomas Jefferson. It had a predecessor and template in The Declaration of Arbroath, which announced itself as being written by the "barons and freeholders and the whole community of the realm of Scotland". In the perception of their times, little different from the statement "We, therefore, …. in the name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be Free and Independent States".
I chose to go for a circular design with the coloured stripes offset in each ban to indicate movement in time and our understanding of what democracy means. My pairing the dates, places and Declarations in their own circles I wanted to highlight the eternal quest for self-determination and the fundamental truth that our ideas of what democracy is evolves. The text is deliberately broken up, and legible only by moving ones head. This reminds us that democracy is fragile.
To lighten the mood and add a touch of humour, the motifs in the outer band are Philadelphia's most famous icon, the Liberty Bell, and the Arbroath Smokie, wood smoked fish (not to be confused with kippers), that town's best known export.
I elected for congress cloth and an Or-nue style because it seemed appropriate as the colours were selected from heraldry, the coat of arms of Arbroath being red and gold, and the flag of Philadelphia containing blue and gold.
Only Kreinik metallic and Au-ver-a-Soie "Soi d'alger" silks were used.

Another link, but not mentioned in my artist's statement, is that one of the drafters and signatories of the Declaration of Independence was John Witherspoon, a Scottish Presbyterian Minister, and one of the founding fathers of Princeton. I knew a little about him, but it was only after our return from seminar, when I took the piece to show to my parents, that my father commented that John Knox Witherspoon (can you get a much more Presbyterian name) was the brother of one of his umpteenth great grandparents. I've not been able to trace that far back, but he may be right, the family on that side comes from the same town.

It took me 211 hours to design and stitch Democratic Evolutions, with many returns to the doodle cloth. It took me six attempts to get the lettering the way I wanted!

In what the media and politicians in this country are calling "Unprecedented Times", it would be stupid to ignore the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Mysterious Mr, G, previously referred to in this blog, blamed it on crows until he realised it was not Corvid-19.
We are all hopefully practicing 'Social Distancing' as the UK government calls it, and JB and I are leaving the house as little as possible. It will pass, but it will take time. For those of us who don't work in the vital services, who are hunkering down for the duration, I leave you with this thought.

Stay home, stay safe, stitch! You are doing your bit to save the world!