Friday, 24 January 2020

Young Samurai

In 2008 Jane-Beth attended Teacher Class at the Japanese Embroidery Center in Atlanta, Georgia to renew her teaching certification. "Young Samurai" was the set Teacher Class design. It is obviously a Samurai helmet, and was inspired by "Boys' Day" or Tango no Sekku, which is celebrated on May 5th. This is an ancient Japanese festival and may date back as far as 593AD.

Having done a little stitching on the piece, and worked out the 'How', Jane-Beth decided that it would give me practice if I were to finish it. Well, I know my place, and I liked the design.

Copyright Japanese Embroidery Center, Atlanta

It looks, initially, as though it is a comparatively simple piece to stitch, but it has quite a lot of superimposed work and fuzzy effect. It was fun to stitch, and although only a Phase II piece it definitely reinforced the lessons I had learned from earlier pieces.

Young Samurai is 13" by 9", I spent 90 hours working on it and the time seemed to fly by.


Thursday, 16 January 2020

With Gently Smiling Jaws

This was inspired by Lewis Carroll's parody on Isaac Watt's poem, 'How doth the Little Bee', as quoted by Alice in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
The poem goes:
How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!

How cheerfully he seems to grin
How neatly spreads his claws
And welcomes little fishes in
With gently smiling jaws!

Obviously it had to be set in an Egyptian scene or a rabbit hole, and since rabbit warrens are dark and black on black would never have worked, Egypt was the obvious choice.
I decided that this should be an exercise in couching for effect and open canvas. I also decided to try a range of threads. The various elements to be included had, of course, to include a crocodile and fish, so I opted to have this in the foreground with Egyptian inspired motifs in background.


The pyramids are stitched in 4 strands of Marlitt, worked horizontally every other row. The thread was not drawn across the back, but brought diagonally up to start the next row so that it did not show through the unstitched areas. I prefer to use the 'finger-tip-to-elbow' measure for length of thread when starting, but in this case I used lengths of about 30" so that I could complete all the diagonal lines and the right hand slanted line with one length of thread. I did not want any change of thread showing. Marlitt has a tendency to keep its kinks when drawn from the skein, so I ran it over a damp sponge to remove them before I started to stitch. I couched the long stitches vertically with two strands of the same Marlitt. When couching, probably because the thread was passing through the canvas more often, I found that it tended to shred and that the optimum length to start with was about 10". I also used Marlitt for the obelisk.
The sky is CD Pastel couched with Madeira Metallic 33. The sand dunes are also CD Pastel couched with a gold machine embroidery thread. The Nile is couched with silver machine embroidery thread.
The Crocodile is cross-stitched in Kreinik metallic, as are the poor little fish that it is about to swallow. The background canvas is an 18 count, random-dyed sand colour. Because it was the right colour and had variations, I decided that the middle ground should be left unstitched.

I worked on this from December 2008 to March 2009. It took a little under 70 hours to design and stitch and measures 6" by 4".

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Arrival Of Spring

I know, we're not even into the double digit days of January. Surely it's far too early to talk about Spring? Well apparently not. I took these pictures in my father's garden yesterday morning.

I have no idea what this bush is but it burst into flower sometime between Boxing Day and yesterday,


while these are a bit of a cheat. I moved them from another area of the garden in October and expected them to die back but they've kept flowering. I was impressed because where they are now gets the chill wind off the North Sea and has no shelter except the top layer of bricks.


And Snowdrops. Some of them are already showing buds, and at the front left is a solitary Daffodil making itself visible. How that got there I don't know but I love the idea that as things get moved and 'tidied' the odd volunteer bulb goes along for the ride and starts a new colony.



All of which is a lead in to "Arrival of Spring".
This was the second class I took during our visit to Houston.


"Arrival of Spring" is a Gail T Stafford design worked on Congress cloth using DMC, Gentle Art, Weeks Dye Works and Threadworx threads, Cashmere Stitch, Nobuko and many other stitches, including many, many French Knots.
This is not the style of piece I would design myself, which was one reason for taking the class. It's good to step out of your comfort zone occasionally and having taken a class with Gail a few years ago, I knew it would make me do that.
The sky is painted, not stitched, which was a 'fear' challenge - paint the sky without getting paint in the wrong places, onto your hands or (disaster) onto your kilt. It was easier than I expected, and fun.
The picture really doesn't do the design justice. The shades of green and the stitches used give a real three dimensional feel to it.

It took me 60 hours to complete this, and  I enjoyed almost every minute of it.







Thursday, 19 December 2019

HOW, WHAT and a Crane

With two embroiderers in the house, we do tend to have a large and interesting stash even though we have different approaches to our stitching.
Jane-Beth tells me she is a 'process' embroiderer. She likes to take classes and correspondence courses to find out HOW. Her Hows include; how do you do that stitch, how does that floss feel in the needle, how did the designer come up with that? Once she knows  the HOW, her curiosity is satisfied and she moves on.
I work from the other direction. I have an idea, it becomes a design, and then I think about WHAT. My Whats are; what size of ground, what stitches, what threads, what textures, what am I trying to achieve with this piece? And I keep asking WHAT right up to the last stitch. What if I'd used a different thread or a different stitch?

Being a HOW and a WHAT, we collect threads of all kinds, sometimes because we like the colour, sometimes the texture and sometimes just because it's unusual.
Jane-Beth has an encyclopaedic knowledge of what is in our stash so when this WHAT is looking for something to create a particular effect and isn't quite sure what he's looking for, I go to my HOW and describe it. If we have it, she knows.
I doubt if this WHAT could do what he does without his HOW.

Which is how this piece came about.
Having completed Ribbons, I decided that I would like to do another piece of Rozashi. I mentioned this to Jane-Beth. She rummaged around in the stash and came out with 'Crane'.


This is another Margaret Kinsey piece and uses the same vertical stitch combinations as 'Ribbons'. As soon as Jane-Beth showed it to me I knew she was not going to get the chance to stitch it. Besides, she had already done a HOW on Rozashi.
Crane is 6" square and took 35 hours to stitch.

Friday, 13 December 2019

Seasonal Outing

It's that time of year. This week we attended the Edinburgh Castle Family Annual Carol Service, held in The Great Hall of the Castle. Impressive or what? The lower walls are covered in carved panels and the wooden ceiling is covered in painted designs.

Image copyright of Historic Environment Scotland
So how is that related to embroidery, and how do you get an invitation?
In my case as 'Partner'. The embroidery connection is that Jane-Beth is one of the team who do the conservation work required on the Regimental Colours laid up in the Scottish National War Memorial,  which is in the Castle.

Image copyright SNWM
This is one of the most quiet and peaceful places I know, even when filled with tourists. If you've never been, I recommend that you add it to your lists of 'places to visit in Edinburgh'. Word of warning! Avoid the day of the Annual Rededication Service. The sound of a military band within the walls is deafening.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Ursine Insinuation

As intimated in my post back in January, Mr G Bear continues his attempt to achieve world domination through Teddy bears. The latest group of 29 recruits have been fully trained in 'Looking Cute', 'Snuggling', 'Comforting', and, apparently, standing on each others shoulders.



Once again I had the fun of sewing them up, stuffing them and giving them faces. Each face is slightly different. That's not intentional on my part, but being bears they demand a certain amount of individuality.
It probably takes a couple of hours to sew up the seams, fill and face each bear. We discussed it and came to the conclusion that each bear took about seven hours from start to finish. But it's fun doing them.

And as for this group;


They are off today to Africa, to Little Libraries via Craft Tea who meet at Leo's Beanery on a Wednesday afternoon. Our bears go where they are needed. Or perhaps their destination is decided on by the mysterious Mr G Bear and they are a 'Ninja Cuddling' squad, a furry Fifth Column in his quest for World Domination by Teddy-Bear.

And that's what I've been doing this week.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Creme de la creme

I don't usually repeat a design but this is an exception.

Crème de la Crème is a reworking of "Fawny of Eight", which appears earlier in this blog. I chose to take the unusual step of reworking an older piece because the Embroiderer's Guild, of which I was a member at the time, was holding a Regional Day in Edinburgh in 2008 and wanted entries for their exhibition of members' work. The theme was Crème de la Crème.

I was asked by one of the organisers if I had anything to submit. There are not many men in the Embroiderer's Guild so they were keen to have something in their exhibition. So I said "We'll see," and had a brief think.

I concluded that in the time available I probably didn't have time to work up something totally new, but I had enjoyed working on Fawny of Eight and was sure I could do it much better second time around.


My memory (not infallible) tells me that this must have been done on 18 count canvas as my notes say I used 4 strands of DMC Ecru. I tried white, but it was too was too stark and cold. The Ecru was just a touch warmer in feeling.
The stitches used are; starting at the top left; Basketweave, Woven Stitch, Twill Variation, Upright Gobelin, Scotch Stitch, Dinaken Stitch, Hungarian Variation (Diagonal) and Upright Brick. The outer border is Satin Stitch.
Because I already had the design, it only took me 30 hours to stitch this, and it was completed in time for the Regional Day.