Back in April a friend told me about FibreArts workshops. They’re like a school camp for fibre artists, held at a couple of locations in country Victoria and NSW throughout the year. She said there would be one at Easter, so when I looked it up and saw there was a basketry workshop, I got too excited and signed up.
I say too excited, because I realised too late that it wasn’t on at Easter, but the weekend before, and I had a dinner party on that weekend. So it was with great disappointment that I cancelled. However, I would lose the deposit if I didn’t book into another workshop, so I looked at what other workshops were coming up later in the year and found a weaving one that would suit me very well.
Several workshops happen at the same time, and there are general events for all participants including a couple of charity raising art shows which everyone is encouraged to donate a piece to. So I got thinking about what I could make that would suit, and my mind turned to an embroidery design I’ve been wanting to do.
I have an instruction book on architectural drawing from the 1960s, and it contains examples of figures of different sizes. They’re very kitsch. I particularly wanted to do the strips of men and women in underwear/bathing suits. I’d already photographed them and some other examples, so all I had to do was print and transfer them to some calico with orange based cleaner. Then I got stitching.
I’m really liking those strips of men and women. So much that I want to keep them. They’re slow work though – I get one figure done in half an hour, and can’t work on them every night or my back objects. I’ll wait until they’re done, then see if I have the time and inspiration to do a fourth.
An idea for a Bargello project has been floating around in my head for a while, but to do it I’ll need lots of colours of tapestry thread. A while back I jumped onto eBay and bought two large batches of leftover thread. And when I say large, I’m not kidding. This is what the two looked like spread over my eight-seater dining table, after I’d untangled the bigger of the two batches.
In fact, the largest batch arrived on a day when I hadn’t slept well, felt very crappy and sorting out the contents was just the sort of meditative task I needed. It was a huge tangled bag of mostly tapestry thread but also crewel yarn, perle cotton and stranded cotton. Some was precut into lengths, some precut and clearly from kits, some still in skeins with labels and some not, and lots of lengths from several meters to a cm long. There was even a few scraps of knitting yarn in there. It was like somebody had thrown someone’s entire collection of embroidery yarn into a bag, including the contents of a bin.
The stranded cottons were all precut lengths with no labels so I added them to my collection. The perle cotton and crewel thread was too, so I tied the cotton together and the thread was knotted onto a metal ring.
Of the tapestry thread, there were several brands including some very old skeins, of which most had felted. I packed most of the tapestry thread into a basket with the ends showing so I can see all the colours.
I left out the oldest stuff and a group of unlabelled yarn that appeared to be thinner than the rest. The old, felted yarns I started to weave on my Knitters Loom (more on that soon).
The thinner I started nalbinding (another post will cover this).
Last year Paul needed round frames for his Batchelor of Photography project. The only ones he could find were frames for clocks or old embroideries. I put the de-framed embroideries aside, thinking that I’d repurpose them.
Recently I took them out and considered what I could make out of them. We already have more than enough art, prints, clocks and whacky stuff on our walls. Pillows seemed the obvious answer for the four matching outback Australia scenes.
If I simply added a back to them to make circular pillows, they’d be a bit small, so I decided to insert them into squares. Rather than try to sew a seam around the ‘hole’ they’d go into, I bought felt, which wouldn’t fray therefore wouldn’t need a seam.
That leaves me with one last round tapestry, this time with a more ‘English’ colour scheme. I’m thinking of trimming top and bottom and making a clutch.
What would you do with old circular tapestries?
A friend gave me some canvas for stitching tapestry last year, and then a book on Bargello embroidery. (Thanks again, Elaine!) I bought some tapestry thread to try on it, in a gradient of greys and another of blues.
I had this beside my tv watching armchair for a month or so, and finished it a few weeks ago.
The canvas and yarn work well for Bargello. The vertical lines on the canvas show through lighter colours, which isn’t a huge problem because now I know they do, I can paint over them before beginning.
The pattern was fun to stitch but the result is rather uninspiring. I have no idea why I decided to buy a gradient of grey. How boring! But it’s just a test piece. Next I want to buy a whole lot of different colours and do something much brighter. And curvier rather than zig-zag.
I have heaps of this canvas, and the finer stuff I used for my earlier samplers is very expensive, so I’m thinking I’ll stick to using it and start hunting through op shops and ebay for people’s leftover tapestry yarn. It’ll be cheaper and I like the idea of letting what colours I find influence the design.
I just realised I haven’t shown off my purchases from the Textile Bazaar a few weeks back. Well, here they are:
Two temples, one handmade ($5) one manufactured ($25). Both are too big for the pinwheel tea towels, which I need one for, so I was going to cut the handmade one down to fit. But it turns out to be a good size for if I weave the full width of the floor loom, so I decided to keep it as it is and have ordered a smaller temple.
I bought this book for $1. There was a bit of a crush by the book bins, so I didn’t take a close look until later. It is hilarious.
All I can see is a Hypnofrog eye, or if I turn them 90 degrees, the Eye of Sauron.
A friend who likes sharks was rather intrigued by this one.
The technical information is useful, however, and I do like the idea of breaking free of convention. But maybe more along the lines of less rigidly symmetrical stripes and zig-zags or kaleidoscope-like patterns.
I also bought some 8/2 cotton and a skein of thicker orange cotton, but they’ve already disappeared into the stash.
This was the craft project I took along on our trip to Norway and Denmark. It’s a line from a poem by J. R. R. Tolkien. I finished it just before the last weekend.
It’s a bit wonky, but I don’t mind too much. Stitching on trains and planes, with low lighting as well as constant rocking and shaking doesn’t make for neat stitches.
I’d also taken some small pieces of felt and a vague idea about stitching circles onto black cloth. But the tiny pair of scissors in my travel embroidery kit are really only good for snipping thread. Cutting neat circles was not going to happen. That was okay – by then I had nalbinding to do!
You might remember this cardigan that I embellished a while back:
Well, I had another. A red one. I wanted to embroider roses all over the front. I drew a design based on a single line quilting pattern but worked out pretty quickly that it was going to be hard on the hands and back and take forever. So I simplified the pattern a great deal, and came up with this:
Which I’m pretty happy with. I also changed the buttons over to black ones.
So I decided to go ahead and turn the strip of blackwork sampler into a bookmark.
I backed it with black cloth. It’s a bit puffy, but otherwise I like it.
I like the look of blackwork, so I really, really wanted to like doing it. However, I only kinda sorta didn’t mind it when there was nothing else to do, so after I’d finished one row of the sampler, I decided that was it.
The decision became easier because I’d really enjoyed the Bargello samplers. I have no idea why they were so much fun, but the blackwork didn’t thrill me. It’s not a matter of colour vs black, because I’ve embroidered black before and liked it. It’s not that the final result is something useful or not, because I figure the blackwork can become a bookmark whereas I have no idea what to do with the Bargello. Both are ‘counted’ work on a mesh. Both are graphic rather than representational. They take about the same time to do.
The only difference I can see is that I need a stretcher for the blackwork, and it was finer work. Maybe I’d like it better if I used aida cloth with bigger squares and ditched the stretcher?
Hmm. I think I’ll have to give that a try!
Back when I was a kid and I tried countless different crafts, I preferred the kind of embroidery that used a canvas or grid, like cross-stitch and tapestry. I’m not sure if I tried Bargello, or even if I liked the way it looks, but I was aware of it and remember vividly how it looks.
When I bought some wool embroidery yarn recently I thought I might try Bargello, but I couldn’t find the right kind of canvas. Then a friend generously gave me a roll (thanks Elaine!). It’s double thread canvas, not single as the few instructions I’ve dug up on Bargello say to use, but I figured it might do anyway. However, the spacing was too wide for the thread I had.
When I went in person to Morris & Sons to buy thicker thread I discovered they had single thread canvas, which doesn’t show up on their online store. (Annoying that, as it meant I didn’t know they sold it.) That canvas was much finer, but the retors a broder thread I’ve bought on eBay works like a charm.
So I’ve been Bargello-ing of an evening, in front of the tv, after using Google images to find patterns I like. A few days ago I finished:
It’s funny, though. When I search on Google Images for Bargello or Florentine Work (which is the same, or similar) I get as many, if not more, pics of quilts as of embroidery. There’s plenty of Bargello-insired quilting out there, but not so much embroidery.
I like that it looks a bit like marbling, or woven undulating twill. And the illusion of three dimensions. And the potential to have fun with colour. I don’t know yet what I’ll make from the samples. Maybe little zipper pouches. I’m just enjoying the process.