Working out a new technique
Recently my friend, local artist Audrey Riach, had a brilliant idea. She suggested that for next year’s NEOS (North East Open Studios) we should put together a tree, consisting of a large bare branch covered by all sorts of different leaves, all made by our community of artists. I thought this was a great idea and have been working on some ways of producing bright embroidered leaves
As they need to be seen from both sides, I wanted to make the leaves as free-standing applique objects, stitched on water-soluble stabiliser which would then be washed off. However there were a couple of technical problems. For one thing, I wanted the embroidered pattern on the top of the leaf to be very complicated, and the pattern on the bottom to be very simple. This meant that I couldn’t just sandwich the fabric for the top and bottom layers together for stitching, because then they’d both have the same pattern on both of them
So after some thought, I thought I’d try stitching the leaf upside down, so that the top would stitch first and the bottom last. The sequence was this: first, I hooped some water-soluble stabiliser. Then, I stitched the outline of the leaf. Then, I added Mylar for some shine, the top layer of fabric, and a layer of stabiliser. Then I stitched the complicated pattern I wanted on the top of the leaf. THEN I added a layer of the fabric I wanted to use for the bottom of the leaf, and stitched the pattern for the bottom. Of course this would come out on the top layer too, but I didn’t mind that as these were only small details of the leaf structure (the veins etc.) Then I trimmed off all the fabric I had added – all four layers of them! Then I just needed to stitch the final outline of the sandwich, wash off the stabiliser, and it was finished
The top (left) and bottom (right) of the completed leaf
The technique worked pretty well. I’m afraid you can’t see the detailed stitching on the top of the leaf clearly, because I used a thread that was a bit too pale, but it’s there all the same, and it’s not on the bottom – which was the point of the exercise!
Of course for this to work you have to use coloured thread in the bobbin, but this is no big problem. There are still a few technical problems to be worked out, but I think the general idea will be fine. This is just a trial run – it’s not a particularly spectacular leaf in itself, but with some bright fabric, lots of sparkly Mylar and some metallic threads (and a more interesting design!) the idea should work well, so I’d better get digitising and finish some more leaves
A couple of exotic freebies...
Well, they’re exotic to me, anyway! Whenever I draw and paint, I always try to use as subjects things that I can actually see around me. This is why I draw so many deer and horses and crows and pine trees, and why I don’t do many lions or flamingos or palm trees (you don’t get many of those running around in rural Aberdeenshire). Of course, there are times when you really need an exotic subject (for example the Beast from the East that I posted last spring) but for the most part I like to be inspired by what I can see around me. So I don’t usually do designs of American birds. It’s not that they’re not beautiful – quite the opposite – but it’s just that it’s frustrating not to be able to observe the living animal. I have to work entirely from photographs and that can cause problems. But, a while back when I asked for ideas that blog readers might like to see as freebies, someone suggested the cardinal (that is, the North American bird) and of course these are such spectacularly beautiful birds that I couldn’t resist the idea.
Cardinal 1 (the male)
Cardinal 2 (the female)
So for the first freebies of 2019 here are two cardinals, a male and a female. I’m not sure that they’re very successful – I did have several problems with them. In the first place, although the picture is accurate enough, the female looks as if she's got a Christmas hat on! And it was frustrating not to be able actually to see how these birds moved and flew and sat on trees. Finally I don’t think I chose quite the right thread colours for the stitchouts, so maybe you might want to consult some pictures of real cardinals to see what you should use. But they’re such wonderful birds that I hope these will turn out OK for you
If you'd like to try them, here's the male, here's the female, and here's the worksheet
Cherri’s Christmas presents
My friend Cherri belongs to a sewing group, and apparently every year it’s their custom to make Christmas presents for each other. A few weeks ago she asked me if I could come up with something she could stitch on small bags for their 2018 present, so I had a look through my “For Inspiration” file and found a photo of a lovely little Art Deco screen.
A little metal screen from the Art Deco era
This looked exactly the sort of design that would go well on a purse, so I used it as the basis of a digitised design, and Cherri has just spend a very busy couple of weeks stitching out all the purses. Here they all are, with the names of the recipients attached,
All the bags together
and here is a close-up of just one, so you can see the details more clearly
A bag by itself
I think they really turned out well, and I love all the different colours Cherri used. That rough grey felt is not an easy fabric to work with, because it tends to suck colour and texture out of anything that’s embroidered on it, but in this case the colours are just right and the background and the embroidery really work well together
Well, Christmas is next week, and I hope everybody will be too involved with holiday events to think too much about embroidery. I’ll take a short break from the blog and be back in January, but meanwhile I wish all blog readers, and indeed all embroiderers everywhere, a happy and peaceful holiday season
A bit further down the craft road
You may remember that a few weeks ago I mentioned that I was going to try to make more embroidered “crafty” objects – cushion covers and bags were the things that occurred to me. I wasn’t looking forward to this, because I am particularly clumsy at the sewing machine, but I’ve just finished a little embroidered bag and I have to say that I quite like it.
A Brand New Bag!
The design is an old Jacobean one that I did years ago – it’s in four parts which are stitched separately to make a single embroidered area of about 9 ½ inches square (24 x 24 cm). This piece of fabric is easily incorporated into a bag, and I think it works well here. The bag is actually lined, which is something I was surprised to find that I could do quite easily. So I’m never going to make a fortune by making tote bags, but it’s nice to know that I can actually make them if I try!
St. Luke’s Ox, and Something Very Stupid
You may remember the commission I received for embroideries of the Four Evangelists done in a Celtic style? Well, I’ve done something extremely stupid. I finished all four and then sent them off to the client, WITHOUT scanning them first. Fortunately I had scans of early versions of the Lion and the Ox, but I can’t show you the Eagle or the Man unless I stitch them out again, and I’m not about to do that just now. I have to confess that my fantastic husband has surprised me with an early Christmas present of the new Innovis Luminaire (other embroidery machines are available, to use the accepted disclaimer that you have to use in Britain!). It’s just SO huge and impressive that I’m almost afraid to touch it. But over Christmas I should be able to get to grips with it, and then maybe in the New Year I‘ll try the Evangelists again. Meanwhile here’s the Winged Ox of St. Luke
St Luke's Winged Celtic Ox