Tuesday, 14 February 2017

1 Year of Stitches - A Heart for Valentine's Day

So a little stitching today to celebrate Valentine's Day and to show just how important stitch is in my life as well as my other half of course. Bless him!




A little bit of couching never did anyone any harm.  That's couching as in embroidery and not lying on the couch or being a couch potato. Happy Valentine's Day! xx

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

1 Year of Stitches - Mary Thomas's Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches

As some of you may know this year I have taken on the 1 Year of Stitch challenge, stitching each day in an embroidery hoop in order to help me improve my hand embroidery, which to be honest I have always shied away from because basically I don't know very many stitches. To my rescue then has come my 1948 vintage edition of Mary Thomas's Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches I bought off Ebay a few years ago.


First printed in 1934 the book pictures and describes over 300 embroidery stitches covering just about everything that can be done with a needle and thread. My idea is to plough through the book page by page, trying out every stitch in my embroidery hoop. Sounds simple enough but am I being a bit too ambitious here or maybe just naive? On reading through just the first few pages it strikes me that I really am a complete novice as embroidery is a minefield of techniques such as Applique, Patchwork, Darning, Quilting, Blackwork, Broderie Anglaise, Hardanger, Smocking and Tapestry to name but a few. 



The book is wonderfully illustrated throughout with the method clearly described but what I really love about the book is that sprinkled in amongst the stitches are these funny little caricatures, drawn by Margaret Agutter, amusing little vignettes to match the theme of some of the stitches like these shown below: 
 











To quote Mary Thomas, "Stitches are the 'scales and exercises' of embroidery."  So I guess I had better go and practice my scales.
she covers just about everything that can be done to fabric with a needle and thread, including Appliqué, Cutwork, Patchwork, Assisi cross stitch, Filet darning, Quilting, Blackwork, Hardanger embroidery, Smocking, Broderie Anglaise, Jacobean embroidery, and Tapestry. - See more at: http://store.doverpublications.com/0486245306.html#sthash.jumEGTrE.dpuf

indeed, she covers just about everything that can be done to fabric with a needle and thread, including Appliqué, Cutwork, Patchwork, Assisi cross stitch, Filet darning, Quilting, Blackwork, Hardanger embroidery, Smocking, Broderie Anglaise, Jacobean embroidery, and Tapestry. - See more at: http://store.doverpublications.com/0486245306.html#sthash.jumEGTrE.dpuf
she covers just about everything that can be done to fabric with a needle and thread, including Appliqué, Cutwork, Patchwork, Assisi cross stitch, Filet darning, Quilting, Blackwork, Hardanger embroidery, Smocking, Broderie Anglaise, Jacobean embroidery, and Tapestry. - See more at: http://store.doverpublications.com/0486245306.html#sthash.jumEGTrE.dpuf

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

1 Year of Stitches - First Week

Well I thought as much. Hand embroidery is definitely not my strong point and I have ended up unpicking quite a lot of my first attempts. Getting into it a bit more now though and going for more of an organic doodle which am hoping will evolve over the coming weeks.

 
Stitches I have used so far are herringbone, split stitch and seed stitch which I realise is fast becoming my favourite simply because it is so easy. Tried doing a bit of a swirl with the split stitch and then infilled using seed stitch in a contrasting variegated blue thread.  I must stick at it though and what I am hoping will help me to improve is a great website I have discovered called sharon b's Pin Tangle, which focuses on contemporary hand embroidery and crazy quilting. On this site there is an amazing stitch dictionary of hand embroidery stitches with illustrated step by step tutorials. Way to go!!                          

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

1 Year of Stitches

Nothing like the start of a new year to kick start new ideas and projects that have been spinning round in my head into action. Trouble is I have also got lots of PhDs (Projects Half Done) that have been hanging around for far too long, piling up in the corner of my sewing den taking up valuable space. That coupled with the fact that my Other Half has invaded my girl space with his desk and PC resulting in me having to do a major sort out and de-clutter before I can even think about starting a new project. I am taking the 'does it spark joy?' approach to getting rid of the great unwanted which is quite liberating in a scary sort of way.  I have made Other Half aware of this philosophy in order he should  avoid getting in my way when he is sat at his desk lest I end up chucking him out with everything else if he doesn't spark joy in me. 


So all this brings me to 1 Year of Stitches which is a new project I am embarking on and which has got me really excited. The brainchild of Hannah Claire Somerville it is really more of a challenge than a project where the idea is to make at least one stitch every day for 365 days. The stitches will be on a piece of fabric stretched in an embroidery hoop and over the course of a year the hoop will fill up with lots of pattern, colour and stitches like the examples above. You can read more about it on Sara Barnes' blog Brown Paper Bag but basically here are the rules:

1. Make at least one stitch every day.  If for some reason you can't do this, it's OK but at least take a picture that day. 
2. Take a picture that shows your project.
3. Date your picture and write a sentence (or a few words) about the embroidery or your day.
4. Share online through social media or a blog - On Facebook and on Instagram post using #1yearofstitches and @1yearofstitches.  

Hannah has described the project as one of mindfulness and a personal map making exercise. For me I think it will be a great way of practicing my hand embroidery which I'm not that brilliant at while at the same time hopefully giving me the chance to spend a few contemplative moments in thought. I find that stitching like knitting can be a great way of occupying idle hands and getting the thought processes going or just escaping from everyday stress.  The other great thing of course about this project is that it takes up very little space and is extremely portable so I can keep it by me on the sofa to add a few stitches of an evening when watching TV, take it on holiday or stitch during my lunch break at work.   


Here are my first basic stitches. Not very inspiring I must admit but small steps to what will hopefully become a rich and colourful tapestry of stitches. Well that's the plan anyway. I may even take it to the pub and stitch whilst  having a pint.  Now there's a pleasant contemplative thought! 

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Goodbye to Christmas and A Christmas Rag Rug Wreath

I think once Christmas and New Year is out of the way I don't know of anyone who still likes to have their Christmas decorations lingering around the house. Once the last cracker has been pulled and the final bottle of prosecco drank on New Year's Eve, the last thing you want to see when you do finally surface on New Year's Day with a humdinger of a hangover are the Christmas Decorations. I know a lot of people don't wait for Twelfth Night or even New Year but whip them away as soon as the turkey curry has been served. We have two crates that we keep in the garage for Christmas decorations and every year have the usual Krypton Factor puzzle trying to fit them all back in those crates from whence they came and still get the lids shut.


So conversely what was I doing last night instead of taking all the decorations down and starting to pack them away?  I was up to the early hours making a Christmas wreath of course.  Back in October I attended a really great workshop given by local artist Bridget West on rag rugging and bought a kit (as you do) to make my own rag rug Christmas wreath. What a good idea I thought. I will have stacks of time to finish that in time for Christmas.  Well I did start it way back in November but it became another of my PhDs and remained unfinished all through Christmas. So I thought there is no way I am putting that away unfinished, plus I would only have to finish it next year when all the decorations come out again. Last thing I would want! So I stayed up late and caught up with 2 and a half omnibuses of The Archers while busy rugging. Above is the finished article, put up for just enough time to take a photo and now carefully crated away back in the garage ready for Christmas 2017. 


Footnote: One of the main Christmas decorations that starts looking a bit worse for wear very soon into the festive season, even before the turkey's out of the oven is the Christmas tree. Understandable though as in most cases it stands in a hot heated room usually next to a radiator and almost certainly without water. No wonder it has a tantrum and drops all its needles. The Christmas tree though in my book is the Headliner of Christmas decorations. Don't concentrate too much with festooning the house with too many support band decorations such as garlands, tinsel, flashing Santas, sagging Santa bottoms stuck out of chimneys and windows.  Less is more and we  always have a real one so this year plumped for a Scots Pine and I have to say and this is no exaggeration, it looked as good and fresh today as it had done when we first bought it five weeks ago. The only few needles that had dropped off it were from when my daughter first put the lights and baubles on it.  So Scots Pine again for us next year. We felt almost sad to see it go.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year






A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone who reads my blog.
Here's to some great new stitching projects in 2017. xx

Monday, 21 November 2016

Running Stitch 'City' Exhibition

I belong to a local exhibiting textile group called Running Stitch and for our exhibition this year we chose City as our theme.  We normally aim for an exhibition every 2 years but had to wait another year while Solihull Arts Complex morphed into The Core Library & Theatre. I have to say though  that it has been well worth the wait as The Courtyard Gallery is a superb exhibiting space and so much better than the old gallery space on the first floor.  Here are a few shots I took on the day of install last week plus a few glimpses of our artwork.


Jacqui Thomson's My Walk to Work based on my journey from Snow Hill Station to Ikon Gallery, Brindleyplace














Our collaborative piece Found in the City based on objects found on the streets of the city  


The felted cityscapes of Anne Thumpston 


Patricia Cravos' work based on street art in Digbeth 


The Grade I listed Birmingham School of Art embroidered by Helen Wallis


Julie Hunt's stitched map of the railways and canals of Birmingham in the 1850s


Nadine Reid's abstract views of city buildings using the chenille technique


Rita Best's stitched painting of the Rotunda and St Martin's Church 


Detail of my piece Sketches of Brum showing the Bullring Bull.


A group photo (minus Anne behind the camera & Nadine) l to r, Me, Rita, Julie, Pat & Helen.  Well done girls - a superb install.  Running Stitch's City exhibition continues at the Courtyard Gallery till 28th November.