Sunday, December 4, 2011

Dresden Lace today

A while back I said that I would post a photo of my little Dresden Lace embroidery that I entered in a local embroidery competition. Here is a close up of the embroidery which measures approximately 10cm x 10cm.

After studying an old Dresden Lace fichu - a triangular shaped shawl -  I wanted to try and embroider a small motif using the same techniques I had seen on the fichu. The fichu has been dated to around 1760, the time when Dresden Lace was at the height of its popularity.

The motif was adapted from a design in Therese de Dillmont's book, Encyclopedia of Needlework. I used chain stitch outlines and they are filled in with pulled thread work. The stitches are all identical to those I found on the fichu. The solid areas like the sepals and stems are shadow work which I think adds a lovely softness to Dresden Lace.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Hand Embroidered Doilies from Greece

I recently had the pleasure of looking at these two dainty little embroidered doilies and trying to discover how they were made.  Each one is just 15cm (6in) in diameter. They were lent to me by my friend Beryl Saunders and they originally came from Greece.


At first glance the two seem to be identical. The charming centres have a tiny flourish of lace with satin stitched roses and leaf sprays on either side. Each doily then has two rounds of the same hand made lace. Interestingly though, on the second doily the sequence of the two rounds of lace has been reversed.

Looking at the first doily, the two more solid areas on either side of the centre are hand embroidered on a very fine cotton fabric.

The dainty pattern of daisies is worked in satin stitch while the leaf sprays are shadow work, done in reverse herringbone stitch or double back stitch. The shadow work gives the embroidery a delicate subtlety.

First doily - hand embroidered side panel
In between the cotton panels, the embroidery on the net fabric reminds me of the Cornelli Lace icing technique used in cake decorating where the curvy lines bend back on each other and fill the area with a single continuous line. On the doily the meandering line appears to be a continuous line of - overcasting stitch - not icing! The four little doughnut shapes, like the couronnes found in needle lace, are satin stitch eyelets.

Each little section of the doily is joined by a tiny narrow seam of fine overcasting, just visible in the photo above. I really can't imagine trying to work such tiny fragments of embroidery and then joining them up with such fine seams, can you?

Now for a closer look at the second doily.

On the two cotton side panels you will notice that the sinuous floral design  is quite different to the daisies and leaves we saw before. 

Second doily - side panel detail

These two panels appear to be machine embroidered - much to my surprise! If you look at the tendril near the top of the photo, you may just be able to pick up the zigzag machine stitches used to embroider it.

The floral design of the net embroidery is also quite different. Because the cotton panels next to them are machine embroidered, I can't quite decide whether the net areas are well-executed machine embroidered lace or whether they are indeed hand embroidered needle run lace as they appear to be.

The two little doilies are indeed similar, yet quite different when you look more closely. I'd love to know more about them. Do let me know if you have come across anything similar. I'm intrigued at the similarities and the marked differences between them. I would also like to know more about how they came to be made. I'm sure there is an interesting story behind them.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Using Metallic threads

I wrote this post some weeks ago but hadn't got around to sorting out some photos that I could use. I was having quite a time then, working with the metallic thread for the bicycle in this sweet Jenny McWhinney design.

Needle painting and working with metallic thread are both things I have previously given little thought to, but I have now completed Monet and his metallic thread bicycle. Completed - except for the bee buzzing around just in front of Monet. I need to practise my bullion knots before I embroider the bee's body.

In the past I have avoided using metallic threads because they don't co-operate very well when I try and use them. After just a few stitches I seem to get worn threads where the metallic strands of the thread separate, and stretch, and bunch up. Then comes the unpicking and starting a new thread. Not my favourite task!

To try and fix the problem of wearing thread, I tried a bigger needle, and then a bigger one again, until eventually I was using what seemed like a crowbar. It was an old needle sitting in my needle book that I haven't used for years and I have no idea what sort of needle it is. It felt very awkward but in the end the big needle did the trick, or maybe by then I'd got to the end of stitching the bicycle.

The other thing I tried was using shorter pieces of thread, 20-25cm long. This meant more starting and ending of threads, but that seemed about the best length to use without having to end off early and cut off damaged thread. All in all I still need a lot of practice with metallic thread.

How I admire beautiful gold work - stitched with all that (uncooperative?) metallic thread.

Friday, October 28, 2011

On the Way to the Fish Hoek Embroidery Exhibition

I love the drive down the coast to Fish Hoek, so this week has been doubly enjoyable for me. The scenery is beautiful on the way and the embroideries on show at the exhibition are a beautiful breath of inspiration for anyone who enjoys working with a needle and thread.

The brightly coloured beach huts at St James somehow promise sunshine and fun on the beach, even on a dreary rainy morning like we had this morning.

Another scene I always enjoy seeing is the sweep of the white beach at Fish Hoek and the view over the clear blue-green water towards Simon's Town.

Here are a few more photos of the embroidery exhibition. The tables where members sat stitching drew lots of interest and they were able to answer questions about the work they were busy doing. Some of the projects were exquisite gold work, fine creative pulled work, a large almost complete hardanger table cloth and also my 'almost finished cloth book' done in needlepainting. I mounted the completed pages on a big board which ended up being a nice way to see it all.

At the exhibition visitors were invited to take part in the viewer's choice award by casting their vote for the piece they liked best. It created much discussion and many went around scratching their heads trying to choose just one favourite piece. The winning embroidery was a charming and beautiful needlepainting of birds splashing about in their bath.

Below is some of the embroidery started at the Ighali 2009 Stitch-away workshops and it includes needlepainting, French white work, samplers with a big variety of unusual stitches, Ukrainian white work, hardanger and gold work.

The exhibition ends tomorrow and I think we will all breathe a sigh of relief that it is another two years before the next one.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Embroidery Exhibition, Cape Town

If you are in and around Cape Town this week, do take a drive along the coast of the Peninsula to Fish Hoek and the embroidery exhibition that is open until Saturday at the Fish Hoek Civic Centre. I took a few quick photos this morning just before the exhibition opening to give you an idea of some of what you can see.

What to do with yellow fabric? - The Yellow Fabric Challenge

A prize-winning smocked ring pillow with garter, a wedding sampler and two wedding veils amidst other fine embroideries.

The sales table for sewing supplies and small gifts

Work in Progress - Embroiderers will sit stitching their projects at the WIP tables

A selection of work donated for sale by the family of the late Magda Sprenger, co-founder of the Cape Embroiderers' Guild.

The band sampler challenge - 12 samplers in progress and one completed - all using the same pattern yet each one so very different and fascinating to look at.

Cape Embroiderers' Guild Exhibition
25-29 October
9am-5pm daily, Saturday 9am-3pm
Fish Hoek Civic Centre
Recreation Road, Fish Hoek
Cape Town

These are just some of the breathtaking embroideries on show at the exhibition. I'll post more photos tomorrow.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cape Embroiderers' Guild Exhibition

The Cape Embroiderers' Guild members hold an exhibition of their embroidery every two years. There is always plenty of beautiful work on show and this year there are some special added attractions. Not only will the work done by the members over the last two years be on show, but a number of challenge and competition pieces as well.

First there was the yellow linen competition. Last year CEG members were challenged to use a piece of yellow linen kindly donated to the Guild by SA Threads and Cottons as the base fabric for the annual embroidery competition. This resulted in some spectacular pieces ranging from cross stitch to hardanger and pulled work.

Then there was an embroidered flower competition sponsored by Trish Burr. The flowers had to be no more than 10cm x 10cm and could be embroidered using any technique. There were some brilliant entries and I was quite speechless when I was announced as the winner! I had entered a little Dresden Lace piece embroidered all in white and I thought a coloured entry would be more likely to be what was required. I'll post a photo of my entry soon.

The other embroideries that you can see if you are able to visit the exhibition are the Band Samplers. This is an ongoing challenge organised by Leslie-Anne Bickle. Each month an embroiderer designs a band that is then distributed to the rest of the challenge participants. There will be 12 bands in all. We have been watching the samplers grow over the year and there will be a number of beautiful pieces at the exhibition. Its so interesting to see them all together. They vary a lot as they have been embroidered in different colours on different fabrics and everyone is making little changes to the bands as they go along. These samplers will be well worth seeing.

Finally, there will be a retrospective exhibition of Founder Members' work and embroideries done by members in the early years of the Guild. With all that on show there will definitely be a feast for the eyes at the exhibition.

Cape Embroiderers' Exhibition
25 - 29 October 2011
9am to 5pm daily, except Saturday when the exhibition closes at 3pm
Fish Hoek Civic Centre
Recreation Road
Fish Hoek
Cape Town

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

You know it's cold when...

Its still very definitely winter in Cape Town despite the days getting noticeably longer. Toast and Marmite are friends but it's not that often that they curl up together. You know it's cold when...

Work is progressing slowly on the Jenny McWhinney cloth book that I am embroidering. The book appeared in Inspirations magazine in 2003 and is a needle painting project.

I think it really is useful to have some artistic or painterly skill when doing needle painting.  The nice thing about this project is that the colour photos give you a good idea of where the colours should go and how they should blend. That's a great help if, like me, you don't have a natural feel for colour.

This is the latest page that I have 'completed'. You may notice that I haven't done the bee yet. Each page has a bullion knot bee somewhere in the scene. I find it takes a while to practise and get my bullions nice and smooth so I'm going to leave all the bees to the end. That way they will look better and should be more efficient and quicker to complete.

The one nice thing about the cold weather that we are still having is that its nice to sit next to the heater, keep warm, and stitch...

Monday, August 8, 2011

Kruger Park visit

If you've checked into to my blog recently, you may have wondered why I dropped out of cyberspace for a while. With my two daughters visiting from overseas and a couple of short trips to Kruger Park, time just rushed by and the blog I intended to post some weeks ago is still waiting for a photo of the embroidery in progress. Needless to say not much stitching has been happening.

In the meantime I have some photos of the family visits and our trips to Kruger. In April, Bronwyn and Simon brought Jake from London to meet his South African family.  At the same time Cindy managed a short visit from Bangkok with little Liam. Its not often that both our daughters are together in Cape Town and even rarer for four generations of the family to be together.

Cindy & Liam (left), great granny Mary Crooks (84) and Bronwyn & Jake

Jake listens carefully to great grandpa Noel Crooks (87) singing to him.

Rod, Simon and Bronwyn with Jake
You can see that is was quite hot the day we visited this hide at Ngwenya Lodge, overlooking the Crocodile River. Kruger Park is just on the other side of the water. As silence is requested, we could only visit the hide with Jake when we knew that no one else was there looking for game coming down to the water to drink.

On a day trip into Kruger and with the grass still quite long in April we were fortunate to see a cheetah. He was lying on an anthill surveying the surroundings from his vantage point. The only indication that he was aware of the 20 or so cars jammed up on the road behind him, all trying to find a gap through the bush to see him, was an occasional backward angling of his ears to listen to to us.

 A white rhino and her calf stepped out into the road in front of us. I was concerned that she might object to our car being so near to her calf, but they calmly walked down the road for a few hundred metres, stopping only once to eye us following behind, before disappearing into the bush along a well worn track. It is exciting to see these solidly built animals up close in the wild and we all let out a collective breath when they put some distance between us.

Driving along at 50kmph along the roads in the Kruger Park, you know there is something exciting happening when you see a traffic jam up ahead. A pride of lions - we counted 14 in all - had apparently crossed the road and we were just in time to see them melting into the bush. Of the 3 or 4 loitering next to the road, this male was closest, but far off enough that we felt safe to wind down the window and take some photos. Just then Jake let out a loud baby-like wail. The lion whipped his head around and fixed his eyes and ears exactly on the open window. I have to say its scary to have a lion focusing on you directly with such intense interest. It didn't take long to wind the window up again! Incidentally not 2km down the road we'd come across a gang of about 20 workmen scything the grass along the verge. The armed ranger was sitting on one end of the strung-out group looking quite bored. If only he knew what was up ahead.

Someone in our car, probably eagle-eyed Bronwyn, spotted a couple of young elephant. We stopped and within moments a herd of more than 20 had appeared with some really tiny ones among them and they crossed the road around us. Was my heart racing! At one stage I even had to close my eyes and my entreaties to "Go Simon, go!" were to no avail. We couldn't move. At the tail end, a young male stopped right next to us and before our eyes curled his trunk around a small tree and pulled it out of the ground. Just like that. I expected him to eat the nice green leaves, but no. Very methodically, he broke off one root at a time and holding it with his trunk, carefully brought it up to his mouth to strip off the bark. Only then did he put the root in his mouth and eat it. It was like looking out the car window and watching a live version of National Geographic.
Rod, Lyn, Cindy and Paul with great grandpa Crooks, and great step-ouma Annie holding Liam
In July, Paul was able to visit from Bangkok with Cindy and they were able to take Liam to meet his great grandparents in Nigel. Why is it that those photos that you take with a self-timer are always so hilarious?! We then all spent time together at Ngwenya and visiting Kruger Park. It was fun all being together and we saw lots of game in the two days we visited the park, but this blog is now rather longer than I planned, so 'till next time... take care!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Mrs Archibald Christie's samplers

In my last post I revisited some of the embroidered treasures housed at the V&A and I  promised to show you some of the work I saw done by Mrs Archibald Christie. (How strange it seems today to be known by one's husband's name instead of as Grace Christie.)

Grace was a well known embroiderer of remarkable skill in the early 20th century. I had admired her book Samplers and Stitches on the Open Library at, so to come across the actual worked samples was a real find for me.

My favourite has to be the little mice eating the ears of wheat in the wheat field. They even had little bits of wheat sticking out of their mouths! The stitching is all so enchantingly regular and the apt use of stitches and changes in thread tone make the charming little scene come alive and I could just imagine the little mice secretly tucking into their dinner somewhere among the wheat storks.The mice are embroidered with Trellis stitch and if you click on the link above you can see Grace's stitch directions in her book for this unusual stitch.

And how hedgehog-like is that hedgehog! I wanted to run my fingers over the surface and feel the prickly spines - not that I would actually do it, even if it wasn't behind glass, but it sure looked invitingly tactile.

Besides the surface stitchery the Reticello and Needleweaving sampler also caught my eye. I like the idea of making up small samplers of the different embroidery techniques.  Hemming them and finishing off each unit makes them attractive and presentable, and also useful as a record of the various types of embroidery such as this form of cutwork. Perhaps these days with the number of good books that abound and access to lots of patterns and technical stitch information on the Internet, samplers like these are becoming increasingly rare.

Sadly the Textile Room at the V&A is being moved to new premises and its not open to us anymore. I only hope that once the move is over, those cabinets of embroidery will again be available for us to feast our eyes on - if we are lucky enough to get to London,  and if we are able to get to see them. Its nice to dream though isn't it?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Embroidered Samplers and Whitework at the V&A

This morning, going through my photos, I found some of my visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London a few months ago. The photos were all rather dark, but I have finally worked out how to improve them - thanks to PhotoScape, free software! Unfortunately the embroidery was difficult to photograph behind heavy glass, but you do get an idea of the fineness of the stitchery.

The cabinets in the Textile Study Room at the V&A had some real embroidered treasures. Again I was very glad to have Rod with me to help lift the heavily-glassed work out of the storage cabinets for a closer look. I was searching for examples of Dresden Lace. I found a few pieces and also examples of the very similar-looking Danish Tonder work too. 

I didn't think of taking along a magnifier so I missed some of the finer details I'd wanted to see - like how close the couching stitches are on the Tonder work outlines and perhaps identify some of the pulled work stitches. The base muslin is so fine, probably around 100 or more threads to the inch(!). A magnifier is definitely necessary to see the incredibly fine detail.

Danish Tonder embroidery, 18th Century. The outlines are couched and the background is entirely filled with pulled work.

The next piece intrigued me. Its an exquisitely worked 18th century English whitework border. The border is only about 7 or 8cm wide but just look at the many and perfect repeats of that 'pulled work' block pattern in the centre scallop, each one possibly over just 4 threads.

The label indicates that this piece is 'drawn thread work', but I did wonder about that. From what I could see it looked rather like drawn fabric work, or the term I prefer 'pulled work'. It seems unlikely to me that it has threads cut and withdrawn which is the defining characteristic of drawn thread, but then I'm just speculating.

Also, because I was on a quest to find Dresden Lace, I was amused by the irony that it had been bequeathed by an Edmond Dresden and I couldn't help wondering if the surname was in some way linked, but no, it seems that Edmond Dresden was a great British philanthropist and businessman and not an embroiderer.

Although on this visit to the V&A I intended to focus on whitework embroideries, I couldn't resist having a look at Jane Bostocke's sampler. It is like a magnet to me at the V&A.

The sampler commemorates the birth of Jane Bostocke's young cousin Alice Lee, born 'in the afternoon of 23 November 1596'.
The photo of Jane Bostocke's sampler on the V&A website is much clearer. Just click on it there to enlarge it.

Jane's sampler is the oldest surviving, dated British sampler. I marvel at the sense that we can communicate across that space in time and learn a little bit about her through her embroidery. For example, if you look carefully, you'll notice that the line under the family crests near the top has her name and is dated 1598, but why do you think that only the letters 'Bostoc' are in a silver metallic thread? Did she run out of thread or just change her mind about using a silver thread? Or perhaps she was just experimenting?

It's inspiring to think of her embroidering the sampler in 1598 and yet it has survived all this time and we are able to still see her work 413 years later. For me it also raises questions like what sort of conditions did she work in way back then? And I wonder too what sort of needle she used?

Also in the Textile Study Room, I was also delighted to find the most charming little samplers embroidered by Mrs Archibald Christie. I'll show you some of these little treasures next time. 'Till then if you are in wet wintry and windy Cape Town, keep warm and dry.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Duchess of Cambridge's Wedding Dress on Show

At the time of the royal wedding of William and Kate, it was announced that Kate's dress would go on show at a future date. The Royal School of Needlework have recently put up these dates on their website.

The RSN worked on the delicate lace on the wedding dress, the veil and the shoes. They will all go on show and we will be able to see the splendid embroidery and handwork that went into making them when they go on display at Buckingham Palace from 23 July to 3 October 2011. They will form part of the Special Exhibition of the Royal Collection during the annual Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace.
I am fascinated by how the lace, in the style of Carrickmacross, was made and applied to the dress and veil. Carrickmacross lace is both intricate and time consuming to embroider. I can't imagine the dediction and the hours of work that must have gone into the wedding dress and veil to complete them in time for the wedding. If you are lucky enough to see the exhibition I'd love to hear all about it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Handcraft Exhibition

Today I visited the South Peninsula Handcraft Club Exhibition. Its taking place in Fish Hoek at the Civic Centre until Saturday 28 May and entry costs just R5.

It's well worth a visit if you are interested in crafts because there is a collection of all sorts of hand crafted work on show. I always head straight for the embroidery and there was wide variety of work to see - cutwork, pulled work, hardanger, needlepainting, blackwork, ribbon embroidery and more.

If you haven't seen Tricia Elvin-Jensen's pulled work that won first prize in the Embroiderers' Guild of America competition last year, this is your chance to see it up close. I also enjoyed seeing the more unusual embroidered pieces that creatively combined pulled work and hardanger and a beautiful restored workbox in turquoise silk with delicate sprays of flowers and lots of bullion knots. All very inspiring!

But that's not all there is to see. There's quilting, knitting, paper craft, bead work and lots of toys - both knitted and stitched - and mosaic work too. A little surprise if you go through to the tearoom... There you'll find handmade items for sale and, you can almost shop till you drop.

I had a lovely morning driving along Boyes Drive with glimpses of the beautiful views over False Bay and then seeing some inspiring crafts and embroidery.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Kate's Wedding Dress and Carrickmacross Lace

What a lovely way to spend a few hours, watching the happy occasion of William and Kate's Royal Wedding on television. Like most of us I was eager to see her wedding dress and I thought she looked beautiful and feminine, yet tastefully understated - as much as a royal wedding in Westminster Abbey in front of 1900 people can be understated.

I wanted to find out just how the lace bodice and lace edged veil had been created and did find some tantalising snippets about the making of the dress.  But, after reading through the description on The Official Royal Wedding (ORW) website and which is echoed on the Royal School of Needlework (RSN) site, I must admit I was a little confused about just how the embroidery was done.

It's clearly stated that the lace design was appliqued using the Carrickmacross technique. The Telegraph on the other hand says the work was 'influenced by' the Carrickmacross technique, an interesting distinction and I'll come back to it later. To get an idea of what Carrickmacross looks like here's a small piece of Carrickmacross I completed after a workshop given by Tricia Elvin-Jensen. It's fine, exacting embroidery and it's very time consuming to make. When ordering a veil from Carrickmacross in Ireland, a full year's notice is required to ensure that the work is completed in time. I can understand that it would take so long to embroider.

Design by Tricia Elvin-Jensen 2003
What is Carrickmacross? It is an embroidery technique where a fine fabric like organdie is tacked onto a net background. Next, the applique design is outlined by couching it down with a cord-like thread around the motifs, through both the fabric and the net. Then unwanted fabric around the motifs is cut away. The remaining open areas of net may be further embroidered. Carrickmacross also often has a very easily recognised edging of picots. These picots take the form of open loops of fine thread. Picots can be seen on the inner wings of my butterfly and along the lower edge of this Carrickmacross collar, probably made between somewhere 1820 and 1920. (Photo: Flickr).

Have a look at Carrickmacross lace in the process of being stitched on this Mirror wedding page. Whether this is a part of the actual wedding dress or veil is difficult to say. It does however show good detail of the pattern underneath the embroidery, the picots being stitched and how the fabric is cut away to leave the motif applied to the net background. Thanks to Lynne Laver who found this illuminating illustration of the Carrickmacross technique.

So that is basically Carrickmacross. Now to get back to the making of the wedding dress on the official ORW website. It goes on to say that lace flowers were cut out from lace and appliqued onto silk tulle, and more specifically that hand cut English Cluny Lace and French Chantilly Lace has been used throughout the bodice and skirt. There is specific mention that delicate motifs were accurately cut out from the lace fabrics and stab stitched onto the new design.This is clearly a different process to making true Carrickmacross lace. It could perhaps be considered to be based on the Carrickmacross technique where one fabric is applied to another by couching down shaped motifs and cutting away the unwanted bits of fabric.

Here is what I'm thinking: Either a technique similar to Carrickmacross was used to apply exisiting lace motifs to the dress and veil.

Or, perhaps two different techniques were in fact used. True hand-embroidered Carrickmacross for the veil and a Carrickmacross-like technique for the dress. I can well imagine that the veil was edged with hand-embroidered Carrickmacross  lace. The ORW website does say that the veil is made of layers of silk tulle with a trim of hand-embroidered flowers, made by the Royal School of Needlework. Perhaps the dress on the other hand, an enormous project,  was made by stitching on the lace motifs that were cut from lace fabric, a technique influenced by Carrickmacross. I can't quite imagine that both these techniques would have been employed together on one garment. I think they'd look too different to place them side by side.

If you have discovered some other snippets about how the dress was made, I'd love to hear about them. From the bits of information I've found it's difficult to know just how the lace work was done and I can only guess at it.

On a slightly different note, I did appreciate the RSN's description of how embroiderers washed their hands every 30 minutes to keep the fabrics clean. (Do they have a secret soap they use that keeps their fingers soft and smooth with all that hand washing?). Only short lengths of thread 30cm in length were used, with no knots on the back of the work which had to look as good as the front, especially for the veil. Also interesting was that the needles were discarded after 3 hours of work so that only sharp clean needles were in use. All I can say is I'm surprised that needles really can go blunt in that short space of time doing such delicate work. Mmmm, I think I'm definitely way overdue for some new needles.

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Sunday, May 1, 2011

My new black and white cloth book

A few weeks ago I posted a blog on the cloth books that my daughter Cindy and I made for my two new grandsons. The nice thing about making a cloth book for babies is that you can make it fully washable. Also the pages aren't damaged when they clutch it in their little hands.

  Well last week I was able to see for myself just how intriguing little Jake, now 4 months old, found the simple black, white and red pages of his book when he saw it for the first time.

It was fascinating to watch Jake's concentration as he scanned each page and then reached out to explore it. 

I must admit I was a bit sceptical that the boys would find the books interesting, but after seeing this I am convinced that babies really do appreciate the contrast of the black, white and red shapes. There's nothing like putting a theory to the test to convince oneself that it's true.

I'd love to hear if you have had a similar experience with black and white baby books.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Autumn in the Cape

It's a lovely time of year in Cape Town. The extreme heat of summer is behind us and the Southeaster has died down leaving the weather pleasantly warm and with almost no wind. 

It's always a sign that winter is definitely on the way when the Plectranthus bloom. I was too late to catch mine in full bloom, but did catch a snap of a small plant that grew from a cutting I simply pushed into the ground last year. I just can't get enough of that rich purple-blue colour.

The other plant that seems to have done well this year is the ribbon bush, Hypoestes aristata. It's so full of flowers that the stems are starting to droop under the weight of the them.

As you may gather I have been spending some time out in the garden, so I haven't done as much stitching as I would have liked. I was working on one of Jenny McWhinney's very sweet little designs and will post a bit more about the project when I make some progress. It's my first attempt at needlepainting and the going has been slow. This is as far as I've got with Monet the mouse riding on his bicycle.

Bronwyn, Simon and little Jake have arrived from London and we are all going up to Kruger Park for a few days so there will be very little stitching for a while. Till next time, autumn or spring, enjoy the change of season wherever you are.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hedebo whitework embroidery

Looking through my box of 'Work in Progress' this week I thought it was time to consider the next step on a tea cosy I started on a Hedebo course given years ago by Margaret Roberts. The Cape Embroiderers' Guild is having its biennial or two-yearly exhibition in October and we are being encouraged to complete as much work as we can work to fill the big hall at Fish Hoek Civic Centre with lots of glorious inspiring embroidery.

Hedebo embroidery began in Denmark in the mid 1700's and was used to decorate clothing and household linens. It originated among the people who cut and dried peat for a living and who lived on the Heath or heden. Hence the name. Although there are various types of Hedebo that have developed over time, I rather like the the oldest form which is quite distinct. It is characterised by rich surface embroidery usually with two rows of chain stitch outlining graceful motifs such as leaves and flowers. The shapes are filled with drawn thread fillings similar to Russian Drawn Thread.

The design for my tea cosy is adapted from Hetsie van Wyk's book Embroider Now. I think the book is out of print but every now and then a copy pops up at the good second hand bookshops around Cape Town. I have always admired the photo of a Hedebo tea cosy in the book and wanted to try and make a similar one. Unfortunately there is no pattern, so I set to work drawing up individual shapes and laying them out until I had a pleasing design similar to Hetsie's. Whew! When I say it in one sentence like that it sounds easy, but actually it took me ages to do.

I tacked the design onto my linen and as I was ready to go. I wanted to dive in and stitch the drawn thread areas first, but of course I had to do the chain stitch outlines before I could do any cutting of threads. Surprisingly, although chain stitch is one of the first surface stitches that one learns, I found it quite challenging to make two neat rows of a consistent tension. I tend to work quite tightly and this makes the chain stitch bunch up rather than lie evenly and flat.

The buds and leaves, those pale blue tacked shapes, are the point where I got stuck. Now I have to try and work out what stitches I should use to stitch them. I've pinned the embroidery up in my sewing room and hope that inspiration will strike when I least expect it...

As always do leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you.