Monday, 27 February 2012

Embroidery collaboration

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I had embroidered a badger for a project at my work. The project has now been completed and I can share a few piccies with you all.

I work at a museum, and one of our buildings was 100 years old this year. To celebrate its centenary, the local branch of the embroiders guild (whom we had only just recently worked with on another project) spent months creating a simply amazing embroidered book to reflect the history of the building. Each page of the book was embroidered by a different member of the group, and covered a different era of the building, or a different collection of objects from the museum collections. One of the local embroiderers, Bea, has been volunteering with us for a while now (she has been re-storing the shoe collection and is doing an amazing job!) and every day she's been in we have chatted embroidery. I have probably learned more about embroidery from Wednesday break-times that from every book I have ever read.

Well, Bea noticed my penchant for animals, and suggested that I should embroider something to go in the book! I was amazed to be asked, and fretted about this throughout the Christmas break. How could I possibly make something good enough to go in this book? Still, I dutifully tried in the holidays to stitch a little mouse from reference pictures, only to eventually realise that I just don't draw or embroider from photographs. I just don't work that way. I guess if nothing else this project has taught me to work the way that suits me best and play to my strengths. For me, it's to conjure up sketches of animals entirely from my brain, and work from there. To think I was nearly in tears over this stupid mouse, worrying that I was going to fail in what was almost my first exciting collaboration. Eventually I realised my mistake and put the mouse aside. I started to think about a lovely badger mount we have in the collection, and the lovely mix of black and white on their faces. I started to sketch, and this fella just sort of appeared.
I start blocking in large areas with lots of stitches
The completed badger, after many, many stitches!
I really went all out with fur, and I loved the way it came together. I was super chuffed with it but still felt pretty shy at handing it over. I mean, Bea is SUPER experienced and her work is amazing! Unfortunately I missed the day the book was presented, but Bea assured me that the badger got lots of positive comments! The book iteself is AMAZING, and though I don't have many images to share, here is one of my badger and of the page it features on, showing some of the other work. 
Such wonderful work!
It was amazing to see the buildings history and some of our collections featured in embroidery, and seeing different interpretations and ways of working was so inspiring. I've always thought that I wasn't really interested in doing commissions or producing something specifically to fit what someone else wanted, but in many ways the challenge is appealing, and it can be an amazing way of forcing you to work outside your comfort zone and try something new.


Tuesday, 14 February 2012

A new sketchbook

I may have mentioned before that I love, love sketchbooks. Oh and notebooks...oh and cards, and well...okay stationary. Stationary is a big thing for me. The fact that they've opened a Paperchase near my work is both a good and bad thing.

I've featured some pages from my sketchbooks before but I decided that since I am heading down a very addictive embroidery path, that I should start to plan some of it, rather than just always let it grow organically (organic growth is good too, but sometimes it leads me up the garden path as well as to the wonderful forests and mountains). I'm really enjoying doing little snapshot embroideries in hoops and loving some of the inspiring hoop art I'm finding on the web. So I took down a fresh, new hardback A4 sketckbook from the shelf and decided it would be my embroidery hoop sketchbook. I even drew round some hoops on the first three pages, and noted some categories to fill in on each page to give it some organisation and to capture any relevant data. For each sketch I wanted to record the following. 

Title: self explanatory really!
Idea: a little bit of blurb about where the design sprang from, any inspiration etc.
Thoughts: what I think of the finished design, and what could be done to improve it.

I wanted to test it out right away so I sat down, and in about ten minutes I had three sketches for embroidery patterns that I love! Isn't it great when you find a creative method for you that just works? Now I can keep all my designs in one place and also use it to inspire me. What creative methods work for you? Of course I'm also thinking that the sketchbook could also do with a lovely embroidered fabric slipcover...Ooooooo (starts on another sketch).
 This is called 'monster love', and I'm thinking that a series of cute applique and embroidery monsters holding hearts would be quite sweet. I've just missed valentines but who doesn't need both monsters and love all year round?
 My daughter loves to pretend to be animals, and one day she said she was a 'big stompy fox'. I loved those words so much I decided they needed to be brought to stitchy life. This time I wanted to do something less realistic and more stylised, and this pattern was born. It needs tweaking, but I can't wait to try lots of new stitches bringing this fella to life!
And a more realistic one. I wanted to plan some backgrounds for my animals, and I liked the moodiness of this. It's supposed to be on snow, but at the moment I have no idea how to do snow so I might need to do some testers and work on it some more. I do feel very inspired though!

I've been working hard preparing for my first embroidery workshop too. Don't these bundles of ready-to-sew calico templates look so neat and nice?
I hand drew every pattern with my trusty light box and frixion pen. I also decided that I would whip up a quick little sampler. If you've never sewn a stitch in your life before, you don't want to try out stitches on your final piece do you? So I came up with this simple sampler. 

Thought I'd sew one up and I think it looks fab!
I've chosen four stitches to include in my workshop, and I think that four is enough to master in one evening! I thought the sample even looked nice enough to hang up and keep! I think it's nice to have a physical reminder of what the stitches look and feel like. Looking at pictures and photographs is fine, but it's nice to see them in the flesh as it were.

WIPS section
I took a little break from my sewing machine WIPs this week, as hand stitching was all I wanted to do. Still, the little quilted blanket is progressing. I did a quick and nasty stitch in the ditch (and it was quite nasty and innacurate), but afterall this is a first quilting tryout, and is for a doll's bed so don't feel too precious about it and I know my daughter and her toys won't.  

However, I left the back piece of the quilt large thinking I'd simply fold it over and bind it to the front, but some fumbling while moving piles and cutting fabric at my desk resulted in me knicking the fabric close to the front and batting. Booo. 
Now I need to add full binding. This is always kind of how I approach any new technique or way of working. I like to blast through it, get a feel for it, and also, usually muck it up a bit. For some reason this seems to help me learn. Embrace those mistakes people! Learning is a journey!


Monday, 6 February 2012

My first embroidery workshop

Hi All!
Just stopping off for a quick update about my embroidery workshop, the date is all set! Here's the blurb.

With two well-attended courses behind us in January and February, 'Meet and Make' can now announce a third! I'll be running an embroidery workshop where you can stitch your very own cute woodland animal decoration. This will be an opportunity to learn a few basic stitches and techniques (no previous sewing or embroidery experience necessary), make your own colour choices, and learn some top tips to get you started. 
This course will be held on Wednesday 21st march 2012 and will run 7pm – 9pm. The cost of the workshop will be £15 per person and you will take home a wonderful decorative embroidery for your home. All materials and tools will be provided for you to make your stitched animal, and you will also take away the basic essentials (embroidery hoop, needles, course handouts and some thread), to try out more embroidery at home! The venue is just outside Thornton, nr Glenrothes in Fife.
Spaces are limited so book early to avoid disappointment. To book, either contact me through the Meet and Make facebook page or contact me here by leaving a comment.

 Thought I'd put some extra piccies of the patterns here as I realised I put piccies of them without hoops in my last post. Not sure why I did that considering they are meant to be shown in their they are in all their hoopy glory!