Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Sleeve Bag

I had such a good time demonstrating at the original Big Stitch Day in 2012 that I didn’t hesitate to sign up for this year’s Big Stitch at the Ashmolean Museum.

I’m told that in terms of numbers through the door it was even more successful this time around and I certainly enjoyed it every bit as much as last time. I gave two demonstrations this year, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, which gave me time to attend one of the study groups and grab a quick bite to eat. Because The Eye of the Needle exhibition was still running, I thought the Feller Swete Bag would be a good piece to take to demonstrate. When I said that it was a reproduction of a piece in the exhibition most people were interested to know more about it and I had several long conversations about the difference between basket weave needlepoint, tent stitch and half cross stitch.

Branch members who were demonstrating, or helping out in some other way, were asked to make a sleeve bag so that we could be identified as 'helpers'. I looked in charity shops for an old denim jacket from which to make my sleeve bag but every one I found I felt was in too good a condition to cut up. In the end I used the second sleeve from a dress shirt that someone had already cut up to make their bag. They had used all of the pin tucks and the button band to jazz up their bag so all remained was a plain white, double cuff sleeve.

Back in 2011 I had made a crochet rope handle for my Poppy Pouch. I put the handle away somewhere safe until I was ready to make up the bag … and promptly forgot where that safe place was. Eventually I made a second handle for the Poppy Pouch so I could finish the bag and the original remained in its ‘safe place’ until I stumbled upon it a few weeks ago. I decided to use that original crochet rope as the handle for my sleeve bag and to use the left over beads, stored in the same ‘safe place’, to embellish it.

© Carol-Anne Conway

First, I embroidered a few simple flowers on the placket.

© Carol-Anne Conway

I then beaded a double zig-zag border onto the tuck on the cuff and made a fringe to hang down from the folded back cuff.

© Carol-Anne Conway

It only took a few evenings to make and embellish the bag but stitching through the cuff with a beading needle was though and I repeated pierced the middle finger on my right hand, making it rather sore!

© Carol-Anne Conway

There was a wonderful variety of sleeve bags on display at the Big Stitch and I think some of the visitors had started a new craze of 'sleeve bag spotting' because I was asked a few times "may I see your bag, please". As before, I really enjoyed the Big Stitch day and look forward to the next one.

Happy Stitching.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Silky Glow Sampler

It seems to have been the year of the sampler!

Following the great success of The Big Stitch in 2012, the Ashmolean Museum and the Embroiderer’s Guild decided to host a second day in conjunction with the Eye of the Needle exhibition. As part of that event, SEW Region held a members’ competition to create a “Modern Sampler”. More about that later.

© Judy Dixon/Carol-Anne Conway

By pure coincidence, the Royal School of Needlework staged an in-house exhibition of Samplers and a 21st century sampler competition. The brief was to submit a design, not the stitched sampler, for judging. The two winners would then be invited to work with the RSN to stitch the sampler. Unfortunately, I did not manage to see the exhibition and nor did my entry win but I quite like my design and, if I get around to stitching it, I will share that later.

And equally by coincidence, and before either of these competitions were announced, Jo, one of our committee members, proposed that we (members of Oxford Branch) do a stitch-along of a sampler published in edition 59 (June/July 2009) of Stitch magazine.

© Judy Dixon/Carol-Anne Conway

A small group of us meet up approximately once a month to stitch together and then aimed to complete that section as ‘home work’ before the next meeting. One or two of the group chose their own colour scheme and it was interesting to see how different colour ways affected the overall look of the completed samplers. Ever the safe player when it comes to colour, I chose to use the original colour scheme.

© Judy Dixon/Carol-Anne Conway

The sampler, designed by Judy Dixon, is a combination of traditional hardanger stitches, some familiar stitches such as eyelet or cushion stitch, and some less well known variations on stitches. Part of what appealed to me about this project was the cut work – something I have not tried before. I did one small piece of hardanger many years ago but never completed it. Hardanger is one of those techniques that I find relatively simple to do and, therefore, quite relaxing. There were quite a few large cloister blocks in the border, which was the most time consuming part of the project. The sampled stitches were fun and, as they were mostly small sections, each one completed relatively quickly.

© Judy Dixon/Carol-Anne Conway

I love the soft colours combined with the smoky dove greys and the different textures of the threads were fun to try out but I thought that one or two thread choices where not the best for the stitches (unless I was using the wrong number of strands).

© Judy Dixon/Carol-Anne Conway

Overall, I really enjoyed stitching this piece and working it as a stitch along. I had been tempted to do mine in shades of grey on black canvas and wish that I had been brave enough to give that a go.

© Judy Dixon/Carol-Anne Conway

Happy Stitching

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Happy 5th Birthday, Garstang Japanese Embroidery Group

The weekend before last, I spent a few days on a Japanese embroidery course in Garstang with some dear friends.


Sue and I often joined the Garstang Japanese embroidery group and we had helped at the Stitch and Creative Craft Shows in Manchester when Denise and Jane were considering teaching JE in the region. We meet several of their first student's at one or more of those shows. We didn't go to the first two classes when all of the students were doing the taster class or beginning Phase I but when we first went to Garstang in November 2010, we immediately felt part of this lovely group.

I had been looking forward to the weekend with mixed feelings. This would be our first embroidery course since we said goodbye to Sue; it was bound to be emotional. Also, Sue and I usually travelled there and back together and I knew I was going to miss her during the long drive. For the first two days we were all very brave but on the Saturday morning our British reserve crumbled and it was all Colleen's fault!

Saturday, 11 October marked the 5th anniversary of the first day of the first Garstang Japanese Embroidery course and Colleen had secretly planned to mark the occassion. She had commissioned the most beautiful celebratory cake.


At first, there was delight at the surprise and admiration of the cake but we could not celebrate the occasion without thinking of our absent friend. The flood gates of emotion opened and, for a short while, we gave way to our pent up grief. But I think it did us good.


... and the cake was delicious!

That evening we remembered Sue with laughter rather than tears. Denise invited us to play Uno, one of Sue's favourite games. Denise had never played before and was surprised at the slightly ruthless nature of the game. Colleen and Jane, particularly, seemed to have a vendetta against each other. But it was all good natured fun, we were not keeping score or even counting who won the most hands. I think that Sue was smiling down on us and perhaps rearranging the deck so that Colleen and Jane always had a card that forced the other to pick up or miss a turn whenever they called Uno!


Happy 5th Birthday, Garstang Japanese Embroidery Group and many Happy Stitching Returns

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Lest We Forget - Part 4

By the time I had stitched all fifty petals on the flowers around the heart I was getting the hang of oyster stitch and starting to enjoy it.

© Carol-Anne Conway

So much so, in fact that I decided to use oyster stitch for the leaves as well. I tried to make the leaves longer and thinner than the petals. Because I had chosen a sheer fabric to show up the shadow work, the trailing threads also show through but I rather like the 'sketchy' effect that creats.

© Carol-Anne Conway

There are only twenty leaves around so it did not take me very long to complete those and the stem stitched stem, which I think helps to define the shape of the heart.

© Carol-Anne Conway

This was a fun project, made more so for learning two new techniques, and I am quite pleased with the finished piece.

© Carol-Anne Conway

Happy Stitching

Monday, 13 October 2014

Lest We Forget - Part 3

On projects such as this, I like to try stitches/techniques that I have not done before or ones I have tried without great success. One of the stitches that came up in Sharon Boggon's Take A Stitch Tuesday was oyster stitch. At that time, I completely failed to learn the stitch but I thought that it was the perfect stitch for the flowers around the heart so I thought I would give it another go. I reviewed Sharon's instructions. I also took a look at Mary Corbet's oyster stitch video guide and looked up the stitch in the stitch directories I have. When learning something new, I find it helpful to consult as many resources as possible, what is not readily understandable in one may be clearer in another. On this occasion I found Mary's video guide to be most useful but I had to watch it several times before I put all of the steps together and I had to make quite a few stitches before it could do it without reference to the video.

The first step was never a problem for me, it is just a twisted chain stitch.

© Carol-Anne Conway

The next step was the one that foxed me originally. You slide the needle under the bottom 'leg' of the twisted chain then take the needle down inside the loop just formed. This, apparently, makes a rosette chain stitch.

© Carol-Anne Conway

© Carol-Anne Conway

Pull the thread through but leave a nice loop around the rosette chain and ring the needle back to the front of the fabric inside that loop. Take a small stitch over the loop thus making a chain stitch around the rosette chain.

© Carol-Anne Conway

© Carol-Anne Conway

What I learn was that it helps if you leave the loops bigger than you want them until you insert the needle into the fabric for the next stitch, and then draw up the loop until it rests against the needle. I experimented with how much space I left between the point were I came up through the fabric and the point were I went down to give me plumper petals.

Happy Stitching

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Lest We Forget - Part 2

I'm not sure whether the technique I used on the lettering was one of my own invention or an existing technique that I have not come across yet, or simply a combination of two existing stitches.

© Carol-Anne Conway

On the finer strokes of the letters, I did a simple stem stitch but where the strokes broadened I switched to working shadow stitch.

© Carol-Anne Conway

I think it worked quite well.

Happy Stitching

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Lest We Forget - Part 1

Earlier this year the South East West (SEW) Region of the Embroiderers' Guild held a competition to coincide with The Regional Day. 2014 is the centenary of the start of the First World War so the theme for the Branch completion was 'Lest We Forget'. Oxford Branch created an album of 'Sweetheart' for their entry. This is the card I contributed to the album.

I based my design on a card I found via a Google search for sweetheart cards.

© Carol-Anne Conway

Many of the original cards are stitch on fine, translucent fabrics, so I used a fine muslin from my stash.

© Carol-Anne Conway

To emphasis the translucence of the fabric, I stitched the rose in shadow stitch. I have never used this technique before so there was a bit of a learning curve.

© Carol-Anne Conway

I varied the stitch size to give different densities of colour. I think it works better with closely worked stitches than the more open stitching.

© Carol-Anne Conway

Happy Stitching