Three dimensional thingy finished

With much relief I have finished my three dimensional project. Not sure what it should be called, but thingy sounds about right. And glory be, it does stand erect on its own.IMG_8816Three views of my prized thingy. Though not immediately noticeable from the photos, quite a bit of the inside shows the original binding threads. At places this was so tightly bound to the plastic base that I was unable to get the coloured wrapping threads to go under all of them. Still I could tidy it up if so minded.

Now that it is finished not at all sure what to do with it. It could I suppose just stand there as an objet d’art. Not really suitable for putting something inside.

This was good fun and something completely different. I think I will try and do another.  This time though I will probably go for a narrower and more elongated shape. Something the could hold a glass vase for example.


Three dimensional progress

I am making good progress with my three dimensional embroidery project. So far I have worked on the project for 12 days averaging between one and two hours per day. The photo below shows the nearly completed base. img_8786It is a rather strange experience this type of work. Every so often I need to stop and consider or reconsider where I am going with the work.  Partly this is to ensure that there will not be any too large gaps in the finished structure.

However another reason is that the first stage of wrapping lots and lots and lots of thread around the plastic case was done in a very, very haphazard way. So I have ended up with some sections with very little thread and other sections with layers and layers of thread.

My solution is to cut away some of the original threads. Some get thrown away, while others are reused to thicken up some of the thinner sections. It is also a bit of a challenge to decide just how many threads to bundle together and deciding on how much space to leave between wraps.

Anyway progress is being made. Still not confident that the finished thing will stand up on its own when the inner casing is removed. A bit of a way off yet.  More to follow.

And now for something completely different

I have just started work on a new project. Not sure if it counts as embroidery proper, though it does involve a needle and threads. The aim is to make a three dimensional object. In my case I hope to end up with something resembling a bowl. Here it is after two hours concentrated work.6EE7992C-D70B-4589-8BE5-0B4BC943F67CIt currently looks a bit of a mess or rather a complete mess! Still most of the time was spent getting the base ready. To start you need a polythene bag filled with rice. You then wrap sticky tape all round the bag shaping it as you go to end up with something approaching the bowl like object you had in mind. Not an easy task! Next up is to wrap thread round the base in all directions to make a stable and evenly distributed mesh. Definitely did not achieve this.  But you go with what you have. Most of what you see in the photo is the mesh.

Once the base is complete you then begin to turn the mesh into a three dimensional object. This is achieved by wrapping other threads round bits of the mesh, pulling as many mesh threads together as you want. Gradually you should end up with an open structure, with bits of the sticky tape on the base showing through.

I don’t have any plan in mind for this project. I’ll just work my way up, down and along the base as the moment takes me. So far I am working with four different coloured threads, all Shetland wool. Not sure I have enough wool to complete the piece, so may have to use some other wool threads.

I got started on this piece at a Guild workshop on three dimensional thread work which was led by one of our branch members here in Dundee. Anita Hutchison was an excellent tutor and all the materials were supplied.

I suspect this will be a long term project as I intend to work on this on an on and off basis. It is quite hard work pulling the threads in the mesh together and getting the other threads wrapped round. So a few hours each week may be enough to going on with.

I will regularly post an update of my progress on my Instagram account – rutherfordalister.

Ten years embroidering

I have only recently realised that last year was my tenth anniversary of my re-encounter with embroidery. I say re-encounter, since I did some embroidery at primary school. But in reality I only seriously started embroidery as a regular activity in 2008. So this post will feature one piece from each of the past ten years.  All my embroidery is hand stitched.

20082008-10-23 13.56.12This was my first significant piece and appropriately for a beginner it was a kind of sampler. I bought some penelope canvass and a selection of Anchor wool and off I went. Nothing fancy though the harmony and symmetry have remained a key feature of almost all of my work.

20092009-03-25 15.35.52By 2009 I had discovered the world of Bargello embroidery and have remained an enthusiastic practitioner every since. The piece above is my transfer to embroidery of the tile pattern on the cupola of the Chiesa Madre in Francavilla Fontana in Puglia in Italy. This is the hometown of Alessio’s paternal grandmother. We visited Puglia on holiday in 2008 when Alessio was just two years old. So many memories, but this tile pattern seemed just right for adaptation to embroidery. Stitched on the same canvass as the first piece, again with Anchor wool threads. The colours are as close as I could get to the original on the church. I have since repeated this piece and given it to Pompeia, Alessio’s nonna.

20102010-10-15 12.55.392010 would see the 40th birthday of our elder daughter Emma, Alessio’s mum. For her birthday I wanted to do a special embroidery piece. I was well into my Bargello phase so it had to be a bargello design. Emma chose the colour scheme and left it to me to work out a design. Again you can see my penchant for symmetry and balance. Stitched on an Aida 18ct fabric with DMC cotton threads.

2011P1000113This piece was something completely new for me. The design is known as Brigid’s Octomino. This is a fractal based on recursive replacements of octominos (eight squares) in a self-similar octomino pattern — a discrete similarity tiling.  I was introduced to this pattern by Luca, Emma’s brother-in-law.  The pattern seemed perfect for embroidery. The basic eight squares can be extended ad infinitum.  Each enlargement retains the basic octomino shape. The piece above has just eight octominos. Stitched in a simple cushion stitch on bright red 18ct Aida fabric with DMC cotton threads. I presented the finished piece to Luca as a reward for his inspiration. Since then I have completed a few more of these designs.

2012P1000573During these early years of my excursions into the world of embroidery, I soon discovered traditional Palestinian embroidery. As a committed supporter of justice for Palestine, I was delighted to add this type of embroidery to my repertoire. In Palestine, the patterns or motifs as they are known, were originally used exclusively to decorate women’s clothing. Nowadays the motifs have a life of their own, away from dresses. The above piece was one of my first compositions using traditional Palestinian motifs. I used an 18ct Aida in black and DMC cotton threads. Black fabric and bright colours is a traditional feature of Palestinian embroidery. Cross stitch was used throughout.

2013P1040744This piece is an example of the versatility of Bargello patterns. I am a great fan of the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his wife, Margaret Macdonald. For some time I wanted to include a variation on the rose designs in an embroidery piece. This particular piece is I think my third version. Using a triptych frame meant I could include three slightly different rose designs. To complement the sharpness and bright colours of the roses, I decided to use some simple bargello patterns in a complementary colour scheme. Stitched on another 18ct Aida light grey fabric with DMC cotton threads. Apart from the border and stems of the roses which are stitched in a metallic sliver thread. This piece formed part of our wedding gift to our niece, Helen. Happily we discovered later that Helen is also a fan of Mackintoshs’ work.

2014P1060405During 2013 I was involved in the Great Tapestry of Scotland project. This was a wonderful experience and introduced me to another type of embroidery – tapestry or crewel embroidery. I was keen to continue experimenting with this type of work and in 2014 I embarked on, for me, the rather audacious attempt to represent an owl in embroidery. To make the finished piece a more complete composition I surrounded the owl with various flowers. DMC cotton and Appleton wool threads were used for the work. A wide range of crewel stitches make up the piece. Owls are a favourite of our younger daughter, Elena, so this piece was designed as a Christmas present for her.

2015IMG_1540This piece is a more traditional crewel embroidery work. At least as far as the stitches go. The inspiration for this work though is Indian. The tulips and other flower shapes are all based on a wonderful Indian tapestry on display in the V&A museum in London. A natural coloured fabric was the base for the embroidery. Most of the work is stitched with two kinds of silk threads – Soie d’Alger from the Au ver à soie collection and variegated silk threads from the Glissen Gloss Colorwash Japanese collection. This piece now hangs in Emma’s living room.

2016IMG_4160In 2015 I attended an introductory course on Blackwork embroidery. I immediately took to this type of embroidery and it soon became a regular feature of my work. The above piece features five different Blackwork patterns. As you can see there is no black to be seen. Though originally stitched in black on white, any colours can be used, but it is still usually referred to as Blackwork. The composition for this piece comes from a series of prints we saw in the Danish Architecture Centre in Copenhagen. Each feature a number of rectangles, some left blank and the rest painted in pastel shades. I liked the composition and have used it a number of times. Stitched on a 32ct Murano fabric with the same two silk threads as in the previous piece from 2015.

2017IMG_4636 (1)This piece shows how Blackwork patterns can be used to represent something in nature. Here it is my rendering of a Scottish crossbill. The fabric is a 28ct Brittney in green, which contrasts nicely with the reds and creams of the crossbill. For the body of the bird I used only one thread – a variegated silk from the Glissen Gloss Colorwash range. This silk has 12 strands so I could use a variety of thicknesses to get the desired effect. The branch and beak are stitched with wool threads.

2018img_8542This final piece from last year is in many ways my most pleasing. It represents a landscape from South Uist and is based on a photo I took while we were on holiday there in 2017. So much wonderful scenery that I felt I had to try and capture one on canvass. The above is the one I chose and again it was quite a challenge. Very much out of my comfort zone! I painted some of the fabric, added on bits of garden cane and bits of felt. The stitched bits are just made up as I went along, with cotton and wool threads. Not at all what I am used to as embroidery. Still I persevered and I am very pleased with the outcome. It is now framed and I just have to figure out where to hang it.

Here endeth the first ten years.  I just hope I can manage another ten! Happy stitching.


More Blackwork embroidery

My latest embroidery project was another endeavour into the world of blackwork. It is a fairly formal composition and for the first time in a long time includes stitches in black. Not just black though, as I have added a bit of red for contrast and excitement! Here is the finished piece.IMG_8717As you can see I still haven’t quite mastered the art of keeping the fabric taut and square. Even when using a four sided frame. Still it all adds to the authenticity of the work. At least that’s my story. The fabric is a fine 32 count Murano in white. This a mixture of cotton and modal. It is cheaper than linen and easier to work with.

For the black sections I varied the work using three different thicknesses of thread. One and two strands of DMC cotton plus the single strand of Pearsall’s Gossamer silk. The outlines in black were stitched in stem stitch with one strand of cotton.

The top left rectangle has a small diamond pattern and the lower right rectangle has a honeycomb pattern. The large square section is filled with an open lace pattern.

The red pattern is an octagon variation with additional squares inside some of the octagons. I also used three different thicknesses for this section. One and two strands of a very dark coral red cotton and a single strand of Gütermann silk. However this silk thread is much thicker than the Pearsall’s Gossamer. So much so that there is little if any difference in thickness with a single strand of the cotton. The silk was also used for the outline of the circle, again in stem stitch.

I rather like this particular composition which I have used before for something completely different. This composition of two rectangles and two squares was part of the exhibition: Images of the Heart – Japanese Ink Traces and Calligraphy, which I saw in Zurich way back in 2012. Unfortunately photos were forbidden, so I had to make do with a very rough sketch of the composition. In the original the two rectangles and one of the squares were simply filled in shades of grey. The lower square had some drawing in it, but I cannot remember what this was.

Suishû T. Klopfenstein-Arii was the main artist for the exhibition and you can visit her homepage here. This has a link to images of some of her work.

Four Stars in a field of Lilies

This is my first new project for 2019. The inspiration came from the beautiful works of Jordan Nassar, a Palestinian American embroiderer. His work was featured in the current issue of the Embroidery magazine.  Jordan Nassar uses the traditional Palestinian embroidery motifs in a very unusual and innovative way. Often just one motif is used, but in different colours to give the impression of a landscape for example.

As a lover of traditional Palestinian embroidery I was very taken by his work and could not resist trying something similar myself.  This is what I have ended up with.IMG_8545In my case I have used two motifs – stars and lilies. The fabric is an 18ct yellowy green Aida cotton. The four stars are in dark coral with a very dark blue centre. For the lilies I used a range of turquoise and acquamarine colours to provide a gentle contrast with the red stars. Though I did include a very light yellow green for the lilies by the centre. The first time I have deliberately used a thread that is almost identical in colouring to the fabric itself.

The threads are from the DMC cotton range and two strands were used for the cross stitches. The frame is 21cm in diameter and it was quite difficult stitching full cross stitches close to the edges. Another slow piece, this one took me just over 46 hours of stitching alone.

It was a bit strange to work with just one motif for almost all of the piece. At times I longed for a bit of variety. But in the end it was worth it. I rather like the finished article, and I definitely plan to do more pieces in this vein.



South Uist Landscape

This is definitely one of my embroidery highlights from last year. Something very much out of my comfort zone of bargello or blackwork. Trying to recreate a complex landscape is not my scene as it were. It all started in August 2017 when I was on holiday in the Western Isles. We had a wonderful time and the scenery was spectacular. Once home I was keen to try and render one of the views in embroidery. So many to choose form, but the one I hit on was this one from Lochcarnan in the north of South Uist.

img_6097 (1)I have never tried anything like this before, but with the assistance of Jane, the tutor at the embroidery group I attend, I was determined to give it a go. After lots of procrastination I finally got started sometime in March last year. I say sometime, as most unusual for me, I have not kept an accurate record of my work on this project. Anyway I started by painting the top third or so of the fabric in blue as the basis for the sky. The rest was painted in a yellowy green for the base for the field and grasses.

The lower part of the design I worked separately on a rough green fabric. This included the grasses at the bottom. Once I had finished stitching this section I simply glued this fabric to the base fabric. For the rivulet and the inlet I cut out the shape from an old silk painting we had bought in France some 30+ years ago. Never throw anything out! This was then partly glued and partly stitched on to the fabrics.

The rest of the composition is made up of various threads, mainly cotton and wool, felt, bits of other fabric, cane and metallic thread. The latter two were for the fence. I split short bits of garden cane and the sections are held in place with fabric at the bottom of each cane bit. Here is the finished piece.img_8542The sky is a bit bluer than appears in this photo. As you can see I have used a variety of stitches in the piece. I have deliberately kept a chunk of the fabric stitch free as I felt that to overload the piece would be counter productive. Less is more as they say!

All in all I am quite pleased with the outcome, worth all the sweat and tears. I may try something similar again, but not sure I could do more than one per year. Perhaps something smaller.  The finished piece is with my framer so I still have something to look forward to.  Happy stitching!