Stitching the Forth Bridge

What possessed me to attempt to stitch the girders of the Forth Rail Bridge? This has felt like the stitching equivalent of the mythical never ending paint job! I used to do 15 minute stitching sessions when bubs was sleeping but then I got sidetracked with other things and this has lain dormant next to my desk for about a year. The image is a tracing of a woodblock print that I found online, the bridge is such a beautiful structure and I still marvel at the scale of it despite seeing it and crossing it nearly everyday for the past 13 years. 

I’d initially planned to stitch the whole picture in red thread but I think it might look better with some additional colour.

So over the past couple of evenings I’ve stitched the bridge while watching Charlie Brooker ‘s Screenwipe, the fabulous Cunk on Christmas then tonight’s episode of Sherlock. I’m gutted that I’ve only got a tiny section of it to do and I can’t find the bloody thread that I used and of course I didn’t make a note of the number/make either! I’ll have a proper look in the morning, I can always make a start on the other sections and hope I can find a close match in the thread stash! 

Benbecula Bus Embroidery

I started working on this piece in January last year but life got in the way and it lay abandoned in a drawer until September this year. I saw an advert for the Fife Art Exhibition which is open to artists without a formal art qualification who live in Fife so I thought that as this piece was close to being finished I’d get my arse into gear and enter it.

I saw this beautiful Bedford bus – which was used by the Caledonia Macbrayne ferry company – on a trip to Benbecula a few years back. I’m a big fan of ‘Quilting Arts’ magazine and seeing the amazing examples of textile art created using photos I had wanted to try a photo based / realist embroidery for some time. Stage 1 involved printing  out the photo,outlining the main parts of the image then tracing it on to thin paper which i then transferred to fabric using a light box. Then the hard part of the painting began…

I found the painting an enjoyable challenge, trying to find the exact shade, especially making more of the same colour I had created (too light,too dark, not ‘red’ enough…) but once it was finished I was really pleased with how it was looking,those patches of white on the bonnet really bring the image to life, I was so excited to get back into my comfort zone to start the stitching!

I attached the painted fabric to fleece and stitched the main lines of the bus in matching thread.Although this did push sections of the image out I wanted a more 3D effect so I cut slits in the back of the work and burrowed in thin lumps of stuffing, I discover later that this is called trapunto embroidery so that’s another new skill learned through this project! 

So here’s the finished piece hanging in the gallery, the artwork above mine was a red setter made from bark! There was certainly an impressive range of work on display and the exhibition was a great show case for the talented people in Fife. All of the work was for sale and I had mixed emotions about mine being unsold (it was a bargain at £80!) but it will be on display in my living room and I’m proud that a piece of my work had been included in an exhibition. I need to start planning for next year now! 

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I started making this quilt when I was about 4 months pregnant and when I did the last run on the machine of the border edging a week before my due date I told her she could arrive anytime now as I’d finished her quilt! 

I used fabric from my stash for this quilt and I didn’t really have a design in mind when I started out. The hexagons were made up on my commute and I played around with various layouts before I settled on this design. I picked the hexagons out from a bag lucky dip style and arranged them that way. As the fabric was floral I thought I’d quilt leaf like vines, this was a lovely pattern to stitch, I find quilting is so meditative once I  get the rhythm right – woman and machine became one with just the sound of the needle chugging away…

I don’t intend posting many photos of my girl but this pic of her snuggled under the quilt makes me chuckle every time I see it. she was a couple of months old here and I used to call her the pixie faced sleep thief during this period, Aah those crazy sleep deprived days! I’ve started cutting up her outgrown clothes for a new quilt but that i think that will be some time coming! 

Laughs with my sister and a finished piece

I’ve just returned from a lovely weekend down south to celebrate my step – mum’s birthday. It’s a 6 hour journey involving planes, trains and automobiles but I still find the plane part of the journey quite exciting- I always get the urge to make a landscape quilt when Im gawping out the window at the terrain below. I think this is part of Wales and then the curve over the Bristol Channel. Lovely to see the sunny West Country again!

The best part of the trip was spending some proper time with my 11 year old sister – I’m 41 this year so there’s a pretty hefty age difference but thankfully I don’t find it hard to revert to my 11 year old self!
Another bonus is that she likes embroidery so while I finished covering the back of my ice sheets textile she made a Jasmine flower out of felt (for our 18 month old niece) And in the picture she’s sewing a J onto some tartan ribbon. She didn’t finish it before I left so I’ll be getting her to post it up to me so I can attach her contribution to the crochet giraffe I’ve been making for Jasmine (I’ll do another post on him as he’s coming on well!)  I loved seeing her stitching away next to me, helping her out with the odd tangled thread and chatting about her starting Secondary school, God I remember how nervous I was!
Staying with my sister also means breakfast in bed in the morning – check out the presentation of my peanut butter and jam on toast! There’s a big mug of coffee served with that as well.
I also got to meet Rosie the new hamster who likes eating strawberries while sat on my sister’s head. Sadly there’s  no photos of us dancing in the kitchen to 1 Direction and Katy Perry but I was lost in the moment!
Final pics in the set are of my finished textile piece (there’s hardly any stitching on it so I can’t really call it an embroidery! ) that I gave to my Dad as a belated birthday gift. You can see a section of one of his ice sheet photographs – I must print some of mine out as his look  amazing! He really liked it but my sister thought that my test piece made with the cheap green nylon fabric looked better than the pure white silk version, she’s the second person to say that so I think I’ll frame that one up as well now!
It’s always hard saying goodbye to the family especially as it will be a good few months before I see them in the flesh again, Skype is all well and good but nothing beats sitting stitching and laughing on the sofa with my sister at my side.

Bring me the Head of John the Baptist

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I spent a good chunk of the Easter weekend working on my Aubrey Beardsley ‘Salome’ embroidery which has lain neglected down the side of the sofa for a good couple of months. The reason for the title of this post is due to a surreal moment I had on Good Friday watching the film ‘King of Kings’ – a classic Biblical Epic from the early 1960’s (aren’t the best of this genre from the 60’s?) while I was stitching. As I worked on the hair on the severed head of John the Baptist, the film grabbed my attention as the scene I was stitching was being played out on screen!

But on Herod’s birthday, the daughter of Herodias danced before them: and pleased Herod. Whereupon he promised with an oath, to give her whatsoever she would ask of him. But she being instructed before by her mother, said: Give me here in a dish the head of John the Baptist. And the king was struck sad: yet because of his oath, and for them that sat with him at table, he commanded it to be given. And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison.

And his head was brought in a dish: and it was given to the damsel, and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came and took the body, and buried it, and came and told Jesus. (Matt 14:6-11, D-R)

 (Thank you Wikipedia for a brief Bible Lesson! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salome)

I’ve never read the Bible and I’m only half way through the Oscar Wilde play from which the embroidery is taken so I’ve started looking at the subject matter slightly differently now!

Here’s how Salome is described on her Wiki page – I think Beardsley totally captured her sensuality in his illustration:

Christian traditions depict her as an icon of dangerous female seductiveness, notably in regard to the dance mentioned in the New Testament, which is thought to have had an erotic element to it, and in some later transformations it has further been iconized as the Dance of the Seven Veils.

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As you can see I’ve neatened up the edges of the applique and I’m really pleased with how this is looking now. I’ve taken the decision to fill the entire bottom section with a mix of split stitch and stem stitch which is opening me up to a fair few hours of intense stitching (I must say that stitching black thread on black fabric isn’t exactly thrilling but the density it gives to the embroidery is worth it.
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Still a way to go with it and I’ll probably leave it lying for another spell while I work on other things but at least I can see the end in sight now!

Enter the Dragon – Exit Johnny Clarke

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‘Kung Fu International’ by John Cooper Clarke keeps popping into my head while I’m working on my dragon quilt – he’s one of my favourite poets and I’ve my Uncle Vince to thank for introducing me to him when I was about 10, Vince was cool and lived in London and he used to make my Mum mix tapes of all he’d been listening to, he still sends me music 30 years later but it’s on CD rather than cassette these days but I’m getting sidetracked… I’m really enjoying working on this quilt, I love the growing solidity of the layers as they’re stitched together and there’s been something meditative in following the bold outlines of the batik with just the sound of the machine chugging away.

I’ve finished all of the gold outline of the dragon and I’m really pleases with how the stitching appears on the reverse – here’s the face of the dragon and a chunk of the body:

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I’m wanting to do further stitching on the body to introduce more colour to the reverse and to create more detail and texture on the quilt top so I spent an hour on Sunday doing some sample stitching on some scrap fabric:
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I think I’ll go for the green scales on the body and just lines on the yellow underbelly – I thought about doing a pebble stitch here but seeing it next to the scales I thought the patterns looked too similar and busy so simple curved lines it is.

I’ve also to think how I’m going to fill the background too but for now I’ll leave you with a bit of John Cooper Clarke

 

Tree Rhythms – Mission Complete!

DPP_0204aWell I was up till 1 in the morning getting this finished and I’m so pleased with how it’s turned out. Instead of photographing it under the dingy lights in the house I thought I’d show the embroidery in a natural setting so I took these on a lunchtime walk using the proper camera instead of the one on my phone!

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Ideally I’d have liked to photograph it next to the tree carved with the names but that would have meant going down to the park before work (meaning a v early rise!) but I was really pleased with how my bark looked next to an actual tree.

I have loved working on this! Having seen the standard of stitching from other members of the Embroiderers Guild I’m not sure I’ll be a challenge winner but it was the first time I’ve made something to a brief and actually met a deadline (If I make anything for birthdays/anniversaries etc. I never allow myself enough time!) This was also a great opportunity to use some new techniques  and it’s given me more confidence in trying out new ideas and allowing myself just to have a play about with materials to see what happens!

Time to get working on the next idea now…

Thanks for reading! x