In last year’s New Year’s Even post, I set out some goals for 2017. Now we’re at the other end of 2017, how much progress have I made on any of them?
Although I still have ten thousands kits to work through and an unimaginable number of works in progress, after I finished my Ribbonwork Heart, I found myself hankering for some more ribbonwork but with no obvious next project in line.
While I love working pre-made kits because you can just dive straight in and don’t have to worry about how it will look, I’ve been feeling more and more that I want to move to designing my own pieces and mixing techniques because, let’s face it, there is no project that is not improved by the inclusion of spangles.
I seem to have been doing a lot of ribbonwork lately and while thinking about some new designs of my own, it seemed like a good time to finally finish the Ribbonwork Heart piece by Sophie Long that I started a very long time ago… This is the piece that is on the front cover of her Ribbonwork Embroidery book that I reviewed a while ago.
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Ribbonwork embroidery (or ribbon embroidery) is, rather unsurprisingly, the art of sewing with ribbons. This is often done in combination with embroidery floss and other materials. As well as being delightfully quick to work up, ribbon embroidery is excellent value in the effect versus effort department, with even the simplest of stitches looking very dramatic. Also, who couldn’t love something that involves getting to play with silk?
I had the pleasure of taking a Royal School of Needlework Day Class with the author of Ribbonwork Embroidery, Sophie Long, over a year ago now. When I heard that she was going to be writing a book on ribbonwork embroidery, one of her specialisms, I was rather excited to say the least.
As well as the more intensive embroidery qualifications, the Royal School of Needlework (RSN) runs regular day classes as a way for people to try new techniques or get an insight into what it is like to study with one of the world’s most prestigious hand embroidery schools. Occasionally, the RSN teams up with other organisations to put on special classes on either different themes or different skills.
Recently, the RSN ran a series of classes at the Fashion Museum in Bath, with designs based on items on exhibition there. I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Needlelace day class, stitching a small butterfly/dragonfly/questionable insect as inspired by a motif on an embroidered Elizabethan woman’s waistcoat.
A while ago, I’d done a beginners tambour beading class, where I’d become hooked on new ways to add all things shiny to my work. As a day was not nearly sufficient time to fully appreciate all the joys and techniques of tambour, I was lucky enough to be able to attend a follow-on workshop to learn some more.
Tambour (seemingly known interchangeable as tambour beading or tambour embroidery) has been a technique that I’ve wanted to try for a long time. Tambour is usually a technique uttered in the same breath as ‘haute couture’ as it is often the technique of choice for adding the glitz and glamour to wedding and evening dresses.
When you think of embroidery, you usually think of a needle and thread, but tambour is worked with a hook, very similar to a crochet hook. It’s also a little bizarre as you have the back of the work facing you as you stitch with the ‘live’ thread or beads underneath. The reason for its popularity though, is because when you’re not fumbling around like a true beginner, it’s an incredibly efficient technique for applying beads and embellishments to fabric.
When I had the chance to try a class with Tambour and Clutch, it seemed like the perfect excuse to learn something new. However, I never thought I’d feel quite as out of my depth doing chain stitch as I did starting tambour!
Another day at the Royal School of Needlework for me, to do battle with the beast that is my Jacobean crewelwork.
At the end of the last class, I had rather a lot of homework that mostly involved meters of raised stem band. While I had managed to get some of it done, there was still rather a lot to go and, as tends to happen with these things, life somewhat got in the way.
When I started this blog, I honestly anticipated it would just be read by a handful of beleaguered relatives and friends and web crawlers. Much as I really wanted to be able to contribute something to inspire and help other people, just in the same way so many other people have helped me, I expected the blog to sit in some cold, dark corner of the Internet, being populated in obscurity.
It came as a great surprise one day when I received an email from a reader, asking a little more about my experience starting out studying with the Royal School of Needlework. That reader was the lovely Catherine over at Hillview Embroidery who is now zooming away with her Jacobean crewelwork, featuring the world’s most adorable oversized squirrel.
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Durham isn’t often a city I end up passing through, which is a bit of a shame as it’s home to one of the nicest embroidery studios I’ve ever seen, belonging to Tracy A Franklin.
Tracy is a Royal School of Needlework-trained embroider whose work is mind-bogglingly amazing. You can see some of her pieces on her Instagram page here. Her studio is tucked away in a lovely little area by the river called Fowler’s Yard, which is home to range of creative studios and stores, with a conveniently located wool shop for your knitting and fibre needs.
I was very fortunate as Tracy was kind enough to find me space on one of her classes so I could learn all about doing creative metalwork.