Model stitching for the Guildhouse course (I)

One of the interesting parts of preparing to teach a needlework course is stitching the various projects beforehand. I can’t imagine teaching a class about a project which I haven’t stitched myself – for one thing I’d be terrified that I’d overlooked something vital and would find out half way through the class that part of the design is impossible to stitch!

It also gives me some idea of how long a project will take to stitch, and of course how much thread needs to be included in the materials packs. Although it is possible to design projects that can be completed within the 2 hours allotted to each class, they would have to be very simple indeed, and very small. Instead I tend to use slightly larger and more complex designs which are started in class but finished at home. The idea is that if a design includes four identical or similar chain stitch shapes, I will explain chain stitch, and the students will stitch one of the shapes, then we move on to the next stitch and the other three get finished at home, or at the end of the class if there’s time. In addition the last class in the course is dedicated to finishing off projects, asking questions, practising challenging stitches and so on. It seems to work.

The first class of the course I’m teaching at the moment looked at blackwork, and more specifically at ways in which you can "shade" blackwork from dark to light. We did this by using different thread weights, and by gradually simplifying the repeated motifs. There was some metallic thread included as well, showing the difference between blending filament and #4 braid. The result will eventually be made into a card.

Blackwork project for 2012 course

The interesting thing about stitching a model is that often it will change considerably in the process, sometimes because something doesn’t look right, sometimes because it turns out to be too complicated, sometimes for very practical reasons. This blackwork design started out square, but as I was working it in the 4" hoop that the students would be using I realised it was getting very difficult to work towards the corners, so I left some of the pattern out and turned it into an octagon. And you know what? I actually like it better that way!

When I’d finished the blackwork, the logical thing would have been to start the week 2 project, which is a silk sampler; but I decided to do the Hardanger & ribbon work for week 3 first, as it is a bit more challenging. Did any changes get made to this project? Yes, one – if you look very carefully you will note that the "spokes" for the ribbon rose stick out a bit, so I shortened them on the chart that the students will be using.

Hardanger and ribbon work project for 2012 course

Note to self: it is extremely difficult to get ruched ribbons the same width, even when you start out with identical bits of ribbon. I haven’t quite decided yet whether the result is "sloppy" or "charmingly uneven" – a bit like an asymmetric smile is said to be quite attractive.

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