Model stitching for the Guildhouse course (II)

Two more models for the course have been completed, and neither of them changed very much! But before I tell you a bit more about one of them, here is some work the students did in the first week:

Student blackwork Student blackwork Student blackwork

On to week 2, when they were going to get to grips with silks. I love silks, and I’m always happy to point people in the direction of stash they didn’t know they needed. So the project was a proper, old-fashioned sampler – a piece of stitching that shows samples of threads or stitches or patterns that the stitchers wants to keep for future reference. Six different stitches (Rhodes heart, leaf stitch, colonial knot, satin stitch motif, chain stitch and cross stitch in two sizes) and six different silks, yielding 36 possible combinations. And having all those combinations in one piece will show very effectively which silks look best in which type of stitch.

The silks used are Carrie’s Creation stranded silk (red), Vinyard Silk Classic (blue), Caron Soie Cristale (yellow), Eterna stranded silk (green), Thredfairy silk cord (cream) and Midori Matsushima Japanese flat silk, 10 suga (purple). I thought all these threads were still available but have just found out that Eterna silk, that affordable flat stranded silk which came in about 500 colours, is no longer available. A sad day for silk lovers. Here, however, it is "in action" with its five fellow-silks.

Silk project for 2012 course

It was lovely to stitch this sampler and feel all the different textures; Carrie’s is a twisted silk, Vineyard consists of two flat and slightly fuzzy plies, Caron is very lightly twisted and has a bit more body than Carrie’s, Eterna is a 12-stranded silk whose strands are practically flat, Thredfairy is a tightly twisted perle thread, and the Japanese silk is so soft and flat and beautiful that just stroking it is a pleasure! It snags on absolutely everything, but a few gentle strokes with finger or needle and it’s ready to go again. The difference between the six silks show up more clearly in real life, I’m afraid, but photographing the sampler with flash helps a bit to show the different textures and the way they catch the light.

Silk project for 2012 course, flash

So were there no changes at all to this design before it got used in class? No, but there are two things I will probably change if I ever use it again. First of all I would probably use a soft silk like Crescent Colour Belle Soie or Gloriana Silk Floss instead of the Caron thread, which doesn’t contrast enough with Carrie’s silk. Secondly I would replace the chain stitch diamond with a flower made up of lazy daisy stitches, as I found that this section was very challenging for a number of the students. And there will have to be a third change as well – I’ll need to find a good substitute for Eterna!

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.