textiles Feed

Jet lagged

Well I'm home again after my month on the road.  I'm tired and a bit jet-lagged and my mind is full of all the sights, sounds and experiences of the last 4 weeks.  I have to sort through all my notes, organise my photos and get all the information into some sort of order so that I can move on.

So what was the one most outstanding event of the trip?  Well there were so many that it is hard to pick but I personally liked meeting the Embroideress in the markets at Solola, Guatamala.  I saw lots of women who spun and wove but she was one of the few I found who stitched. I saw lots of embroidered garments and there were lots of women buying threads and patterns but she was the only one actually stitching.  Her long hair was wrapped with ribbons and lace and she was beautiful.

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There she was in the market and as an embroiderer I appreciated the skill with which she plied her needle.  All of the hand woven fabrics are produced from back-strap looms.  This means that there really isn't enough width to the fabric to construct a garment.  So traditionally this was overcome by embroidering lengths together.  (The same as you see with faggoting.)

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They use a frame which is about 1" in depth and the tension is balanced by a spring, rather than tightened with a screw in the European way.  The needle is huge by our standard but the fabric they embroiderer on is a lot thicker than what we are used to.  In the past the best garments were embroidered with silk but commercial rayon thread is used a lot today.

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The stitching that she was engaged in was for the traditional skirt.  I bought a second hand fabric length stitched in this same manner.

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Although this piece had been stitched with cotton thread.  The different patterns used today have become somewhat of a fashion statement with the women and all the different groups use different patterns.  When you see the finished pieces on display, like those in the image below, it is easy to forget that a woman, like my embroideress, actually sat and stitched them.

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I found that the quality of the embroidery was far better in the older pieces of work and I fear that as technology and the Western world influences the Mayan culture hand embroidery will be replaced by the machine and people like my embroideress will fade away and no longer be part of this rich culture.

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Moving on

This is my last night in Antigua.  Tomorrow I am moving inland to the lakes in the highlands.  It has been an interesting few days filled with new sights, sounds, tastes and emotions.

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One old love I have revisited is horse riding.  And boy have I found lots of lost muscles.  The knees have had a work out as well.  We went up to visit a volcano and getting up the mountain involved either walking or riding a horse.  I took the horse.

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The getting onto the horse was a bit of a challenge but once on I was able to get on and off without too much trouble.  I just made sure that I was near a rock or a wall.  The other challenge was the saddle, which was wooden.  Actually, the horses name was Carmello and he had a great temperament.  He knew the way and only tried to get away on the way up not the way down.  That was because he got fed at the top and was looking forward to that.  Coming down the mountain the track was narrow and very close to the edge of the precipice.  I just looked ahead and prayed.

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The ash field around the volcano was just like the description of Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings.  The dust and smell of sulphur stung the throat but the views were fantastic.

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I have not been neglecting my textile study either.  The following images are a selection of the embroidered hupils or blouses that I have been photographing.  They are all hand stitched and the amount of work that goes into each one is amazing.  Like most of South America Guatemala has a strong tradition of backstrap weaving and everywhere you go women are working at the loom.

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The above image is really interesting because it depicts the same scenes that are seen in Mayan sculptures.
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I think one of my favourite images is of the flower seller.  She has taken flowers from the jungle and is selling them on the streets.

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I may not be able to post for a while as I don’t think there is much internet where I am heading but there will be lots of adventures.


Some singlet dresses

I had to replace the foot pedal for my over-locker and whilst in the Bernina Shop I saw some children's singlet dresses on the wall that they had been teaching as a project.  I immediately thought of my grand daughters and quickly bought a couple of ecco cotton tops to make them one each.   Now there are lots of  instructions for these dresses on the internet and they are quick and easy to make but I made a couple of changes to get a better look.

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I like this tutorial for a toddler but I wasn't happy with the look of how the bodice and skirt joined.

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The things I considered first were:

  • The choice of fabric,  I used some Liberty cotton because it gathers, drapes and washes well. (The fibre used has a long staple - expensive- which means it doesn't crease like cheaper cottons that have a short staple - cheap.)

        But there are lots of fabric to choose from.  Most Mum's these days do not iron and hand washing is a thing of the past.  So if you don't want to spend a lot of money on fabric choose one that has a small amount of polyester in it.  Pure cotton is going to crease.  It will look good to start with but after the first wash it will be creased if not ironed.  After a couple of minutes in the dryer that fabric with some polyester in it will look great.  (The heat slightly melts the polyester in the fabric taking out the creases as it is thermoplastic.)

  • The amount of fabric.  Most instructions tell you to use the width of the fabric but this varies between fabrics and the weight of the fabric will effect just how it gathers.   I think pleating would be better for a heavier weight fabric and extra width is needed if you are using a light weight fabric.
  • The distance between the underarm and where you cut the t shirt.

This changes with the age of the child.  For a toddler I would cut the T shirt at about 9cm (3.5").  A toddler has a bit of a tummy and this will hang better over it.  For my girls, who are 5 & 6 years of age I made the cut longer 12cm (nearly 5") .

 

Then there was the construction.

After I cut the T shirt I ironed a 4cm (1.5") strip of light paper iron on interfacing above the cut to stabilise the knit fabric.  This also allows you to use a straight stitch when you attach the skirt.  After sewing you can easily peel the stabiliser back to the sewing line and trim it off.

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The gathering.

Most instructions will tell you to lengthen your machine stitch.  I only slightly lengthen the stitch but I also loosen the tension.  This makes that bobbin thread easy to pull up.  (I sew on the right side and gather on the wrong side of the fabric.)

I also sew 2 lines of gathering.  At the end of the first line I sew down 3 stitches and come back the other way.  (This is about the width of your presser foot. 

This allows you to pull up an even gathering and you can then sew the bodice and skirt together in between the 2 gathering lines.  To pull out the gathering threads you just have to snip the thread on the bobbin stitched side back at that 3 stitch turn. The loose bobbin thread pulls out with no fuss and the top thread just falls away.  This also means you do not disturb that line of stitching where you joined the bodice and skirt.

Make sure you mark the quarter and half ways points on the top of the skirt before you pull up that gathering thread.  This will then make it easy to line them up with the seams and centre front and back of the T shirt.  I then neaten this edge by over-locking it.

I thought about top stitching the join but decided it wasn't necessary.

The hem

If you want to allow for growth, and all kids grow ,  set a wider hem you can let down.  You could machine it but I like the hang of a hand stitched hem.

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The girls put the dresses on and refused to take them off.  They love the feel of that Liberty fabric.  They couldn't stop touching it.  Now there will be nothing to compare to this fabric.  I bet they are hooked for life, just like me.

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Parcel in the post

There is a little shop, nearly at the end of the road to the water, at Kingston Beach in Tasmania, called Wafu Works.

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(image from Wafu Works website.)

There is so much to see in there and so much that I would like to buy and not just textiles.  I really want this tea set.  I'm just not sure it would get here in one piece.  Every since I read the stories of the girl in the moon and her rabbits I have loved this type of design.

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(image from Wafu Works facebook page.)

 On their web page there is an image of an appliqued lady on paper.  You have to see these, they are quiet beautiful.

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I have just bought a bundle of vintage cotton fabric to use in a gift  I need to make and the parcel has just arrived in the post.  Problem is, they are so beautiful I won't want to give it away.

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Now I realise that I have a whole lot of gifts that have to be finished for Easter.  March is going to be a VERY busy month.

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Loot

I  took a trip up to Warwick this week.  A long drive, over 3 hours each way.  I left early to miss the trucks going up Cunningham's Gap and there were only a couple of other cars on the road.  Last time I went up here there were road works caused by rock falls.  Non this day thank goodness.

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I wasn't so lucky coming back as there were lots of big trucks crawling down the range.  Once you get up the range you enter thick rain-forest and then out onto rich farm land.  This is where the headwaters of the Condamine River begins , that joins into the Murray-Daring exiting in South Australia.

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I was visiting friends who were staying at Glenrose which is on the fringe of the city.

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They host sewing retreats and you have to book well in advance to get in.  They have 4 cottages sprinkled through the garden and a great conference/sewing space .

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And I very quickly found their patchwork shop before I even found my friends.  And then I found some of my other friends in the shop.  It is a great shop and I came away with quite a bit of loot.  ONLY things I need.

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I bought the red fabric for the pin cushions but I also bought some scented ground nutshells for the filling.

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And two different types of mesh for using in one of my classes.

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This fabric was reduced and only $10 p.m. so I had to take all that was left on the roll.

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And the book was a gift from a friend.  I'm looking forward to getting into that.

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It was unbelievably hot up there, 39 degrees, so I stayed in the air-conditioning as much as possible.  When I got home I found the wind had changed direction and things were cooling off a bit.

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We have now had some rain.  Great for the garden but it has brought out the sand-flys  so repelant is in use again.

 

 

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The world and travel

This is  going to be my travel year, or, I hope it is going to be my travel year.  With everything that is happening in the USA what the year will bring is very uncertain and I, like many others, watch unfolding events  there with dismay.  If sane heads prevail, my plans for the year are , Sydney in June to see my family, then onto Japan in August, followed by Huston USA in Oct./Nov for the International Quilt Festival.  Then on to Guatemala in South America.

You might ask why Guatemala?  Well friend Pam is taking a group there and I plan to join them.  I had been tossing the idea around for a while and then I received this wonderful gift from her.

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This is a 'Huipil ' which comes from Guatemala.  It is a vintage piece from the highlands around Lake Atitlan.  The Mayan women usually wear their traje (traditional dress), which consists of a huipol (blouse), corte, (skirt) and Faja (belt).  These designs date back to before the Spanish Invasion.  in the 1600's.

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I am surprised by just how heavy the fabric is. The blouse is made of two pieces of fabric, woven on a back strap loom and then joined with embroidery across the centre to achieve the width needed to make a garment.

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 The embroidery design in then transferred onto the fabric and stitched.

Back of stitching.  You can see how the neck has been scalloped and then faced.

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Front of stitching.

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Close up of stitching.

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I love this piece and would also like to buy one with the bird embroidery on it.

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You can see lots of other examples here.

 

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Sewing, sewing.

Oh that sewing of gifts.  I just think of new things to do all the time.  There are some gifts that cry out to be put into a bag so I have been making bags to put things into.  The Magic 3's bag is just perfect for some things.  This gift, which must remain a secret until it arrives at it's destination, needed a bag which was a bit bigger , so I just increased the size.  Works perfectly and I can make more than one in a day, even with all the hand sewing I put into it.

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It is also a great stash buster as well.

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Embroidery Inspiration

Some time ago I started following the Swedish Embroidery Guild after reading about it on Queenies blog. There is always interesting things there, different from what you see on other sites.  One of the artists they talked about was Eva Nelander Junten.  Her website is called 'Colour, Form & Textiles.

She has some lovely images on her site.

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At first I thought that most of her stitching was by machine but a lot of it is hand stitched, beautifully.

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 Her work has a folk art touch to it you can see her work here & here.

The other thing that attracted my attention was embroidery inspired by Eucalyptus bark.  I look at these trees all day and have often thought they would make a good embroidery.

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This is perfect.

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Making fabric

Every time I complain about the price of fabric I will look at this  video and appreciate just what a labour intensive process would be involved if I did it myself.   This video is from Korea and takes you from picking the crop through to the finished garment.  It is really a group effort.

Picking the crop

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Stripping the fibre

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After it has been dried preparing the fibres

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Then dividing them with your teeth

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Then there are a lot of other processes to go through before you are ready to weave.  At this point they roll the fibre against bare skin.

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Then there is warping the loom and the actual weaving.

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This is a great little video from a Korean News Channel MBN that I can't up load but if you click on the link this will take you to it on their Facebook page.  No English I'm afraid.

 

 

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Cut-Work Emboirdery

Cut work Embroidery and How to do it. by Oenone Cave (1963)  Dover Publications  Inc. New York

Considering that some of the first books about this type of technique were published back in the 1600's this is a relatively new publication.

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I picked it up in the second hand book section at the Embroiderers' Guild and couldn't believe my luck that no one else had scooped it up before me.  The book was written in England and published in the USA and the Bibliography is right at the front, which is a bit unusual, but it is a great reference when looking for more detail.

In the Foreword the author refers to 'Greek Lace' and 'Ruskin Linen Work' as being the same thing.  As luck would have it a donation of 'Greek Lace' arrived at the Guild at about the same time as I bought this book and there is a resemblance but I think this work looks more Italian. The Greek Lace isn't quite as 'flowing' but the picots have 3 knots in both types of work.   It is almost as if Ruskin Lace uses both sources to develop it's technique.

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There is a lot of good hands on information on techniques here and I would like to reproduce a sampler to add to my collection.  (I usually stitch one sampler a year.)

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However the sixteenth - Century Italian sampler of cut work (Reticella) fillings, motifs and needlepoint edging is out of the question.  Fancy calling this a sampler!  Can you imagine how long it would have taken to stitch? 

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